strange_complex: (K-9 affirmative)
Yes, that was an episode on top of its game, all right. I know it had some things in it that people are tired of by now - like the Doctor-as-Christ references in the white light spilling around him as he saves the Caecilius family, and the shot of him reaching out for Caecilius' hand like God and Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But even those bits have to get points for trying (albeit trying too hard). And on the whole, this episode seemed to me to be very much in command of both the Doctor Who format and the Classical receptions genre.

It wasn't just that the people who made this episode knew what had come before - it was that they used it so effectively. There were a plethora of references to previous Who stories and genre staples, but none of them weighed down the story, or tied it to worn-out tropes. What we got here was a fresh yet knowing look at the Pompeii story, which really made the most of the opportunities offered by the setting to explore the character of the Doctor and his modus operandi. (Oh look, I'm a Celt. There's lovely).

Let's start by collecting up some of those references, and what was done with them. Firstly, the genre references )

Yup - all self-assured, all cleverly-handled. And then there are the hat-tips to previous continWhoity )

So all the more reason for me to be glad I launched myself on my Classic Who-watching marathon in January - and those are just the references I got from the stories I happen to have seen (or heard) so far. There may well be more.

It's a bit meaningless to comment in too much detail on the sets, given that most of them came from HBO's Rome, but the costumes and props (which were the responsibility of the Who team) generally seemed sound enough )

And, finally, what about the story itself as an ongoing contribution to this series of Doctor Who? Damned good stuff, I'd say )

I'm still nervous about the rest of the series. I can't help but feel that when we find out where all these clues are actually leading, it'll be a terrible disappointment. But right here, right now - this is seismic television. I am so going to be watching this episode again. :-)

strange_complex: (Pompeii sundial)
It's taken me a fair old while to finish this book: in fact, I interrupted it for The Merlin Conspiracy for a while, as it seemed a bit much back in late February, and I was in need of something lighter. Bulwer-Lytton's prose style is so famously overblown that there is an annual bad fiction contest named in his honour; and as for the florid Victorian poetry which he inserted at every available opportunity - well, reader, I skipped it.

This is not to say he's actually a bad writer. Once you attune to his rhythms and get into the highly mannered spirit of his prose, it can be marvellous fun. Check out this fantastic description of the Witch of Vesuvius, for example:
"With stony eyes turned upon them — with a look that met and fascinated theirs — they beheld in that fearful countenance the very image of a corpse! — the same, the glazed and lustreless regard, the blue and shrunken lips, the drawn and hollow jaw — the dead, lank hair, of a pale grey — the livid, green, ghastly skin, which seemed all surely tinged and tainted by the grave!" (Book 3 chapter 9)
Now that's a proper witch, all right. But an endless succession of passages like that can get a bit tedious, especially when the subject turns to long-winded musing or moralising.

Nonetheless, it was worth persevering - not least, of course, because I have now finished it just in time to see whether or not it's conveyed a legacy to the forth-coming Who episode, The Fires of Pompeii. Judging from the trailers so far available, it looks like the influence isn't going to be that direct. But then again, this novel is really the ur-text as far as fictional representations of Pompeii go, and I can certainly see traces of it in the Who audio adventure, The Fires of Vulcan now I've finished it. More on that, later...

Historical realism )

Ancient religion )

Romantic idealism )

Bulwer-Lytton and the visual arts )

Finally, because I can, and because I want to know what's come from where when reading or watching further fictional representations of Pompeii, I finish with a table summarising key story elements in the three main examples I've encountered so far:

A very big table )

Just a few more hours now till I can see how The Fires of Pompeii fits in with all that!

strange_complex: (Sleeping Hermaphrodite)
Or, Why I Cannot Stop Listening To This CD.

For one thing, I have waited a long time to hear the voice I am listening to now1. Without even knowing I was waiting, for much of that time.

My long journey to the Vatican )

Moreschi - a critical appreciation )

A scraggy brown tail-feather, in which Penny demonstrates her remarkable aptitude for excessive over-romanticisation - with pictures! )

Well, if you’ve read all of the above, you deserve a medal. I don’t mind if you didn’t. I wrote it for me, primarily, because I wanted a reason to think closely about this music and why I like it, and I want to remember my reasons and initial reactions in years to come. But the least I can do either way is to let you judge Moreschi for yourself by leaving you with the link for an mp3 I found while Googling for pictures of him and details about his life. It only takes about 20 seconds to download over broadband, which, for a three-minute track, tells you volumes about the quality of the original recording before you even listen to it. And I must say that then going on to listen to it over tiny, tinny computer speakers doesn’t do Moreschi any favours. Still, for whatever you may make of it, I give you Gounod’s Ave Maria, after a theme by Bach, performed by Alessandro Moreschi.

(And an alternative source if that one isn't working – just click on 'escuchar').


1. As its length makes obvious, this entry ended up being written in several sections over a series of evenings. I did listen to Moreschi's CD for most of the time I was writing. But any use of words such as 'now' should be taken as applicable to the specific sentence concerned, not necessarily the whole piece.


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