28 September 2015


The Labour Conference will not be debating Trident after a motion on the matter failed to get enough support from trade unions.

I'm of two minds on Trident; I'd like to see a world without nuclear weapons, but am worried without them we'd have had another world war by now. The £80bn we're going to spend on replacement is a lot; but guaranteeing us against an invasion? That might be worth the price.

27 September 2015

In which Missy beats Root (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.2, "The Witch's Familiar")

As I suspected, all the stuff that seemed to have happened in the cliffhanger turned out to be at rather misleading... well, I kind of didn't expect [spoiler] to go that early anyway.

This was a much more talky episode - not to say that there wasn't some action. We got many scenes between the Doctor and an arch enemy, the actor playing the latter having to rely on voice acting as he was under heavy prosthetics. It did seem a bit odd that he was suddenly being all introspective and remorseful... but the fact that it was unconvincing was probably meant to be the point.

One does wonder if the Doctor having to use that isn't going to cause problems for him later; that did seem a lot of stuff to use. Capaldi had another strong episode; a bit less manic in this one, but still very much nailing his version of the Doctor. I also rather liked the flashback scene near the beginning. It seems that 'vampire monkeys' are a real mythological thing.

Clara spent much of her episode encased in a Dalek - there is a reason for this and it kind of helps that Jenna Coleman is only 5'2"; it makes it easier for her to fit insider the casing of the 'current' Daleks, which were designed around Billie Piper's eye-line. Anyway, she has another good episode, especially her many scenes with another character.

Namely, Michelle Gomez's Missy. I described the character of Root from Person of Interest, played by Amy Acker, in an earlier post as the "most deliciously crazy and unpredictable one I've seen in my life". With apologies to Mrs. Acker, I'd have to say that Missy is arguably much more crazier in this episode - using a rather unconventional method of measuring the depth of a hole for one thing. That said, Missy definitely reveals that she is on the side of the baddies towards the end of this. As such, if I had to pick between her and the computer hacker from Texas to go in my adventuring party, the latter wins hands down every time as she probably wouldn't try to kill me.

The Daleks get some very interesting additions to their back-story - it's worth noting that Moffat has officially denied a long-standing rumour about them being contractually obliged to appear in every season - and in particular, some further levels of horror added to their story.

The conclusion sees a spot of classic timey-wimey on the part of Moffat and a considerable amount of classic era invoked; one does wonder if this was perhaps over doing it.

Finally, sonic sunglasses? Well, it gives another lot of merchandise to sell, that's for sure.


Not quite as good as the previous part of the story, but still a well told story that reaffirms the central creed of the Doctor.


21 September 2015

50 minutes of pure joy (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.1, "The Magician's Apprentice")

I didn't really know what to expect from this. What I did not expect was for Steven Moffat to hit it not just out of the park but out of the city.
Firstly, the opening was superb. The hand mines were brilliantly realised and that reveal of the boy's name was something I did not see coming.
Having never watched The Thick of It, I had no idea just how funny Peter Capaldi could be. That scene with the guitar had me laughing out loud. However, this is not all a funny episode - Capaldi gets to show a wide range and has firmly nailed the Twelfth Doctor in a tale with links going back to the Fourth Doctor.
Clara Oswald is on fine sassy form in this episode; demonstrating the firm confidence of an experienced time traveller and also some very funny lines.
Missy returns here - no spoiler - and after the show doesn't even bother to explain how she survived last time  (indeed makes a point of not doing so) manages to be even crazier than before. Michelle Gomez is adept at combining comic material with real menace; this version of the Master will kill just on a whim.
UNIT turn up again and there's some good material for them including a great gag about the mythical lost city of Atlantis for the fans - there are a lot of these in the episode.
The Daleks are also back - we get a smorgasbord of models going back to the very start. To say more would be spoilery, but I was impressed and I find the Daleks over used myself.
Lastly that cliffhanger is one of the best in the show's history. The solution may seem obvious but this is not a show that always goes for that. We shall see.


I don't tend to give top marks to professional works unless they are pretty much perfect.
This was.


15 September 2015

75 years since the Battle of Britain

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the arguably climatic air engagement of the Battle of Britain.

If you think your job is stressful, just imagine what it must have been like for the pilots. At any moment, a bell could ring and you would have to scramble to your aircraft. Then engage a group of German fighters and bombers, knowing that any moment you could end up seriously injured or even dead. Getting shot down meant a difficult exit from a burning aircraft - no ejector seats back then.

Once that's done, land, then possibly do it again in a few hours.

Considering what they had to go through, I sincerely hope The Few will never be forgotten.

12 September 2015

So Jeremy Corbyn has won

Labour has just elected its most left-wing leader since the war in the form of Jeremy Corbyn. He now faces the much more difficult task of persuading a country that has decisively rejected Labour twice (we polled worse than the 1997 Tory result in the last two elections) to back his vision for the United Kingdom.

I hope this election doesn't end up resulting in very bad things for Labour... only time will tell.

09 September 2015

Record-breaking monarch

Queen Elizabeth II has now become the longest reigning monarch in British history, beating Queen Victoria about ten minutes ago - there is no exact timing as the precise time her father, George VI, died was not recorded.

As a great source of continuity and national leadership, I congratulate Her Majesty on this milestone, although I know it has a sad tinge because it is only because of the early death of her father.

God Save The Queen! Long may she reign!

06 September 2015

Sometimes a serial killer story is good (Review: 'Castle' 7.15, "Reckoning")

After over six years of locking up bad guys with her, Richard Castle has locked himself into a relationship with Kate Beckett by actually marrying her. On the second attempt. The first didn't quite work out due to him disappearing on their wedding day and turning up two months later with amnesia, a gunshot injury and signs of having dengue fever. What exactly happened there is still to be determined.

The shippers' dreams have come true, although it has to be said the way it did could have been handled quite a bit better by the writers. The episode in which they actually marry featured an interesting idea (namely what would happened if Castle and Beckett had never met) that was not very well executed and made the actual wedding at the end feel tacked on, not to mention tacky - an adjective that could also be applied to Beckett's "wedding dress" and I ring bells at weddings in what is culturally Essex. Castle does still have a lot of charm about it, but that was a serious misstep.

Another thing has sort of changed - Castle, after being barred from directly working with his missus, is now a private investigator, which allows for him to do his own investigating... but the cases tend to involve the 12th Precinct in some form. It's worked a lot better than it had any right to...

This review contains some spoilers.


There are two distinct types of Castle - "comedic" Castle and "dramatic" Castle. You can usually tell by the lighting - the latter is far darker. In any event, this is definitely the latter.

In fact, this in fact the second part of a two-parter, so I'm breaking my usual rules in reviewing this as one episode rather than in combination, but I can break them if I want them.

In the previous episode, the team discovered that the recurring serial killer 3XK aka Jerry Tyson (he's known as 3XK because he kills three women in short succession then takes a rather long break), who was last seen falling into a river after being shot by Castle was in fact alive, having killed another  victim. Owing to nearly all of the evidence against him having been stolen, making a case against him will be much harder. The 12th Precinct found someone who they thought was him... but was in fact someone who had been given cosmetic surgery by evil plastic surgeon Kelly Neiman to look like him... or is he?

Then Det. Beckett gets jabbed in the shoulder with the old needle of instant sedation and ends up on the long list of female coppers who have been abducted by serial killers... although she might already be on it.


Nathan Fillion has won awards for this show and you can see why: he can convincingly play both the usual happy-go-lucky wild theorising Richard Castle and the on the edge, do not mess with him, Richard Castle. Here he breaks out a gun and beats up a guy who he thinks knows where his missus is; you know that he's not the sort of character that would kill an unarmed man, but we certainly see him going to the sort of things that would get most police officers (which of course he is not) in serious trouble. It is also refreshing to know at the end of the episode that he is not a complete idiot who lets himself end up alone with a serial killer, via some Leverage-style flashbacks.

Beckett (as Castle still generally calls her - the rule on this show is that if the couple start calling each other "Rick" and "Kate" things are deadly serious) spends most of her episode strapped to a gurney and gagged. This isn't a tremendous problem as Stana Katic can do more acting with her eyes than some actors do with their entire bodies. It's also notable that Beckett isn't a damsel in distress; she in fact could have extricated herself from the situation - and pretty much does - without any of her guys.

Martha and Alexis get two scenes in this episode before being packed off to Europe for their own protection, so there's little to say there about them. A pity, as Molly C. Quinn is really good and more screen time for her would be much appreciated.

The rest of the 12th Precinct do a good job. Captain Gates in particular has a strong episode, acting as a voice of reason and trying to stop Castle from doing something stupid. Esposito's military service comes into handy and it's clear the entire group still work well together.

3XK aka Jerry Tyson is one of those twisted serial killers who instead of just killing their target decide to make them suffer first. Here he makes a drug addict woman resemble Beckett and then blow her brains out via remote-control shotgun. He's a master manipulator, but he meets his match in Richard Castle, who has managed to manipulate millions into buying his novels after all.

Kelly Neiman is played by Annie Wersching, perhaps best known as Renee Walker in 24, who delivers a suitably creepy performance. It's a pity that what would have been a rather awesome fight scene between Neiman and Beckett doesn't actually feature in the episode.

The end of the episode sees Castle end up getting the sort of punishment for assaulting a guy that Captain Kirk got at the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. If you've seen that film, you know what I mean. At any rate, the show's strength in that it knows when not to beat an idea into the ground... including this 3XK arc, which I am really glad is now concluded.


I have to say that this was an engaging episode of Castle; I didn't clock watch and the performances were overall very good. It's nice to know that the show can still do both drama and comedy at a high quality.

Also, while I am still deeply tired of the entire serial killer sub-genre (it needs a serious break)


Castle was renewed for an eighth season in the May up-fronts, but not after some quite major issues getting Fillion and Katic to sign new contracts; its Season 7 finale was written as a possible show ender. That's a sign of a show on its way out; another is that the ratings have dropped significantly from the Season 6 peak (I think the botched wedding might have played a part in that). I would not be surprised if Season 8 (which I will be reviewing an episode for) proves to be its last.

05 September 2015

The refugee crisis in Europe

We're seeing the biggest influx of refugees and economic migrants into Europe for many a year; there's not been this many displaced people turning up since the war.

They are fleeing intolerable conditions in their own countries; be it the ravages of Assad or Islamic State (to reference a comment about the Iran-Iraq war, it's a pity they can't both lose), poverty in Kosovo or general repression in Eritrea.

We need to be dealing with both the crisis and the cause of the crisis. The EU needs to get together and agree a equitable distribution of asylum seekers; it is not fair to expect one or two countries to expect to bear the vast majority of the associated costs.

Also, we need to tackle the people smugglers; they are simply trading on human misery with little care for their charges. We have the capacity to take people from the refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey in a safer manner.

Finally, we need to defeat Islamic State (I don't think you can talk to these people even if you want to), as well as facilitating wider peace deals in Syria and Libya. Then continue to act to end the unequal world economy that causes much of this migration in the first place.

In the meantime, sadly, more people seeking a better life - or children who haven't got a huge clue what is going on - are likely to die crossing the Mediterranean. They are in my prayers.

02 September 2015

Lack of reviews etc

If you're wondering why there aren't any further reviews of anything recently, I've been highly busy with other shows and other things. I hope to get back to this stuff soon, but it probably won't be until at least the end of the month.