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 speak...it 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 cover...er,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..