Tag Archives: Doctor Who

3 going on 13

I don’t know what it is but it is as if Isabelle went to bed a toddler the night before her third birthday and woke up three going on thirteen.

IMG_3495Not to put to finer point on it she has practically regenerated Doctor Who style, essentially the same person but new skills, new actions and a sonic squeal rather than of the screwdriver variety.

I don’t know about generation x but Iz is more generation why? Everything, just everything I questioned as she becomes far more quizzical and try’s to understand the world around her. Why did x film have to end? Because the story had finished. But why? And so it trundles on like a cross between Jeopardy and QI.

For some reason it brings back echoes of an old Hale & Pace sketch (!) with Gareth Hale as some Welsh bloke who just asks what everything is. What’s that then? What’s that then? What’s this then?

Popping into the supermarket I now also a whole different kettle of fish as well as Iz can now be found regularly opening the sliding freezers, having a rummage around or sticking her head in.

To me it’s akin to that scene in Jurassic Park when we discover with shock and horror that the velociraptors can open doors!

It would certainly seem that we can only expect the unexpected and if we thought that with the terrible twos out of the way being three would be a er Jurassic lark then we could be sorely mistaken.

IMG_3491Evie is about six months older that Iz and her mum and dad, Alison and Mark, told us in no uncertain terms that we weren’t out of the toddler battle field yet. Darn!

Back to the Jurassic Park analogy then, perhaps it’s just like what Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr Robert Malcolm said, that chaos theory will rein and that nature will find a way. If one thing is for sure then Isabelle is a big fan of chaos theory…welcome to Isabelle Park!

Master of Horror: Kim Newman

His credits include everything from Empire magazine to Sight and Sound, as well as Moviedrome and numerous commentaries on DVDs. He’s an accomplished author, winner of several literary awards, even having one of his short stories sent into space! But, perhaps Kim Newman is best known for his seminal look at horror movies from 1968 to 1988 in the classic book, Nightmare Movies. This year, it gets a long awaited update filling in the last 20 years, ensuring it’s an essential read all over again.

Kim Newman kindly took time out of his busy schedule to catch up with Dean Newman, no relation, to answer some questions about his influences, his writing and his film reviews.

 Film

Who or what have been your main influences/how were you bitten by the film and writing bug?

Carlos Clarens, William K Everson, David Pirie, Robin Wood, David Thomson, Philip Strick. I started making notes on films when I was about fifteen, and have kept it up ever since.

First ever published review?

Last House on the Left, in the Monthly Film Bulletin (1982).
 

Your quotes have often been used on DVD and video covers that may influence people to rent or buy – with such great power do you feel a great responsibility?

Not especially; I’m not one of those critics who puts in quotes for extraction on the publicity, though I do sometimes get solicitations from distributors for recommendations. I always find it hard to come up with strapline-sounding things, even for films I like.

Ever walked out of a film? What was the last one?

Since I’m paid to review, no. The least I can do is watch the thing. I don’t fast-forward tapes or DVDs either. And because anything I might watch I might write about, I stick with whatever I start. The last thing I remember walking out of was an Iranian film called The Cow in 1979, and that was because I wanted to get home in those pre-VCR days to see Nigel Kneale’s then-new Quatermass serial. I have never gone back and found out what happened in The Cow, though.

 As a long term inmate of the Video Dungeon in Empire magazine – any personal recommendations or hidden gems that should remain so no more?

I was impressed with JT Petty’s The Burrowers. This month, I liked a German film called The Door.

Are there any guilty pleasures that you know you shouldn’t really like watching or enjoy but for some reason are drawn to?

I don’t buy into the guilty pleasure notion. I tend to divide films into interesting and dull rather than good or bad.

Who or what excites you in horror or sci-fi today.

Probably some filmmaker I’ve not heard of yet who’ll surprise me this year.

3D is back again – are you a fan and what do you think it means for film longterm?

Like a lot of folks, I’m getting a bit fed up with it – especially the ropey conversion jobs.

Favourite 3D film moment ever?

The bouncing ball in House of Wax. Reprised in Monsters vs Aliens.

Harry Potter or Twilight?

Neither.

True Blood of The Walking Dead

True Blood, marginally.

Talking of vampires, what is your favourite version of Dracula?

Nosferatu (1922). I also like Dracula AD 1972.

Writing and Television

Any top tips for budding writers or reviewers?

Not really. Omit needless words is always good. Read a lot. Write every day. The usual, in fact.

How about in writing books or for screen – any pitfalls to avoid?

Feeling too pleased with yourself.

How do you deal with writers block?

I’ve never had it, so I suppose I deal by writing.

Have you a time for writing that is more productive than
another?

When I’m not doing anything else. This sounds facetious, but it’s true.

According to IMDB you were once on Kilroy?

It was about horror. I’ve done a lot of TV stuff like that, mostly as an interviewee.

Talking of TV – Space Cadets – how was it for you? Especially with some of the famous guests?

I enjoyed it. I met Hattie Hayridge, who is a neighbour of mine, and we’re friends now. William Shatner was value for money. I had breakfast with Gareth Thomas. Angela Rippon was lovely. Bruce Dickinson was interesting. I’ve worked several times with Craig Charles. Oh, and I’m a semi-regular on Fred Macaulay’s Radio Scotland show off the back of it. Oddly, it wasn’t a particularly successful show.

Lots of sci-fi alumnus have appeared in the new Doctor Who, if offered a role would you? Or how about penning an episode?

No one’s ever asked me to be on or write Doctor Who. Steven Moffat did fetch me a drink at an awards ceremony last year, though. And I did write a Doctor Who novella.

You’ve won numerous awards, including the Bram Stoker Award and also had a short story sent to Mars, is there one that means the most to you and why?

Awards are nice, but I try not to take them too seriously. All systems of voting – jury, popular ballot, random name out of a hat – have fatal flaws.

For many people you are almost like the real life Peter Vincent, have you ever fancied your own Moviedrome style slot or documentary like the recent Mark Gatiss horror one on BBC 3?

I did do Moviedrome – a Mario Baya double bill. I’ve also written and fronted documentaries (for radio and TV). I’m not sure at the moment I’d have the time to make a commitment to a series.

What’s next for Kim Newman?

The Anno Dracula series is coming out again (from Titan) in expanded editions over the next few years, including the long-announced fourth volume, Johnny Alucard. Also from Titan, I’ve got The Hound of the d’ Ubervilles, a book about Professor Moriarty, due out this Autumn.

Also, can we expect to see another volume of Nightmare Movies covering the last 20-odd years since that very first influential instalment?

Yes, there is a new edition (essentially, the old book and a new one covering the last twenty years added on to it) out from Bloomsbury.

Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s is released on April 18th.

Sky slams the ‘Blakes’ on reboot of cult Sci-Fi

Blake regretted buying that leather jacket from the market

Sky is clearly in cahoots with The Federation as it has foiled the return of Blake’s 7, which is a crying shame as we’ve never needed the return of Roj Blake and his gallant ever changing number of crew members more than now.

The production company, B7 Productions, released a statement, almost sounding as if it had been penned by Orac, that said: “Sky deciding to not proceed with the planned TV revival of Blake’s 7 is obviously disappointing, but the development process has resulted in the dynamic reinvention of this ‘branded’ series.”

Picking that element apart they have taken it all on the chin and there seems to be some serious spinning going on, so much so you can almost smell it burning. Hopefully such a release will jolt further interest in the programme, interest that could manifest itself in several different ways.

The original had political intrigue in spades and was essentially Robin Hood in space and in these unjust times of political unrest never and times of terror they would have fitted in perfectly. Stories about anti-government dissidents and corrupt, totalitarian governments never seem to go out of fashion (it’s no coincidence that the series villain was a woman – just as Thatcher came into power), and surely that’s doubly true of this era of terrorism.

The Liberator

So if Sky don’t fancy resurrecting The Liberator and her crew what about their original home on Auntie Beeb? They’d be foolish not to.

They’ve axed Survivors and Spooks has almost run out of steam so time is ripe for something new and Battlestar Galactica showed  all TV Execs that just because something is Sci-Fi it doesn’t mean it can’t be well acted, gritty drama that just so happens to be set in space. After all that is how B7 started out and Galactica was often dubbed as being ‘The West Wing in space.’

Another option of course, and one often favoured by the BBC and more recently with ITV and the return of Primeval, is to go in with another broadcaster. The makers of Primeval did a deal with Watch, ITV and a US station for series 4 and 5 so it can be done, even if the show has already been axed. Who knows, perhaps even Syfy might fancy a dabble?

It could also try the route of going for a filmed episode or series and then make the jump to TV, a route that worked so well for Sanctuary. It would be a gamble but it might at least prick interest and a following.

As with Doctor Who before it B7 has already had a reboot of sorts and had a new lease of life in a series of audio adventures which has attracted a whole host of talent from Bond and genre fave, Colin Salmon as Kerr Avon and guest stars from Ashes to Ashes’ Keeley Hawes and new Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch. Like the Who audio adventures it has also lured back cast members from the original series, Michael Keating and Jan Chappell, all of which shows there is still plenty of talent and interest in the project.

Blake loved the Gold Run on Blockbusters...RSC

The company say that there is 60% funding already in place for the reboot and that Sky is only one of the minor media players involved so as Zen may have stated: “Probability of survival, 80%.”

A new Doctor in the house

We get our first glimpse proper of the new Doctor (Matt Smith) hanging on for dear life outside an out of control TARDIS, performing deftyfying acts. This is actually a fairly accurate description of how the returning Who is prepared to play a gamble rather than play it safe when it, like the malfunctioning TARDIS, is flying high in the ratings and with critics alike.

Following ‘the greatest Doctor Who…ever’, AKA Sir David of Tennantshire, Smith and new show runner Steven Moffat (taking over the Head Writer and Executive Producer reins from Russell T Davies) have basically reset the TARDIS clock to zero with some dizzying changes and given us a whole new Who for a new era.

Let’s be very clear here. This isn’t just a new Who actor but a whole new Who, period. New Head Writer, new titles, new assistant, new logo, in short a massive reboot of sorts. Even with fan and critic fave, Steven Moffat, as the new head honcho, this is a massive gamble, living on the edge just like our newly introduced timelord, as what had come before had been phenomenally successful.

But if that other 60s British institution, James Bond, can do it then so can the good Doctor. Sticking with the Bond/Who analogy you could almost argue that – with new Who viewed as its second phase – Eccleston’s single season tenure could be seen as akin to that as one shot wonder George Lazenby and that, with his universal acclaim and ingraining in our psyche of what makes a good Doctor, Tennant is the defining Connery of the piece. Only time will tell whether Smith will be more, um Moore, Dalton or indeed Brosnan or Craig.

Certainly after some of the excess that we saw in both the series 4 finale (which felt like Tennant’s swansong in a way) and ‘The End of Time’ two parter, these Davies penned epics could on one hand be seen as pushing  Who to its TV boundaries of believability limits as the likes of Moonraker had with Bond, so, whilst still retaining the fantastical perhaps this ‘first’ season of Who will bring us and the character down to earth a little bit more, and I don’t mean in a U.N.I.T. based episodes Pertwee era kind of way.

When Who returned in 2005, it did in my mind what always made the exploits of the Doctor stand out, it wasn’t just about the time travelling or the myriad of monsters but it was also about taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary, the policebox being the classic example. But what the returning Who did was to take objects we had no fear of and make us, or more specifically the child viewing audience fear them, whether that be people-eating wheelie bins – imagine the trepidation of walking to school the next bin day – gasmasks or statues, the latter in arguably the best new Who episode, Blink, penned, of course, by one Steven Moffat.

I am happy to report that such fixtures are still very much a part of Who series 5, with cracks in the bedroom wall being the latest unexpected new bringer of nightmares, although I feel this element wasn’t fully explored. There were some elements that made this, The Eleventh Hour, a fantastic episode and those that marred it a little for me.

First, those all important positive points. He may have a face that takes a bit of getting used to but Smith looks to have the makings of a damn fine Doctor about him, with great delivery of both comedy and drama. Much of it you could still see as being delivered by Tennant, which is only natural with the time he spent in the role but also as the character of Who will still retain some of his mannerisms and ways of doing things until he finds his feet. His best scenes, and the best scenes of the whole episode, where those spent with Amelia, which were reminiscent of sort of the cinematic Doctor (Peter Cushing) with his granddaughter, Susan, which I felt was a nice touch.

The scene of the ‘mad man in the box’ eating and hating everything from apples to yoghurt was also inspired and very funny genius, with Smith’s handling of the scene reminiscent in part of Johnny Depp as a certain Captain Jack Sparrow.

The premise of Who visiting a little girl, Amelia, and then returns to her 14 years later having dominated her life in-between with hundred of childhood drawings and the idea of the Doctor as her imaginary friend was an inspiration and really gave a timeless feeling to the character and really added to his mythic status. I also loved the fact that she found him at the bottom of her garden, the place where fairies come from and the fantastic happens.

The ending, which also tied back into showing these crayon drawings, was also very powerful, as was the tying in of Smith with the other incarnations and foes that had come before him, really helping stamp his arrival as a continuation of the character. As ever, the music, by Murray Gold, was exhilarating as ever, especially in the climax, which really made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, even if it was a little bombastic.

Sticking with music, the reimagining of the title music will no doubt grow on me, for now it feels a little too different still though, as will the lightning effects that bounce round the TARDIS, although I’m still less sure of the new marketing-machine friendly DW titles which look more like something that a Blue Peter competition winner designed. For me this is more New Coke to the old logo, so I live in hope of a return of what has come before, still the titles seem to go through more changes than we’ve had Doctors. At least there was no winking a la McCoy.

I also loved the fleeting appearance of Patrick ‘Games master’ Moore, perhaps it’s only a matter of time before that other great astronomer, Brian May, gets his Who call up, wouldn’t that be great: Doctor Who by way of Flash Gordon and Highlander with some electric guitar shaped weapon device – yes please!

But in the end it was only the bookends of this episode that I thought were great, the rest I felt was a bit all over the place and disjointed, for want of a better description the middle was a bit of a muddle in an oddly Avengers/The Village-esque chocolate box locale. For me it was trying to do a little bit too many things and not really being successful at any of them. In short, a strong opening and ending with a rather saggy middle filled by lots of running, at times it even felt a little bit Sarah Jane Adventures.

I have to say though it does look as if some of the best is yet to come if the rest of the series teaser is fulfilled, taking in everything in from Stonehenge to vampires, the Daleks and those pesky statues again. Here’s to an exhilarating 12 weeks!

The Branning Man

Soapland’s torchbearer for sci-fi fans is no more. That’s right ginger-haired, rosey cheeked apple of Dot Branning’s eye, Bradley Branning has carked it in EastEnders first live programme in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

But, it was certainly a death that geek but proud Bradley would have been pleased with as he fell to his death in a similar manner to Tom Baker’s incarnation of the good Doctor in Logopolis, Who being a favourite of the Albert Square resident, who even once dragged Stacey Slater to a Doctor Who Convention.

Of course it would have been even more impressive if once Bradley met his maker an oddly white figure would have been seen entering his lifeless husk to then only witness him regenerate into another actor, but is still Bradley.

Even more amazing would have been if Bradley actor, Charlie Clements, had actually ended up as being David Tennant’s replacement in the old blue box, rather than Matt Smith. After all what with Donna Noble and Turlough the TARDIS hasn’t been a stranger to ginger folk. And, lest us not forget that the new Doctor almost seemed regretful that he had not come back as a ginger.

However, Bradley wouldn’t have even been put in his rooftop death plunge situation unless his mobile phone hadn’t been heard ringing by the fuzz, and the ringtone? The X-Files theme, oh the irony! RIP Bradley, I’ll miss your sci-fi in jokes and ringtones. Now we only have the fleeting glimpses of Michael Keating who has swapped the role of Vila for one as the vicar for our only gentle sci-fi amusement in the Square.