Out of the Unknown (1965) No Place like Earth

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Anthology TV shows used to be fairly common, my personal favorite being a show called Tales from the Darkside (mostly due to its amazing theme song). While there aren’t many today, one can definitely see that the 1960’s were the golden age for these sorts of programs. In America, there were shows like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, and in the UK shows like Journey to The Unknown and the lesser known Out of the Unknown were big business during the UK science fiction golden age. Out of the Unknown is relatively unheard of outside of hardcore science fiction fandom due to the poor archival status of the show. It’s one of those shows that fell victim to the BBC’s “junking” policy for old footage. Of the original four seasons and nearly fifty episodes of the show produced, only around twenty exist today. What remains is pretty solid TV and consists of short stories adapted from existing work with a few exceptions made for the show. I actually heard about this show doing a Wikipedia search for John Wyndham (of Day of the Triffids fame) and found out that he had a story made into an episode. Which story? Well this one right here!

BBC-out-of-the-unknown-1965-no-place-like-earth-bert

No Place like Earth is a new take on the old Thomas Wolfe coined phrase “you can’t go home again”. Set fifteen years in an indeterminate future, a man named Bert Foster (Terence Morgan) wanders the canals of Mars thinking of simpler times he had on Earth. It seems Earth collapsed in a nuclear holocaust leaving all the survivors to find refuge on nearby planets. Bert is essentially homeless and travels around doing the work of a handyman to make ends meet. While trying to be the best hermit he can be, Bert draws attention from a Martian woman named Annike that is eyeing him for her daughter Zeyla. Before the story veers into sappy love story territory, a rocket from Venus shows up. The crew tells of a “New Earth” on Venus, and Bert jumps at the chance to regain his former glory. Bert’s heart breaks when he realizes Venus is nothing more than a slave colony with wealthy overlords preying on gullible fools like him. Looks like Mars wasn’t so bad was it Bert?

Some might look at No Place like Earth and think how silly the setting is. Wyndham painted a picture of a Mars that exists in pure fantasy; a planet full of crazy mountains and canals full of fresh water. I had to watch this on a popular video sharing website (since the episodes are nearly impossible to find otherwise) and noticed a bunch of unimaginative people mocking the “old notions of what Mars was like”. Those folks are missing the point, and are most likely the same people that crapped on John Carter, despite it being a really good summer movie. The original story for No Place like Earth was written in the spring of 1951, and by that time we definitely knew that there were no canals of rushing water on Mars. We knew there were not livable cities all over the place. Outside of the occasional ancient alien theorist espousing new theories on how Mars has a face on it, we had about the same level of Martian knowledge then that had when we started sending robots up there. To really enjoy this episode one has suspend disbelief just enough to see what story is trying to be conveyed rather than harping on how unscientific the whole thing is. And that’s the end of my rant for the day.

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No Place like Earth is definitely a low budget affair, and is only really saved on an artistic standpoint by being filmed in black and white. The costuming looks decent, if not a bit on the camp side; although I can imagine that everything was painted in garish colors. In this way, I feel a lack of said color is a blessing in disguise. Effect shots are very few and far between, and aside from a slew of decent matte paintings and other background special effects, the whole affair is essentially done as a stage play rather than something filmed especially for Television. One thing that could have been done a bit better was the acting in certain places. Since I can assume that most of the actors involved were stage actors, they seem to be massively overacting when in front of the camera. The way they wistfully look around, their body posture and the way they move all scream THEATRE! I can let this pass in older TV shows and films, because the medium was in its infancy, but I’ve seen much older shows with way more subdued acting.

Aside from those few quibbles, I enjoyed No Place like Earth quite a bit. I think it’s my love for older science fiction short stories from the era, but stories like this have a weird sense of wonder and adventure that is mostly absent from a lot of modern science fiction. If you like these sorts of shows and want to see stories from some fairly prominent science fiction writers of the time, I’d say check this show out.

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Survivors (2008) Episode 4

As is the norm with this show for a while, we have the episode split into a few separate story strands to keep everything rolling nicely and to give each character something to do. There are actually three main segments to follow: one with Abby, one with just about everyone else, and one with Greg and Anya. Mysteriously, we don’t really hear from the scientists that have been popping up in the last few episodes. You’d think that their search for the cure to the virus would get some mention here.

Abby found out about a group of kids occupying a large mansion from the eco-commune last episode, and has gone out to find out if her son is there. These kids have gone into full-on Lord of the Flies mode without any parental supervision, and are causing havoc around the grounds of the mansion, much to the dismay of the original owner of the mansion, a man that is hiding in the woods while his belongings get ransacked. She’s caught between these kids that “couldn’t make it outside” and said owner. She realizes that she could maybe get them to form an alliance of some sort, an option that seems easier said than done.

The second segment involves a familiar setting from last week. Here I thought the previous episode was the last time we’d see Samantha Willis and her creepy eco-commune, a place that gets worse by the second. How wrong I was, as we only had to wait one mere episode! The previous episode saw the former Health Minister becoming more and more of a ruthless despot as she clings to power. Abby was completely unnerved by the way the members of this commune handled “law” in their new community, and opted to leave despite all the good things such a community could offer.

The problem is that Willis is definitely making the hard choices that any leader should make, and as the sole authority from the government left, she’s bound to start making a few bad choices sooner than later. We saw her do things like punishing would-be supply thieves by public execution to send a message, thus continuing her fall. In episode 4 we have the arrival of Tom, Sarah, Najid, and Al in this community – possibly to stay for the long haul. It seems that despite the bad stuff going on, Abby let everyone else know about the place, and wants to move on to find her son. As one would imagine this lasts about three seconds before bad stuff goes down.

The weakest story in this episode has to be one involving Greg and Anya at the house. This segment seems to be a situation of trying to find something for these left-out characters to do, and serves little purpose otherwise. Basically, the pair find themselves under siege by a pair of rapists, and spend a few moments fighting them off. Unlike the chicken coop minor-segment in episode three, this piece was not very good.

I’d say this episode was a step down from the last one, but that isn’t a bad thing. This show usually stays pretty interesting, and the weaker episodes are still better than most other shows in the same vein. I am worried that the show will keep having segments for characters left out of the main plot such as tonight’s foray into rape-busting, as these sort of scenarios have seemed sort of half-assed so far. Hopefully we get to see what our bunker-bound lab coat guys are up to, I miss those guys 😉

The Day of the Triffids (2009) – Part One

Having enjoyed the 1981 BBC miniseries for The Day of the Triffids (review of that here),I jumped at the prospect of watching a newer take on the story. At some point I really need to get the books and dig into the original stories; but with my limited time as of late I have to settle for movies. The 1981 TV miniseries was fairly iconic, in that parts of it were used an inspiration for the film 28 days Later, especially the opening hospital scene. The one thing that really drew me to this show was the inclusion of a handful of actors that I really like – Eddie Izzard, Dougray Scott, and Brian Cox. These guys are usually in larger productions, and it was cool to see them here. Izzard and Scott are especially awesome actors in this film, basically carrying the production. With a bigger budget, a great cast, and modern special effects, one would hope that a new take on the story would be truly exciting and a feast for the eyes; luckily it is for about half the time.

Despite a few changes for the sake of modernity, and adding a more “cinematic” feel, a lot of the story in part one stays largely the same. Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) is a scientist that studies Triffids on a Triffid farm – an area where an odd species of plant is harvested to make a type of fuel that has made fossil fuels obsolete. This comes at a cost, however, as Triffids are very dangerous to work with. Bill knows this all too well, as we see the death of his mother at the leafy hands of these creatures in the opening moments of the film. Bill is stung early on by one of these guys, and spends a while in the hospital with his eyes taped up. Luckily for him (as his eyes are covered), a crazy solar storm happens that knocks out power and makes much of the populace blind (those who were watching the storm), and helps cause a post-apocalyptic Triffid-running-amok scenario. He is joined by a BBC television reporter named Jo (Joely Richarson), a con-man (Eddie Izzard), and a few others as they try to survive the ordeal.

In the original, the bright lights that blinded everyone were the result of a meteor shower, so changing it wasn’t too much of a change at all and somehow seems more realistic. This inclusion also helps tap into the zany 2012 theorist wet-dream that we are going to be hit with a large EMP/solar wave that will destroy the Earth this year.

While I feel that our films and other media are largely getting over-saturated with zombie apocalypse stuff, Day of the Triffids puts a new spin on this trope. Instead of the horror of mindless masses of flesh eating monsters running around, we have a situation where most of the world has been rendered blind resulting in a writhing mass of humanity trying to stay alive when the more predatory folks out there try to take advantage of the situation. These people aren’t zombies, but are fueled by pure hysteria and helplessness. In many instances, when someone finds out that someone else can still see, they try to harm them or force them into a situation where they are now these people’s eyes. The hysteria causes many a massacre with policemen firing on civilians trying to get to safety, people getting trampled, and the weak (children and elderly) getting lost in the shuffle.

With everyone on Earth subdued, suddenly we are at the bottom of the totem pole with Triffids suddenly at the top. There are ten million of them out there on various farms, and they are hungry for human flesh. This is especially made more shocking when we find out that these monsters are most-likely intelligent and seem to communicate to each other.

My main concern going into this film was that the production staff would somehow mess up the design of the Triffids themselves. Granted, the 1981 series depicted them as slow bell-shaped pitcher plants made out of fiberglass. Since these guys could “walk” the 80’s take would scoot around on the ground ever so slowly. It seemed that as long as people could take them out within about three feet or so, and keep from being over-run, everything might be cool. This time around, the Triffids have long tentacle-like appendages that can go great distances and sting anyone capable of doing them harm. Rather than a three foot radius, these new stingers are truly terrifying and could come out of nowhere. In the first part we gradually see the Triffids, but in very small doses. They stay in the shadows for the majority of the film, making them a bit scarier despite the silly premise of the creature (sentient walking plants). When we do finally see them, they are pretty well done special effects-wise.

After all the praise for story and acting, there has got to be a few bad apples in the bushel. Some of the CGI effects in this movie are questionable at best. Towards the beginning of part one, we see a multitude of news reports rolling in, talking about an impending solar storm hitting the Earth. For some reason we see these news reporters standing in front of obvious green screen backdrops of swirly sun energy in the sky, the effect it so bad that I cringed a bit. In an era where one can see even the cheapest of TV shows implement some sort of competent computer effects, it makes this stand out even more. This isn’t to say that it all looks bad; some of the cinematography and effect shots are quite impressive for a TV miniseries –bordering on Hollywood caliber. Scenes like one in which an airplane crashes into a busy city-scape after the EMP hits are quite scary and very well-done. One can definitely see where the money went, I just wish there was more consistency.

In the first of two parts, we also see the ugliness of heavy-handed preachy dialog starting to roll in. Bill talks about global warming, fuel consumption, and other ills that we are currently dealing with at this time. I’m really worried that the production will suddenly turn into a PSA for the environment or something that wasn’t intended in the original story. This sort of thing makes sense in a film like The Lorax, which was based on a book about the ailing environment. Subtlety can be great with messages in movies, but when overdone you can end up with something like October Baby, which was more message than film.

Aside from a few wonky solar flares, I really enjoyed part one of Day of The Triffids, and am confused by all the bad press this movie got. Looking at Amazon.com’s listing for this DVD, one comes away with the impression that Ed Wood had directed it. Maybe I’m easy to please, or maybe the whole thing goes awry in part two; all I know is that this first episode is well worth a watch for fans of the original 1981 miniseries and sci-fi fans as a whole.

Cover for Star Trek/Doctor Who Assimilation 2 Issue 2

The June comic solicitations from IDW are out, and we have a VERY AWESOME cover to feast our eyes upon:

 

Star Trek TNG/Doctor Who: Assimilation2 #2 (of 8) [32 pages • $3.99]
Scott & David Tipton with Tony Lee (w)J.K. Woodward (a) • Woodward, Mark Buckingham (c)
The two greatest science-fiction properties of all time cross over for the first time in history, in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION/DOCTOR WHO: ASSIMILATION2! When the Federation’s most terrifying enemy strikes an unholy alliance with one of the Doctor’s most hated antagonists, the result is devastation on a cosmic scale! Geronimo? Make it so!

Doctor Who: The Mutant Phase


After weeks, even months, of listening to the void of soundless boredom, I started taking my iPod to work this week in order to keep occupied for my long ten hour shifts. Since I do not want to listen to the same songs every day, I decided to load up on podcasts of varying topics, and a few Doctor Who audio dramas. As you may have noticed by a few earlier posts, I am attempting to listen to all of these Doctor Who Audio plays by Big Finish in order, and one would assume that I would review them as such.

I realized that I had gone far too long without keeping notes, writing things down, and generally getting ready to write any reviews. So guess what? I’m going to re-listen to a lot of these in order to keep these up rather than going off of memories of these plays that could date back to over one year ago. You never know, I may end up liking dramas I previously hated (there are actually two I never finished of the forty or so I have heard, I need to fix that). Luckily this drama did not make my “poop list” the first time I listened to it according to my iTunes star rating, and stayed just as enjoyable the second time around.

 

Synopsis

In the 22nd century, the Daleks have occupied planet Earth. By the 43rd century, only a handful of humans survive. Still further into the distant future, a Thal scientist must choose whether to betray his heritage, or see the universe destroyed.

When the Doctor and Nyssa find themselves trapped in this deadly chain of events, they must decide who their real enemies are. What is certain, however, is that no matter where the Doctor turns… his arch enemies, the Daleks, will be waiting for him.

What could possibly be worse than that? The Mutant Phase…
The Mutant Phase has an immediate bonus for me in that it is a re-visitation of my favorite Doctor Who serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. For those unfamiliar with that title, said episode was an important episode for many reasons: it was Susan’s last appearance as a regular companion, it was the first serial shot on location, it was the second Dalek appearance, and it was so popular that it was one of two stories to be remade into a feature film starring peter Cushing. Going back to such a classic episode is a cool idea, and thankfully we get the setting as more of a “bookend” to the meat of the story rather than a “fanwanky” total revisit.

In that episode, the Tardis crew including Susan, Ian, Barbara, and the first incarnation of the Doctor, arrive in a bleak post-apocalyptic and Dalek infested England in 2167. What really made The Dalek Invasion of Earth stand out for me was the chilling use of vacated landmarks during location shooting, and the utter bleakness of the overall story. For a “kid’s show”, this episode had a lot of dark things like signs saying not to dump dead bodies in the river and humans turned into a slave work force.  What we have here with The Mutant Phase can be seen as a “prequel” of sorts to this classic episode as we see The Doctor As played by Peter Davison and his companion Nyssa arrive a few years earlier, to a time where Daleks have never met the Doctor and don’t meddle in time travel.

My only real quibble with the episode rears its ugly head in this introductory portion of the episode. The Doctor realizes pretty quickly that they are somewhere in the state of Kansas, which for foreign readers, is located in the United States. While looking through a field of genetically altered crops infested with wasps, The Doctor and Nyssa stumble upon a “Roboman” guardsman, a zombie-like policeman for the Daleks. By zombies I don’t mean the Romero-esque eating brains and rotting away living dead variety, but the classical use of the term as in brainwashed servant. Not to be confused with Cybermen, Robomen are just regular people with some sort of mind control device implanted onto their heads.

So anyway, this roboman gets America back for the dreadful British accent Dick Van Dyke used in Mary Poppins, by delivering his dialog in the worst, most overdone, American accent out there. This can partly be chalked up to the dronish manner in which the robomen characters talk, but behind all the reverb and monotone was a glimmer of a vocal style not heard since The Apple Dumpling Gang. I seriously hope that many in the U.K. do not think all Americans talk like 1890’s old prospectors, but I get the inclination that it may be the case. I think Mark Gatiss was responsible for the voice, as he is credited as such! All joking aside, this small slip-up was very minor, can be overlooked easily, and does no harm to the play itself.

This play has quite a few interesting characters, and chiefly among those are two Thal scientists, Ptolem and Ganatus, both forced to work for the Daleks to stop the mutant phase. We hear a lot of mentions of these guys before we see them interact with the Doctor, so their motives stay hidden for the majority of the play. Another nice addition is Karl Hendrick, a man that lives in the dark and studies old relics from our current history. He gets quite a few great one-liners and funny moments making him one of the better side characters.

Aside from a couple of minor things like over-done foreshadowing that Nyssa’s wasp sting may be important in some way, the plot of the Mutant Phase was well done, and revolved around some good ol’ fashioned “timey-wimey” stuff involving a temporal paradox. With any paradox based episode the resolution didn’t exactly wrap the whole thing up in a bow – a fact that is actually made fun of in the dialog. When the Doctor explains what has happened to Nyssa at the end, she tells him that it simply made no sense, to which he replied “paradoxes don’t make sense” or something vaguely similar. Admitting this, the play somehow jumped over any plotholes it may have obtained whilst jumping between a multitude of timelines. For me this was nice, humorous touch.

While not the classic of its older brother, The Mutant Phase is a competent audio drama that keeps one entertained throughout. Keeping in mind that the Daleks are the only race that the doctor has ever really considered committing mass genocide on, listening to him being forced to work alongside the horrible creatures is compelling and makes this a must listen. I’ve been lukewarm on the Dalek Empire Releases so far, but this one has really redeemed the series, can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Review – Doctor Who: The Shadow of the Scourge

Wow! this is a bad cover 😛

 

Big Finish Audio “quick review”

 

Summary: The Pinehill Crest Hotel in Kent is host to three very different events: a cross-stich convention, an experiment in time travel and… the summoning of the scourge.  The Doctor, Bernice and Ace find themselves dealing with a dead body that’s come back to life, a mystical symbol that possesses its host, and a threat from another universe that’s ready for every trick the Doctor’s got up his sleeve.  This time, has the Doctor gone too far?

As I stated in my last “quick review” with the darker Doctor Who styling, The Fearmonger, I need to try harder to separate these stories from that of the rest of the cannon.  Not that they are bad stories, but I have pre-conceived notions of what tone the show should be in that sort of interfered with that drama.  This time I decided to listen to a story based on the Virgin New Adventures line of Doctor Who books.  For those unaware of the term the VNA novels were released after the show was put on “indefinite hiatus” by Michael Grade, the much beguiled BBC controller in the late eighties.  Throughout the nineties, a series of books was released that put a darker tone to the stories, painting Ace as a soldier, and the Doctor as even more manipulative than ever.  I also got my first introduction to Bernice Sumemrfield, a 26th century archaeologist that traveled with the Doctor and Ace during this time.

This play introduces a new villain in, The Scourge, a multidimensional creature resembling a huge praying mantis, which dwells and thrives off of uncertainty, doubt, self-loathing, and depression.  They are found to do this by sonic means, so we get a rough scene where ace has someone box her ears to rupture her eardrums.  This does act as a sort of comic relief (something that is needed) as Ace now can’t hear what people are saying and constantly repeats things back to people.

 

From Doctor Who magazine

 

This play is VERY dark, almost Torchwood dark to be honest.  I was actually quite surprised when the Scourge start disemboweling people, as the foley guys (I’d assume it’s called foley in radio as it is movies) came up with the most grotesque noises that they could in order to portray such as scene.  We have many scenes of sheer emotional terror and anguish in this play as well with not only Ace, Benny, and background characters, but even the Doctor.  This is possibly the most intense play, if not Doctor Who related media, aside from maybe Torchwood: Children of Earth, that I’ve consumed.  While this sheer darkness is off-base for the TV show, I will concede that a darker take on the characters can be a bit satisfying as we get some real emotion from everyone involved, but it never reaches into the gratuitous side.

The one thing that really kept me from really liking this storyline and rating it better than “average” is the crazy “minscape” section towards the end of the serial.  The Doctor and Benny are literally sucked into the Doctor’s own mind as he tries to fight his own “scourge”.  It is at this point that we elarn that depression and other doubts are basically from these creatures, and they have been praying on the weak humanity for thousands of years.  The monster keeps repeatedly telling The Doctor some bad stuff like the fact that he is “merely a troublemaking child who fears being alone so much that he deliberately alienates his companions to see whether they’ll leave him or not”.  This reminds me of the recent TV episode containing the Dream Lord, as you find out that the Doctor is pretty self-loathing sometimes.

The Shadow of the Scourge was a decent episode of the Big Finish Audio dramas, and really reminded me of a Torchwood related item.  I’m still not a huge fan of the dark nature of some of these, but at least the performances were VERY well acted.

 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

 

 

Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Doctor Who charity special, Dimensions in time, is a pretty rough experience.  On one hand, this charity episode was released way back when the show was off of the air, so any sort of new material was welcomed by fans.  The main problem was, that somebody over at BBC decided it would be an amazing idea to have this episode as a crossover with a popular soap opera called The Eastenders.  Confusing casting decisions were combined with a few miss-steps like having all of the remaining Doctors appear in the video despite having only the smallest interest of picking the role up.  This is especially prominent with one Mr. Tom Baker who, despite a good performance aside from the fact he is sitting in front of a green screen talking into a microphone, obviously didn’t want anything to do with the 30th anniversary special.  The other actors all tried very hard to salvage what eventually became of this, but sadly it was a losing battle.

The plot, if one can follow it, revolves around one of the lesser used renegade Time Lords, the Rani, as she tries to destabilize time to kill all versions of the Doctor at once.  The Fourth Doctor appears to be in a broadcasting room of some sorts and relays a desperate message to his other selves:

Mayday, mayday. This is an urgent message for all the Doctors. It’s vitally important that you listen to me for once. Our whole existence is being threatened by a renegade Time Lord known only as the Rani. She hates me. She even hates children. Two of my earlier selves have already been snared in her vicious trap. The grumpy one and the flautist too. She wants to put us out of action. Lock us away in a dreary backwater of London’ East End. Trapped in a time-loop in perpetuity and her evil is all around us. I can hear the heart beat of a killer. She’s out there somewhere. We must be on our guard and we must stop her before she destroys all of our other selves. Oh… [gives a pained look] Good luck, my dears.

I’ve included that up there, because it is literally ALL the story we actually get in this episode, the rest is a mess of random appearances and nonsensical babbling.  This whole thing is moved along by use of the Rani’s gun that can alter time, a convenient way to have multiple Doctors show up.  Sadly the way this occurs is VERY jarring as the Doctor phases between identities, sometimes in mid-sentence, and way too frequently.  While it starts out being the Seventh Doctor and Ace talking, every time we hear a noise and the screen flashes we meet another version of the Doctor, sometimes another companion, or someone randomly from Eastenders.  While one can figure out what is supposed to be going on, the whole production looks as if it cost something like a tenner and maybe a drink at a bar.

There are some good things to be seen from this episode, however, as it marks one of the very last TV appearances by Jon Pertwee before he died only a few years later.  He had stopped doing much acting to my knowledge and was touring around on the science fiction convention circuit and doing small roles in dramas and such.  This episode also sees the only meeting between the Sixth Doctor and longtime companion and all around awesome dude – The Brigadier.

Aside from those good things, I can’t explain enough how bad the episode is.  When I had tried to get hold of all of the Doctor Who stuff I presumed would not be released on DVD like missing episode reconstructions and charity specials, I was happy to find an off-air recording of this.  This happiness was surely dashed once I actually watched the dreary mess.  If anything, this special was not a send off for the beloved show that was believed to be laid to rest forever, but a sad remembrance of the crappy state of the show’s production in the later 1980’s.  Doctor Who was to have its day in the sun once again, and come back stronger than ever…sadly it was not on this day!

The Curse of Fatal Death

I was going to toss a little “look back” for this up – like a review of sorts, but I have been busy messing about with my shiny new PS3 today.  I’ll try to get to the review tomorrow (or later tonight) but for now, enjoy the full Curse of Fatal Death, a charity episode starring Rowan Atkinson and written by Steven Moffatt!

Review: Timeslip – The Wrong End of Time

“What is a Time Bubble? You can’t see it, of course, but it might help you visualise it to think of a balloon… Supposing some little patch of information – some little patch of history – gets slowed down, and instead of flashing backwards and forwards it floats, gently, as if in a bubble… Supposing you could get into that bubble – that bubble of history – and travel with it. Then you could move forwards and backwards in time at will…”

–one of the many introductions before the episodes

I was randomly poking through Netflix not too long ago and stumbled across a DVD recommendation labeled under “British Television”.  This was before I was doing this blog so there wasn’t much motivation to rush it into my home, but I was intrigued.  When I was younger I used to watch a lot of PBS and they would play all sorts of British children’s science fiction, most of which was far superior to anything that was marketed to children over here.  I went ahead and rented the first disk of a show I had never heard of – Time Slip.  The show, from 1970-1, was about a group of children who travel to various points in time.  Rather than echoing Doctor Who’s overlying theme of adventure and exploration as many similar show do, Time Slip (at least from the first serial) seems to be more about how folks misuse technology.

The first serial, containing six episodes, revolves around our two main characters a boy named Simon Randall and a girl named Liz Skinner.  Simon is traveling with family friends to keep his mind of off his mother’s recent death.  While hanging out near the site of an old naval base Simon and his friend Liz discover a time portal that we just saw suck up a mute girl named Sarah.  When on the other side, the pair discovers that it is suddenly night time and that they seem to be in a Nazi over-run base.  They end up running into a man named Frank and Sarah both held captive by the Nazis.  Here is the shocker Frank is her father thirty years ago!

The first six episodes of Time Slip are fairly entertaining if not a bit on the slow side.  You can tell that the show was on a very low budget as there are a magnitude of scenes where long expanses of dialog are tossed out with little or no action to be seen.  I can imagine that this most likely is one of the reasons that the show is a cult classic; I honestly don’t think a ton of children would be able to handle a show that is paced this way.  Then again, I was born some ten years after this originally aired, so one never knows.  I do know that the show ran somewhat over-budget and was seen as a flop despite running to its full duration, something unheard of nowadays.  Doing some online research, I found that Time Slip still has a legion of devoted fans and even runs the occasional convention.

I really enjoyed Time Slip – The Wrong End of Time and plan on watching the remaining three serials.  It’s a shame that the color prints of these are mostly lost as I would have loved to see this as originally aired.

My rating 3 out of 5

The show itself is available to rent on Netflix or is available for purchase at such places as Amazon.com

Review – Doctor Who: Winter for the Adept

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Summary: “When a teleportation accident goes badly wrong, Nyssa finds herself stranded on the freezing slopes of the Swiss Alps in 1963. But is it mere coincidence that she finds shelter in a snowbound school haunted by a malevolent poltergeist?  When the Doctor arrives, Nyssa and the other inhabitants of the school soon discover that the ghost is merely part of a darker, deeper and more deadly game involving rogue psi talents and something else… Something not of this Earth.”

When we last left the Doctor (as played by Peter Davison) and Nyssa, they were leaving frigid Alaska bound for some place hopefully warmer.  Not only does that not happen, but they end up in a house with a religious zealot that believes that cold air is the path to salvation and warmth is a sin.  Nyssa gets stranded in this place long before the Doctor arrives, and is taken in by a group of Swiss School girls living on the mountainside.  This story contains a few weird motifs that are out of the ordinary for Doctor Who, but serve well in this story….for the most part.  The first of which is that the story itself is bookended by a narration from one of the Swiss school girls.  The cheesy overly flowery diary entry harkens back to such writers as Jane Austen, but only in a superficial way.  The girl basically says very little with as many adjectives as possible to make it sound classy.  This sloppy writing should have been the first red flag for what I was getting into.

From: Doctor Who Magazine

Winter for the Adept is one of those audio dramas that I really wanted to like, but sadly did not whatsoever.  The story begins as a ghost story intertwined in a Stanley Kubrick’s Shining-esque wrapper, but completely falls apart 3/4ths of the way in and becomes a Michael Bay film.  It’s like Andrew Cartmel (the writer) was so set on adding aliens into the mix that he forgot he was writing a ghost story.

The choppy writing doesn’t end there, as there is a lot of dialogue talking about “Spillagers” at the beginning, a term that is never explained until towards the end of the play.  When it is revealed what a “Spillager” is, I was rolling my eyes due to how convenient it was within the plot.  The Doctor constantly talks about “spillages” and his “spillage detector” in such a way that it leads you to believe that he is talking about some sort of energy release or some such.  Not the alien that magically happens to be there in the Alps at the very same time.  I also found myself having a lot of trouble imagining what was going on especially in episode four.  There are many instances where random yelling, noises, and explosions can be heard with little explanation as to what is actually going on.  Sadly this play is a frightful miss for me.

 

My rating 1 out of 5

Review – Doctor Who: The Spectre of Lanyon Moor

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Synopsis: In a desolate Cornish landscape littered with relics of prehistoric man, the doctor and Evelyn uncover a catalogue of mysteries.  What is the secret of the fogou? Can the moor be haunted by a demonic host of imps? And what is Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart doing in Pengriffen?  Teaming up with his old friend, the Doctor realises that an ancient conflict is nearing its conclusion – and Lanyon Moor is set to be teh final battleground.

One thing that I always love in science fiction is when the writer takes a prominent supernatural occurrence (e.g. ghosts, elves etc…) and explains it away as either completely commonplace or something more.  For instance the way that Gods in Stargate are actually powerful aliens that prayed on human faith.  This particular Doctor Who audio play does this exact thing with the mythical creature – the imp.  The story consists of the Doctor and his newest companion Dr. Evelyn Smythe investigating old Celtic ruins alongside an archaeological team and even the Brigadier!  This play is in fact the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in any Big Finish Audio release.

An Image from Doctor Who magazine

It was always sad to me that the sixth incarnation of the Doctor as played by Colin Baker was never allowed a proper adventure in which he interacts with the Brigadier.  Almost all other Doctors ended up with such an episode, but the closest thing we ended up with was the dreadful charity “special” Dimensions in Time in which I need to dissect one of these days.

This episode has its ups and downs but was generally very entertaining to me, and sits as one of the better episodes of Big Finish Audio out there.  The duo of Colin Baker’s Doctor and Eveleyn Smythe as played by Maggie Stables is a great pairing, and I really hope they do a few more stories together.  Having the brigadier in this episode really helps iron home that this is, in fact, a Doctor Who story.  It really seems the most like an old episode of the TV show that I’ve listened to.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Review – Doctor Who: Red Dawn

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Synopsis:

Ares One: NASA’s first manned mission to the dead planet Mars. But is Mars as dead as it seems?
While the NASA team investigate an ‘anomaly’ on the planet’s surface, the Doctor and Peri find themselves inside a strange alien building. What is its purpose? And what is frozen inside the blocks of ice that guard the doorways? If the Doctor has a sense of deja-vu, it’s because he’s about to meet some old adversaries, as well as some new ones…

We open Red Dawn with a countdown timer and launch of man’s first foray to the red planet in a ship called the Argosy.  From the very get-go this seems a doomed mission as a ton of stuff begins to go wrong right out of the gate.  At the exact same moment, The Doctor and Peri travel to a large building that seems to have doors and other controls that are run empathically.  Once they run into the now landed Argosy crew, they find out that they are on Mars just as the Ice warriors show up.  The villain of the piece is a man named Paul, who is so stupidly one-dimensional that he might as well be a textbook example of bad ethical practices.  The man literally tries to incite a inter-galactic war for the sole reason to make money on weapons trading and other like things.

The play has a few missteps that made this drama hard to finish for me.  While I have complimented Nicola Bryant as Peri in the handful of audio adventures I have heard with her, this audio play is seemingly back to the “old school”.  I found Peri (of no fault to Bryant, but the script) to be about as annoying as she was in the earlier parts of her run on the classic show.  All she did was run around and hound one of the Ice Warriors about his promise not to kill the Doctor and yell at folks about ethics.  Peri was not the only blight on this drama as it seemed as if everyone involved was completely incompetent in all situations.  The Doctor kept talking about the Ice Warrior honor code, but never takes advantage of it, as he has with other races such as the Sontarans.

This is quite easily the most boring of these audio dramas so far, and it was slightly less entertaining than The Sirens of Time.  Not all stories can be top shelf I guess.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

Here is a “trailer” of sorts:

Review – Doctor Who: The Genocide Machine

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

 

Synopsis: “The library on Kar-Charrat is one of the wonders of the Universe. It is also hidden from all but a few select species. The Doctor and Ace discover that the librarians have found a new way of storing data – a wetworks facility – but the machine has attracted unwanted attention, and the Doctor soon finds himself pitted against his oldest and deadliest enemies – the Daleks!”

 

Ah yes, the first Dalek-related audio drama Big Finish has produced.  Being a huge fan of the little squid-like hooligans, I was excited to see – errr – hear what the audio format had for these guys.  This begins a story-arc of sorts that Big Finish has labeled Dalek Empire; it will contain four separate stories with different Doctors held together by the common theme.  This segment follows The Doctor and Ace as they are humorously brought to a planet called Kar-Charrat in order to return a library book, lifted from a library where such things are frowned upon.  At the same time we cut to another group led by a person that is almost like a “semi-companion” in Bev Tarrant.  Bev is a female Han Solo of sorts, and plans to steal a large ziggurat in order to make it rich.  Too bad the Ziggurat is full of evil squid monsters surrounded by armor – the Daleks.

After the last McCoy and Aldred play, I was worried that the overly dark nature would spill into all of their plays.  Thankfully that isn’t the case, as this play seems more in-line with the show than one of the books.  That is the great thing about Big Finish, if you don’t like a certain play, the next one will be completely different, and may strike your fancy.  I enjoyed the plotline and dialog; yet felt that it was bit too preachy in some regards, especially when you find out the atrocity the librarians on Kar-Charrat have committed.  Without giving away the plot completely, let’s just say that the overtly hippie-like nature of Avatar is pretty close to the mood the audio sets.

The audio only really fails on the insanely contrived plan that the Daleks have hatched.  While they are known to have ridiculous over-thought plans in the past, this one is pretty over the top.  They basically plan to use the libraries knowledge to create a super Dalek with the power of the Universe, so they plant cryogenic sleeper cells on every planet of this one particular system that also contains the aforementioned “secret” library.  I say “secret” because everyone seems to know of it.  Plot aside, this was a fun audio adventure, and a blessing of what to come for Sylvester McCoy stories.

 

My rating: 3 out of 5

 

Here is a trailer I found on Youtube:

 

An Open Letter to Joss Whedon fans:

It may be no mystery that I am not a fan of the science fiction show Firefly, in fact I can’t stand the show to be quite honest.  When I am talking with my sci-fi buddies, there is usually someone that doesn’t understand the idea that people have different tastes and tries to sway me to their side.  Not only is this annoying as hell, but it makes me not like the show even more.  Some of these guys even go so far to call themselves “brown shirts” or “brown coats” which unbeknownst to them is the same name that Nazi storm troopers were referred to as.  The name fits, as some of these folks are “Nazis” in the sense of the modern vernacular which attributes anyone being over-zealous and generally “douche-baggy” as a “Nazi” e.g, Grammar Nazi.

So why don’t I like this show, and why do I get angry whenever people get pissy because I don’t like it?  I think a lot of it stems from Joss Whedon’s messiah-like status in some fan circles, as if he can do no wrong, and everything he touches turns to gold.  This is of course despite the fact that he wrote large portions of dialog for the first movie X-men including this gem:

Storm as played by Halle Berry: “Do you know what happens to a toad when it gets struck by lightning? … The same thing that happens to everything else.”

UGH!

He also wrote the script for Alien Resurrection and blamed everyone else for the movie sucking, saying that it was miscast and such.  Don’t let me seem like a total ass for ripping on Whedon as I liked the original Buffy movie and the first 3-4 seasons of the show.  He may come across as an arrogant self-centered type of guy, but he is a pretty decent writer for dialog.

So the problem must lie in his fans, not just the “brown coats”, but all Whedon-media fans.  To me Whedon-ites are to science fiction fans what The Hitler Youth are to youth organizations.  Instead of watching and talking about their favorite show with other like minded fans, they see the need to try and indoctrinate everyone else into it.  If anyone resists The Lord Whedon, they immediately have to turn in their nerd license.

This very thing happened to me at work when I was helping a customer find a Battlestar Galactica DVD.  We started talking Sci-fi and he mentioned Firefly, to which I responded that I wasn’t really into the show.  The man then, obviously annoyed, asked “well….why NOT!?”  This was as if I somehow offended his religion or something.  I explained that I had not seen the whole show, but I was not a fan of the four episodes I did see, and did not plan on watching anymore.  The man then went into full-on siege-mode and started throwing out reason after reason as to why the show was underrated and why I should like it…etc.  I basically had to say “have a good one” and walk away.  It’s like rather than enjoying his show, he let the fact that it was cancelled become a bitter fist-shaped aura in his mind, waiting to punch anyone who says the show isn’t a masterpiece of human achievement.

Let this be a lesson to you guys, badgering folks and trying to essentially force people to think the way you think about a show is stupid and puts folks off of it.  If anything you guys have made me not want to read / see / hear about anything else that Joss Whedon ever produces.  Surely I can’t be the only one out there with this mindset.  It’s fun to like your own stuff, but calm down just a tad.

Review – Doctor Who: The Marian Conspiracy

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Synopsis: Tracking a nexus point in time, the Doctor meets Dr Evelyn Smythe, a history lecturer whose own history seems to be rapidly vanishing.  The Doctor must travel back to Tudor times to stabilize the nexus and save Evelyn’s life. But there he meets the Queen of England and must use all his skills of diplomacy to avoid ending up on the headman’s block…

It’s no secret that the exploits of the sixth Doctor in the form of the original TV series were met with mixed reviews.  Many felt that the show was on its last legs at the time, and a few higher ups over at the BBC seemed keen on axing the show forever.  When I got into watching a lot of the classic stories, I really liked how Colin Baker played the Doctor despite his costume and the somewhat rough scripts he was sometimes handed.  As I’ve stated before these Big Finish audio dramas are where Colin seems to be at his best as the Doctor.  I would even say that his episodes are usually among my favorite.

This episode at hand, The Marion Conspiracy, is one of the better ones of this line up to this point, as it contains a few things that really set it apart: the introduction of a NEW companion, a historical timeframe, and time travel consequences.  The plot follows The Doctor and a history teacher named Evelyn Smythe as they try to figure out why Evelyn is seemingly being written out of time.  This dynamic is usually one of my favorites as I love when The Doctor takes in a companion that is a bit older and has wide-eyed enthusiasm AND wisdom; I think that’s why I liked Wilf so much in the last few David Tennant seasons.

The story follows The Doctor and Evelyn as they travel back to Tudor times to figure out exactly what Evelyn is disappearing from existence.  There are a few misunderstandings where they both assume that they are in Elizabethan England when in fact they are at the court of Queen Mary.  They both get embroiled in a plot to kill Mary and ultimately try to stop it.  All in all, this was a very good audio drama, and is one of the better ones that I’ve listened to so far.  The acting, plot, and pure historical awesomeness, all click in such a way to make me the most happy.

click here to listen to a trailer

My rating 4 out of 5

 

Review – Doctor Who: Fearmonger

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Synopsis: One would-be assassin is in a mental ward. Another’s on the run. Their intended victim is stirring up the mobs. Terrorists are planning a strike of their own. A talk-radio host is loving every minute of it. A Whitehall insider whispers about a mysterious UN operative, with a hidden agenda. Everyone’s got someone they want to be afraid of. It’ll only take a little push for the situation to erupt – and something is doing the pushing. But you can trust the Doctor to put things right. Can’t you?

One of the things that I have yet to actually get around to doing is reading any of the Doctor Who: Virgin New Adventure books produced in the early-mid nineties.  I do know that conceptually I do not agree with the general tone of the books based on what I’ve seen, and some of the fandom that came from them.  As a first “true” introduction to the format, these plays based on the Virgin New Adventure books, are equally as problematic to me.

The actual audio drama that I am looking at reviewing here is called the Fearmonger and stars Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred reprising their roles from the latter era of the original series.  Immediately we find The Doctor and Ace hot on the heels of some kind of monster that may or may not inhabit the body of a crazed right wing political group leader.  At least this is what a man who regularly calls into a Fox News styled pundit show seems to think, and says that he plans another assassination attempt on her, as a previous one (that the play opened on) went south.  We find the Doctor commandeer the radio show and egg on the “crazy” man, basically saying “yeah! There is a monster” which riles everyone up.  This leaves Ace and the Doctor to investigate the situation themselves in order to get some answers.

The right wing political party in question, The New Britannia party, is a pretty rough group of characters who base their entire political stance on racism.  They basically want to throw out anyone who isn’t white and sherilyn Harper, their leader, doesn’t help with her rhetoric.  Against them is a terrorist group trying to end the hate ironically with assassinations and bombings.  Immediately you may notice that the back-bone of this story is very dark, and that is honestly a big problem with it for me.  While things like nationalism, jingoism, racism, immigration and politics have always featured in Doctor Who media, the show was at least clever enough to try to keep it toned down.

With this new tone, the storytelling loses its fun and clownish charm, instead going for preachy social commentary.  This was a trend in the 1980’s McCoy episodes as they ham-fisted things like racism into episodes that did not need it in the plot.  Remembrance of the Daleks comes to mind with a few scenes of black segregation in the 1960’s that served no purpose other than to make the watcher feel bad, and cluttered up the over-all narrative.  This bleak and preachy take on the Doctor is not my favorite to be honest.

I guess it may be my problem as a listener, that I need to differentiate the show and these audios more in order to really enjoy them, but as a fan of the classic show rather than a series of books, the themes in here clash with my preconceived notions of what the characters should be doing.  Aside from my gripes, the acting and production on this play are VERY well done, and to be honest it is the best produced play from Big Finish so far.  I know my opinions on the McCoy era may not be the most popular, but I will try to look at the other Virgin New Adventure stories with a more open mind.  We’ll see how that goes.

My Rating 3.25 out of 5

 

Review – Doctor Who: The Land of the Dead

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

For me, the first three of these Big Finish Audio dramas were sort of like a warm-up for what the range could really bring; and The Land of the Dead is the first of these that really stands up along-side the TV series.  As I’ve stated before, not being a big fan of the Peter Davison era worried me about these plays, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find out that his audio plays are usually my favorites.  Sarah Sutton returns to reprise her role as Nyssa, a companion I actually really liked during this time.

The story follows The Doctor and Nyssa as they pop up in frigid Alaska in the dead of winter.  They stumble upon an encampment where a crazed billionaire named Shaun Brett is trying to build a shrine for his dead father from parts of the surrounding landscape.  This themed museum of sorts includes a rather ghoulish room consisting of old bones that freak out the hired Inuit laborers.  They believe that such a room will bring the vengeance of nature upon them; and this superstition isn’t helped when monsters begin to attack.

The acting in this play is very strong in almost every way from the principle cast to the background characters.  I was really worries that the voices for the various Inuit people would be off, as many UK based actors would not have a lot of knowledge on their language and culture.  Aside from a few minor UK-isms, I think they did a fairly good job, and kept the whole thing believable.

The play does a great job of helping the listener imagine exactly what the villains look like, which is a step up from the last few were it was sort of hard to imagine what the Big finish crew were really going for.  All in all a very enjoyable tale!

My Rating 4 out of 5

 

The Lost Craig Ferguson Doctor Who Tribute Surfaces!

A few weeks ago Matt Smith appeared on a small, and yet fairly popular late night talk show hosted by Craig Ferguson.  Being a huge fan of the show, Craig choreographed a Doctor Who dance Number that was filmed, but sadly un-aired due to rights issues from the song.  The video has been finally “leaked”!

 

Game Review: Doctor Who – Blood of the Cybermen

https://i0.wp.com/www.vgchartz.com/games/pics/doctor-who-the-adventure-games-episode-2_60536.jpg

Here is another review I wrote:

HERE

Game Review: Doctor Who – City of the Daleks

Here is a review I did for VGchartz on the game!

Click Here