The Ninth Book I've Read in 2020.



Books The above image isn't quite accurate. The Arden imprint has passed through numerous publishers over the years and my copy is from the Thomson days with their ultra conspicuous blue box on the spine. It's also a demonstration of how the third series has developed since they began publication in the 90s. The introductions generally complete within about a hundred or so pages and often don't bother with appendices. This begins with a hundred and seventy page introduction with a thirty five page textual discussion. The footnotes in the main text are often so extensive there's only room for a couple of lines of the actual text at the top of the page with another twenty pages of "longer notes" afterwards.

Is it possible to say I've read these books if I'm skipping the more overt literary criticism?  My key interests are in the production and publication history, dating of the play and textual notes, so in this case the section on language went unread as did the pages about characterisation which seemed to head way off point.  In the introduction, the author almost apologises for being an expert in their field having studied Richard II for decades but it's good that all of that knowledge has a place somewhere for those who're following in his footsteps.  But I'm reading for pleasure as an adjunct to listening to the plays so perhaps I shouldn't feel too guilting about not wanting to read the line-by-line description of Shakespeare's deviations from Holinshead.

Who is the new Doctor and where does she come from?



TV As both Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat illustrated, the best way to get people talking about Doctor Who is to present the viewer with a huge mystery then leave them hanging. It's a version of the JJ Abrams mystery box, except with a pretty good idea that there's a plan which will result in something debouching towards an explanation.

The reception for the Chibnall era so far within the wider discourse once everyone became used to the idea of someone from Skelmanthorpe playing the Doctor has been pretty lukewarm.  But this year has offered the one-two punch of the return of the Master and now a whole new Doctor, the first who's also played a neurosurgeon on Holby City.

Since Sunday night, there's been a definite shift back to the Bad Wolf days.  We've all become Vroomfondel and Majikthise, the philosophers awaiting Deep Thought's ultimate answer in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but with just a few weeks or months to wait rather than seven and half million years.  Many, many websites are however cleaning up in the prediction business.

Ahem.  Well, here my fan theory.  Having already posted this on the bird based social media account, it's probably worth immortalizing here (depending on how your definition of "worth" goes).  I should mention that this is based partially on versions of theories I've heard from a few people now (including @JayStringer).  So this is an embellishment.

Where did the Jo Martin incarnation come from?

The Doctor was loomed/born and happily living on Gallifrey, regenerating now and then when a body is wearing a bit thin.  But eventually the Doctor is called up for service to do a mission, possibly go back in time and decimate the Cybermen.

It goes badly, or at least so badly that the Time Lords want to cover it up.  Post-mission he or she is at the end of a regenerative cycle, or indeed not but the Time Lords force the issue by getting he or she there artificially and the Doctor is given and starts a whole new regenerative cycle ("!").

As part of the process, he's regenerated into a Time Tot and his memory is either wiped or suppressed.  So as far as he can tell and indeed anyone else, he's a fresh new Gallifreyan, his first life (which includes Jo Martin) completely forgotten.  A timeless child.

All of which could explain why the Doctor loses her memory or senses after each regeneration even though most other Time Lords take it in their stride.  It's a side effect of what was done to her - her mind and body has to recover its sense of self.

It's also why various interventions like the Watcher have been used along the way.  Extra support is often needed to aid the regenerative process and even then, something often goes wrong and a mental cascade ensues (The Twin Dilemma, Pudsey Cutaway).

Why does she seem so different?

As for why the Jo Martin Doctor seems a bit more ambiguous and chippy, it's because unlike Hartnell and Capaldi who's connection to humanity eventually domesticates them, this Doctor only spends her time around Time Lords.  You could almost say that she's more ruthless.  Which in her case is literally true because she's gone from being Ruth to Ruth-less.

But why her TARDIS already a police box?

Assuming this wasn't a glaring continuity error, the earlier Doctor could already have been to London in the 50s or 60s so the TARDIS already has that shape embedded in its memory. It's confiscated and reconditioned when The Doctor is rebooted. The Clara fragment on Gallifrey somehow knows that which is why she points him towards it.  Either that of the TARDIS's telepathic circuits subconsciously suggest it to her and she suggests it to the Doctor.

The box then eventually returns him to London via Quinnis so that it can inconspicuously turn back into a Police Box perhaps in an attempt to jog his memory - the telepathic connection indicate that there is something wrong with her thief.  It then remains a police box not because the chameleon circuit is broken but because the TARDIS keeps that shape in constant hope that the Doctor will eventually remember their earlier life together.

Why doesn't she remember all this come The Doctor's Wife?  Well, the TARDIS has been through a fair few traumas by then and so she's "forgotten" that he had a whole earlier history with the Doctor so as far as she can remember, Hartnell was the first.

But what about?

Yes, I know.  If the earlier Doctor's been travelling somewhat too, how come "our" Doctor hasn't bumped into them before?  Why isn't it The Eighteen Doctors?  Well how about, what if the earlier regenerative cycle is "time locked" like the Time War to stop that happening, but when the Master destroyed Gallifrey he unpicked this time lock, causing these these two Doctors to meet.

The Eighth Book I've Read in 2020.



Books King John has been a favourite of mine since listening to ArkAngel's blistering audio recording which runs with the embryonic farce elements in the text and the satirical nature of the melodrama. Act four in particular surrounding the execution of the child and John's reaction thereof are pure Blackadder, as the confluences of coincidences work against him.

This Arden 3 ignores all of that (which to be fair could all be in my mind) and concentrates on the play's sources, linguists, varying fortunes in production and textual state.  The text is incredibly readable, not least because acknowledges pop culture exists with references to Darth Vader and Stephen Colbert among others as points of comparison.

Generally thought of as one of Shakespeare's obscurities along with the likes of Timon of Athens, it nevertheless has the distinction of being the first to be put on film.  The surviving minute and a quarter can be watched here.  But it's a shame that the production analysis doesn't stretch to the BBC Shakespeare version.  Casting Leonard Rossiter in the title role feels like a statement of intent.

Fugitive of the Judoon.



TV For the past week I've been fiddling around with a Spotify playlist of hit songs in their original iterations, most of which aren't typically known for being the cover version that they are. So we have Bonnie Tyler's If I Could Turn Back Time, I-Ten's Alone and Isley, Jasper, Isley's Caravan of Love.  Some of them are theoretically better than their successors, others found their proper muse in the rerecord.  While World Party's She's The One became Robbie Williams's passionless clone, Labi Siffr's It Must Be Love is fine but Madness made it a stellar undertaking for the ears.

Which brings us to tonight's Doctor Who and the revelation that the Doctor is the Doctor but that there was an earlier Doctor who might be from her past who is also the Doctor.  The Doctor's reaction to this was rather the same as when we discovered that Torn by Natalie Imbruglia wasn't just a cover version, it was a cover version of about three different songs one of which is Danish and called Burned instead.  It's The Grudge or Ringu of Scandipop.  Confused?  Imagine how my brain was as it parsed through the possibilities of who this new incarnation of the Doctor is and why she exists.

The franchise has toyed with the notion of pre-Hartnell Whos before.  On television, greet all of the production team faces pulled from Baker T's consciousness in The Brain of Morbius, most often rationalised as being the previous lives of the antagonist, when what Robert Holmes et al were getting at is pretty clear.  The Wilderness years promoted the idea of the Other who along with Rassilon and Omega founded Time Lord society and eventually became the Doctor after being "re-loomed".  The Wilderness Years were a strange place.  Even the Doctor seems to have forgotten she destroyed Gallifrey herself back then.

What if it's more complicated than that?  What if we're entering Unbound territory and she's actually from an alternate reality?  What if Jo Martin's incarnation is from a different dimension, or else that the Doctor herself and her family have entered that alternative reality at some point, perhaps in the aftermath of an earlier story, but just haven't noticed.  Which would explain the dissolution of UNIT and Torchwood being a revelation to her and why this version of the Master seemed to run counter to what we know about the person and their fate at the close of Capaldi's final season.

But it's that kind of episode and how great that we've finally landed here with a story which finds the sweet spot of Daviesy Moffat revelation and question, stuffed with continuity references and a general sense of finally feeling like its part of the same show we've enjoyed since at least 2005, rather than the nervy disjointed stranger taking a fag break in the alleyway round back.  A continuity dump chock full of more back references than a Big Finish McGann boxset perhaps, but it's entirely pleasurable to see Jodie actually being the protagonist of her own show again and more's the point being that Time Lord with its past.

Although the social media publicity beforehand said enough that we knew the Judoon would be a sideshow in tonight's story and that someone would be returning, to then offer up Captain Jack Harkness as a secondary red herring is really ballsy.  Barrowman bloody loves this stuff so it's also a pleasure to see that he didn't do or say anything to invalidate James Goss's intricate audio continuity so it's entirely open as to whether this is happening during any of his sojourns off-Earth.  I'll leave it to costume nerds to work their magic on any clues there.  But Captain Jack's back and will no doubt be back again.  Squee.

This is in danger of becoming a proper review of the kind I said I wouldn't write any more instead of a fangasm so I'd better stop in the next paragraph.  There's dishes to wash and I need to get ready for visiting Lichfield tomorrow (which amounts to making sure my phone and iPod are charging and remembering to put my Arden 3 copy of King John in my bag to read on the train).  I booked this trip during a atmospherically mild moment last November, little thinking that January would be this horrible.  The only good news from the BBC Weather page is a 15% chance of precipitation.  But the wind chill is 3 degrees centigrade.  Brrr.

Anyway, it's just a pleasure to be able to sit in front of Doctor Who for once and it not feel like the franchise's equivalent of the liquid dispensed by Nutrimatic Drink Dispenser to Arthur Dent on the Heart of Gold.  On the one hand it could be seen as a retreat from the grand experiment in Jodie's first season but on the other it's the sort of thing which brings in the punters.  There's a reason Shakespeare's arguably most derivative play is called As You Like It.  Enjoy the rest of the evening.  Let me end on one final revelation.  Young at Heart by The Bluebells was originally recorded by Banarama.  The walls of reality are truly crumbling.