How Star Trek got Aristotle right

“The implications for using Aristotle to measure the quality of ‘television’ today are curious. There’s a deluge of remakes and reimaginations on streaming platforms that seem determined to modernise old formulas. While they do this, they forget that the format in which they were originally told is just as important as anything else.”

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The genius and warning of Bradbury, Burgess and Huxley

It’s become too easy to call something ‘Orwellian’. We all know what it means. ‘Big Brother’, ‘Room 101’ and ‘doublespeak’ have all passed into the cultural and political lexicon. Constant observation, scrutiny and intrusion are the essences of the totalitarian system. While 1984 remains seminal, it lacks the technological imagination of other works in the […]

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The enduring appeal of Rocky

If you regularly read my essays and articles, you’ll know I despise cliches. Nevertheless, after lamentably being turned down for a job in Scotland, I went on watch Rocky Balboa to cheer myself up. I’m no fan of boxing per se, but the Rocky series has a transcendental truth to it that reaches out to even […]

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In defence of the expert amateur

When I started Darrow all those years ago it stemmed from a  frustration: I wanted to talk about politics to prove, on a CV, that I had a right to work in politics. Having a degree in International Relations was like having just passed your driving licence and asking to drive a Formula 1 car with […]

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Reflections on trial by media

“There is no easy answer. As soon as a news story breaks, a production company is placed in the impossible position of being seen to side with their star by not taking action or cutting their losses for the sake of their image. Netflix cut ties with Spacey as a result of the allegations, a decision that cost the streaming service about $39 million.”

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Review | Star Trek: Discovery

“Consider for a moment if the creators, writers and actors had conspired together to do the unthinkable. Audiences want sex and violence at a time when streaming services ensure they’re saturated for choice in that department. Instead, what could they have done? Given an idealised version of the future where an intrepid band of humans and aliens show us that a better tomorrow can be made.”

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It’s not superhero fatigue, it’s misery fatigue

“It’s long overdue for a return to the heady days of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Everyone who hears John Williams’ orchestral march feels ecstatic because Reeves’ portrayal is so rich in simple decency. The pants and red-caped moralism fell into cliche long ago because the world felt these creations weren’t equipped to deal with modernity. Perhaps it’s the other way around?”

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Revisiting ‘The Omega Factor’ 

One of the funny quirks about Scotland is that everyone can name a Scots actor, but very few can name famous Scottish TV shows. Beyond the standard native fare of cop shows and comedies, Scotland’s televisual output is well below its literary or film standing.  Of course, there’s Take the High Road (And if you […]

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Edinburgh’s best bookshops

Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Edinburgh. There’s something about the city that just radiates nostalgic indulgence. The pub that had just the right music. The view that was hit by just the right light. The kebab that hit just the right spot. You know the story. But even for a city as old as Edinburgh, the streets are […]

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Kevin Spacey has betrayed his fans and they’re hurting too

“With Frank Underwood’s asides, the audience is invited into his thinking and to share in his schemes. Like all good Machiavellian characters, viewers indulge a faux Stockholm syndrome for scurrilous bastards because they love to be in the know. It’s a macabre indulgence, but that’s the game – audiences love feeling intelligent, and they’re never more in tune with that feeling than when the character speaks to them.”

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Stop panicking about Jodie Whittaker

The end is nigh! Hold your loved ones and kiss them goodbye. A woman has stolen to the keys to the TARDIS and isn’t giving them back!  The apocalyptic slaughter of male icons doesn’t just end there, oh no – they’re getting replaced with female doppelgangers. First, the womenfolk took over the government, then they […]

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Read this before you see Dunkirk 

Christopher Nolan’s latest epic is just that. It’s a self-contained piece of cinematography the likes of which audiences have not seen in decades. From flawless direction to edge-of-your-seat suspense, it’s not so much a film as an experience. And it can only be enjoyed at the cinema.  A lot has been made of Dunkirk’s cinematic […]

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All of space, time…and Spain. 

For 54 years Doctor Who has been travelling to new and strange worlds. For most of that time, it was touring the quarries of Great Britain.  Every now and again, though, the show took a left turn and went to the Iberian Peninsula. As of 2017, Doctor Who has filmed seven stories in Spain. Despite […]

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Why Inception is the greatest movie ever made

“The best anyone can hope for is an acknowledgement of a film’s status even if they have a distaste for it. Is there a secret to achieving even that? Movies are in the eye of the beholder, but ‘great’ pieces, whether small or large budget productions, enjoy the Shakespeare effect: if the themes explore human nature and exist on an emotive level as much as an intellectual one, they’ll grab the crown.”

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Review | ‘The Grand Tour’

“The problem here is that the mystery of Top Gear has evaporated. Part of the magical charm of Clarkson, Hammond and May was that no one knew how close they were. By resigning to be with a disgraced comrade, the audience got exposed to either a gratuitously mercantile vein or genuine affection that runs counter to the on-screen tension that was so funny.”

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Donald Trump and Theresa May’s ‘special relationship’ has been turned into NSFW street art

“Young people have never even more isolated, and some are lashing out. Street art represents an immutable reaction against a political class that doesn’t want to listen, a voting system that is flawed and a society that feels angrier than ever in a generation. It is no coincidence that these montages are so often graphic in their depiction and so publicly displayed.”

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Review | ‘Logan’

“The result is an astonishing swansong and something of an unexpected triumph for a genre most thought was in decline. Yet this is where the film succeeds: it knows that at their best, superhero films have to be a timeless tale and less contingent on effects and dated context. It’s an obvious lesson, but given the immortal quality of the comic source material, it’s remarkable that most filmmakers eclipse this point in favour of utilising the latest technologies to produce something that will, eventually, age beyond relevance. “

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Review | ‘Sikunder Burnes’ by Craig Murray

“Does he vent, passive aggressively, about a subject not dissimilar to himself? No, but even in the expose which made his name, ‘Murder in Samarkand’, there was never frothing bile save for an honest representation of the facts. To the contrary, Murray’s prose is self-aware enough to do justice beyond hagiography and he never lets any slight against him prejudice his assessment, both critical and admiring, of his subject.”

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Why there will be no more en masse mourning of celebrities in the future

‘Today, in our interconnected, globalised and culturally internationalist world, it’s a macabre, but easy temptation, to look around and imagine which artists will generate the same shockwaves when they die. Who will, for the twenty-somethings of today, be the ‘legends’ that receive posthumous awards and extensive media coverage lavishing praise or skewering with retrospectives?’

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Looking back at Crime Traveller

The 1990s are Doctor Who‘s lost decade. Although the eponymous Timelord found a brief home with Paul McGann’s American pilot in 1996, the revival was never picked up. So began an even longer winter on the long road to 2005’s regeneration under Russell T. Davies with Christopher Eccleston. The rest, as they say, is history. […]

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Review | The Crown

The Crown, then, is really Morgan’s natural sequel to his work to-date. Spanning from 1947, it is punctuated by the death of King George VI (Jared Harris) in 1952, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) and concludes with the retirement of Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) in 1955.

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Why a Batfleck film will be awesome

Psychologists might dub Zack Snyder’s decision to have a long-dead Robin in Dawn of Justice as a metaphoric snub to those that have determined Affleck is the junior of the Matt and Ben story. Affleck, with creative control, could very find a natural home with Batman in the same way Damon found success with the Bourne series. No other live-action iteration of Wayne/Batman has ever looked like so much like the character from the comics. Certainly no other has actor has so successfully carried the handsome playboy-look in similitude with a Batman costume that makes you believe he really could take down ‘two-dozen hostiles’ ferociously, skilfully and brutally.

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Why you should be reading Ian Gardiner

A noted Royal Marines serviceman who retired as a Brigadier in 2001, Gardiner’s books are impressive but not technically niche. The Yompers is a unique combination of writing about frontline fighting combined with wider reflections on the Falklands War, and war in general, from someone who understands the military and combat, but can write in a way that is not overwhelming in its military minutia.

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Revisiting ‘The Iron Lady’

With a deeply flawed script and unimaginative direction that veers from sentiment to political drama, it’s up to leading lady Meryl Streep to carry the show with verve and uncanny accuracy. The Iron Lady tries to walk the line between the strident victory of Thatcher and the singular isolation it brought and doesn’t tell either side well. It is never quite a political history and never reaches the depths of personal film.

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Review | Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

If anything, the film is an answer to one of the better pub debates: why has their never been a Batman v Superman film before? Simply, they’re too big. DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. have proven time and time again that their adaptations of Batman, if not so much Superman, succeed best when they make solo films akin to the Nolan series. Otherwise, they risk stripping the source material back to such bare bones that audiences get diluted characters rather than a confident meeting of them.

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Why Top Gear deserves a chance to succeed

Whether it’s pictures of host Chris Evans throwing up beside the side of a race track, top-level resignations, executive arguments, accusations of control freakery against the hosts, reports of production setbacks, Evans and Matt Le Blanc falling out or ignorant, rather than controversial, stunt locations at the Cenotaph it seems not a week goes by without the headline ‘Top Gear in crisis’

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The X Factor is exploitative and cruel

Victorian freak shows, human zoos and the human novelty exhibitions of your John Merricks was once thought a harmful curiosity, at worse an indulgence based in the human need to see the strange and the macabre. But if we really think we’ve moved on and evolved beyond the Victorian penchant of pointing mouths agape at that which we don’t understand or find particularly hideous then we’re more naïve as a country than I could ever have imagined. Why not bring flogging and the work house back and all?

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Captain Kirk should be gay

“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

― Gene Roddenberry

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Thoughts on ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’

By the third, however, and with all the moral puerility of Ross Geller, the character transformed into an ironic, proselytising caricature of how the public view the Kardashians today. Strong moral centres, he warns, can’t be replaced with material elements or fame. It was a difficult scene to watch not least because it was trying to guise itself as surreptitiously clever. The scene, and the series as a whole, is either a stunning parody of the Kardashian triptych today or a tragic indictment that a real-life murder drama is being billed as the original Kardashian television show.

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Why Marvel films are the sugar rush and DC films are the meat

The result should, in theory, be less about sugar highs and rather a meatier, more substantive DC universe that is believable, enjoyable but reflects the maturity of the characters in the source material. A grisly, world-weary Bruce Wayne and a 5,000-year-old Wonder Woman are perhaps emblematic of just how long it’s taken Warner Bros. to get here. It’s also perhaps telling of our times that the school-boy exemplar of decency, liberty and flying condescension is about to have his ass handed to him.

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Review: Apple Music v Spotify

With that in mind the announcement of Apple Music presented a tantalising, albeit suspicious, opportunity. Apple’s march into gimmickry recently began with their watches and looks set to continue. There’s even rumours that they’re launching their own mobile network. Novelty has replaced revolution and you wonder if they’d be on the market at all if Steve Jobs hadn’t uploaded to the big iCloud in the sky.

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Top 20 wish list for Batman v Superman

Ok, so I’ve been super excited since seeing the latest trailer for the new Batman v Superman film. I adore Batman as a well executed, brooding exercise in moral crusades and sociopathic tendencies. I grew up with the animated series and Kevin Conroy will always be my Dark Knight. I have however only perused the comic book source material; have little interest in beginning to and while I have a deep respect for the lore that has given birth to characters and films that delight me, they’re not for me.

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Review: Spectre

As promised, I went to see Spectre in a town just outside Marbella, about 300 miles west of where I live. The cinema was cold, the food appalling, the screen faded and the chairs about as comfortable as an iron maiden. I did not hide my disdain. Having lived for so long in a largely pocketed […]

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Review: Doctor Who – 9.11 – ‘Heaven Sent’

‘Heaven Sent’ is possibly the greatest episode of Doctor Who ever put to screen. It contains every cumulative lesson and success that the show has enjoyed and learnt since its revival and was arguably the pinnacle of the characterisation begun more than 50 years before. It certainly went the longest way to answering the eponymous question of ‘who’ by revealing what was in the lead character’s soul.

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