Game of Thrones

Boxset Bingewatch: Battlestar Galactica, Veronica Mars, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Cops, I Claudius, Game of Thrones, The Expanse and more

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From the look of the website it may seem like it was a very quiet end to 2020 and that the lack of new reviews indicates I can’t have been watching very much. In fact the reverse has been true, and I have been watching more than ever.

Longtime readers of Taking The Short View will know that I’ve never really into ‘bingewatching’ boxsets, feeling that to power through multiple episodes of a show every night rather demeans and devalues the content. Well, coronavirus has changed that. With most of us under lockdown restrictions of some degree or other for months now, and new first-run shows thin on the ground due to the impact of COVID on television production, there really hasn’t been much option other than to fill up the long dark evenings with as many episodes of extant shows as possible. And of course, as everyone who has made this jump in media consumption will tell you, once you’re over the initial barrier to bingeing it soon becomes an addictive habit and all prior reservations melt away.

In my case I’m still very much a devotee of physical media (DVDs, Blu-Ray) rather than streaming. Fortunately I have a big collection of discs including many TV series that I haven’t fully watched despite owning some for a decade or more. Coronavirus therefore gave me the opportunity to plunge into the stockpile, and I return from this time of excavation with the following brief(ish) reports from the coalface… Read the rest of this entry »

Home, the long way round: Doctor Who Series 9

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Generation Star Wars John Hood and Taking The Short Views Andrew Lewin take their customary look back over the latest series of Doctor Who.

drwho-titlesAs things turned out, there wasn’t enough time between the end of Doctor Who series 9 and the follow-up Christmas special for us to produce our now-traditional look back over the most recent run of stories featuring our favourite maverick Time Lord. Instead, we thought we’d allow the holiday festivities to well and truly settle down before finally turning our merciless combined fan gaze on the latest run of episodes. Plus, there was the small matter of John, self-confessed Star Wars superfan, experiencing an awakening of some sort…

Then, just as we were thinking of putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard and touchscreen), the news broke that Steven Moffat is to step down as showrunner after the next series and the torch is to be passed on to Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall – himself a man with impeccable Doctor Who fan credentials who has contributed several stories to the show over the years, and also to Torchwood which he co-produced for the first two series.

Does the confirmation of his impending departure colour our perspective of Moffat’s fifth complete series in charge of our favourite show? Will we get misty-eyed and sentimental about the Grand Moff’s achievements now that the end is in sight? You’ll have to read on and see, as we embark on a particularly timey-wimey trip through the highs and lows of series 9.

Spoilers ahoy, Sweeties! Read the rest of this entry »

Game of Thrones S2 [Blu-ray]

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If you recall my review of season 1 you’ll know that by the time I finally started to watch Game of Thrones I was already several years behind the on-air broadcasts. That was partly due to my cable provider not providing the Sky Atlantic channel on which it is shown and the fact that the DVD/Blu-ray releases are almost a year behind, together with my initial disinclination to spend money buying a show I was far from convinced that I would like since I’ve never had much of a taste for fantasy. However, the word-of-mouth buzz for Game of Thrones finally made me crack, and of course I was besotted with the whole thing from the minute I saw the first scenes set in the frozen wastes beyond the Wall. After finishing the first season boxset I committed myself to pressing on and watching the rest of the episodes in very short order.

got-2-cverThat … hasn’t happened, to be entirely honest with you. Some shows simply demand to be treated with respect, and like a fine wine require time to breathe to get the best out of them, rather than being binge-watched like the TV equivalent of a McDonalds Happy Meal. Hence it was over a year before I finally got through with my rewatch of season 1 (which was even better than the first time through, incidentally) and at last cued up the first disc of the second season boxset starting at the beginning of March. Read the rest of this entry »

“Spoilers, Sweetie!” (Part 3 of 3)

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Do spoilers spoil or do teasers tantalise?

Our epic spoiler-filled discussion between Generation Star Wars’ John Hood and Taking The Short View‘s Andrew Lewin reaches its dramatic conclusion!

In part one of our discussion on spoilers we looked at whether they were all bad, and in part two we dived deeper to investigate the nature of different potential spoilers. Finally we reach the end of our journey which looks back to the 70s, takes in a tour of movie trailers and historical disasters, before touching on how long a ‘spoiler’ lasts for and finally getting around to drawing some conclusions…

So have you had any examples of where you’ve deliberately sought to puncture the suspense of something that you are actually intending on seeing? The only thing I can remember off hand is an old season of NCIS which ended with a cliffhanger in which a key character appeared to resign and leave for good. They were so important to the success of the show that frankly if they had exited then that would have been it for me, and I wanted to know sooner rather than later whether the actor was quitting the show so that I wouldn’t waste any more time or effort on it in the meantime. (To be honest, it was a pretty lame cliffhanger in any case so it didn’t feel like spoiling something so much as it was just taking care of an irritation!)

The Best of Both Worlds Pt I intimated a new direction for the Star Trek franchise with a psychologically damaged Captain at the helm, which was never properly explored until the movie First Contact. Read the rest of this entry »

“Spoilers, Sweetie!” (Part 2 of 3)

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Do spoilers spoil or do teasers tantalise?

Our spoiler-filled discussion between Generation Star Wars’ John Hood and Taking The Short View‘s Andrew Lewin continues…

In the first part of our discussion posted last week, we started looking into the phenomena of the spoiler and asked whether it was all bad or whether there could be an upside to it. We continue our ruminations further this week, and wonder whether falling foul of spoilers actually stops us from watching programmes; which current shows are the most spoilered; whether a whodunit is automatically ruined by knowing the guilty party; and the question of whether novels are turning into spoilers for the TV and film adaptations made from them.

Have spoilers stopped you watching a movie or beloved series? The controversial conclusion to Lost spread across the social media space like wildfire. I never felt compelled to watch the final season! Incidentally, I originally joined Twitter solely to discuss Lost with fellow fans.

For me the equivalent would be The X-Files on a CompuServe forum which was one of the reasons I got online in the first place.. You never forget your first shared Internet fan obsession!

Halcyon memories.

And like you, I never did get to see the end of Lost either – Sky fell out with Virgin Media and pulled their channels from the cable platform mid-season so that was it for me. But in any case, I was never as into it as many people and actually found it more irritating than intriguing to be honest. I’ve never felt inclined to go back and finish it off. I’ve heard the gist of the way it finished if not the details, but it doesn’t make much difference to me.

The only scenario I can think of where a spoiler might stop me from watching something would be if the entire thing hung on a single reveal – whodunits being the most obvious example. Would I still want to see Se7en even knowing who John Doe and his last victim are? Or see all of Twin Peaks if I knew from the start who killed Laura Palmer? Or sit through 23 episodes of Murder One if I already knew who killed Jessica Costello? Or 20 episodes of Forbrydelsen (the original Danish version of The Killing) if the identity of Nanna Birk Larsen’s killer was known at the outset? Or even eight episodes of Broadchurch if I knew for certain who the killer of Danny Latimer was from the first scene? Read the rest of this entry »

“Spoilers, Sweetie!” (Part 1 of 3)

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Do spoilers spoil or do teasers tantalise?

A brand new spoiler-filled discussion between Generation Star Wars’ John Hood and Taking The Short View‘s Andrew Lewin…

The return of Game of Thrones for season 4 has once again made the Internet a minefield for those of us who aren’t able to watch the show in real time because of not having the right satellite, cable channel or streaming service to see the show before it makes its way to DVD and Blu-ray in 11 months time. How on earth do we manage to stay pure and spoiler-free for that amount of time without accidentally finding out something devastatingly pertinent in the meantime?

Does finding out about some major plot twist or dramatic event in advance of seeing the show in question end up ruining it beyond repair? Or is it no big deal really and everyone should just get over it? To put it simply: are you a spoilerphobe or a spoilerphile?

Since it was mentioned in the introduction, I should confess that I am – as you know – very far behind in my viewing of Game of Thrones. Despite absolutely loving the first season, I’ve yet to even get cracking on the second box set. While it might be vaguely reasonable to insist that no one spoils the current season now airing on television for at least a few weeks or months, it’s clearly ridiculous to expect them not to speak freely of events that happened a year ago or further back still.

As result, even before I watched a single episode of Game of Thrones I knew that the person who was the evident star of the show – Sean Bean playing Eddard Stark – didn’t make it to the end of the season without a sudden reduction of about a foot in height. This is, as you can image, a rather huge spoiler – arguably it’s the shocking pivotal point of the entire first year. Knowing that, you would think, would irretrievably wreck the viewing experience.

But actually, it really didn’t. It certainly changed the viewing experience, I’m sure, and given a free choice then I’d have preferred not to have known in advance, but I’m not sure it did any major damage – party because the key moment came so much earlier than I’d expected, a sudden twist in fortune that still caught me off-guard when it happened. While I knew Stark’s ultimate fate in the show I had managed to stop myself from knowing the details of how we got there and that made all the difference, it seems to me. In the same way I know in a general way about events such as Blackwater and the Red Wedding and now the Purple Wedding, but it doesn’t impact my eagerness to get to those points in the box sets, or lessen my enjoyment of the show or the effect of those shocks when they happen anyway.

So while I don’t tend to seek out spoilers, I also don’t fly into a rage when one lands in my lap, and I wouldn’t declare the whole show ruined for me for all time if and inevitably when it happens. Does that make me an unusually forgiving and forbearing sort of person, or are you the same?

I’m of the same mind, Andrew!

Inadvertent spoilers don’t phase me per se, but I try to be discreet in how I disseminate information. For example my enjoyment of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was distilled in a spoiler-free review, which made no reference to the titular character, nor identity. It piqued friends interest in a movie they were otherwise disinterested in. Perhaps Marvel should appoint me to the company’s social media division?

I’ve been guilty of very rare, and unintended, spoilers, myself! The most infamous pertained to the appearance of a ‘Red Supreme Dalek’ in a teaser trailer for The Stolen Earth. This was at a time when BBC America wasn’t showing the series day and date with the UK. Twitter replies lit up, aptly, like the Fourth of July and I hastily apologised. Losing a few followers in the process…

Of course there’s an omnipresent issue that friends can post spoilers on perfectly innocuous status updates on Facebook. I’ve received disgruntled direct messages from friends complaining about this. It’s exhausting policing my own timeline for fear someone will reveal to the world that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father. D’oh! Read the rest of this entry »

Blood Song, by Anthony Ryan

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After having my antipathy to the fantasy genre comprehensively overturned by falling in love with the Game of Thrones TV programme, I was left with a quandary regarding a follow-up reading list that would build on this beachhead. Fantasy literature is such a huge field and also so very nuanced in its distinctions that it’s hard to know where to begin that wouldn’t lead me right back into the path of the sub-Tolkien tales of wizards, mages, elves and goblins that leave me cold. My first attempt was Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, which despite some impeccable writing left me somewhat cold with its lack of narrative progress in a first volume that felt like an extended prologue to the main event. After that, I followed the allure of the political machinations in George RR Martin’s work and ended up taking a sideways step into the unlikely embrace of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which was utterly brilliant but very much historial faction far from the fields of fantasy.

At some point my casting around for something properly fantastic in fantasy alighted on Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song, originally self-published as an e-book but last year picked up by mainstream publishing house Orbit for a full international release in book stores as well. It’s the first volume in a proposed series (as appears mandatory for all books in the genre), and relates the tale of a young boy named Vaelin who is handed over by his distant father to a harsh order of religious warriors whose mission is to defend the Realm and to uphold the state religion called simply the Faith. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh all right, just one more … post about binging

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Back in March, I had a discussion with Generation Star Wars blogger John Hood about the growing phenomenon of binge viewing. John had just gulped down the entire Netflix remake of House of Cards in one weekend, whereas I remained very opposed to the whole idea of back-to-back viewing of whole series despite how popular that form of media consumption has undoubtedly become in 2013. (See the original blog conversation with John.)

At the time that John and I were collaborating on that post, I was part-way through watching the first season of Game of Thrones on Blu-ray. As my subsequent review attested, I love that show and consider it a leading candidate to top my list of ‘all time favourite TV shows ever’. It should have been exactly the type of thing to get me binge viewing then, right? Well – no, as it turned out, quite the reverse. I started viewing the first 10-part season on January 8 with a mind to watch one episode a week so that I would finish by the time the second season was due to be released in March. Instead, I ended up polishing off the final episode on July 5. Whoops! And that doesn’t include all the audio commentaries and special features, which took another month to polish off before the boxet was finally sucked dry of its contents.

Yes, that’s getting on for eight months to fully watch the Blu-ray set. Even by non-binging standards that’s pretty dreadful. But the thing is, when it came to watching Game of Thrones it was like imbibing a fine wine: I didn’t want to gulp it down like cheap lager, I wanted to savour every mouthful and linger over every glass to extract the most flavour out of it. To rush the experience seemed somehow disrespectful to the talents of the all the filmmakers and artists who had worked so long and hard over it; the least I could do was properly appreciate their work rather than gulping them down as fast as I could. Read the rest of this entry »

Game of Thrones S1 [Blu-ray]

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It’s quite possible that in years to come, when I’m asked to name the greatest TV series of all time, one of the first titles to pop into my head and be hard to oust is HBO’s Game of Thrones. It might just be one of the most dazzling accomplishments of the small screen of all time; and indeed even judged as a motion picture it would still stand proudly among the all-time greats.

Now I know I’m horrendously late to the party – about two years overdue to be precise. That’s partly because I don’t have access to the satellite channel that exclusively airs the show in the UK, and have to wait instead for the DVD/Blu-ray boxset release a year down the line. There was then a further delay to my starting to watch the show as I wasn’t entirely sure that I was even that interested in what looked to be standard fantasy/sword and sorcery fare. Ever since we were force-fed The Hobbit as a set text at school (when too old for it) I’ve not taken to the genre, only getting around to finally reading The Lord of the Rings books a week before the Peter Jackson films came out. While I surprised myself by greatly enjoying both books and films, it didn’t fuel any further interest in the fantasy field – a little Tolkien goes a long way, and all the other books in the field seemed to be pale imitations with the same line-up of wizards and magic, giants and dwarves, elves and goblins and orcs that simply left me cold.

The trailers for Game of Thrones did little to convince me that this series, based on George RR Martin’s best selling series of books, would be any different: even the casting of Lord of the Rings star Sean Bean to once again swing a broadsword around seemed to confirm that this was just another Middle-Earth wannabe. And yet I kept hearing so many good things about it that in the end I was persuaded to part with the cash for the Blu-ray set of Season 1 once the prices came down, albeit now two years after it had originally aired in the US. “Come on, prove me wrong,” I thought defiantly as I put the first disc on; and never have I performed such a rapid volte-face as I have here, falling in love with the show within the first seven minutes as it totally overthrew my lazy expectations with a vivid, compelling and utterly cinematic horror zombie sequence set in the frozen tundra. Not what I was expecting at all: I was (and remain) totally hooked. Read the rest of this entry »

A brave new (media) world

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In a special post published both here on Taking The Short View and also on Generation Star Wars, bloggers Andrew Lewin and John Hood discuss some of the new developments in media consumption – from binge viewing to 3D, Blu-ray to streaming media, and the effect of social media on how we watch what we watch…

Having seen your recent Facebook posts and excited tweets as you speed-watched Netflix’s first foray into original programming, it seems to me that House of Cards is a watershed in more ways than one – not least because it’s the first time that anyone has expressly created a show for people to consume all in one gulp, rather than in the measured doses that we get with broadcast networks’ weekly schedules.

Is this the way things are going to go? Will we all be binging from this point on, guzzling down entire 13-part series in one weekend as fast as we can stuff them into our eyes? Read the rest of this entry »