Doom Coalition 3.

Audio Well, that's much, much better. As you'll remember I wasn't monumentally impressed with DC2, describing it "as a group of episodes which exists because it's time for some more Eighth Doctor adventures, rather than because there are any especially interesting stories to tell". Although some of my criticisms of that previous installments still stand, especially in relation to how the companions fit within the overall superstructure of the series, this is a more entertaining set of episodes mostly because there's a greater sense of forward movement in terms of where the story arc is heading and also because River Song has effectively become a full time player bringing a whole different energy to events. Plus it's regained its sense of fun, helped immeasurably by the chemistry between the main cast. Eighth and River Song are a great fit, coming across more as equals than she ever did with Eleventh. But, and although it's true the opening installment assuages this slightly, I do wish we could return to the old four episode monthly installment structure for the Eighth Doctor last seen for the Mary Shelley stories. As was discovered in the BBC Eighth Doctor novels, having epic, universe saving adventures can become tiring after a while.

Absent Friends

Arguably the highlight of the set largely because it sets aside galaxy destruction in favour of the Doctor investigating a problem on a small scale in the old style and has deepcut implications for his companions. As well as allowing us a window into Liv's past, there's also Helen catching up with herself which leads to the Doctor confirming my old theory about the Whoniverse that the Doctor and is companions can't change history if they're aware of the original outcome. If the Doctor had managed to stop Rose Tyler stumbling into her flat in Aliens of London he could have slipped back a year and have her visit her Mum before she was even reported missing. But as he explains, now that she's run headlong into her own future, those events are now set in stone. This fan of Koquillion is also especially appreciative of the ultimate explanation of why everything which looks strange is in fact exactly what it appears to be and not the red herring were clearly supposed to believe it is. One slight continuity question: the Doctor gifts his companions chip and pin debit cards in 1998 which seems extremely early and we know they're supposed to work because Helen uses hers for train travel.

The Eighth Piece

Ambitiously structured story redolent of some of the 90s novels from Virgin and the BBC in which Eighth utilises a very Seventh tactic for slightly more benign means in what's effectively a retelling of the Lost in Time episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Cross cutting between the eras is achieved with minimal fuss and it's never confusing, even if the ultimate reason for the mcguffin's existence never quite coalesces. Unlike the previous box, this Doctor is a much more active, investigatory figure who clearly has a lot of faith in his TARDIS to return and pick up his companions at the correct moments. Embedded in here is an utterly compelling performance from John Shrapnel as Thomas Cromwell, the cold, controlling and intellectually vital figure pictured in the Holbein paintings. Top marks to the producers for discovering a rational reason why the Doctor won't recognise River Song in the future and for keeping it just in character -- hopefully it'll be utilised in the upcoming second River Song boxed set so she can have whole conversations with Sixth and Seven as well.

The Doomsday Chronometer

Big Finish repays its loyal listeners with an audio character gag which only makes sense if you've heard to Fifth Doctor portion of Classic Doctors, New Monsters. Is it the same actor? Sounds like him. How funny.  That whole section, with River and Helen flitting around time and space is an utter blast, its experimentation with the narrative structure very Moffat era and unlike anything I've heard in Big Finish before.  If anything though the installment suffers from too much happening syndrome, with barely much time to quite appreciate the implications of what we're hearing before another plot thread is applied and again, the threat of the clock never quite feels properly established.  Despite having River's presence, it's still very strange when she poignantly  references something from the revival right in the middle of what's still technically the classic era.  Her sheer awesomeness is over balancing things not least because Alex Kingston is well into the swing of audio now, her performance indivisible with the television series.

The Crucible of Souls

The Eighth Doctor's referencing of the Battle TARDISes as a programme from his past pretty much disregards the idea that all these audios are still happening in the three year Greenpeace gap at the start of the EDAs.  The TARDIS Datacore has finally adopted my structure of books/comics/audios as his biographical order, I notice, so perhaps that's gained currency.  Hasn't there been another occasion when a Doctor's companions mistake some other figure as being the regenerated Doctor?  I'm wracking my brain, but other than the River Song story Signs, I can't think of anything in particular.  Help needed.  Pretty decent finale overall, which explains why Robert Bathurst was in what seemed like a pretty nothing role and he tops off what is a pretty incredible cast overall.  My only fear now is that the final Doom Coalition box doesn't somehow lead in to the Time War set which is due for release this time next year.  Even though we know the Eighth Doctor's fate now, there still seems to be plenty more ongoing stories to be told before all of that descends.

Lots and lots of sequels.

Film A couple of decades ago when Empire was still a relatively new publication, before YouTube, they'd give away free VHS tapes filled with trailers for upcoming movies. Here's the '97 edition being sold on ebay, with Baz's R+J, Michael, The Phantom, Ken's Hamlet, the Ransom remake and Mars Attacks on the cover. Frequently this would be the first time most of us would know half of these films existed, one notable example being The Juror with Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore which looked cheap and deranged and so it was when I eventually saw it a couple of decades later.

I'm reminded of happy times devouring these old tapes on seeing Empire's webpage offering a forward chronology for film releases heading into the end of the decade.  There's a few items that I'd entirely missed like La La Land, a musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and that Edgar Wright has a new film coming too.  Much of the list isn't otherwise unknown, mostly consisting of franchise releases, remakes and sequels.  I'm going to be in my mid-forties by the time this future film narrative plays out.

Plus they've included links to the trailers.  Unlike back then, I'm warier of watching such things because too often they're essentially a synopsis of the film.  The Passengers promo says, way, way too much, I think.  Nevertheless, doesn't the Resident Evil trailer look fabulous? I mean, yes, expectations lowered because it is a Resident Evil film.  But having enjoyed pretty much all the preceding installments, I'm really, really looking forward to finally being able to buy a complete boxed set.

Will & Grace & Hillary.

Politics The cast of Will & Grace re-unite for a pro-Clinton infomercial. As ever it's sporadically funny. But the real marvel is the set which somehow manages to almost recreate something which stopped existing ten years ago. Comparing it to footage of the original series, almost all of the original background furniture returns as well as the brick-a-brack, right down to the framed photo of Grace on the shelf behind the couch and the mirror about the fireplace. Some pieces have moved, which is to be expected after ten years. Real fans will be able to say how canonical this is with the finale of the series, but notice also how easily the cast pick up their characters all these years later entirely as though they never left.

Hope Listed.

Shakespeare The BBC reports the Theatre and the Hope, or rather the surviving sites of those Elizabethan playhouses have been put under listed status and protection:
"Duncan Wilson, chief executive of government heritage agency Historic England, said: "The archaeological remains of the first and last Elizabethan playhouses to be built in London give us fleeting glimpses of a fascinating period in the history of theatre.

"They are where some of the world's greatest stories were first told and it is wonderful that they remain today, bearing witness to our fascinating past.

"Their cultural importance, particularly their connections with Shakespeare and Marlowe, means they deserve protection as part of England's precious historic fabric."
After what I've heard about the changes made to the fabric of the Globe recreation, one might wonder if it not be an idea to give that building similar protections. Meaow.

The Torchwood Problem 2.0

TV Digital Spy is reporting the "air" or rather upload date for Doctor Who spin-off Class and a bit of the mission statement which involves the Doctor appearing in the first episode. Creator Patrick Ness has stressed recently that this isn't a family show that it's directly for BBC Three's key demographic.

Welcome again to the Torchwood problem which is simply that we have a spin-off show for a programme ostensibly made for a family audience, which is designed to welcome in children and whose tone is no way designed to cater for that audience.

Then, Russell T Davies was clever enough to realise that having the Doctor show up in this show for older audiences was a poor idea for just this reason, because of pester power.  I argued that having Captain Jack and Martha Jones in their did much the same thing but nevertheless.

Apparently loads of children have seen Torchwood, presumably helped by the slightly edited early evening repeats during the second year back in 2007.  Yes, 2007.  We're all so, so old.  Torchwood is ten years old this year.  Sorry about that.

Obviously its up to parents to decide what their children can tolerate but I don't think I'd show Torchwood to anyone under the age of at least fifteen and hence the Torchwood Problem.  Gosh this is all a bit Mediawatch UK isn't it?

Class is supposed to be designed for a YA audience which is the age group of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, a younger demographic than Torchwood was designed for.  But I do think we're still in a bit of a grey area here.

Am I wrong?  Perhaps I am.  I have no children, I'm just thinking notionally about age groups and the kinds of material a figure like the Doctor can appear in.  There's something quite precious about him being a hero for the family.

My Favourite Film of 1927.

Film  If there's a film from the silent era which continues to be an influence on pop culture, it's Metropolis.  I've seen it innumerable times in countless versions, from a very rough edition given away on VHS by Empire Magazine, to the even worse version knocked out originally on dvd by Eureka, to their superb restoration which turned up on a free dvd with The Observer (or what it the Telegraph?) to the even more print which toured the country with the newly recorded soundtrack which I saw at the Cornerhouse in Manchester.

But what of the people who've made it?  I've scoured the internet, well ok, been Googling around and found the following.  Even if you ignore the rest, I'd recommend the first link which is a thorough investigation into Lang's whole career selecting key films, by Noel Murray formerly of The AV Club.  Of the rest, all I can say is that it's interesting just how under represented the performers are in these films at least in terms of none Wikipedia sources.  There are German webpages but even then they don't appear to be too complex.

The sprawling, obsessive career of Fritz Lang (director):
"Film historian David Kalat once proposed rules for a Fritz Lang drinking game: Whenever a Lang film shows an angry mob or a woman in a nightgown, everybody takes a shot. Unlike many of the major auteurs of the first half of the 20th century, Lang didn’t bury his motifs for critics to unearth decades later. He moved the camera and used lighting expressively, and employed overt visual symbolism even after he transitioned from silent films to sound. Over and over, Lang made movies about the madness of crowds, the indelible stain of guilt, the influence of the powerful, and yes, the way people look beneath their clothes—literally and metaphorically."

Eric Pommer aka Erich Pommer (producer):
"Erich Pommer (July 20, 1889 – May 8, 1966) was one of the most influential producers of the silent film era, having been one of the most influential creators behind the German Expressionism movement as the head of production at Ufa from 1924 to 1926. Under his guidance, many of what critics consider the greatest movies ever made were directed, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922), Die Nibelungen (1924), Mikaël (1924), Der Letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (1924), Variety (1925), Tartuffe (1926), Faust (1926), Metropolis (1927) and The Blue Angel (1930)."

Thea von Harbou (writer):

"In his 1928 book on film directing and screenwriting, Russian filmmaker Vsevolod Pudovkin notes that many literary figures had difficulty adjusting to “the optically expressive form” of film. Thea von Harbou, one of three German screenwriters who Pudovkin singles out, stands alongside Carl Mayer as one of the most influential film figures in Weimar German cinema, which spanned the years 1919 to 1933. Including an excerpt from Harbou’s script for Spione (1928), an espionage adventure film, Pudovkin goes on to praise the novelist Harbou for her ability to work with the film medium. Indeed, it is Harbou’s awareness of the “possibilities of the camera such as shots, framing, editing, [and] intensification through visually striking details” that distinguishes her work. In the scene in question—one of the most visually dynamic in the film—Harbou conveys in words the sense of movement, speed, and sudden discovery surrounding a train wreck. Each shot, each significant gesture, is noted, and in this she exemplifies the way her husband and collaborator Fritz Lang once described the model screenplay: “To the last intertitle everything has to be ready before the cameras roll”."

Alfred Abel (actor):
"The actor Alfred Abel first tested other professional areas like a forest apprenticeship, a not finished gardener apprenticeship and a study for artistic drawing before he decided to become an actor. He made his stage debut in Lucerne/Switzerland in 1904 and in the same year he came to the Deutsche Theater directed by Max Reinhardt in Berlin, the metropolis of theater in Germany."

Brigitte Helm (actor):
"She was the most sought-after actress of the glory days of the German film industry, a tall blond beauty who starred in more than 35 movies and set directors against one another in the competition for her services. Ms. Helm was regarded as such a perfect embodiment of the era's ideal of cool sophistication that when she turned Josef von Sternberg down for the starring role in "Blue Angel," he had to settle for Marlene Dietrich."

Gustav Fröhlich (actor):
"Gustav Fröhlich was born an illegitimate child in Hanover, Germany, and was raised by foster parents. Before becoming an actor, he worked for a short time as an editor of a provincial newspaper and as the author of popular novels. During World War I he also volunteered for duty in occupied Brussels as a press supervisor."

Rudolf Klein-Rogge (actor):
"The screen's original Dr. Mabuse, Klein-Rogge excelled at playing sinister figures in 1920s and 193s German productions, and was a regular of Fritz Lang's Weimar films."

Gottfried Huppertz (original score):
"Gottfried Huppertz was born in Köln, Germany on March 11, 1887. There He studied music in a conservatory, and in 1905 wrote his first composition, a song titled "Rankende Rosen" (Tendrillar Roses), which he dedicated to his childhood friend Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Huppertz, around 1918Gottfried Huppertz in Fritz Lang's Dr. MabuseDuring WWI Huppertz worked as an opera singer and theater actor in Coburg, Freiburg and Breslau, and also wrote some music for the theater. In 1920 Huppertz moved to Berlin and began acting at the Nollendorfplatz Theater, and shortly afterwards met his future wife, Charlotte Lindig. During that period, Huppertz was also recorded singing two songs with other singers as promotion for the operetta "Verliebte Leute," which was released in 1922 on a 78rpm record."