Tuesday, 25 March 2014

What news, what news, in this our tottering state?

According to today's news on the BBC's internets, the BBC has taken my suggestion that they make more Hollow Crowns, and they are going to make Henry VI Part One, Henry VI Part Two, Henry VI Part Three and Richard III. The BBC says
the team behind The Hollow Crown will reunite to create filmed versions of Shakespeare's Henry VI and Richard III plays.

It remains to be seen if they will also take my advice and cast Paul Darrow and Gareth Thomas as Gloucester and Winchester or Sean Bean as Talbot. Whoever they cast as Talbot will have a hard time being as good at playing him as Trevor Peacock was when he played Talbot the last time the BBC made Henry VI Part One.

I am a happy cat because the first series of Hollow Crown was great so I am looking forward to seeing the next one!

Sunday, 9 March 2014


The events of Pressure Point lead directly on to Trial. It is a clever name for a clever story, because while the title directly refers to Travis, who is on trial this episode, it could also refer to Blake, who has put himself on trial because he feels guilty about Gan's death.

The body language on display here shows that Gan dying has deeply affected everybody on the Liberator. Blake blames himself and Avon blames Blake too. So Blake teleports down to a planet to see if Avon and the others want to rescue him from the trouble he will undoubtedly get into.

Avon doesn't seem too concerned about Blake at first, and talks about leaving him on the planet - though we have seen him talk about leaving Blake before without him ever having actually done it.

Avon gets more worried about Blake when they find out just how dangerous the planet is really (to the surprise of nobody) and they decide to rescue him.

Blake, meanwhile, is on location meeting Zil and trying not to get nomed by the planet. He is worried too.

Travis is on trial for being more of a baddy than the other baddys want him to be, although this is politics because he is really on trial for failing Servalan at last week's plan to catch Blake. He meets Par, played by Kevin Lloyd who was Tosh Lines in The Bill. Par is a minor, one-off character with a distinct personality, which is a specialty of the writer Chris Boucher in his Blakes 7 episodes.

Blake gets rescued so things are more friendly on the Liberator again, but it is not the end of the episode yet. Blake decides there still time to fit in an attack on the Federation.

Travis defends himself at his trial. He tells his judges that if he is a baddy, then so are all of they.

This is one of Brian Croucher's best scenes as Travis, and Trial is probably his best episode.

The judges reject Travis's argument, in such a way that suggests not every manny in the Federation is a baddy like Blake seems to think.

The judges find Travis guilty, but then the Liberator attacks and it allows Travis to escape from the explosions it causes. He meets Par again on the way out and neither of them shoots the other, which may be the closest Travis ever gets to having a friend.

The episode ends with Avon and Blake laughing at Vila, strongly reminiscent of the 'everybody laughs at Mr Spock' endings to many Star Trek stories.

But, because Trial has Chris Boucher writing it, the joke is really on them as they have unwittingly saved Travis and set in motion the chain of events that will lead inexorably to Star One.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Word of God

Word of God is a strange phenomenon where the writer of something gives their view on some aspect of their writing that is not actually featured within the writing or, at best, only implicit. An example of this would be when J K Rowling said that Dumbeldore was a gay wizard in her Harry Potter books.

TV Tropes has a definition of Word of God and examples of it here.

Word of God has an odd relationship with the canon of a work, but I think it can best be summed up as: Word of God is Canon if it agrees with you and Not Canon if it disagrees with you.
One of my favourite examples of Word of God is that, in Warhammer 40,000, the immortal God-Emperor of Mannykind is Cliff Richard.

I am now going to look at two examples of Word of God within Doctor Who. Doctor Who has lots of writers, as well as other mannys involved in making it such as producers and directors and actors, so it is harder to tell who would count as God for Word of God.

In an episode of Doctor Who Confidential, Russell T Davies said that the origins of the Time War go back to the Doctor being sent to Skaro to avert the Genesis of the Daleks. This is an example of Word of God, but it seems to me to be a rather arbitrary place to put the origin of the Time War. Why not say it goes back to The Chase, which is the first time we see that the Daleks have time machines of their own?

This is less a problem with Word of God than with trying to assign an origin to a Time War. Besides, if we wanted to disregard Russell T Davies as a source for Word of God-type authority, we need look no further than his statement on who would make a good Doctor:
"Hitler. He was stern and strong. He would be great."

To really see the limitations of Word of God, we can look at an example where the mannys in charge of Doctor Who at the time - producer, director and script-editor - intended for something to be canon in spite of it contradicting facts established both before and afterwards.

The Morbius Doctors

In the 1976 Doctor Who story The Brain of Morbius the Doctor (played by Tom Baker) fights the baddy Morbius in a mind-bending duel. We see Tom Baker's face, and then we see the faces of the three earlier Doctors - Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troghton and William Hartnell - appear in turn.

What happens after this is open to interpretation, and the Word of God interpretation runs directly contrary to the accepted Canon interpretation. We see eight more faces: are they the faces of Morbius, or of previously unseen regenerations of the Doctor?

Christopher Baker as either (a) Morbius, or (b) the Eighth Doctor

Robert Holmes as either (a) Morbius, or (b) the Seventh Doctor

Graeme Harper as either (a) Morbius, or (b) the Sixth Doctor

Douglas Camfield as either (a) Morbius, or (b) the Fifth Doctor

Philip Hinchcliffe as either (a) Morbius, or (b) the Fourth Doctor

Robert Banks Stewart as either (a) Morbius, or (b) the Third Doctor

George Gallaccio as either (a) Morbius, or (b) the Second Doctor

Christopher Barry as either (a) Morbius, or (b) the First Doctor

Evidence in favour of (a) Morbius

This is the version commonly accepted as the canonical one, because it is supported by virtually every piece of on-screen evidence within Doctor Who but external to The Brain of Morbius itself: the images must be those of Morbius because they cannot be those of the Doctor because William Hartnell played the First Doctor.

This had been established prior to The Brain of Morbius - in 1973's The Three Doctors William Hartnell's Doctor is referred to by the Time Lords as being the Doctor's "earliest incarnation" - and it would go on to be reinforced many times in later eras, right up to the present day.

Evidence in favour of (b) the Doctor

Here is where Word of God comes in - when they made the story, the production team intended for the faces to be those of the Doctor. The following passage is taken from A History of the Universe by Lance Parkin:
however much we might want to fit this scene into the continuity of the series as established elsewhere or rationalise it away, here, as the sequence of mysterious faces appears on the scanner, Morbius shouts "How far Doctor? How long have you lived? Your puny mind is powerless against the strength of Morbius! Back! Back to your beginning! Back!". These are certainly not the faces of Morbius, as has occasionally been suggested, or the Doctor's ancestors, or his family. Morbius is not deluding himself. The Doctor does not go on to win the fight, he almost dies, only surviving because of the Elixir, it just happens that Morbius's brain casing can't withstand the pressures either.
The production team at the time (who bear a remarkable resemblance to the earlier Doctors, probably because eight of them - Christopher Barry, George Gallacio, Robert Banks Stewart, Philip Hinchcliffe, Douglas Camfield, Graeme Harper, Robert Holmes and Chris Baker - posed for the photographs used in the sequence), definitely intended the faces to be those of earlier Doctors. Producer Philip Hinchcliffe said 'We tried to get famous actors for the faces of the Doctor. But because no one would volunteer, we had to use backroom boys. And it is true to say that I attempted to imply that William Hartnell was not the first Doctor'.


If you consider only the three seasons of Doctor Who produced by Philip Hinchcliffe then there is little, if anything, that contradicts this view. It is the rest of Doctor Who's 50 year run that seems to want to disprove Hinchcliffe's attempt at making himself the real Fourth Doctor.

Perhaps one of the main reasons there is no room for there to be extra Doctors before William Hartnell is that the number of regenerations the Doctor can have is limited and so there is a desire for them to be enumerated and thus become a known quantity.

However, the number of regenerations only became limited in a story the season after The Brian of MorbiusThe Deadly Assassin, by Robert Holmes (our would-be Seventh Doctor above), confines Time Lords to twelve regenerations, or thirteen incarnations.

But Robert Holmes was also script editor - and heavily involved in the writing - of The Brain of Morbius. So taking these two stories together, along with the fact that Holmes could have picked just about any number for how many regenerations are allowed, and it seems that he wanted to suggest that Tom Baker was the Twelfth Doctor, and therefore must be the second-to-last Doctor.

Wait, it gets even better. If Tom Baker was the second-to-last Doctor, then that would mean Peter Davison was the final Doctor. And who wrote the final story for this final Doctor?
Robert Holmes did.
Consider the Doctor's dialogue just before the regeneration:
"Is this death?"
"I might regenerate; I don't know. Feels different this time."
Does even the Doctor think he has now reached the end of his last life?
Also the regeneration itself (directed by Graeme "Sixth Doctor" Harper) looks very different from any of the Doctor's other regenerations. Why is that? Could it be..?

Sunday, 2 March 2014

To Die For

SPOILER WARNING: Pressure Point is one of the main "game changer" episodes of Blakes 7. This blog post will give away the plot twists of the story so do not read on unless you know them already.

"Decepticons: to Earth!"

Pressure Point changes the rules of Blakes 7, or at least demonstrates that the rules it plays by are not the sames as the rules that viewers have seen so far. Killing off main characters is not, whatever certain modern TV series would want viewers to think, a recent innovation. The Sandbaggers, which also began in 1978, killed off multiple main characters over its three seasons, and now it is the turn of Blakes 7 to do the same.

At the end of The Way Back, Blake vowed he would return to Earth one day. Pressure Point is the episode in which he does so. That's Blake and Avon looking at Earth on the main screen there, with suitably awestruck expressions on their faces.

Well Blake looks impressed. Avon is more likely thinking about all the Federation baddys who will be waiting on Earth to try and kill them.

Travis would like a hat like that.

Avon is right to be concerned, because it is a trap set by Servalan and Travis.

Blake and Avon (and Gan and Vila) get captured but escape onto location to try and break into Control.

Control (who wants her freeness) is the main base of the Federation. I think it must be where they keep their internets, because it is something to do with computers. It is definitely important, because all rebels against the Federation want to break into it to steal it or destroy it, and Blake's group are the first ones to succeed.

"We've done it! We've done it! I've done it!"

But Control is an empty room.

Blake realises he has failed, and desperately needs a hug from Avon to make him feel better.

Travis comes in to capture them, and he probably wants in on the hugs as well. But before Travis can get any hugs, Jenna rescues them and they run away.

Travis has a grenade and throws it at them, and when it explodes it brings the roof down on Blake and Gan.

"I'm not worth dying for..."

Blake gets away, but Gan goes

This is a downbeat ending to an amazing episode. Pressure Point is a story where a lot happens, and it is always moving on relentlessly to the big climax. In the empty Control room you can feel Blake's victory slipping from his hands and then, well...

Blake's group haven't won every battle so far, but up until now they have always all escaped with their lives. Gan's death is not just dramatically important for this story - and it is significant that, of all places to die, it happens on Earth, on their most important mission ever - but it raises the stakes on all subsequent episodes of Blakes 7 through to the very end of the series.

Anyone can die.

Well, that is anyone except for Avon. Mew.