Monday, 24 December 2018

A Very Merry Berry.

               Whether you have been naughty or nice I do hope Santa Claus leaves this under your Christmas Tree, the new album by the Byronically talented Mr Matt Berry. In fact I am quite sure we will all get what we deserve this Christmas. And everone deserves a little Matt Berry in their lives.

Jimmy Olsen Mobster's Moll.

Check this out, just about my favourite Jimmy Olsen story. When bold Jimmy goes undercover in a mobsters gang, back in the days when being an investigative reporter meant taking such risks with organised crime. And what risks he takes for the mobster falls for his charms.He even tries to kiss Jimmy and the young reporter cleverly tells him to close his eyes, pulls a live monkey between him and the amorous gangster, who plants a loving sucker on the bewildered chimp. Its like something straight out of Serpico...
            And people think comics only became capable of dealing with adult themes in the mid eighties. Harumph, now you can tell people different.

Up On The Roof.

                                                      Just another day in time and space.

Bernard Cribbins.

                       "Ninety is just another number.I am gently going down the slope..." so says national treasure Bernard Cribbins in an interview in The Times(Wednesday 28th November) regarding his age. Such is the familiarity of his voice you can hear him say it in your head as you read it. Famously the storyteller and voice for all The Wombles its a voice that feels as affable as the human tones are able to sound. Engaging and joyful and seemingly ageless he is the favoured uncle for generations.
Who could forget his turn as hapless copper Tom Campbell in the second Dr Who movie with Peter Cushing in the lead or his other turn as Job, Proffessor Holly's butler/orderly in the wonderful Hammer production of She, the H Rider Haggard classic about an undying and cruel queen of a hidden kingdom. He radiates a trustworthy down to earth capability in both movies, turning side kick roles into standout roles. And he is full on hysterically funny in the classic carry On spying. They missed a trick when they did not cast him as M in the new series of very serious Bond movies with Daniel Craig as the big bad Bond. When he drags up as an exotic dancing girl in order to retieve secret plans from an agent of STENCH it is just side splitting( not in the Cronenberg sense, mind you.) He is truly a man for all seasons. A gifted performer who has seen and done so much and weathered the passing decades with charm and humour.
                 Bernard Cribbins has made humour and conversation a super power. Saving the world a little every time he makes some one smile.

Tick Tock , Tick Tock.

Amanda Alloway gifted me this beautiful picture of Madame De Pompadour herself. Amanda has dazzled us, and scared us a little too, with her unnerving Clockwork Droid costume and this was a just a lovely wee treat. Not so much The Girl In The Fireplace as The Girl on The Bookcase.

Basil Sings!

Found this absolutely beautiful book on one of my book hunting trips. I say "book hunting" but it is more of a random dander where occasionally good things show up. And I came up trumps this time. It is just one very special wee book, very beautiful indeed, laid out like an old school songbook with the most stunningly detailed illustrations. It is like a programme for a music hall review, like The Good Old Days Of Yore.
            I was kind of hoping Basil did a version of God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols. Basil could channel Lydon if he so choose. Or Holidays In The Sun. Just the thought of Basil going over the Berlin Wall. Mind you we live in an era when the Berlin wall does not have the same cultural it no longer exists, I suppose.
            Boom! Boom!

Combat Magicks.

                                                " We had to meet the enemy a mile away,
                                                 Thunder in the air and the sky turned grey."
                                                                Eddie Tenpole, Tenpole Tudor,
                                                                The Swords Of a Thousand Men.
Its The Doctor in a war story, off sorts. Fighting alongside, of all allies, Attila The Hun. They say war makes for strange bedfellows and Doctor Who has never been short of those. The year is 451 AD and the Gaul The Doctor and her chums find themselves in is nothing like the one Asterix and Obelix inhabited. Its a dangerous and very smelly place. Allies become enemies and vice versa in this quite epic tale by Steve Cole that rounds of the trilogy of books published by the BBC that celebrates the first season of Jodie Whitakers tenancy of The tardis.
              Steve Cole absolutely channels the characters and this is amazing given that he surely had not seen a scene while he wrote this, probably working from a "show bible". It would have made a stand out episode and I do not think it is too much of a stretch to consider it one.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

A House Of Ghosts.

Just finished this fantastic supernatural period thriller by W.C. Ryan. I finished it in the early hours of a very wintery December night. It was as though nature conspired to provide the perfect aural accompaniment  to read such a book. I would describe what I was reading as Fowles war meets The Sixth Sense, and hope that was a suitable tempting sound bite for someone considering trying it. The writer has delivered a real page turner with strong realistic characters in a situation that pulls you in and on. The story has a measured quality that allows the mystery to build in a Christie like fashion before a final chapter full of revelations.
             The two main characters are that most interesting of characters, flawed heroes despite themselves. One can see the dead and another has seen quite enough dead. Even created a few.
              It is gripping atmospheric stuff. Pull up a chair, join hands, do not break the circle.
              The dead are getting ready to speak.

Radio Times Casting The Runes.

Oh yes. its that time of year again. When The Doctor gets the cover of the Radio Times and we count down the day to our special Christmas Day treat. Only this year..
            Well there is not going to be one. The stand alone yuletide gift has been relocated to New Years Day. It is not gone, just moved. New Doc, New Day, I suppose. I am a little disapointed at the shift, although it is by no means the worst thing that could happen. It seems like such a small thing to the rest of the "real" world but every one of the Doctor Who specials have meant so much to me. Every one yeilding joy and special treasures on a day that always feels like a curates egg of mixed emotions. Family gatherings on this mid winter day can feel like a minefield with no truly safe roots past explosive emotional outbursts (Well, I am speaking as one who grew up in a Catholic household and every one elses Christmas experience might well be like a Tesco advertisment. Although they always look like what a Westworlds android might imagine a human christmas to be.)
            I always found the Christmas specials to resonate with delightful Whoish goodwill. Watching them was never like an FA Cup final or some sporting event that requires Mexican waves, air pumping or screaming at the telly, just great tales illuminating the bleak midwinter.
             Thirteen years was a great run. Not many television shows could have sustained that but like so many trends Doctor Who went whistling by, ploughing its own field.
             And its welcome any day of the year....

19 To A Dozen.

Blimey! In the absence of a doctor Who special on the big day here perhaps is something to stir the cockles of a Whovians heart, and remind them that they are in fact loved. Ahem.
             Which is not to say the fact there is no Christmas special this year should suggest such a thing. in fact if the the scenes involving the Two doctors on the WW1 battlefield last year proved to be the last  I can think of no nobler place to leave off...It was so heart breaking, so on the money,so joyful in the face of cruelty and madness so Whoish, Well, job done ladies and gentlemen.
                In the meantime what an opportunity to revisit Peter Davison,s fantastic first season. Like The Tardis these days, The Doctor travels with three chums. Each very different but all bent on adventure and discovery. And boy do they find it. This series was so new, so different following seven years of Tom Baker striding across all of space and time ( It was unthinkable to have anyone else fly The Tardis.) you have to appreciate the courage and inventiveness on display, the enthusiasm dripping off their sleeves. Fantastic days...Time Crash away!

Radio Times Magic.

...You know, in some alternative reality this actually was published. Its not real off course, some very clever person knocked it out and for me knocked it out of the park. Fantastic, an absolute magical piece of television that forever affected the way the way I saw the world (And to a degree how the world saw me.). As a boy I never pretended to be as others, was not into football and fighting, trod my own path, but I never felt alone. Had some of the best mates anyone could hope to have and they all laughed at my devotion to this time travelling weirdo in his blue box. And they still do.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Oh My Giddy Aunt.

Just love this photograph. It so captures the kind of situation the beloved Cosmic Hobo would find himself in. Penniless space and time traveller busking for the price of fish and chips served in a greasy newspaper. The headlines proclaiming "Londoners Flee!Menace Spreads"...

The Neverending Stories.

He was a teller of the tallest tales. He was a storyteller who made Baron Munchhausen seem tacit, never leaving a thing unsaid when you needed to hear it, not so much telling us what we needed to hear but always telling us what we wanted to hear. Reading audiences, of all ages, are probably too self aware to realise what a trip those stories were back in the day. When the Marvel Universe sprang into being it illuminated like a four colour Big Bang, spreading out, expanding, creating its own mythology as it grew, drawing us into a new era of Olympian myths, it seemed like our own universe to be without end. And up to a point that is true but it seemed to cease expanding just for a day or two as the wider world reacted to the passing of founder father figure Satan Lee.
             So much has been said, so many tributes lovingly paid, and it is a bitter sweet experience to read them. His vision and his talent illuminated and enriched so many lives, from the most average boy or girl on the street to the most extraordinarily privileged offspring of who knows what or where, the great and varied human aggregate, he somehow reached them all. Just like David Bowie I never imagined a world where Stan lee would not be around.
              And just like Bowie, I suppose, in a way he will always be around in some shape or form.
              He said it himself many times and with the greatest respect I would like to repeat;

Doctor Who Day 2018.

Twenty Eighteen,  the first time I have been involved in the celebrations for my favourite television show and oh boy I hope it is not the last. Got the chance to meet and hang out with some Doctor Who fans from all walks of life, uncynical, optimistic and full of the joys of the Whoniverse. The Good, the bad and the joyfully ridiculous, just like real life I suppose. A happy day.
                   Coyly poking an Ood brain only to discover it is as spongy as it looks. EEK.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Molten Heart.

Hubble, bubble, lava trouble. Una McCormack takes the latest Tardis team, or is it Team Tardis?, to a perilous planet, which is more inside than outside, if you follow me. Its a hollow world whos residents are so insular they do not even believe in a surface world.I really enjoyed the high adventure of this novel. A Time Lords Own tale that once more demonstrates the phenomenal elasticity of the Doctor Who universe. Also despite these books being written some months before transmission of the new series, which was wrapped in a veil of secrecy little equalled in the history of the revival, the author really nails the characters. From Grahams homely steadfastness to Ryan's worldly prism of pop cultural references( there are quite a few Middle earth and even Star Wars references.) Jaz and in particular The Doctor are as we find them living and breathing through our telly screens.
              Reading this book I felt a nostalgic tug for a doctor Who novel I read as a boy. The Web Planet novelization by bill Strutton. It would be many years until I would see the actual story on video tape and then dvd so this book acted as my guide to that distant alien world Vortis where the only recognisably human figures were The Doctor and his companions. Molten Heart shares this delightful conceitI do hope some where there is a young reader picking up Molten Heart and going on a similar reading experience (Who knows perhaps one day this story will be re-enacted as a Big Finish audio adaption when the original cast of Jodie and chums are reunited, all old and grey but full of the joy of remembering these exciting times we share with them Now.)
              Season Eleven may well be slightly shorter in number of episodes but these three BBC novels could well fill that shortfall. Did I say shortfall?
              Its an embarrassment of riches...

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Waking The Witch.

How great is this chance, this moment, to talk about Doctor Who episodes before they air. So much of the stuff we enjoy is talked about post transmission and the energy is so different, it just feels so grand to be able to do so. And I have such a great feeling about the next episode. Its that incredible alchemy Doctor Who displays as the travellers move through time and space, you just do not get it in any other television series, that which lies beyond the doors of The Tardis. You never know...
            The Doctor and some of his companions have found themselves in similar dark straits before,
in America, in Salem, in a great book by steve Lyons. Its a first doctor tale and really well worth sourcing. The historicals were a source of palpable real world horrors and this episode looks set to explore that...

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

The Space Between Stars.

Space is big. Space is very, very big. Big and full of stuff with loads and loads of things in the space between the stars. Lots and lots of space in space, so to speak. (It would sound a whole lot better if it was Peter Jones saying this, in that voice of The Book way of his from Hitch Hikers Guide To the galaxy.)what I am attempting to say is this; If you are going to travel between the stars you better know what you are doing and also that you are travelling in a machine that can go the distance, say between Zeta Minor ans Zeta Major (Also factoring in every moment in time that has ever occurred and every moment still to do so.) Thank the Stellar Engineers The Doctor has her Tardis...
              And this beautiful piece of artwork by Antrim Man Mark McKeown seems to say just that in a single thrilling image. Just look at it, you can hear and feel that pause, that inward draw of breath before the big plunge into the Time and space vortex as it does in the exciting reworking of the world's greatest intro theme by composer Segun Akinola.
             My gooses have gone all bumpy.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Sword Of Damocles.

"At a lavish banquet, King Dionysius is confronted by his servant Damocles, a brat who is jealous of the King's splendor and power. Through supernatural forces, the two roles switched,. The smug inexperienced commoner becomes the King. But his joy is short lived. He quickly realises that being King is not all crowns and cheeseburgers. With great power comes great responsibility."
            This is the intro to the quite stunning new music video for the Rufus Wainwright song Sword Of Damocles. The video is directed by Andrew Ondrejcak and stars Rufus wainwright and an actor called David Criss (a man who has been given a severe whopping with the handsome stick. This is one good looking man. In his Vivienne Westwood clothes he has jumped to the top of my wish list for Christmas.I know how shallow that sounds but damn he is a honey.) The video (can one still call short music films "videos"?) is a warning to all those who seek to occupy the seat of power and the danger that constantly hangs over ones head.The lyrics are compelling, delivered with mournful gravitas by a fine voiced Rufus Wainwright. Quite beautiful and starkly threatening at times, switching from stroking damocles curly hair with affection to warning he may cut off his head. It is the sort of a thing a King may do. The love of Kings and Queens is a mercurial thing.
             "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."
             Shakespeare said that, or rather he put the words into the mouth of King Henry IV.
             Possibly the title of a follow up single to this lovely thing.
             It is quite a politically charged song with regard to the political and social situation America, and the rest of the world, is currently going through. In fact I would go as far to say you would have to be watching this and listening without benefit of a head not to pick up on it. I do think it also works on other levels as well, its just a beautiful song beautifully performed with a haunting and thought provoking video to accompany it. A brain worm so to gets right in there...

Torchwood; Deadbeat Escape.

Just a word or two about a recent big Finish Torchwood story I listened to on Monday night. I lay listening to this in a semi darkened room as heavy rain fell against the walls and windows, as the tale unfolded of just such a night in the middle of nowhere (Well, somewhere outside Cardiff.) at The Traveller's Halt, a spooky motel one might very well check into but will find considerably more difficult to leave. A young traveller finds himself stranded there at the height of a rainstorm and meets the mysterious Billis Manger played with understated menace by the magical Murray Melvin, whos original casting in the role was an unappreciated stroke of genius. It must have been tempting to create a nemesis for Captain Jack who was a mirror to his virile masculinity but to go the other way and come up with a chilling character who barely has to raise his voice to scare is just great writing.
             A small but tight group of performers and producers have produced a wee classic in a line that continues to shine brightly alongside its origin material. Gareth Pierce as Hywel Roberts more than holds his own during this nightmarish confrontation between innocence and calculated evil. Innocence being no defense in the face of a cruel plan that requires hosts to balance a Faustian deal. If you were looking for a place to jump on to this amazing series or just fancy a chilling stand alone ghost story to listen to on a winters evening then this is waiting for you.

Demons In Your Back Garden.

The Year is 1947, the place India, and the partition , the artificial separation of a continent along religious, political and ethnic lines is about to take place, and into this maelstrom of events come the current Tardis crew. This partition lead to the creation of two independent nations, India and Pakistan.
            "We've lived together for decades , Hindu, Muslim and Sikh. And now we are being told our differences are more important than what unites us." So says Prem, the young man Yaz's grandmother is about to marry. Prem is a thoughtful, hardworking, family orientated war veteran who has come back to his beautiful Punjab farm stead to wed and put down roots far from the battlefield. He is a lovely human being and a man who would be perfect as anyone's grandfather or husband. Only thing is; he is neither to Yaz. This man is not her grandfather. So who is he and how is his story related to the mysterious broken watch Yaz's grandmother has passed down to her as her most treasured heirloom?
              The Doctor had taken her friend back in time against her better judgement. We have seen as recently as Father's Day that this does not end well. The Doctor once helped Rose be there for her dying father's last moments and reality came undone. She offers Yaz one hour, one hour to perhaps find a clue to the mystery of the family heirloom. And off course this is simply not time enough. What follows is one of the most beautifully shot episodes of Doctor Who. On a par with The Doctor And Vincent for sheer splendour of location and its use. The writing is simple,yet almost poetic by turns, the musical score haunting and gently thematic. The Demons are not the monsters they appear to be, something of a theme this season. The monsters in this story have not crossed the stars, they have crossed a few fields.

Jack Lo Squartatore.

Look what turned up in atomic collectables. You never know what Jim is going to turn up. It is a British black and white movie from 1959, a movie with a script based on the Jack The Ripper theory by the Australian journalist and Labour politician Leonard Matters(1881-1951.) who had the idea that the Ripper was an avenging doctor. While the film itself borrows heavily from the then recent Hammer films of that era; The Curse Of Frankenstein 1957 and Dracula 1958, using the historic trope of portraying the Ripper as an opera cape and top hat wearing Dandy. Just check out that lurid cover and remember this movie is set in the Victorian Era and not some remote motel in sixties California.
             The movie is a "whodunnit" with the least telegraphed character being revealed as the killer., a murderous surgeon who pitilessly dispatches his victims, women of bad character according to insane view of the times he lives in. He blames them for the loss of his son, Matters theory suggested the son died of a venereal disease passed on to him during contact with one of these women, a woman named Mary Clarke. The movie goes for the equally depressing notion the son drowned himself upon learning the great love of his life was a lady of the night. Possibly also a more palatable reason for movie audiences of that era who moral qualms aside were comfortable enough seeing innocent women dispatched at knife point.
             I must have seen this movie as a boy late one night on Etna drive. I remembered the ending with a degree of unease and suddenly knew now why I am always nervous in lifts.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Star Beasts Up North.

A couple of the very best Doctor who stories in comic strip form have been given the Big Finish treatment. Full cast audio adaptions with tom Baker himself and a script adapted straight from the Pat Mills classics. Originally seeing print way back in 1980 these fine tales have more than stood the test of time. Back in the day, when Doctor Who weekly could be picked up in your local newsagent and the the internet was something Enid sharples wore on her head.
               For those of you unfamiliar with the character wait til you meet Beep the Meep.
               After that you will never judge a Meep by its,so to speak..

A Gift From Bacchus.

I was browsing on line and came across this wonderful picture of Tom Baker relaxing with a glass of wine (and a packet of cigarettes pushed discreetly to the side I suspect.) Nice afternoon light spilling through the bar window lends a rosy hue to proceedings, a woody brown hue to be more accurate in a completely inaccurate way. Tom Baker in his pomp relaxing with a nice moet no doubt entertaining some lucky listener with a tale to curl the toes, to make Scheherazade blush with envy and Peter O Toole laugh his socks off. I think the photograph is entitled The Doctor And The Moet.
             All credit to whoever managed to create such a compelling and endearing portrait.

The Good Doctor.

Well, here it is. The first adventure novel featuring Jodie Whittaker's interpretation of The Doctor, along with her chums Graham, Yasmin and Ryan. It is a timey whimey tale by Juno Dawson about how The Doctor's short stay on the planet of Lobos affected its development and history and certainly not for the better. It is a theme which is not entirely unfamiliar to the regular canon and the not so regular books and comics and audios which have woven the fantastically rich history of the Whoniverse.
                                "I'd rather be, all out at sea,
                                 Sunk for the rest of me life.
                                 I'd still feel better,
                                 Down fifty feet wetter,
                                 Than home with the kids and the wife."
These are the words of a sea-shanty sung in a waterfront pub that Ryan finds himself in while trying to find his way back to his companions after seperate adventures on this messed up planet. Its an amusing detail in a pleasantly created scene in a low waterfront dive. Lobos is a well imagined planet in that thanks to the richness of our collective imaginations as we are not limited by BBC budgets and Juno Dawson's writing is descriptive enough to visualise the various locales. its another world they are on and a lot of writers are cottoning on to the notion that other planets probably have more than one enviroment, with different regions, different weather systems and climates. Not so much a snow world, then a desert world etc. Also for the continuity buffs the current production team left room between broadcast adventures for stories set in other mediums. Providing nothing happens as radical as say Graham losing a foot or any other limb for that matter.
             Its a nice read this one. Juno Dawson must have been given insights in advance as to how the different characters would approach their roles, as they are pretty bang on. Read it now while the aura of newness still hangs around the show.
             The show made for children which adults adore.
(I wish we had got to see more of The Doctor and her companions on then surface of the junk planet. The idea of a junk planet really appeals to me. Maybe it has to do with spending so much time in second hand book stores.One never really knows what one will find.)

Doctor In The Houser.

..Faced with a choice of thirteen covers one had to pause and think which to go for. Would love to have them all, its such a lovely event to celebrate, it being the first issue of a whole new world of Doctor Who. I have had high hopes for it too. Not just because of it being a Doctor Who tile but because of the chosen creative team. I had collected and read Jody Houser's faith comic series which I enjoyed so much I ended up holding on to the run ( at this point my house looks like the set of Steptoe And Son, like a rag and boneyard, or the worlds most disorganised car boot sale so I tend to pass on stuff just for room's sake.)  With writing chores on the Dark Horse Stranger Things title its a great choice of writer to begin this new era of stories. Rachel Stott has an admirable portfolio behind her and a cursory, non spoiler, flick through the comic shows what a colourful job Enrica Angiolini has delivered. Damn! Hard not to have the highest hopes.
             Just open to the first page, see the words "previously" and tell me you were not intrigued..

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Evil Of The Daleks, Unbearable Lightness Of Friendship.

Was gifted this wonderful cassette recording by my chum Jamie. Treasure hunting on Ebay revealed this masterful reading by Mister Tom Baker (with a full cast episode recording). It was intended as a get well gift after some recent surgery I had and I can already testify to its healing properties.
             Its a holy relic.

View From The Bush Of Ghosts.

Glenn Fabry just back from a trip to a con in the former colonies, the US of America. He managed to avoid drive by shootings and muggings but managed to find the only slippery grassy patch in a great concreted city-scape and fell breaking his collar bone. Glenn is one of the greatest artists the comic book industry has ever been lucky enough to have yet has learnt one of life's great lessons; You can love gravity all you wish it will never love you back. Hes a hardy gent though and has bounced back talent and good humor intact.

The Haunted Book Shelf 2018.

The year is 1954, a returning army veteran attempting to reconcile with his estranged father (They fell out over the young man's decision to join the army as his father felt he was wrong to fight for the interests of a country that was still denying them so many of their civil liberties.) In order to find his father Atticus Turner goes off on a road trip that will take him into the dark territories of Lovecraft country. And while there are certainly monsters to be found there he and his friends must confront the equally terrifying monster that is race prejudice. It is a gripping read from beginning to end with believable and relatable characters and horrors both real and imagined.
The King In Yellow is a collection of short stories, interconnected and woven about a mysterious and forbidden  play which induces madness in its viewers. To anyone coming to this book for the first time The King In Yellow could well serve as a gateway drug a life of weird fiction. The doors of perception once opened never quite close again. This work by Robert W Chambers has influenced writers of different generations and genres, most powerfully recently in the first season of true Detective. Its dark stuff, its a dark time of year.

Just about one of my favourite stories from my favourite show, classic era or new. Talons Of Weng Chiang has so much to recommend it. Ancient Chinese Gods, killer homunculus, giant rats in the sewers of London and Leela proudly declaring she is no lady. Terrance dicks did a fantastic job of adapting this epic story into such a slim edition of a book. Very much rooted in the tradition of Sax rohmer and the pulp stories of that era, it is a perfect read for this time of year and a reminder of Tom Baker's Doctor in his pomp. It was also the story which introduced me to the characters Jago and Litefoot, whos series from Big Finish Audios is for me their Jewel In The Crown.
                                                 Best Of The Season to you, old chap.