Maggie – remembering my mum

So ok – we’ve just had a version, at least, of a funeral for my mum. I couldn’t be there, and neither could many people, but my brother Tim and his wife Karen were there, along with her partner John and his daughter Jo, and mum’s old friend Gareth.

It was webcast, and I was able to read the eulogy I’d written by phone from my apartment here in Barcelona. I’m posting it here, for all those who knew her, all those who wanted to meet her, and all those who loved her, here and all over the world. Continue reading “Maggie – remembering my mum”

Journal of the Plague Year – Part 1

“Isn’t it odd? You talk about millions dying in India and China, and it has no impact at all…”

Survivors episode 1 – The Fourth Horseman, 1975

It started slowly, like it always does. A new report about an outbreak of a new disease, somewhere remote from where I was. Nothing new, nothing unusual – we’d seen it before, with Ebola and SARS and countless others. Distant tragedies that had no real impact other than a bit of humanitarian hand wringing until the outbreaks inevitably flared and burned out. A story I’d seen a dozen times before. Continue reading “Journal of the Plague Year – Part 1”

Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 9 – Ascension of the Cybermen

“The Cybermen were defeated. The victims of a billion battles, broken. An empire of might and terror, fallen. Their weaknesses exploited, their armies outfought. Every empire has its time, and every empire falls. But that which is dead can live again – in the hands of a believer.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

The Cybermen are made up of parts. Spare parts, human and machine. So it’s apt that almost every latterday story about them has itself been made up of parts of other Cyber stories – and this was no exception. However, that didn’t stop it being a very, very good Doctor Who episode in a season that has been unexpectedly good after last year’s rather lacklustre effort. Continue reading “Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 9 – Ascension of the Cybermen”

Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 8 – The Haunting of Villa Diodati

“How about writing the most gruesome, spine-chilling ghost story of all time?”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

It was a dark and stormy night…

How many classic ghost stories begin with that one line? Just maybe, it has its origins in the famous night visited by the Doctor and his companions in this week’s suitably spooky episode – the fevered, intense gathering by Lake Geneva of the early 19th century’s most notorious literary talents. In June 1816, in Villa Diodati, on the shores of the lake, George Gordon (better known as Lord Byron), his current lover Clair Clairmont, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his common law wife Mary Godwin (better known as Mary Shelley) gathered together with their friend Dr John Polidori for a party that would be remembered in the annals of literature for centuries to come. From that party came one of the best known tales of terror in history – Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. Continue reading “Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 8 – The Haunting of Villa Diodati”

Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 7 – Can You Hear Me?

“You’re wrong about humans. They’re not pathetic. They’re magnificent. They live with their fears, doubts, guilts, they face them down every day, and they prevail! That’s not weakness. It’s strength.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

Ostensibly a stab at one of the horror stories Doctor Who has traditionally done so well, Can You Hear Me? was another divisive ep in the way it took on another Big Issue. This time it was mental health, a topic the show has dealt with before (rather more effectively in my opinion) in 2010’s Vincent and the Doctor. The difference here is that rather than showing us a historical figure beset by his personal demons, this time it was the TARDIS crew who were revealed to have fears and anxieties of their own. Continue reading “Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 7 – Can You Hear Me?”

Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 6 – Praxeus

“An alien bacteria has come to this planet – and it found a feast.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

Gotta admit, I didn’t take to Pete McTighe’s last script for Doctor Who. Kerblam! (for such was its title, exclamation mark and all) was a fluffy romp that made a misjudged attempt at a Big Message. Trouble was, the Big Message seemed to go against the very ethos of Doctor Who – that big corporations like Amazon were cuddly and caring, while anti-capitalists who try to disrupt their profiteering are terrorists. It didn’t sit well with the show’s previous depictions of such scenarios. Continue reading “Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 6 – Praxeus”

Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 5 – Fugitive of the Judoon

“I don’t think you are who you say you are – or even who you think you are.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

Well, this season of Doctor Who suddenly got a LOT more interesting. Fugitive of the Judoon, like several of its characters, was a clever episode that was emphatically not what it seemed at first, and undoubtedly the most intriguing story since Chris Chibnall took over as showrunner. And while it’s no disrespect to him, this was in large part because of its deliberate echoes of the previous two showrunners, both of whom loomed large over the concepts, plots and characters appearing here. Continue reading “Doctor Who: Season 12, Episode 5 – Fugitive of the Judoon”