A Farewell to the King

neil peartI just wanted to write a short post to mark the untimely passing of one of my heroes, Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist of the Canadian rock band Rush. A school friend who was part of our RPG sessions back in the early ‘eighties was a huge fan of Rush and got my brother and I into the band, playing albums like Power Windows before and after RPG sessions, and it stuck (just as another of the lads got us into the Alan Parsons Project- those were great, formative days).

For me the initial appeal of the bands music were Neal Pearts lyrics; whenever I got a new Rush album (whether it be a pre-Power Windows disc or those that followed it over the years) my first thing was pouring over the lyrics, even before actually listening to the music. As well as a supremely accomplished drummer who just got better and better over the years, Peart was extremely well-read, and it showed in his writing, brilliant at constructing elaborate lyrics full of ideas. Definitely an inspiration in my own (albeit inferior, ‘natch) writing over the years. In a similar way to the APP albums, the Rush albums each seemed to have seperate and unique themes: I was being submerged in Prog-Rock and like my love of Vangelis, in Rush and APP it would last my lifetime.

Rush unofficially disbanded in 2015, mostly instigated by Peart, partly due to health problems ensuing from age and 40 years on the road touring. So I’ve spent the last few years kind of getting used to that, and hoping that maybe his freinds and band mates Geddy and Alex might get Peart into the studio at least, for one more Rush album, someday. We fans are never content, we always want more. More Star Wars, more Rush, more Vangelis. Alas, his passing this week at the too-young age of 67 has finally put an end to such hopes (just as the passing of Eric Woolfson several years also finally put paid to ever seeing another APP album). The news broke late at Friday, and my brother and I shared shocked texts with each other. Peart actually passed on Tuesday, after over three years battling brain cancer- it is typical of the class and dignity of the man that none of us, fans nor the media,  had any idea that he was so ill.

There is a curious synchronicity in the background to all this- Steve and I were watching YouTube videos of Peart just last weekend, and Steve got us tickets to go see a Rush tribute band for tonight (how poignant and emotional is that show going to be following this weeks event?). Its all purely coincidental of course, but I think Peart might have found it as curious as I do; Wheels within wheels in a spiral array, A pattern so grand and complex. A Farewell to the King then.

Another one gone: purely in a selfish way, this getting old sure does get old, increasingly losing all these heroes along the way.


end1Last night I finally got around to giving my 4K disc of Avengers Endgame a spin. Regular readers will remember my mixed feelings/downright disappointment with the film when I first saw it during its cinema release. The film proved to be a major success with most people though, and seemed to attract a huge repeat crowd and became the biggest box-office film of all time (inflation notwithstanding, I suppose). Can’t say I’d really seen that coming.

The numbers are frankly astonishing- the film cost over $350 million to make but earned $2.8 billion at the Box Office.

Watching it again though, and so soon after seeing Rise of Skywalker, the differences between the Star Wars and Marvel cinematic universes are boldly apparent. Avengers Endgame is everything that Disney and Lucasfilm felt that Rise of Skywalker should be, a huge climactic cinematic event that seized (for better or worse) the cultural zeitgeist and became the biggest movie of all time. Rise seems to have actually arrived with a frustrated whimper, awkward and uneven, hampered by being part of a dysfunctional trio, dividing its core fanbase or reinforcing present divisions, whereas Endgame seemed to have pleased most everybody in the core fanbase as well as the mainstream.

I still have my issues with Endgame. It seems unnecessarily convoluted, getting lost in myriad time travel paradoxes and finally succumbing to all the worst excesses of CGI bombast spectacle that I personally find boring. But on the whole it works, and serves as a summation of all the Marvel films before it, closing out the arcs of some fan-favourite characters/actors at the same time as handing off to a new generation. If it takes itself too seriously, well you can almost forgive it that considering its, what, the 22nd film in that franchise? Imagine a film being the 22nd in the Star Wars franchise- only a matter of time I suppose.

But watching it this second time I began to realise that perhaps it gets right more than it gets wrong. Or maybe compared to Rise, maybe its successes become all the more impressive. Then again, compared to Rise, most everything any Marvel film does appears pretty impressive. I don’t think Disney should go the Marvel route with Star Wars, although it does appear to be heading in that direction with some of the staff changes going on behind the scenes, but it is clear that the Marvel films have a fairly clear control on the mythology of all those decades of comics. Some of it is counter-intuitive and contradictory, and I don’t think they ever really nailed its most popular character (Spider-Man) in any of its screen incarnations, so its certainly not a successful slam-dunk. I shudder at some of the stuff in Marvel films just as I do watching Star Wars, but the good/bad ratio seems to fall for the better.


Actually a Rise of Skywalker review

rise1There’s a story going around that Rise of Skywalker was deliberately sabotaged by Disney in order to damage the reputation and career of its director, JJ Abrams, in order to thereby impact his future career/contract with Warner Bros, whose DC franchise is a direct rival to Disney’s own Marvel Studios franchise. That’s a conspiracy theory stupider than anything in this movie, which is saying something.

Its clearly some kind of attempt to excuse the true horror of a film so ineptly made as this one proves to be, and barring the inevitable NDAs that will cloud the truth, someday there will hopefully be a great book investigating the making of this film, and the two that preceded it.  I’d be fascinated to see the hows and whys that this film turned out so bad as it has done; while I’m confident much of it is due to the reactionary response to the misguided hubris that brought us The Last Jedi, I’m also certain that there was all sorts of meddling and politics going on behind the scenes that the panic  is in everything we see in this pretty dire film. Rumours prior to its release described six different endings, and the film is so disjointed, uneven and badly paced that I can well believe those multiple endings truly existed.

It seems a textbook case of how not to make a Hollywood blockbuster, and certainly how not to make a Star Wars movie – alarmingly for Disney however, it does also seem familiar with the story behind  the making of Solo, and its strange that the lessons behind that film don’t seem to have been learned. Change of director, lack of cohesive narrative, rushed production, numerous re-shoots… its really no surprise, but all the same, you’d have thought that Lucasfilm would have figured all this shit out.

Certainly its a lesson of how not to make a trilogy. A story goes that original director Colin Trevorrow had wanted Luke Skywalker alive in order for him to feature in the final movie and had begged The Last Jedi‘s Rian Johnson to allow the character survive that film which is an example of the lack of a cohesive narrative across the three films as a whole. I guess Rian was so obsessed with usurping all the fanboy expectations and series tropes that he was hellbent on killing Luke. It is strange though- after Luke’s hologram/Force projection shenanigans there would have been no harm in just closing the film with him exhausted back in his Jedi hideout rather than abruptly fading away, especially if the third film’s director felt a live Luke was necessary for his film. No wonder Trevorrow walked.

So anyway, I went to see Rise of Skywalker expecting little, and even those expectations proved to be unrewarded. Inevitably spoilers follow, but I assume after so many weeks everyone who wants to see the film has done so by now.

rise3.jpgI don’t particularly enjoy being taken for an idiot, but it happens sometimes when watching movies and tv shows. Its when willing suspension of disbelief is just taken a step too far and I suddenly feel like I’m being taken for a fool, when the filmmakers just don’t give a toss and obviously anything goes, and to hell with internal logic or common sense.

It happened quite a few times during Rise of Skywalker. God knows my bar was set pretty low. Sure, its only Star Wars. Its a silly space fantasy. Its never going to be Kubrickian, or even anything akin to Ridley Scott’s increasingly irrelevant Alien prequels or the pompous silliness of James Camerons Dance with Wolves in Space Avatar. This is JJ Abrams. You’re not supposed to think with JJ Abrams stuff, its all smoke and mirrors with pacing so quick you won’t have time to consider what you’re seeing, you’re just supposed to go with it in the moment. Its only afterwards when you’re walking out that you begin to realise you were had. If the Jedi can heal the wounded or dying, or indeed bring back the dead to life, why didn’t Obi-Wan heal Qui-Gon Jinn in the Phantom Menace, or Luke Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, or Anakin his mother in Revenge of the Sith?  Abram’s talent for ignoring and breaking established mythology of course has a precedent in his Star Trek reboots.

But there’s one moment. One moment when my jaw literally dropped. I’d read most of the spoilers, and being forewarned, most of the films crass stupidity didn’t upset me as much as it might have otherwise (God only knows what this film was like for fans on opening weekend), but there was one moment when I just stared at the screen slack-jawed in amazement, dumbfounded.

If you’ve seen the film, you probably know what the moment is. Its when Rey is on the cliff side looking out at the wrecked ruins of the second Death Star resting out on the storm-tossed ocean. She gets out this Sith dagger that has been their quest for half the movie, and its supposed to be a clue to finding the second of two Wayfinders with which they can find their way to the resurrected Emperor Palpatines Hidden Base, and one of these Wayfinders is in a closet on this Death Star, somewhere.

Now at this point I’m okay with this Wayfinder nonsense, because my bar is set really pretty damned low with this movie. Palpatine has a Hidden Base on a secret Sith Homeworld that isn’t on any starchart, but he’s conveniently left two devices (why two? well why not?) with which someone (or some two) can find this Hidden Base and scupper his plans for ‘Galactic Domination from  beyond the grave’. Just how secret a Sith Homeworld can be when it needs a minimum of 20 million people to crew his 100-500 Star Destroyer (and God knows how many to build them), is frankly debatable. But go with it, its only Star Wars. The central plotline for the film is that the Rebels have just sixteen hours to find a way to the Emperors base and do something about his armada of Certain Death. After thirty-plus years of keeping his existence a secret, you’d think Palpatine would have managed an extra sixteen hours and unleashed his armada in secret.

rise2But anyway, Rey holds out her arm and the edge of the weirdly-shaped blade suddenly matches the exact same shape of the Death Star wreckage (my mouth’s dropping at this point) and then, incredibly, she pulls out of the handle this other curved piece of metal that lines up and points to a specific point of the wreck- ‘x’ literally marks the spot and my jaw is on the floor. This is beyond stupid. This is something of another order of bad writing entirely. Someone will make a study group in a future screenwriting course that will examine this film in its entirety and perhaps highlight this moment as some barometer of screenplay stupidity to measure all films after.

So lets get this straight. This blade is decades old (the dagger was used, a flashback assures us, to kill Rey’s parents years ago) but presumably was designed and crafted by someone standing in this exact same spot in order to match the outline of the wreck and thus display where the room is in that wreck which contains the Wayfinder. If someone stood someplace else on this coastline overlooking the wreck, it would neither match the wreckage or point to the same spot. Even if one stood a few metres either side, nevermind the kilometres of random coastline or so that is quite clearly visible in the same frame, it just wouldn’t serve its purpose.

In anycase, its a Sith blade, owned/designed/made by a Sith who knows where the Wayfinder is but presumably doesn’t need to use it to find the Sith Homeworld else he would have taken the Wayfinder for himself, and the existence/location of said Homeworld is a secret so what exactly is its purpose? A Sith dude forges a blade that reveals the Wayfinder so that someone who shouldn’t have the Wayfinder (i.e. a Good Guy) can find that Wayfinder and oh my head hurts. Or the Death Star exploded and various bits of wreckage crashed down to this moon and landed in the ocean in just that particular shape and configuration that it just somehow matches the edge of this blade and… oh my head hurts. Another thing, are we expected to believe that back during Return of the Jedi, Palpatine’s schemes were already afoot and that he kept that Wayfinder safe in that closet in his throne room because he already knew he had to leave a clue on this Death Star (which would survive both the explosion and a fall from orbit) in order for someone to find his hidden base decades later? Or that Darth Vader knew nothing about this and couldn’t warn Luke  before he died that that evil critter Palpatine was probably still alive and that Luke should search for the Sith Homeworld for the sake of future generations of film-goers… oh my head hurts.

Its staggeringly stupid, and now that I think about it, possibly not the stupidest thing in the movie. I think Han Solo returning ranks pretty highly, or Chewbacca being dead/not dead or… well, I could be writing this for hours, I think. ‘The Dead Speak!‘ opening the title crawl ranks pretty high, I mean, they didn’t even think that the return of Palpatine merited some mystery/tension- it’d be a bit like the opening crawl of The Empire Strikes Back revealing that Vader is Luke’s dad right at the start. Can’t they construct a decent script /tense narrative anymore?

I really didn’t expect much from this film but even those expectations were ill-founded. I watched the film with my brother who hated it with a passion (he knew no spoilers so he lacked the forewarning that cushioned my pain) and the people in-front of us broke into embarrassed laughter when Kylo climbed out the pit to resurrect Rey and share that kiss.

The pacing is horrible. It is so much like two films in one and I can actually sympathise with JJ Abrams initial wish to split the film into two like the final Hunger Games and Harry Potter films. There’s just to much story to tell and wrap up, and too many Rian Johnson cock-ups to fix/retcon. Its really relentless how fast it races by and how it resolutely refuses to make any sense at all. That editing terribly hurts the film- it rather feels unfinished, frankly like a workprint. Considering my low expectations, its a very disappointing movie. Even the space battles feel tired and few visual effects or action scenes seem well-executed or impressive.

Its almost inexplicable that this film has been released like this. Oh well. I guess the campaign for a longer directors cut is inevitable at this point. Not that I expect it to happen, or fix anything, but really its pretty bizarre for such a major motion picture release that fans should start a campaign to fix a clearly broken movie.

I’m sure there are some that enjoy the film and think its great- they are wrong, obviously- but I can’t say I’m surprised  how bad this film is, considering how much The Last Jedi fouled things up and having Abrams at the helm. Perhaps its a pity Trevorrow couldn’t have stuck around, and had a live Luke to feature in the film: this was doomed from the start, it would seem, and Rian Johnson remains the real villain of the Skywalker saga.

(Almost) a Rise of Skywalker review

If the stars align and the Dark Gods allow it, on Wednesday evening, I believe I shall be entering a cinema complex where I am not known, in a town I haven’t visited in several years, and I shall be watching Rise of Skywalker under the cover of darkness, and a future post perhaps this very week (if I recover from what I’m sure will be a nerve-shredding experience) I shall be posting: ‘(Actually) a Rise of Skywalker review’.

On the other hand, it may well have to wait until the weekend. I mean, if I love the film, I may well be having to eat some very humble pie. It’d be a bit like me watching the latest episode of Dr Who and deciding I was wrong all along and its hard-edged social commentary and excitingly riveting script  (not to mention its exemplary acting and fiendishly ingenious use of Sonic Screwdrivers) have swayed me to its righteous cause. But you know, open minds and all that.

Mind, I appreciate I’m a bit behind the curve at this point. The film has been out nearly three weeks now. In this crazy busy world of social media and internet hysterics the film is quite possibly such Old News at this point, that its hardly worth me writing about. Its gone, its done, and everyone’s looking for the Next Thing already (its actually coming out in a few days, and its the World War One drama 1917).

But it does make one think. There are people out there who literally only watched Rise of Skywalker so that they could rush home and post a video about it. There are people who only watch television shows (or, God help me, movie trailers) so that they can stream their Reaction Videos to it. What kind of crazy bloody world is it that people watch people watching movie trailers?

I like to think I watch films and TV shows because its something I like to do, because I enjoy the art form and watching something creative gives me pleasure (as well as suspiciously high blood pressure sometimes -hello there Jacobs Ladder remake- but hey, its a risk I’m prepared to take for the betterment of those lucky sods who haven’t seen it). I suspect many of those posting all those Youtube videos are making money out of it. Maybe a lot of money, good luck to them. There’s no money in these blogs, that’s for sure.

So anyway, its just that it got me thinking- go back to 1982 and no internet, and magazines like Starburst and Fantastic Films and Starlog. Imagine if something like Rise of Skywalker was released in those times, when reviews were written for magazines and usually printed around the time of, or just after, a films release, by professional journalists who put their name to the review and had it in print for posterity. Gentler, slower times without a ravenous fan-base screaming from the internet mountain tops. Films tended to stick around in the public consciousness longer, or maybe I’m just imagining that, as time seemed to pass by much slower when I was a young teenage geek waiting for The Empire Strikes Back to come out. And waiting to read John Brosnan’s review.

I’ve just got a mental image of me going to work on Thursday and revealing that I’ve seen Rise of Skywalker and one of my colleagues making a grunting noise and saying “what? That old thing?” and me suddenly realising I’m still way behind the curve of the pop-culture zeitgeist. Not so much a case of me and a few others discussing the film over the water-cooler or the copier machine, but rather me trying to find someone who still remembers it.

Sign ‘O’ the Times returns

sign1First released by German label Turbine Media in September last year as a pretty expensive limited deluxe edition (that nonetheless sold out very quickly), Prince’s classic concert film Sign O The Times was re-released in December in a slightly cheaper mediabook edition, just in time for Christmas. Well, if you can’t treat yourself at Christmas, then when can you?  This more space-savvy edition features the same discs (two Blu-rays and two DVDs) and the same booklet (in a reduced size naturally but featuring the same very informative essays).

While the album Sign ‘O’ The Times is one of my favourite Prince albums, I hadn’t actually seen the concert film since back in the VHS days, so there was a distinctly ‘blast from the past’ feel when I finally gave the Blu-ray a spin a few days ago. I remember the VHS looked pretty awful but as the concert was shot on film (barring the U Got the Look video that serves almost as an ugly video-noise intermission)  it really looks great in HD, The music of course is as sublime as ever, arguably the songs better in their concert form than they were on the original album- Prince was at his creative peak here, and I’m only hoping we don’t have to wait too many years for the Prince Estate to release a Super Deluxe boxset edition, full of goodies like Vault tracks and live music.

One of the curious pleasures of this edition- and everyone’s mileage on this might vary- is the commentary track, by a bunch of folks at the Peach and Black Podcast. Its light on technical details really but once its gotten past its awkward first several minutes, it offers the curious luxury of sitting in a room watching the concert with a few other Prince fans. Its chatty and very fan-based but its great; grabbing a few beers and watching the show doesn’t feel quite as lonely as it used to. You see, even though Prince was a musical powerhouse-cum-genius, in my immediate social circle he’s as popular as Trump on a Twitter spree. I think this commentary track is great fun, the guys know their stuff (certainly have seen the concert many more times than I have) and I’m certain it has great replay value.

Strangely enough, being a fan of Prince has become something of a Strange Relationship (sic) since his untimely death- there have been quite a few books out (I had the cruelly-brief memoir-book The Beautiful Ones as a present for Christmas) and the Estate album releases since have offered tantalising glimpses behind the curtain with which Prince used to maintain his mystique and mystery. In some ways he feels more real, more human, but while there are moments I think I understand him better, at the same time I realise that I perhaps know him even less than before. Certainly the near 90-minute documentary that accompanies the concert film here offers fresh insight and behind the scenes details about the album, tour and the film (as does the rather detailed booklet essays). There’s a fresh appreciation to be had here, and as a deluxe edition this set is pretty damned fine- sure its very much a fan-based project, very positive without any real negative reappraisal accompanying any of it: its clearly a celebration, sadly one well overdue. How tragic it is that it had to wait for Prince’s death to come into being, and seems to have arisen quite independent of the Prince Estate due to a rather troubled rights situation. I haven’t even gotten around to the second disc that features unedited interviews from the doc totalling three hours, so whether its fascinating or yawn-inducing, I can’t say.

I believe that the concert film is indeed being released over here in the UK shortly, and may indeed be the same restoration/master, but it does appear to be minus the special features that Turbine Media has curated here, and minus the Dolby Atmos soundtrack (there are three soundtracks, a bassy Atmos track, something called a Auro-3D 11.1 mix, and the original stereo mix which will keep purists happy even if it lacks something of the wallop of the other pair of tracks (all three appear to be different mixes entirely, rather than the same mix across the three different formats: everyone’s sure to find one that they prefer)).

So whether its worth the added expense (even the mediabook edition can be quite expensive, as it can only be bought from Germany and is itself a limited edition) depends on how much one needs that commentary track, the doc or that Atmos mix and the other two mixes. The packaging is very fine and it looks a quality product- I just hope one day there’s a Super Deluxe edition of the Sign ‘O’ The Times album to accompany it. Time will tell, but in the meantime, here’s hoping we get rumoured that Parade Super Deluxe later this year.

Dracula (2020)

dracIt took David Benioff and D.B. Weiss ten years to do something the BBC managed in just three nights. This show managed to encapsulate the eight-season Game of Thrones experience into just three episodes: it started so well, solidified that achievement in the middle, and then screwed the pooch spectacularly at the end with some absolutely shocking creative choices that still have me wondering what they were thinking. Its no mean feat, but it also pointedly mirrored the experience of the same creative team’s Sherlock series too: but its quite remarkable how quickly this thing went wrong. It also managed an ending so rushed and sudden, so ‘did-I-blink-and-miss-something‘ that I really think its not an ending at all but another Mark Gatiss/Stephen Moffat misdirection trick and we’re going to get another season next year. Not that I think anyone will be coming back to watch it.

The War of the Worlds (2019 BBC Mini-series)

rwar1The Good: I quite liked the title sequence. It had the flavour of the old Quatermass or Dr Who shows, rather dark and foreboding – I thought the period movie-reel footage was a nice scene-setter and helped establish the time-frame of the show, which in itself was a welcome decision returning to the source novel rather than re-imagining it for contemporary time frames the same way that the George Pal and Steven Spielberg versions did. I think I quite liked the title font (hey, I’m trying to find the positives about this turd, its tricky).

I liked the conceit of continuing the story beyond after the Martians themselves perished (where the story usually ends), instead showing us the world after the war, and those trying to survive and reestablish civilisation- it seemed to offer something a little new. That being said, it infuriatingly made no sense whatsoever as from what I remember in the novel the red weed perished alongside the Martians, killed by the same micro-organisms and bugs of Terran nature that saved humanity. The suggestion that the Martians were infact killed from eating contaminated humans (themselves infected by a typhoid outbreak) and that the red weed (and the Martian Terra-forming) would continue unabated until scientists (well, okay, Amy, our heroine) dumbly figured out that we needed to battle the red weed with the same Typhoid disease etc. was just an incredibly stupid way of doing it.

Er… that’s about it for the Good.

The Bad: Pretty much everything else. The silliness and reliance and poor CGI spectacle was infuriating. I hate nonsensical production design, like the Martians themselves- three-legged monsters that looked like rejects from Pitch Black or any other creature design in the tired-out style of Patrick Tatopoulos, which had fiendish-looking claws etc. but no way (I assume) of actually piloting or even building the War Machines they used to attack the Earth or indeed build the Spaceships to invade it. They didn’t even have opposable thumbs (a requisite of using tools, writing etc) or mouths to communicate with (instead some silly proboscis to eat with).  Sure, they looked creepy, but as a scheming intelligent inter-planetary life form able to build huge war machines and space ships, it made no sense whatsoever. It seems to be where we are now; silly writing, silly design, nothing thought-out.


war2Likewise those spaceships/canisters- hardly large enough to contain a Martian, never-mind the Tripod War Machines that they use to wage war on humanity. I think Spielberg’s movie, as I recall, had some ridiculous conceit that the machines have been buried under the earth for millennia waiting for the invasion to commence- this BBC edition, per its general intelligence level, didn’t feel the need to even bother explaining it. We’ve got some silly spinning levitating sphere that burns people with a heat ray and then the Tripods show up from nowhere.

The flash-forwards to the Red Earth were jarring and managed no real purpose. I assume it was a decision in the editing stage, an attempt to establish some sense of mystery or foreboding but it just irritated me personally, taking me out of one situation into another, and as I have mentioned earlier, typically for this show that Red Earth sequence when it came ‘proper’ in the final episode never really made any logical sense anyway.

The Ugly: Well I feel like I’ve devoted to much of my time and effort on this show already, but  lets see- the cast felt wrong, the pacing was all wrong, the effects were sub-par (which I don’t usually mind, as I can manage my sense of disbelief regards visual effects as long as the narrative is interesting enough, but this one wasn’t). The oddest thing was the period setting, and what it offered visually and narratively (simply not having the narrative bogged down with excuses why they couldn’t use their mobile phones or the Internet etc) was completely wasted. There was no real sense of tension nor terror. It wasn’t so much a War of the Worlds as a skirmish with a few villagers and dumb scientists when all is said and done. The leads of the show,  George (Rafe Spall) and Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson), share absolutely zero chemistry. We are supposed to believe that charisma-less drip George is married to another woman who cruelly refuses to grant him a divorce and that Amy is pregnant with his child. We are supposed to believe that this frustrated love affair between these two lovers is the soul and heart of the entire drama. Instead its this hopeless void, ensuring we simply don’t care about either of them. Considering everyone seems to be starving and dying in the Red Earth five years after the War, Amy not only doesn’t seem to lose any weight, its alluded to that she may have been one of the very last women to have given birth, and its up to Amy and her scientist buddy to finally figure everything out and save the world from the red weed.  Its such a good thing that Amy is around to save us. There’s some very 21st Century anti-Colonial message shoved down our throats towards the end that’s as hackneyed as anything else across the turgid three hours but I won’t comment on it, its just one last example of the kind of thing that ruins modern Dr Who too.

No wonder it took the BBC so long to finally air the thing, it was obviously so bad they were wondering where to dump it in the schedules, so they went ahead and spoiled Christmas.

But Doctor, what about the Aussies?

ausiiewhoI don’t like to nitpick, but I was watching the first episode of the new Dr Who series last night and… well, it was awful, yes, but that’s not my issue, I mean I rather expected it to be lousy, the last series was such a disaster that I only managed to get through four or five episodes before giving up (and I can tell it’ll be just two or three eps this time around before I bail)… but anyway, the bit that really annoyed me…

To be frank, a lot of it annoyed me. But the bit that annoyed me the most, more than the homicidal car or Jodie Whittaker’s astonishingly ham-fisted impression of David Tennant that continues to annoy, and yes even more than the endlessly lazy script-writing that keeps putting the Doctor into increasingly convoluted emergencies and then writing itself out of it by her switching on her bloody sonic screwdriver (one size fits all emergencies, apparently), yes more than that and more than the increasingly inept companions, it was the Aussies.

What about the Aussies!?  The Doctor tracks down an ex-MI6 colleague of hers, ‘O’ (Sacha Dhawan), who MI6 sacked and who went into hiding and even MI6 have no idea where he is… but of course the Doctor knows how to find him in just a jiffy, and when she gets there, the guy is waiting with two Aussie Secret Agents guarding him. But hang on, if nobody including MI6 know where this guy ‘O’ is then how come the Aussie Secret Service know where he is? But that’s not what bugged me about the Aussies, even if it did irritate me that the script’s internal logic was broken again and we’re expected to be too stupid/distracted (hello 100 star destroyer planet killers! oh wait wrong franchise) to notice.

No, what bugged me was that during an attack on the isolated hideout somewhere in the Australian desert, and yeah, how convenient it happened to be just after the good Doctor showed up, but anyway, whilst the Doctors frowning her most serious-looking frown, the two Aussie agents are killed during the alien attack and after it has been repelled by our good heroes, NO-ONE ASKS ABOUT THE AUSSIE AGENTS, NOBODY LOOKS FOR THE BODIES, NOBODY THINKS TO INFORM THE AUSSIE SECRET SERVICE… maybe I blinked and missed it, but it was like they were never there, never existed. Whats the point of writing two secret service agents into a plot if you drop them into what approximates a really tense sequence for New Who and then kill them (to demonstrate how relentless and evil the bad guys are) if you immediately afterwards ignore/forget them?

I hate scripts like that. Its a little thing I know. But its the kind of thing that gets under my skin. I don’t mind all the other stupid stuff (explaining why the companions never seem to be doing their real jobs or are never around, or all the daft Bond references/homages/send-ups, or the daft bike chase or the MIB (sorry, MI6) agents picking up all the companions in seperate cars and then putting them all in one car with just a single MIB (sorry MI6) agent for protection and then someone turning the car into a Homicidal SUV); the quality ship has sailed as far as New Who is concerned but its the little things that wind me up.

But of course its only Dr Who and its only sci-fi entertainment… which is rather like people saying ‘its only Star Wars and its only fantasy entertainment’… I’ll stop now. Its clearly going to be a very long year.

Welcome to 2020, eh?