Posts Tagged With: a good man goes to war

Have I Got Whos For You (Interlude)

All is not well in Planet Who, folks. There is discontent over the absence of a trailer, anticipatiion fatigue over the BBC’s continuing refusal to name a date, and a general sense of ambivalence about whether it’s going to be any good considering the writers they’ve got on board for next series. And over in a Viking village, Edgar’s let his sneeze get the better of him again.

I spent half an hour yesterday trying to interpolate footage from this year’s John Lewis advert into footage of explosions and disintegrating snowmen and the cracking of ice. It did not go well. My heart simply wasn’t in it, which is never a good beginning. So I cleaned the bathroom instead. There’s no video this week, but at least the house smells fragrant. We’ve done John Lewis before – more than once – and that comparative post I did back in 2016 really is due a revamp. Maybe next year. Maybe.

There was a pile of good things. Georgia Tennant posted a photo on Instagram of her new baby’s induction into the world of Doctor Who, although there was some concern over the episode that she was watching.

“HUNGRY,” said one FB user I occasionally interact with, to which the response from me was “Wrong episode.”

“Close, though, right?”

“Five years out. So in the grand scheme of things…”

If we’re talking series 12, of course, you have to work with what you’ve got. For example, a few weeks back we became aware of a suspected leaked image from an upcoming sequel to ‘Flatline’, although there was immediate speculation as to whether or not it was fake.

It’s not fake, surely? I mean it’s got lighting and everything.

One thing that definitely isn’t fake is the Dalek redesign, which was recently spotted on Clifton Suspension Bridge during a closed ‘maintenance’ slot which was actually booked for the BBC. There was immediate uproar over the apparent redesign, which served no purpose except to highlight the double standards inherent in the assessment of such things, because the Cybermen have been going for almost as long as the Daleks and the new ones are basically unrecognisable, whereas the Daleks have hardly changed at all over the years and the moment they do there’s wailing and crying and gnashing of teeth. Maybe that’s the whole problem. Perhaps a general evolution would have made the removal of the sink plunger an acceptable thing. Perhaps they’ve signed up to a twenty-four hour callout service and there’s no longer any need to do it themselves.

Anyway, it turns out there’s a reason for it.

I’ve been struggling a little bit with Thomas’s school this week, who have been perhaps less than understanding about some of his additional needs, even though they usually do a good job. We have explained to him that while copying out the question before you add the answer does seem rather pointless, you sometimes simply have to toe the line and pick your battles. We live in a system of assessments and targets and indecipherable lingo, and with four kids at four schools it really can be a bit of a minefield.

Anyway, Thomas is basically happy, but I do wish he’d read more. It’s Ripley’s Believe it or Not or a Beano annual or something in the Big Nate range, and while I’m not a reading snob of any sort there’s a wealth of great stuff out there he’s missing out on simply because he can’t be bothered. Occasionally – just occasionally – you can find something that’ll interest him, like we did when we found a Derren Brown book about hypnotism and the power of suggestion. He’d developed something of an interest in the man after regular visits to Thorpe Park this year where we all got rather attached to the Derren Brown ghost train – a ride I’m not allowed to spoil, because they ask you not to. Then this book showed up in a charity shop and he was riveted. It’s the sort of thing that makes me shudder, just faintly, because whether it’s genuine psychic ability or a simple confidence trick Brown is a piggin’ genius and the thought of Thomas going down that road makes me wonder what the consequences would be. It’s like giving the supersoldier serum to Red Skull. “No man should have that kind of power.”

I was trying to find something for him the other week when I stumbled upon this hideously inappropriate Doctor Who novel. I could still let him read it; the joke would probably sail over his head.

Audiobook available soon from all good streaming services.

Star Wars updates now – and cometh the man, cometh the Mandalorian.

It’s not just me, is it? Tell me it’s not just me.

I am trying to put my finger on the moment I lost interest in the Star Wars franchise. It might have been the Clone Wars movie. It might actually have been Shadows of the Empire, Lucas’ 1997 foray into episode 5.5 territory that tried several approaches, none of which really worked. The book was particularly disastrous. Years down the line and we’re bombarded with spin-offs no one asked for and comparatively few people watched and now there’s a TV series about a masked bounty hunter who may or may not be Boba Fett (is he Boba Fett? I haven’t bothered to find out) and oh look, George Lucas has changed the Greedo death AGAIN. If I’m grouchy about this it’s because Disney has announced this week that they’re pulling the Lego Star Wars exhibit from Legoland Windsor because for some unfathomable reason the sight of tiny brick men in a dimly-lit walkthrough will be enough to prevent people going to their own Star Wars-themed parks, most of which are in another country. I am one of the few people who objected to Disney buying the thing a few years back – as far as I was concerned they couldn’t come up with a bigger mess than Attack of the Clones, and thus far I’ve been proved right – but this annoys me. Next time I might just take the kids to a museum instead.

I mean honestly.

We conclude with politics, and Kay Burley has an empty chair in her studio.

I had a conversation with Trevor Baxendale about this: he’d said it didn’t work for him because the Silence wasn’t actually invisible (a mistake many Who fans seem to make when they’re making jokes about them online), so surely she’d be able to see it? We were back and forth for a bit, with me explaining myself and the two of us eventually agreeing that the actual concept of the Silence was so vague there is wiggle room. Better yet that we should concentrate on episodes of Doctor Who that actually work. Like ‘Heaven Sent’, for example, seeing as we seem to be on a bit of a series 9 kick this morning. I had cause to rewatch ‘Heaven Sent’ this week – for reasons that will become apparent another time – and one thing that strikes me is how meticulously constructed the whole thing is; aside from certain questions about where the first set of dry clothes came from it really hangs together quite well.

“What?”

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The One with the Friends Titles

In many ways it feels like yesterday. That sense of envy, the homage to stressed-out Village life (capital intentional) where people are happy and unhappy at the same time, where humdrum jobs and complicated (or non-existent) love lives are made bearable by the people you hang out with. I was almost seventeen and it seemed such a carefree way to live: these twenty-somethings who existed in a hubbub of late films and spontaneous baking sessions and endless cups of coffee. I had just found, in the real world, an uneasy point of entry into a peer group in which I never really belonged and in which I was, for the most part, an outsider: a Gunther to everybody else’s Ross and Rachel, surrounded by ostensibly lovely people who would never actually call me.

But when you’re that age recognition of any sort is important, and you start to draw parallels. During more reflective moments, in evening conversations conducted over cider or Grolsch in our local pub, I would compare myself to Ross – heartfelt, sincere and slightly pathetic Ross. The analogy worked: Ross really was a bit of a dickhead. I didn’t see it at the time, seeing as I only recognised what how awful I was years down the line. Still, Phoebe was always my favourite – good old Phoebe, who was unable to think a sentence through in her head before saying it out loud (“There isn’t always time!”) and whose songs alone made the show worth watching, if only to detract from the tedium that was the Ross and Rachel love story. They wound up having a baby (by accident) and settling down, presumably in Scarsdale where the schools are good. We don’t know. I still don’t think I’ve seen that last series; the novelty had long worn off and my life had moved on.

It’s become fashionable to sneer at Friends, to dump the word ‘problematic’ into discussion as if that covered the multitude of readings: as if it is as simple as calling it homophobic (it isn’t), fat-shaming (guilty) and disproportionately white (so were the social lives of most people watching it). As ever, things are more complicated and as ever, the internet isn’t interested in grey, not least when black and white looks so much prettier. As far as I’m concerned Friends lost some of its sheen once it became markedly less Jewish, at least in terms of the humour it was producing, and when the characters disappeared up their own backsides in order to become stereotypical parodies of themselves, instead of rounded people: in other words, taking what the audience found funny and building the entire show around it, rather than writing something that could actually be called interesting. But I had this conversation a couple of years back, if you can call ‘conversation’ an eight-hundred word pot-stirrer I did for Metro that actually did reasonable traffic, not least because there were a number of people willing to haul me over the coals for it – or, as a particularly cynical American wrote on Twitter, ‘The one where the straight white man gets to have his say’.

What’s left? A series of eight stills from Doctor Who, accompanied by (hideously in)appropriate Friends episode titles. I have eschewed the obvious ones – hence, The One With The Flashback isn’t there, simply because it wouldn’t be funny. The rest of it sort of works. I don’t watch Friends anymore, for the same reason I don’t re-watch Doctor Who: there is too much TV out there I haven’t seen yet. But it  was a big part of my life for years, and it would be churlish to deny it that sense of cultural importance, at least on a deeply personal level: programmes like this are a comfort blanket, a sense of reassurance, a Friday spent in familiar company even if the conversation is only ever one way. It would be nice if we could just view it as that, instead of having all this other baggage. It would be nice, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, which is why I tend to keep out of it these days.

Anyway, those images.

How you doin’…?

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Have I Got Whos For You (Season Pass Edition)

This week at Brian of Morbius, as news emerges of Elton John’s Grand Farewell Tour That’s Going To Take Three Years, an unexpected guest singalong at one of his concerts prompts concerns over cultural appropriation.

Elsewhere, proceedings at the Superbowl are interrupted by an unexpected pitch invasion.

An exclusive still emerges from a Doctor Who casting session that was mercifully denied the green light of approval.

And elsewhere, in the TARDIS…

SCORCHIO!

 

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Calls from mobiles will be considerably higher

Jeremy-Kyle

I have said before that I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, but if I did, I suppose The Jeremy Kyle Show would be one of them.

It’s a horrible, spiteful programme. I know perfectly well that it’s manipulated to breaking point. The guests are usually in a bad situation that’s made worse by a team of gossiping runners who stick them in separate dressing rooms and lie to them (or, at least, heavily embellish the truth) about what the other party may or may not have said, just before they’re hauled out onstage and shouted at by a womanising bully. The whole thing is then edited for maximum dramatic impact, reasoned conversation truncated or omitted entirely. The tabloids pick it up and social media – which Kyle himself so frequently decries, typically with frustrated shouts of “Oh, FACEBOOK!” – is a juggernaut of hatred and snap judgements. Jeremy calls it “conflict resolution in a controlled environment”, arguing that if he didn’t do it, they’d be doing it in the streets. He has a point, but it’s rather like throwing whiskey onto a bonfire. Or it’s like Bill Hicks’ routine about Jack Palance in Shane (a scene that doesn’t actually happen, at least not the way that Hicks describes, but you can see what he means).

At the same time, I can’t stop watching it. The inconvenient truth is that for all the manipulations of the show, many of its guests are rotten to the core. It’s not even a question of Jeremy making them look bad; they do that well enough for themselves. There are twenty-year-old cannabis-smoking layabouts, unable to hold a decent posture, most of whom have already fathered several children. There are fifty-year-old screamers who are guilty of emotional abuse. (Julie – who was on the show the other morning – I’m looking at you.) Some of these people have had dreadful upbringings and never stood a chance, and need the sort of comprehensive long-term counselling that the dubious and ambiguous ‘after-show care’ is in all likelihood not going to provide. But all the liberal apologetics in the world (and I’m as left as they come) can’t undermine the undeniable fact that some people are simply bastards. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy it. I enjoy the moral superiority I get over simply being incompetent and moody, rather than a bastard.

Anyway, I was thinking about New Who the other day, largely in the context of continuity. And given the myriad twists and turns taken in series six, it struck me that this is how ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ ought to have ended.

Yes, I know the Photoshopping is dreadful. It was the best I could do. River’s top doesn’t reveal nearly enough neckline, and Rory looks a bit like he’s been on the growth enhancement pills. The tattoos are a nice touch, anyway.

But why stop there? Here’s Jeremy giving writing advice.

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(I live for the day that Jeremy challenges someone to put something on the end of it, only for them to reveal their Catholicism. I wonder if he’d have a comeback.)

Here’s Jeremy tackling those bathtub stains that other domestic cleaners can’t reach.

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To be fair, I don’t think he’s ever actually used that word. Oh, it comes across in the heavily implied loathing of some of his contestants (deservedly so; I know they’re edited badly and not always portrayed in the best light but some of these people really are dreadful). ‘Waste of space’ is a popular one. ‘Silly little boy’ is another. But I don’t remember him actually calling anyone ‘scum’, at least outside this video.

Of course, if he did, we could do this.

And finally –

And I really should stop harping on about him now. I have to go and shoot at some chavs. See you next time.

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The New Who Top Ten: #9

Apologies if you got an emailed notification this morning only to find a non-existent post. I was so good. I set up all the templates, assigned tags and everything and was all ready to write later, before accidentally hitting ‘publish’ instead of ‘save’. That’ll teach me not to do this stuff before coffee.

Anyway, our list continues with…

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Number Nine: ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ (2011)

I dithered about this one. I’ve said before that I don’t believe in the concept of guilty pleasures – there’s good TV and there’s bad TV, and yes, you can sometimes be objective. There’s such a thing as standards. As far as my own are concerned, ‘A Good Man’ embodies many of the things I’ve come to despise about New Who. There’s the ridiculous poetry – something Moffat seems to be particularly fond of, throwing out tawdry balladry on the backs of beer mats and napkins and then passing it off as Gallifreyan ‘standards’, the sort of thing that Time Lord nursemaids whisper to sleeping children, presumably to give them nightmares. These poems are then transcribed and turned into desktop wallpapers that saturate the internet, which is a royal pain in the arse when you’re looking for appropriate images for a blog post.

What else? Well, there’s the Eastenders-style cliffhanger about River’s parentage, the lamest of endings. There’s also River herself, who turns up early in the episode to poke fun at Stevie Wonder before disappearing until the final scenes – in order to deliver a mawkish, cloying judgement upon the Doctor’s actions, with an earnestness that becomes grating before she’s finished her first sentence. There’s the birth of the comedy Sontaran thing (and although Strax is comparatively dignified in this episode, the rot sets in early with the breastfeeding gag). There’s the ‘angry Doctor’ scene, which probably has its own tumblr page but which would have worked better had the Doctor not actually stopped mid-rant and said “Oh, I’m angry. That’s new”, which  – however well-intentioned – is the metaphorical equivalent of ending a drama group sketch by turning to the rest of the class and saying “That’s it”.

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 11.2

And yet here it is, sitting in my hall of fame. What’s going on?

Moffat’s investment in Amy makes for a good start. This is Mrs Williams before she became tiresome and annoying – instead she’s frightened and scared, having just given birth to a baby she didn’t even know she was carrying (the stuff of women’s magazine articles and soap story lines for decades). Said baby is then promptly taken away by a sinister one-eyed despot, presumably to be trained as a killer. But fate has a far worse twist in store, with Moffat arranging a happy reunion before snatching out the rug from under us just a few minutes from the end. I still maintain that the dissolving baby would have been even more effective if it had occurred with no warning at all, but there would have been thousands of screaming children and an OFTEL investigation.

So perhaps it’s fatherhood. Perhaps that’s the reason I’m prepared to give ‘Closing Time’ far more slack than it is arguably due, given that the climax involves James Corden destroying the Cybermen with love. Perhaps for all its current failings Doctor Who does tap into the fears and joys of parenting, much as Eraserhead did many years ago. I know nothing but this: when Amy’s child is snatched, I cared about it. But it’s still a secret pregnancy, and those who complain about the speed at which Amy and Rory seemingly accept their loss, as chronicled in later episodes in which Melody is not mentioned (largely because they were resequenced) have missed the point: it almost destroys their marriage. (Said complainers would also do well to watch ‘Logopolis’, and marvel over the speed at which Tegan deals with the death of her aunt.)

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What happens in ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ is this: a confusing, jumbled legion of characters new and old is dumped into a battle station and pitted against a set of dark Jedi in cassocks. The pirates from three episodes back turn up for no obvious reason. If you don’t concentrate you won’t have a clue who anyone is or what’s actually going on. It ends with melodramatic silliness. It shouldn’t work. That it does is down to Moffat’s sheer audacity – within the space of two or three minutes we’re getting in-jokes about the writing process and things have got thoroughly silly, but we don’t care because want the Doctor to rescue Amy, and this strange bunch of misfits and blue-skinned merchants is oddly compelling. Put simply – and at the risk of saturating this entry with back-handed compliments – the episode succeeds precisely because it is so utterly outrageous. It’s a gamble that wouldn’t pay off later in the series, when ‘The Wedding of River Song’ tried something similar and never made it off the ground.

But of all the characters who stroll across the screen during the battle of Demon’s Run, it’s perhaps Rory who provides the unexpected high point. Forced back into a two-thousand-year-old outfit by the Doctor (we can only pray it’s been through the laundry) he stomps into a Cyber war ship, stern and impassive even as the starry sky behind him is filled with a multitude of explosions. It’s one of the few occasions Doctor Who has been genuinely exciting. I still maintain, four years later, that it would have worked better as the finale to the previous episode, but ruminations about structure probably won’t get us anywhere. For this scene alone, I’m willing to forgive ‘Good Man’ just about everything that follows. Even the breastfeeding gags.

Cameron’s Episode: ‘Dalek

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