The Elixir of Doom.

Audio The box art for The Elixir of Doom with its smiling Pertwee and younger version of Jo doesn't quite match the contents since its Eighth who's the Doctor they meet and Jo seems to hark from a time after SJA's The Death of the Doctor (according to the Wikia) which also makes this the only occasion Eighth and Iris meet in something which isn't prose (I think). It's wildly entertaining, a typically whimsical Magrsian tragicomedy about the institial gap between human and unhuman as Iris and Jo investigate why some of the creatures in various 1930s Hollywood features seem more real than they should be.  Stretching the Companion Chronicle format, it feels more like a full blooded audio play with Katy Manning magnificently playing about half a dozen parts including making Jo and Iris such distinct characters that like Tatiana Maslaney in Orphan Black, by the end, you entirely forget they're being played by the same person.  Oh and she gives us her Eighth Doctor who thanks to the script sounds incredibly in character, especially when he and Iris are bantering.  Placement:  Part of the fun of the play is discovering the placement.  Despite Big Finish having previously gone to the trouble of creating a whole new character to account for the mention of Sam Jones during Minuet in Hell, here's Paul Magrs acknowledging her meeting Iris during The Scarlett Empress.  But this also seems to be Jo's first meeting with this incarnation which messes up Paul Leonard's novel Genocide, but since The Death of the Doctor's done that too, time can be rewritten, the cracks, the Faction Paradox, take your pick.  Anyway, the author says it's set during The Scarlett Empress and who am I to disagree?

"You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

TV Well there we go. Not much you can say about this.

Actually no. There's plenty to say about this. But let's take it a step at a time.

(1) That the next series of Doctor Who would be delayed until 2017 was obvious. No sign of writers being in place and the Doctor Who Experience running tours about the set until at least June indicated that the series would start broadcasting either late this year or next. Given the Winter series have been a ratings disaster because of dealing with Strictly on a Saturday night, delaying broadcast of the next one until Spring 2017 starting in the old Easter slot seemed the next best choice.  No new main series Doctor Who until next Christmas then.  That should make rewatching the show an interesting experience in the future with two Christmas specials next to each other.  PLUS we know the show's going to be on television until 2018.  Even if ...

(2)  Fucks sake.

The headlines are already beginning the revision.  "Broadchurch creator" they say as though the first decent season Broadchurch nullifies the litany of simply bad television Chris Chibnall's been involved in over the years.

The man who wrote Cyberwoman, Countrycide and End of Days is now in charge of Doctor Who.  Amazing.

There was a stink of inevitability though wasn't there?  With the obvious heir apparent Mark Gatiss clearly not interested, the list wasn't otherwise huge.

My preference would have been for someone who hasn't worked on the show before, for the whole thing to have an entirely fresh new direction.  But the BBC's bottled it.

Last time it felt like it was in safe hands because it was being passed on to the man who wrote Blink and Silence in the Library.  It's been a problematic run, but it's impossible to deny that there hasn't been a fair amount of entertaining and classic episodes.

Now the writer of 42, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three is in charge.

This dude on the far end in the yellow tie:

Even his episodes of Life on Mars were thin.

He did also write the webisodes Pond Life which were fun and manage to transcribe Law & Order for ITV efficiently.  Oh and I did enjoy The Great Train Robbery.

(3)  Now I've got that out of my system, it is just possible with full creative control and a couple of years to think about it, Chibnall might turn out something spectacular.  All of his previous Doctor Who work has been under other showrunners and faced numerous production problems and by the time he takes over Torchwood will mostly have been ten years ago for him.  There are lots of people on the social media who seem to think this is a great idea.  Perhaps he'll cast Romola as the next Doctor and give her something interesting to say.  Perhaps.  But I can't lie about my initial reaction which was to mimic Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes.

The BBC Shakespeare Festival 2016.

TV Yesterday, the BBC launched The BBC Shakespeare Festival, another season of programmes dedicated to the man and his plays, four years on since the Cultural Olympiad. As ever there's quite a lot of contextual documentaries and the like, but I thought it would be worth filtering through the media pack to find what actual productions, what actual Shakespeare would be broadcast during the season.

The key word is "interpretation".  That's "interpretation".

 I'll utilise their subheadings:

Shakespeare Live! From The RSC

Not an actual play.
"On Shakespeare's birthday, the BBC and the Royal Shakespeare Company come together in an extravaganza, celebrating Shakespeare's words and his enduring influence on all performance art forms - from opera to jazz, dance to musicals."

"This unique event will be hosted by David Tennant, directed by Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, and will include appearances from Dame Judi Dench, ENO, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Ian Bostridge, Joseph Fiennes and Akala."
This should be pretty special to be fair, but interpretations of the plays and text does not always constitute the plays and text.

Landmark Drama

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses – BBC Two
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – BBC One

The rump of the plays on television. The second half of The Hollow Crown but with Henry VI playing across two rather than three films then Richard III. A Midsummer Night's Dream is the Russell T Davies produced version which should be spectacular and lets face it, actual Shakespeare on BBC One, except it's only going to be ninety minutes which means you're going to be losing at least an hour of the text. So in the end what we have is adaptations of the plays rather than the actual plays as Shakespeare intended.

Across TV


Two comedies, an Arena about film versions of the plays, The One Show live from Stratford, Countryfile visiting the landscapes which inspired the plays and good gracious, "From 18 to 22 April 2016, each episode of Doctors across the week will be inspired by a Shakespearian Sonnet."

On Radio

King Lear
The Winter's Tale
Julius Caesar

The first two are Drama on 3s. Ian McDiamond as Lear. In Scotland. But yes, Lear. Again. No word on Winter's casting. Other than that it's mainly tons of classical music inspired by Shakespeare.

Julius Caesar is split across three afternoons in the Afternoon Drama slot ala Hamlet last year, which as you can see is also getting a repeat. Tim Piggott-Smith as Caesar and Robert Glenister as Brutus. Features the words "brand new interpretation" in the synopsis.

Of the contextual programmes on radio, here's my favourite:

"Building a Library: Radio 3’s review programme will be assessing Verdi’s Falstaff in Building A Library but then in a change to usual practice, Andrew McGregor will turn to speech recordings – assessing works of Shakespeare available as CDs and downloads."

Hope he includes LibriVox.


A drama about a the making of a production of a Midsummer Night's Dream at the Everyman in Liverpool which sounds fun. Magic Hands is offering special episodes utilising Shakespeare's poetry. iWonder are producing a series of articles which should have a lot of good archive clips.

Shakespeare Down Your Way

Shakespeare On Tour sounds like it will be a useful enthralling resource about the production of his works across the country,  Synopsis says, "iconic performances from the BBC archives".  The Best Bottoms In The Land follows the RSC as they tour a special production of the play.  Does not mention if this will include broadcasting it in full.

Across The World

Shakespeare Lives is ambiguous.  The synopsis says, it "will bring a remarkable collection of interpretations of Shakespeare’s work together in one digital space, for audiences in the UK and around the world to experience. Following the live stream on April 23 this diverse collection of work will be available internationally for six months at"

Whole plays?  Bits of plays?  Actual productions from the companies listed?  It's intriguing to say the least.


If all of this sounds like me being a cynical sausage well, yes it is because it's me being a cynical sausage.  To have all of this Shakespeare related material again, four years after the cultural olympiad which will no doubt also include repeats on BBC Four is nothing to be sniffed at, it really isn't.

But consider:

No full productions on television.  Adaptations, presumably because of the usual considerations of wanting to make the work accessible.  Plus A Midsummer Night's Dream again.

On the radio, Lear and Caesar again.  The Winter's Tale is welcome but why not some of the even more less well known works?  Why not a King John, Timon or even into the fringier stuff like Arden of Faversham or Edward III or Sir Thomas More (which hasn't been produced for broadcast since 1983).  Radio 3 goes out of its way to play the more obscure classical music but again falls short here.

Also, why not produce some of the plays which clearly influenced Shakespeare and by his contemporaries.  Why such stolid choices?  Why ignore all of this rich source material?

Also and this is a wider point from someone who's a fan of theatre in general as well as Shakespeare:

Why is this all about freaking Shakespeare again?

Why is it whenever theatre turns up on television it's him again?  Five hundred odd years of theatre and once again all of these people are set to one side.  He was our greatest proponent, but imagine if all of the art documentaries were about Michaelangelo.  This could have been pivoted into a festival of theatre in general, yet here we are.  Shakespeare, much as I love him, again.

Oh well.  Hopefully Radio 4 Extra will have lots of archive reruns.

A viewing order for the X-Men franchise.

Film Bryan Singer and co-screenwriter Simon Kinberg have taken some time out during the promotion for X-Men: Apocalypse to explain how time travel has fixed the X-Men universe. [link via]

I thought it was pretty well explained on the Days of Future Past Extended blu-ray but it essentially boils down to a similar approach to JJ Abrams in Star Trek except with Wolverine as the emissary between the timelines rather than Spock.

Spoiler warning for Days of Future Past.

The events of Days of Future Past have wiped out:

X-Men 2
X-Men 3 (or whatever it's called in your end of the world)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The Wolverine

And now the official X-Men Cinematic Universe contains, in chronological order:

X-Men: First Class
X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Apocalypse


Wolverine consciousness has passed from one timeline to the other.  So the Wolverine walking around in the future scenes in Days of Future Past is the same one who turned up at the beginning of X-Men.

Which is were it gets complicated because for him to take control of the alt.Wolverine in that future means the mind of alt.Wolverine has to be wiped over; he shows no signs of actually remembering anything that happened to this other Wolverine up until that point.

Luckily he's not apparently in Apocalypse so we won't actually see the alt.Wolverine walking around, having a life before the "real" one comes along and murders him later.

BUT it does mean that it's possible to have a chronological viewing order for the X-Men films if you want to see them from Wolverine's perspective (give or take some suspension of disbelief in regards to Sabretooth) (you could just assume them to be two different characters with the same name which does already happen a lot in comics):

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men 2
X-Men 3 (or whatever it's called in your end of the world)
The Wolverine
X-Men: Days of Future Past

My preference is for the Extended Cut of DoFP because it nicely bookends Wolverine's friendship with Rogue.

This leaves out:

X-Men: First Class
X-Men: Apocalypse

unless you want to sit through First Class just for his cameo.

Presumably the next Wolverine film will be set after DoFP.  As Singer says in the interview, what he's now making are prequels to the alt.future scenes in DoFP.

Of course as a result of all this, Hugh Jackman once took a break from filming DoFP to promote The Wolverine which was essentially being wiped out in franchise terms by the very film he was making.

Except if you look at the series instead from Wolverine's perspective, the closing scenes of DoFP have an even greater emotional resonance because of one of the subplots in The Wolverine.

Perfectly simple really.

The Forgotten: Revelation
(IDW Comic Issue #5).

Comics Published in 2008, this was the first rough draft of the Doctor's adventures during the Time War, before "The Moment" and definitely before the War Doctor when it was still assumed Eighth was the one who eventually destroyed Gallifrey. Again. Seven pages of the Doctor waiting in a prison cell for days with Chantir the Malmooth (the same race as Chantho from Utopia) until he can break out and use the Key of Rassilon to help end the war, it's pretty action packed with gun play and good hijinks. He's mostly in character with some business about rock, paper and scissors. The Forgotten was a six issue story arc in which a Tenth Doctor story worked as framing device for an anthology series featuring his earlier incarnations. Since IDW (like Pelican in 2013 when preparing their anniversary offering) were presumably unable to refer to Big Finish or anything else, this is what writer Tony Lee decided was the best option. I remember it being quite a big deal at the time, although now you do spend much of its duration trying to work out how it might still fit into what's been narratively established since.  "This key will help lock the Medusa Cascade forever if we need to" he says which doesn't sound incarnation sensitive.  About the only fly in the ointment is after the flashback, Tenth intimates that he spent most of the incarnation alone as though the Time War happened pretty quickly after the TV movie, which I remember seemed very mean even in the late noughties.  Lee didn't need to deny the existence of the audios, books and comics really, just not refer to them.

My Favourite Film of 1963.

Film Back in 2009, I was a Plinthian, the collective noun for the people who stood on the fourth plinth as part of artist Antony Gormley's One and Other project (which I wrote about here). Since this was the rare occasion of being in London for an extended period, around that I wanted to visit some of the "always wanted to go to too" places which were mainly Shakespeare sites: the Globe, Southwark Cathedral and the various other churches which feature in his biography either because he worshiped there or were originally the site of one of his theatres. You can still read all about the trip here.

After failed attempts to get some people I only know through the internet to meet on what would have been work nights, on both evenings I visited the BFI.  I had really always wanted to visit the BFI.  The idea of the UK having a national film theatre and one which still persisted in having a repertory approach to cinema rather than simply rolling out that week's releases is deeply appealing, as is the notion that it takes the process as serious as museums do in curating and presenting artifacts or academic libraries with their book stock.

Not that I really knew what to expect, what the auditorium would be like, how the audience would behave, how the film would be projected.  I did know that I'd be watching films I hadn't seen before, Cleopatra one night on purpose and Once Upon A Time In The West the next because even more plans fell through.  On both nights I made an event of it too, eating a meal on the premises or nearby and spending as much time as possible in and around the place, visiting the shop, whatnot.  My reaction was mostly, "posh Cornerhouse" which is ironic because Manchester has one itself now.

The ticket price was nine pounds, which at the time seemed very expensive which it was in 2009 or at least seemed so for someone living outside the M25.  Now, it's the standard ticket charge at FACT and exactly what I paid to see Star Wars's The FA just before Christmas on a Thursday afternoon.  But I didn't complain.  As often happens when you're on holiday everything just seems like the right price even though you know, as was the case in this instance, that you'd be able to buy the film to keep for an even cheaper price.

How was the experience of watching Cleopatra at the BFI?  A dream.  As I sat a few rows in from the front, the film just seemed to shimmer across the screen in its fully restored technicolor glory, in the correct aspect ratio, in a crisp print, every frame a painting.  At over four hours I was concerned that the piece might drag but at this size, it's an enthralling work, more than justifying its languorous shots of Elizabeth Taylor simply existing in these grandiose spaces.  For that single evening I felt like I'd stepped backwards into history.

Before the show, the staff handed out an introductory sheet written by a BFI curator which essentially slated the film across its two pages, denigrating the performances, the pacing, the script and everything about it.  This seemed like an odd way of drawing us towards something which we'd already paid for, but on reflection perhaps it was a case of lowering our expectations so that we'd be pleasantly surprised.  Which I was.  The film has a low reputation but even as I write, six years on, elements of it are seared on my mind.

The audience was small, but spectacularly quiet.  With refreshments banned, I think, there was silence even in the quiet scenes.  Indeed, I became the trouble maker.  Having the bladder of a child, I needed to go to the toilet at about an hour in and had to ask the person at the end of the isle to shift so I could pass through.  Not only did he shush me when I excused myself, he tutted at the interruption.  For once, I felt like the "got any killins?" kids from The League of Gentlemen disrupting the enjoyment of Gatiss's Philip French lookalike.

The intermission was observed and I spent it sat outside on a bench with a tub of ice cream watching in the Thames (the BFI is on the South Bank near the Globe and Tate Modern) (ish).  Few other cinemas have such picturesque and historic surroundings and due to modes of production there's rarely the time to take a moment in the middle of a film like this to cogitate on what's been seen and what's to come.  Not generally being someone who finds peace, this was one of those moments when I achieved it.

Radio Times Comic Strips.

Comics  Just a week after the TV movie was broadcast, the Radio Times began publication of what was to be a sixty-part comics series featuring the Eighth Doctor written by Gary Russell (for it is he) and drawn by veteran Who artist Lee Sullivan (between his work on DWM and much later Battles in Time).  The bottom half of a weekly page dedicated to sci-fi genre television it was certainly in the mix when I was slowly working towards becoming a fan (again).  Sadly after forty-odd issues the magazine decided that since the show was unlikely to return to television any time soon that it would be best to give the space over to something else and so the original narrative intention was curtailed after, wouldn't you know, forty-two episodes.  Russell would later somewhat complete the story of companions Stacy and Ssard in his EDA Placebo Effect, which I originally reviewed back in 2006.

As I said back then, what we effectively have here is an era within an era as this stories now fit snugly in the gap between The Eight Doctors and Vampire Science when Sam's been left at a Greenpeace rally and the Doctor's apparently gone off on his for three years to sort himself out.  For ages some chronologies, including the TARDIS Datacore attempted to put all of the Eighth Doctor's comic and audio adventures in here but since The Night of the Doctor's broadcast and whatever's happening at Big Finish that seems to have changed into something which resembles my chronology.  Which is a big step for the Datacore which for a while had banned edits to an order which quite incorrectly mixed and matched.  Putting the Radio Times pieces in here allows the Doctor to have some travels and so give the impression of having been away without having lived a few hundred years in the mean time.

What's most impressive about these installments is how the writer nails the Eighth Doctor in action and word.  The Altered Vistas page on the strips which proved invaluable in preparing these reviews isn't much of a fan of them and suggests that all the talk of Enid Blyton and The Famous Five is out of character when I'd disagree, I'd say they're a superb decision which fits neatly in how Eighth would develop across the novels and into the audios in which he often seems to be all to aware of being part of a fictional narrative.  Only the companion feel a little undercooked, with Stacy rarely rising above the generic for this era but you can see how Ssard would have developed in time as a relative of Ben Grimm.  Placebo Effect isn't apparently the last we see of them either judging by the spoiler I've just seen on Stacy's Datacore page....


What immediately strikes you about this first story is how Russell plunges the reader into a fairly standard Cyberman assimilation story (they attack a cargo ship then become particular excited when the Doctor turns up) which won't seem that innovative to fans who've been keeping the faith for the previous seven or eight years through its various paper related off-screen formats but is being handed to readers for whom this will be their first visit with the Doctor since it went off-air if not before. The narrative is dense and ambitious in scale with a strong emotional through line as new companion Stacy copes with the loss of her shipmates and one in particular which has beats that look forwards to both Spare Parts and its new series reimaginings, the Cybermen themselves more like the versions which would be wandering through Big Finish's audios a few years later. There's also an odd moment when the Doctor's about to be turned cyber himself which feels like a precursor to Nightmare in Silver, internal dialogues ahoy.  All within ten half page strips.


Not having an encyclopedic knowledge of the spin-off material pre-1996 I'm not sure about this, but is Lee Sullivan the first artist to render both an Ice Warrior female and an Ice Warrior outside of their armour? That's a pretty huge piece of history to be hosted in the Radio Times comic strip, even if the drawing of Queen Shssur looks like the Silurians from the television revival. Court intrigue as the Doctor must retrieve an Ice Lord who's been kidnapped. Not a lot happens but you can see Russell is slowing the pace a little knowing he has a fair amount of stories to fill which is a bold decision given the weekly drip delivery of this end of the franchise. Cheekily, the TARDIS Datacore tells me, the writer brings in some of the Martian mythology he originally authored for his first Virgin New Adventure Legacy, Ritual of Tuburr, in which an Ice Lord comes of age. Also worth noticing that Stacy hasn't really been given any of the usual introductory gubbins in relation to becoming a companion, she just sort of is, just as Ssard seems to be by the end of this too even though he's barely had much frame time, other than a hilarious shared look between the two them.


Essentially a continuation of the previous story, with the Doctor and the previously kidnapped Ice Lord Izaxyrl now heading into Mars to find Stacy and Ssard and investigate who's behind all the aforementioned intrigue. Pretty old school, by which I mean the 60s, with the two of them being chased through caves by a giant beastie. Much of it seems to be Russell paying homage to the TV Comics material and even if tonally it's pretty dark in places as half the guest cast is murdered by the other half and the Doctor doesn't ultimately have much to do in the denouement. The writer's clearly having much fun essentially writing his own era of Doctor Who even it's very oddly structured especially in terms of character. Izaxyrl's the character the Doctor spends most of the story with, yet it's Ssard who ultimately becomes his companion. Right at the end the real world intrudes too, with Christmas turning up in the final episode because it was published in the annual double-sized festive issue with the Doctor breaking the fourth wall as is now becoming customary on these occasions. Were parts nine and ten both published in that issue?


Aha, the one with the, Equinoids, talking pink and yellow pantomime horses as originally mentioned by the Doctor during Frontier in Space and as ridiculous as you might expect as sympathetic aliens. Say what you like about Gary Russell, he's nothing if not continuity sensitive, which is rather why I've always loved his work. Must get around to reading Spiral Scratch some day. Anyway, here he's having fun with perception filters and aliens lost in Victorian London and becoming part of freak shows, a premise which has been utilised with surprisingly regularity in Who, notably in one of the BBV Zygon spin-offs and experienced by Cr'zz in Other Lives. Once again pretty dark stuff given where it was originally published, including as it does the murder of a street urchin by the antagonist. Sullivan's art is especially atmospheric in its depiction of the time period and there are a couple of first rate close-up hero shots of the companions.


Boo. Originally planned as another ten parter, Deceptions, in which the antagonists were to revealed to be the Zygons and would have taken place on the home world, instead Russell's effectively forced to draw a narrative line under what was already in place and it feels like it, with a Fanthorpian lever pull and a bit of shouting at some aliens who aren't even granted a name.  At the top the final strip Radio Times warns its reads that it is so, as though the content itself wouldn't be enough of an indication.  The TARDIS Datacore has a scan of what would have been the first episode of the other story, with the Doctor and SSard going fishing which is an outrageous choice but provides a lovely moment between the two "aliens".  So, yes, boo.  On the other hand, Russell does leave it on a particularly fannish note echoing the Seventh Doctor's words at the close of Survival as he himself experiences his own cancellation crisis.

Anthony Perkins vs Anne Heche.

PSYCHO 1960/1998 "Parlor Scene"-Mashup - with Anthony Perkins & Anne Heche from Space Monkey on Vimeo.

Film In a mesmerising piece of cutting, someone has edited together Perkins's performance from Hitchcock's Psycho and Heche from the Van Sant remake. Across fifty years, helped by the latter's anal approach to shot emulation, the two performances don't just match, they seem to play off one another. Note this a distinctly different experiment to Steven Soderbergh's Psychos, which slotted whole scenes from each in between one another or superimposed them.