Linking Material (Short Trips: Seven Deadly Sins).

Books It's going to become increasingly difficult for official calendar publishers to produce tie-ins for Doctor Who. Up until recently, there were twelve incarnations which fit nicely into the Gregorian calendar, but with the additions of War and Thirteen, deciding how to fit them all in is going to be increasingly tricky. Producing an anthology of stories called Seven Deadly Sins provides a similar challenge if you're Big Finish and you have to service Eight incarnations. So it makes sense that while seven of them each have a story which evokes one of the sins, that the other should provide some kind of linking tissue.

Which is why we have Eighth in a surreal version of Channel 4's blind auction game show Four Rooms, but with a Tory front bench like group of morally ambiguous rich people instead of experts and experiential therapy rather than nicknacks.  The Doctor enters each of the rooms and does something to provoke the sin of each of the "clients" to bubble to the surface before they're then plunged into experiencing a moment from his past leading into one of the short stories which they're going to experience as one of the characters.

As a piece of writing, it's customary tour-de-force from Jac Raynor.  I especially enjoyed the moment when Eighth meets a fellow Time Lord and goes into some detail about his biography in order to provoke envy in the musty old being.  It's a rather more prosaic forerunner to the later scenes on television when the Doctor invokes his biography as a way of scaring the monsters.  Something which could have been rather anemic becomes a much richer brew, largely due to the scrupulous characterisation of this Doctor.  A couple of things might have made me wince, but they're not really anything he hasn't done before.

Placement:  Presumably he's travelling alone but it feels like some time since the regeneration.  So I'll bung it between the comics and audios.

Ravenous 4.

Audio Another series galumphs to the end and although I've enjoyed it more than either Dark Eyes or Doom Coalition, why do I feel like it's time to move the Eighth Doctor on to some new paradigm?  Perhaps it's because once again, the stand alone episodes in Ravenous have been the strongest by far and that just as previous attempts and serialisation have shown, this sort of thing doesn't really work in Doctor Who for longer than a few stories.  When the EDAs attempted this sort of thing, it was always far more successful when it encompassed half a dozen books rather than a dozen or so, and having a single box for the Ravenous would have been far preferable to what we've had here.  That said, there's still plenty of fun to be had, especially in the closing couple of episodes.

Whisper

Doctor Who does A Quiet Place.  Sort of.  Having the Eleven as a Turlough figure seems ok in theory, but it leaves the Doctor looking like a naive idiot because once again he's in the position of assuming the best in people even if everything which has happened previously would indicate that he has no reason to.  But it feels out of character for this Doctor and it's simply bizarre when it's revealed that he isn't stringing the Eleven along to see what he's up to but does genuinely believe he's changed, admonishing the very real suspicions of his companions, one of whom has already made the same mistake.  The Doctor isn't Charlie Brown.  He's Lucy.

Planet of Dust

Doctor Who does Mad Max: Fury Road with the Beevers Master as Immortan Joe.  Sort of.  One of the joys of Big Finish is how they've taken a character like this version of the Doctor's old frenemy and made him a viable antagonist based on just a few episodes of the classic series (four of which this actor didn't appear in) without running roughshod over televisual continuity.  He has the perfect hook, a desperation to survive and although we know how he'll ultimately succeed (poor Tremas and would you believe I've only just realised that was an anagram), it provides plenty of narrative mileage to work from as is demonstrated here.

Day of the Master

Big moment for this project as the Eighth Doctor and the Bruce Master meet for the first time, or at least the first time outside of prose or the comics.  The Diary of River Song has somewhat dulled the impact, the explanation for his survival having been established there already, but nevertheless hearing McGann and Roberts in a scene together again after twenty-odd years is quite the thing to behold even if it doesn't seem like they recorded together (not that you'd notice).  Congratulations to John Dorney for returning him to a place at the end which means that other versions of his story also still make sense (in a way which suggests he was using the TARDIS Datacore as a reference).

The final episode is delicious.  Messes Roberts, Jacobi and Gomez chomp merrily on the imaginary scenery, the latter clearly enjoying every second of this and foreshadowing her reaction to the Saxon Doctor (we have to assume this is the prequel).  But the sheer number of mysteries and twists tumbling over each other to get out are incredible, to the point that I thought we might even stumble over the origins of the Eleven (was this a deliberate red herring?).  Incredibly dark in places, this nevertheless has a heart as big as the ticker carried around by Kelly Hutchinson in Roger Sanchez's Another Chance video and I can't wait to see what happens next.

"A bunch of flowers and I slam the door ..."

Music Boom. It's Graham Norton day and #Sugababes is trending on the Twitters. Here's why:



Yes, it's cover version, but listen to those harmonies. I'm bias, but this is a far richer experience than the original and indeed gives us a window into what (the) Sugababes might have been like if Siobhan had stuck around for another couple of albums.  Plus according to the track listing on Spotify, this by Sugababes.  No definitive article.  So they have properly got the name back and I'd love to know the story of that.  Everything old is new again.

Meanwhile Amelle's on Coach Trip (whatever that is) which caused this extraordinary exchange:
"Tensions have been rising between the pair as 31-year-old James - who is on the trip with Essex co-star James 'Diags' Bennewith - continues to arrive late to the coach.

And things hit an all time high when the group were asked what their favourite Sugarbabes song is in honour of new passenger Amella Berrabah.

Arg was quick to say his favourite one was Overload, and Brendan jokingly asked if it was also Diags' choice because ‘he does all the talking.’

The TOWIE star then shouted back: “You asked me my favourite Sugababes song so I'm f*****g telling you what my favourite Sugababes song is.

“Maybe I have got a different one to Diags.”

Not stopping there, he added: “You like the sound of your own voice too much mate, slow yourself down.”

After Brendan gave him a stern talking to, Arg later explained his outburst to the camera adding: “He got proper loud and rude in front of everyone, he proper mugged me off in front of my pals.”

And the rest of the passengers were shocked by Arg’s behaviour, as Steps singer Ian 'H' Watkins, 43, said: “I saw a different side to Arg. It almost was verging on nasty.”
It's probably beside the point to note that he managed to pick a Sugababes track that was well before Amelle's time and that's not the thing they had a row about. Anyway, here's Amelle singing Overload with Keisha and Heidi.

Mutya Keisha Siobhan are no more?

Music Blimey, this is quite a paragraph on the Official Charts website about guests on upcoming episodes of The Graham Norton Show:
"There's a big reunion set for October 18, as the original line-up of Sugababes will perform on TV for the first time in five years - and they've gotten their original name back. Kind of. Billed as The Sugababes, Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy (formerly known as MKS) will collaborate with DJ Spoony for a performance of Sweet Like Chocolate. The song features on DJ Spoony's upcoming album Garage Classical, a collection of reworked garage staples from the 1990s featuring the likes of Paloma Faith and Lily Allen."
So there's a legal loophole in the definitive article? Or have they actually got the rights to their name back as CelebsNow suggest?  Either way, or whatever, this is quite a paragraph. 

Now, here's an earlier appearance by some version of Sugababes on some version of Norton's show. In 2002.

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.

Reading a Book.

Books Here's some pretty common sense but nevertheless useful to be reminded help on how to read books from Clio and the Contemporary, an old fashioned group blog written by historians.

It's supposed to be the university students and only partially makes sense for non-fiction, but a couple of items stood out to me:
"Create a reward system that motivates you. I place a post-it at the end of each chapter so I know approximately how many pages I have left to read. I use these post-its as benchmarks – as mini-motivators to get through my reading. Sometimes I add other motivators, such as a timer to challenge myself to read more expediently—I rarely get the work done within the time limit I set but just having the timer forces me to read more quickly. And, finally, I almost always plan a reward for myself for when I get to a post-it (a small victory!). For example, I’ll tell myself: “when I finish this chapter, I’ll go get a cup of tea” or “when I get through this section, I can eat a cookie” or “when I finish the book, I will take a walk with my dog.”"
Being such a slow reader, I tend to keep to a chapter at a time regime, which is fine for TARGET novelisations, less so for the more esoteric history books.

Dating a Photograph.

History The Library of Congress blog has a series of posts about the photographs in their collection and the latest entry is about dating some of the miscellaneous items by comparing them to what is or isn't there. Utilising an aerial view of their own building, they're able to show that in a city which is constantly in flux, it's entirely possible to pin it down to a decade or two:
"This photo features the Library of Congress Jefferson Building at center, and it’s always good to start with a subject you know well! The Library of Congress campus now consists of three buildings. In addition to the Jefferson Building, completed in 1897, there are the John Adams Building and the James Madison Building. In the detail photo below, the arrows point to the locations where those two buildings will be in the future. The Madison, where the Prints and Photographs Division is, will take up the entire block at lower right. The Adams will be at the right edge, where a few smaller buildings are visible. The oldest of the two is the Adams, which opened to the public January 3, 1939. So, this photo is before 1939."
Although as they say it's such a time consuming process it would be impossible to investigate every item in their collection, I wonder if there'll be a moment in the not too distant future when AI and machine learning may be able to help, following the same processes as this human.

The 231163 Diaries:
Montevallo High School.



History Montevallo is a city in Shelby County, Alabama. Montevallo High School is a of the key part of the community. Back in 1963, it published a school newspaper, the Spotlight, which is available on archive.org and allows us to see their poignant reporting on how the school reacted to the assassination of Kennedy.

The first story comes from the front page, above the title.

President's Death Stills, Silences MHS

During the lunch hour the halls of Montevallo High School are usually the scene of gay conversations, laughing couples, and noisy, running steps. But on Friday Nov. 22, conversations were sad; couples sober; and steps almost tip-toe quiet.

At approximately 12:35pm word spread throughout the school that President John F. Kennedy, as he rode in an open car in a parade through the streets of Dallas, Texas, had been the victim of an assassin's bullet.

The news brought transistor radios into action. The television was cut on. Everyone found "somewhere to listen" and to hope quietly that the president would survive.

But at 1:30pm, an already saddened MHS student body and faculty heard the official announcement, "The President is dead."

There's further colour piece on page three:

School Grieves with Nation

Quietly, reverently, Johnny Boyd, Terry Herron, and Rosemary Woolley lowered the school flag to half mast; and in that position "Old Glory," whipped gently in the breeze, seemed to symbolize the bowed heads of a sorrowful nation. On that day, Friday, Nov. 22, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

When the bell rang at 12:30pm last Friday, we were not aware of the tradedy which had befallen our nation. But as students who left the school grounds for the lunch hour returned and spread the sad news, they were met with shaken misbelief on all sides.

However, as radios and television continued to verify the reality of the assassination, a stunned silence pervaded the school. Most classes that afternoon disregarded their regular activities because of the general concern for the tragic event.

We live and breathe; we dream and plan; our future is ahead. But, unable to watch his children drow to maturity or to see his modern American ideas fulfilled, our President has passed into a "New Frontier."

Also on the front page is an editorial from the school principal:

Tragedy Stuns Nation; Sorrow Forges Unity

(An editorial)

by Guy Milford, Principal


Difficult as it is to do, we are compelled to accept the incredible reality of our president's death Nov. 22.

However we may have disagreed with him from time to time, we know he was a very warm human being of great and good humor, boundless energy and brilliant intellect.

His courage, devotion to God and country and family are unquestioned.

In coming from the first shock of disbelief, perhaps we can go forward and grow into a more mature understanding of our fellow man.

If in our sadness and grief at the tragic events of recent days, we can find the strength within ourselves to wash the hatred from our hearts, we can look with faith towards the future of our country.

Then, our late president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, shall not have died in vain.

Young and Depressed in America.

Books Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation is 25 years old and Anne Thériault has written for Long Reads about what the book has meant for her and why she thinks it was so successful and continues to be:
"What seemed most important to me about Wurtzel’s writing was that she had been messy, and she was willing to detail that mess without apology. Just: here is how I’ve behaved. She offers the reader no contextualizing, no explaining, no objective distance from the events described. I still can’t tell if Wurtzel did this intentionally or not — and, if it’s a device meant to draw readers deep into her own stream of consciousness, she doesn’t always wield it skilfully — but either way, it was a radical departure from how I’d seen women write about themselves. I’d never read a story about a woman engaging in such rambunctious self-destruction that didn’t turn into a morality tale; on the other hand, there was no shortage of stories about men being comparably messy. [link]"
Yes, exactly.  That's what struck me on reading the book, its blinding honesty and lack of fear in presenting the rawness of herself without caveat.  That continued into the sequel More Now Again, about the ritalin fuelled genesis of Bitch, the feminist polemic she wrote in between.  On neither occasion does she come across well, but it's the bravery of exploring her own failings which makes them intensely readable and relatable.

When I discovered the book sixteen years ago, my reaction was to write about it on here as though she'd been someone I'd actually spent time with, as though the book was a conversation we shared (I'd bought all three books at Music Zone in Manchester which explains the references to that city) (the science fiction writers would have course represent the Doctor Who novels I'd been reading in that period).  I mean it's fine as pseudo intellectual exercises go.  It's one of the few blog posts from back then which I actually remember writing.

But it fits within the style of this blog back in 2003, far more personal, when I felt more comfortable talking about myself.  As I've said since, as soon as someone you know talks about something they've read here, it's done.  It's much easier to be reveal yourself when you can't imagine the face of someone actually reacting to what they're reading.  That's another reason why Wurtzel's books seemed so incredible.  She talks about people who will inevitably read her words and not always in the best light.

Anyway, to celebrate this literary milestone and commemorate how things used to be, here's something I've never mentioned on the blog before.  Back in 2017, I wrote about my first kiss.  What I didn't include is that that has been my only kiss, that stupid, sloppy, drunken smacker lasting a couple of seconds from my post-uni days is the only time I've pressed lips with anyone.  Of course that implies a range of other logical revelations, but let's just stick to that one for starters, not that there's much else to add.  At least, not right now.

Thanks for Darren for sending me the article.  I bet you weren't expecting this.

"A twice-weekly serial set in the exciting world of League Football."

TV Whilst there's probably lots to say about how lawmakers on both sides of the atlantic are finally beginning to tippex out some of the horrors we endured in 2016, there's little point in my simply repeating the words of much more informed people.

Instead, here's a link to a useful distraction as Ludicrously Niche investigates the connections between Doctor Who and 60s drama United!:
"Monday 4 October 1965, 7pm, then, and the very first episode of United!, The Kingpin, is broadcast, and already we're off to a good start: the show itself was created, and naturally the very first episode was written, by one Brian Hayles, who just six months later would have his first ever Doctor Who story, The Celestial Toymaker, broadcast (2 to 23 April 1966). Hayles would go on to contribute five more serials between then and the end of the Jon Pertwee era in 1974, all but one of which featured his most famous creation, the Ice Warriors. The first episode was directed by John Davies, who directed a single Who serial: The Macra Terror, transmitted in March 1967."
The show itself feels incredibly ambitious for the time.  Sadly the whole thing was wiped so we'll never be able to compare how Malcolm Hulke's writing on the two series compared (unless the scripts are at Perivale - perhaps someone could go and have a look).

Now I'm going back to waiting for what's sure to be an explosive Newsnight.

The Washington Monument Re-opens.

History On the list of things I always wondered, but not enough to check why.

 Why does the Washington Monument change colour a third of the way up?

The Library of Congress blog explains:
"In 1856, when funding shortages interrupted construction, the monument stood only 156 feet tall out of a projected 500 feet. During the U.S. Civil War, the site was used for the grazing and slaughtering of government cattle, earning it the nickname Beef Depot Monument, as seen in this engraving (below left) [which is in the linked post -- ed.] published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper on Feb. 1, 1862. It was a rather ignominious period for the monument, after the cornerstone had been laid years before on July 4, 1848 to great fanfare in front of 20,000 people, with plans to build a design by architect Robert Mills."
The project was paused for years and then a concerted effort was made to complete the build with a simplified design in time for the centennial.

Please, Just Shut Up.

Web One of my absolute favourite Google Chrome and Firefox extensions is Shut Up which turns off below the line comments on every applicable website and in such an invisible way that for the most part you can't see the join.

On The Guardian's website, you can't tell the difference between the articles which have or haven't had the comments turned on.

Although it doesn't work quite right for every website, group blogs like Metafilter and message boards where discussions are the point become wastelands.

But if you're just tired of people you don't know shouting opinions about things they clearly don't know anything about, this which will change your life forever. 

Or at least make the web slightly more pleasant to use.

Chrome version.

Firefox version.

Destination TARGET:
Granto.

Books Let's begin. An Unearthly Child is an excellent example of how the (I can't believe I'm about to use this word) late Terrance Dicks was able to take even the most incoherent of Doctor Who television stories and make it lucid on the page.

His first key decision is to allow the whole of the first episode to encompass half of the book, cramming the final three, apparently far less interesting episodes into the latter half, emphasising, let's be honest, the best bit of the whole story.

But it's also much clearer that Barbara is the prime mover in forcing Ian and especially the Doctor to taking a humanitarian approach to the injured Za.  While both of them want to run away back to the TARDIS and leave him to his fate, Barbara is very clear about the moral choice they have to make.

Not only that but it also reveals that what would become storytelling staples later started here.  The TARDIS team are captured almost as soon as they arrive and have to find ingenious ways to escape, only really succeeding when they work together.

We also enjoy our first regime change, even if its not the most altruistic reasons.  In proving Kal to be a murderous liar, the Doctor effectively replacing him with someone they assume will be more pliable in their fate.  That Za's also impossible to reason with just shows he needs practice.

There is one other copy editing oddity which I hadn't heard about before picking up the book.  On the page it reads like literary deja vu and took a couple of readings to spot it.





Here's a transcript in case you're having difficulty with my dodgy scan:
"Za moved cautiously into the clearing, heading straight for the bushes where Ian and his companions were hiding. From somewhere behind him, there came a low growl.

Za swung round. It was the voice of the tiger, the long-toothed on, the old enemy of the people.

Granto the clearing, heading straight for the bushes where Ian and his companions were hiding. From somewhere behind him, there came a low growl.

Za swung round. It was the voice of the tiger, the long-toothed on, the old enemy of the people"
Which is either an error from the original transcript which was copied during typesetting (this is from the first edition), or simply a snafu at the printers.  I wonder if it was caught and corrected in later editions or it stuck.

Bergman: A Year in the Life is on BBC Four on Saturday.



Film As it says in the post title, the documentary, Bergman: A Year in the Life, is on BBC Four on Saturday at 9pm.  Here's a link to the documentary's BBC programme page, where it'll be available after broadcast.

It'll be followed at 10:55 by The Seventh Seal one of my top five favourite films of all time.  Here's where The Seventh Seal's programme page. This is a rare television broadcast.  Judging by a BBC Genome search, it was last on the BBC in 1995 as part of a wider Ingmar Bergman season, although FilmFour broadcast it once in 2009 and three times in 2011.

The eighty or so best films of the 21st century and some others.

Film Best films of a thing listicles aren't usually something to become enraged by. People have opinions, I have opinions those opinions don't usually match.

Yesterday NowTV set me up with a month's subscription to reality TV streaming service Hayu and even if just scrolling through the content turns me straight into Max von Sydow in Hannah and Her Sisters, I know there are people who find great comfort in watching rich people being silly and who am I to argue?  Who cares what a snob like me thinks?

But, friends, The Guardian's 100 best films of the 21st century is bullshit.

Oh no, hold on, I can't argue with the film in the top slot, even if Peter Bradshaw's longer analysis misses what makes it truly great, that as David Bordwell's analysis shows, it changes the language of cinema in a way which we're still seeing the effects of.

Plus it finds room for Stories We Tell and Gravity and 13th and Margaret (although it doesn't specify the three hour version, which is the true masterpiece).

The rest of the list, though, is filled with some absolute howlers.

Topper most: 

Inception isn't included.

The Guardianistas have The Dark Knight as their Christopher Nolan choice which is fine even if having it as the only one comic book movie when that is the prevailing and most prominent film genre of the past twenty years is not.  Take you pick of Marvel films.  They'll all do.

Except this list also includes Borat, which hasn't aged well and now looks like a "borderline" racist folly, the existentialist bore Anomalisa as the Charlie Kaufmann choice when Synecdoche, New York exists (as does everything Ardmann's released) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (which admittedly I haven't seen but can't be a better Tarantino than any of the others he's released in the past two decades).

But not including Inception here, is like ignoring The Matrix when listing 90s films.

As I proposed back in my original feverish review (nine years ago) (I'm old and so is this blog), Inception is "a film that has all the excitement of a typical summer action blockbuster but with all the intelligence and weight and beauty of a Tarkovsky film". 

It demonstrates that the audience is crying out for films which ask weighty questions and has great thematic heft as well as spectacle, not mention its visionary mix of practical and digital set design notably in the corridor sequence.

There are other howlers.  Ted rather than Bridesmaids, no Chalet Girl, a preponderance of miserablist films in general (is Nebraska really better than Hail Caesar?) but leaving out Inception shows a certain lack of appreciation for film history.  Fools.

The Gloria Bell Soundtrack Album.

Film Sebastián Lelio's Gloria Bell is a pretty good English language remake of the director's own 2013 film Gloria, this time starring Julianne Moore as the lonely divorcee who meets an unreliable jerk played by John Turturro.

It's fine.  As ever, Moore's performance elevates the otherwise pretty bland material.

But what really powers the drama is Matthew Herbert's score, an electronic orchestral wonderland which, if you're watching with headphones as I did, marinades your ears in major key as it charts the protagonists emotional ups and down.

The whole thing is on Spotify:



But honestly the title track is the most alluring, with its four note hook and automatic earwig, evoking the highs of new love.



About the only oddity is that some of the tracks sound like they're about to head off into an electronic free jazz improvisation of the K9 and Company theme:





Or perhaps that's just my fan gene taking a bath.

New BBC Archive pages launch.

TV The BBC have officially launched their relaunch of their archive pages with a long press release stressing the thousands of clips, many transposed from their Twitter feed and Facebook:
"The launch date coincides with the 50th anniversary of Nationwide, the early evening precursor to the One Show that featured quirky stories from around the UK between 1969 and 1983. Many of these delightful characters and oddball reports are finding a fresh worldwide audience online. The website brings together the best of these in an easy-to-use way that viewers can explore at their leisure."
It is of course and incredible resource but I still have a couple of suggestions:

(1)  Tags.  It would be really handy if the clips and their pages had clickable tags on them, for programme titles or key content.  That way the user could click on a programme title and find all the clips which appeared on the programme (hopefully with the additional option of sorting by date).  Or everything featuring William Shakespeare.  That sort of thing.

(2) Better organisation and linkage with elsewhere on the BBC website. This Face to Face with Anthony Burgess doesn't also appear on The Late Show page even as a clip and there isn't a link through to that page which would be very useful.  The BBC website also already contains a trove of clips on those programme pages which go unseen, so it seems right that there should be more cross-pollination.

(3)  Why aren't the whole programmes featured here as "clips" also on the iPlayer?  Is it the upload quality of the streams or money?  I bet it's money.

(4)  The links through to the BBC Genome are helpful, but it would be equally useful if a reciprocal link appeared there too.  This also needs to be more consistent.  There are loads of programmes which don't have this useful information on their BBC Archive page.

But all in all this is a fabulous time hole, and don't forget the clips page is in backwards chronological order so you can keep an eye out for new clips as they're added.  Hopefully there'll eventually be a workflow which causes clips added to the Twitter feed to automatically be cross posted here.

"Gotta get up, gotta out ..."

Music Oh so that's why the oft played Harry Nilson song in the Netflix dramedy Russian Doll seems so familiar. Good grief.



The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller: Volume One.

Audio Barring anniversary and special releases, of all the Big Finish Doctors, Eighth has had the most linear of release schedules rarely offering missing adventures at least in audio form. Although the era which follows on from the original Lucie Miller series and the Time War boxes have been released in parallel lately there hasn't been much in the way of trying to shoehorn stories into old gaps and even then they've been added retrospectively, as per the Mary Shelley trilogy. Now here we are with four new proper Lucie Miller adventures, wedged in after Human Resources and as I'm having it, before all the various Short Trips. While it was nice to have Sheridan reading a couple of those, there's nothing quite like hearing the bantz between her and Paul McGann, clearly enjoying each other's company both as characters and actors. The "VOLUME ONE" on the front cover implies more boxes are planned and that's excellent news. If it's good enough for Adric to have a host of new stories set before his demise, it's certainly good enough for Lucie Bleeding Miller.

The Dalek Trap

For Lucie's first show back, Nick Briggs offers us a Companion Chronicles style Doctor-lite episode of the kind which can only happen on audio because he doesn't speak for most of it. Returning to the role after six or seven years, Sheridan takes full advantage of the airtime to re-introduce the character at the moment when she'd broken through the shields of the more cantankerous Eighth from that first series leading to a return of the more adventurous man from the start of his Big Finish years. After stanning Charley for years, it took me a month or three to warm to Lucie back then, but now I can see how a character who originally seemed constructed to fit the Ace/Sam/Izzie/Rose formula has a more chaotic, relatable energy than those guys.  The story itself feels like a  purposefully formulaic mix of amnesia, being trapped inside a black hole and Daleks saying unusual things, lots of gracenotes (sorry) of the period.  Will the Darkness be revealed as the "big bad" of the boxset or something being set up for later in Eighth's timeline?  There are few things scarier than a known unknown.

The Revolution Game

God, this is refreshing.  Although both the ongoing boxes and The Time War contain stand alone episodes, they're always within the structure of a much wider story or lead in to one another, whereas this is a return to first principles, the Doctor and his plus one landing on planets and overthrowing governments.  Much as they did with the first few Baker series, there's been a real effort here to capture the feel of the original audios, with their quick pace, cinematic "visuals" and giant personalities.  Paul sounds like his in his element too, not having to deal with the baggage of a much older version of his character, a man who's seen too much (although of course if you count the books and comics as coming before the audios, he's already been around for a bit!).  Alice Cavender's play is in stark contrast with Kerblam!  Where that TV adventure ended with the status quo, the giant corporation still intact, here there's no question that the conglomerate ruling half the galaxy will go down, their infrastructural importance be damned.

The House on the Edge of Chaos

"***** ***** ** *****!" I shouted in the street on hearing the twist in Eddie Robson's superb little run around, but it's such a spoiler for this and another classic audio so you'll have to make do with asterisks. Another authentic episode which even without the mid-story cliffhanger from the olden days would fit perfectly in the tea time Sunday slot on BBC7. The Doctor and Lucie randomly find themselves on a colony world in which the cast of La Règle du Jeu live within an ever growing Winchester Mystery House, terraforming by house expansion. With strong themes about the arbitrary nature of the class system and how some justify their positions by explaining that it's the best way of keeping order, like The Revolution Game it coincidentally glances towards the upheavals in British life almost to second, something Doctor Who has always had a facility for. Some project business: Roger Vanisttart, whose last Big Finish credit was in a range of roles in Dead London which opened the second season of the "With Lucie Miller" stories, returns as the reclusive colony leader, just the sort of Roger Vanisttart role that Roger Vanisttart was born to play.

Island of the Fendahl

Definitive. With Alan Barnes writing and Nick Briggs directing, the Eighth Doctor equivalent of getting The Blues Brothers together, this had the potential to be something special and sure enough it's not just the perfect way to end this boxed set, but one of the best of this incarnations stories period. A Hinchcliffian remodel for The Wicker Man in the Whoniverse, with a police officer venturing from the mainland to isolated rock filled with cultists worshipping an ancient power this is also a prequel/sequel to a classic Who story, draws together threads from the rest of the boxed set and suggests a new bunch of unseen adventures for these two, it's catnip for a completist. Of special note: for various reasons two sets of characters are lost in a set of underground tunnels and through sound design alone we completely appreciate that they're in different areas but walking similar paths and criss crossing one another, cutting across the audio space in a chilling way. More please.

The BBC and World War Two.

History The History of the BBC pages have been updated with a huge archive of material from World War II in which corporation staff and others describe their experiences of the war and what it was like to work under those conditions, attempting to inform the public despite the pressures from government and the resources available.

Here's a page about celebrity during the period, with audio of General Charles De Gaulle broadcasting in French to his people from BBC Forces Radio:
"France had fallen, and the military commander had just arrived in London post-haste from Bordeaux. Now, in exile, he entered the BBC’s studios and sat before the microphone to broadcast to his fellow countrymen and women a fierce repudiation of Pétain’s armistice agreement with Nazi Germany.‘As the irrevocable words flew out upon their way’, he recalled, I felt within myself a life coming to an end’. Broadcasting, he said, had provided him with ‘a powerful means of war’.De Gaulle would broadcast from the BBC studios on several more occasions. But for him, the people of France, and for the BBC, this first broadcast represented a dramatic and vivid moment in the war."
There's a mountain of material here and I can't wait to set aside a day to work my way through it all.