Don’t be scared. All of this is new to you, and new can be scary. Now we all want answers. Stick with me — you might get some. — Thirteenth Doctor
Yes it feels full Summer today despite being the last day of Spring with the temperature of near twenty degrees this afternoon and full sun making it very, very pleasant indeed. It’s warm enough that I’m dressed in shorts and my fav Doctor Who t-shirt, the one with the Bad Wolf illustration. I’m working on this Edition outside on my iPad on the stone patio put the Pub with a large mug of chai masala with a generous splash of cream and a just baked cinnamon roll to munch for my late breakfast.
I’ve included a fair amount of Whovian related material, mostly about the new Doctor, in this edition in celebration of the fact that the principal shooting on the next season of the Thirteenth Doctor’s adventures is well underway. It’ll be shortened, just eight episodes, due to the Pandemic but it’s definitely happening.
Let’s start off with a number of takes concerning Doctor Who. Some about Her, some about previous incarnations, some works about the Doctor in general.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, there have been non-fiction books focusing on various aspects of the Doctor and his adventures. April brings us a look at a not-so-reverent example, The Discontinuity Guide: The Definitive Guide to the Worlds & Times of Doctor Who: ‘Remembered by many for its wobbly paper-mache Pinewood Studios effects, frequently changing casts and cheesy incidental music, Doctor Who is, nonetheless, a unique experiment in television, and one that has been frequently engaging and entertaining, despite the production quality. There have been numerous books about the show, some more serious than others; here’s one that refuses to take itself seriously, and fans will love it.’
Cat was somewhat taken (but only somewhat) by two Doctor Who cookbooks: ‘This review is really an acknowledgement that there’s a nearly infinite number of writings about Doctor Who done by the fans of the show over the past fifty years. Yes there’s fanfic where they’ve created their own stories, some using existing characters in new stories, some creating new characters in new situations. And then there are, err, cookbooks. Seriously you can’t be surprised that someone did this, as I’m sure that there’s a Harry Potter cookbook or two out there.’
Cat says ‘I’m not going to give anything away but will note that if you like Doctor Who, I think you’ll like Jodi Houser’s Doctor Who: A Tale of Two Time Lords, Vol. 1: A Little Help From My Friends. Her Doctors are believable and the story is told very very well with the artwork good enough to carry her story excellently.’
Cat also reviewed their Torchwood India audio adventure and had this to say about it: ‘Golden Age is the story of Torchwood India and what happened to it. It is my belief that the best of all the Torchwood were the audio dramas made by BBC during the run of the series. Please note that it was BBC and not Big Finish that produced these despite the fact that latter produces most of the Doctor Who and spinoff dramas. This is so because the new Doctor Who audio dramas were kept in-house and these productions were kept there as well, though Big Finish is now producing the new Doctor Who adventures as well.’
Cat looks at an adventure beloved by many fans of the series: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’ featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that the British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. That it is set during the Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’
Cat also looks at Doctor Who‘s ‘The Unicorn and The Wasp’ episode which I think had one of the better companions in Donna Noble: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’
Denise has her review of the first season of Doctor Who, and she enjoyed almost every moment of Season Eleven. ‘The new Doctor loves bobbing for apples, candy floss, purple sofas, and fast talking…. I love it. Yes, I’ve said that I love things several times here. I’m not sorry.’ Why is Denise so enraptured? Only one way to find out; give her full review a look!
While she might have loved Season Eleven, Season Twelve had her feeling a whole lot of different emotions…not all of them good. ‘Unfortunately, things get a bit messy this season, with the usual overarching story coming back into play with the thirteenth Doctor’s second season. There are stories and themes that work well, but most of the time? Things get a bit too heavy-handed.’ How so? Only one way to find out – give her review a look!
Greg, not to be outdone, brings us a tome that does take itself seriously — perhaps too seriously: ‘With essays covering the entire span of the various Doctor Who television series from 1963 onward, The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who addresses various ideas of The Doctor as a mythic figure. Unfortunately, the central premise — the idea that he is in fact mythic — is one that is never successfully supported.’
John looks at a lot of Doctor Who audiobooks and is very impressed: ‘The Big Finish audio adventures are a rousing success. Not only do they allow us to wallow in a familiar past, they also give us the chance to experience stories that would have been impossible for the television series. The return of familiar voices is treat enough but to have the 8th Doctor brought to life is a joy indeed. Fans who may not have liked the TV adventures of these Doctors would do well to listen to the audio dramas. Characters are fleshed out and given more substance. In many ways the Big Finish productions move Doctor Who away from being a series for kids. There’s a small amount of mild profanity, for instance. But there’s also some very intense violence and situations. Plus when the stories tackle weighty issues or when they turn narrative conventions upside down, most of the thematic material will go over the heads of younger listeners.’
Jennifer supplies us with a warming soup made with pot stickers, shrimp, and vegetables that promises that winter will indeed end.
As the long winter winds down, many people’s thoughts turn to warmer climes – Hawaii, say. It’s very difficult to visit there right now, but how about a virtual visit via some Hawaiian music? ‘Legend has it that Spanish and Mexican cowboys brought acoustic guitars to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800s, David says. ‘The native Hawaiians acquired some of these guitars and developed uniquely inventive techniques for playing them. Influenced by their own traditional chants and also by the European hymnals provided by generations of Christian missionaries, a generic “Hawaiian” sound was created. He discusses a couple of Hawaiian-style guitar albums, Ozzie Kotani’s To Honor A Queen: the Music of Lili’uokalani, and Led Kaapana & Bob Brozman’s In the Saddle.
Next up, David has a whole raft of reviews of ukulele music. ‘The ukulele first arrived in Hawaii on the afternoon of August 23, 1879, when the Ravenscrag arrived in Honolulu with 419 Portuguese immigrants coming to work in the sugar cane fields,’ he says. Check out his omnibus review of four albums by Langley Ukulele Ensemble plus one by their star pupil James Hill; his review of two of James Hill’s solo albums, On the Other Hand and A Flying Leap; and another omnibus review, this one covering two more by Langley Ukulele Ensemble plus John King’s Royal Hawaiian Music.
Donna has a survey of Anatolian and Levantine music, starting with the Kurdish lute player and singer Sivan Perwer’s Min bêriya te kiriye. ‘In the mid-1970s, Perwer sang Kurdish songs in a Turkish stadium before a sell-out crowd. Since the singing of Kurdish songs, the speaking of Kurdish, and indeed any other expression of Kurdish culture was banned in Turkey at the time, Perwer nearly caused a riot, and had to be spirited away by his fans before he got arrested.’
Next up is Back to Anatolia by the instrumental and vocal ensemble Efkar, many of whose members also played with Sivan Perwer. ‘All but one of these performers appear to be from Anatolia, the peninsula that comprises the modern Turkish nation-state, although most are living in Europe now. For these artists, playing this music is a way to stay rooted in their traditions, and a way to share those memories with others. In fact, the band’s name Efkar translates as “thoughts” or “ideas turning around in your mind.” ‘
Finally Donna looks at the music of two American-based groups: the Chicago Classical Oriental Ensemble’s Soul of a People: The Songs of Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh, and the group Anatolia’s Folk Songs and Dance Music of Turkey and the Arab World. Of the former, she notes that Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh is a towering figure in Egyptian music. ‘In terms of his popularity and his influence on modern Egyptian music, I would compare him to early twentieth century American composers Cole Porter or George and Ira Gershwin.’ And of the latter she notes that Anatolia is a project of American ethnomusicologist Edward J. Hines. ‘Folk Songs and Dance Music of Turkey and the Arab World is an entertaining and well-produced CD of traditional Middle Eastern music.’
Gary reviews the debut recording of an ensemble from the Russian republic of Udmurtia, which blends traditional songs with modern electronic music accompaniment: ‘This amazing, mesmerizing debut recording called Shooldyrak by the techno-folk duo ShooDJa-ChooDJa is a wonderful example of the way music can open up the world for you,’ he says.
‘Finnish musician and composer Ilkka Heinonen plays the jouhikko, a bowed version of the kantele, a box lyre or zither common in Karelian dance music of Finland and Russia,’ Gary says. ‘In this album Lohtu (Solace) he has made a recording that reflects the anxiety of our time, grappling with a pandemic in the short term while struggling with the long-term consequences of ongoing climate change.’
Gary has a brand new disc from Americana singer Melissa Carper called Daddy’s Country Gold. ‘This is finely honed Americana music,’ he says. ‘Musically and lyrically, Carper hits the bullseye on every song, but neither she nor any of her band ever overplay their parts. Sonically these songs come right out of some Western lounge circa 1960, but the lyrics subtly reflect more modern realities while remaining true to their genre.’
Another offering from Gary is something quite different. He says Sakili’s Creole Sounds from the Indian Ocean … ‘is Séga, a Creole music of the island of Rodrigues and the rest of the islands of Mauritius, which may be one of the last types of African music to make its way to the world stage.’
‘In a far distant past (1986) I saw the then very young Kathryn Tickell charm an audience at Sidmouth Folk Festival with her Northumbrian pipes and her fiddle. She was named as one of the bright hopes for the future of British folk,’ says Lars. How does her 2004 release AirDancing hold up to those hopes?
‘Tim Harrison is a classic guitar playing singer-songwriter, with several obvious merits; he’s a tuneful singer with a pleasant voice, and a decidedly skilled guitar stylist,’ says Lenora. ‘There’s Spanish and classical guitar technique here if I’m not mistaken, and considerably more going on than the strumming of chords. He also chooses superlative backing musicians …’ So what did she think of his 2002 album Wheatfield with Crows?
Our What Nots are all Doctor Who related this time.
Denise takes a look at one of the many collectible tributes to our new Doctor, Funko’s Rock Candy‘s Thirteenth Doctor Vinyl Collectible. (No, it’s not actual candy, but a type of collectible from Funko.) She’s rather fond of her new Doctor. ‘She’s here! And she’s fantastic.’ Read Denise’s review for more information, and why she’s a fan of this collectible.
Denise has noted that she really dug the eleventh season of Doctor Who, she says ‘and I love the new Doctor. And this SuperBitz plushie tribute to her is absolutely adorable. I’ve seen SuperBitz items here and there, but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to get a really good look. And it’s a well made plushie with great attention to detail.’
And seven20’s Thirteenth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver gets a look-see by her: ‘ I fell in love with the Thirteenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver the moment I saw it. It’s a groovy bit of steampunk and crystal, and I wanted one immediately. My editor was obviously attuned to my craven covetousness, and sent me one to review. And y’all, I’m not even gonna try to be neutral here. I’m too stoked.’
Our Coda is a just bit different this time though it still has music in it. Doctor Who some fifty years old and has had obviously opening sequences that whole time. Until now, BBC has never compiled them together so we could experience how they’ve changed down the years. (And yes, there’s entire sites devoted to complaining about about how the new series has ruined these title sequences.) So for your considerable entertainment, go here and be delighted by what you see and hear as the music has been changed and not changed.