Wikipedian Heraldry in ITV’s Victoria

Last night “A Show of Unity”, the fifth episode of the third series of ITV’s Victoria, premiered in Britain. It featured two heraldic anomalies that I wanted to examine.

Some of this episode takes place at Classiebawn Castle on the Palmerston estate in County Sligo. A dining room scene features a blue cloth hanging from the back wall which bears an illustration of Palmerston’s arms. Shortly afterwards there is an establishing shot of the outside of the building showing a flag of similar composition (although smaller and portrait) supported by a sculpture of a dog (possibly a talbot sejant, as in Palmerston’s crest). In both cases the depiction of the arms looks suspiciously similar to this one by heraldic artist Rs-nourse, who has produced a great many armorial illustrations for Wikimedia Commons. His works are distinguishable from Sodacan’s in that they are generally more stylised, with greater texturing and shading. As per usual, there was no attribution in the credits.

The use of this particular image also creates an anachronism. This episode, featuring The Queen’s first visit to Ireland and the discovery of her seventh pregnancy, should be set in 1849. Nourse‘s graphic, however, has the shield surrounded by the blue circlet of the Order of the Garter – to which Lord Palmerston was appointed in 1856. Another strange anomaly is that the outdoor flag seems to be topped by a flat metal impression of a coronet. Only four pearls are seen, implying the rank of baron. Meanwhile the printed display already features a coronet with seven pearls, appropriate to Palmerston’s rank of viscount (though he did have the subsidiary title Baron Temple).*

These scenes are surrounded by two scenes back at Buckingham Palace. Even though the monarch is absent, the establishing shots of the palace both feature the Royal Standard flying over the Marble Arch. The flag is too far away and too crumpled for me to determine where they found the image.

*In reality a baronial coronet features six pearls around its rim and a vicomital coronet sixteen, but on a two-dimensional drawing it is not possible to show all of them simultaneously.

Election Debate at St Mary’s College

P1000806

Ten days before the general election, I attended a debate at St Mary’s College between four parliamentary candidates: Victoria Atkins (Conservative, Louth & Horncastle); Claire Thomas (Liberal Democrat, Kingston upon Hull West & Hessle); Diana Johnson (Labour, Kingston upon Hull North) and Mike Hookem MEP (United Kingdom Independence, Great Grimsby).  It was not my first experience to the latter two and neither was it my first experience with Look North, as I previously presented a segment as part of BBC School Report in 2011.

Peter Levy appeared to host the event. Before filming began he led a practice debate on the issue of whether or not The Great British Bake-Off would survive its transition to Channel 4. The general consensus was that it would struggle.

The debate proper began, with the usual topics – the National Health Service, social care and immigration.

Victoria Atkins insisted the NHS was critical and said her party were spending an extra £8bn over the next parliament. Levy wondered how these spending pledges were compatible with caps on VAT and Income Tax. Atkins said they were a low tax party which would create a strong enough economy. Claire Thomas said the Liberal Democrats would increase income tax by 1% in order to pay for the difference. Diana Johnson suggested increases in corporation tax on big businesses, prompting an audience member to ask how that would be defined. Hookem suggested diverting £9bn from the Foreign Aid budget. He highlighted the amounts currently sent to China and North Korea. He then had a heated exchange with another audience member who claimed Paul Nuttal had spoken in favour of privatising the service. Hookem assured us that privatisation was not and had never been UKIP’s policy. When asked about the recruitment of general practitioners, Atkins pointed to the £20k “Golden Hello” given to new GPs in the area by Lincolnshire County Council.

The discussion neatly transitioned to social care. Hookem said new legislation should be brought in to integrate care with the health service. Atkins took some flack for her party’s manifesto difficulties. She praised her leader for having the gall to tackle what she described as a great challenge. She was then criticised for her earlier comments on low tax, which a questioner said meant poor public services.

The next question was from a student, a Conservative supporter disappointed with his party’s rhetoric, who asked if the Manchester attack would lead to more stringent background checks for migrants from problem countries. Johnson said she believed all markets should be regulated including that for immigration. Hookem suggested an Australian-style system and highlighted his time among the Calais “jungle” speaking with British lorry-drivers who feared for their lives. He said we needed immigrants with useful skills but that we had enough low-pay low-skill workers already. Atkins insisted there was no “silver bullet” to solve the problem. Theresa May’s record as Home Secretary was noted for her failure to restrict movement in line with Conservative election pledges. Claire Thomas rejected the assumption that immigration caused terrorism. Atkins reminded us that the Manchester murderer was born in Britain – though Hookem remarked that he had recently gone for training in Syria. The panellists were then asked who would stay or go after Brexit. Hookem was clear that all legal immigrants from before the referendum could stay. Johnson said that to guarantee their rights would send a good message in negotiations.

Victoria Atkins said that the way to get the best deal in European negotiations was to have Theresa May as prime minister. She highlighted Jeremy Corbyn’s weaknesses in controlling his party – many, including Johnson, had resigned from his frontbench after the referendum. Thomas and Johnson dismissed any suggestion of May as a strong leader, instead calling her a weak and wobbly character who had gone back on manifesto pledges. Hookem invoked his experience on European committees to say that “they don’t want us to leave” and that parliament should have swiftly repealed the European Communities Act 1972. His rant was curtailed, however, as the debate had run out of time.

After the debate had ended there was some milling around to talk to the candidates off the record. I persuaded Hookem to pose for a photograph to use on his Wikipedia page. Sadly the low light and movement of several people in the background meant the picture was rather a blurry mess. I got a candid shot of Atkins which likewise suffered.

 

A Decade Since Doomsday

Few analyses of the revived series of Doctor Who, much less the David Tennant era specifically, could be complete without this. It is easy to remember the moment where a new trend, a new idea or a new meme begins but often very difficult to pinpoint the moment at which it ends. Can we really know exactly when the Harlem Shake died off (or the Ice-Bucket challenge for that matter). We are often quick to notice when a new character or personality enters the public consciousness, but do not notice when they have gone, for we are already concentrated on the successors who eclipsed them. This is particularly noteworthy when you look at the quick stream of events in the weeks since the EU referendum – just look at the news coverage on Wednesday 22nd June and compare it to today’s to see how quickly events can move. Sometimes, however, a certain person or event, a certain character does have a lasting presence long after their departure. For the purpose of this article I am talking about Rose Tyler.

It would be wrong to suggest that Rose is universally considered the greatest companion in the franchise, nor even a contender – indeed many fans of the program are keen to express their dislike, even contempt for her. Nevertheless her position within the timeline of Doctor Who means that she cannot be easily forgotten. The very first episode was named after her, with the opening sequence being a catalogue of her existence. The Doctor himself does not appear until quite a long way in. It is also noteworthy that her companionship was structured very differently to that of her predecessors. Whereas most companions would leave their old lives behind to travel with the Doctor, departing from the TARDIS just as abruptly, Rose had a whole family in the supporting cast to which she would return every few episodes. There was no precedent for this from the classic series – except perhaps the UNIT crew, but that was a more professional relationship.

Ian and Barbara left Coal Hill in An Unearthly Child and did not return for another two years, after which they never featured in the series again. Ben and Polly left the TARDIS when they arrived back at their starting point by coincidence. Jamie and Zoe were unceremoniously plonked back in their homelands with no memory of their other adventures. Romana and K-9 II were abandoned in E-Space. Nyssa stayed behind at Terminus, Traken having been destroyed. The only companion who returned to mundane life before travelling again was Tegan, and even that was a one-off stunt. Furthermore, the appearance of a boyfriend usually only occurred at the end of each’s tenure as a way of detaching them from the Doctor – Susan with David, Jo with Clifford, Leela with Andred. Such pairings usually developed within a single serial and had little narrative foundation.

IanBarbaraRealPoliceBox

Ian & Barbara were perhaps the best-developed couple of the Classic Series.

The revival, however, changed all of this. Partly this was a matter of necessity. Russell T. Davies began his quest to bring back the series in 2003, in an environment where few remembered how to execute a science fiction series. The new program therefore had to be redesigned for an audience used to soaps and reality shows. To some extent this was referenced by the characters themselves – the Doctor said he didn’t do domestic.

Odd as it may have been, though, this model stuck with Doctor Who for several years: Martha Jones had regular encounters with her siblings and parents, and they even had her mother repeat the face-slap made famous by Jackie two years prior. In many ways it seemed like a conscious retread. In Gridlock, Martha commented “You’re taking me to the same places you took Rose.” with a muttering of “Rebound”. Indeed, much of Series 3 saw Martha being compared to Rose and a conscious retreading of the previous two years’ themes. Donna Noble likewise had a family, though they were structured differently – her mother Sylvia and her father Wilfred were used for comic relief more than for drama, though Wilfred later became a companion in his own right. The late Geoff Noble was also made something of a legacy character.

ClarasDinner

The less than memorable family of Clara Oswald, Christmas 2013.

Into the Moffat era, the companion family largely disappeared as an integral part of the story, but a vestigial presence remained. Amy Pond’s parents were absent for most of Series 5, having been erased from time. Their emergence in The Big Bang was a sign of sanity returned to the universe, though afterwards they never actually appeared afterwards. Brian Williams, however, played a prominent role towards the end of the Ponds’ tenure. Clara’s family had only one outing as a minor sub-plot in The Time of the Doctor, but her parents’ history had earlier been an important feature of her character arc. While the Oswalds had nothing like the narrative significance of the Tylers, it is notable that their block of flats was filmed somewhere that strongly resembled the Powell Estate. Even eight years, two Doctors and four sets of companions after the revival, Rose’s shadow still fell, however faintly, over her successors.

Were it insufficient for Rose’s archetype to continue shaping the series long after her departure, there is still the matter of Rose herself never quite going away. From the moment that Series 2 concluded, there was always speculation that the character would eventually return. There were hints and nods in Series 3, but by the time of Series 4 it was a certainty. The premiere, Partners in Crime, featured Rose in person, quietly disappearing in a cloud of mystery. Her face briefly flashed on screen in The Poison Sky and Midnight before she fully emerged in the finale. After a second farewell scene (again on Bad Wolf Bay) it appeared that her character was finally finished, her ghost having haunted the franchise for what then constituted more than half of its existence. Even so, there was still time for yet another goodbye in The End of Time, though this time with an earlier version prior to her début.

A shot from The Day of the Doctor (2013). Bad Wolf Girl, with glowing yellow eyes, stares at the camera from inside the barn.

Billie Piper as “Bad Wolf Girl”

When Billie Piper returned for the golden anniversary special The Day of the Doctor it was significant that she did not quite play Rose Tyler again. Instead she had the role of “Bad Wolf Girl”, a manifestation of galaxy-eating superweapon “The Moment”. She was visible only to John Hurt’s character, the War Doctor, with David Tennant’s never actually interacting with her. Evidently the producers wanted to avoid playing out her tearful departure a third time. Even so, it was in itself rather odd to find that Piper had returned as a nostalgic reference, rather than as an active incumbent. This, more than anything else, was the solid confirmation that the Rose era had actually concluded and would not be revived.

The legacy of Doomsday is not the long-awaited battle between the Daleks and the Cybermen, nor the introduction of the Torchwood Institute or even the first glimpse of Donna Noble but the departure of Rose Tyler as a regular companion. In particular, the episode is remembered for the closing dialogue on the Norwegian beach of Pete’s World and the Doctor’s abruptly-terminated “Rose Tyler…” before his final loss of contact. The viewer never learned what the end of this sentence would have been, but hints can be found in the commentary, where the executive producers had the following exchange:

Russell T Davies: “Rose Tyler, I owe you ten pence.”

Julie Gardner: “He was going to tell her he loved her. I will not have it any other way.”

A Date for the Calendar

Left: Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP (a white-haired man in a grey suit); Middle: Paul Brand (short blonde hair, black suit, pale yellow/green tie); Right: Mike Hookem MEP (spectacles, short brown hair, grey suit with blue shirt and yellow/black stripy tie).

Paul Brand of Independent Television introduces the pundits.

Britain’s relationship with the European Union has been highly controversial since before it even began. Forty-one years ago after the original referendum on whether to stay in the European Economic Community, the question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” has been put to the people, to be answered on 23rd June. This has been the biggest talking point in British politics generally, and it has also been a recurring issue at Wilberforce College.

For a long time we knew relatively little about the debate. We knew that ITV Calendar would be covering it and that students were invited to ask questions, but we had no certain knowledge of the politicians in attendance. At various points we thought we might have David Davis, Karl Turner, Diana Johnson or Graham Stuart. Then we heard that we would have Alan Johnson and a UKIP MEP (we never knew which one). A few days before the debate we even heard that Johnson had “wobbled” and might pull out. The afternoon before the debate, as the atrium was evacuated and closed off to begin the conversion to a makeshift television studio, we still were none the wiser. On the morning of Friday 13th I was finally told that we had “Mike from UKIP” and subsequently I deduced that this was Mike Hookem, member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire & the Humber.

It was at 2pm that students were finally allowed into the atrium, and there we were introduced to Paul Brand, who was hosting the installment. We had all been provided with a pair of laminated cards: the first bore a black question mark, while the second was a choice between the Union Flag and the EU’s circle of stars. Several takes were expended before Brand managed not to say “Union Jack”. We were asked to hold up the image which represented our position before and after the debate. Eventually (around 3pm) we had our panellists arrive. The seating arrangement was unusual – we thought that Johnson and Hookem would be on the floor seating opposite the students on the steps, but instead they were positioned in our midst, with some other students filling up the additional seats. Nobody could quite understand this decision.

A crowd of adolescents on stepped seating. They hold up cards with Union Flags, EU Flags or Question Marks.

The students show their voting intentions.

The politicians began by making introductory speeches on the merits of staying or leaving. Johnson made the emotional appeal to the European project, saying that the Union had been a safeguard against war on the continent. He questioned the use of the Union flag for the Leave vote, saying that Brexit was not the patriotic British option. Hookem dismissed the romanticism of “Remainians” and warned the students about TTIP. We noticed that he was relying quite a lot on his iPad.

I was the first to ask a question, which was whether Brexit would revive Hull’s fishing industry. I seem to always end up on that topic when appearing on television. Other questions followed on immigration (naturally), terrorism, commerce and the obligatory quip that “You can’t go back to the British Empire.”. Throughout the debate it became clear that the two contestants were not evenly matched – Johnson had spent many years on the front line of politics including a period in the cabinet, whereas Hookem was a fairly obscure figure whose career in the European Parliament did not even stretch two years. He was rather obviously out of his depth during much of the debate and struggled to maintain a smooth flow of words when giving answers – whereas Johnson had spent decades polishing his speeches, Hookem often communicated in short, fragmented sentences.

The debate ended with a reprise of the flag display. By this point, Johnson had clearly proven the more effective debater as there had been a clear swing from Leave to Remain among the students in attendance. Six days later, the college launched its own referendum on-line, with the result that 63% of respondents preferred to remain. The result of the actual referendum (including for the Hull area) are likely to be much different.