Friday, 6 January 2017
This welcome pack is available in six different languages, a variety of different-sized fonts, and eight colours, but none of those trivial differences change the fact that it is essentially A List Of Reasons Not To Date Me.
The first thing you need to know is that I snore. I concede that this is not a particularly unique problem - show me a man who doesn’t! - but my mountainish heaving is not like anything you’ve heard before; it’s a whole new ballpark. When I snore, crockery has been known to quiver and shatter in the cupboards. A ripple of burglar alarms sets off further down the street. Neighbourhood dogs begin to bark, their inner Richter Scales misled by the near-earthquake they can detect. I sound like a boar with bronchitis that has a taste for Havana cigars. You can, I fear, say goodbye to sleeping well - or sleeping at all, really. If that’s the sort of sacrifice you’re prepared to make, you may keep reading.
"Richard II" (2012): Good grief, this was extraordinary. Outstanding performance from Whishaw throughout, but particularly as his world crumbled around him. The contrast between "let's talk of graves, and worms, and epitaphs" and the majestic "I have been studying how I may compare" soliloquy was masterfully done, and the handing over the crown scene was electric. Richard gets some of the most incredible language in the Shakespeare canon, and so to see a performance this good, this in tune with the material, really made it fly. I liked Kinnear too; Bolingbroke is not the most challenging part, but in teasing out his respect and to some degree love for Richard, Kinnear made him a more interesting figure than a less experienced actor might've done. Brilliantly filmed and choreographed too. The words to "this sceptred isle" send a shiver down my spine now, in the wake of Brexit and the like, but I think the speech haunts us still in the sense that England - the trees, the mountains, the lakes and rivers and literature - seems too good a country now for the English. Which is more or less what Gaunt is saying in that speech, anyway.
We pick up directly where Fatal Consequences left off, with Josh Townsend having yet again committed murder to save Sarah’s life - this time twice over, with both Will Sullivan and the Keeper lying dead. It’s a grim opening, though for the rest of the hour-long runtime, this story is less high-octane and downbeat than its predecessor, and more eerily calm and quiet. Especially towards the end, it has a kind of space opera grandeur to it - and inevitably so, given this is Sarah Jane’s first trip into space since bidding the Doctor farewell in The Hand of Fear. The “previously unrecorded comet”, a new plotline Bishop introduces at the last minute: where might he have taken this in a third season? It seems to be something to do with the Mandragora Helix stuff (that whole ‘500 years since this particular comet passed near our solar system’ thing) but the link remains unconfirmed even by the story’s end. That’s no complaint, mind; it’s better that way - just another of the unresolved bits of flotsam and jetsam in Sarah’s long, amazing life, and there’s an extraordinary beauty to the image on which this series closes, shortly before Sarah returns to TV: drifting in space with her dying friend, watching blinding light come ever closer to her capsule…
The third audio in the second Sarah Jane Smith series sees the showdown between Sarah and her latest enemies, the Crimson Chapter of the Orbus Pastramo, in a strong instalment that sees David Bishop returning to the theme of biological warfare he first wrote about in Test of Nerve. It reminds me of one of the (few) smart moves made by the Sherlock episode The Hounds of Baskerville - what we fear now is not so much haunted houses on desolate moors, but off-limits government scientific research facilities. The scene in this story where Will Sullivan first comes across the experiments on human beings - a very bleak joke about “guinea pigs” - being conducted at Pangbourne Research Laboratory is appropriately chilling and upsetting, feeling almost like something out of Children of Earth, and it sets the tone for much of what follows. Emily’s death-wish to reconcile with her mother because of the blazing row they’d had the night before is simply, but effectively, played by Katherina Olsson (Shan in the I, Davros series); releasing the virus-infected test cases back out into the real world is similarly no massive plot twist, but good direction and performances sell it well.