Doctor Who – Colony in Space Review (or ‘Big Business Is Bad, Kids’)

April 28, 2012

Next up in the run through is Colony In Space, which means that after a run of thirty-nine consecutive episodes set on modern-day Earth, the Doctor is back on his travels.

But is he not supposed to be exiled to Earth? Well the production team have decided to let that slide by having him go on occasional ‘missions for the Time Lords’.

Crap or Magnificent? You decide.

So what’s the mission? Well it won’t be a surprise to you that involves that old rogue, The Master.

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

Well what it’s supposed to be about and what it is about are two separate things. The reason the Doctor is sent to the Earth colony planet Uxarieus in the year 2472 is to stop the Master from getting hold of ‘The Doomsday Weapon’ held within the ruins of an ancient civilisation that live beneath the planet.

But what it’s really about is the feud between the colonists who are on the planet, and the mining company who want to take advantage of the rich mineral deposits there. The mining company want to bully the colonists off the planet and try everything from using a comedy robot with giant claws to kill them, sending in Roy Skelton to infiltrate the colony and then just saying ‘Piss off or we’ll kill you’.

Thoughts – An Obvious Political Statement

I was born in 1982 so the era this was broadcast in was well before my time, but I’d be very surprised if this isn’t meant to be a political statement based around what was happening in the UK around 1971 regarding big business and the effects of pollution. Later on in 1971 there was of course the Pollution episode of The Goodies, so that would tie in.

Here the ‘Back To Nature’  types are portrayed as the innocent good guys, while – with the exception of Bernard Kay’s Caldwell – the members of the IMC are portrayed as ruthless, money-hungry bastards. So it’s quite clear who Barry Letts & Co side with in reality.

Thankfully, this obvious statement doesn’t really get in the way of a good story. My issue with it though is that – as I say above – what it’s meant to be about (i.e. the reason for why the Doctor is there) is largely ignored, but for two quick and inconsequential visits to the primitive

The Doctor – as charming as ever

city.

Should The Master Be In This One?

Related to the issue I raise above, there doesn’t seem to be any point in the Master being in this one, and how they handle him being there is a bit odd too.

In my previous review of the Claws of Axos, I talked about how they had the Master leaving Earth only for him to be back a week later. That was bad enough, but here what they do is have some Time Lord characters basically say ‘The Master is in this one’, thus ruining the surprise of him being the adjudicator when he turns up half way through, which is even worse in my opinion.

Admit it, you want that hairdo too.

This is one story where the Master could have been rested, just like UNIT were. Yes, he’s good in it – Roger Delgado is always fantastic – but he’s additional to the plot rather than crucial to it. In this story, the real villains are Captain Dent (with his wonderful head of hair) and Tony ‘Roy Evans’ Caunter’s Morgan; the Master just isn’t needed.

And I know you might say that he was needed for the Doctor to be able to get to Uxarieus in the first place, but there are obviously ways around it.

Random Observations

  • “Don’t worry, Jim’ll Fix It”says Helen Worth with a broad knowing grin on her face as if she’s telling a joke, in reference to getting a guy called Jim to fix something. And yet this was four years before Jim’ll Fix It started on

    The Doctor stands around awkwardly while the Master breaks the Fourth Wall with a Lovejoy-esque aside

    TV. It’s weird, isn’t it?

  • One thing that annoys me about the designers in Doctor Who sometimes is that they take leaps with certain technologies and in other cases assume that current technology will exist in the future. So while two-way video-phones and robots exist in 2472, cassette tapes and type-writer printers are also still kicking about. Fair enough, you can’t expect people to accurately predict all advancements in technology, but type-writer printers? Come on.
  • Once again, the cliffhangers aren’t all that good and are used more as a way to suddenly end a 23 minute episode with a life-threatening scenario. We have episode one & two finishing with the Doctor being confronted by the same robot and episodes four & five finishing with the Master threatening to kill the Doctor or Jo. We know that neither is really in any danger of being killed off so it’s not something that I find to be a good cliffhanger at all.
  • But I have to give credit to Episode 3’s cliffhanger where Jo is away to be taken down to the primitive city. Had I watched it at the time I would have thought ‘Wow, I look forward to seeing what happens next week’, because it actually advances the plot.
  • In this story Jo continually gets referred to as ‘Jo Grant’. Yes, that’s her full name, but it just seems forced and incongruous. I don’t know why, but it’s always bothered me when watching this one.
  • In general, the primitives are rubbish. The exception is the wonderfully well spoken Guardian. He has this oddness about him in that he’s clearly a rather sloppily put together Papier-mâché puppet slumped into a chair, and yet despite that, is oddly convincing. Work that one out.
  • Sadly there aren’t any budding Columbos living within the Colony considering they don’t work out that there was just something not quite right about Norton (Roy Skelton)
  • Why is Jo so surprised about the TARDIS? She’s seen it de-materialise in the Claws of Axos and therefore must know that it is what it’s always been purported to be. Could this be another sign that it makes more sense for this story to have taken place before Claws of Axos? Or am I reading too much into it?
  • Watch the scenes with the primitives and tell me you don’t think of the Sand Creatures from Star Wars?
  • What I love about Jon Pertwee’s Doctor is how much of a grumpy and rude bastard he can be at times. One of the best examples of that is in Episode 2 of this story where he meets Morgan for the first time. “Who the blazes are you, and why was this door locked” he shouts at a man he’s meeting for the first time. Classic Pertwee.
  • There are plenty of actors who have appeared on the show before. Bernard Kaye (Daleks Invasion of Earth, The Crusade & The Faceless Ones), John Ringham (The Aztecs & The Smugglers) and John Herrington (Daleks Master Plan) make their final Doctor Who appearances. Meanwhile I *think* this is legendary extra Pat Gorman’s first ever speaking role in the show.

Doctor Who – Colony in Space Review: Final Thoughts

Colony in Space is an enjoyable story and one that holds its own in a strong season of the show.

But it didn’t need the Master and it could probably have worked better as a four-parter. What they probably should have done was expanded more on the storyline with the primitive city and how it affected the colonists ability to grow crops (a storyline which was pretty much dropped the moment the IMC turned up) in place of the stuff with the Master.

But that’s not a huge issue, and I’m still satisfied with what Colony in Space turned out to be.


Stuart’s Week in Entertainment: April 16 – 22 (including The Adventures of Ted Mosby: Sociopath)

April 24, 2012

I’ve got a few things to report on this week

TV  – Neighbours

At one point, it seemed like everyone watched Neighbours. Admittedly, that point was almost 30 years ago, but still. the it’s a fact.

I’ve watched Neighbours ever since I was a child and I still watch it to this day. Around October last year I did just think ‘Oh I can’t be bothered’ because of the interminable storylines involving Kate Ramsay and her sickening do-goodery which barely conceals a deep level of smugness, but I recently decided to catch up from the start of this year’s new series of the show.

I like Neighbours; I find it a more pleasing soap opera than the depressing EastEnders , or Emmerdale with its three deaths a week (and don’t even mention good old fucking ‘Corrie’). And yet for whatever reason, everyone to a man or

In this picture you'll see the two greatest 'Credits' in any show, ever.
Bossy was simply played by 'Dog'. They couldn't even be bothered to ask the owners what it's name was.

woman who I mentioned it to looked at me with utter derision for watching it. I felt like a Doctor Who fan in the 90s.

Well I don’t care; I’ll keep watching Neighbours and its episodes that consist of quality plots like ‘Calum makes spaghetti’ and ‘Oh Lou Carpenter, you’ve got another money-making scam on the go’. It’s better than shoe-horning in storylines like a lovely Vicar who suddenly decides to become physically abusive towards his old and frail father, which is what I believe is going on in Emmerdale right now.

The most unrealistic thing in Neighbours is the fact that Toadie’s house has actually regenerated into a completely different set, with different room structures and layouts.

Oh, and as someone who owns a Z4, I did worry about Toadie buying one to make up for the fact that he’s having fertility issues…

I still hate Kate Ramsay though. Stupid smug cow.

Britain’s Got Singers And The Occasional Dancer

I used to love Britain’s Got Talent on the basis that it was a variety show. You know what variety means right? Well the producers of this show don’t. There is nothing but singers and the occasional tiresome dancing act on the show now. It seems that rather than being a talent show where the winner gets onto the Royal Variety Performance, it’s become another X Factor where the people in charge are purely interested in someone who can make them the most money (I know…shocking, eh?). But that invariably means a singer or a dancer.

And while I can understand that, it’s no good to me as a viewer. I can understand the appeal in people paying to watch someone sing, but dancing? God no. I’m sure people put their hearts and souls into it and I get that it apparently keeps these young scallywags ‘off the street’ and not murdering people etc but dancing is just one big waste of time as far as I’m concerned…especially street dancing. It might be fun for the people to do, but so is playing Stick Cricket on my Android phone, and nobody wants to pay to watch me do that.

But here’s the kicker about it. Why is it that whenever a non-singer or dancer comes and does something brilliant, they get told ‘You’ll have to do something different if you make it through the finals’? Why should they? That’s their talent! Nobody asks a singer to up their game by juggling or singing at a higher note than they are comfortable with.

So yeah, as much as I enjoyed the show, it’s really beginning to do my head in.

And what about that boy…well…I say boy but he was the older looking 16 year old I’ve ever seen. As you would expect he was a dancer – a ballroom dancer to be precise – and he had his own dancing partner (a 15 year old girl) whom he had auditioned and brought over from Cyprus to live in his house to practice with.

Does nobody else see something wrong with that situation?

Community

Last week’s episode of Community was a load of shite. And that’s very disappointing for me.

It’s difficult to even explain what was so bad about it but I’ll try…

Since the beginning of this season, Troy and Abed (who are portrayed a bit like kids with wild and vivid imaginations) have a room in their flat called ‘The Dreamatorium’ that has nothing in it, and thus allows them to enter a world of make-believe in their minds. That’s fine and I can accept that, but last week’s episode involved their other flatmate – Annie – asking Abed to show her how it works. So then it became like the room was really a virtual reality world or something, and that Abed had brought Annie into that world with him.

It took a show which is already on the edge of stupidity (in a good way) and went way beyond what was needed. Abed had gone from being a character to a caricature.

Hopefully the makers learn from this a bit, because if it continues down this road, then Community just won’t be that funny anymore.

The Adventures Ted Mosby : Sociopath

Speaking of shows that aren’t that funny anymore, what about How I Met Your Mother?

It’s not that it’s unfunny – it still makes me smile and I still tune in every week – but the laughs aren’t really there. Fair enough I suppose because it’s been going on forever. When a show has  had more than 13 times as many episodes as a

Ladies, I can't stress this enough; Stay Away From Ted Mosby!

sitcom like Fawlty Towers, it will begin to run out of steam eventually.

The big thing though is that I’ve gone back and started watching it again from the beginning, and the difference in humour levels is quite astounding. And they all look so much younger – especially Cobie Smulders who now looks old enough to be the mother of the Robin from Season One.

What I’ve noticed though, even as far back as the fourth episode of the show, is that the main character – Ted Mosby – is a sociopath. In that episode he – in his desperate bid to find a wife – starts going out again with a girl he dumped on her birthday three years earlier. The girl makes it very clear that he broke her heart by doing that but he begs her to give him another shot. Then, having gone out with her for three weeks, he decides he needs to dump her again.

So he takes her out to dinner to dump her, only to find that it’s her birthday again, and that she’s been keeping it quiet because of what he did to her last time (he dumped her by answer-message during her surprise birthday party).

And yet, despite finding this out, he decides to dump her anyway there and then because he thinks it’s for the best.

No! Just no!

How can anyone other than a sociopath not come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to wait until after her birthday is over with? And yet he couldn’t see what was wrong with his actions.

And this is just the fourth of 158 episodes.

How I Met Your Mother should be renamed The Adventures of Ted Mosby: Sociopath.

Music – The Stupidity of Some Musicians in 2012

It’s not often I discuss music on Stuart Reviews Stuff, but it’s time for a bit of a rant.

I was playing a game the other day that has a song in it that I like. Not just me either, all my friends who play the game like it too and sing along to it (comedicly I might add).

On the face of it, you would think the band who made the song allowed it to be used in the game so that they could raise their own profile, and so that anyone who listened to it and enjoyed it would buy that song and maybe even buy others – i.e. they had a decent business plan.

And yet while the band has made some of their songs available to download for free, the song in question is not among them. Again, you might think ‘Ok, but that’s because they want you to buy it’. But no, that song isn’t even available to buy. The only place you can listen to it is on MySpace, and that is on a streaming-only basis.

I even tweeted the band to ask them if it was available to buy anywhere and was ignored.

So what happened? I had to pay $4 for a program that would allow me to download that song from MySpace. That is money that could have gone to the band, but because I really wanted it and it wasn’t available for love nor money, someone else got my cash.

Terrible business practice from the band.

And actually, by writing this, it’s got me thinking of another classic example of the same thing, and it ties in with my earlier comments about Britain’s Got Talent. A few years ago there was a finalist who was my favourite ever act on the show – a saxophonist called Julian Smith.

In the final of a show watched up and down the country by millions of people he performed ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story on his sax, and it was beautifully done. Like many people, I thought ‘I would go and buy that song’. And yet three years later and long since 99% of the people who watched that night have forgotten about him, it still isn’t available to download or buy online.

It’s 2012 – people don’t want to buy CDs, nor do they want to buy tracks that they don’t know of. They want to go onto I-Tunes, Amazon or Spotify and get the song they like the sound of, and only that song. And they’ll pay a small fee for it too. Is it really that hard?

Talk about flushing opportunity down the toilet.

But some people simply never learn.

And those people simply don’t deserve your money.


Doctor Who – The Claws of Axos Review (or ‘I Have Almost Nothing Good To Say About This Story’)

April 20, 2012

Up until this point of my run-through of Doctor Who, I haven’t come across a story that I didn’t particularly want to watch. Yes, it’s true that I’ve criticised some of the stories I’ve reviewed quite heavily, but I was still happy to watch them.

Not The Claws of Axos though. The Claws of Axos is shit.

It’s the first story in the run where I think ‘I wish I could skip this’. It’ll happen more and more as the series progresses (it pains me that in the near future I’ll have to watch turgid dross like Underworld, Warriors Gate – ooooh controversial – Time Flight and Terminus) but in a sound era of the show like the Pertwee era,  it’s like a blackout curtain in amongst a palace of light.

But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Doctor Who – The Claws of Axos Review: What’s This One About

In principle it’s actually not that bad a story. An alien space ship lands in Southern England near a massive power station. Representatives of the British Government meet with the aliens – The Axons – who offer a precious mineral –

The Doctor wakes up after a particularly raucous night out

Axonite – that apparently can make things grow and thus solve world food shortages etc. In return all they ask is to be able to refuel before they leave.

In truth though, the Axons are parasites who want to use Axonite to rape the world of its energy and minerals before leaving.

Oh, and the Master is helping them.

And there’s a representative of the American government there who wants to arrest him.

Thoughts – Let’s Start With The Characters

So in theory it doesn’t sound that bad, but in execution…

For a start you have Chinn, the Civil Servant who wants to claim Axonite for the British. Now, the guy who played Chinn – Peter Bathurst – was probably good in stuff like Father, Dear Father and Doctor at Large, and had he not died in 1973 you could have imagined him being a decent enough addition to shows like Terry & June and Rentaghost, but he’s absolutely not suited for Doctor Who.

There have been more comedic actors who have done a great turn in the show, like Derek Francis as Nero in The Romans, but you wouldn’t put Francis smack bang in the middle of the Caves of Androzani, would you?

In context he’s just all wrong. When people are being electrocuted trying to stop a nuclear power station from blowing up, and UNIT soldiers are being murdered in battle, he’s going about eating sandwiches and saying he was in catering. It’s just awful.

And so is Paul Grist, who plays ‘The All American Hero’, Bill Filer.

A great example of how the realisation doesn’t match the idea. That’s clearly the Master in a rubber mask – how is that supposed to fool anyone?

If you load up Grist on IMDB the ‘Trivia’ for him is that he is a ‘Welsh Actor Based in the UK in the sixties and the seventies’. So he’s not American? Never?!!?

My understanding is that an American character was put into it to make it easier to sell the show in foreign countries like…erm…America. But he was neither convincing, nor likeable. And also, he was just…there. Like we’re supposed to know who he is and feel some deep level of empathy towards him. Well we don’t.

And then there is David Savile, who you’ll remember from his well acted and well written role as Lt. Carstairs in the War Games. Here he’s terrible. His acting seems so forced and clumsy as he tries to be a combination of arrogant and angry. It doesn’t work. You just cheer when he’s killed.

And What About The Story?

The story is also poorly written.

Bob Baker & Dave Martin make their Doctor Who debuts here. None of the stories they are responsible for are particularly good. Granted they aren’t all bad, but they are responsible for writing the worst story of every Doctor Who series they write for, with one exception (I quite like the Invisible Enemy).

The problem is that it just jumps straight in without any sort of introduction. Some people might think that’s quite good, but I don’t. I’ve read someone say that it’s written like a comic strip, and that’s actually a very good comparison.

There are too many characters who we’re supposed to care about but we don’t. And we don’t because we aren’t given reason to.

And the use of the Master is stupid as well. At the end of the Mind of Evil we have the whole ‘Oh no, the Master has his dimensional circuit back, and he’s leaving Earth to terrorise other planets’ deal and then they don’t even give the character one single week off the screen. He’s just back again. In fairness, that’s a problem that lies at the doorstep of Dicks & Letts though.

And as for Pigbin Josh. Just…I’m not sure if I can come up with the words. I don’t know if I even need to.

Overreaching Sets

As I’ve said before, when people talk dismissively about ‘classic’ Dr Who, they talk about the poor quality of the sets and the costumes, and 90% of the time they are dead wrong in my opinion. But this is one of the 10% examples. The

The Doctor is horrified when the Axons show him what an aged Jo Grant looks like. I agree. Can you imagine The Jo Grant Adventures? It would scare kids shitless.

problem is that they try to create a properly alien entity like Axos on a very limited budget. It might have worked in black and white – like it did to an extent in the Web Planet – but in colour it becomes harder to achieve.

And so while the raw state Axon costume is good, the Humanoid Axons are people wearing cheap looking unitards and Axos itself is a horribly cheap looking set with foam things painted a sort of browny-orange. And that eye…my god, it’s like something out of a school play.

But Worst of All…

Worst of all here is the direction.

There’s an argument to be made that direction is like art – the beauty of it is in the eye of the beholder.

Well as far as this beholder is concerned, I have never seen direction uglier than in the Claws of Axos. It’s actually unpleasant to watch.

There’s a scene in Episode 1 where Chinn introduces George Hardiman & Winser to the UNIT people and it has the clumsiest and most unnecessary camera switches in history. This director seems to think here that it’s all about rapid close-up shots of people’s’ faces.

Just horrible.

Then he cuts in and out of scenes for absolutely no good reason. We’ll be watching a conversation between a couple of characters in a lab and then suddenly cut to a 2 second shot of Jo Grant standing outside looking straight into the

This guy becomes a super-villain in a Doctor Who Past Doctor Book (that I can’t remember the name of). He’s also Charlie Slater off Eastenders, Yay.

camera, and then back to the lab where the conversation continues. It doesn’t work. It’s like extremely sloppy subliminal messaging.

It ruins further what is already a poor production.

Horrendous and Hideous.

And the thing is, Michael Ferguson was responsible for directing some good stories like The War Machines, The Seeds of Death and The Ambassadors of Death. How could he suddenly become quite so bad?

But In Fairness…

But in fairness it’s not ALL bad. Once again,  Roger Delgado is fantastic as the Master. I really enjoy his scenes helping the UNIT soldiers and working with the Doctor.

The story itself does seem to calm down and become somewhat easier to follow midway through the third episode as well.

And unlike the stories that have come before it, the cliffhangers are actually quite good.

But still, the bad vastly outweigh the good.

Random Observations

  • In one Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventure book, the enemy turns out to be the soldier who is attacked outside the Power Station and becomes embittered against the Doctor. And I can’t remember what book this is? Can anyone help?
  • It would make a lot more sense if this story came after the Colony in Space, don’t you think?

Doctor Who – The Claws of Axos Review: Final Thoughts

It’s rubbish. If it wasn’t for Roger Delgado’s performance it would be a contender for my least favourite story ever.

Nothing seems to go right. The characters are either poorly played or poorly cast, the concept is too ambitious for the budget, the direction is poor and the story itself is mediocre at best.

Even though the cliffhangers are alright and it becomes a bit more easy to follow towards the end, that’s not enough to even come close to saving it.

The Claws of Axos is without question one to avoid.


Stuart’s Week in Entertainment Apr 9-15 (‘Final Destination: Horse Edition, Britain’s Got Double Standards and The King of Unsportsmanlike Conduct’)

April 15, 2012

TV – Final Destination: Horse Edition

So it was the Grand National this weekend, the only horse race that non obsessive gambling hounds actually care about.

Horse Racing has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Why is it that it’s considered to be something noble and even regal, and yet Greyhound Racing – not that I watch it – is very much a working class, seedy-underbelly type activity? Also, why do they bother with the jockeys, other than to give ‘The Little People’ a profession they could excel in? Whenever they have one of these falls and the horses carry on without them. they always follow the track as much as possible and are actually faster.

Plus I feel it would add a certain randomness to it.

But as for the Grand National, it’s an utterly macabre spectacle. The horses go round a track, jumping over increasingly treacherous fences (not least Beaches Brooke or whatever it’s called), with the added danger that should any of them land wrong, they’ll be taken out back, shot

Goodbye England's Rose

and turned into a rather expensive tub of glue.

And I’m sure ‘horsey’ people will think I’m being distasteful, but I think as an outsider looking in I have a point. The Grand National is essentially a Death Race. Horses get ‘put down’ every year after this particular race, and yet they still go ahead with it. If there was a similarly dangerous race involving humans, it would be banned.

I put money on a horse called Synchronised. It was one of the favourites going in (which is why I put money on it), but before the race started, it got spooked and wandered off. Clearly this horse had a Final Destination moment, seeing it’s own demise before it happened. Now, if it was a human who had a nervous breakdown shortly before running a 100m dash at the Olympics, they’d be advised not to race. Not the horse though; it was put back in the race with its horrible little driver sitting atop it, only to break its leg and then be put down.

And then of course we had to watch on as Claire Balding was doing her best impression of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler after Owen Hart died at Over the Edge 1999. She must have known there was a good-to-great chance that a horse would die, so it should hardly have come as a surprise. Hell, she was even dressed in black.

Since then we’ve had an outpouring of grief unseen since the death of Diana. Today’s People newspaper ran with an R.I.P. Syndicate front page. Good Lord! As for the other horse that died? Who cares, it wasn’t an ex-Gold Cup Winner. Hypocrisy or what?

As I say, the whole thing is just utterly weird.

But don’t mistake me for some sort of animal rights activist, because I’m not. I don’t really care too much about it, but I imagine the horsey people actually care more about the horses’ wellbeing than the type of people who will be up in arms about it, harping on about how it should be banned, while they watch only one race a year and spend the rest of that time not giving the remotest of tosses.

Britain’s Got Double Standards

Britain’s Got Talent has been pretty average this year, and last night was no exception.

Now I know I’m instantly treading in murky waters here with what I’m about to say…

But I really did not like the first act on the show – the one with the 5 gay guys in the sailor costumes. In fact, I thought it was totally unsuitable for family viewing.

They were singing about opening their portholes and cleaning their poop decks for entry. We all know what that means. Now I know that you might bring up Carry On films as an example of similar bawdy campness, but this was far more openly vulgar. If you had a straight bloke openly referring to his own sexual predilections as part of an act on a talent show, it would be instantly frowned upon. Similarly, it would be cut from the show if two blokes were talking about how they ‘Wouldn’t kick Alesha Dixon out of bed’, because it would be considered as objectifying women and utterly crass (and that would also be absolutely right).

So there are some serious double standards going on there. As one person said to me when I questioned whether it was OK to comment on this in this article, they said that “it’s extreme comedic sexual stereotype. Basically cheap laughs with some pretty bawdy humour, all hiding behind a claim of freedom of expression.” And that’s a fair point.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for everything, but is that time on Britain’s foremost ‘family entertainment show’?

It’s not just that that’s bugged me about BGT this week – it’s their new love of twitter. Amazingly a TV show has managed to catch on to the twitter phenomenon AFTER Vince McMahon’s WWE (speaking of which, that heated pull-apart with Cena & Lesnar was great on RAW, while the ‘Blast from the Past’ Smackdown was a load of tripe).

If any of you watch WWE, you’ll know that their love of twitter and trending is invasive and irritating; well BGT goes a step further as it actually tries to start its own trends by telling you what to ‘hash tag’. Just fuck off with your twitter pish already. That ship sailed two years ago.

Like most weeks though, the real entertainment with BGT is actually on its sister show ‘…More Talent’, which is hosted by the highly underrated Stephen Mulhern. A few weeks ago we had the old cockney geezer with his ‘What a Nightmare’ rap, and last night there was a guy on singing in the style of that irritating X Factor/BGT Scary Voiceover Man.

At least that was actually entertaining.

Football – The Scottish Cup Semi Finals

So the treble is dead for Celtic. What a shame.

And instantly with that some of you will brandish me either a Rangers fan or a Rangers sympathiser.

Neither is true. I dislike both clubs equally. I’m a Dundee United fan; that’s how we roll.

But if there’s one thing I hate as a football fan it’s unsportsmanlike conduct. And the King of Unsportsmanlike Conduct is Neil Lennon. As a disclaimer, I feel that I have to say that some of the things Neil Lennon has had to go through – death threats, bombs in the post etc – are absolutely unacceptable. But we’ve created a climate where it now becomes difficult to be able to publicly criticise him for the faults that he clearly does possess as Celtic manager.

He seems like a nice enough guy away from the stress of the game, and when Celtic are winning he’s gracious enough and level-headed. But a worse loser I have never seen in my life. Come to think of it, I think I said that after Celtic’s Cup Final loss to Kilmarnock too.

As we are all told, Celtic always get the decisions against them. Today, Hearts got given a penalty which – by the rules of the game – was correct. Yes, it was harsh, but it was correct. And Celtic lost the game. What does Neil “I can win the Champions League” Lennon do? He storms onto the pitch and unleashes a torrent of abuse at the ref in full view of everyone. The guy needs to get a grip.

He was so angry that – at the time of writing at least – he hasn’t many any public comment on the matter, but you know he probably will.

So before Celtic go on about the decisions going against them, let’s all take a moment to remember that the goal they scored was offside. But some Celtic fans won’t be having that. I was told on twitter this afternoon that the goal wasn’t offside, and that everyone who says it is is ‘Rangers Minded’. You can’t make this stuff up.

But let’s not just focus on Celtic. Well done to Hearts for making the cup final, and it’ll be a great occasion for everyone involved – including the neutral – to see them play Hibs in the final. But it’s a final that should be played at Murrayfield.

And also, credit where it is due to Aberdeen’s Rory Fallon. What…a…goal!

Gaming

I’ve actually played some games this week!

Of note, the latest one I’ve played is Fez, a supposed 10/10 2d Pixelated platform game out on XBLA.

It seems OK good so far, but it’s clearly massively up its own arse when it comes to trying to be ‘retro’, and so that automatically takes a few points off it for my liking.

If I deem it worthy enough, I might do a full review in the future.

Hot Off The Press

Neil Lennon just tweeted to say he feels the refereeing decisions against Celtic are ‘personal’, presumably against him.

Jesus…


Doctor Who – The Mind of Evil Review (or ‘A Very British Prison Break’)

April 13, 2012

Just when you thought we were done with the Black & White era of Doctor Who, one last story turns up.

No, The Mind of Evil wasn’t originally broadcast in Black & White, but any and all colour copies of the story are missing and so this is what we’re left with. But to be honest I think Black & White suits this story very well. It would seem

The Doctor meets The Keller Machine at the end of Episode 1.

wrong to have it available in colour.

As for the story itself, my brother seems to have a passionate dislike for it, and I’m not sure why. To quote him, when he saw I was watching it he said “Oh, the Mind of Evil…wank, wank, wank”. If that’s not Scottish Disdain then I don’t know what is.

Doctor Who – The Mind of Evil Review: What’s This One About?

The Master – posing as the Swiss Scientist Emile Keller – has donated a machine to a British Prison that removes the evil impulses of the prisoners’ minds. Well…I say removes, but the truth is it feeds on them. And it’s quite a handy machine, capable of tuning in on a person’s greatest fears and using that to kill them. So for example, someone who is afraid of water would drown in a dry room thanks to the machine, or someone with a fear of rats would die from being attacked by imaginary rats that actually leave claw marks on the person’s body.

The Doctor meets the Kellar Machine at the end of Episode 3.

No, that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.

Also, the machine is capable of teleportation.

Anyway, apart from that, in a seemingly unrelated and yet convenient turn of events, the Master helps the prisoners take over the prison and uses them to hijack a nuclear missile which is being transported to its destruction by UNIT while there just so happens to be a World Peace Conference going on at the same time.

Thoughts – What’s The Point of The Keller Machine?

As you can see from what I’ve just written, there are a few different strands going on here, and they don’t really link up all that well. The machine is at the prison and the prison is where the Master plans on operating his Missile Grab from, but the machine and missile story-lines are unrelated. If anything, the Kellar Machine is a hindrance to the Master more than a help.

What he plans on doing with the machine is never really explained and even if he did have a plan it was pretty quickly ruined by the fact that the machine was out of control from

The Doctor & Joe meet the Kellar Machine at the End of Episode 4

about midway through Episode 2.

So that whole thing was a bit weird.

Really, this story was about the Master helping organise a Prison takeover. The Keller Machine only comes into play whenever there is a cliffhanger, and I would consider that to be a problem. As the story develops the Keller Machine is just the proverbial elephant in the (other) room that doesn’t in any way contribute to the development of the plot, and yet because Doctor Who has to have a cliffhanger every 23 minutes, the Doctor would incongruously just waltz back into the room where it is to nearly be killed again.

In fact, the breakdown of cliffhangers is

  1. The Doctor gets confronted by the Keller Machine
  2. A Chinese Guy gets confronted by the Keller Machine – remotely
  3. The Doctor gets confronted by the Keller Machine again
  4. The Doctor and Jo get confronted by the Keller Machine
  5. The Doctor gets a gun pulled on him (yay!)

And don’t think that’s all. In the absence of a Keller Machine cliffhanger in Episode 5, they have scenes with it either side of the conclusion.

That’s pretty lazy writing. Still, the Kellar Machine music is iconic, so that’s something.

A Very British Prison Break

The Doctor tries to stop the Kellar Machine in Episode 5 (have you spotted the recurring theme yet?)

As for the Prison Break storyline…well it’s all very British. If you’re a reader of my other blog posts you’ll know I’m currently watching Prison Break, and to say there’s a difference in the way the Prisoners act is an understatement. Not that that’s a bad thing. I actually think William Marlowe is superb as Mailer.

You can tell he’s a villain – a ruthless rogue – but he plays it with that wonderful Britishness that you could only get from a pre-80s BBC show. I think he’s supposed to be a bit common, but he’s still better spoken than most of the people on TV these days. He plays his part very well against both Delago and Pertwee and best of all, he plays his sense of underlying fear against the Keller process and Barnham superbly.

But just for a moment, I want you to imagine his part replaced by Robert Knepper’s Theodore ‘T-Bag’ Bagwell. Wouldn’t that just be amazing?

The Regular Cast and the Way They Play Off Each Other

So far I’ve written mainly negative stuff about the Mind of Evil as a story, but despite those flaws I like it very much. The reason for that is down to the way the regular cast play off each other.

Everything works. The Doctor has varied and deep relationships with Jo, The Brigadier and the Master, The Brigadier works brilliantly alongside Yates & Benton and the Master

And no, this isn’t the same as the picture from the end of Episode 4; this is Jo & the Doctor meeting the Keller Machine in Episode 6.

seems to work well with everyone.

My favourite of those relationships is definitely the Doctor & The Master. They play off each other as mortal enemies and yet they are just as easily able to work together, like when they join forces to try to harness the Keller Machine.

Just like in Terror of the Autons, they seem to not mind too much when the other is winning their proverbial game of chess and you can believe that there’s a long backstory between them. Certainly you can appreciate that they probably used to be good friends.

The writers have to take credit for it as well, but mostly it’s down to the chemistry between Pertwee and Delgado. Already you can tell that it would have been a far better conclusion to the Master had he been killed off saving the Doctor at the end of Pertwee’s reign, as was the plan before Delgado’s unfortunate and untimely death. At the very least we’d have been saved from a load of crap JNT Era stories as well as John Sim’s ‘Wackyness’. But then we wouldn’t have got that 90 seconds worth of Derek Jacobi…

Random Observations

  • The first thing to ask is how much time has passed between the Terror of the Autons and this story? Based on the fact the Master hasn’t been able to travel in his TARDIS, it has to be at least a couple of years to allow time for him to have set everything up with the Keller process. If that is the case I like that, because sometimes you get the feeling the passing of time in Doctor Who is too rapid. As I’ve said before, if you actually time it, the Fifth Doctor only lasted about two-and-a-half weeks in real-time before regenerating.
  • You knew I was going to say this…why is the Doctor afraid of Koquillian? And a Sensorite? And a Zarbi too? But most of all Koquillian and a Sensorite!
  • And why was his initial ‘greatest fear’ Fire before changing to a variety of inoffensive monsters?
  • I actually wish the story did exist in Colour now to see if they used colour photos of those old monsters (Writers Note in 2014: They didn’t. I was gutted)
  • And I see at this point they haven’t completely forgotten how to do a Dalek voice.
  • Barnham is a wonderfully unnerving simpleton. I’ve already mentioned the way Mailer reacts to him, but Benton also reacts amusingly. Best of all though is the Brigadier’s reaction. He just stares at him with a mixture of confusion and contempt before turning back to the Doctor and asking who the hell he is. That bit cracks me up every time.
  • Speaking of Barnham, I didn’t like the way they killed him off. For one thing it seemed like it was for the sake of it and for another thing, that he died from the Master lightly bumping him while starting up his van made no sense.

    And just for a change, here’s Nicholas Courtney providing the definite facial expression for a combination of confusion and contempt.

  • Also, there’s a great line in Episode Six where – before the cut away from Jo looking after Barnham – she asks him “What’s your other name”. Totally random.
  • I also love the Brigadier’s ‘Common Man’ act.
  • One other thing – and it’s another one of these issues that bugs me in all of TV. There’s a scene where Barnham has to stay with the Keller Machine to nullify its threat, and Doctor Summers comes in to get take him away. Rather than calmly and concisely explain why Barnham has to be there, Jo just starts shouting ‘No, you can’t’ at him. If she had done the former, there would be no problem. But that sort of thing happens an awful lot in TV generally.

Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil Review: Final Thoughts

So my brother doesn’t like this story, but I do. I can see the issues with it and I can appreciate them, but I think the quality of the performances from the ensemble cast more than make up for it.

But from a plot point of view, it does leave a bit to be desired.

Still…it’s worth a couple of hours of your time.


Stuart’s Week in Entertainment: April 2-8 (Game of Thrones, WWE Raw, The Apprentice, BGT and Draw Something)

April 10, 2012

Some people may be wondering why there has been an absence of Film Reviews lately. The reason for that is simple – there hasn’t been anything worth seeing. Essentially I paid Cineworld £15 last month for no reason whatsoever. Later on this month The Avengers is released and you know I’ll be going to that, but apart from that I’m not sure what else there is on the horizon.

TV

As for TV though, there have been a few things worth discussing.

WWE Raw followed on from Wrestlemania brilliantly. Creatively it was fantastic, with the shock return of Brock Lesnar, the re-debut of Lord Tensai, the Rock’s promise to return to win the WWE Title and the CM Punk vs Mark Henry match all hitting the spot. Crucially too the crowd were amazing. Just like in football, if you’ve got a hot crowd we are engrossed with what they are watching and making a load of noise it improves the whole spectacle. So the crowd were enjoying it? To borrow from them…YES, YES, YES, YES!!! (I can hear you groaning).

One show I don’t usually watch but gave a shot to last week was The Apprentice on BBC1. I liked it but with the exception of Nick Hewer, I didn’t like the people. The sort of people who go on The Apprentice are – to be blunt – arseholes. The guy who was eliminated was hopeless.

Booooooooooooooooooo!!!!! It's Bill Kim - the most loathsome character in Television History

I mean, he had the opportunity to sell at 4p under their self-imposed bottom price but didn’t and so ended up not selling any of them. Useless. And his excuse? That old chestnut about how he ‘didn’t have the education some of the other candidates had’. That sort of nonsense has always wound me up. Classic inverse snobbery. No, you may not have had the same education as other, but that’s not their fault, and you shouldn’t be compensated for that. Anyway, Alan Sugar thankfully told him that was irrelevant and good on him.

Incidentally, before that guy spoke with his ‘Apples & Pears’ Cockney accent, I was sure he must have been a Glaswegian. He certainly had the ‘Weegie Bone Structure’. And does anyone else wonder what Karen Brady would look like without make-up? Not that it matters of course, but she looks like her entire face is painted on…clumsily.

Britain’s Got Talent continued this week, and I have to say I’m quite disappointed by it. It’s supposed to be a Variety Show but almost every act that they have showcased has been a singer. And while some of them are good, I’d rather see other ‘talents’ on display on this show with the singers being left to the X Factor.

In terms of the judges, while I like David Walliams (and believe me when I say I’m shocked about that) I can’t say the same about Alesha Dixon. She represents the very problem I’ve just mentioned; she seems only interested in singers and dancers. And she laughs like a fishwife.

This week also saw the return of the (presumably) award-winning Game of Thrones. Not too much of consequence happened, other than there being some rather off-putting scenes with babies getting their throats slit.

Really, it was just a continuation of what has come before. The midget who we’re all supposed to fawn over because he’s a decent actor who just so happens to be afflicted by dwarfism was as well spoken as always, the girl who occasionally gets ‘er tits out with the fake tan and

While Draw Something occasionally presents hilarious drawings like this effort from a certain Mr W. Kane, the appeal wears off very fast.

bleach blonde hair continued her never-ending march across Malta (or is it Croatia now?) and whatever it is that is happening ‘In The North’ is still to be clarified.

Still…at least it provides Yorkshire actors with regular employment.

It might sound like I’m trashing the show, but I do enjoy it. It’s just that it sometimes moves at what can only be described as a glacial pace, and it seems to get away with it because of what it is rather than because of how good it is.

One character I do like – or do I mean hate – is that obnoxious twerpwho plays the King. Whoever cast him has done a good job because I find I just want someone to give him a solid thrashing. But that’s the point. It’s rare that an actor is so effectively loathsome in his portrayal of

a character that you actively root against him. The only other character I can think of who does that is the evil Bill Kim from Prison Break. I’m onto Series 2 in my run-through of that now, so I’ll be exercising my lungs booing him for the next week or so.

Games

Last week the world was swept away by the craze that was Draw Something. But this week the majority of us are now bored by it, having had to draw The Lion King for the 764th time. I played it for a while but I was soon overcome with the realisation that it was pointless.

There’s no winning or losing and no sense of achievement, so really, what’s the point?


Doctor Who – Terror of the Autons Review (or ‘Barry Letts Has a New Toy’)

April 7, 2012

Sometimes a story surprises me. When I started my run-through there was no way – for example – that I thought I would be so critical of Fury from the Deep, or that I would rate the Underwater Menace so highly. So it’s nice to have my perceptions challenged while watching a show I thought I had completely sussed.

Well this next story – The Terror of the Autons – is another example of that.

Before I get to my review, I’ll expand on what I thought I was going to say about this story going into it…

“This story is nothing more than a hollow vehicle to introduce all the UNIT characters and the Master, complete with bad special effects and a far poorer use of the Autons”

But what do I think now that I’ve watched it with my ‘Reviewers Hat’ on?

Doctor Who – Terror of the Autons Review: What’s This One About

Well it is the one that is a vehicle to introduce the new UNIT characters (Jo Grant and Captain Yates) and The Master, but it’s not hollow.

Random Screen Cap Alert. Oooooh, I say.

The Master arrives on Earth and looks to use the Nestene to help him take over. And while he’s at it, he wants to kill the Doctor too.

Thoughts – How it Looks

First and foremost, the quality of the recording is poor. I couldn’t find my DVD of it (thanks to my brother and his ultra-efficient DVD filing system of ‘Putting Any Disk In Any Box’) so I had to watch AVI file versions through my PC, but what I watched was poor quality. In fact, with it being re-colourised and made at a time when the standard of transmissions probably weren’t the best anyway, this story – along with the Daemons – is probably the worst quality Dr Who story around from a visual standpoint.

I know that that’s not got anything really to do with how good it is as a story, but it could be seen by some as being off-putting. I don’t know if any of you have seen the Cary Grant film Charade? Well I’ve only seen the first 15 minutes of it because the film print on the DVD I watched was so bad that it was simply unwatchable. So to some people in 2012, the quality of Terror of the Autons may be considered a turn-off.

Barry Letts’s New Toy

The other major issue of how this story looks is down to Producer and Director Barry Letts’s new toy – CSO (Colour Seperation Overlay – more commonly known as ‘Green Screen’).

Compare this screencap to the one from the Factory in the Spearhead from Space. The quality is wildly different…unfortunately.

Now, I’m not going to insult your intelligence. You know what ‘Green Screen’ is. These days it’s ‘Blue Screen’, but you get the idea. Well anyway, we can look at a film that primarily uses this sort of technology – The Phantom Menace for example – and see that it has dated considerably. So it’s natural to assume that something made in 1971 when the technology was in its infancy would look even worse.

Well this is where I was first surprised.

Undoubtedly some of it looks bad, and is actually completely unnecessary (Letts decided to use CSO in place of any set he couldn’t be arsed paying for, it would seem, so we have CSO workshops, phone boxes, museums, scenery from a car and most ridiculously of all, a CSO kitchen) and it’s because of that that people generally look at this story as being an abomination when it comes to the use of CSO.

But…

Credit must be given where credit is due. Some of the CSO stuff works brilliantly, and far better than you could possibly expect it to in 1971. The effect of having Goodge being miniaturised and left in a lunchbox is great. More than 10 years later, Dr Who would do the ‘miniaturised’ effect by using Barbie dolls, so that just shows you how ahead of its time this is.

And then there’s the troll doll, which  is an absolute triumph. To get the effect of this 15″ high troll doll moving about, they put an actor in a full size suit and had him wander about

And yet this is a really nice special effect. That doesn’t look like a man in a suit standing in front of a green-screen,

over good looking CSO backgrounds. And it works. These days everything would be done with CGI, but to do what they did back then was pretty awesome.

The Use of the Autons

An area where my perceptions weren’t challenged so much was with the Autons themselves. I don’t think they look anywhere near as good as they did in Spearhead from Space, and I also didn’t like that they spoke. It just didn’t seem right.

Certainly the Autons here are less scary than they were in the earlier story.

To give Letts credit again though, he does manage to overcome some of the issues through his use incidental music, but then that goes back to my long-standing problem with creating ‘scare factor’ by playing short, sharp loud music for effect. The ones in Spearhead from Space didn’t need any of that.

But while it might well fall down there, at least the story explores the use of plastic in general being deadly under Nestene control far better than the other story. Rather than it just

This is slightly more obvious but still pretty damn impressive.

being about Autons we have killer flowers, armchairs, telephone cords and of course the aforementioned Troll doll. It’s Steven Moffat-esque in its thinking.

The New Cast

As I’ve said above, this story launches the new cast. Liz Shaw is gone to be replaced by the far more ‘Doctor-Who-Girl-like’ Jo Grant, The Brigadier now has a regular Captain in Mike Yates and the Doctor has his own Moriarty in the form of the Master.

Katy Manning and Roger Delgado are both very good – Delgado is excellent in fact and is without question one of the very best actors to play a villainous role in the show’s history. He’s just so smooth, and his face is wonderful for the part.

But this is a CSO Kitchen. I mean…FFS.

Unquestionably, he’s the best Master. But then that wouldn’t be too hard considering the second best Master is Derek Jacobi, and he played the part for about 90 seconds. Still…the fact that Delgado is better than Jacobi says it all.

And to give her credit, Manning is probably one of the best companions. People often shower praise on Elisabeth Sladen (Gawd Rest ‘Er Soul) as being the definitive Dr Who Girl, but I actually prefer Manning, who I think works better as both an audience identification figure and as an actress working with Jon Pertwee. Mind you, when you consider the difference in the relationship Pertwee allegedly had with both women in real life, that’s not a surprise. Look it up…

Still, neither companion are a patch on Ian & Barbara.

As for Captain Yates…well it’s not that he’s bad, because he’s not. It’s just that…well…he’s a little bit effete. He doesn’t suit the role. Why they would hire Richard Franklin to play the part of a man who was supposed to be a romantic male lead opposed to Manning is a little bit confusing. But hey-ho…

The Ending

The only issue in terms of storyline I have with Terror of the Autons is most of what goes on in the final episode. Up to this point things have been cooking along nicely, but events seem to skip a few pages and all of a sudden the entire plan to take over the world (assuming that’s what it was) rests within a bus parked in a quarry.

There appears to be some level of tension about whether or not Farrell wants to abandon the Master because he seems to have gone AWOL, and then there’s the famously bad conclusion to the whole thing.

All it takes for the Master to abandon the Nestene is for the Doctor to say ‘They probably won’t distinguish between you and the rest of the humans’. Talk about a cop-out.

Random Observations

  • Jon Pertwee is excellent in this story as the Doctor. The whole notion that he goes to Gentlemen’s Clubs (no, not in that sense) and mixes with the upper echelons of society is fantastic. And really, it’s only the Third Doctor who could pull that off.
  • In terms of the guest cast, one actor I thought was terrific was Stephen Jack as Farrell Senior. As regular readers of my blog will know, I like when actors do the little things right. Jack’s acting while confronting the Master and nearly being hypnotised couldn’t be better.
  • From a storyline point of view though, the Master seems to lose his cool very quickly when he realises Farrell Senior can’t be hypnotised.
  • I don’t really understand how the plastic daffodils work. Well…I do, they work by spraying quick set plastic over the victim’s mouth and suffocating them, but what I didn’t understand was how that plastic was dissolved. It seems to dissolve when it comes into contact with carbon dioxide. But wouldn’t that mean if the person who is being suffocated simply tries to exhale then it’ll dissolve? Or am I being obtuse?
  • You have to wonder what The Master wants his relationship with the Doctor to be. On the one hand, it seems as though he is simply playing a metaphorical game of chess with him and is doing what he’s doing to get the Doctor’s attention, and yet on the other hand, had the Time Lord not warned the Doctor about the bomb, it would have been game over immediately.
  • And the Doctor says he’s quite looking forward to crossing swords with the Master in the future, which is actually quite mean of him considering Round One of their feud has seen numerous innocent fatalities.
  • I never really understood – from a storyline point of view – why the Master bothered to capture that other scientist, since nothing really came of it until it was time for him to be killed off.
  • Also, it’s good to see that Roy Stewart was still making a living playing against pre-1980s British Stereotypes of Strong Black Men,
  • One area where this story excels is the cliffhangers. All of them are good, which is in direct contract to most of the ones seen in Series Seven. Episode Two especially is a good one from a shock point of view, although if we assume

    Holy Shit! Holy Shit! Holy Shit!

    the masks of the Autons are meant to be a little bit more realistic than the make-up department have managed to convey, how did the Doctor come to the conclusion that the Policeman was an Auton, and had it not been, would he not have seemed a bit foolish trying to peel the guy’s face off?

  • From later on in that sequence, there is one of my favourite stunt-man falls of all time. When the Auton gets hit by a car and falls down the cliff it looks absolutely brilliant. For years I thought it was a dummy, but apparently it was a stuntman. Man….that must have hurt. And the best thing about it is the way the Auton seamlessly gets back up again. Terrific stuff.
  • Finally, one thing that always gets criticism is the scene with Harry Tawb and the Killer Chair. People point to him pulling the chair down over his own face, but I don’t think it’s that bad. If you excuse that little bit it’s a very nicely done effect.

Doctor Who – Terror of the Autons Review: Final Thoughts

Terror of the Autons might well be a vehicle to introduce the new regular characters, but it also works well in its own right.

Episode Four is a disappointment, some aspects of the CSO are poor and the Autons aren’t are scary as they were in Spearhead from Space.

But on the other hand, the writers do a far better job of exploring the concept of plastic as a deadly weapon, the new characters are introduced very well and some of the CSO works tremendously. The story is well acted by everyone concerned and it’s one that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, though I would make allowances for the poor picture quality.