Taking care of business

So, it’s the third week of the university term and things are ticking along nicely. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to teach in Warwick’s Film and Television Department so soon after submitting my PhD. In past years, I’ve taught modules on French and British national cinemas, and on Adaptation. This time round, I’m introducing first years to Film Theory. So far, we’ve tackled Bazin, Epstein and Mary Ann Doane. Next week: Eisenstein!

As well as this teaching, I’ve continued working as a web editor for the Wolfson Research Exchange, which has been taking up a lot of time. Our Research Match scheme has been a fantastic success (which has translated into lots of uploading of profiles by yours truly), and later in the year, I’ll be acting as an online tutor for the Library’s 23 Things for the Digital Professional course.

The best news I’ve had this week has been the offer from Warwick’s German Department to teach a film segment for their Culture and Politics in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich module. I’m really thrilled to be renewing my acquaintance with this academic department, who were so welcoming and attentive when I was an undergraduate. The films I’m lecturing on are good’uns too – Metropolis, The Blue Angel and M!

While my PhD thesis on Hollywood marriage is out of my hands and in those of the examiners, the Thin Man films continue to be a part of my life. I’m very proud to have had an article on that loveable pooch Asta published in Mystery Reader’s Journal 27: 3. You can subscribe or buy the pdf here.

I also recently addressed the Institute of Advanced Study’s Drinking Studies Network on the subject of social drinking in the Thin Man cycle. Deborah Toner’s account of the symposium is here, in which she describes the content of my paper and the Q&A that followed.

My association with online publisher Silkworms Ink continues, and we on the editorial team are very excited about our new-look website. There will be all sorts of great content posted in the coming months. Sam Kinchin-Smith’s edited collection on Nick Cave will be published soon, in which I have an essay on Cave and hard-boiled literature. I’m really thrilled to be sharing space on the contents page with my dear friend Tom Steward on this one, too.

Last but not least, Roisin and I are counting down the days until the BFI’s 30th anniversary celebration of Cagney & Lacey. We’ve been rewatching episodes recently in preparation for a larger study of female detectives and I’ve been really struck by the achievement and importance of this programme. It’s a crime that there is no complete DVD release yet, but perhaps the interest generated by this event will give MGM a kick up the arse. Regardless, it’ll be an enormous thrill to be in the same room as Sharon Gless, Tyne Daly and executive producer Barney Rosenzweig. In the past few weeks, we’ve been in contact with Barney’s webteam and we hope to interview him sometime after the event. I’ll also be writing an event report for Screen.

Right, I think that’s everything! Expect updates sooner rather than later…

The Batman Adventures: Rendering the Comic Page

I seem to begin every post with an apology for my absence these days! But while I’d thought that finishing my PhD thesis would give me a bit of breathing space, in fact I’m busier now than I’ve ever been.

I’ve written a short piece on Nick Cave for a forthcoming edited collection, have other essays on Doctor Who and The X-Files in the works and I’m currently trying to chop my thesis up into two articles and a book proposal. Also, I’m still trying to get my radio play finished and I’m working four part-time jobs.

But I do feel guilty for not updating my blog more often. I’ll try to get better at shorter, more frequent posts over the next few weeks. To get started, here’s something I’ve written about The Batman Adventures that The Comics Grid published this week. I hope you enjoy it!

End of an era (almost)

It’s been a looong time since I blogged. This past month has been taken up with putting the work of four years together and making it into a thesis. Well, I submitted it last Thursday and I’m here to tell you it felt pretty good and that I hope to be posting far more regularly from now on…

As a reward, Roisin and I took a weekend off at my parents’ house by the sea in Sandgate. The weather was perfect and the annual Sea and Food Festival was taking place. On Saturday night we sat on the seafront and watched a beautiful firework display. Each shower of sparks was reflected on the choppy waves. I felt perfectly happy.

Tyneside telefantasy

Here’s a rather belated write-up of my visit to Newcastle for the Alien Nation conference. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’d been feeling quite nervous about presenting my thoughts on Doctor Who to an audience of experts. By Tuesday, as I got on my train, I was a bit more confident.

I was on a panel with Tom Steward, Claire Jenkins and Julian Chambliss, who had travelled over from Orlando, Florida (naturally, it rained all of the time he was here). My co-panellists were all great and I was reasonably happy with how my presentation went. Unfortunately, we’d been asked at short notice to reduce our papers to 15 minutes, and I had to skip over a lot of my carefully constructed prose! Luckily, two academics I respect greatly, David Butler and Andrew O’Day, spoke to me enthusiastically afterwards and asked me to send my paper to them. That was particularly encouraging and it was great to talk to them.

It was excellent too to meet a number of people who I’ve enjoyed chatting to on Twitter. John Williams, Ian Greaves, Frank Collins and Dave Rolinson were nice enough to invite me along to dinner with them on Wednesday night and I had fantastic time of talking over much-loved television programmes and toasting Frank Marker!

The next day, I decided to do some sight-seeing before I got on my train home. Newcastle is a very beautiful place, reminiscent of Edinburgh in some ways but without the sinister aspect of that city. As I walked around in the sunshine,I decided this was somewhere I needed to come back to for a holiday. Everyone I met was friendly and I especially fell in love with the quayside area. I even got time to stop at the Literary and Philosophical Library and I spent a happy hour in there reading Darwyn Cooke’s The Hunter. The Lit & Phil is a fantastic archive, with a specialist music library. I hope to do some resarch there in the not too distant future!

The politics of Pertwee

This week, I’m presenting a paper at the Alien Nation conference at Northumbria University. I’ve been alternately excited and nervous about this, but now that I’ve got my paper written and my Powerpoint presentation sorted out, I’m really looking forward to it! (you can read about my paper here)

The programme of speakers is great, and I’m looking forward to meeting some academics face-to-face who I’ve previously only chatted to on Twitter! If you’re interested in science-fiction and telefantasy, Cathode Ray Tube is live blogging the event.

My friend Paul very kindly did some screen captures for me yesterday, and I’m so pleased with them I thought I would reproduce a few here. Think of it as a trailer for my paper!

Inferno

The Curse of Peladon

The Green Death

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows posters

Guy Ritchie’s sequel to Sherlock Holmes is due to be released this winter, and Omnimystery News have just put up some new posters:

The first of these seems to give us our first glimpse of Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty. I’m rather pleased they’ve gone for the bearded George Zucco look – if this film manages to conjure half the fun of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, they’ll be doing alright.

Peter Davison in New Tricks

Every so often, Roisin and I will start making a list of people who should guest star in New Tricks. We’re cool like that. Patrick Stewart’s usually top of the list, followed by Rodney Bewes (I know, it’ll never happen) and Dennis Franz (I wish that would happen). Peter Davison usually gets mentioned at some point so we’re both very pleased to see that he’s guesting in tonight’s episode!

Apparently, Paul McGann’s in one of the later episodes in this season as well. I wonder if there’ll be any more Doctor Who connections?

Scott and Bailey review (part two)

Roisin Muldoon blogs at But it can’t be from Dolly Clackett!

Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones), Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore) and Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp)

More than its cases, Scott and Bailey is interested in its eponymous characters, their relationship with one another and their relationships with the people around them. As has become usual in police dramas, the idea that it’s difficult for ambitious and successful police to maintain successful relationships with people outside of the job is explored.

DI Janet Scott is a talented and meticulous detective, and she has a family at home who are important to her. Her marriage to the dependable but dull Adrian is failing, however. While this deterioration isn’t given a lot of space over the six episodes, the shorthand tells us what we need to know. Adrian is boring and unambitious, they no longer have anything to say to one another. Janet is being pursued by her colleague DI Andy Roper (played by Sharp’s real-life husband, Nicholas Gleaves) and, while this isn’t presented as ideal in any respects, it’s clear to see that they have more in common, have more sexual chemistry and a better rapport. This isn’t a sizzling office romance, however. Lesley Sharp plays Scott as fairly straight laced, and Andy comes across more as a lonely obsessive than an ardent lover and so I’d be really interested to see how this relationship might be developed in a second series.

Andy Roper (Nicholas Gleaves) and Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp)

Scott’s younger partner, DC Rachel Bailey, fares no better. The opening episode sees her being unceremoniously dumped by her long term boyfriend, Nick Savage. Rupert Graves plays this slimy, manipulative barrister really well so although the reveal that he has a wife and children stashed away in the country is shocking, it’s not unrealistic. Some of the criticisms around the show have suggested that it’s unlikely that a highly intelligent detective like Rachel could fail to see that her boyfriend of two years was leading a double life, but actually I think this is a really interesting piece of character development. Rachel is an intuitive detective and is able to see connections that others miss, such as her capture of the murderer of Susan Metcalfe in the second episode, and the connection she spots between the murder victims linked to Janet’s childhood friend Veronica. I think her inability or unwillingness to see Nick’s duplicity is an interesting way of exploring the popular narrative that a detective has difficulty maintaining personal relationships. When Rachel allows Nick back into her life after Janet’s stabbing towards the end of the series it’s unsurprising. Her confidence in herself is limited to her professional life.

Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) and Nick Savage (Rupert Graves)

When the series was being broadcast I griped a bit that it would be more interesting dramatically if Rachel behaved with more professionalism. She behaves illegally and immorally when she uses the Police National Computer to obtain Nick’s home address, and this breach of regulations compromises her professionally and personally. So does the information she passes to Nick Savage about Georgios Stelikos, which allows Stelikos to beat a rape charge, leading to his eventual (somewhat implausible) murder. With that said, I think I judged the show a bit too harshly on this matter because Rachel’s lapses in professionalism make the central relationship between her, Janet Scott and their DCI Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore) richer and more interesting.

I can’t think of another detective drama that has a role like the one played by Amelia Bullmore in Scott and Bailey. The closest I can come to is DCI Innocent (Rebecca Front) in Lewis, but her character is usually more a disappointed mum than anything else. There is a real sense that this is a difficult character to write, and I think it took a few episodes for Gill Murray to become really interesting. Murray and Scott have been friends and colleagues for a long time, and there’s an element of trust and humour in their relationship. Gill gives Janet some space to work on the Veronica case, and when Scott comes back to work it’s Murray that tells her that she isn’t obliged to interview her attacker. Her relationship with Rachel Bailey is less well defined – she’s impressed by the younger detective’s talent and wants to give her opportunities but there isn’t the same rapport there. Rachel takes this personally, calling her ‘Godzilla’ behind her back, but Gill is neither disinterested nor uncaring, she’s just got a job to do.

Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore)

The mentor that Rachel needs – and gets – is her partner Janet. Janet allows Rachel the space to make her own mistakes, such as PNC-ing Nick’s car to obtain his address, but she is direct and honest about the implications of these actions. When Rachel gets engaged to Nick, Janet tells her in no uncertain terms that she’s being played, pointing out that if they were married, Rachel could not be compelled to give evidence against Nick should the fact that he had a sexual relationship with a juror come to light. Janet is direct with Rachel in a way that many of us wish we could be direct with our friends when they’re pissing us off, but she does want to look after her colleague. She takes her in when Nick makes her homeless, and in the final episode she risks her own job in an attempt to persuade Gill not to report Rachel to the police standards board for using the PNC illegally.

The relationship between Janet and Rachel is consistently interesting, I think. It has neither the touchy-feely warmth nor the bitchy rivalry we’re used to seeing when female friendships are depicted onscreen. Their out of hours friendship is clear from the way that Rachel seeks advice on personal matters from Janet, but there’s a formality there that works in a really interesting way. Their friendship has been forged while working closely together in an emotionally demanding job where they’re responsible for one another’s safety on a daily basis, rather than from a common background or a shared outlook on life. While I struggled a bit with this to begin with, I’ve come to think that it’s actually quite a refreshing way to look at a relationship like this, and I’d be interested to see where this is taken if Scott and Bailey gets a second series.

I think Scott and Bailey is made more of win than of fail. There are some issues there, but considering that the first series was a short one I think it’s established a lot of really interesting ideas. I’m always pleased to see a primetime drama depicting professional women working in a professional way, and that’s something that is rarer than you might think. I’d like to see Scott and Bailey go on to a second series, I think it has the potential to become something really interesting. In the six episodes of series one, the wider Major Incidents Team was introduced but not really given the space to become an interesting character in its own right. The last episode ends on a note that suggests to me this could become a really good ensemble drama, as we see Janet, Rachel, Gill and Andy gathering in the pub after a traumatic day. I’d like to see where they go with that. It’s rare that a British drama grabs me (weaned as I have been on quality US imports), far less an ITV one, but I was genuinely interested by Scott and Bailey. I’d like to see some more of its form.