|A Hungarian flag with the communist coat of arms cut out - while they were actually removed after the 1956 Uprising, it remains a potent symbol of the events of 1989 (|
János Kádár (a leader in the uprising who had switched sides when told that the old leadership would otherwise be restored, although it could be argued that he should have said no anyway) lifted many of the restrictions and while still authoritarian compared with the West, it was less so than the other COMECON countries.
Panelház, tower blocks of the sort that were widespread during this time on both sides of the Iron Curtain and are still numerous today; 17.5% of the population of Hungary lived in one in 2011. International tourism played a big role in Hungary's economy, both from the West and also from other Eastern bloc nations - in 1978, the US returned the Holy Crown of Hungary's former kings to the country, it having been held in Fort Knox since being recovered from the Nazis by US troops in Austria in 1945.
Kádár himself lived a modest lifestyle; unlike other Communist leaders.
(It is important to remember when dealing with the former Soviet bloc that the real power holder was the First or General Secretary; the President and/or Prime Minister was frequently, but by no means always a different person and had little real power)
In March, the Central Committee admitted to itself that they were going to have to go multi-party and after big demonstrations on 15 March (the day Hungary marks the 1848 Revolution, a failed attempt at independence from Austria), began meeting with a 'Round Table' of opposition groups. These largely behind the scenes negotiations would carry on for much of the year.
As well as the new PM, another leader was working behind the scenes to bring down communism - Imre Pozsgay, who worked his way up to the Central Committee. He managed to persuade (or he so he claims) the leadership not to launch a coup in April.
On 2 May 1989, Imre Pozsgay got the Hungarian Army to begin to remove the border fence with Austria; this was the first chink in the Iron Curtain. Moscow did nothing about it (and nor would they), even when the Hungarians actively encouraged holidaying East Germans to cross into Austria and thus to West Germany; including via a Peace Picnic in August where several hundred crossed over with no attempt by the army to stop them. The Austria-Hungary border was a much simpler affair to dismantle than the one between the two Germanies, which was among other things heavily mined.
In June, the Politburo admitted Nagy had been executed illegally after a show trial. He and two other victims were dug up and reburied in the same plot, but this time it was a proper grave with a memorial.
A deal was reached on the Round Table Talks in September; the opposition split over the issue of the presidency, with the moderates implicitly accepting Pozsgay as president and the radicals being against.
16-20 October saw an epic and historic session of parliament; as the Hungarian legislature voted after the agreement to completely change the system; ensuring direct presidential elections, multi-party parliamentary ones, guarantees of rights and a separation of powers. On the 23rd, the Presidential Council dissolved itself. That same month, the Communist Party became the Hungarian Socialist Party... but a majority of its MPs didn't join and Imre Pozsgay didn't become president. The Communists were pretty much done.
Free elections followed in May 1990 - the centre right Hungarian Democratic Forum won, with the former communists ending up fourth. The former ended up as leaders of a centre-right coalition.
The same year, Hungary withdrew from participation in Warsaw Pact exercise and Soviet forces left in 1991, the same year the Pact ceased to exist.
Hungary joined the EU in 2004; it is also part of the Schengen Agreement, so where before there was an electric fence with Austria, there are now not even regular border checks - Hungary also has this situation with Slovakia and Slovenia, but not yet with Croatia, Romania and of course Ukraine.
However, there have been problems in recent years. The country suffered heavily in the 2008 crash; there was a lot of borrowing that left it vulnerable. It eventually needed IMF and European Central Bank bailouts to avoid a collapse.
Then in 2010, Viktor Orban, Prime Minister from 1998-2002 (and also involved in the Round Table talks), returned to power, with his coalition Fidesz gaining a two-thirds majority; enough to impose a new constitution on Hungary. The nationalist conservative government (who were David Cameron's only allies in opposing Jean-Claude Juncker getting the EU Commission job) put in a new Fundamental Law that has been heavily criticised for reducing checks and balances, trying to impose a Christian ideology on a country not hugely religious and limiting the freedom of the press.
Orban is one of Europe's more dangerous leaders; there is also a strong far-right party in the country that doesn't like Roma or Jews very much.
Hungary, the second of the countries to escape communism, could end up going to fascism again if it is not careful.
23 October 2014
20 October 2014
- Clara was doing the Doctor-y stuff this week and doing very well at it; you could do an entire series (or novel) with just her.
- There were some great scenes with Capaldi in the TARDIS and we've now firmly established "pudding brain" as a catchphrases. Many a laugh, that's for sure.
- The creatures were scary, if a bit two-dimensional (ba boom tish).
- Does Doctor Who not have the kudos to actually use a DMU type that hasn't been retired from the main network for over a decade? I'd love to see a Pacer get destroyed.
- Definitely not doing the 'everyone lives' trick these days, that's for sure.
- Bristol? Not a choice I'd make, but nothing wrong with it.
- Stan was a real nasty piece of work; wasn't the actor in Auf Wiedersehen Pet?
- That banishment speech? So done before. It was supposed to feel epic, but it was just derivative.
- The plot thickens with Missy...
Certainly one that engaged the attention with a good deal of humour, although I have to admit the train bit annoyed me.
18 October 2014
- Capaldi was again great in this episode; I doubt the Doctor is heartless deliberately, but he certainly comes across that way.
- I'm sure that Clara's flapper outfit will get some positive comments among the fans; she's definitely been given a Fan Service Pack this season.
- I'm glad that they chucked in the line about it being slightly bigger than the 'real' one; you know what the fans can be like.
- Frank Skinner was rather good in this; I've not seen him in much as a serious actor and hopefully he'll do some more.
- This wasn't the best paced story in the world; the resolution was a little sudden.
- Some great lines in this; I particularly liked what seemed to be a Tom Baker impression by Capaldi, but Coleman got some good ones too.
- Gus... total psycho; reminds me of GlaDOS from Portal.
- Jelly babies in a cigarette case? Classic.
- Still would like Danny Pink to actually leave Earth.
10 October 2014
In addition, Labour got its majority in Heywood and Middleton slashed to 617, but did manage to retain the seat.
One is always in danger of drawing too much from a by-election, especially in a place like Clacton; very white, in coastal Essex; a high-profile by-election of an ex-Tory defector. A big blow to the Conservatives sure, but how big was Carswell's personal vote?
Heywood is of a bit more concern to Labour... but the close result's impact is diminished by the fact that only 36% of the electorate turned out - it was 57% at the 2010 general election. The casual Labour supporters assumed it was safe and didn't turn up.
Not a reason to panic, but we do need to focus on GOTV efforts next year; UKIP are the beneficiaries of apathy.
09 October 2014
- A superb performance from Capaldi here, with lots of humour and also lots of 'menace'. I'm reminded of "The Waters of Mars" (which also featured the Doctor acting like that)
- Jenna Coleman - excellent. Spending most of the episode in a spacesuit allowed us to focus on her acting skills rather than her outift.
- Courtney Woods turns up again... and she's not annoying at all. I've changed my mind about kids in the TARDIS; she'd be welcome back.
- Great stuff from Hermione Norris. Bumping off her two colleagues allowed for focus on an excellent actor, but does she ever do anything apart from cynical.
- Nice to see some Mexicans in space... unfortunately they ended up dead. We didn't even get any of their names... not even a haunting photo.
- Spider effects were great... and Capaldi is of course not the first Doctor to be face-hugged in something.
- Lunar surface frankly needed some micro-craters. It's getting hit by stuff all the time.
- I'm sure there's some conservation of matter/energy errors here.
- Lots of nice little references here... including to Blinovitch!
- Next week looks like a Clara-lite episode; that will be interesting.
02 October 2014
- Peter Capaldi is demonstrating a considerable talent for comedy that I hitherto didn't realise... but then again, I didn't watch The Thick of It.
- Jenna Coleman is continuing to excel here; loads of great lines and I see Gallifrey Base has a thread on her skirt.
- I hope that Danny Pink gets to travel on the TARDIS at some point; he'd be good once the Doctor learned to fully accept him.
- The whole gag with the teacher in a bow tie... excellent. I can see why the Doctor thought that (then again he does have an inflated opinion of himself)
- Will we see the invisibility watch again? Possibly, possibly not.
- There wasn't a huge amount of plot in this, more comedy with a plot tacked on.
- I like the bit in the parents' evening about the "disruptive influence".
- Courtney reminded me of that kid from "Nightmare in Silver" last year.
- Nice little homage toThe Bill with the PCSO there.
- Next week looks very interesting indeed.
28 September 2014
The face of the future
When Orla Brady was offered a guest role in "The Time of the Doctor" as a space priestess, she accepted it without even reading the script. Peter Capaldi almost did the same when he guest starred in "The Fires of Pompeii", but was convinced otherwise.
That's a sign of the prestige of Doctor Who. A show where you can escape from the repetitive cop drama or kitchen sink roles and travel into space; something that doesn't just apply for the actors - even the title sequence is enjoyable, which is something I can say about few shows today.
It's one reason why the show is now in its 34th season, with 812 full length episodes to its name as of November 2014. Another is the fact that it is not bound to one particular actor or one particular producer; the show has turned them over at a rate greater than pretty much any other show that I can think of... with the possible exception of Saturday Night Live.
There are other reasons though:
- The general quality of the leads: It's true to say that there has never been a bad Doctor. Even Colin Baker, whose Big Finish works are very good and very popular. The companions may be hit-and-miss, but when they hit, they hit. It's a pity few of them have gone on to really big things.
- The plots: not just bad aliens come to take over Earth and are killed by good humans, this show brought us 'aliens' who were here before humans.
- Some of the concepts: other shows may have their cool spaceships like the Enterprise and Serenity (ironically, considered junk in its verse), but a telephone box bigger on the inside that can travel anywhere in space-time?
- Also, a character who when faced with death can change his appearance, allowing for a total of 13 actors (in the main show) to have taken the leading role... as well as for each to put their own perspective on it.
- The sonic screwdriver. I'd want one.
- The lack of reliance on special effects: Let's face it, much, correction most, of the special effects from 1963-1989 don't stand up to modern scrutiny; but they've never been the be-all-and-end-all of the show. Indeed some of the best effects have been the simpler ones; the Dalek extermination, the TARDIS materialisation... and the original title sequence.
- The fans: Without the devotion and continued work of the show's many fans, it would not have come back... and many people wouldn't be working on the show today had they not been fans.
All in all, Doctor Who has survived because it's not just a good show... it's a brilliant show.
When doing such a long work as a history of a 50-year-old sci-fi programme, one has to use a variety of sources. This list won't be comprehensive, so I apologise to anyone I've missed out, but the following have proven invaluable.
- The Television Companion (First edition 1996, revised edition 2003 – I own the 1996 edition) by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker – a standard tome for the book that covers each story with transmission dates, trivia and excerpts from contemporary, as well as more modern reviews. A must-have - it's proven very useful for my reviews of incomplete stories.
- The Discontinuity Guide (First edition 1995, second edition 2003 – I own the first) by Paul Cornell, Keith Topping and Martin Day – another of the standard reference books for the show, I picked this up in a charity shop and it was a positive bargain. It covers all the classic era stories (plus "Shada" and "Dimensions in Time"), with quotes, goofs and a brief analysis for each story.
- Whology – Doctor Who: The Offical Miscellany (2013) by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright – an official compilation of facts, statistics of varying randomness and lists for the 50th anniversary; including the Doctor's family tree! This goes up to "The Snowmen" and excludes "Shada" from various calculations.
- Doctor Who: The Vault (2013) by Marcus Hearn - another official anniversary book, covering the history of the show with many previously unpublished pictures, especially of merchandise.
- Doctor Who Magazine – running since 1979, mostly monthly but originally weekly under title of Doctor Who Weekly, the official (but editorially independent) mag published by Panini, who took over the British arm of Marvel Comics in 1985, has a regular comic strip, features galore and many an exclusive. It also holds the world record for longest-running magazine based on a TV show.
- Diary of the Doctor Who Role-Playing Games – Issue #18 contains a comprehensive list of every DW video game yet released.
- Radio Times - running since 1923, this high-quality British TV listings magazine is always good for some interesting facts.
- DWO Whocast – Dave Keep has some particularly good insights on the classic run, although he no longer hosts the show.
- Radio Free Skaro
- Splendid Chaps – a series of live shows from Australia for the anniversary year.
Websites and blogs
- The BBC's official website for the show – A little hard to navigate around at times, but nonetheless a mine of information – including most of the text of The Television Companion and The Discontinuity Guide.
- Gallifrey Base (registration required to view) – the premier Doctor Who forum, official successor to the now-closed and not archived Outpost Gallifrey, set up in 2009. Full of very nice people, some of whom have worked on the show and has provided valuable insights for this.
- The TARDIS Data Core – Wikia's massive wiki dedicated to the show; it's pretty much comprehensive. My ratings figures are mostly from here.
- Leave the Girl, it's the Man I Want: The Evolving Guide to Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Moments in Doctor Who – Not my personal choice for a URL, but this is a reasonably comprehensive listing (up to 2009) of the moments in Doctor Who that are a bit LGBQT. The show has a big following in that community and has had for many years.
- Various newspaper websites, including the Telegraph's obituary of Mary Whitehouse, as well as that from The Guardian.
- A Brief History of Time Travel – website dedicated to the show's history, most notably the production side of things.
- Wikipedia – of course, with the usual caveats
- Life, the Doctor and Combom – for the Mighty 200 results.
- IMDB.com - of course
- The DiscContinuity Guide – The Discontinuity Guide, but for the audios. Regularly updated, although not up-to-date in terms of audio releases.
- Whoniverse.net's Discontinuity – the same, but covering the new TV series and the original novels. Not currently updated.
- Digital Spy
While this has been a real labour, it's also been a labour of love. I've been a fan of the show for over half my life and I estimate the amount of money I've spent on this show as at least a thousand pounds, including a train trip to Cardiff to do a walking tour. I have to say that the research I've done has been at times illuminating for me; I've definitely learnt a lot from this.
I've certainly made some inaccurate statements (I seem to have gotten the wrong end of the stick over Holmes writing while script editing - it appears to be a union thing) and I'd like to apologise for those.
Thank you very much for reading this and I hope you enjoyed it.
Current exceptions to this: Person of Interest, Game of Thrones and er that's about it.
While my experience with SNL is distinctly limited (it doesn't air in the UK and I don't do torrenting), I have experienced a number of its alumni in other shows, such as Amy Poehler in Parks & Recreation, Julia-Louis Dreyfus in Veep or before he appeared on SNL, Kenan Johnson in Kenan & Kel. Also, one of my favourite films is The Blues Brothers, who of course started on the show!
Lessons learnt from this: The Class 43 HST feels faster than the Class 395 Javelin despite being 15 mph slower, Cardiff is a very nice place and I should go First Class more often.