...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Day 6517: DOCTOR WHO: How Many Family Dramas can you pack into one spaceship? And then eat it?


Mr Chibbers is continuing his high concept drama of “let’s prove we can do trad Doctor Who using Russell’s model.”

Russell set the standard for his revived series with present, future, past and back to the present stories. And didn’t much vary from that for four years.

So after three weeks of cracking Dr Who episodes…

the “look what effects we can do now” one,
the “moving historical” one
and the “Holy Freekin’ Giant Spiders scary” one

…the model says we should be on to the “this year’s Dalek one” one.

Oh. We’ve skipped to “The Long Game” instead.

I guess I picked the wrong week to give up not reviewing Doctor Woo...

No relation...

Actually I liked this. The design, the direction, the acting were all really good. The regulars gave us more reasons to love them. I love that the Doctor got taken down a peg for acting selfishly and took it like a woman. There was more of the Ryan/Ryan’s father backstory, nicely used, and more bonding with Graham. Yas uses a staser, drop-kicks a Pting and still somehow hasn’t had the scenes that I think she deserves.

This wasn’t outstanding.

But Doctor Who can’t always be outstanding. And already this year we’ve had the beautiful direction in “The Ghost Monument”, and the scariest scary spiders ever, in “Arachnids” and all of “Rosa”. And spellbinding writing – if not always plotting – every week. I think we can cut “average” a decent break this episode.

So, Millennium is being a bit harsh comparing “the Tsuranga Conundrum” to 2005’s under-loved “The Long Game”.

But it probably is fair to say that this is Chris Chibnall trying to show he can do Russell Davies-style “relationships” writing, in a space setting, only with a plot that actually resolves itself properly rather than pulling a deus ex machina out of its hat.

(In as much as the two perils established are the monstrous cute Pting and the remote explosion of the ship, and each turns out to be the solution to the other.)

We have:

The brother and sister who cannot tell each other they love each other because their pride is getting in the way. Complicated by the weird alien android/clone consort.

The young man having to face up to fatherhood when he thinks he’s not ready. Complicated by weird alien – and to a certain value of “hilarious” – “hilarious” biology.

The junior medic thrust into being in charge by the death of her superior, the only person who trusted her.

What we have linking them here is people doubting each other, underlined by the severe lack of trust shown by Tsuranga’s Rhesus Station who would rather kill everyone on board than risk an uncontrolled danger reaching them, and by the mentions of “dark times” in the tricky middle of the sixty-seventh century.

We also see everyone falling into worrying about their own troubles even in the face of the Pting, which is pretty much the definition of an environmental catastrophe, particularly in the confined space of the ship.

It’s a subtler metaphor for our times than last week’s Trump-lite.

As usual in Doctor Who, hard science is first to be blown out of the airlock.

You could use anti-matter for a power source, because matter + anti-matter makes a lot of boom.

But you certainly wouldn’t make it on board. Not even in a miniature CERN. In fact especially not in a miniature CERN.

Because whatever you are using to power your atom smasher must be putting at least as much power in as you’d get out from the anti-matter it creates – that’s just what E=mc2 means! – so why not just plug that directly into the drive and cut out the middle positron?

(Or, Mr Writer, you say that the anti-matter is being created from a portable rift into an anti-matter universe – and incredibly dangerous way of doing it, but one that gets you your anti-matter “for free” to fuel the matter/anti-matter reaction for the drive.)

Of course, it’s very trad Doctor Who, going right back to the years of Ian and Barbara for us to take a moment to say “so, Ian, we’re in the future, so what is this week’s science spot?”. Not to mention all those black holes, and the pop-science-inspired stories of the Seventies, from artificial intelligence to body language, and that’s just Leela’s first two adventures.

Meanwhile, the Pting appears to be able to fly through space, overtake a ship travelling (we presume from the maps) faster than the speed of light, penetrate the shields and hull, without any visible means of propulsion.

Yes, it looks a bit “Slitheen” – do not go there.

(It also appears to be bigger on the inside, from the way it swallows objects its own body size. Which suggests some seriously fan-baiting possibilities for its origins.)

But we better hope that it’s seriously blissed out from the bomb it swallowed, because booting it out an airlock (and not very far outside the Rhesus station) is not going to stop it if it can do all that.

What we do see is another example of season 37’s “villain walks away” syndrome – getting so obvious even the RadioTimes has commented on it.

Much speculation abounds that we are going to see someone from this list return as “big bad” for the season (or all of them in an Alliance of B-List Monsters to rival Moffat’s “Big Bang”!). Maybe we will.

But I’d like to suggest an alternative reading.

The Doctor’s faced adventures this year that are, more than even is usual, stamped with great big metaphors: if we skip “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, we get “Selfishness”, “Racism”, “Corruption”, and this week “Doubt” or you might prefer “the System”.

Most often in Doctor Who, the Doctor will deal with a baddie (monsters or villain) who will get their comeuppance.

But dealing with the “big issue” problems, that can be the trite answer.

By leaving our villains this year to walk away, we could be saying that look the big problem remains whether we have some false closure with this little bad guy or not. So, let’s not pretend we’ve solved something as difficult as “racism” by making sure that Rosa Parks is remembered for where she was sitting when she rode the bus.

Overall, a moderate Doctor Who episode is actually nice. It’s nice to see a TARDIS crew who are happy being there, doing what they’re doing. And a Doctor who’s enjoying being the Doctor. “That chapter in the book of celebrants. More of a volume, really.”

It’s like a return to the days of Tom Baker, when the Doctor bestrode the universe, dealing with diabolical masterminds for breakfast and just having fun with best-friend Sarah, Leela and the tin dog, or Romana. It’s like the joy is back.

Next time: we’ve seen segregation in America. Let’s try partition in India. And with more of Yas’s family, will she finally get to shine?

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Day 6516: Making the Case (Richard the Third)


We’ve been looking at Daddy Richard’s campaign to be the Lib Dem candidate in Cheadle, with his speech and literature.

But this is the MODERN age of Internets and newfanglery.

There are new ways to talk directly to the members and voters.

So, because of the low spending limit, we cut our campaign to the cloth allowed, and instead of producing a second colour leaflet, turned it into an email manifesto.

Let’s be honest, it’s a bit too long to be an email. It makes a rather better blog post… which gives me a really good idea!

Read on…

Dear Dave,

In seven words:

"Freedom, Fairness, Future. Our Shared Liberal Values."

More and more people are agreeing with me that we need a campaign built on principles not just potholes.

I've been talking with members of Cheadle Liberal Democrats about our Liberal Values, members who joined us because we took a stand, from Iraq to I.D. cards, from climate change to Brexit - and when we take a stand our values stand out.

Let me give you seven words about Cheadle that show how our values connect to people.

Freedom from illness. Fair treatment for everyone, free at the point of need, including mental health treatment. And fair taxes to pay for a Future for the NHS and social care.

This is Stepping Hill. My husband Alex was born here. I've talked with nursing staff, they are some of the most caring and dedicated people I've ever met.

But the NHS is in constant crisis and reports show Stepping Hill is failing because of short-staffing.

Stockport Together is going to be one of the first trials of bringing health and social care together. But the Care Quality Commission say that the project has been left in confusion since Labour took over. And the Labour Council have cut over £700,000 from mental health care in Stockport.

This is why it’s so important that Liberal Democrats take back control of the council.

The Freedom of living in your own home, building a Future for your family. The Fairness of affordable homes to rent or buy.

I grew up round here, moved to London for work, and came back to make a home with my husband. Four years ago this week we got married at Stockport Town Hall. That’s a very personal way that the Liberal Democrats made my life better, by changing the law so I could marry the man I love in the town we love.

Everyone should have that chance to enjoy the quality of life in the North.

But Stockport is under pressure to build new homes, pressure from the long-delayed Greater Manchester Spatial Plan and from Tory-run Cheshire East’s plans at Handforth Dean, which I've campaigned on in Bramhall. We have to talk about the Green Belt too; it so important to protect access to green spaces.

We need new solutions, new towns and green corridors. We need to build sustainable communities. And we need to build the schools, shops and services to support them.

A better Future grounded in the opportunity learning gives. A Fair deal for schools to teach and pupils to learn. Freedom to learn for life not just for tests.

I went to school here. I know Stockport has some of the best schools in the country but they’re not getting a fair share from the government’s funding formula.

Head teachers having to send out appeals for cash, teaching assistant places lost, parents having to pay for equipment. We need to fight for a fairer share.

Building a real Northern Power House for the Future where people are Free from poverty and work supports the lives they choose to live.Fair taxes that will pay for the services to support a growing creative economy.

Cheadle’s links to Stockport, Manchester and the airport give us a vibrant modern economy. But since the crash of 2008, Britain’s economy has been broken. People have been hit with inflation while wages have stagnated, and Brexit is only going to make it worse.

We should be looking to the future, thinking about the creative economy and the green economy. How we will enable people to switch to clean electric cars, where that electricity will come from, and how Stockport to take a lead in achieving a Zero Carbon Britain.

Liberals have had a great story on the economy, from free trade to the People’s Budget. Now we have to develop a new Liberal economic story, based on shared ownership and co-operation, that will give people hope for a better future.

Freedom to be who you want to be. Fairness in equal treatment in work, in law, in life. A Future where no one is enslaved by conformity.

This is Stockport's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (or just LGBT) Pride, with my friend Holly who helped me organise the Lib Dem presence there. As a member of LGBT+ Lib Dems exec, I’ve been so proud of the work the Lib Dems here have done, from attending Stockport Pride to passing a motion in council of support for Bi-Visibility Day.

Liberal Democrats are great at community politics, and that's why Cheadle has such a wide range of communities: from Zumba classes to the scouts and cadets. From local businesses to neighbourhood watch. Mosque and synagogue, temple and church. Our work can help them all.

But Britain has never felt more divided, with populist politicians blaming migration for the outcome of their own years of neglect.

I remember the way gay people were targeted in the 1980’s, with Section 28 and James Anderton, then Manchester's Chief Constable, treating gay people shamefully. Now the Jewish community, Muslims and trans people are all under attack. That’s why I’ll speak up, to stop it happening again.

We need to work with our community to come together and heal the divisions, so that people once again feel proud of the rights and freedoms that come with being British.

The Freedom to enjoy our shared spaces and shared activities. A Fair sharing of jobs between council and country and continent. A Future that everyone can enjoy in their own way.

Liberal Democrats have made a difference here. It's worth mentioning that we do get the potholes fixed. Just ask anyone the difference between Stockport's roads and Manchester's.

We need to be in the Council to make people's lives better in the streets where they live. Whether it's a stolen bin or a question about a home care plan or the smell from Adswood tip. (And I've helped people with all those things.)

We need to be in Parliament too, to tackle the national issues, like the economy, like crime, like Brexit too.

And we need to be in Europe if we're going to deal with the global challenges of climate change and globalisation.

Defending the Freedoms that we won through being in Europe. Demanding Fairness for both 52% and 48%. Looking to the Future of the country beyond Brexit.

We still believe that the freedom to trade and travel, to live, learn and love make membership of the EU something we should embrace.

Democracy depends on people speaking out, it’s why we have an Opposition whose job is supposed to be to do that. That's why Labour are letting the country down. That's why Lib Dems need to stand up for our values.
Cheadle voted to remain in the EU so we have a democratic duty to represent those voices.

Cheadle has seven letters and seven wards. Over the last three years, I have canvassed and delivered in all seven wards in Cheadle constituency, including Heald Green, where I've delivered rounds, knocked doors and spent time with members of the Cheadle Muslim Association.

I have campaigned with Graham and Iain and Keith in Cheadle and Gatley. With Claire in Cheadle Hulme North. With Grace in Stepping Hill. I have canvassed with Helen and Suzanne and Mark and delivered up and down Turves Road in Cheadle Hulme South. On top of that I am Chair of the Bramhall Branch and alongside Jeremy have driven the campaigning in Bramhall North and Bramhall South.

And I've helped out in Manchester Gorton, and I stood in Macclesfield - and that is how I was able to bring people back to Cheadle to help here.

I believe we cannot just fall back on defending the wards we hold. Only working in silos. We need a 7-ward strategy. Or given the possible boundary changes a 10-ward strategy - and we should be campaigning all the way from Bramhall to Heaton Moor.

We are Liberal Democrats. We believe in reaching outward. That makes us stronger.

I believe, if we talk about our values, we can win here again.

If you believe too, please give me your 1st Preference to be your next Lib Dem MP.

Thank you


Remember: your chance to hear from the candidates and have your say on who will be Cheadle’s next Lib Dem MP will be

October 29, 7:00 pm

Ford’s Lane Evangelical Church,
11a Ford’s Lane,

I hope to see you there.

As I say, that’s too long REALLY. And would have been better as a series, or as pages on our website or Facebook page.

If you live in London – or even just know any of our potential candidates there – you’ll have seen the EXTENSIVE use of the SOCIAL MEDIA that is being made, so it might be a surprise to you to learn that for Cheadle we were told we couldn’t use it. Or rather we couldn’t use it for anything that identified us as a candidate in the selection, but could for “ordinary political activity”.

And for direct communication, we were allowed a whole TWO emails to the members, which we had to send to the RO first to send them out via the local party’s Nation Builder. We were not to email anyone ourselves unless they emailed us first.

Anyone who has read any Mark Pack will know that this is going to lose you sight of important ways to interact with your correspondents – who opens the email, who clicks on any links and who you can feed back to with more info if they want.

So I think that our selection rules – or the interpretation of them – are going to need some updating here, because we have seen how our rival Parties, particularly in Labour, have made a huge use of Internet campaigning, with HootTube videos and Faceache pages. If our selections are preventing potential candidates showing they are good at these things, we are going to end up being left behind by the votes as Internet dinosaurs.

If you DO find yourself in a selection, DO make sure of your RO’s interpretation of the rules, and press them to make definitive statements at the beginning. Because there is nothing more DERAILING than having to deal with rulings two or three weeks into a campaign demanding you take down parts of your campaign in order to level the playing field with people who haven’t produced material for the modern age.

Labour and Tories are not give us that kind of break. We need to “demand better” from our selection campaigns.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Day 6515: Making the Case (part deux)


I believe that it is VITAL that the Liberal Democrats make the case for a LIBERAL BRITAIN.

(You would think that was obvious, but apparently not.)

Particularly in these days when Sir Vince wants to make us a movement, I think we need a REASON to MOVE people, and if we don’t talk about our VALUES, they will move somewhere else.

That is what Daddy Richard stands for.

Yesterday, I shared daddy’s hustings speech from the END of the Cheadle selection. Today, let’s go back and look at some of the written material we put out from the START.

We wanted to hit the ground running with a hand-addressed “cream envelope” letter, delivered to all members on day one of the campaign.

A letter to the members

Here’s what it said:

9th October 2018

Dear Dave,

Cheadle needs a Liberal voice. Britain needs a Liberal voice, now more than ever.

We’ve had some dark times since 2015. We lost the EU referendum. Extremists on left and right are setting the agenda. Immigrants and other minorities are living in fear. But we were barely heard in the 2017 General Election.

Yet I still have hope. I was knocking on doors in Cheadle Hulme, near where I live, when I spoke with a local nurse, worried about the short-staffing at Stepping Hill because of Tory cuts, and she said: “This has always been a Liberal town”. She’s right. And that gives me hope.

I want to give you hope too.

So let’s talk about my vision.

I absolutely believe that Cheadle can be a beacon of Liberalism, shining a light that shows how our policies do work for people, and that there is a better future.

We need someone who will speak up for Cheadle, to say we need a fair share for schools; an economy for opportunity and jobs; and cleaner air and less congestion. I grew up here, I live here, I’ve got the local story to do that.

We need someone who will speak up for Liberalism as well, to say that schools set people free from ignorance; that jobs and a welfare state together set people free from poverty; and to make a positive case for freedom of movement and Europe because we all benefit from diversity, not conformity.

Because above all we need to give people reasons to want to vote Liberal Democrat again. We need to speak with a Liberal voice so people hear how we are the Party for freedom, for fairness, for the future.

With your help, we can restore Britain’s Liberal voice. So please give me your 1st preference to be Cheadle’s next Lib Dem MP.

Thank you


PS: add your voice to mine. Together we will win.

Friends and family helped address the envelopes, and we were able to produce the letters in the period between close of applications and start of campaigning.

That delivery target proved optimistic, though. 250 deliveries is an hour’s work when they are all in one road. When they are scattered over 7 wards… not so much. As with so many Lib Dem things, more deliverers would have been key.

We didn’t manage day one, but we DID get them done by the end of the first weekend.

We then went on to door-knocking, combined with delivering a colour leaflet.

Our Voice leaflet

The original plan for the three week campaign had been, obviously, three pieces of literature:

Day 1: the hand-addressed letter
Week 2: a full-colour leaflet
Week 3: a 4-page tabloid

But that was based on an estimated budget of £500.

When the spending limit of just £250 was announced (which I still think is too small for a target seat where candidates are supposed to show their talent in a wide range of campaigning), it meant cutting the campaign and the tabloid had to go.

Just for you - the Unseen Tabloid

We shuffled the more local tone from the tabloid into the colour leaflet, which had been more values/philosophical based. And that was probably an improvement, anyway.

The last piece of literature, we saved for the night of the hustings, a striking 10” square – based on the Lib Dem diamond.

A square splash!

By this point the campaign had, unfortunately, probably already been decided. But it was worth going out on a high!

One tip – if you’re ever thinking of doing this yourself – start taking round a book of “permission slips” so that you can get everyone in every photo to give their permission for use. A returning officer saying they would want to see a signed approval from everyone in all your photos can be quite a shock starting the campaign.

Tomorrow, we can talk about the modern internets and email communications!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Day 6514: Making the Case (part one)


Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

One day the tale of the Cheadle selection will be told. But not today.

The short version is: when Mark Hunter lost the seat in 2015, we stepped up to try to win it back. We fought a positive, honest, values-driven Liberal campaign… but they chose someone else.

No regrets. That’s democracy. We had a fun ride along the way.

Thanks to Dave, Holly, Andrew and Daddy Alex

But we DO want to keep on taking a stand for Liberal Values and giving Britain a Liberal Voice.

Because Britain NEEDS to hear Liberal Voice.

Perhaps it’s best is I let Daddy Ricard explain, with his hustings speech:

Good evening.

I’m really pleased to see so many people here.

Because tonight is important, for our future, our community, even our country.

We need a Liberal Voice and we need that voice to be heard.

Throughout this campaign, I’ve been talking about our Liberal values.

About how Britain needs to hear those values again,

About how we need to connect to people through those values we share.
Our values should never be an add-on, an extra, an afterthought. They should be driving what we do.

Values that speak to our supporters, like:

Equality and social justice. Environmentalism.

Free trade, free movement of people and multiculturalism.

A Britain that’s open and welcoming instead of nationalist.

In short: Freedom. Fairness. The Future.

But we need to go further. To reach out to people who don’t support us yet, but who share values, like:

compassion, workers’ rights and animal welfare

aspiration, rewarding work, and social mobility

pro-business, pro-environment, pro-diversity

Freedom. Fairness. The Future. can reach those people too.

Above all, we need to offer hope for a better future.

So, let’s talk about Cheadle.

Cheadle voted to remain. People here are outward looking, forward looking, persuaded that it’s better to be a part of a common goal that helps everyone.

We share those values.

Stockport had a Lib Dem Council for more than a decade. And it shows. This town feels cared for, optimistic, friendly.

We share those values.

Cheadle has a liberal legacy we should be proud to inherit and uphold. From Michael Winstanley, back in the day, to Patsy, who we miss so much, to Mark, who was an exemplary local MP.

Cheadle’s values are our values.

We should be winning here.

But we’re not.

As our party’s new slogan says, people should Demand Better. And that starts with demanding better of ourselves.

Many of you have campaigned here all your lives. And you’re brilliant.

But we’re not winning here.

So we need to do something more, something different. We need to demand better.

I have a good local story to tell. I grew up here. Went to school here. Went to London for work. Came back to get married here. My husband was born in Stepping Hill. We’ve made a home here.

But that is just the start of the story.

Anyone can tell a local story. We know that Labour do it. Even Mary Robinson, the invisible MP, does it.

If we are going to win, we need to do more. And different. And better.

That is why I talk about our values.

The Tories and Labour have the advantage. Their messages are easy. Vote Labour for fear of Tory austerity, or vote Tory for fear of Jeremy Corbyn.

We need to change the story, make it: "who represents your values?".

We must always campaign on the bedrock of our local story.

But we must build on that with our values in order to win.

My local story is the start of a conversation about our great schools in Cheadle not getting a fair deal. But it’s our values that say why schools are important for opportunity and social mobility.

My local story is the start of a conversation about housing and traffic on the A6 and A34. But it’s our values that say it’s about defending the environment for the future and building sustainable communities.

And it’s our values that have driven me to add national experience to my story too.

With Lib Dem Immigrants, I’ve changed party policy for the better, for fairness.

During the coalition, I brought together a group that changed Nick Clegg’s mind on the Snooper’s Charter, for freedom.

And through LGBT+ Liberal Democrats we got the biggest win of our time in government, for me anyway, the right to marry my husband four years ago this week at Stockport Town Hall and make our future together.

And when we lost most of our MPs we lost all our diversity.

Not just all our women, but all our gay and bi MPs too.

Last year we won back four women MPs. We have an ethnic minority MP for the first time in a decade. We have an MP with a disability.

Our Parliamentary Party should represent the face of Britain, and deserves to have LGBT representation again too.

It’s our values that mean I have made a difference.

For freedom and fairness and the future.

And I’m still learning.

One thing I’ve learned talking to so many of you, is that there is always much more to learn. There is so much wisdom among our members.

So please demand better of me.

But never doubt I will try to deliver.

I never thought of becoming an MP.

I spent twenty years working at an ordinary job.

But like a lot of you, I got more involved because I could see that something had to be done and no-one else was doing it.

When we lost in here in 2015, I stepped up to try to win us back seats on the Council, working in Cheadle Hulme, standing in Bramhall.

When Macclesfield Lib Dems needed a candidate last year just weeks before the General Election, I stepped up. And I found I was good at it – as well as bringing their team to campaign here where they could make more of a difference.

So when I look at the state of our country and the voices on the political stage right now, I know that I have to step up again.

Listen to the division, the anger and the hurt blighting our politics, and you will hear a country that needs Liberal values.

That is why I want to be your MP.

Because Britain needs people like me to be MPs.

To be a local champion – giving us a national voice – with a positive Liberal message.

To win back this seat, we need to get organised.

We need to raise a lot of money.

Above all we need to talk to people, more people than we’ve talked to in years.

And it is talking about our values that will enthuse people, recruit new members, and give people a positive reason to vote Liberal Democrat.

In 2017, we lost here because Labour took that message of hope, even though it was fantasy.

We cannot let that happen again.

We have to tell people that if they want a better future, it’s got to be the Liberal Democrats.

I know it’s going to be hard work – I’m not afraid of hard work.

I will give Cheadle a positive Liberal reason to want to vote Liberal Democrat.

I will deliver every street, canvass every ward, speak with every voter that I can.

And I will give a voice to our Liberal values on a local and a national stage because Britain needs to hear a Liberal Voice.

And you’re all going to need to play your part. We will all need to speak up. Because winning means making our voices heard together.

And we have to start right now.

Because Brexit is happening right now.

No one is speaking for the majority in Cheadle who voted Remain.

The two Brexit parties Tory and Labour have abandoned them.

Tories are telling business to … "go away"; Jeremy Corbyn is backing the biggest job killer of all time.

But our values can speak to them and speak for them.

We must speak up as the only party whose values are pro-business, pro-jobs and pro-rights at work.

We must be positive for Remain: we say “Exit from Brexit” because we are for a better Britain in a better Europe.

All my adult life, I’ve been campaigning, talking with people for liberal causes.
If you’ll have me, Cheadle will be all of my life.

Friends, Liberal Democrats… let me be your voice.

A local champion giving us a national voice – and with something to say.

Speak up for Cheadle.

Speak up for Britain.

Speak for Liberal Values, the Values that made you join the Liberal Democrats.

Speak up for winning this seat back. And together we will win.

Please, tonight, give me your first preference.

Thank you.

In Part Two (found HERE) we’ll share some of the literature we sent out.

And in Part Three (link HERE) we'll show you our email manifesto.

We’re going to take a break from the frontlines for a little while – good news! Daddy can do my diary more! – but we will take stock and be back.

And in the meantime, if there’s a constituency out there who want to fight a positive campaign for Liberal values, and you’re looking for a top-notch candidate… well, get in touch.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Day 6489: DOCTOR WHO: The Woman Who Rose to the Challenge


The name is Bond… Jane Bond!

Don’t knock it. This week Doctor Who went where no man has gone before. And about time. And she did it in “Casino Royale” style with a little more of the WooWho theme added each time she stepped closer to remembering just Who she fully was.

Fearless confrontation with aliens… build a new sonic… heroic action sequence… turn their own weapons against them… never cruel, never cowardly, always there to help… and you’re really going to wear that?

The Doctor’s back baby, she’s back.

And so are we. Here’s Daddy’s new Who review.

“All of this is new to you, and new can be scary.”

The first impression was that this was very new. The cinematography was more sweeping. The pacing was more measured. The focus more on the ensemble cast – like the opening of “Rose" but paced like Broadchurch not a pop video. The music was less frenetic. The colour palette was more naturalistic, at least for the daytime work.

Let’s hope that “naturalistic” means “grim up north and dark” for one episode only, and that alien planets will be different. The posters for this season have been so vibrant and colourful, and Doctor Who should look different to anything else on TV (again!).

There are clearly two ways to handle the transition from Doctor to Doctor: the companions to hold your hand approach as you experience their shock, bewilderment and acceptance with them – “Power of the Daleks”, naturally, but also “Robot” or “Deep Breath”; and the all-change method, where the whole team are new and you experience the Doctor brand new for the first time all over again: “The Eleventh Hour”, “Rose” or “Spearhead from Space” or even arguably “An Unearthly Child”.

But in a lot of ways this was also a step back to something hugely “trad” – not exactly 20th Century Who, but what that might have evolved into along the lines of other British drama.

We’ve had ten seasons of New Who with emphasis on the “New”, both Russell Davies era of fast-cutting, high octane, high contrast based on American series like “Buffy”, and the Steven Moffat’s puzzle-box genre, in darkness and actinic blues. Right now, something old-school is the radical departure.

And I’m reminded of Sir Humphrey’s advice in “Yes, Prime Minister” – if you’re going to do something really radical, Prime Minister, announce it from the most traditional wood-panelled library with leather chair and mahogany desk. Everything you can do to comfort people and tell them it’ll all be fine.

Because holy crap the Doctor is a woman and half the Internet have lost their minds.

“I’m looking for a doctor”

Which of course is absurd, because the Doctor is still the Doctor and Jodie Whittaker is brilliant.

(Mind you, for a series that defines itself by change, we are talking about a fanbase that has difficulty recognising “the Welsh series”, who thought “The Deadly Assassin” was the death of the magic, that colour was maybe a step too far, or that it was all downhill once those two schoolteachers appeared…)

Of course, it’s early days, and we’ve got the excuse of post-regenerative discombobulation to handwave any cuts and trims as writers and actor find the performance. But what we saw on the first night was, let’s quote the trail, glorious.

We acknowledge the gender swap with “Why are you calling me madam?” but it makes no difference to the Doctor taking charge like she owns the place, same as the Doctor has always done.

A defining scene was aboard the train, as Yas tries to assert her authority as a police officer (or cadet PCSO), and the Doctor effortlessly takes charge, not by bullying or physical threat but by posing the pertinent questions and showing she’s the one with the answers.

Jodie’s performance gave me a bit of Tom in, say, the “that nap did me the world of good”, and some lovely squidgy-faced expressions as emotive as Sylv, but most reminded me of Matt, with the physical discoordinations and the eccentric distractedness. And the complete confidence in the dress-sense. Which is also very Colin.

But played, and I think quite rightly, with an absolute confidence in her own authority, not arrogance, but certainty.

And kindness.

The seventh Doctor went to the funeral in “Remembrance of the Daleks” but only the thirteenth would stay.

And thankfully after the “am I a good man” gloom that beset the twelfth Doctor, Jodie felt like a Doctor unburdened. Able to offer a helping hand and stand up for fair play because she’s – literally – got the spoons now to do so.

“There’s echoes of who I was, and a sort of call towards who I am.”

Possibly unsurprising given that this is Chibnall, he’s chosen to sample some of his favourite Who moments, made a montage from some of the series’ quintessential touchstones: the Doctor’s speech about family from “Tomb of the Cybermen”; the forging of the new sonic – from spoons and a bit of alien spacepod – harking back to the third Doctor’s gadget building, if way more epic; the crane reminiscent of Sarah Jane climbing the Thal rocket in “Genesis of the Daleks”, or the Doctor and friends teleporting between adventures as in “The Ark in Space” or again from the end of “Genesis…” with added floating in space effect; the Doctor looking for “a doctor” as Peter Davison was in “Castrovalva”; possibly a nod to David Tennant in “The Christmas Invasion” as the Doctor recovers on the sofa exhaling artron energy; even the first glimpse of the new female companion is in police uniform like Amy (thank god this time she’s not really a stripper!). “Will he ever call me grandad” was a line given to Graham, but was planting a flag for the series’ roots right back to “An Unearthly Child”.
But Chibnall wasn’t afraid to subvert the expectations either: two aliens arrive – one tentacle-y one in armour – the Doctor guesses two alien races at war… immediately I’m thinking Sontarrans vs Rutans… but no, he’s not afraid for the Doctor to guess wrong, and the aliens – on the same side after all – turn out to be the Jem’Hadar… no, sorry the Stenza.

Well, there’s a whole new meaning to “toothy grin”, that Terrance Dicks can’t have thought of. Possibly Chibnall has been studying too many serial killers for writing “Broadchurch” (yes, I know they didn’t actually do serial killer) with their gruesome souvenir-collecting habits.

The tentacle-y thing, meanwhile, was wonderfully Cthuloid. We wondered if it had assembled itself a form from train cabling, incidentally, and might it have build different, more industrial bodies later at the crane site.

And as an aside, I thought it was good that Ryan was able to own his mistake in “granting access” too.

The Woman Who Fell

So, let’s look at the supporting cast, who I thought were great.

Of the non-Time Lord regulars, it’s interesting that Ryan (Tosin Cole) is clearly the audience identification figure, starting from his vlog as we do. That also makes him the voice of the author for part of the story. And it’s his action that incites the incident.

I’m slightly less sold on Bradley Walsh’s Graham yet. He’s no Wilf. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt if only for the gleeful expression as he detonates an explosion in the season’s trailer.

But of the three, I’m favouring Yas as the stand-out, Mandip Gill bringing a bright intelligence and curiosity to the role. Though something that makes Yas a Moffat-style companion (something else other than she’s wearing a police uniform – she’s earned that uniform!): she knew Ryan in childhood and suddenly finds him again because of the weird stuff he shows her and she doesn’t believe!

Not joining us on voyage, Karl Brian Wright, crane operator and “valuable person” was sweet in his own way, and I liked that he said thank you and left (yes, like Derek from “Survival”), though the plot demanded that – like, Alex tells me, the book of “Survival” – the monsters come after him in the end. Nice that the Doctor gave him a ticking off for booting the beaten villain off a crane (though not the full Harriet Jones destroy his life!).

But my favourite was Grace, for all that – curse you the spoilers of pre-publicity – knowing she wasn’t a series regular was as good as hanging a “doomed” sign around her neck. She was funny and brave and curious and had as much character as the other three put together. Basically, she’d have been a great companion in the Evelyn Smythe tradition. Several times, I thought she was about to buy the farm, so making it to the last act was almost an achievement, but then it was “No Graham, let me go sticking the probulator into the electric death-ball up the crane”, and fate was sealed.

Grace’s fall give the episode title poignant double meaning – in retrospect highlighted by Ryan from the beginning telling us that the woman we think this is about isn’t the woman who this is about.

Chibnall here strikes a balance between Russell, having people challenge the Doctor afterwards on consequences, and Moffat saying if you wish hard enough there are no consequences at all, (so if you die you just can’t have been special enough); he’s learnt from writing a long and harrowing detective show (and maybe from reading some PD James) that when people die it has a massive effect on other people, rarely beneficial, sometimes catastrophic, because every person is the centre of their own story with their own web of connections and consequences.

And if Grace is the point of the first episode, is this an author’s nod to the US remake of his Broadchurch called Gracepoint?

Next Time

The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tells us that the probability of being rescued from the vacuum of space is 2 to the power of 276,709 to 1 against, which as we all know was a telephone number in Islington in the late ’Seventies. So will someone with an Infinite Improbability Drive be along in a half a minute to rescue our heroes?

And looking longer term, are we going for a “quest for the TARDIS” season story-arc (what, the show-runner might have fibbed about all separate stories?!)

And the big question: Will we get a title sequence?

Friday, September 07, 2018

Day 6459: Movement Pie


Once Upon a Time, the people of the United Kingdom of England and Scotland decided that their king had got too uppity and chopped his head off.

And then, being very British about it, decided that what they really wanted was another king again, thank you very much.

And some MPs thought that things should go back to just how they were, with the King having absolute power over everything.

But some other MPs said, isn’t that what caused all the bother in the first place, and maybe unfair power is something we should do something about.

And so, in the end, Liberalism was born.

Mr Dr Vince “the Power” Cable, isn’t king of the Lib Dems. But he might want to be a bit more cautious about sticking his neck out…

Today he is making a few suggestions about how to turn the Party into a Movement. And, like the “Movement Pie” in TV’s “The Preventers” it is… “strangely unappetising”.

Captain Paddy used to have what was called the “Bungee Squad”, so that when he leapt off a cliff with a new notion, they could reel him back in. This press launch of a proposal to bounce the Party into following is more Lemming Squad – take the leap and expect all the rest of us to follow.

What is behind this is Brexit – obviously – and the cowardice of MPs in government and opposition. The Tory Rebels don’t want to split the Tory Party. The Labour moderates don’t want to split the Labour Party. Their tribalism is what is preventing Parliament coming together to stop Brexit. But that is on THEM not on US.

But creating a “safe space” for disenfranchised members of OTHER PARTIES – at the further expense of our own identity – doesn’t do us any good. Or in the long run the country any good. Last time we behaved like the only adults in the room, we agreed to a coalition and were annihilated for our pains. We no longer have the political capital to do that again! And look what has happened without Liberal voices being heard in Parliament?

I WANT more Liberal voices. So I WANT people to be Liberals, to support and join the Liberal Democrats.

But I’m actually pretty AMBIVALENT about a “supporters scheme”.

On the one fluffy foot, the more the merrier. On the other fluffy foot, this is wasting a lot of time and potentially money (especially if the Leader want’s his own Special Conference to make the changes) on PROCESS when we could be spending that time and money on telling people how GREAT Liberalism is. It looks an awful lot like the Politician’s Syllogism (“Yes, Minister”): we must do SOMETHING – THIS is something – we must do THIS!

(And didn’t we say One Member One Vote would get the members more involved? Now that that’s not worked we want to get the not-even-members more involved?)

We’re not in politics just to be a bigger club for people who like being in The Politics Club. Liberals are in politics to do something DIFFERENT, or we’d just have done the easy thing and joined one of the bigger clubs in the first place.

And that’s why this Movement Pie is the wrong way round. It starts from the idea of being welcoming – which is GOOD – but offers nothing different once everybody gets there. Worse it’s more “None of the Above”

For better or worse – usually worse – that’s why the likes of Brexit or Corbyn are brilliant recruiters: because they have something exciting that appeals to converts.

Liberal Democrats need to be bolder in offering something different, something that ENTHUSES people into signing up. Liberal ideas are a beacon that inspire people, and Liberals should always welcome aboard all the new people inspired by Liberalism.

If your only big idea is to say you’ll welcome as many people as you can find but only for more of the same (but not EVIL!), you may well find that not many people will be very interested in tucking into your biggest pie ever…!

Because it’s a Pie with no FILLING.

Oh it may be EYE-CATCHING. So is any SPECTACULAR BELLY-FLOP. But is it the right answer? Is it even answering the right question?

Because the Liberal Democrats have had, let’s be honest, bit of a problem for a bit of a while now: post-joining the Coalition, no one knows what the Party stands for.

To most people The Tories stood for the people with money, Labour stood for the people without and the Lib Dems USED to stand for “the None of the Above” Party. And then we were in government and we weren’t none of the above any more.

To possibly too many of our MPs and members, we were the “Nice Moderate in the Middle Party”, not to profligate not too evil, just right. The kind of people who thought John Major was too exciting a shade of grey. And while, in the current political climate, you can see the attraction of being the “we’re not nutters” Party, it’s also heavily contributing to the belief that we are the “We stand in the middle, we’ll stand with anyone, not for anything” Party.

Saying we will welcome all and sundry, no need to sign up to our values, and we will have any leader you like so long as you like them… if ANYTHING that is MORE OF THE SAME PROBLEM.

And THIS fluffy elephant says FLUFF OFF to that!

I am a LIBERAL and I want to see my Party doing LIBERAL THINGS – taking part in Europe, cleaning up our air, standing up for people who are a bit different, challenging the RIGHT-WING consensus of Labour and Tory Parties that immigrants are bad and big government is good.

Liberalism started off by being about taking power away from central control and giving it away. It started with the biggest centre of power of them all, the divinely appointed King. But it also became about taking away the power of other bullies over people.

We talk about Human Rights, which are to protect you from a bullying government, and about workers rights which are to protect you from a bullying employer, or about protection for minorities which are to protect you from a bullying mob.

Socialists might talk about seizing power from the capitalists; conservatives might talk about protecting the status quo. But they are just arguing about who has the power. Only Liberalism wants to abolish the idea of there being someone in power.

How we give power and freedom to people are big big questions: how do we – for example – free people from poverty? Lloyd George answered that with a People’s Budget and pensions; Beverage answered it with the Welfare State; today maybe a British dividend or universal basic income might be the answer.

But the question is still relevant.

Which means Liberalism is still relevant.

Which means WE need to have an answer to prove that WE are relevant!