Doctor Who – Arachnids in the UK

  • Doctor Who (2005) Season 11 – Episode 4
  • Air Date: 28th October 2018, 19:00 (GMT)
  • Writer: Chris Chibnall

Such Halloween. So Spiders. Wow! And it kind of was Wow this week, as we return to the fine adventuring form of the second episode with another rollicking roustabout in the time-lost depths of deepest, darkest Sheffield. This suggests a pattern similar to that of the Star Trek movies, Odd ones being not quite as good as the Evens. It’ll be something else to watch out for, won’t it? Not sure what I think of that title…I suppose it’s a riff on Anarchy in the UK but if so it falls pretty flat as a reference to anything that happens in this episode. I was looking out for him but I didn’t spot Sid Vicious once. Did you?

So the Doctor has finally managed to bring her technologically-kidnapped charges home, just in time to sort out a problem with the local spider population. [SIDE NOTE THAT IS BIGGER THAN THE  PARAGRAPH CONTAINING IT: We got a fantastic look at the time vortex in this sequence, looking like nothing we’ve ever seen before; a riot of colours – blues and reds predominantly – forming a visible network of tunnels for the TARDIS to hurtle through. It was also fun to see the TARDIS crew being rocked and buffeted about as the Doctor is clearly still relearning how to pilot her revamped ship. It reminded me pleasingly of old times in classic series’ and very much reinforces the Doctor’s love of a good rollercoaster ride.] I was also quite impressed that she got them home within half an hour of their departure. That spot of deft, chronal terpsichore neatly sets up the ending of this weeks’ episode, too.

Name That Expression

If you don’t like spiders, then this episode would probably have been viewed through strategically clenched-fingers as the effects department treated us to some brilliantly realistic little devils for us to feast our eyes upon. Some the size of cats, one the size of a van, these things were amazing to look at, beautifully realised through all-conquering CGI. There was a fair amount of it, too, lots of great shots of the beasts scuttling about singly and  – mild, wispy spoiler –  en masse. Reports are that someone showed this episode to Peter Jackson who promptly fainted: the spiders are THAT good.

My favourite companion, Graham, was sad a lot this episode. I’m not surprised: Bradley Walsh is very good at this. You really feel for him as he sits in that old house haunted by the startlingly present memory of his dead wife. I’m glad the writers did this for Graham. It wouldn’t have done to have him blast off into the universe without a backwards glance. But I do hope that’s enough moping from him, says this entirely callous reviewer, and next episode we get to see him whooping it up with a multi-breasted lady of negotiable virtue.

Yas finally takes centre stage and shines, apart from the bits where she’s being bitchy to her lovely Mum and deserves a bit of corrective hand-against-face. This episode has resolved my concerns about her acting abilities, though – she seemed much more comfortable this episode. Perhaps acting against the brilliant Shobna Gulati, of Dinner Ladies fame, playing her Mum gave her a bit of a boost? Long may it continue.

…..Oh, Rose. *sniff*

The Doctor shines in this episode too, getting to be very Doctory – rushing about breathlessly solving problems – but also a kind of Doctor we haven’t seen before. One that doesn’t just sell her companions on the thrill of Seeing The Universe but makes sure they understand what they’re getting into (where was that last week with Ryan in 1950, eh, Doc!?). She also has some great comedy lines this week – in a world where we have the American President we have (He Who Shall Not Be Named Here) the thought of Ed Sheeran becoming President is both terrifying AND hilarious AND completely terrifying again.

Great acting this week from all concerned. I get the definite sense that people are relaxing into their roles, and the supporting cast were generally brilliant. Dr Jade McIntyre, played by the wonderfully named Tanya Fear, was especially good to watch. She reminded me somewhat of the lovely Osgood. Something about her accent, perhaps? The glasses? Whatever, she was great. More of her, please.

In modern Sheffield women walk ahead of their males where they greet people first to transact business and negotiate access to whatever talents the males possess. Yes, this is the second Star Trek reference of the day – a NoPrize for whoever gets the episode it comes from.

Chris Noth as Robertson was also fun to watch, relishing screen time and chewing scenery with finely measured aplomb. He’s not he first American Corporate type we’ve had as villain on Doctor Who – Henry Van Statten in Season 1’s seminal episode, “Dalek”, springs to mind (“Recognise me!”) – but he’s a fairly memorable addition to the list, though as a villain he’s squarely of the pantomime variety, despite starting off as a bit of a git. I did laugh at his highly topical view of the world, though: “Why can’t you be normal people who own guns and shoot things?”.

AAAAAAARGG! I’m an American on a British TV show airing in America!!!!

Turns out the reason for the gigantic spiders was amusingly hokey in a B-movie kind of way, with a twist of eco-responsibility hammered in because why not. I liked it for being rather barmy and also because it occurred as a result of the kind of short-sighted but ultimately well-meaning business decisions I see at work on a regular basis. I’m not sure I ever want to work in a a lab that throws out not-quite-dead spiders, though. That’s just Shoddy. Tsk.

Lastly, no Metebelis III mention in an episode where the Doctor faces giant spiders??? HERESY!

N E X T   W E E K ! ! !   Doctor Who – The Tsuranga Conundrum, where the Doctor and her chums play the original GTA and figure out how to run over the conga line of people dressed in orange.

Help Me Choose My Next Keyboard

{ENTER} —- In my four decades of life on Earth I’ve been privileged to witness the meteoric rise of the keyboard (silly metaphor, that – meteors only ever fall) as the primary writing instrument for humankind. Oh the pen was mighty indeed, and is still instrument of choice for the Unconnected, but in the cyborg era of Homo-Internetus it’s as outmoded as pooing into a hole in the ground.

The future was bright. The future was Digit-al. (Digits? Fingers? Geddit?)

{PgDn} —- Mine broke yesterday. Keyboard, not fingers. Well – okay, stop twisting my damn arm – I broke it. Accidentally, mind: It wasn’t murder. I was trying to clean the verdammt thing after spilling Sweet and Sour sauce on two of the keys: Alt and X – two keys I use a LOT. Consequently, they’d become sticky under pressure, kind of gooey, and were really doing my nut so after arming myself with the power of an instructional youtube video gently prised the the offending keys off, gave the thing a quick spray of kitchen cleaner, and wiped it all away.

Hey! Who choose this image??? My keyboard wasn’t THAT filthy!

{DELETE} —- Keyboard reassembled, upon testing my handiwork I discovered that many of the keys were no longer working correctly. Some were pressing three different letters from all over the keyboard while the Alt key, bless it, seemed to be permanently on. I suspect the sauce infestation was more extensive than I realised, probably now under the membrane causing havoc; my attempts to clean the device seemingly had only made it worse. BUT…the keyboard was in desperate need of cleaning – it was really staggering filthy; jebus knows how I ‘d avoided contracting bubonic plague from it and I’d been looking at getting a new one anyway…so, heart heavy with guilt, I cheerfully consigned it to the bin, bought an ultra cheap/cheerful Trust job from my local supermarket, and am now in the market for a proper replacement.

{SHIFT} —- So, opening this up to the Vivaldi Community, What do you guys suggest? What do you use? Are you a Gamer with a $150 dollar mechanical key device with suites of programmable LEDs and specialist key commands? Or has a basic Microsoft/Hewlett Packard/Logitech device done you for the last two decades? What matters to you about a keyboard? Do you like specialist keys for media control? Are you wire-free or abnormally averse to batteries? Does putting the function key where the CTRL key usually lives drive you as insane as it does me? I saw one with a frikkin solar panel on it yesterday – anyone rocking one of those bad boys? And do you think they have models that harness wind power too?

{PAUSE/BREAK}

Come. Assume the position and begin the sacred laying-on of hands. that thou shalt reveal thy thoughts one clickety-click at a time (or, if you’re anything like me, furious burst of clicks followed by slower corrective clicks)

You may now {INSERT} typed grammatical constructs into the appropriate web receptacles below. And speaking of webs….

[PS: Doctor Who episode 4 review is on the way!]

Doctor Who – Rosa

  • Doctor Who (2005) Season 11 – Episode 3
  • Air Date: 21st October 2018, 18:55 (GMT)
  • Writer: Malorie Blackman

Straight off the bat let me just say that I’m naturally inclined towards the more futuristic or overtly scientific episodes of Doctor Who – historical adventures are fine but I’m generally not one to get a kick out of historical events or figures. Meeting Rosa Parks in this adventure was interesting but when our heroes start enthusing and gushing about a person who actually existed (Sadly Mrs Parks passed away in 2005), and repeatedly pressing home how important they were, it is hard to shake off the feeling I’m sitting through a school lesson rather than indulging in some breezy escapism.

(I’ll also mention I was a touch distracted throughout yesterday by meeting a lady online the who may possibly become my new girlfriend, so an argument can be made that my heart wasn’t really in the viewing experience)

I want to make very clear, however, that none of my personal feelings should be allowed to tarnish the message concerning Rosa Parks herself. What she accomplished in her life was utterly awe-inspiring; we should ALL be thankful for her object lesson in how to make the world a better place. To have suffered all her life, as many Black people did and still do, only to be recognised fifty years later by a Congressional Medal of Honor…is appalling. Her name rightly deserves to live on for all time. but for something far more inspiring than a simple space rock – Let’s sort that out, Humanity, eh? That we now have an episode of Doctor Who showcasing her achievement is only fitting.

Where It All Started To Change

It was good to see the Doctor and companions having to deal with some very real Racial prejudice. And deal with it directly too – not obfuscated or dressed up in analogy (Though 1987’s Rememberance of the Daleks did briefly touch on it with the Guest House’s “NO COLOUREDS” sign). Poor Ryan, a young black male, took the brunt of it, Yas being given a slightly easier time being mistaken for “Mexican”.

PHOTO: 7th Doctor Companion, Ace, encounters very British Racism in 1960’s London. (Rememberance of the Daleks, 1988)

Of course the Pink, Bow-wearing Elephant in the room was that Sexism went completely unremarked this week. I get the expediency of not having your script take on too much work, and focus on doing one objective properly, but I think both the Doctor and Yas got off lightly in this environment where they’d have struggled more in real life. The Docor will find that on Earth her new form isn’t going to be as well accepted as any previous one. I will keep waiting for this to be addressed because it’s exactly what I imagined would be great meat for the series to delve into with a Female Doctor.

SCRIPT PROBLEMS
I felt the script was weak. Dialogue was largely flat and much of the logical construction behind the tale felt ropey at best. Bad guy from the future just happens to be a racist bigot? Many of the white people depicted were decent people too and racist not out of spite or malice but because they didn’t know any better. I felt that undercut our villain, slightly. I wasn’t terribly impressed with his plan to “nudge” history out of shape either, relying on the kind of Goonies-level hi-jinks that is more irritating than threatening. I also felt the attempt to paint him as bad because he’d killed a thousand people was clumsily handled. The Doctor has dealt with people who’ve killed universes, son – you’re just a pimple compared to them, and your bad-lad leather jacket is as pathetically mockable as Peter Parker’s angst-driven dance “strut” in the Sam Raimi’s third Spider-Man film.

I also think that any person stepping into 1950’s America should have possibly realised that taking a young black man with you was going to lead to trouble. For the Doctor (and Graham) to have made this error – and then to compound it by not sending Yas or Ryan straight back to the TARDIS after the first incident where Ryan got assaulted was incredibly poor, and barely credible. This wasn’t the small lack of paying attention made by the Seventh Doctor being gunned down as he closes his TARDIS door, this was Doctor thirteen ignorantly marching a burning torch into a fireworks factory, and then continuing to march around with it even after fireworks have gone off. Hide in a Motel? No, TARDIS!!! (The scene with the cop was wholly unnecessary, adding nothing to the story).

…can the Doctor see through the Fourth Wall???

TARDIS
While I’m on the subject of the Tardis – I loved the interior scenes. The new design is definitely growing on me. And it’s interesting that the Doctor is once again no longer in complete control of the vessel, having made 14 attempts to return to Sheffield by episode opening; it seems the controls have changed so much that the DOctor is still having to figure them out, creating opportunities for the TARDIS’ guiding intelligence to take the Doctor where she needs to be rather than where she wants to be. I do wonder if we’re ever to get any in-universe explanation for any of the TARDIS’ changes, or if this will be left to the imagination.

ACTING ISSUES
My concerns regarding the younger actors’ have returned this week. Tosin Cole was given a meaty chunk of story to get his teeth into this week (Yas once again playing cheerful support to the spotlight) but I think a more capable actor could have delivered a more powerful performance, which was needed given the subject matter. Tosin also needs to enunciate more. His accent and deep tenor conspired more than once this week to obscure what he was saying. But these are minor niggles – overall I still like watching him. And his enjoyment at meeting Dr King and being with Rosa Parks in the same room was infectious.

The Doctor…was okay. She’s a very capable actress and I still love watching her but she needs to learn to do darker tones with more intensity. There were lines during her conversations with Forgettable Future Fonz that I could have imagined any of her previous incarnations making a real growly meal of, but Doctor 13 didn’t come off as being able to convincingly threaten a puppy. I’m tempted to make allowances so early into her tenure: this could just have been just fault of the weakly conceived and frankly not-that-threatening bad guy she was playing off against (The less said about him the better).

ACTING NON-ISSUES
On the other hand Bradley Walsh impressed me for the third week running; Graham might even be working his way up to some kind of favourite of mine among the show’s companions. The man is seemingly incapable of not milking a line for everything it’s worth.  Once more he gets to show a little pain at the loss of his beloved wife, but his standout moment in this episode was his realisation that he would have to be part of the moment where Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat. His pain at having to compromise his beliefs, and possibly deal with the guilt of betraying his recently-deceased wife, in order to create the conditions that Rosa could rebel against was heartbreaking. That one line: ” No, no: I don’t want to be part of this!”…the clear pain in his eyes and voice…really powerful stuff, beautifully delivered. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

This was a difficult review to write as my feelings towards it are a lot less positive than they were for last week’s breathless romp. This third episode was, for me, a bit of a disappointment. I felt that it failed to engage me on numerous levels but was – ultimately – one that I’m glad the programme makers took a risk on. But in some parts it felt like a sermon or tuition in worthiness rather than a Doctor Who adventure. Too much time describing the important and pivotal History, and how pivotal and important it was, at the expense of actual drama and story-telling. I also believe some writing and acting issues marred what could have been a powerhouse of an episode with a stronger team behind it.

Lastly, how has it taken me two weeks to work out that the new title sequence is a modern version of the ‘howlaround’ opening titles of the classic series’, coupled with with a riff on the similarly iconic starfield-and-blast finish? I am Shame. *bows head*

Modern Howlaround (my name for it from now on) = Beautiful

Bathing In Irish Ear-Chocolate

*THIS BLOG POST IS PRESENTED WITH HEARTFELT APOLOGIES TO BRITISH RADIO PRODUCER AND PRESENTER LOUISE MOLONY*

So on my morning commute to work I listen to a bloke called Shawn Keavney on the radio 6 breakfast show. He’s usually quite funny, being a perpetual grump, although I find as time goes on he’s a bit repetitive. On my way home, becuase I usually can’t summon the will to change the radio station, it’s the legendary Steve Lamacq who, while being legendary, I find quite monotonous to listen to (I don’t really share his taste in music either). But this this week I found the will to make that change…

…to get some soothing snippets of the wonderful Irish tones of Louise Molony on Magic Chilled. Like many other Scottish breathing men I have a ‘thing’ for Irish accents. To try to describe it: It’s like having warm liquid silk poured directly into your pleasure centres. It’s…it’s aural chocolate. And lovely wee Lousie – who is doubly blessed by being proper gorgeous on top of being Irish –  just has such a cute little voice to go with that beautiful accent that it lights sparkly hypnotic lights inside my head.

Publicity shot, obvs, but holy god she’s a hottie.

Don’t worry, Louise. I know you are completely – nay, hilariously – out of my league (and I have no idea of your actual relationship status so I’ll assume ‘happily joined to someone’) but I do hope you’ll permit my ears to continue absorbing you from afar.

Here’s the lovely lady again in conversation with another lovely, funny lady – Comedian Sarah Millican –  who possesses another fond favourite accent of mine; the County Durham.

I make terrible tea, probably ‘cos I don’t drink it. Neither of you would enjoy it. *gags*

…and I’m never letting you eat crisps in my car, Louise. Filthy girl.

If only I could have been a a fly on the wall of that whole conversation…no, wait, that’s just weird; nobody enjoys compound eyes. Some kind of Lemur, perhaps? A Lemur just chilling out on the wall of that studio. Pay no attention to the Lemur, ladies. Just keeeeeep talking….

Doctor Who – The Ghost Monument

  • Doctor Who (2005) Season 11 – Episode 2
  • Air Date: 14th October 2018, 18:55 (GMT)
  • Writer: Chris Chibnall. 

Well, I as live and breathe and emit gasses. I just started this blog a couple of weeks ago, got excited by it, threw some quick articles up, then left it for a bit thinking “It’s new, no-one will see this for aaaages yet.”

Turn up just now. TWELVE new comments awaiting my approval! Blimey! Such a thing has never happened to me. Little bit stunned, but rolling with it. Will read all those later and try and make words do sense back at them.

But for now – Another Episode of Doctor Who just aired! And IT WAS BRILLIANT!!!

[HERE PROBABLY MOST LIKELY BE MOAR WHACKING GREAT SPOILERS. I DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW YET, CAN’T CONFIRM, AS HAVE JUST STARTED WRITING AND PREDICTING FUTURE IS ALWAYS EMOTION (SAYS YODA). BUT LETS PUT THE WARNING HERE JUST IN CASE, EH? PRETEND RIVER SONG IS LOOKING SMUG AT YOU. WE CONTINUE….]

Sorry about the River Song mention just then. She’s not in this one. I don’t think she’ll ever be back, sadly, and now I’ve made myself a bit sad thinking of her. ANYWAY….

Tonight’s episode was an absolute cracker! Starting from that jaw-dropping finish of last week’s inaugural episode, we rejoin our heroes as they slowly die in the absolute nippiness of un-centrally heated space. The Doctor stares, shocked and probably saying rude words inside her head, as her companions all seem to have joined her in this beautifully-shot awfulness.

And then, a rescue! [AH, THERE *ARE* SPOILERS. GOOD THING I DID THE WARNING] Not, as I had imagined, the Doctor doing a techno thing on a techno-gubbins, but the second thing I thought of – but didn’t mention last week and now everyone will think I’m making this up – a spaceship suddenly arrives! Hooray, they’re saved!

And here we go into the new titles sequence! Woohoo! First impression – lovely. The effects sequence used here is just a delightful thing to look at, so bright and colourful in the way only computer generated effects can be. I ADORE it.

Second impression: blimey, that was a bit quick, wasn’t i? None of the triumphal poncing around, languorous lap around the opera-house of the Murray Gold era, no sir! Bit of tune, bit more of tune, title fanfare (also a bit sexy, very delicate CGI lighting on it) – then WHOOSHONWITHTHESHOW. Blimey (reprise) – we’re off to a fairly rapid pace so far!

Let’s keep things a bit vague from here out, shall we? No need to get really detailed about stuff. How about lots of “Squueeeeee!” noises instead? Or maybe something inbetween those two things? Alright then. Glad that’s settled.

Last word on music. I love the subtle music in this show now. So so so much better than the brass pomp of yesteryear. Really good in this episode too.

“Iiiiii’m a Lumberjack and I’m OK. I sleep all night and I work all day”

SO our heroes make it down to a planet, which is beautifully deserty. I do wonder where they shot that. It looks foreign but is probably Brighton or somewhere else stunningly prosaic/a bit shit. By the way, by this point you’ll have noticed that the special effects are two things: 1) Being used sparingly. A BBC budget is clearly in effect. 2) That doesn’t matter because the effects are GORGEOUS. That shot of the ship on the planet when they’re setting off on their walk….yum, I could just lick the screen when stuff like that appears. But you’ll notice you only see it once. Any other shot just has spaceship legs, which are a lot cheaper to do.

Things move rapidly. A menacing chap arrives in a holographic tent (That’s not much of a spoiler). Turns out plot exposition plot, more plot = episode is going to be a perilous journey across a dangerous and mysterious planet! Art Malik is in this bit. He’s dead good. As an actor, I mean. As a character he’s a morally indeterminate. You’ll see what I mean.

You’ll also see that thing that every Dr Who fan wants to see, all the time. The OTHER bit of the Doctor. The bit that makes the noises and carries them about. Ship of Dreams. TARDIS. Clever Blue Box. Only a glimpse, mind. But enough that you know – as I knew  – they’re going to find her this episode. Hooray! But will she want to see the Doctor, or will she run away again?

Jodie Whittaker is really good as the Doctor. All I said about her last week is still there and I love it. I’m going to love this Doctor, I can feel it. She’s like Eleven, but Northern (and female).

Bradley Walsh continues to impress. He’s a very decent actor, and approaching middle age myself I am comforted that he’s a companion. He does some running – as all companions end up doing – and I loved how he had to stop for breath. That’s me, that is. Unfit and old and loving being on an alien planet. He might be my new favourite.

Crikey blimey this planet is dangerous. Millions of flesh eating bacterial microbes in the water, eh? No place for a sodastream.

Boat trip. New companion Ryan Sinclair gets a chance to speak his engineering brain, impressing the Doctor. Poor old Yaz gets a bit short-changed this week. Not much to say or do. I’m hoping she’s some kind of hideous alien being with a dark secret that’ll come out as time goes on. Not sure why I want that, I just do.

Alien planet, my arse, Doctor. This is still Sheffield.

Speaking of which, an encounter with a deserted building complex full of killer robots that shoot like stormtroopers and sentient killer tarpaulins that speak (no, am not joking here) starts laying down some very Moffat-ian mythologising – “The Timeless Child” indeed (uncontrollable shudder of pleasure), I lap that shit up, I really do. MOAR PLEASE. Also, hints that some things with “Tim Shaw” last week are linked to stuff happening this week, too. I SEE YOU, Arc Plot! I do love an Arc Plot. Have a string of full-blooded adventures but tie them all together with tiny threads that weave into their own adventures later on. It’s fun for all the family. If Doctor Who is too complicated for you, you’re too old to be watching it. Complexity is healthy.

..shush now, MEGA-spoiler approaching!

THEY FIND THE TARDIS!!!! And despite appearing to be in a spot of trouble earlier in the episode (and at the start of this scene) she’s actually okay. Not just okay but all better and recovered from her Doctor-explodo incident! Shiny new paint on the outer shell (St Johns sign is white text on Black???). Doctor gives her a cuddle, all raw affection. Awwwwwwwww. TARDIS, notably, lets her cuddle and does not run away or attempt another murder. Doctor, in mid cuddle, tells TARDIS she is sorry but has lost her key (Any Sheffield peeps reading: that’s your cue to go look for it) and door pops open for her. I was looking for the Tennant finger-click but no.

And then….and then….

You know I mentioned Matt Smith’s first episode in my last Dr Who post. And right at the end of that we get a TARDIS interior reveal? Same here. VERY similar, actually, but without the Scottish girl in her nightie blocking the view with her great ginger noggin (I’m Scottish too, so be careful what commentary you make about that – we’re a feisty bunch). No, it’s a great BLONDE noggin blocking the view this time – progress, of a sort.

I was no less excited – I was off my couch and kneeling as close to the TV as I could get, trying to see through the HD pixels and past the Doctor’s head. She’s….The TARDIS is VERY different from what’s come before but also similar? Hexagons are there but not as the famous roundels. Almost looks like the coral is back around the console….but it isn’t. The console itself looks….grown, organic (stop thinking of coral, dammit) but still has the usual assortment of ancient, dichotmous bric-a-brac on it. It appears to be all on one level again, unlike the last one. Reminds me of Ten’s TARDIS quite a lot, but much more claustraphobic. Tighter spaces. Not the great expanse around the centre like there used to be for Rose’s Mum to play Shelf Ornament. It’s a fascinating design, and on screen for way too little time this week to really get familiar with it. But like the Doctor staring agog at her new (old) new ship, I love it too. Yes, already – leave me alone.

The agony, the ECSTACY. “Hello, Sexy”.

God, I love the TARDIS. I wanted to kidnap Suranne Jones for the longest time. Oh, you sexy.

End Credits. Instead of the frankly bizarre list of cast who will be appearing this series we got last week, this week we get a proper ‘Next Time on Dr Who’ bit. Time travelling proper begins. Into the dim and distant 20th century! Looks all a bit ordinary until man shows up with laser blaster firing bright blue bolts which is NOT 20th Century as far as this one-way time-traveller remembers it anyway.

This was a cracking episode. Great pace through it, a terrific energy. Lots to see, actors all being fabulous and giving great performances. Bit of mystery dropped in to keep us intrigued. TERRIFIC special effects. Great new monster tarpaulin thing. And Ryan gets to go all commando Call of Duty after which the Doctor tells him off but then she does something amazing by way of tuition for the lad.

Dr Who is back, folks, and apparently in safe hands, although on a Sunday night now which caught me by surprise but isn’t the death slot that it used to be, in the digital age. And, to the person who asked in the comments, YES I WILL NOW BE DOING THESE EACH WEEK. 🙂 There’s only, what, 10/11 more? Easy peasy.

Doctor Who – The Woman Who Fell To Earth

  • Doctor Who (2005) Season 11 – Episode 1
  • Air Date: 7th October 2018, 18:55 (GMT)
  • Writer: Chris Chibnall. 

[HERE BE WHACKING GREAT SPOILERS. YE HAVE BEEN WARRRRNED. ARR] /random pirate voice

SOMEHOW I managed to miss the first episode of Jodie Whittakers’ tenure as the Thirteenth Doctor when it aired on Saturday just gone. I’m not sure that’s ever happened to me before. I’ve been waiting for it, patiently, but perhaps the huge wait since the Christmas Special lulled me into a stupor. Dang it. Oh well, I’m caught up now and am all ready to speak my brains on the subject.

Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor. As a male and lifelong fan of Doctor Who, first watching Tom Baker somewhere from behind a couch (yes, I genuinely did this, so my mother never fails to remind me) I’m a HUGE FAN of the decision to cast a woman in the role having campaigned for just such a thing since when Matt Smith announced he was stepping down. I’m delighted the program makers have listened. What a wonderful fresh start for the character after the fifty-year sausage-fest!

Quick interjection: the massively misogynistic fan backlash to this decision has been appalling and deeply shaming for the Dr Who community. If you are one of those people, if you’ve ever joked about “Nurse Who” or images of a crashed Tardis next to “Women Drivers!” kindly stop reading this now and depart back to whatever rock you slithered out from under.

Having now seen Jodie in action I really do like her. She’s a very personable, very engaging actress, with just the right kind of oddness in her Doctor for me to have no trouble with her as the Doctor. This is early days however and I’m looking forward to seeing how she develops as writers get more comfortable with her. The script made her a little Tennant, a little Matt Smith, all whirling, verbalised thoughts changing even as she spoke them but that could be down to her Regeneration still playing out throughout most of this episode, which she even calls out in the episode with her great wee speech about Becoming who she is meant to be while still being composed of echoes from the past. Her accent…I’m going to take a little longer getting used to. Like Chris Eccleston it sounds from “The North” (i.e. Northern England). I’d honestly expected something a bit more regal, a bit upper crust. Not sure why I thought that but it’s nice to have an expectation confounded!

It’s also nice to have a Doctor who is a bit nicer to people, after 12 being all crabbit/borderline autistic and 11 liking to go dark and scare them now and again (except when he’s eating Fish Custard). But you can see when this Doctor interacts with people she’s very open with them, fully engaged and on their level. Personable, as I said, and very charming. It also helps that she’s a good bit shorter than Capaldi which avoids her towering over folk like he did – though if she had shorter legs how did she manage to run in those lanky trousers of his without tripping herself up???

The Tardis. This sainted object doesn’t appear in this episode, which is a unique kind of agony for a fan eager to learn all about the new Doctor. I vividly remember Matt Smith’s The Eleventh Hour – my own high watermark for new Doctor entrances in the new series – which waited until the dying minutes of that episode to pull off a jaw-dropping reveal of the redesigned console room. But here, as seen in Twice Upon A Time, the Tardis has apparently dumped the new Doctor out into the skies above Sheffield (props to the showrunners for choosing any other city in the UK than rassenfrassen seen-it-a-million-times London) then scarpered off into the universe. I’m hoping we catch up with her/it next episode and we’re not in for a season long chase. Having said that…it would be kind of cool to see a Doctor deprived of that machine for a little bit longer than usual – just don’t go all Third Doctor on us, eh? But why did The Tardis react so violently to the regenerated Doctor and then run away? Is it also kind of a sexist a-hole? Or has it glimpsed the future and knows something terrible is coming? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Theme Tune This only played during the end credits so either the Beeb have run out of money to make a decent opening title…or it’s being held back until next week. The tune (as played in the end credits, anyway) itself is a throwback to the very first Doctor Who theme and is quite understated in comparison to the Murray Gold era of BIG ORCHESTRAL OMMPAHPAH, which I very much appreciate (Murray seemingly never understood that less is often more). I’m still getting used to it but there’s no doubting it’s Doctor Who, and different enough from what came before to be distinctive.

The Companions I’m not generally in favour of celebrities becoming companions – real life intruding on fiction, and aren’t there actors out there who can, you know, act – even though I have to say in just about all instances on Who so far they’ve worked out okay. Billie Piper was shockingly good despite my viewing it as joke casting ahead of the actual premiere. Catherine Tate was good, if very much Cath Tate. And now we have Bradley Walsh joining the crew, however inadvertently (well, ‘Team’ is probably more accurate until they find the Tardis). I had only encountered Bradley in his role as game show host and was quite despairing of him being chosen for the role. Check out this clip as he tries desperately to keep a straight face. I actually love this clip but seeing him as a Doctor Who Companion? Nooooo. However, my brother – Doctor Who Superfan – told me he’d done some serious acting in the past and was actually very good. Here, as Graham O’Brien, he’s…actually very good. His star charisma means he easily outshines everyone but the Doctor herself but he copes very admirably with a late-episode speech after a tragedy and with a subsequent personal revelation of a close encounter with cancer that he’s still recovering from. I’m interested to see where his character goes.

Ryan (TOSIN COLE), Graham (BRADLEY WALSH), Yaz (MANDIP GILL)

I don’t have much to say about the other two, really. They’re a bit non-descript so far. Although I am a little worried about the acting abilities of our police-woman. While Tosin Cole (“Ryan Sinclair”) delivers a very natural performance, Mandip Gill (“Yasmin Khan”) seemed to overcook a few deliveries of line and action. I’m hoping that was just nerves and she’ll relax into it. I never liked “Martha Jones” waaay back in Season three (of the 2005 series) but watching Freema Agyeman on Netflix in Sense8 was a revelation.

Overall I’m really pleased the new Doctor is finally here. I caught a glimpse of her Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), sadly after the fact, and she seems lovely as a person, very funny and witty too so I’m looking forward to seeing her sparkle on screen as the series progress.

And that ending, eh? Has any episode ever ended with all four of our heroes unceremoniously dumped into interstellar space? Can’t wait to see how they get out of that one! My guess: quick recalculation of doohickey then BLIP! back to sweet sweet oxygen!

Until next time, folks!

Loving Linux

Choosing to stop using Microsoft Windows was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Oh, as a Gamer I still have to keep the thing around for games that just don’t work on any other system but these days I’m spending most of my week using Linux for everything else.

And I love it. Love it love it love it.

I’m being exuberant, I know, but I hope you’ll forgive it: I’m simply not used to feeling like this about an Operating System.

Windows is many things but most of the time using it feels like a fight. A battle of wills between you and it to accomplish your objective, a war that rages but never ceases.  In my twenty five years with Windows I’ve learned how to tame the beast.  I’ve learned how to tweak and change her to within an inch of bluscreen. I get around deficiencies with third party software cleverness. I’ve been able to tune that damned thing until she sings. Windows XP and 7 were flexible and stable enough that I could polish ‘good enough’ into ‘genuinely pleasurable’, enough to satisfy me that I was using the very best available. But Windows 10….

OMG, Windows 10. Now that Microsoft have veered into Software-as-a-Service, and have also decided that Google, Apple, Facebook et al have the right idea treating their customers as product upon which to make money selling advertising…it just got harder and harder to see Windows 10 as anything but an attempt to control you, even own you. Unfortunately, their quality control seems to have taken a turn for the worse at the same time. Updates have been especially bad for me this year, refusing to work and costing me weeks of lost time trying to resolve the issues, some of which are still unresolved six months later (Beyond aggravating). Their latest big feature update, 1809, even seems to be deleting users personal files making room for it to update. Microsoft have grown in arrogance AND incompetence – never a good combination.

So I installed Linux alongside Windows on the same drive. I’d had two previous attempts to move across but after the second attempt in the early 00’s I concluded it just wasn’t quite ready for regular use, and sadly turned back to Windows. This year, trying Linux, I’m happy to say it has matured into everything I needed it to be. Crucially, by contrast to the thing Windows has now become, the Freedom that Linux has always offered has become so much more important. Linux not only doesn’t care who you are it actively goes out of it’s way to avoid finding out. It isn’t trying to make money off you, either. By all means donate but you are never coerced or encouraged into that decision. Linux just wants to help you do what you need to do.

Linux doesn’t just offer philosophical advantages. There are very significant practical benefits to be had. Programs start in less than half the time Windows takes. Using the system feels much more responsive – it’s like giving your hardware a new lease of life, although it’s probably more accurate to say your hardware is being used more effectively. Not only that but you have the ability to change just about every feature of the OS. Linux offers a tremendous amount of options that can be bewildering but once you find your way through them you learn to appreciate them. For a tinkerer like me it’s pretty much heaven. But I’ll never tire of seeing a program like GIMP or VLC just pop open, no fuss no muss. Or how about a File Explorer that’s just as fast, and offers genuinely useful option to help you? Microsoft are so concerned with offering shiny new features that appeal to consumers they’ve forgotten how to craft workflows and tools that genuinely assist their users. I’ve lost count of the number of message boards and forums where exasperated IT Admins have had to resort to venting their frustrations at some new feature that has made their job more difficult.

If anyone is thinking along the same lines I’d be delighted to help if I can, with suggestions or explanations of anything you might need some help with, or go hang around somewhere like Reddit where there are always people willing to share their knowledge and help out.

Peace out, folks. Until next time.

Current Desktop

Click me to get the original!

So this is my current and very lovely desktop. Some info:

Antergos Linux using KDE Plasma 5.13, with the Dark Breeze colour theme applied. The wallpaper is from Wallhaven, a worthy successor to the defunct Wallbase. I don’t think the author named it, sadly. I love when they have names.

I prefer a vertical right-hand task bar. Vertical because it makes logical sense when browsing websites that only use a narrow strip in the middle of your screen – like this very blog! Right-hand because I tend to focus left first, English being my native language. The only drawback I’ve found for this is when you need to see the names of the windows/programs you are working with before you hover your cursor over the icons. At work, where I often have multiple Excel windows and other applications open I use the traditional horizontal/bottom setup.

My neatness-brain very much enjoys how the clock on the desktop sits precisely in the middle of that diamond shape. 🙂 Here is a good place to be if you also have a neatness-brain.

A neat little feature of KDE Plasma I really want to bring your attention to is what happens bottom right when you hover your mouse over the clock at the bottom of the task bar. If you set different time zones in the settings they appear here. Mine are set for all of my favourite people in the world, wherever they may be (Awww) so I know when to start annoying them. I’m UK based so my timezone defaults to London though that’s not the city I live in.

Have a lovely day everyone!

Firefox Quantum – Firefox gets one hell of an upgrade!

Firefox Quantum is here! I’ve been using the browser in Beta for a few weeks but Mozilla launched their revolutionary, updated browser for everyone yesterday so I thought I’d offer some opinions on my experience so far.

Let me get this out there straight away – I LOVE IT! (But don’t worry – Vivaldi remains number one in my heart!)

I’ve used Firefox many times over the years but it has never been my primary browser….except for a few dark and terrible months in 2014 between grieving over my beloved Opera and finding my beloved Vivaldi. Mostly, I’d grown used to a slicker, quicker experience than Firefox was capable of delivering. Using Firefox always felt like being asked to drive a farm land-rover instead of my lovely polished Ferrari.

But now that Mozilla has spent the last two years rebuilding core parts of Firefox’s guts, iteration 57 – so special it gets its own name – proudly stands tall among the best of browsing experiences out there. Mozilla are keen to tell everyone that the browser is now at least as good as if not even better than many other major browser brands out there…coughGoogleChromecough. I wouldn’t use Google Chrome if you paid me – privacy-destroying, data-sucking black hole that it is – but when circumstances did force me to so demean myself it admittedly was faster to use than FF, both in page loading times and browser UI response. Happily, Quantum has [re]bounded to the front of the pack and I look forward to seeing Firefox pawing back market share from Google’s inexplicably popular people-eater.

I’m not going to go into the more technical aspects of Mozilla’s techno-wizardy (this is a fluffy opinion piece after all) but suffice to say the improvements made are very noticeable if you’re even passingly familiar with the old Firefox, and, says proud parent Mozilla, should scale well with future CPU developments as this is the first browser to make use of all cores present in a CPU, and not just the one.

However, what does warrant delving into is that many Firefox users were deeply unhappy about Quantum’s rejection of the old, huge library of Extensions. Firefox now favours WebExtension technology, a new framework which breaks all of the old extensions many users had come to rely upon and forces extension authors to rewrite their cherished code for the new system. To hear Firefox users moan, you’d think Quantum has murdered their children (and if you squint you can kind of see their point) but actually the situation is looking fairly healthy. Mozilla wisely provided lots of advance warning and it seems many authors have simply rolled up their sleeves and got on with it. Coming to Quantum fresh I had a handful of extensions in my regular browser, Vivaldi, that I like to use wherever I browse and I had no trouble finding either the exact one I needed or a suitable replacement. Yes, this change will royally antagonise the Firefox loyalists out there who’ve installed lots of painstakingly curated extensions, but I beg them not to let that deter them from staying with what is truly a world class browser.

Or come to Vivaldi, where people are lovely. 🙂

So yeah, try it out and see what you think. Me, I’m a fan of browser software in general and Firefox in particular, and while it’s probably never going to unseat my cherished Vivaldi I look forward to having it as a thrilling and very capable backup.

Speak your brains, friends, and I shall hear thee (and possibly even respond!).