Saturday, January 02, 2021

"What's Past Is Prologue"

'Being with The Doctor, you don't get to choose when it stops. Whether you leave her or she leaves you.' So, dear blog reader, this blogger thought Revolution Of The Daleks was great. What was so great about it, you may be asking? Many things. Good old Barrowman going so far over the top he was down the other side. The captions. 'Morning Angela!' SAS Daleks. The return of The Mighty P'Ting. 'Take the car, just leave my face!' 'I'd forgot you were here.' 'This is why people don't like experts!' 'I was in Space Jail.' The Rose-in-a-parallel-universe bit. 'Are you feeling insecure? Cos you seem to need a lot of praise.' The quite beautiful Doctor and Ryan sequence. 'This is a PR disaster!' The TARDIS on top of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. 'All that product ... Maybe I can make a claim on insurance?' 'We didn't come this far just to get exterminated.' 'Stop talkin' weird, Graham!' 'Can you stop there and pretend there's no bad news?' 'I won't disappear again.' 'Yeah ... One day, you will.' 'Give us one good reason why we should save your life?' 'Money?' Plenty of round things. Emily Maitlis. Gwen. A Mike Ashley reference. The Meringue Galaxy. What, dear blog reader, was not to love? 'Two hearts. One happy, one sad.' 'I was wrong. We do get aliens in Sheffield.' This blogger thought Jodie was great. So were Bradley, Tosin and Mandip though the excellent Chris Noth got most of the best lines. That and a happy ending for Graham and Ryan. 'A few more tries then we go and save the world, eh?' We've missed you, so much Doctor. All of sudden, 2021 doesn't look quite as bad as it did twenty four hours ago.
'What about the other Daleks?' 'I'm dealing with them!'
'Jack, how do you feel about boarding an SAS Dalek ship?' 'Can I blow it up?' 'Yes please.' 'My kind of plan!'
The only down side, in fact, the only negative on display throughout was the unwelcome inclusion of a line of dialogue in which the collected works of a thoroughly offensive, allegedly transphobic author are now, seemingly, canonical in Doctor Who. Not even remotely cool. 
Still, that anomaly aside ... anyone fancy a new spin-off in which Graham and Ryan open O'Brien & Grandson's Cycling Proficiency School and, in their spare time, solve crime? 
Large-toothed cheeky-chappie Scouse comedian John Bishop is to join Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill for the thirteenth series of Doctor Who, the BBC has revealed in a teaser-trailer which immediately followed the New Year's Day episode. The fifty four-year-old, who recently tested positive for Coronavirus, said that boarding the TARDIS was a 'dream come true.' He will play a character called Dan, who 'becomes embroiled in the Doctor's adventures' and faces 'evil alien races beyond his wildest nightmares.' Manchester United supporters? Bishop fills the gap left by Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole, who bowed out in the New Year's Day episode. Big Bish began filming his role last November, but the BBC kept the signing under wraps until the broadcast of Revolution Of The Daleks on Friday night. Bishop, who grew up on a Merseyside council estate, had a brief career as a professional footballer and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before turning his hand to comedy. He has previously acted - very well, as it happens - in the Channel Four drama Skins and the Ken Loach film Route Irish. He also had his own BBC chat show. Which, sadly, was a right load of old shat. But, hey, give the lad chance. Earlier this week, the comedian revealed that he and his wife had tested positive for Coronavirus over Christmas, saying he had been 'flattened' by 'the worst illness I have ever had.' Writing on Instagram, he described his symptoms as including 'incredible headaches, muscle and joint point, no appetite, nausea, dizziness [and] chronic fatigue like I didn't know existed.' He updated fans on New Year's Eve, saying he and his wife were 'getting a little stronger' every day, and promising he would 'return to work' in January. It is not thought that his illness will disrupt production on Doctor Who. The show is currently on a scheduled break for Christmas and not due to resume filming until later this month. The thirteenth series of the BBCs popular long-running family SF drama will see Whittaker return as the extra terrestrial Time Lord, alongside Mandip Gill, as Yaz. In a statement, Bishop said: 'If I could tell my younger self that one day I would be asked to step on board the TARDIS, I would never have believed it. It's an absolute dream come true to be joining Doctor Who and I couldn't wish for better company.' Showrunner Chris Chibnall added: 'It's time for the next chapter of Doctor Who and it starts with a man called Dan. Oh, we've had to keep this one secret for a long, long time. Our conversations started with John even before the pandemic hit. The character of Dan was built for him and it's a joy to have him aboard the TARDIS.'
That is, of course, if television still exists in 2021. And that cities have not 'gained sentience and raised themselves on hydraulic legs to begin the long battle for resources' four years earlier than previously predicted.
The latest Stark Trek: Discovery - There Is A Tide ... - was another rip-roaring rollercoaster this week.
The actor Mark Eden, who has died age ninety two, brought high drama to Coronation Street when he played Alan Bradley, who defrauded Rita Fairclough and then terrorised her - before meeting his very messy death under a Blackpool tram. Eden joined the TV drama in 1986, when Alan visited his estranged daughter, Jenny, while she was being fostered by Rita, following his ex-wife's death. Alan dated Rita, played by Barbara Knox, but two-timed her with the barmaid Gloria Todd. He was eventually dumped by Gloria and set up Weatherfield Security Systems - funded by stealing the deeds to Rita's house and posing as her late husband, Len, to remortgage it - and tried to rape his receptionist, Dawn Prescott. When Rita found out, he tried to suffocate her, was interrupted by Jenny, then fled. Although sentenced to two years in The Slammer, he was freed immediately after six months on remand. Alan took a job on a building site opposite Rita's home and started to torment her. When she disappeared, residents speculated that he had killed her, but she had suffered a breakdown and gone to Blackpool. He tracked her down, chased her across the prom and was, fatally but very satisfyingly, hit by a tram. Twenty-seven million punters tuned in on 8 December 1989 for the story's climax.
The actor was born Douglas Malin in London, the second of four children, to Mag and Charles Malin. Charles, a painter and decorator, was frequently unemployed. When the second world war broke out, Douglas was evacuated to Northamptonshire, then Derbyshire. He finished his education at St Aloysius' Catholic school, Highgate and left aged fourteen. to deliver telegrams for the Post Office. He then had several jobs, from builder's labourer and tailor's presser to packing reels for a film distributor. At the age of eighteen, he contracted tuberculosis and, during almost two years recovery in a sanatorium, spent much of his time in its library. 'I started to read Shakespeare and plays and the great writers, and realised there was a whole world I didn't know about,' he recalled. Then, in 1950, while working for a mail-order company between half-a-dozen seasons as a fairground worker, then photographer, in Margate, he saw Donald Wolfit playing Svengali in Trilby at The Bedford Theatre, Camden. When he told his mother he wanted to become an actor, she replied: 'Who's going to look at you?' That became the title of his 2010 autobiography. He joined the Everyman amateur theatre group in Ramsgate in 1956, three years after marrying Joan Long, a dental nurse. Two years later, he became an assistant stage manager at Swansea Grand Theatre's rep company and changed his name to Mark Eden. He made his professional acting debut at the Grand theatre, Llandudno. Playing Sergeant Mitchum in Willis Hall's The Long & The Short & The Tall (Richmond Theatre, 1959) brought him to the attention of the Royal Court Theatre's casting director and he was signed up to play the struggling Dave Simmonds in Arnold Wesker's Chicken Soup With Barley the following year. Two years later, he was Edward Sterne in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Aldwych Theatre production of A Penny For A Song - and said that his love for his fellow star Judi Dench was entirely unrequited. He turned down an offer by Peter Hall to join the company, seeing his future on screen - although he starred in the West End as T Lawrence Shannon, opposite Siân Phillips, in The Night Of The Iguana (Savoy Theatre, 1965). Eden's first TV appearance was in a small role as a journalist in Nigel Kneale and Rudolph Cartier's SF masterpiece Quatermass & The Pit (1958). He quickly became a prolific screen actor, with character roles in many popular series. He was Inspector Parker in four of Dorothy L Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey dramas starring Ian Carmichael (1972 to 1974), Jack Rufus in London Belongs To Me (1977) and Superintendent Wilf Penfield in The Detective (1985). In the first series of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, he took the title role in the much-acclaimed though now, sadly, lost fourth serial, Marco Polo (1964). Forty nine years later, he would play the BBC executive Donald Baverstock in Mark Gatiss's Doctor Who origin biopic An Adventure In Space & Time, his final screen role.
Starring roles came in Catch Hand (1964), as one of two itinerant labourers (with Anthony Booth) and Crime Buster (1968), as Ray Saxon, a cycling champion turned reporter investigating murder and corruption in the sports world. In a rare foray into comedy, Eden was Spencer alongside David Jason's clueless agent in The Top Secret Life Of Edgar Briggs (1974). There were also film parts as Terry in The L-Shaped Room (1962), the laxative company boss Geoffrey Despard in Heavens Above! (1963) with Peter Sellers and an engineer talking to Alec Guinness in the opening scene of Doctor Zhivago (1965). Plus a superb performance opposite Michael Gough and Rachel Gurney in 1965 The Edgar Wallace Mysteries TV movie Game For Three Losers about blackmail and homosexuality. Eden's quite extraordinary CV - in a career covering more than sixty years - also included appearances in Murder Bag, One Step Beyond, The Avengers, The Saint, Dimensions Of Fear, Armchair Theatre, Espionage, The Verdict Is Yours, Emergency Ward Ten, The Newcomers, Thirty Minute Theatre, Out Of The Unknown, Till Death Us Do Part, The Prisoner, Man In A Suitcase, Z Cars, The Troubleshooters, Beyond Belief, Coppers End, Spyder's Web, Clouds Of Witness, Jack The Ripper, Special Branch, The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventures Of Black Beauty, The Unpleasantness At The Bellona Club, New Scotland Yard, Sam, Warship, Zeffirelli's Jesus Of Nazareth, Poldark, Wilde Alliance, Cribb, The Sandbaggers, The Professionals, Crown Court, Poirot and Casualty. And, in movies such as Curse of The Crimson Alter, I'll Never Forget What's'isname, The Pleasure Girls, Nobody Ordered Love, Fern The Red Deer and Claudia. Eden's marriage to Long ended in divorce (she later married John Le Mesurier), as did his second marriage, to Diana Smith. He is survived by his third wife, the actress Sue Nicholls - one of his Coronation Street co-stars - whom he married in 1993 and by a daughter, Polly, stepson, Saul from the second marriage and grandaughter, Emma. A son, David, from his first marriage, predeceased him.
Tommy Docherty, who has died aged ninety, often liked to say that he'd 'had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus' - a joke that referred not to his successful playing career as a hard-tackling, intelligent international right-half, but to his peripatetic existence as a manager. Beginning with six years at Chelsea in the 1960s, which started brightly but ended in chaos, he had more than a dozen spells in management, including at Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers, Derby County, Porto, Wolverhampton Wanderers and his own national side, Scotland. His most celebrated period came at Manchester United in the mid-1970s. Although he was one of the highest profile football managers of his generation and remained highly marketable well into the 1980s, Docherty's returns were actually rather slight, amounting over three decades to a Second Division title and FA Cup win with The Scum and a League Cup victory with Chelsea. He took all the ups-and-downs with his trademark ebullient humour and was ever willing to tell a story against himself. In 1967, after the Chelsea directors had called him to the boardroom and told him he was being released, he disappeared momentarily before returning with several bottles of champagne, with which he cheerfully toasted those who had just dismissed him. His enemies would say of him that you always knew he was lying because his lips moved - but he would make jokes about that as well. The son of Georgina, a cleaner and Thomas, who worked in an iron foundry, Docherty was born into poverty in the Gorbals and joined his first club, Glasgow Celtic, in 1948, after national service. At Parkhead he came under the aegis of the English coach Jimmy Hogan, who had managed Austria's national team to unprecedented levels of success and was considered one of the great pioneers of the game on the European continent. Hogan was an elderly man by then and was not always taken seriously in Britain. But the young Docherty was both open-minded enough and sufficiently bright to profit from Hogan's refined techniques, which he eventually carried into his own managerial career. He did not spend long with Celtic. In 1949 he was bought by Preston North End. Docherty made his debut as an outside-left, but soon settled into the right-half position as the ideal successor to another uncompromising Scot, Bill Shankly, then beginning an outstanding managerial career. Preston had slipped into the Second Division, but in the 1950-51 season Docherty helped them back up, playing in all forty two games; as he would the following season. He won the first of his twenty five Scotland caps in 1951 against Wales and in 1954 played in both of Scotland's World Cup finals games in Switzerland, the first narrowly lost one-nil to Austria, the second a seven-nil rout at the hands of Uruguay. He travelled to Sweden for the next World Cup finals in 1958, but did not get a game, unable to displace the veteran Eddie Turnbull of Hibernian. Docherty regained his international place the following season, however, winning another three caps while with Arsenal, whom he had joined in 1958. At Highbury he also figured sometimes successfully at centre-half. The 1961-62 season saw him move across London to Chelsea as a player-coach, making just four more appearances in the First Division and finishing his career having played more than four hundred league games for his various clubs. 
    The Chelsea manager, Ted Drake, was clearly coming to the end of his reign and in January 1962 Docherty succeeded him. It was too late to save Chelsea from relegation, but the following season the new manager, who was always ready to give youth its fling, bought and sold frenetically on the transfer market and gained promotion on goal average. Brian Mears, then a Chelsea director and later chairman, reported that his new charge was 'enthusiastic, swashbuckling, funny, outrageous, successful, rebellious, abusive, unbelievable' and 'always his own worst enemy.' Docherty, he said, acted on impulse, 'promising players one thing and then demanding it from the board, making fun of people behind their backs, playing practical jokes, saying ridiculous things to the newspapers, slagging players off one day and then asking them to die for him the next.' Clashes with players were a feature of his managerial life. At Chelsea, Terry Venables constantly locked horns with his manager and was eventually sold to Spurs. He was also one of eight Chelsea players controversially sent home by Docherty from Blackpool in 1965 before the penultimate game of the season. Docherty insisted the players had gone out the night before a game without permission; they argued the contrary and accused Docherty of courting publicity. Another future manager of renown, George Graham, was among the eight and although Peter Bonetti, the goalkeeper, was not, Docherty managed to fall out with him too. It would all eventually end in tears, although the club won the League Cup in 1965 and reached the 1967 FA Cup final, losing to Tottenham Hotspur. That summer Docherty was suspended for twenty eight days by the Football Association over an altercation with a referee during a club trip to Bermuda and his fate at Stamford Bridge was sealed. In October he officially resigned and was replaced by the markedly less exuberant Dave Sexton, who took Chelsea on to win the FA Cup in 1970 and the European Cup Winners' Cup the following year. 
    Docherty skidded down the league to manage Rotherham United in the 1967-68 season. Next came the first of his two spells with Queens Park Rangers, with whom he lasted for just three league games. Second Division Aston Villa promptly appointed him in December 1968 and he saved them from relegation. However, despite heavy expenditure under a new board of directors, the following season was disastrous and he was on his way again in January 1970 as his side languished at the bottom of the league. Technically this was the first time he had been sacked, but he was out of work only for a month, joining Porto in Portugal. He stayed there for almost a year-and-a-half before resigning in May 1971, having failed to break the stranglehold of Benfica and Sporting Lisbon in the league. Returning to Britain, he briefly became assistant manager to Terry Neill at Hull City, but left to become the caretaker manager of Scotland, taking on the job permanently before the end of 1971. In December 1972, with Scotland on the verge of qualifying for the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany, he quit to take over at Manchester United. 'One of my biggest regrets was leaving the Scotland job when I did,' he later said. It was his work with Scotland that landed Docherty the manager's job at The Scum, as the Old Trafford hierarchy were looking to replace the incumbent, Frank O’Farrell and two of United's Scotland internationals, Willie Morgan and Denis Law, gave Docherty enthusiastic references. So it was that he began his hectic five years at United. History promptly repeated itself; they went down to the Second Division at the end of his first full season. But Docherty's attacking style was matched to the traditional expectations of the Old Trafford crowd and green shoots of recovery began to appear. In the Second Division he threw previous caution to the wind, used a fast young winger in Steve Coppell, from Tranmere and sped back into the First Division. The following season he signed Gordon Hill from Millwall and defied conventional wisdom by using two wingers. In 1976 United's rejuvenated team reached the FA Cup final, only to lose, sensationally, to Second Division Southampton. Docherty promised they would be back the following year and so they were, this time beating the favourites, Liverpool, two-one. The internal fallout from that victory was rather typical of Docherty's career. The manager had promised the team five thousand quid in cash if they won and handed it to the skipper, Martin Buchan, after the match. Buchan gave it back to him for safekeeping and never saw it again. There were many other alarums and excursions during his tenure, many of them prompted by Docherty's penchant for wheeling and dealing. When he arrived at the club he had set about buying and selling with his usual abandon and among those he had jettisoned was Law, who became deeply embittered and left for Manchester City, in due course scoring the goal that sent United down to the Second Division. George Best also dropped out of the club and there were harsh disagreements with Morgan, Alex Stepney and Pat Crerand, who was by then a managerial assistant. The Do”, as he was known, also had a reputation in which as a manager he was hardly alone - for treating his favoured players generously, but those whom he excluded abominably. He even became involved in a failed libel action against Morgan that led to a charge of perjury, of which he was acquitted. However, it was the public revelation of Docherty's extramarital affair with Mary Brown, the wife of the club physio Laurie, which led to his departure. He was sacked in a blaze of national publicity in July 1977 just two months after he had won United its first trophy in a decade and replaced by the same man who had followed him into the Chelsea manager's job, Dave Sexton. 
   Despite the scandal attached to him, Docherty remained employable for some time afterwards: at Derby for two years from 1977 to 1979; again at QPR; at Preston, fleetingly, in 1981 and at Wolves, by then a sinking ship, in 1984-85. Once he retired from football management he became a successful after-dinner speaker and through all his triumphs and disasters his sense of humour remained unalloyed. He is survived by Mary, whom he married after his first wife, Agnes, divorced him and by six children - three sons, Tom, Michael and Peter and a daughter, Catherine, from his first marriage and two daughters, Lucy and Grace, from his second.
Fireworks were going off in Walker Park at 6pm on New Year's Eve. Really loud ones, as it happens. And, let it be noted, very pretty ones, too (particularly if one turned the lights out to get the full effect as this blogger did half-a-mile away in the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House). But, em ... it was only 6pm, guys. Didn't you think it was worthwhile to wait another six hours? Or, were you working off Dhaka time?
Wait. Who spilled a bag of icing sugar overnight?
And, finally dear blog reader, if you fancy a really sobering look at just how badly affected the world has been by Covid-19 in just ten months, go to this link and check out the little video entitled How Confirmed Cases Of Coronavirus Have Spread about halfway down the page. It'll only take you thirty seconds but you will never, quite, see the world in the same way again.