While Geth and I were at the Sage for the Kim Wilde gig in April, we noticed that Level 42 were going to be playing this year as well. After being constantly reminded of the gig due to Level 42 popping up on a lot of Now! compilations early in my Now! marathon, I booked tickets, and promptly forgot all about it until this week.
The doors were advertised as 7:30pm, which usually means bands don’t start until nearer to 8pm. However, when we walked into the arena at 7:35pm after grabbing a drink from the bar, support act the Blow Monkeys had already started playing. I’ll have to remember that when we go to the Sage in future.
The Blow Monkeys were good, although I didn’t know most of the songs they played – I think it was mostly new stuff, as they’ve recently released a more folky/blues sounding album. They did finish with It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, their biggest UK hit from back in the day.
After an interval (giving Geth the usual opportunity to get us some more drinks), Level 42 came on, and launched into a storming stage show. Early highlights for me included opener Running In The Family, The Sun Goes Down and The Chinese Way, but I really appreciated the stagecraft as well – the lighting was really pretty and well done, and we even got occasional semi-dance routines! I also want to give a shout out to the three-man brass section – the saxophonist was especially good, but they were all brilliant.
After finishing the main part of the set with The Spirit Is Free (featuring all band members drumming simultaneously, which was pretty spectacular!) and Something About You, we were treated to a lively encore featuring Lessons In Love and Build Myself A Rocket. Great gig overall, and not even the constant stream of people pushing past our seats to go to the bar/bathroom (including during the last song. Just why?) could spoil things!
The Sage kicked out in plenty of time for people to catch the last Metro as well. Good stuff!
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009) is actually the tenth entry in the series. I know it’s because the filmmakers keep rebooting the storyline, but it’s definitely a lot of work to keep track of what’s going on with these films.
We start off with a caption of another irrelevant quotation that’s not in the film or in any previous film, then we get a scene from the ‘fifteen years previously’ part of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, with Deborah Myers visiting Michael in the sanatorium (the latter played by a different child actor in this film). Michael has had a dream about a white horse, and has been able to make quite a realistic-looking one out of craft materials, because the sanatorium just rolls like that.
Back to fifteen years later, and we pick up where the last film left off. Laurie is walking about in a daze after shooting Michael, and screams and screams as she’s taken into hospital. Loomis is also shown still to be alive.
Sheriff Brackett orders Michael’s body to be secured properly in the ambulance, but we know it won’t happen. The ambulance drivers are too idiotic while driving, joking around, and end up getting into a crash. Like the first film, these scenes are lit too darkly to see anything, so I don’t really know what’s going on. Michael wakes up, unsurprisingly, and finishes off the surviving ambulance driver. He then sees a white horse and a woman in white, which is presumably a hallucination.
In Laurie’s hospital room, the TV is playing some footage of the Moody Blues performing Nights In White Satin. She wakes up and hauls herself out of bed, which is pretty surprising, given that a few scenes ago we saw her entire body being gruesomely stitched up and she should be under heavy sedation. She visits the unconscious Annie in another room, and is soon taken halfway back to her room by one of the nurses, but Michael shows up and kills the nurse.
There’s then a sequence where Laurie finds the other nurse dead, escapes outside, hides in a hut where the Moody Blues are still playing on the TV, nearly gets rescued by a security guard before Michael catches up to him…and then wakes up on 29 October a year later. The sequence was all a dream! Thing is, it’s not really clear when the dream started. Did the nurses and security guard really get killed, or did Laurie dream the whole sequence about the hospital? I’m going to say the latter, because it means the film makes marginally more sense.
Laurie is now living with the Bracketts, seeing a counsellor (who provides the backstory that they never found Michael’s body after the ambulance crash), and working in a record store. Dr Loomis, meanwhile, has turned into a total villain, only concerned about the sales of the new book he’s written about Michael. This is an absolutely terrible way to treat a classic character and is the aspect I most hate about this film. Loomis is convinced Michael is dead, which is completely out of character.
We get more hallucination stuff with the woman in white, who on closer inspection turns out to be Deborah Myers.
Michael shows up in a field in the middle of the night. A farmer, farm worker and farmer’s daughter confront him, and the worker beats him up. Naturally, they’re soon killed for their trouble.
Laurie and the Bracketts are eating pizza, which is juxtaposed with Michael eating the farmer’s dog. Ew. It’s almost enough to put you off pizza. Almost.
The woman in white scenes are very pretty and artistic, with lots of floaty black ‘n’ white imagery, but also very nonsensical. Laurie’s mind seems to be being taken over by Michael (shades of Jamie in Halloween 5), as she’s now dreaming about the woman too.
We go back to the ‘Rabbit in Red’ strip joint from the first film. Maybe Michael’s just drawn to where his mother used to work, or maybe it was just an excuse for the completely unnecessary chase scene with a naked stripper that we get here.
Sheriff Brackett reads Loomis’ incendiary book, and panics, calling Annie to try and find Laurie before she can read it. Meanwhile, Loomis is doing a book signing, which is incredibly awkward, especially when Lynda’s dad shows up, trying to kill Loomis for causing his daughter’s death.
Laurie, of course, ends up reading the book. It really sets her off, due to finding out about having been Angel Myers, and that Brackett knew about it. She doesn’t want to speak to Annie, and goes to find her record store colleagues instead.
Loomis is now going on talk shows. This whole thing is incredibly uncomfortable.
Laurie wants to go out and get drunk to forget things, so she and her two record store friends, Mya and Harley, get dolled up in Rocky Horror outfits and head out to a Hallowe’en party. The band at the party has strippers on stage, which reminds me of some very bad gigs I’ve attended.
Harley goes off to sleep with some guy in his trailer, and the guy says ‘I’ll be right back’ about ten times! This is really hitting the viewer over the head with Scream‘s Rule 3, which must have been deliberate. Either way, it takes you right out of the story. Both characters are unsurprisingly soon killed.
A drunk Laurie starts freaking out and hallucinating the woman in white. Mya takes her back home.
The cop that Brackett has sent to keep an eye on Annie is a classic Haddonfield incompetent cop, and so Michael takes him out easily. He then finally kills Annie…seemingly. Laurie and Mya arrive at the Bracketts’, and Mya gets killed while calling 911, though the call does go through (why has Michael stopped taking out phone lines in this storyline?).
Annie is still alive! How? Does she have some small amount of ‘final girl’ power left over from Danielle Harris’ previous role as Jamie Lloyd? Anyway, she finally dies in Laurie’s arms, and Laurie has to run, as Michael is still around. After they’ve left, the 911 responders show up slightly too late, and Brackett finds Annie’s body.
Laurie nearly gets rescued by some guy in a car, but Michael kills the rescuer and carries the unconscious Laurie away. He holes up with her in a hut nearby, and Laurie’s hallucinations of the woman in white become super sinister, with the woman forcing her to call her ‘Mommy’ and generally being really creepy.
Loomis sees a TV report about Michael having taken Laurie hostage, shows up at the location, and enters the hut despite Brackett telling him to leave. ‘I owe you this, Sheriff,’ he says as he goes in, so I guess this is supposed to be him redeeming himself. Inside the hut, Michael kills Loomis, enabling the police to get a shot at him through the window. Laurie is freed from the hallucinations as a result.
Michael is still alive, but doesn’t kill Laurie. She stabs him repeatedly instead, then comes out of the hut in her Rocky Horror Magenta outfit and Michael’s Shatner mask, which is a nice creepy image.
In contrast to the unclear ending of the previous film, Laurie has definitely gone mad at the end of this one – she’s shown to be in a white hospital room, smiling like Norman Bates and still having hallucinations of the woman in white, along with a white horse.
I’m glad that’s over, and I’m really looking forward to seeing John Carpenter’s return to the series this weekend.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007) is another film I’ve never seen, although I’ve been meaning to at some point for the whole eleven years since it came out. I’ve always been a little apprehensive about it, because I hate remakes (and 21st century horror films have pretty much ALL been remakes, which is another reason to hate this century), but this one has always been described by its creators as a ‘reimagining’ of the story, so I’ve finally bought the DVD and am giving it a go.
Apparently this is the ‘Uncut’ version – I’ve no idea how it differs from the original film.
There’s a caption at the start of the film with a quotation from Dr Loomis. It’s not a line of dialogue from previous films, and it doesn’t appear in this one, so I’ve no idea what that’s about.
We open on a kid in a mask picking up a rat. This is Michael Myers, and we’re about to get a whole half film of backstory about his childhood. His family are absolutely godawful, with his mother Deborah (played by Rob Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie) and stepfather Ronnie constantly screaming and swearing at each other, and the stepfather perving on oldest child Judith. I’m not sure what year this is meant to be, but I don’t think it’s the original 1963 setting – the fashions are all wrong. It looks more ’70s to me.
Michael turns out to be killing his ‘pet’ rats. At school, he runs into some bullies in the toilets, who mock him for his sister and mother being whores and show him a ‘Rabbit in Red’ flyer for the strip night where his mother works – this is a nice callback to Nurse Whittington’s ‘Rabbit in Red’ matches in the original film.
The school headmaster, who has found evidence that Michael is killing cats and dogs, calls in Dr Loomis, now played by Malcolm McDowell. Is it standard for a school to have the power to call in a psychiatrist? It’s a bit late for the bully with the flyer, though, ’cause Michael beats him to death after school.
Judith is asked to take Michael trick-or-treating by her mother, but once Deborah’s gone out to work, Judith tells Michael to go by himself and stays home to have sex with her boyfriend Steve instead.
Juxtaposed against unnecessary scenes of Deborah stripping at the club, Michael kills Ronnie first, then Steve (again by beating him to death, which is super grim and not very Halloween). In her room, Judith’s listening to Don’t Fear The Reaper, so it’s definitely not 1963! Michael puts on the Shatner mask (again placing this in the ’70s) that Steve brought over, and then kills Judith. He goes downstairs, but chooses not to kill his baby sister Angel. When his mother gets home from work, she discovers Michael holding Angel outside the house.
At Smith’s Grove Sanatorium eleven months later, Michael is still talking like a normal boy in his sessions with Loomis, but Loomis thinks it’s a facade. Though Deborah visits him every week, Michael’s condition is shown to deteriorate over the course of the next two years (we get a quick scene with a sanatorium worker dragging a Christmas tree through the grounds to the tune of Deck The Halls in order to show the passing of time, which feels totally out of place in a Halloween film!), with him constantly making primitive masks and speaking less and less. Eventually, at the end of one of Deborah’s visits one day, she and Loomis go outside the room to talk about the situation, and Michael takes the opportunity to attack the nurse who’s supposed to be watching him. Why is a sanatorium patient allowed real metal cutlery, incidentally? These days, you’re not even allowed that in airport restaurants.
Devastated by Michael’s psychosis, Deborah shoots herself dead while watching family videos. The videos are all colour cine-camera ones, again placing this part of the film in the late ’70s.
Fifteen years later, the older Michael has become a bit of a lumbering monster and has been mute since the nurse attack. ‘Fifteen years…that’s nearly twice as long as my first marriage,’ says Dr Loomis to Michael. ‘In a way you’ve become like my best friend, which shows you how f***ed up my life is.’ Loomis tells Michael that he’s leaving the sanatorium. It turns out he’s moving on…to write a cash-in book about the case! It’s called The Devil’s Eyes. At his book reading, his doommongering about Michael’s black eyes is nice and Pleasence-esque, which I did appreciate.
Some super gross sanatorium workers have come into the sanatorium at night in order to rape a young female patient in Michael’s room, so Michael kills them. I’m kind of on his side on this one. However, he then kills a worker who’s always been nice to him, so yup, he’s confirmed evil. When the bodies are discovered, the Smith’s Grove director calls Loomis out of retirement.
After Michael kills a trucker in a toilet stall (there doesn’t really seem to be much point to this scene at the time, but I guess it’s where he gets his overalls from in this film), we get the familiar opening bars of Mr Sandman as the action moves to Haddonfield. If we’re going with late ’70s as the setting of the first part of the film, this part, seventeen years after Michael’s first murders, must be the early ’90s – and by and large, that works, although the female teenagers’ hair and fashions do scream 2007.
Laurie Strode is absolutely nothing like her portrayal in the original film. She comes across as a total idiot teenager, making sex jokes in front of her mother and trying to scare Tommy Doyle rather than reassuring him about the boogeyman. From this point on, the film loosely follows the plot of the original, although if you know Halloween as well as I do, it’s a bit of a strange watch.
When Laurie drops off the key at the Myers house, Michael is shown to be inside like in the original, although this time there’s a reason for it – apparently he left a knife and Steve’s Shatner mask in a hidden place, and has come back for them. We then get a combination of two scenes from the original – some of the dialogue from the ‘walking home’ scene with Laurie, Annie and Lynda is combined with Laurie seeing Michael out of a classroom window, as the three characters are sitting in a classroom instead of walking home at this point. (Annie, in this version, is played by Danielle Harris, who played Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5.)
We get some more repeated dialogue when Loomis leaves Smith’s Grove, blaming the director of the facility. It’s kind of odd and annoying because characters will start saying familiar lines, and then the words will be very slightly different.
We then get to the new version of the ‘walking home’ scene. I genuinely can’t stand these versions of Laurie, Annie and Lynda – they’re just the most awful people and I would have utterly hated them if they’d been at my high school. Annie’s dad, Sheriff Brackett, shows up and gives Annie a lift, thankfully cutting the scene short.
When Loomis is in the graveyard with the graveyard worker, he asks to borrow the guy’s mobile phone (‘Don’t have one. They give you brain cancer’), which still just about works with a ’90s setting.
Lynda and her boyfriend Bob have gone to the rundown Myers house to have the sex scene that they had in the Wallace house in the original film. This is very disorienting. Why have they gone to the Myers house? Was there really nowhere else in town that was suitable? Also, how come all the boyfriend characters in this film have long hair?
We get another snatch of Don’t Fear The Reaper, with Lynda listening to it while Bob goes to get her a beer. In this version, Bob puts the ghost sheet on with his glasses over the top BEFORE Michael grabs him. Bob and Lynda get killed exactly the way they did in the original film, but in different locations. We then see Michael taking Lynda’s body away to place it in an appropriate place for a find-the-body sequence later on.
Cut to Loomis in a gun shop buying a gun. There’s really not much point to this scene.
Laurie is shown to have a very affectionate relationship with her adopted parents, who weren’t really featured in the original film other than a very quick scene with her dad. Unfortunately, as soon as Laurie drives off with Annie to go babysitting, Michael drops by and brutally murders the parents.
At the Doyle house, Laurie is still mocking Tommy about his belief in the boogeyman. ‘Not appropriate babysitter behaviour, Laurie,’ says Tommy, and I have to agree.
Annie decides to take Lindsey over to the Doyle house pretty much immediately in this version of the film, ’cause she’s impatient to have her boyfriend Paul come round. In the scene with Lindsey watching horror films on TV, we see that Michael is already in the Wallace house, biding his time for some reason.
The ‘Annie trying to set Laurie up with Ben Tramer’ thing is really lame and awkward in this version. In the original, it was a nice sweet aspect of Laurie’s character – she liked Ben, but she was too shy to go out with him. In this version, it just comes across like Laurie’s desperate and would go out with anyone.
Sheriff Brackett takes a lot more convincing than he did in the original film, largely because he’s read Loomis’ cash-in book and thinks Loomis is just trying to get more sales by building the myth of Michael as some kind of monster. Even though I still think the book is out of character for Loomis, I quite like this plot point! Once Brackett is convinced, he explains to Loomis that after Deborah Myers’ suicide, he hid baby Angel from the records and had her put up for adoption, following which she was adopted by the Strodes and named Laurie.
Annie’s boyfriend Paul – who was just an offscreen character in the original, voiced by John Carpenter when on the phone with Annie and Lindsey – actually shows up onscreen and gets killed in this one. Before that, he and Annie get some dialogue about not ripping Annie’s blouse that was originally given to Lynda and Bob in the 1978 film. After killing Paul, Michael turns on Annie.
In this version, Laurie decides to take Lindsey back home rather than waiting for Annie to call her, and so Lindsey is with Laurie when she discovers the half-dead Annie and the fully-dead Paul in the Wallace house. Laurie sends Lindsey back to the Doyle house and hysterically calls 911. I guess this version of Michael isn’t as good at remembering to take the phone lines out.
Michael reappears, and Laurie escapes the house by smashing the patio door window like in the original. She then runs out of the house, limping like she did in the original – but as she’s not actually fallen down a staircase in this version, there’s no reason for her to limp!
In the Doyle house, the police show up early but are pretty ineffectual against Michael. Michael ignores Tommy and Lindsey and drags Laurie out of the house, carrying her unconscious body in the same way he carried Annie’s dead body in the original. A lot of the imagery is the same, but because it’s got different story contexts, it feels jarring to a longtime fan of the series.
Sheriff Brackett finds a still-alive Annie in the Wallace house. Meanwhile, Laurie wakes up in the Myers house, by Judith Myers’ tombstone, with Lynda’s body nearby. This ending sequence is so dark I can’t see much of what’s going on, but there’s a lot of standard chasing and screaming.
Dr Loomis temporarily rescues Laurie by shooting Michael, but only three times, not six/seven like in the original! Michael doesn’t stay dead, and seemingly kills Loomis. I say ‘seemingly’ because fans of the series will know that Loomis is almost as unkillable as his former patient.
Laurie hides in the Myers house, and Michael drags Loomis inside for some reason. Loomis is still alive but fading in and out of consciousness. He grabs the leg of Michael as he goes past, but Michael’s got one job – he goes after Laurie.
After more chasing and screaming – I’m sure it’s supposed to be tense but I really don’t care about this version of Laurie Strode – Michael pulls Laurie over the balcony before she can shoot him with Loomis’ gun. She wakes up in the garden, on top of the unconscious Michael, and tries to shoot him point-blank in the head. One, two, three shots fail, because the barrel slots are empty. Was this the point of the gun scene earlier, so that we know how many bullets are supposed to be in the barrel? Anyway, the fourth one has a bullet in it, the gun fires into Michael’s head, Laurie starts screaming and screaming, and the credits roll, with another reprise of Mr Sandman over them.
Things that are not clear at the end of this film:
Is Annie alive? She was last time we saw her, which is kind of irritating, because she was killed outright in the original film and there’s no reason for Michael not to have finished the job other than the fact she’s played by a series stalwart here.
Is Loomis alive? He’d just slipped into unconsciousness again last time we saw him.
Has Laurie gone mad? That ending was very Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with all the screaming.
Thankfully, tomorrow we’ll be watching Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, so hopefully we’ll get some answers to these questions!
Geth and I got back from York today after a lovely pub lunch. We had a nice straightforward journey back to Newcastle, and I spent the afternoon getting some work done.
Looking forward to getting back to normal tomorrow.
Today’s earworm playlist:
Paul Young – Every Time You Go Away
Gladys Knight – Licence To Kill
Madonna – Live To Tell
Razorlight – Somewhere Else
Vanessa Carlton – Save The Best For Last
Duran Duran – The Chauffeur
Five Star – Rain Or Shine
Duran Duran – Girls On Film
While filmmaking has obviously moved on in leaps and bounds since the 1930s, there’s still something very evocative and beautiful about the old Universal monster movies. Dracula (1931) was the first of these, introducing us to Bela Lugosi, who is still the person everyone sees when they imagine the character.
I just want to take a self-indulgent moment to hit the emergency Bauhaus button:
Okay, here we go with the film.
Swan Lake plays over the opening credits, which is very pretty.
The action opens in Eastern Europe, where the superstitious locals are scared about Englishman Renfield going to Vorgo Pass. A woman crosses herself at the mention of Dracula. ‘You musn’t go to the castle, there are vampires, Dracula and his wives, they take the form of wolves and bats,’ says the innkeeper. Renfield insists, so the woman gives him a cross to protect himself.
Not everyone’s English accent is on point in this film, though in general it’s not bad for the 1930s.
A creepy scene with some hands coming out of coffins, and immediately I’m struck by how much filmmaking has moved on since Nosferatu nine years previously – nothing in the previous retelling was as scary as this. Some lady vampires emerge from the coffins. Dracula is already up and about, with a strange effect of light shining in his face.
Renfield meets the coach driver at Vorgo Pass at midnight. It’s obvious to the audience that the driver is Dracula himself. He turns into a bat, willing the horses onwards by psychic means, then disappears with Renfield’s luggage. Missing luggage is my pet peeve when travelling, so I can understand Renfield’s annoyance!
We get the iconic image of Dracula with his candlestick coming down the stairs. ‘Listen to them, children of the night; what music they make,’ he says at the sound of wolves howling outside, which has become a bit of a goth cliche. He then walks through spiderwebs without moving them.
Dracula turns out to have bought an abbey in Whitby, and Renfield has arrived to sort out the paperwork. We then get the traditional scene with Renfield getting a paper cut. Dracula approaches him but is deterred by the cross the local woman gave Renfield.
‘I never drink…wine,’ says Dracula, which is a gloriously campy line!
There’s a bit of a continuity problem with the geography. When Dracula and Renfield arrive in England on a ship, Renfield having gone mad, a newspaper clipping is shown that says they arrived in Whitby but Renfield was taken to Dr Seward’s sanatorium in London. However, when Dracula shows up in London and meets with Seward, their dialogue indicates it’s the other way round, with Seward’s sanatorium being said to be in Whitby.
The hokey effect of light in Dracula’s eyes is apparently meant to indicate that he’s hypnotising people!
The two female characters, Mina and Lucy, have a lovely character moment with Mina taking the mickey out of Lucy having a crush on Dracula, and mimicking his accent. These kind of touches are few and far between in 1930s film! Unfortunately it’s soon forgotten about, and when Lucy dies abruptly, Mina isn’t shown to grieve or mourn her at all.
Another striking change in the nine years since Nosferatu is the sexual subtext of the story. This is actually more striking a change than the captions being replaced by spoken dialogue.
Renfield has been eating insects, and has moved on from flies to spiders. ‘Who wants to eat flies?’ he says scornfully. ‘You do, you loony!’ says the porter, who is probably my favourite character in the film.
Van Helsing appears and somehow knows exactly what’s going on with Renfield and Lucy’s death, which saves the film a lot of trouble.
Renfield is apparently allowed to wander around the sanatorium freely, largely because the porter’s not that good at his job! As I said, I do like the porter and his maid friend, as they provide a bit of comedy relief. ‘They’re all crazy except you and me, and sometimes I have my doubts about you,’ says the porter to the maid.
At the end of the film, Van Helsing stakes Dracula offscreen, which is a bit anticlimatic. Maybe they weren’t able to do a good enough effect on camera back then. ‘Aren’t you coming with us?’ says Mina’s fiancé Harker to Van Helsing as he and Mina prepare to leave the creepy abbey, but just like Dr Loomis in Halloween 6, Van Helsing still has some business to take care of (presumably staking other vampires that Dracula has created).
As a result of watching this film, Geth decided to put on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Buffy vs. Dracula, and I really enjoyed the way they did all the cliches – especially Xander turning into the ‘Renfield’!
I did actually spend two hours writing a much longer version of this post, but WordPress ate it. Thanks, WordPress software.
Following this morning’s race, Geth and I headed to the pub to meet up with our friend Matt, and then went for a well-deserved race celebration meal at Pizza Hut. Much as I like races, it was much nicer drinking and eating in warm indoor environments than it had been running in the rain this morning.
We made sure to finish our meal in plenty of time so we could get back and watch Doctor Who and the Strictly results, which is already becoming my favourite kind of autumn Sunday evening.
Today’s earworm playlist:
Traditional – Scotland The Brave
Eternal and Bebe Winans – I Wanna Be The Only One
Ella Henderson – Ghost
Duran Duran – Come Undone
Sigala and Paloma Faith – Lullaby
Samantha Fox – Touch Me
This is the second year running that Geth and I have run the Yorkshire 10 Mile. Last year, it was a very pretty race, and although I was struggling a bit as my training had suffered, I really enjoyed the scenery. This year, it was the opposite way round.
As forecast, it was absolutely chucking it down in York today, and it was the wettest race I’ve ever experienced. My running glasses are not water-resistant, and so, because the rain was so heavy, I was basically running the race blind. I couldn’t see the puddles, resulting in very wet feet. My hearing aids were getting waterlogged and kept cutting out. In short, I was pretty sensory-deprived and unaware of my surroundings. I didn’t notice a single mile marker, and I only realised two of the water stations were there after I’d already run through them. Luckily, it was so wet and cold that I really didn’t need to drink much water en route today.
However, Geth and I were both hopeful of PBs, as last year’s race was the only 10-mile race we’d done and we both felt we were in better shape this year. Geth took a good chunk off his time, as he’s had a really good year training-wise, though he is suffering with a knee issue that needs to be seen to. Last year, I’d aimed for sub-2hr but had ended up with 2:06:38. This year, I aimed for sub-2hr again, and was fairly confident I’d get it as my training between the GNR and Yorkshire has been much better. I ended up with a time of 1:47:31 – a 19:07 minute PB! I’m really happy with that, especially as the conditions were so miserable.
I doubt we’ll do this race again next year, as the organisers are moving it to later in October and it doesn’t really fit in with our race plans for next autumn. However, assuming I don’t end up saying ‘never again’ to marathons after I do London in April, I may come back and do the full marathon sometime.
Episode two of the latest Doctor Who series, and it’s an absolutely standard new series episode two. These episodes are never the most popular or well-remembered of the series, but they always have a very important job to do.
In a typical new series episode two, we usually get a companion experiencing their first trip to somewhere that’s either not their home planet, not their time of origin, or both. This episode is no exception, with Graham, Yasmin and Ryan travelling to the planet Desolation, though unusually it’s not in the Doctor’s TARDIS, as she hasn’t recovered it yet. Indeed, she didn’t even mean to take them along on her travels, so at this point they’re still very much ‘accidental’ companions, whom the Doctor intends to return home as soon as possible.
In the meantime, though, we’ve got an adventure to get on with. The plot of the episode is very simple, probably moreso than any episode since the series returned in 2005, which is a huge culture shock after the complicated storylines of the Moffat era. The Doctor and companions are rescued from the floating-in-space predicament in which they found themselves at the end of the last episode by a couple of contestants in a rally, Angstrom and Epzo, who turn out to be the two finalists competing for some prize money and a way off the planet. A man called Ilin appears by hologram and explains that the final stage is a race to the ‘Ghost Monument’, which turns out to be the Doctor’s TARDIS, fading in and out of view. After a boat trip and a fight with killer robots, during which the Doctor saves everyone’s lives multiple times, they reach the location of the monument (although there is no sign of the TARDIS), and after some persuasion, Ilin agrees to declare Angstrom and Epzo joint winners and transports them off the planet, leaving the Doctor and companions behind. Although the Doctor loses hope for a moment, the TARDIS reappears, and the Doctor sets the coordinates to take the companions home. The ‘next time’ trailer, however, indicates that this will not be successful.
(This, incidentally, gives me happy nostalgic vibes, as it’s reminiscent of the Doctor trying and failing to return classic companions like Ian, Barbara and Tegan home for multiple consecutive stories and getting them caught up in adventures instead.)
Another important job of a typical episode two is to allow us to get to know the companions better. On this score, I feel the episode falls down a bit. I love the character of Graham, who is well-written, but the younger companions still feel drawn in very light strokes to me. Ryan has a couple of interesting character beats, with his continuing reluctance to get close to step-grandfather Graham in the aftermath of his grandmother’s death and his ongoing struggle with his dyspraxia, but Yasmin, at the moment, feels like a complete cypher – there’s nothing that elevates her character above ‘generic young female companion’ yet. This is a little worrying, as it seems to confirm longstanding fan worries about three companions constituting an ‘overcrowded TARDIS’ where there’s not enough space for everyone to have satisfying character development. However, I will reserve judgment, as I’m still hoping, like I said last week, that each companion will have their share of the focus during this series.
Next week we’re back on Earth, but in a different time period. It looks like a ‘celebrity historical’ – which is a type of Doctor Who story we’ve not had in a while – featuring Rosa Parks, which should make for an interesting story!