Channel 4 in its early years was something of a goldmine. It showed an awful lot of old ITV and American TV as well as vintage films - presumably because the programme budget was a bit short to fill it with original programming. Hence, it's where I first saw films like the Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame as well as TV shows like Thriller, Callan and The Avengers.

Pat Macnee was not the typical hero for a spy series - by and large they tended to be either more physically imposing - the likes of Patrick McGoohan or the various incarnations of James Bond - or more ordinary everymen - Alec Guinness's Smiley or Edward Woodward in Callan. Macnee's genius was to turn the originally rather bland John Steed into a character who would not have been out of place in an Oscar Wilde comedy.

There's something rather fitting that he should die a matter of days after Christopher Lee - they were the same age, had been schoolmates and had acted together in episodes of The Avengers and also as Holmes and Watson. Their styles were pretty much mirror images - Lee often playing outwardly forbidding figures who revealed moments of frailty, while Macnee seemed harmless at first glance, but hid something much more ruthless at heart. His most famous stage role was the deluded games player Andrew Wyke in Shaffer's play Sleuth - someone who appears playful and harmless but proves to be far more dangerous.

He will be sadly missed. One can only hope that wherever he is, there is a magnum of champagne on ice and he is keeping a watchful eye out for diabolical masterminds.
Christopher Lee has not risen from the grave.

And frankly, it's come as something of a disappointment.

That really wasn't how it was supposed to end. I'd first seen him on ITV, Christmas Day 1980, trading bon mots and bullets with Roger Moore. Since then, I'd seen him burn Edward Woodward, plot to take over the galaxy, try to steal the ring of power, swordfight men 20 years his junior to a standstill, tear out throats, take on zombies, raise the dead, be raised from the dead... And for me it all came to an end, choking back tears in a chip shop, having just ordered a side of battered mushrooms. Narrativium, it seems, need not apply.

It's the voice that I always remember. Immortan Joe in Mad Max Fury Road has an entire truck filled with drummers and a guitarist with complementary flame thrower to signal the charge to battle. Sir Lee could have just relied on a quick rendition of Sumer Is Icumen In to psych up his army. Always assuming that he needed an army. Peter Jackson's last Middle-Earth film, Battle of the Five Armies, has some remarkable moments, including one shot involving charging Dwarves, Elves and Goblins that Akira Kurosawa would have been proud of, but the highlight was Saruman taking on the Nazgul in a staff fight.

As Robbie Collins observed in The Telegraph, "The scene was preposterous, but Lee didn’t just emerge from it with his dignity unbroken – his unbreakable dignity was the framework on which the entire sequence was built." A man of 92 who can look credible while thrashing multiple undead demons is someone to be treasured indeed.

And that really leads us back to the lack of risen Sir Lee. A man within whistling distance of his century who could still be a credible action hero - you've got to have just a feeling that death wasn't going to be the end for him. May the earth lie lightly on him - or at least not so heavy that he can't find his way out, should the fancy take him.
Gunter Grass, author of The Tin Drum, Dog Years, The Flounder and many other books, has died. His novels formed a sort of social history of Germany since the rise of Nazism in the 1930's up to the post-reunification Germany we have today. The best comparison I can think of is James Ellroy's attempt at an underworld history of America in the 20th century in his LA Quartet and the sequence of books starting with American Tabloid.

The similarities end there though. While Ellroy's books make a fetish of gritty realism, Grass is happy to include elements of the supernatural. Talking rats and fish appear and a 3-year old boy is able to stop growing at will, to write on glass using only his voice and to communicate only through his tin drum. Grass also likes his characters and is happy for them to have simple pleasures in their lives - whether it be food or sex or friendship. The easy comparison to make is with Salman Rushdie - both interweaving the everyday, the supernatural and the grotesque into magic realis picaresque fiction. One of my German literature tutors at university reacted badly to the suggestion though. As I am a poor man and not totally at ease in my grasp of the libel laws, I shall not go into detail, although Rushdie did not fare well in the comparison.

Grass was considered by many to be the conscience of post-war Germany - something which attracted a deal of criticism, particularly after his confession in 2006 that he'd served in the Waffen SS towards the end of the war. I'll simply observe that Grass was a boy of 17 and that I would not fare well if judged by the choices I might have made at that age.

Pretty much everything I enjoyed about my first degree came from reading Grass, so I'm left with a sense of regret that somewhere, Oskar's drum has finally fallen silent.
Richie Benaud last commentated on UK tv cricket coverage in September 2005. He quit because that was the last free-to-air coverage on British television as the ECB had sold the rights to Sky. It's rather remarkable really that there's such a feeling of loss at the death of a man whose voice hadn't been heard in the Uk for 10 years. Remarkable - and also absolutely right.

I suspect everyone has their favourite piece of commentary from Benaud - for many, it's his reaction to Botham planting Terry Alderman into the crowd during the '81 Headingley Ashes test, once described as the greatest comeback since Lazarus. As the grievously abused ball ricocheted away, over the air came Richie's voice - "Don't bother looking for that, never mind chasing it. It's gone into the confectionary stall and out again."

My favourite came in a pretty much unmemorable test between England and New Zealand in 1990. Trevor Franklin had made a lengthy century, which probably brought pleasure only to Mr Franklin and, perhaps, his parents. England had mounted a minor comeback - 3 wickets for a dozen or so runs in an hour. In came Richard Hadlee - never a man to die wondering. Hadlee had once had a reputation for feasting on slow bowling but being a little insecure against anything over medium pace, so Gooch brought on Gladstone Small with the new ball, in the hope of cleaning up Hadlee and then the tail. In steamed Small, whose first three deliveries went back past his head for 2 fours and a six, more runs in three deliveries than in the previous hour. It was like switching channels from Ingmar Bergman to the Keystone Kops. "Oh, I like this," gurgled Richie delightedly. "This is good fun."

Richie quit back in 2005 specifically because he had always worked on free-to-air television and saw no reason to change that. Looking at how cricket commentary has changed since, it's a moot point whether there would still be a place for him, or whether his departure was the first stone that hastened the avalanche. He had eight rules of commentary that he tried to stick to:

1.Never ask for a statement.
2.Remember the value of a pause.
3.There are no teams in the world called 'we' or 'they'.
4.Avoid cliches and banalities, such as 'he's hit that to the boundary', 'he won't want to get out now', 'of course', 'as you can see on the screen'.
5.The Titanic was a tragedy, the Ethiopian drought a disaster, and neither bears any relation to a dropped catch.
6.Put your brain into gear before opening your mouth.
7.Concentrate fiercely at all times.
8.Above all, don't take yourself too seriously, and have fun

The most important, I think, was the second which he also summed up as "If you can't add anything to the picture, keep quiet."

For an idea of how things have changed since then, Geoff Lemon's criticism of Channel 9's coverage is long, but worth a read.

If you don't fancy reading it, a summary would be - talk about the cricket or don't talk at all.

Gideon Haigh interviewed Benaud for The Guardian back in 2005 in the run up to his last commentary in England. When the photographer with him asked Benaud to pose as if commenting on a dramatic piece of play, his answer was "I probably wouldn't be saying anything." Sadly I don't think that would work these days.

Someone's posted on Youtube Benaud's last few minutes of commentary from September 2005.

It's a slightly atypical piece, because there's actually a hint of emotion there and of something personal being revealed. What's much more typical is that when Richie's farewell speech is interrupted by the fall of a wicket, he goes straight back into talking about the game, the speech abandoned, and then quietly hands over to the next two commentators. The game was always more important. And by always recognising that fact, he became an icon.


Mar. 12th, 2015 05:15 pm
The man stood, looking out across the desert. He took his hat off for a second, then replaced it, tugging the brim back down to shade his eyes. He wasn't entirely certain where he was, but he had his suspicions. He realised there was a bag slung over his shoulder, so he rummaged in it, more for form than out of any genuine hope that it might contain an answer. A crumpled piece of paper came to light. He smoothed it out.


He screwed it up again. It didn't seem to fit any more. More rummaging produced a bottle of pills with a rather dessicated-looking frog on the label, a child's picture book, a battered hat with "WIZZARD" emblazoned on it in sequins. There didn't seem to be even a million to one chance that any of it might be of use, so he put everything back in the bag and looked round for somewhere to leave it.

This was when he noticed the shadow next to him. It was roughly man shaped, if that were a particularly thin man - one might even say emaciated. Indeed, the phrase skin and bone might have been thought of specifically for this figure, particularly if one missed out the bit about the skin. The figure was enveloped entirely in robes and standing quite motionless,gazing down at him.

He gazed back up, his beard jutting pugnaciously.

"Well? What happens now?"

The figure continued to gaze silently. It was a silence that one might feel should be expressed in block capitals, were such a thing possible.

The man's expression softened. He reached up to pat where a shoulder might have been expected to be. Something rattled faintly under the robes.

"Here," he said, handing over the bag. "Look after it all. I've put a lot of work into it." He turned and stumped away across the desert.

Death stood holding the bag and watched him go. Normally on these occasions, he could find something to say, but this was different. Something had changed and the words weren't there any more. Finally, as the man dwindled into a speck in the heat haze, he found the right words to say. Really, the only words.

"THANK YOU." He hoped the man could hear.

The rest was silence.

RIP Pterry.
I'm bored and in a traffic jam.

So here's a list of Doctors recast with US actors.

1 Edward G Robinson
2 Frank Gorshin
3 Leslie Nielsen
4 Peter Falk
5 Kevin Bacon
6 Bruce Campbell
7 Dwight Schultz
8 Christopher Walken
War Doctor Lance Henriksen. Or Harry Dean Stanton.
9 Dennis Franz
10 Michael C Hall
11 John Francis Daley
12 Laurence Fishburne
Something I hate. Laziness. Which is rather ironic, given how much I'm afflicted by it.

Something I love. Love. Rather obvious, but there you go.

Somewhere I've been. Liverpool. I lived there for 15 years and try to go back once or twice a year. If anyone's going soon, I recommend the Philharmonic Dining Rooms for beer. Also go to the crypt in the Catholic cathedral.

Somewhere I'd like to go. Las Vegas . Just to see what it's like.

A film I like. Looking at my shelves, I'd go for either Lawrence of Arabia or Last of the Mohicans and since so much has been written about the former, I'll point out that the final action scene in the latter is one of the most perfect combinations of acting, camerawork, directing, music, sound, editing - in short, one of the best pieces of cinema I've ever seen
Currently watching sixties Batman with Adam West and pondering a present day version.

Cast so far:

Bruce Wayne/ Batman - Bruce Campbell
The Joker - Mads Mikkelsen
Catwoman - Emily Deschanel
Alfred - Tony Head
The Condiment King -Kelsey Grammar
The Riddler - Matt Smith
The Penguin - Derek Jacobi
Two Face - Helen Mirren

Any suggestions received with interest.
Very briefly on the subject of Doctor Who - last night's episodewas fun.

And there's a fantastic aricle by Frank Cottrell Boyce in the Telegraph about what it's like to write for the series.
Mark Lawson has written a piece in the Guardian about gender-swapped casting in Shakespeare.

Given that this is by Mark Lawson, it hardly came as a surprise that it was riddled with elementary factual errors that could have been remedied by five minutes research. He confuses Olivia and Viola in Twelfth Night. Twice. He claims that it would be unthinkable for a woman to play the lead in The Caretaker. (it's been done by Miriam Karlin.) Also unimaginable, he writes, is a man in the title role of A Streetcar Named Desire. I'll let you think about that for a moment. Reacting to what Lawson meant to write, rather than what he actually wrote, (and isn't having to do that an indictment of his writing?), Philip C Kolin writes that there have been gender-swapped performances of Streetcar, including an all-female one, as well as one in which Blanche was played by the author's brother. Adding the fact that Tennessee Williams wrote Blanche as a gender-swapped reflection of himself makes this an unusually asinine point even for Lawson.

Anyway, while fun, criticising Lawson's lack of research is like shooting whales in a barrel while armed with a howitzer. He has in the past talked about Quatermass' effect on TV in the sixties, the decade in which it apparently debuted and Monty Python being emblematic of the subversive nature of BBC2. He also wrote a radio drama about Howard Brenton's The Romans in Britain in which the play apparently shifted theatres wthout anyone noticing and characters quoted dialogue from Allo Allo five years before it debuted on TV. He also wrote a bizarre review of The End of Time, Tennant's swansong in Doctor Who, describing it as a rewrite of Hamlet, based on nothing very much. (Although, with hindsight, the line "The rest is silence" does seem to carry a meaning not previously clear.)

What is more disturbing in Lawson's article on "genital-ignorant" casting (and dear Lord, the implications of that phrase for Lawson's thought processes) is the attitudes expressed in it. It really does seem to carry everything necessary for a game of diversity bingo.

Despite knowing - and writing - that female roles in Shakespeare's times would have been played by men, Lawson suggests that Shakespeare would have seen casting women in male roles as "having gone too far the other way." He argues that Maxine Peake's production of Hamlet, in which Peake plays Hamlet as male, while the normally male role of Polonius is changed to Polonia, might confuse audiences. This is skewered by a nicely laconic reply BTL, which reads

Saw this production last week.

It wasn't a problem.

Maybe Northern audiences are smarter.

He also argues that The Tempest and King Lear cannot be played with Lear and Prospero gender-swapped because the gender politics are too specific to father-daughter relationships. Since he admits that gender-swapped productions of both have happened - indeed the article is illustrated by a picture of Helen Mirren as Prospera - and since Lawson utterly fails to cite any of these gender politics, other than to state that Shakespeare was "a man of such psychological insight that he anticipated Freud’s insights", I don't see this as a convincing argument. By the by, does Lawson not possess a thesaurus? Or does he just really like the word insight?

He goes on to cite gender-swapped performances whch add framing devices to explain the casting - such as the production of Julius Caesar where the conceit is that it is staged in a women's prison or the all female King Lear which is revealed to have been the "senile reverie of an elderly resident of a nursing home". He praises these as making the casting more "plausible". It's an interesting concept that revealing "It was all a dream" is apparently a way to improve King Lear.

Lawson writes that the two justifications for gender-swapped casting are "a relative shortage of major roles for women and a desire to freshen up overfamiliar texts". He goes on to point out that Shakespeare wrote more than two roles for women, implying that Maxine Peake should go away and play all Shakespeare's other female roles instead of Hamlet. He further adds that "if the governing aim of a production is to make the play seem different, perhaps those involved ought to be doing a different play",thus dealing with the second of his two straw men, although perhaps not fully to his own satisfaction, as he later returns to add that equal opportunities "should never be applied to theatrical casting", suggesting that gender-neutral casting is nothing more than a politically correct box-ticking exercise.

If Lawson is so against changing the original staging of Shakespeare, then presumably he feels that productions should not be set in changed time periods. Ones like the Branagh 19th century-set film of Hamlet or Ian McKellen and Richard Loncraine's film of Richard III, with Richard as a pre-WW2 Oswald Mosley figure. You know what? None of this gets mentioned.

The other thing that doesn't get mentioned is - why would you want to deprive audiences of the opportunity to see some of the greatest roles ever written played by some of the greatest actors ever. Helen Mirren as Prospero/Prospera? Why the hell not? I never saw Frances de la Tour's Hamlet, which I regret. But at least some people did.

Oddly enough, Lawson seems to be quite happy with men playing female roles. He cites Mark Rylance as Cleopatra at the Globe, athough predictably not mentioning the all-female Richard III I saw there which was overseen by Rylance. He also mentions Adrian Lester as Rosalind in As You Like It, approving that he apparently studied women "as closely as he might have hung around the RAF if hired to play a fighter pilot".

The implication is that a male Cleopatra returns to the original casting traditions of the Elizabethan theatre. One would think it would be harder to justify casting a man in something from a later period. Or not. Lawson writes:

"I greatly look forward to David Suchet’s Lady Bracknell in Adrian Noble’s revival of The Importance of Being Earnest next year because Wilde’s grande-dame is a sort of pantomime dame, a part traditionally cast as transvestite, and Suchet is an impeccably detailed actor who will bring to being an aristocratic lady the level of attention he brought to becoming Belgian in Poirot."

A few thoughts come to mind. One is that the main technique Suchet has revealed for playing Poirot is that he used to insert a 2p coin between his buttocks to help achieve the right walk. I would suggest never asking him if he has any small change. Also - would this level of attention be on a par with Adrian Lester apparently hanging around some women? There is also the implication that the likes of Helen Mirren or Maxine Peake are less "impeccably detailed actors."

I was wondering what this frantic scrabbling for ways to logically justify an illogical bias reminded me of. And then I remembered the threads on Gallifrey Base about the possibility of a female Doctor. Someone posted on there that there were no actresses who had the kind of gravitas needed to play the Doctor without looking ridiculous. Passing over the idea that looking ridiculous is not an intrinsic part of playing the Doctor, I suggested a few - Helen Mirren, Tamsin Greig, Sarah Lancashire, Gillian Anderson, Gwendoline Christie, Maggie Smith, Fiona Shaw, Nicola Walker, Alice Krige, Lindsay Duncan, Michelle Dockery, Lena Headey, Katherine Parkinson... The response was - no. they'd look ridiculous.

And there we have it. One of the leading cultural commentators in the UK (I typed that through gritted teeth) tries to argue against gender-swapped casting and the best he can do is to reduce himself to the level of an internet troll. There is something reassuring in that.
Something I've been thinking about recently - actors who might have been cast as the various Doctors if the people chosen were busy or not interested. I've tried to go for ones who might have fitted the characters we got for each of the Doctors. I've also tried to avoid people who were approached or ho tend to turn up on these lists - so no Brian Blessed for a start...

1st Doctor - Alistair Sim
2nd Doctor - Michael Ripper
3rd Doctor - Patrick Macnee
4th Doctor - Dinsdale Landen
5th Doctor - Michael Palin
6th Doctor - Rik Mayall
7th Doctor - Tony Robinson
8th Doctor - Michael Praed
9th Doctor - Alun Armstrong
10th Doctor - Andrew Lincoln
11th Doctor - Daniel Kaluuya
12th Doctor - Charles Dance

War Doctor - Terence Stamp

ETA - it's just been pointed out to me that Tony Robinson auditioned for the 7th Doctor, so we'll have David Dixon instead.
1400 people sexually abused in Rotherham, at a conservative estimate. What is the correct response to this? Horror? Disbelief? Fury?

Acording to Fraser Nelson, it's twofold. He tweeted:

The real scandal of Rotherham is that social work doesn’t work, says Dr Colin Brewer in tomorrow's @spectator -

So, the correct response is to use it to sell copies of your magazine and also to belittle what has happened. 1400 (minimum) victims of sexual abuse is not a real scandal - the real scandal is somethig entirely different. It'd be nice if something as horrific as this weren't used as a political football. If Nelson had shown a bit of compassion, a bit of empathy. Not happening here. This can be put into service to prove a piece of political dogma and also make a bit of money.

I was gang raped in the swimming pool changing room at school when I was 12. It was fucking horrific. At least no-one's response was to say "What really matters here is that teaching swimming is a waste of money."
The Prisoner:
Number 2: Why did you resign?
Number 6: Got a better offer.
Number 2: Oh, er right. Thought it'd be harder than that, actually. Well, you can go, I guess.
Number 6: Actually, I quite like it here. Mind if I stick around?

Sapphire and Steel:
Transuranic heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available. Cardboard, MDF, Pepsi Max, Happidog, Jam, Bisto, Underlay and Smegma. Bisto and Smegma have been assigned.

Blake's 7.
Blake: I'm not going out of the bloody dome. It's raining.

Life on Mars:
Sam Tyler: Mad bastard - you nearly hit me!

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased):
Passer-by: I think I've got a pulse!

Doctor Who:

Jenny: Where's the Doctor?
Clara: That's the Doctor right there.
Malcolm Tucker: Like fucking bollocks I am.

The Omen:
Mysterious & sinister Medical-type person: Ambassador Thorne, your child died during delivery. We are very sorry.
Ambassador Thorne: You what? She was only in for an ingrowing toenail.

The Goodies:
I know we said we'd do anything, anywhere, any time, but that's disgusting, you sad pervy.

The Wicker Man

Sgt Howie: Oh bugger it. Waiting for the wedding night always seemed a daft idea.
Lord Summerisle. I think it rhymes with clucking bell.

The Rocky Horror Show

Brad: Dr Scott? Look, it's pissing down. Mind if we take a rain check?

The Shining:

Jack: Is that the garage? My VW's packed up, can you help? (Pause) Not till Tuesday? Bollocks, that's the job interview out of the window.

The Seventh Seal:

Death: Oh. Didn't see that one. Best of three?

Hound of the Baskervilles: "Oh, ignore Holmes. He's so off his face he couldn't find his arse with both hands and a flashlight."

Horror Express: "Sorry mate - engineering works. We've got a rail replacement bus."

Frightmare: "Bugger. No extension lead."
Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall in two days. And all a few weeks after Rik Mayall. Which means for me that Williams and Bacall are always going to be connected in my head in the same way as Robert Mitchum and Jimmy Stewart, who died on consecutive days in July 1997. This is despite the fact that Mitchum and Stewart only appeared together once - in Michael Winner's London-set adaptation of The Big Sleep in the late '70's. Which just seems horribly inappropriate. Two men who appeared between thm in the likes of Vertigo, Night of the Hunter, Cape Fear and It's A Wonderful Life - and that's the only time they appeared on screen? For two screen giants of the same generation, that feels counter-intuitive. I could swear that there were other films where they shared screen time - but not so.

Williams and Bacall on the other hand feel much more separated - Williams who came to film stardom via stage work, stand up and success on TV, and Bacall who was already a star before Williams was even born, havng been spotted by Howard Hawks and cast in To Have or Have Not, going from obscurity to becoming an icon overnight.

The first thing I ever saw Williams in was Popeye when I was 9. Having watched it again recently, my favourite scene is where he first finds the abandoned baby, Swee'pea. It's a lovely scene- part way through, the baby starts crying and Williams manages to work calming the crying baby into his performance in the scene. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be on youtube, so here's another scene I like, the boxing match.

Meanwhile, for Lauren Bacall, the closing scene of To Have and Have Not. As a sidenote, the pianist is Hoagy Carmichael who I first heard of mentioned in one of the James Bond novels - Ian Fleming has one of the characters mention that Bond looks like Carmichael.

An object lesson in how to make an exit in style.

I was thinking that was a good closing line for this, but I read Bacall's obituary in The Guardian and I think a few things bear quoting - one of them I've used as the titles for this. I approve of her taste in films.

"In old age, she raged against what she saw as the mediocrity of contemporary Hollywood, as represented by everything from the career of Tom Cruise to the Twilight movies that her granddaughter dragged her to see. “She said it was the greatest vampire film ever made,” Bacall recalled. “After the film was over, I wanted to smack her across the head with my shoe.”

Instead, Bacall bought the child a DVD of FW Murnau’s 1922 classic Nosferatu. “Now that’s a vampire film,” she told her sternly."

And one last line from her which seems to carry some resonance.

“Happy schmappy,” she scoffed to Vanity Fair. “I don’t think anyone that has a brain can ever really be happy.”


Aug. 6th, 2014 06:21 pm
Andrew Hickey posted this on his blog. It’s very much worth reading.

 If you’ve now read it and you’re reaction is anything starting with “Yes, but…” and you want to talk about different sorts of immigrants or how some are the “right” sort of immigrant, then do us both a favour and stop reading. This isn’t for you and it’s not going to mean anything to you.
Andrew’s reaction above pretty much mirrors mine. We both love someone who has had horrendous experiences while attempting to settle in the UK. The situation has got worse and the leader of the party I belong to is saying that it is still too easy for immigrants to settle here and that Something Must Be Done. To be precise, access to benefits and availability of translation services should be reduced. Because immigrants claiming benefits and not even having the manners to be able to speak English is a major factor in the problems the country has.

The preamble to the Lib Dem constitution starts “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society “. Hardly a description of a party which has decided to join with the other two major parties in looking for minority groups to victimise in an attempt to be seen to be doing something that might attract voters. Three parties scrapping over a small area of ground without a square inch of moral justification between them.

I joined the Lib Dems back in 2011. I knew people who I respected who were members and I liked a lot about the party – things like the democratic process within the party and the way that it worked from the bottom up, with ideas from the party membership being put forward at conference and, if supported by a vote, being adopted into party policy. We were in coalition with the Tories and so there were things I didn’t like which had the party’s fingerprints on them, but we were in coalition with a much bigger party and it was inevitable that compromises had to be made. My feelings have changed.

The petty side swipe at immigrants is by no means the only contributory factor. There was also my reaction, which I’ve blogged about, to the railroading through parliament of the regulations about access to private information. There have been other things which have happened, but it's Clegg's e-mail about immigrants that’s decided me that I’m leaving.
I used to work for the Home Office in Immigration and Asylum. Over the years, as attitudes there became more and more poisonous, I stopped being able to tell myself that I was making a difference. I took redundancy and left. Currently I work for a debt advice charity, helping people to get out of debt. It’s a very good job, but quite a demanding one – daily I speak to people who are desperate, from time to time I find myself talking to someone considering suicide. Including the commute, it’s a 12 hour day and my evenings and days off are pretty much spent recovering.
And this is the point – I don’t have the energy or the inclination to do anything constructive as a member of the party. I know people who do and who are working hard to try to restore the party to what they – and I – feel it should be and I admire them for what they’re doing.

But as long as I don’t have the energy to help with that, I am not going to be a member. If someone asks me why I financially support an organisation that says and does things I believe are fundamentally wrong, why I am allowing myself to be seen as allied to ideas with which I disagree, I want to be able to explain what I’m doing to try to change that. I can’t do that, so I’m leaving.
This may become a regular blog. I've been meaning for a few years to watch all of Doctor Who from the start and maybe write about it. We'll see how long it lasts.

It is utterly impossible to view An Unearthly Child as it would have been seen in 1963. We know too much. After the initial titles and the policeman on his beat, we close in on a shot of the TARDIS. Perhaps the single most recognisable icon of the programme. Not in 1963. It was a police box. The only question about it would have been what it was doing in a junk yard.

Of course these days, we view this opening through an additional filter. The 50th Anniversary story, Day of the Doctor, opened with the original titles and music followed by a patrolling policeman walking past a sign indicating I M Foreman's junk yard - one of many call backs to the opening episode. Another one of these comes right at the end of the 50th special. Compare the first Doctor's line to Susan from Unearthly Child

One day we shall get back. Yes, one day.

to Matt Smith's closing narration from Day of the Doctor.

It's taken me so many years, so many lifetimes, but at last I know where I'm going. Where I've always been going. Home. The long way around.

The whole story of the programme so far has been one single journey - one which is still running and which may one day lead the Doctor to his final destination. Another quote that seems appropriate - the fourth Doctor talking to Duggan in City of Death:

Duggan: Where do you two come from?
Doctor Who: From? Well, I suppose the best way to find out where you've come from is to find out where you're going and then work backwards.
Duggan: Where are you going?
Doctor Who: I don't know.

According to Moffat, the Doctor is returning to where he came from. Given Moffat's seeming desire to leave his fingerprints on all of Doctor Who, rather than just his era as showrunner, one could, if one were in an unforgiving mood, be rather irate at this apparent dismissal of the first fifty years of the programme as a digression.

Unearthly Child is generally seen as a stand alone episode introducing the series before a self-contained 3-part story with cavemen. Not so much the case. There are hints of elements of the story to come. We get several shots of the dummy in the junk yard with the smashed head, later echoed in the smashed skulls in the Cave of Skulls which are both a threat of he travellers' possible fate and also their eventual means of salvation. Ian loses his torch and doesn't have any matches - later the travellers' lives will be endangered by their inability to make fire. Most ironically, Ian says that he takes things as they come. And yet by the start of episode 2, it is Barbara who turns out to be more open to new ideas, while Ian struggles to accept anything beyond his experience.

We have a few things here which will become frequent features of episodes - for better or for worse. We have one of the series' lucky guesses which look much more impressive in retrospect - Susan predicting the decimal system. We have the first example of a plot poit being quietly abandoned without any explanation. Ian and Barbara become interested in Susan because her homework has got so much worse recently. Why? Were she and her grandfather busy fighting off an alien invasion during the preceding week? No explanation is forthcoming.

However there are two things in this episode which we never see in quite the same way again. The TARDIS is never seen as dangerous and a trap in the same way ever again. Even in the first Eccleston episode, when the series was reintroduced, the TARDIS was explicitly identified as a safe place, while the 2005 Doctor, although introduced as a man who bombs department stores, is shown as exciting and attractive.

Here, although softened from the original version of An Unearthly Child, he still appears threatening. He is superior, arrogant and dismissive, with a tendency to change the subject, finding fascination in old paintings or broken clocks. In short, he is very Doctorish. It just feels different, because his manner is aimed at the people who we have so far identified with. We haven't learnt to trust him yet. But on the basis of the fifty years of TV to come, we know that we will. Like Moffat scattering Clara's throughout the Doctor's history, we have overwritten how he was originally seen.
Having caught Yvette Cooper's comments in the debate on the emergency powers, in which she acknowledged that the situation requiring this had arisen in April and yet the legislation had reached the House - in a great state of urgency - a mere 3 months later and a matter of days before the summer recess, but that this didn't matter because of the safeguards built in, I'd just like to wonder whether it is possible to dislocate one's shoulder from patting oneself on the back. I also wonder whether certain politicians are in fact only held upright by the starch in their shirts while they wait for the spine donor to get back to them.

And we now have first Alan Johnson and then Hazel Blears complaining that the new legislation doesn't go far enough and that further powers are needed.
Apparently it's not the Snooper's Charter. We've been told that by Julian Huppert (was Shirley Williams busy?) and that ought to be enough for all right-thinking, hard-working families. And please bear in mind, where we work, we win. I'm not sure whether that just applies to families, but I'm sure someone reassuring will be along to tell us soon.

Actually maybe I was wrong about the reassuring bit. Depends whether you find 12 stone of gammon on the turn and wearing an Armani suit to be reassuring. David Cameron has tweeted that "I'll be explaining today why emergency legislation is needed to maintain powers to help keep us safe from those who would harm UK citizens." And after that he'll be showing how you can use those leftovers from the Sunday roast to make a lovely flan.

David Cameron of course is the man who once said "Too many tweets make a twat." Post hoc ergo propter hoc is the phrase that comes to mind.

Anyway, there's a press release knocking about. That ought to put our minds to rest, shouldn't it?

A few quotes and a few thoughts on them.

"The Bill includes a termination clause that ensures the legislation falls at the end of 2016 and the next government is forced to look again at these powers." Because the next government won't be one of the parties who have agreed to this bill, will they? And having these powers already in place won't in any way mean that they are easier to keep or indeed to extend.

"We will establish a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on the American model, to ensure that civil liberties are properly considered in the formulation of government policy on counter-terrorism. This will be based on David Anderson's existing role as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation." So it'll be something similar to what already exists, but with the name changed?

"We will restrict the number of public bodies that are able to approach phone and internet companies and ask for communications data. Some bodies will lose their powers to access data altogether while local authorities will be required to go through a single central authority who will make the request on their behalf." So, restrict. Is the number not already restricted? We're told that some bodies will lose powers. Will any bodies gain powers?

And then we have some examples of crimes which would be more difficult to effectively investigate.

First up - "Murder– those who conspired to assist the killers of Rhys Jones were caught using evidence from mobile phones, which proved they were associating at certain key times and places." Please note - this does not actually suggest that the evidence gathered had any effect of Rhys' killers being caught, but rather people who assisted. Any thoughts that this particular case was chosen because it involved the death of a child are utterly cynical.

"Sexual exploitation– the men who groomed young girls in Rochdale were prosecuted, in part, using mobile phone call evidence which showed their association with each other and contact with victims." It's perhaps worth noting that, while the press release says that the conviction was "in part" because of this evidence, Cameron at his press conference has said that the convictions would not have happened at all without the mobile phone evidence.

"Door step fraud– a gang who conned an 85-year-old were prosecuted using evidence that they had called the victims repeatedly from their mobile phone." At this point, you may be wondering whether this is going to affect any crimes which don't affect either children or the elderly.

"Locating Vulnerable People– Mobile phone location data was used to direct a search by Mountain Rescue and locate an elderly man with medical conditions, who had gone missing following a hospital appointment." Another elderly man? Good grief...

There was a case in the news today of a farmer who lost his mobile phone and later had it returned to him. I can only assume that this appeared too late to be included in the press release...

One final justification is included.

"A major recent Europol investigation into online child sexual exploitation (known as Operation Rescue) gives an indication of what the impact would be:Of 371 suspects identified in the UK, 240 cases were investigated and 121 arrests or convictions were possible. One man was sentenced in March 2010 to six years’ imprisonment for sexual abuse of two minors after police discovered more than 60,000 indecent images on his computer.In contrast, of 377 suspects identified in Germany, which has no such data retention arrangements, only seven could be investigated and no arrests were made." It might be worth mentioning that this was actually a UK-led investigation in which Europol also took part, as well as police from Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Canada. This is not something that gives me confidence in the press release. Also - 121 arrests or convictions? According to the Guardian in March 2011, there had been 33 convictions.

There may have been more convictions since then, but presumably not many otherwise the number of convictions would actually be mentioned. Going from 371 suspects to 240 investigated to 121 arrests to 33 convictions suddenly sounds rather less impressive...
So, I was watching Ben Aaronovitch's Rememberance of the Daleks, after listening to the podcast about it from Doctor Who - The Writers' Room (it's rather good, even if they do slag off Pyramids of Mars. What's annoying is that I can't actually disagee with any of their reasons) Anyway, it struck me, the undertaker's assistant says that he thought the Doctor was an old man with white hair - who we were obviously meant to see as the First Doctor. Doesn't it make more sense if it's actually the Curator from Day of the Doctor?

Thinking about it, the First Doctor gives no indication of knowing who the Daleks are when he first meets them and generally does not seem to be a man who has run away with a vital piece of high-tech weaponry. On the other hand, the Curator is a man who, by his position, is likely to come across odd artefacts and we know that he's not averse to popping up and giving advice to his previous selves. So perhaps he left the Hand of Omega with the undertaker and then dropped a line to the 7th Doctor asking him to do something about it.

I know this is overwriting Aaronovitch's original intentions, but then given that he did exactly the same to Anthony Coburn, Terry Nation et al, it seems fair enough.

And one other thing I was thinking about - in End of Time, Rassilon speaks of the shame of the two Time Lords who did not vote with him and compares them to the Weeping Angels. Just in passing, Rassilon has a history of turning people who he doesn't like into statues, as he did with Borusa in The Five Doctors. It's hard to see how something like the Weeping Angels could evolve independently. Maybe they were a creation of Rassilon's, evolving from his punishment method?