Thursday, 30 October 2014


There is just something about a Who Radio Times is there not. For me it is probably some ghostly echo of the feeling ones young eyes got pouring over the Radio Times Doctor Who Tenth Anniversary Edition a different century ago. It makes one feel like a time-traveler even if it is on the slow path, one second at a time. In just ten weeks we have gone from there to here with just two weeks to go of a season of Doctor Who that feels very special indeed. Ach, they all do to be honest but this one feels so new and so different and yet built upon traditions loved and trusted. It is as though we have all been spat up by a dinosaur and we all came crashing to earth together in our blue box.
             Just two weeks to go and we will all be looking back going WHEN CAN WE DO THAT AGAIN?
              You never get to do things for the first time again. That is what makes it so special.
              You can try to do it better and Who is one show that even after half a century never stops trying.
               Not just a good Doctor.
               A Great Doctor.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Noe Second Time Around.

Noe #2...

Just wanted to announce a signing for the launch of Noe The Savage Boy#2 on November the 15th at The Forbidden Planet International Store on Ann Street Belfast. Time to swash yer buckle and hoist yer colors, be there or by yer blistered barnacles be square. Stephen Downey, Robert Curley and myself will be there to meet and greet anyone who wants to pick up an issue. The signing for issue#1 was so much fun and we got to meet some lovely folk, hope all who attended felt the same.
              The story of Noe and his family takes another hard twist as they discover there are sometimes fates worse than death.
              The signing itself however will be just good Craic.

Pygmalion In Time And Space.

A second whole season of stories with simply one of the best Tardis teams ever. Last years season of Doctor and Romanna stories raised the bar pretty high and I could not help but wonder if it was an attainable height or at least one that could be equalled. Should not have worried, Big Finish have more than come through with these eight new adventures. With the wheezing and grinding grampus of Tardis engines the old adventures begin anew.
                This time around we get Sontarans in an introduction series opener that is huge in scale and excitment and very character driven. Especially with that Sonataran Everyman  Dan Starkey playing a very different Sontaran than the very popular Strax. Ironic when you consider they are a clone race. It is a story that introduces a strrong character arc for the developing character of Leela which they explore at greater depth than they did back in the day.Baker and jameson are on tip-top form and more than rise to the spirit of proceedings. The very next stop involves a trip to a place literally darker than most places The Doctor has travelled to. A place where, of all The Doctor's companions, Leela has the most chance of ensuring their survival. The Crooked Man of the next title is also the product of a dark place. A sea-side town during the winter. The story also acts as a sequel to a previous tale when the Doctor had a very different face. Yep, contain yourself, a Patrick Troughton story no less!( Now you have an excuse to dust off that old VHS or that DVD you have allowed to wait for your attention like an old friend you have not spoke too in a while. Like you would ever need an excuse.) The master returns in The Evil One, a story that may well have you scratching your head wondering just who the title of the piece refers to.
                  After that came a story that leapt to the top of my list of recent favourites ( a list that has no meaning really as they are in no particular order.) The Last Of The Colophon. Absolutely everything clicked for me during this one. To the point where I can remember watching it all those years ago one Saturday night in 1977. It is that good. The next story involves a new big bad for The Doctor Who Universe of Big Finish Productions. You get to hear The Doctor go bad in this one. Which off course we know could never The next story The Abandoned is a trip through the looking glass and into the memory of The Tardis. My brain almost popped out of my head when the Doctor used the expression"Curiouser and Curiouser". I had to replay it again and again. Since the script was written by Loise jameson herself ( Oh Yes-there is no end to this woman's talents) I have since convinced myself that she reads this blog (Surely someone does) and she is familiar with my blog (as opposed to having read Lewis Carroll at some point in her well read life obviously). If I owned a mobile phone I would make it my ring tone!
                     The final story of the season is a real treat and features the return of The Zygons. A monster who work so well on audio despite being also one of the better designed creatures. It is those whispery voices I suppose. Aliens should sound like this. The jungle planet setting is also one that allows leela to completely come into her own. Still, a stand-out in a season that gives Louis Jameson so much to do. Not only in terms of character progression but also in the fact she gets to write for an episode, co-scripting with Nigel Fair. Another damned talented fellow who can do a bit of everything. You can hear all the fun these various talents had during the making of the stories in the c/d extras. Sounds like Big Finish have one of the best green rooms in the UK.
                  No sooner is this season done than The Philip Hinchcliffe Boxed Set appears.
                  Keep this level of quality up and there will be no finish in sight...

Sunday, 19 October 2014


                 The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Well, you would like to think so...
                 Richenbach Falls is where the story begins. Scene of one of the most celebrated confrontations in the long history of literature. One that has bled beyond the medium that birthed it and even entered modern parlance to describe the inevitable showdown between two equally balanced forces. Holmes and Moriarty, James and Sherlock, both plunging to their mutual ends in a monstrous abyss where nature and super-nature meet in a maelstrom capable of devouring even fictional characters.

                   Richenbach Falls. A churning fury that roars and spits with all the unrestrained anger of an author determined to end the life of a fictional creation whom had come to define his career. One that overshadowed all other literary endeavours by Conan Doyle and one who's success his creator had grown to possibly resent. The end had come for Holmes and The Final Problem saw him and his nemesis sail over the edge and into history.

                   Off course it was not the end. We know that now. The world screamed for more and three years after that fateful day Holmes walked in on a still grieving Watson, in disguise, and caused the stout hearted ex-military man to quite faint away. It was a more generous age capable of accepting even men were wont to swoon. This allowed Holmes to survive even longer after his death than he had existed prior to it. Even that reversal of fictional certainty has become a much mimicked exercise; the act of bringing back a character you should never have bumped off. That said we have had to wait considerably longer for anyone to do the same for the other person who went over the edge that day. The unloved James Moriarty.

                    Anthony Horowitz dives right in to the depths of that Sherlockian maelstrom where water always wins. In a bold move that would have Annie Wilkes reaching for her continuity hammer he convincingly reinvents what occurred in the heart of that churning abyss. He brings to the Final Problem a resolution that neither side steps nor undermines what Conan Doyle did himself all those years ago. No easy feat when you consider how even that power house of ideas that is the combination of  Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss dealt with their own Richenbach conundrum by disregarding the need to explain what actually happened with a grand shrug. Probably realising presumption and expectation had painted them into the corner of an already freshly decorated room at 221B Baker Street.

                       The book begins shortly after the events that occurred high up on that mountainside in Switzerland. An agent for The Pinkerton Detective agency Frederick Chase is in pursuit of an American criminal mastermind whom they had discovered had intended to join forces with Moriarty to create a criminal empire of evil to stretch between the continents. Chase is a determined and solitary figure chasing a very dangerous and shadowy figure every bit as ruthless as Moriarty with as vast resources to draw on. He is even bolder and certainly more blood drenched as the Napoleon Of Crime was with a greater appreciation of the notion of shock and awe. Despite Holmes absence his legacy and influence abound. I once heard Anthony Horowitz speak at the Ulster Museum as part of the publicity tour for his fantastic House Of Silk. He is an open and gregarious fellow who seems to find public speaking easy. At one point in the talk he addressed the public perception of the successful Robert Downey Jnr's take on Holmes or Indiana Holmes as he wittily called it. It is suggestive of a certain temptation amongst modern interpretors of Conan Doyle's eternal detective.The urge to apply whatever prevails as popular in the modern zeitgeist into the Holmes mythos. Not just in the sense of having Holmes tackle evils perhaps perceived as modern, As Horowitz did so successfully in The House Of Silk. More the notion of introducing anachronistic social conventions or manners of behaviour and speech to Victorian London. Since Conan Doyle was writing in the here and now of his world I think it does his creations a disservice to have them act as men out of time. Anthony Horowitz never does that and as such his stories will stand the test of time so much better for that. The book is a triumph that avoids the temptation of creating a minefield of continuity for newcomers to the world of Holmes and the London he roamed and protected.

                      As a Holmes fan I found lovely little Easter Eggs within the narrative. Ones that reference events in other stories. Friends and villans abound in situations new and yet familiar. Homes may have seemingly perished in the most fantastic and scenic of locations but his home turf remains as he left it. The dark corners of London truly are wretched hives of scum and villany. Enter Inspector Athelney Jones Of Scotland Yard  and the two men combine their considerable talents to traverse the unmapped regions of The London Underworld. Two good men drawn from both sides of the world to combat an evil that threatens both. They find their wits and sense of courage put to the test and stretched to their very limits by forces bereft of any moral code. The warning of this is quite clearly stamped upon the jacket of the book.

                       Sherlock Holmes is dead and darkness falls.

                        Conan Doyle created archetypes who are reborn and revitalised generation after generation. This is one of the superior additions to that honourable canon. Neither pastiche nor homage. In effect the real deal.

                         Quickly; The game is afoot.


One of my favorite covers from one of my favorite publications. It is a publication that surely represents the best of us. The inquiring human mind and the joy of discovery and learning. I am sure there are any number of reasons the discovery of the remains of a little creature that lived on this planet three point three million years ago is of outstanding scientific significance and goes some way to explaining the evolutionary arch between then and now. It is the smile that gets me. The thought that we might be the only living things in the universe that can actually smile and the equally stunning thought that we have been able to do it for millions and millions of years...
               Carry on smiling.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Still running After all these years.

Just this week I was reminded of a wee strip I did for fortnight magazine a long time ago. Part of Ouija Board Ouija Board which was a monthly strip I did for the arts, politics and culture magazine. Slice of life observations by someone with a broken brain. This was one a strip subtitled The Spide Remains The Same and was a glimpse at the toll taken by years of abuse at the hands of people who had decided I was their enemy because I did not dress like them. Honestly not as Unusual as it may sound; wars have started for less...
             Anyway, there I was just Tuesday past walking along in a reverie contemplating the crumbling moon in the sky called the moon and what may lie beneath. It was that episode of Doctor Who Kill The Moon and the horrible spider infestation that troubled me. The moon being an egg I could take but the thought of it swarming with arachnid bacteria...I thought a huge Racnoss Queen was going to hatch. Then suddenly I found myself being verbally abused by three drunken fellows in a loose ensemble of sports casuals. They were bumping off each other and holding each other up and raving like three mad crows from an old Disney cartoon. Although Uncle Remus never told stories about this carrion company. The Song Of The South has a completely different meaning in Northern Ireland.
              They actually followed me into a second hand charity bookshop. I was mortified and tried to feign indifference by being absorbed in a book about the history of The Queen's Household  Cavalry when really I just wanted to be anywhere but being serenaded by this Greek Chorus of naysayers. They were asked to leave the store which they drunkenly did all the while acting all put upon and obviously the victims in this scenario.  Is it sheer arrogance to believe one may walk the streets unmolested? After all a spide gotta slag or burst...
               WHAT DID WE DO BASHARDS?
                I am no longer the fiery young buck ready to fight the world for the right to wear a bowler hat with a kilt and bondage trousers. These days I will may wear a bow tie with no sense of irony and cannot fathom why anyone would feel inflamed by the sight of such a sartorial choice. Not so much a red flag to a bull as a penguin paperback being used to beat out a malicious fire.
                Someone I knew to determined to defeat their enemies by being better dressed than them. I think this an ultimately futile gesture as one can only ever really be differently dressed than them. As anyone who has ever being given a kicking by Mods can testify. Oh yes, I remember racing across the patio next to the art college being chased by some angry young men in the most amazing ace face suits and parkas. The kicking hurts as much. A rose by any other name blahdey-blah...The peasants are no longer revolting they are reality television stars. It is strange but the faces I saw growling at me the other day are the basically the same faces I have been listening to growl forever. I suppose the sports casuals change color but the spide remains the same..
                Ah well although it is a battle I never chose there are worse ones to fight.
               This will never end. Certainly not in my lifetime.
                For they are spides and their number is Legion.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Maggie Stables A Time Lady.

Was very saddened to hear that the actress Maggie Stables has passed away. Maggie played the character Evelyn Smythe the companion of Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor in a number of very entertaining stories from Big Finish Productions. From her introduction in The Marian Conspiracy to her very moving exit in A Death In The Family she excelled. A talented character actress whose easy warmth came through in her performances and whose down to earth attitude and natural intelligence made her the perfect foil for The Sixth Doctor's often vigorous excesses. In grounding the mercurial nature of Baker's interpretation she actually brought out the best in the man and their pairing was one of this company's triumphs. You could hear in the actor's voices how much they cared for each other. Indeed Evelyn's final words about the character of The Sixth Doctor in A Death In The Family are amongst the nicest things ever said about this era.
              Lovely writing delivered from the heart by a woman who probably meant what she said.
              Sympathy to all who were fortunate enough to know and love her.

The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August.

The history man cometh. Timey whimey. A throwaway lazy verbal dodge of a logical explanation by David Tennant's glorious Tenth Doctor has off late become the Get Out Of Jail Card for every writer who talks themselves into the baffling cul-de-sac of time travel stories. It is the "Reverse The Polarity Of The Neutron Flow" of this generation.
             Time travel is a difficult genre to write convincingly about. The second most difficult genre material to tackle. The first surely being stories about the comic book character The Flash. He runs fast. He runs very, very fast. In the name of Philip K Dick that man runs very fast.
              Timey whimey.
              Reverse the polarity.
              They are the literary bulletproof vests used to hopefully dodge the bullet points of logic. In most cases just dodging or deflecting the bullets that can kill your story stone dead.
               An entirely different strategy would be to embrace the complexity of such a story. To struggle with it as a determined scientist might construct and convince by strength of one's own intricately constructed  and reinforced storytelling. In short, damn good story telling that obeys the internal logic of a tale that most time travel stories confound. As in the case of The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August. It is a brilliantly complex yet utterly gripping exploration of an idea that you can explain briefly in a few choice lines and then wax lyrically about for a hundred more.
                Imagine it were possible for you to go back into the time-stream of your own existence. Relive the twentieth century over and over again. What advice would you give to your younger self? If such things were in fact possible what advice could you possibly give? Not even counting the big moments, you know;"do not buy those tickets for the maiden voyage of The Titanic" (if your time-stream extended back that far.) You know the kind of moments I mean, the game changers. Yet while we live with life altering moments all the time we are just not aware of the repercussions of taking roads not chosen. Foreknowledge would make all the difference. There are a hundred myriad moments that make up a single day of our existence , all of them experienced but not all remembered. Our timelines are as meandering and complex as as the nature of the human brain and the way it processes memory. The saved data that makes us who we are, that determines our personalities. change a single day in that timeline and we may alter the course and development of that personality.
               Factor in that you are always reborn in the same skin and at the same point of origin and well...
               Spoilers,spoilers,spoilers. To borrow from the life of The Good doctor once more.
               How does one discuss a time travel narrative without giving too much away about what has happened, what is happening, what will happen,how everything that happens or has happened will be affected by see what happens when you pluck at the threads of a time travel story. Well, the threads that show. To Claire North's credit there are no dangling threads in this vast narrative despite it spanning lifetimes and hundreds of years. The ideas within the narrative are so well realised they spill over with their own potency. In that I mean you find yourself speculating, playing mind games in the theatre of operations of your imagination. at one point nearing the middle of the book I looked across the room and saw myself in a mirror reading the novel which also in its reflection caught a smaller mirror behind me showing the same thing from a slightly different perspective. Which meant a reflection mirroring a reflection infinitely regressing along my limited perspective.I thought; is this the only time travel it is possible to witness. Oh it is a joy when a book sparks imaginative impulses like this. It is the alchemy that occurs when a novel bursts and bristles with fantastic ideas and characters that feel alive and worth following. Harry August is just such a character as is his best friend/nemesis Vincent. The nature of their friendship and on-going rivalry is an addictive draw that pulls one deep into the actions at the heart of the book. She under stands the nature of male friendships so well, the warts and puppy dog tails and all. I suppose the emotional tug of war that can come when friendship sours is not just a male or a female preoccupation, it is a human thing. I however can only speak from my own viewpoint and I can identify with Harry August's dispassionate knowledge of what he must do and the emotional knowledge of what he wants to do. Claire North is a pseudonym which the author chose to use for her own reasons. None of them to do with gender but there is no denying she writes men so well.
               I imagine the author Clair North's work area must have been like a spider's web of post-its with character histories and plot developments, beginnings and endings, with strings and threads crisscrossing the room in the hope of weaving the recursive nature of the ever changing nature of the novel together. Or perhaps she has just been working on this for more than one lifetime.
               For all its SF trappings there are moments of genuine horror in this novel.Those who find they live their lives in a non-linear fashion may find that pain and suffering are not transient experiences. There is a certain mortal relief that comes with the knowledge all things will pass. We mourn the brevity of happy times and find the bad cannot pass quick enough. Adjust this to an eternal perspective and you begin to see horrific implications.
                This book is an outstanding debut with someone with not only a special understanding of the way time works but also the effect it has on the nature of relationships.
                Claire North what will you do next?
                Or have you already done it and we are just in your slipstream waiting for it to come round again...

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Where Man Once Ruled Supreme.

A fellow Apes fan said to me recently that he thought the two recent Apes Movies had got their titles in the wrong order. The first should have been Rise and the second Dawn and not the other way around. And you know, he was right, the revised title would have served the progressive nature of the movies better. But hey, that is a minor quibble in the face of their sheer simian brilliance. Particularly the driving force of primate nature that is Andy Serkis. His turn as Captain Haddock was like movie magic to me. Stand up Jamie Bell, you also achieved greatness in that Spielberg/Jackson/Herge collaboration.
           I remember reading the above Planet Of The Apes annual aloud to my mate Paul who was dyslexic but loved The apes television show. We all did on our street and could be found acting out the adventures of the two astronauts trapped in a world they never made. Paul would be Burke, my other mate Fergie would be Virdon and I was always the chimpanzee Galen. I think perhaps I still am. Adopting the improbable chimpanzee crouch to mimic Galen probably contributed greatly to my accelerated decrepitude and arthritis. I suffered for my art
            I miss Paul very much. He took his life in a moment of acute depression. We did not know at that time what troubled him and made him see the many ups and downs of life as insurmountable. Depression is a condition which haunts so many and yet hides in plain sight. One that so many suffer under in silence compounding their sense of isolation. Wounds of the mind, mental illness or mental health issues seem Taboo subjects to admit to for fear of social isolation.
             I remember us sitting out on warm summer evenings feeling the night drawing on, speculating if the two astronauts ever made it home and if they did did they take Galen with them. What if Galen came to Belfast and got a job as a caretaker in Holy Cross Boys School. A talking monkey caretaker. That would have been magic. We wondered would he be able to watch himself in planet of the apes. You know, the kind of important things boys will speculate sitting on a yard wall watching a red streaked sky promise a sunny tomorrow.
               It is after all a monkey planet.
               We just live on it.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Texas Chainsaw Marzipan.

                                                            Just one of those days.