The Full Lid
3rd April 2020

Welcome to The Full Lid everyone! It's the top of the month and we have a lot of new people so it's worth going over The Plan.

This is The Plan.

Hi! It's 5 p.m. You've hopefully finished work and are, odds are, adjusting to either an unusually quiet commute or a commute that can be measured in feet and seconds. It's a weird time, you're not quite sure how to delineate work and life. You need some balance, need a distraction or two.

Enter, stage left, The Full Lid. Possibly pursued by a bear.

Every week, I, Alasdair, your host, will bring you the finest nuggets of pop culture I have harvested from the... lagoons... of.. time? Yes, let's run with that.

There's usually a thinky piece and a couple of reviews, then some stuff about me, and a smattering of fun interstitials. This week, to celebrate their triumphant launch of Season 5, the interstitials all themed around The Magnus Archives.

Spoilers inbound, sweeties.

Also, where possible, Wordery links to the great projects I talk about. I figure when Amazon pay taxes, a living wage and get a lunar lander that doesn't look like a Lego project that got away from them, then they get all my links. Cool? Cool.

Now! Let's see what's under the Lid this week!


The Fourth Picard Maneuver
Decoding Oracle: Marieke Nijkamp talks Barbara Gordon
Null & Void
Signal Boost
Playing Out, Signing Off

A quick correction...

In last week's review of the excellent Havoc, I accidentally credited Grant Schoening as the voice of disgraced astronaut Noah Anderson. In face, Grant voices FBI Agent Wyatt Hanson and Noah is voiced by Michael Fitzsimmons. Both do excellent work and Havoc is a great show, so do check it out. 

The Fourth Picard Maneuver*

This piece was nearly titled Nostalgia for an Age That Never Existed, The Man Says 'Engage', and The Old Man and The Final Frontier. So, you're welcome.

Picard wrapped it's first season last week, sending the retired(ish) Admiral and his new crew of glorious reprobates off into the stars with a spring in their step, an unplanned and extremely welcome little moment of representation on camera and a sense of a brave new world opening up ahead of them.

A lot of writers have commented that the show seemed unsure of what to do with Picard himself, or the time period in which it was set. This piece by James Whitbrook is especially worth your time. I don't agree but James both makes a good point and provides some welcome perspective. Because for me, that uncertainty isn't a bug, it's a feature.

It is, I argue, the point.
The world we first see through Picard's eyes lacks the moral certainty and backbone of the Starfleet and UFP we know. So does Picard, and he moves through three distinct phases across the ten episodes. Stewart's performance is impressive throughout, so much so that a lot of the nuance between the three different versions of the show gets lost in how great it is to have him back.

Take the Admiral, Retired as we first see him. This is Jean Luc Picard not just defeated but wallowing, cocooning in that defeat. Chateau Picard is on some nice high ground, he's got people working for him who rarely bother him socially, he's free to write his books and idly pick at the scab of his most persistent wound. Which is not the Romulan disaster, but we'll get to that.

This Picard is eloquent, frail, old, bloody angry, and loving every minute of having stormed off in a huff. He's won by losing, draped in the mantle of moral victory as Mars burns, Romulan settlers struggle to survive, careers are shattered in his wake and lives built around his presence contend with his absence. This is Picard living his image, The Great Man who is disappointed in us all but isn't actually prepared to do anything about it. The first stage of the show is an interrogation of Picard's privilege and myth.

That pleasing, comfortable arrogance lasts as long as it takes Picard to meet, and fail to protect, Dahj, The cold armor of moral fortitude melts away in the same explosion that kills her and the Picard we get after that is... awake. He's a boxer who's taken his first punch of the fight, a judoka who's just been thrown. Picard knows he's in a fight now, knows he's ill equipped and knows that to get an edge, he needs the very people he abandoned. He also knows how that will cost him.

The word, he knows, will be no. He is therefore going anyway.

This second stage of the show has dual engines. One is Picard's moral awakening as he realizes just what's bloomed out in space while he's been sulking, as well as how much has gone wrong. The other is the reforging of his arrogance from a cocoon into a shield. You can see this in both his manipulation of Raffi and the way Elnor joins the cause. This isn't Picard playing four dimensional chess (a nonsense term I'd throw on the same bonfire as the word BREAKING and every hashtag ever by the way). This is Picard using the tattered remnants of his reputation to push past his comfort zone, discover what he doesn't know he's done and hopefully survive to make it right.

Arrogance, certainly, but arrogance cut with the focusing lens of his own mortality. Not just because of his age, but because of the ticking timebomb in his head. He's short on time, luck and resources so, against his better judgment, he turns to Starfleet's other outcasts. That's why he and Rios get on so well, and to a lesser extent, Raffi: they're all people whose lives have been shaped by Starfleet, only for Starfleet to leave them behind, Perhaps it's no accident Rios' ship is called Sirena. The entire crew are being called forward by something that may want to kill them and none of them, even Agnes, are prepared to stop.
This Picard is the one who steps aboard a Borg cube voluntarily, for the first time ever. This Picard is the one so focused on his own journey he doesn't notice the torment Agnes is experiencing as a result of his presence in her life. An impressive man certainly, but not an especially good one.

That changes in the final act of the season, and it's no surprise it comes after his stop off at the Troi-Riker household. As well as getting to goodnaturedly dunk on Picard for most of the episode, it also gives the Troi-Rikers a chance to do what they do best: contextualize a problem to death. Deanna instantly picks up on what's really wrong with Picard as well as Soji's true nature.

Will, in a moment I loved only slightly less than 'Will Riker-Troi! PIZZA XO!' lays everything out for the old man. He does so with the practiced ease of a big man who's clever and used to people only seeing the first attribute. Together, they help Picard get his bearings, flex the last of the scar tissue off and be the man he remembers being for very nearly the first time in the season.

He's not a Captain before this point, ignorant of every problem that isn't his own and focused entirely on the greater good. After it, he... well he's playing much less of the Great White Savior. He and Rios see eye to eye and he mends some serious fences with Soji and Agnes. Raffi and Elnor less so, but that's as much to do with their changing priorities. One of the show's either subtlest (charitable) or under realized (...less charitable) strands explores Raffi realizing that while Picard was at fauilt, he's not the actual fault in her stars. In the end, just as he used her to get what he needs, she uses him to unlock the conundrum that's tormented her for years. It's that hard-won personal realization Picard is a symptom not the cause of her pain, that gives Raffi peace.

It also shows us that Will isn't alone in being an exceptional XO in this series. I kind of hope they get to meet next time. I also hope she gets the respect she is long overdue from JL.

All of which paves the way for the final Picard. The man who sacrifices his life for a planet he barely knows. The man who, in death, is finally together enough to accept that the Romulan disaster is not his greatest wound: surviving is.

The final conversation with Data is Picard to the core; a scientific, compassionate, pathologically eloquent man putting his affairs in order and in doing so discovering there's still more to do. Look no further than the uniform he wears - one again as familiar to him as it has always been to us. The symmetry is as undeniable as it is pleasing: Data died so Picard could live. Now Picard dies so Data can have had a life.
Except he doesn't, and this is where the show asks the most of you.

After a full season of Starfleet's finest rediscovering themselves, the show finishes with Picard in a new, synthetic body. No immortality, but also no brain injury, no ticking clock. Enough time? That's debatable, but certainly time enough. 

It would be very easy to look at this as a cop out. I view it instead as a capstone: the story we had to be told for the story to come. Picard's actions in the show are seismic: revealing the Romulan infiltration of Starfleet, Soong's people's first contact, the lift on the Synth ban. Things are instantly, massively different everywhere. I suspect the show only doesn't show us that because it's what the next two years will be all about. The change is total, irregular and chaotic. Much like Picard's personal journey to this moment, this version of himself. 

It's why Jeff Russo's score works so brilliantly too, surfacing the refrains its kept carefully muted until the final moments you see above.  Picard's found himself and in doing so helped the utopian culture that raised him do the same. But with the mistakes of the past still very raw, it becomes clear this is a show about far more than Starfleet's rigid, occasionally rigged moral compass.

It subscribes to an older creed: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Loving the ragged edge, and pushing past it, to where no one has gone before. 

Picard Season 1 is on Amazon Prime now.

*Here's the first Picard Maneuver. Here's the second. Here's the third.
Magnus Archives Appreciation Week: Episode 1 - Anglerfish
Back to where it all began...

New reader? Find The Full Lid archive here.
Follow this link to Boldly Go to my ko-fi.


Decoding Barbara Gordon with Marieke Nijkamp

Tell us a little about the background to The Oracle Code.

A few years ago, DC invited me to pitch something for their new YA line, and specifically suggested that I take on Barbara Gordon as Oracle. And obviously, as a disabled person writing such an iconic disabled character was a dream come true, so I jumped on that opportunity. 

I also knew right from the start that I wanted The Oracle Code to be about disability and about Babs’s journey toward becoming Oracle (as opposed to her already being there). So I pitched, we went back and forth a bit, and this turned out to be right story!

You've made some fascinating, and very successful, changes to Barbara's backstory. Could you walk us through them?

In terms of backstory, the two biggest changes are that Babs doesn’t start out as Batgirl, but as a teenage hacker, and that the way she gets shot is different. Once I knew I had the freedom to retcon Oracle’s origin, I wanted the shooting be the catalyst of the story, but nothing more than that. While it affects the people around her (and there’s time to explore the complexities of their reactions), Barbara is the focus point. And as importantly: her agency isn’t taken away from her. She’s in a situation where she finds herself in the wrong place, at the wrong time, but it happens as a result of choices she made.  

What do you think makes her an ideal YA heroine?

Babs is a complicated character. She’s curious, she’s loyal, but she’s also dealing with hardship and trauma, and as a result of that, she’s angry and scared. It was important to me—and to all of us who worked on the book—to allow for that whole range of emotions. Babs didn’t have to be perfect, and she isn’t, and that’s exactly what makes her human.

One of the sections that hit me hardest was the way the opening chapters deal with physical and psychological trauma. Barbara's arguably the character who's led the charge to be about more than their trauma and I really loved how you mapped that onto her process of recovery. Could you talk a little about the research that went into that and about how it plays into the book as a whole?

At its core, The Oracle Code is about Babs’s journey from trauma to recovery—and also to rediscovery. It’s about Babs rehabilitating and finding herself again. It’s about learning to trust again and figuring out ways to talk about what scares you. 

Like Babs, I spent a year in a medical rehabilitation center in my teens, and a lot of that experience informed this story. Though obviously, my experience wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Babs’s, but I could draw on the emotional struggles and that feeling of rebuilding a normal. 

Beyond that, a lot of research was reading into other people’s experiences, what rehabilitation would look like in this exact situation, and ghost stories.

You've got an extraordinary eye for character and I love not just Barbara's supporting cast but the way they work their way into her life and bring her out of her shell. What influenced your work there?

Thank you! Friendship and trust are such important themes of this story, and I really wanted to put Babs in a situation where she could make friends who *got it*, who have been where she is, and who can be a sort of disabled mentors to her. Of course, Babs doesn’t want any of that; she’s been burned by her best friend and she really doesn’t want to lose others. But because all of the characters around Babs have shared that sense of feeling lost, they understand it, they refuse to give up, and they’re going to be there and outlast it no matter how long it takes.

Basically, I wanted her to have a sense of community and understanding, inspired by every marginalized community I’ve ever been a part of.

The classic Gothic mystery element: what did you find especially interesting and fun about using that as a counterpoint to her origin story?

I wanted her to have something to explore and help her find herself again, and well, set a story in an old Arkham mansion and gothic mystery must happen, right? Plus, I love playing with stories within stories and this gave both Manuel and me the perfect opportunity to do so!

What did you find changed in the shift from prose to comics? What weren't you expecting?

I loved it. I loved how structured the whole process was. I loved the collaborative aspect. Writing books is always teamwork, it’s never just the writer and the words, but this was so much more immediately collaborative. 
It took me maybe five minutes into the process before I started telling friends I want to keep writing comics and graphic novels (in addition to prose!) forever. 

Did you and Manuel Preitano know each other before hand, or was this a team assembled for the book?

Nope! We met when our wonderful editors (shout out to Alex Carr and Diego Lopez) introduced us. But from the very first moment we started chatting about it, it felt as though Manuel could peek into my brain and see exactly what I envisioned, while at the same time he offered suggestions and ideas that made the story so much better. It was an absolute joy!
I should also note that Manuel was so patient in listening to my experiences and careful with finding the exact right way to portray wheelchairs and crutches and assistive devices and how to use them. 

Walk us through your process: how did the book take shape between the two of you?

We went back and forth a lot, to make sure art and script strengthened each other as much as possible. I worked with Alex and Diego on polishing the script in batches, and whenever Manuel got a new set of pages, he’d set up rough page layouts to give feedback on. Occasionally it meant asking for changes or making sure the emotional beats that I envisioned came through strongly, but most of the time it meant he took the ideas and made them a whole lot better. Then when the inks came in, I went back to the script and made changes as appropriate. Which could mean things like deleting caps and dialogue, because whatever they conveyed was so clearly there in the art it became superfluous, but also (and especially) playing with the space between art and words. 

What's your favorite page?

I’ve had page 1 as my phone background from the very first time I saw it. It’s so full of hope and possibility, and it works so well contrasted with page 12. I also love page 93 (because wheelchair basketball!) and page 184 (because spoilers!). And I absolutely teared up when I saw page 196.

…five favorite pages is also an acceptable answer, right? 

Comics really agree with you. Do you have other work in the field on the way? And if not, what's next for you?

Next for me is a YA novel, Even If We Break, featuring a group of teens who come together one last time to play their homebrew RPG campaign, but the secrets between them may end up being deadly. As for what’s next after that… you’ll have to wait and see. 😊

Thanks so much to Marieke and Sara at DC for the chat. You can find my review of The Oracle Code in last week's issue.
Magnus Archives Appreciation Week: New Logo

See? It's fine. IT'S ALL FINE. Nothing to worry about here at ALL.

Please, if you're new to the show, don't start with season five. Mute some keywords on social media (especially Tumblr), go listen to 'Anglerfish', and get ready for one of the most impressive experiences in podcast audio drama.

And I should know, after all, about bringing you stories that I promise you, are true...


Piper's life is pleasingly normal: worries about rent, giving up smoking, being late for work. Then, one night, Piper chats to Adelaide and Adelaide makes a suggestion. A suggestion that changes, and perhaps, saves Piper's life forever...

Created by Cole Burkhardt, Null/Void just finished crowdfunding, and launches it's first episode later this month and you need to listen to it. The show, in one episode, creates a perfect funnel of mystery, character and intrigue that slides you all the way to the end credits you hope aren't coming.

The cast are a big part of that. Winona Wyatt as Piper is an instinctively likable lead. Cheerful, articulate, painfully self aware and trying very hard to figure out if she's suicidal, depressed or something else. Piper is a leading lady you won't just like, you'll recognize. Likewise Danyelle Ellett as the mysterious Adelaide. Laconic but never performative, Adelaide trades on her mildly otherworldly air to get people to listen to her. As Piper finds out, big things happen when you do that. Elsewhere in this first episode, the cast also impress. I especially liked Azul Nova as Dodger, more connected than Piper and set to read her, and us, in to episode two.

This excellent cast also have an excellent script to work with. Burkhardt has a light touch with character that sets the scene without being expository and writes gently flirtatious dialogue especially well. You like Piper and Adelaide, even if you only trust one of them. You want them to find each other again. You care. Plus, the dialogue's naturalistic and often very funny and the sound design, by Donald Guzzi and Jonesy Jones is top notch, as is Benny James' music.

Most of all though, what makes the show work is the way it balances character and mystery. Piper does something impossible because Adelaide knows something impossible, or seems to. What either of those events mean is unclear for now. What's absolutely certain is you'll want to find out.

A deft mystery and a possible romance dancing around each other in the rain at the bus stop, Null/Void is off to a fantastic start. Help it out if you can, and check it out when it launches later this month.

The show's Twitter is here (@NullandVoidPod)
Cole's Twitter is here (@KingColeMiner)

Find the Indi GoGo for season one here
Magnus Archives Appreciation Week: Season Five Trailer

Kim Chan's amazing animatic of the season five trailer gives you a great idea of just how talented the fanbase for the show is. And here's the show's own, terrifying, trailer by Mike LeBeau.

Signal Boost

Editor's note: RIP your browser tabs. Lots of folks are in need of a smile, and others in need of a hand. Enjoy this fantastic collection, just, maybe get yourself a drink before diving in.

Signing Off / Playing Out

8000 years of March later, here we are. Good job, folks. Rest up, hydrate, sleep. Have a weekend. 

Need a story? We got four shows full of them! The Escape Artists Podcast Network features 2400+ episodes of the best science fiction, fantasy, horror and YA, free every week. 

As ever, the Team KennerStuart Instagram is available for your viewing entertainment. Likewise the Twitters.

My work on The Full Lid is without a financial safety net so if you like what you read please consider dropping something in the tip jar. Thank you :).

Playing us out this week is Francesca Ross' excellent, and spoilerific, Magnus Archives animation set to Emma Blackery's "Villains Part 1". Enjoy, stay spoiler free if you prefer, stay safe as much as possible and you know what else?
This is a Full Lid.
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Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

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