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PODCASTS WORTH LENDING YOUR EARS TO
TUNNEL 29 Running since 2017, the BBC’s longform Intrigue series has explored stories of sex, death and politics in China, and the mystery disappearance of a senior Nazi at the end of WWII. Tunnel 29 is the true tale of the men who dug their way under the Berlin Wall, from west to east, to smuggle people out.
OFFICE LADIES Fans of the US Office shall rejoice as two of its stars, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, take you for an episode-by-episode look at the sitcom as well as providing some juicy behind-the- scenes chatter.
TRUMPCAST Like Pod Save America but with a less locker-room vibe, Virginia Heffernan’s Trumpcast has been continually skewering the guy in the White House since March 2016. Recent episodes have revelled in the increasing possibility of impending impeachment. DEAR JOAN AND JERICHA Quite probably the funniest and filthiest podcast in existence, Julia Davis and Vicki Pepperdine have just returned for a second series of their wholly inappropriate agony-aunt business. Listen in disbelief as deeply intimate concerns from the likes of ‘Frank Fox from Paddington’ and ‘Sheila Cross from Coventry’ are dissected by the two Js with depraved aplomb. (Brian Donaldson)
With Patrick Stewart returning for a final turn as subtle badass Jean-Luc Picard, Alex Johnston logs in to analyse the Star Trek universe
Y ou can tell something about the people society is prepared to identify with, from whoever is cast as the lead in Star Trek. Amid the late-60s turmoil, creator Gene Roddenberry wanted a straight, white, north American male with a firm jaw, so William Shatner was the man. Over the years, successive shows have been led by an African- American man, another lantern-jawed white guy, and an African-American woman (although the excellent Sonequa Martin-Green is the first lead to not be the captain, because that would be political correctness gone mad, apparently).
Deep Space Nine introduced complex story arcs, but Avery Brooks’ Commander Sisko was often side- lined by characters with more interesting stuff to do. Voyager and Enterprise had memorable moments, but occasionally clumsy writing; Discovery is a gripping spy drama, but if you don’t know your Trek lore you’ll wonder why what’s happening matters. The most consistently great series starred a bald, middle-aged, RSC-schooled character actor who initially wasn’t sure he wanted the gig. In The Next Generation, Patrick Stewart’s learned, gentlemanly and quietly badass Jean-Luc Picard oversaw the most varied stories and had the coolest crew. It wasn’t all there from the start: in season one, Data smiled, Worf
growled and Riker had yet to (literally) grow the beard. But in season three, it took flight. Magnificent stories like ‘Sarek’, ‘The Inner Light’, ‘Tapestry’, and ‘The Survivors’ are grounded in human reality, but make use of the kind of storytelling only sci-fi can do. Now, as the franchise reaches back into its past for another heroic punt at the future, Jean-Luc returns. In Star Trek: Picard, the 79-year-old Stewart plays him as an old man pottering around the family vineyard, getting dragged into one last mission by a mysterious young woman. Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner pop up, while a welcome returnee is Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, now seemingly some sort of Borg-turned-Equalizer. New to the franchise are Santiago Cabrera (Merlin), Michelle Hurd (Law & Order: SVU) and Alison Pill (The Newsroom).
What does it mean that Star Trek can’t resist one more fling with an old white guy in the captain’s chair? Some might say that if we must have such a leader, let him be a Picard: skilled, intelligent, thoughtful and fundamentally decent. Still, Star Trek: Picard can’t help feeling like a farewell.
Star Trek: Picard is available on Amazon Prime Video, Fri 24 Jan.
Our new alphabetical column on viewing marathons starts with some A-listers Across 39 episodes, the intoxicated antics of Patsy and Edina made Absolutely Fabulous (BBC iPlayer) one of the 1990s’ must-see sitcoms. And it still
had plenty moments to treasure after making a return as the 21st century dawned, with the likes of Jane Horrocks and June Whitfield offering sterling support to the main duo of Saunders and Lumley. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s anthology show American Horror Story (Netflix) has been spooking viewers since 2011 with a total of 99 episodes featuring season titles such as ‘Murder House’, ‘Freak Show’ and ‘Apocalypse’. Other ‘A’ binges: Angel (Amazon Prime Video), A Touch of Cloth (NOW TV), Ashes to Ashes (BBC iPlayer).
1 Nov 2019–31 Jan 2020 THE LIST 129