Tuesday, 3 December 2019
Which is what much of the discussions revolving about the life of the Doctor often require; a loose sense of relativity.
This story is a very spirited reminder of that period of the good Doctor's history with all the characters and situations inhabiting the more extreme and generally eccentric zones of the Whoniverse. With more room to breathe and tell the tale there was also room to give many of the characters back stories, in the fashion that book story telling can get away with compared to its cousin television story telling. All done with a great sense of almost Douglas Adams like humour and goofy insight, without ever feeling like over padding or losing the sense of darkness that original script oozed.Like so many stories from the Colin Baker era there are some very dark things going on while The Doctor and Peri brush shoulders with some very shady characters indeed. There is humor too, again exhibiting a darker tone than usual. With the character of The Doctor being loud, proud and garrulous to know...
Poor Peri, of all The Doctor's chums she was the one who more often than not got to experience some of the nastier aspects of time and space. In this story alone she finds herself clubbing a diseased man to death with a log in order to save The Doctor's life. Throughout her time with two incarnations of her friend she was witness too, and even experienced, some full on horrors. One wonders she ever felt inclined to travel the universe at all with it vast panopoly of terrors. I am remined of Donna's reaction to the grotesque and cruel treatment of The Ood, which almost made her reconsider her desire to explore the wider unknowns. So soon after tracking down the impossibly elusive Time-lord.Poor Peri seemed to run into such horrors every time The Tardis landed somewhere or sometime.
And davros was back for this one. At first just as a demented and rotting Halloween turnip, sitting at the center of an elaborately spun web whose threads stretched across the stars. Mind you, the humans who stray onto this web are little different from the mad scientist from Skaro. Every human being The Doctor and Peri encounter in this story are every bit as corrupt and self serving as Davros. Where is the love? it is perhaps to be found only in The Doctor /companion relationship between the two Tardis travelers. Or in this story between Orsini, the space knights templar, and his squire, the smelly Bostock. Who come across as a very dangerous Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
In space no one can hear you sigh.
A great read. A treat for long time Doctor Who fans but a splash of funereal color for anyone who enjoys bizarre space yarns.
Sunday, 1 December 2019
It looks and feels raw and dirty, as though the cast were living their parts. I had expected a slightly affected turn and was not prepared for the naturalism on display.
You would need a heart of stone not to feel for the crestfallen Falstaff as he sees his dreams of unearned nobility fall away, pulled from him in that most heart felt of rejections.
just fantastic stuff
Falstaff is dead...
"He is in Arthur's bosom, if ever a man went to Arthur's bosom."
Saturday, 30 November 2019
A simple, and yet disturbing, play on the notion the Xenomorph embryo will take on the characteristics of the host body it infests, warts and diseases and all. It sounds a bit barfy and by Jingo it actually is. Tim Waggoner manages to recreate the atmosphere of the colonial marines take on the wider Alien universe. Hard men and women trained to deal with the monstrous creatures that live on the fringes of the human comfort zone. Cosmic horrors that barely see us beyond the notion of food or prey..or as incubators for their monstrous offspring.
The main character is Zula Hendricks, a born survivor who dares to beard the dragon in its lair. I believe her to be the creation of the Alien comic writer Brian Woods, who writes these tough survivors really well, becuase he never writes them as super people punching aliens in the face. his characters are always flawed and oh so very human.
This was a fast exciting read and a real treat for those impatient to see the mighty Alien series back up on the big screen. Or small screen for that matter. Perhaps this book will prove to be the prototype for many more tales on the galactic fringe where there are more horrors than pleasing sunsets.
Do check out the Alien comic book series. There are some truly fantastic ones in this great archive of night terrors. From Brian Woods Aliens; Defiance series or magnificent stand alone tales like Aliens; Dust To Dust or Aliens; Dead Orbit.
None intended for the faint hearted.
Thursday, 28 November 2019
I have since heard he encouraged an air of improvisation among his cast, which probably contributed to the aura of unaffected naturalism. It felt almost documentary like, with an atmosphere of a world now passed. As has the man himself now.
Jonathan Miller was eighty five when he died. He had been suffering with Alzheimers disease for the last few years. It is a bastard of a disease that robs us of our loved ones while they are still with us, robbing them, and us, of hard won and treasured memories.stealing the very foundations upon which our personalities are built.
But someone like Jonathan Miller leaves a rich legacy of treasured creative moments. He was by all accounts a powerful and challenging academic who recognised there was no such thing as a benign willful ignorance. I fear we have entered an era where such intellects are demonised, treated with suspicion.
Yet the rites of exorcism exist, their chief component; Enlightenment.
Clay Mann is a fantasticly gifted artist and a very handsome fellow indeed. I felt like Worzel Gummidge standing next to a young Robert Redford. He has, apparently, a twin brother....I know, the mind boogles. He was wonderfully candid talking about his career and his aspirations and Alan drew a very engaging pre-signing interview from him, even though Alan expressed nervousness at talking in front of an audience, he did so with aplomb and we, the audience, felt at ease listening to the casuality he exuded. He was funny and insightful and transformed a very rainy dark Belfast night into one to remember.
Saturday, 23 November 2019
Thursday, 21 November 2019
Sian is a young archaeologist, haunted by a recurring dream where a tender lover turns savage murderer, where the man of her dreams, literally, subjects her to a brutal death, over and over again in her nightmares. Her every night's dream ending in twisted sheets, sweaty awakenings and even the occasional thud as she lands on her bedroom floor. Attempting to distract herself from herself, she takes part in a dig in the stunning locale of Whitby, a location I visisted myself quite recently. Well, between the covers of a book by Paul Magrs, a writer who's work deserves to be found on everyone's bookshelf, enriching anyone's collection (For creating the wonderful Iris Wildthyme and Panda if nothing else.) While in Whitby she meets Mack and Hadrian, one man and his dog. Hadrian is the dog, by the way. Much playful character development takes place, as well as an attempt by Sian to restore a message in a bottle Mack has inherited from an estranged parent. A story emerges, a heart breaking tale of infanticide, a monster revealed, by a voice long silenced, awaiting within the folds of the bottled message. Telling the tale has its own power, as Sian feels the weight of its decoding, as she speaks the terrible words long hidden.
Whitby is such an interesting location and I wondered if Michael Faber visited it in order to convey its power so convincingly. It was Whitby where Count Dracula, in wolf form, first set foot and paw in England. Leaping from the doomed ship The Demeter, as it finished its terrible death filled voyage by crashing on the rocks. Whitby has apparently become something of a pilgrimage site for vampire lovers and worshippers of all things Gothic. The locals must be tripping over vampires. I also remember Whitby as the striking location for the pop video for Simply Reds Holding Back The Years. A song I have discovered has different meanings for those under twenty hearing it and those over fifty remembering it.
The Hundred And Inety Steps is a nice read with more than a couple of clever moments. Where better to center a story with red herrings than a harbour town. ...groan, sorry for that.
The book requires no big commitment but is a haunting read with a simple and bitter sweet subtext, a tragic tale within the tale that will reward anyone interested enough to give it a chance.
Christopher fairfax is about to turn over a rock, to reveal the squirming under belly of a community that wears its past well. The England portrayed in this book feels like one from some old painting, conveying an image of rustic charm and hard work. An agrarian society, one of superstition and piety. Where the citizens toil hard and all have soil beneath their finger nails, remnants of the good Earth which sustains them. A vision of an England long past. Quite beautiful actually...
It is a difficult book to discuss without respecting spoilers. Robert Harris has constructed a very intriguing thriller, built upon a sturdy frame of a history the reader will recognise but will also appall.
But is'nt that the history of the real world,after all.
The Doctor's birthday.
Its The Doctor's birthday but we are the ones who get the surprise.
I can hear the distant grinding of Tardis engines...
I realise it all sounds very meta and that could perhaps put someone off who is looking for a sound tale of terror. I do hope i have made it sound interesting because it really is and would entertain anyone who misses the old Pan supernatural anthologies or who enjoys the weird work off writers such as Robert Aickman. With extraordinary events nestling uncomfortably close to very ordinary ones, always a disturbing but thrilling mix. Well, more discomforting than thrilling but that always better with a strong cup of sweet tea.
It also reminded me of some of the old seventies Amicus anthology, or portmanteau, movies. And off course Ghost Stories, the movie that Jeremy dyson wrote with Andy Nyman. It is a collection of stories steeped in unease which occasionally spills off in the pag in unexpected ways.
I was a huge fan, still am, of The League Of Gentlemen and through it discovered Jeremy Dyson's earlier anthology Never Trust A Rabbit.
Sound advice..I think..
Saturday, 9 November 2019
Being able to pick up a magazine like this is so much better than a random dander around the internet (Although that does have its own merits.), and Phantasmagoria has within its pages signs and wonders pointing in the direction you want to go.
It was a joy and a pleasure for me to get this opportunity to work briefly with Brian Young and the other guys in the band. To get a look at Brian's wonderful archive of photographs detailing the history of the band and to see his records of the changing face of the music scene over the years. These guys started entertaining people at the height of the troubles, providing Rock N' Roll respite while bits of our home country were being blown to bits and dark events were weighing down the population no matter their age, religion or politics, the Dark Continent of the past was chartless.
My story is a nod to EC Comics, Famous Monsters and to the spirit of The Sabrejets.
With the Editor of Phantasmagoria Trevor Kennedy being Northern Ireland's answer to Forrest J Ackerman.
We are all of us Infamous Monsters.
Thursday, 7 November 2019
There was a Harry Halls and a Greers bookstore, I remember that. Seeing Harry Halls for the first time and how it was imprinted on me. It became for me the over riding idea for how a bookstore should look. I think every book store I have seen since has been judged against those early impressions.
One of the things that especially impressed me were the shelves of annuals. The World Distributor annuals that were so much a part of my generation's childhood. So many titles and all so simply but powerfully represented by covers that seem to shout at me" you want to own me, do'nt you?"
And I did. I wanted so many of them but my da could only afford one. And the choice I made was The Mighty World Of Marvel. The first annual I ever choose and I can honestly look back and say to that wide eyed kid I used to be and say "good choice,kid. You picked the best one."
The old Smithfield Market was pretty special. One of those gathering places that seemed to form organically way back in the day rather than be planned for by some architect who would never set foot in it.
So much more than a building was lost in that fire.
Now there is a place where they know a thing or two about witches.
Sunday, 3 November 2019
Maybe it was a good thing I waited after all. At least until I was a bit more long in the tooth, if no wiser or more worldly. I do so appreciate the scale of the vision involved, for it is indeed vast in scope and ambition. Dealing as it does with the predictable behaviour of vast groups of people over very long periods of time., or Psychohistory, as the catalyst for the great experiment created by Hari Seldon, as he calls his school of thought. And calls it, he does. Predicting, from the available information, societal and historic, the oncoming chaos , decline and fall, and ultimately a delically balanced but more than possible resurrection. The birth of Foundation.
Foundation is a sprawling and complex notion of a book, in some ways a string of novellas tethered by a huge story arc, one stretching across thousands of years and millions and millions of miles. Phew, to put it mildly. Like much of Assimov's work it is off course prescient.. The notion that free will within a contained system is but controlled opposition, its allowed for, even encouraged as a form of venting, the trick of liberty, when it is no such thing. One wonders at times if there is anything benign about man made systems of control but arguably anything is better than chaos...
What would I know. Dare I say it, whole civilizations have been built on less sturdy foundations than Pyscohistory.
Thursday, 31 October 2019
We understand from the beginning that the clock is ticking for Marlowe. We have the advantage of hindsight even if the details of his last day remain cloaked in mystery. How could it be any less so for a master of the dark arts. Talk about Mad, Bad and dangerous to know.This was the man who created Doctor Faustus as a form of entertainment in an age when to truck with the Devil was to take not only your freedom and physical well being into account but was also to put your immortal soul on the line...
Oh how Marlowe must have laughed.
Thursday, 17 October 2019
You see the High Council had sent The Doctor back in time to avert the creation of their greatest enemies The Daleks, or failing that cause them to perhaps evolve into a less aggressive species. In order to garuntee that outcome the High Council had also decided to send a second team without actually telling The Doctor.Actually, knowing what a bunch of scheming wheeler dealers they are, they probably did the same with our team, Rassilon alone knows how many teams they sent.
Off course The Doctor is a long lived and genius adventurer who has been traveling through time and space for hundreds of years, regenerating through new bodies, and is a dab hand at getting out of the most incredible situations. Trouble is his middle name. My middle name is Patrick and I have only ever had the one body and its a bit crap, to be honest, creaky and unreliable.
Fortunately Amanda was there to keep us focused on the task at hand. For when the wind is southerly she knows a hawk from a handsaw, to paraphrase William Shakespeare in Hamlet..or maybe Ronnie Barker in The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London Town...
Unfortunately, while The Doctor, Harry and Sarah were winging it back and forward across the tortured landscape of Skaro, being chased by Kaleds, Thals and Mutos, meeting Davros and bearing witness to The Genesis Of The Daleks, Amanda and I had the misfortune to land in a greenhouse full of flesh devouring infectious Varga plants. These nasty examples of mutated vegetable plant monsters were no bunch of petunias, more like Triffids on crack cocaine.
And weed killer does not cut it with them.
This was less like an episode of doctor Who and more like an episode of Homocidal Gardener's World. A big hit show in The Vogon system ,apparently.
It all ended much of a muchness, with Davos and his creations going on to become the galactic nightmare we all feared despite our best efforts. Ah well, off to Metebelus 3 for a quiet break, I hear that famous blue planet is welcoming and restful....
For me it has been forty years since I raced up Etna Drive to the newsagent on Aliance Avenue in the hope of finding a copy. And there it was. Then I had to race back down Etna Drive to beg my da for twelve pence to pay for it. If it had been anything else I do believe he would have said no. But he knew what this television show meant to me so he counted off the pennies.We hardly had a pot to piss in back then and the pennies were important. A hundred of them add up to a pound, after all.
I devoured this publication, part comic part magazine. The most amazing Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons comic kicked it off. The Iron Legion, a strip I have read and appreciated so much over the years it has embedded itself as canon in the recesses of my imagination and memory.Great articles, great photos and a whole load of photos i had never seen before. In those far off pre internet days it was probably the biggest and best source of photographs I had seen other than the Malcolm Hulke book The Making Of Doctor Who or the legendary, and rarely been equalled, Radio Times Doctor Who Tenth Anniversary Special.
There were free transfer stickers also but they were an embarrassment of riches.
I would hold this issue in as high regard as 2000AD #1 or even Mighty World Of Marvel #1.
Three mighty number ones.
The three who ruled.
And just look at that Tom Baker cover.i think that photograph was taken as part of his initial publicity shoot in the car park of BBC centre. Just look at him; full of the bear and ready to take on all of time and space.
He did not let us down.
Jim explained it is a little seen film but that I was in for a pleasant surprise. Thanks to the atmospheric direction and a strong performance by Mister Laughton. And damn, he was right. The story of Rembrandt's social decline, the riches to rags tale of an artist struggling with demons that allowed him no respite, of a genius at the mercy of pudding heads, made for an emotional ride. There is no trace of self pity in Mister Laughton's performance, he owns his "mistakes". There is a manly lunacy to his tics and turns, a clumping clumsy Dutchness that also projects great empathy for this gifted man. A man who escaped from a hard, grinding, merciless working class background, to immense success and wealth and then down into a spiral of poverty, social and economic.
The film is shot and framed in a way that brings to mind other Dutch painters. Vermeer is projected large here, with sets bordering on expressionist. It made me think of James Whale and the huge sets he had his cast play out on.
A lovely film that deserves to be remembered with affection and respect.
Brain the size of a planet yet he spent millions of years in a car park on Magrathea awaiting the return of his "friends" only to be repaid by being plunged into the heart of a sun onboard a space ship preprogrammed to do so. A long, very long, actually really,really long life ended in a blaze of apathy.
It is no more than a poor android can expect in such a wretched universe.
Stephen Moore's voice will be remembered as long as Vogan's continue to excrete poetry through their faces or the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast Of Traal continues to devour the grandparents of the universe.
Tuesday, 17 September 2019
Nothing accidental about that. It was all hard work and determination to deliver clever and inspired scripts full of memorable characters and situations, events that push The Doctor and his companions to be the best they can be.Terrance Dicks was part of a wonderful team of creative folk, in front off, behind and on top of the cameras, during an era when the BBC put entertaining its viewers above all else. Able to strike the balance between entertaining and subtlely informing, celebrating the human family.
Looking around my shambles of a home I can think of no other writer I have more books written by than Terrance Dicks, all those Doctor Who novelizations, years of them. Except perhaps Agatha Christie. Between them they fill shelves. Its Harry Halls all over.
There are many, many such book collections all over the world. In a pre-video, pre-pre DVD era, or the pre-pre-pre Bluray era it was the only way to experience the classic adventures of Doctor Who. All transcribed for us by a man who understood why we loved it so much and who never failed to deliver, his words playing out vividly , and budgetlessly, in the theaters of our minds.I was fortunate enough to meet him and he signed my doctor Who Monster Book vol#2.. When I was a boy, living in the attic of my folks old home, that book was my Tardis and through its pages I travelled through all of time and space with him as my guide.
Hurrah for Terrance Dicks and everything he shared with us.
There is poetry to this man's perambulations, in the classic sense of the word. You can hear the echo of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the ghostly speculations of Thomas De Quincey all mixed up with the home spun hard won wisdom of a Jack Hargreaves. He has walked down some very windy roads, has this man. It is quite moving in places and a constant reminder of the fragility of the human condition, how hard some lives are are and the lengthy paths one must forge along for self determination or even in the search of something bigger than ourselves to look up to and to long to be part off.
In most cases, sadly, that is just the human family,as this old world of ours can make one feel disconnected and spinning wildly free. To be untethered in a world where almost everything else is anchored in conventionality is not for the faint hearted.
But it is also where most of this world's magic is to be found.
Have a look for this documentary on Youtube. It is directed by John Rogers, who also has a huge archive off his own. Self narrated travelogues of roads less taken. They are filmed as he walks and talks with subtle editting that allows those journeys to feel inclusive to the listener, to the viewer. It is just you and him walking past a tiny stream or into a wooded glen where if you are very quiet and very lucky you might see a hare at play as twilight falls.
Now that I have finished the book I now realise that was not a leap into the dark but a blind folded bounce into a very familiar and cosy old bed. Wait til you find out who The Bride of the title is, fantastic stuff. It is all set in the town of Whitby too. What a stunning location for such a yarn, just the perfect back drop, forever framed against the restless sea, starkly beautiful, raw in both sea and sky. The first place in England Dracula touched down upon leaping from the doomed Demeter one dark and stormy night.
Gothic literature was never the same afterwards...
And this book by Paul Margs deserves to sit in close proximity to Bram stoker.