The Scent of Blood.

Audio Here a rare oddity. While Big Finish continue to go big with their Eighth Doctor coverage, with a dozen or so episodes this year across various boxed sets, apart from cameos there's only ever been a handful of BBC Audio releases in the twenty years since San Francisco (Vancouver), a smattering from the late nineties read by Paul himself, Sophie Aldred and Nicholas Courtney and the Alien Mine anniversary piece which was recorded by Big Finish in any case. Yet here we have in 2019 an "audio exclusive", essentially a double length Short Trip, with TV movie McGann on the cover, literally the same shot which appears at the top of this blog's chronology.

How?  Why?  The project editor for these things is John Ainsworth, long term Big Finish producer, director and actor, so in the absence of an explanatory preview in the party newsletter or liner notes, my guess is because he felt like it.  Well good.  His participation, not to mention David Darlington, a veteran sound designer for Who audios probably account for how bona fide to it sounds, fitting perfectly fine within the existing corpus.  We're also introduced to a new thumping version of the theme, all drums percussion and organ melody, presumably recorded by Darlington because they didn't have access to the David Arnold version which is traditional for Eighth Doctor audios.

Building on the vampire mythology from State of Decay and other expanded Whoniverse sources (which again shows the depth of experience in this production), this finds the Doctor on the streets of Edinburgh in the 1890s aiding an journalist with his investigation into a mysterious death and the strange behaviour of some of the locals.  What connection do a pasty faced aristocrat and the local quarry have to do with events?  If all of this sounds over familiar, it is, but then writer Andy Lane introduces a huge new piece of mythology which will surely mean a number of TARDIS Datacore pages will have to be re-written.

Incredibly, this is Lane's first Eighth Doctor story since his co-writing credit on The Banquo Legacy back in 2000.  But from the moment he emerges from the shadows, the Eighth is ready and present, life's champion in full effect.  The story proceeds at a lick, with much bite, so much so I had to rewind now and then because I missed some important bit of action.  That isn't a criticism.  One of the problems with any audio adventure is whether there's enough in there to cause the listener to want to re-listen and I'd say The Scent of Blood would bare a repeat.

That's not inconsiderably because of Dan Starkey's fabulous reading and his uncanny version of the Eighth Doctor.  Because McGann himself has been prolific in his own portrayal of the character, he's rarely rendered through other voices, mainly India and Sheridan.  Well here comes Starkey, who no doubt having watched his fellow actor in the studio, nails his intonations from the eccentrically speedy line readings to the Liverpudlian edge to his voice.  Starkey's other characterisations are also remarkable, notably Lord Elmhurst for which he seems to be giving us his James Mason impression.

Placement:  taking a cue from the cover, early.  Let's arbitrarily stick it before Vampire Science for S and Gs.

I now belong to a club that will have me as a member.

Politics Busy day. Read half of Nigel Robinson's novelisation of Doctor Who's The Edge of Destruction (or Inside The Spaceship or Beyond The Sun or whatever we're calling it this week). Watched the most recent Robin Hood film in which the industrial revolution seems to have happened about five hundred years early.  Watched All About Steve which isn't half as bad as its reputation, mostly because Sandra Bullock is acting her bright red boots off and didn't deserve the Golden Raspberry. Watched this new Lindsay Ellis video essay about Woke Disney which I only partially agree with. Watched 2.3 of Killing Eve. Ate a not very good Chilli-Con-Carne from Marks and Spencers. Joined the Liberal Democrats.

OK, once more with feeling.  I've joined the Liberal Democrats. 

This is my first membership of a political party.

The first time I voted Liberal Democrat (somewhat) was at school.  To coincide with the 1987 General Election, the Liverpool Blue Coat held its own mock poll with candidates from the sixth form (year 12/13 in new money) taking part in hustings and a somewhat proper campaign.  Andrew Williams, who is now a solicitor represented the Conservatives, Glenn Roberts stood for Labour (and I don't know what happened to him) and Mitchell Benn for the SDP/Liberal Alliance.  He's a comedian now.  Mitchell was by far the funniest of the candidates and was probably the reason the General Physics lab was packed out that lunch time and won by a landslide. 

He's also the reason I became an almost lifelong LibDem, apart from the fact that I could never vote for the Tories and I lived in Liverpool during the 1980s and could never vote Labour as a result either. 

So when it came time for me to vote properly, at university, age 18, I think a local election, after spending half a day walking around Headingley trying to find my polling station I voted for the Natural Law Party.  Because I was a student and that sort of thing seemed hilarious at the time.

But rest assured come 1997 and my first general election, I voted for the Liberal Democrats, not that it meant much in this safe Labour heartland or has every since.  I wasn't really passionate about it either, because, as I said, it was the default position between two parties that were beyond the pale.  The LibDems won forty-odd seats that year which looks huge until you remember Labour elected 418 MPs.  There was barely enough room on the government benches for them all to sit. 

And that's where I'd be for every election, general, local or European despite knowing, from an eye witnesses perspective of working in the polling stations that other than the locals for a while, the LibDems had little chance in our area.

It wasn't until the 2010 election that I became anything like active.  Much of this amounted to arguing the facts with people on Twitter and writing about politics on here going from surprised to deeply excited to hopeful to attending a conference fringe event to despairing within a few months. 

Like many people, this decade put me in an ideological bind, as I watched the coalition government on the one hand keep at least some of the LibDems 2010 manifesto pledges which the Tories have well taken credit for, especially the increase in the tax allowance against how the BBC was treated and poor people in general.

Then there were the disastrous Tim Farron years in which the entire party was brought down by the moral niggling of its leader at the just the moment when it needed a strong message.

Yet here I am in 2019 joining the party.  What's changed?

To an extent, I'm more emotionally ambiguous about the coalition period.  As I said in this essay back then, joining with the Tories in that moment seemed unforgivable for a traditionally Liberal party and then voting for so many of the more ideologically driven austerity measures.

But time brings nuance.  If Gordon Brown had somehow become PM instead, Labour would also have introduced some kind of austerity measures, their manifesto from that year brimming with obfuscation and vaguery.  So when their activists bring up the LibDems voting record in that period, they forget that if the LibDems had formed a coalition with Labour, if Labour had managed to keep enough seats for that to be viable, the LibDems would have their voting record to deal with instead (and all three main parties are very different beasts than they were even five years ago).

Plus there's little doubt the LibDems softened the sharper angles of their coalition partners in that era as we saw once they'd been reduced to eight MPs after 2015 and the Tories were given a larger mandate.

As Jeff Goldblum says in The Big Chill, "I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex."  I'd say the past few paragraphs cover at least a couple of month's worth.

They're also a party with a clear message.  They'd probably like it to be Fuck Brexit, but they're using the slightly tamer "Bollocks to Brexit".

The policy is clear.  If they become a majority government, they're going to assume that unlikely possibility actually happening gives them a mandate to revoke article 50.  If they don't gain a majority, they'll campaign for a second referendum with the options of a no deal Brexit, on a deal and remaining.  Labour on the other hand have a Schrodinger's policy in which voters won't know if they're voting for a remain or leave supporting party until after the election.  Ok.

Finally, it's Jo Swinson becoming leader.

Yes, her voting record in the coalition seems a bit pants if you look at basic data, but overall her decisions have been pretty nuanced, especially since she returned to parliament in 2017 having lost her seat in 2015 along with most of the rest of her party.

She's also an excellent communicator, can hold her own against the other leaders in the commons and frankly sounds more like a human being than either Johnson or Corbyn.  Plus I like that she's defining the party as being something it always was.  The middle ground in politics.  If I've accepted anything in the past few years it's that I'm centre left and that's where the LibDems seem to be now.

We'll see how this shakes out in the coming months.  At this point I don't know if my connection with the party will grow to be bigger than financial and I'll actually go out canvassing and so forth, although that would get me out of the house once in a while. 

Wow, I'm now literally a Liberal Democrats.

Please don't fuck this up guys.