The Full Lid
24th January 2020

*Somewhere, deep underground, a Mailchimp ticker rolls over to 506*

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Full Lid, my weekly pop culture enthusiasm briefing!

MASSIVE thanks to everyone who signal boosted TFL over the course of the last couple of weeks and have now catapulted us to 5!0!6! Readers! Welcome aboard, new folks! I am delighted to have you here. Now, you might be wondering what you can expect. I can help with that.

Every week, on Friday around 5 p.m.  (or a time that feels like 5 p.m.), you will get a newsletter crammed full of me talking about popular culture. Some weeks that's a look at the different ways different versions of Bowie's Heroes have been used in TV drama. Some weeks it's a theory about how Top Gun: Maverick is going to take a hard left turn into the supernatural. Sometimes it's me talking about books, or comics, or why Control is the best game I've played since Horizon Zero Dawn and both make a compelling argument for the addition of a Best Game Hugo. (Give me about two weeks on that?). A lot of the time, you'll have me processing the weekly obstacles of life as a creative and brain in charge of a meat suit. Also I make ketchup sometimes.

Movies, books, games, TV, podcasts, ketchup, music, non-ketchup food stuffs. It's all been here before and will all be here again.

Here's what we've got for you this week. Enough talk! We contents!


Old Lions, Old Lionesses
The Magnus Archives Visitor's Pass Issue 1
The Department of Esoteric Printed Goods
The DIsney+ Initiative
Playing Out, Signing Off

Old Lions, Old Lionesses

We live in an age of third acts. Starting with James Mangold’s suiperlative superhero western, Logan, an increasing number of old lions have been returning to the screen for one last ride. Maybe two, if the box office is good. There’s a problem with this which we’ll discuss later but there's also a surprising upside: the vast majority of these returns have had some interesting things to say.

Logan is the best X-Men movie by some considerable distance, the Creed duology passes boxing’s greatest fictional legacy along with class and poignancy and Rambo: Last Blood is also a film that was made. More recently, Terminator: Dark Fate successfully rejuvenated the franchise creatively if not financially. Gemini Man and Bad Boys for Life used the simple passage of linear time to give Will Smith new stuff to do and later this week we get Picard, the return of Starfleet's finest. Or at least one of them. 

This could so easily be self indulgent man flexing and, to be fair, sometimes is. But more often than not it's a chance to deep dive into masculine psychology and examine and question it. Never more so, so far, than with Bad Boys for Life.

Yes, you heard that right.

Bad Boys II was, somehow, seventeen(!!!!) years ago which is also roughly how long it's second act feels. The brilliance of this delayed sequel lies in the fact the same amount of time has passed in-universe as out. Detective Marcus Burnett is still a hypochondriac and is all set to retire. Detective Mike Lowery is still basically the world’s most violent fashion model. Mike makes it look good. Marcus pleads with it to come to Jesus. They have a pretty good system.

Until Mike is gunned down as part of a systemic cull of the people responsible for putting a narco kingpin in jail years previously.

It’s an incredibly shocking moment precisely because it’s played so absolutely straight. The scene shifts instantly from light comedy to horror, mounting and mounting as more and more cops arrive and you realize it's REAL. The hero of the series just took four shots to the chest and is bleeding out in front of you and suddenly, Mike's world, and the nice predictable cocoon of the action movie, both shatter. Then the words

appear. Choose to believe this is a tip of the hat to Hot Fuzz. I do. Mike lives but he’s far from fine and his partnership with Marcus fractures as Mike obsessively chases down the man responsible while Marcus, who watched his best friend die on the operating table, retires. As the two men's paths diverge, we find out Marcus is bad at being a stay-at-home husband and Mike's foe is also Mike's son.

It's overwrought and filled with explosions and at one point Will Smith leaps off a motorbike (with a machine gun mounted on the side car), onto a speeding truck, runs up the truck and leaps off it as it explodes onto a rope ladder beneath a helicopter where he's held at gunpoint before dropping into the sea.

It is, by no means, subtle.

And yet it is. Because each of these ridiculous moments is balanced with quiet, sincere character beats. It embraces the emotional consequences of aging AND cars with cool lights under them. An early joke about Mike dyeing his goatee is rendered heartbreaking by Marcus doing it for him while he’s in a coma. The scene where Mike figures out who the assassin is is genuinely tight with emotion and Smith and Lawrence are both excellent at shifting from comedy to pathos on the bounce. For every swagger and refusal to attend therapy there’s a moment of real tenderness and kindness.

They're not alone either. There’s an entire past relationship with fellow detective Rita (the excellent Paola Núñez) that didn’t exist prior to this movie which feels storied and real. Rita's fellow new characters, members of MPD team AMMO (it stands for subtlety), get some surprisingly fun things to do too. Vikings’ Alexander Ludwig is especially great as Dorn, their IT specialist whose relationship to violence is closer to Beck in The Rundown than the other police officers here. It also feels a lot like an amazingly violent debutante ball for Ludwig as an action star, much as the vastly fun Rundown was for Dwayne Johnson. And yes, if you haven't seen it, you should.

But what's really interesting here is a moment in the final gunfight. Mike asks Dorn to hurt some people and offers to pay for the therapy. Dorn agrees, and points out he'll need it. It's a fascinating little beat, an action monolith of the past facing his successor and discovering that the new guy has embraced the weaknesses Mike has ignored. No wonder Bad Boys 4 is already in the works. For the first time since they showed up, these characters feel like they have something to say. And then, probably, something to blow up. While walking away in slow motion.

As for this chap? We'll see you next week, sir. And welcome back.
Now, that problem I mentioned. Surprising no one, it's the same problem fiction in general always has, just accentuated because we're circling back to the past a little. Namely the fact that every single one of these characters is a man and, Marcus and Mike aside, they're all white.

Genre has often been hilariously terrible at diversity and this year is no exception. That is incredibly frustrating. So many people I know try and push the industry somewhere better and then this comes along and it all crashes down again.

Except, maybe, it doesn't.

Let's not forget a woman is doing a fantastic job of flying the TARDIS right now. (We'll be circling round to catch up with the Doctor and her friends in the North (Which lots of planets have) in the next couple of weeks.) I've written elsewhere about just how great Jodie Whitaker is as the Doctor and she really, really is. So much so that she transcends the entirely justified argument that it's better to create new iconic non-male and white roles than it is to cast non-white, non-male people in those roles. Even then, the endless cultural algebra never quite resolves and as a result it's unsurprising that we default to older roles. We laud, or say we laud, Ellen Ripley, Buffy Summers and Sarah Conner but Dark Fate tanked despite being brilliant. Likewise, Barbara Broccoli's comment that Bond could be any ethnicity (Yay!) was the sugar coated pill around him never being a woman (BOO!). What that means for Lashana Lynch's 007 in No Time To Die is unclear but I get the awful feeling she shouldn't be starting any long books.

Oh, speaking of books.
Keep a very, very close eye on the Captain's Biography series from Titan. Firstly because they're immense fun (the 'Edited by' tag kills me every time) and secondly because they're a useful canary. Or to put it another way, we'll know the Pike-Era Enterprise show is a go (and I'm 99% sure it is), once the Chris Pike biography is announced...

Anyway, Janeway is a perfect fit for the Picard treatment. She successfully guided a disparate crew home across an incalculable distance, assisted in dealing a near-mortal blow to Starfleet's most relentless enemy and happily accepted a promotion, something we know Picard struggled to do. I'd love to see a show following her in the same time period. Interestingly, and with typical eloquence, Kate Mulgrew is less sure. I can see why too. (Incidentally, Mulgrew is fantastic as the narrator of The Space Race, which I'll be writing about the remainder of here shortly.)

Interestingly, one other character is going down the Picard route. A route she's spent decades helping make more charitable...
DOROTHY FREAKING MCSHANE IS BACK. Teased last year in a trailer for the latest blu-ray release, Ace has been busy in the intervening decades. Now an actual philanthropist billionaire (and while 'playgirl' is perhaps not on the table, 'genius' surely is), she's spent years making the world a better place. And then, the 13th Doctor comes to visit...

At Childhood's End, out later this year, is about what happens next.

I am fascinated to see the relationship between these two women. The last time they met, Ace was instinctively brilliant and innocent and the Doctor a player of games. Now, arguably, their roles have been reversed. That, combined with the gender switch gives us the opportunity to explore the consequences of the Doctor's existence and presence like never before. Plus the sheer amount of bad-ass per page is going to be off the CHARTS.

it isn't enough. Especially when couched in the heartbreaking truth that there are so few female, LIGBTQIA+ or POC iconic characters that reviving them would, at best, be difficult.

But the tide really does seem to be turning or at the very least, shifting, Bad Boys, Gemini Man and Picard may not have a lot of superficial connective tissue but in reality they're all desires to make peace with the past before the future arrives. Here's hoping that peace is made soon. Because the future is long overdue and, even guided by old lions, it's where I'm desperate to go.
I am back on my culinary adventures and Joshua Weissman is a big part of that. Foccacia and homemade tortilla science on the way!

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


The Magnus Archives: Visitor's Pass Issue 1

Some of you have no doubt heard this before but we’ve got a lot of new folks this week, so its time for a catch up.

The Magnus Archives is an award-winning horror audio drama podcast produced by The Rusty Quill. It’s set at The Magnus Institute, Europe’s premier paranormal research organisation and begins with their new archivist, Jonathan Sims, resorting to reading testimonies aloud and recording them. His predecessor, Gertrude, had no manner of filing system at all and this is the fastest way for Jon to catch up.

The first few weeks you get some delightful Tales from the Crypt style one-off horror stories. Jon is a great narrator, the stories are inventive and nasty and then...

You realize they’re connected.

Four seasons into a five season run, TMA has evolved from ‘that horror show’ to a rapidly growing phenomenon that recently had their first live performance. It’s been my privilege to play Peter Lukas, the ‘villain’ of season four, and even more of my pleasure to interact with the Magnus fan community. Endlessly creative and welcoming, they're an extraordinary group of people who made me feel instantly a part of their community.

Which brings us Visitor’s Pass issue one, a Magnus fanzine crammed full of art and short prose set in the universe. It's a close call, but I THINK this is my favorite piece from an incredible array of art.:
It’s ALL THIS GOOD. All of it capturing the wonderful ability the show has to to shift from horrifying to domestic and back.

If you want a copy you  can buy the PDF, physical zine, or different zine + merch bundles from tomorrow. Find them here. All profits go to The Trevor Project, a US charity focused on mental health and suicide awareness within the LGBT youth community.

This is the Magnus -- hell fan community -- as a platonic ideal, a brilliant group of people making art based on art they love and using it to build better tomorrows for those who need them. I've had huge fun playing the embodiment of loneliness on the show but this is where it's real strength lies: in togetherness, community and compassion.
And speaking as we were of The Magnus Archives, the always brilliant VeraRaeArt immortalizes me as Peter Lukas! See! How could evil? He just wants the best for him! US! You! Maybe! Mostly him!


If you carry trauma long enough you stop feeling its weight. You’re still encumbered, still constantly running background routines making sure you’re okay, things haven't changed, there’s nothing you’ve missed. But on the surface it doesn’t feel like you’re carrying anything anymore. It’s ‘we have always been at war with Eurasia’ just in your head and forever.

Or that’s how it seems.

This week, Marguerite’s ILR was granted. This is Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, which is what you are eligible to apply for after being in the country continuously for at least five years. There are a couple of versions of applying for it; one where they take your passport for six months.

Yeah, we didn't do that one.

There's another where they take it for up to forty-eight hours. Both cost a LOT (we were lucky, we had some help from my family.). And its done! And it’s amazing and now we can stop living our lives two years at a time. Better still, Marguerite now has the ability to ignore 'will support visa' as a job search criteria. I can already hear it, the change dynamo powering up. She is the most incredible person I’ve ever met, endlessly determined, compassionate, ethical, courageous and goofy. And I’m not just saying that because she’s editing this. Hi, Red! You complete me!

Editor's note: I love you too. Stop going on tangents.

We celebrated by, of course, going out for a triumphantly beige meal at our favorite local restaurant. There were frickles, my friends, frickles of the GODS THEMSELVES. There was also, to our surprise, no real sudden ‘Yes! Blew up the Death Star!’ Moment. This is something we’ve both lived under for seven years. That’s long enough for it to become routine. To seem normal. Catharsis as a long exhalation rather than a scream of triumph.

But here's the thing. It’s not normal. It’s not right. The system as it stands is institutionalized cruelty that has played a major part in turning the national character of this tiny little island inward at the worst possible time for it to do so. Our recently departed Prime Minister was the one who put the ‘hostile environment’ in play. She was the one who set an income ceiling demonstrably impossible for spouses of foreign nationals to reach. I know. I never did. She was the one who stood by while a nicotine stained poundshop Mr Toad cosplayer non-ironically toured anti-immigrant posters around the country and claimed victory 'without a shot being fired' barely a week after an MP was murdered.

When I say this legislation is the stuff of nightmares I am not using hyperbole. I have had those nightmares. We both have.

For the last seven years, we’ve lived under the shadow of a country that tolerates her presence as a foreign national because we’ve had the money and the employment history to buy that baseline level of basic human decency. And because she's white and not from a Muslim country. Many, many people who do not deserve to be are treated very differently.

We’re done, and we’re out and that’s amazing and we're both SO much happier. But the price of that victory, for me, is raising awareness of those who haven’t been as lucky, yet.

Marguerite does pro bono legal work for Kids in Need of Defense, a charity that helps the children of immigrants access their entitlement to citizenship and documentation. Please help out if you can. They deserve to be on this side of the line too.
The Templin Institute do these quietly amazing, detailed breakdowns of fictional organizations and civilizations. Oddly enough, Starfleet Command seems to be a good jumping on point, especially this week...

Department of Esoteric Print Goods

So here’s the thing, I love getting fun post. Growing up on an island meant the post was literally the lifeline from the mainland and I always remember the thrill of seeing a big chunky packet of STUFF (often from amazingly talented artist buddy Wayne Peters) sitting on the backseat of the car after school. It’s a deep, pure love that hasn’t even been dimmed by the last two months of relentless book deliveries for the various awards I’m reading for.

This week was peak cool post.
This is The Tithe, a short story fanzine from Jordan Shiveley (on Twitter as @DREADSINGLES). Jordan is a startlingly talented writer and their Patreon gains you access to this sort of environmental storytelling and their bone dry, yet somehow blood soaked sense of humour...

The Tithe contains three items; a 'zine, a letter and an envelope. The first gives you a flash of folk horror and terror. The second gives you the aftermath and the best two line ending I've seen in months. The third provides horrible,horrible context.

I LOVED this. This is the exact sort of folk horror I adore and Jordan is unbelievably good at it. Check out their Patreon to find out more.
This is Moon’s Haunted by Nora Last. Its a complete game that fits on a postcard. The idea is simple: whenever you’re attending a convention, the moon is haunted. How do you bring peace to the ghosts there?

Nora balances compassion and pragmatism, reality and the game world to create something which is one part self care routine, one part LARP and one part cheerfully odd and kind. It gamifies self-care without being fussy or obvious and I will certainly be playing the next time I'm at a con. Moon’s haunted. What are you going to do about it?

Jordan's Patreon is here and you can find Nora's games here.

Got something esoteric you'd like me to talk about? Get in touch! I do so love receiving post.

The Disney+ Experiment

So like I said last week I'm playing around with Substack and the idea of adding a paid tier, while at the same time not getting locked into the endless 'raise money to do thing to raise money' / 'commodifying my fun' spiral. I wasn't sure at first but then I remembered, when in doubt, embrace the dominant aesthetic of 2020:
So, here's the plan:
  • Disney+ launches in the UK at the end of March. It's a flat £59.99 for an annual subscription. 
  • That's twenty $3 Ko-Fi donations.
  • The next 20 individual Ko-Fi donors will get The Full Mouse (name subject to change) free for 2020. It'll be a shorter newsletter taking a look at something interesting on Disney+ that week. Sometimes it'll be a Star Wars show. Sometimes it will be a Marvel show. Sometimes it will be one of the weird as Hell bits of Disney ephemera up there.
  • For those joining in later, it'll be a Substack subscription (cost to be determined, but no more than $5 an issue).
  • I'm aiming to launch the last week of March.
  • Not sure on frequency yet; I'm thinking every other week maybe. And once a month or so, I'll feature a story from The Full Mouse here.
  • End of 2020, we'll take a look at if it's been a success and go from there.
I'm still looking to raise funds to hire an editor and a transcription service for The Full Lid as well, but this is a small achievable goal which tests the durability of, well, me, without pushing me to breaking point.

So! Want to join my dives into the heart of the entertainment mega-conglomerate? The Ko-Fi link is here.
Always worth being reminded of the wisdom of Ursula K. Le Guin. Thanks to Alex Moore.

Signal Boost

That's this week's Signal Boost, folks. If you have a project you'd like to see here, get in touch.

Signing Off / Playing Out

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. If you like what you read please consider dropping something in the tip jar. Thank you :).

And I leave you at the end of this intense and ultimately pretty damn great week with Ei Wada and the most joyful noise because this?
is a Full Lid.
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Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

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