jonathan-strange-and-mr-norrellBy John Ruberry

It’s time to take a break from politics.

Many times while surfing on Netflix I came across a recommendation to watch the seven-part 2015 BBC One miniseries, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which is described as such: “In 1806 ambitious magician Norrell leads a revival of practical magic in England and ignites a fierce rivalry with bold young conjurer Strange.” If that sounds like a dopey show, well, that’s what I thought too. But I yielded to the luring and tuned in. I’m grateful that I did.

Magic in the alternative universe of Strange and Norrell is not smoke-and-mirrors and rabbits being pulled from hats, it’s a neglected scientific discipline that for unexplained reasons was abandoned in England in the early 16th century. But Gilbert Norrell (Eddie Marsan), a magician from York, becomes a national sensation when he brings to life the statues of  York Minster Cathedral and, in his only use of dark magic, brings back from death the future wife of a prominent member of parliament, Lady Pole (Alice Englert).

But just as in another alternative universe where humans can sell their soul to the devil, the dark side, in this case a mysterious being known as the Gentleman (Marc Warren), sabotages the transaction and establishes Norrell’s second rivalry.

Norrell offers his services to fight the French and their allies in the Napoleonic Wars, although only Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) directly utilizes magic at the side of the Duke of Wellington (Ronan Vibert), who is initially skeptical of him. Included in the broad historical sweep of Strange and Norrell is the blind and mad King George III, and although not by name, the anti-industrial Luddites.

The rest of the cast is wonderful, particularly Ariyon Bakare as a mysterious butler and Vincent Franklin as the duplicitous promoter of Norrell and Strange. The special effects, with the exception of the ravens in the last two installments, are first rate.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a welcome diversion from the usual, and it’s a particularly good series for binge-watching.

Besides Netflix, the mini-series is available on many on-demand systems and on DVD.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

I’ll give the last word to Matt Bogen

2:57  Just a reminder we haven’t “established” the doctor can regenerate into a woman there was a throw away line in “The Doctor’s wife” and a couple of seconds at the start of the 11th doctor’s where because of his hair he thought he was a girl (regeneration confusion) but until we see a Time Lord who has in fact regenerated into a different sex it hasn’t been established at all.  If Moffat chooses to introduce a time lord that does so, that’s a different story.

2:50  Huff po actually beat the BBC by several minutes but couldn’t help but play the PC card:

Oscar winner Helen Mirren said she won’t play the Doctor, but it’s time there was a woman in the role. “I’m not going to be the first female ‘Doctor Who.’ No, no, no. Absolutely not, I absolutely wouldn’t contemplate that … but I do think it’s well over-time to have a female ‘Doctor Who’ … I think a gay, black female ‘Doctor Who’ would be best of all,” Mirren told Daybreak.

The relevance of this opinion post reveal is well, zero but Huff po is Huff po so that’s what really count.

2:44  The BBC has a bare bones story up:

Actor Peter Capaldi has been announced as the new star of BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who.

The Glasgow-born star will be the 12th actor to play the Doctor, replacing outgoing star Matt Smith.

He is best known for his role as foul-mouthed spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker in the BBC series The Thick of It.

“It’s so wonderful not to keep this secret any longer, but it’s been so fantastic,” Capaldi said after the news was revealed on a live BBC One show.

The 55-year-old had been the bookmakers favourite to take on the role and had suspended all betting on the star on Friday.

Nothing on IMDB or memeorandum or wesmirch but his Wikipedia entry has been updated.

2:43  This is the first time since the TV movie 1996 that the Doctor has been played by an actor older than I am and the first time since the days of Sylvester McCoy (1989) that the Doctor has a companion played by a woman young enough to be his daughter so likely the whole sexual tension stuff is done with.  I think that’s not a bad thing.

2:36 Apparently the Bookies knew before us:

On Thursday, pointed out how there had been a flurry of bets placed on Peter Capaldi to become the 12th Doctor on Doctor Who shortly before it was revealed that the BBC would officially be announcing the new Doctor this weekend. The timing of the rise in bets before the official revelation that the BBC had made a decision certainly points to those in the know attempting to capitalize on their knowledge. Now, bookies have become so certain that Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor that they have stopped taking bets.

2:30 Capaldi’s IMDB

2:27 Peter Capaldi is picked as the 12th Doctor, liked him very much in The Fires of Pompeii

2:17 “Tom Baker will always be “the Doctor”

2:15 @bbcdoctorwho had 599,858 followers at the start of the show, over 603,683 as of now

2:12 Matt Smith on playing Doctor Who: “There are no parts like this.”

2:09 Peter Davison (5th doctor) on his daughter who plays the Doctor’s daughter being married to David Tennant (10th doctor) “While I was giving the father of the Bride Speech it was very confusing.”

2:00 Twitter stream for #doctorwho & #12thdoctor too fast to keep up with

1:55: Better way to put it, Imagine if Star Trek was never cancelled but a new captain of the enterprise was named every 3-7 years. The Actor who became the Captain would become iconic.

1:52 I don’t think non Doctor Who fans can appreciated how big this is in England and the Commonwealth. The nearest equivalent would be maybe if there was a special that announced the new host of the Tonight Show was announced on a special.


1:44 the people in the running according to Whatculture 1:41:


1:38  Just got home from helping a friend building a three season porch.  BBC America now on awaiting the show…

Tonight comes the first of the BBC specials celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who

BBC America plans to do a doctor a month starting with the 1st Doctor William Hartnell.

After the Special they will show an episode from the Hartnell era. I had expected them to go with the very first Dr. Who episode but instead they are picking my favorite of the Hartnell era The Aztecs.

It is not only one of the best written and best acted of the era, it is the most provocative, at least it’s provocative if you live in 2013.

Watch the episode tonight (10 PM EST) and lets see if you spot the allegory to take with you.

Was not only the best single episode I’ve seen in the series (and I’ve been watching since 1981) but could easily been a season or series finale.

Four comments:

Arthur Darvill is in my opinion the best companion The Doctor has ever had.

Karen Gillian was always a good companion but she and Arther Darvill click. They NEED to be in another series together once they leave this one.

When Catlin Blackwood grows up it will be an incredible loss for the series.

If Alex Kingston was any hotter you could replace the furnace in your house with her.

And Matt Smith continues to out Doctor everyone in sight.

And Stephen Moffat has solved a huge upcoming problem for the series in spectacular fashion.

I don’t care if you have a coupon for a free hour at the Midnight Bunny Ranch in Nevada redeemable only during the show, Sit down and watch tonight’s episode instead.

Update: Seriously how can you not like something like this:

Update: OK it was six thoughts so sue me.

Starting at 6 a.m. this morning BBC America is once again having a marathon of Dr. Who.

They are advertising it as all of season five starting at 9 a.m. but they are actually starting with the last David Tennant Story The end of time to include the regeneration and the story behind it.

My review of the entire Series 5 starts with The Eleventh Hour and continues through The Beast Below, Victory of the Daleks, The Time of Angels, Flesh and Stone, The Vampires of Venice, Amy’s Choice, The Hungry Earth, Cold Blood, Vincent and the Doctor, The Lodger, The Pandorica Opens, and The Big Bang.

Of course if you want NEW stories there is always Big Finish as the Telegraph has reported:

The Tardis has landed in late-Sixties Soviet Russia. The Doctor and his companion are on the trail of an alien weapon that has fallen into the hands of the Soviets. They are in a speeding van being chased across a frozen lake. Just as they seem doomed the van is beamed aboard a space ship.

There is, however, no Matt Smith or Karen Gillan here. In fact, there is no frozen lake, no van and no spaceship, for I am in a recording studio and late-Eighties Dr Who Sylvester McCoy, and his companion Ace, played by Sophie Aldred, are conjuring the scene in a soundproofed booth.

Dr Who may have been successfully resurrected on television in 2005, but it had already reappeared six years earlier in the shape of audio plays released on CD, a format that has been thriving ever since. Big Finish Productions has created more than 180 plays featuring “classic doctors”, as the pre-2005 Doctors are known.

And if you want them in America you can get them mail order from Mike’s Comics along with figures, books and all the Doctor Who stuff you will ever want, just in time for Christmas!