The Queen is dead. Long live the King.

Life  A little after half past six this evening, the palace announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II.  We heard it via Huw Edwards, who's anchoring of the rolling speculation coverage since the original announcement about her health at lunch time and was becoming noticeably strained.  Moments before, he seemed to stumble over his words as the transmission editor cut from a shot of the gates to Balmoral to the flag flying at half mast over Buckingham Palace.  "And of course we are expecting the news from Balmoral that she's having treatment or that they're unable to help her majesty any more."  Then seconds later, "A few moments ago, Buckingham Palace announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II."

It's not unexpected, but it's also still a shock.  She's been the head of state for my entire life and my parent's lives, my Mum was 75 when she left us, my Dad is nearly 80.  However much you might think the royals have nothing to do with you, the shift from having a queen to king will have impact from the cash in your pocket having a new face printed on it to such events as the state opening of parliament just having a different energy.  We going to have to get used to using a different pronoun for our head of state.  The lyrics to our national anthem have changed.  There's also the historic moment of the country having a change in monarch and prime minister in the same week.  

The one occasion when I shared space with the Queen was at school.  I sang for the Queen on the occasion of her fortieth year as monarch.  It was in my sixth form at Blue Coat School and someone decided it would be good idea to fill the Anglican Cathedral with school kids and have them sing Handel's Zadok very loudly, whilst oddly other kids offered a martial arts demonstration. We practiced solidly for two weeks, frequently after school and on the day the big church looked a treat, and even though we had all rehearsed separately, the collective sound was suitably epic. Even the anti-royalists amongst us were excited about meeting her majesty. But she was clearly having a very busy day and didn’t have time to stop and listen, passing by on her way to the altar.

Here, then, we greet King Charles III.  I think it's fair to say the nation thinks of him less warmly, especially post-Diana.  It'll be up to him to navigate the future of the monarchy, an institution which has certainly taken a knock due to numerous scandals over the past few years.  But now that Elizabeth has gone, it's sure to enter an even more troubled era in which the pomp and circumstance looks even more antiquated, the sheer cost increasingly unjustifiable outside of the upkeep of the houses.  But I do think it'll survive even him in some form and honestly good.  The monarchy has provided continuity for a thousand years and do we really want to be the generation to ruin it?  Don't answer that ...

We Need To Talk About Jennifer Walters.

TV  Just briefly and spoilers for the first two episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law on Disney+.  Here's a picture of Tatiana Maslany on one of the few occasions when she's categorically not playing a Leda clone to provide a gap for you glance away if necessary.

Still here?  Ok, like said this is just brief.  One of the side effects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's everything's connected ethic is that the merest hint of a storyline leads to endless content across YouTube and news sites with theories, theories, theories, paragraphs and hours worth of near identical clickbait.

Here we are again with the Shulky series.  As soon as the Sakaar spaceship buzzed in during the first episode, the YouTube content creators burst into action collectively suggesting the series is setting up a Planet Hulk film, blah-la-la-la, even though Disney still do not have the distribution rights to solo Hulk movie projects.

Well, here's my theory.  The Planet Hulk storyline or something like it will happen.  But it'll be in the background.  Jen will phone Bruce or vice versa now and then and we'll receive glimpses of some epic storyline but it'll just remain as that, tantalising glimpses.

Since Jen's decided she doesn't want to be a superhero or at least an Avenger, we'll finally see what life's like for those who make that choice and like the Buffy episode The Zeppo, in which Xander dodged fighting in an apocalypse, she'll be defending low level hoodlums while Bruce is fighting to save Sakaar (or whatever).

Of course, if we don't see Planet Hulk or some such, there'll be the usual effluent from disappointed "fans" about how their imaginary expectations haven't been met which means this whole series has been a failure and the MCU is over.  But the key to the survival of the franchise is to slow down now and then.  Look around.

Across The Omniverse Revisited.

Film  Back in January, just after the release if Spider-Man's No Way Home, I wrote a theory of how to rationalise how fictional multiverses work and how they're interconnected.  After seeing Doctor Strange's Multiverse of Madness and Everything Everywhere All At Once and thinking about the back and forth between Ms Marvel star Iman Vellani and Kevin Feige about the designation Earth-616 (which is now being used for both the comics and cinematic universe), I've realised, rather like this sentence, I've over complicated things.

As in that previous post, I still think that there's a nested system at play.  That there's an omniverse which contains multiverses which then contain universes (or realities).  The mistake I made was in essentially creating two tiers of multiverses, in suggesting that MARVEL is its own multiverse which contains multiverses which I was calling universes and basing the mechanics on IP rather than media and so forth.  Using a similar structure and some of the same text, here's how it should actually be rationalised:

Omniverse.

An infinite collection of all stories ever.  As the Marvel article lists,  "not only Marvel Comics, but also DC Comics, Image, Dark Horse, Wildstorm, Archie, Harvey, Shueisha, Boom Studios, Rebellion, Dynamite, IDW, Graphic India, Derby Pop, Vertigo, Oni Press, Udon, Valiant, and every universe ever mentioned or seen".  Basically, this is everything.  Every film, tv show, comic, advert, every piece of fiction ever created.

Multiverse.

A single discrete multiverse within one of those stories.  In other words, the comics DC multiverse, CWverse, whatever's happening with DC's cinematic stories, alongside the Marvel Comics, the various animated series and crucially the MCU not to mention us.  If the many-worlds theory is true and there's an infinite number of them it stands to reason that somewhere out there, these fictional universe are actually happening.  Doesn't it?

The reason Iman and Kevin are at odds is because the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe gave the MCU a designation of Earth-199999 to make it distinct from the main comics universe, Earth-616 and so on also sitting alongside it (there's a big long list of them here).  But if you ignore the whim of whoever wrote that back in late 2008 in the afterglow of Iron Man's success, it makes more sense to say that the comics multiverse and the film multiverse are two different realities that run alongside each other.

The beauty of this is that it also means that all of these different multiverses can have their own localised rules about how they exist as multiverses, they can all contradict one another.  So if the MCU has one way of working out why the prime universe is 616 and the comics have another, that's ok.  Just as its fine that DC comics oscillates between having an infinite number of universes and fifty or so.  

But they can also connect (see the two Flashes meeting in the CW's Crisis) and from the point of view of the characters or even the writer in such a way that it feels like they're in the same multiverse from their point of view, even if they're quite separate.  So the Doctor doesn't exist within the comics universe, he just travelled there to drop off Death's Head before returning to the Whoniverse, which itself has its own multiverse.

Did the universes in Doctor Strange 2 exist before Loki in the MCU?  I honestly don't know.  If He Who Remains is to be believed, there was a multiverse which was then destroyed to make way for the sacred timeline, but the events of Loki have repeated the cycle.  In which case, once Sylvie killed He Who Remains, it's as though the multiverse has always existed and no one knows any different, Watchers and all.  Phew.

The other possibility is that the sacred timeline is a con-job.  That there was always a multiverse and that all He Who Remains was trying to do was stop off-shoots from the Earth-616 timeline for some reason or other.  So Earth-838 was always out there, as well as all the universes featured in the What If? animated series.  But I don't think we've been given enough information either way.  Yet.

Universes.

One of the universes within a multiverse.

Although confusingly a lot of those multiverses are also referred to as "universes" which is why I tied myself up in knots last time.  It should really be the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse, MCM, but its a bit late now.

Music  Great interview with the Sugababes from Dazed which includes Keisha telling us what she really thinks about some of the songs from the later albums: "There was actually a fan favourite from that time called ‘Ace Reject’. I once said I really hated that song and the backlash I got was insane. I was like, ‘you like that?!’. Now I have more of an appreciation for it. I still feel like it’s got the longest verse you’ve ever heard in your life."

Life   The Commodore 64 at 40: back to the future of video games is a short love letter by The Guardian's Keith Stewart to the second computer I owned.  Outside of school, it's practically all I did in my teenage years even if I was never very good at playing games and usually ended up resorting to the Action Replay.

"For much of its life television was an ephemeral media."

TV   Yet another creator reacts to their work being trashed by HBO Max.  Two whole completed seasons of Young Ellen will not now be seen by the public and the rest of its been pulled by the service.  What's so interesting to me, apart from the fact that Ellen Degeneres only spoke once and briefly to the showrunner of a cartoon about the talk show host's own childhood, is how technological development has changed the expectations of creators and viewers.

For much of its life television was an ephemeral media.  Creators would work for months or years on a project which would be seen only once, perhaps twice and then either wiped or disappear into a vault.  If a viewer wasn't there to watch when it was broadcast, it was gone and even if you were lucky enough to see whatever it was, it only then existed in your hazy memory.

It wasn't until new agreements were made with various creative unions did the programmes become viable again, either for repeat or release on the consumable of your choice and even then only when it was considered commercially viable.  There are hundreds of thousands of hours of television which are still inaccessible and although this has changed somewhat at the BBC for people at educational institutions, for the general public, nothing much has changed (legally at least).

But if you've lived in a world were the media which is important to you has always been just there both as a creator and viewer, this ephemerality feels like a pretty alien concept not least because unlike the days when the first time you'd read about a new drama was in the Radio Times a week before transmission, we're constantly bombarded with pre-publicity for these shows for months in advance.

None of which should be seen as McMillaneaque rant about how some of us have misplaced sense of entitlement.  There's every right to be outraged because the expectation has been put in place, because the technology now exists and if you're paying for a service on the expectation that what was once promised will be delivered, especially in the advertising, you're entitled to ask questions.

Nevertheless, it's still worth stopping now and then to glance at where we were then and where we are now.  Of course in an ideal world, the streaming of films and television would be treated the same way as music and everything would be available on a single service for a single fee with film and television studios leaving the technology for others to deal with.  But that's another discussion.

 Film  ShaderGlass is an "overlay for running GPU shaders on top of Windows desktop" and so has the ability to turn a PC screen into an old style CRT.  But the killer element is that any app can be fed through ShaderGlass as though its a separate screen which was mainly designed with retro gaming in mind but also means you can return the lines to DVD films running through VLC making them far crisper than usual.  I've most recently watched the non-anamorphic versions of the OG Star Wars films using the "crt-hyllian" shader which returned the analogue warmth of the image and looked amazing when I hooked my large television up to my PC via an HDMI cable.

Music  Doctor Who composer Segun Akinola was a guest on Friday's BBC Four Proms broadcast which included a Danny Elfman commission.  Watch here.

The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics at the Walker Art Gallery.

History  On numerous occasions over the many (many) years, I'd have a good moan on here about how little of London's non-contemporary art takes a trip up North.  Here's a version of the rant and although much has changed in the intervening years, through Tate Liverpool having a slightly more relaxed policy to including pre-1900 as a feature of their exhibitions and a few paintings from private collectors being included at National Museums Liverpool shows, I eventually decided to take myself to the art and spent the best part of four or five years visiting the various galleries in London on a monthly basis including spending whole afternoons just visiting a couple of rooms at the National Gallery.

That obviously stopped when the pandemic began but I just managed to visit the National Portrait Gallery at the beginning of 2020 to see the Tudor galleries at the end of a day spent following a Shakespeare walk around London, the chronology of the British monarchy laid out in a series of faces humanising these historical figures, albeit in the propogandist painting style of the period mainly by unknown artists copying earlier paintings by other unknown artists of Hans Holbein.  These works were often created as part of diplomatic missions, often with a dating aspect like a mid-1500s Twitter in which swiping left led to war.

So you can imagine how deep my eye roll was when I read that ironically what potentially could be the contents of the Tudor gallery at the NPG was going to be visiting the Walker.  Finally, a selection of the nation's treasures on tour ... which I just happened to have seen for free relatively recently and in an exhibition I'd now have to pay for.  But having complained for years about these national treasures not going on tour it seemed churlish to not pay to see them again and add to the all important visitor numbers which my be impressive enough to lead to more of this sort of thing find its way here.

And this really is most of the Tudor gallery at the NPG in a different venue, as though a portal has been opening up into the space in London.  The rare opportunity for the paintings to go on tour has been facilitated by the temporary closure of the gallery for refurbishment and an imperative to keep them accessible to the public in some form.  Before the Walker, The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics was at The Holborne Museum in Bath (or Barth) and perhaps the most impressive element is just how much of the exhibition is sourced from there.  This isn't an occasion when a few key works are padded out with elements from NML's own collection.

The lions share of the exhibition is themed around Henry VIII and Elizabeth I with Edward, Jane and Mary slotted in between.  At one end of the main room portraits of Henry's six wives are gathered and at the other end Elizabeth's "favourites" (fuckboys) so if you're interested in scandal, they're all here before so many of them lost their head before literally losing their head.  Although the exhibition includes the Walker's own world famous portraits of both, the Holbein copy and the Hilliard, there are multiple images of both monarchs from various, usually anonymous, hands.  But all of the key figures are represented.

If I had to make a recalibration in my expectations, it's that this isn't an art exhibition, its a history exhibition illustrated through painting.  Almost all of the portraits are accompanied by biographical information but very little that places them within an art historical context.  Obviously this is mostly to be expected.  Most these are works by unnamed artists and its the person who they depict which is of most interest.  But I would have preferred to see more of the kinds of information seen on the NPG's website about technique and attribution (although I could perhaps have simply had the website to hand via an ipad).

Plus this is my first proper exhibition in over two years (or indeed visit to an art gallery at all really) so I'm also a bit out of practice in navigating artworks and labels and other visitors.  Gallery fatigue set in quicker than usual which meant that when I reached the last of the three rooms, which looked at how the Tudors reflected out into the world, through exploration, slavery and culture its possible I could have spent more time absorbing the display.  But it's also true that once you've seen half a dozen roughly similar men in tights and ruffs and well appointed beards, they begin to blur into each other.

Unsurprisingly the advertised Shakespeare portrait isn't the Chandos - the painting with an accession number NPG 1 doesn't travel much - and I have it on my wall at home anyway (or a jigsaw at least).  The playwright is represented instead by the Martin Droeshout's engraving created for the First Folio (although this is apparently from one of the second or third editions).  But given how much of the collection is here, I'm very interested to know what the economics of the show were in terms of insurance and cost of travel.  The impressively massive Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I is here which looks too big to fit through the doors.

So was The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics worth the advanced price of £13.  Yes, I suppose, kinda?  I know that if I hadn't seen the paintings in London already on a couple of occasions and the Henry VIII show at the British Library in 2009 (with which this also shares a few items) I'd probably have been a bit less blasé about everything, indeed I know I wouldn't.  But it was nice to be in a space with these important treasures and to have them within walking distance of home (just about) (took me about fifty minutes) rather then three hour train journey (including the tube).  More please, and soon.

The Sotheby's Folio Update.

Commerce    Back in June I wrote about seeing a Shakespeare First Folio in London ahead of its sale in New York.  As The Guardian reports, the book's been sold:
"An original copy of William Shakespeare’s first collected book of plays has been sold for more than £2m at Sotheby’s auction house in New York."
Hopefully whoever bought it will enjoy having it and perhaps loan it out once in a while.  A lot of the copies in private hands are sat in vaults in Tokyo.

This also means that the Folio was the most valuable item in the room that day.

Illumination (Short Trips: Christmas Around the World)

Prose  Izzy!  Of all the eras dipped into by other media, the Doctor Who comics is the rarest.  Other than the Izzy's Story audio, Miss Sinclair only appears in two Short Trips, Syntax from Life Sciences (which I'm still yet to catch up on) and Illumination from Christmas Around The World.  David Bailey writes both and here at least he captures the comics companion's voice perfectly from the enthusiasm to the 90s references.  He also takes time to knit this into comics continuity with a mention for Faye/Feyde/Fey (or however its spelt).  

As befits a Christmas story, this has lots and lots of snow as the Doctor takes Izzy to Lapland only to find himself kidnapped by Norse warriors and bumping into Adam of Bremen, the medieval historian (so this is a celebrity historical of sorts).  They observe the locals being even more bloodthirsty than usual in scenes which certainly wouldn't have been in the comic and set out to discover what's effecting their behaviour and attempting to convince Adam not to spread misinformation about the Vikings in a bid to promote Christianity.

In the opening few paragraphs, there's a conversation I'm not sure I've seen elsewhere in which Izzy badgers the Doctor to explain his attire which he admits is fancy dress.  Across media up until this point its generally assumed that the Doctor's wearing the same clothes he nabbed from a locker in San Francisco which means unless he stopped off every now and then to get them dry cleaned, they must be getting a bit ratty now.  Also the Eighth Doctor doesn't wear socks.  I don't think I've ever noticed that before.

Placement:  After TV Action.  It's one of the few clean breaks in the comics.

Transmission Ends (Short Trips: Transmissions)

Prose As the title suggests this is the final story in the Transmissions anthology and like the Decalogs of old ties all of the stories together, in this instance by utilises fragments of them as metaphors in a telepathic conversation between the Doctor and the alien threat.  

Despite only having read the Eighth Doctor related stories in Transmissions, the author senses this might be the case and gives enough information through the Time Lord's recognition to navigate the sense of what's being communicated by this entity which has become ensnared in the terraforming satellites of a colony world.  

These flashbacks make this a sort of cross between TNG's Darmok and also TNG's Shades of Grey, what a Doctor Who clip show might look like in prose form.  But they're cleverly refocused in the first person from the Doctor's POV which gives the whole story a more substantial, novelistic feeling.

The relationship between Eighth and the young boy who's helping him, Alex, is incredibly poignant, the poor boy having been the original target for the alien's attempts at communication.  It's another story about how the Doctor sometimes isn't able to save everyone, even the most courageous.  

Placement:  Huh.  The since the alien's using the Doctor's own memories for the communication it has to be set after all of the other stories.  So I'm arbitrarily going to put it before Situation Vacant, as though it's one of the reasons he's decided he needs to find someone new to travel with.

Lonely (Short Trips: Transmissions)

Prose  Written in 2008 when Twitter was still a friendly place and Facebook had only recently opened themselves up to anyone rather than students, Lonely is structured around an old fashioned IRC chatroom, with the story developing amongst the various members of a forum designed for lonely people (bit close, as they say, to home there love).  It nicely captures the element of random strangers getting to know one another from across the world, along with the bozo who turns up having completely misunderstood the point of that particular chatroom and does something pr0ny.  <jsmith8> inevitably shows up to sort out the problem which develops, although despite its vintage, he comes across more like the socially less aware 12th Doctor with a touch of the Seventh Doctor's genocidal nature, unless that's just how his online persona manifests itself.  Few of us are same in real life as we are online.

Placement: Absolutely no hints but given the Doctor's slightly brusque manner it's probably between The Girl Who Never Was and Blood of the Daleks.

War in a Time of Peace (Short Trips: Destination Prague)

Prose The twist at the end of this is similar to the reveal at the close of the Eighth Doctor's other story from this anthology, Lady of the Snows.  The Doctor decides to show Charley the titular city one Christmas Eve in the future when Earth is thriving thanks to the countries on various continents having joined together to create super states and eradicating war.  Except they discover a Prague shielded by a huge protective dome and a populace fearful for their lives due to the war which is ranging outside.  The rest of the story is about the Doctor biding his time until he's in a position to prove them wrong.  

There's much fun to be had.  Most of the story takes place in a prison cell with Charley becoming increasingly frustrated with the Doctor's apparent apathy but knowing deep down that he probably has a plan but he's not telling her.  The main supporting character Ilsa, a local police officer, is also particularly well drawn as she decides to help the TARDIS team against her better judgement.  There are some real gems hidden in these collectors items and its surprising that Big Finish haven't found some way of re-releasing them in another form, perhaps as audio books.

Placement: Between Embrace the Darkness and Time of the Daleks.  They seem very comfortable with one another.

The Long Midwinter (Short Trips: The History of Christmas)

Prose  The problem with reading festive stories out of season is you can be a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to the more obvious details.  The Doctor, Samson and Gemma visit a Pandora like planet in which a group of humans in the far future have been genetically modified to exist in a cold atmosphere by becoming branches of a tree essentially, but not until the end of the story did I realise why there even was a great tree in this particular short story.  His companions come across as being slightly less mature than in their other adventures, Samson in particular giving us some mild islamophobia.  But there's some nice poetry in here and it's one of those kinds of stories in which the Doctor can't really do much but inspire those he's trying to help to take the next step.  But that may be enough.

Placement:  Between Mary and Charley.

Not in My Back Yard (Short Trips: The History of Christmas)

Prose  Fucking hell this is good.  Eddie Robson delivers a love letter to the NAs, EDAs and DWM comics just as attention was shifting elsewhere in 2005.  The Eighth Doctor and a new bespoke travelling companion he's just bust out of prison pitch up in the Seventh Doctor's favourite village of Cheldon Bonniface at Christmas in a future time so that he can hide her in what was once a friendly UK immigration service for aliens.  Sadly there's now a government in place which is taking much the same approach as the one we have in 2022 with tabloids creating a similar level of fear.  As the detention centre awaits closure the Doctor decides to take everyone into the village for a final Christmas bash and there are hijinks.  Many, many hijinks.

He can correct me on this, but I think this was Robson's first full Eighth Doctor story and he just nails it.  The tone is humorous and a bit daft but with a thematically serious core.  There are moments of physical and verbal comedy which leap off the page and look ahead to the broader edges of the TV revival.  This might be seventeen years ago but it feels totally fresh right down the huge event which happened about 5/6ths of the way through and then another 8/10ths after that.  Eddie's mainly written audio adventures since and he began writing was just a bit too late for the novels and it's a real shame we didn't see an EDA from him.

Placement:  For spoilery reasons there are some continuity references and a conversation right at the end which put it after The Gallifrey Chronicles but before Endgame.  

The Heroine, The Hero and the Megalomaniac (Short Trips: A Day in the Life)

Prose Utterly superb.  Like a espresso shot of the EDAs, this is a multi-Doctor story with bite as Seventh or as he's described here, "dark and manipulative" remonstrates with Eighth about saving Charley and the implications it has for the universe.  As in the BBC books, they absolutely hate one another, philosophical polar opposites on how they should be using their gifts.  After being made aware of her presence "Dark and manipulative" clearly sees Charley has a threat that needs to be dealt with and where it not for us already knowing how her stories plays out, it feels as though she might be in mortal danger from this earlier incarnation until Eighth is able to talk him around.  Somewhat.

Told from three parallel points of view on the story as per the title, for Charley, for the Doctor and the Baron, the proto-Sabbath who's in charge of the colony with a suspicious technology but wants to rule the universe, it's not quite a Rashomon affair since were just getting more information on the same series of events, rather than anything contradictory.  But writer Ian Mond is  nevertheless able to utilise the structure to provide a couple of good twists in our expectations ultimately in a way which shows that no matter which daft old face the Doctor has and whatever his methods, they're still the same being inside with the roughly similar goals.

Placement:  Another story which references Seasons of Fear but no later, so I'll put it in the gap between that and Embrace the Darkness.  One of the strengths of the story is it feels of a piece with the rest of that season with Charley's status an important point.  

Before Midnight (Short Trips: A Day in the Life)

Prose This is the second half or first half or first quarter and last quarter of After Midnight and having read both it makes about as much sense as Dimensions in Time.  I understand the concept now, that these are the stories at either end of an anthology which takes place across 24 hours, albeit in different parts of space and time.  But in an effort to also join all of those stories together and suggest that a submerged consciousness is experiencing all of those tales in a time loop, it's the expression of that time loop and how it's created which isn't quite enunciated properly, especially the bit about the Doctor and his friends inhabiting the bodies of their former selves.  Still, it's at least pretty entertaining and its good to have some fun C'rizz action which doesn't involving him moping about something or other.

Placement: After After Midnight.