Doctor Who Season Nine Finale

My guilty secret was always that I’d been pretty big on Doctor Who and I’d seen pretty much every episode. Actually, this doesn’t seem so much of a big deal, if we’re just talking about the post 2005 run. However, prior to that, it wasn’t exactly something you spoke about at school in the mid to late nineties and early 2000’s. I used to watch the original series fanatically when I was eight years old on a Sunday morning on Sky. However, it becomes deeply problematic when you’re in Canada and trying to get BBC iPlayer to work.

I was born in 1987. The original series finished in 1989. The only Doctor Who up until the 2005 series, aside from the novels most of which aren’t canon was the 1996 TV movie, which contains some pretty controversial continuity.

The original series ended whilst the showrunners at the time were looking to reboot the character of the Doctor. However, many episodes towards the end of the shows run are effectively forerunners to the 2005 series, which is cleverly grounded by relatable working class characters. I digress.
The current season is interesting in that the first episode takes place on Skaro. A planet that was destroyed in the seventh Doctor episode ‘Rememberance of the Daleks.’ If you haven’t seen ‘Rememberance’ it’s basically on the same lines as the fiftieth anniversary episode, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ complete with anthropomorphic (or living) weapons. Nonetheless, Skaro was last ‘seen’ briefly during the TV movie, when the seventh Doctor went to collect the left overs of The Master from the planet, before it turns out much to everyones shock that The Master isn’t actually dead and has turned into some kind of snake. In this season after some jostling about by snakeman looking for The Doctor which includes an encounter with The Sisterhood of Karn (think intergalactic version of the witches from Macbeth, “Sleep no more!”)last seen in Paul McGann’s only other appearance as The Doctor prior to the fiftieth anniversary special, and who will feature in the final episode of the season, we head off to Skaro after the Doctor, Master (now going as Missy) and Clara are taken there by the man who turns into a snake, or the snake that turns into a man. This is Doctor Who, so who the fuck knows for sure. Eventually, after some talk about hybrids, The Doctor and Clara escape whilst Missy/The Master tries to strike some deal with the daleks.
The next two episodes contain amongst other things mention of ‘the bootstrap paradox’ as The Doctor breaks the fourth wall to familiarise everyone with the concept for what will ultimately be the ‘deux ex machina’ resolution to the season finale.

The next couple contain more on hybrids (as do the Zygon episodes) and introduce us to Ashildr/Me who will reappear in Face the Raven in order to capably assist in killing off Clara aswell as in the season finale. Intriguingly The Doctor proclaims at the end of Heaven Sent, which credit where it’s due to Moffat is a great piece of TV, “The hybrid is me” as he arrives on Gallifrey which is looking in remarkably good shape for a place that was last seen being frozen in time as a warzone. This seems too much of a red-herring from Moffat. We’re all familiar with his douchey ways and expect him to be all like, “Lol no the hybrid is Me/Ashildr.”
I actually half suspect that he’ll go down the road of trying to explain the line from the TV movie about The Doctor being half-human. There is an interesting insight relating to the latter part of the original series character arc which ties in with the present series. The latter part of the original series strongly alluded to The Doctor being more than a Time-Lord. Thankfully, as they are a group of people who are just an irritating bunch of bureaucrats (also pointed out by The Fisher King in an earlier episode of this season) and would thus make The Doctor a complete dullard and ratings killer.

“The Other was intended to be part of the backstory of the television series during the Seventh Doctor’s tenure and part of script editor Andrew Cartmel’s intention now known to fans as the “Cartmel Masterplan” to restore some mystery to the character of the Doctor. Cartmel felt that years of explanations about the Doctor’s origins and the Time Lords had removed much of the mystery and strength of the character of the Doctor, and decided to make the Doctor “once again more than a mere chump of a Time Lord”. Elements of this effort were liberally scattered through Seasons 25 and 26 of the series, and occasionally included hints about the Doctor’s past; for example, in Silver Nemesis, when Ace and the Doctor discuss the creation of validium, the Doctor mentions that it was created by Omega and Rassilon. Ace asks, “And…?” and the Doctor is silent. Cartmel has written that this was meant to indicate that the Doctor was “more than a Time Lord.”

Not to mention, “A possible origin for the Other is provided by Human Nature, a 1995 Virgin New Adventures novel by Paul Cornell. In the novel, the Doctor transforms himself into John Smith, a human with only fragmentary memories of his past life. Smith writes a children’s story about an old man in Victorian England who invents a police box larger on the inside and capable of travel through time and space. Lonely, the man visits the planet Gallifrey, where he finds a primitive tribe. He tells the Gallifreyans about science and the arts, teaches them to travel time and space, and advises them on how to be as civilised and law-abiding as England. When they grow dull and officious, he invents a way for them to begin new lives upon death, and gives them second hearts in hopes of making them more joyful. When this fails, he steals a police box and flees back to Earth, deciding that being free is better than being in charge. Smith’s story was plotted by Cornell’s friend Steven Moffat; Cornell stated, “He’s always had some radical thoughts about Who, and it was good to be able to give expression to some of them.”

I genuinely wouldn’t put it past Moffat – who has also made past allusions to being a fan of the Doctor Who movies of the sixties where the Doctor is an Earthly scientist –  to have The Doctor use the bootstrap paradox to actually be the founder of Time-Lord society or something to that effect. Which would also in his world have the desired effect of shocking everyone senseless, granting him his typical self-adulation at how clever he is and to create more questions than he’s actually answered. He’s also effectively said as much in the sense that he shot himself in the foot with the fiftieth anniversary episode where he undid all of RTD’s good word in killing off Gallifrey. Not to mention, the series had failed to remotely explore the physical and emotional consequences of some genocidal lunatic roaming the galaxy, and the effect that would likely have on your personal relationships and how you interact with people. Actually, I have something of an inkling that no-one would want to interact you, let-alone the universe  holding regular Doctor vigils at his hour of need, in season finales. Although, this could yet again be further proof of the antipathy held by everyone towards the Time-Lords. I liked Eccleston’s Doctor, however maybes it’s just me, but I would’ve been more interested in an exploration of such genocide beyond: The Doctor is angry. What the fuck is he angry about? No-one asked him to kill billions of people. Followed by, Doctor is happy now because he met a girl from a council estate. All is redeemed. It was an arc that had massive potential but ultimately became one that was never utilised to its maximum potential, nor one the show has ever fully moved away, or developed beyond in nine seasons. The show seriously requires a new direction.

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Trident

In my early twenties I was close to becoming an officer in the Royal Navy submarine service. I’d made it through the early stages of the recruiting process, and my prospects were looking buoyant (couldn’t resist), however this career was ultimately sunk (!) on a technicality.

A few years prior after I had gotten heavily into bike racing I’d picked up a throat infection, I made an appointment with the GP as at the time this was a major inconvenience to my training regime. The GP I saw that day was a young woman who at that point ostensibly didn’t have a great deal of experience in her profession at all. Looking at my medical history as a child where I had an extremely mild form of asthma. She considered what was quite evidently a throat infection to be a reoccurence, and prescribed me an inhaler. I thought so little of this, I didn’t even bother collecting the prescription. I will also add for emphasis that at this time, I was actually working part-time in a pharmacy too. A few days later, my cough had subsided and I was back to training.

I went to Newcastle for my medical, and I still recall it vividly. I got to meet some of the lads I would be going into training with to work on the submarines. I was a muscular 70kg, the best condition of my life. At the time I would cycle three hours a day, I was running under a six and a half minute mile, I was going swimming reguarly, and I could squat a not insubstantial 130kg. The medical was supposed to be a formality. The medical went as follows: Urine sample, strip down to boxers, get violated by a sinister looking Naval doctor feeling your balls, eyesight, hearing test… Then my medical record turned up an inhaler. Since asthma attacks whilst underneath the sea could understandably be considered problematic I’d hit a road-block. If I could present to the navy an unused inhaler, I would be passed off. I couldn’t for reasons stated above. Thus my favoured profession was torpedoed due to sub (I’ll stop)-par health.

As an aspiring submarine officer, it goes without saying that I am a supporter of mutually assured destruction, right? Well, not really. Morally they’re an abomination, and militarily they’re almost completely useless, for all intents and purposes a complete waste of money. So I’m in the Corbyn camp on nuclear disarmament? Well actually, no. I support and fully endorse peaceful resolution to conflicts the world over wherever feasible. I will join in with anyone singing all we are saying is give peace a chance. However I recognise that unlike many politicians over the past thirty years, bombing and war are not a means to an end, to obliterate the enemy in the fashion of some deranged WW1 general, “We killed 500,000 of yours, and you only killed 499,999 of ours, so looks like we’ve won Fritz.” The whole purpose of military action is to gain an upper hand at the negotiating table. If you can gain an  upper hand without resorting to the Rommel handbook and sending in the boys, great. I’m all for it. Thus, my problem with pacifism is the practicality of it not the principle. It effectively amounts to playing someone at poker, but only allowing yourself to be dealt from half a deck. Even if you are not a proponent of militarism, dismissing it as a tactic is giving yourself a raw deal. On top of this, the majority British people are not likely to support what amounts to a huge downgrading of Britain’s status as a nation on the international stage. As crude as it is to all rational, right thinking people, British military might allows the nation to maintain the last of its delusions of imperial grandeur.This principle follows suit with the Trident programme. A nuclear missile acts as a de facto penis enlargment for a nation. Or in the case of Britain, a penis enlargement for a nation whose days of getting laid are long past. That is the best way I can possibly describe it. It’s all we’ve got to hang onto. Further still, in the current climate of de-industrialisation, the Trident programme equates to manufacturing jobs. Lots of them. A grandiose display of moral engorgement will not put food on the tables of skilled manufacturing workers and will not appeal to them come election time either.

The reality is, that any form of de-commissioning of weapons and de-militarisation does not serve the overall interest of Britain at this point in time. It’s still better served by hanging onto a post-imperialist fantasy than becoming an unhappy eunuch. Pacifism is a step too far for the national conciousness.

Corbyn’s Demise

Whilst I would describe myself as left-wing and as someone who is not by nature a jingoistic hawk. By which I mean, I don’t generally go around advocating war as a solution to all problems, I wouldn’t describe myself as a pacifist either. I generally advocate reasonable force.

Corbyn’s ideological failure on foreign policy has cost Labour the 2020 election. It’s as simple as that. There is a complete failure to recognise the wider public mood and manage it accordingly. Am I suggesting that Labour should blindly follow the emotional and febrile mood of the public in the wake of the Paris attacks? Not at all. I’m suggesting that through dismissing military action on a purely ideological and ostensibly principled standpoint he has put himself into a trap he will not be able to escape from. He has failed to recognise the right wing and conservative (with a small c) tendencies of many long-time Labour voters and the wider English public who constitute the electorate when it comes to matters of patriotism and nationalism, which within the British psyche is very much entwined with militarism and British exceptionalism. A gruesome hangover from the days of Empire and cololonialism.

He has not offered a serious and realistic alternative. Wanting world peace is a lovely sentiment, I’m sure everyone would agree. However IS/ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Al-Qaeda/The Nusra Front are not likely to forget our previous forays into the Middle-East in a hurry, and there is little chance they will lay their guns down willingly anytime soon. It is clear that conflict resolution is required, and to what extent Britain should involve itself is legitimately up for debate. That Britain has been for so long an antagonist in the imposition of the many conflicts of the Middle-East, it is a legitimate concern of many that having no part in the conflict resolution will nonetheless leave Britain open to attacks, regardless. From a military and practical standpoint, I don’t advocate aerial bombardment. Especially on built up civilian areas. I believe it is completely reckless and counter-productive. I would be open to suggestion on a strategic ground offensive, and attacks against economic targets, along with exerting military and political pressure on those who fund the IS insurgency in order to completely isolate them in both Iraq and Syria. No funding, no war. I think we can imagine why this strategy is unlikely to occur anytime soon though.

The public demand for aerial bombardment suits the Tories. It is exactly the kind of PR driven tokenism that is to be expected from this government. Simply appearing to be doing something, regardless of the fact that it will be largely ineffective and will drag on for a long, long time suits them. When they inevitably get their way in order to send over the RAF, they will thrive on driving home a message of how “They are protectors of the realm, Labour threaten national security” and the rest of their trite nonsense. Dragging the political debate back to the realms of the lowest common denominator with the us against them, xenophobic, “Immigrants threaten our way of life” nonsense all the way through the EU referendum, where we can expect something to the effect of, “We have found in the past few months when Europe has come together (in hatred of Islam to annihilate them at home and in the Middle-East) we are better together.” like a bad IndyRef tribute act, should be  enough to see the Conservatives through the next election and hammer the final nails into Britain’s coffin once and for all.

Parisian Tragedy

The attack in France is so sad. Although such awful instances have happened before in other major cities across the years, Madrid, London, New York, Dublin and so on, there is something particularly awful about this Parisian tragedy. I imagine only an attack on Rome would be quite so equally poignant and symbolic, and would be likely to resonate quite so deeply with European citizens. 

I mention this, as Paris, like Rome is a place you associate with great beauty, culture, art. A place that upon mere mention has a soul stirring profundity and will reconcile in the mind many great romantic connotations, and above all, all that is quite so beautiful about Europe itself. A place that contains much of France’s great cultural heritage, and the heritage of many around the world in far diverse places. Although I cannot say if the attackers had an appreciation for such symbolism in their planning, or they perhaps just considered Paris simply a soft-target, it has resonated with me deeply.

My thoughts and prayers are with the French people and all others who may be affected directly and indirectly.

Bodyworlds @ The Centre for Life

My first visit to this place was a few years back during my brief stint at Sunderland University. My lost weekend. On my last encounter I got to play with vials of nandrolone and learned how to drug test people or evade detection depending on your ethical leanings. It was forthright, educational and cool.

I visited again at the weekend to see the Bodyworlds exhibition. Unlike my last visit which pertained to anatomical learnings, functions of the body, human performance and errr doping, this one did not. I admit, my visit was mainly out of morbid curiosity following a documentary I watched about Gunther Von Hagens in 2010. I am not even going to bother masking this under the pretence of wishing to learn more about the motor functions of the human anatomy, which many will, and which is their right.

I got their lunchtime. The exhibition begins pretty mundanely. A few skeletons. Fairly standard anatomy class stuff. Thus, Gunther begins to ease you towards a skeleton holding a relay baton, which stands upright behind the plasticised ligaments and tendons of what once presumably made up part of its outer shell. I was not entirely sure what I was meant to be making of this anatomically, and in all honesty – after some considerable thought – I’m still not sure. Nice plasticisation (?) of the patella. And the pose really brings out the array of tendons surrounding the scapula I suppose. Thumbs up.

The exhibition ultimately climaxes in several displays seemingly curated to pay homage to amongst others, Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man,’ and Rembrandt’s ‘Autopsy of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ but they subsequently have the affect of making you feel like you are caught up in a particularly grotesque episode of Hannibal.

Nonetheless, the part of the exhibition which summed the whole things up for me, was the several millimetre thin cross sections of the human anatomy which have ended up resembling something like prosciutto ham. And that’s kind of what it all is. The cadavers have been processed to the point where you don’t feel like you are looking at human beings. At all. In the same way looking at a slice of bacon or ham, doesn’t cause you to think of a pig. Because essentially, it isn’t. Any kind of character, distinguishing feature, or anything identifiable as particularly sentient has been stripped, and bio-chemically altered beyond any recognition.

Ultimately, any insights into anatomy are inevitably outweighed by what is seemingly part art-exhibition, part unintentional satire on human gastronomic habits played out on processed corpses. It’s all very strange and leaves you wondering what you’ve witnessed for days afterwards. To be honest, I’m still not sure.

Double N.

I had walked along the Liffey. Upto Grafton Street. Before the Guinness would be flowing. Unknowing of the judgment that would fall later that spring evening. I recall vividly the tricolours flying. The crowds of people. I turned off unknowingly into Davey Byrnes pub.

Be still as you are beautiful,
Be silent as the rose;
Through miles of starlit countryside
Unspoken worship flows

The Shelbourne Hotel. Dublin. Five stars. St. Stephens Green. A building of historical significance. Never far from the most pivotal and defining moments in Irish society. Across the busy foyer. A Friday in May. There she was. I limped across. 5’9. Heels. A leather jacket. Black pencil skirt. Flowing blonde hair. Beaming smile. Her eyes were the same colour as the glistening spring sky of blue. Like an epiphany to all my foolish blood. On that gleaming marble floor, fleeting.

Enmity and Compatibility: Revisiting The Godfather

Although it was not my intention to do so, this article is the bastard twin of the piece from last evening.

This takes a look at the relationships from The Godfather. The scene following ‘the night of the long knives’ where Michael settles the scores, Kay’s realisation and look of horror in the closing moments as she realises your man isn’t the man she was with at the beginning of the movie is vastly underrated.

Kay’s part in Michael’s transformation, and her role in the Godfather series is also vastly underrated. Most don’t appreciate how her character underpins Michael’s legacy.

We see from the introduction of the two characters in the wedding scene, where Michael is fairly unremarkable, even appearing amiable and genuine where one can assume he does have a genuine level of affection for her up until the double-murder in the restaurant which is Michael’s unwitting realisation of his true nature and identity. (It’s actually also somewhat notable that where Michael seemingly lacks self-awareness, Vito is all-of-the-time acutely aware of Michael’s true nature. Vito doesn’t want Michael to be involved in the family business and hoped he would become a senator. This has nothing to do with Michael not possessing a disposition or character entirely conducive to the family business. As Michael unwittingly scolds Kay without any sense of irony for her naivety when she tells him senators don’t have people killed. Also in the families dubious links with political figures which are mentioned on a number of occasions)

The scene in Sicily where Michael is ‘thunderstruck’ and dumbfounded by the beautiful local girl are essential within the crux of the transformation. Apollonia shadows his own Sicillian mother, who is quintessentially quiet and clement in not involving herself in her husbands affairs throughout the first two movies, until her own death. Similarly, Apollonia in personality plays a quiet, unassuming and passive role in the background as we see when they are visited by the Sicillian don. She has no interest in involving herself in her man’s affairs. Her virtuousness is in being a loving homely wife.

His reaction to seeing Kay upon his return couldn’t be more different. Kay at this point represents Michael’s idealised image of the woman he thinks he should be with as an Italian-American immigrant living the American dream. As a person, this lack of realisation and acceptance towards his own his true-identity, and his relationship with Kay which borders on using her to preserve his self-styled image as a family-man, and man of good-conscience is probably his ultimate pitfall and actually also the thing which ultimately most contrasts him from own father who for his own failings within his business is loved, respected and admired as a human-being, as through his wife he can acutely put distance between his family and his family. Although the waters may appear muddy at times, there is a clear distinction and his wife plays a pivotal role in this through her passive disinterest in the affairs of his business. For Michael, there is no such distinction, because Kay is not a woman of the same inclination, disposition or nature as his mother or Apollonia. Aswell it must be said, we see this in his murder of Carlo where the lines between the interest of his two families are deeply and irrevocably blurred beyond retrieval leading in towards Kay’s realisation in the closing moments.

On top of this in terms of relationships: his father actually quite obviously values and appreciates his wife. Michael can’t, because after Apollonia and his return to America he is simply lying to himself, about who and what kind of man he is, what his values are, and what he represents. Cinema at its finest.

Ambiguity and Compatibility: Reinventing the Tedious RomCom

The Tao of Steve plays with the premise of the RomCom. We’re all familiar with the tedium of handsome boy meets attractive girl. Nothing remarkable happens. Girl falls in love. The end.

Dex is a lothario. He is also overweight, lazy, unambitious, uninspiring. He’s certainly not looking for love. Dex is not entirely without qualities though. Dex has an impressive array of philosophical knowledge. He has also developed a profound theory for attracting women, which he calls the Tao of Steve. The premise of which can be distilled as follows: 1) be desireless. Here he quotes the Buddah. He reflects on Steve McQueen. One of a number of Steve’s who give clepe to his theory. Steve McQueen is the archetypical. Steve Austin, Steve McGarrett. The man who is not overwhelmed by his desires. A man of purpose. Of course this is not purely a characteristic of people called Steve. James Bond is a ‘Steve,’ he propagates. He is dedicated or perhaps devoted to his cause or craft. Perhaps his craft is his cause, who knows. A woman however doesn’t come in the way of this kind of single-mindedness. The focus is always on the job at hand.

The second, 2) be excellent. Dex’s excellence derives from his capacity for quoting Kierkergaard, so we presume. An ability or resounding quality. One’s usefulness, or perhaps primary cause which ties in with point one.

Thirdly, 3) be gone. The antithesis of the hapless and needy. This is the man who is accomplished, and focused on his own life and cause. There is a certain visceral selfish quality about this however. A man who is determined by his own self-amusement. Naturally in the movie, Dex meets his match and breaks his own rules. There is allusions made to Don Giovanni: a man who seduced thousands of women because he was afraid to be loved by one. Whether he gets his woman in the end, we can’t really say. An interesting premise and take on romantic attraction. The movie ends ambiguously. Does Dex have the capacity for change? That is also left unresolved.

In ‘The Lobster’ we meet a stoic, paunchy Colin Farrell in a dystopian future for the Tinder/OkCupid generation. Filmed on the stunning West Coast of Ireland, our man has just had his wife leave him. Quite a disaster in a society where not being married carries perilous consequences. As we learn when we meet his brother who has been transformed into a dog. Our man Colin has forty-five days to meet a new love from a hotel’s pool of inmates, lest he be turned into an animal of his choosing.

David (Farrell) is stripped of his clothing, and given new ones. As he’s given a new pair of shoes, we find there’s no ‘half sizes.’ It is a swipe left or right moment. Everyone is expected to fit neatly into a box, or face the consequences.

The inmates are something of a motley crew. David befriends Mr Limp (Ben Whishaw) and Mr Lisp (John C. Reilly). As the days quickly elapse, relationships form based on perception of compatibility. All relationships and the concept of compatibility in the movie are thus defined by an impediment or handicap. A perception of mutual suffering. After being unable to meet someone with a limp, Mr Limp feigns nosebleeds to be compatible with a lady who suffers this very encumbrance. David meanwhile endeavours to attract the cruel huntress Heartless Woman. He feigns being emotionally cauterised. His bluff is destroyed when he cries after she kicks his brother to death signifying the death of compatibility. This is the end of their relationship. The end of the first act. We shift from the darkly absurdist Ballardian, Wes Anderson modus vivendi into the realms of Huxley’s Brave New World.

For, in the second, David escapes into the woods where he meets a group of loners led by Spectre heroine Lea Seydoux. In the wilderness, there is a prohibition on romantic entanglement lest they face brutal consequences. Polarisation.  Naturally, it is here David falls for the short-sighted girl played by the stunning Rachel Weisz. David hunts rabbits for her, they invent their own sign language. Their relationship however goes sour when short-sighted girl becomes no-sight girl. David looks set to walk away as their compatibility through mutual suffering ends. David however vows to blind himself in order to regain their connection. It is here the screen goes black.