Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Lunar Express

As the current series of Doctor Who passes its half-way point I find myself talking about eclipses and Foxes.

I'm not saying I predicted vintage trains in space, and certainly didn't foresee steam punk,
but here's a painting I submitted for my University Entrance Art portfolio back in 1982.
(and he seems to be wearing the Eighth Doctor's costume)

This series of Doctor Who has been frustrating.
Why?  Well, just when you think you've picked a favourite story and are sure the quality is most likely to plateau or dip from this point, another one comes along the following week which is even better.  Of course there have been the rare wobbles (Time Heist: go to the back of the class) but so far, this year has been the most consistently brilliant in terms of writing, performance, direction and production value which I can remember.  It's due in no small part to Capaldi.  I hoped we'd see a less accessable, more alien and unpredictable interpretation of the Doctor, but I don't think anyone could have forseen the extent of risk Capaldi dares with his characterisation, or the degree of pay-off. You can't take your eyes off him and although I'm a little reluctant to say it, he's the sixth Doctor done right - scary, unfathomable, but able to let the hero we've followed all these years shine through just when he's needed.
Perhaps because of all of the above, Jenna Coleman has also upped her game hugely from last year.  No longer a self-adoring, quick-fire quipping cypher, Clara is suddenly a believable person in unbelievable circumstances. Sometimes scared, or angry, and sometimes, mercifully, lost for words.

So here is a post tenuously linking itself to the last two stories.  Kill the Moon wasn't stellar, (at least that's my opinion), but did showcase the inevitable bust-up between our two leads.  Perhaps it was inevitable, but still shocking in it's own way and, of course, brilliantly played.
I won't be subscribing to the theory posited in the episode for the origin of our natural satellite, but I am going to talk about the moon. And why not - we had a lunar eclipse earlier this month.  Not a common event, but also the second total eclipse of the moon this year.

As the earth's rotation and moon's orbit align - we become become 'piggy in the middle' with Sol and Luna. The Earth's shadow is cast across our moon, but this doesn't blot it out completely, instead washing it in a dim coppery twilight at totality.  It's a striking sight well-worth seeing, and I'll certainly never forget my first experience of a 'blood moon', with the Star League, on a mid-winter night in 1982.

The moon (in total eclipse) tracks across the sky, with part of the constellation
of Sagittarius, in August 1982 (Photograph by Mark Mullen)

The following episode: Mummy on the Orient Expresswas stellar, and absolutely beautiful to look at.  It has to be said, there probably aren't many programmes as well directed, production- designed and photographed on TV at the moment.

 This episode barely had a single forgettable shot, but what I want to talk about is 'that song'.  I had no idea who Foxes was, but Don't stop me now by Queen has been a favourite for a very long time.

25-year-old, Grammy Award-winning Louisa Allen performs a jazz/blues cover of the Queen classic, and as well as providing some diverting background colour on board the Orient Express, the collaboration between singer and series seems to have had benefits both ways.
Foxes has enthused: " I couldn’t think of a better place to make my acting debut than on one of the UK’s most iconic shows!" while the BBC have taken the opportunity to release the whole track with a compilation of series 8 clips, including some not seen before for upcoming episodes.
Doctor Who and Queen - having a good time, having a ball...

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