Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Ghost Hunters.

In 1926 the young Sarah Corey's career choice takes an unlikely turn from model to become the assistant to Harry Price Ghost Hunter, author and exposer of spiritualist fraudsters. Price had dedicated his life and fortune to discovering the truth of spiritualism whilst also exposing fraudlent mediums who cruelly  exploit the broken-hearted.hoping for some re-connection to lost loved ones.
Up to a point this has been a relatively straight path of experiences on which his instincts and ghost busting methods have served him well until that path leads to Borley Rectory.
There is a particularly English feel to the haunting of Borley Rectory .It does not have the modern notions of paranormal activity with its demonic edges and targeted evil. More your almost terribly British bell ringing and table rapping approach to terror. a more mannered expression for a haunting. Mind you there is always the confused otherworldly writing which appears on the walls and the spectrsl nun or abbey sister who seems to glide through the grounds of an evening. Frightening trespassers and nosey locals. 
Neil Sprng unfolds his tale through Sarah Coreys eyes and in doing so brings an unsettling degree of suspect narration. I found myself thinking at times that we are seeing and hearing what she wants and needs to see rather than what was actually happening in front of her eyes. It is not deliberate on her part. This is the world Harry Price navigates through and himself at times becomes the most questionable of narrators. Yet the affection and respect this vivacious young woman feels for her new mentor begs for an honorable reward for her faith and trust. This is the world of The Prestige where things are rarely what they appear to be with genius fraudsters plying the sleightest of hands. 
I was saddened to read now that previous residents of the house not only exaggerated aspects of the famous haunting(Harry Price actually wrote two books on the subject. Something of a personal Everest for him and his methodology.)but actually colluded in in fraudulent behavior faking the haunting. A depressing notion for those who believed the rectory to be the source of true paranormal disturbances. The fact is there are people who want to believe in another life beyond this one and who remain optimistic in the face of much cynicism and scorn, easily mocked and targets for those who would exploit their needs.
It all comes so easil to those like me who were raised as Catholics in a war zone.
We see bloody ghosts everywhere.

Oh Jack We Thought We Knew You.

Enter the bewildering and disconcerting labyrinth of  1888 Whitechapel London in the company of forty very different writers and take a true walk on the wild side. People imagine the relative ease with which they could do such a thing but I wonder if modern sensibilities are capable of surviving a dander on the unforgiving cobbles of the Victorian era. Especially the fecal miasma that would greet the finer tuned sense of smell of generations who have grown with the benefit and dignity of functioning indoor plumbing. The reek alone would undo a fellow.
Not to mention the ferocity of the crimes committed by a criminal who has haunted the dark imaginings of generations yet has gained a certain immortality by virtue not just of the ferocity of his crimes but they way he has managed to remain a fiend without a face. Here we have forty tales of terror based on the events of that Autumn of Terror of 1888. Forty twisted tales that each in their way adds to the nightmare of an ident-kit fit; building a pathology if not a face. Some succeed better than others in putting together a believable pathology behind the mind that spilt crimson on the streets of Whitechapel. Although "believability" is hardly a bench mark when it comes to the truth of the ripper.
                No one knew then and no one knows now.
The levels of poverty in London at this time were heart breaking and just staggering. So many people from so many ethnic, cultural and religious differences all caught in a life trap few would ever break free from. People who literally lived hour to hour not knowing where the next crust of bread would come from. in the most desperate situations selling the only commodity they had; themselves. Immigrants from every corner of the world flooding in desperation to the largest capital city in the world.  Some seeking a new life and employment or fleeing the effects of religious pograms or ethnic persecution. Not so different from today after all although one cannot measure the standards of those days by the lack of standards of our own. They did what they had to do to stay alive. So many women forced to take to the dark, dangerous and unforgiving streets What makes a prostitute; the needs of others or the money they are prepared to pay to satisfy those needs? The rippers chosen victims were already victims of a terrible grinding poverty that would not let them go. This unseen predator strangled and then butchered their fallen forms even when life had already crushed their spirits and degraded their humanity. It is hard to imagine a harder or more pitiless existance. Their names are remembered because of they way they were torn from his world and their killer has achieved an immortality that could not be less deserved.
              It is a dark and shared morbidity that keeps the memory of these crimes alive. Most of the great achievements of this age have been forgotten whilst the history of this Autumn Of Terror in Whitechapel lingers like an unwanted dark shade at the wake of the Victorian Era. Every now and then bold claims are made, wild theories abound, and Spring Heeled Jack always remains in the shadows.His terrible work done but like all monsters of his ilk returning again and again to the scene of his crimes in our own imaginations.
               One of he most recent and most searing re-examinations of his character is to be found in the words of the song Jack by The Tiger Lillies. Martin Jaques is an incredible word smith and a brilliant deliverer of tragic tales of broken humanity. Towards the end of his opera Lulu A Murder Ballad he sings of his heroines fatal encounter with Jack and peels back the mask of history to give us a glimpse of naked devilry. It is disturbing and brilliant and is enough to make one feel ashamed of ones prurient interest n these atrocious crimes. Well truthfully until the next theory to the killers identity and motives for the crimes comes suttling out of another dark place.
               We know what you were, Jack.
               We just do not know who you were.

Feeling Low.

Nothing ever sounded quite like it to me. It is one of those things that might never occur to someone who listens to David Bowie's older stuff and just thinks of them as "old stuff." rather than remembering what it was like to wait for these albums to come out and to hear them for the first time.
My teenage brain was like a sponge ready to absorb new things, new sounds and experiences.  Low I loved. Heroes I liked a lot. Lodger I found hard work at the time but now serves to conjure memories of an awkward awareness that adulthood was going to elude me for a while. They are a remarkable trilogy of albums. Bowie's Berlin days or whatever.I used to play Low on my ma's old box stereogram. It had a muffled bass quality to it. The way I mostly hear the world now.
              Maybe that is why the Where Are You Now made me so emotional when I heard it. The much older Bowie's voice had a fragile quality to it that made me feel so melancholy.
               It was like hearing sounds again you never expected to hear again in your life.
               New and yet familiar. Like so much of this great man's work.

Scary Monsters And Super Creeps.

The December madness of hysterical shopping overwhelmed me as I tried to browse for something special in the movie and music store Head (Great store with good stock and people who seem to enjoy what they sell.) and as I was leaving I chanced upon the most recent issue of Mojo and felt as though some-one had literally thrown me a lifeline. A stunning Bowie cover with a shot from the photo session for Ashes to Ashes along with sizeable article on the Album Scary Monsters And Super Creeps as well as the new album Blackstar. Boy has that song haunted me the last couple of weeks along with that mesmerising video . The Blackstar music video is one of my favorite short films of 2015.
It has been decades since I picked up my copy of Scary Monsters in Caroline music.It seems like an age and is indeed for some a lifetime but it was an electrifying album for myself. It felt like the end of something old and also the beginning of something new. Apart from the glittering thing of beauty that is Ashes To Ashes I had a particular fondness for the title track itself with its demented opening. It was around this time I got into a scrap with a drunken pal who drew black heads onto Bowie's nose on my copy of Low. What an act of vandalism. One that struck at my very heart. My revenge was to stuff dairy lee cheese triangles into his Oxford Brogues. Cheesy feet. Yes, I know that is cold, even savage but such was the brutal world we moved through. Bowie would understand.

"Ashes to Ashes flunk to flunky. We know Bowies hung like a donkey.", the words of my old school song
(Saint Sabastiannes For The Hopelessly Mercurial.) Major Tom has fallen from the heavens, fallen to an earth that is not Earth. His sparkling bejewelled bones are the subject of a new religion. Alien and mysterious, as all religions are. The song is genius and the visuals are startling. A couple of Saturdays  past I watched Doctor Who Heaven Sent and The video for Blackstar back to back. Just about two of the most mentally exciting set pieces I have had the pleasure to enjoy this year. One about the trials and nightmares of a much loved imaginary being and a man who dares to imagine being someone other than who he is. Big finish studios have released a PaulMcGann adventure that features a time lord whose previous incarnations occupy his head at the same time. He is off course a bit of a nightmare. imagine how many of Bowie's previous incarnations still exist inside his current persona. That is one crowded room.

Pub Meets Past.

Sketch Jam indeed, in our prime we were thickly cut Marmalade Jam! I was reminded of this Belfast pub meet in The Garrick by my chum Adrian L who gave me a copy of an old issue of ImagineFX magazine which did a regular feature on pockets of comic book enthusiasts through out the UK who would get together to discuss comics and bounce ideas off each other. It is cover dated august 2010, five years ago, and that handsome devil Stephen Downey has not aged a day since! He may well have a touch of Dorian Grey about him but I am more your Rip Van Winkle emerging from his cave. Comics have such a high profile in the shared cultural zeitgeist it is hard to imagine a wee group like this were thought of as the "comic people in the corner." In a nice way off course that old pub felt welcoming. Time moves so fast, things change so quickly.
                The group still meets.Seek them out. Thems good folks.
                It is nice sometimes to just slow things down, take it easy, nice and slow, rest and hear the daises grow...
                Wow, what a boring old fart am I.

Bah Humbug.

Tom bakers Christmas spirited performance of Dickens's classic is just the perfect listen for this time of year when we find ourselves half way out of the dark. Tom bakers wonderful voice and his love of words and his sheer joy in their performing comes across like the best present at the foot of the tree you could hope for.You get the impression that Mister Baker was having the time of his life in that recording booth at the Big Finish studios when he did this. I can imagine the recording crew of sound engineers and possibly even the catering staff and cleaners all mesmerised by his acting out the second most famous Christmas story of them all. Sensing they are not likely to see anything like it in real time again. There were probably a few unseen Dickensian visitors there as well. If not in the flesh then certainly in spirit. The spirits of the season.  Dicken's story improves with the decades and Tom Bakers voice is just a fine old wine you never want to run out off. Draw the blinds, uncork a favorite tipple and stoke the fire.
             With the screwball and bitter sweet Husbands Of River Song Doctor Who has drawn to an end for another year. Another Bloody Year! Time is out out of joint..Yet the moment has been prepared for, as they say. Just around the corner is another season of Forth Doctor Adventures which we can follow into the heart of 2016. Happy days ahead with some more inspired stuff on the way from Big Finish;The War Doctor,River Song and her Diary,more Doom Coalition and even the return of The Doctor and Donna.Along with the regular and ever exciting main range.
              Iit is an embarrassment of riches. a feast of Tardises..
              Thworp, thworp!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Saucy Jack!

It is a long and winding route from the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean to the choppy dark waters off the coast of Northern Ireland but just look who the wind blew in. The Black Pearl docked in Belfast Harbour( Right next to The Flying Dutchman and just across from the ghostly wreck of The Titanic.) and who should I see dandering down Ann street in a most mercurial fashion leaving a trail of rum ,broken hearts and empty pockets as he staggered along  but saucy Jack himself. At pistol point I asked if he would care to take a look at Noe The Savage boy our own tale of the high seas and the high stakes that come with piracy and its dubious rewards.. He bemoaned the fact of his poor schooling and only suggested I read it to him whilst he gargled a bottle of Captain Morgans ( Whom Jack assured me is a perfidious rascal and ner do well). He kicked back on our staircase and said how much he was looking forward to fun times in Belfast.
              "Aye you will love it here. Belfast is full of craic", I informed him with the air of one who knew. At which point he high tailed it back through the city centre as fast as his legs would carry him. With me hopping after him shouting" Come back Jack! I said Craic not Kraken!"

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Time And A Giggle.

Oh Boy what a joy! The Belfast writer/director Aiden Largey has a new film in post-production called Time And Again. It is the story of a child genius who with the help of his best friend builds a time machine which he hopes to use to escape his distant father and create a bridge between himself and the mother he never knew. It is an amazing looking production with an equally amazing cast of fine talent that includes David Rawle, Ian Beattie and Shaun Blaney. When you have a cast like that and a script to stretch them you end up waving a bottle below the heavens to catch lightning which I know Aiden can do. Science can be fun, science fiction can be funnier.
 And just look what the main character is reading! Good Craic Comics. Well what else would a Belfast born child genius be reading? The story and script sound so poignant yet I know it will also be quite funny. Well thats life is'nt it. A drama with a load of comedy and tragedy in it. A traromcom...
                                                     ..or something.

Aiden is such a good story teller and natural enthusiast for all things human. That is to say he understands the complexity and frailty of the human condition without losing sight of it mostly being shits and giggles, baby.It looks so beautifully shot too. Northern Irish cinema has mostly shied away from things of a fantastical nature seemingly preferring to wallow in the struggle between the orange and the green. Yet where are the Catholic vampires and protestant werewolves? Or the flying black taxis and radioactive soda farls?
                                                             Time And Again; a film
                                                                  set in the possible

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Heavens Above.

In Saturday nights episode The Doctor is trapped in a nightmare that could have sprung from the darkest imaginings of that most respected teller of ghost stories MR James, One impossible to wake up from. A truly cruel and twisted creation touched with an evil genius that only his own race could come up with. Arcane scientific black magic in a confession dial. It was truly terrifying and magnificent at the same time. That fifty five minutes of television on a wet rainy November Saturday will always remain a fixed point for me in my memory. Fifty years on and counting this wonderful show continues to innovate and shine a light in dark places and times. it is Tuesday morning and  I am still trying to bask in the glow of invention and storytelling that went into the make up of Heaven Sent and marvel at the minds that came up with it. That closing montage as the Doctor ascended to barely conceivable levels of determination and heroism displayed a creative team and a lead actor on top of their game in a season that has had more than its fair share of surprises and innovations. A love letter to its continuing and constantly evolving fan base and a reminder to its long term followers why we love this show so much. The bloody knuckles and broken bones that were on show as our hero dragged himself to the place where he would willingly begin his suffering all over again was just heart stopping. the bony coral reef of Doctor skulls was terrifying in scale and seemed to represent an eternity of endless suffering. What a bold concept. What a bold conceit.
              Peter Capaldi you are our Doctor.
And with The Doctor back on Gallifrey at long last(Very,very long last) maybe we could address one of the great mysteries about our hero. His parentage. I have since the Paul McGann movie thought that given his "hybrid" status that he is actually Leela and Andred's son. Part human and part Gallifreyan and to the best of my knowledge Leela is or was the only human on the Doctor's homeworld. It would account for his rebellious streak and could also go some way to explaining the difficulties he may have experienced growing up in a class ridden stuffy "civilization."
              Oh if only this were true and we were about to see the lovely Louise Jameson once more.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Best Of Times.

                                                     T'was the Night Before Christmas
                                                         And all through the house,
                                                         Was the sound of a Zygon
                                                             chewing a mouse.
                                                  (Oh Boy William Mcgonagall
                                                          would turn in his grave.)

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Abominable Times.

Monkey Queen.

                        (From my sketchbook) Even The Planet Of The Apes had a medieval period.

A Lost Talisman.

Read this great double bill of books by Jonathan Aycliffe at the weekend. A Saturday night horror double bill if you will. Two books written in a style and using subject manner that strays very close to similar stories you may have read before but remain strong original tales in their own right. There is something almost seductive about the familiarity that feels like a familiar tune played on surprising and haunting instruments. Of the two I found The Talisman particularly affecting. (Possibly because I spent some of the best years of my life working in a store called The Talisman.) The Lost reminded me of some of the great horror novels of my youth that involved Satanic rumblings and Biblical prophecies whose time had come. Books such as The Omen, The Sentinel or The Apocalypse. big world ending stories that reek of sulphur. The Talisman charts the moral decay of a young Romanian immigrant and his dreadful heritage. There is some icy story telling here as a young man of the west strays into haunted regions. Damning himself and those he loves. It is also told in the same format as Bram Stoker's Dracula as a series of journal entries and letters. Yet it does not feel in the least tired.
           The book jacket designs are beautifully old school and the authors influences are literally worn on the sleeve of the volumes. They are old influences to be sure but the storytelling and dialogue are thoroughly modern.
             There are many dark areas of this world which remain unexplored and perhaps we are all the better for this. The many antiquarian explorers in the pages of MR James stories who dig too deep who go too far. Jonathan Aycliffe seems determined to follow in their footsteps.
              I for one will be cautiously watching where he goes.
              Leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind me.

If I Only Had A Brain.

                                                    The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Let Me Be Brave.

                                                                 Clara, Clara, Clara.
               She faced the Raven last night and it extinguished her life. Blew it out in a black smoky cloud. What a dark moment. The darkest since the show returned in 2005. All the adventures this young woman shared with The Doctor. All the wonderful things they saw and did together and it ended on the rain slick cobbles of a dark street in London that exists slightly outside the world we know. Much like the fictional world The Doctor belongs to. I have never seen The Doctor so helpless so impotent in the face of an unrelenting gruesome fate. Some spark seemed to go out of him as his friends end drew near and I could not help but say "MY DOCTOR WOULD NEVER ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN."
                 And then I realised I said it to an empty room.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Maius Intra Qua Extra.

The bulk of the story being told in this remarkable book is set in Hulton College in Norfolk which is a boys school set during an age on the very cusp of a war which will change the world forever. Beginning with the assassination of The Archduke Ferdinand  by a Serbian terrorist which will set the ball rolling on a series of events which will culminate in the youth of Britain and Europe dying in their thousands in the most atrocious ways thought possible up to and beyond the ken of man.It is also the novel  upon which the highly regarded and much loved David Tennant era two part story is based. The novel is different from that stunning wee gem in the crown of that wonderful period but is also basically the same. The same intense and even emotional tale of a Timelord in search of humanity and a deeper understanding of the fragility of life and our may-fly hold on it. It is a great coming of age too. If you have ever had a Tom Boys School Days moment when you fell into the hands of a Flashman type school bully you will also have a lot to identify with in this novel. William Golding understood the nature of the wildness that exists just beneath the surface of us all and the kind of situations when we will answer that call of the wild. So does Paul Cornell.
The Doctor becomes  a human being using a device that is pure magic science. A Prospero charm that allows him to alter his entire DNA as well as rewriting his memories from an ancient cosmic being to that of a little Scottish school teacher raised by a stern minister father in Aberdeen. He becomes that which is most alien to him; a one hearted ordinary man. In the television version Daved Tenant dazzled as both The Doctor and John Smith, playing both differently if both wearing the same face. In Paul Cornell's words Sylevester Mc Coy excels delivering two career best performances, if you follow my line of thought. In Paul Cornell's hands and under the direction of his story telling Sylvester delivers two very strong characterizations though both of a different nature retain the same face in the theatre of the minds eye. To the point where I believe this very talented writer could pursue a career in the FPI as a profiler  such are the almost poetic observations with which he conjures up the ticks and winks that form a person. The lovely Benny is the companion here herself going through the traumatic aftermath of the loss of a loved one.It is Benny who originally bore the responsibility of care that Martha Jones inherited for the television adaption. Benny is a wonderful character in her own right with a history across different mediums that stretches back longer than most incarnations of The Doctor. This is another book in The Doctor Who History Collection and I had almost forgotten they are all reprints. Remembrances of a time when The Doctor was kept alive by virtue of the Virgin novels and the ever faithful ever excellent Doctor Who Monthly. In his forward to this novel Paul Cornell mentions how his proceeding book was the subject of scathing reviews and yet for the life of me I caqnnot remember which one it may have been. He is such a good writer it is hard to imagine any of his work being pooh-Pooed! Mind you some of the Doctor Who fans have exacting standards, impossibly Galifreyan standards. 
This is no rose tinted vision of a vanished England. This is a hard tale of innocence progressing towards manhood and to some degree the same process moving in a backwards direction. It mirrors the contrariness of human nature and almost succeeds in dazzling us with its reflected visions of a bygone age. It is about cowardice and bravery and it is about war and peace.
Mostly though it is about human nature.

Beloved Poison.

Beloved Poison has a sepulchre timber in its tone. The is a tale full of bones, bones of those disinterred and the bones of past deeds haunting the present. It is an assured confident read and one that rips along at an exciting pace. One that just does not allow for a tea break. I found myself so engaged by the plight of the central character and her identity struggles in an age where the rights of women were given slight regard that I almost forgot the rhubarb pie I had bought for a late supper. That may sound faint praise but I do like a cup of hot sweet tea and a slice of cake.( It is the legacy of Jon Pertwee's Worzel Gummidge I suppose.) The main character is Jem Flockheart a Woman born with a flaming port wine stain on her face who must masquerade as a man in order to pursue her chosen profession as  an apothecary. It is her story and her struggle which we follow through a sometimes heartless world of dirt and filth and grime from the stews of the desperately poor to the terrifying operating and dissecting theatres of St Saviour's infirmary itself. Her courage and decency shines a light down a hard and dark road. From the road to Newgate and the gallows where the baying mob gather like some precursor to the X factor hurl spite and bile.
It is a very grimy tale that shares the atmosphere of Andrew Miller's amazing book Pure as it shares a character charged with the performing of a task entrusted to the main character in that book; The removal of hundreds of the buried dead from the ground which was to be their last resting place. It seems such a profane ungodly to do;to disturb the rest of the dead. Even more so given the religious fervor that so dominated the age these events take place in during which the tangible and the unseen seem to share seem to live beneath the same roof.That they would consider doing such a thing seems quite modern in intent and the disregard it infers. Being brought up in a religion that confers such respect upon the ways death is dealt with and the notion a deceased loved one has but stepped from the room would seriously incline one to leave the dead where they lay.
              Mind you seeing the film Poltergeist at a formative age would also have a similar quality.
Poison is everywhere in this novel. As are vast quantities of human waste and effluvia. The disposal and dispersal of which is very important as life as they know and practice it could slow to a very messy and very smelly stop drowning in the stuff. Old wisdom and the use of medicines and poisons also abound as the centre for the tale is the hospital of Saint Saviours. An ancient temple of healing nearing the end of its days and facing imminent demolition. The hospital must close and the dead must be moved and rising to the surface are dark secrets amidst all this upheaval almost passing unnoticed until the murder of a brilliant but controversial doctor raises the spirit of unanswered wrongs. There is a growing certainty that amongst these gathered healers is a person well versed in the very art of murder and who better to perform such an act than one who also knows how to save.
The main character mentions this at one point and utters a truth that almost puts a rope about her neck. Really just doing the work of cruel eyes which already have her in their sights.
                 Atmospheric and even educational to a degree (If you are considering ways of dispatching someone using the god given greens of the earth.) Beloved Poison is a gripping read which makes you care for the great unwashed in a surprising way.

Mark Gatiss Has Murdered Sleep.

Saw a wee preview of this story and Peter Capaldi was saying he thought this episode would lead to quite a few sleepless nights and how right he was. Especially the closing moments with that very unsettling reveal and the entirely creepy manner in which it was delivered. the disintegrating face and the ghastly modulated speaking voice of the human face of The Sandman. I liked the idea of the remoteness of the station and its majestic orbit. It recurs again and again in science fiction this idea of lonely remote bases that become dangerous places thanks to our native hubris and our constantly poking around in things better left alone. If we are not flying too close to black holes in search of impossible planets then we are plundering the dreamscape in search of nightmares.
           Just finished a great book by Mark Gatiss called The Roundheads and I have long been a fan of his work in the many fields he works in and I always look forward to whatever it is he is up to. I especially loved his time with The League Of Gentlemen and the MR James biography he did for BBC Two. I wonder if he has ever been troubled by sleepless nights,I certainly think with this story he might inspire a few.
           It is about time Reece Shearsmith appeared in Doctor Who. I remember watching him in A Field In England and thinking I was watching the next Doctor. He never has to raise his voice to unnerve and his comedic timing is excellent. There is just something Timelordy about him.
           Nice to hear the Doctor quote a bit of Shakespeare without name dropping past association.
           There is a touch of Prospero about Peter Capaldi.
            I suppose it is because The Tardis is like a magic island in space.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Foggy Notions.

Was not expecting just how dark this book got. Ironic given it is during the great smog that almost smothered one of the great cities of the world.I suppose I actually I did not see what was coming. In keeping with a book set during the great smog which rolled over London in 1952 which after it cleared revealed a death total of four thousand people (Although it is strongly suggested there were many many more and the government of the time played with and suppressed the actual final death toll.).Throughout the history of cinema and fiction there is a wealth of material that suggests all manner of swarthy nocturnal behaviour in the fog shrouded streets of Limehouse or Whitechapel in the Victorian or turn of the century eras yet this astonishing period in the life of a world capital never gets mentioned. Men, women and children choking on a blanket of a natural and man-made fusion of sickly thick smog as it billowed and rolled across whole communities leaving death and misery in its wake. It is the stuff of nightmares. It is the stuff of the twentieth century.
The Doctor and his best friend Sarah Jane Smith travel in The Tardis back to the East End of London 1952 to unravel a mystery discovered in a photograph from this very period. The tone of the story is steeped in  melancholy from the very beginning. The Doctor and Sarah Jane are not long back from The Doctors second visit to the planet of Peladon. A visit that almost ended with The Doctor losing his life. A gloom seems to hang in the air around this marvellous being. Soon the crystaline cost of that previous visit to the fabled blue planet Metebelus Three is due to be paid as the Great Ones web reaches across space and time to ensnare The Doctor. Perhaps he senses he is nearing the end of his days with this familiar old face and that sense manifests as an air of melancholia.
This is a fantastic setting for The Tardis to arrive in. A terribly British disaster the result of a series of variables probably unique in the galaxy. David bishop's characterization of The Doctor and Sarah Jane as she was at this stage in her life are spot on. I saw that slightly sharper jaw and the more pronounced mix of bravery and intelligence she radiated as a fierce free thinking young woman. This is the same Sarah Jane who won our hearts all over again when she graduated to her own show but at an earlier stage in her life. Still some one who will not be pushed about or bullied and will always try to do the right thing despite the odds. It has to be said that the force they oppose in this story is a horrendous one that would be hard pushed to be realised in the modern incarnation of the show and would certainly not be transmitted before the watershed. The more monstrous characters being some of the East End gangsters and not the horribly alien ones. Some of the events that take place are quite awfully distressingly magnified by the attempts of those poor victims enduring them to beg their creator for help that never comes. Maybe this was the authors intentions.
               This is the third of the historical adventures I have read in this particular collection of Doctor Who books. These are three fabulous faces staring out from the spines of these books on my bookshelf. An always welcome sight. The first two I read had their dark moments but this one pushed things a bit further. Perhaps it was because in relative terms this book takes place in a period relatively familiar to the here and now that the events as they occur seem easier to identify with. Or perhaps it is my own working class upbringing in a working class area.
                The fog of history parts to reveal a...fog.