GHOSTBUSTERS

Sony

First of all, a disclaimer: I have never seen the original Ghostbusters, nor its 1989 sequel. I know, crazy right? How dare I have an opinion on the reboot without the benefit of an all-encompassing knowledge of the 1984 classic? Well some news for you, Reddit Ghostbros: a hefty proportion of the new generation of 12-year-olds who see this film won’t have seen the original either. Nor (hopefully) will they have any conception of the amount of bullshit baggage that this project has gradually been laden with since director Paul Feig announced his plans for an all-female cast back in 2014. And that’s great, because that means they’ll get to do what those of us who have followed the controversy surrounding this film are now unable to do: simply enjoy Ghostbusters as the lighthearted summer blockbuster it was intended to be.

And – newsflash – that’s what it is. A lighthearted summer blockbuster, with plentiful lols and a top-notch comic cast in the form of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. That’s largely the critics’ consensus too, much to the chagrin of those Reddit users who freaked out just a little when the press embargo was lifted and the verdict was that the film that was set to retroactively ruin their childhoods was actually – fine. Given the seemingly endless buildup to its release, complete with detailed reviews of and reactions to the (admittedly underwhelming) trailer, this conclusion was arguably the best outcome when it comes to the film’s critical reception. If reviewers (especially, unfortunately, those of the female variety) had raved about it, they no doubt would have been accused of doing so in order to pander to the film’s feminist agenda. If they had universally panned it, the fanboys would have taken this as vindication, rather than measured criticism. A verdict of ‘fine’, however, is immediately disarming because there’s not really a comeback. At the same time, solid three and four star reviews aren’t going to put audiences off. In this way, it’s kind of a win-win situation.

I watched Ghostbusters a couple of days after its UK release. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch – the plot lost itself a little towards the end, and the editing wasn’t seamless. But it was everything I wanted it to be. Not because I wanted it to be a hyper-feminist f***-you to the haters, but because I wanted it to be an enjoyable and funny way to spend a couple of hours in the cinema. And lo and behold, it was.

In a recent article for HuffPost, Matthew Jacobs argued for less obviously gendered comedies in the wake of the hoo-ha around Ghostbusters. But what does that mean? What exactly is specifically gendered about this film? Wiig, McCarthy, Jones and McKinnon don’t go around making vagina jokes or talking about their periods. On the contrary, the message of this film is that women can do whatever men do, equally as competently, and equally as comically, without the need to resort to stereotypes. Arguably, it was the fan- and media-fuelled furore around this film that turned a simple casting decision into a girl vs. boy thing. By claiming in his article that the comedy genre ‘is still a war between the penis and the vagina’ it’s as if Jones is saying that as soon as a comedy comes along that isn’t predominantly male (a.k.a. the norm), it’s automatically a challenge. It’s not. It’s just another funny film.

Sure, the film utilised the dumb-blonde secretary cliche for copious laughs, but in casting Marvel franchise hero Chris Hemsworth in the role, converted it into a glorious send-up of a tired trope (something that seemed to go over the heads of a number of outraged naysayers). More subtly subversive is the inclusion of the villain Rowan, a weedy beta-male who spouts lines such as ‘I am a genius. I see things that no one else does, and for it, I am rewarded with nothing but scorn and mockery’. Simply put, he’s your classic Reddit troll, the manifestation of Lily Allen’s URL Badman, a loner convinced that rather than being the cause of his own problems, he is misunderstood, and that the rest of the world must pay for this. Interestingly, as a nerdy guy  with the world against him, he could also be mistaken for a down-on-his-luck protagonist who might come good in a traditional male-driven narrative. Without going into details, this film gives him a rather less comfy ride.

In short, Ghostbusters does feel like a game-changer. Bridesmaids (a previous Feig offering, also starring Wiig and McCarthy) was given similar praise when it was released in 2011 to critical and commercial acclaim, but even then it focused on traditionally female experiences (hen nights, bridal showers, dress fittings) and contained elements of the rom-com formula. Ghostbusters, in contrast, is indisputably a fully-fledged action movie, and these women are more than wives and bridesmaids. We meet them when they are established career scientists (important in itself given the total dearth of women in STEM careers portrayed in the movies). More crucially, they get to be passionate about what they do: Holtzmann can be a genius inventor who gets wildly excited over a Faraday cage, whilst Patty can revel in her encyclopaedic, history book-fuelled knowledge of New York City. And they’re totally badass. We’ve discussed over and over for the past two years that it’s significant to have four women front a summer action blockbuster, but it was only when I was sitting there in the cinema actually witnessing four women in jumpsuits battle ghost after ghost in glorious slow motion on the big screen that it truly dawned on me just how significant. I couldn’t (and still can’t) think of anything I watched at age 12 that came close.

Something else: there’s a glaring absence from Ghostbusters that is glorious in its significance. Two thirds of the way through the film, Kristen Wiig’s Erin reads a book in a bedroom. It’s one of the only times in the film where we see a protagonist out of the workplace or off the streets of NYC. Seeing this female character in a domestic space was enough to make my brain automatically wonder where Erin’s home was and who she lived with. That’s when the realisation came like a jolt of static from one of Holtzmann’s inventions. Unlike in 95% of female-fronted films – Bridesmaids included – I didn’t need to know or care about any of the four protagonists’ personal lives outside their ghostbusting unit of friendship. And that came as such a relief.

There are hints, of course. Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann was 66% of the reason my brother and I went to see this film, and it’s no surprise that a huge number of people have fallen in love with Holtzmann – many even joking of a shift in their Kinsey scale reading after watching McKinnon’s breakout performance. She’s a magnetic, scene-stealing presence throughout, her off-beat delivery and oddball behaviour providing laughs even when she’s not the focus of a scene. Feig wanted to ensure that what he referred to as the ‘pansexual’ presence of McKinnon (who incidentally is Saturday Night Live‘s first openly lesbian cast member) translated to her character. But when asked if Holtzmann herself was gay, he was suggestive yet evasive: “I hate to be coy about it. But when you’re dealing with the studios and that kind of thing… ”

We might have four ghostbusting women, but it’s still a little too much for Sony to allow one of them to be openly gay. That is likely the next frontier in the campaign against Hollywood’s outdated ideas about what sells (although some progress is being made on this front where the latest Star Trek is concerned). All things considered, though, Ghostbusters is a giant leap forward.

 

 

Broadchurch

Wolf Hall

Broadchurch, ITV1; Wolf Hall, BBC Two

Dear Wolf Hall,

Alright my love? How’s the third week going? Ratings slightly down I hear? Me too. You get used to it. Listen, I’m writing because a little bird told me that you didn’t have much of a plot going on, and that you might be after one. Thing is, I’ve got quite a lot of them at the moment, so if you were wanting to borrow any then I reckon it could be good for both of us.

Let’s face it, we both look smoking hot. Me with my sunny seascapes and mysteriously cloudless skies, like an advert for Visit Dorset, and you with your lute-soundtracked stately homes and manicured lawns, like an advert for the lovechild of the National Trust and English Heritage. I really think we can come up with an arrangement that suits us both.

Oh, I should probably tell you a bit more about our range. We have numerous recycled plots, a couple of credible plots, a few plots rapidly losing their intrigue, awkwardly shoehorned-in plots relating to legal counsels’ backstories, and a slightly incongruous plot involving a unconvincing vicar dating a promiscuous hotelier. Take your pick!

Sincerely,

Broadchurch

Winner of four BAFTAs

***

Dear Broadchurch,

With regards to your proposition, I am afraid I cannot answer yes or no, rather you will have to deduce my response from my enigmatic facial expression.

That is all I have to say on the matter. I am a drama of few words.

Sincerely (or perhaps not),

Wolf Hall

Future winner of all of the BAFTAs

***

Dear Wolf Hall,

Ok, I’ll cut to the chase. I’m in a bit of a scrape. I have one murderer on the loose, and one about to emerge victorious from a dubiously conducted court battle, and I’ve only got three episodes left. You seem to be pretty skilled in making one episode go a long, long way. Plus, people really seem to like you. What’s your secret?

Sincerely,

Broadchurch

***

Dear Broadchurch,

First of all, my commiserations to you regarding the recent birth of the Latimer baby. I personally have a deep understanding of what the birth of a girl can do to the complexity of a plot, and from what you’ve said in your previous correspondence, that sounds like the last thing you need.

Secondly, I have noticed a distinct lack of fluffy animals in your drama. Three episodes in and I’ve had a puppy, several kittens, a white rabbit and a horse. You may want to consider this tactic – it might help with the declining viewing figures you alluded to in your earlier correspondence, as well as your concerns about likeability.

Sincerely,

Wolf Hall

***

Dear Wolf Hall,

Thank you for your advice, but as we are not a high-brow historical drama adapted from two Booker Prize-winning novels, we don’t feel we need to use such tactics to attract the attention of a generation raised on YouTube cat videos. We can do that just fine with our dramatic twists, and scenes involving a shirtless James D’Arcy.

Anyway, I was thinking that if we lent you a couple of plots, you might be able to loan us Mark Rylance for a bit. I heard his character was a lawyer, and he seems to be quite efficient in getting certain people to certain places – like Anne Boleyn to the King’s bed – and I reckon that talent could be extended, in our case, to getting the Sandbrook murderer into jail, with Joe Miller not far behind. I admit, there would be a couple of issues to resolve – primarily the fact that Rylance looks like he literally just walked out of a tudor painting – but this can be remedied with a quick hair trim, a wardrobe change, and maybe the cultivating of some unkempt stubble à la Alec Hardy. Speaking of, I might be willing to throw David Tennant into the bargain if it would tempt you.

Let me know what you think,

Sincerely,

Broadchurch

***

Dear Broadchurch,

I am afraid that I cannot give you a definitive answer either way. Rylance’s character goes where he pleases, looking mysterious in the process. It may be that he will take a trip to the West Country – as he has done so a number of times throughout filming in order to walk enigmatically around the gardens of a number of National Trust properties in that part of England. However, I am quite sure that the town of Broadchurch boasts no such landmarks.

With regards to the loaning of David Tennant, you are somewhat deluded if you think I will settle for anyone less than Olivia Colman.

Sincerely,

Wolf Hall,

BBC Two’s biggest drama for a decade

***

Dear Wolf Hall,

Three-time BAFTA award-winning Olivia Colman is strictly off limits. You give me no choice but to take my incredibly advantageous offer elsewhere.

Sincerely,

Broadchurch

ITV’s highest-rated weekday drama series since 2004

***

Dear Broadchurch,

I am sorry that I seem to have disappointed you. Had you been in your first series I may have considered your generous offer. Now, however, you are somewhat irksome and past it. The Catherine of Aragon of TV drama, shall we say.

Sincerely,

Wolf Hall

The Anne Boleyn of TV drama

***

Dear Mr Selfridge,

How are you doing? If you could find the time in your busy schedule to get back to me, I have an offer I am sure you will find most attractive.

Sincerely,

Broadchurch

Ps. It does NOT involve three-time BAFTA award-winning Olivia Colman

Remember Me

Remember Me, BBC One

If there are two  genres we love here in Britain, it’s crime and period drama. We can’t get enough of them, the former proving particularly prolific recently. Usually rooted in gritty realism, our crime dramas of late (think Broadchurch, The Fall, and Happy Valley) have been disturbing, unrelenting – and utterly addicting. But despite their compelling qualities, it’s nice once in a while to move away from realism and into the realm of the supernatural.

Cue Remember Me, a three part ghost story penned by Gwyneth Hughes, that provides Michael Palin with his first straight television role in more than twenty years. Set against a backdrop not unlike that of Happy Valley, Remember Me is refreshing in its shunning of realism and wholehearted embracing of the ghostly genre. Palin plays Tom Parfitt, on the face of it a perfectly unassuming pensioner. Underneath his jovial temperament, however, lurks something altogether more sinister. There’s also something lurking in his house – specifically the surprisingly sizeable attic room – that makes him determined to leave, feigning a fall in order to be granted a place in a nearby old people’s home. It’s here that he meets Hannah Ward (Jodie Comer), a young carer, who is drawn unknowingly into Parfitt’s troubles.

Hughes makes use of a number of ghost story tropes in this first episode: dripping taps, a black and white photograph ripped down the middle, an old mill, and plenty of howling wind. That’s not to say that the story is as obvious as the devices used. In fact, after this first episode, it’s anyone’s guess where this plot will take its characters, who remain equally in the dark (in more ways than one). We’re left with a number of components: Jack himself, the attic of doom, a mysterious veiled woman who makes a habit of infiltrating dreams, and a chest full of sheet music – specifically of the traditional folk song, Scarborough Fair. The song itself provides an effective motif throughout the episode, from the haunting, childlike rendition during the opening credits, to the single line played on the out-of-tune piano later on. Ruth Barrett’s score is sparse, but extremely effective, as are the sound effects that raise the tension level several notches – all loud creaks and ominous thuds.

Whilst the ghostly happenings (present from the get-go) are not exactly subtle to begin with, they perhaps become slightly over the top at the climax of the episode. However, well-pitched and sympathetic performances from Palin, a dishevelled Julia Sawalha (as Hannah’s mother), and especially Comer herself, ensure that Remember Me remains intriguing and chilling to the end.

Carrie

Homeland 4×01: The Drone Queen

N.B. I’m watching Homeland on UK time, so apologies if you’re already streets ahead of this. And by ‘streets’ I mean ‘two episodes’

I spent the first two seasons of Homeland with my eyes glued to the TV and my heart in my mouth. The third season, however, was spent staring slightly incredulously at the screen and uttering ‘Ugh, Carrie, really?’ and ‘Seriously, Brody, seriously?’ at various points throughout. That doesn’t mean that I am one of those people who would rather see the back of Homeland. Nor am I one of the people who for some reason were of the opinion that the entire series was carried by Brody, and couldn’t possibly go on without him. On the contrary, one of the worst episodes of Homeland I have sat through was the one that solely featured Brody, practically dead in a tower block in Venezuela, being administered heroin by a doctor resembling Michael Jackson. That, in my opinion, was Homeland’s low point. So I was actually not sorry at all to see the back of Brody. It has always been the brilliance of Claire Danes’ portrayal of Carrie that has kept me watching. I was never really 100% invested in the Carrie/Brody relationship, and the whole thing was drawn out far too long. When Brody made his exit at the end of last season, I was hopeful. Homeland was now free to reset the clock, wipe the slate clean, leave the Brodys (including, thank heavens, Dana – not to mention poor, inexplicably mute Chris) behind.

And much about Homeland is new as it moves into its fourth season. New locations, new characters, new conflicts – even a new baby. It’s certainly a departure for the show, which until now has taken place largely, as the title might suggest, on US soil. But as Carrie – or, as she is termed by her colleagues early on in the episode, ‘the Drone Queen’ – returns to her sparsely furnished Kabul apartment, pours a large glass of white wine and washes down a pill or two, it’s clear to see that old habits die hard. The same can be said for Saul (Mandy Patinkin), all the way back in New York, stuck in a private sector job and visibly itching to return to a world where his opinions have a larger effect than merely jeopardising a contract.

Homeland will never be as gripping as it was in its first season, when there were so many unknowns surrounding all characters, including our unpredictable protagonist. Three seasons on and we’re now at the stage where we get Carrie and how she operates. Her rash decisions are par for the course, and are more likely to induce an exasperated eye-roll than a tension-filled gasp. What’s interesting is that the writers now seem to be using this to their advantage. Instead of capitalising on our sympathy for Carrie (something we had in spadefuls in season 1 but that has since been wearing dangerously thin) they are instead causing us to question her choices increasingly. Carrie is now Station Chief in Kabul, rather than Istanbul as was originally the plan, and it is strongly hinted that the choice of Afghanistan over Turkey is related to the fact that the former is far too dangerous a place in which to raise a baby. It says much about Carrie that she would choose to become the Drone Queen rather than care for her own child. This repositioning of the audience’s feelings towards the protagonist is an interesting decision by the writers, and I’m curious to see how it pans out. There are many points in which Carrie’s responses to the consequences of her actions – especially the inadvertent killing of forty civilians in a poorly-timed attack that becomes the focus of this episode – cause us to feel as uncomfortable as we do seeing the words ‘The Drone Queen’ iced delicately onto a birthday cake. Luckily, not everyone in Homeland is completely devoid of a moral compass. Peter ‘Cheekbones’ Quinn (Rupert Friend) is still strongly questioning his role in the conflict playing out in the Middle East, and he’s not about to let Carrie off lightly either. Apparently, for now, he is the new Saul – concerned by Carrie’s behaviour, and ready to play devil’s advocate if need be. Not that Saul is oblivious to Carrie’s actions even all those miles away – as a (pointedly ignored) phone call suggests partway through.

This episode, on the whole, was slow to get going and quick to wind up. It felt like the action was only just beginning when the credits began to roll. Showtime chose to air the first two episodes back to back in the US last week, and it’s a shame Channel 4 didn’t follow suit. Having said that, I’m not ready to give up on Homeland just yet. We were left with a lot of questions: who was the mysterious ‘X’ on Islamabad Station Chief Sandy’s phone? Would Sandy (played by an enigmatic Corey Stoll) survive to see another episode? What is the significance of the young medical student who survived the wedding party attack ? And just how long can Carrie keep avoiding a) her baby and b) the emotional consequences of her role – especially when people keep turning up to remind her that she should be feeling guilty? I don’t just mean Quinn – I’m referring also to King Arthur from Merlin (Bradley James), who pops up in uniform halfway through the episode, and actually turns out not to be King Arthur, but First Lieutenant J.G. Edgars, who regretfully – on Carrie’s orders – flew the mission into Pakistan that has everyone in a tizzy.

Instead of showing remorse following Edgars’ confrontation, Carrie merely acts annoyed. But then when has she ever been one to listen to other people?

There are upsides to indefinite unemployment, especially when you find yourself in this particular predicament in the Autumn, the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness, and an abundance of glorious television drama. As I tread the vast waters of joblessness, not only is there ample time for me to avail of the delights of the Autumn drama output, there is also room to acquaint myself with classics that have previously escaped my attention. Thus I am currently ploughing through season 1 of The West Wing (a programme I cannot believe I have thus far neglected, and that makes me dearly want to swan around in a suit being eloquent and witty but also staggeringly intelligent and astoundingly efficient) whilst simultaneously enjoying new series of Peaky Blinders, The Good Wife and, of course, everybody’s favourite Sunday evening staple, Downton Abbey, the drama that drama forgot.

I would just like to mention here, as a disclaimer of sorts, that I have actually been taking productive steps to finding a job alongside all of this sustained consideration and critiquing of screen-based popular culture. My parents – with whom I am currently living – will probably read this, and I’d hate them to think that all of the hours I spend holed up in my bedroom are dedicated to lovingly binge-watching fifteen-year-old US TV dramas rather than the reality: carefully crafting cover letter after cover letter, and watching my practice psychometric test scores creep painfully slowly towards the desired percentile. Last year, when I was still basking in the luxury of student life, I wrote a column containing recommendations for television programmes that were appropriate as revision. Now that I find myself essay-less and exam-less, I feel an update may be necessary. And the truth is, there are countless lessons to be learned from the stars of the small screen. So without further ado, here it is – Productive Television Consumption: The Graduate Edition.

Core competencies: lessons from the Bake Off.

Independence. Drive. Initiative. Determination. Risk-taking. Tenacity. Multitasking skills. Ability to produce the perfect choux pastry.

Until that last one, this could easily have been yet another list of core competencies reeled off by yet another ‘Requirements’ section on yet another graduate scheme website. In fact, it’s a list of all the qualities possessed by our beloved Great British Bake Off contestants. With that in mind, the only motivation I have for watching this week’s final is because I’m looking to gain inspiration for any application forms, interviews or assessment days that may miraculously come my way. It’s obviously not just because I quite like gazing at baked goods for extended periods of time. Nothing to do with that.

'Can you tell me about a time when you showed initiative under the icy glare of Paul Hollywood?'

‘Can you tell me about a time when you showed initiative under the icy glare of Paul Hollywood?’

Surviving numerical reasoning: Daisy in Downton Abbey

Times they are a-changing (as they are wont to do alarmingly often in the land of Downton), and Daisy is worried that her maths skills aren’t quite up to the standards that a future career may demand of her. I FEEL YA DAISY. Numerical reasoning tests are the Thomas to my Miss Baxter, the bus (read: Bates) to my Mr Green. Every time this poor kitchen maid bemoans her non-existent affinity with numbers, I find myself nodding along to her proclamations of woe. I, too, have been the victim of much numerical trauma. I, too, have spent hard-earned cash on books that might help, only to cast them aside in despair. But Daisy is not going to give up. She’ll keep going, even if it means hiring Miss Bunting to teach her alongside the demands of her never-ending culinary to-do-list. An inspiration to all those who feel defeated by data interpretation.

Looking the part: literally everyone on The Good Wife

I am currently in the market for a Corporate Fairy Godmother, and I would like, if possible, for Alicia Florrick to fill this vacancy. Or Diane Lockhart. Either will do. This is partly to do with the fact that I want them to share with me all of their wisdom and insights relating to being Kick-Ass Women In High-Powered Jobs, and partly because I think that if anyone could wave a wand and majestically transform my H&M jumper and jeans into a classy Hugo Boss suit and blouse combo/devastatingly sophisticated Etro dress, it would be Alicia or Diane. In fact, everyone on The Good Wife looks so fabulous that it may as well be renamed The Good Wardrobe, and from this we can deduce the following: 1) It is important to look the part, so dress well for interviews, and 2) Maybe if I get a good job, my hair will miraculously become more voluminous.

'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boss'

‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boss’

'That's why her hair is so big. It's full of corporate insights.'

‘That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of corporate insights.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commercial awareness: the Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders returned last week, and in Episode One we learned that our favourite razor-capped, dubiously-moralled brummie gang were looking to expand to London. We were flies on the wall as Tommy et al discussed the implications of the move on the family business. These people had clearly done their research. Tommy new all about the current political and economic landscape in the capital (apparently the Jews and Italians aren’t too keen on each other), and Esme exhibited remarkable insight when she proclaimed that London meant ‘smoke and trouble’. We can learn two things from this: 1) Commercial awareness is key to a successful business application, and 2) Maybe we aren’t that keen to move to London after all.

CV points: Cilla

By the end of the first episode of ITV’s cosy biopic Cilla, we’d already seen our Scouse heroine excel in typing, experiment as a hair stylist and belt her heart out in the Cavern Club, accompanied by the Beatles. This is a girl who clearly understands the value of work experience – and the importance of networking.

'Did someone say transferable skills?'

‘Did someone say transferable skills?’

Conclusion: TV is a valuable resource when it comes to the graduate job hunt. Now back to the application forms. (And maybe some more West Wing…)

Doctor Who

Oh hi! It’s been a while. Let’s get straight into it shall we? As mentioned in the past, I am firmly not a fan of the direction in which Steven Moffat has taken Doctor Who. I was hoping the Capaldi era would signal a new lease of life, but Saturday’s episode confirmed that Moffat is still up to his old tricks. I think going over everything that annoys me about the programme would just be regurgitating most of what a lot of other people have said. Instead, I give you my own interpretation of Moffat’s scripts, which I think pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject. This will definitely make more sense if you’ve seen the whole of Saturday’s episode.

SCENE 1

DOCTOR: I can solve any problem! I’m the master of any sticky situation! I’m Scottish! I’m Steven Moffat! Ahem – sorry – I mean I’m the Doctor!

ENTER DINOSAUR

CLARA: Look! A dinosaur!

DOCTOR: That’s not a dinosaur. It’s a FEMALE dinosaur. I must mention this so that I can have a protracted one-sided conversation about how I’m not flirting with it! Joke for the adults!

DINOSAUR: Do I get a say in this?

DOCTOR: No. You’re female, so better just stick to the feisty wisecracks.

JENNY: (TO VASTRA) We’re also female! Nudge nudge, wink wink!

CLARA: Feisty wisecrack!

(ENTER SHERLOCK AND WATSON)

SHERLOCK: I’m investigating the origin of this dinosaur and how he came to end up in the Thames.

JENNY: It’s not a he. It’s a female dinosaur!

DINOSAUR: Hey baby.

SHERLOCK: In that case I must act adorably disarmed in the presence of this powerful female. Women love that.

VASTRA: Guys, we’ve just spent the last minute saying absolutely nothing in an awful lot of words. If we stopped doing this, the episodes could be over within an hour, like they used to be, and we wouldn’t have to engineer all this horribly forced sexual tension.

SHERLOCK: Over in an hour? Pathetic.

JENNY: At least we managed to get in a bit of innuendo. Wink wink.

STRAX: Joke for the kids!

VASTRA: No, but seriously. Is there any kind of plot here?

SHERLOCK: What’s a plot?

WATSON: It’s kind of like a storyline. We used to have them.

SHERLOCK: Oh, right.

DOCTOR: I don’t need a plot. I’m the Doctor. I AM the plot. I’ll just say a load of words in some kind of order whilst looking powerful and mysterious and perhaps a little tortured and then we can move the episode along. How does that sound?

SHERLOCK: Familiar.

CLARA: Go on then, Doctor!

DOCTOR: (LOOKING POWERFUL, MYSTERIOUS AND  A LITTLE TORTURED) I’m the Doctor! I vote we all move locations in order to give the pretence of some kind of plot! Because I’m the Doctor! Yes to independence!

BACKDROP SUDDENLY CHANGES

CLARA: (WIDE-EYED) Wow, Doctor! You’re so powerful and mysterious, and… old!

DOCTOR: I’m what?

CLARA: Old. You’ve got lines and stuff.

DOCTOR: How did I become over 35?!

RIVER SONG: Spoilers!

(PAUSE)

JENNY: No, River, you’re not in this any more…

RIVER SONG: Aren’t I?

VASTRA: Nah. Soz.

RIVER SONG: How do you know I’m not? I might be. But I can’t tell you. Y’know… spoilers…

DOCTOR: River! My soul is tortured by the mere sight of you – even though no one can quite remember why, because you tend to just pop up at random intervals to wink at me and shoot things.

RIVER SONG: Sorry sweetie. (WINKS AND SHOOTS DINOSAUR)

VASTRA: No!

CLARA: Why did you shoot the dinosaur?!

VASTRA: The girl dinosaur!

RIVER SONG: It was a girl dinosaur? Rats. If I’d known that I would have flirted with it because sexual orientation is fluid and we’re a really progressive show.

STRAX: Joke for the kids!

DOCTOR: Btw Clara, I’m not your boyfriend.

CLARA: I never said you w-

DOCTOR: Stop flirting with me.

(ENTER FANGIRL)

FANGIRL: Hey guys! Sorry, I heard the word spoilers! If you want to know any spoilers, I’ve watched a couple of leaked episodes online and I follow, like, 157 Doctor Who Tumblrs! (TO DOCTOR) Apparently you’re now old because you’re played by a slightly older actor! And he’s Scottish.

DOCTOR: AYE. DOWN WITH THE ENGLISH.

CLARA: Hold on a second. We can’t have fangirls wandering into scenes. It’s a bit self-referential. I mean seriously, how’s that going to look?

WATSON: Familiar.

DOCTOR: Ha! You’re totally jealous of this other female presence, Clara! Look, I told you, I’m not your boyfriend. I’m too old. Look at my lines and my grey hair. I’m practically dead.

CLARA: I know. You’re ancient. I’m so conflicted. I can’t cope with you being old. I’m going to leave.

ENTER MATT SMITH

MATT SMITH: Oh hi y’all! Just popping back to surprise the fans!

FANGIRL: (FAINTS)

MATT SMITH: Woah – who’s that grandad over there?!

CLARA: It’s the Doctor.

VASTRA: It’s you.

DOCTOR: It’s Steven Moffat’s ego.

MATT SMITH: Wow. I got old.

CLARA: And Scottish.

DOCTOR: VOTE YES.

MATT SMITH: Listen, Clara. I know you kind of want to leave because you’re fed up of being squeezed into a skirt that’s just a little bit too tight and making feisty wisecracks all day long, but seriously, it’s better if you stay. We need you for the male fans, and as a dubious role model for young girls, whose agency can be analysed endlessly on online forums.

CLARA: Urgh. Ok. (TO DOCTOR) But you’re not my boyfriend, remember that. You’re too old now.

DOCTOR: Totally fine with that.

CLARA: Let’s get coffee.

JENNY: Nudge nudge, wink wink.

STRAX: Joke for the kids!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Varsity issue no. 779, published 25/04/14. Here’s the link

TheGoodWife (1)

I must confess, I haven’t watched any new TV in a while. I’ve finally succumbed to an affair with Netflix (specifically The Good Wife) but with a dissertation-shaped elephant in the room, all the series I’ve been meaning to watch (Rev., The Crimson Field, Jamaica Inn) have sidled past silently, with far too many episodes stored up on iPlayer for me to have any hope of catching up. A couple of months ago, I wrote about the dangers of Netflix. Now I’ve changed my mind, and I’m about to tell you what you want to hear: contrary to popular belief, Netflix is made for exam term.

First and foremost, Netflix provides respite. Sometimes you just need a break. But what do you do when everyone else is revising and you’ve already caught up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones? Netflix is there at all hours to comfort you.

Crucially, it’s also flexible. If you start watching a current drama, you’re completely at the mercy of schedulers. People say binge watching is dangerous, but catching a drama before it falls off the iPlayer cliff and into the underworld of unwatched and unreachable episodes requires a level of commitment that just isn’t realistic in exam term. You can also guarantee the final episode will be scheduled the night before your first exam – the world is cruel like that. But Netflix is kinder. It doesn’t mind if you’ve been away for a while: the episodes are all still there waiting for you when you get the chance to return.

Netflix also keeps you sane. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that in exam term every conversation, no matter how it starts, will always end up being about exams. You can even apply a kind of exam-term Bechdel Test: 1) Are there ever two people in a room? Yes, at mealtimes. 2) Do these people talk to each other? Yes, when they don’t have food in their mouths. 3) Do these people talk to each other about something other than work?

Uh oh. Test failed at the final hurdle. The only two places you can go to escape this manic revision/dissertation-based conversation are a) home or b) Netflix. Home is far away, and probably expensive. Netflix is just a click away. Honestly, the fact that Alicia Florrick doesn’t stop halfway through a trial and express panic about whether the preface is included in her dissertation word count is more of a blessing than I can put into words.

Okay, so I’ll admit, this column is basically an elaborate justification for renewing my Netflix subscription at the worst point possible. But I think I’ve argued my points well. I have a feeling I won’t be saying the same about my first practice essay.