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US watchdog rejects Blue Origin’s protest of NASA lunar lander contract

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has dismissed protests from Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics over NASA’s decision to hand out a single $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX as part of its Human Landing System program. On Friday, the watchdog said NASA’s “evaluation of all three proposals was reasonable and consistent with applicable procurement law, regulation, and the announcement’s terms.”

When Blue Origin first challenged the lunar lander contract in April, the company claimed the selection process was “fundamentally unfair” because it didn’t get a chance to revise its bid. To that point, NASA could afford to give SpaceX the contract because the company agreed to modify its payment schedule. Blue Origin also took issue with the fact that the space agency selected a single contractor for the project when the initial announcement had called for two manufacturers to be involved.

In reviewing NASA’s decision, the GAO says the space agency “did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award.” It notes NASA gave itself the flexibility to hand out a single contract, multiple awards or none at all when it first announced the Human Landing System program. 

What’s more, the GAO concluded there “was no requirement for NASA to engage in discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement” due to the amount of funding it had available for the project. Notably, the GAO also points in its press release that its role is not to judge the relative merits of a contract decision. Both Blue Origin and Dynetics had argued that NASA chose the most “high risk option available” since SpaceX’s bid involved its Starship rocket, which at that point in the procurement process had yet to land in one piece.

"We stand firm in our belief that there were fundamental issues with NASA’s decision, but the GAO wasn’t able to address them due to their limited jurisdiction. We’ll continue to advocate for two immediate providers as we believe it is the right solution," a spokesperson for Blue Origin said following the decision. "We’ve been encouraged by actions in Congress to add a second provider and appropriate additional resources to NASA's pursuit to return Americans to the Moon. We’re also very encouraged by Administrator Nelson’s comments over the past week that reaffirm NASA’s original intent to provide simultaneous competition. The Human Landing System program needs to have competition now instead of later — that's the best solution for NASA and the best solution for our country.”

The decision comes mere days after Blue Origin founder and former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos offered to waive $2 billion in payments from NASA in return for a lunar lander contract. Following Blue Origin’s protest, NASA told SpaceX to stop work on the Human Landing System while the GAO sorted out the challenge. Today's decision allows the project and the Artemis program more broadly to move forward unless Blue Origin asks the US Court of Federal Claims to examine the case. 

Update 2:28PM ET: Added comment from Blue Origin. 

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/gao-denies-blue-origin-dynetics-protest-nasa-human-landing-system-181019362.html?src=rss

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Hitting the Books: Buck Rogers flew so that NASA astronauts could spacewalk

You've all seen the iconic picture of the US astronaut riding gracefully upon his NASA-built MODOK chair. That astronaut was Bruce McCandless II, Houston’s capsule communicator during the moon landing mission, Challenger crew member, and the driving force behind America's ability to conduct operations outside of the stuffy confines of space shuttles and international stations. Without McCandless, there's no guarantee the US would have EVA capabilities today. Wonders All Around, exhaustively researched and written by McCandless's son, Bruce III, explores McCandless the elder's trials and tribulations during NASA's formative years and his laser-focus on enabling astronauts to zip through space unencumbered by the mass of their ships.

Copyright @ 20201 Bruce McCandless III. Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press. Distributed by Greenleaf Book Group. Design and composition by Greenleaf Book Group and Kimberly Lance. Cover design by Greenleaf Book Group, Shaun Venish, and Kimberly Lance. Cover image courtesy of NASA, photographed by Robert L. "Hoot" Gibson

In his long leaden days of waiting for a spaceflight, my dad found the route to redemption on the back of an aging cartoon character. From the afternoon in December 1966 that he first tried out the Manned Maneuvering Unit in a Martin Marietta simulator, he was hooked on a vision of a gas-propelled jetpack that would allow astronauts to operate outside their spacecraft. This vision had an obvious pop-culture antecedent. In the 1920s a comic-strip character named Buck Rogers — a rock-jawed, All-American World War I veteran — succumbed to the effects of a mysterious gas he encountered while working as a mine inspector. He fell into a deep sleep and woke after five centuries of slumber to a strange new world of spaceships, ray guns, and Asian over-lords. Though he initially traveled this new world via an antigravity belt, a device that allowed him and his best gal, Wilma, to leap great distances at a time, Buck eventually acquired a svelte and evidently omnidirectional jetpack. He eventually ventured into space in an adventure called Tiger Men from Mars, and his exploits in the cosmos changed America’s vision of the future forever. Millions followed Buck’s adventures in the funnies, on radio, and in movie serials. Among Buck’s imitators and spiritual heirs are Flash Gordon, Brick Bradford, John Carter of Mars, and Han Solo.

A host of talented men and women spent significant amounts of time and money to wrestle that jetpack out of the funny papers and into the space shuttle. None worked harder, though, than Bruce McCandless and his chief collaborator, an Auburn-educated engineer and Air Force officer named Charles Edward (“Ed”) Whitsett, Jr. Whitsett was a pale, bespectacled individual, mild-mannered but tenacious. He had a head start on my father. He’d been thinking and writing about jetpack technology as early as 1962. In a sense, he was trying to solve a problem that didn’t exist yet: Namely, how could an astronaut venture outside his or her spaceship and perform constructive tasks in an environment with no oxygen, with extreme temperature fluctuations, and in an orbital “free fall” that would leave the spacefarer lolling in the practical equivalent of zero gravity? Alexei Leonov of the Soviet Union and American Ed White had proven that extravehicular activity was possible, that men could survive outside of their space capsule, but basically all they’d done was float. How could a man move from one part of a spaceship to another, or from one spacecraft to another craft, or from a spacecraft to a satellite, in order to make inspections or repairs? None of these needs really existed in the early sixties, when the programs of both nations were still just trying to fire tin cans into low Earth orbit and predict, more or less, where they would come back down. But clearly the needs would eventually arise, and various methods were proposed to address them.

In the mid-sixties, the Air Force assigned Whitsett to NASA to supervise development of the Air Force’s Astronaut Maneuvering Unit. Gene Cernan’s failed test flight of the AMU on Gemini 9 in 1966 — the “space-walk from hell,” as Cernan called it — set the jetpack project back, but it never went away. McCandless, Whitsett, and a NASA engineer named Dave Schultz worked quietly but assiduously to keep the dream alive. They enlarged and improved the AMU all through the latter half of the decade and into the seventies. In the “Forgotten Astronauts” wire story that portrayed him as a washout in 1973, my dad mentioned the reason why he wanted to stay in the manned space program despite not having won a crew assignment on either Apollo or Skylab. “McCandless,” said the article, “has helped develop the M509 experimental maneuvering unit. The Skylab astronauts strap it on like a backpack and propel themselves Buck Rogers — like around the Skylab interior. [He] wants to build a larger operational unit to perform space chores outside the shuttle.” And that’s exactly what he did.

Though the Skylab M509 tests in 1973 and 1974 were a resounding success, resulting in the triumph of the jetpack concept over both rocket boots and the handheld maneuvering unit, Whitsett and McCandless didn’t rest on their laurels. Over the next several years, using whatever time and funding they could scrape together, the team made multiple upgrades — eleven, by one count — to what was now being called the “manned maneuvering unit,” or MMU. The bulbous nitrogen-gas fuel tank of the ASMU was replaced with two streamlined aluminum tanks in the rear of the unit, each of which was wrapped in Kevlar. The number of propulsion nozzles was increased from fourteen to twenty-four, positioned around the jetpack to allow for six-degrees-of-freedom precision maneuvering. Smaller gyroscopes replaced those used on the ASMU, and, as space historian Andrew Chaikin has noted, the ASMU’s “pistol-grip hand controllers, which were tiring to operate in pressurized space suit gloves, were replaced by small T-handles that needed just a nudge of the fingertips.” The MMU’s new arm units were made to be adjustable, to accommodate astronauts of all sizes. Painted white for maximum reflectivity, the unit was built to survive the 500-degree fluctuation in temperatures (from a high of 250 degrees F to a low of minus 250 F!) that an astronaut might encounter in space.

By 1980 the machine weighed in at 326 pounds. Like the AMU and the ASMU before it, the MMU was designed to fit with or “over” the astronaut’s pressure suit. Shuttle astronauts wore a newly designed suit called the Extravehicular Maneuvering Unit, or EMU, a two-piece marvel of textile engineering made up of fourteen layers of Nylon ripstop, Gore-Tex, Kevlar, Mylar, and other substances. Power for the jetpack’s electronics was supplied by two 16.8-volt silver-zinc batteries. Two motion-control handles — the translational hand controller and the rotational hand controller — were mounted on the unit’s left and right armrests, respectively, and a button activated an “attitude-hold mode,” which used motion-sensing gyroscopes to direct the firing of the thrusters to maintain an astronaut’s position in space.

The machine had been tested in every way its designers could imagine. A representative of a local gun club visited Martin Marietta and shot the MMU’s nitrogen fuel tank with a .50 caliber bullet to ascertain whether the tank would explode if pierced. (It didn't.) The jetpack was run through hundreds of hours of simulations. At my father’s urging, a gifted and intense Martin Marietta project manager named Bill Bollendonk subjected the device to space-like conditions in the company’s thermal vacuum facility. The MMU was no longer a “far out” experiment, as Mike Collins once called it. It was now a promising space tool. Unfortunately, for the moment, it was still an unused space tool. American astronauts remained on Earth, as NASA struggled to produce its next-generation orbital workhorse, the space shuttle.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/hitting-the-books-wonders-all-around-bruce-mc-candless-iii-green-leaf-book-group-153027314.html?src=rss

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DOJ: Hackers behind SolarWinds attacks targeted federal prosecutors

The perpetrators of the SolarWinds hacks apparently targeted key parts of the American legal system. According to the AP, the Justice Department says hackers targeted federal prosecutors between May 2020 and December 2020. There were 27 US Attorney offices where the intruders compromised at least one email account, officials said.

The victims included some of the more prominent federal offices, including those in the Eastern and Souther Districts of New York as well as Miami, Los Angeles and Washington.

The DOJ said it had alerted all victims and was taking steps to blunt the risks resulting from the hack. The Department previously said there was no evidence the SolarWinds hackers broke into classified systems, but federal attorneys frequently exchange sensitive case details.

The Biden administration has officially blamed Russia's state-backed Cozy Bear group for the hacks, and retaliated by expelling diplomats and sanctioning 32 "entities and individuals." Russia has denied involvement.

It's not certain if the US will escalate its response. The damage has already been done, after all. This further illustrates the severity of the attacks, however, and hints at the focus — they were clearly interested in legal data in addition to source code and other valuable information.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/solarwinds-hackers-targeted-federal-prosecutors-160655082.html?src=rss

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Apple pulls anti-vax social app over misinformation

Mobile app shops are cracking down on one of the higher-profile communities spreading anti-vax misnformation. Bloomberg reports that Apple has removed Unjected, a hybrid social and dating app for the unvaccinated, for "inappropriately" referencing the COVID-19 pandemic's concept and themes. While Unjected bills itself as a place to find others who support "medical autonomy and free speech," social posts on the site have included false claims that vaccines modify genes, connect to 5G and serve as "bioweapons."

The app founders are also embroiled in a fight over their Android app. Google told Unjected on July 16th that it had two weeks to remove the misleading posts from its app to avoid a Play Store ban. The developers responded by pulling the social feed. However, co-creator Shelby Thompson said Unjected planned to defy the request by restoring both the feed and the offending posts.

We've asked Apple and Google for comment. Unjected still has a presence on Instagram despite that social network's anti-misinformation stance, although that account mostly promotes its views on "freedom" and only occasionally mentions falsehoods, such as incorrect claims that mRNA vaccines alter DNA. We've asked Facebook for a response as well.

Unjected is small compared to mainstream social networks, with roughly 18,000 app downloads (according to Apptopia). However, the crackdown clearly serves as a warning — Apple and Google won't tolerate apps that knowingly accept and encourage the creation anti-vax content, even if they aren't directly producing that material.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/apple-pulls-unjected-anti-vax-app-172231369.html?src=rss

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HBO returns to Dish’s lineup after a protracted absence

Dish Network is finally offering HBO, Cinemax and HBO Max to its subscribers after kicking HBO off its network nearly three years ago. It's the first time Dish subscribers will be able to watch HBO shows like Mare of Easttown and Euphoria since the carriage dispute began on October 31st, 2018. However, the new agreement doesn't cover Dish subsidiary Sling TV's distribution of HBO or HBO Max. 

When Dish removed HBO and Cinemax channels, it accused then-parent ATT of using HBO as an "economic weapon." At that time, HBO was only a straight cable station, but ATT launched HBO Max as a Netflix-like streaming service in July of 2019. With the situation now resolved, Dish becomes the last major pay TV distributor to add HBO Max to its lineup. 

The resolution follows a major shakeup with HBO's parent, WarnerMedia. In May 2021, ATT announced that it was spinning off that division and merging it with Discovery in a $43 billion deal. That effectively removed a conflict of interest as ATT is a direct competitor to Dish in the satellite video service provider space. The parties haven't disclosed the terms of the new agreement. 

With an accord now in pace, Dish customers get a free 10-day free of HBO and Cinemax from Aug. 6-15. Dish users can subscribe to the HBO Max ad-free plan for $12 rather than the regular price of $15 per month for up to 12 months if they act before Oct. 27, 2021. They'll get HBO Max access on supported devices like iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV, along with live channels including HBO, HBO Family and HBO Signature. Dish TV customers can also get Cinemax for $10 per month.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/hbo-returns-to-dishs-lineup-after-protracted-dispute-is-resolved-061504019.html?src=rss

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Tesla will pay $1.5 million to settle Model S battery throttling complaints

Back in 2019, Tesla pushed an over-the-air update to its Model S sedans following an incident wherein the vehicle caught fire in a Hong Kong parking lot. As CNBC notes, it said at the time that the update will revise "charge and thermal management settings" on Model S and Model X vehicles to "help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity." Some Model S owners claimed, however, that the update reduced their maximum battery voltage, prompting them to take Tesla to court. Now, the automaker has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle the class action lawsuit filed against it.

According to Reuters, the court documents show that the software update affected 1,743 Model S sedans in the US. The voltage limitation was temporary, but the plaintiffs experienced a 10 percent battery reduction for three months and a seven percent reduction lasting for another seven months, the plaintiffs' lawyers said. Tesla rolled out the final update that fully corrected the issue in March 2020. Among the affected vehicles, 1,552 had their max battery voltage restored, while 57 vehicles had battery replacements. The settlement documents said that any vehicle still experiencing battery throttling problems would have their maximum voltage restored over time.

While the company has agreed to pay $1.5 million, a huge chunk of that would be used to cover lawyers' fees: Owners are expected to get only $625 each from the settlement. Affected owners in Norway could get a much bigger payday after a court in the country ordered the company to pay them $16,000 each to settle a lawsuit over the same issue. In the US, aside from agreeing to pay up, Tesla has also agreed to provide battery-related diagnostics and notifications for cars under warranty whenever battery repairs may be needed.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/tesla-settle-model-s-battery-throttling-complaints-080705951.html?src=rss

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NASA and Boeing delay Starliner ISS launch

The Boeing Starliner's trip to the International Space Station has hit another hurdle. The craft was scheduled for a second uncrewed test flight to the ISS today, July 30th, after its first attempt went awry back in late 2019. But, it will have to wait a bit longer for take off. NASA and Boeing have decided to push back the launch to the tentative date of Tuesday, August 3rd. 

The delay comes after the thrusters on the ISS' new Russian module Nauka accidentally activated causing the station to move out of orientation. Though ground teams managed to regain control and motion of the ISS, NASA is proceeding with caution.

"The International Space Station team will use the time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos Nauka multipurpose laboratory module and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival," the agency said in a statement.

The completion of the second test flight is a critical part of the Starliner's development phase that will be followed by the first of six crew rotation missions. NASA added that launch preparations would resume pending a final decision from the ISS and Commercial Crew Program teams. 

In the meantime, staff are assessing whether to move the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket — atop which the Starliner is placed — from the launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station back to the Vehicle Integration Facility. While both are mission-ready, the move is seen as a mitigation measure to protect them from weather damage.

The delay is the latest in a series of setbacks that have thus far prevented the Starliner from reaching the ISS. In December 2019, the Boeing craft suffered an automation issue during its first test flight that caused it to miss its planned orbit. While the second test flight has been held up since late last year due to ongoing software checks.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/nasa-boeing-delay-starliner-iss-launch-092458695.html?src=rss

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A Tesla Megapack caught fire at the Victorian Big Battery facility in Australia

A 13-tonne Tesla Megapack caught fire on Friday morning at a battery storage facility in south-east Australia. The blaze occurred during testing at 10 -10.15am local time, according to Victorian Big Battery. The regional fire service said a specialist fire crew had been dispatched to the site in Geelong, Victoria. Firefighters were using a hazmat appliance designed for hazardous chemical spills and specialist drones to conduct atmospheric monitoring, according to Fire Rescue Victoria.

The site was evacuated and there were no injuries, Victorian Big Battery said in a statement. It added that the site had been disconnected from the power grid and that there will be no impact to the electric supply. French energy company Neoen, which operates the facility, and contractor Tesla are working with emergency services to manage the situation. 

As a result of the fire, a warning for toxic smoke has been issued in the nearby Batesford, Bell Post Hill, Lovely Banks and Moorabool areas, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. Residents were warned to move indoors, close windows, vents and fireplace flues and bring their pets inside.

The Victorian Big Battery site, a 300 MW/450 MWh battery storage facility, is viewed as key to the Victorian government's 50 percent renewable energy target by 2030. It follows the success of Neoen and Tesla's 100 MW/129 MWh battery farm in Hornsdale in South Australia, which was completed ahead of schedule and has resulted in multi-million dollar savings for market players and consumers. Both sites essentially provide a regional power backup for when renewable energy is not available, effectively filling the gap when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.

In February, Neoen announced that the Victorian Big Battery would utliize Tesla's megapacks — utility-sized batteries produced at the company's Gigafactory — and Autobidder software to sell power to the grid. Victorian Big Battery has a contract with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). As part of the pact, the site will provide energy stability by unlocking an additional 250 MW of peak capacity on the existing Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector over the next decade of Australian summers.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/tesla-megapack-fire-victorian-big-battery-105535797.html?src=rss

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The Morning After: You can now upgrade your PS5’s SSD, if you meet all the criteria

Yes, you can finally upgrade your SSD storage on the PS5 — a console that already demands pretty huge game file sizes. It’s a whole lot more complicated than plugging in a USB drive, however. First up, you have to be a PS5 beta user in the US, Canada and parts of Europe. Then, you need a PCIe Gen4 SSD for read speeds of 5,500MB/s or higher — there are options from Samsung, Western Digital and Seagate.

But that’s not the end of things. Sony notes in its guide to SSD upgrades that you also need to factor in the PS5's cooling mechanism. This means you might have to add a heatsink to your SSD or choose a compatible SSD with the cooling structure built-in.

Oh, it has to be the right-sized heatsink, too. And Sony suggests doing the whole installation in a well lit room, flashlight “optional.” It literally says that.

Did you buy a next-gen console so you didn’t have to think too much about these kinds of things? Well, sorry. It’s time to measure a heatsink. The feature will roll out to non-beta PS5 users later this year.

(TLDR: The Western Digital Black SN850 heatsink model should work if you want to upgrade your PS5 storage.)

— Mat Smith

Intel NUC 11 PC Extreme review

A tiny gaming desktop you may actually want.

Intel’s very own desktop PC series gets a little more compelling. The new NUC 11 Extreme, AKA Beast Canyon, is a lot like last year’s NUC 9 Extreme. But it's a bit cheaper and more flexible, thanks to its faster 11th-gen Intel CPU and support for full-sized GPUs. It’s bigger, yes, but that ability to work around full-sized GPUs makes it a genuine, if expensive, gaming PC desktop option. Devindra Hardawar puts it through its paces. Continue reading.

Cat simulator 'Stray' heads to PlayStation and PC in early 2022

Watch the first gameplay trailer.

Finally, a game you play as a cat. After being teased in 2020, we finally get to see the game in action — and news it will arrive next year. Gameplay involves using physical abilities as a cat to navigate the environment and solve puzzles. You can also scratch furniture. Continue reading.

Nothing’s Ear 1 wireless earbuds are an ambitious start

And a tribute to tech design of the past.

Nothing’s long-teased launch product is almost here. Its transparent-cased wireless earbuds look cool, ring in at $100 and, perhaps a little surprisingly, sound pretty good. The Ear 1s are a little temperamental with connectivity — and pricier headphones sound better — but Nothing has delivered some stylish buds that will come to the US next month. Mat Smith tests them out. Continue reading.

'Black Widow' star Scarlett Johansson sues Disney over streaming strategy

The simultaneous release will reportedly cost Johansson over $50 million.

Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney over the company's decision to release the movie in theaters and on Disney+ simultaneously. Johansson claims this was a breach of contract. In the suit, Johansson says Black Widow was supposed to be released exclusively in theaters, per her deal with Marvel. A large portion of Johansson's salary was tied to its box office success.

The move to launch the film on Disney+ may have impacted Black Widow's performance in theaters. According to Variety, it’s on track to become one of the lowest-grossing Marvel movies to date, based on box office sales. Continue reading.

YouTubers have been rickrolled over a billion times

You know the rules. 

And so do I. Continue reading.

But wait, there’s more...

'What Remains of Edith Finch' will hit iOS on August 16th

AMD's Radeon RX 6600XT is its next flagship 1080p GPU

Engadget Deals: Apple's MacBook Air M1 is on sale for $850 right now at Amazon

Tesla update adds Disney+ streaming and a Car Wash mode

Facebook's next product will be its long-awaited Ray-Ban smart glasses

Old Amazon Kindle devices will soon lose 3G access

Samsung vows to make foldable smartphones 'mainstream'

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-upgrade-ps5-ssd-111516490.html?src=rss

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‘Doctor Who’ needs to evolve to survive

The BBC has announced that Chris Chibnall (pictured, center), Doctor Who’s executive producer, and its star, Jodie Whittaker (pictured, right), will leave the series in 2022. A trio of specials through next year would herald the pair’s departure from the long-running series. This, then, seems like an ideal time for Doctor Who to undergo the radical shakeup it so desperately needs. I don’t agree with The Guardian’s recent piece saying that the series needs to be off the air for a while, but it is very clearly time for the show to evolve again.

This is in part because Doctor Who under Chibnall has been such a waste: the showrunner’s work before taking the job, while popular and award-winning, had always left me cold. My initial apprehension was calmed, somewhat, by the news emerging from the production of the revived series’ 11th run. Chibnall also deserves credit for hiring the first two writers of color in the show’s nearly sixty year history. The fact that many of the episodes had an explicit focus on material social history suggested a bright new direction for the series. The Woman Who Fell To Earth, too, was a blisteringly confident debut and all seemed well.

And then, yeesh. As good as Chibnall is at birthing some truly inspired ideas, the quality of his execution is terrible. He struggled to flesh out the quartet of lead characters and failed to offer them real stakes to deal with. And for all of the era’s emphasis on diversity, the content of each episode seemed to be far more backward-looking. I’ve written before about Chibnall often appearing to make the argument opposite to the one he thinks he’s making. Unless he intended to say that polite protest is the only good protest, Amazon’s treatment of its staff is good, actually, and that we can all benefit from the spoils of colonialism.

Naturally, the casting of a woman in the central role encouraged the usual petulance from those corners of the internet. Sadly, I think that the actors involved have all performed miracles trying to make anything Chibnall writes remotely believable. And Whittaker’s departure before she could work with another executive producer will be yet another tragically wasted opportunity in this era. I hope that this bad-faith criticism doesn't force the production team to make a “safe” choice for the next Doctor.

The big secret to Doctor Who’s endurance is both the malleability of its premise and its knack for reinventing itself. Every few years, often as the show’s creative team changed, it would become an almost entirely different show. You could argue that this lack of sentimentality has been the case since the show’s first mission-switch, which happened in its fifth episode. The revived show has been using a version of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer template since 2005, and it’s starting to wear a bit thin.

It didn’t help that while Series 11 was designed to avoid any of the show’s dense backstory, Series 12 was at times incomprehensible to anyone but die hard fans. Chibnall, after all, devoted his series arc to validating a production gaffe in an episode that aired on January 24th, 1976. (And, in doing so, made the Doctor the Time Lord equivalent of Jesus, contradicting everything that we’d learned over the last six decades.) This was the worst kind of self-indulgent fan fiction, and hardly a bold new direction for a mainstream drama.

Unfortunately, the media landscape has changed, and competition has intensified beyond all belief. The BBC no longer has a monopoly on the conversation as it did — at least here in the UK — and is dwarfed by the streaming giants. Netflix, Amazon, Disney and others also have the wealth to offer the sort of creative freedom that once made the non-commercial BBC stand out among the crowd.

The knee-jerk reaction, I’m sure, will be to demand Doctor Who jumps on the bandwagon driven by Marvel’s recent streaming shows. That would be a mistake, because Who is at its best when it pushes away from whatever genre show is cresting into the mainstream that year. Financially, the BBC can’t compete with these mega-franchises, but the quality of its writing and its unique sensibilities, can. The one thing that the series could learn from those shows, however, is how to build every episode into an event.

This could mean that the show becomes a run of occasional specials with a longer running time, like a glorified movie of the week. Or it could, like the COVID-influenced 2021 season, be a shorter run of tightly-interconnected episodes. Chibnall may indeed stumble onto the template that helps revitalize the show going forward, but I’m personally hoping for something more radical.

For instance, if Doctor Who can’t succeed as a glossy, hour-long standalone drama, then why not go back to being a series of short serials? Netflix’s Russian Doll and the BBC’s I May Destroy You are both examples of (excellent) half-hour dramas that offer a break from the current prestige-drama template. It helps, too, that Doctor Who was run in this format for 25 of its first 26 seasons, and offers new — or at least different — methods for structuring a story.

It may also make it easier to binge during its long second life on a streaming platform. Think about it: how many times have you ducked watching a long episode of The Crown because it’s too much time to invest out of your day, but you’ll happily burn through four episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine without complaint. You could even get Michaela Coel to write it, although at this point I’ll settle for anyone who isn’t named Chris Chibnall.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/doctor-who-chibnall-whittaker-departure-reformat-series-113012792.html?src=rss

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