Review 2023: A Review of 2023: May.

01    Dutch police arrest fake ‘Boris Johnson’ for suspected drink-driving

04    Star Wars Day

19    It's widely reported New York is sinking.  Here's the original paper.

Review 2023: A Review of 2023: April

01    The Guardian forgets April Fool's Day, does this instead.

19    There is no news.

21    Star Trek: Picard's superb finale broadcasts in the UK.  God, what a great series.

The Crowd (Doom's Day)

Audio  Doom's Day was this year's multi-licensee story told across prose, games, comics and audios about a time travelling assassin literally being chased by Death itself after a hit gone wrong, taking every hourly job across a whole day searching for a particular incarnation of the Doctor who may have some answers and could save her life.  Unlike Time Lord Victorious with its multi-stranded narrative, Doom's Day has 24 discrete "episodes" and were generally released in chronological order over the summer, topped and tailed by an arching story on the website (more information here).

It's immense fun.  It takes time to get a handle on Doom's character because the first quarter of her story is told through shorter comic strips in DWM and a couple of Titan Comics which use Missy as the focus.  But once the longer form storytelling kicks in through the novel, the audiobook and then the Big Finish plays and Sooz Kempner's vibrant performance in the title role, we're more clearly able to understand the irony of her chasing after a figure who would completely repudiate her chosen profession.

Which is exactly what happens when Doom runs into the Doctor and Charley in the penultimate hour.  She stumbles into their mission to preserve causality from The Crowd, a race of intergalactic tourists who, rather like the miscreants in Gary Kilworth's Let's Go to Golgotha, visit scenes of death and destruction for kicks and having exhausted the usual venues are now creating disasters and have it in for Thomas Becket and Canterbury.  What follows in Lizzy Hopley's script are the usual hijinks intermixed with heated discussions concerning the time traveller's morality and methods.

The Crowd is the most Doctor-centric story of the whole series and Paul's clearly in his element with all of this, bringing out the Doctor's darker side from later in the Big Finish timeline especially when Charley's not around for various reasons.  But India is also loving playing up to the Edwardian's similar dismissal; over the years Charley's offered a diplomatically light touch even against the darkest of foes, but Doom really rubs her up the wrong way and the feeling's mutual, the assassin referring to her a Pollard throughout.

The Eighth |Doctor at his most hard line, even authoritarian.  He hates Doom and everything she stands for and says so to her face, slowly remembering the occasions when they've met before from his point of view in his first, second and sixth incarnations (Doom's met him in later versions and not really gotten along with them either presumably because they remember this meeting with greater clarity).  He's life's champion and at every turn he tries to distance himself from her and even when they have to ally with one another, he's less keen than if she'd been the Master.

The effect of this is for us to re-assess how we've reacted to Doom's adventures.  As consumers of various franchise content, our suspension of disbelief changes depending on what we're watching, reading or listening to.  Having a hired assassin as the protagonist allows us to bend out morality to accept that for her missions to be a success she has to outright murder people and we might even cheer her on as she does so.  On occasion she does find a way of dodging the murder of innocents, but bumping off crime bosses is fair game.

Except now we have the hero of the franchise, usually our hero, pointing out the moral implications of that lifestyle.  Some of the hours are structured like Doctor Who stories but with someone who has a different moral compass at the centre and now we're beginning to question our own enjoyment of events and its the first occasion when Doom herself takes a good long look at her lifestyle.  That makes this one of the richest of the various hours and makes the whole trip worthwhile - well that and the hilarious twist in the final hour, but you'll have to read that yourself.

Placement:  Charley says she and the Doctor have been travelling for a while so let's put it just before Time of the Daleks to help that make sense.

Review 2023: A Review of 2023: March

01    Twitter pretended everyone was a new user

13    Gary also won

15    BBC journalists went on strike for a different reason.

18    Red Nose Day

21    My Dad tested positive for COVID.  I had a meltdown.

22    Boris Johnson gave evidence to the parliamentary standards committee.  It did not go well.

24    Got COVID

25    COVID

26    COVID

27    Felt a bit better but still COVID

28    COVID.  Reached infinity in Marvel Snap

30    Donald Trump indicted.  Gwyneth Paltrow won.  It was a busy day.

Review 2023: A Review of 2023: February.

01    James Gunn announced  an amazing new slate of DC films.  #firejamesgunn quickly trends on the socials.

07    Rose Day

09    New deputy Tory chairman Lee Anderson MP asks BBC Nottingham drive time presenter Verity Cowley ten times if she's a liar when she questions him about his mistruths, then he asks that the interview not be played.  They played it.  In full.

28    PM Rishi Sunak said the following and redefined irony:  "Northern Ireland is in the unbelievably special position - unique position in the entire world - in having privileged access not just to the UK market… but also the EU single market.  Nobody else has that. No one. Only you guys, only here."

Review 2023: A Review of 2023: January.

That Day    The joke about the annual reviews on this has usually been that they're not really annual reviews as such and often had nothing at all to do with the twelve months preceding them.  But after the anniversary nonsense last year (and this year and as we've discussed next), I decided that just this once I would actually do a review of the year.

Almost every day this year I've been collecting what seem to be the most significant or at least the most talked about news stories or happenings and keeping them as a list.  Sometimes I've just written something else or kept a record of something so outlandish it had to be saved for posterity.  If something looks especially esoteric, I've probably forgotten for a couple of days and wanted to fill a gap.

Ferris Bueller says “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  Here's 365 examples of me doing just that.  It's all the stuff you either may have forgotten or didn't see in the first place.  Each piece will be accompanied by one of a favourite song containing the name of the month.

Anyway, to January which began with something which probably defined the year.

01    Scarborough cancelled their New Year fireworks display for a visiting walrus, only for it to masturbate and leave

04    I had a job interview.

06    I did not get the job.

11    Michelle Yeoh won a Golden Globe.  Told house band to "shut up" when they tried to play her off.

14    Read in this book that the original Norse Loki transformed himself into a mare so he could be impregnated by a stallion and give birth to an eight legged horse which then became Odin's favourite steed.  Sadly this did not happen in season two of the Disney+ series.

22    The extent of Jeremy Renner's injuries revealed after snow plough accident.

25    After a long search, I bought a new bookcase from Argos to store my Doctor Who discs.

27    Video shows police brutally beating Tyre Nichols—then laughing about it.  The protest were peaceful so the media moved on within a couple of days.

30    There's a general sense that January is never going to end.  Brexitcast reunion.

Firelight (Once Upon A Time Lord)

Comic  Once Upon a Time Lord is the first in what's to be comics a-lister Dan Slott's annual Doctor Who story, on loan from MARVEL, where he usually writes for the Spider-Man and She-Hulk lines.  He's been a fan of the show for years and says that when crafting this graphic novel, he wanted to write it as though it might the only time he'll get the chance so he's included everything, all the monsters and importantly for our purposes the Doctors.  

The story opens with ten frame collage in which each incarnation of the Doctor up to the Tenth (not including War) is show explaining the modus operandi of the main villian, the Pyromeths, creatures who "feed on the precise psychic energy that's released whenever we create imaginary worlds, characters, and conflicts" a little bit like the birds in The Scarlet Empress or Akhaten in The Rings of Akhaten.  Like Big Finish, they love stories.

The Eighth Doctor appears in a single panel in his Dark Eyes leathers talking to Molly because we're in deep cut territory (the Sixth Doctor's chatting with Frobisher) standing next to the TV Movie console on the opposite corner to the visually similar Secondary TARDIS Console Room from the Hinchcliffe years.  He's the one who directly references Scheherazade, the storyteller from 1001 Nights (which I had to look up because I didn't know her name).

There's nothing more to it than that.  Why Eighth and Molly?  I've asked Mr Slott on the socials but don't really expect a reply, he's far to busy.  There's no mention of it in the interviews I've tracked down either.  It's notable that Big Finish doesn't have a credit and neither does DWM for Frobisher which is odd considering all of the notices for the Daleks and Cybermen.  Perhaps there's some kind of shared domain business.

Placement: The TARDIS Wiki places it between The White Room and Time's Horizon.  Let's go with that.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1989.

We're now at the point when every year feels pivotal and/or memorable 1989 is no exception.  A glance at just the television page for these twelve months on the wikipedia shows us the trivial and profane: The Late Show debuted, Colin and Guido's kiss on Eastenders, the Five Star incident on Going Live, the coverage of Hillsborough, BBC2's 25th anniversary, John Craven retired from Newsround, Robin Day retired from Question Time, NICAM stereo test transmissions began,  Challenge Anneka began, Blackadder Goes Forth, Jeremy Paxman joins Newsnight, Around The World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, Byker Grove, Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, Dennis Potter's Blackeyes and the Del Boy falling through the bar sequence on Only Fools.

But perhaps most importantly of all, Doctor Who's original twenty-six year run ended with the third episode of the story Survival before it headed off into the wilderness years.  With Ncuti making his solo debut in the role tonight as we reach the close of the 60th anniversary year (which after a slightly muted start has exploded like Katy Perry's Fireworks), I thought I'd talk about the final speech delivered in voiceover by Sylvester McCoy, hastily written by script editor Andrew Cartmel when Executive Producer John Nathan Turner caught wind that their might not be new series in 1990.  Here it is:
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on Ace, we've got work to do."
In just a few short sentences Cartmel captures the essence of Doctor Who as a character and programme.  All of the revival showrunners would return to similar lyrical waxing, notably when the tenth Doctor misunderstands that Donna isn't proposing to leave the TARDIS during the Sontaran two-part in Season 4 ("The Fifteenth Broken Moon of the Medusa Cascade, the Lightning Skies of Cotter Palluni's World, Diamond Coral Reefs of Kataa Flo Ko.")  It's almost nonsense poetry, except because of the format, especially in the prose, audio and comics that filled the sixteen year gap, the Doctor and his companions in all their various configurations probably visited planets exactly like these if not weirder.  

The Doctor and Ace could have just wandered off into the sunset as was originally planned, but this final speech somehow became a preview of what was to come.  Now here we are, eight years away from the revival surpassing its original run (and the way things are looking with series already in production to 2025 this doesn't seem that unlikely), you could probably swap out the companion name, give that dialogue to each subsequent Doctor and it would still work just as well.  Not to mention that special effects and budgets, although not infinite, could put people made of smoke on screen and show us how a sea could sleep and what Rivers dream of.  Hello Sweetie.  Happy Christmas.

The Show

"Report on the auditions for The Show, the new late-night television show for BBC Northern Ireland. Interview with BBC producer Jane Cassidy. Reporter: Susie Millar."
[BBC Rewind]

"BBC Northern Ireland's The Show, which began on Saturday evening (4.11.89), resulted in around 700 phone calls of complaint and the subsequent resignation of presenters Eamonn Holmes and Rhonda Paisley. Report by Liam Creagh."
[BBC Rewind]

"Eamonn Holmes resigns as presenter on BBC Northern Ireland programme The Show. Interview with Presbyterian Minister Reverend Willis Cordner. Report by Mike Gaston."
[BBC Rewind]


"An amateur film of two North London cinemas and a BBC run open day at the Ealing Film Studios that features props and iconic set pieces from the TV series Dr Who."
[Screen Archive South East]

"The Director General of the BBC Michael Checkland was heckled by journalists when he arrived to open the organisation’s new television centre in Nottingham."
[Media Archive for Central England]

"Report on 10th anniversary celebrations at Radio Foyle. Interview with Sean Rafferty, Gerry Anderson and Michael McGowan. Reporter: Liam Creagh."
[BBC Rewind]


"The most innovative and consistently funny British sketch-based comedy series of the last 15 years is also one that is inexplicably only ever repeated at late nights on cable channels: BBC’s A Bit of Fry and Laurie (1986 – 1995)."
[Off The Telly]

"Michael Peters’ design for the BBC Corporate Identity, launched in 1988, had sharpened up the existing BBC slanted blocks and typography and had introduced the underscore beneath the blocks in colours to represent Scotland, Wales and Ireland."
[Ravensbourne University London]

"The phone rings in Michael Palin’s office. “Hello?” he answers. “Yes, yes BBC, I know.” A pause. “You want me to what? You want me to go around the world? Yes, but I don’t see why, you can go around the world in 36 hours …” Silence. “Ah, 80. 80 days. Yes, I see, I’d be Phileas Fogg. And no aircraft.”"
[Off The Telly]

"Peter Snow presents the programme on the day the Berlin Wall was breached."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]

"The Blackadder star loved playing the villain in this Robin Hood spoof – but Kate Lonergan had to get checked for bites between shots as her yellow underwear kept attracting ticks."
[The Guardian]

"This special edition of Open Air focused on the success of Australian soap operas in the United Kingdom. The Prisoner segment includes phone interviews with actresses Sheila Florance (Lizzie Birdsworth) and Val Lehman (Bea Smith). It aired on 27 April 1989."

"Watch the band's interview with Red Dwarf star Craig Charles on this archived slice of grindcore heaven."
[Metal Hammer]


"Doctor Who is 50 this year and has plenty to celebrate. But just like chart-topping bands with albums they wish they had never released, the veteran sci-fi TV show has had its share of turkeys. Why is the 1980s the decade so many fans love to hate?"
[BBC News]

"This has been a year of significant change for the BBC and for the whole broadcasting industry. This might easily have been written in each of my three previous introductions to the BBC's Annual Report to Parliament. But, after so many predictions, much guesswork and some false starts, we have finally seen in the last 12 months the real transformation of the broadcasting landscape."
[World Radio History] 

The Future

Just a short note for people who've read down this far.  Now that we've reached the end of the 80s and the peak TV Cream period, I thought it would be the right time to take a pause.  Writing these weekly posts can be incredibly time consuming and with this year's Christmas Links, preparing Review 2023 (which begins tomorrow) and, well, life in general, I've fallen behind.  The last thing I want is for something sub-optimal to be posts here (not that's stopped me before).

Plus, with more recent decades hovering into view I'm in the process of trying to work out how to cover the 00s and 10s without it all being a bit I Love 1999, especially when it's really difficult to classify what counts as "archive" three years ago.  Perhaps I'll sneek one out in six weeks and go full bore (in both senses of the word) again in four months given where I've left off.  Though hopefully it'll be sooner.  Anyway, let me know if you've been enjoying these posts through the usual channels.

Christmas Links #24

‘I cried for hours’: the moments people realised truth about Father Christmas:
"Suspicions start to become aroused around the age of eight, shows psychology study."

"The Hallmark and Lifetime networks are known for their prolific output of made-for-television holiday movies each year. Even in the age of streaming, they bring in impressive cable television ratings, perhaps aided by how easy they are to leave on while, say, baking several batches of gingerbread for a tree lighting ceremony."

"Thirteen years after a theatre opened, its first full-scale pantomime has been "worth the risk", it said."

"The festive favourite that’s also incredibly divisive…"

"Ed Emberley has been drawing and making art for children's picture books for six decades now. Some of his work include instructional drawing books, inspired by his belief that everyone can learn to draw."

"More than 21,000 people have signed a petition calling on a bishop to intervene in the row after the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, in the Avellino hamlet of Capocastello di Mercogliano, features what appears to be two mothers, rather than just Mary and Joseph."

"If you’re exhausted from that radio station on your presets that flipped to all-Christmas the day before Thanksgiving and has been playing nothing but Mariah, Wham!, Brenda and Burl ever since, here’s a tonic: 40 great holiday songs you probably haven’t heard."

"Christmas time is upon us, and though children loathe getting new clothes for gifts, they best put on that new itchy sweater or slide on those unwanted socks. Or else risk being eaten alive by a giant cat, at least according to Icelandic folklore."

"Over a dozen celebrities got into the giving spirit with the Los Angeles Mission on Dec. 22 for the non-profit’s 87th Annual Christmas Celebration."

"Do you remember the "Christmas Bells" advertisement for Hershey's Kisses that debuted in 1989 and that has been aired—with minor changes in 2012 and 2020—every holiday season since? In the ad, Hershey's Kisses, arranged into the shape of a Christmas tree, become handbells as they play "We Wish You A Merry Christmas.""