More Things That Annoy Me in TV & Film (including Mobile Phone Conversations and Children)

July 28, 2012

It’s been a while since I did one of these articles and with there only being tennis on at the Olympics right now, I thought I’d revisit it, though I hope I’m not scraping the barrel for entries…

So let’s get straight into it.

Mobile Phone Conversations

Watch the way people speak to each other on mobile phones on TV shows or films.

Those conversations are unlike anything you would see in real life because…

  • Nobody ever says hello
  • Nobody exchanges small talk (although for the sake of scripts, you could forgive that)
  • People seem to arrange social events with each other without expressing where or when they will meet specifically – i.e. “I’ll meet you tomorrow night”. Where? When?!
  • They seem to have conversations on speaker-phone for no apparent reason
  • Nobody ever…ever…says goodbye. They just hang up the phone.

Try having a ‘TV Mobile phone conversation’ with someone you know and be prepared to be called a rude and unspecific bastard as a result.

The Way People Just Walk Into Each Other’s Houses

You know how people of a certain vintage talk about ‘The Good Old Days’ when you could go down the pub (to meet Mr and Mrs Bobby Moore presumably – and I wonder how many people will get that one…) and leave your front door unlocked?

Well for a start I don’t believe that ever happened, but even if it did, that world still exists in TV land.

If someone doesn’t immediately answer their door, the person knocking just decides to come in without being asked, which – apart from being totally unrealistic – is the height of rudeness. Would you like it if someone just walked into your house unannounced?

People have enough trouble getting into their own houses with a key, so the likelihood of their front door being unlocked for passers-by to walk through is highly unlikely

The Neighbours Effect

This is a variation on that theme; something that happens in plenty of shows but is most commonly known to happen in the Australian soap opera Neighbours.

Neighbours is on 5 days a week for 48 weeks of the year and on average once per episode they present a situation where someone is entering a house just as someone else is leaving it.

It’s a cheap directorial ploy to try to move scripts along, but it happens far too often and it’s incredibly irritating.

But then, if I would to criticise Neighbours I could bring up plenty of other issues that bug em, such as the way nobody ever comes back for special occasions with their families, the way nobody can get married without incident, how if someone moves 5 miles down the road they are never seen from or heard from again, or even that if someone has a ‘hidden talent’ it’s not just a run of the mill talent but the greatest example of that talent in the whole world.

I could bring up more, but it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Children…Aren’t They Just So Bloody Wonderful

If aliens from another civilisation were to learn about the human race simply from watching TV and films, they’d think the world was ruled by children.

My blood is boiling at the mere sight of the Wonderful – and incredibly smug – Callum off Neighbours

Children are always the ones who know what’s going on before the adults; they are the smart ones, the wise ones. Everything they do is cute, nothing that they do is wrong. They have such wonderful spirits of adventure and can defeat evil because they are the epitome of innocence. Essentially they are treated as mystical beings that are greater than all adults.

In the aforementioned Neighbours they are central to the plot and lead such wildly exciting lives.

Absolute pish.

Kids are none of these things in reality. More often than not they irritating, badly behaved and adult-reliant little shits who are disliked by every adult out-with their own parents – and even then that’s 50/50. More often than not they are rude as well.

And the ones who actually appear in TV shows and films are the worst of the lot. Smug little tossers who have been built up by those parents as being far more special than they are. And 99% of the time they can’t even bloody well act!

Look at Callum off Neighbours. Just look at him. He oozes smug, he has a hair-do more advanced and worked on than any fat kid I ever saw at school and the chances are he’s as unappealing as a human being in real life as he unwittingly comes off as in Neighbours.

The only realistic example of children on TV that I have ever seen was on the BBC sitcom ‘Outnumbered’ where the kids weren’t given lines per-se and instead were fed things to say by the writers just before they went on camera. Those kids were funny – Karen especially – because they were so young that they didn’t realise what it meant to be on TV.

And I say ‘was’ because as the years have gone by the younger kids have grown up a bit and have become aware of their own fame. Now they badly recite dialogue written for them and are about as far from cute as a turd served up on a paper plate.

Urgh.

And on that note…

Skins

Because teenagers DO NOT have lives like that.

Next Time…

I discuss ‘EVIL’ and the way people stand talking to each other.


Doctor Who – Invasion of the Dinosaurs Review (or ‘Not Exactly Jurassic Park’)

July 25, 2012

The other day I read something interesting about The Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

I’d always been under the impression that the reason episode 1 is only available in black and white is that whoever junked episodes at the BBC mistook it for Episode 1 of the 1968 story ‘The Invasion’, since the ‘of the Dinosaurs’ part of the title was deliberately left off that first instalment to preserve the surprise of Dinosaurs turning up.

But it turns out that Barry Letts had authorised the wiping of this story in its entirity only a few months after broadcast, and it’s only by accident that the other episodes exist, and even more lucky that an engineers copy of Episode 1 turned up

Peter Miles doesn’t look impressed does he?

years later. Letts must have really hated this story.

And if you listen to Dr Who fandom, it’s easy to understand why. This one is deemed to be ‘embarrassing’; not for the plot or the acting but for the ‘special’ effects used in bringing the Dinosaurs to our screens.

Ah those Dinosaurs. A combination of puppets and plastic or even Papier-mâché toys that were superimposed onto the fabled ‘green screen’.

They mostly look bad; of course they do. The Tyrannosaurus Rex  especially, manages to be less convincing than the Chewit Monster, and there’s one scene in Episode 6 where we have to watch two men having a fight with their respective Dinosaur toys/sock puppets that is cringe-makingly bad. It’s like a child playing with his toys.

On the other hand, some of the other Dinosaurs get passmarks, and the close-up of the larger T-Rex model in the hanger isn’t too bad, so is it fair to criticise a story for a few lousy special effects in an era when CGI was just some bloke’s initials.

And is it fair that this story gets panned purely because of that?

Well we’ll see…

Doctor Who – Invasion of the Dinosaurs Review: What’s This One About?

Funnily enough, it’s not about an Invasion of the Dinosaurs. They aren’t invading anything. Rather they’ve been brought forward in time to clear London so a group of crackpot environmentalists can roll back time and take their chosen few with them back to the ‘Golden Age’ before man ‘ruined’ Earth, which in turn would see everyone outside Central London ceasing to have ever existed.

Thoughts – The List

Whenever I write one of these reviews, I jot down a list of bulletpoints that I want to discuss. Sometimes the list is lengthy, other times it’s not. Yes, there is a structure to these reviews…

Meanwhile the Doctor is either seriously exasperated by the quality of the Dinosaur props, or he’s slammed his genitals inside a book by mistake

Generally though, I find I have a reasonable mix of good and bad things to say about a story, but apart from the great twist of having Mike Yates turn heel on UNIT and align himself with the environmentalists, I couldn’t really come up with anything positive to say.

So let’s go through them…

It Just Doesn’t Make Sense

Let’s take a moment to think about the science behind this.

I’m always up for an argument over the Grandfather Paradox; you know the one – the idea that you can’t go back in time to before you were born and kill your Grandfather because if you did that then you’d never have existed to go back in time to kill him in the first place? I’ve always found that perfectly straight forward and yet my brother and best friend will argue with me until they are blue in the face about how I’m wrong. Well I’m not…so get it up you both.

Anyway, I bring that up because if the plan is for everyone outside of the protective bubble of Central London to have never existed (and therefore none of their ancestors would have existed either) then how could the members of Operation Golden Age ever have been born to come up with that scheme. They couldn’t.

And it’s not just that either…

They want to go back to a time before industrialisation, and choose Central London – the most polluted and industrialised place in the UK – as being the safe place that will presumably remain intact. Why not base their operations in the remote Highlands of Scotland or go abroad? Then they could have got on with things without even needing to bring Dinosaurs into the picture.

And though it’s never explicitly stated, why the hell would they want to go back to a time when Dinosaurs ruled the Earth? Apart from being unsafe, there’s a meteor heading their way.

Oh and also, if watching the original series of Survivors has taught me anything, it’s that the amount of people that they plan on taking back in time with them is not enough to sustain the human race. Oh it’s so flawed.

Just awful…

Beyond their plan, I really do not know why they thought it was a good idea to put Sarah on the ‘space ship’ with the members of Operation Golden Age, when all she was ever going to do was point out how ridiculous the whole thing was. And yet that’s what they did, and so it ultimately led to their downfall. Idiots.

Padding And Repetition

Apart from not making much sense, the script is also padded out way beyond the point of reasonability.

This could have been a rather sharp 4 parter, but the plot seems to run out in episode 3 of 6. Once the pieces have come into play and all the villains have been revealed, the story could have marched on to its conclusion, but instead of that we had pointless wastes of time like the Doctor finding their base and then leaving again, Sarah being put in the ‘Ship’ and then returning to it (the whole Ship subplot – which was pretty much copied straight out of the Enemy of the World – could have gone), Sarah being betrayed identically by both Grover and Finch and the interminable chase scenes in Episode 5 where the Doctor is thought to be the one behind it all.

…but that’s even worse

So yeah, it dragged. And it wasn’t helped by the cliffhangers, which were reminiscent of The Mind of Evil (you remember; at the end of every episode someone got thrown into a room with the Keller Machine even if it had nothing to do with the plot). At the end of Episodes 1, 2, 4 and 5, the cliffhanger involves a Dinosaur showing up while the Doctor is nearby. Pointless

And Yet…

And yet despite these problems, and despite there not being much to like from a critical point of view, I really don’t mind this story. It’s stupid, but it’s very loosely built around a Doctor Who premise that works; an ‘alien’ threat in a relatable setting.

As I’ve typed this I’ve also remembered that Episode 1 manages to be quite good. The filming of an empty London (something that couldn’t be done in 2012) is eerie and there is a sense of the unknown. The Doctor’s reaction to being taken prisoner is also quite enjoyable. Certainly out of the six episodes, this is the best.

Random Observations

  • The ‘surprise’ of Dinosaurs would have been a little bit better if they hadn’t turned up half way through Episode 1 and instead had been kept for the cliffhanger.
  • Is it not a little convenient that everyone in power who has been left in London to sort out the problem is in on it?
  • It reeks of nepotism that General Finch gets Court Marshalled at the end, yet Captain Yates gets let off with retiring quietly.
  • Jon Pertwee loves the chance to speak in a Cockney accent, doesn’t he?
  • In fairness to the special effects, some of the CSO isn’t too bad, in the sense that they achieve scale between the actors and the Dinosaurs reasonably well. Certainly when you compare the CSO here to the likes of Underworld and the Mutants it doesn’t really seem all that bad…except for that fight scene.
  • And speaking of that scene, the Doctor is parked in the centre of London when it happens, and yet by running around a corner he finds himself in a spacious suburban area with trees and garages. Ok then…

    And yet in fairness, I don’t think that looks at all bad

  • There’s a scene in Episode 2 where the Doctor is trying to work but keeps on getting interrupted that just seems like a bizarre attempt at comedy. It doesn’t come across well.
  • I’ll ask again…why don’t they just kill Sarah?
  • And in Episode 4 when Martin Jarvis comes into the tube station to enter the bunker via the secret lift, would it not strike him odd that the Doctor’s new car – which wasn’t exactly inconspicuous – was parked right outside?
  • From the file marked ‘Things That Annoy Me on TV’, when someone says ‘…and come alone’ when arranging a meeting, why does the person who has to come alone a) never get suspicious and b) never tell anyone where he’s going to ensure that s/he has someone to backup should something bad arise?
  • When villains make these machines that can be so destructive, how is it the Doctor is able to make them either completely safe or turn them against their villainous owners my flicking one switch. Is that not a fairly significant design flaw?
  • While the Dr Who Restoration Team do an admirable job of trying to colourise the first episode, it just doesn’t quite work.
  • I read that the original brief for this story was that it was to be about the South of England being given over to a race of aliens who had landed on Earth. That would have been better in theory.

Doctor Who – Invasion of the Dinosaurs Review: Final Thoughts

There’s so much wrong with the Invasion of the Dinosaurs, from the dodgy puppets to the bloated script, and yet for whatever reason I don’t think it’s that bad.

No, it’s not good, but it’s not so embarrassing that is deserved to be junked forever a few months later.

The Time Warrior was a very good story, but the general belief about Season 11 is that after that one it coasts along with safe stories that offer nothing ground breaking. I’d agree with that when it comes to Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

But by no means is it the worst Pertwee effort.


The Dark Knight Rises Review (or ‘A Film That Could Have Been Great But Lasts Too Long and Takes Itself Too Seriously’)

July 24, 2012

Opinion on the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises appears to be split into two camps.

One set of people believe the film is a masterpiece, a film for the ages and an absolute triumph to top off ‘The Best Trilogy in Movie History’.

Other people consider it to be pretentious, overly long & bloated clap-trap that takes itself far too seriously.

But then these films have always divided opinion. If you remember, the second film in the series became the ultimate film for the Professional Mourners Society because Heath Ledger had tragically died before its release. Sadly what happened was that because he died, his admittedly very good portrayal of the Joker became hyped up by some as the greatest single performance by an actor in movie history. It was good; it was great even, but it wasn’t the best ever. But as a consequence of people saying that, the type of person who always goes against the commonly held belief immediately took a dislike to it and to the film immediately.

My opinion of that film was that it was good, but it was overrated and it went on too long. If I recall correctly, I actually managed to fall asleep in the cinema during the afternoon while watching it and when I watched the Blu Ray of it at home it was a ‘two-sittings’ job.

So going into the latest and probably last instalment in the Christopher Nolan Batman franchise, I expected I’d end up thinking something quite similar about this one.

But did I?….

Thoughts – Know When So Much Is Too Much

I won’t keep you in suspense…

Yes, that’s exactly what I thought.

It was a good film, but it went on too long. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think any film really needs to be nearly three hours long, but that’s exactly what this was.

It’s as if some people in the industry – pretentious people – believe that you can’t do a good film in 90 minutes and that a classic is somehow judged by its length. Perhaps these are insecure men transferring their issues with ‘length’ to another medium, guffaw guffaw.

But seriously, a film like 12 Angry Men – which thankfully retains a higher position in the imdb top #250 than this – shows that simply isn’t true.

Could it have been told in less time? Of course it could. Beyond the opening scene in the plane, the first hour dragged on a fair amount with precious little happening and – without spoiling things for you if you haven’t seen it – later on in the film, the bit where Wayne has to escape from the place he gets put into did not need as many false finishes as it had.

In fairness to it though, the film got better as it went along and the last half hour especially was very good; a direct contrast to the Marvel Superhero films that mostly seem to start off well and then descend into a final 30 minutes of gratuitous explosions and CGI effects. The plot built up to an exciting climax and the storytelling was very good.

Does It Take Itself Too Seriously?

I think the Batman films pride themselves as being a bit more serious than the mostly light-hearted Marvel efforts and in turn, they get taken more seriously by the people who go to them. The stuff that happens in them is more bleak, the visuals are always gloomier, set at night or under grey skies and in drab and colourless environments. The subject matter is more serious too. If it wasn’t for the issues I’m about to bring up, this could be a very grim terrorist film about economic and social collapse. And it even stars an actor who takes himself extremely seriously.

And that’s all well and good, but the film is still about a bloke in a rubber Bat suit who drives fictional vehicles and puts on just the stupidest ‘trying to sound hard’ voice you could possibly imagine. Bale’s ‘Batman voice’ is cringeworthy. It’s trying too hard.

Bane is an interesting one as well. He’s very much a ‘comic book’ villain and fails to transition as well from comic book to screen as the Joker did. You could believe in the Joker as a realistic character in a serious film, because he did come off as an utter psychopath, but Bane – with his face mask and superhuman strength – seemed a bit flat for me. And that voice…well it was fitting in with the character, but it was too obviously dubbed on afterwards and seemed detached from the character on screen, so that didn’t help matters. It was also a bit silly if we’re being honest.

So yeah, it tries to be really serious, but by its very nature it’s not that serious, and so it clashes with itself.

But Let’s Not Be Too Critical

Despite that though it’s still a good film.

Silliness and length aside, it’s a solid story that is mostly well acted and is brought together to a fitting conclusion.

While Bane might be a disappointment compared to the Joker, the film still has well thought characters like Alfred, Blake, Fox, Commissioner Gordon and Miranda, and Cat Woman is also a worthy addition who could probably have her own spin-off movies (though I’m not sure how she’s seemingly able to hypnotize men with her allure).

There are also plenty of fun little cameos from actors you’d recognise from shows like Prison Break (Bellick is back playing a Prison Guard and *spit* Bill Kim is here too), Dexter, Torchwood (Burn Gorman looks like he’s in his 70s now) and even a few noted characters from an earlier Batman film (I won’t spoil that for you though).

Final Thoughts

So this is what I thought it would be. A good film, but too long and takes itself too seriously. It could easily have cut down on a few subplots, like the stuff with the orphans or the attempted takeover of Wayne Enterprises, and ended up with a terrific film running at around two hours long.

Then I would have loved it, but as it stands I only like it.

Talk of it being ‘The Best Movie Trilogy of All Time’ are daft. I know it’s up to personal taste but I could watch Back to the Future, Indiana Jones or Star Wars again and again. To watch this film again would – in a similar vein to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy – feel like a bit of a chore to me.

If you liked the other Batman films, you’ll like this, but if you don’t enjoy films that go on forever and would prefer to tackle this one in two more palatable sittings, I’d recommend you wait for the DVD release.


Doctor Who – The Time Warrior Review (or ‘The World Has Truly Missed Out On a Lynx & Irongron Sitcom’)

July 23, 2012

It’s a new series and a new era for Doctor Who as perhaps the most well-known companion in the show’s history – Sarah-Jane Smith – boards the TARDIS for the very first time.

Season 11 is also the season that has the opening credits that make it look like the main character is a vampire; watch them and tell me I’m wrong.

And in the first story of this new season – The Time Warrior – we’re also introduced to one of the show’s most famous ‘monsters’ – The Sontarans – as well as one of the key moments of fanwankery (I’m making that a word), the naming of the Doctor’s home planet.

Doctor Who  - The Time Warrior Review: What’s This One About

A warmongering idiot from space and a warmongering idiot from the Middle Ages form an unlikely-but-mutually-beneficial alliance in a bid to get the former back to his fleet among the stars and the latter into Dot Cotton’s house.

Pleased to meet you, I’m a Vampire

Thoughts – Back in Time At Last

So for the first time since The Highlanders (as the War Games didn’t technically take place on Earth and Atlantis isn’t real) a Doctor Who story is set in Earth’s history, but with the twist of also involving an alien menace so the kids won’t get bored. So a bit like modern-day Who then…

But there’s a reason that modern-day Who has gone down that route, and it’s because it works. I much prefer a story set in the environment of the Time Warrior than a bland ‘space opera’ set on an alien planet, like we have to get used to towards the end of the 70s and into the 80s. And of course, the BBC can always be relied upon to do a good job making these historical stories look accurate.

One thing that sets this story apart from almost all of the other stories of its kind though is that the dialogue is also authentic. We see many stories set at an earlier point in Earth’s history where people talk as if it was the modern-day. But in the Time Warrior, all the Middle Ages characters speak like people from the Middle Ages. We would look at lines like ‘Is this Doctor a long shanked rascal with a mighty nose’ or ‘With paltroons like these it would ill work to lay siege to a hen coop’ and say ‘People don’t speak like that’, but the point is that they did at the time. And so it’s wonderful.

Kevin Lindsay and David Daker – An Acting Master-class

In some of my other reviews I’ve written enthusiastically about how certain actors have really lit up the screen by investing everything into their parts and taking things very seriously. Guys like Patrick Barr in the Moonbase or Kevin Stoney in both of his appearances.

The Time Warrior is blessed to have two such actors at the same time.

Kevin Lindsay (Lynx) and David Daker (Irongron) are both absolutely superb in their roles. I really can’t speak highly enough of them.

Lindsay isn’t just a man in a suit when he plays the Sontaran, in the same way as maybe John Woodnut was when he played ‘John Woodnut dressed as a Draconian’ in the Frontier in Space. No, Lindsay – who can be seen without his make-up

‘Mon Then! Actually, it’s worth pointing out how brilliant this Sontaran costume and mask is. Off hand, I can’t think of a better realised Monster throughout the show’s history

and acting completely differently as Cho-Je in Planet of the Spiders – lays down the blueprint for all Sontarans to come with his mannerisms, his alien voice, his tongue movement and even his walk. Bernard Bresslaw did something similar in The Ice Warriors, but Lindsay trumps that here.

And then there’s David Daker.

In amongst a host of actors and actresses playing at being characters in the Middle Ages, Daker’s Irongron seems by far the most authentic. While others look like they might be having to take half a second to think about speaking the lines as written, Daker puts in a truly Shakespearean performance. The lines roll off his tongue as if he really was Irongron, each sentence spoken with absolute conviction and command.

And what makes it better is that these two actors – each playing a character from the absolute opposite ends of the scale – are put together as an odd couple. And it works so well; so much so that I’d have loved it if they’d had their own sitcom. One strength of Robert Holmes’s writing is his ability to put odd couples together, whether it’s Morgus & Stotts in the Caves of Androzani, or perhaps his most famous double act, Jago & Lightfoot in the Talons of Weng Chiang. But Lynx & Irongron could be his best.

Sarah

As I said earlier, Sarah makes her first appearance in this one, and she starts off well. The longer she lasts in the show she becomes very much a ‘Doctor Who Girl’ like those who have come before and after her, but here – as the strong-willed and independent journalist – she makes for a refreshing change from Jo Grant.

In particular, her scene with Irongron & Bloodaxe where she doesn’t quite believe she is in the Middle Ages is both well written and performed. It always raises a smile for me.

I’m not quite sure why her character believes the Doctor is responsible for the missing scientists though, nor how she is so easily convinced otherwise.

But that’s a minor thing.

The Sontaran Costume

To go back to Lynx for a moment, I really have to credit whoever came up with his costume. It’s fantastically good.

If you watch modern Doctor Who, we do of course now have CGI and all that comes with that to make things look realistic, but sometimes – or most of the time if we’re being honest with ourselves – you can spot CGI a mile off. Look at the Slitheen episodes now and see how badly they have dated.

Then look at Lynx.

Through the use of makeup and what I assume is prosthetic, the costume department have managed to craft a head that looks real. I look at a close up of Lynx and I can’t really see where the actor’s head stops and the mask comes in. It’s

How the Doctor plans to sleep like that, I’ll never know. Pretty talented though.

awesome. Even the little things like having wisps of hair coming out of his head in different places adds to the realism of it.

It appears as though the idea comes from an initial brief that the character needed to have a head that fit his helmet perfectly, and they’ve certainly achieved that.

What’s sad though is that they didn’t manage to follow up on that at all. The Sontarans never managed to look even half as good again until their reappearance a few years ago.

It’s Not All Good Though

While The Time Warrior is a great story and certainly one of the better ones in the Pertwee era, it is not without its problems.

First of all there’s Rubeish, a character that I’ve been irritated by since childhood.

In a story full of great acting and well written and well-rounded characters, you have this guy who is a tiresome stereotype of an intellectual type.

Whether it’s the whole ‘He Can’t See Without His Glasses’ routine or writing equations on any surface he can find, he’s performed as the sort of ‘Potty Professor’ you’d expect in a show like

Look at those two and tell me they wouldn’t be fantastic in a sitcom together

Rentaghost rather than Doctor Who. And while there are other actors treating the task at hand with absolute seriousness, Donald Pelmear seems to be taking the piss. And the fact that he annoyed me even when I was a child watching this on VHS shows he couldn’t even do acting for children well.

Although in fairness, the line about him thinking the Doctor was ‘too old for that sort of thing’ amused me.

Apart from him though, some of the other actors weren’t up to scratch. If June Brown – who incidentally appears to have never been young – wasn’t so well-known now, you’d think ‘She’s a bit rubbish’, while Jeremy ‘Boba Fett’ Bulloch is more wooden than the arrows he’s shooting.

And what was with both the wig and accent on the woman who ran the kitchens?

Still, these are small issues heavily outweighed by the positives of this story.

Random Observations

  • I’ve not touched upon Jon Pertwee’s performance, but it’s worth noting that this seems to be one of his best. The key is that he’s having fun with the part and seems very much at home in the surroundings.
  • As I’ve alluded to already, the story is genuinely funny at times. One scene that springs to mind is the one in which Irongron’s men try to shoot the Doctor. Like I say, Pertwee has fun here, and so do the rest of the cast.
  • Similar to that is the bit before that where the Doctor dresses up in the Knight’s armour. His reaction to having to face both Irongron and Bloodaxe raises a smile, as does their reaction upon finding out it’s him.
  • And also the scene where the Doctor and Irongron meet for the first time. The Doctor shows the best way to get out of a compromising position there!
  • I wonder if the beginning part, where Lynx comes out of his ship and plants that little flag, claiming Earth for the Sontaran empire is a direct parody of the scene from the ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a half Century’ cartoon where Marvin the Martian claims the planet in the name of Mars. At the very least it has to be influenced by it.
  • I’m not exactly sure how the Doctor producing that paper fan managed to repel the beam from Lynx’s gun.
  • Similarly, I’m not sure how neither the Doctor nor the Brigadier managed to spot Sarah going into the TARDIS  a matter of feet away from them.
  • Also, how is the Doctor able to sleep with his feet on the table and balancing on a chair? Talented guy.
  • And speaking of the TARDIS, the prop at this point is beginning to look mangy, but I’ll save a picture until the Seeds of Doom review when it is literally falling apart.
  • I love that Robert Holmes has gone to the trouble of creating a backstory for the Sontarans. We need more appearances from The Rutans.
  • David Daker comes back in The Nightmare of Eden, but lesser known is his role in the Big Finish Audio ‘Creatures of Beauty’, which – if you haven’t already heard it – is well worth listening to. Superb stuff.

Doctor Who – The Time Warrior Review: Final Thoughts

The Time Warrior is not perfect, but it’s very well written and has some terrific performances from the guest cast, as well as from the regulars.

My brother watched this one with me the other day and remarked that he’d forgotten how good it was, and frankly, so had I.

When I come to rate all the Pertwee stories in order, this will be near the top; guaranteed.


Doctor Who – The Green Death Review (or ‘It Seems Racism is Apparently Ok If Aimed At The Welsh’)

July 18, 2012

There’s still a whole series to go, but in many ways this is the end of ‘The Pertwee Era’ as we know it.

The Master is gone and now Jo Grant is leaving the ‘UNIT Family’ in the last story of Season 10 of the show – The Green Death

Doctor Who – The Green Death Review: What’s This One About?

Giant Maggots, Evil Capitalists, WOTAN’s eccentric younger brother BOSS and making fun of the Welsh

Thoughts – It’s Apparently ok to be Racist…it’s Only The Welsh

When you watch The Green Death, the first thing that will strike you is how unbelievably racist it all is, and I don’t use the word ‘unbelievably’ lightly. Even in an era that saw shows like Love Thy Neighbour and Mind Your Language – shows,

Talfyn Thomas and Roy Evans don’t look amused by the ‘Broad Welshman’ lines they have to speak

incidentally, that have been cleansed from history – the production team’s portrayal of the Welsh miners as wacky caricatures from a simpler time is astonishing. In truth it’s actually quite funny but we’re conditioned these days to tut under our breath at stuff like that.

You’ve got the Welsh coming out with all the perceived vernacular stereotypes like calling people ‘Boyo’ and finishing sentences unnecessarily with ‘Isn’t It’, ‘Doesn’t It’ and ‘Can You’, and you’ve also got the English characters treating most of them with a whithering contempt.

“They’re at the Nut Hutch” says Stevens’ driver with disdain (the Welsh characters pronounced Nut Hutch as ‘Nuttuch’), while Jo talks about how she can’t believe she’s so shaken by the death of a ‘Funny Little Welshman’.

Take that last line and imagine her talking about a ‘Funny Little Indian’ or ‘Funny Little Pakistani’ and imagine the race storm that it would cause these days.

But it seems to be ok to be as racist as that because it’s only the Welsh.

Ok then.

It’s like how in 2012 it’s still acceptable to discriminate against people with ginger hair.

Despite that though, Talfyn Thomas especially puts in a memorable performance. As hypocritical as I am for saying it, his portrayal of a thick-accented Welshman is always brilliant, and though he’s not as good in this as he was in shows like Dad’s Army and Survivors, he still lights up the screen whenever he’s on it.

A Clash of Two Stories In One

Now I should point out before I go any further that I do like this story. It’s classic Pertwee faire and is one of the best remembered of his era, with all the regulars (minus Delgado of course) putting in strong performances.

Sometimes you just stumble across a freeze-frame and think ‘Words are not enough’

But the problem I have with it – if you can call it a problem – is that it seems to be two separate stories rolled into one.

On the face of it, the Green Death will be seen by most to be about the giant killer maggots that have come into being as a result of Global Chemicals secretly pumping toxic waste into the Welsh mines while presenting themselves as an environmentally sound oil fuel company.

But what it really seems to be about is a mad computer wanting to take over the world in a storyline remarkably similar to The War Machines.

When I got to Episode 6, I thought that the maggot storyline had been pretty much brushed off to the side with the B-Movie-esque ‘something every day and normal turns out to be the cure’ plot twist, and frankly it doesn’t seem feasible that the Doctor and Benton managed to get round every single maggot to feed them all the fungus before they could each turn into the Giant Fly of Doom. But hey-ho.

Of course, you couldn’t have the maggot storyline without the brainwashing computer I suppose, because if Stevens and the rest of the Global Chemicals staff weren’t brainwashed, they would have immediately shut down production until UNIT solved the maggot problem. Or am I being too kind to the ‘Evil Capitalists’ here?

And as for the BOSS storyline; it was all sorted by the Blue Sapphire from Metabilis 3. Now I don’t like that type of finish because it’s a cheat. The story is set in 1970s Wales and the solution is an alien sapphire the Doctor just so happens to have on him. I think that’s quite a cheap way to wrap things up.

From Sickly Comedy to Genuine Emotion

The plot though is not the reason I have a soft spot for this story, it’s the ending.

In the first instance you’ve got Stevens and how he redeems himself. Now, it’s true to say that the way Stevens dies is the sort of thing that is included in my ‘Things That Annoy Me in TV and Films’articles – i.e. the idea of someone needlessly

I’ve always thought this is one of the better deaths in Doctor Who. The forlorn look and single tear of the man who knows he’s about to die is always sad.

throwing their life away when they could quite easily save the day and escape – but there’s still something that pulls on the heartstrings about a man knowing he’s about to die and crying a single tear. I liked that; it was a real ‘adult drama’ moment in a series made more for the family.

And then you’ve got the exit of Jo. And ok, it may well have been telegraphed from the very start, and yes, it’s a bit odd that she and Cliff decide to get married before they’ve even had their first kiss, but we can ignore that. What makes it is the Doctor’s reaction. He slips away from a ‘UNIT Family’ party quietly, sad at the loss of his companion. It’s a departure from the usual hurried companion exit, and it’s made better by both the performances of the actors – Pertwee especially – and the direction. Although you do wonder how he’s so upset when he was happy to let her go off to live on Skaro at the end of the last story.

Anyway, the ending is all the more pleasant considering how badly the story started. The scene where the Doctor and Jo are talking to each other about different things and then both say ‘You never listen to a word I say’ to each other at the same time is absolutely cringe-making. And the ‘hilarious’ scenes with the Doctor struggling on Metabilis 3 are just as bad.

Mike Yates – The World’s Least Likely Army Captain

One character who stands out in the Green Death is Mike Yates.

Imagine what BOSS would look like in 2012? Instead of all this machinery he’d just be a small laptop sitting on a table. As it is, it looks like the Doctor is pitted against Cool Spot from the 7-Up adverts.

Now it’s fair to say that Richard Franklin is perhaps not Macho Army Captain Material. One could even say he was miscast in the first place. He’s quite a softly spoken and effete guy (and yes, I’m aware I’m venturing into dangerous waters here, but bear with me…) and has never really been believable in the role.

However, in this story he’s out of the Captain uniform and going undercover as the vaguely titled ‘Man from the Ministry’. And in truth he’s a lot better.

Franklin has a natural campness about him and he seems to revel in the chance to camp it up like he previously couldn’t in his UNIT uniform, complete with comedy pratfalls and Carry On-esque hand rubbing.

By no means does he steal the show, but you do get the feeling he’s having more fun playing the part he’s got in this one than he usually does.

Random Observations

  • The rapid ageing of Katy Manning is complete here. You’ve just got to look at a picture of her from the Terror of the Autons compared to here to be taken aback by how much older she looks. There’s only two and a half years between stories as well. Must be that old 1970s lifestyle, eh?
  • CSO is a major part of this story, with the various actors standing in front of green screen while a dodgy looking background is mounted behind them. Some of it I can understand, like some of the stuff down the mines, but there’s a scene in episode 5 with the Brigadier and Benton standing in a quarry that seems to flip between location filming and CSO with no rhyme nor reason. Perhaps the film got damaged?
  • If Jo Grant was as interested in the career of Professor Jones as she makes out, would she not have known what he looked like before meeting him for the first time?
  • Can you spot the character who had to be hastily replaced because he fell ill half way through the story?
  • If Global Chemicals is meant to be such a hi-tec security conscious establishment, is it not a little far-fetched that any old person can come in pretending to be the milkman or the cleaner?
  • Although that Fly that the maggot turned into did look spectacularly crap, I do think that they could have done a little bit more with it. There’s something more creepy about flying insects than maggots in my opinion.
  • People tend to go on about how good the actor voicing BOSS is, but I’ve never really shared that view. I think it’s because the same actor did such a spectacular job of annoying me in Planet of the Spiders and so I have a dislike for him

    The lifestyle of the Doctor Who Companion is clearly bad for you. Katy Manning appears to have aged at least 10 years in a fifth of the time.

    no matter what (but that’s a story for another time)

  • There’s this belief that the Third Doctor is ‘The Action Doctor’, but up until this point he hasn’t done that much Action stuff. In the Green Death and indeed in the next couple of stories that changes, as he seems to alter his stance to ensure violence is a first resort rather than a last one.
  • An aspect of this story I particularly like is the incidental music. More than usual it just seems to work.
  • There’s an amusing little moment where Mike Yates is supposed to look disappointed when Jo announces her engagement. This goes back to the original plan for the two of them to become romantically involved. But as I say, Yates was miscast for that sort of thing and any romance was never even remotely believable.
  • And as for Jo, when I reviewed the Terror of the Autons I described her as ‘one of the best companions’ and ‘a better actress working alongside Pertwee than Sladen was’. Now having reviewed all her stories and looked at her performances more closely, I may have to reassess that. Manning – on form – is a good actress, but too often she resorted to very shonky ‘kiddy’ acting, with a few stories like the Curse of Peladon and the Green Death standing out. Still, she’s a better character than many of her successors, there’s no doubt about that.

Doctor Who – The Green Death Review: Final Thoughts

So as I say, it’s the end of an era.

It’s farewell to Jo, and also to Bessie (f0r now)  and the Doctor Who opening credits and logo.

It’s not a bad story at all, but there are many aspects of the plot that are a little to convenient for me. It’s also deeply racist, and whether that makes it worse is up to your own interpretation.

On the other hand, the conclusion to the story is excellent, and a rare example of emotion in a show where characters leave or are killed off without so much as a moment’s reflection.

Certainly one worth seeing, even if just for that.


Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (and Is It Different Enough From the 2002 Version)

July 14, 2012

Well I got my money’s-worth with my Unlimited Cinema ticket in June didn’t I? Not one sodding film was worth going to see over the course of the entire month.

But now we’re into the official ‘Summer Blockbuster’ Season, and that starts off with The Amazing Spider-Man

What’s This Film About?

It’s a retelling of the origins of Spider-Man. I assume you know the basic story, and if you don’t, I’m not really sure why you’re reading this review…

Thoughts – Have We Not Been Here Before?

The big worry for me – and I’m sure everyone else – going into this film was whether or not it would be pretty much the same film as the brilliant Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst effort from 2002. Thankfully, the answer to that was no.

Ok, there is the same skeleton structure of the weak schoolboy with an interest in photography – Peter Parker – who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers. And its also got the bit where he indirectly causes his Uncle Ben to be killed by a burglar, as well as the thread in the story where he gets the idea for the mask and costume thanks to wrestling, but beyond that it’s a different film.

I’d heard it was ‘darker’ in the same way as the newer Batman films are considered more grim than the originals, but I don’t necessarily agree with that at all. It was just a different take on things, although perhaps a take that is slightly more adult and serious. But that doesn’t mean ‘darker’.

In this version, instead of Mary-Jane being the female lead, it’s Gwen Stacey (which is actually more accurate because Stacey appeared in the comics long before Mary-Jane), instead of J. Jonah Jameson leading the charge against Spider-Man, it’s Chief of Police (who also happens to be Stacey’s father), and instead of The Green Goblin, it’s The Lizard (who, again to be fair, appeared in the comics first).

There are other little things too like the circumstances surrounding how he was bitten by a spider and how he came to get his projectile webs, and so what we’ve ended up with is a markedly different film to the one from 10 years ago.

So What Have We Got?

Thankfully, despite those differences, The Amazing Spiderman is still a good film.

Certainly Andrew Garfield – who I was surprised to find out is actually English – is a better actor than Tobey Maguire and the rest of the supporting cast is probably better too (it has Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, so that’s likely to be an improvement by default). And while in the 2002 Spider-Man film, the character of J. Jonah Jameson was played well, it was still a bit corny, and perhaps anachronistic. In the modern world in which we live – and in which this film is set – the idea of Spider-man only getting captured on film by one single photographer just doesn’t work, and it doesn’t follow either that JJJ would be so against him either. A police chief not being too keen on him is a different matter entirely.

Essentially, as a story, it flows nicely and is a bit more ‘realistic’ – in terms of the science behind both Spider-Man and the Lizard – than the previous one; although considering it’s a film about a comic book superhero, I’m not sure that’s all that important.

If I was to have a problem with it, it would be that it suffers from the same issues that I’m beginning to find a helluva lot of 3D films are suffering from; that being that three-quarters of the way through, the film stops advancing as a plot and just becomes a CGI special effects festival for the last part.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as bad for it as some films I’ve seen – like The Avengers from earlier this year – but the action sequences still went on a little bit too long for my liking.

I suppose as well another issue would be that if I hadn’t known about Spider-Man and his origins going in, I might find the leap from him being bitten by a spider to becoming Spider-Man a little bit much. It’s difficult to know how much the film explains it clearly and how much I filled in the blanks myself considering I know the story so well. But I did note that it maybe relied upon the audience knowing the story in advance a little bit beforehand. I guess I’d have to ask someone who’d never seen or heard of Spider-Man before what they thought, to be sure.

Oh, and one other thing; there’s no way a school girl would find herself in a position of such power within a science facility like Gwen Stacey did, but that’s a minor issue.

Should You Go And See The Amazing Spider-Man?

The origin of Spider-Man is a classic story, and so as long as they stuck to that, this was always going to be a good film. And it was; despite some of the problems I’ve outlined above it was great.

It mostly flowed well, it was well acted, it had a strong plot and crucially it was different to the 2002 version.

So even if you’ve seen that version go to this one and enjoy it, but be prepared for the action to take over a little bit much towards the end.


Doctor Who – The Planet of the Daleks Review (or ‘The World’s Worst Love Story’)

July 8, 2012

When reviewing Planet of the Daleks  – a follow-up story to the Frontier in Space where the Doctor (aided by a group of Thals) must try to stop the Daleks before they can mobilise their invasion force – I think the standard response is to say that it’s a dull rehash of old Terry Nation ideas.

It’s certainly true to say that there are plenty set pieces that have been in some of his previous Dalek stories.

You’ve got…

  • Daleks on a ‘hostile’ Jungle planet where the plant life can kill
  • A member of the Doctor’s party disguising themselves in a Dalek casing
  • A Dalek following the Doctor’s party up a sort of lift shaft
  • Invisible Aliens
  • Daleks cutting down a door with a torch
  • The Daleks threatening to unleash some force that will kill everything on the planet other than them
  • The Doctor and his party splitting into two groups towards the end
  • A Thal falling in love with the Doctor’s companion
  • An overly cautious Thal leader

Yes, this has elements from all of Terry Nation’s earlier work on the series, but I suppose the question is this; why is that a problem?

Ok, if I watch the Planet of the Daleks a few months after watching the William Hartnell era, I can see the similarities and say they aren’t original. But if I was watching this in 1973, it would either be all new to me (and therefore exciting) or a

These two Daleks must have bad history between them. They can’t even look at each other

welcome retelling of a story I enjoyed 8 or 9 years earlier.

So I don’t see that as much of an issue. In fact, I think it’s a good story on the whole.

But that’s not to say there aren’t other problems…

Thoughts – A Lot of Things Don’t Make Sense

There are plenty of things that just don’t make that much sense in this story; things that are either thrown into the mix with little regard to the overall story, glaringly inconsistent or are just inconceivable.

Let’s begin with the Doctor’s illness at the start. Other than to fill fifteen minutes of airtime, what was the point? It didn’t seem to go anywhere. One minute he was ill, and then he wasn’t. Did it exist purely to separate the Doctor and Jo from each other? Could there not have been less time-consuming ways to achieve that? Most probably.

And what about the Spirodons? What I don’t understand is that if they are invisible, why have they accepted themselves as slaves when they could easily escape from their masters by simply taking off the big purple fur coats? And when Westor decides to sabotage the Daleks’ bacteria outbreak, why did he not find his way into the base invisibly rather than wearing the fur coat and having to explain himself? Yes, I know the answer to that question is because it wouldn’t have made for good TV, but I suppose the overall question is why have the Spirodons invisible at all?

I guess the answer to that question is that so we could have had that ‘unbelievably gripping’ cliffhanger to Episode 1; a cliffhanger I say I find to be one of the worst in the history of the show.

The story is called the Planet of the Daleks and the setup to it is that the Doctor is deliberately following the Daleks to their base to try to stop them.

So it’s not a big leap to think the Daleks might be in this one.

Having been given a misleading explanation of what a handshake signifies, Latep thinks he’s well in with Jo

And yet he – and by association we as the viewer – are supposed to be surprised to find that a Dalek is on the planet? Even if the Doctor has forgotten why he is there because of his illness, surely meeting up with some Thals who keep talking about ‘them’ is a give-away?

But wait…there’s more…

The air vent that the Doctor and co. escape up is supposed to be ‘a few miles long’, and yet when they get to the top and throw a boulder onto the Dalek, it falls about 100 feet before hitting the bottom. Also, despite being ‘a few miles long’, Jo and her love-sick pal manage to climb down it via rope. I’m sorry, but there’s no chance that Jo Grant would have the physical conditioning for that (notice I didn’t even touch upon the ridiculousness of them possibly having a rope that long).

Oh, and there’s no way that the Doctor – wearing leather gloves no less – would be able to hold on and pull himself up from his precarious position when hanging on to the side of the shaft.

Then there’s the Daleks, who once again spurn many opportunities to kill the Doctor. The greatest offender is the Dalek from the Episode 5 Cliffhanger/Episode 6 Reprise. It just stands around panicking shouting ‘You are not Spirodons. Help! Help!‘. Last time I checked, that Dalek had a gun. Why did it not just shoot them all where they stood?

And what about the Bombs? It’s a staple of Dr Who I suppose, but blast radius’ of bombs are wildly inconsistent at best. There are three Thal-owned bombs in this one. The first blows up a couple of Daleks with Jo standing a few feet away. The second blows up some more Daleks while Jo and Latep duck in the next room. But the third one manages to blow up the supporting wall of and unleash the full force of an ice volcano. Ok then..,

The Worst Love Story Ever Told

The most incongruous and shoe-horned-in bit of all though is the ‘love story’ between Jo and Latep.

For whatever reason, Latep decides that he’s well in there with Jo. I think it stemmed from when Jo shook him by the hand and gave the worst description of what a hand shake signifies that I’ve ever heard. You can see in his eyes that he thinks ‘Oh yeah, I’m a stud’ from that point on, as he walks around like the Cock of the Walk, Lad McLad, The Ulimate Ladies Man, The King Shit.

He spends his time giving Jo some terrible chat and asking her to help him run around the jungle to lead the Daleks on a merry dance. Smooth operator.

And then, with the Daleks defeated and his confidence at an all time high, he plays his trump card; he asks the Doctor for permission to take Jo back to Skarowith him. The Doctor – despite being incredibly upset only one story later when Jo

And this didn’t help matters either. Whey-hey!

decides to marry Doctor Jones in the Green Death – has no problem with it.

So he swaggers up to Jo, offers her the chance to start a life with him on Skaro and she…

Absolutely shoots him down in flames.

Oh I felt for the guy. Jo may as well have kicked him right in the nuts while she was at it.

I actually think that the Thal scientist – Codal – had more of a chance wooing the Doctor than Latep had with Jo.

Despite that…

Despite all of that  – and maybe even because of it – it’s a fun story that is entertaining enough.

From an aesthetic point of view though, it was a little hard to watch sometimes.

The Look

It’s unfortunate but a significant issue with this story (and by association all of the stories in the 70s and into the 80s set in jungles) is that it just doesn’t look all that good.

For a start, you can tell that it’s a jungle atop a studio floor. It looks a little cheap. And it’s garish too. There’s just too much colour going on here, from the cheap bright greens of the plastic ‘flora’ to the bright purple of both the Spirodon fur

So he makes his move and ends up absolutely crushed. If looks could kill….

coats and the Doctor’s entire outfit. There’s too much ‘in your face’ colour going on. I actually found I enjoyed it more by putting it into black and white on my TV. That way it looked a lot more convincing as an actual jungle. Restoring the colour to Episode 3 actually works against it.

As it stands, it manages to look a lot cheaper than the stories made in the 1960s like the penultimate episode of the Chase and much of the Daleks Master Plan.

That isn’t helped either by the ultra cheap ‘animal eyes’ that watch over our heroes as they seek refuge on that plateau. In black and white it looked semi convincing. In colour it looks like a series of Christmas lights held against a black backdrop.

And speaking of that scene at the plateau, it has one of the most obvious switches from studio-to-location filming seen in the show. As far as I can tell, the plateau is at the very edge of the jungle, and yet just beside it is a quarry with no plant life in sight. The location shooting looked good, but again it’s that word incongruous that comes up. You can’t just switch to a quarry when the story is set in a jungle.

Random Observations

  • Jo gets hit on the head by a falling boulder and then – after a few minutes knocked out – is absolutely fine again. Let’s face it, at the very worst she’d have a severe concussion, and more likely she’d be brain-dead.
  • As much as I praised the Dalek voices in the Day of the Daleks, they are better here. Roy Skelton at this point has yet to turn his Daleks into ring-modulated Zippys and Michael Wisher has a good enough Dalek voice. There are problems that slip in during Episode 6 where Wisher does the voices of all three Daleks in the scene and they all sound exactly the same. Because of that, the Dalek operators struggle to know which one is meant to be talking, so they all flash the lights on the top of the Dalek domes. It gets very confusing.
  • If I’m not mistaken, when the Gold Dalek from the Peter Cushing films turns up at the end, they give him an individual musical score influenced by the music from Dr Who and the Daleks, which is a nice touch.
  • The Dalek eyes look quite cheap here. Back in the 60s, the eyes played a part in the emotion of the Daleks; a classic example being the way the iris of the Dalek’s eye shortened while making that speech in the Power of the Daleks. Here it’s just a black spot painted onto the eye stock.
  • How did it take the Daleks so long to burst through that pathetic barricade the Thals set up in Episode 6?
  • Why did the Doctor make his whereabouts known to the Daleks in Episode Three while trying to escape the Dalek City? I mean, if you are trying to make a covert escape and you see a Dalek facing away from you at the end of the

    There are so many questions. Why is the Dalek having trouble getting past this? Why do Daleks even own stuff like that? Why did the Thals go to the trouble of putting plastic sheeting down to ensure nothing got scratched?

    corridor, why would you scream ‘Back in the lift’ at the top of your lungs?

  • It turns out that the stories in this season were filmed wildly out of sequence, which explains the rapid aging that Katy Manning seems to have gone through between this one and the Carnival of Monsters.
  • That speech about courage was sickening wasn’t it?
  • In terms of the actors, it would be remiss of me not to menti0n Dr Who legend Bernard Horsfall as Taron. He’s one of these actors who plays every single part exactly the same way, and yet manages to not only get away with it, but do a good job.
  • There’s a scene where Jo manages to spook a Dalek by simply standing behind it. How can that do anything other than damage the aura of these supposedly unstoppable monsters?
  • There’s also a scene where the Daleks appear to have searched the body of a dead Thal and found a map on his person. How did they manage that?
  • Also, why do the Daleks have things like foldaway tables, cupboards that look like they come from MFI and what appears to be a dishwasher lying around for the Thals to use as a barricade?
  • And based on that picture, if the Thals were desperately hurrying to create any sort of barricade to stop the Daleks, did they need to go to the trouble of putting some plastic sheeting down to ensure nothing got scratched? #MeticulousToThePointOfStupidity
  • Did nobody bother to tell the makers of those toy Daleks that they use in the refrigeration scene that they were the wrong shape?

Doctor Who – Planet of the Daleks Review: Final Thoughts

So there’s plenty wrong with this story. A series of incredulous and ridiculous events, the world’s worst love story and an unconvincing look.

But most of that adds to the charm of what is a decent Terry Nation Dalek effort.

I like it, but I think it works better in black and white, and I don’t think I’m supposed to.


Football Manager 2013 Research: Scottish Non League, Juniors and Highland League Project

July 7, 2012

When we research Football Manager in Scotland the focus is obviously on playable leagues first and foremost. However, in the lower leagues of the SFL there are plenty of players who have played in the Juniors at one point or another, and many released players from the SPL and SFL end up in those leagues as well.

And of course, with the Competition Editor – my personal favourite feature in Football Manager – the player can activate these leagues or amend the Scottish football format to make these sides playable in a personalised Scottish football structure.

So I think it’s important we represent the Non Leagues, Juniors and Highlands in Football Manager to a good standard. The problem I have is that information on the these leagues isn’t always the easiest to come by. The clubs’ own websites aren’t always the best (if they have websites at all) and so it becomes hard to keep track of the players; even harder since the Scottish Research Team’s own non-league and Junior football enthusiast moved on last year.

Therefore, I’m throwing it open once again to fans of these leagues to help ensure we do a good job of representing them.

Following on from the success of the Unattached Player Spreadsheet I uploaded earlier in the week, here is a spreadsheet of the 1200+ Non League, Junior and Highland League based players in the Football Manager database, conveniently split into separate sheets for each region.

Your mission, should you wish to accept it, is to help me keep a track of where these players are. Do they have a new club? Have they retired? Over the summer months, your help could be invaluable.

Should there be any up and coming or major names missing from these lists, I want you to tell me as well.

You can contact me either in the comments section here, by emailing me at officialfmscotland@gmail.com or on Twitter @sgmilne


FM2013 Scottish Research Project: Where Are They Now?

July 2, 2012

With Football Manager Research, we’re always looking for ways to ensure the database is as accurate as possible, and as you know, I try and make the whole process as inclusive as possible.

There are 380 players and 171 Non players in the Scottish database for FM, and we’d like your help identifying where these guys are.

Are they…

  • Playing for a league club in Scotland or abroad?
  • Playing for a Junior Club?
  • Retired?
  • Coaching, Scouting or Managing a club anywhere in the world?

Help us get it right and ensure that our database is bang on for the release of Football Manager 2013.

Enlarge to get a better look

What we’ve done is created a spreadsheet for you to view and edit. If you know where a player or non player is, you can enter that information into the document. Similarly, if any information like spelling or date of birth is wrong, tell us.

One thing though; to ensure that the quality of the information in the spreadsheet isn’t compromised (within a minute of it being uploaded someone had deleted a few player surnames) we’ve locked the first two sheets in the spreadsheet. If you have information to add, click on the ‘Whereabouts’ or ‘Date of Birth’ tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet and enter the information there.

See the attached picture to know where to go…

Of course, to edit the spreadsheet you have to have the right link, so here it is

Happy Scouting

For more on the Football Manager Scotland research, follow me on twitter @sgmilne


Doctor Who – The Frontier In Space Review (or ‘A Sad Farewell to One of the Show’s Greats’)

July 1, 2012

There’s a certain sadness in watching The Frontier in Space.

It marks the final appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master. I assume anyone going to the trouble of reading a review of this story will know that he was tragically killed in a car accident a few months later while filming The Bell of Tibet in Turkey.

I also assume you know that had he not died, Delgado was planning to leave the show in the near future anyway, and the idea was for the Master to sacrifice himself to save the Doctor in what could have been the Third Doctor’s last hurrah. I think that would have been a suitable way for the Master to go. There’s no doubt in my mind that Delgado’s Master is the best one – the definitive one.

Any actor that took on the role after him didn’t really get the character. The Master is all about evil grand schemes to conquer the Earth of the Galaxy, but despite that he’s a gentleman; the sort of person who the audience will like. Future Masters were just two dimensionally evil, and frankly a bit tiresome. There’s only one Master, and it’ll forever be Roger Delgado as far as I’m concerned.

As the Frontier in Space…

Doctor Who – The Frontier in Space Review: What’s This One About?

With the help of the Ogrons, the Master plans to start a war between Earth and Draconia. They use a machine that makes the Ogrons appear to be what a person fears the most, so when they attack the Earth ships, the Humans think

Look! It’s my boy Lobos from the Space Museum. He looks like a guy not to be trifled with…

Draconians are hijacking them and vice verca.

And the Doctor and Jo end up caught up in it all.

Oh, and the Daleks show up at the end because it turns out that they are the ones employing the Master.

Thoughts – Repetition and Padding

I like the Frontier In Space; it’s a decent story in a setting that makes for a nice change of pace from most Pertwee adventures. My major issue with it though is that it’s too long.

The first two and half episodes – before the Master turns up – are spent with the Doctor being moved from one cell to another while he fails to convince the authorities of what is going on. And having the Ogrons show up as often as they do without anyone other than the Doctor & Jo realising what is going on is flogging a dead horse. That could easily have been truncated.

Similarly, in Episode 6 the scene where the Doctor goes outside to repair the hull of the ship is nothing but filler. We’d already seen the Doctor go outside into space a couple of episodes earlier, and we absolutely did not to see it again.

Also, despite the Doctor failing to convince the Earth President and General Williams of what was going on earlier, the way they accept his story – to an extent – in Episode Six is a little bit too convenient. It’s as if the writer decided ‘Ok, we have to move things along now’, even if it doesn’t ring particularly true.

And would it not have saved years of bloodshed if Williams and the Draconians had had that chat about the misunderstanding that started the earlier war, sooner?

Despite that though, it’s still a decent serial. It just would have worked better as a four of five parter.

Another Masterful Performance

Once again this is a story where Roger Delgado steals the show as the Master. As I’ve said now in both the Sea Devils and Time Monster reviews, he has fine tuned the character to perfection. Like in those stories he plays the part as far more

Wash your hair love; you look like you’ve been rubbing butter in it.

than a sort of bland villain; he’s a bit like a loveable rogue, even if his plans aren’t all that nice.

Delgado once again plays off the rest of the cast extremely well, from calling the Daleks ‘stupid tin boxes‘ to his fantastic straight man act against the Comedy Ogrons. No matter how many times I watch this, I still laugh at the exchange of dialogue between him and the Ogron navigating his ship…

Master: “That must be them. No other ship would be on a course for Earth at a time like this”
Stupid Ogron: “WE are on a course for Earth”
Master: (Incredulously) “Well naturally because we’re chasing them!!”

The delivery of the lines from both actors is just spot on.

Similarly, the way he feels rather deflated about the idea of killing off the Doctor through long-range missile strike because it ‘Lacks the personal touch’ is brilliant.

What works best though is his interaction with the Doctor and Jo. When he has them as his prisoners he acts more like they are all friends, telling them to hold on tight and asking them whether they are ok. It’s unique.

With Jo, the scene where he tries and fails to hypnotize her is a wonderful and poignant ‘full circle’ moment. When they first met back in Terror of the Autons, the Master easily hypnotised her and got her to do his bidding. But in his final appearance, he fails to do it again. It’s a great moment because it shows how much Jo has grown throughout her time on the show as she

Extra Watch: Spot the guy in the Draconian costume who has is recovering from a heavy session the night before

too prepares to leave.

The Ending

Sadly, what ruins the Master’s unwitting final farewell is that the ending of the story is completely botched up. The original plan was for the Doctor to use the fear machine to set the Ogrons into a panic – as they would see the Doctor turn into the Ogron-Eating Monster that they fear the most – and in the confusion the Master would get away.

Unfortunately due to a cock-up on the part of the director, they weren’t able to film that because the monster – which had only been used on location – was too big to realistically fit inside the studio, and so what we have instead is a really bad ending where the Doctor activates the fear machine, the Ogrons just run about in a circle, the Master shoots the Doctor and then the room empties, because the next bit was filmed during the production of the next story.

It all looks very botched and spliced together at the last second, and what we’re left with is an ending doesn’t make sense and a really poor and unsatisfying send-off for such a terrific character.

A great pity.

From listening to the commentary on the DVD (where you’ll hear a full blow-by-blow account of what went wrong at the end of the story), it would seem that the novelization of the story gives the Master a more apt final scene, which is something I suppose.

Random Observations

  • The enforcer on the Lunar Prison is Stuart Reviews Stuff favourite, Richard Shaw, who played Lobos (he of The Great Exposition) in the Space Museum. He’s aged a wee bit, hasn’t he?
  • And on the subject of the Lunar Prison, the way the Doctor acts is a bit presumptuous. From the moment he arrives he’s decided that he knows that the Professor plans to escape and presumes that he will go with him. If I was the Professor, I’d be more than a little apprehensive of taking this curiously bold chap who I’d only known for about 3 hours as my partner in an escape bid that I’d been planning for months. It would have seemed a little suspicious.
  • You’d think the President of Earth would wash her hair…
  • On that note actually (not the hair part but the President of Earth bit) is it not a bit unrealistic how easy the Doctor and Jo manage to get audiences with both the President of Earth and the leader of the Draconian race? Surely there are procedures and red tape to get through first? Or am I looking too deeply into things?
  • The Doctor Who wikia site says that when the Doctor appears as a Dalek to one of the Ogrons in Episode 6, that Dalek is voiced by Michael Wisher. No it isn’t. You can clearly hear that’s Pertwee doing the voice. Sloppy reporting guys, very sloppy.
  • Whenever I see this story, it reminds me a wee bit of the first series of Blake’s Seven. I think that’s mostly because of the stuff on the moon and how it is quite similar to the way Blake is sent off to a penal planet in the second episode,

    The Daleks pop in for a brief chat to let people know they’ll see them next week.

    but it’s also the general feel of it, the similarity of the sets and location filming in what looks like a carpark, as well as the scene where the Doctor gazumps the Mind Probe.

  • The cliffhanger to Episode Four is a good one in that it isn’t a ‘Doctor In Peril’ moment, but rather an advancement of the plot. Rather than thinking ‘How will the Doctor get out of this one’, it’s an ‘Oh, they’re in trouble next week’ style one with the Master sending a distress beacon out to the Ogrons. I think it works far better.
  • The Draconians may well have a rather unsubtle name, they do look good. And as you’ll know, Jon Pertwee loved their half masks that allowed for more expression. Compare them to some of the other ‘masked’ Doctor Who characters – not least from the previous story – and you’ll no doubt agree that the look very effective. Indeed, those Draconian outfits would stand up well in modern Who.
  • From listening the commentary, the bit where the guard pushes the Doctor into Jo and she almost bursts out laughing, saying “Oops, no need to push” was not in the script. A nice bit of improvisation th0ugh.
  • One regular complaint with ‘Old’ Dr Who is that the lighting is terrible. People accuse it of being too brightly lit which makes it look cheap, but I have to say I was impressed with the way it was done here, not least on board the prison ship.
  • There are two ‘That Doesn’t Make Sense’ moments here. The first is that surely this whole affair could have been sorted in Episode One when the Doctor & Jo appeared as Draconians to the guards then changed back to Humans later. The second is that the Doctor would have been lost in the vacuum of space when the ship changed its course. Surely the ship was moving? Ah well, little concerns I suppose…
  • The Daleks turn up to do little more than say ‘See you next week lads’. Had they not been in Day of the Daleks the year earlier, their reappearance would have been a true ‘Holy Shit’ moment. As it was, it was a bit of a damp squib, and once again they failed to kill the Doctor when they had the chance, giving him the opportunity to thwart their plans yet again.

Doctor Who – The Frontier in Space Review: Final Thoughts

You just can’t talk about the Frontier in Space without focusing on Roger Delgado. It’s such a shame that he died when he was the best thing about the show in this period. I feel that had he lived and gone on to film that final appearance when he was going to save the Doctor’s life, it would have been a real landmark moment in Dr Who and would have been fondly remembered by all.

And it would have saved us from the likes of Anthony Ainley and John Simm.

But sadly that’s not what happened. This is Delgado’s final farewell, and though he gets a really shitty ending, he shines once again in a story that would have been far worse without him.

As it is, the Frontier in Space is – while maybe a little too long – a good story, and well worth your time.


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