Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Gallifrey 3.5: Panacea by Alan Barnes (August 2006)

And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias" (1818)

Alan Barnes doesn't half get lumped with the task of tying up behemoths of story-lines (Neverland, Zagreus, The Girl Who Never Was, and now Panacea). Though I suppose he has to take some credit for usually being the one who starts them, and so in that light there's a certain pleasingly circularity that he comes back to the range he launched to pen Panacea, Chapter Fourteen and the end of Gallifrey (for now). What I like most about Panacea is that it wallows in a tangible sense of decay that Series 3 could perhaps have focussed on a little more. Gallifrey is suffering "the privations of a ruinous war", all power cuts and overfull hospitals; Romana is an outcast in the Outlands, even lower than the prisoner and usurped President she has been in earlier releases; and her ancestral house, Heartshaven, is now dilapidated and desolate, overrun with vermin, soon abandoned to the flame (I'm a sucker for all this lyrical, wistful nostalgia: "When I was a Time Tot the lamps of Heartshaven lit up when the heirs to the house crossed the hall, and the paintings would whisper their welcome").

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Gallifrey 3.4: Mindbomb by Justin Richards (July 2006)

"So everything is back to normal," a character observes early on in Justin Richards' Mindbomb, the thirteenth chapter in the Gallifrey series and penultimate of Gallifrey III. And, in a way, they're right: we have moved past civil war and are now in the more familiar milieu of political machinations, hotly contested elections, and pomp and ceremony. Not to mention plenty of Legalese, though I have to say I actually find the way the writers have dealt with Gallifreyan Legalese to be surprisingly engaging - all the ins and outs of who is or isn't eligible to stand for election, or who does or doesn't have power over whom. It helps that the characters are all so terribly manipulative and back-stabbing, of course, while the series has its tongue firmly in its cheek at the same time - much like the original House of Cards in that respect (and "think about that" isn't that far away from "you may very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment"). Matthias' sudden and unexpected betrayal of Romana, resulting in her impeachment and imprisonment, is an immediate way of raising the stakes in exactly this vein, whilst simultaneously proving almost funny given the tortuous twists and turns we've taken to reach this point, and Matthias' own narcissistic insistence (try saying that when you're drunk) on shooting down Darkel's attempts to oust Romana only to do it himself anyway.

Friday, 18 August 2017

"The Antipodean Excursion" 5: Nelson, Franz Josef, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Dunedin, Christchurch

We left Wellington on the InterIslander ferry in the soft pale glow of an early morning. The weather clouded over and the waves got choppier as we went further out to sea, but whatever the gusts there's no feeling quite like feeling the wind whip through your hair and snatch your breath away as you stand up on deck, so I was sure to pop up top every so often. It's a long journey between North and South Island - through Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sound, the ferry weaving its way down different waterways and between steep, forested hills. Upon arrival at the small town of Picton we disembarked (with a strange sense of déjà vu, in my case at least, of arriving at Tarbert on the Isle of Harris off the west coast of Scotland), and were just in time to catch our InterCity bus to Nelson.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Gallifrey 3.3: Appropriation by Paul Sutton (July 2006)

Gallifrey III has gone for a pretty unusual structure: all-out civil war for its first two stories, then three stories dealing with the aftermath. It doesn't strike me as a completely cohesive arc in the way Gallifrey II got more or less spot on, but the sudden swerve that Warfare took in its climactic moments - it felt much more like a finale than an Episode 2 of 5 - means that I'm properly in the dark as I head into these last three stories (Appropriation, Mindbomb, and Panacea). Where could the writers possibly take things from here? Well, as Matthias observes early on, "the war may be over, but the real fighting is about to begin". Appropriation sees a return to the first two series' focus on political infighting over Gallifrey's future - but this time taking place in the wake of a devastating conflict which saw much of the Time Lords' history and culture destroyed in a single stroke. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Gallifrey 3.2: Warfare by Stewart Sheargold (June 2006)

Warfare focuses further on, and more or less resolves, the ongoing Gallifreyan Civil War which we saw begin in Imperiatrix and really kick off in Fractures. As already identified, this is a war of individual psychological identities as much as - if not more than - it is a war of laser guns and barricades. Two sides of Gallifrey clash, with Romana in the centre of it (twice) and the pressure cooker is tearing both planet and president apart. That's an undeniably epic premise woven from appropriate bits of Doctor Who mythology, and as such the story has both a forward momentum and a sense of import to it. Warfare also dwells on the fragments of different voices heard in the minds of both Romana II and Pandora, still using the body of Romana I. In the latter's case, this allows Mary Tamm the opportunity to play the actual Romana I (or at least her voice... no, really, I mean her voice in-story), which distinguishes her from Pandora, makes Romana I more active in the story-line, and generally keeps things clearer than they were last time round. There's a fun moment where President Romana realises that her past self is actively working on her side against Pandora. Mind you, I still don't think this series has made very good use of Tamm, and I'm itching to actually hear her do a full Big Finish story as her proper character in the future. Time for the allegedly "weaker" incarnation (and I still don't know what I think of that) to get a crack of the whip!

Meta-Metamorphosis (2010)

The first drama script I ever wrote, when I was about 15. I've just discovered it on my hard drive, much to my surprise, so here it is, ready to be unleashed on an unsuspecting and mostly indifferent world... (How weird a thing it is to read one's juvenilia back! I have, at least, retained my affection for all things Kafka, theatrical, and metafictional, so I am consistent if nothing else...) The script version of Kafa's "Metamorphosis" used here is that of Steven Berkoff and I cast myself in the part of the rather inhuman director, described here as "the git": something of an ego-trip with a sprinkling of self-deprecating humour. 

Also, when I was 15 apparently I didn't know how to spell "Gary", so at least I've learned something.

“Meta-Metamorphosis” 

SCENE ONE. 

A black stage; a curtain, chairs, etc. The rehearsal space/studio of a Theatre Company, although when the lights come up they are reddy-green, with shadowy edges...surreal, unnerving. It is as if the play is real, and the studio is a dream. 
There are three characters on stage: JAN, EFFY and GARRY, the three members of the acting company. The director, MARK, referred to by the others as MR MILLIGAN, is sitting with the audience.
 Jan is playing the part of GREGOR SAMSA, the main character in the play they are rehearsing, ‘Metamorphosis’. Effy is playing the part of GRETA SAMSA, Gregor’s sister, and Garry is playing the FATHER of the family. When playing the ‘Metamorphosis’ parts, it would be good if the actors do it with as much conviction as possible, almost as if this were the play, but the parts should be clearly distinct from their own roles.  
Cue creepy music. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

"The Antipodean Excursion" 4: Himatangi Beach, Otaki, Whanganui, Tongariro, Wellington

This update covers the rest of our activities on the North Island right up until our departure from Wellington on the morning of August the 2nd, bringing our time in the North, our time with Steve, and the first four weeks of our holiday to a close, so it seems as good a point to break off as any. Most of this time we spent at Himatangi Beach (or in the near vicinity, e.g. Palmerston North) but we certainly had the occasional opportunity for excursions away, some of which were among the most memorable on the entire trip so far. It's reached the point where I think the two of us could just sit around doing nothing for our two weeks on the South Island and we'd still be pretty content with one of the most active holidays we've been on!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Memory of Grass

The surface of the Earth is just 1% postcard:
Everywhere else has been pillaged and spoiled.
Nowhere looks like it did in the 'zines.

But it perseveres,
That 1%, oases in a post-oasis world
For all who remember things as they were
When 'desert' mostly meant 'Sahara',
When oceans were small and unambitious,
When not all green was artificial.
The most untouched of all is Urupukapuka,
Or, as some folk called it, Little Eden.
I don't get it.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

International Date Line

On days
Of silliness
I idly think
What if
It really were
A line
Of international dates
Where Kazakhs
Meet Fijians
And Chileans
Meet Swedes
And every face
Finds another
But you -
You settle for me.

30 July 2017

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Gallifrey 3.1: Fractures by Stephen Cole (May 2006)

The third season of Gallifrey brings to an end the opening phase of the spinoff's existence (and, for a good few years, it was thought that after Gallifrey III, that was it - no more). Stephen Cole's season opener, Fractures, is thus in some ways 'the beginning of the end' - we'll forget about anything from Gallifrey IV onwards for now. Fractures sees Gallifrey plunged into the civil war which the Season 2 finale promised, both a large-scale conflict of different factions and a more interpersonal war between Romana II and 'Romana I', or at least the latter's body as worn by Pandora, the embodiment of all future Time Lord evil. K9 serving on Pandora's side is another indication of how split and, well, fractious everything is. This is a war over what kind of society Gallifrey would like to be, perhaps even over what kind of series Gallifrey would like to be. Unsurprisingly, then, there's a bit of a struggle in Fractures with regard to what kind of season opener it would like to be. Following up the series' most self-consciously "epic" tale so far, Imperiatrix, is a tough ask. Trying to one-up its grandeur is tricky, but so is going too small and introspective (which turned out to be Cole's strength in his contribution to the previous season).