Posts Tagged With: maisie williams

Have I Got Whos For You (Winter Is Coming Edition)

To kick off today, we honour the late, great Peter Mayhew, as he interrupts the Doctor’s naptime.

Mayhew was a legend, a seven foot icon who managed seven Star Wars films and who was listed, somewhat bizarrely as ‘Chewbacca Consultant’ for The Last Jedi; my children didn’t notice he’d been replaced and in any case it’s the sort of thing very few people get to put on their CV, so I suppose he could retire happy. It’s difficult to tell just how much of the growling Wookiee’s endless appeal was down to the fact that he was a badass in a fire fight or the fact that he had a surprisingly tender side to him, as witness any scene where he gets to hug someone, or wail because Harrison Ford’s just fallen off a bridge. Star Wars has changed a lot over the years, but Chewbacca has been a constant – even though his cameo in Revenge of the Sith amounts to three or four seconds, the guy’s two hundred years old and you nonetheless know that whatever else is going on he’s kicking around somewhere in the galaxy, raising havoc (and a family) while Jake Lloyd rides off to do his Ben Hur thing. It’s like Mace Windu’s lightsaber: when asked, during Phantom Menace promotional interviews, why he didn’t have one, he replied “I did. I was wearing it.”

“But you didn’t actually use it.”

“Yeah,” replies Jackson, licking his lips. “But I was wearin’ it.” Intended meaning, it appears, counts for a lot.

Here’s a pet hate. Can we please have an embargo on ‘Rule one’? Rule one only applies for series 6, and even then it’s inconsistent, given that its most famous use comes courtesy of the world’s most unreliable narrator since Tyler Durden. Certainly it’s not something we should be using to cover up things we can’t be bothered to explain, which is what I see an awful lot. There is enough confusion in the real world without us having to deal with the reliability of TV characters. Can’t we just accept that they’re basically trustworthy and that sometimes we’re just mind-numbingly thick? There’s no other plausible explanation, surely, for the staggering levels of stupidity I see among the general populace, or the fact that a huge number of the votes cast in last week’s local elections were apparently protest votes. “You can’t deliver what you promised,” says Mr Finch of Tunbridge Wells, “so I’m voting for the independent candidate, despite the fact that I know bugger all about his policies and his leaflet was a copy editor’s nightmare”. Call me picky but that seems like a ludicrous way to decide who gets to sort out the local pot holes. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Of course, we talk about being in the dark about Brexit, but darkness is something we should all be accustomed to, at least lately.

Did I tell you I’ve never watched Game of Thrones? I’ll do so, perhaps, years down the line, having heard all the spoilers about the Night King and Ned Stark and poor old Hodor. I was chatting recently with a friend who told me about a prominent young Christian in his college church who had once told him that watching Game of Thrones was the path to ruin, and that as Church we must be in the world but not of the world, and that it leads to desensitisation and all sorts of other stuff you normally find in a Jack Chick tract. Call me a heretic but this sort of reaction has long since baffled me – not so much the wish to avoid such things (which is entirely a personal choice) but the fervent desire to preach it as gospel. If your faith is sufficiently wobbly – or dogmatic – that you do not feel you can engage with popular media, or if it’s some kind of principle that leads you to believe that fake people engaging in questionable activities is somehow unacceptable as entertainment, that’s entirely your business. But to teach it as some kind of worldview, and to tout your own approach not only as a feasible alternative but as the moral high ground, it’s…well, let’s just say it’s precisely the sort of thing I was talking about last week.

Still. It’s just never been particularly interesting, this tale of dragons and feuds and general silliness. I’m sure it’s lovely if you’re a fan, in the same way that Doctor Who is lovely if you’re a fan (unless you’re watching series 11, which apparently everybody hated except me). A lot of it is down to time. I barely get time to watch the stuff that actually interests me – most of which is Scandinavian – without having to wade into seventy-odd hours of Cornish scenery. You have to pick and choose, which is one reason I never watched Breaking Bad or The West Wing.

Sometimes you just have to prioritise, even if you’re a Time Lord.

It’s weird, though; I’ve watched ‘The Woman Who Lived’ at least a dozen times over the years and I’ve only just noticed this.

(You would not believe the social media reaction I got when I uploaded this one. Amidst the giggling, there were a number of people saying “Oh, wow, I can’t believe I didn’t see that before now! I feel stupid”. Sarcasm is difficult to detect on the internet but at least a few of them, it turned out, were absolutely sincere, which makes me weep for the future of humanity. At the other end of the spectrum was the woman who grumbled “Obvious Photoshop”, thereby completely missing the point. Middle ground: it’s nothing but a fable.)

It’s a different world, these days. Time was you’d get away with something like that. The wobbly sets on ‘The Aztecs’, for example, show up rather nastily on DVD but on a twelve-inch screen in 1963 no one bats an eyelid. These days it’s far easier to rewind and scrub and freeze frame and zoom with minimal pixellation, to the extent that repeated viewings to spot the hidden details are something that certain writers and directors actively encourage. Witness Steven Moffat, for example, who in his Sherlock interviews rambled about “a clue that everyone’s missed”, prompting eagle-eyed fans with too much time on their hands to go back and look again.

Still, at least he’s never done that sort of thing in Doctor Who.

Yes. Well.

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The tenuous Doctor Who / CBeebies connection, part 34 1/2

 

Five memes. Some are Who-connected. Most are not.

1. The obligatory Bing thing

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2. The ‘two cultural references in one meme’ / ‘well, there’s sort of a Big Barn Farm connection’ thing.

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3. The obligatory Dinopaws thing.

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4. The ‘vaguely topical’ / ‘why didn’t I think of this one earlier’ thing.

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5. And finally, the ‘Catastrophic revelation’ one.

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Have a lovely Sunday!

 

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Clara and Ashildr: The Long Way Round

I’m doing a River Song. Certain stories are being told out of sequence. I usually post videos in the order I create them. Today’s an exception, largely for the hell of it. What’s the point in having a self-imposed rule if you can’t break it sometimes? This might, of course, explain why I’m still fat.

Emily and I got home from the school quiz on Friday evening to discover the news that Chris Chibnall will shortly be replacing the departing Steven Moffat, after Moffat has produced series ten of Doctor Who – a series which has been delayed until 2017. I have my own views on this, which I’ll save for another day. If you want the Cliff Notes, here they are: a year off is probably going to do us all good. It’ll give me time to stop hating the direction the show has taken. I need breathing space. I need to watch the Sarah Jane Adventures with the kids. And goodness knows I ought to get that book finished.

But talking of spin-offs, this revelation came hot on the heels of a video I’d uploaded only hours previously. It was one of those things we talked about back in December, when such a thing seemed obvious. A few days ago I had the germ of an idea. I Googled it. The results were minimal enough to convince me I could offer something of substance that wouldn’t look like everything else that people are doing. Alternative title sequences for Doctor Who are all over the internet. Have you seen the Friends one? There are several, but I like this one better than most of the others, largely because John Simm seems far more convincing as a slightly crazed Murdock goofball than he ever was as the Master.

Still. You remember that series nine finale. When Ashildr (I cannot and will not bring myself to refer to her as ‘Me’) and Clara nicked the TARDIS – now permanently disguised as an American diner, which presumably made it impossible to actually park the thing – and went off for centuries of adventuring? I mean, I hated it. I really did. Clara’s dead. She’s pecked to death by a giant bird in the middle of Diagon Alley. She’s already had more than enough adventuring for someone her age. Why does she get to have more? Can’t she leave some for the rest of us? But still the cries of ‘spin-off! spin-off!’ ran thick and fast. Never mind the fact that Jenna’s off to play Queen Victoria and Maisie Williams is presumably still knocking around in Game of Thrones (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never seen it). It doesn’t matter. The fan-fiction writers are, I’m sure, out in force and I daresay that a lot of it comes under the Rule 34 subheading.

Photo: Simon Ridgeway

I mean, that’s good. I rather like that one. But you couldn’t possibly do a spin-off and not call it The Long Way Round, could you? It just seems such an obvious title. I can even forgive Moffat for using it twice. It works.

The most difficult part of this was finding music that worked. There is a decent Stereophonics song entitled ‘The Long Way Round’ – used for a biking documentary that was quite popular over here – but stylistically it didn’t fit. A close contender was ‘End of the Line’, which was eventually ditched because a poor facsimile of the song has served to underpin the New Tricks titles for years, and it just felt a bit like cheating. I consulted a Facebook group of which I’m a member. They were helpful, although I didn’t employ any of their suggestions. The idea of using ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’ was one I feared would be fraught with difficulties until I discovered the 12-inch version. There was a lot of copy-and-pasting, and if you listen carefully you can hear the joins.

The trick is to use as many different outfits and contexts as possible. Coming up with a variation for Ashildr turned out to be easier than I thought, even though she only appears in four episodes. There’s understandably very little footage of her and Clara together, which is why I spliced a scene from ‘Cold War’ with the ending of ‘The Woman Who Lived’, in one of those things that’s so bad that people will hopefully just assume I was being artistic. The opening dialogue is a composite of Clara’s monologue at the beginning of ‘The Name Of The Doctor’ and various things she said in ‘Hell Bent’.

Overall, this straddles a fine line between Life on Mars and Cagney and Lacey, purposely emulating the former. In that respect, it works. You don’t see the Doctor at all, and that’s entirely deliberate. Someone else mentioned they’d like Jenny to be on board, and while I don’t think the TARDIS is quite that big, she could be a recurring character. She could pop in every series and slide under lasers or something, and then bounce off again. Or they could do a series finale where she goes all veiny and evil. I’d kind of like to see that one.

Oh, and that quiz I mentioned? We won. And there wasn’t a single Doctor Who question. Some days, you just throw a double six.

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Interlude

As much as I’d like to deliver the next exciting installment of ‘God is in the detail’, I’m afraid Edward’s second birthday is going to have to take priority. You’ll have to wait. But in the news, series nine guest star Maisie Williams plans a follow-up to John Barrowman’s foray into slightly filked musical showstoppers:

A previously unseen outtake from the first episode of ‘Death to the Daleks’ makes its way onto the internet:

And not everyone approves of showrunner Steven Moffat’s hopes of resurrecting an old enemy.

See you next time.

 

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Review: ‘The Woman Who Lived’

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Warning: spoilers.

There’s a scene about two thirds into this week’s Doctor Who episode that speaks volumes. We’re in an ornate, well-furnished house in Stuart-ruled England, and Ashildr – who last week had a heart attack under the strain of defeating the Mire, before being resurrected – is railing at the Doctor. “Human life is fleeting,” she says. “People are mayflies, breeding and dying, repeating the same mistakes. It’s boring. And I’m stuck here. Abandoned by the one man who should know what eternity feels like.” I’m not sure whether it was at this point that I realised we’d gone right through the fourth wall, but I do remember looking over at Emily, and realising what we were experiencing: a Doctor Who episode that, for the second time this series, dumped all over its predecessor’s potential, a good idea squandered in a sea of worthiness and the mire (no pun intended) of a mind-numbingly tedious narrative.

The problem with both of these episodes was that the settings and stories were to all intents and purposes immaterial, playing second (third / fourth) fiddle to the concept of killing Maisie Williams and then bringing her back. If last week saw the Doctor acting on impulse, ‘The Woman Who Lived’ (in which he catches up with her, albeit by accident) sees him reaping what he sowed, as the ‘new’ Ashildr is quite different: cold, self-centred and violent. It’s clear what we’re supposed to think: Ashildr is what the Doctor fears Clara may eventually become (and which she seemed in danger of becoming in series 8). The Doctor, for his part, regrets staying away quite so long, although to be fair the last time he saw her she was setting up a leper colony, so the misunderstanding was forgivable.

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That’s not a bad idea for a theme, as long as it has some sort of narrative to support it. Unfortunately in the process of dealing with the ramifications of functional immortality – to use the Doctor’s own terminology – Catherine Tregenna (four of the weaker episodes of Torchwood, which should tell you all you need to know) got so hung up on the emotional pathos that she forgot to include anything we might feasibly call a story. Instead we have thirty-five minutes of the Doctor chatting with Maisie Williams about how shit it is being immortal. Really this two-parter is an acting showcase: a chance to show contrasting sides of the same character, one young, fresh and paranoid; the other jaded and world-weary. (It’s telling that Ashildr’s abandoned her Viking lineage and goes around referring to herself as ‘Me’, which is one step away from adopting the name ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’.)

And it’s that sense of weariness that drags this second instalment down into the murky depths, from which (despite best efforts) it is never really able to extract itself. Narrative inadequacies may have plagued ‘The Girl Who Died’, but that didn’t stop it being fun. It mined enough clichés to wake a balrog (horns! dragons! VALHALLAAAAAAA!), but the episode was – at least until its final seven minutes – delivered with a sense of humour, to the extent that even the baby poetry didn’t matter that much. ‘The Woman Who Lived’ fares far less well, simply because somewhere along the line it had all the fun zapped out of it. It’s not even Who-by-numbers, which is a criticism I levelled at ‘Into the Dalek’ last year. It’s New Who at its most preachy and ponderous: a whole episode of brooding about the Doctor’s tendency to make monsters out of good people. At least in ‘Journey’s End’ we just had a bit of gloating from Julian Bleach, a clenched jaw from Tennant and a quick montage. This is an entire episode of seriousness, with no real life or soul to it.

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That’s not to say Tregenna doesn’t have a go. It’s just the results are a dismal failure. Listen, years ago there was a Big Finish story called ‘Bang-Bang-a-Boom‘ in which the Seventh Doctor and Mel find themselves involved in an intricate conspiracy surrounding an intergalactic singing competition. It is literally half Star Trek, half Eurovision. It is also quite marvellous, although one criticism would be that the Star Trek bits try way too hard from time to time, resulting in occasional awkwardness.

Now, take that awkwardness and crank it up to eleven, and you have ‘The Woman Who Lived’. The producers cast a stand-up comedian as a highwayman who also happens to be a stand-up comedian. You could forgive a character like this the odd joke here and there, but this isn’t enough for Tregenna. She inserts (perhaps at the behest of Steven Moffat, perhaps not) a plot-crucial scene in which he actually does stand-up. By a gallows. With the Doctor. Whose delivery is on a par with Yodel. It’s not even fun in a silly, “Ha ha this is my day job” sort of way. It’s just self-consciously naff. It’s like casting Katharine Jenkins as a beautiful maiden with a tragic backstory and then getting her to save the universe with her singing.

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[tumbleweed…]

Before we get to the stand-up at the gallows (featuring a mob with farming tools, which is in its own way immensely gratifying) there is an earlier scene in which the Doctor and Ashildr sneak through a mansion in order to find a thing that I don’t particularly care about, although it is blue and sparkly. The moment in which they attempt to hide from the snoozing guards by ducking behind tables is ostensibly bedroom farce, although it reminded me rather of the moment in ‘The Horns of Nimon’ where the Doctor, Seth (not Adric, as I erroneously wrote earlier) and Romana hide behind server cabinets in the Nimon’s laboratory: a scene that works because ‘The Horns of Nimon’ is deliberately pantomime, and stylistically consistent, even if Anthony Read doesn’t like it. (The moment in question is at 6:15, if you’re interested.)

If you’re going to run a sequence like this in contemporary Doctor Who, you need to use actors who possess at least a modicum of on-screen chemistry. Capaldi and Williams have precisely zero. It would have worked with Clara, but she’s off doing something else. This is just embarrassing. It’s like watching the Eleventh Doctor and River: a screen test that gets onto the DVD, rather than the sort of thing that results in a casting decision. It’s not that Williams is bad – although the change to her character was perhaps better embodied by the mute, fifty-second time lapse that closed the previous episode than by anything she says and does this week – it’s just that even a Game of Thrones veteran can’t polish a turd. You just get mashed-up turd smeared everywhere, making a horrible mess.

What else? Well, there’s a playful nod to ‘The Visitation’. There is this week’s plant and payoff (Google it) in the form of the second health patch, saved for a crucial moment. Oh, and there’s a cat, who does nothing of any consequence except breathe a bit of fire. I’m fairly sure this happened in at least three or four Tom and Jerry episodes, all of which had more story and dramatic conflict than the forty-five minutes of my life that I’m never getting back (ninety, when you consider that I now have to watch this story again in the company of my children).

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At the end, various questions are unanswered. How does Ashildr know the Doctor has a ship? What was in those missing diary pages? Could the foreshadowing of Clara’s supposed death be any more obvious? Did Peter Capaldi have a set number of guitar scenes written into his contract? Why on earth didn’t Clara notice Ashildr outside Coal Hill if she’s been stalking the Doctor? And have none of those people who said Leandro looked like Vincent from Beauty and the Beast seen ‘Warrior’s Gate’?

Most of all, do I actually care anymore? What does it say about me that I no longer want to talk about this show with my children, that I’m tired of good actors wasted and decent ideas squandered? The fan in me still doesn’t really want to believe that Doctor Who is in trouble, but the worst part is how little I find it concerns me these days. And who can blame me? When you serve up a hatchet job like this, BBC, how can you expect me to keep caring?

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