"We're trying to defeat the Daleks, not start a jumble sale!"

TV Just as I was finishing off another half hearted review of a Big Finish Short Trip with a view to going to bed, the BBC do their usual and drop some big news late on a Sunday night. Companions! TX details!


The rumours were true, Bradley Walsh is a companion, but he's not the only one. Joining his character Graham (and I know at least one person who'll be pleased with that choice) are Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill as Ryan and Yasmin. It's going to be a busy old TARDIS.

Tosin's longest stretch on television so far is as someone called Neil on Hollyoaks, but he was also in Star Wars The Force Awakens as Bastian, who flew with Red Squadron in the final battle so he can be added to the list of actors who have characters listed in the TARDIS Datacore and the Wookiepedia.

Mandip's another Hollyoaks alum who may have been contemporaneous with Tosin.  Outside of that it's mainly regional theatre in bit parts in medical dramas, which I love.   We don't know anything about her which provides a counterweight to Bradley of whom we know quite a lot. She's on Twitter, god help her.

TX details!

Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again.

Amid all the excitement, we also discover that the episode count has been cut again, from 12 and a special to 10 and a special and that it's not arriving until Autumn 2018 which means that like 2015 season, it'll be at the mercy of Strictly's scheduling again as the dance competition episodes decrease in length over time.

Cue discussions about money and time.  The press release indicates: "Doctor Who is a BBC Studios production for BBC One and a BBC America co-production. BBC Worldwide are the international distributors for Doctor Who."  So the most recent funding model is still in place.

So why do less episodes?  Is it that production costs are so high in relative terms now that in order to keep making the show to a certain standard they've had to cut the number of episodes?  Some of the recent installments have seems a bit interior heavy so it's possible they're trimming the duration in order to improve whats there.

Time: having at least two of these cast members working on the show for the old production period of ten months is a stretch so could it be Jodie and especially Bradley's schedule which has led to this?

Or is it simply that Chibbers wants to turn out ten quality episodes in writing terms rather than forcing through twelve with some ropey ones in the middle as has been the case since the show came back.

Anyway, here's the full press release with the usual quotes about how happy everyone is to be there.

Squee etc.

The Young Lions (Short Trips Rarities)

Audio Another wide release for Big Finish's old subscriber exclusive, or as they're officially called "Short Trips Rarities" and we're back in the middle of the With Lucie years although tonally this could just as easily have featured any of the Doctors, especially Pertwee or Davison. That's not a criticism; with so many of Eighth's stories now tied to ferreting out some new or old bit of continuity, it's nice to have a stand alone story however slight. Soldiers at barracks in Little Morton are far healthier than they should be, especially after having been injured and since this is a Doctor Who story, there can be only one catalyst but it's up to the Doctor and Lucie to uncover which one it is.  Writer Alice Cavendar's later The Curse of the Fugue was marked by how well she captured Lucie's voice and you can see why she received that commission here.  Even with the very male Stephen Critchlow reading in, Sheridan's performance is echoed throughout although her Eighth is also brilliantly rendered, especially in a key moment of TARDIS business.  Placement: Just before The Curse of the Fugue, I suppose.

Men, again.

Film Elizabeth Wurtzel on Weinstein. Blistering:
"Men who do this sort of thing think they are just being friendly. They are just asking the girl out who — so what? — happens to work for them.

Asking again and again and again.

Cornering her.

Pushing her against the wall.

Threatening her — of course not meaning it, because that would be totally wrong.

Over and over again. But, no, not seriously, of course.

We’re all grown-ups.

But asking again and again. And again.

Until it is unbearable and someone has to leave, usually her. No: always her.

She has to go."
Miramax, of course, distributed the Wurtzel disavowed adaptation of Prozac Nation, which I can barely bring myself to watch. Maybe some day.

Although that's not mentioned, Richard Brody has piece about how Weinstein was bad for films too especially his treatment of auteurs.

Molly Ringwald also mentions the treatment a British film which she was appearing in received, in a longer column about her treatment at the hands of various men on set:
"Thankfully, I wasn’t cajoled into a taxi, nor did I have to turn down giving or getting a massage. I was lucky. Or perhaps it was because, at that moment in time, I was the one with more power. “The English Patient,” Weinstein’s first Best Picture winner, was still a few years away. The worst I had to contend with was performing new pages that Harvey had someone else write, which were not in the script; my co-star, Robert Lindsay, and I had signed off to do a film adapted and directed by one person, and then were essentially asked to turn our backs on him and film scenes that were not what we had agreed to. We hadn’t even finished filming, and the movie was already being taken away from the director."

Scene Unseen:
Pizza Pizza - Ein Stück vom Himmel.

Film Mystic Pizza is one my favourite films from the 80s, the kind of diaspora based romantic drama which simply isn't being made or distributed by major studios now unless it has the words big, fat, Greek or wedding in the title. 

But for years I watched the dvd of the film entirely unaware of the secret hidden on the German audio track until I fumbled onto the wrong button on the remote one night and realised that the music underneath was completely different to what I was used to.

The mix of standards and folksy guitar music, has been replaced with a range of fairly anonymous soft rock and a new title track by Hot Chocolate.  Exactly why this is I haven't been able to uncover.  Either the songs couldn't be licensed in Germany or the local distributor decided to turn out their own soundtrack cd which would necessitate messing about the music in the film.

International versions of soundtrack cds aren't unknown.  Spider-Man 2 had numerous local versions and the English language dub of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon even has the theme song rerecorded to match.  Perhaps there are more German Hollywood releases from the 80s which have had this done to.  I'll keep an eye out.

In the mean time, let's look at the differences between the two.  I'll offer this in the form of a rough synopsis of the film, scene by scene, not too much detail.  Plus I'm focusing on the musical changes.  I'll only point out the alternative foley work if it's especially notable.

Opening Titles

English track: opens with what must be some of composer David McHugh score, a flute over guitar in a mediterranean setting the audience up for the cultural diaspora in which the film is set, across family and childhood shots of the three sisters (some more convincing than others).

German track: the soft rock has already begun across the Samuel Goldwyn logo. It's Julian Steinberg's Never Give Your Love Away.  Steinberg has had a few of his tracks uploaded to YouTube, but it's not a uncommon enough name to actually find any biographical details for him.

Frankly I have no idea what this is supposed to achieve. Whoever created this soundtrack has just thrown on some generic rock, and not very well since unlike the English track which ends just in time for the wedding march, this crashes right into it and the ensuing opera singer, who is singing in Italian here with his own voice.

Church ceremony

The opera singer and wedding march are identical. The echo on the German dub, voices and foley work are recreations.

Pizza Parlour

English track: Perry Como's Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes fills the restaurant

German track: What About You by Hot Chocolate which is key enough as a track that it's mentioned on the cover of the German soundtrack album. It doesn't seem to be on YouTube, but it is on Amazon Music (incorrectly listed as "various artists"


English track: While Jojo and Bill hash out their differences on the there's nothing until McHugh's guitar plays in again.

German track: Hot Chocolate can still be heard underneath right up until the end of the scene. Oh and there's a ludicrous amount of traffic which really doesn't match the kind of street they're on.

Pizza Parlour

English track: Saxophone musak

German track: Disco musak which sounds a bit like Human League. Perhaps one of the ungooglable tracks from the album?

Street to docks to babysitting job

English track: Kat's moped pulls away to some orchestral spot music

German track: Haven't a clue. Begins acapella, man singing in a Jamaican accent, something about "smells so good" and "international neighbourhood" Gives way in time for the dialogue. The song begins again while Kat rides off to her babysitting job. Although oddly the folk music and score from the English track appears briefly before being submerged in whatever this song is. The song disappears abruptly when Kat reaches the door. It's a mess.

Bar #1

English track: The English subtitle has a fit of the production notes and tells us its Steve Tyrell's Serious on the jukebox.

German track: Sideway Look's Taming The Blade. Replacing some rock music with even less appropriate rock music which apart from anything else works against the scene which looks to have been edited against the Tyrell track.

Eclectically, Sideway Look is a British indie rock band from Edinburgh, but they seem to have had their greatest following in Germany.  They don't seem to have an English Wikipedia entry but the German counterpart is fulsome.

Bar #2

English track: The subtitles helpfully tell us the next track is Is It Hot in Here by Rene Geyer with its big sax moves.

German track: Melanie's Racing Heart which is another inferior replacement. No one in the Mystic's bar would put this on the jukebox.  Ruby Tuesday or Beautiful People, perhaps but not this.

Plus the scene is edited and punctuates Geyer's lyrics as Daisy draws Charlie into her pool playing.

Restoration house

English track: Spot music, synthesiser piano over Kat falling for her employer.

German track: The same. The original soundtrack emerges for the first time. I'm shook.

Dockside walk

English track: Piano theme

German track: The same. Again. So whoever prepared this did have access to the original audio (I was wondering) but has chosen not to use it.

Daisey's date

English track: Big sax across synthesiser rhythms.

German track: What About You by Hot Chocolate reprises (they're really getting their money's worth) and it's not entirely incongruous, rhythmically the two are quite similar, although because it's been dropped in it clashes into McHugh's score once they're in the restaurant.


No change between the two tracks. Same classical music.

There's then a long stretch without music until Kat's back in work.


English track: Louis Prima's Ain't Got Nobody which is peerless.

German track: Lian Ross's Feel So Good which is just sad and again doesn't fit the scene at all. Sub-S/A/W noodling.

Lian Ross looks to have had a long career across Europe.  Feels so Good was released as a single in 1989.

Daisy's date

English track: Jazz piano.

German track: Something which sounds like Hans Zimmer circa Green Card or some kind of erotic thriller. Which then has to fade out abruptly in time for the bed scene.

Kat and the telescope

English track: String quartet

German track: Spanish guitar which sounds plausibly like it could be on the English track apart from being an utter cliche in relation to this scene.

No music for the ensuing JoJo and Bill falling out scenes then...


English track: Something rock which doesn't seem to be listed on the soundtrack.

German track: Your Love Is A Punch by Jacqui (which is about the only audible lyric since most of the song happens inside the bar.

Car Scene

English track: Aretha Franklin's Respect. Of course. Notice Annabeth Gish in the scene - entirely in character she's keeping her eye on the road more than singing along.

German track: Aretha Franklin's Respect. Boxed into a corner, the German producers have to include a song from the English track. Not only that they use the voices of the original actors, though full marks for continuing Franklin underneath the ensuing German dub without missing a beat.

JoJo and Bill again

English track: A reprise of the lovely flute themes from earlier in the film.

German track: A reprise of Julian Steinberg's Never Give Your Love Away from the beginning of the film which fades out when JoJo reaches the jetty.

Pizza Parlour

The German audience finally hears a snatch of the guitar piece from the opening credits on the English track, which plays on both.

Kat and her employer

English track: No music.

German track: The cliche Spanish guitar music from the telescope scene.

Pizza Parlour

English track: Accordion musak.

German track: Something sub-Madonna which doesn't seem to be on this list. Plays while Daisy's outside the parlour with Charlie.

Kat and her employer

The same Mozart string quartet across both.

Pizza Parlour

English track: While Kat and Daisy are in a fight, something like Cole Porter in the background.

German track: Jill Colucci's These Are The Times To Remember which will eventually play over the credits. Given the temperature between the sisters, these are definitely not the times to remember. At all.

JoJo babysitting.

German track has Lili Taylor singing. It's beautiful.

Kat's date with her employer.

English track: Nothing until it gives way to some romantic score music in a minor key.

German track: The usual Spanish guitarist who seems to follow them around and considering how this storyline plays out feels really inappropriate.

Then the score music is the same across tracks.

Pizza Parlour.

English track:  Frank Sinatra's I Got You Under My Skin.

German track:  Frank Sinatra's I Got You Under My Skin.  Because you can't replace Frank.

Daisy's dinner with Charlie's family.

Same dinner party musak across both.  Oh look, it's teenaged Matt Damon in his first screen role.

Pizza Parlour.

Some of the big sax from earlier across both tracks.  Until the sodding Spanish guitar appears for a final time on the German track replacing the film's piano theme on the English track.  Which then cuts out with a bit of uncertainty when the review of the restaurant emerges on the television.

Wedding Scene.

The wedding music is identical across both.

Final scene & Credits.

English track:  Soundtrack music giving way to Jill Colucci's These Are The Times To Remember.

German track:  What About You by Hot Chocolate crashes in just as JoJo puts her champagne bottle down completely ruining the mood.  The credits then include a listing of all the songs on the English track few of which the German audience have actually heard if they've been listening to the dubbed version.


I'm not sure what you can draw from this other than that the filmmakers original intent should always have paramount.  Although it's fair to say that even while watching the German dub with subtitles and the wrong music, I found myself becoming involved in the story.  I'll let you know if I see any others.

The Horn.

Nature This Guardian piece about the appeal of unicorns somehow manages to reach the end without mentioning Blade Runner in how the beast has become central to modern mythologies. That what could be an artificial lifeform, the arguable pinnacle of human scientific and technological achievement could dream of something that exists purely in fantasy and magic is an extremely potent concept:
"“The unicorn has been popular at various points for at least 3,000 years,” says Dr Miles Leeson, director of the Iris Murdoch Research Centre and a lecturer in English literature. “They were considered as real in the ancient world by the Greeks – they appear in books of natural history, not books about the gods. The Old Testament contains possible mentions of unicorns, and from there they have been incorporated into Western art and culture, surfacing at various times, including the Medieval period and the Renaissance. The unicorn also has a role to play in Chinese mythology.”"
I've always thought the unicorn's appeal is that it feels like it could have existed. As the piece reminds us, the narwhal, a creature with just such a horn does exist, albeit in dwindling numbers, so it's not unimaginable that at some point there was a breed of horse with a similar piece of headgear but later became exist. At least it makes better sense than a pegasus. A horse with wings is just silly.

Perfectly Rice.

Food Here's Tasty explaining how to cook perfect rice. In the past year we've stopped using frozen or vacuum packed in favour of dried rice in a steamer and it's been extraordinarily, at least when I haven't over or undercooked it. I'll be trying these instructions next time.

"Beat you, cock!"

TV Having been in bed with manflu for a couple of days, I haven't had a chance to comment on the news that Shada has indeed been animated and will be released on shiny-disc at the beginning of next month.

Here's the press release.

Reaction on social media has been pretty mixed, mostly because for a story which wasn't completed first time around, between the various releases since, including Douglas including a version in the Dirk Gentley novels, it doesn't feel like we're completely missing a new version. That the resources could have been more handily spent animating a few more of the missing episodes.

Which I do have sympathy with, I do.  Like everyone else I have fond memories of the Baker narrated VHS release, put out in dvd not that long ago even if it becomes entirely futile as the stories goes on and the story simply runs out of shot material and its most Tom explaining what happened.  Plus the McGann audio version is superb as is the novel by Gareth Roberts (for the most part).

But for all that, I'm really excited about this project because it's a chance to sit and watch the story in full, with the scripted elements in place read mostly by the original cast and on blu-ray with the original film sequences, all of those lovely shots of Cambridge, in high definition.  Plus they're editing from scratch not simply inserting the new material into the old VHS version.

This will also be the fifth version featuring Lalla Ward.

(1)  The unfinished TV version
(2)  Big Finish
(3)  Audiobook version
(4)  Whatever it was Ian Levine was trying to do
(5)  The new thing

I can't wait to hear what she's done with it this time.

Plus now that Tom Baker's been working on the audios for a while across various companies, he's really found the Fourth Doctor's voice again, so his contribution will have an authenticity it might not a few years ago.  He's so obviously enjoying playing the part again - although it'll be interesting to see how much he's stuck to the script or made his usual suggestions.

Motion Flow is the new Panned and Scanned.

Film Director James Gunn and allies are banding together to start a campaign to ask tv manufactures not to put motion flow on by default. From Gizmodo:
"If you’re not entirely sure what these folks are going on about, motion smoothing is a feature on most modern TVs that intended to correct hi-def screens’ tendency to make objects in motion appear to be blurry. In order to do this, the TV processes one frame, then the next, and makes a guess on what a new frame that goes between them should look like. This can be very helpful if you’re watching a football game, for example, and you’re attempting to keep track of the ball in a wide landscape shot. It gives everything a crisp edge. The feature can also be good for upping video game frame rates, but it’ll get you killed because it introduces extra lag."
After reading this article years ago on how TV ruins movies. I turned the setting on my screen to cinema mode and then turned everything else off. Motion Flow, auto blackness setting, natural colour, noise correction everything. After all that, the picture now tends to look fantastic. 

Films will never look the same as they did in theatres on television, but have to do all we can to help them along.  Although even in theatres, they're not always projected in the way the filmmakers, too dimly perhaps due to the cinema not switching out the 3D projector lense during 2D showings.

All Hands On Deck (Short Trips)

Audio One of two Short Trips dealing with how the Eighth Doctor interacted with some of his old companions during the Time War, this examines how it affected his granddaughter.  Set just after To The Death, we discover how Susan rebuilt her life in the wake of all that tragedy and like so many of the former time travellers she's become involved and a valuable asset to the local populace, defending the Earth were needed.  Which is lucky because numerous befuddlements, pitched in the region of the kinds of things which might have menaced the Attic team in The Sarah Jane Adventures are causing a certain amount of worry, some mayhem.  But I think I'll stop the synopsis here because with its slender listening time, its best heard with the surprises intact, especially the unforgettable barnstormer of a conclusion.  Needless to say it's another Eddie Robson story which balances the epic with the personal and Eighth's participation is perfectly judged and entirely in character if you know the history of the character.  Thanks to the post-2005 subliminal references to Susan's fate, a melancholy hangs over this story which Robson takes full advantage of.  Told in the first person, Carole Ann Ford  captures this mature Susan thoughtfully as she poignantly reflects back on her youth and where her loyalties lie and how that informs her choices going forward.  Placement: Pretty early in the Time War for reasons.

Drunk in Charge of an Autonomous Vehicle.

Technology Ars Technica asks, "Should drunk drivers be charged with DUI in fully autonomous cars?"
"Though it may seem obvious that a drunk person should be allowed to be taxied home by a fully autonomous car, the question is less clear if you have to determine just how autonomous an autonomous vehicle needs to be for a drunk person to operate it. The government should want drunk people to engage a high-level autonomous driving system if the alternative is driving themselves home, but if they’ll be penalized for being drunk while they’re “in control” of an autonomous vehicle, uptake of self-driving systems may be slow."
The answer within the article suggests that a felony is only committed when a drunk person manually takes the wheel of the automated car and therefore driving it.  But as someone who doesn't trust technology to break down, because technology always breaks down, I think that it's imperative that law doesn't change on drink driving whether someone is in an autocar or not.

I'd argue that someone who's been drinking still shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the vehicle in case it malfunctions in a dangerous situation and they're forced to take control.  I'd be afraid to let someone without a driving license, like me, to have an automated car or be able to travel in an automated car for this reason.  The idea of driverless taxis also scare the bejesus out of me.

The Clone Wars Continue.

Film Forces of Destiny, the Star Wars series of animated webisodes returns with a couple more stories set during The Clones Wars featuring the original cast. Neither of them really break canon but they're fun nonetheless:

With Rebels ending next year, can Disney please go back and complete The Clone Wars?

Lear Here.

TV The BBC has announced a King Lear for broadcast in 2018 starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson directed by Richard Eyre. Here are some of the other casting highlights:
"Emmy Award nominated Jim Carter (Downton Abbey, Cranford) takes the role of the Earl of Kent, Emmy Award winner Christopher Eccleston (The Leftovers, Thor: The Dark World) as Oswald, and Golden Globe nominee Tobias Menzies (Outlander, The Terror), plays the Duke of Cornwall. Anthony Calf (New Tricks, Riviera) plays the Duke of Albany and Karl Johnson (Wittgenstein, Rome) is set to play Lear’s loyal jester the Fool."
Interesting the BBC's own press release fails to notice this features a Doctor Who but hey ho. So that's Lear and Hamlet next year. Not to sound churlish (perish the thought) because both projects sound extraordinary and a few years ago under you know who the idea of having any classical drama on television was zero, but the variety of productions has dwindled again hasn't it?  Are the Roman plays ala The Hollow Crown still on the books?  No chance of an As You Like It soon?

Love Actually is £39.50, £49.50 or £65.

Film Angie Sammons on the new look Liverpool Confidential website notices that Love Actually will be playing at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool this Christmas (11th December) with a live orchestra, so you can hear the theme from Shakespeare in Love again in the same room which would be an attractive prospect if it was actually Shakespeare in Love. Lord is it expensive:
"With the best tickets in the house going for £65 a pop, you might want to consider taking your own flask of mulled wine and secreting a mince pie or two in your underparts to offset the cost. Or just wheel a trolley around the Aintree Asda any time after October 31 to hear Mariah Carey warble All I Want For Christmas, while reminding yourself never to attempt it's difficult vocal in any public place, especially on gin."
For £65 you could go and see six decent films at FACT. Or buy the whole of FRIENDS on blu-ray. Or a return ticket to practically anywhere in the country and visit the Christmas market.  Ironically, I'll be spending eight hours in London doing exactly that on the same day as the concert.  Shame.

Yes, you'll have also noticed that I'm mentioned in that article because of my enmity for this piteous two hours.  As ever. it's a bit weird seeing my surname used that newsy way which reminds me of school, where everyone was known by their family name.  But it's nice of Sammons to spread the word, try to save as many people as possible.

Ghost Train Station.

Travel For years the railway station at Canfranc on the French-Spanish border was considered a white elephant, a folly, despite its grand architecture and aims. The BBC offers a history of the curiosity and a change in its fortunes:
"It was one of the world's most opulent railway stations, sitting imposingly on the French-Spanish border - but then it fell into disrepair. Now, writes Chris Bockman, the building is showing new signs of life.

When they built the station at Canfranc, it was on a grand scale and with no expense spared. It had to be bold and modern - an architect's dream come true, built in iron and glass, complete with a hospital, restaurant and living quarters for customs officers from both France and Spain.

At the time it was nicknamed the "Titanic of the Mountains"."
I've often wondered what Exchange Station in Liverpool must have been like in its heyday. With Lime Street closing for nearly a month for refurbishment, it's a reminder that it's not always a good idea to have one mainline station in a city and what was lost when Exchange closed. Manchester has two.

Extra Time.

TV Danielle Sepulveres was Juliana Margolis's stand in on The Good Wife for five seasons. She writes for The Atlantic about how a temporary job became full time employment:
"I didn’t expect to do more than that (the hours on that movie set were long and involved a lot of sitting and waiting around), but when another “real” job offer fell through at the last minute, I signed up—in a fit of frustration—for an account on an industry casting site. It was temporary, I told myself. It would be the equivalent of an aspiring actress holding down a waitressing job, except in reverse. Rather then waiting tables in between scrambling off to auditions, I’d be wandering around in the background of 30 Rock episodes. Or playing a haughty party guest mingling at a Gossip Girl socialite shindig. Or dressed up as a Prohibition-era lady of the night and sitting on a gangster’s lap on Boardwalk Empire. (These are all things I ended up doing.)"
I had no idea that getting a SAG card was this involved.

Liverpool Vagabond.

Art Liverpool Biennial have announced the list of artist's for next years festival and in amongst the names is French New Wave director Agnes Varda, which is frankly amazing. They've also revealed the theme, which sounds much stricter than of late which will hopefully mean the festival has the greater focus of earlier years:
"The artistic concept and title for Beautiful world, where are you? derives from a 1788 poem by the German poet Friedrich Schiller, later set to music by Austrian composer Franz Schubert in 1819. The years between the composition of Schiller’s poem and Schubert’s song saw great upheaval and profound change in Europe, from the French Revolution to the fall of the Napoleonic Empire. Today the poem continues to suggest a world gripped by deep uncertainty; a world of social, political and environmental turmoil. It can be seen as a lament but also as an invitation to reconsider our past, advancing a new sense of beauty that might be shared in a more equitable way."
What I'd really like to see is less smushing around of the artworks, with all of an artist's work in one place either in their own space or a larger venue. The recent tendency to mix them together across venues has a diluting effect, especially if it isn't that strong to begin with. 

Notably, the list of venues doesn't include the usual derelict space due for demolition or refurbishment.  Although the Cunard Building was used successfully in the past, so maybe Blackburne House is going to fulfill the function of containing the "main" exhibition.

Art of the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Titles.

Film The Guardians of the Galaxy 2 titles are an example of how such things can be a vital and integral part of the overall experience of watching a film, especially the end titles which are like the after party for a main event, when everyone's lounging about listening to old records and chatting. Art of the Titles talks to Executive Creative Director Erin Sarofsky and Animation Supervisor Arslan Elver about their endeavours.
"It was a very heavily visual effects sequence. All the characters were shot against green screen doing their wire work, so really nothing was there. All that was there were the circular platforms that they were standing on, the orbs in the back, and the beast in very crude form — all of the main elements were in there. But they had the people cut out as they’re flying around and sometimes you still saw the wires. There were two shots that were pretty finished-looking because by that point the trailer was out. So those two little chunks were there, but even then they changed those shots — they were still working on them. Just because it’s in the trailer doesn’t mean it’s finished!"
I am Groot.

Writing Sense8.

TV Aleksandar Hemon was one of a few writers hired to provide script elements and story suggestions for the second series of Sense 8. With little screenwriting experience he was surprised, but relished the challenge diving in so far that even when the show was cancelled, he agreed to continue the collaboration into a new series idea.

  He's written this fabulous piece for the New Yorker about the experience which somehow manages to say a lot about how Sense8 was made without revealing any spoilers:
"Before “Sense8,” my screenwriting experience consisted of co-authoring a script with the Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić for her comedy “Love Island,” in 2014. The rest of my writerly life had taken place in the self-imposed isolation of my head. I don’t take part in workshops or writing groups; I don’t share ideas or drafts with my fellow-writers for feedback; I make all the decisions and am responsible for every word in the book that I am writing, acknowledgments included. My solipsistic authorial habits would seem to feed into a common misconception about writing, which is that it is merely a conduit for the writer’s interiority, and that a good writer—or even just a capable one—possesses the skills to transfer the contents of that interiority onto the page with as little loss as possible."
It's arguable that with the new paradigm in television story telling a novelist should be just as prepared as another writer. Although in some cases (Class, cough) it can also be prudent to have someone with a television track record on hand, as here, to steer things otherwise the traps are wide enough to fall into.

Romola on Sexism in the Entertainment Industry again.

Film Yes, again. It's still happening. From the New Statesman:
"Although she finds sexism doesn’t affect her career at this point, she’s had run-ins with directors and producers over misogyny in their work. Recently, a scene she was in had been rewritten with her character saying a line that minimised domestic violence. “I went to the producers; the argument they came back with was that domestic violence was ‘a downer’,” she grimaces, translating their attitude into: “We really didn’t want to make too much of a thing in the show when murdering women is much more interesting!”"
All together now, #ffs.

From the Archive.

TV In case you missed it, the BBC iPlayer launched a new category yesterday, "From the Archive", which gathers together in one place the various BBC Four collections and whatnot which are already on there but otherwise hidden in the various other genres. From the BBC Press Office:
"From the Archive will include a wide range of programmes from 1946 to present day. It will feature footage which hasn't been shown since first broadcast, including collections such as the Great War Interviews, a series of interviews with World War One veterans and civilians filmed in the 1960s. Until now, many of these programmes were only available to watch on the BBC’s website. Today’s launch brings them to viewers on computers, the BBC iPlayer mobile and tablet apps and on connected TVs."
At the moment, the smart TV iPlayer (Roku etc) just highlights six programmes and a few of the collections but hopefully more will follow including the A-Z section which is already on the website and tablet apps.

What Happened.

Books Hillary Clinton doesn't answer the question implied in the title of her book until page 392. The tl;dr version of what's laid out in that chapter will be familiar to anyone who's been listening to the FiveThirtyEight podcast for the past twelve months (and indeed its founder Nate Silver is quoted extensively throughout) or just paid attention during the campaign. The Comey letter, Russian interference, her message being swamped by the coverage of her emails and whatever scandal was engulfing her rival that hour, the electoral college causing not all votes to have equal worth, systematic voter suppression, people wanted change no matter the cost and the general fact that what was the Obama coalition hated her so much they prefered to vote for a third party candidate, write in Bernie Sanders or not turn up to vote at all.

All of this is presented with plenty of statistics and wonk but ultimately, and this is true of the whole book, there isn't a single explanation for why sixty-two million people voted for her opponent despite her qualifications for President significantly outweighing his.  Perhaps an investigation will uncover some fraud which dwarf all of this, that voting tallies themselves were hacked in key states, that the polls which suggest Clinton would squeak through were correct but another agency effected the number of votes cast.  That voters who were expected to turn up and vote actually did but their democratic right was deleted by a third party.  Even if this is proved it doesn't mean Clinton will become President anyway.  The US constitution has nothing on what happens if a Presidential election is compromised in this way.

Outside of that chapter, What Happened is a curious entity.  Unlike the Katy Tur book Unbelievable, this isn't a straight memoir of everything which happened during the election from the inside.  There's a sense of what campaigning was like, travelling the length and breadth of the country, meeting people, attempting to understand their needs.  There are sections which cover how the candidate was feeling at key points notably in the pre-released passage about the resultant POTUS looming over her on the debate stage.  Election night is given just a few pages (perhaps its still too difficult to talk about for her) or when Comey letter was released.  Such passages are surprisingly frank and there's a sense that if the campaign had been more open during these moments and in this style it might have made a difference.

There is much analysis.  Anyone who watched the primaries will recognise how like her later opponent, Sanders and his supporters were able to contribute to a general sense of paranoia against Clinton making it about personality over policy, feeding assumptions that she was going to be somehow dangerous to the country.  Clinton enunciates how difficult that was to fight against.  If people assume you're a crook, despite all evidence to the contrary, they'll stop listening.  The chapter "Those Damn Emails" is gold as it unpicks the deficiencies in the reporting like an episode of Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver, how it was treated as though it was the greatest scandal in US history because it was assumed Clinton had some nefarious reason for it which simply wasn't there.

But for over half of the pagination, What Happened reads like an extended stump speech, reiterating and litigating the messages which were stagnated or ignored in the campaign.  In places it becomes a suggested policy document for the Democratic Party, a list of suggestions as to how they might organise or engineer their message so they can have a chance in hell in the future.  Some of this, it has to be said, is a slog for this British reader because its being direct at a different audience across the pond, especially since much of it seems like common sense and it's difficult for me to see how people can't have come to these conclusions themselves, why it needs to a Presidential candidate to write them in a book.  But it does and she does and hopefully somebody will heed it.

The general emotion on completing the book, hell on completing the first page is sadness.  How could a person this articulate, sensitive, intellectually stable and capable of such thought and empathy have lost in that election?  As with any autobiography there is an element of ego and of punching up your own identity.  But there's also a laser focused self-deprecation which indicates that in becoming a candidate she thought she would be able to overcome whatever shortcomings she perceived herself to have.  It's obvious, despite the evidence, that she blames herself even though history demonstrates that no candidate is perfect.  It's just that on this occasions the rivals were held to completely different standards and that there wasn't a lot she could do about that.

New Discoveries.

TV Star Trek Discovery premiered on Netflix in the UK this morning and is fine, really, really fine. Like most revivals post Doctor Who 2005, it takes the elements of the original mythology and spins them around a different televisual language, in this case a single protagonist, multi-part story. Having spent the best part of a year watching my way through a year's worth of a Trek which even in the sequel and prequel series and films followed roughly the same formula established in the 1960s, it's refreshing to see the franchise attempt something different, partly for its own survival. Imagine if the show had returned in the same old mode, reiterating the usual three or four storylines, offering yet another version of The Naked Time or Data's Day.

But the real pleasure for me is in not having to wait to see it.  This is the first Star Trek series which I've been able to watch on "broadcast" almost as soon as it's been made available in the US and participate in the discussion, enjoy the reviews and as is the case in the 2010s, gorge on the YouTube videos listing easter eggs in exacting detail.  In the olden days actually seeing Star Trek was a frustrating process especially if you were in a non-satellite family tied to video releases and terrestrial broadcasts.  Having the entire series (including animated!) available at the touch of button Netflix is the kind of magic which busts Clarke's third law to smithereens.

Here's how I've watched Star Trek previously.

The Original Series 

-- the 1980s BBC Two broadcasts at 6(ish) with the teaser editing in after the titles - the one with the BBC Micro asterisk field beforehand

-- The Cage was a rental of the sell-thru version from Video City in Garston in the late 80s

-- episodes recorded from Sky by my Auntie

-- borrowed from a librarian friend (who also loaned by tons of the books)

-- the 90s "remastered" BBC Two version running at the wrong frame rate

Star Trek: Animated

-- Afternoon broadcasts from Sky One recorded while I was at school.  When we first moved into this tower block, Sky One and Sky News were being delivered via a BSB squarial on the roof.

The Next Generation

-- Random episodes from season one on rental VHS from Video City

--  BBC Two broadcasts, every Wednesday at 6pm.  Unless there was sport in which case it was pre-empted.  Sometimes we'd only see one episode in about two months

-- Sky bought first run the rights from s4 onwards which meant waiting for the VHS releases which were, I think, just two episodes a month for £12.99 which wasn't easy on pocket money.  Plenty bought as presents instead.  I received Devil's Due/Clues from friends as an 18th birthday present.

-- s5 and parts of s6 during ten hour binging sessions at university in halls because one of my housemates was able to get bootleg recordings of the US TV broadcasts sent to him.  Even then we didn't see all of them and not in the correct order.  That's definitely the first time I saw The Game.

-- s7 mix of bought tapes and episodes recorded from Sky by my Auntie.  All Good Things was another birthday present.

Deep Space Nine

-- Watched the first episode Emissary at a friend's house on what looked like a fifth generation recording of the US TV broadcast in which you could only really make out who everyone was by their outline, the whole thing resembling an impressionist painting.  Which I then had my own copy of and you can imagine what that visual smear looked like.

-- random s1 episodes recorded from Sky by my Auntie

-- Others rented from the Blockbuster video on Allerton Road.  Special rental tapes with four episodes on them.

-- By now I was unemployed and signing on and couldn't afford to buy the episodes.  Sometimes I'd visit the Virgin Megastore in town and stand and watch them on the preview tv screens clustered in the middle of the first floor.

-- The BBC Two broadcasts

-- But most of it was renting the sell-through releases from Roughley & Gerrard newsagent on Aigburth Road.


-- The Caretaker during Star Trek night on BBC Two, 10:50 in the evening on 26 August 1996.

-- BBC Two broadcasts until they lost interest and Sky became the exclusive broadcaster

-- First five seasons rented from Roughley & Gerrard until I lost interest

-- which meant the first time I saw most of season six and all of seven was earlier this year on Netflix


-- Box sets rented through Lovefilm, although this blog post indicates this was after the show had been cancelled.


Of course, all of this happened pre-internet and hose-pipe rather than bucket social media so the concept of spoilers wasn't really an issue with most of us reliant on Starburst or latterly SFX magazine for news and reviews of episodes.  Most people I knew didn't have Sky and those who did weren't fans so when the BBC broadcasts were the main source we were all watching it together any so it felt like a new series even if the episodes were over a year old.  Now I can't imagine how I'd cope having to wait for a home release of Discovery.

[Related:  How I became a Star Trek fan.]