Sunday, 15 June 2014

What to Watch Next: The Satan Pit & The Daemons

Hey, Daemos even gets a proper namecheck in the New Series episode (though you'd rather expect representation of evil and good to be Horned Beasts on Daemos as a matter of course, in the same way that humans tend to anthropomorphize divine beings as having heads and limbs, making the Doctor's comment on the matter peculiar). The writers are dancing around the fun of having devil-ish characters, without actually delving into the messy philosophical questions of evil, as that would bring up matters entirely too complicated for dealing with in a children's programme. Though it'd have been nice to see them try.

Oh, and both finales are frankly rubbish. Though it's hard to imagine how another episode stuck on at the end could have done much to improve Matt Jones' effort, as opposed to that hoax about "The Daemons" having another episode to wrap up Azal's exit a little more convincingly...

The Satan Pit

Always dignified...
"Swallowed by a Black Hole"
There is a certain kind of inevitability to the BBC turning to a beach for a dramatic narrative backdrop even for documentaries, these days.

The information's not presented in the most coherent fashion, and there's some slightly over-pretentious narration...but it about works, and given how fast astronomical science changes, there was no use looking for a documentary any older. It gets most of the facts about quasars and galactic centres down, is the main thing. They have also interviewed Donald Lynden-Bell, which is brilliant.

Distinct lack of amusing Ood-Zoidberg video comparisons to link here. I feel as thought the Internet's let me down rather tragically. 

Instead, here is some footage of American scientists getting super-excited about some actual squids. And they do look rather impressive. 

"Wenvoe Quarry"
Quarries! After Davies vowed never to do to go to a quarry ever again, it's their first pick for an alien planet. Bless.

(Look, it's a bit more exciting than the last quarry video I dug up. What's not to like about comedically huge construction machinery?)

"Dr. Strange"
So first you say to yourself, that whole part about the Doctor having to smash an ancient protective vase that holds a demon-being of unimaginable destructive power sounds pretty comic book-ish, and specifically like issue 156 of the original run of Dr. Strange comics (of course Dr. Strange fights beings like that every other week, but in context the unleashing of Zom was still presented as a Rather Serious Matter. The Living Tribunal showed up for the first time, if that means anything to anyone reading this).

From there you inevitably wind up with the 1978 movie (since there isn't even a trailer for the upcoming Marvel flick yet) which is not precisely what you might call "good" but is in any event humorous and Loveable. It's hard to get the obnoxious surgeon stereotype wrong, although Peter Hooten is almost too laid-back for that role, John Mills occupies a pleasing quantity of the screentime, and the soundtrack is plumb groovy. The pacing is pleasingly unhurried, too. Jessica Walter doesn't hold a candle to Jean Marsh as Morgan Le Fay, but no matter; she handles the material as well as might be.

(And Wong, by dint of getting a couple of technobabble explanations and an exciting laser fight, is easily more interesting than the bland Oriental manservant he was in the original Strange Tales run.)

"Alphabet Song"
A small point that's almost too obvious to be noticeable. Tobias' surname, Zed, is the proper way to enunciate the letter "z" on the British side of the Atlantic. Given the story, there's a pretty clear line from there to the Greek alphabet's Alpha and Omega (wherein "The Three Doctors") and there into the Biblical verses from Revelation, and etcetera. Especially given that we have another character called Scott (it would have been too obvious for her to die on this doomed expedition, evidently) and of course that whole gag about "Zachary Cross Flane" and plenty more evidence suggesting that Jones was thinking about names a good deal during composition.

So the video's mostly for the sake of Americans now wondering "how do you rhyme zed to rhyme with v, then?" The answer is: you don't, and it sounds just this silly.

The Daemons
...even in the silliest circumstances.

"Silbury Hill"
In case the link to the original BBC documentary about opening up an ancient, mysterious mound as a breathtaking archeological feat isn't working, this update about examining and reclosing the tunnels a few decades on will do. If only anything so exciting as "The Daemons" had happened in real life.

Or did it?

(No, of course not, but that'd have been the starting point for the story.)

"Morris dancing"
Goodness Gracious Me is such, such fun, isn't it?

Oh, all right, here's your documentary. Observe the cheery title; the one-line summary is that people are still upholding the traditions and making new dances but no one's quite certain whether it'll last through another next generation or not.

"Greyhound racing"
Most of the videos floating around are angry diatribes about the evils of dog racing, which is as may be but is of no use for explaining what would lead anyone to affectionately pick "Trap Two" or "Greyhound" as callsigns. This one about the closure of the Walthamstow track in East London tends towards the opposite bias, but makes some good points about the failure of communal institutions lately (though the argument that the London property market is going down, was made a few years ago. They've converted the region into housing since).

"A Very British Witchcraft"
It's a hoot seeing how badly the auto-transcription programme manages to mangle the English language. Half the time it can't get "Gerald" down properly.

No, honestly, this is a slightly lurid but generally sympathetic look at modern witchery and the development of Wicca. Professor Ronald Hutton does genuinely know all this stuff - he specialises in the subject at the University of Bristol - and is therefore being slightly disingenuous about asking questions for the sake of acting as his own best curious audience. A tolerable primer on the subject. And something interesting happens in Croyden.

(Listen to the description of Operation Cone of Power, then ponder the part about Gerald Gardner being in the Home Guard and see if you don't think this has the makings of the most surreal Dad's Army story ever.)

"Bumblebee flight"
Of course the search engines all assume you want this. Why Richard Hammond is the only person in the world to have done a reasonable three-minute explanation about bee-flight not being impossible is a question beyond me, but there it is.

(Not but what the Doctor's line in the story, specifying "classic aerodynamics" didn't have it about right the first time from what I can tell, and that's more an engineering problem than a scientific one. They're not quite synonymous.)

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