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.
A recurrent and to my mind fascinating theme of Peter Harness’s Doctor Who work has been its distinct hostility to democracy. Kill the Moon hinges on the flagrant disregard of the expressed wishes of humanity, while the Zygon two-parter ultimately endorses the existence of unelected guardians who lie to people in order to keep them under control. I should stress, if it’s not obvious, that my fondness for this is not straightforwardly a quasi-neoreactionary rejection of democracy or endorsement of dictatorship - rather it is specifically the extent to which the episodes themselves seem conflicted on this. It’s a bit of grit that complicates the show’s default ethos of liberal centrism - something that extends naturally out of its embrace of rebelliousness and dissent, but that the show usually avoids having to look at head-on.
So it’s not especially a surprise that Harness, writing in the heat of 2016, turns in a script that is more explicitly about the terrible decisions that humanity makes than ever before. This time there is no undemocratic savior to be had. Indeed, there’s not a savior of any kind - the bad decision is taken and the bad guys win. The Doctor’s scheme to stop them is ...
I'm joined by Jack Graham to talk Extremis. It doesn't so much go off the rails quickly as never actually manage to find the rails in the first place. You can download that here if you're so inclined.
TROU NORMAND: A palate cleansing drink of apple brandy, sometimes with a small amount of sorbet. Your guess is as good as mine, frankly.
One of the show’s most emphatically memorable murder tableaus - probably the only one to give Eldon Stammetz and his mushroom people a run for their money. It also serves, however, as a case study in the schizoid nature of this season. More than anywhere else in the first season, “Trou Nourmand” demonstrates the degree to which these cases of the week are a charade. The totem pole murders are barely a feature of the episode, squared away with almost comical efficiency midway through the fourth act while the plot focuses instead on Will’s psychological collapse and new developments with Abigail.
BRIAN ZELLER: The world’s sickest jigsaw puzzle.
JIMMY PRICE: Where are the corners? My mom always said start a jigsaw with the corners...
BRIAN ZELLER: I guess the heads are the corners?
BEVERLY KATZ: We’ve got too many corners. Seven graves. Way more heads.
In which Zeller, Price, and Katz demonstrate that the aesthetics of murder tableaus are not their strong suit.
WILL GRAHAM: I planned this moment... This monument with precision. Collected all my raw ...
At its structural root, it’s Moffat doing Doctor Who like it’s Sherlock, which is the sort of thing where when you do it, you know it’s probably time to move on in your career. This, of course, does not mean it’s bad. It’s not even a criticism - more just a reality of Moffat’s set pieces twelve years into his writing for the program. He passed Robert Holmes for most screen minutes of Doctor Who written somewhere around the “sit down and talk” speech in The Zygon Inversion. (Yes, I counted Brain of Morbius for Holmes as well.) His stylistic tics have long since evolved to cliches, blossomed into major themes, and finally twisted into strange self-haunting shadows that echo endlessly off of each imprisoned demon and fractured reality. They become difficult to actually talk about on some level And so approaching them from the standpoint of their dramatic engines becomes productive.
The first thing to note, then, is that Sherlock provides a pretty good narrative shell for Doctor Who to inhabit. The globehopping thriller has always worked for Doctor Who, and the Vatican is a good choice for “who should bring a case to the Doctor.” The double structure ...
Our guest this week is Shana and our episode this week doesn't suck. What more can you ask for? Well, a link to where you can download it, obviously.
FROMAGE: Cheese. Relating this directly to the episode contents is tricky - it’s most likely a reference to Franklyn’s declaration last episode that he and Hannibal are “cheese-folk,” although it’s certainly possible Fuller imagined this episode to be somehow cheesier than previous ones. I mean, it does involve opening people up and playing them like cellos.
The soft-focus montage of stringmaking plays out over an unusually harmonious bit of music, making this particular process of dismembering people and repurposing their bodies an oddly pleasant, idyllic thing. It is worth contrasting with Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which his (non-murderous) printmaking process is detailed as the workings of “a printing press in hell,” whereas here infernal content is presented in more sacred terms.
ALANA BLOOM: Why are you assuming I don’t date?
WILL GRAHAM: Do you?
ALANA BLOOM: No. Feels like something for somebody else. I’m sure I’ll become that somebody some day but right now I think too much.
WILL GRAHAM: Are you going to try to think less or wait until it happens naturally?
ALANA BLOOM: I haven’t thought about it.
For the episode where the Will/Alanna sexual tension is finally grappled with ...
A strange sort of episode from the perspective of what you might think of as the Eruditorum Press aesthetic. On the one hand, an episode in which the Doctor literally brings down capitalism; on the other, the most “gun” story since Resurrection of the Daleks. At the end of the day, my personal taste has always run a bit more “gun” than my ideological taste, so I’m pretty on-board with this, although I’m sure the paragraph that starts “but equally” will end up being interesting.
It’s hard to imagine anyone but Mathieson writing this. For one thing, he’s proven himself to be quite good at writing gun. Never in quite so pure and frockless a way as here, but his Series 8 scripts’ reputation rests in part on the fact that they appealed to a particular type of traditionalist fan, and this is hitting many of the same notes. For another thing, he’s very good at developing fairly complex concepts. There’s an awful lot going on in this script, but Mathieson has an extremely deft touch in figuring out how much to develop and explain things. With both the voice controls and the fact that Bill’s suit doesn’t work like ...
Oh, yeah, I should probably announce this here instead of just uploading the file, huh? Anyway, our podcast on Knock Knock, unexpectedly featuring Seth Aaron Hershman instead of Kevin Burns, is now available for your listening pleasure. Or displeasure. Get it here.