Saturday, 22 July 2017

Deborah Watling.

Saddened to her that Deborah Watling has passed away. way back in the day she played the beautiful Victoria Waterfield and travelled with the second incarnation of The Doctor through a period of the show now fondly remembered not only for the endearing chemistry of that particular Tardis team but for the plethora of monsters who came out of the proverbial Universal Woodwork; Cybermen, Yeti, Ic-warriors and Daleks. Her tenure was not one of the longest but such was her charm and innocent bravery that she and her travelling companion Jamie Mc Crimmon represent something of a lost golden age I have very fond memories of this time mostly through reading and rereading the Target novelizations. The Doctor, Victoria and Jamie have always existed in black and white in my imagination, even the little illustrations in the Target books were in black and white.The color came from their character and the fact that despite most of her stories being among the wiped she is still loved by many and will always have a special place in the hearts of Doctor Who fans.
              In one of her surviving stories, the legendary Tomb Of The Cybermen, there is a wonderful dialogue between the Doctor and Victoria as they try to settle for the night in the terrible Tombs on Telos. A scared Victoria sits wide eyed discussing with The Doctor how her whole world has changed since her father was murdered by the Daleks and she has elected to travel with him. What followed was a little pieceb of Doctor Who magic delivered to her by a Patrick Troughton who was on top of his game.
               Victoria; You probably can't remember your family.
                Doctor; Oh yes, I can when I want to. And that,s the point,really. I have to
                really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time
                they sleep in my mind and I forget. And so will you. Oh yes, you will. You
                find there is so much else to think about. To remember. Our lives are
                different to anybody else's That's the exciting thing. There's nobody else
                in the universe can do what we do.
All the while there is the haunting refrain of a soundtrack that reminds us we are in a very scary place where death only sleeps.
                 Not so the real world.
                 Deborah Watling was by all accounts, I have heard and read ,a gentle and very beautiful person and I believe she will always occupy a very special place in the hearts of Doctor Who fans
                                                          the world over.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

" he "

In the very early hours of last night I finished the new biography of Stan Laurel written by the hugely talented John Connolly . A man quite capable of keeping me up all night. For very different reasons than this one did. I have long believed that John Connolly is a man who understands the dark melancholy of every man's soul, he writes heroes with all their flaws and bad guys marinated in evil deeds. It should be no surprise it took an author of his stature and ability to be capable of puncturing the wall surrounding an invented familiar persona and to dig deep into the damaged psyche of what surely is a  classic case of Paliacci Syndrome; a world famous clown who cannot make himself laugh.
            It is a remarkable piece of work. One of the most ambitious and yet sadly grounded biographies I have read. It is a memory play, a guessed at account of the interior monologue of one of the most beloved media figures of the previous century, an honor he shared with the other half of this dynastic comedy duo. Stan and Olly, Laurel and Hardy, The Fat One and the Skinny One, all their names are remembered with a degree of affection rarely afforded to on screen figures. They worked for it though. Success did not come easily and the rewards themselves came to perilously close to destroying them. Stan Laurel had a difficult time off it. He married too many times to be considered anything but tragically foolish. He seemingly fell for the charms of some who possessed few and paid dearly, in every sense, for what little love he managed to find. It is a heart breaking story but one that is hard to break away from. There are so many familiar names and Hollywood events seen through the skewed prism of reality. Oh yes, the lies and unreality generated by the studio press offices are more easily and comfortably digested than the unsettling truth. There are insights aplenty and surprises abound as a rock is lifted and the squirming lifeforms below scramble for the safety of invisibility once more. For instance, seeing Hal Roaches name above the credits for a Laurel and Hardy short will never seem the same. It will not change a single thing about the work itself or the fact it is universally funny but there is a cadence there, the faintest trembling of a tuning fork, a vibration signalling a bum note.
             Read the book and you will know why I feel this way.
             You will, your self.
             Sorry, just went all Yoda then.
            I think I was left feeling that the relationship between Stan laurel and Oliver Hardy is complex and yet serenely simple; as adults they were lucky enough to share the loyal friend ship one generally only finds in childhood. There are two memorable descriptions within the text which to a degree sum up similar feelings; "..They are yoked together by forces beyond contracts, beyond friendship. Their lives have become reflections, each of the other, an infinity of echoes."
             And more simply but no less telling, Stan Laurel remembers his pal , Babe as he knew him, once said to him; " I am starting to believe, Babe says, that your existence and mine are like two balls of string that have become entangled."
              John Connolly has skillfully recreated the unseen side of a perceived golden age and yet it also a compassionate study of the tensions between commercial demands and popularity and the almost unattainable artistic integrity gifted people destroy themselves in pursuit off. for all that it is no less a love letter to one of the most enduring and beloved partnerships in cinema history.

Neomorph In The Herb Garden.

                                                             (From my sketch book.)

Here We Go Again.

                                              Oh Boy, she had me when she did this...
                        One of my own personal quirks, and I do believe it is quite common to many other fans of Doctor Who no matter how long they have been following the series, old and new, is that it takes a bit to see past the new incoming actor and see The Doctor. With some it happens more quickly than others. Then the moment comes and I go "Aaah,there you are,Doctor."With Jodie Whittaker it took about fifty five seconds.
                                                    We can see you Doctor.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Trevor Baxter.

So very saddened to hear that the wonderful Trevor Baxter has passed away. Al;ong with Christopher
Benjamin he formed just one half of one of my very favorite duos in the history of my favorite show.
The Jago And Litefoot CDs from Big Finish were among my best buys for a few years now. The chemistry between the two leads was so strong many of those tales play out visually in the ramshackle theater of my imagination as if I had seen them rather than just heard them.Warm, witty and infernally inventive a succession of clever writers and very talented producers and performers brought their tales alive and will remain so as long as those CDs are available.
              The origin tale of their adventures was the classic era Talons Of Weng Chiang and it was a good many years until they were reunited in an equally classic tale, presented in a slightly different medium, The Mahogany Murderers. Emerging from the swirling fog of history in every sense Jago And Litefoot were constantly on the trail of the rum and the uncanny. Just a joy to listen to and I have passed many a wintry evening in their company.
               Over that time I have grown so fond of that pair of chums and their friends Ellie and Quick.
The extras on the CDs in which the actors and writers and producers discussed the recordings and their lives were just gravy, rich and saucy and full of life and so full of laughter and joy. One felt one knew them if only because of this intimate proximity to their garrulous bonhomie.  It is hard to imagine no more nights in the rowdy bar of The Red Tavern. It was a blessing off course to meet them again and to share in their adventures way past the point of that Doctor Who yarn oh so very long ago and faraway.
                 Somewhere foggily familiar the game is always afoot and Jago And Litefoot are in pursuit of their eternal infernal incidents and investigations.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Between Weird Loves.

Good Craic Comics from oh so long ago finds somewhere to sit comfortably, Between Weird Loves.

Serial killer.

Do you ever pick up a book thinking it is going to be about one thing and it turns out to be about something else entirely? Or as I found in the case of this new book by Pat Mills and Kevin O Neill several different things all round. Serial Killer was one such reading experience for me.  I jumped in believing it would be a warts and all very naughty but satirical history of British comics in the seventies and to a certain extent this is partly true, and it revealed warts of Cromwellian proportions.I also quite quickly realised I was reading something all the more disturbing for having its morbidly creeping goblin roots jutting out in plain sight. Just give those roots a tug and watch out for what you pull to the surface.
             Dave Maulding is a comic book script writer who has been seeding his scripts with dangerous information, such as how to make home made bombs, how to distill poisons from things you can find at home and all manner of reckless stunts. It is all very like a Blue Peter guide to self harm and home destruction. he does this quite deliberately in the hope his gullible and innocent readers will absorb this information and in doing so harm themselves. He is a sneaky poisoner of innocence who justifies his warped agenda on the grounds of seeking retribution for his own suffering at the hands of a cruel and malicious newsagent. Hmm, never thought I would have cause to type in that particular set of  variables.
            Dave Maulding is also having mother problems. The er,mother of all mother problems. She constantly pops up at the most unexpected moments, giving unasked for advice on eberyuthing from how to dress to how to date. She is also dead. Very dead, very murdered. Done away with long ago and buried behind a wall while her son grew up believing she had abandoned him for a better life.
              And this is not even the worst or most awkward thing which is happening to him. You see, Dave maulding has a compulsive fetish for.., Well, you read the book and you will see. All these things conspire to make Dave Maulding something of a remarkable shite of a human being by anyone's standards much less the dubious moral standards, or lack of them, set by the general tone of the world he inhabits. I had sort of expected a Rigsby-like comedic drama which also told a little known history of The British comic era of that period, and it was that and so much more. By that I am referencing the classic Rising Dampness of Eric Chapell's unforgettable Yorkshire television series. A snow globe perfectly capturing the seediness and run down quality that so permeated British society in those days.
              Millions of children grew up reading the dandy, The Beano, The Topper, Beezer,, Bunty, Tiger, Lion And Thunder and so on and so forth. Newsagents racks were an explosion of color and the main support for a universe of quirky and terribly British eccentric characters, many of whom were household names. They cost a pittance and sadly paid a pittance to their mostly unnamed and unrecognised creators. Yet change was on the way, in the years to come all these wonderful titles would disapear one by one. Its still quite a way off but the ch-cha-changes are starting to take form, creators are beginning to ask themselves questions one would take quite for granted now. The titles themselves are still selling in huge amounts although the hands on the rudders are cold steely and driven by leaden souls. The fading tacky Glam that distracted for a while, it is still the early seventies after all, is crumbling into nihilism for a generation that has come to believe it has no future. The readership, at street level, are desperate for heroes of another kind and those characters of a swarthier nature are going to answer the doorbell before too long, kicking the door down and setting the building on fire in the process. the pieces on the board are being vandalised, the rules are changing and a new game is about to begin.
                Read Em And Weep; Serial Killer is by Pat Mills and his creative partner Kevin O Neill who have worked together for so long and on so many subversive and much loved characters they have most likely formed a sort of creative telepathy and as such it is difficult to judge who has the most input on this novel. Who would want to anyway, there is no contest. They are equally to blame for this very funny and wicked comedy of terrors.
                  Its the first part of a four book series, a quartet of cringe inducing awkwardness and Carry On Comics hilarity. Read it and weep with laughter.


Helped out at a signing for a new Irish title; Solstice.The Solstice creative team of Danny  and Nathan not only produced a couple of great issues of a comic that has jumped to near the top of my must read list, admittitedly a long list, but they put on a great afternoon, talking to all and signing and sketching with the generosity of spirit that comes with doing a job one loves.
                Nathan even surprised me with this lovely sketch of me.
                He regenerated me into an incarnation of The Master I was not aware off.
                I was so flattered I can tell you.
                And just a wee bit scared.

The Hunt.

Met the writer/artist Colin Lorimer as he was on a visit to the province. Him comic series The Hunt, now collected as an amazing graphic novel, is just one of the best dark fantasy tales on the shelves and is one of the edgiest explorations of magic and Irish mythology I have read. he is a modest unassuming fellow who also happens to be immensely talented. As two old residents of Belfast we talked about how much the comic book scene in Belfast and for that matter the wider world has changed with the passing years. We first met in a tiny unit in Smithfield market and Belfast City Center in pre-internet days. Back in the days when we got news from magazines such as Starburst
when it was possible to read something for the first time and go"Good grief, no!"
             In the case of The Hunt I have to go"Good grief, Yes!"

The Haunting Of Malkin Place.

            What could be more suited to this era of Doctor Who than a period Ghost Story? Although I suppose given how The Doctor and Romana lead their lives every where they go its "period". enjoyed this one very much. An isolated house on the Romney Marshes where lost souls come wandering out of the mist, lost loves are reunited and off course things are not what they seem. It even begins with the Doctor and Romana discussing ghost stories, specifically The Turn Of The Screw, before heading off into seance country. You know, the lovely Lalla Ward used to be married to Steven Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, and I cannot see those two fierce intellects sitting around the fire side trying to spook each other with ghost stories. We hear phantom giggling children on foggy nights on the squidgey Romney Marsh where there are deep bogs which can drag a man, or a Timelord or Timelady, to their doom. It is all very atmospheric with great characters and quite a moving human tragedy at its heart. Like so many classic ghost stories. There are even quiet moments when one finds the largely know it all regulars musing on the mystery they find themselves embroiled in. There is a playful thoughtful repartee between the two inhuman leads, never rising above the material and always prepared to learn and be surprised like two brilliant Galifreyan children. It is all just so well performed I saw The Doctor and Romana squelching about in the grassy marshes of my imagination.
                Tom baker delivers a particularly sensitive performance, at once all alien remoteness and yet perfectly attuned to humanities firefly existence and the scale of the monstrosity that was WW1, the great war, indeed.
                No more new Who on telly until Christmas yet we can have new Who anytime we want thanks to Big Finish. They love stories and so do we.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Doctor Falls.

Well, we are almost there. Six Thirty tonight on BBC One. It is surely the most bittersweet thing about a fondness for Doctor Who. From almost the first moment a new man walks off in those shoes you cannot help but wonder when you will say goodbye to this one also. Someday it will occur for the last time. The BBC have ensured it may not happen for a while yet. In the best tradition of The Doctor himself the moment has been prepared for. It has already been going on for so much longer than any rational mind would have thought possible.
            But since when has rationality had anything to do with love.
            Tonight The Doctor Falls.
            We have to be there to catch him.