The folks at Mad Norwegian Press were kind enough to send me their preposterously monumental 4th edition of Ahistory. This now three-volume set, which began as Lance Parkin's A History of the Universe for Virgin twenty-two years ago and has been periodically and extensively revised with help from Mad Norwegian publisher Lars Pearson is... completely insane. I mean, I'm the author of a six volume and counting history of Britain through the lens of Doctor Who, but I look at these things with a mixture of trepidation and awe. They are sublimely, gloriously useless, and I absolutely adore them and recommend them to anyone for whom the admittedly considerable price tag of three large paperback volumes is not prohibitive.
What Ahistory sets out to do is simple: provide a complete in-universe chronology of every Doctor Who story. But by "every Doctor Who story" I do not mean some relatively easy and straightforward task like all of the television episodes. I mean all of it. Every television episode through Twice Upon a Time is in here along with the televised spinoffs, the Virgin and BBC Books lines, Big Finish, the comics... all of it. This is a book series ...
So, contrary to those who feel it's become 'too PC' (a misprision that is interesting by itself), Doctor Who these days looks increasingly like it is taking a reactionary turn - albeit one of a complex kind - as it seems to drift from being an "accidental critique of milquetoast liberalism" (as Kit Power put it) into an outright accomodation with the systems it has found itself unable to effectively struggle against. This makes Chibnall's show, in its own way, a mirror to Moffat's, which was also deeply concerned with the limits of resistance to systems.
This is a space for analysing the political attitude found in the content. But there is also reason to look at what the form tells us, what it assumes, what it permits, etc. As we've already talked about elsewhere, the form and content are actually inextricable.
Let's take a detour into Brechtian 'Epic Theatre'.
Brecht’s theatre ...
For the last of our Series 11 podcasts, I'm joined by Niki Haringsma, author of the forthcoming Black Archive book on Love and Monsters. Have a gander here.
So this is the Chibnall era. A season of such bland mediocrity that an episode that in any of the previous four seasons would have come in around level with the Gatiss episode comes in third in my final rankings; where the five episodes by the showrunner all add up to nothing and go nowhere; where the politics are so bad we got a pro-Amazon episode; where there’s no sense whatsoever of who or what this show is for other than being the BBC’s attempt at filling an hour on the Sunday night schedule. The only tangible advantage Chibnall has over Nicholas Briggs is that he cast a female Doctor. It’s soulless, pointless, and worst of all, it’s fucking boring.
And I mean, none of that is new to, wait, let me check the spelling again, The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos. Which, incidentally, did not contain a battle. But at least while things were rumbling blandly along there was always some vague hope that it might, if not make good, at least go somewhere or have one moment somewhere that seemed to at least have something to say. But no. Instead we get Revenge of the Stenza, a villain ...
Nice new bit of audio content for you today, mainly on the subject of guys called Orson.
From the Wrong With Authority stable, a commentary track for Orson Welles' undervalued late masterpiece F for Fake, featuring myself and Daniel Harper. Download or listen HERE.
This commentary is basically a spin-off from an episode of They Must Be Destroyed on Sight in which I guested to chat about the same film - here. TMBDOS also recently did an episode on Welles' finally-completed final film, The Other Side of the Wind, here.
Plus, we recently released a podcast in which Daniel and Kit chatted about Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, and somehow managed to find new angles on it, despite it being one of the most discussed texts on the internet. Download or listen HERE.
Also, if you haven't listened to the Wrong With Authority's third 'Trumpism' episode, recorded after the mid-terms, but feel like subjecting yourself to five hours of our self-therapy, that's here.
On the subject of Wrong With Authority, we still have two great new episodes in the can, being edited, and slated to be released soon (hopefully). ...
I'm joined this week by Rachael Stott, artist on Titan Comics' Thirteenth Doctor comic, for a wide-ranging conversation that centers on It Takes You Away. Thanks so much to Rachael for agreeing to stop by our weird little show. Have a listen here.
Delightful, but it’s impossible to look at this fact without noting that this is because it largely eschews the tropes of the Chibnall era in favor of being a Doctor Who story. Indeed, to stir the obvious and very tempting pot a little more, this is delightful because it has a relationship to the Moffat era other than studiously avoiding everything about it. It is not that this feels like a Moffat-era story, although it certainly wouldn’t have been out of place within Series 10. (Imagine it instead of Lie of the Land for the narrative job of dealing with Bill’s mother.) But it feels like Doctor Who that has actually seen the Moffat era, taken on board the sorts of things it discovered the show could do, and moved on. In feels like a story that belongs to that moment where we had Mathieson, Harness, and Dollard all turning up every season to do something interesting.
At the heart of this is an investment in making sure the nature of the story actually shifts in meaningful way. Haunted house horror (done, it must be said, with a pleasantly new coat of paint) gives way to a bewildering but evocative ...
SPOILERS / TRIGGERS
I'm going to generally assume you've seen this film and the previous one.
It is entirely apt that the poster for The Crimes of Grindelwald features a crowd of people wandering about looking confused; it’s both an apt depiction of the film and of the audience on their way out of the cinema.
An even better encapsulation: the sinking of the Titanic features, briefly, as a throwaway and perfunctory period reference, in a flashback scene in the middle of an infodump, part of the resolution of a pointless subplot... and nobody asks why the wizards on board didn’t stop it sinking.
Bluntly, this film is a mess. The plot flaps around, bifurcating into dead end after dead end. Things are set up and not paid off. When the payoffs do arrive they are sudden, arbitrary, and unsatisfying. There are lots of events but nothing really happens. Nothing is achieved. Every time you think progress might be made you find yourself stuck in a new subplot surrounded by characters who are multiplying around you like those cursed goblets in the final Potter film.
The first Fantastic Beasts movie had a more than incipient case of this ...