Who’s that girl?

So, Doctor Who is going to regenerate into a woman. And boy, does the internet have a lot to say about it.

Firstly, I must say I have no issue with the casting of Jodie Whittaker. I’m not very familiar with her work, having only seen her in Attack the Block. Her performance in that was quite comical and I thought she was one of the standouts in the film. I know she has been in Broadchurch, a show not known for it’s laughs and so I am unsure what to expect from her Doctor. The costume revealed in the short teaser, while being refreshingly different, is not her final costume for the next series. We therefore really know very little other than physical appearance about the thirteenth. I’m therefore excited by something fresh, as the show was starting to get stale.

Image result for thirteenth doctor

Gender swapping is being talked about a lot at the moment. It’s nothing new though, as you can see with the Battlestar Galactica reboot, Salt, James Bond (Judi Dench as M) and even Alien (Ripley was originally a man).

The film industry is very aware that it has a problem with female actors being underpaid. I also think lead roles for women are in short supply, particularly in blockbusters.

Female representation in film (Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Female_and_male_characters_in_film.png)

The simple solution being considered by some is to insert women into existing male franchises. For example, there are calls for James Bond to be recast as a woman.  I struggle to see that working. The character is quite misogynistic and arrogant. I think this role would be hard for any woman to play.

The more complex and more thorough solution is that the production needs to consider gender actively, particularly in blockbusters. That Marvel has not released a film with a female protagonist and are 16 films in is shocking. Wonder Woman has silenced any financial and artistic arguments that may have existed that necessitate a male lead.

It’s not just about the leads however, its about the quality of parts. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the female roles are all a little one note. You may have heard of the Bechdel Test or the Mako Mori test, both methods for preventing female characters existing purely to support the men. I think the situation is so bad that 50% of the world’s population are under represented, so something actively needs to be done.

I think as long as a role is written either for a woman or as genderless, which the Doctor is, then a woman can play it. The inequality is real and we need to change it.

And if you think actors have it bad, pity the directors. I bet you can’t name 3 female directors?

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Fringe & creativity

Recently I’ve been watching a TV show called Fringe, produced by J.J Abrams (now confirmed as the director of Star Wars VII). Its an American science fiction series about a string of cases referred to as ‘the pattern’ which are investigated by a team of specialists in an area called ‘fringe science’. This concerns theories which are unproven and experimental in nature. They concern things which would normally be considered supernatural, such as teleportation, reading minds and seeing the future.

What makes it so enjoyable are the characters. As is normally the case, there are three main characters, one of which is the focus. Olivia Dunham is a hard-working agent who asks the questions others are afraid to voice. Peter Bishop is the wise-cracking bad boy with a past. His father, Walter Bishop, is the genius, but in the vein of a crazed scientist. He’s the sort of person with whom a conversation about giving his special concoction of LSD to slugs is normal.

One thing I noticed though is that each one of them is creative, but each in their own way. Walter is the one you’d refer to as the creative type as he does seemingly random things and goes considerably past kooky. Interestingly this is only used for science and not for art, as is usually expected. Peter gets all the sarcastic lines, all of which are very inventive and show his quick wit. Olivia is a little less visible, as her creativity is not the main aspect of her character. It comes out at moments though, when she thinks of a good idea that nobody else would have dared consider.

It once again goes to show that anyone can be creative. The difficulty is spotting it.

Indian Monty Python

Last Tuesday night I was leaving a restaurant in central Bangalore and I saw a poster on a billboard that made me step back. I looked again to check it was what I thought I recognised and it was. A poster for Spamalot the musical.

I read the details an my mind was blown. It was a CAUSE foundation production, putting on their own version of the broadway show on Saturday night. Tickets cost between 200 (£2.50) and 500 rupees (£6).

I was shocked and amazed by this. Firstly, by the fact that a British comedy (though on seeing it, I must admit it was probably written for an American audience) was here, over 5,000 miles away. I knew that Monty Python was met with International acclaim, but with typical British cynicism I had assumed this meant in Europe and the USA. I didn’t expect their irreverent silly slapstick to have appealed here, though why it would be limited to our Sceptred Isle escapes me.

I also found it hard to swallow that it was being done for charity and at such a good price. I had believed the rumours and gossip about Eric Idle only doing it for the money and being a miser in real life. This is a failure on my part that I hope to now deter in others. This use of the official name, poster and screenplay stand as testament against those malicious lies which are so tempting to take on board.

The CAUSE foundation stands for Cooperation of the Arts for the Underprivileged in and Society & Environment and more can be learnt from this video. Their aim is to foster local creative talent with surplus funds going to local charities. This persuaded me to go and see this once in a lifetime event, after all, how often do you get the chance to hear some of you country’s most famous and most silly songs be sung live in a different accent and in a concert hall shaped like a violin?

Doctor Who Series 6 Part 1: A fan’s reaction

Well, the series has just finished its first part and Matt Smith is due to appear in twenty one more episodes at least, so I thought that as an avid watcher of the Doctor ever since its revival with Christopher Eccleston that I’d share my thoughts on the latest run. Firstly, I will go over every episode in order, as this seems the most logical approach and then any remaining thoughts will be discussed. Of course, I highly recommend you actually watch the episodes first as they are far more enjoyable when approached fresh.

——BEWARE, HERE BE SPOILERS DEARIE——–

The series couldn’t really have started with a bigger bang, as the first thing we see is the Doctor dead. Shot by an unknown assailant, I initially hoped this mystery would be solved in the first two parter. What it did, however, was set an overall ark for the series, with a genuine problem to be solved. That is one of the genuine joys of a time travelling narrative, the ability to show an event that will happen and have everyone work to prevent it, even though it seems certain. This episode also had the introduction of the Silence, a monster hinted at in the previous series. They are quite frankly a wonderful but terrifying idea that ironically is unforgettable, the second episode’s moments with the tallying and the blinking palms were beautifully executed storytelling and really drew you in. My only faults with this episode were the moon landing they chose to shoe horn in (though I imagine a reason will be provided later) and the cliff hanger which was followed by a three month gap. Those thing aside though, this was a good start to the series and made me hungry for more.

The third episode was the weakest in this series by quite a long way and was a very typical stand alone episode where all threads would be wrapped up after the allotted forty five minutes. The main appeal of this episode seemed to be the celebrities and the story suffered because of this I think. The idea is a good one, that of a medical drone being forced to help those who can recover on their own, but the tired ghost story aspect of it was not well done. This was a mostly boring episode with a few moments that were quite good, but overall, very weak.

I was having my doubts about the series at this point and a lot of my hopes rested on the next episode. I had heard beforehand that it was written by Neil Gaiman and the title was The Doctor’s Wife. I had thought through a few theories of my own, but none of them were right and how glad I was. This episode was an absolute joy and is almost certainly my favourite ever Doctor Who episode. The idea of making the Tardis speak and flirt with the Doctor was a joy to watch and allowed Smith to give an outstanding almost straight performance to her mad woman. I also thoroughly enjoyed the extra scenes within the Tardis and House was a great villain. It was funny, frightening, finely executed and fantastic, the fourth episode was a perfect fit for the middle of a series. My hopes and expectations peaked and while I didn’t expect this to be beaten, I did now have faith in Moffat, after having my doubts and was willing to go with him on the journey.

The next pair were again founded on a great idea but not as well executed as the latter. I really enjoyed the idea of having exact copies of yourself, a subject that the fiction book I was reading at the time was also concerned with, but there was a lot of trimming that could have been perfected. The characters in the factory were all fairly stereotypical and it was only Jennifer who had any depth. The men of the facility were very flat and completely uninteresting, making their deaths just part of the plot. It was left to Smith with his duplicate Doctor to take control and steer the episode. I must confess however that I did not see the end coming, though did predict early on that she was pregnant somewhere.

The final episode, while flawed, was very enjoyable. The fast pace kept you from caring too much about the plot holes and I just had fun on the ride. It was very weak in places, with the war being too short with some characters being almost non entities. I was glad that Rory got his moment to shine though and the final twist was a relief. I must admit to not being a big fan of River Song, so to know that the relationship with the Doctor is merely paternal is a relief, as I always thought he could do better. I did think she played the reveal moment very well and I’m now excited for what the four of them will do next.

The Doctor is fast becoming one of the best I’ve seen. At the start of the series I was worried that the catchphrases would continue without end, as there were a lot of references to things being cool. This was just a first lesson reminder however, and although other reminders were made, there were no further hats and not many cool references. The emotional side was seen far more and Smith did it very well, making us really get to grips with the Doctor. Though this series has been really quite dark, the Doctor has not been and this iteration is far lighter. He has moments of weakness, but underneath it all you can tell he’s a madman in a box who wants to help people get along.

The companions as well, as there are two this series, have also been fantastic. Amy started off a bit weak but became stronger as she was thrown into more difficulty. Rory however has been a great and consistent character, one I shall miss when his time to move on ends. Having a married couple on board has come as a relief from the problems that Martha’s pining for the Doctor brought. It has meant we still have all the romantic moments, with the rescue of Amy at the end being a great one, but do not have the Doctor being liked by someone we feel is less than deserving.

Despite some weak moments and a few plot holes, this has been one of the most enjoyable series so far. The driving narrative has led to a different feel to the show and its more intelligent approach has paid off. The cast have performed well and Moffat has proven that he’s a far better lead writer than Davies ever was. If the second half matches this, then I will be completely satisfied.

What do you think, what did you like, hate and what do you think is to come? Leave your comments below.

Given Arthur chance, this could be really good, Harry up and make it!

Firstly, apologies for the pun. I like a good one liner and that sums this post up quite well.

I usually like to write about my reactions to the latest film news but I’ve found Hollywood to be rather predictable and uninteresting of late. While browsing though I came across an idea that made me sit up in my chair, though it was television and not film.

Screenrant is a website I highly recommend. A fellow blogger is running it on his own back and he’s just at the point where he’s able to make enough money from the site to quit his job, so please lend your support by giving him traffic. A recent story linked back to one he reported in February that I missed at the time and it literally blew my mind. The link is here and below is a summarising extract:

The cable network has secured the rights to Among the Spirits, a mystery show centered around legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini and British novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle…[It] will play out in 1920s America, as the duo solves suspicious murders with the aide of a female police detective. According to Syfy original programming president Mark Stern, the show will draw heavily upon the “Steampunk” artistic aesthetic that’s become popular in the last few years.

I must admit, that is one of the most original ideas I’ve heard in years. I don’t even see why the steampunk styling is necessary, even as a stylish period piece this could be epic. The two of them were friends in real life and I can see them working as a great partnership; one fully controlled and capable of manipulating others while the other takes a more neutral observational stance. Add steampunk to that and you have a sure fire hit on your hands. Even if it sucked, it would still be fun to watch just to think about how to do it better.

It is however the title that concerns me slightly. It refers to a book published by Houdini debunking spiritualists, as he travelled around debunking the fakers. He wanted to distance his tricks and sleight of hand from anything like the mediums that were popular of the period. Doyle however, did not believe Houdini and stuck to his own Spiritualist beliefs. Doyle said in his own book, the Edge of the Unknown, that he believed Houdini to be using paranormal powers, despite what Harry had written. While this is an interesting story and one worth telling, as it shows two men’s resolute faith in spite of their friends, I worry that no adaptation could present this disagreement neutrally. I would be ok if they side with Houdini, but the decision to go Steampunk and distance themselves from the real world makes me worry that they could go down the spirits route.

I think though that this aspect is to be far less of a focus than I fear Doyle only believed in Spiritualism in later life so there is much that this series could do before they historically fell out. It sounds like something to look out for, and one I will most certainly keep an eye out for.

Just while I remember…

Just watched ‘How not to live your life’ on BBC Three. Didn’t intend to, just flicked on and it seemed funny. Not exactly mind blowingly original, but a bit of good fun, with a few fun characters. Its available on iPlayer till Tuesday, so if have a spare half hour and want to try something new, it comes recommended.

PS On an after-note, I tried another new BBC Three comedy, ‘Off the Hook’ and that was a bit rubbish in my opinion, but it may be funny to you.