Monday 25 November 2013

Doctor Who: The Day Of The Doctor

So, it's the day after The Day Of The Doctor, the 50th Anniversary Special of the world's longest-running TV science fiction show. The day after the world witnessed ( amongst other things ) the terrible events of the last day of the Time War, a coming together of different incarnations of the Doctor, Zygons running amok in Elizabethan England, discussions about Cup-A-Soup, and Billie Piper looking like she'd been dragged through a hedge backwards...
Please don't expect any reasoned, dispassionate critical appraisal of the episode here: I absolutely loved The Day Of The Doctor! Watching it, I felt as giddy and excited as I did when first watching The Three Doctors or The Five Doctors all those years ago. More than just a backwards-looking, nostalgic excuse for a televisual knees-up, this episode was bursting with ideas, Steven Moffatt's trademark twisty-turny plotting, some wonderful acting, beautiful special effects and a genuine sense that the show was moving forward as well as celebrating the past.
Bringing in the amazing John Hurt to portray the mysterious, forgotten War Doctor was a genius move  -  confronting at last the dread decision the Doctor made to end the Time War... and his suffering ever since. Matt Smith and David Tennant were a joy to see as the two modern Doctors  -  now enjoying each others' company, now competing, both flipping between excitement and melancholy in a heartbeat. There was also solid support in less flashy roles from Jemma Redgrave and Jenna Coleman, bringing a human perspective to this tale of gods and monsters.
And then there were the cameos and unexpected nods to the past: from the names on the sign outside Coal Hill School, to the photos on the walls in UNIT HQ, to the first glimpse of the 12th Doctor ( fierce! ), to the beautiful final shot of all the incarnations standing tall together, to the shiver-down-the-spine appearance of the mighty Tom Baker. As I said, I absolutely loved it  -  and so did the rest of the family, even Sophie who hasn't watched a Doctor Who episode in about 3 years. Welcome back...  :-)

Happy Birthday, Doctor! Here's to many, many more!

Soundtrack: All Is Dream by Mercury Rev

Saturday 23 November 2013

He's 50 today... but doesn't look a day over 31

Happy 50th Birthday to that immortal adventurer in Space and Time, the Doctor!

Splendid fellows... all of them!

Thursday 21 November 2013

Fabian Perez: Neo-Emotionalism

Last Saturday Sarah and I went over to Whitewall Galleries in Cheltenham to see the latest exhibition by South American superstar artist Fabian Perez.
This collection, "Neo-Emotionalism" features more of Fabian's signature beautiful women and cool, sharp-suited men...
 Although we didn't buy anything this time ( unlike last year when we bought a signed print and book from the great man ) we just enjoyed the artwork, the free wine... and the chance for a photo op with the man himself...

And here's some more of Fabian's ravishing artwork:

Friday 15 November 2013

The 8th Doctor ( Slight Return )

The BBC have released an online prequel to next week's Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special, starring the ever-wonderful Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor. This "minisode", The Night Of The Doctor, is the first ( non-audio ) appearance by McGann's Time Lord since his one-night-only turn in the 1996 TV movie. In this short episode we finally get to see the 8th Doctor's regeneration... but not into Christopher Eccleston...

It was a genuine surprise and pleasure to see McGann reprise his role of the Byronic, heart-on-sleeve 8th Doctor, albeit one clearly older and damaged by the Time War. Back in 1996 his interpretation of the character was definitely the best thing about the Anglo/American compromise that was the TV Movie. Sarah and I were instantly captivated by McGann's fresh take on the Doctor and were, along with many others, absolutely gutted that the episode turned out to be a false dawn for Doctor Who. The 8th Doctor's story continued in original books and audio plays, but not in the hoped-for TV series.
We would have to wait another nine years for new Who on TV but, of course, the Doctor was recast and the show moved on, with only the occasional, brief flashback to the previous incarnation. So, it was really lovely to see this fleeting return of an old friend in such an important year for the show. And, obviously, somewhere out there in time and space the 8th Doctor is still having adventures. Maybe he could drop in on us again sometime? How about it, BBC...?

Sunday 10 November 2013

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae, May 1915

"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most poignant and iconic poems to come out of the mud, misery and mayhem of the First World War. It's certainly one that I always recall on Remembrance Sunday. I've also found out today that its author, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, was an ancestor of MD Jackson  -  hugely talented artist, writer, blogger and friend of TGWS. Mike told me that, as a child, he used to read this poem at school Remembrance Day assemblies, because of his family connection. Then, as today, beautiful works of literature or art such as this poem were and are  indispensable means of connecting our modern world, however briefly, to past generations and their unimaginable sacrifices. We must never forget...

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Thor: The Dark World

Great Odin's Raven! Thor's back... and this time it's "dark". Well, of course it is  -  there seems to be an unwritten Hollywood law that all blockbuster sequels have to be bigger and darker. Luckily, this second visit to Asgard is a Marvel Studios production which means things don't get too dark and there's still room for some good, old-fashioned fun...
 After the Rainbow Bridge was destroyed in the first movie, the Nine Realms have erupted into chaos and the Asgardians have been busy keeping the peace, which is where we first encounter Thor and his allies, the Warriors Three and the lady Sif, defending peasant villages from marauders. In a nod to Thor's origin story waaaay back in Journey Into Mystery #83 our Asgardian prince even takes on one of the Stone Men from Saturn and reduces him to rubble...
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Thor's physicist girlfriend, Jane Foster, stumbles across another of those ancient, cosmic power-sources that always seem to be waiting to be discovered in the Marvel Universe. This MacGuffin, the Aether, belonged to the Dark Elves, an evil race from the dawn of time, who were defeated by the Asgardians before they could plunge the cosmos into darkness. The discovery of the Aether is a wake-up call for the Dark Elves' leader, Malekith ( Chris "The Doctor" Eccleston ), who promptly emerges from his ages-long sleep, assembles an army and heads to Asgard for vengeance.
Thor: The Dark World is, as I said above, a load of fun. Plenty of world-hopping action and mayhem, Chris Hemsworth proving again to be an effortlessly charismatic Thunder God, a couple of pleasing cameos ( one being from Stan The Man of course ), a surprising amount of humour ( Thor takes the Tube? ) to counterpoint all the apocalyptic chaos, beefed-up roles for Renee Russo and Idris Elba, and a far greater time spent in the fantastically well-realised Realm Eternal than in the previous movie. And then, of course, there's Loki...
Yet again, Tom Hiddleston almost hijacks the whole movie as the scheming, lying, charming God of Mischief. His scenes with Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman are a delight and there are a couple of third act twists and turns involving his character that are worth the price of admission on their own. Chris Eccleston, however, as main bad guy Malekith is not so well served and could have done with a few more scenes to really make an impact. The same goes for the Warriors Three and Jaimie Alexander as warrior maiden Sif  -  please can we have more Sif next time, Marvel execs? She's awesome and it's about time she made a move on our favourite Thunder God. Anyway, these are only minor quibbles. I enjoyed the film immensely ( gotta rate it Four Out Of Five Uru Hammers )... and so did James, whose comment as we left the cinema was "That's another one for Blu-Ray..."
So sayeth we all!

Soundtrack: So Much For The City by The Thrills ( whatever happened to them...? )


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