The Lie of the Land.

TV Netflix announced the cancellation of Sense8 by Netflix this week, which was disappointing but if it didn't work within their secret metrics of streams plus sign-ups then entirely understandable. Each episode reputedly cost $9m presumably because of the globe spanning storylines, numbers of main and secondary characters and actually looking generally very expensive.  Perhaps if there's enough of a protest, they'll at least allow for a wrap up film of some sort.  The show ended on a stunner of a cliffhanger with all kinds of interesting new pieces of mythology about how the clusters are networked together.

None of which has anything to do specifically with The Lie of the Land, other than that Sense8 provoked in me a similar excitement that the Who revival used to, in which I adored all the characters, enjoyed the innovative execution and applauded the ambition.  Every season and episode felt like it had some import and there was a joy to the whole thing, even in the more nihilistic moments like Turn Left or SOD U LOTT.  Yes, I know, moan, moan, moan, but Moffat's persuaded to stay final goodbye tour doesn't feel like the work of someone who's finally trying out all the ideas he's been saving.  It feels like a managed decline in desperate need of a Hestletine figure.

The Lie of the Land is fine, but it's no more than that and I want it to be more than that.  It's the kind of story we've seen in the past from the various iterations of the franchise when a particular mode of the format has gone on just that little bit too long and it's starting to repeat itself in a rather pronounced way.  Late era VNAs or EDAs or on television deep into the eras of the longevity Doctors (in terms of story number), Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee or Baker #1.  They won't be too objectionable when seen later during an extended rewatch and ... oh I'm starting to repeat myself.  Well, if it's good enough for the show ...

If the episode's at all watchable its because of those central three performances.  Writer Toby Whithouse (and whatever Moffat's interpolations are) and Capaldi trade in our memories of the arsehole who wandered around pretending to be the Doctor in series eight to convincingly suggest the Time Lord really joined the monks in oppressing humanity, because it seems like just the sort of thing that cretin would have done.  The actor plays it up to a tee, especially that horrific toothy grin which makes him look like a toothbrush with a hernia during the addresses to the people of Earth (excellent way of introducing the new world order too in the teaser ala Woody Allen's Zelig).

That smile changes considerably when the Doctor flips back into the more benevolent Tennant-lite figure we've generally enjoyed this season.  In the final moments under the statue he's utterly charming, explaining once again how humanity tends to be oblivious about alien invasion once they're over.  For the most part.  At this point, I don't think it's clear how much of everything which has happened to this version of the Earth has stuck from the past few years.  Did the cracks take care of the whole of the RTD era?  Rebooting the universe?  Or is the influence of the Faction Paradox still around?  Has Miracle Day not happened now?

Michelle Gomez's interpretation of Missy has gained considerable depth and like the suspicious Doctor we're not entirely the sure about the extent to which this new found soul is real or just another plan to gain her best friend and our confidence before unleashing some new mischief on the Whoniverse.  It is odd that she didn't reference her own utilisation of a similar methodology from The Sound of Drums, but perhaps it's best when you are re-iterating some earlier story idea not to actually remind the audience too much (even if most of them can go back and rewatch the thing immediately on their favourite streaming service).

But the linchpin of the episode is Pearl Mackie who like numerous companions before her decides that the only way to save the world is to sacrifice themselves.  On this occasion it's because of Bill's own foolishness, albeit in an attempt to save the Doctor (and the future of the franchise), but watching the actress reveal her character's realisation of such and how to mend the Earth it is utterly compelling, as good a piece of companion performance we've seen in the past few years.  Usually such moments are reserved for final episodes so we'll have to see how her story arc plays out for the remainder of the season.

As for the rest of this instalment?  Well, like I said it's fine.  As of late, it's all too tempting to simply produce paragraphs listing the moments in other episodes which resemble this one.  Someone on Twitter posted a photograph of Clara holding up her parental leaf from The Rings of Arkansas and another noted the similarity of the Monk's logo to Saxons and from there the parallels are so shameless that to actually write up a list would be entirely pointless.  I almost simply reposted my review of LOTT but it could just as easily be The Wedding of River Song or The Impossible Astronaut since its re-imagined universe and alien hand-holding business shares much with them too.

But it also lacks scale in comparison to those stories clearly attempting to portray a global threat on the budget of one of RTD's cheaper episodes with statues photoshopped onto postcards of landmarks and an increasing series of sparsely designed sets where scenes continue slightly longer than you might expect.  I'm not imaging this am I?  Are we watching a show trying to hide a cut in budget or at least a reduction in available resources due to everything otherwise costing more overall?  Surely there has to be some way of telling interesting stories without trying to ape the past whilst simultaneously failing to replicate the grandeur.

The episode also lacks compelling secondary characters within whom we see the effects of the memory changes.  Bill's housemates or dates from previous episodes  would have been perfect for this but for either budgetary reasons or availability we're left with the central characters and a more localised insular view.  We might also wonder how all of this has effected the Doctor's friends in other corners of the planet in the kind of episode which leads to wonder if Captain Jack's off world, Mr Smith has gone dark or Miss Quill is sitting on her hands (or at least what are supposed to be hands in her human form).  Where's bloody UNIT?

So yes, sorry, another week, another shrug.  The teaser for Gattis's piece next week does look exciting and unlike other viewers I've generally enjoyed Mark's previous episodes.  Robots of Sherwood is still my favourite of that year even if Sleep No More was a misstep the next.  The Empress of Mars seems like him trying to get all of his favourite things in one place in case Chibbers decides to hire a whole new set of writers  so I'm actually pretty excited about next week.  I always try to go into each episode with an open mind, and it's true that The Lie of the Land had a few good jokes.  I just wish it was ... I don't know ... you know ... that ... there was more of that ...

The First Ever Episode of TV-AM.

TV Uploaded in 2014 but I've only noticed it after clicking around from seeing Steve's tweet, here is the entire first morning of TV-AM from back in September 1983. You can read more about the channel's chaotic life in Ian Jones's essential book Morning Glory: A History of British Breakfast Television:

Steven Soderbergh has a new distribution model.

Film Not only does Soderbergh have a new film upcoming but a whole new way of releasing it wide without a major studio in the US:
"There’s no one component that hasn’t been done before, but I think it’s a combination of components. There have been advancements in technology that make it a lot easier to get a movie out in 3,000 screens than it was even two years ago. The economic model is pretty simple. You sell the foreign to cover the cost of the [film] negative. We sell the non-theatrical rights to cover the cost of the [prints and advertising], and that’s it. It’s really simple. People have done this before. The distribution part is only a little different because we control it in a way that you normally don’t get to control distribution."
Also sounds like he was a hands on producer for Ocean's Eight, so he's back, back, back.

My Favourite Film of 1897.

Film How often do you feel angry these days? Not just low level sighing, but full on righteous indignation? For various reasons, at a certain point, happiness became something of a luxury in the world, something which happens sometimes when we least expect it, but for much of the time, we’re in a complete state of shock and awe about something.

There’ll probably be a few of you who’ll look at that and see it as a gross generalisation and that may be. For the most part, helped in no small measure by my anxiety tablets, I’ve shifted into a state of blasé disbelief, of watching the news and having realised that I have little or no control over what’s happened, decided to simply let it all wash over me.

There’s plenty to be angry about, you know the reasons, and if you are able to do something directly that’s fine, channel that anger, do something about it. But most of the rest of us can only simply get on with things and hope that everything will be alright in the end. But stay informed in case there is a way we can join the effort.

Which isn’t to say I’m not resisting. Keeping my own council, voicing my own beliefs and being unafraid to have them is a form of resistance. Argue your case with intelligence and logic whenever possible even in the face of evil and ignorance. Because there is a lot of evil and ignorance in the world and evil people. We meet them every day. Walk past them in the street.

Ultimately we’re all in this pillow fight together and even if, like the feathers flying about in this short film (produced by Siegmund Lubin), such things as facts and empathy simply end up floating in the air rather than attaching themselves to their target, we need to keep swinging against the persecution complex of a majority which feels oh so threatened by the smallest, long overdue changes in society.

Which is why, even though for the first time in years I shouldn’t be feeling positive for the future, I still have hope. Even though the world seemed to change so quickly last year, there’s nothing to say it won’t head back on track just as quickly. The universe is not without a sense of humour. Even if I don’t particularly believe in a god, I believe that.

Love Actually is Partially Redeemed.

Film Find above the US version of the Love Actually Sequel as hosted by NBC. Yes, the US version. Spoilers ahead:

(1) New celebrities edited into the closing montage from the US edition of Red Nose Day including Jack Black.

(2) Rowan Atkinson's angel now works for Walgreens, the second largest chemist in the US and owners of Boots UK. Except he's doing exactly the same routine as in the UK version in front of the same child. So the counter set was a green screen with the relevant shop comped in, his lapel badge has been replaced and the young shopper has been dubbed.

(3) New scene. Sarah as played by Laura Linney, one of the biggest omissions from before is back here in a scene tucked in between the end of Atkinson and the start of Liam Neeson. Sarah finally receives a happy ending, if you assume it's a good thing that she's still in what appears to be the same job all these years later but married to Patrick Dempsey. Dempsey actually gets more screen time than she does, and the whole thing is mainly told from his POV, but we do also discover she has at least one child and a pet.

According to Harper's Bizarre this stuff was shot after the UK broadcast, Linney finding a gap in her schedule during a Broadway run.  But for the fact that the two actors clearly aren't talking to one another, the conversation doesn't quite match, it's still a charming little scene and I'd be a horrible person if I wasn't pleased that Sarah finally looks properly happy.  We don't know what's happened to her brother, unless it's his shoes which are the problem but they look rather small if that's what Dempsey's putting in his pocket.  I'll stop now.