Nick Houghton is running out of time. His father’s disgrace and a straitened economy look set to ruin his academic career. When a shadowy corporation make him an offer too good to refuse, he doesn’t. What classicist could say no to the chance to go to Pompeii?
Oh bloody hell. Just caught up on Hell Bent, and I think I need to watch the last 2 years of Doctor Who all over again now. All is forgiven. Well, almost all. Yeah, okay, I’m totally cherry picking. There’s a bunch of episodes we probably can’t all agree didn’t happen, but I’m going to edit them out of my timeline anyway, ok?
I’ve been reading The Time Traveler’s Almanac since February, and I’ve finally reached the end of the enormous time travel compendium. There’s a reason this is printed as 4 separate volumes – I don’t like to think how heavy the physical edition would have been. 65 stories and 5 essays by different authors old and new explore the concept of time travel, gathered around 4 themes. Following some excellent advice not to read from start to finish, I zipped from point to point like the various protagonists, reading a story from each theme and then putting the book down for a while so that it didn’t get stale.
The ill-fated Ishiguro mission set space exploration back decades. Years later, the Hyvonen twins (students of Guy Singer, the only ‘real’ scientist aboard Ishiguro) achieve the funding and the mandate to retrace the failed mission’s footsteps in order to discover the nature of the Anomaly that Singer wanted to study – and which appears to be moving closer to Earth.
The first manned expedition in years will go deeper into space than anyone has gone before. It’s a thinly-veiled PR stunt, an attempt to reinvigorate interest in manned space exploration, and of course it all goes wrong. Cormac Easton is the journalist on board and the last survivor, chronicling the disasters and his own mental and emotional deterioration as he faces up to the inevitability of his own death.
So we're nearly halfway into the current season of Doctor Who, which I'm going to talk about without spoilers, because I'm good like that. I just thought I'd put some of my musings down now so I can laugh at myself later…
Firstly, I like Capaldi's "darker" Doctor, but I sometimes find him hard to watch. I like dark, I like edgy, but the scope of change in this regeneration feels a little… much. And the reason it feels a bit much is the occasional flips into manic pixie Doctor (the (Nu?) Doctor has always done this; but here it feels too big a contrast). In some ways, Capaldi's Doctor feels closer to Eccleston (or, ahem, Sherlock) rather than Tennant or Smith: disengaged, dangerous and disinterested in little details like body count – and this works better when it isn't contrasted with bubbly babbling.
Secondly, bullying Clara. I don't take kindly to this. I didn't wildly warm to her in her first season (which I put down to the Impossible Girl arc; I'm enjoying getting to know her better in this season), but it's not only demeaning it's downright ridiculous to have anyone mock Clara's looks given how jaw-droppingly pretty she is. Perhaps this is meant to be the sort of gentle teasing really old friends can get away with (and Clara is largely treating it with the disdain it deserves), but I don't like how it plays – girls don't need help being insecure about what counts as beautiful, thanks – let alone from the Doctor.
Thirdly, Danny Pink. Thankfully I've found some pro-Moffat voices online as well as the strident criticism that most of my feed typically channels my way, which is reassuring me that I'm not the only one who is enjoying Clara's love interest (and her very Clara control of continuing weekly
dates trips with the Doctor vs her day job and love life). It's refreshing to have a Companion interested in something other than the Doctor – and it's entertaining to realise that the Doctor gets jealous. Platonically, obviously. Which may go some way to explaining the bullying, but doesn't make me forgive it.
But what I'm really struggling with – not least because I've been rewatching NuWho on Prime – is that maybe, just maybe, Tom Baker isn't my Doctor any more*. Sadly, neither is Capaldi. I didn't particularly enjoy Eccleston, and while I'm enjoying Tennant ENORMOUSLY on my rewatch, what I'm looking forward to (and missing, while watching Capaldi) is the gangly man in the fez and the bowtie. Dammit. When did that happen?
*This is patently untrue. The only bit of the 50th that made me tear up was the cameo. But he's got competition.
A quick flit through my first quarter of reading, before I forget the details. It’s been a book-heavy year, with lots of opportunities to get some quality reading time in during the Christmas break in Australia and my boy’s month-long absence in India (not to mention my time off in March). I’ve put this to good use and read like the bookworm I am, devouring 20 books to date – most of them fresh reads rather than old favourites.