I write things and am nominally in charge here. Below are my most recent posts.

The bulk of my work is in a style I have, in an act of mild narcissism, named psychochronography. Psychochronography, an offshoot of the artistic concept of psychogeography. Psychogeography is a practice originally developed by the Situationist International as part of their efforts to forcibly dismantle the established social order. Psychogeography is the study of how physical spaces impact social, cultural, and personal lives. Its central technique is what is called the derivé, or drift, in which one wanders through an urban area according to some idiosyncratic logic that causes one to cut against the usual lines and paths traced.

Psychochronography applies this notion to our internal landscape. Taking seriously Alan Moore's notion of ideaspace, psychochronography suggests that we can wander through history and ideas just as easily as we can physical spaces, and that by observing the course of such a conceptual exploration we can discover new things about our world. Topics I've applied this approach to include Doctor Who, British comic books, and Super Nintendo games.

I Never Liked This Planet (Invasion of the Dinosaurs)

It’s January 12th, 1974. Between now and February 16th, twelve people will die in an IRA bmombing of a coach bus on the M62, and a hundred and seventy three people will die in a fire in Sāo Paulo. The implementation of the three-day week will cause massive economic strain on the United Kingdom, which does not directly kill anybody, but is linked to large spikes in crime and mental illness. In addition, Batman creator Bill Finger will die of a heart attack and movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn will die of old age. Beyond that, the world moves ever closer to the eschaton and Invasion of the Dinosaurs airs on the BBC.

There are two key strands of thought in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, both of which come filtered through the oddities of Malcolm Hulke’s politics. The first, as noted by Tat Wood in About Time, sees Hulke responding to The Green Death by offering his own take on the conspiracy-minded thriller within Doctor Who. Wood proceeds to suggest several antecedents for this, making a selective but nevertheless fairly broad accounting of the genre to show where Hulke might have been pulling in contrast to Sloman and Letts ...

The Masters of the Earth (The Green Death)

It’s May 19th, 1973. Between now and June 23rd, forty-eight will die in a plane crash in India, six will die in a pair of IRA bombings in Coleraine, thirteen will die in Argentina when snipers open fire on protesters in the Ezeiza massacre, and six year old boy in Kingston upon Hull will die in the first fire of Peter Dinsdale’s near decade-long spree of arson. This relatively sparse major death toll masks the steady progression of the world towards the eschaton. Also, The Green Death airs.

The Green Death offers a genuinely uncanny trick of perspective—like one of those lenticular images that shifts as you move in front of it. One second it’s the most 1973 thing imaginable, a cornucopia of glam semiotics. The next it’s a strangely contemporary thing, with concerns that have not aged a day. The obvious explanation for this is that very little has changed in forty-seven years—corporations continue to be killing the world according to the logic of a supposedly dispassionate algorithm. Sure, the climate crisis has edged out industrial waste and the sheer size of the computers has ratcheted downwards, but the basic concerns really are the same. We knew ...

A Vermin Race (The Sea Devils)

It’s February 26th, 1972. Between now and April 1st, 125 will die in a coal sludge spill in West Virginia, 19 will die in an avalanche on Mount Fuji, and the Easter Offensive wll begin in the Vietnam War, lasting into Octoer and resulting in somewhere between fifty and a hundred thousand deaths. In addition, M.C. Escher will die in a hospital in the Netherlands, the world will inch ever closer to the eschaton, and The Sea Devils will air.

Within the innate conservatism of the Pertwee era, Malcolm Hulke remains one of the most interesting figures. At one point in his life, he was a member of the Communist Party, and while this membership at some point lapsed, he appears to have been a lifelong socialist and leftist. And yet the era of Doctor Who he’s associated with is one of its most resolutely conservative. More to the point, his stories are not the ones that most challenge that tendency. Three of his Pertwee stories are earth-based military action pieces that trend away from the era’s nominally progressive glam instincts. The other two are space-based stories displaying the most uncomplicated liberalism imaginable. The overall impression is of the ...

The Timeless Child Review

I suppose there’s nowhere to begin other than the big reveal, given that it is by an outlandish margin the single worst lore reveal in the entire history of Doctor Who. Making the Doctor the secret origin of all of the Time Lords is absolutely appalling—the sort of “the main character must be the center of the mythology” crap that Doctor Who is historically at its best when it rebels against. Instead of being the schlubby mediocrity who ran away and stumbled through becoming a hero without ever realizing that was what they were working towards, the Doctor is now the Most Specialist Time Lord That Ever Did Time Lord, with magic powers above and beyond the other Time Lords and origins stretching back beyond even the days of Rassilon. The series is now committed to an endless parade of reveals about the secret history of Gallifrey, all of which the Doctor was apparently there for. It’s genuinely terrible—a reveal that takes the dumbest instincts of the Virgin era and strips off the brakes and hedges. It’s not the Other but the Doctor themself that’s at the heart of Gallifreyan history now. It’s as if the Cartmel Masterplan fucked the ...

Praxeus Breeds in Plastic (Terror of the Autons)

The rule, apparently, is that anyone talking seriously about this story has to start with Paul Cornell’s 1993 review of it. I’m not entirely sure why this is the rule—presumably because Cornell is surely terribly embarrassed by the review now that he’s firmly into the “everything is lovely, especially fandom and the Pertwee era, let’s all just get along and support New Labour” phase of his career instead of the “actually doing anything worthwhile” one. Or perhaps just because, in spite of Cornell’s latter day shame at having ever had interesting opinions, the review remains one of the most solid and important things ever said about the Pertwee era. It’s not that Cornell is correct per se—his vituperative denunciations of the entire cast along with everyone else involved in the story is excessive, not least in his claim that there are only two competent actors in the era, which more than doubles the actual number, although he at least correctly identifies one of them. It’s just that it’s petty, mean-spirited, and therefore exactly what the era needs, culminating in the utterly savage kicker that Barry Letts and Terrence Dicks “exiled the Doctor to Earth and made him a Tory.” ...

Ascension of the Cybermen Review

And so Chibnall, having egregiously whiffed the one-part finale structure (no shame in it, nobody else has ever made that work save for Moffat who cheated by having Heaven Sent work as a sort of first part), decides to fall back on a proven structure. This is not always a balm for Chibnall, who often seems to struggle with understanding how and why tropes work, instead simply faithfully repeating them shorn of key bits of context like a man in an increasingly bizarre quest to demonstrate how Searle’s Chinese room thought experiment might work in practice. Ascension of the Cybermen plays into that tendency, certainly. But there are relatively few misplaced steps compared to other Chibnall efforts. And this isn’t entirely because Chibnall is playing on easy mode. Yes, the basic structure pioneered by Moffat and Davies—a sense of mounting tension leading to a story-breaking reveal—is one of the easier ones to get to work, with the real challenge being in the back half. But Chibnall declines to go with the sort of zero frills monster runaround that he could have, instead interleaving the seemingly entirely disconnected story of Brendan the cop. 

This is, to Chibnall’s credit, a very ...

Before the Cataclysm (Inferno)

It’s May 9th, 1970. Between now and June 20th, Henry Marrow will be killed in North Carolina in a racist hate crime, two will die when police fire into a crowd at a demonstration at Jackson State University, a fourteen-year old fan will die after being struck in the head by a foul ball at a Major League Baseball game, eleven will die in Israel in a Palestinian terrorist attack, six when a plane crashes into an Interstate Highway in Florida. In addition, E.M. Forster will die of a stroke, Abraham Maslow will die of a heart attack, and unnumbered people will die in the ongoing Vietnam War whilst the world slides ever closer to the eschaton. Also, Inferno airs.

With Inferno, Doctor Who proffers a startling sense of lucidity, presenting a world in which drilling for energy sources destroys the world. That it is allegorized through an over the top “they dug too deep” narrative is of course a hedge, but only in the sense of doing the bare minimum necessary to pass this off as children’s entertainment. Within the pit of near universal awfulness that is Doctor Who fandom, this sense of apocalyptic frenzy is taken to ...

The Haunting of Villa Diodati Review

*deep, calming breaths*

OK, so it’s a highlight of the Chibnall era. It features several of Jodie Whittaker’s best moments as the Doctor. It has an effective sense of mood and creepiness throughout. The arrival of the Cyberman at the halfway point effectively turns the entire story on its head. It uses the Cyberman well, drawing more body horror out of the concept than anything since… OK, since the last Cybermen story, but it at least has the decency to acknowledge that the Capaldi era actually happened, and anyway, this is getting an appreciably different sort of body horror off the concept. Despite having the oversized TARDIS crew and a large supporting cast, everyone actually feels like they have a character and gets at least one clear-cut moment to themselves. And there’s a bevy of clever bits—the skull and hand in the cradle is one of the best jump scares in recent Doctor Who memory, and giving Shelley a vision of his death is poetic and unsettling. Oh, and the Cyberman quoting Shelley is magnificently fucked up. Really, this is not merely competent, it’s well-executed. If the show were this well-made every week I wouldn’t be a burnt out and ...

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