Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Invasion Revisited


42 years after The Invasion was shown, Cybermen returned to London this week to publicise the new Doctor Who Experience, which opens at Olympia next February. Promoters recreated one of the programme's most famous sequences, when Cybus-men revisited St. Pauls.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol Preview


This week the BBC released the synopsis of this year's Christmas Special, written by Steven Moffat and loosely based on Charles Dickens' novella A Christmas Carol (1843):
"Amy and Rory are trapped on a crashing spaceliner and the only way the Doctor can rescue them is to save the soul of a lonely old miser... But is Kazran Sardick, the richest man in Sardicktown, beyond redemption? And what is lurking in the fogs of Christmas Eve?"
The cast includes Sir Michael Gambon (famous for playing Philip Marlow in Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective (1986) and now mainly recognised from his role as Hogwarts Professor, Albus Dumbledore since 2004) as the older Kazran, and Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins in her first acting role, as Abigail.
Pooky Quesnal (recently seen in Accused with Christopher Eccleston) plays the Captain; Laurence Belcher (appeared with Arthur Darvill and Freema Ageyman in Little Dorrit) is the Young Kazran; Tim Plester is the Chief Servant; Stephen North (a series regular in ITV's London's Burning) is Older Benjamin; Micah Balfour (a regular on the last 5 years of The Bill) is the Co-Pilot; Danny Horn is the Middle Kazran; and Nick Malinowski plays Eric.
IMDB also lists Peter Bowles (known for the BBC sitcom, To the Manor Born), Leo Bill, Laura Rogers, and Bailey Pepper as cast members.
So what have we gleaned from the trailer?
On a stormy planet that looks Victorian-themed, its nearly Christmas, and its snowing. The story features Kazran at three different points in his life, and the Doctor seems to visit him like the ghosts who appear to Scrooge. We see the youngest Kazran discover Abigail, frozen in some kind of stasis. The 'middle' Kazran is then being observed through a circular window by the Doctor, who tells him "whatever happens tonight, remember, you brought it on yourself." Behind the Doctor, a huge shark-like fin glides past. Many years later, the Doctor makes a memorable entrance, Santa-style, emerging from the chimney into Old Kazran's big, empty house. He informs Kazran, "I'm the ghost of Christmas Past," and just like Scrooge, Kazran despises Christmas.
As for the TARDIS honey-mooners, Amy at first intriguingly remarks "Time can be rewritten..." and the old man replies "...People can't." Then Amy (here in her old police uniform) and Rory (dressed as a Roman centurion again), are seen on the bridge of a crashing spacecraft.
A Christmas Carol (again an hour long) is scheduled to be shown at 6pm, on BBC1 on Christmas Day. The DVD release is set for January 24th 2011, and the soundtrack CD is available next February.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 Review


As a family, we've watched all of the previous six installments of the Harry Potter series on their opening nights, so yesterday we visited our local Cineworld, just a day later than we'd planned.
I was pleased when Warner announced that it would adapt J K Rowling's final novel in two parts, because so much material was excised from all of her other books. But this new film does actually drag in places, and my favoured cut-off point of the book isn't the rather lack-lustre cliff-hanger presented here (although it does set-up Part 2 well enough).
So, just those two complaints aside, this is still one of the best and most moving Harry Potter movies, and is certainly the most adult and darkest in tone. A very sad prologue sees Hermione safeguarding her (previously unseen) parents, by employing that great sci-fi motif of removing herself from their memories.
One of it's first and finest achievements is conveying the total and palpable fear that the witches and wizards in Malfoy Manor hold for Voldemort, made grimmer still by the setting's near black and white filmic quality.
It's not only the three lead actors and their much loved characters that have grown-up since these films began in 2000, the franchise now seems to have reached adulthood. The Deathly Hallows further explores the sexual tension between Harry and Ginnie, Ron and Hermione, even Harry and Hermione (the closest the series has ever got to a sex scene is seen, when Voldemort goads Ron).
The truly shocking murders of Hogwarts teacher, Burbage, and Dobby the House Elf, and Bellatrix's torture of Hermione are all worthy of a horror flick. Even the so-effective animated tale of the three Peverell brothers plays out like an adult graphic novel. The ever gothic Ministry of Magic has adopted a strict racial stance against Muggles, and now features Kafkaesque employees, and Orwellian style media control (the Daily Prophet is just like 1930's German propoganda). Here, Umbridge appears, again undertaking her famous 'Inquisitions' with Dementors in attendance.
With the action soon centred around the trio's lonely travels, our heroes initially resemble wartime evacuees (like the children in Disney's first Narnia film), then later, actual resistence fighters fleeing Gestapo style Snatchers. The wizarding world really is at war, and this is more or less a war film. Voldemort and his Death Eaters, akin to that ultimate 'baddie' Hitler and his Nazis, are pursuing their own Final Solution.
There is a minimalist approach to many of the location scenes, which typically depicts just the heroes' lonely tent set against an almost constant monochrome autumnal or winter landscape. This stark and bleak atmosphere only adds to the nature of the trio's quest.
The film completely sums-up the age-old battle between good/light and evil/dark with it's sombre settings given prominence, but it's not all dark. There are lighter moments, usually involving Ron, and the overall result is pure magical Potter Noir. Roll on July for Part 2.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Total SciFi Online Poll


In April of last year, respected genre website Total SciFi Online announced that Doctor Who was the winner of their poll to find the best TV sci-fi theme tune ever. Now their latest survey has named Who as the greatest Sci-Fi & Fantasy TV Show (see the Top 100 list here http://http://totalscifionline.com/features/5769-the-100-greatest-sci-fi-fantasy-tv-shows).
Here is the Top 10:
1) DOCTOR WHO
2) Star Trek Original Series
3) The Twilight Zone
4) The X Files
5) The Prisoner
6) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
7) Battlestar Galactica
8) The Quatermass Experiment
9) Star Trek TNG
10) Babylon 5

Rewind The 60's


Yesterday's edition of BBC1's Rewind the 60's took viewers back to 1963, and of course a clip from An Unearthly Child was inevitable. When examining another 60's icon, the lava lamp (invented by Edward Craven-Walker), a second Doctor Who excerpt was shown to illustrate the huge versions specially commissioned for The Wheel In Space (1968).

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Radio Times Doctor Who Poll


Weekly TV listings magazine Radio Times has today released the results of it's latest Doctor Who poll, and listed the Doctor's most popular travelling companions. Unsurprisingly, NuWho's first (and to date, the longest serving) companion, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) heads the survey. Runner-up, and old fan favourite, Sarah Jane Smith (played by Elizabeth Sladen since 1973) is the most loved Classic series assistant, closely followed by the ever popular K9 (voiced by John Leeson), both highly placed no doubt due to the success of CBBC's The Sarah Jane Adventures. Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), newest TARDIS crewmember Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and (thanks to Torchwood), Captain Jack (John Barrowman) complete the Top 6 positions. The full listing can be found at http://http://www.radiotimes.com/blogs/1103-doctor-who-billie-piper-rose-tyler-voted-best-companion/, and even includes the Doctor's helpers from the Specials. Guess who's ranked last at number 48? Anyway, here's the top 10:
1) Rose Tyler
2) Sarah Jane Smith
3) Donna Noble
4) K9
5) Amy Pond
6) Capt. Jack Harkness
7) Ace [McShane]
8) Leela of the Sevateem
9) Jo Grant
10) The Brigadier

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Just Chill, Mr Gill!


As a Whovian, an article in this week's Sunday Times was of great interest to me. Controversial television critic A A Gill bemoans the lack of good British TV writers in Why our TV is in my sights. He claims that homegrown drama (particularly the BBC's) has regressed, is cliche-ridden, and "is stuck in the 1970's". One favoured target is Doctor Who, which he decscribes as "a pensionable children's programme that has sucked up a huge budget to make gratifying teenage excitement out of empty, silly Edwardian stories. It's production team have been used to outsource both Sherlock [Holmes] and Torchwood. Doctor Who and Austen/Dickens together account for the greatest slice of the BBC's drama budget".
Doctor Who in fact earns millions of pounds for the Corporation in overseas sales alone, and is currently one of the largest TV franchise in the world, so chill Gill!