World Enough and Time.

TV First of all, squee. Squee, squee, squee, squee, sequee, squee. Squee.  Next of all a brief discussion of canonicity in Doctor Who and the (ho, ho) genesis of the Cybermen. As anyone who's visited the Cyberpages on the TARDIS Datacore will know, the creation and history of the race is a narrative mess. Lance and Lars's AHistory, the chronology of the Who universe helpfully summarises that "DWM has offered two distinct origins, Big Finish, a third" and that co-creator Gerry Davies provided his own origin story which was published in David Banks's Virgin book about Cybermen.  Lance and Lars then decide that although these stories might seem to contradict one another the're going to spend a page reconciling them anyway, explaining, I shit you not, how the Voord from The Keys of Marinus and indeed Marinus itself could be the Cybermen and Mondas at some earlier point in history with Marc Platt's audio Spare Parts, up until this point the accepted origin for the old Who Cybermen set much later.

Assuming that Moffat is deciding to allow television to contradict Big Finish and everything else which has gone before that hasn't appeared on television ala George Lucas and the Clone Troopers, the simplest answer is the one I've always favoured and which in the past few years the showrunner himself indicated.  Time can be rewritten.  Mondas's history has been changed somehow and whereas before they might have been Voord or the Fifth Doctor became mixed up in their origins, now its something all the more complicated involving a colony ship and black holes and numerous Time Lords.  Presumably we'll discover next week what this has to do with The Tenth Planet.   David Bradley appearing as the First Doctor at Christmas can't be a coincidence.  Unless it is.  Either way for pedestrians who hopelessly dragged themselves through the wilderness years, or indeed people like me whose fandom was born in one of its stormy oases and cherish those stories, thanks to this being a time travel franchise and the existence of the Faction Paradox and what have you, all of this is fine.

World Enough and Time is a return to the Steven Moffat whose work is practically unreviewable in any meaningful way.  By which I mean it's so, so good, so unlike anything else which this series has had to offer that to try and talk about it in the usual sense of "is the story interesting?" or "how are the characters?" you're on a hiding to nothing.  Everything is impeccable.  The performance.  The set design.  The music.  The SFX.  The meticulous direction from Rachel Talalay who is really having a bonzer year between this, Sherlock and whatever acronym they're using for the DC TV shows.  But unlike Heaven Sent, which was also the best episode of its series, he's still working within the confines of a recognisable Doctor Who format, albeit poking it in the eye ("exposition and comic relief").  This week instead of Bill becoming separated from the Doctor by falling though a hole, it's because someone made a hole in her.  Sob.  So let's talk around a few things.

Anyone who's seen Interstellar will be aware of time distortions around Black Holes and its a clever way of introducing a similar two track narrative with Bill becoming another girl who's waiting (a deliberate callback?).  As Eddie Robson notices, during her captivity , it's as though she's watching 60s Doctor Who on the monitor ("rapt even though it was very slow") or as Clayton Hickman adds, from her point of view a series of telesnaps.  Bill's observations of the Doctor's behaviour are just the sort of micro-analysis which fans often conduct when they've exhausted all other avenues of discussion or the professionals when they're trying to distinguish each of the incarnations in prose.  They're the writerly equivalent of the fan versions of merchandise covers with Moffat suggesting some of the descriptions Terry Dicks might have used in a Target novelisation.

Speaking of Target novelisations, is this the final word on Doctor Who then?  Given that he once signed his name as such and the whole WOTAN business, it's really just a confirmation, but there'll still be some who'll question if it is needed.  But think of the benefits.  The Cushing films, TV Comic and annual stories now have some added canonicity for one and it does explain why the title of the programme doesn't include an actual question mark.  Like Ally McBeal and Veronica Mars, his full name is in the title.  The previous approach to this, in the Virgin New Adventures, was to create a figure called "Doctor Who" as a comment on those earlier stories in which the Doctor's characterisation was slightly "off".  But given how much the Fourteenth Doctor's changed in the past three years, the television Hartnell and the one in the comics isn't that much of a stretch even if it's nearly impossible to account for when they're set in his timeline unless he nipped off for a bit in the middle of The Romans.

Was John Simm's reveal supposed to be a massive surprise?  Some on the social medias say they clocked him from the publicity photos although I only realised after about his second appearance when I wondered why the actor was wearing make-up then noticed his eyes and how his voice sounded and so the fact he was John Simm.  How many people were genuinely that shocked when he ripped away the mask?  I have no memory of my original viewing of Time-Flight so I don't know how convincing it was to my young mind even with the Ainley version of the Master talking to himself in disguise.  But were many viewers giving it the full Yana when Simm dropped the accent here?  Despite the availability of the RTD era on streaming and shiny-disc, how many of them will remember he was a younger version of the character and his fate in The End of Tennant?  Having him remind us that he was once a PM was a nice touch.  Remember back in 2010 how we chortled that there'd be no way a meglomaniac like him could become leader of the free world?  Hum.

How did the Master survive whatever it was that happened to Galifrey back then?  Has Missy herself even explained?  Isn't it curious that she doesn't remember anything of these events ala Time Crash - a return of the meticulous Moffat who bothers to even mention something like that as part of the "reveal".  Is it something to do with her "death" and the reason she was in the vault?  Expect a "So you escaped from Castrovalva. I should have guessed" type conversation next week.  This an episode designed to generate questions - not for their own sake as happened towards the end of the last series but with all of the potential that there'll be answers.  There's still the nagging query about how much the Doctor remembers of Clara and if he and Missy have had a chat about that (cf, Eighth and Iris in the novels).  Would he be as quick to try and rehabilitate her given the business which happened at the end of season eight?  How much more tragic is it that yet another of his companions/assistants/friends finds herself in a state of between mortality and being part of the mortality rate amongst TARDIS travellers.

The tear.  Goddam.  How dead is Bill?  As seen in Torchwood, the survival rate for unconverting human's isn't too high.  Judging by the available technology, a brain transplant doesn't look likely ("Ianto? Ianto, it's me. It's Lisa. I'm human again").  Her reveal recalls the gut wrenching worst of The Age of Steel but with the old style Cybermen this even creepier with their sing song voices and human hands.    Plus that episode set alt.Jackie up to be something of a monster which meant we cared less about her conversation than we do about Bill whose clearly not the person who made that horrible joke in her first moments on the series eleven weeks ago.  Giving her the Danny Pink treatment is bold but she can't possibly stay this way.  Could the Doctorm utilise the properties of the ship somehow to drop in earlier in her timeline and save her, with a localised time distortion being outside the web of time as some kind of justification?  Why is she wearing the exact same clothes as in the minisode, Friend from the Future?

Which returns us to the start of the episode and the Doctor's regeneration.  Apparently, Moffat's original plan for the 2010 season if Tennant had decided to stay on was to have his regeneration in the opening teaser and then spend the rest of the season tracing backwards/forwards to the moment and explaining how he got there.  Is Moffat's resurrecting the idea here?  It doesn't seem like a fake out.  The Doctor looks physically older, broken, his jacket frayed at the edges, his hair even less unkempt than usual.  It's not unusual for the Doctor to enter this moment in defiance ("I don't want to go...") and given the setting, an icy world, it's entirely possible we're seeing the final moments of the Christmas special.  Although, I haven't completely ruled out the idea that in fact Capaldi is going to regenerate at the end of the series, but somehow return as an earlier version to help his new incarnation to find her vortex legs.  Imagine if they could pull off this reveal next week, finally making up for what didn't happen in 2005.

Which brings us to one of the more interesting conversations in the episode about the fluidity of Time Lord genders.  The Doctor jokes about not remembering if they were a woman in the past but unless this is some shocking tease from the writer taking the piss out of a section of the fan base, explaining the old Master to newbies, or the new Rani's a bloke, this has to be foreshadowing for when Romola Garai (or, I'll concede, whoever) emerges next week or at Christmas.  Moffat rarely writes this sort of scene without a reason.  He's apt to do this kind of introduction, to clear the air, to justify some new twist.  Another notable example is Eleventh's phone call in Deep Breath which was a way of reassuring fans who'd joined during his USA breaking tenure that it was OK, that the show would continue without him (even if he failed to mention that some of us would end up hating his successor within a few episodes).  All of which depends on lead times.  Did Chris Chibnall make his choice early enough for Moffat to write the dialogue and someone to film it?  Late pick-ups?  It's going to be Kris Marshall isn't it?  Sigh.

A Quick Word About De-Caffeinated Coffee.

Beverages Seeking refreshment at IKEA Warrington yesterday after finding just the right set of shelves for once, I decided to visit the cafe for some apple pie and coffee. Large signs everywhere advertising filter coffee, freshly brewed with some nice pictures of same. I duly paid the 0.95p at the check out when took the mug to the dispensing station only to find that there is indeed freshly brewed filter coffee - unless you want decaff in which case its sachets of Kenco Instant.

Not being able to have caffeine for medical reasons is the worst at the best of times but having to pay the same price for a couple spoonfuls of the same stuff I'm stuck using at home instead of what's available to everyone else, well, it's the worst. I bristled. I considered taking it up with a manager. But then realised it would have been a corporate decision so took the damned instant.

For those of us living in a decaff world, options are limited. Some supermarkets, even the Tesco Metro in Clayton Square don't have non-caffeine products in the beverage section which means we have to looking further, harder. But it's even worse when you're in a restaurant or cafe and have to deal with it. Last time I visited The Garden cafe in FACT I was charged extra for decaff and the situation on Virgin Trains is similar to IKEA, a sachet of decaff Kenco for the same price as filter. Over two pounds in that case.

Decaff is presumably less popular than the "proper" stuff which is why these other arrangements are made. Why have an extra machine for something which is selected by just a fraction of the potential audience? Starbucks can justify the expense presumably because they have the volume of traffic, although they only have one type of decaff and it's only available as Americano, not as filter coffee.

If nothing else, this has made me appreciate what it must be like to be a vegetarian or vegan in a carnivorous world where restaurants cater for the larger market first and almost include veggie food as an after thought. At some point in the future I'll hopefully be able to return to caffeine and the kick (oh the kick) but until then I'll keep cherishing those place which make an effort to include everybody.

"Hatred can become like food, it gives you this energy that you can like, live off of."

TV This Guardian piece about shows cancelled before their time features many shows championed by this blog, including Party Animals and My So-Called Life:
"“So I started hanging out with Rayanne Graff, just for fun. Just ’cause it seemed like if I didn’t I would die or something.” Gripping from the very first lines of Angela Chase’s internal monologue, this was as gut-wrenchingly true to a girl’s high-school experience as it’s possible to get. My So-Called Life catalysed every corridor crush, every parental let-down, every wild urge to be free. Even seemingly simple moments like Jordan Catalano approaching Angela in a hallway made a million teens shiver."
Pleasingly includes many a UK show and probably all present and correct. To the list I'd probably add the Sally Philips starring Bridget Jones done properly work place comedy drama Rescue Me ("It's James Lance!"), NY-LON (Rashida Jones before she was famous) and North Square (everyone before they were famous).  Also points for not mechanically including Firefly, because arguably Serenity allowed its story to have a natural end.

Free Tickets for Led Zeppelin.

Film After watching the only ok tragicomedy Love Happens tonight due to my addiction to watching deeply average Jennifer Aniston films, I wandered into YouTube searching for Mark Kermode's review. He didn't or if he did it isn't up there for posterity.

 Instead I stumbled upon this clip from back in 2007 when the Good Doctor appeared in the last half hour of Simon Mayo's own show and sometimes met the guest before. On that day it was Jeremy Clarkson and it's frosty if polite. But the key moment is towards the end when Clarkson mentions who he received his Zeppelin tickets from:

Oh, ok.

Elizabeth Wurtzel interviewed by Liz Phair.

Film A piece on the Interview Magazine website on the occasion of a reissue of Prozac Nation. This paragraph in particular resonated:
"I see sexism everywhere, and I think it has to do with that. I've begun to blame sexism for everything. I've become so overwhelmed by it that, even though I love Bob Dylan, I don't want to listen to Bob Dylan, because I don't want to listen to men anymore. I don't care what men have to say about anything. I only want to pay attention to what women do. I only want to read women. I'll tell you how intense my feelings about this are: You know The Handmaid's Tale, the show, which is feminist in its nature? Because men are behind it, I don't want to watch it. That is the extent to which I am so truly horrified by what is going on."
Increasingly I'm drawn to women's stories in film and female-led films because I've also felt like I've seen enough man stories already. But the other point about The Handmaid's Tale has also been a concern - the key creator of the series is male. But the gender of the writing and directorial staff is roughly fifty/fifty so to an extent I'm ok with that especially since the source material is from a female author.

Let's hope that the success of Wonder Woman will lead to more films which don't just have a female protagonist but also director and writers which is something even that film didn't accomplish.

"Either shut him up or shut him down!"

Film You will have heard that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have creative differenced their way out of the Han Solo film with three weeks of principle photography left. As ever their fans have suggested this is all a Disney/Lucasfilm problem but I'm taking rather an Ant-Man approach to this, that Edgar Wright's directorial style was never going to fit within the MCU as it is now.

As the Hollywood Reporter suggests Lord and Miller across all of their films have favoured an improvisational approach, and however much I like their work, I thought it was an odd choice that they be hired in the first place especially with Lawrence Kasdan writing the script. Why get Kasdan to do the work if you're going to allow the actors to throw it all out or talk around what's on the page?

Plus it doesn't fit with Star Wars, with its high adherence to a "canon" and in defining the back story for one of its iconic characters.  However far away from the house style Rogue One strayed, it was still quite recognisably a Star Wars film, especially after the reshoots and we don't really know the extent to which what happened was due to Gareth Edwards straying from formula.

Perhaps they thought Lord and Miller would like the Russo Brothers in MARVEL take whatever their sensibilities they have but remain focused on it being a Star Wars film rather than something of their own.  But it sounds like they wanted to do a 21 Jump Street and bend someone else's property around their own ideas, which again, I don't think you can do with Han Solo.

We'll probably have some inkling eventually of what occurred, especially in the run up to the release of the film.  The interesting thing will be how much is going to be reshot with the new director and who will eventually get the credit.  Will it be a joint credit or will the new person receive final name?  There's no way Lucasfilm would release this with the modern equivalent of Alan Smithee.  Probably.

Updated 22/06/2017  Ron Howard's taken over, which is reassuring.  Here's my guess.  Massive, massive reshoots and the film is pushed through to a December 2018 release and he'll get sole credit.  No idea why its being released as a Summer film anyway.  Star Wars is the perfect replacement for Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter as the end of the year treat.  Slash film has some unverified accounts of what happened behind the scenes and it sounds like they weren't delivering the Star Wars film as expected.

Not Adam Curtis on Slides in Films.

History One of my favourite past times is looking out for culture which is almost but not exactly like some other source, conscious or not.  Probably my favourite is Miami Rhapsody in which David Frankel seems to have attempted to make a Woody Allen film even to the point of casting Mia Farrow in a key role.

 Now, here's the Adam Curtis version:

The loopy political connections, the giant text over archive footage, featuring a shot of Reagan's attempted assassination.  Did Fandor know?  About the only thing missing is River Deep, Mountain High running over the conclusion. Plus it's always good to be reminded that we do live in the reality were Robert Altman directed Robin Williams playing Popeye.

Sony's Spiderverse now in the MCU.

Film News broke last week that Sony were developing a Venom film and possibly something with Black Cat and Silver Sable but that they would not be in the MCU ala the X-Verse. My reaction was of course, please stop, but there's an interview now with Amy Pascal, producer of the films sat next to Kevin Feige in which we discover that indeed they will be set in the MCU. From Twitter:

The io9 version of this story becomes quite vexed about continuity and contradictions but really what we're probably seeing is something akin to the television arrangement, ABC and Netflix, stories set in the MCU without impacting what happens in the main Disney films.  In which case, why not?

Of course where this leaves my theory about the Watchers in the Stan Lee cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 representing different MARVEL film universes which still have an underlying connection through him.  Unless the third one is from the Tim Story Fantastic Four films.  Yes, that'll be it.