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S. May (Rochdale, UK)

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Doctor Who - The Greatest Show in the Galaxy [DVD] [1988]
Doctor Who - The Greatest Show in the Galaxy [DVD] [1988]
Dvd ~ Sylvester McCoy
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars What I loved about this story is that it is not predictable, 29 Nov. 2014
What I loved about this story is that it is not predictable. The story draws you in. It is not deliberately opaque; rather, you are given the right amount of information as you go along, and become more and more intrigued as a result. The dialogue is natural for the most part, and particularly praiseworthy are the conversations between the chief clown, the fortune teller and the ringmaster. For once you feel as if the characters are saying just as much and as little as they would say in the circumstances, rather than fortuitously unveiling the critical elements the hero needs to hear at this point in order to progress the plot. The hero (the Doctor) behaves quite logically in unravelling the mystery, and his giving himself up for recapture once is not the usual careless repetition. We can see the Captain acting entirely plausibly according to his strikingly repulsive character in both setting up the Whizz Kid - there is a tragic element to the latter's childish credulity - and then betraying Maggs and the Doctor in the Rimg. (Admittedly, this does make one question the Doctor's intelligence for not anticipating something like this, although there was no reason for him to know Maggs was a werewolf apart from the reference to "quite a specimen".)

This intelligent writing lasts to the very end. Neither the (one has to admit it) at times wonky and somewhat laughable models nor the quarry setting destroy the excellence of the script. All the characters are memorable in their distinct ways, and there are winning performances, particularly by the actors of the Chief Clown - as many others have pointed out - and Maggs, as well as the leads.

Two notes: the opening attempted flight of BellBoy and Flower Child seeks to explain why flight is no answer; the critic on AVClub, I think it is, points out the metaphorical dimensions of the story which he thinks the crew and cast are more interested in - namely the need to entertain a critical public (the three in the tent), the desperate attempts of the BBC executives (the three main carnies) to find an entertaining act, the fact that whether a show (like Dr. Who) survives or not is at the whim of a fickle, bored an distracted audience. What they think of your show literally determines whether the show lives or dies (= is cancelled). Pretty convincing interpretation to me, along with the less than subtle crack at fandom.

Too many plots move so predictably that you have figured out the traps, the dangers and the ending way before the characters do. This story is a very honourable exception. Well done the script writer. It was not the show's fault that it was so undermined and underfunded, and had to wait many years for a decent budget that would have made this story exceptional in appearance as well as plot. As it was everyone did well.

Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.49

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars utterly superb but may upset Roman Catholics, 7 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Wolf Hall (Paperback)
As mentioned in her informative epilogue, Mantel was moved to a contrarian view of Saint Thomas More when being taught in a Roman Catholic school: his picture looked down on them, and she wondered if something could be said on the other side, particularly about the supposed embodiment of pure wickedness, Thomas Cromwell. Perhaps More wasn't so saintly and Cromwell so evil? This book says this as powerfully as it could be uttered. This leads her, towards the end of the novel, to some positions which are not wholly convincing. Also more could be said of other factors leading to the break with Rome than she mentions. I am not wholly convinced about her grasp of the theological issues involved: Luther had more to say than depicted here. Nevertheless, this is a book that brings its period alive in a way I have never met before. It is exciting and magnificently written. Her style is an endless delight, her use of metaphor stunning. In terms of the use of language, this is one of the best books I have ever read. It stands in relation to most historical fiction like Michelangelo to your corner artist.

Don't be put off by the negative reviews. It is wonderful stuff. Even when it's wrong, it's magnificently wrong.

The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (Oxford Paperbacks)
The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (Oxford Paperbacks)
by Henry Bettenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a superb collection of texts, 5 Dec. 2008
Quite simply, a superb collection of theological texts, sorted by author (basically up to Athanasius) and topic - Christ, Holy Spirit etc. Introduction is good, and so are (brief) notes. An invaluable theological taster. Should be bought!

How to Understand the Creed
How to Understand the Creed
by Jean-Noel Bezancon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars theology for the whole church, 5 Dec. 2008
An excellent book! Eminently readable, with short sections, interspersed with appropriate illustrations and boxed discussions of particular topics, this is perhaps the best ecumenical introduction to the Creed. The result of French Roman Catholic lay education, this is theology for the whole church: it deals with the common inheritance of all Christians, the Creed; it does so in an ecumenical spirit; it is accessible to all. For once neither does it dumb down; the issues addressed in each section are key, and are explained simply without being simplistic. It uses appropriate and forceful short original texts. It is a guide to much church history. Highly recommended!

Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology
Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology
by Daniel L. Migliore
Edition: Paperback

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars orthodoxy in the light of modern debates, 5 Dec. 2008
I plead guilty to having set Migliore as a textbook for students (though not for the person whose review mentions this!)

Whilst Migliore is not always the most dynamic or colourful of writers, he is both thorough and reliable. He displays admirable balance whilst clearly stating his own point of view. He is consistent with historic Christianity (i.e. orthodoxy, the Creeds), whilst taking seriously issues raised by modern movements such as feminism, black theology, the ecological crisis. This is much more than the 'discuss briefly in order to summarily reject' approach which we sometimes see, and is itself a model for Christian engagement. Whilst Migliore comes from a Reformed background, he argues that challenges posed by our contemporary world to historic Christianity must be addressed (compare Alvin Kimel's 'Reading the Christian God: the Holy Trinity and the Challenge of Feminism').

There are substantial and helpful sections on all the standard theological 'topoi', subjects - Task of Theology, Revelation, Scripture, Trinity, Creation, Providence, Humanity, Holy Spirit, Sacraments, Church, Hope. The Christology section includes a substantial (and helpful) treatment of atonement. Three appendices contains cleverly written imagined conversations between groups of theologians (including Barth, Rahner, Moltmann, Tillich et al.) covering some central subjects of modern theology - the Resurrection, Natural Theology, Political Theology. Whilst some might regard these figures as now dated, I would argue that this is far from the case and - though Migliore is far from being a comprehensive guide to modern and historic theology - his fundamental approach is sound, informative and worth emulating. One other thing these do is to show the continuing critical contribution of Karl Barth to theology.

Migliore usefully discusses methodology, around which his instincts are generally sound - as evidenced in the title, 'Faith Seeking Understanding' (following Anselm) and following the contemporary resurgence of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Finding a decent 'Introduction to Theology' book is very hard - probably the reason why so many teachers end up writing their own - but this is a very trustworthy start, one that you will find does not sell you short in avoiding difficulties, and that will direct you the right way.

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