Bye Jodie.

 TV  Just had a difficult trip into the city centre.  We needed some shopping and I chased around a few shops looking for some lost property.  But masks are firmly back in pockets or bins and humanity was out in force so I began to feel a bit overwhelmed.  Despite having planned to visit some of my old haunts, it was impossible for me to exist successfully, especially around people (have I developed social anxiety on top of everything else?) so it was essentially through the M&S food hall then home.  Went out at about one of the clock, back by four.  

As I was unpacking, Radio 5 Live was on in the background and the Drive programme mentioned that Jodie Whittaker is leaving Doctor Who.  Thanks to a tabloid leak or guess, we've been speculating and made our peace with this for months so this is really just a confirmation.  Six episode series this year, then three specials next year culminating in a regeneration during the BBC's centenary celebrations in Autumn 2022.  Sighing, I stacked some ready meals in the freezer and popped a mini pork pie my mouth.  At least the blog'll have a Doctor Who post on its birthday.

Preparing to write this, I opened up the Doctor Who folder in my RSS reader and there at the top was the BBC News version of the story.

Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall to leave in 2022.

Well, reader, I cheered.  He's going.  He's bloody going.  Turns out he and Jodie had a three years and out pact at the start of production and here we are.  Is it so wrong the news that one of the worse showrunners the Doctor Who universe has had to deal with is leaving cheered me up?  That it had me dancing in my bedroom, bouncing up and down and singing?  

Back when it was announced Chibbers would be taking over my initial reaction was to mimic Heston at the end of The Planet of the Apes but the eternal optimist in wondered what he would do with full creative control of the show, whether he would produce something special.

Well he didn't did he?  All the very best episodes have been at least partly written by someone else, he's fundamentally misunderstood some of the Doctor's core values as a character and although I am a fan of the Morbius Doctor turn of events (so, so EDA) the execution was typically duff, amounting to a lecture about new Gallifreyan mythology on New Year's Day.  At least he didn't drop this infodump at Christmas.

Chibbers has this to say on the subject of his leading lady:

"Jodie's magnificent, iconic Doctor has exceeded all our high expectations. She's been the gold standard leading actor, shouldering the responsibility of being the first female Doctor with style, strength, warmth, generosity and humour."

Against your best efforts, mate.  At least now she can go to Big Finish if she wants to and get some decent scripts.  Hopefully, at least, you'll do us a favour and leave a nice gap somewhere for them to be set.

So who's next?  Peter McTighe seems the next obvious choice - huge experience writing and producing popular shows and fan enough to have already been creating minisodes advertising the Doctor Who BDs, not to mention writing the enclosed booklets.  His one episodes Kerblam! and Praxeus were a bit of a mess but there are all kinds of reasons why that might not be his fault.

The other interesting possibility is Maxine Alderton, writer of several hundred episodes of Emmerdale and Doctor Who's The Haunting of Villa Diodati.  She's been promoted to something called "core writer" for season 13 which implies some kind of shadowing, so perhaps she's being groomed to take over but without showrunner experience needs some coaxing.

That's unless we get the Abi Morgan series starring Romola Garai finally.

We'll talk some more about this, I expect.

This Blog's 20th Birthday.

 About It has been twenty years since I began posting here and to celebrate I asked Annette, who interviewed me for the fifth, tenth and fifteen birthday to return to talk about another five. Luckily, it was an offer she didn't refuse ...

Congrats on 20 years of this blog! Twenty years is a long time in person years, but in Internet years, that’s about – I don’t know, 10,000? For some perspective, feeling listless was launched before Twitter, Facebook or Gmail, and has existed for nearly 2/3 of the time the World Wide Web itself has been around. The manner in which the blog has remained fresh, engaging and much beloved during that entire time is truly remarkable.

Thanks very much!

The last time I did an anniversary interview (5 years ago), I remember thinking how much the world had changed in the previous five years, as far as some of the changes in entertainment, social media and technology. But this time - well, it feels like we live in a different world entirely from five years ago, doesn’t it? In July 2016, we were right on the cusp of it - the Brexit vote had just happened, true, but I still took it for granted that Hillary Clinton would be the next U.S. president, and a global pandemic seemed a very far off possibility, at least in my mind. The experiences of the past five years have been scarring, to say the least. What have these events meant to you personally?

Everything and nothing.  The last five years have been pretty rough for other reasons so to an extent I’ve felt a bit like the protagonist of a renaissance painting in which these world changing events have been happening in the background, whilst in the foreground life changing events happened too.  No I will not talk about it on here, sorry, no great revelations.  But what it all has taught me is you cannot become to settled in anything, the life is constantly in flux and you can’t unfortunately take anything for granted.  No one can.

I think I’ve said this before, but in the late 90s, my night school journalism teacher said that you have to remember that it doesn’t really matter who’s in charge, that sometimes you’re ok, sometimes not and it all balances out.  I wonder how he feels about that now, keeping in mind we were knee deep in New Labour at the time, Bill Clinton was in the White House and people still bought video cassettes in shops.  It’s very easy to say such things when you’re personally enjoying a moment of relative comfort.

Since 2016 (remember when the joke was about how awful that year was?) I’ve been trying to work out when the world felt most secure, when you could sit in front of the news and it didn’t feel like a social, health and climate apocalypse wasn’t happening around us and after trying out a few years it became apparent that actually, never.  The turn of the millennium, perhaps, but that’s from a very insular viewpoint.  The many wars across the world were still going strong, combatants and civilians dying, so many in fact, the Wikipedia has a list!  

So really what my journalism teacher should have been saying is that the world exists in a constant state of catastrophe and most of the time it won’t affect you personally and sometimes it will and that you only really need to worry about it in the latter case and even then only when there’s something you personally can or have to do about it.  If that includes being an ally too when needed, so be it.  Sorry, does that answer your question?  

Oh, yes. Not the answer I expected but your night school teacher had it right, I think. However, I think the pandemic, compared to other types of events, did end up affecting most of us personally, altering our daily routines and even our life trajectories. 

Exactly.  The problem is, whisper, we’re doing all of this to ourselves and have done for centuries, global catastrophes which are either a direct or indirect result of humanity’s choices and some of us so busy creating new problems and constantly finding ways to divide ourselves as a society that everything important to our survival gets kicked further along the generational guide.  

Are you optimistic about the post-pandemic world?

On the basis of the previous answer, you’ll expect me to say no and unfortunately you’ll be right, but simply because I don’t know if there will be a post-pandemic world yet.  Vaccinate as much of the first world as you like but until the entire population of the world has had the privilege, we’re still at risk.  Plus it’s all contingent on mostly liberal parties remaining in power in the largest liberal democracies and we can’t be certain Biden will win again in 2024, or indeed still have some control over the House and Senate after the mid-terms.

In the UK, it’s the NHS which is saving us although the government is doing everything it can to make it harder.  We only had to wait another couple of weeks for the vaccination process to make real progress, but the Tories decided it was too long and now the virus is raging again, albeit without as many deaths and hospitalisations.  Sorry, this supposed to be celebratory but there’s a long road ahead with so many nexus points that it’s difficult to see past it, not least because we’ve gone from a ridiculous Health minister to a genuinely scary autocrat.

Point taken - the pandemic is far from over. Covid-19 will be with us for a long while, especially in parts of the world where vaccines aren’t readily available. 

It’s scary.  I get why people are desperate to find some sense of normality.  They’re tired.  I’m tired for all the same reasons.  Eighteen months ago life became an ARG with very real consequences.  

Moving on to other subjects, what have been your favorite blog projects in the past five years?

The biggest and probably the most challenging was My Favourite Film of, which ended up being over a hundred weekly posts across two years, the notion being that when I finished, you’d be able to read them in chronological order via the tag, my personal history of film.  I purposefully made it difficult for myself at the start by deciding not to repeat directors and also not to simply post straight reviews but to talk around the film most often without going back and watching whatever it was again.  Fortunately, there were a few guest bloggers along the way.

It developed from the Who 50 project from earlier in the decade when I posted a weekly non-review of a Doctor Who story, the difference being that I didn’t fill in the time between with tangentially related links, partly because the entries themselves were already pretty time consuming.  I had a spreadsheet set up with deadlines for when each film’s entry had to be written by which at least meant I could plan ahead.  At some points I had posts written months in advance.

You can see when I was getting pretty desperate, especially towards the end or as it looks now, the beginning, posting almost all the essays I wrote at film school, applying the Hays Code to Deadpool in the entry about Mata Hari or quite obviously chose a film because I had something to write about it rather than because it was necessarily my favourite.  But parts of it really hold up and as with all of these blogging projects, it forced me to write something.  I’m not sure I’d have the energy to write all of that now.  Ahem.

I remember that project and being puzzled by the entries from the early years of film. Favorite film of 1897? But good for you for following through all the way to the end!

The projects which work best seem to have a definite ending either a time period or a number, a final end.  It’s open ended ones which tend to peter out.

Here’s something I’ve been wanting to know for awhile - what is the 231163 Diaries project?

Doctor Who was first broadcast in the UK on the 23rd November 1963 and the idea was to see if I could find a diary entry in which the writer mentions watching that first episode (credit to Graham Kibble-White for the name).  But inevitably because the Kennedy Assassination happened the day before, for the most part it became a record of how various individuals experienced that moment either because they were actually in the room or simply heard about it second hand.  Of all the projects, that’s the one I’m going to try to return to once libraries are properly accessible again.  That and Soup Safari.

Oh, that’s interesting - I somehow missed the Doctor Who connection, but there were some interesting historical artifacts in that series. I’d be glad to see Soup Safari return, but what about The Coffee Collection? 

Wait and see.

Are there any older blog projects that you want to resurrect in the future?

All of the open ended ones are still ongoing, I suppose.  There are a few Hamlets to catch up on and I’m a bit behind on the Eighth Doctor (Who) content.  Who 50’ll become Who 60 in a couple of years.  Sometimes the projects are all that’s left, but I’ll keep going no matter how unmotivated I am sometimes.  I don’t believe in announcing the closure of a blog.  It’s too final and this place has always ebbed and flowed in relation to content.  I’m sure I’ll always have something to write.

Life Props, maybe? I also hope you’ll continue with Public Art Collections in North.West England.

Well, I mean that’s done, I’ve visited all of the galleries and museums in the book.  I have thought about expanding out and using the Art UK website as a guide but again, it feels a bit open ended.  I like having things to tick off.  Like the walking around the Merseyrail network I’m doing now.  Finite number of stations.

I’m assuming you don’t have people tell you this too often – but I really enjoy the links that you post on the blog. I think the Christmas links are absolutely perfect, because they come at a time when I might have some actual downtime and are, for the most part, entertaining short reads. How do you pick what links you will post? Do you spend a lot of time considering them or just post things that you personally find interesting?

Somewhere in the past decade, the blog pretty much settled into a few grand themes, Doctor Who, Shakespeare, film and the Sugababes and so for the most part I’ve sticking to those lately, but really it is just stuff which interests me or I have something to say about beyond anything I can fit into a tweet.  I used to be quite diligent about working through news sites searching for things to post the whole year around but with the content hosepipe that exists now, who has the time to read everything and then decide what to post.

The Christmas Links used to just be a way to keep the blog ticking over during the holiday period but now they’ve become part of my own personal seasonal tradition because it’s the one time of the year when I do read a lot and the whole thing makes me feel more festive.  I usually have a search column going in Tweetdeck for verified tweets mentioning various keywords and there are some outlets I end up posting from every day.  I’d like to claim credit for the idea but a few of the classic UK bloggers used to something similar back in the day.

What are your go-to streaming services as of late? 

As of right now I’m subscribed to Netflix, NowTV, Amazon Prime, MUBI, Disney+ and Britbox, with YouTube and the BBC iPlayer the free services at the top of my Roku list.  This changes depending on whether Amazon’s channels section has a £1 a month offer on, as they did recently with BFI Player.  On top of that, I’m also still with Cinema Paradiso’s discs by post.

Do you have The Criterion Channel in the UK?

Oh if only.  There are a lot of Criterion films on Kanopy, the library connected service and plenty of the others are scattered across the BFI Player and MUBI.  But none of the special features are obviously included.  I’ve started a small collection of the DVDs, mostly the early releases when they turn up cheaply on eBay.

Do you find the world of streaming services as cluttered and confusing as I do?

Yes!  So many of the films which would previously have gone through the theatrical to home release to streaming release window structure are skipping at least one of both of the first two that as a film fan you have to be subscribed to everything otherwise you’re likely going to miss even Oscar nominated films.  Of the list, I only pay for Netflix and NowTV on a monthly basis.  The rest are annual lump sums or (believe it or not) a job perk.  But it still hurts especially since a lot of films are now only being released in the home on DVD so the only way to watch them in HD is through a streaming service.

Nice job perks! 

As I suggested earlier in the month, the ideal scenario would be for film companies to follow their music arms and simply license their back catalogue to whole companies who then reimburse them on a watch-by-watch basis somehow.  Even with the help of something like JustWatch, you can spend a lot of time trying to keep up with when films are going to be available and which service and then deciding whether it’s worth paying for a month’s subscription to see a film which will likely disappear back into the archives again soon.

So Spotify for films, I suppose? 

Yes.  I mean rental streaming services are close to this, almost everything is available to rent on Amazon and elsewhere at various price points like a giant digital Blockbuster, but the subscription model is the barrier.  It is strange that £10 a month seems reasonable for access to almost all music ever but there’s no way movie companies are going to license their entire back catalogue to a Spotifilm and expect a return for a similar charge.  The key problem is, I suppose, that people listen to their favourite albums over and over again, sometimes in the same day, but will rewatch films far less frequently if at all.    

Post-pandemic, do you think it will become common practice for the major studios to release their films on streaming services instead of in theatres? If so, what do you think the long-term effects will be?

Eventually, ultimately yes.  In the independent sector, that transition had largely already happened in the UK, with Curzon Home Cinema, MUBI and BFI Player offering day and date releases of film which are also playing in the Picturehouse and independent chains with comparable charges.  The pandemic has simply accelerated that and added a Hollywood dimension.  I notice that Black Widow is being theatrically released two days before it hits Disney+ and I can see that model continuing.

The biggest change is how the studios envisage how these releases work.  Back in 2016, Napster’s Sean Parker was touting the “Screening Room” in which consumers would buy a $150 proprietary streaming box and then pay $50 for each film for a night with $20 being handed over to a film chain in order to placate them for any potential loss in revenue.  Despite all the names you’d expect being involved it didn’t ultimately go anywhere presumably because not a single element of it was designed with the consumer in mind.

Oh, I haven’t thought about Napster in many years! Now there was an idea ahead of its time.

What the pandemic demonstrated is you really don’t need to do any of that, you can quite comfortably rent day and date releases through ordinary streaming apps or else include them as part of the monthly rental package.  For the larger film studios, the former scenario will be most likely and we really don’t know the numbers on how much was made through pay-per-stream during the pandemic.  As someone who finds the process of going to the cinema increasingly intimidating, being able to rent and watch Wonder Woman 84 or Cruella at home was a joy.

Besides the pandemic, the film industry has gone through a lot of other changes in the past five years. We touched on that a bit in the last interviewYou had said, “But more often than not, I’m seeing actresses which elsewhere have been stuck in supporting roles finally being given the opportunity to carry a film and doing it superbly.” In the wake of the #metoo movement it seems like women are finally getting more of these opportunities. Do you think this is a short-lived reaction or has Hollywood really evolved?

Who knows, but I think the important change is the number of women who’re in charge of independent production companies who crucially give opportunities to other women to create projects that have previously been ignored by the major and minor studios.  Even on occasions when women were studio heads, the otherwise patriarchal nature of the structure of the studios meant their success didn’t trickle down.  

There are far more women directors and writers working across the industry, even on projects which might previously have been immediately given to men and across a number of genres and on prominent series.  There are episodes of both Star Wars and Marvel series which are both written and directed by women and risks are being taken.  Chloe Zhao directed The Eternals before Nomadland.

Yes, that’s promising for the future of film. There needs to be change on the systemic level. At least we are seeing a few steps in that direction.

Except this is from someone who habitually seeks out female led productions and I’ve no clue how difficult it still is to get these opportunities especially if you don’t already have a profile, especially for people of colour or who’re LGBTQ+.  But it feels like something is changing.  If #metoo did anything, it brought women together in the room to have conversations about how to make things better.

Is there a film or series you watched recently that you can’t stop thinking about?

Given the number of films I watch, that’s a huge question, but it’s probably Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby about a college student who returns home to attend the shiva for someone she barely knew and comes face to face with the man she’s having an affair with, and his family.  Most of the film takes place at the gathering and the lead actress Rachel Sennott is in shot through most of it.  

What’s stayed with me is the way Seligman and her DP Maria Rusche are able to create such a claustrophobic, tense atmosphere as Sennott’s character navigates the crowd, having to deal with pushy relatives who don’t understand her “lifestyle choices” (she’s bi) and already have her future mapped out in their heads.  It’s a total cringathon and I loved it.

That does sound intriguing. Cringeable scenes in film have a similar impact on me as well. It seems I can remember them years later.

Are there any sites you visited in London that really exceeded your expectations? Have there been any that you thought would be amazing but found disappointing?

London is an addiction and I can honestly say there hasn’t really been anywhere which has disappointed me.  Just the fact of being able to lay on the floor of St Paul’s Cathedral looking at the domed ceiling, finally seeing John Harrison’s Longitude clocks, climbing to the top of Monument, sitting on the stage of the Sam Wannamaker theatre at the Globe and walking all of the sites of Shakespeare’s theatres, spending so much time in the National Gallery or all of the galleries.  So many memories and I can’t wait to go back.

Wow, that’s great! 

But if there was one venue which disappointed it was the Science Museum.  It feels dated, all of the various historical objects collected together in a massive hall lacking context or organisation.  Perhaps it’s the overwhelming number of famous items making it difficult to focus on a particular thing, but it feels like there’s a real story of how science and technology developed and when I visited it didn’t feel like that was being told.

What are the tweets that repeat daily on your Twitter account? Why?

Some are reminders, some are protests, some are comforts.  I noticed that people don’t always know how to filter their tweets to remove harassment and spam so I have an explainer each day.  Plus people don’t know that they can switch back to old Twitter so that seemed important too.

The daily Norah Jones video began as a Trump protest but now serves as a moan against the Tories.  It was originally about Bush but the themes still work.  A Song For The Unification Of Europe began as soon as the Brexit referendum was announced and will remain until the UK is back in the EU, however long that takes.

I’ve been told the 6am reminder to not Panic and the Love Actually tweet have both become a comfort to some people, become part of their routine, and mine too which is why they’re staying.  Plus every now and then I get a new follower and it’s important that they know my feelings about the worst film ever made.

Yeah, it’s funny how often those show up in my Twitter feed. 

Every day, sorry.

Don’t apologize - I also find comfort in the repetition.

It seems like you have been posting more book reviews on the blog recently. Is this because you are reading more books or just posting about them more often? 

Bit of both.  The few from this year are Doctor Who and Shakespeare which is very on-brand, the latter because I’m back on the Arden Shakespeare review list but rather than being sent everything, I’m able to pick and choose what I’m interested in.  At the moment I’m working through the Doctor Who TARGET novelisations and some random literature I’ve been wanting to catch up on.

Of all the books you’ve reviewed, is there one that stands out in your mind to recommend?

Listen, I’ve mentioned this a few times before but Jonathan Morris’s Touched By An Angel, which was probably my favourite book of the past decade.  There’s something about how it conjures a sense of place and richness of character while still being a Doctor Who book.  Tie-in fiction is full of novels which are as literary as anything nominated for one of the big prizes but go unread by the wider population because of what’s printed on the cover.

What’s next for the blog?

God knows.  Whilst researching the birthday posts, I’ve noticed how many bloggers over the years have published “final posts” in which they grandly talk about how they’ve enjoyed writing the blog but their interests lay elsewhere so they’ve decided to stop, blah blah blah, effectively cancelling themselves.  But I can’t see that ever happening here.  Even when Google finally pulls the plug on blogspot, I’ll take the archives somewhere else and carry on writing something at some time.

That’s great to know. Ha, I remember when Google purchased Pyra Labs (now I am really dating myself) and this many years later Blogger keeps chugging along. I even looked at the new user interface recently and couldn’t figure out what had changed, which I like! Who needs WordPress, anyway? You’d have quite a few posts to transfer - 12,493 as of July 10!

I’ve just downloaded a backup and it’s 54.7mb.  That is a lot of text.

Congratulations again on this 20-year blog milestone. I remember reading this post and thinking how I have a similar way of winnowing down my digital reading list. Seventeen years after discovering feeling listless, it remains on my shortlist of favorites, even as I’ve relentlessly Marie Kondo-ed what I read online. This blog inspires joy, and I thank you for continuing with it and giving me and all of your other readers something to look forward to in every season.

Well, thank you for doing this again.  You’ve always been a great supporter and one of the reasons I’m probably still posting here is because I know we have to do another interview in five years.  See you for the 25th!

Cautious Optimism.

TV Let's do this quickly, the Olympics are on but it's Rugby Sevens and I have no idea what's going on. Yesterday was Doctor Who's Comic Con panel but because it's all virtual at the moment we actually got to see both the panel and the trailer rather than have to read some half remember synopsis on Gallifrey Base. Said trailer's even been uploaded to YouTube. Such wonders.


Pretty typical Chibnall era teaser with lots of running about, Jodie shouting her character name and close-ups on any new characters. The most promising shot is Dan falling from the sky and Yas's cute little "Hiya" completely unconcerned with his health. Tonally that feels very different to the last couple of series. 

Apart from the casting and we'll probably see on broadcast how much of a Lois Habiba in Children of Earth this new character Vinder is, it's that the whole eight episode series will be telling one long story which'll have the potential benefit of some proper episode ending cliff-hangers. 

There's been some talk of it actually being a six episode series with the last couple held over to 2022, but the fact we're getting any televised Doctor Who right now given the production requirements under a pandemic without the infrastructure of the Hollywood studios is remarkable anyway.