Monday, 13 August 2018

The Bletchley Circle

I've watched the very last episode of the Librarians (and what a brilliant finale to the season it was) so I was looking round for something else to watch when The Bletchley Circle came to my attention.

I first became aware of Anna Maxwell Martin when she played Rev. Merrily Watkins in the TV adaptation of Midwinter of the Spirit by Phil Rickman - but before that, she played Susan, a code breaker at Bletchley Park during the War, who gets a team together to solve a series of murders that the police are not managing to solve, using the skills they developed during the war as code breakers, but which they are not able to use (or even mention) in peace time.

I saw the first episode last night, and it was brilliant stuff, so I'm looking forward to the rest of the mini-series. I understand there's a second series, too, as well as a spin off set in San Francisco.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Librarians Fourth Season

….or, How Could They Cancel This?

I've been working my way through the last set of DVDs, the fourth season of the Librarians.
It's been fun so far, but nothing out of the ordinary compared to the previous three seasons - Flynn gets to meet his hero, Victorian Librarian Darrington Dare, Ezekiel goes home to his family for Thanks-Taking Day, and the Librarians are all considering whether they want to stay with the Library, and whether there should be only One True Librarian.

And then I came to The Librarians and A Town Called Feud, which starts with American Civil War Re-enactors, and the story of a feud between brothers during the Civil War - and it turned into a story about how important it is to remember history accurately, and tell the stories of the past truthfully. Which is something I passionately believe is important. And the true story turned out to be far better than the falsehoods the museum owner was peddling.

And then there's The Librarians and a Guy Named Jeff, in which Jenkins has his body swapped with a guy who lives in his mom's basement and plays D&D. And I finished the episode wanting to hug Jenkins, because he dealt with the D&D nerds and Jeff's mom so graciously - and the D&D nerds got to go through a real dungeon with him. Part of the fun, too, is seeing Jenkins fighting with a light saber, but mainly it's seeing him treating all Jeff's friends and family with respect and kindness.

This is uplifting, joyful television - and it's been cancelled so there will never be any more of it.

Friday, 13 July 2018

A Proud Day for Manchester

Celebrations on Sunday at St Peter's Square, where the plinth for the Emmeline Pankhurst statue is going to be unveiled at 11am. Manchester author and singer Rosie Garland will be leading a rousing rendition of the March of the Women, in full suffragette dress, to mark the occasion.
The statue will show Emmeline Pankhurst giving a speech, facing towards the Free Trade Hall - like this:

The sculptor is Helen Reeves.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Goodbye, Peter Firmin

This is far more upsetting than Harlan Ellison's death - Peter Firmin (and his collaborator Oliver Postgate) made children's TV that was a huge part of my childhood.

The Clangers (sad whistling, and glooping from the Soup Dragon)
Pogles Wood (it took me years to work out that Tog was supposed to be a squirrel!)
Ivor the Engine (a sad song from the Grumbly and District Choral Society, with solo from Ivor)
Noggin the Nog (the Men of the Northlands sit by their log fire, and they tell a tale....)
Bagpuss (when Bagpuss goes to sleep, all his friends go to sleep too)

He also created, with Ivor Owen, Basil Brush.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Cathy Gale in the Bahamas

I was quite surprised to see Honor Blackman appearing in an episode of The Saint. The setting was a country house in Nassau, the episode The Arrow of God. There were two black maids with speaking parts, and several black policemen, but the "Indian mystic" was played by an actor with the very un-Indian name of John Carson.
And there was Honor Blackman, playing the Other Woman that one of the other characters wanted to leave his wife for.
And it reminded me that, in the last episode of The Avengers where she played Cathy Gale, Cathy said she was going to the Bahamas for a holiday, well away from Steed. I suppose the script writers knew that she had got the job on the Saint coming up.

It's a pity she didn't agree to do another season of The Avengers, but then she wouldn't have been able to do Goldfinger, and there wouldn't have been that lovely in-joke where Steed gets a postcard from Mrs. Gale and asks "What on earth is she doing at Fort Knox?"

Honor Blackman had a harder job in the Avengers than Diana Rigg - at the beginning, they performed the episodes live in the studio - so everything had to be right first time, and if anyone fluffed a line they just had to carry on. The Saint was done on film right from the start, and you can really see the difference.
Even so, Patrick McNee and Honor Blackman obviously worked well together - you can see how relaxed they are in their scenes together. I also hadn't realised until I watched the season through just how reckless Steed can be of his partners' safety, and just how much he relies on Cathy's expertise while he's muddling through and relying on his wits to get him out of trouble. Way back in the Venus Smith episodes, he deliberately puts her into potentially dangerous situations without telling her what she's getting into. Cathy Gale has a few choice words to say to him about that, in several episodes, leading up to her deciding to make a clean break of it and head to the Bahamas.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Harlan Ellison

I've just heard, via Diane Duane on Twitter, that Harlan Ellison has died.
Harlan Ellison provided one of my earliest tastes of real, grown up, science fiction as the editor of the anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions.
He wrote one of the best episodes of Original Star Trek - City at the Edge of Forever.
He was one of the great science fiction writers, and I'm quite surprised at how upset I feel about his passing, since I didn't know him as a person at all - just the stories, which will continue to be read and appreciated.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Simon Templar - New Head Canon Origin Story

I watched the fourth episode of the Saint, involving a plot dating back to the French Resistance in the Second World War. Simon meets an old friend from those times, who remembers him being part of the Resistance himself. "You were very brave, and so very young," he says.
At which point I spluttered: "Young? He must have been about ten!"
So I started thinking about it. "Twenty years ago" in 1962 would just about have worked to make Simon a young teenager during the War - but what was he doing in Occupied Paris?
Leslie Charteris is no help at all on the origins of the Saint - I don't think he ever mentions the Saint's family, and besides, the Saint of the books was an adult in the 1920s, when men were men and cars had running boards.
But for the Saint of the TV series - could he have been living in Occupied Paris because his mother was French? I've always been led to believe that the Saint was English, but cosmopolitan, and there is no way anyone English could have been living in Paris at that time. I doubt very much that Simon was ever in any sort of armed forces, and he would have been too young to be a spy.
So now I have the image in my mind that he was the kid who hung around with the men of the Resistance, running errands for them. Which would be why he wasn't present at 'The Drop', the incident when the villain of the piece betrayed the Resistance and 27 out of 30 of them were killed. We also meet all three of the survivors in the episode.
It works for me, anyway.