Asides, links

Woman Who Shot at Home Depot Shoplifters Vows to Never Help Anyone Again – The New York Times

Tatiana Duva-Rodriguez of Michigan, who had been a passerby when she noticed the commotion, lost her gun-carrying permit and got 18 months’ probation.

The NYTimes reports this without comment. This crazy woman shot at people who were suspected of shoplifting. Not murder, not terrorism. Shoplifting. And the lesson she says she’s learned is, “I’ll never help anyone again.”

films, sf

Revenge of the Prequels

Well, this is more like it. It’s far from perfect, butRevenge of the Sith is far and away the best of the three prequels.

And that is largely because it has a story that mostly makes sense, and isn’t too confusing. Sure, there are still plot holes, and flaws in the motivation; but overall it holds together pretty well.

Still not as well as any of the original trilogy, of course.

The biggest point that doesn’t work for me is that we don’t see why Anakin has any connection with Palpatine. He goes over to the latter far too easily. I don’t so much mean his falling to the Dark Side; that was on the cards at least since he murdered the Sandpeople inClones. I mean the fact that Palpatine was suddenly asking him to spy on the Jedi Council, while the Council were equally-suddenly talking about his closeness to Palpatine. We had seen none of this.

I’ve been reading a lot about all this lately, and I gather that much is made clearer in the ancillary material: novels, comics, theClone Wars series that was made around the same time. But even if that is so, it means the movies fail. A movie has to be able to stand on its own. You can’t expect the viewer to have read around the subject or watched spinoff series. You can just barely rely on them having seen the immediately-prior films.

Compare and contrast the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for example. You can watchThe Avengers without having seen any of the prior films. Or enjoyAgents of SHIELD without having seenCaptain America: The Winter Soldier, for example. If you have seen the related material then it enhances the whole. But any element can stand without the others.

The love story between Anakin and Padmé remains unconvincing, and Padmé’s death… well, I had gained the impression that she had died in childbirth, which seemed implausible in such a technologically-advanced society. In fact she died of a broken heart, or just gave up the ghost, or something. Which would be more plausible (if still not very) had she not just given birth. It seems more likely that a new mother would tend to fight for life to protect her babies. She died because the plot needed her to, in the end. If, as a creator, you have to do that kind of thing, you should at least find a more convincing way to do it.

Anyway, now I’ve seen all of theStar Wars movies, and I’m ready forThe Force Awakens. Which is good, because I’ll be seeing it in about 30 hours.

sf, tv

Hell and Heaven

We come to the end of what I can now confidently say was my favourite series of newDoctor Who so far. No matter how good it was when it all came back with Chris Ecc (as we still like to call him in my family); how much we liked David Tennant; how manically brilliant Matt Smith was from day one: Peter Capaldi was on fire this season, and Stephen Moffat is at the top of his game as showrunner.

Were this last pair as good as “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” or “Blink”? It’s hard to say definitively, because those were so shockingly good when they hit us. But I think in time we’ll say so. I don’t doubt that Capaldi and the production team will win BAFTAs this year, and I’m sure that one of the last two will get the Hugo.

Awards may not mean that much (though let’s face it, they do) but when you see an award-worthy performance, or read something that you know is likely to win, that deserves to win — you know you’ve experienced something special.

And we experienced something very special in this season ofDoctor Who And particularly in the last three episodes.

I just read a foolish comment on a Tor.com post about how great Capaldi is. It said, in effect, “That episode was only about the gender & skin-colour switching regeneration.” Yes, that was it it was about that one thing and nothing else.

Seriously, though, that was a nice touch.

One thing I haven’t seen or heard mentioned is how terrified the Time Lords were of him — well, Rassilon, at least: one guy, and they send a vast floating gun platform to bring him in. Of course, it turns out that Rassilon was right to be afraid.

One thing about this episode and more importantly, the previous, seems to be causing people some confusion. The Doctor didn’t spend two billion years (or whatever) in the clockwork castle. Two billion years worth of copies of him — each with some awareness of its past iterations, triggered by the word “bird” — go through a near-identical experience.

ThoughHell Bent proves that even The Doctor — or Stephen Moffat — is confused by this.

Mind you, the planet on which the castle is built does experience all that time, we must assume, as The Doctor observes how the stars have changed.

What the episode does do is address the old philosophical question of whether matter transmitters make copies. In the Whoniverse at least, they do.

Unless the whole thing is a simulation, including the changing stars.

Anyway, masterful, glorious work. I’m looking forward to the Christmas special.

Britain today, politics

Memories of 2003

It’s only twelve years ago. Twelve years, and it feels like everyone — the bulk of MPs, at least — has forgotten about the dodgy dossier; about shock & awe; about Abu Ghraib and everything that followed.

Because here we are again: our elected representatives are banging spears on shields and baying with the desire to follow a weak, shoddy prime minister to war.

Classic political distraction, of course: things are bad at home (to say nothing of in the government’s party), so let’s have a war to distract the populace; the electorate; the “patient millions/Who put them into power,” as Billy Bragg put it.

So far, so unsurprising. But it’s Labour MPs who really bother me. I thought perhaps we had turned a corner with the election of Jeremy Corbyn. That maybe we would return to being a proper opposition, by actually opposing Tory excesses. And by doing so, show the nation that here is a true alternative to the politics of the last couple of decades; to right-wing versus slightly-less-right-wing. Show the potential for a more peace-loving Britain.

But here they all are, the party grandees, howling for bombs alongside the Tories. I shouldn’t be surprised, of course: it was a Labour government that took us into Iraq twelve years ago. In my defence — and theirs, to some extent — we were deceived , then — them by that dossier, us by them. Millions marched against it,1 but many thought that there must be something to all this talk of us being 45-minutes away from an attack. That the government must know something.

Back then my son was nearly six. When we told him — in an age-appropriate way, as they say — that it looked like there was going to be a war — his first response was, “Will I have to go away?” Those tales of World War II evacuated kids burn deep for a Londoner.

We reassured him that no, the war would be far away, and wouldn’t affect us directly. Two years later we were proved wrong, when the war came to his hometown.2

And just two weeks ago the current war came to Paris. Does anyone doubt, if our leaders go ahead and escalate this war, that we’ll see it come back to British streets? Maybe London again. Maybe Birmingham, Manchester, Belfast, Glasgow.

More blood on British streets. Blood, which — along with that of the innocents who die in Syria under RAF bombs — will be at partly on the hands of the MPs who go through the division lobbies with the government tomorrow.


  1. I was sadly absent from that through having small kids and a visiting aged parent. I was there in spirit. []
  2. Looking back I find that I predicted it. I was far from alone, of course. []
sf, tv

Heaven and Lords

I wouldn’t have minded if I had guessed it myself. But one little line in theGuardian Guide prompted me. All it did was make me think of something I hadn’t thought of before, but it felt like a spoiler: “The Doctor comes closer than ever before to returning to Gallifrey,” or some such.

And there it was: “They” from last week had to be the Time Lords.

But why? Why did they do it? Why put the Doctor through that, just to get him to Gallifrey? And also, how? of course: how can he get to Gallifrey when it’s supposed to be locked away in some pocket universe?

And titling: why was it called “Heaven Sent”?

Great episode, by the way. Best of the season. Indeed, I predict a Hugo.

And I expect we’ll find out some of the answers next week.

sf, tv

Raven and… What?

Well. Well, well well.

Well.

I have to say (and spoilers here for “Face the Raven”, if you haven’t seen it yet — that was companion-exit that guarantees they won’t be able to bring her back.

OK, yes, nothing is forever inDoctor Who, and there are already rumours or suggestions that Clara will be appearing in flashbacks or similar in the next two episodes. But that really felt properly final.

And I have to say, I hope it stays that way. Nothing against Clara, or Jenna Coleman — I think she was a good companion played by a very good actor — but it just feels that they’ve done too much of bringing companions back. Sure, we all love to see them again, but really? She’s gone out with a heroic and tragic last scene. It would cheapen it to bring her back.

Unless there was a very good reason, of course.

It occurs to me: if the planned new spinoff programme,Class, is to be set in and around Coal Hill School, where Clara was teaching: what does her death mean for that, for the characters in it? Presumably some of them will be her students, or teachers who knew her.

Anyway, back to Clara, and the Raven. And maybe her death wish?

I was pleased that she mentioned Danny Pink at the end, because I’ve been thinking that it was strange that neither she nor The Doctor had mentioned him in this season. It seemed that she really hadn’t had a chance go grieve properly — or hadn’t let herself do so.

Though we don’t know how long is supposed to have passed. It could be a year, two, since the events of “Death in Heaven”. Which doesn’t mean she’d have stopped grieving — certainly not that she’d have forgotten him. But she could have got to a place where she could carry on without always thinking of him.

But then there’s her mood this series, her mad drive for more adventures, her carelessness — best shown in this very episode with the way she hung out of the Tardis1

So if we want to psychoanlayse her, we can say that she has spent the last ten episodes (and maybe longer) running away from Danny’s death, from her own feelings about it; or running towards her own eventual death, her sacrifice.

This episode for me was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. I was considered quite contentious in my family when I said I thought that the current season was the best of New-Who. That led to much discussion of other past seasons, and my eventual acquiescence into the idea that it’s mainly the best because it’s the one that’s happening now. Like my friend Paul said a while back: “My favourite episode ofDoctor Who? The next one.”

But I think the truth of it is that it has been a very even series: not great highs (except maybe this very episode) — no “Blink” or “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” or “Father’s Day”. But no real lows, either (arguably the previous episode, but I still think it was worthwhile.) An entire season (so far) of solid, strong episodes, leading to a climax like this — and who knows what will come next?

I note in passing that this reviewer thinks like me.

Anyway. There is much more I could say — like who are the “they” who have kidnapped The Doctor? The obvious answer would be Davros and the Daleks, possibly with help from Missy. That would bookend the season nicely, and make some sense of Ashildr asking for his “Confession Dial”. But that might be too obvious.

But that’s enough for now. Quoth the Raven, “Neverwhere’s all about hidden London, isn’t it?”


  1. I can’t decide on whether to use the old-school all caps, since it’s an acronym, or the more modern approach of making it a standard word. I wonder: what would Nasa do? Oh. Yes. []