Author Archives: Jo the Hat

Class – full marks for this Who spin-off


I think we can agree that 2016 has pretty much sucked – I feel like Frodo on the side of Mount Doom, unable to remember the taste of strawberries or mainstream politics that weren’t basically fascist – but here, at the end of all things (less than a fortnight before the US presidential election), comes an Eagle: Patrick Ness’s Doctor Who spin-off, Class.

Class takes us to a refurbished Coal Hill Academy, where time has been spread a little thin thanks to the Doctor’s frequent visits, and introduces us to four sixth-formers, Charlie, Ram, Tanya and Avril, and their teacher Miss Quill. It’s not long before galactic malcontents are slipping through the rift in time to cause more disruption than an Ofsted inspection…

To avoid anything even faintly spoilerish, I’m going to steer entirely clear of plot here – except to say the first three stories are all great. What I will say is that the writing is excellent. Geeky lampshading and jokes – check. Playing with audience expectations – check. Characters you’re rooting for after just five minutes – check. Proper LGBT representation – check… Look, basically this is everything I’ve wanted Doctor Who to be for the last few years, okay? (Well, apart from the copious blood-splatter. I’m not a monster.)

The cast are all superb, but especially watchable are Fady Elsayed, who picks out all the subtle layers of Ram Singh, and Vivian Oparah, whose acting has a similar thoughtfulness and intensity to Sophie Okenado’s.

Funny, scary and smart – this really is a class act. Head over to BBC Three and watch the first three episodes now.

Posted by Jo the Hat



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Lustbox: Endeavour Morse


I feel a little guilty putting young Endeavour in the Lustbox – it seems far too crude for him. But lovely as he is, Shaun Evans doesn’t provoke in me all the feelings that Endeavour does, so poor old young-Morse will have to suffer the indignity as best he can.

There’s a quite magical alchemy going on with Endeavour (the show). It’s been excellent from the beginning, but Coda, the last episode of the third series, was one of the best bits of British TV I’ve seen in ages. They’ve taken a good idea, thrown every piece of talent they could find at it and produced a real, bittersweet gem. And the jewel in the crown is young Morse himself.

Shaun Evans is simply astonishing in this role. You can see the man Morse will become, even as you realise that Endeavour is in some ways a very different person from the prickly DCI in his future. Evans never makes the mistake of impersonating John Thaw, though he clearly channels him – there are moments when a movement, a stance or simply a thought flickering across his mind can floor you.

And obviously it helps to be beautiful (regular visitors to the Lustbox will know I’m a sucker for a pretty pair of eyes and cheekbones you could pare parmesan on), but there’s a stillness in Evans’ performance that makes it impossible to take your eyes off him.

The setbacks that young Morse encounters, particularly his unluckiness in love, are heartbreaking  – doubly so if you allow yourself to remember that there will never be a happy ending. Looking at Endeavour – clever, respectful, kind and with a “weakness for the fairer sex” (as Felix Lorimer tells our hero in Coda), it seems impossible that he’s destined for such a lonely life.

I can’t be the only one who wishes she could change that future.

 Jo the Hat

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Doctor Who – series nine round-up

doctor-who-hell-bent-previewApologies for covering five episodes in one go (and being so late getting to the first four – real life has been getting in the way of the important business of TV watching/reviewing recently). Let us take a leaf out of the Doctor’s book and ignore anything inconvenient while rushing towards the action…

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Doctor Who (9.7): A 10-minute story lost in a 45-minute episode

9492447-low-1I understand the desire to have more two-part stories, I do. Sometimes a story really needs more than 45 minutes (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances being a particularly strong example in new Who) – but this Zygon story is not one of them. Next week’s conclusion could be an absolute zinger, but there’s no getting away from this half being much more filler than thriller.

[Spoilers below the line…]

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Doctor Who (9.6): Ill-met by moonlight

9476965-low-1Back in 2011, Matthew Graham or Ashley Pharaoh (co-creators/writers of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes) was kind enough to give me some advice on writing a TV review. In a nutshell, it was ‘judge the work on its aims and ambitions rather than on what you want it to achieve’. This seems an excellent time to hold myself to this higher standard…

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Doctor Who (9.5): Don’t tell him your name Lofty!

DWS9-Trailer2Pix12I doubt I’m the only one welcoming Jamie Mathieson back to the DW writer’s room this series. His episodes last year stood head and shoulders above everybody else’s and he’s showing no signs of slacking here either. Thankfully The Girl Who Died is a lot better than last week’s trailer would have had you believe and has the Doctor at his best (i.e. doing something clever and making everything alright – or, if you’re a Cabin Pressure fan, finding his inner Douglas Richardson*).

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Unforgotten – unshowy and unmissable

47-Unforgotten-ITVForgive me, but I am going to inflict a (*grimaces*) listicle on you. However, I want you to be able to go and watch the first episode of Unforgotten before a) it slips off ITV Player and b) the second episode airs, and I don’t have time to do it proper paragraphy justice right now. I will however spare you a ’24 reasons why you should be watching Unforgotten’-style headline…

  1. It’s a crime show without horrendous violence inflicted on women and the results slowly panned over like some sort of fetishist’s fantasy.
  2. It’s got Nicola Walker in the lead role. This should be enough to make most discerning Pauseliveaction readers stop reading and start watching.
  3. Sanjeev Bhaskar is her sidekick. (I have to confess to a little bit of a crush here – but you should be watching him for his acting even if you don’t wish you could be in Meera Syal’s shoes for an evening.)
  4. It has excellent, series 1-Broadchurch pacing; neither frenetic, nor Midsomer Murders lethargic. Rarely does it feel like plots unfurl these days, but Unforgotten captures that feeling.
  5. We have no idea how all the disparate characters we’re introduced to are going to link to the skeleton in the basement, but they’re all intriguing anyway. Their stories are engaging in their own right – they feel like they could each stand alone for an hour, skeleton or no.
  6. The supporting cast includes Tom Courtenay, Ruth Sheen, Bernard Hill, Gemma Jones, Peter Egan and Trevor Eve (in a sledgehammer-subtle take on Alan Sugar – and, for me, the only thing I’m not sold on yet).

If you catch up on episode one now, you’ll be ready to start watching in real time on Thursday (ITV1, 9pm). If the next five hours are as good as the first, we’re in for a treat.

Jo the Hat


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Doctor Who (9.4): In which the Doctor breaks the fourth wall (and my brain)


… and I’m left wanting to break his guitar. Not because I can’t get my head around the Bootstrap Paradox (even with the help of the Radio Times), but because I can’t buy the Doctor as a rocker. A dancer, yes; a reader, (*Tenth Doctor voice*) oh yes!; but a rock musician, not so much. (To be fair, I’m not that keen on Patrick Troughton’s recorder either.) But I digress.

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Doctor Who (9.3): Well, since you ask me for a ghost story…

DoctorWho-UndertheLake-ghosts-720x479Ohhhh – that’s more like it… And not a moment too soon.

I don’t mind being on my own in being dissatisfied with The Witch’s Familiar, but I really dislike writing reviews that are more negative than positive. So, hurrah for Toby Whithouse – a man who can really write ghost stories. (I can’t believe I haven’t given Being Human the Joy of Sets treatment yet – I must remedy this soon.)

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Doctor Who (9.2): In which the quality of mercy *is* strained…

9275114-high-… and the witch is, indeed, familiar. As is what I’m coming to realise is the Moffat trope that annoys me the most – things done for just for show. Lord knows, I’m no fan of Clara and I was happy to enjoy her being strung up and tutored/tortured by Missy – right up until the point it was clear there was no point to it. (See also last week’s Doctor on a tank with a guitar.)  It’s a shame, because otherwise it was quite a nifty piece of cliffhanger exposition – not an easy thing to do well. (Pushing Clara down the sewer to gauge the depth, on the other hand, was funny even if you could see the joke coming a mile away, because there was at least a purpose to it.)

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