Dominic Raab: Britain’s Champion Of Democracy

The Tory leadership contender Dominic Raab has said the possibility of sidelining parliament to force through Brexit should not be ruled out, as to do so would weaken the UK’s negotiating position in Brussels.

“I think it’s wrong to rule out any tool to make sure that we leave by the end of October,” Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, as the Conservative party reels from its disastrous results in the European election, in which Eurosceptic voters flocked to the Brexit party.

Brexit: suspending parliament should not be ruled out, says Dominic Raab – theguardian.com

Dominic Raab is the champion of democracy in modern-day Britain.

Specifically, he has just been appointed as Foreign Secretary in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new cabinet. This means it is his duty to act as Britain’s chief diplomat, negotiating with foreign powers and, theoretically, bringing the good word of democracy to those states which are yet to fully adopt it. The foreign secretary must represent the United Kingdom and its ideals, such as parliamentary sovereignty and a principled belief in representative democracy.

He sits in the cabinet alongside notable and well-respected politicians such as:

In the passage quoted at the beginning of this article, Raab, in his role as a candidate for leadership of the Tory party, discusses the proroguing of parliament in order to prevent British MPs from taking any action to block a “No-Deal” Brexit.

Put another way, Raab suggested that Britain’s democratic government should be temporarily suspended, so that Britain would automatically leave the EU on October 31st, regardless of the effects that this would have on the country.

Given that one of the key arguments in favour of Brexit was because “[Britain’s] laws should be made by people we can elect and kick out – that’s more democratic”, it may seem hypocritical for a Leave campaigner and lead Brexiteer to suggest crippling the British parliament. And that’s because it is hypocritical.

whyvoteleave1

In 2017, during the UK General Election, the Conservative Party secured 42% of the votes cast, and 317 parliamentary seats. This meant they were unable to form a government. As such, the leader of the Tories, Theresa May, bribed the Irish DUP party with £1 billion of public money to form a government with them. The DUP held 0.9% of the votes cast.

Which means the Conservative Party was able to seize control of the Government with just 43% of the popular vote – and it only cost them £1 billion of public funds to do so.

When Theresa May resigned in 2019, her successor was chosen from among Tory Party MPs. First the Tory MPs themselves – all 312 of them – voted to narrow the selection down to just two candidates – Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

This was followed by a vote of the Tory Party as a whole. Here, the winner of the two candidates was decided by a vote of 138,809 Tory Party members, i.e. 0.3% of the country’s general electorate, or 1 out of every 330 people eligible to vote in a general election.

Boris Johnson won with 66% of that vote, or 92,153 votes.

Nearly 46 million people are eligible to vote in the UK, of a population of over 66 million.

Which means that Raab, an elected MP holding an unelected ministerial position, appointed by an undemocratically-selected Prime Minister of an undemocratic government which bought its way into power, wished to further restrict the role of democracy in British politics by suspending a body of elected lawmakers.

To Dominic Raab, democracy is useful only to the barest extent that it puts him in a position of power, and is seemingly disposable at any point thereafter.

And this is the Foreign Secretary who is expected to represent Britain overseas, championing our way of life.

It is worth stating, and re-stating, that the proroguing of Parliament is unlikely to ever occur. But the issue is less the likelihood of it occurring, and rather the fact that it is seen as a legitimate option by members of our current government, possibly including the Prime Minister himself.

Shortly after Mr Raab’s comments, I wrote to my MP, Shabana Mahmood, to raise my concerns. You can read this letter, and her response, here.

Given more recent developments, it seems important that we all put pressure on our parliamentary representatives to take a stronger stand against the kind of anti-democratic sentiment which seems to prevalent within the current government.

As matters stand currently, the Boris Johnson-led government is set to remain in power until May of 2022 – nearly three years of rule by a Prime Minister and cabinet who hold power due to a history bribery, lies and a broken electoral system.

This is the same government which, by all indicators, is intending to force the UK to leave the EU with no departure deal in place, and in just three months, on the 31st of October.

This is a government made up primarily of wealthy politicians of privileged backgrounds, at least one of whom has demonstrably already profited personally from the results of the Brexit referendum. It seems unlikely that Rees-Mogg is alone in having financial interests in a departure from the EU.

Should the best possible legal outcome prevail, and a successful vote of No Confidence in the current government force a General Election, the country would still be vulnerable to the same kind of back-room deals that saw the Tory Party retain power in the 2017 election, and we would then be in a worse position than we are now.

Once again, I’m writing about British politics and telling tales of doom and gloom, with no real suggestions to offer as to what to do. It feels like an impossible situation, where our right to vote seems meaningless, where our connection as private citizens to our own government seems non-existent.

We are staring down the barrel of a No Deal EU departure, and we have virtually no legal means to affect this course of action. We are being led by Prime Minister and a government who hold the population in contempt, who are flagrantly placing their own interests ahead of the interests of the country, and we had no say in their appointment.

This piece opened with a critique of Dominic Raab, but he is merely symptomatic of the disease. His appointment as foreign secretary is a result of a deeper, darker plague for which the cures are quickly eroding. By any objective measure, our system of government has failed us, and has been failing us for some time, and it seems there is still scope for matters to worsen.

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Letter To Shabana Mahmood

11 June 2019

 

Dear Shabana Mahmood,

I am writing to you regarding the conduct of Mr Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton, and his comments concerning the suspension of Parliament in order to prevent the House of Commons from blocking a “No Deal” Brexit, as outlined in the below article:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48541352

That Mr Raab would be so willing to subvert the United Kingdom’s democratic process in this manner is appalling. Beyond the stark irony of diminishing Parliamentary sovereignty over an issue intended to “restore” sovereignty to the British Isles in the first place, his callous disregard for democracy is unacceptable for a Member of Parliament, and especially for someone with ambitions to hold the office of Prime Minister.

A single-issue referendum cannot be wielded as a weapon with which to hold a nation to ransom. One vote cannot be an excuse for abandoning the basic principles of a representative democracy. If Mr Raab and his fellow Brexiteers truly value democracy, and the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, then the thought of suspending Parliament to further their agenda should never enter their heads, and certainly never given voice in a public forum.

Put more briefly – suspending a democratically elected body of lawmakers is, by definition, an act of authoritarianism, and Mr Raab has demonstrated his openness to the kind of extreme and undemocratic governance against which we have fought so many wars.

I feel this also brings into question the true motives of Mr Raab. It would be interesting to understand the full extent of his financial interests, particularly any foreign sources of revenue, and whether any of these financial interests conflict with the best interests of the nation he claims to serve.

I understand, and am grateful for, the fact that actually suspending Parliament would not be feasible by Mr Raab’s actions alone, but I would ask that you raise in Parliament the notion of creating new laws to prevent and criminalise any such attempt to subvert of the proper course of democracy. We have laws against acts of physical terror – we ought also to have laws against acts of political terror.

To summarise, I feel that Mr Raab has betrayed the British people with his comments, and has betrayed his duties as a Member of Parliament, and I hope you will take a firm stance and support firm action against Mr Raab’s particular brand of political banditry.

Kind regards,

[personal information removed]


24 June 2019

Dear [personal information removed]

Thank you for contacting me regarding the conduct of Mr Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton.

I also believe that his comments were irresponsible, the suggestion of Parliament being suspended is wrong and will not be tolerated.

Rest assured that I will continue to monitor the conduct of the remaining Tory leadership candidates and will hold them to account for their actions.

Thank you again for writing to me. Please do not hesitate to contact me again regarding this or any other issue.

Yours sincerely

Shabana Mahmood MP
Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood

Apollo 11: Humanity Writ Large

The documentary ‘Apollo 11’ is magnificent, beautiful, and humbling.

It’s simplistic and linear in construction, because it didn’t need to be anything else. It presents the incredible feat of humanity’s first journey to another world as basic matter of fact, with no narration save that of audio recordings of the event itself.

One thing that stands out in the early part of the film is three simple numbers. 110, 99, and 88. Those were the heart rates of Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin, respectively, during the launch of the Saturn V rocket that took them into orbit.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the science and technology of space travel, and of the technological achievements in particular of the Apollo program. All of the metal and glass and rubber and silicon and fuel and fabric in such complex arrangements to make up the vehicles and equipment to be used by three men on an 8-day mission is staggering. The Saturn V technical manual (which you can buy from Amazon and which I highly recommend) is a bewildering array of charts and graphs and procedures which reads like an arcane tome of lore.

But the real achievement of the Apollo program, and of all space programs before and since, was human.

88 bpm. Buzz Aldrin’s heart – as he was being launched out of the Earth’s atmosphere on an 8-day journey through a vacuum to be one of three people to be the furthest from Earth that anyone has ever gone – his heart was beating slower than mine as I sat in the cinema watching 50-year-old images of him doing it.

These astronauts (and cosmonauts) were so resolute, determined and disciplined, that they were able to put the success of their mission above any other instinct or drive. They did things no other human being had ever done, all in the name of scientific achievement.

Just as it’s easy to lose oneself in the technological grandeur of such projects, it’s also easy to discuss the petty politics that drove the Space Race of the mid-20th century. Many historians will point to the Cold War and the escalating arms race, and that the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and their Russian counterparts were merely an extension, an appendage, of the costly military contest to produce the biggest, most powerful and most accurate missiles.

Indeed, Kennedy’s famous “We Choose To Go To The Moon” speech directly references the implied threat of the successful completion of the NASA rocket programs:

“The Mariner spacecraft now on its way to Venus is the most intricate instrument in the history of space science. The accuracy of that shot is comparable to firing a missile from Cape Canaveral and dropping it in this stadium between the the 40-yard lines.”

That segment of the speech was intended for foreign rivals more than domestic supporters, as are other segments which reference the sheer power of the machinery in development:

“We have felt the ground shake and the air shattered by the testing of a Saturn C-1 booster rocket, many times as powerful as the Atlas which launched John Glenn, generating power equivalent to 10,000 automobiles with their accelerators on the floor. We have seen the site where the F-1 rocket engines, each one as powerful as all eight engines of the Saturn combined, will be clustered together to make the advanced Saturn missile…”

And yet none of these politics are what drove the people, the individual human beings who filled NASA’s ranks, to such grand achievements.

In Gene Kranz’s memoirs ‘Failure Is Not An Option’ (another strong recommendation for any space enthusiasts) he talks of the desire to beat the Russians to each space milestone, and the disappointment of being beaten by the Russians in the early days, but this is borne out of professional pride. The scientists, mission controllers and astronauts of NASA cared less for the struggle of wills between capitalism and communism, but more for the prestige of coming first. At no point does Kranz mention concerns of nationalistic supremacy or of proving the destructive capabilities of the American nuclear arsenal – the American and Russian space workers were simply two teams competing for the same prize.

Below is Kranz’s speech to his mission controllers, three days after the death of the three astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, on the launch pad of Apollo 11 on 27 January 1967:

“Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it.

“We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not one of us stood up and said, “Dammit, stop!”

“I don’t know what Thompson’s committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule and betting that the Cape would slip before we did.

“From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: “Tough and Competent.” Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for.

“Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect.

“When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write “Tough and Competent” on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.”

This is one of my favourite quotes of all time. “Tough and Competent.” Kranz walked into a room of mourning technicians and rather than making excuses, or offering platitudes, he told them all to sort their shit out and never let it happen again. And it never did. There were no more deaths on the Apollo program, and there were no more deaths in spaceflight until exactly nineteen years and a day later, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during launch on 28 January 1986.

These people, these astronauts and scientists and engineers, exhibited so many qualities that we find admirable in our peers. Intelligence, dedication, courage, inquisitiveness. But there are other qualities they exemplified too. The three astronauts at the top of every Saturn V launch put the entirety of their trust in the people who designed and built and programmed those rockets. They risked terrifying, painful deaths based on nothing more then their faith in the thousands of other people on the space program.

At the end of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, we hear the words of Neil Armstrong, as he honours those unsung heroes of the Apollo project during the crew’s final television broadcast:

“… The Saturn V rocket which put us in orbit is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery, every piece of which worked flawlessly … We have always had confidence that this equipment will work properly. All this is possible only through the blood, sweat, and tears of a number of people … All you see is the three of us, but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others, and to all of those, I would like to say, “Thank you very much.””

As much as we would like to put these people on a pedestal, they were still human beings. Many of the astronauts were arrogant sons of bitches. Divorces were commonplace. Tensions frequently ran high between ambitious, high-achieving individuals of great intellect and passion.

But we must never forget that they put all of their flaws aside to achieve a mission which has never been repeated since. They were all human beings, but they were human beings with all of the worst aspects of humanity chiseled away. Their courage was matched only by their faith, and their determination matched only by their wits.

This is why I weep when I watch ‘The Martian’. It’s why I cry like a baby at the end of ‘Apollo 13’. Space exploration has always brought out the best of humanity and put it on show to all the world.

It’s why I get annoyed by the likes of ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Life’ and other stories with plots driven by the mental instabilities of their astronaut characters. Astronauts are chosen because they don’t crack, because they thrive on seemingly impossible challenges, and because they draw strength from terror and stress. It seems dishonest and a disservice to the 563 space travellers to date to portray such a class of people as somehow not being up to the task when they have repeatedly demonstrated their worthiness.

Space is antithetical to life. In all ways it is incompatible with human beings, and yet we have conquered it. And whilst it seems as though it was merely technology that got us there, I believe that without those human elements, those ineffable human qualities of courage, trust, and determination, we never would have made it out of the atmosphere.

I’ll finish this ramble with my actual favourite quote of all time, attributed to Jim Lovell in ‘Apollo 13’, although I can find no proof that he originally said it beyond the film itself:

“From now on we live in a world where man has walked on the Moon. It’s not a miracle; we just decided to go.”

BREAKING: Footage of HEROIC POLITICIAN Bravely Tackling JAPANESE TERRORIST To The Ground

FOOTAGE HAS EMERGED of a British politician and former cabinet member bravely tackling a violent, and potentially armed, Japanese terrorist to the ground.

Alexander Johnson, MP for Uxbridge And South Ruislip and formerly of the Foreign Office, was engaging in an international trade mission to Japan on behalf of the British Empire, when he was forced to courageously incapacitate a dangerous suspected terrorist.

Please note that the following footage depicts violence and scenes of a disturbing nature:

After the incident, Johnson claimed he was acting with instinct more than he was taking any kind of measured response, and that he was “fully convinced” that the violent terrorist was armed, and posed a “genuine threat” to other members of the trade delegation, and to the members of the public in attendance.

Whilst some have claimed that Johnson acted in a needlessly violent manner, and that his use of force was “entirely unjustified”, others have defended his actions, and even praised him for his decisive bravery.

Minister Of State Mark Field, MP, said:

“[Johnson] clearly did exactly what needed to be done in the heat of the moment. How else can we expect our political leaders to behave when confronted with a visibly armed assailant? People rarely understand the level of danger politicians, especially ministers, frequently find themselves in, and as a result it is often completely necessary to engage with and attempt to incapacitate any threat to the people around us. Everyday heroism, such as that of my esteemed colleague during his mission to Tokyo, is truly inspirational, and this serves as a reminder of how close those of us in the political class come to injury and death on a daily basis.”

Nonetheless, there have already been calls from the Labour opposition for Johnson to be suspended from office, with arguments being made that Britain should be represented overseas by a negotiator and a statesperson, and not a violent and unpredictable upper-class hooligan.

In any case, it seems Johnson will be honoured by the Conservative party for his actions against terrorism, and he will doubtless be remembered for years to come alongside similarly iconic acts of heroism, including:

  • Jonathan Aitken, who valiantly battled on behalf of truth and integrity in journalism
  • Jeffrey Archer, who also steadfastly fought to hold corrupt, and probably armed, journalists accountable for their lies
  • David Cameron, who made profound and and unflinching statements about unethical practices in the pork industry during his time as a student
  • Theresa May, who dedicated her youth to tackling the threat posed by dangerous, and potentially armed, members of the Triticum Aestivum terrorist cell

It is unknown if this incident will have any impact on Johnson’s candidacy in the upcoming Conservative Party leadership election – political pundits are uncertain of the possible effect of the above footage on the career of a man who owes his existing political career to a vaguely memorable performance on a satirical panel show.

Laugh Until It Hurts – LoveHard

Lovehard is a Twoprov (two-person improvised show) that is probably the funniest live performance of any kind that I’ve seen. LoveHard is physically painful to experience, because you will laugh until it hurts, and then it will hurt more as you realise that you are incapable of replicating the unique genius of what you have just seen.

One of the wonderful things about improvised performance is that it is theoretically open to everyone. As long as you are capable of listening to what someone else has just said and treating it like the most important thing you’ve ever heard, you can do improv. You do not need to be clever, or funny, or knowledgeable, or even charismatic. You just need to listen, and be open to new ideas.

That, at least, was my theory, but sadly Lovehard managed to shatter that theory into pieces. They are capable of a level of wit and humour that defies aspiration.

Usually, as you watch an improv show, you realise that you could theoretically do what the performers are doing with sufficient practice and dedication. Sure, you might not ever sing as well as a particularly talented singer, but the notion of one day improvising rhymes and songs as well as them seems like it could be achievable if you really put the work in.

The unique selling point of LoveHard is their unflinching wit. They create jokes and punchlines on the fly that seem as carefully engineered as the most tried and tested stand-up routine, and yet that are nonetheless completely tied to the opening audience suggestion. The only possibility seems to be that the two performers must have memorised an exhaustive list of every good joke that could be made about every subject in human history, because it’s surely impossible that they might have produced such clever material in the heat of the moment.

I have only seen the act perform twice – once in 2017 and once in 2018, both times at the Birmingham Improv Festival. Both shows featured Jake Lovick, along with Tyler Harding in 2017 and with Jack Robertson in 2018 (the line-up seems to vary occasionally). In both shows, the same sheer comedic genius was on display from both performers. The 2017 show featured a story about a disgruntled factory worker wanting to leave the family business. The 2018 show featured two storylines inspired by the word “carpenter” – one, the telling of the building of a Biblical ark, and the other a murder-mystery in the style of John Carpenter (to honour that it was the day before Hallowe’en).

The comedy was derived from multiple elements. The first and most obvious element was the jokes, with clever, on-point references to pop culture, religion, history and modern life all thrown in. The second element was the improvisation of it all – the humour that naturally arises from any improvised performance, taken up a notch here by the talented performers who knew exactly how to spot a game and when to heighten for best effect.

The third element was the characterisation. Jake, Tyler and Jack were all very capable as character performers, and Jack especially was adept at using physicality, posture and expression to capture a range of characterisation. This elevated the show further – there was a special privilege in seeing strong characters deliver clever lines as part of a beautifully improvised narrative.

I would love to delve deeper into the workings of LoveHard, and the Improv techniques they employ to create such an amazing show, but the fact is I simply can’t. I don’t understand the unknowable workings of this arcantrik turbine that seems to spontaneously produce hilarity out of thin air. There are discernible mechanisms – each show begins with a debate of competing ideas that each performer would like to pursue; each scene is ended with a synchronised clap between the two performers; they say words that I understand in an order that is amusing – but I simply cannot fathom how to go about replicating the magic they bring to the stage, short of simply being them.

If you find that they are performing near you, I highly recommend taking the time to go and see LoveHard. Take some friends, sit back and enjoy the comedic sorcery.

BREAKING: BBC News Presenter Apologises For Referring To Jeremy Cunt By Real Name, Compounds Error

Following a controversial blooper on live TV yesterday morning, BBC News presenter Dale Cartwright has apologised unreservedly for referring to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Cunt by his real name.

Audiences were shocked when Cartwright accidentally said the ‘H’-word during the Current Affairs segment of ‘Wake Up Call’, the mid-morning show presented by Cartwright and his colleague Sheila Digby.

Cartwright was reading from an autocue and describing the current state of the Conservative leadership contest, in which the Foreign Secretary is a current contender. As spoken by Cartwright himself:

“… Boris Johnson may be the current favourite, but one of his main rivals Jeremy H*** expressed serious misgivings about the former Mayor of London’s track record.”

Cartwright only realised his mistake after seeing the look of shock on co-host Sheila Digby’s face, and it can only be assumed that the rest of the production crew were similarly shocked at such an appalling slip-up on live broadcast television.

Cartwright used today’s edition of the show to apologise for his blunder, and to attempt to soothe any offence he may have caused:

“I want to use this opportunity to apologise, without reservation, for such a dreadful mistake to have made. It was never my intention to expose anyone, least of all the many children who may have been watching, to such disgusting behaviour. Jeremy Cunt’s name should never be spoken aloud, and my years of experience and media training have sadly failed me.

“But worst of all, I have failed you, our audience, and the British people, by granting Mr Cunt the dignity of using his real name.”

Co-host Digby reassured Cartwright, and thanked him on behalf of the audience for his sincerity and accountability. She agreed that such prominent politicians as Jeremy Cunt should never be given the respect they think they deserve, and she expressed hope that everyone can move on from this terrible lapse and return to combating austerity and fighting to support the NHS, which Mr Cunt so determinedly attempted to sabotage during his tenure as Health Secretary.

Sadly, Cartwright compounded his blunder as the show moved onto its next item:

“Now that we’ve put the business of Jeremy H*** behind-

“Oh fuck, I’ve done it again.”

With a second offence now on his record, it is suspected that Dale Cartwright will be facing disciplinary action by senior management at the BBC. What this means for his career moving forwards is unknown, but it may end up as a stark warning to other members of the News team to avoid the topic of Jeremy Cunt altogether, lest they fall into the same trap of accidentally saying his actual name.

Poeslaw: A Star Wars Story – Or Why The Resistance Deserved To Die

In deep space, the small Resistance of ragtag ships exits hyperspace after escaping the First Order fleet led by General Hux.

Poe Dameron, roguish, handsome and dashing, strides with a cocky swagger onto the bridge of the Raddus, the Resistance flagship. His vibrant orange flightsuit clashes with the cold sterility of the bridge’s clean, pale surfaces and technical displays.

General Leia Organa, leader of the Resistance and all-round stonecold badass, turns to her arrogant lead pilot as he approaches. “Thank you for listening to me, Commander,” she says. “By abandoning your mission to destroy the Dreadnought, you saved lives and allowed us to escape with our full bomber wing intact.”

“You’re welcome, General,” Poe says. “Even though the Dreadnought represented an incredibly powerful mobile weapons platform with which the First Order could wipe out our small fleet, it seems sensible to leave it intact despite the opportunity we had to destroy it.”

Leia nods. “The important thing, the most important thing, is to preserve life, and save the people we love,” she says. “That’s an important lesson which I now have chance to teach you verbally.”

Poe seems confused. “Well, I mean, you allowed me to launch our full bomber wing, despite how slowly they move and despite the fact they lack independent hyperdrives, a feature on all of our other attack craft. So it seems contradictory for you to then abort that mission as I was literally dodging enemy fire barely ten metres above the surface of the Dreadnought. Honestly, it’s a miracle I managed to escape at all.”

Leia sits down at the command console. “Poe, I know you’re the leader of the Resistance Fighter Wing, Poe, and my direct subordinate, but I prefer to explain my general strategy to you after we engage with the enemy, rather than before. That way, if you defy me, I can demean and demote you in front of your friends and colleagues.”

Poe stares hopelessly at BB-8, but the droid offers no assistance. “So, to be clear, General, we knew the First Order was coming, and that they were bringing a Dreadnought, so we concocted a complex plan involving prank-calling Hux, and fitting a high-speed disposable booster engine to my X-Wing ahead of time, followed by me attacking the Dreadnought single-handed and banking on the fact that they wouldn’t launch fighter cover?”

“Yes, Commander, that’s right.” Leia nods.

“Okay, so then you signed off on this attack plan to destroy the Dreadnought ahead of time? And we launched all of our bombers and fighters to carry it out?”

“Yes, Commander. Go on.”

Poe massages the sides of his head with his fingers, ruffling his gorgeous, thick, wavy, dark hair. “But as soon as the planet was evacuated, we were going to call off the attack anyway?”

Leia nods again. “Yes.”

“So,” Poe continues, “if destroying the Dreadnought was never a priority to begin with, why wouldn’t we instead hold all of our fighters and bombers back in defensive positions so that we could escape the very moment we needed to? Because it seems like you committed all of our pilots and attack craft to my plan to destroy a Dreadnought, but then acted like that was not even a secondary or tertiary objective.”

“Poe, get your head out of your penis ditch,” Leia retorts. “You can’t solve every problem by jumping in an X-Wing and blowing something up!”

Poe is shocked. “But that’s how we’ve solved every problem! That’s how you have solved every problem! The first Death Star – X-Wing blew it up. Second Death star – X-Wing blew it up with an assist from the Falcon. STARKILLER BASE, that massive thing which wiped out the New Republic yesterday? I literally just blew it up twelve hours ago! In an X-Wing! TWELVE HOURS AGO. I mean, the AT-ATs, sure, your brother was technically in a Snowspeeder for that, but that’s basically the X-Wing of ground battles. Except on Scarif, where it was literal X-Wings blowing things up during the ground battle and the space battle. Every historic victory won by the Rebels or the Resistance has been down to pilots in X-Wings blowing things up.”

“It’s not about killing the people you hate!” Leia shouts.

“It’s always been about killing the people who hate us!” Poe retorts.

“It’s about saving the people you love!” Leia retorts back.

“By killing the people who are trying to kill the people you love!” Poe retorts thricewise.

An angry silence follows.

Poe eventually relents. “Okay, you were right to call off the attack. The Dreadnought’s still out there, sure, but hey, we hyper-jumped away, and to the best of our knowledge it’s impossible for them to track us through Hyperspace, so we’re probably fine.”

“Agreed,” Leia says. “We’re definitely fine. We have enough fuel for one more Hyperspace jump, so everything is fine.”

Poe pauses in thought, then begins to doubt himself. “…Unless they somehow track us the same way they tracked out scouts in the last film. Remember? How we had scouts reporting on Starkiller base? Who then returned to OUR base, and the First Order tracked them, and then targeted our base with their super weapon? And we know that it was a Hyperspace journey because both my X-Wing squadron and the Falcon had to approach and depart Starkiller Base via Hyperspace”

Leia doesn’t respond.

“Come to think of it,” Poe continues, “do we know they don’t have homing beacons on any of our ships? Like how the Empire had one on the Millennium Falcon when you and Luke and Han escaped the first Death Star?”

Leia remains silent.

“Wait, hang on,” Poe says, “didn’t Boba Fett track you, Han and Chewie to the Bespin, alerting the Empire and allowing them to arrive there first?”

“I remember that event!” C-3PO calls out. “That was when I was disassembled by Storm Troopers.”

“I can arrange for that to happen again if you don’t shut up, 3PO,” Leia snaps.

Poe’s mind is still racing. “And, hang on, didn’t your Force connection with Luke allow you to pinpoint his exact location when he was hanging from an aerial on the bottom of Bespin? Kind of exactly like the Force connection you have with your son, Kylo Ren?”

“That was different!” Leia shouts. “Luke wanted me to know where he was. I’m intentionally not revealing our position to Kylo Ren. Indeed, Besides, most of your other examples are from thirty years ago, and take no account of the technological changes made in that time. For all you know, our hyperdrives are better masked, and counter-espionage techniques in general have improved since then.”

“Okay, fine,” Poe answers, “but that doesn’t account for the First Order’s ability to track our scouts back from Starkiller base. So it’s clearly possible to track through Hyperspace, is my point, even just limiting our frame of reference to the last twenty-four hours.”

“That’s… that’s not… What’s your point, Poe?”

“I don’t have point, really, I just wanted to make sure…” His thoughts overtake him again. “Hang on, General, did you say we only had enough fuel for one more jump to Hyperspace?”

“Yes,” Leia says.

“So, you abandoned our base of operations with exactly enough fuel for two Hyperspace jumps?”

“I did, yes,” Leia says.

“And with the first jump, you took us to the absolute middle of nowhere, into deep space?”

“So?” Leia asks.

“Well,” Poe says, “doesn’t that mean that we would then have to find a fuel source with our next, last, and only jump? This is exactly how the humans lose the Battlestar Galactica board game.”

“There’s a planet nearby.” Leia says.

“A planet?” Poe asks.

“A planet, yeah.”

“Where?”

“About twelve hours away at sublight speed.” Leia explains.

Poe is puzzled. “That doesn’t sound so close. And that sounds like it uses up two thirds of our sublight fuel in the process. Why wouldn’t you just plot our jump to much closer to that planet?”

“Well, we might not have wanted to go there.” Leia says.

“But even if we didn’t, wouldn’t it be better to just be there, rather than half a day away in the middle of empty space?”

“Don’t question my orders, Poe.”

“I’m not questioning your orders, General! I just don’t understand why, if we only have enough fuel for two Hyperspace jumps and about 18 hours of sublight travel, I don’t understand why you’d put is in the middle of nowhere rather than at a known, previously-abandoned Resistance base. I mean, what if it had been discovered by pirates or smugglers, and they’d taken whatever fuel is there?”

“Then we’d just have to jump somewhere else to get more!” Leia exclaims.

“But,” says Poe, “doesn’t that put an awful lot of pressure on us finding fuel with our very next jump? Given that the one defence you seem to be relying on at the moment is the First Order’s dubious inability to track us through Hyperspace, would you really want to waste one of only two Hyperspace jumps we have left getting us to the middle of nowhere, hours away from a planet which may or may not have fuel reserves? Aren’t you thereby squandering our defensive options against a vastly superior enemy, and in turn hugely endangering the ‘people that we love’ as you put it? The people that we love all being aboard these three ships?”

“Don’t be stupid, Poe,” Leia says. “Get your head out of your dick trench. I obviously know of a location we can go where we can guarantee finding more fuel.”

“Oh,” Poe says, dumbfounded. “So why didn’t we go there to begin with?”

“What?” Leia asks.

“Why, General, didn’t we go to the source of the fuel straightaway, rather than making this pointless stop in empty space first? Because it just seems like if anything about our situation changes that might require us to jump to Hyperspace unexpectedly, well, we’ll be completely screwed, and will have needlessly halved our ability to execute our only safe defence mechanism.”

Leia grinds her teeth in Poe’s general direction.

Poe is unrelenting. “Y’know, it’s just, you were chewing me out before for reckless plans which put our people at risk, and, y’know, I kinda feel like you’re a bit of a hypocrite right now.”

Leia clears her throat and shifts uncomfortably in her seat. “Look, Poe, all of this is academic. We just escaped the First Order. We are safe, we’re in the middle of nowhere with virtually no fuel, but we’re safe. That might not be true if you had carried out your plan, which I authorised, to destroy the Dreadnought.”

“I guess,” Poe admits. “I suppose you were right after all, and I was wrong. I’m sorry for arguing with you. By following your orders, we saved a few pilots who might otherwise have died, and I should be grateful to you for that, and for having the wisdom and foresight to lead this-”

He’s interrupted by alarm klaxons. A bridge officer shouts above the noise “Proximity alert! General, it’s the First Order! They’ve somehow tracked us through Hyperspace! Possibly the same way they did at Starkiller Base, but this is an urgent situation and it would be irresponsible for me to start guessing at the exact methods they used at this point in time!”

Poe strides about the bridge like a true action hero. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

“Wait,” Leia says, holding up her hand, “they’ve tracked us through Hyperspace.”

Finn, who I guess was there the whole time or whatever, he wasn’t particularly relevant to the drama, exclaims “But that’s impossible! It’s impossible to track ships through Hyperspace except for that one time at Starkiller Base! And several other times, probably”

Leia gets to her feet. “Yes, impossible, except for that one time and several other times probably. But they’ve done it.”

“So if we jump to lightspeed, they’ll just track us again, and we’ll be out of fuel,” Finn explains.

“In fairness,” Poe says, “we were basically sitting ducks to begin with.”

“It’s alright,” Leia says, “we can just run. We can put full power to our sublight engines and outrun them for at least eighteen hours. And, indeed, at most. They don’t have any guns capable of damaging us at this range.”

“Except the Dreadnought,” Poe says, “which you asked me not to blow up, and reprimanded me for trying to blow up in the first place.”

Another alarm sounds. A bridge officer shouts over it, “Another contact, General, it’s… yep, it’s the Dreadnought, General, and it looks like it’s pointing it’s ‘fleet-killing’ cannons as Poe put it… yep, it’s pointing them right at us, General. We’ll be

Silence pervades across the bridge. Various officers wordlessly make peace with their imminent doom.

Poe clears his throat. “I never wanted my last words to be ‘I told you so,’ so instead, Finn: I love you. At least until I meet some cute tomboy with A-game shoulder structure and an affinity with the Force, in which case I may come down with the Not-Gays.”

“I’ve always wanted my last words to be ‘I love you too, Poe,'” Finn says. “At least until some cute tomboy with cute bangs rams her busted speeder sled into mine, risking both our lives in a fiery explosion so that a ground-based super-weapon can annihilate our friends and I don’t have to live with the destruction of First Order property on my conscience.”

Leia rolls her eyes, and commits fully to her own last words. “Oh, get your heads out of your wang holes.”

Happily Never After – Improvising With Atmosphere And Style

Some important disclaimers:

  1. This article is based on a performance of ‘Happily Never After’ from October 2017, at the Birmingham Improv Festival. Obviously, their show will have evolved since then, as all shows do.
  2. This article features a lot of me chatting shit about Improv in an increasingly pretentious manner. I’ve only been involved in the pursuit for 20 months, and am yet to perform in a show, so everything should be viewed as the “hot take” of an enthusiastic novice and no more.

‘Happily Never After’, an improvised musical theatre performance inspired by Tim Burton’s more gothic works, was the first show to open my eyes to the possibilities of Improv as a medium.

‘Happily Never After’ introduced lighting, music and song which was all as improvised as the dialogue and the narrative, and which all came together to produce a hauntingly atmospheric experience. Their minimalist (a word that I hope I’m using correctly) approach to song construction, beginning with a pier master’s lonely chant as he gazed out over crashing waves (with the waves portrayed by two other performers) as harmonies and melodies were gradually built into the song, was a welcome deviation from the more “show tune-y” style used by other musical improv shows.

More specifically, it was fascinating to listen to the interaction between an improvising musician and an improvising performer. Rhythms and hooks would emerge in the keyboardist’s playing, and it was up to the performers to pick these up if they felt that the emotion of the scene was building up to a song. Similarly, performers would subtly signal their intent to enter into song, and the keyboardist would have the option to accept these offers and run with them.

The greatest asset of this show, beyond the talent of everyone involved, was the singular focus of the entire team – of creating a story with a very specific style in a very specific genre, and to see everyone pulling in the same direction.

At a “Group Scenes” workshop at the November 2018 BIP Retreat, Stuart Moses of the Improv London Podcast said that there’s a unique joy to seeing a bunch of people on stage all doing the exact same thing, and this absolutely holds true. Watching other people act in synchronisation with one another seems to have some special hold on the human heart – from groups of dancers performing the same carefully choreographed routine, perfectly timed complex “long takes” in films and TV, all the way through to the universal appeal of orchestral music, a product of dozens of musicians and choristers all working together to create pure emotion.

(For a darker statement on the power of this phenomenon, take a look at the parades of highly synchronised marching soldiers, particularly those of militaristic and authoritarian states. The visuals of large groups of soldiers all marching in perfect goosestep was a grimly iconic component of the Fascist propaganda machine, portraying an “unstoppable” unified force that perfectly fits with the far right’s love of pomp and pageantry.)

The performers of ‘Happily Never After’ took this principle and ran with it, and this artistic synchronisation is what made the show so compelling. They went beyond more general Improv concepts of “group mind”, and this made it an incredible experience even for people who have limited interest in Tim Burton’s work (myself included).

For a rookie improviser, this is an important lesson. Whilst the chief principle behind improvised theatre is “Yes, And” (alternatively “Everything my stage partners are doing is genius and I should support them in creating something amazing”), implementing this principle, and understanding the true power of it, can still be challenging. Seeing “Yes, And” taken to an extreme, where everyone on stage is invested in one idea, where everyone is “digging one six-foot hole”, as Jon Trevor might put it (as opposed to six one-foot holes) is truly inspirational.

This is not unique to ‘Happily Never After’. All of the best Improv performances that I have yet seen achieve this same level of synchronisation, and it’s the greatest aspect of Improv as a pursuit. It’s fascinating that each time I find myself telling someone about Improv, the first response seems always to be “Oh, you must have to be funny / clever / quick to do that,” when in reality the backbone of Improv is collaboration and mutual support.

The prevailing concept amongst the uninitiated seems to be that Improv is a collection of quick-witted individuals each being brilliant in their own way – five or six high, tall, free-standing towers of talent. But the best groups are more like spider webs – broad, complex, structures made up of simple threads all connected together, supporting each other to make something strong enough to capture the hearts and minds of the audience.

The same “group strength” can be found in smaller Improv performances as well as larger groups. “Twoprovs,” or two-person shows, such as Between Us and LoveHard and Project 2, achieve equal greatness because both people on stage are fully committed to the same idea. Here, the analogy shifts from a spider web to a suspension bridge – its success depends on the strength of the connection between the two supporting structures on either side of the bridge.

(To stretch the engineering analogy beyond any rational point, one might argue that the true strength of a suspension bridge also derives from the secure anchoring of the cables to the ground at either end of the span, which is ANOTHER Improv analogy I would love to explore, specifically on the importance of grounding, but I’ve already saturated this article with enough analogies.)

The thematic unification and dedication of ‘Happily Never After’ and its performers made it stand out from the other shows I saw that week at the festival. But it’s important to note that, theme aside, it was nonetheless a group of experienced and talented improvisers doing great Improv together, and it was still tremendously enjoyable in that regard.

‘Happily Never After’ is a show I am determined to see again should the opportunity present itself. I had only just begun my own Improv journey at the time – and it is only now that I’ve been taking part in the pursuit for more than a year since that I feel confident enough to write about it. It would be a great thrill to see the show again having since attended a variety of different classes and workshops, and see what else stands out in their technique and structure.

It’s also a show that should be watched by anyone who has the chance. Whilst there are many Improv shows out there which are equally strong from an Improv perspective, there are few which evoke such a potent aesthetic and atmosphere so completely.

Season 8 Of Game Of Thrones Ruins All The Stories Set Up Since The Very Beginning Of Season 8 Of Game Of Thrones

Spoiler Warning

Although, nobody cares.
Not anymore.


cerseieuron1

In the throne room of the Red Keep of King’s Landing, Euron approaches Cersei as she sits in the Iron Throne.

“I have travelled across the Narrow Sea and brought you the Golden Company!” He gestures at a well-dressed soldier standing before the Iron Throne. “We gonna fuck now?”

“I’m not gay,” the soldier answers.

“I was talking to Cersei,” Euron drawls.

“Same answer,” Cersei says with a glare. “You didn’t bring me elephants. Where are my elephants? I’ve wanted elephants ever since last episode.”

“We decided they were too much trouble to bring along.” Euron turns to face the audience. “You had all better get used to that.” He turns back to Cersei. “Besides, we’re not even going to see the Golden Company for another four episodes, and when we do they’ll be on screen for thirty seconds using their bodies as ablative armour for the outer walls. It was kind of a waste bringing them all this way, honestly. And the money! They were so expensive! We had to get all new uniforms! This guy had to learn how to ride a horse!” he exclaims, gesturing towards the well-dressed soldier.

“Look,” Cersei says, “it’s not like I had a plan or anything when I asked for them, okay? I was just being generally treacherous, even if it seemed like I had a plan at the time. I didn’t have a plan, and whilst it probably seemed like me wanting mercenaries and elephants was a sign that I wanted to take the fight to the North, I actually just wanted to stay in King’s Landing the whole time staring out of the window and smiling wryly. Alright? So get off my back and then get me on my back getting off – it’s time for your consolation pity-fuck.”

Euron grins. “Alright! I hope you’re a fan of watersports, Cersei, because you’re about to get showered in Euron.”

Cersei begins walking away.

“We’re going to do so much sex you’re going to get a Euronary Tract Infection!” Euron calls.

Cersei keeps walking.

“My name sounds like piss!” Euron explains loudly.

The Commander of the Golden Company quietly begins to wonder if they should change their branding.


firespiral1

At Last Hearth, the seat of House Umber, Tormund and Beric stare up at the corpse-spiral of dismembered limbs, steadily burning, as the young Lord Umber, now a Wight, shrieks in a disturbing manner.

“What do you think it means?” Tormund asks in his Nordic drawl.

“Who knows?” Beric responds gruffly. “Maybe it’s a symbol of power to the White Walkers. Maybe it’s a sign of their lineage, as the Great Houses of Westeros each have their own sigil.” He considers. “Maybe they just do it because it looks cool, and alludes to a greater complexity to the White Walkers without actually having to explore what they are or what they want. Maybe in White Walker culture, making it look as though a thing has meaning is as good as actually giving a thing meaning.”

Tormund takes a while to respond as he tries to understand two thirds of the words that Beric just spoke. “So what you’re saying is, it’s all bullshit?”

“Aye, friend,” Beric says. “All bullshit, all the way down. We should head for Winterfell. We need to warn them.”

“Warn them that the Night King is on his way?”

“Warn them that it’s all bloody meaningless,” Beric explains. “Warn them that all of this suffering and torment, all of this build-up and mystery, all of it was for nought but an over-hyped zombie overlord with no higher motivation than killing the living for killings’ sake.”

“Huh.” Tormund pauses again. “That’s depressing.”


samjon1

“Jon, there’s something you need to know,” Samwell Tarly excitedly babbles.

“What is it?” Jon asks, with his usual tone of steady confusion.

“Well, it’s probably easier if I explain it to you in… song.” Sam clears his throat.

“Aegon!
Ooahaaaa!
Fighter of the Night King!
Ooahaaaa!
Champion of R’hllor!
Ooahaaaa!
He’s a child of Rhaegon
And Lyanna
For evermore.

Aegon!
Ooahaaaa!
Banger of his Aunty!
Ooahaaaa!
The last Targaryen.
Ooahaaaa!
His claim to power
Is stronger
Than everyone’s.”

“Uh, thanks, Sam,” Jon says, still confused. “Well, it’s going to be difficult to break up with Dany. I love her so much, ever since we started going out last episode.”

“Also, she burned my family and is a bit of a monster,” Sam says, quite sheepishly. “Say, do you think it’s worth addressing this issue sooner rather than later? This seems like exactly the kind of thing that could get out of hand quite quickly, given what we’ve seen with Robert’s Rebellion, the War of the Five Kings, y’know, all of that stuff. I mean, half the Starks were brutally murdered because of conflicting claims on the throne.”

“That’s a good point, Sam,” Jon says, “but we need her dragons to fight the White Walkers. I guess I’ll keep it quiet for now, then after the battle I’ll simmer on it for a bit, and then I’ll probably just wait for her to do something truly unforgivable and abhorrent before I make any real commitment either way.

“After all, she’s my queen.”


euroncersei2

“You’re pregnant?” Euron asks fervently within Cersei’s bedchamber.

“I am,” Cersei answers, “and it’s definitely yours and not Jaime’s.”

“Weird flex, but okay,” Euron says as he rubs her belly softly. “This is fantastic! I have always wanted to be a father! This informs on my character in so many ways! Now we can develop a complex and in-depth relationship that will be rewarding for both of us!”

“Are you still talking?” Cersei asks, gazing out of the window. “Sorry, I was lost, staring out of the window at the city.”

“So, what exciting developments do you think will arise as a result of you being pregnant with my child?” Euron asks.

“Oh, I’m sure they will all be significant and meaningful, and I’m sure this is a major point in each of our stories, and worthy of noting in the annals of history.”


qyburn2

In Bronn’s Man Cave, he and three naked women cavort on the bed.

“Did you know Ed Sheeran was on this show once?” one woman asks.

“Oh really?” replies another.

“Yeah, but he’s a toasted teacake now.” A world away, internet edgelords cheer.

Enter QYBURN, for it is he, sinisterly walking into the room and sinisterly carrying a crossbow. “Ser Bronn of the Blackwater?” he asks.

“I am Bronn,” Bronn responds.

“Cersei wants you to use this crossbow to kill both of her brothers,” Qyburn explains, handing Bronn the crossbow.

“I am Bronn?”

“Yes, both of them. Remember to pack extra bolts. Or just get them to stand back to back. Maybe get Jaime to kneel first.”

“I am Bronn.”

“I know, and Cersei has promised you a whole castle!”

“I. Am. Bronn.”

“Cersei promises that this time you’ll get it,” Qyburn assures, his hands held up in appeasement.

“I am Bronn?”

“Probably, but don’t worry too much about that now. This is a very important task. Very important. Whatever you do, don’t pointlessly threaten either one of them in a tavern and then piss off again as randomly as you appeared, as some convenient means of becoming one of the Great Lords of Westeros so that you can pretend you had a character arc because you accidentally became one of the more popular parts of the show.”

“I am Bronn.”

“No, I said don’t do that! The exact opposite of that! If you do that, you’ll make this look like an amateur operation written by people with no clue of how to construct narratives!”

“I am Bronn.”

Qyburn sighs. “How can… Look, just go North, kill Tyrion, kill Jaime, come back for your castle. I mean it. Cersei means it! And if Tyrion ends up back here, outside the gates of King’s Landing, in front of a large number of archers and siege crossbows, and you haven’t killed him, then, oh! I can just guarantee you that Cersei will absolutely kill him herself. Absolutely. No doubt about it.”

“IamBronn.”

“No she will not just let him live despite insisting that you kill him now! She definitely wants him dead!”

“I am Bronn.”

“It will not be a tired plot contrivance and a weakening of her characterisation!”

“I am Bronn!”

“She’s still relevant to the show!”

“I AM BRONN!”

“No, you’re the one without agency!”

“… I am Bronn.”

Qyburn sags, his shoulders slump. “Whatever. I’m going to go continue making the most powerful mass-produced weapon this world has ever seen. And then remove the aiming sights off of all but one of them.”

“I am Bronn?”

“BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I HAVE TO DO TO MAKE SURE DAENERYS GETS EXACTLY THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF MOTIVATION SHE NEEDS TO INCINERATE THOUSANDS OF INNOCENTS BUT NOT TAKE AWAY HER ABILITY TO INCINERATE THOUSANDS OF INNOCENTS, THEREBY MAKING HER THE REAL VILLAIN OF THE STORY! IT’S A… IT’S A MAESTER THING! YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND, YOU RANDY PLEB!”

Qyburn exits as sinisterly as he entered, only in more of a huff.


euronbosun

“Well done, Captain Euron!” the new bosun cheers on the deck of the Silence. “You just went three for three on that dragon! You managed to hit a moving aerial target three times, from the deck of a ship in open water! And you managed to find the only place in the world where you had line-of-sight to the dragon, but neither the dragon, nor its sibling nor the Dragon Queen could see any of our twelve large ships or our unfurled, brightly embroidered sails! How did you do it?”

“Well, young man,” Euron says, “I’m just that bloody good!” He laughs fiendishly. “In truth, by hiding behind this rocky island, our ships were out of sight to the Dragon Queen and her dragons, so she could take no evasive action. Also I fired at the exact three moments that the ship was rocking the least. Also these scorpions have 100% accuracy up to distances of three miles, meaning all I have to do is point at the dragon’s neck, traditionally the narrowest part of the dragon, and let loose.”

The young bosun considers this for a moment. “But surely, Captain, if they can’t see us behind the rock, we can’t see them?”

“Exactly!” Euron cries, smiling. “So, I just aimed for the exact point at which the dragons would emerge from behind the cover of the island, and let loose three perfectly timed bolts.”

“But, Captain, if you couldn’t see the dragons from behind the island, how would you know exactly where they would be emerging from? Would the Dragon Queen have seen you in the time it took you to aim this heavy, bulky piece of equipment?”

“Details, details, my friend!” Euron claps the young man about the shoulder. “Besides, this is all very well and good, but now I need to prepare for my greatest achievement: Killing Jaime Lannister!”

The bosun stays quiet for a moment. “The… the one-handed guy?”

“Yes!”

“The one-handed guy whose remaining hand is not his sword hand?”

“Yes!”

“The one-handed guy who everyone agrees is past his prime and who hasn’t won a duel in years?”

“Yes!”

“And he will be your greatest achievement?”

“Yes!”

“Not the dragon you just killed?”

“No!”

“And not the fleet we are at this very second demolishing?”

“No!”

“And not all the other fleets you’ve demolished? Or the fact you were once crowned the King of the Iron Islands?”

“No and no!”

“Jaime Lannister?”

“Yes!”

“… Him?”

“Yes!”

“And how’re you going to find him? Isn’t he far away to the North?”

“I’ll probably just bump into him.”

“Bump… Bump into him, Captain?”

“Yes, you know, I’ll be out for a stroll or swimming for my life or whatever, and maybe I’ll just see him. You know what they say, always the last place you expect! Eh?” Euron smiles at his gathered crew.

“So you’re not even going to hunt him down? Just, the second you see him, regardless of what’s going on, regardless of what state you happen to be in, or what he happens to be doing, or what the general scenario in general might be, you’ll just try to murder him, there and then?

“It’s been my life’s ambition to kill Jaime Lannister ever since three minutes ago. He’s Jaime Lannister!”

“… Him?”

“You talk a lot, young bosun. Aren’t all the sailors on my ship supposed to be tongueless mutes?”

“Oh, I’m new, actually! Just started yesterday, sir,” the bosun answers.

“Really?” Euron gestures to two other crewmen. “You two! Go and fetch me the tongue knife!”


dany1

“In all fairness,” Tyrion says, “it was decent of Cersei to honour the truce.”

“What?” Dany demands. “She promised to fight with us against the Night King!”

“Yes, but truthfully, we ended the existential threat to all life in the Seven Kingdoms with just half our forces, so it seems like we didn’t really need her. In fact it would probably have been even worse if the Night King had even more fresh corpses to raise against us at the last minute.”

Dany paces across the map room of Dragonstone, still fuming after the loss of Rhaegal.

Tyrion presses on. “And besides, she never actually attacked us, or took advantage of our weakened state in any way, which is exactly what we asked her to do in the first place. Her troops were a bonus, all we really wanted was a ceasefire to begin with.”

“Speaking of our weakened state,” Dany says, turning to Tyrion, “I assume we now have no hope of taking King’s Landing?”

“Why would you say that, my queen?”

Dany frowns. “Well, before the battle of Winterfell, we pushed for a peace with Cersei as we were evenly matched enough that we would lose too many of our forces with which to fight the Night King.”

“That’s correct,” Tyrion confirms.

“So,” Dany continues, “now that we’ve lost nearly our entire fleet, one of only two dragons, half of the Northern forces, half of our Unsullied, and all of our Dothraki, added to the fact that all of our remaining forces are wounded and tired as Sansa says, it seems like we’re no longer even.”

“Correct,” Tyrion says, “but don’t forget that Cersei has also reinforced with the Golden Company since our Truce talks, and has had weeks to prepare her defences with dozens, maybe hundreds of the most powerful weapon in all of Westeros. Seriously, Valyrian steel has nothing on those scorpion bolt throwers. Plus her troops are all fresh, well-equipped, well-fed, and have likely been drilling for this entire time, where they’ve not been bolstering the defences.”

“So, we can’t win, then?”

“Oh, no, my Queen, we can win! In fact, by my estimation we should be able to win so easily and succinctly that you will be faced with a contrived decision between pointlessly slaughtering civilians or not slaughtering civilians. Which, if I may say, you should go with the second option. Everyone agrees, from Sansa to Varys to me to everyone that the battle of King’s Landing is basically a done deal.”

“Wait, so at less than half-strength, with our forces exhausted and battered, with just one dragon, and with Cersei having nearly doubled her own military strength, we can still secure a near-total victory over King’s Landing?”

“Oh, absolutely, my Queen!”

“So, Tyrion?”

“Yes, my Queen?”

“Why did we push for Truce in the first place? We went to all the trouble of going past the wall, getting Thoros killed, getting fucking Viseryon, my fucking DRAGON, killed and captured by the Night King, which he then used to BREAK DOWN THE WALL. We did all of that just so’s we could capture a Wight to take to Cersei to prove that we needed a truce to fight the Night King?”

“… Yes?”

“Well, it just seems like if we can win so easily now, as we are currently, it seems like we could have won even more easily then, when we had THREE dragons, AND all of my Unsullied, AND my Dothraki, AND an alliance with the North, AND a fleet. And Cersei wouldn’t have any scorpions or the Golden Company.”

“Oh, yes, definitely, my Queen. Even more easily, stands to reason. Although the Golden Company are really just uniformed extras.”

“And we would still have more than enough troops left over to deal with the Night King. Who would be without the Undead Dragon with which he did so much damage at Winterfell.”

Tyrion nods eagerly. “Oh, absolutely, your grace.”

Dany halts her pacing and stops dead.

“I’m going to burn the city, Tyrion.”

“No, my Queen! Think of the innocents!”

“I’m going to burn it!”

“NO!”

“Grey Worm?”

Grey Worm appears from the shadows. “Khaleesi?”

Dany’s eyes narrow. “Execute Order Sixty-Six.”


tyrion2

Later, in the ashes of King’s Landing, Tyrion stands before Dany, his hands in shackles, Unsullied to either side of him with cold rage in their eyes.

Dany looks down on the dwarf and sneers. “Tyrion.”

“Yes, your grace?”

“I’ve been told you freed Jaime.”

“Yes, your grace.”

“And then you sent him to King’s Landing.”

“Yes, your grace.”

“Via a secret tunnel.”

“… Yes, your grace.”

Dany closes her eyes. “A secret tunnel from the shore, directly to the heart of the Red Keep.”

“Yes, your grace.” Tyrion squirms in his shackles.

“At a time when you had told me repeatedly that by removing Cersei from power, the war would be over.”

“Yes… your grace.”

“But you kept this information from me.”

“Yes, your grace.”

“When you knew I was already considering burning King’s Landing.”

“Yes, your grace.”

“And you didn’t tell anyone, except your brother, who you told to help Cersei escape.”

“Yes, your grace.”

Dany opens her eyes. “So, you knew about Arya, the perfect, faceless assassin, capable of impersonating anyone.”

“Yes, your grace.”

“And you knew of a secret passage into the very heart of Red Keep.”

“Yes, your grace.”

“And yet at no point did you put the two together? Or even consider sending literally anyone else, say, someone with a crossbow, and who might have free access to the Keep and to Cersei based on their heretofore strong allegiance with the Lannisters but whose loyalty could nonetheless be bought. Or, in fact, who you had already bought, by promising him Highgarden, the largest region in what is now my kingdom. All of these notions passed you by?”

Tyrion bows his head and sighs. “Yes, your grace.”

Dany clenches her fists. Behind her, atop the rubble, Drogon shuffles his wings and lets out a low, rumbling yawn. “And you’ve had knowledge of this passage since you left King’s Landing?”

“Yes, your Grace.”

“So all those people – Missandei, Varys, hundreds of my troops, thousands of Lannister troops, Jaime, the Hound, not to mention Rhaegal – ALL of those people that we both cared about, they all died what were, in essence, unnecessary deaths, had you simply shared knowledge of this secret passageway directly with anyone else at pretty much any point prior to yesterday?”

“Yes, your grace.”

A gust of wind sends ash scurrying across the ground and whirls it up in arcs about them, then dies back down.

“Tyrion?”

“Yes, your grace?”

“I’m going to burn it. All of it. I’m going to burn every fucking city on the entire fucking face of this fucked up fucking planet. My husband DIED, my best friend DIED, my firstborn child DIED, Tyrion. Two of my dragons DIED, Tyrion, along with countless others. I can’t even have fucking children anymore, TYRION. I can’t have children, I don’t have any friends left, everyone hates me because apparently I’M the unreasonable one, well, fuck ’em. Fuck the lot of them. I’m going to burn every stinking hamlet, barn, village, town and city from here to far across the Narrow Sea. And do you know what, Tyrion?” she asks, finally, turning her back to him and walking towards Drogon.

Tyrion looks up at her, terror on his face. “Yes, your grace?” His voice quivers.

Dany climbs up onto Drogon’s back and strokes his scales. “I’m going to tell them all that it’s All. Your. Fault.” She leans forwards towards Drogon’s head and whispers, “Dracarys.”

BREAKING: New STAR TREK Series Announced – SIMON PEGG To Helm The RETURN Of The ENTERPRISE C

A surprise announcement was made at yesterday’s Course Heading: Star Trek convention held in Nuneaton, UK, where Star Trek actor and writer Simon Pegg made a surprise appearance alongside current franchise runner Alex Kurtzman to announce the next Star Trek television project: ‘Ambassador’.

Hijacking the main stage immediately after the afternoon panel discussion, Pegg excitedly described the new show at this early conceptual stage:

PEGG: “It’s so brilliant to be here in front of all of you, really, and to have this amazing opportunity to talk about the new show, ‘Ambassador’. I think you’re all going to love it, I know some of you will be dubious at first, but as it comes together I think you’ll be really, really pleasantly surprised.

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Pegg on-stage at Course Heading: Star Trek, at the Nuneaton Exhibition Centre.

Pegg went into further details about the show’s setting and its main character:

PEGG: “It’s called ‘Ambassador’, and we’ll be going back in time a little, to the Enterprise C, that’s where we’re taking the name from, for the Ambassador-class ship. I honestly love ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’, it’s one of my favourite episodes, and for me it’s the perfect jumping-off point for a new show.

“The reality of creating new material for a historical franchise like Star Trek is that, commercially, we really have to deliver something recognisable and familiar to the fans, you just can’t escape that if you want to compete against so many other brilliant, original shows. What’s perfect about this setting is that it allows us to lift something familiar but that’s not really been explored before, and run with it, do our own thing with it without breaking canon.”

Alex Kurtzman was alongside Pegg for the announcement, but passed very few comments. Asked on his involvement with the project, he responded:

KURTZMAN [laughing]: “No, no, I’m not in on this one, this is all Simon’s baby, I’m just writing the cheques.”

PEGG [to Kurtzman]: “Keep them coming! [laughs] Honestly, though, this is actually going to be a scaled-back production. It’s easy to over-spend with these sorts of shows, and focus on big actiony set pieces, but we actually want to scale it back, keep it more narrative-driven.

“From a business perspective, the studio wants a more modest, more affordable show, but for me, that just means we focus more on dialogue and story and character development. We really want to get to know the characters, see them at work and at play, y’know, see them tackling issues and problem-solving with each other, proper back-and-forth between them.

“It keeps the pressure of Alex’s chequebook, and gives the fans more of what they want, more of that classic Trek problem-solving, especially around negotiation and diplomacy – ‘Ambassador’ means more than just the ship, y’know?”

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The Enterprise NCC-1701-C, as we saw it in TNG’s ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’.

On the subject of characters, Pegg described some of the show, but specified that many details are yet to be confirmed, and may roles have been outlined but not yet filled. He did, however, identify the show’s star:

PEGG: “I’ve literally, just yesterday had confirmed from her agent that Jessica Chastain’s agreed to come on board as Captain Garrett. This is amazing, Jessica’s a proper A-List talent, she’s amazing, and she’d done so many amazing roles already. Honestly I couldn’t believe it when I was told we might be getting her, and when I heard I was floored.

“Rachel Garrett’s only on screen for a bit but she’s this amazing character, with this cool, steady authority but, like, real grit, real tenacity and courage, Jessica’s perfect for that.

“She was amazing in ‘The Martian’, where Matt Damon’s stranded on an alien world, and incredible in ‘Interstellar’, where Matt Damon’s stranded on an alien world. [laughs] I don’t think we’re getting Matt Damon in though, are we, Alex?”

KURTZMAN [laughing]: “No, I don’t think so! You kidding? We just blew our budget on Jessica!”

PEGG: “Maybe we’ll get him in for an episode… maybe he’ll guest as another captain, this time he’ll rescue her from a planet for a change. [laughs] Maybe that’ll convince him, a chance to turn the tables.”

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Jessica Chastain, left, who will be playing Captain Rachel Garret, previously played by Tricia O’Neill, right.

Pegg went further to discuss this new version of Garrett in the show:

PEGG: “We’re setting it a few years before Narendra, before the Romulan attack, which means we know where their story ends up, but that’s actually kind of liberating, in a way. It means we don’t have to work in “will they live, will they die?” action scenes all the time, because we know what happens to them, so instead, we’re going to go back to episodic stories. Each episode will be its own story, and we get to focus the tension on the current problem.

“So, y’know, one of our early stories, we’re setting it on this war-torn planet where a Federation ship has crashed, and it’s up to Garrett and the Enterprise to force a ceasefire so they can rescue the survivors. It’s not, like, end-of-the-universe stuff, it’s a bit more simple, but it means we can set the stakes at a more basic level: do they rescue the survivors? Do they help create peace? How do they negotiate between these two factions, what sort of compromises are they willing to make? Is one side more righteous than the other?

“Part of that is developing Garrett’s backstory. This’ll be a reboot of sorts, because we’ll be really fleshing her out as a character, because we know so little about her. So she’ll have a background as a lawyer, in fact, still Starfleet, but she trained as a lawyer for the JAG office. But early in her career she gets forced into duty aboard a starship, and starts rising through the ranks from there.

“So she’s bringing this very measured, very analytical approach to command, to how she does things, very controlled and reasoned. I think it’s going to be really interesting, because she’s not, like, a romantic hero like Kirk, or a statesman like Picard, she’s more of an advocate, very driven, very quick to point out holes in other peoples’ arguments and spot gaps in reasoning – y’know, precise but witty, and sharp. She still sees herself as a lawyer as much as an officer, so she’s always looking at the evidence, she builds a case, builds an airtight argument so she always knows that what she’s doing is justified.”

Other casting decisions were announced, including Garrett’s first officer, along with a few other crew members and a high-ranking Starfleet admiral:

KURTZMAN: “We’re so excited to have Jessica on board to play Geralt -”

PEGG: “Garrett. Rachel Garrett.”

KURTZMAN: “Sure, yeah, Garret, right. So, we’ve got Jessica Chastain with us, which is amazing, but we’ve also got a few other big names. You want to tell them, Simon?”

PEGG: “Don’t mind if I do, thank you Alex. So, we’ve cast Grace Park as a new character, Commander Valerii. Grace was absolutely amazing as Boomer in ‘Battlestar’, so it’s great to get her back into sci-fi for ‘Ambassador’. She’s Garrett’s first officer, and she’s going to be much more old-school Starfleet, really headstrong, very motivated and heroic. We think it’ll be great, she’ll be this ambitious young officer butting heads with her captain. Garrett will be looking at the measured approach, building the case, whilst Valerii will be pushing to just charge in, do the right thing but leap before looking. It’ll make for a lot of friction, a lot of debate.”

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Grace Park, who will be taking on the role of Commander Valerii, the Enterprise C’s heretofore unseen first officer.

PEGG: “And then we’ve got Archie Panjabi in as the tactical officer Lieutenant Sharma. Archie’s got this fierce energy to her, this intensity that’s really compelling, and we really want to make the most of that. And we’ve got Nesta Cooper, she’s fresh out of ‘Travelers’, we’ve got her as the science officer, she’s wonderful, really is. And then to round off the main crew we’ve got Malcolm Barrett as the ship’s doctor, the chief medical officer. Malcolm’s another wonderful actor, he’s got a great range on him, but we really want to tap into that, that slightly insecure, fairly nerdy sort of performance that he did so well in ‘Better Off Ted’ and ‘Timeless’.”

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From left to right: Archie Panjabi, Nesta Cooper and Malcolm Barrett, who will be playing bridge officers in the new series.

PEGG: “Finally, we have, and this is amazing, but we’re finalising talks with Viola Davis to guest-star in a few episodes as an Admiral, as Garrett’s commanding officer. We all love Viola’s sheer, raw talent, and she’ll be an absolutely fantastic element of the show, as the contact point with Starfleet and the Federation. We’re just in the final stages of negotiation, so I don’t want to jinx it too much, but yeah, that’s the real joy for me, is getting to work with incredible skilled performers like her.”

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Viola Davis, currently finalising her involvement in the series as a Starfleet Admiral.

Pegg rounded off the announcement with a few mundane details – the show is scheduled for release on CBS All Access in two years’ time, giving the new Picard show and the ‘Lower Decks’ animated show time to bed in and develop their own audiences.

Crowd reactions were positive, with plenty of cheering and applause. No time was given for questions and answers, but Pegg did offer an impromptu “FAQ” section at the very end:

PEGG: “Okay, I know this is a lot to take in, and I’ve been – ooh – I’ve been going on for a bit now, but just to get some stuff out the way:

“Yes, we’re going to be keeping those classic red woollen tunics. They’re gorgeous we all love them, and – look, I know it’s not era-appropriate, but we’re going to bring back the woollen turtleneck. It’s so iconic, and honestly, I always thought it just looked weird without it.

“And yeah, I hate to say it, but we’re updating the sets and the computers. It’s such a hard decision to make, but we need the show to appeal to new audiences as well as old, and part of that is making it look like a modern show. We’re going to try and keep the technology the same, and the ship’s going to be identical, we’re working really hard to really authentically reproduce the original design with CGI. But yeah, the computers, the consoles, the screens, they’re all going to be a little snazzier than they were. Just the realities of commercial TV, it has to look good in the trailers.

“And finally, no, there won’t be any cameos, I’m afraid. I won’t even be in it – no Scotty in this one! We really want this to be its own show, we’re using the Enterprise C and ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ as a jumping-off point, but we don’t want to be tying ourselves down with links to existing characters. I dunno, maybe we’ll see a young Nechayev as an ensign or something, or Admiral Satie in her heyday, that could be good fun for an episode, but in general, no, we want this to stand on the strength of its stories.”

With that, the announcement drew to a close, with just a few passing remarks from Pegg and Kurtzman before departing:

PEGG: “Thanks all, it’s been wonderful to speak to you all today, and to share our news with you! It means so much that you’re all here. Y’know, we live in such an amazing time, both for Star Trek, and for the world, really, and we want to reflect that positivity and celebrate it with this new show.”

KURTZMAN: “We do, we really do. Which is why I’m so happy to hand the franchise over to these other amazing creative people like Simon, to take it forward into a bright future. This is a job that he was made for, and I’m glad to have him with us.”

PEGG: “Absolutely, and thank you, Alex. I mean, can you imagine if I wasn’t here? If you had to run this all by yourself?”

KURTZMAN: “I know! [laughs] Who knows what that would be like? Knowing me, there’d be a lot of fight scenes!”

PEGG: “Yeah, lots of fight scenes! You love them! You’d probably be bringing Spock back, but with, like, long hair and a beard, and have him running around and smiling at everyone.”

KURTZMAN [laughing]: “I might, I might! I mean, I’d probably never have come up with anything like ‘Ambassador’, I’d probably be doing, I dunno, a dark nasty spy show, like Section 31 or something.”

PEGG: “Yeah! Something awful like that, about a bunch of black ops spies led by, I dunno, some kind of fascist as the hero or something. Can you imagine?”

KURTZMAN: “Nah, I’d never… well, maybe. But that sort of thing just wouldn’t fly these days. Not since Hillary won by a landslide, and after Trump’s imprisonment for treason, people don’t want that nasty stuff anymore, they want optimistic, thoughtful stories that reflect the real world.”

PEGG: “Yeah, exactly. Y’know, I’m British, and I was so glad when the Brexit referendum failed 82-18. Waking up that morning and seeing that Remain had won by such a margin, and I thought ‘Wow, can you imagine if you lived in a world where your own country was sabotaging its entire future due to a bunch of privileged politicians and businessmen, and the only thing you had to look forward to was some kind of pessimistic, miserable take on Star Trek about war and religion and evil robots?”

KURTZMAN: “It’d be so grim, Simon, so grim. Every day I’m grateful, grateful to have amazing Star Wars spin-offs like that Boba Fett movie directed by the guy who did ‘Dredd’, and not some pointless and un-asked-for Han Solo origin story. Grateful to see anti-monopoly laws being so effective at preventing Disney from absorbing every single popular creative copyright in existence.”

PEGG: “Right! And, y’know, and speaking of that, we’ve seen all those sensible copyright laws come into effect, protecting content creators all across the internet and taking power away from these monolithic corporations. I think it’s really all down to the sweeping electoral reform we’ve seen across the globe, replacing first-past-the-post systems with true proportional representation that allows every vote to count and restores public faith in democracy.”

KURTZMAN: “That’s one of my favourite things about this reality! That, and also the time we took all the anti-vaxxers and put them in a big rocket and fired that rocket into the sun, before vaccinating everyone in the world who can be safely vaccinated and eradicating preventable diseases once and for all.”

PEGG: “That was such a good day. Such a good day. I mean, can you imagine a world without all of these incredible developments? Where we didn’t even have a progressive take on Star Trek? Where minority representation was just used as a marketing tool by corporations to push their product rather than being seriously utilised as a means of democratising the entertainment industry and stripping away prejudice and inequality? Where you ended up with completely abstinent, loveless gay couples, or non-white female lead actors who needed close ties to existing white male characters out of fear of alienating the core audience base?”

KURTZMAN: “Yeah, I mean, it’s so great being able to see you write strong, charismatic black female protagonists who stand on their own merits, and don’t need tying into the existing lore or given fate-of-the-universe backstories to justify their inclusion in the franchise. And it’s great that, although the realities of commercial TV come with certain attachments, they don’t serve as handcuffs on your creativity, and that you’re still able to exercise creative freedom to write compelling narratives that don’t have to pander to the drooling masses who need a six-minute punch-up in every episode to be entertained.”

PEGG: “Yeah, that sure would suck.”