Skip to content

Questions of Decorum in the Writing of Sermons

I’m not observantly religious myself (though I play someone who is in my medieval society) so since the few times I attended Sunday services as a teenager (Methodists first and then Anglicans) I haven’t had much experience of sermons.

More and more experience of eulogies as time goes by. If I’m hovering around at my own funeral I’ll probably be critiquing the delivery and possibly the word choice as well.

But I have heard and do believe that you have to fit the length of your sermons to your audience and to the length of time you have to fill before their buttocks become numb or their bladders full.

And I’ve also heard that brievity is the soul of wit.

I think that both those sentiments should be pointed out to Chris Chibnal.

I liked most of EVE OF THE DALEKS until the sermon the Doctor got handed two iterations before the end of this time loop adventure. The Daleks could have had a few more variant lines from their usual racial and personal superiority complex though I liked their new weapons which were definitely worth the investment. There was a good structure and I didn’t have a single fridge logic moment (though your Aunt Betty who hasn’t ever watched anything other than Coronation Street in fifty years might have some difficulty). There was plenty of comedy though speaking of Coronation Street I could have done with less slagging of the noble city of my birth, not that I’d want to spend New Years Eve in Central Manchester either. (Mind you, note to self, avoid the Rye Park in High Wycombe next New Years: it’s popular with drunken idiots with very loud fireworks.)

Anyway the problem with this one is that Chris Chibnall gave the Doctor a ‘rally the troops’ speech which was also a sermon about how people survive and go on and learn and grow. Most people don’t get a redo after dying several times though. I assume, anyway.

But he left this until the point where more than a couple of sentences wouldn’t have made sense because they were being tracked down by a growng number of Daleks and had a limited time to solve the puzzle, kill the Daleks and escape the doomed building. (They managed it: I don’t think that’s a spoiler.)

Chris needs to express his sometimes ponderous though worthy thoughts with wit, brevity and if at all possible some sign of poetry. He has two more specials to go. Let’s hope for the best.

When Yaz finally admitted her feelings about the Doctor (only to Dan but it’s something) I could hear the sound of the fists of a thousand fanfic ‘shippers’ punching the air and a mass ‘squee’ sound from somewhere. The Doctor is either in denial or afraid of her fast oncoming mortality or a bit of both.

That revelation does complicate the casting decisions of the new showrunner. Having another female Doctor (which strikes me as the wiser thing to do) or chosing to have a male doctor… Oh, my. What a complicated political mess. Probably the best thing (since a large bunch of Internet know-it-alls will hate you no matter what you do) is find the most talented actor you can and go with them.

Ravagers, Passengers, Mad Moles and Grand Serpents

Now, then what do we know?

Not as much as I would like.

Apparently the Ravagers were the central bad guys here. The Sontarans were trying to survive and triumph (incompetenly as usual) but we already knew that. Surprisingly, the Grand Serpent (who we didn’t really get an explanation for, much) was also being an opportunist. We never did learn what his long term scheme was. Was he really necessary? Why was he there? Just to fill up screen time? He’s now stacked somewhere he can be retrieved from if a future showrunner decides he’s worth reviving and being given a story of his own.

But the Ravagers we saw were just the minions and servants of something called Time who seems to have been the chief mover and shaker. We were told that they were seeking revenge, doing to the Doctor what she had done to the two of them. What that was is… unclear but there was a lot of gloating. The Doctor got called ‘First of the TIme Lords’ which looks like Chibnall wants to go back to the daft theory from the tie-in novels of the 80s in which the Doctor was a contemporary of Rassillon… But where is Rassillon in this continuity? I dunno?

Among the other things I don’t know:

Who was the guy in bed with the female Ravager back in the first episode?

Why did the Luparans feel they owed the humans a debt? Were they an uplift species?

We had a whole mess of destruction of space time and different times mixing together. Causality took a sharp kick in the ghoulies and lots of things didn’t make sense. Last time it happened on this scale the Doctor had to reboot reality. Why not this time? Is that a trick you can pull twice.

Did the clever Daleks and Cybermen all get wiped out by the Flux leaving only the gullible ones to fall for a transparent Sontaran trick?

Why was the lady in charge of Division destroying the Universe? What was all that about with Division? Why are they going around putting kill switches in the skulls of Luparans when just killing them outright would work better?

What happened to the Weeping Angel inside of what’s her name the psychic?

I have approximately 50,000 questions of this sort and rewatching will only increase their number.

Good things included: three Jodies for the price of one.

Jodie getting to be the Serious Doctor for once. (She could have done with more of that earlier in her tenure.)

The rickety house of the Doctor’s lost memories. That is far too nice a conceit not to get re-used when she finally fishes the Lost Watch out of storage.

The Professor’s final words but then I’m a sucker for an apposite quotation. I’d have been happier to see him as a continuing character than I would John Bishop as Dan. He hasn’t been as well served by the scripts as the Doctor or Yaz.

Bad things included the wasting of so many characters. The Mad Mole of Liverpool would have had a whole adventure of his own and a decent farewell speech if he hadn’t just been jammed into the insane multi-dimensional trifle that was the script here.

Back to Daleks on New Year’s Day. This isn’t over yet.

EDITED TO ADD:

You know what this felt like? Like Chris Chibnall throwing all the neat ideas he’d had about the Doctor and the Whoniverse that will now never get an episode of their own into one food processor and turning it on to blend. This isn’t what I would recommend.

Good as far as it went.

No major goofs. (Except maybe that the entire 1904 wandering up to the heights of Tibet to do something that didn’t pay off is a bit… Annoying. Nice scenery though. There was the completely pointless reversal of the polarity of the neutron flow last week too.)

But I’m finding myself in the position of being frustrated by developments. This past week we had the announcement that there are going to be not one but three DOCTOR WHO ‘Specials’ next year, starting with one on New Years Day and leading up to one for the BBC’s Hundredth Anniversay celebrations. Which is fair enough but does this mean that we won’t get a regeneration until then? There has been no announcement of the new Doctor yet which is quite unprecidented control of the media narrative. And does that mean Chris Chibnall gets another three episodes to clear up whatever it is he thinks he is up to? There are three distinct villains in the mix now and no clear narrative to explain who any of them really are.

It definitely seems to mean no new series until after the centennial. Hi Ho.

Good news, bad news

The good news is that Our Beloved Prime Minister does not appear to be suffering from the same verbal malfunctions as the Former Number One Guy in the US did. His sentences ramble, they use appalling imagery and twee references and catchphrases he probably learned at his nanny’s knee. But they do make some sort of sense.

He isn’t suffering from senility or whatever peculiar form of brain damage the Former Guy has. He is however (and his recent performance confirms this) lazy, incompetent and vain. Only he could have written Peppa Pig (I believe that was the lady’s name) into an address to the CBI, a bunch of people noted for taking themselves and their concerns seriously even when they are on the annual jamboree. I can here him now, in my imagination, insisting on her inclusion to the professional speech writers employed to polish up his whimseys and find good filler for him: “No, no! Don’t be so stuffy! It’ll be fine!”

I realise this is thin comfort but it’s all I can offer you. I am slightly depressed by the possibility that the Tories will now be able to replace him and that the person they find to replace him (no matter how objectively unsuited to high office) will be given a chance to prove themselves by the British People whose sense of fairness will be offended by those of us who condemn them without giving them a chance to prove themselves. Yes, even Michael Gove! Yes, even Pritti Patel.

That dead cat bounce might well be enough to take the Tories first over the finishing line in the next General Election.

I may be forced (horrid prospect!) to say nice things about Boris, about how he is a splendid chap and should be preserved for the nation if I can thereby keep him in office until the next general election. (Odds against a televised debate though, don’t you think?)

EDITED TO ADD:

I just watched a recording of him fumbling through his notes and looking for his place, saying ‘Forgive me…. Forgive me….”

I have dreams like that but only ones in which I am a poor under-rehearsed actor and not ones where I am Prime Minister. I suppose I now have that to look forward to.

A Brief Burst of Cynicism

This week’s DR WHO was very flavourful, nicely concise and didn’t do anything much to annoy me.

I liked the use of the isolated English village in the 1960s, the twisted time-line of the psychic character (which didn’t make much sense when I tried to think about it), the lovely scene inside the mind scape of the psychic as the Doctor confronted the Angel, especially the setting on a causeway (?) or sea-side strand of sand.

But continuing the point I made last time about time fleeting by, I noticed that the focus of the whole mystery of the season is turning again towards the Doctor’s ‘missing memories’ and the nature of the Division. And it occurs to me that that there just isn’t the time to properly explore any memories the Doctor might get access to… So a prediction. The Doctor’s memories will not be explored much, if at all, by the end of this series. Either it will be shown to be a massive deception or red herring or it will be left entirely for the next poor schmo of a showrunner to unravel and make sense of.

And I can’t even figure out which of those is the more cynical option. No graphic this posting as I can’t think of a visual image of cynicism. Oh, wait! I know! A small yapping dog! (For reasons to do with the Greek origins of the word.)

Major fan service next time with the return of Kate Stewart and the villain gloating, unwisely I hope.

Chris (may I call you Chris?)…

…you really need to start clearing things up.

We’re halfway through the six episodes you’ve got to wind up your involvement with DOCTOR WHO and you just introduced a whole new thread, a self-righteous and maternal looking woman who has informed the Doctor that she’s closing down the universe that the Doctor ‘is so fond of’ and there’s nothing the Doctor can do about this and what is more it’s all the Doctor’s fault this is happening because Reasons.

Next week, you’re going to be dragging us back to the 1950s and having Weeping Angels attack a rural English village which will probably turn out to be half St Mary Meade and half Midwich (of Cuckoo fame). You can probably afford to have that be a more or less self contained story inside the wider arc of the Flux. Indeed after this week’s mad ride through history and the backstory of everybody, including the Doctor. (If that was actually her past history and not a double bluff) it would make a nice, restful change.

Which just leaves us the final two weeks to:

Introduce the first glimpses of What Is Really Going On.

Make us tremble at the Terrible, Terrible climax plotted by the baddies.

Kill off any companions you plan to kill.

Give the Doctor a last mad scheme which Just Might Work.

Destroy and/or Recreate the Universe in a form which other writers will be willing to pick up and run with.

Have the Doctor nobly sacrifice herself and regenerate.

Crash the TARDIS and allow it to redesign itself. (I do hope you haven’t gotten it into your head to destroy the old girl, the way you did UNIT, Gallifrey and other plot elements you felt were a burden on your genius.)

What I’m saying is, you need to get a bit of a move on.

I’m not yet willing to condemn what you’re doing. I am increasingly dreading you either doing something really dumb in the Big Reveal or just failing to resolve the thing you have promised to resolve, a thing that NuWho has been prone to in a manner more offensive than Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s chickening out in Biographia Literaria, which is the worst violator of the Law of Chekov’s Gun I know of.

It’s not just me, is it?

I’ve no problem (yet) with the plot of FLUX.

There was even one killer line: “Where are we going?” “Half a league onward.”

But who the hell turned the sound volume up so high?

Who said to the composer: “I don’t care about the quality but make it Really Loud!”


I don’t want to have to watch with subtitles on just so that I can grasp what’s going on.

Last week I thought it might be me going old and deaf. This week, I’m going to say that the sound mixing is clearly to blame.

Not grumpy yet.

My reaction to the new season of DR WHO?

Well, not too bad.

I’m not trying to damn it with faint praise but the first season of Jodie Whittaker’s time in the role was me saying ‘Let’s wait to see if it improves’, my second was me saying ‘She’s not really being well served by the writers’ and ‘You can’t do that!’ a lot and for the third I’m holding back any enthusiasm lest it comes to bite me in the rear by the end of the season.

Which is only five episodes away. This may be the way for Chris Chibbnal to depart leaving them wanting more or it may be because he and the cast are exhausted.

He started with an in media res full of references to things that happened between the Doctor and Yaz between series which is fine for giving Yaz a bit more depth, competence and confidence. There was a mysterious woman the Doctor was going to meet sometime in the future, a mysterious young man watching at the edge of the universe and the return (briefly for now) of the Weeping Angels and the Sontarans. There’s also a new companion, a new alien race, a mysterious villain who disintegrates people and remembers the Doctor while she does not remember him and the approaching end of all creation.

As Snoopy once remarked “In the Second Half I tie all this together.” Will Chris Chibnall be able to make sense of this along with the utterly blithering elements he introduced in the last series? I dunno. But I will be watching.

My only criticism is that there are too many bits of complicated dialogue being shouted very fast through loud sound effects. I’m going to have to watch them again on iPlayer to pick up what’s going on. This may be me becoming old and deaf, of course. At least I no longer go and hide behind the sofa. I don”t have a sofa for one thing.

I shit you not

I have just received the silliest unsolicited phonecall ever.

“Hello, is that Mr Cule? This is XXXX and I’m calling you from the Clairvoyant Company. (1) How are you today?”

It took a beat but I came back with: “Can’t you tell?”

“We have some good news for you sir. Are you free for a few minutes? An advisor would like to speak with you…”

I told her (very gently, because clearly she was not firing on all cylinders) that she should, please, try to find an honest job and hung up.

It really, really happened!

Their phone number was 01246104530: The reverse phone number site tells me nothing about them. Perhaps those of you who have more patience than me could ring them up and explore their services. I’m sure you’d be doing them a favour.

(1) There’s an AI consultancy in America (who have an office in Hyderabadad and it was an Indian accent on the other end of the phone. If this was them they need to change their name.

A letter to the editor

Sir,

A gentleman of my acquaintance, in his fifties and not in the best of health, today informed me that he had been knocked down by a person riding a powered pedal scooter on the pavement. He was then berated by the owner of the device for wrecking it. The collision occured after the scooter had been driven downhill and around a corner without adequate attention to other road, or in this case, pavement users. The driver was in his thirties but clearly not yet of an age to understand his responsibilies.

Fortunately for my friend there was a police car in the vicinity and the officers had witnessed the incident. They told him that the scooter driver had been charged three times before and released on bail each time. I’m aware of (and approve of, mostly) the fact that the vast majority of those accused of offences are not detained unless they are liable to cause harm to witnesses or otherwise interfere with the course of justice. But to be released the third time of asking? Once is happenstance, twice is co-incidence, the third time is blithering idiocy.

Can anyone tell me why it is that though there are laws against driving powered vehicles on the pavement, the police tolerate this and our local council even permits the setting up of recharging stations there so that you can pick up and drop off commercially available scooters. They may look like something a child would ride but they are powered and of a considerable mass. What is more all you need to hire one (I understand) is a debit card that can provide access to the owner’s website. Providing the details of a driving licence is not required.

The cause of keeping bicycles off the pavements has long been abandoned: if we are going to allow powered vehicles to take them over pedestrians will have to start wearing body armour.

A little research tells me that though you cannot ride a privately owned E-Scooter on the pavements (and the person who hit my friend looks likely to be charged with that) you can ride one of the ones hired by the council approved company. Why the difference? Are renters of dangerous devices more reliable than owners?

Yours

Michael Cule

(Too crusty old gentleman? Well, that’s how I’m feeling right now. I’ll send it to the GUARDIAN: their readers may be willing to decry the cosy relationship between councils and commercial enterprises.)