Back on News Page Reviews duty...
Edited to add..A couple of things I did notice, but forgot to include in the review:
( For those still waiting to see it who don't want to be spoiled, a cutCollapse )
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This is as far as I got with a review of last week's episode...
If the Doctor Who of the mid-1980s gluttonously consumed set menus of its history without really understanding what it devoured, its fifty-year-old self has a more delicate palate. Hide selected from a carefully-prepared buffet of vintage images and words which had been matured in the oak barrels of professional reflection rather than the plastic tumblers of nostalgic adolescents. Hide owed much to the broad Doctor Who gothic of the mid-1970s and advertised this, but despite an initial heady bouquet resulting from the careful grafting of time-honoured vines, its roots were firmly planted in the bed of contemporary television.
Though usually associated most with the first three Tom Baker seasons and the influence of producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes, the trappings of gothic horror had been borrowed by earlier stories in the 1970s including The Daemons and more relevantly for Hide, Day of the Daleks. The country house setting and the ghost who is not a ghost, together with the military associations of Professor Palmer, suggest that this is more of a third Doctor gothic story than a fourth Doctor one. The use of the Metebelis crystal in a lash-up reminiscent of that which helped finish off poor Professor - Mister Clegg in Planet of the Spiders only confirms it.
Other points would have been the rainstorms - Universal horror films via The Brain of Morbius; acknowledgements to Nigel Kneale and The Stone Tape (although Hide has a happier ending); remote kinship with Primeval and its anomalies and monsters, perhaps, in the shape of the Crooked Man; the continued sense that the Doctor is journeying through a projection of his own past and memories, with Clara as a kind of lodestone. Jessica Raine and Dougray Scott play their love story well, though Matt Smith in particular seems rather at odds with them, though this is also true of the Doctor. After being apparently neglected in Cold War the mystery of Clara returns - and Clara has a different perception of the Doctor's relationship to mortals to the one the series seems to have embraced up until now. It's not that everyone to the Doctor is alive at once, it's that they are dead... but is it not that all time travellers are ghosts?
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5956
No long-form review for another site from me this week, but instead a few words of praise for Mark Gatiss's best script for the programme since The Unquiet Dead, Douglas Mackinnon's best episode as director full stop, and a claustrophobic set which nevertheless allowed cast and camera to move around. The lighting was a character in itself, cold and blue, green and red and Martian by turns. There was of course a huge amount of programme-literacy and fan literacy, from the reference to the HADS (we all knew what had caused the TARDIS to disappear straightaway, I'm sure) to the expansion of Martian lore building on the little stated on screen in their four previous appearances. Mark Gatiss surely knew, too, of the expectations of fans back in 1983 that the impending Warriors of the Deep would feature the Ice Warriors, and now that the Cold War can't be projected into the distant future of the twenty-first century, here it is as a historical backdrop which efficiently gives form to the deftly-stroked but broad-brushed characters and gives fans of a certain vintage the reunion which they had longed for. Taking the armoured turtle shape of the Ice Warrior and deconstructing it to reveal (though not entirely) the fast, spindly Martian inside made minor acknowledgement to the Quatermass and the Pit Martians, but a greater debt to Alien. There was a clear debt to The Ice Warriors too; at war with the elements and the West, the submarine was besieged by ice and by its opposing power bloc and by the present temptation to bring destruction on the world.
The forty-five minute slot remains a minor problem; a few more minutes of reflection, development and tension would not have come amiss, though they were not missed as much as they were last week. Materialising the Doctor and Clara more in media res than is usual was an effective storytelling device; the Doctor explains and vindicates himself not by words or the rehearsal of actions but by his deeds even more urgently than before. As for the future, do Earth and humanity remain forfeit to the (former) inhabitants of Mars? Like its kin-story Dalek eight years ago, the demonstration of the capabilities of a single Ice Warrior argues the case for reacquaintance with the species as a whole in Doctor Who.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5940
Officers and cars respond to urgent calls; or all calls, depending on how the TARDIS is feeling.
Anyway, my thoughts on the story will be appearing at the Doctor Who News Page reviews section, I hope, in the not-too-distant future. They are generally positive.
ETA: Here's the review: apologies for the lack of formatting and the use of 'St John' rather than the canonical 'Saint John'.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5918
I was led to this story about the discovery of a cache of scripts belonging to the late Anthony Coburn by the estimable miss_s_b at gallifrey_times. While I'm not doubting the find, the interpretation Jason Onion places on elements of the scripts must be treated with caution, particularly his assumption that Coburn's scripts include embryonic versions of the sonic screwdriver - though presumably he might be referring to the Doctor's pen torch, at its most powerful in the pilot episode, in season three and in David Whitaker's novelization Doctor Who [in an Exciting Adventure with/and] the Daleks - and regeneration.
Then again, C.E. Webber's notes for the series format suggested that the Doctor should have a wife who chased him through time, and she eventually turned up forty-five years later without any evidence of there being a causal link between Webber's concept and the character created by Steven Moffat; there is nothing to say that Coburn couldn't have suggested these ideas only for them to fall foul, like Webber's, of the attitude summed up in Sydney Newman's red-pencilled "Nuts!"
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5874
Pope Francis... well, that is a new twist to an old guessing game; and shows what I know.
ETA: This is a sign of the shift in pontifical naming customs which has taken place since 1958. Between the late tenth century and up until Pius XII, it could be argued that names were chosen to demonstrate continuity with the early church, with variations depending on the times. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, continuity with ancien regime Europe and the papal monarchy was important. Since John XXIII, naming choices have represented a shift towards emphasising the kind of ministry one might expect, rather than asserting political associations.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5869
The official announcement of Caroline Skinner's departure as executive producer:
An odd half-story suggesting disagreements between the two executive producers but not adding any details (ETA: Other sources suggesting it's rubbish):
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( Between political thriller and family adventureCollapse )
( The Master, Chin Lee and Major CosworthCollapse )
( Restoration of sound and visionCollapse )
( On the panel with KatyCollapse )
( Fan sensitivitiesCollapse )
Next month, The Robots of Death, in the presence of the great Tom Baker himself.
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The new edition of 1975 serial The Ark in Space arrived this morning; and me being me, it was straight to the production information subtitles, a new set having been written for this release by Martin Wiggins, whose written commentary is rightly described in the notes as "a masterclass". The individual episode titles from John Lucarotti's version of the scripts are all in the public domain now (I've seen 'Puffball' and 'Golfball' mentioned before). Episode one was 'Buttercups', and I'll leave episode three unspoilered, though not for any particular reason. There are many quotations from Robert Holmes's graphically visual descriptive passages, full of suppuration, giant staring eyes, and in one case an earwig with a human face. I'd not realised that the Doctor's put-down, "Harry here is only qualified to work on sailors," is quite as rude as Robert Holmes probably intended it to be. Attention is drawn to the sources of The Ark in Space, including earlier Doctor Who stories, Invasion of the Dinosaurs in particular (though I don't think there was a reference to The Green Death), the Quatermass serials and the film Horror Express, a connection of which I had not heard and which now makes me curious about that film (edited to add: it's in the public domain, or at least it is in the United States; I suspect this is not true of other territories).
The new 'making of' documentary is excellent, demonstrating again that during Doctor Who's most successful periods everyone concerned understood the programme as a serious job of work. It's rewarding to see Kenton Moore talk about his portrayal of Noah and how recently it made him the epitome of cool among his grandsons' friends. Wendy Williams comes across as forthright and no-nonsense despite the obvious debilitating effects of a recent stroke; I'd not realised that she had been married to Hugh David, who was not only the director of The Highlanders and Fury from the Deep but at one stage down to play the Doctor before Verity Lambert replaced Rex Tucker as producer-designate. The only down side is that the makers of the documentary didn't source a copy of Futura Extra Bold for their mock-title sequences, lending those for 'Space Station, by Christopher Langley' and 'The Ark in Space, by John Lucarotti' the air of late 1980s BBC Video releases.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5833
Today's Doctor Who DVD catch-up exercise was Death to the Daleks. I realise that I had never recognised John Abineri as Railton until now, perhaps because of his wig and also that he is unceremoniously dispatched by an Exxilon arrow early in part two. The casting of Duncan Lamont, the original Victor Caroon in The Quatermass Experiment, is appropriate as well as occasioning some frisson from the juxtaposition of a symbol of early British television science fiction with the Daleks. (ETA: my own historical perspective is of someone who has always viewed Quatermass as 'past' and the Daleks as 'current', but this was not the case for those who were making Death to the Daleks just a little over twenty years after The Quatermass Experiment.)
The production subtitles benefit from our knowing more about the development of Sarah Jane Smith and the subsitution of the (excellent and deservedly legendary) Elisabeth Sladen for the (taller, more 'womanly') April Walker. For all he says in interviews nowadays about the place of women in adventure stories, ropes and railway tracks, the Terrance Dicks of 1973 emerges as someone keen to enhance the role of women in Doctor Who, unsuccessfully urging Terry Nation to make Jill Tarrant second-in-command of the expedition, and emphasising Sarah's resourcefulness.
Lesser-known personalities are given coverage too - Arnold Yarrow, one of the acting profession's sprightly nonagenarians, is a cogent presence on the DVD's making-of documentary and the subtitles emphasise the breadth of his career. While Yarrow was glued into grey latex as the subterranean Exxilon Bellal, another studio in Television Centre was recording an episode of Softly Softly: Task Force quite possibly commissioned by Yarrow in his just-former capacity as that programme's script editor.
I'd come across a newspaper cutting from 1974 publicizing the London Saxophone Quartet's involvement with Death to the Daleks, and here they are on the soundtrack, performing the music of Carey Blyton. Blyton was in the process of leaving his long tenure as music editor at Faber, where he had been Benjamin Britten's editor, seeing his compositions through the press. Production subtitler Martin Wiggins draws attention to the quotations from music hall and nursery rhyme which pepper this score. His contributions to this period are understandably overshadowed by those of Dudley Simpson, but his determination to avoid electronic music (on the grounds that synthesizers were depriving musicians of income) was rewarded in a memorable score which arguably set a precedent for the rest of the 1970s as Dudley Simpson was steered away from close collaboration with the Radiophonic Workshop and back towards conventional music.
Visually Death to the Daleks supports my argument that it is in this, the last Pertwee/Letts/Dicks season, that the programme begins its Gothic phase, with Sarah finding her way through a temple set lit with flickering candles before being trussed up by priests ready to sacrifice her for bringing the latent past of the intelligent living city into the present of fear and ignorance. The execution of the scene is far more steeped in threat than the near-sacrifice of Jo at the end of The Daemons.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5799
0tralala linked to the Hansard report of this speech in the House of Lords by Lord Lucas (Ralph Palmer, twelfth Baron Lucas, a hereditary peer, accountant and publisher of The Good Schools Guide) concerning Amazon's business model and its effect on publishing. An informative read. The rest of the debate - including contributions from Lord (Michael [House of Cards]) Dobbs and Baroness (Ruth) Rendell of Babergh - I've only skimmed, but there's more of interest, including concerns about open access publishing and the application of a model designed for STEM academic publishing on the humanities.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5790
A public service announcement for followers of Doctor Who non-fiction and broadcasting history: the much-anticipated biography JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner by Richard Marson has changed publishers. It will no longer be published by Fantom, but by Miwk. Fantom are in the process of refunding all pre-orders made through them, and pre-ordering is underway from Miwk; the book will be published in May this year, rather than April. Miwk have also set up a Facebook page for the book.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5784
There has been more uploading of archive television onto YouTube than I realised... so following a suggestion of magister I've watched the first twelve minutes or so of episode 1.1 of Colditz. It takes almost a full ten minutes for the episode to reach the multicamera video studio, the fixed abode of BBC drama, the end of a progression from newsreel footage to new footage posing as newsreel, to colour location filming maintaining a cold quasi-documentary realism, to an intense two-hander scene on video. I'll be back to watch the rest.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5779
If I were to write a longer post about Danger UXB, now watched, it would include:
- the knack some episodes have of telling a story around a location, such as 'Digging Out''s lengthy factory sequence, or 'The Pier'. The former is particularly effective for the lingering hand-held camera shots of Corporal Salt (Kenneth Cranham) as he follows a voice which may or may not be that of his wife through the ruined works in the afternoon light, his mind adrift in place and with hindsight time as well.
- John Hawkesworth's character arcs, comparable in structure to those in his earlier series Upstairs Downstairs. That concerning the brittle insecurity of Major/Captain 'Fanny' Francis (casting presumably against type an actor then best known to audiences for a long on-off stint in Coronation Street, and more recently a regular in Emmerdale) is memorable and perhaps the most successful
- the disappearance and reappearance of the supporting cast depending on production block. Particularly noticeable is variety artiste Sapper Baines, played by variety artiste Bryan Burdon in just two episodes, 'Butterfly Winter' and 'The Pier'. The former just happens to include a sequence filmed presumably in Chipping Norton Theatre (given where the relevant exteriors are shot) where Burdon/Baines can do his act.
- the timescale of the series is mapped out but left unstated directly, again following the precedent of (early) Upstairs Downstairs, so it can be adjusted retroactively should a second series have been commissioned
- though dismissed as a "potboiler" by one television historian, and "not... an important series" fixed on "nostalgia and noise" according to Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian (9 January 1979), the juxtapostion of lectures on bombs with melodramatic elements (largely the male protagonists' rollercoaster love lives) and the substantial special effects budget and extensive location filming make it interesting, and (as suggested above) there is some opportunity for real psychological insight.
- at least two unexploded World War Two bombs were discovered as a direct result of one episode, 'Butterfly Winter', so the series helped boost ITV's public service credentials.
- the question of the second series. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Anthony Andrews and Judy Geeson were looking forward to working on series two when the Imperial War Museum's related exhibit opened in spring 1979, and around the same time Jeremy Sinden and Judy Geeson did some charity fundraising connected to keeping the series' profile up after it aired. However, by autumn 1979 and the ITV strike, Anthony Andrews is photographed at Heathrow by the Daily Mirror moving to Los Angeles to look for work, thanks to the cancellation of filming on Brideshead Revisited, suggesting that any hope of a second series was gone by the summer.
- the series drew attention to a change in fashions in leading men. Anthony Andrews was hailed by Nancy Banks-Smith as "one of those golden lads with sensitive mouths", and the Daily Mirror contrasted him, Patrick Ryecart and later John Duttine with a more brutal machismo personified by actors such as Martin Shaw of The Professionals.
Hmm, that's rather a lot of text anyway...
ETA: Reminded of the chapter title 'Circulating stars and satellites' in Doctor Who - The Unfolding Text, the eclipsing of Norma as the principal female character (I don't think there is a female lead as such) by Susan could show how women are used by the series. Judy Geeson initially plays Susan as tough and unsmiling as if she hasn't seen any of the later scripts (probably the case). She is demure and self-sacrificing, and causes pain by being dutiful, where Norma is introduced as a sexual fantasy turned nightmare, ultimately tamed by marriage into the lower ranks. Susan also expresses Brian Ash's increasing confidence in his roles as bomb defuser and officer; Norma personifies the social and material chaos of the Blitz and has little development beyond the 1940 episodes until her wedding in 'With Love from Adolf'. Norma, and Deborah Watling, fulfil their roles in the drama well enough. Given the publicity boost Judy Geeson seems to have had in spring 1979, one suspects she and her agent were hoping for something more to arise for or from Susan.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5775
As I can't sleep, I will share how much I've been enjoying 1979's Danger UXB, recommended to me by naraht and a matter of curiosity to me ever since it was mentioned in the context of the career of either Deborah Watling or Douglas Camfield or both in one of Jeremy Bentham's Matrix Data Bank columns in an early 1980s Doctor Who Monthly. Thirty years is a long time to wait before getting round to something, and this has been expedited by the availability of the entire series, currently, on YouTube. The run-down London of the late 1970s lent itself to being dressed as the blitzed city of nearly forty years earlier, and while the mixture of characters could have been twee - the sappers in the bomb squad at the centre of the series being composed of almost every regional stereotype - it's executed in such a way that it doesn't show. Anthony Andrews is a convincing Brian Ash, transferred from being a private in one regiment to a commission in the engineers and learning how to defuse unexploded ordnance, command men and fend off the advances of his landlady's daughter (a compelling performance by Miss Watling as an unsubtle would-be seductress) all at once. I'm only five episodes in, so Judy Geeson is only beginning to make her presence felt as Susan, daughter of unfairly-labelled "mad professor" Dr Gillespie (Iain Cuthbertson, initially and misleadingly echoing Lionel Jeffries in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and transgressive love interest for Brian. There are intriguing observations on gender roles in wartime - men governed by hierarchies, women addressing all the "brave boys" by their first names, irrespective of rank - and possibly on politics as well, though my take on this might be governed by authorial fallacy, co-creator, producer and head writer John Hawkesworth being conservative by reputation, but production company Euston Films being generally less respectful towards traditional social order. With a large cast, high production values - with at least one explosion required a week - it's not surprising that it was reputedly too expensive for ITV to renew.
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Improving London's transport
The National Archives have a Flickr set of photographs from a 1946 edition of The Railway Gazette, illustrating improvements made to the London Underground between the late 1930s and mid 1940s. Areas covered include the construction of the present Kings Cross St Pancras Metropolitan and Circle tunnels and platforms, opened in 1941; the extension of the Bakerloo tubes to join the Metropolitan above ground at Finchley Road, opened in 1939; changes to the Central Line in west, east and central London during the 1940s; and some of the new station buildings on the Metropolitan Line in north-west London.
Self-employed struggling with debts beyond their earnings - The Guardian
I empathise with this, though my position in this regard seems not so bad contextualised.
The Secret Mansion - History Needs You
Matthew Ward's pictures of a ruined country house on Anglesey.
England Under the White Which, by Theodora Goss - Clarkesworld
A story of one empress's search for the perfect winter, and those who serve under her. As recommended by gervase_fen
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5747
Over here can be found my collected thoughts (without a recent rewatching, I admit) on Resurrection of the Daleks, Peter Davison's Doctor's only outing with the positronic pepperpots.
Meanwhile, miss_s_b told me that the Verity Podcast was worth following, and she was right. Considered discussion on Doctor Who from an all-female panel of informed commentators. Here's episode two, 'This one goes to Eleven'.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5727
Tom Hooper and company's version of Boublil, Schoenberg and Kretzmer's Les Miserables is rather good. I wouldn't say it is an outstanding film; there's something rather close and claustrophobic about it, which I didn't find was the case when I saw the stage version a long time ago, and which doesn't always work to its advantage. A tremendous performance from Anne Hathaway, though, and also from Hugh Jackman and from Russell Crowe. I was sorry to hear several of the songs abbreviated, and the new song sung by Valjean to Cosette as they flee the Thenardiers and seek to evade Javert isn't really as good a replacement as it could be. There are one or two well-known British television actors in blink-and-you'll-miss-them roles, and the unit production manager, maintaining his reputation for finding and managing locations, is Patrick Schweitzer, briefly producer for part of the 2010 series of Doctor Who.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5722
I'd noticed how recent publicity for the new series of Doctor Who has emphasised its historical settings, with leaks from the set over the last few months revealing that the nineteenth century seems to be visited several times. Just as Doctor Who in 2005 had borrowed imagery and themes from the contemporary aspirational working-class drama genre, in 2012/13 it was borrowing the clothes of the new strand of historical series. Now the blog of The Journal of Victorian Culture, no less, has weighed in with a look at The Snowmen as an item of current neo-Victorianism. Definitely worth a look.
Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/5692