Doctor Who – Season 11 – Ep 03 Review

Straight off the bat, I can honestly say that ‘Rosa’ manages to be, astonishingly, the most compelling, profound and yet disappointing episode of Doctor Who I can recall off the top of my head.

I can’t recall ever being so nervous before a particular episode as I was about this one. Doctor Who since its inception has had very few stories written by women. I haven’t fact checked myself here due to the hurried nature of writing this, but I believe ‘Rosa’ is the first to be written by a black woman, and also might be the first episode to have been written by a black person, full stop. I might be wrong about that, please correct me if I am. Regardless, with the scarcity of both black and female writers in the shows history, it was somewhat disappointing and unnerving to see Chris Chibnall taking a writing credit on this. A story about Rosa Parks and by virtue of that, racism,quite simply has to be unabashedly a black story and it should be the place of a ‘black’ story, and it is the place of a black person to tell it.

With that said, I am glad that this week we finally have a reason for Ryan and Yaz finally deliver an actual reason for being there and they have one of, if not, the deepest conversations in the history of Doctor Who on their respective experiences of racism. Conversely however, after two weeks of the reverse, where the sidekicks have done little beyond acting as functions to ask Jodie Whittaker to explain the plot, whilst Jodie Whittaker also carried the story, something akin to the opposite happens this week. The role The Doctor takes in this story is an uncomfortable one. Part of this is possibly down to Chibnall’s own characterisation of this Doctor where she takes a backseat and allows the story to build around her, whilst gradually taking control of the narrative, unlike say, the ‘heroic’ and charismatic Doctor played by David Tennant or Peter Capadi’s bolshy take on the character. The  limitation of the characterisation is shown pretty much from the off, when Ryan in trying to give a woman her glove back and is aggressively slapped in the face. The Doctor’s response here of ‘we don’t want any trouble’ just doesn’t cut it. It comes across as weak and actually as a form of moral cowardice. It’s certainly far removed from this:

From here, Rosa Parks fully enters the narrative, symbolically and literally as the seamstress who fixes things, as she takes the mantle and manages this particular incident. Thus, there’s actually little reason from here why this particular episode should even require The Doctor. As indicated by the title of the episode, Rosa, is the moral centre of the story – of course this being the role that is usually occupied by The Doctor.

The Doctor’s role in the narrative subsequently comes about through the ‘villain of the week,’ which is actually an awkward fit for an episode such as this. This is a story that actually work better without The Doctor or this weeks villain who is a neutered, time travelling, racist criminal dressed like the Fonz.

This episode would and actually does work far better in the style of Russell T Davies’ ‘Midnight,’ where the villain is the irrational fears and prejudices of ordinary people. The villain it goes without saying is actually far less interesting than say the man who hits Ryan, the cop, or actually even any of the onlookers who enable the real horror at the heart of this, through their silence.

‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ – Martin Luther King Jr.

Now we get to the problem: The Doctor’s role in this unintentionally tells us something interesting about the nature of racism. The reason we ultimately know of people like Rosa Parks today, is because too many white people were moral cowards and were afraid to stand up and say when something was fundamentally and horrifically wrong in the first place.

Suffice to say, I am disappointed that what this story is ultimately about is small changes that might have a significant effect on the future. The message here fundamentally states that the people who are oppressed can’t be saved right now, but perhaps some time in the future, if they’re lucky. Further to this, they are going to endure hard and difficult lives. This views small acts of rebellion on the whole as worthwhile forms of individual action. This isn’t actually a trivial point, and in itself it’s a story worth telling. However, the problem we ultimately have here, is that by telling a historical story such as this in a mostly straight forward literal sense, it’s at odds with the whole point of a show like Doctor Who. The point being that you can put the Doctor into any story and tell a better one, the problem with this and the limitation of doing a historical story in this manner is, it doesn’t do that. It’s not like this is a completely straight forward, purely factual historical either, is it? If you’re going to insert sci-fi tropes such as time travelling racist villains trying to subvert the arc of history into the story of Rosa Parks, then I’m sure as fuck going to rip this episode apart on this same basis for fundamentally failing to use the same kind of tropes which are very much at its disposal, and failing to deliver a better story and a better message, at the end of it.

‘Rosa’ tells a story, a compelling one, but it actually doesn’t tell the kind of story that Doctor Who really should be telling. As a piece of compelling television this is a success, it’s absolutely brilliant. As a Doctor Who story it’s an absolute disaster. The story Doctor Who should be telling isn’t one where the Doctor and her sidekicks essentially sit idly by at the end as a woman achieves a small moral victory, then spends the rest of her life enduring difficulties and at best, just getting by. Again, the story of Rosa Parks is a story that SHOULD be told, but where this episode fails, and this is exclusively a failure in terms doing Rosa Parks as a Doctor Who story in this manner, is that Doctor Who SHOULD be about tearing down the very fucking fabric of a society like this and replacing it with a better one. The problem is that this is EXACTLY what the show does in pretty much every single episode, when it’s NOT dealing with real life historical figures/stories, but now we actually do have a story with real world significance, where the Doctor SHOULD be ripping this whole society apart and again, it’s far from being outside of the possibilities of the show, even in an episode about a historical figure, to demonstratively do this. Instead, what we end up with is what I’ve described above. Yes, achieving small victories is important, however, in a show where you can by definition tell any story you want, this is almost unforgivable. Watching The Doctor, the supposed moral centre of the series being complicit with racists in order to achieve a small moral victory, and then sitting idly by as a historical black woman is arrested and then just acknowledging that she spends the rest of her mortal life suffering abject difficulties can be nothing other than a failure.

There is some important symbolism to the meteor at the end, but this seems less important with regards to the proceeding point.

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The Fall of Woman – Season 11 – Ep 01 Review

Ah! gave not these two hearts their mutual pledge,
Under one mantle sheltered ‘neath the hedge
In gloaming courtship? And, O God! today
He only knows he holds her;—but what part
Can life now take? She cries in her locked heart,—
‘Leave me—I do not know you—go away!’ 

‘Found’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

It’s December 5th 2015, the story is Hell Bent, and Steven Moffat subverts the entire historical narrative of Doctor Who to being about a woman who steals a TARDIS from Gallifrey and runs away. This is also the moment the often derided Moffat era for all intents and purposes ends, (the functional end was actually a week prior on November 28th 2015) and it is also the final dance for the often (unfairly) disliked Clara Oswald. Contrary to widely held belief, with the end of Clara’s arc, this is where the Jodie Whittaker era of Doctor Who actually begins.

This is probably a somewhat unpopular idea, but I’ve always thought the idea of basically just creating a new character who is at the very least the equal of the Doctor (Say, Clara), who stands on her own merits and having her run around having her own adventures is a far more interesting, inspiring and appealing idea than the prospect of a female Doctor (certainly one being penned by Chibnall). Which is not remotely to say I was against the idea of a female Doctor in terms of its significance and what that represents in terms with of the broader picture, just that I’ve been less than the inspired by how I’ve always imagined the actual execution of it will work out in practice.

If we consider Heaven Sent as the functional end of the Moffat era of Doctor Who, which it undoubtedly is, the December 5th 2015 episode Hell Bent thus stands on its own merits, as it isn’t so much Doctor Who as ‘Clara Who’ which is actually a line Moffat even squeezes in. At this point, I couldn’t help but think that I would have actually much preferred Doctor Who just to end at this point and instead watch an entirely new show about Clara and Me, than sit through season 10 and beyond.

It’s October 7th 2018. It is the debut of Jodie Whittaker, and the dawn of the Chibnall era.  It is difficult to reconcile the notion that in story terms this takes place moments after the end of ‘Twice Upon a Time.’ Everything is wildly different. It’s a much darker and serious place. Quite literally, as Jodie Whittaker eventually falls through the roof of a train with no power, unscathed. She immediately sets about defining herself by what she does rather than the kind of person she would like to be. She is straight into general problem solving and doing Doctor stuff rather than narcissistic navel gazing over such matters as whether she is, ‘a good man.’ This is a welcome shift. What she does is her identity. Thus she describes the person who she is in functional terms, through how she feels, ‘Bit of adrenaline, dash of outrage, and a hint of panic.’ Or the brilliant, ‘Right now, I’m a stranger to myself. There’s echoes of who I was and a sort of call towards who I am. And I have to hold my nerve and trust all these new instincts. Shape myself towards them. I’ll be fine. In the end. Hopefully. I have to be. Because you guys need help. ‘Cause there’s one thing I’m certain of, when people need help, I never refuse. Right. This is going to be fun!’ and by her actions and intentions when she gives her big speech, ‘Sorting out fair play across the universe.’ She’s also more empathetic than any previous itineration of the character. In contrast to David Tennant’s ‘I’m sorry I’m so so sorry’ catchphrase, her apologies are actually focused on specific things, starting with the touching ‘I’m sorry you had to see that’ and her thanks to Grace for attending to it. Suffice to say, while there’s nothing that is particularly great yet there are plenty of nice little moments here.

Jodie Whittaker’s first scene in this is an interesting one actually. As mentioned, she crash lands in to the carriage of a train. What’s fascinating about this is how the story makes play of the furore about The Doctor being a woman. At the end of the last episode after the regeneration, the TARDIS rejects her, it doesn’t recognise her as The Doctor. The TARDIS is of course fundamentally at the heart of the show and the TARDIS and The Doctor are actually inextricably linked. At this point, and this is beautifully meta, the show does not accept her as being The Doctor. So following this, she crash lands in a train carriage. Symbolically of course, the dark train carriage is the belly of the whale.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell says this about the belly of the whale:

‘It’s the descent into the dark… that’s a standard motif of going into the whale’s belly and coming out again.

The whale represents the personification, you might say, of all that is in the unconscious… The creature (..) would be the dynamism of the unconscious, which is dangerous and powerful and has to be controlled by consciousness.

The first stage in the hero adventure, when he starts off on adventure, is leaving the realm of light, which he controls and knows about. and moving toward the threshold. And it’s at the threshold that the monster of the abyss comes to meet him. And then there are two or three results: one, the hero is cut to pieces and descends into the abyss in fragments, to be resurrected; or he may kill the dragon power, as Siegfried does when he kills the dragon. But then he tastes the dragon blood, that is to say, he has to assimilate that power. And when Siegfried has killed the dragon and tasted the blood, he hears the song of nature; he has transcended his humanity, you know, and reassociated himself with the powers of nature, which are the powers of our life, from which our mind removes us.’

Fundamentally, this is the first step towards her becoming The Doctor. Suffice to say, she handles it brilliantly. Of course in terms of the historical context of the show, The Doctor isn’t actually The Doctor until he/she has the TARDIS and secondly, faces the Daleks. I wouldn’t actually be surprised if the latter surface in the special at Christmas, a few days after the end of the season. Holding off on both in terms of the narrative isn’t actually a bad move.

This is undoubtedly Chibnall’s best Doctor Who story which comes as a relief. Again, it’s not amazing, the beginning has some frankly odd build up, the pacing gets a little bit weird in places, but in fairness to Chibnall, praise is due for holding a narrative such as this together with out completely fucking it up. Suffice to say, putting together a story in this manner without it completely falling apart is actually more complex than it appears. It does what it is supposed to do and builds up anticipation for the next episode. Curiously, there are very few nods to past episodes beyond the cursory mention of Capaldi, however I did like one unintentional nod back to the original series: Rather than seducing the companions and getting them on board the TARDIS (as a side note, presumably the TARDIS will just show up at the start of the next episode, as time travelling without it just kind of cheapens the whole point of that aspect of the show) with the subsequent arc being something akin to self-actualisation, here, in the style of the original series, we have Jodie Whittaker effectively kidnap her group of sidekicks. That actually has a surprising amount of potential.

It’s still fairly unclear where this is all going, but again, this episode achieved what it set out to do.

Also, bonus points for Tim Shaw and the music and theme at the end.

Three stars.

The Night of Crisis Part One

Of the themes I’m currently most interested in is the concept of the night of crisis or, the dark night of the soul. This is a motif that is extremely common across literature and mythology. This is an incident or event that subsequently leads a character on the path to greater realisation or the wholeness of being. When I was a child one of my favourite works was The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, and I also loved the film which incidentally Ende hated because he believed it deviated too far from his original novel and he attempted to sue the producers. Still, both the novel and the movie both address the night of crisis, and nonetheless, Ende said this:

“This is a story of a boy who loses his whole interior world, which basically is his mythical world, during the night of a crisis – a life crisis. It just disappears into nowhere and he has to face this nothing, this nowhere and that is what we Europeans, too, have to do. We have gotten rid of all the values we once had and now we have to face that, we have to bravely jump in order to be able to create something again, to create a new (…) set of values”

This is commonly occurring in literature, in everything from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno to James Joyce’s Ulysses, which subsequent entries will look at. Today however, is about what happens when the night of crisis doesn’t manifest itself in the atypically heroic way.

I regularly bring this up: one of my favourite movies is actually The Godfather III which I think for its faults which I don’t actually deny, is the most feasibly brilliant conclusion to The Godfather saga. I’ve mentioned this in at least one previous entry, and I believe have alluded to the fact on a number of other occasions. Michael’s journey in the series is the antithesis of most biblical, mythical and literary transformations, where a person will go through the dark night of the soul and reach a higher level of being. Michael’s journey does nonetheless however, lead him to the true nature of his becoming. In the first scene he is a soldier, a war hero in uniform. A chain of events will lead him to lose his uniform and assume his true face. The character of Kay, who he shares this first scene with is pivotal to understanding his becoming. Michael discusses his family, most notably his father and discusses the nature of power.

Michael Corleone: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed!
Michael Corleone: Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?

We will learn it is Michael who is being naive.

Later, his father will tell him:

Vito Corleone: I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life – I don’t apologize – to take care of my family, and I refused to be a fool, dancing on the string held by all those bigshots. I don’t apologize – that’s my life – but I thought that, that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the string. Senator Corleone; Governor Corleone. Well, it wasn’t enough time, Michael. It wasn’t enough time.
Michael: We’ll get there, pop. We’ll get there.

Despite Michael’s remarks at the beginning of the movie – and this will be a theme throughout the three movies – this is what is at the heart of his downfall: Michael strives for what he considers legitimacy. However, his notion of legitimacy is indubitably flawed by his failure to recognise the true nature of himself and he is fundamentally unable to grasp the gaping flaw in his own value system. Unless he is able to recognise this: that legitimacy and murder in his World will always go hand and hand, that the two notions in his mind are inextricably linked. Thus, Vito is actually always fully aware of Michael’s true nature, Michael is unable to recognise it. Vito ultimately succeeds as a result of his own self-acceptance and is able to die happily in his garden with his grandchild and family close by.

The character of Kay actually underpins Michael’s legacy. From the introduction of the two characters in the wedding scene, where Michael is fairly unremarkable, even appearing amiable and genuine. He does seem to have a genuine level of affection for her. This carries on up until the double-murder in the restaurant which is Michael’s unwitting realisation of his true nature and identity. Again, where Michael seemingly lacks self-awareness, Vito is at all times acutely aware of Michael’s true nature. Vito doesn’t want Michael to be involved in the family business. He had 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. On the contrary. Again, at the very start of the movie, Michael unwittingly scolds Kay without any sense of irony for her naivety when she tells him senators don’t have people killed. Not to mention the Corleone family’s dubious links with political figures which are mentioned on numerous occasions.

The scene in Sicily where Michael is thunderstruck by the beautiful local girl is essential in order to understand the crux of his transformation. Apollonia is the shadow of his own Sicillian mother, who is quiet, clement and doesn’t involve herself in her husbands affairs. Similarly, Apollonia plays a quiet, unassuming and passive role in the background, such as when they are visited by the Sicillian don. She has no interest in involving herself in Michael’s affairs. Her virtue is in being a loving homely wife. After her death Michael returns to America.

Michael’s reaction to seeing Kay upon his return, couldn’t be more different. Kay 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 can be read as actually using her to preserve his self-styled image as a family-man, and man of good-conscience is his ultimate pitfall. It’s also the thing which demonstrates his biggest contrast from own father. Vito, for all of his own failings within his business is loved, respected and actually admired as a human-being. Through his wife, Vito 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’s no distinction, because Kay is not a woman of the same inclination, disposition or nature as his mother or Apollonia. When he has Carlo murdered, the lines between the interests of his two families are deeply and irrevocably blurred, leading towards Kay’s realisation in the closing moments.

On top of this in terms of relationships: his father quite obviously values and appreciates his wife. Michael can’t. After Apollonia and his return to America he is simply lying to himself, about who and what kind of man he is. As a result of his sense of self being completely corrupt through his own lack of self-awareness, as are his values.

This carries on into the third movie, and as an aside, in terms of contextually, Copolla’s ill fated decision to cast his own daughter as the naive Mary was beautifully meta. As Wilde said, ‘Life imitates art, far more than art imitates life.’

My favourite scene in Godfather III is Michael’s conversation with Cardinal Lamberto in the ornate garden:

Walking by stone pillars and fountains surrounded by pigeons, Michael explains his Vatican problem to Lamberto. Agreeing how this is scandalous, the priest reaches into the fountain and pulls out a stone. “Look at this stone,” he says. “It has been lying in the water for a very long time. But the water has not penetrated it.” He breaks the stone open, showing it to Michael. It’s dry. Michael motions into his pockets, then pulls them out, unsteady. Lamberto continues. “The same thing has happened with men in Europe. For centuries, they have been surrounded by Christianity. But Christ has not penetrated it. Christ does not live within them.”

Lamberto is describing more than Catholic Europe; he’s explaining Michael to himself. As Lamberto outlines Christendom, Michael collapses on a bench and loosens his tie. He whispers that he needs some candy or orange juice. Coppola begins this conversation in a full two-shot, then slowly moves in on Michael as he falls, not cutting away while he struggles to keep his breath, diminished to a child in oversized adult clothing. The candy and juice is quickly brought out, and Michael thirstily, with uncharacteristic desperation, quaffs the juice and shakily tears open the candy wrappers, eating ravenously, some residual pulp on his lip. He reaches to the Cardinal’s arm. “When I’m under stress sometimes this happens.” In the same way that John Cazale’s depiction of mental shame is achingly real, so is Pacino’s depiction of diabetic affliction. Lamberto points out that afflictions of the body and the soul are connected. “The mind suffers…and the body cries out.”

Coppola cuts to a close up of Michael, agreeing, then back to the sympathizing Lamberto. “Would you like to make your confession?” Michael is flabbergasted. “Your Eminence…I’m…I’m…it’s been so long…I wouldn’t know where to…it’s been thirty years…I’d take up too much of your time.” Lamberto keeps smiling. “I always have time to save souls.” By contrast, taking time to confess sins was something that Gilday joked about earlier in the film, when Harrison visited after Michael’s stroke. “Well, I’m beyond redemption,” Michael says. Lamberto waves his hand dismissively.

Michael’s diabetic affliction leads to his confession to Cardinal Lamberto.

Cutting to another space in the square, with an abundance of vines and pink flowers in the foreground, Lamberto enters the frame. “I hear the confessions of my own priests here. Sometimes the desire to confess is overwhelming. And we must seize the moment.” Cut to Michael, still walled away from anyone, the plants obscuring him. He voices his logic: “What is the point of confessing if I don’t repent?”

Lamberto humors Michael. “I hear you are a practical man. What have you got to lose?” An appeal to Michael’s rationality is the only way to break him open. Cut to Michael in close-up, the left side of the frame covered with dark plants, the plants in front of Michael in full color, texturing the angle on his face (and possibly suggesting Lear and the mad king’s crown of flowers). He forces a smile, looking at the ground. “Go on,” Lamberto says.

Both men are in full view on the outer edge of the pillars, buffered by sculpted vegetation. “I betrayed my wife.” “Go on, my son.” A distant church bell. “I betrayed myself.” A pause. “I killed men.” The church bell. Frontal shadowy close-up on Lamberto’s face from within the pillars. He nods. Michael continues, “And I ordered men to be killed.” “Go on, my son, go on.” A long pause. “It’s useless.” Back to Michael in a profile close-up, his eyes fluttering and his mouth agape. “I killed –” he stops a moment, refashioning his words. “I ordered the death of my brother.” Looking down, his face breaks up. “He injured me.” He looks up for air, beginning to weep. “I killed my mother’s son.” Cut to a two shot from within the pillars, the two men separated by a thick block of foliage. “I killed my father’s son.” Michael has lost his bearings. Lamberto slowly turns to him, not surprised.

“Your sins are terrible. And it is just that you suffer. Your life could be redeemed. But I know you do not believe that.” He issues the damning statement, “You will not change.” Cut back to the close-up of Lamberto from within the pillars. He blesses Michael. The redemption Michael seeks is right in front of him, but he, as a logical businessman, will remain dry as the stone in the fountain. Cut back to Michael’s head in close-up, the plants covering up his shame as he has buried his face.

This magnificent moment in Godfather III, so well played by Pacino and Vallone, and lushly shot by Gordon Willis, could be the focal scene in the whole trilogy. The parable of Lamberto transcends a Catholic priest’s lament. Closed off as Michael is, his pain is apposite. To fully absolve himself would mean to do something that he, as a “practical man,” could never do. Like the corrupt officials in the Vatican, he too will “play for time,” the “habit born of the long contemplation of eternity.” Stressing this despairing point, Coppola cuts from Michael’s face within the foliage-embraced pillars to St. Peter’s in Rome, where the Vatican is obscured by pillars from within. Bells signal the Pope’s death. The long contemplation of sin and redemption with the always-there abyss of eternity present can end too soon: as Vito discovered (and it’s a recurring idea in many other Coppola films), “there wasn’t enough time.” 

Later, Michael sits with Connie, his criminal enabler. He admits, “All my life I wanted to go up in society. Where everything higher was legal, straight. But the higher I go, the more crooked it becomes. Where the hell does it end?” While handling his insulin shot, Michael diagnoses the illness of Sicilian’s ancient culture, of murder for pride and family. As he injects, he tells Connie that he confessed his sins, something for which she chides him. She reminds him, perhaps full well knowing the truth of what happened in 1959, that “poor Fredo” drowned. “It was a terrible accident. But it’s finished,” she says. Michael’s illness must be confronted, not nursed with more duplicity.

The Christ that Lamberto refers to is of course a metaphorical one. It is recognition and acceptance of the self. Only after acceptance has taken place, can we change and rise anew. This is the metaphor of the crucifixion. It is only when Jesus recognises that God – the father – has forsaken him, at the point when he is at his most mortal and vulnerable can he transcend to the divine essence. This is the scene which seals Michael’s fate. After this scene, Michael has to die. He falls, in Sicily, quite literally thousands of miles from America and the American dream he sought, but in line with the archaic Sicilian values he would not recognise within himself, with no family in sight. Broken and withered. Without recognition of his true self, he won’t be missed.

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.

Naturally Born

I have a dubious relationship with contemporary art. By which I mean that I generally dislike all contemporary art, but as a general concept I love it. This is essentially due to the notion of alchemy – turning the ordinary into something extraordinary or using it as a means of representation for something greater than itself.

The best contemporary art exhibition I ever saw was at the Baltic in Newcastle around 2005.

I used to have a poster of this on my bedroom wall when I was 18.

It was an exhibition of the work of Edward and Nancy Kienholz. It was a collection of free-standing environmental tableauxs. Kienholz’ assemblages were of found objects – the detritus of modern existence, often consisting of figures cast from life. It was vulgar, brutal, and gruesome. The idea was to confront the viewer with questions about human existence and the inhumanity of twentieth-century society. This was largely achieved. While on one hand these were mostly a graphic and almost Ballardian commentary on the nature of the American dream, there was also The Hoerengracht. On the surface, this was Kienholz’ visual representation of Amsterdam.

As you walked through The Hoerengracht, full of garishly lit alleyways and tacky, seedy, run-down rooms, the joke was that by viewing the exhibition, you became part of the grungy, sordid, voyeuristic spectacle.

I was reminded of this tonight as I was watching Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. I honestly think it’s one of my favourite movies. It is so good on every level: amazing cinematography, editing and storytelling. It is all here. If, as a career path, Kienholz had opted for film-making rather than creating tableauxs, I suspect you’d end up with something fairly similar. A movie that starts by driving through a psychotropic collection of images of America, but is set up and presented in such a way, that the viewer is watching Mickey and Mallory watch a movie. So you in turn become part of the spectacle, because what you have here from the off the is a the story that is overtly built around cinema as a medium.

I suppose you could do a negative reading of this movie in which it is simply an extended bit of nasty sadism and torture porn, but that would lead to an interesting commentary in itself, as the year this movie was released, 1994, was the year the World Wide Web was born. In the movie itself, there is a very clear link between sex and television in terms of the depiction of Mallory’s abuse at the hands of her father. As the World Wide Web is still being born, we’re at the point in history where the link between television and pornography is still growing, and hasn’t yet been usurped by the internet. It’s ’94 and we have VCR, which means that television isn’t just simply a broadcast medium but a medium of storage and replaying. Which means, of course, that it’s possible to have pornography on it. In practice, though, most of the pornography that could still actually be easily obtained at the time was scarcely what you would consider pornography by 2018 standards – it was mostly soft-core titillations. More common throughout the rise of VCR was cheap, dirty, and violent movies, dubbed ‘video nasties.’ So in turn, the movie is at once transgressing against these kinds of ‘video nasties’ of the eighties, while alluding to the every increasing public fascination with celebrity, sex, violence and what is to come in the form of the internet. Interestingly, in terms of sex, celebrity and video, arguably the most famous example would arrive the following year in the form of the Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson sex tape, when the medium would reach its zenith (nadir?). Natural Born Killers is a fascinating insight into this time period, as it stands at the precipice of a new era. This isn’t actually a film about two mass murderers. It’s a film about us and how we consume media, and how in turn a veritable buffet of mindless sex, violence and celebrity becomes a consumer product. Like Kienholz’s tableaux, and this is evident from the very first shot of the movie, through viewing we become part of the spectacle.

God’s Real Name was God

As I write this, I’m in bed watching a documentary called ‘The Trials of Henry Kissinger.’ This is based on the book of the same name by Christopher Hitchens. The proposition being that it is a case for a prosecution, charging Kissinger with crimes against humanity: The result of a man’s worldview being shaped by a desire for power, moulded through the destruction of innocent life rather than through acts of creation. Preceding this, I had watched a talk with Hitchens, which was mostly notable for his comments on the human condition in relation to religion, namely that man has a desire to be ‘told what to do.’ However, as Blake said, there are some who do wish to shake off the ‘mind forged manacles.’

As I walked down by the riverside
One evening in the spring
Heard a long gone song
From days gone by
Blown in on the great North wind
Though there is no lonesome corncrake’s cry
Of sorrow and delight
You can hear the cars
And the shouts from bars
And the laughter and the fights
May the ghosts that howled
Round the house at night
Never keep you from your sleep
May they all sleep tight
Down in hell tonight
Or wherever they may be

From this, I consider six paintings I had been looking at earlier in the day:

More than any other form of human expression, art is the barometer that lays bare a period’s view of reality, of life, of man. A work of art reflects its creator’s fundamental ideas and value-judgments, held consciously or subconsciously. Since most artists are not independent theoreticians, but absorb their basic ideas from the prevaling consensus (or some faction within it), their work becomes a microcosm embodying and helping to spread further the kinds of beliefs advocated by that consensus.

‘The Spiritual form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan.’ Man as a tyrannical warmonger in the biblical style. This one strikes me as being absurdly ironic. The destroyer as a saint. One could imagine a more modern inversion of this with someone like Kissinger. Incidentally, Leviathan appears in the Book of Job in the Old Testament. Job is an investigation of divine justice, which we will get to, momentarily.

‘Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils.’ This is an interesting painting. God is the creator of all things. God is the creator of Satan. Thus, there can no good or evil, as all is the creation of God, and all of God’s creation is good. There is an interesting passage in the New Testament. One also, that the cynic in me finds highly amusing. Paul to the Romans 11:32. ‘God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that he may have mercy on all.’ The concept of Hell, doesn’t appear in the Old Testament, it only appears in the New Testament. If there is to be a Hell, it can only be an extension of God’s creation and be entirely, mercifully of God’s own design. We move to the design image when we can begin to see God in all things. Further to this, Balzac said, Man is neither good nor bad; he is born with instincts and capabilities; society, far from depraving him, asserts and improves him, makes him better; but self-interest also develops his evil tendencies. Out of this, man created organised religion, which is a complete system for the repression of these very tendencies. It is also the most powerful element of social order. Curiously, therefore, from our view, Christianity can be considered both the best and worst thing to happen to the West. For example, Christianity created modern nationalities, and it is through Christianity that they are preserved. All the Gods have died of their temporality. So what will happen when these shackles of organised religion and the social order it brings are shaken off? History has shown, man will just create new ones in their place. This might be considered unfortunate. History is, or ought to be, what it was; while romance ought to be the ‘better world.’ For everything to stay the same, everything must change.

It was very big to think about everything and everywhere. Only God could do that. He tried to think what a big thought that must be; but he could only think of God. God was God’s name just as his name was Stephen. Dieu was the French for God and that was God’s name too; and when anyone prayed to God and said Dieu then God knew at once that it was a French person that was praying. But, though there were different names for God in all the different languages in the world and God understood what all the people who prayed said in their different languages, still God remained always the same God and God’s real name was God.

This is the inversion of the theme. Where woman is god and is responsible for all of creation and its manifestations. This one has its roots in the Garden of Eden, where the original sin was human consciousness. Woman as the giver of life is therefore responsible for the creation of consciousness. From reading the Old Testament, what I have taken from it is that Genesis symbolically represents the birth of human consciousness. Specifically, the tree and the apple represent the foundation of the central nervous system – further to this, consciousness and the ability to abstract is what separates man from nature, and that is the sin in the Garden of Eden. The separation of humans from nature via consciousness. We can try and impose order over nature with words and symbols but it isn’t possible to do so. Thus, ironically, it is our hunger for knowledge and desire to understand that causes us to lose touch with the essence. Incidentally this is also why I have an abiding interest in Taoism, because Taoism gives the reason why that it is. God is ineffable. It is impossible for any human to understand and know the divine source. We can only use symbols as a way to allow us a glimpse of the true essence of the divine. Hence in Taoism, once you refer to the Tao as Tao, it ceases to be the real Tao as words are purely man made constructs and symbols, thus they can never capture the true essence of a thing.

Here is more of my favourite theme: ‘The Promise’ and ‘The Sleeping Fool’ by Cecil Collins. Here we see the artist beneath the tree of life, the dawning of consciousness and the act of creation. Or, again, man as god or as the creator, through his art.

Here we have ‘Landscape of the Threshold’ by Cecil Collins. This one interested me as in this painting, the Holy Trinity act as a barrier to reaching the divine Godhead. Of course, despite the apparent protestations of the trinity here, the Godhead is always present. Heaven wheels above you, displaying to you her eternal glories, and still your eyes are on the ground. The Trinity appears across most world religions and philosophies. For example, in Taoism, the trinity comes in the form of the three treasures or, the three jewels which are compassion, frugality and humility. In Tibetan Buddhism there are three refuge formulations, the Outer, Inner, and Secret forms of the Three Jewels. The ‘Outer’ form is the ‘Triple Gem,’ the ‘Inner’ is the Three Roots and the ‘Secret’ form is the ‘Three Bodies’ or trikaya of a Buddha.

For things to remain the same, everything must change / BlacKkKlansman

I was interested to see BlacKkKlansman. It’s an interesting take on a real life story. Being a Spike Lee movie, it’s a quirky, well made movie. It is essentially Mississippi Burning millennials. I found the parts effectively equating David Duke with Donald Trump to lack any kind of subtlety and to be fairly trite and predictable in what was an otherwise good movie. Unlike Duke, Trump is not an ideologue. That said, Duke has also had the savviness at several points throughout his career to try and disassociate himself from extremist groups in a less haphazard than Trump’s blundering comments on Charlottesville for example. Sadly, as a result, most people will just take this at face value as being an anti-Trump movie, rather than look at the interesting things this movie has to say about heritage, the nature of extremist groups and the relationship of those groups within a form of material dialectics, where extremes breed extremes as a reaction to said extremism. This has historically always been the case. If we look back across the last century, second World War fascism was given rise as a reaction to communism in Eastern Europe, or in Britain, Thatcherism and the rise of the individual was a reaction to the power of the trade unions.

It was Hegel who first propagated the theory that would come to be appropriated, developed and known through a man who should never be mentioned in polite civilised society as the materialistic conception of history. It simply means in laymans terms, that the economic, or broadly speaking, the trade conditions existing in the world, determine the way in which the production of wealth must work. One could also pontificate, that this ‘working out of production’ goes so far as to even determine what the social, ethical and religious considerations shall be. However, it is recognised that economic conditions don’t stagnate, they are always in a state of evolution. Inevitably, they will come into collision with the previous social, ethical and religious state of affairs. What we will consider the previous state of affairs however, will not simply die and go away without a struggle, consequently react, in doing so, limiting the extent of the material evolution which is going on. At the risk of leaving myself open to objections, I have given this principle as fully as I can, within a short space in order to provide context and a background.

So in BlacKkKlansman, at the start of the movie, when Ron is sent undercover, Spike Lee effectively sets up the movie by foreshadowing and explicitly displaying that the Black Panthers – as a reaction to white oppression and historical injustice – are proposing a form of reaction that is every bit as violent and as extreme as the ‘program’ that will be put forward by the KKK throughout the movie. This is made even more explicit throughout the movie through the use of Ron’s Jewish coworker Flip going undercover in the Klan.

This subsequently leads to probably the best and most understated moment in the entire movie, where Flip discusses with Ron his Jewish identity. Flip is a non-conforming Jew, while Judaism is his heritage, he tells Ron he has never even had a Barmitzvah. Infact, in practically every sense Flip has never actually lived his life as a Jew, he has effectively spent his entire life essentially conforming more to a form of white Anglo-Saxon culture – the same kind of culture the Klan seek to affirm through their opprobrium and hatred of blacks, Jews, Catholics and other minorities – and only as a result of the opprobrium and hatred of the Klan towards Judaism, does he begin to come to terms with his own Jewish identity.

This is actually something I’m entirely familiar with. Coming from an Irish Catholic background, truth be told, I never actually gave a shit about my Irish heritage,  the Irish question or Catholicism in any practical sense until I encountered hatred towards the Irish, Catholics, was called a ‘Fenian bastard,’ and was told by a group of people with a UVF flag that they’d happily kill me because I’m a ‘taig.’

While somewhat ironically, Irish Republicanism actually has its roots in the protestant reformation, modern Irish Republicanism shares a curious relationship with the American black civil rights movement. After the partition of Ireland into two mean-spirited states, Irish nationalists in the north were subjected to gerrymandering, deprived of the right to vote, deprived of jobs, housing and opportunities and in every sense were subjected to gross inequalities simply because they weren’t protestants. In the 1960’s, inspired by the civil rights protests Irish nationalists in the north of Ireland began protesting against the inequalities, as a response from the Protestant and unionist communities, rioting began, Irish nationalists were burned out of their homes and driven from their communities, and it was from this that the Troubles began. The Provisional IRA were born out of a necessity to defend the nationalist communities. So it’s interesting to see the correlation. That’s why I always find it hilarious that late 20th century Irish politics is put down to religion. Catholics, Protestants, religion doesn’t come into it. I aways think of the scene in the ornate garden in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part 3:

The most important scene in Godfather III is Michael’s conversation with Cardinal Lamberto. Walking by stone pillars and fountains surrounded by pigeons, Michael explains his Vatican problem to Lamberto. Agreeing how this is scandalous, the priest reaches into the fountain and pulls out a stone. “Look at this stone,” he says. “It has been lying in the water for a very long time. But the water has not penetrated it.” He breaks the stone open, showing it to Michael. It’s dry. Michael motions into his pockets, then pulls them out, unsteady. Lamberto continues. “The same thing has happened with men in Europe. For centuries, they have been surrounded by Christianity. But Christ has not penetrated it. Christ does not live within them.”

Lamberto is describing more than Catholic Europe; he’s explaining Michael to himself. As Lamberto outlines Christendom, Michael collapses on a bench and loosens his tie. He whispers that he needs some candy or orange juice. Coppola begins this conversation in a full two-shot, then slowly moves in on Michael as he falls, not cutting away while he struggles to keep his breath, diminished to a child in oversized adult clothing. The candy and juice is quickly brought out, and Michael thirstily, with uncharacteristic desperation, quaffs the juice and shakily tears open the candy wrappers, eating ravenously, some residual pulp on his lip. He reaches to the Cardinal’s arm. “When I’m under stress sometimes this happens.” In the same way that John Cazale’s depiction of mental shame is achingly real, so is Pacino’s depiction of diabetic affliction. Lamberto points out that afflictions of the body and the soul are connected. “The mind suffers…and the body cries out.”

Or as Michael will later say, “For things to remain the same, everything must change.” 

INTJ Cinema

Prior to doing my post on James Joyce which I alluded to in the last entry, I thought prior to getting into that it would be interesting to have a quick look into MBTI and INTJ’s and how they are portrayed in cinema and other media.

I don’t think it’s actually worthwhile spending much time trying to ascertain the types of fictional characters. For a variety of reasons, and often in order to serve the narrative the  type you ascertain for any character could and will often fluctuate quite dramatically in order to serve the purposes of the narrative. This is a portentous way of saying fictional characters usually don’t reflect how the overwhelming majority of people behave in real life. However, it can be fun as an exercise and as discussed here it can be instructive as one means of gaining a broader understanding of authorial intent, directors, producers and a meta-understanding of the work, and so on. When thinking about how I was going to go about doing this post, I considered a few different options but having mentioned INTJ writers and directors previously, I thought it would be interesting to look at another one: Christopher Nolan.

I got thinking about how in many Nolan movies, they’ll be laden with INTJ characters and even minor supporting characters will often be only slight variations of this theme – I mean, that’s without even going into Inception (I will at some point do a post on this), which is literally a love note to introverted intuition. INTJ’s as introverted intuitives want to dwell in the subconscious. The whole debate about whether the totem falls at the end of the movie is to deftly miss the point. It’s immaterial. The subconscious and its many layers is to the INTJ as real as outward physical reality.

At the very least, you’ll find them to be predominantly xxTJ. As an example, I was considering how Nolan’s vision of Bruce Wayne/Batman is rather unsurprisingly an INTJ. Suffice to say, Nolan’s Batman is big on symbolism. He wears the Bat-suit, here reimagined as military gear – a super-flexible lightweight armoured fabric, to be a symbol and an idea. The crucial abstraction is that this Batman isn’t so much fighting actual criminals as fighting the idea of crime and fear.

So we have a character that is an abstract symbol fighting abstract ideas. For any talk of gritty realism, the only thing that is really grounding Nolan’s narrative in anything resembling reality is an underlying theme that social problems are best solved by the intervention of powerful and virtuous rich men. Suffice to say, I’m not much of a fan of Nolan’s neo-liberal politics in these movies, but we’re about to get on to addressing why this is important.

It seems futile to put off getting to Heath Ledger’s Joker. My reading of the Joker is that he’s also an INTJ with Ni gone awry. For what it’s worth, there is a really good reading here which has him as an ENTP and makes a strong rational argument as to why. Still, as I said at the beginning of this, MBTI typing fictional characters is a futile but fun exercise useful mostly as a means of ascertaining meaning to authorial intent, it’s interesting what the Joker tells us about Nolan. Nolan’s Joker is interesting in that he offers an actual ideological difference to Batman. Batman represents a world ruled by militarised power wedded to an incorruptible symbol, The Joker represents on one level what is ostensibly Nolan’s view of the left: that they stand in opposition to his primary world view, intent on tearing it down, but they don’t actually have anything tangible and constructive to put in its place. Hence, ‘Some men just like to watch the world burn.’ Interestingly however, this isn’t necessarily the critique that it appears on the surface. Certainly when you consider this in juxtaposition with The Joker’s experiment: the schmaltzy sequence with the two boats, this actually posits the suggestion that the Joker is at the very least redeemable. Further to this, Gotham, as imagined by Nolan, actually makes a strong case for anarchism. When the world is wholly corrupt and the only apparent alternative is violent authoritarianism, burning it down is an entirely rational response. The sensible points of disagreement with the Joker are thus over his tactics, not his goals. Still, Nolan’s conservative instincts prove too strong, conservative and thus the second part of Nolan’s trilogy ends with a defence of the importance of mass surveillance when implemented by suitably benevolent overlords. It was never going to pay off the possibilities of this Joker. However…

At the tangential level, this trilogy is an unruly mess. The Joker actually pretty much represents the structure of the trilogy in macrocosm. By the final movie Nolan simply loses control of it all and it becomes a sprawling tangle of competing ambitions that doesn’t know what it wants to do even as, if at any given moment, what it’s doing, it’s doing well. This is unusual for Nolan, as generally his movies will employ a puzzle-box structure, operate across multiple frames of reality, or in the case of Dunkirk utilise a non-linear narrative structure across three separate timelines. (That last link about Nolan’s work is a fun read. It is basically INTJ life in a nutshell. ‘A common theme… is the conversion of people themselves into puzzles … for its audience to solve.’ Not that this is in anyway what this blog does or attempts to resolve.)

As mentioned at the start of this, MBTI is not something that can deftly and cleanly profile fictional characters. As fictional characters they will generally have to at some point defy the archetypes they represent or more accurately they will fluctuate into other archetypes in order to serve the purposes of the narrative. (An interesting example of this in other media would be Doctor Who. The actual archetype of the character due to its conceptual nature on paper is INTP, yet the character in practise has been practically everything but. However, I would speculate that this is because Doctor Who has never had an INTP show-runner. I would be curious to know how many INTP’s actually watch Doctor Who without considering the whole thing to be silly. Personally, I primarily enjoy it as it is a format that conceptually lends itself to telling absolutely any story, and thus being a story about telling stories. I also like it as conceptually lending itself to being a show about ideas. I’ve never had any interest in it from the atypical sci-fi level as I cannot for the life of me understand how you can illicit any kind of enjoyment from listening to someone reel off nonsensical technobabble and scientific sounding phrases which make absolutely no sense at all.)

Nonetheless, this is definitely the case with Bane, who at once takes up a role that much of it seems on the surface to have been intended for Heath Ledger’s Joker, instead we’re left with a character who shifts from a freedom-fighter with an elaborate plan to a qlippothic brute to an anarchic revolutionary to the archetype of the most tedious totalitarian scheming villain depending on which narrative purposes require serving at the time. This is the most profound example of why typing fictional characters doesn’t work. Sometimes they are just, like this, composites of various archetypes designed because circumstances dictate them necessary such as in this instance of Heath Ledger’s Joker no longer being an option, and/or it’s a more expedient way of handling logistics or moving the narrative along with out to much fuss or otherwise completely fucking up the pacing.

No less telling is the characterisation of Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. This is interesting because I think how men write their female characters is probably just on some level reflective of how they see women in general, and provides some indication as to what they consider to be their ideal partner. I’m a big fan of Anne Hathaway and her performance here, nonetheless, the actual character itself at once demonstrates the same basic revolutionary instincts as Bane, proclaiming early in the film that “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” Thus, her arc offers a secondary engagement with the politics of a violent overthrowing of the rich. Taken this way, her story ends up being firmly against class war, her early politics from early in the movie abandoned in favour of running away with a billionaire at the movies end. Like Nolan’s own instincts across the three movies, conservatism wins the day. While the composite archetype of Catwoman is pretty much anything but, if we were to look at Catwoman as something of a Mary Sue, you’d be left with thinking that Nolan’s ideal partner is somewhere between independent and idealistic and ruthlessly pragmatic, like, oh, I dunno, say, an ENTP.  Who knew that’s what INTJ’s were into.

The World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls – Critical Review

Doctor Who fans can mostly, certainly not always, be defined by either their love of stories involving monsters, bases under siege and running through corridors or their love for David Tennant and floppy haired Matt Smith. My own personal love of the show stems from the fact that at its very heart is a show about ideas and telling stories. From this angle, I personally believe that the ‘Moffat era’ of Doctor Who is the greatest in the shows history. Therefore, I’ve decided to look at The World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls and explore some of the concepts within these episodes and how they relate to various concepts throughout the ‘Moffat era’ and the history of Doctor Who.

The idea to set The World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls on a 400 mile spaceship teetering on the precipice of a black hole whilst encountering time dilation is actually a brilliant one. Infact, you could quite easily have based a whole season around this concept. It’s that good. Season 10 has been essentially a disappointing one, for reasons we will tick off as we go along. A lot of the season has felt thrown together at the last minute on a number of levels, a lot of aspects of these episodes didn’t strike me as being developed enough as they could have been throughout the season to be fully paid off. This even includes The Doctor’s relationship with Missy. We only have to look at the 2016 Christmas special and the subsequent niggly retconning of The Doctor and Nardole following that episode to see that the idea of Missy being kept in a vault was clearly a last minute one. Nardole’s whole season has up to these episodes been mostly underpinned by a steadfast determination to keep The Doctor in Bristol, it’s difficult on the surface from his characterisation to see where jaunts to New York and ancient Mesopotamia fit in with that. Still, we’ll leave it as a niggle.

I love Michelle Gomez’s portrayal of Missy and her menacingly playful take on playing Doctor Who is a joy, as is her explanation of The Doctor’s name. I’m actually happy to accept that The Doctor’s real name is infact ‘Doctor Who’ and by the way, I will not accept Bill Bradley portraying William Hartnell’s Doctor in the upcoming Christmas special if it is anything other than Bradley portraying a cranky old man who thinks he’s from the 59th Century. I also expect him to at least have the decency to cantankerously abduct someone for relatively ambiguous reasons. I digress. Missy’s flirtation with decency is interesting and wouldn’t have been harmed by some more development.

Her scenes with Capaldi’s Doctor have been some of the most interesting and dynamic of the past three seasons. From this, we get to see a little of The Doctor/Bill/Nardole relationship leading into this episode. I’m not entirely sure how necessary this was, but it doesn’t hurt the pacing of the episode, which is frankly excellent and seems to fly by. Bill is shot by a scared blue meanie who, well, has absolutely no reason to be scared at all actually, as he firmly states and it is firmly shown that the creepy prototype Cybermen are only interested in humans, which he isn’t, so yeah, that makes absolutely no sense.

The macabre nature of the hospital scenes is excellent. The volume control is also a nice Moffat touch. The next point of contention is that on the whole, the scenes of Simm in disguise could be viewed on one hand completely unnecessary as the BBC stupidly decided to ruin the whole reveal. Moffat just about gets a way with this one in terms of the actual episode itself as a) The Master has a precedent for using disguises, b) The Master was PM on Earth’s ‘twin’ Mondas, which made me smile and is a cute nod to the RTD era and original series and c) because John Simm is just really, really good to watch and it’s kind of fun watching him to pretend to be Razor. There in a nutshell is The World Enough and Time, which gleefully sets up the pieces for the finale.

In terms of the modern series, Moffat is the only one who has actually mastered the ‘two parter.’ Part of this entails starting the second episode off from a completely different point to where we left off with the first. So if the first part was Frankenstein meets Interstellar meets Genesis of the Cybermen meets The Day of The Master, then the second part was obviously going to be… Little House on the Prairie with creepy scarecrows.

Missy has decided for the time being that she has absolutely no interest in being good and as a result, we spend the first few minutes after the credits watching her and The Master gleefully ponder how to kill The Doctor. Ever notice how much John Simm’s Master likes tying The Doctor to chairs? I’m sure Tumblr probably will have. A few minutes of this, The Cybermen turn against The Master/Missy and we’re onto our next set piece of Little House in the Prairie.

How Moffat has decided to portray CyberBill from here on in is interesting. Moffat has Bill rejecting the programming in a manner not too dissimilar to how he introduced Clara in Asylum of the Daleks, obviously this also allows the wonderful Pearl Mackie a chance to shine. I found it pretty interesting that in the first scene where we see Bill rather than CyberBill in this episode she’s shown as a black woman who the children are scared of. Given that we’re now in Little House on the Prairie, this probably deserves a critique in itself. CyberBill will also later be shot by the same scared white woman. Capaldi and Pearl Mackie however really are good. (It’s disappointing that we’re not going to get another season of Bill as she’s a wonderful character who is an absolute joy to watch.) Also really, really good is The Master’s taunting of CyberBill. “Didn’t you used to be a woman? I’m going to be a woman soon.” At this point it is already hands down my favourite episode since Hell Bent, just for Simm’s performance.

The pacing again is absolutely fantastic. Moffat is at his best just delivering line after line of quality exposition and concepts at break neck speed. It’s just great to watch. We seamlessly flow from Simm putting on eyeliner, making erection jokes with Missy which are entirely inappropriate for Saturday evening television, to a little girl blowing up legions of Cybermen with an apple, which is a classic Doctor Who idea.

The Doctor delivers his big speech which is cruelly dismissed by The Master, although received a little bit more receptively by Missy. Are we going to actually have Missy redeem herself… well yes and no. The only way The Day of The Master was ever going to end was with both The Master and Missy after 45 minutes of flirting, (read: Master-bation) literally stabbing each other in the back.

The Doctor makes his final stand along with CyberBill to an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack from Murray Gold. Gleefully blowing up Cybermen. On first watch I actually thought it was Bill who shot him. That would’ve been dramatic. The Doctor defeats The Cybermen and it’s time for the de rigeur season ending piece of deux ex machina. This time it’s puddle girl. This is a truly lovely scene and I’m pleased that Bill gets a happy ending. I think this also the first time I’ve ever seen two lesbians get together on TV without one of them being killed. Well, actually, they’re both technically dead, but they’re getting a happy ending where they’re both alive, so this can only be read as a victory for Bill, Puddle Girl and LGBT representation on TV, so huzzah. I’m kind of pissed off only in the sense that this would’ve been so much better if Puddle Girl had at least got a cursory mention at some point between the season opener and the finale, but still. Despite the fact Puddle Girl is essentially an immortal, omnipotent being, Bill decides she is going to Billsplain the universe to her…

As for The Doctor, despite being electrocuted, shot and blown up, he decides that he can’t be arsed with regenerating and we get to see him one last time in an adventure with the only person more cranky than he is at Christmas, so to finish off in true Moffat style, please return to paragraph three.

Degüello

To the chagrin of my neighbours I spent the morning listening to back-to-back ZZ Top albums on the Kitsound Boom Evo and I’ve rediscovered this classic.

  
Manic Mechanic aside which is like some kind of mescaline trip. Although it kind of works if you listen to it within the scope of the whole album; as a standalone track it’s kind of terrible, I think Degüello (meaning ‘slit your throat’) might be one of my favourite albums ever. Beat-up, sleazy blues. It’s basically what would happen if Charles Bukowski was a guitar player. The album is complete filth. Tracks such as I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide, Fool for your Stockings and Cheap Sunglasses which is effectively the greatest porno movie riff never used – one which would make you watch to the end of the film to see if they end up getting married – are mesmerisingly good.

I much prefer this to their more commercially successful stuff: Eliminator and Afterburner. I actually also much prefer it to the outstanding Tres Hombres which has the classic La Grange with that amazing ripped off John Lee Hooker lick. Which basically makes this head and shoulders ZZ Top’s greatest album and probably one of the best and most underrated albums of all time. I actually rate this as being up with albums the calibre of Revolver by The Beatles. 

Strongly recommended.