Christmas Links #2

BBC One Christmas Idents 2023 - Tabby McTat, Stick Man and The Gruffalo:
"The idents will be revealed on BBC One after Strictly Come Dancing on 2 December and will appear across the channel throughout the festive season."

"Mog’s Christmas is a special animated adaptation of Judith Kerr’s much-loved classic children’s book, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, produced by Lupus Films and will air on Channel 4 this Christmas."

"Eight acres (3.2 hectares) of the seasonal blooms have been growing for six months at the Uniplumo nursery, Grimes added."

"An eccentric parade of mechanical toys to tantalise 1920s kids - and to remind us that Christmas consumerism is nothing new."

"Won't You Guide My Sleigh Tonight is a family-friendly TTRPG that uses your Christmas tree!"

"For me, Christmas has always been more about the anticipation of it than the actual day. We spend so long looking forward to Christmas. But there is always at the centre of all this longing for Christmas, a heavy dose of nostalgia. We want yesterday’s Christmases, not tomorrow’s. And my Christmases past were mostly spent in that splendid city of Ilorin."

"Lincolnshire County Police run a special 'Turkey Patrol' to protect turkey farmer's turkeys from being stolen before Christmas."

"Gloria took the week after Thanksgiving off from writing the column, but she will be back next week. As her editor and a writer myself, I can attest to the rigors of writing a weekly column. She and I joke often that the best way to make a weekly fly-by is to write a weekly column!"

"Looking to hang lights around windows? With so many experts at our fingertips, we’ve got all of the information you could need to add some sparkle to your home this Christmas."

"There was trouble in the land, all on account of Christmas. Men _ stood bewildered and women were distracted, not knowing what to do. The trouble was that Christmas had become too small."

Together in Eclectic Dreams (Classic Doctors, New Monsters: The Stuff of Nightmares)

Audio  Disclosure:  when I listened to If I Should Die Before I Wake from the Classic Doctors, New Monsters: The Stuff of Nightmares boxset it was in isolation, what I mean is, I went straight to the story which had the Eighth Doctor's face on it and ignored the rest on the expectation that I'd come back to them after I'd caught up on everything else.  Then Summer came, then Autumn and with modern content consumption options which resemble the Temporal Loom exploding in Disney+'s Marvel's Loki (TM), completely forgot about it.  Until last night when I decided to do an audit of the Eighth Doctor material still to be covered and noticed he was listed as appearing in this Sixth Doctor story.  So, here we are.

Roy Gill's Together in Eclectic Dreams brings the return of the Dream Crabs from TV's Last Christmas.  The Sixth Doctor's companion Mari is experiencing nightmares, so he takes her to a monastery in the Archipelago of High Dream in the hopes they'll be able to offer some therapy.  During her first sleep observation session she finds herself inside another TARDIS and another Doctor who we know is the Eighth Doctor, sounding cantankerous and desperate because he's already well aware that he's lost in a dream and doesn't know which way to go, with Mari finally offering a lifeline.  As the story progresses, the characters find themselves slipping between various states of Inceptionesque slumber.

This is still the Sixth Doctor's story with the Eighth Doctor very much a supporting player.  But is he real or just part of the collective unconsciousness of the characters?  Sam the dream expert suggests that this "green man" changes faces and in his mental travels he's seen what sounds like the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctors too, but I think it is supposed to be Eighth, perhaps from when he's also caught up in the crab's claws in the following story If I Should Die Before I Wake.  There's a wonderful moment when their two minds contact and we're treated to the poetry of their collective history including a "terrible" great-aunt who lived in a draughty house high in the Gallifreyan mountains who would nevertheless sing him lullabies.

Last Christmas offered up what the "boards" univerally acknowledged as one of the best companions we never got in the shape of Faye Marsay's Shona and her eclectic film collection.  Coincidentally, Big Finish have achieved the same with Mari, who between Gill's script and Susan Hingley's performance manages to create a figure as richly drawn as any of the official companions, funny and clever and who you simply enjoy spending time with and wanting to hear more from.  The point was obviously to create the perfect plus one so Sixth would feel the loss when she's not there.  In my head canon, the moment after the story ends is when he hear's Charley's distress call at the beginning of The Condemned, explaining why he's so open to having this stranger on board in the ensuring episodes.

Placement:  Assuming this is a real Eighth Doctor, I'll put it in front of the next story in the boxset.

Christmas Links #1

"Make your wrapping stand out with this luxury gift wrap from Sugababes." (previously)

Tourists exploring the historic Berkshire royal residence will be able to see it transformed for the festive season.

"The 'living tree' in Hattersley, Greater Manchester, has been likened to a twig and branded a “disgrace” by disappointed locals."

"It's quite a sudden change - announced three days ago and being introduced in three days time."

"The enchanted home with halls decked out in epic Swiftie fashion is going viral for its ode to the beloved singer this holiday season."

"The internet is abuzz with the results of this year’s rundown, with Taylor Swift coming out on top as 2023’s most streamed artist."

"The Shard has had a festive makeover, with the London skyscraper fitted with 575 LED panels for a Christmas lights show."

"Last week, Christmas markets opened across Germany, and with a few weeks left until Christmas, illuminated holiday displays, parades, and colorful markets are starting to light up the night. From the Americas to Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, gathered below is a collection of holiday cheer and light, wrapped up in 25 photographs."

Till Death Us Do Part (The Paternoster Gang: Rogue's Gallery)

Audio  Ah The Paternoster Gang.  At least once a year, Big Finish have the Eighth Doctor wander into one of their spin-off series and finally, he's turned up in Victorian England and bumped into Vastra, Jenny and Strax.  With only a finite amount of money at my disposal, I avoided the previous series, only really dipping my toe in via The Eighth of March box, Once and Future and the crossover with Jago & Lightfoot.  Steven Moffat apparently pitched this spin-off when he was showrunner, with the opening half of The Crimson Horror looking for all the world like a backdoor pilot.  He was knocked back but at least thanks to our audio BF we can have some idea of what such a thing would be like.

It's fun.  Having not heard the opening box, I don't know how much this replicates the formula, but it's very much the s7/Torchwood/SJA model of an alien of the week in a Holmisan period setting usually being exploited by some local hoodlum with the gang investigating then breaking the case wide open.  The characters are the draw, the naughty interplay between Vastra and Jenny whose relationship can be explored in greater detail and the sheer brilliance of Strax, played with such determination by Dan Starkey (who also writes the second story in the series) and probably offers the most laughs across these three episodes.

Till Death Us Do Part

Vastra and Jenny are finally having a wedding but the planning and ceremony are interrupted by a series of curious events with duplicates of themselves and others, creating havoc.  There is a general sense of unease throughout as characters sound almost but not exactly like themselves and the Eighth Doctor appears all over the place but not apparently in a linear order and out of sorts.  DWM's reviewer attributes this to Paul, suggesting he sounds "distracted and possibly even a little bit confused by it all" but it's obviously because the character himself is supposed to be: he's forgetful, skittish and one minute knows who Jenny is and the next has no idea.

Placement:  Like The Truth of Peladon, he's wearing his Dark Eyes leathers on the cover even though there isn't really a gap for him to be travelling along, so I'll put it next to that for now unless something else crops up.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1985.

The "Broom Cupboard", CBBC's in-vision presentation began 9th September 1985 and in a slight break of format here's a polaroid of someone who would have been an avid viewer taken a month later on the  6th October.  That's me hunched over the Acorn Electron and judging by the finger positions probably playing Chuckie Egg.  It was always Chuckie Egg, partly because it was at the start of Beau Jolly's Ten Computer Hits compilation and a relatively fast loader from the ancient tape deck I was using.

It's a Sunday, so it's a rare privilege to be using the main television in the back living room what with the block of programmes which included Songs of Praise, Antiques Roadshow, Open All Hours and Howard's Way.  Perhaps this was the morning instead, before sunrise, or the flash has simply blown out the sunlight through the windows.  Either way, nothing much has changed.  I'm still hunched over a computer although fortunately I don't have to pack it all away every time I use it.


The Broom Cupboard Opens

"Ask anyone over the age of 20 what they think of children’s television these days and nine times out of 10 they’ll tell you it’s inane rubbish. The main reason? Those presenters!"
[Off The Telly]

"At 9pm on 22 November, 2005, former Children’s BBC presenter Andy Crane was en route to Salford Quays in Manchester, heading for the studios of Century FM where he would be hosting his evening phone-in show, Love Lines. It was while he was making this journey that he spoke to OTT about his career in children’s television, and where life had taken him since he bade farewell to Edd the Duck."
[Off The Telly]

"When I give my name to make a restaurant reservation, everyone starts singing the Dogtanian theme song at me. The same happens in Portugal, in France, in Italy. It’s unbelievable."
[The Guardian]


"A questioning, almost iconoclastic series looking critically at the claims made for computers in education and at how the reality fell short of the hype. Introduced by Tim O'Shea."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]

"Six programmes looking at the way computer based technology helped people with various kinds of disability."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]


"Here's how the legendary Keith Floyd changed cooking programmes forever."
[BBC Clips]

"BBC Northern Ireland controller James Hawthorne has withdrawn his offer to resign in protest at banning of the controversial Real Lives documentary. Report by Denis Murray."
[BBC Rewind]


"Opening ceremony today for the new £1m purpose-built Radio Foyle studios in Derry/Londonderry, performed by retiring BBC governor for Northern Ireland, Lady Lucy Faulkner."
[BBC Rewind]


"In the 1980s, the BBC devised a new weapon in its ratings battle against ITV: EastEnders. In part eight of our 13-part series on the history of the BBC, David Hendy explores how a mix of masterful publicity and melodramatic plots propelled the drama to popular success..."
[History Extra]

"I had my teeth coloured green to play Nick on heroin. Security wouldn't let me in the building."
[The Guardian]

"This third edition features Hugh Dennis and Jim Eldridge looking at radio comedy in the late 1980s."
[BBC Sounds]

"1985 was a year of relaunches for BBC One. The new globe, EastEnders and Wogan all brought a new momentum to the channel. But the revamp of the Nine o’Clock News this week in 1985 was also a key move."
[Clean Feed]

"Farewell, magnetic tape and sticky symbols! The BBC weather report is riding the winds of technological change.  Simon Groom gets a hands-on demonstration of the BBC's new computerised forecasting system, with a little help from Bill Giles, Michael Fish, Liz Jones... and something called a mouse.  This clip is from Blue Peter, originally broadcast 18 February, 1985."
[BBC Archive]Annual Report

"The BBC Symphony Orchestra comes to Belfast for first time since 1967 to appear in the Ulster Hall. Gillian Harbinson speaks to General Manager William Relton and Belfast born member Patrick Lannigan."
[BBC Rewind]


"Twenty four hour strike by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Independent Television (ITV) over the banning of BBC documentary ‘Real Lives At The Edge of The Union’ featuring Martin McGuinness."

"The past year has been a testing one for the BBC. As the licence fee debate got underway, the Corporation co- operated in two independent reviews, examining value-formoney in both the external and domestic services. A high level of press and political interest continued throughout 1984 -85, not all of it constructive. It says much for our creative staff that they did not allow those distractions to prevent them from reporting the events of a troubled political year with objectivity or from producing a distinguished range of entertaining and innovative programmes."
[World Radio History] 

Charlotte Pollard: The Further Adventuress.

  Now some elements of Audacity make sense.  For personal reasons, this has sat on my shelf for long enough to feel like I'm able to enjoy nice things again although I hadn't realised how long the gap between release (Jan 2022) and now had been.  So when interviewees refer to this being an anniversary release, they're not talking about the franchise's 60th but of the original couple of series featuring this TARDIS duo.  Script Editor Alan Barnes also says although he knows fans would like to know what happened after The Girl Who Never Was, they decided that they'd want to honour what happened all those years ago when I heard Storm Warning and my life changed forever ... sorry when Storm Warning kicked off another epoch in the life of this silly series.

The Mummy Speaks

One of those stories in which the Doctor's benevolence is turned against him.  Although the premise is similar to The Unquiet Dead, this is an incarnation who hasn't yet lived through the Time War and consequently has a moral reaction closer to Rose in that story.  As the title and cover of the whole set indicate, the stories foreground Charley a bit more and The Mummy Speaks is no exception as Alan Barnes returns to re-introduce this crew.  India Fisher is simply magnificent in the role and along with the writing, there's nothing in here to disavow her as my favourite companion of the whole franchise.  Both her and Paul's timing is superb and the whole thing is very worthy of the Pertwee logo from the TV Movie.


Shades of Avatar and The X-Files as the Doctor and Charley visit the woods after dark to discover why there's a governmental cover-up of deaths and why up until that point mostly peaceful native population of giant moths on the planet are attacking the human colonists.  Writer Lisa McMullin really captures the darker instalments of the earlier series in which nefarious people reach some absolutely horrible ends, the sound designer really going to town leaving nothing to the imagination.  It's brilliant.  Worth highlighting is Joe Kraemer's blockbuster score, full orchestral might, a little bit of Bernard Hermann, and a touch of Jerry Goldsmith.

The Slaying of the Writhing Mass

Without looking at the writing credit beforehand, I somehow knew this was Eddie Robson.  As director Ken Bentley says the supplementary features, Eddie can write what would otherwise be quite mundane characters into extraordinary circumstances.  The idea of a bottleneck of time vessels trying to visit the same moment in history is superb and all of the implications are investigated, from the merch sellers to the school coach filled with bored teenagers.  We also enjoy that rare occasion of Eighth being accompanied by a tween and it is charming to hear him patiently speaking to her as an equal in a way that he sometimes neglects with his adult travelling companions.

Heart of Orion

The easy option for Nick Briggs in writing a sequel to his seminal Sword of Orion would have been to trot out a few more Cybermen but this goes in a very different direction and is all the better for it.  The listener is kept on the back foot throughout, as the script twists our expectations, or at least suggests story elements which would be the obvious outcome elsewhere then reminds us that Doctor Who is not like other series because of the attitude of its main character especially one moment which is consistent with more recent incarnations of giving people the agency to make their own decisions, bringing an end a series which lives up to the original series.

Placement: We're told on numerous occasions in the interviews that these are supposed to be set relatively early in their adventures so I'm going to boldly put them after Minuet in Hell.  I'm still not sure about Audacity, so I'll leave that just before Invaders from Mars.  We'll see what happens with the upcoming Christmas releases.