Monday, 31 October 2011

HYPNOBOBS 53 - Ghostwatch


Just in time for Hallowe'en, Mr Jim Moon takes a look back at the BBC1 1992 TV special that terrified the nation! Revealing the origin, influences, impact and legacy of this classic of televisual terror created by Stephen Volk, that pitted Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith and Craig Charles against a most persistent and malignant spectre, the dread Mr Pipes...

Direct download - Ghostwatch

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   HYPNOBOBS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.


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Friday, 28 October 2011

THE EXORCIST 40th Anniversary Edition



One of the best selling horror novels of all-time is back in a new edition for its fortieth anniversary. However this is no mere reprint, as author William Peter Blatty has revised the text...

...Find out what I thought about this new revised version here!


THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN - SECRET OF THE UNICORN


Blistering barnacles! There be no spoilers here laddie!

During the 1990s, the phrase 'graphic novel' became all the rage, describing an exciting new development in the world of comics, namely collecting issues together into 'proper' books and gracing the shelves of respectable bookstores rather than backstreet shops with strange names like The Android's Dungeon. Comics had finally grown up, trumpeted the numerous newspaper and magazine articles which popularised this new term, who with typically shoddy reportage entirely missed the point that it was the stories and content of the likes of Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns which had the comics world frothing at the mouth, not the fact that they were available in collected large format paperbacks in the high street. 

For comics being collected into 'proper' books was, as any comics fan knows, not a new thing at all. 'Graphic novel' was merely an update on an older term 'graphic album', and for many European comics fans there first introduction into the four colour world were book collecting the adventures of two Continental titans of the medium, the hilarious exploits of Asterix the Gaul and the globe trotting investigations of young reporter Tintin!

Indeed back in my own school days, volumes featuring these two heroes were frequently fought over in the school library, with many and argument over who rightfully should have them next; I remember waiting for what seemed like an eternity to get my hands on Destination Moon and it's sequel Explorers on the Moon, which as they featured space travel had the highest caché among my peers. We thrilled to his adventures across the world, laughed at the bumbling of his supporting cast and avidly watched the cartoon series Hergé's Adventures of Tintin which was a regular staple of school holiday TV back then.

Of course as we grew older we discovered the exciting  super-heroics  of Marvel and DC, and the gritty violence of '70s UK comics like Action, Battle and 2000 AD, and Tintin was left behind. But as the boy reporter and his dog have always seen as a good deal more respectable than the likes of Batman and Judge Dredd, generations of European children first discover comics through  finding his books in school libraries.

Of course in the US, where they have legions of home grown heroes and because during the '50s comics were seen as a cause of teenage delinquency, Tintin remains something of an unknown quantity. Which is why it has taken Hollywood so long to bring our bequiffed hero to the big screen at last. And it's telling that it took the clout of not one but two giants of cinema, the forces of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson combined, to make this movie happen.

Now not so long ago having these two names heading the production would have guaranteed geek bliss before a single still had been released. However after the somewhat muted reaction to Jackson's King Kong remake and the complete travesty of a fourth Indy outing, it's fair to say there were more than a few doubts hanging over the project. Although Hergé himself had named Spielberg as his personal preference for a director to bring his creations to the silver screen, he was talking about the young fellow who had given the world Raiders of the Lost Ark, not the beardy buffoon who had removed the guns from ET and cursed us all with Crystal Skull.

So given Mr Spielberg's *ahem* spotty recent record, would we see Tintin similarly bastardised? Would the boy reporter still have his firearms? Would Captain Haddock still be rolling about drunk? But thankfully, there were other notable names onboard to handle the screenplay; Steven Moffat, show runner of Doctor Who and Sherlock, Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs The World, and Joe Cornish, who recently gave us Attack The Block. And you'll be pleased to hear that this trio has managed to stop Spielberg welding any silly bloody aliens into the plot.

Now 'return to form' is a much abused phrase, often wheeled out with the minimum of credit. However in this case it is very well warranted, for The Adventures of Tintin is simply glorious cinema. Now with Spielberg, you always get a high level of production value, but over the years his films have been marred be either too much saccharine and sentiment or weighed down with 'hey I'm a serious film-maker' earnestness. However with a solid script from the afore mentioned three gentlemen, that draws heavily from several Tintin books, to keep the project true to the tone and feel of the original, we are spared either of poles of his directorial excesses. It's proof that that films from even the most gifted directors are as only as strong as their scripts.

And while there has been some inevitable carping in some quarters about the motion capture CG animation, I think this new medium has really come of age with this picture. The Adventures of Tintin looks gorgeous and the style which has a realistically rendered world populated by caricature figures mirrors perfectly the original comic art.  And the strength of the animation is matched by fine performances from the cast; Andy Serkis is outstanding as the blustering drunken Haddock, Daniel Craig is evidently having a ball moustache twirling, and there's good comic relief from Pegg and Frost as Thompson and Thomson.

Quite simply, The Adventures of Tintin is a superb adventure for all the family. There's plenty of action, wonderful characters and a lot of laughs all intelligently tied together with an old fashioned detective story that spans the globe. In many ways, it's everything the fourth Indy movie should have been, and rightly so as Tintin is one of the forebears of Dr Jones. Indeed, Spielberg delivers one particular action sequence that trumps everything is the last three Indiana Jones outings.

The movie's biggest triumph however is that is captures the magic of Tintin himself. Not only does Jamie Bell bring the boy reporter to life wonderfully, but the film makes his long lasting appeal clear - essentially Tintin is young enough for children to identify with his, and grown up enough never to need bailing out by adult figures (the bane of many other young investigators like the Hardy Boys). Now I must confess, and I know I'm not alone in this, that when I was originally reading Tintin I always much preferred his supporting cast. However in this screen adventure the character really shines, and in Bell's capable hands, Tintin is warmly likeable and solidly heroic.

And furthermore I really want to see him in action again soon! Indeed I hope that this film has all the box office success it deserves, so that we might revisit his vivid and exciting world again soon. And in the meantime I'm off to revisit the original graphic albums...







Wednesday, 26 October 2011

HYPNOBOBS 52 - Diis Manibus Part II


In the second part of this epic length podcast, Mr Jim Moon continues his true tale of terror...

Direct download - Diis Manibus Part II

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Sunday, 23 October 2011

HYPNOBOBS 52 - Diis Manibus Part I


As it's HYPNOBOBS's first anniversary to celebrate this notable occasion, in the first of two special podcasts, Mr Jim Moon recounts a true tale of mystery and terror! The second part will follow in a day or two. And please note that as this episode was designed as a single piece, there is no outro in this episode and there will be no intro in the next. So you may listen to the entire show as an uninterrupted whole. 

Direct download - Diis Manibus Part I

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HYPNOBOBS on iTunes

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   HYPNOBOBS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.


CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Paranormal Activity 3


All spoilers have been exorcised from this review

Hallowe'en is upon us once more and, as is now becoming traditional, a new entry in the Paranormal Activity franchise has been unleashed in the theatres. However this time around, as you may well have inferred from the poster and trailer, we aren't picking up the story where the second movie left it, but instead heading into prequel territory. 

So then, to swiftly mark out the direction from which I approached this third installment, I'll recap my position on the first two. The original Paranormal Activity I really enjoyed, a fine addition to both the haunted house and found footage genres, with bags of spookiness and as I explored in-depth in my review some interesting character stuff going on under the hood. Although that said, I do believe it's a better film with the original ending - but of course had director Oren Peli stuck with the finale that the movie originally screened with we wouldn't have had the sequels. 

Now I was quite sceptical, if not downright opposed to the very idea of a sequel. The first film looked very like a case of catching lightning in a bottle and  I wasn't keen on another Blair Witch 2 debacle. However Paranormal Activity 2 actually turned out ok, and as I remarked in my audio review for Hypnobobs, if we were to have sequels to a movie that I'd have preferred to stand alone, I was glad they had tried to keep up the quality. The sequel didn't exactly break new ground, it tweaked the formula just enough to be interesting and still built up a creepy atmosphere and delivered to decent scares. And while it didn't have the character depth of the first, it did elegantly expand the mythology of the series and I liked the way it craftily continued the story as both prequel and sequel. 

And I am pleased to report that Paranormal Activity 3 maintains the high standards of the series.  Essentially at this stage of the game, you're either on-board with these home movie hauntings or you're not. Yes, it's pretty much more of the same: a slow build as weird happening gradually engulf a well observed and naturalistic family, with plenty of creeping dread and sudden shocks, and like the second a carefully considered expansion of the over arching story line.  So basically if you enjoyed the first two, you'll have a ball with this one. 

However although there is a strong family resemblance, there are little differences that mark it out from its siblings. To begin with it should be noted that I could detect the directorial fingerprints of Ariel Shulman and Henry Joost, the makers of the possible documentary or possible hoax movie Catfish (and hear Hypnobobs 39 for a review of this intriguing flick). Now it's not that the style is radically different, just that the protagonists were portrayed with a little more warmth than the previous entries. For example, many viewers had problems with both Micah in the first and Dan in the second with the adjectives 'asshole' and 'douchebag' being frequently bandied about. However, refreshingly your male lead in this movie, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) comes across a very likeable fellow. 

Also noticeable is a higher quotient of both jump scares and special effects work. However neither of these come at the expense of building up tension and dread and, particularly in the case of the latter, tip the franchise over in the kind of supernatural grandstanding more at home in the Poltergeist movies. And while there may be more 'boo!' moments, Joost and Shulman also deliver some very memorable scenes of subtle eeriness. 

However it is perhaps the closest the franchise has come to the more expected Hollywood horror flick. But in fairness, depending on your preferred mode of cinematic fear, this slightly different weighting may be a positive or negative. Undoubtedly some will say this makes it slightly weaker than the previous two films, but equally others will find it the most terrifying yet. However overall I;'d stress the the quality is still there and it's a matter of what style of terror floats your fear boat.

And actually this is something that I find makes the Paranormal Activity franchise very interesting. Let's be honest, normally by the time a horror series reaches its third instalment, we are all normally agreed that the initial movie is the best and anything after is going to be measured on exactly how inferior it is. However many preferred Paranormal Activity 2 over the first and I can see that the same is going to play out again with this third episode - indeed on leaving the cinema I overheard several fellow patrons expressing the opinion that this had been the scariest of the three. So I am quite looking forward to years of interesting fan debates on which is the best. 

Now when I heard that they were planning a third entry, I was of the opinion that they should tie things up neatly and make it a (hopefully) solid trilogy. Now not giving away any spoilers, I doubt many of you will be surprised that this is not the case; after all Peli's home video spookery has now supplanted Jigsaw's antics as the annual Hallowe'en horror franchise release. 

However what might surprise you, particularly those who have been following my previous reviews of this movie series, is that I'm more than happy for them to serve up a part 4 next year. And there are several good reasons for this. Firstly there's plenty of space left in the storyline, for although there are some answers , it raises more questions. And although this is a prequel it doesn't deliver the story you are expecting... 

Secondly this is the second sequel to a high standard that hasn't sold out the principles of the first and descended in a mess of cynical CGI and gore - Paranormal Activity is turning out to be the most consistent horror franchise yet. 

But finally and perhaps most importantly, I just had alot of fun watching this; it creeped me out at several points, made me jump at several others and kept me intrigued throughout. I don't know how far Peli can spin this saga but but looking at how the three movies fit together, I suspect there may be an eventual endgame planned. And on the strength of this third outing, I'll more than happy to see what the next instalment brings... 


Sunday, 16 October 2011

HYPNOBOBS 51 - The House of the Nightmare & Other Eerie Tales


Continuing our series of readings for Hallowe'en, from the Great Library of Dreams Mr Jim Moon presents not one, not two, but three of his favourite tales of terror and along the way at long last explains how he came to be so obsessed with weird fiction.

The stories presented are The Waxwork by AM Burrage, The House of the Nightmare by Edward Lucas White and There Was A Man Dwelt By A Churchyard by MR James...
 
Direct download - The House of the Nightmare

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IN SEARCH OF SLEEPLESS NIGHTS Part IV - The Importance of Being Eldritch


Whenever I receive visitors, their first reaction is almost invariably "You have alot of books don't you!". And indeed I do - I am only half joking when in my introductions for HYPNOBOBS I refer to my abode as the Great Library of Dreams. Furthermore I am also quite sure that I need not describe to all my fellow bibliophiles  that peculiar mix of surprise, awe and, most inexplicably to me at least, horror that plays across their faces. For like many book lovers, I forget that  a house crammed with over-stuffed shelves of diverse tomes is as alien to many folk as a home without a single bookcase is to me. 

Of course in my case there's an additional round of funny looks when they see the titles of the books that are surrounding them in teetering piles actually are... Hoards of anthologies of weird tales, endless horror/scifi/fantasy novels, murder most foul in both fact and fiction, weighty tomes on film history, psychology, philosophy and quantum mechanics textbooks, compendia of ancient myth and legend, and volumes of poetry. 

Now all of the above appear to be a rather shocking choice of reading material to many people, especially as there's not a single ghost-written large print biography of some moron who has only ever chased a ball about all his life, or a collection of glossy photos illustrating recipes you'll never ever cook to be found among them to leaven the mix; in short, nothing a 'normal' person should be reading. 

However, as disturbing as many find the fact  that I am still reading books they associate with school days i.e. Shakespeare and academic text books, on average it's the books with charming titles like The Doll Who Ate His Mother that raise the most eyebrows. "Ah, so you like all that horror stuff..." they say. And you can just tell that they are often pondering whether it will be rude to ask "So why do you read that crap?"

Yes, it's sad to say but horror fiction is perhaps the least respected genre in all literature, often considered to be just one step away from pornography. And while other sorts of book, such as chick lit, the boy's own adventure stylings of Clive Cussler and his ilk, or anything by Dan Brown, equally suffer under the burden of critical and/or  popular disdain, at least if you;re seen reading them people won't assume that you are a budding psychopath who attends autopsies in your spare time. Even it's kindred genres of scifi and fantasy have better reputations; the former may be nerdy but at least it's scientific, and while the latter may be escapist nonsense about elves buggering about in la-la lands with unpronounceable names that would score well in Scrabble, at least it's not wallowing in sadism. 

However this common perception of horror literature is  most unfair. For although there have been legions of trashy paperback originals that indeed do aspire to read like all the most gruesome sections of a coroner's notes, these are not the classics that beloved in the field or indeed representative of the wide range of styles and subjects the horror tale has tackled. 

Arguably horror is the most venerable of all genres in fiction. Indeed the very first work in English literature Beowulf, is an Anglo-Saxon epic detailing it's eponymous heroes battles with the night terrors that are Grendel and his even more monstrous mother. And undoubtedly the spooky tale told by the fireside stretches further back into the misty begins of human culture, right back to the most primitive times when the shaman woven tales of the gods and monsters as the shadows flickered on the ochre-encrusted cave walls.



And since the bloody horrors at the great hall of Heorot, the horror story as attracted an impressive roster of literary talents. Throughout history, people have always enjoyed an eerie tale and therefore it should be no surprise that so many of the great masters of literature have penned an uncanny story or summoned up a ghost or two in their pages. Indeed Shakespeare is riddled with the supernatural; aside from the ghosts in Hamlet and Macbeth, his plays throng with reference to the invisible world and occult signs and portents. And the spectres resides at the heart of what in these secular times is increasingly the definitive story of Yuletide, Dickens'  A Christmas Carol. Furthermore even great figures from history outside literature and art, people as as diverse as Churchill and John Lennon, have add the the canon of weird tales. 

Now this long standing appeal of horror is perhaps a subject for another day, and indeed, another article, but  my focus today is on the benefits of weird literature. For what my questioning guests fail to realise is that if it weren't for my love of horror tales, I would have never garnered the academic qualifications I now possess or now read so voraciously and widely. 

In this week's HYPNOBOBS - #51 The House of The Nightmare - I recount how I first became drawn to the genre - long story story short - I was terrified of ghosts and turned my terror of the dark into a love of it by reading ghost stories. So then at a young age, I was scouring the library and bookshops for collections of the tales of the uncanny. And at that time, the late '70s and early '80s, the shelves were thronging with not just single anthologies of weird fiction, but whole series of volumes devoted to the genre.  



And through devouring the Armada Ghost and Monster books, the Fontana Books of Great Stories and the numerous collections put together by the legendary editor Peter Haining, I first encountered the works of genre greats such as MR James, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson, and HP Lovecraft - all of whom became contestants for the title of Greatest Author Ever in my fevered monster-haunted young brain. And any title offering a tale by one of these gentleman was a tome to be procured post haste and, as Lovecraft so memorably put it in his sonnet Pursuit, "I could guess what nighted worlds of ill lurked in that volume I had coveted"...

But furthermore it was in the pages of such collections that I also first was introduced to the works of such giants of classic literature such as Dickens, Chekhov, Defoe, Kipling, Dylan Thomas, Aldous Huxley, EM Forester, HG Wells and Guy De Mauspassant, to name but a few. And having enjoyed their contributions to weird fiction, I began exploring what else they had wrote. 

And so then when English Literature classes turned from worthy approved children's titles to the annals of great literature, I had no problem tackling, for example, the heavy Victorian prose of the likes of Thomas Hardy, for I was by then already well versed in dense vocabularies and archaic modes of writing. And having read  all the great gothic novels such as Dracula, FrankensteinThe Phantom of the Opera and Wuthering Heights I had no fear of long books with small type.

Now it is a most unfortunate state of affairs that the way that our education systems teach literature seems to have in the majority of cases, the disastrous effect of actually turning people off reading as a pleasurable activity rather than engendering a life-long love of books. And indeed, as sad as it is, it is more thanks to my love of weird tales that I am the well-read and (hopefully) intelligent man I am today than the efforts of my teachers, who ironically didn't approve of the horror volumes I was reading back then. However it is thanks to reading John Wyndham and Mr James at the age of ten that I have an appreciation of the works of Wyndham Lewis and Henry and William James.

Of all the genres of literature, few other categories of fiction can boast so many heavy-weight names in its ranks. And certainly horror opens the most doors, and as we have seen, not just cobwebbed swathed portal to nitrous vault either. But the most important portal it may open is the one marked 'Imagination', and to enjoy any story it must open this particular door.

A tale or novel may be as worthy as they come, but if they fail to engage the imaginative faculties of their readers, to paint pictures on the mind's eye and populate the mind with its characters, then there will be no pleasure in turning the pages. You may be as clever as you wish but if your book is dull, then not only will you ensure the reader will never finish it but possibly drift away from reading all together...

The imagination is a tremendously important force and it is through it's exercise that we have progressed as far as we have as species. And so to harness terror and dread that in themselves are some of the most harmful emotions to both our personal well-being and society, and to transform them into mighty engines of imaginative pleasure is one of the great virtues of literature. As Robert Aickman so wisely wrote in his introduction to the Fontana Book Of Great Ghost Stories -

Ghost stories are exercises of the imagination. Their importance lies partly in the fact that in all of us the imagination needs to be exercised, and today gets desperately little scope, so that society is in danger of madness in consequence...

Indeed as the philosopher Pascal famously observed the sum of evil in the world could be greatly reduced if men could only to sit quietly in their rooms. And frequent visits to the land of fiction is the ideal way to achieve this...



Other articles in this series can be found here -

In Search of Sleepless Nights Part I - The Varieties of Horror
In Search of Sleepless Nights Part II - The Art of Watching Horror
In Search of Sleepless Nights Part III - The Films That Frightened Me



Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Last Man on Earth


PODCAST EXTRA!

This week the boys at the Black Dog Podcast are discussing The Last Man on Earth (1964) - the first screen adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic novel I Am Legend, and starring the legendary Vincent Price. And if that wasn't enough our hosts Lee and Darren are joined by Mr Jim Moon to discuss this seminal movie and, erm... Transformer testicles....

WARNING! Contains many tangents, harsh language and much hilarity!

Find it here!
The Black Dog #88


Will Smith?... Chuck Heston?.. Bollocks to 'em!






Sunday, 9 October 2011

HYPNOBOBS 50 - The Midnight Express To The Red Lodge


With Hallowe'en drawing ever nearer and strange fogs haunting the streets, in the Great Library of Dreams Mr Jim Moon revisits two sources of sleepless nights - The Red Lodge by HR Wakefield and Midnight Express by Alfred Noyes...

Direct download - The Midnight Express To The Red Lodge

Find all the podcasts in the HYPNOBOBS family here -

HYPNOBOBS HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links

HYPNOBOBS on iTunes

HYPNOBOBS on STITCHER



   HYPNOBOBS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.


CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

Friday, 7 October 2011

Simply the Stars...



Yes, it's Friday... And that can only mean it's time for your staaaaaaaaaaaars for the week!






Tuesday, 4 October 2011

DOCTOR WHO 6.13 - The Wedding of River Song Spoiler Zone (or Jim'll Fix it)

Shh! Spoilers sweetie!

My giddy aunt! There's been alot of toys chucked from prams over this one hasn't there! So before we get going - and note I speak as a life-long fan, one of whom's earliest memories is seeing the Sea Devils rise from the waves - I'll say this: 

Calm down dear! It's only Doctor Who

And to use Mr Danny Davies' wonderful phrase, a good blast from the Perspective Cannon is in order here! Yes, it's time to practise that ancient and noble, yet seemingly dying out, art of getting a frakking grip!

Now then in the interests of full disclosure, let's rewind to last Saturday night. The credits have just begun to roll and as per usual with a Moffat scripted episode, I wonder how the name of Azal am I going to review that with out letting slip the dogs of spoiler. However this time, I have an additional problem because I'm somewhat conflicted on the now infamous resolution, namely that the figure we saw die on the shores of Lake Silencio was not actually the Doctor, but our favourite Time Lord driving a Teselecta.

You see, I'm feeling disappointed as I was expecting the big reveal to be something I hadn't considered, and so there's an aura of 'oh, what that  it?' floating in the air. However I am of certain of two things - firstly that overall I rather enjoyed this episode but secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I really like the position Moffat has left the character pointed in.

While I'm trying to sort out and generally weigh up this mix of different emotions, I notice that the internet is already beginning to flame, with with all manner of folks screaming 'Cheat!' and some even transforming into the Comic Book Guy, and without a shred of irony, shrieking 'Worst. Finale. Evah!'. And this crowd saying  'Boo! Teselecta! Rewind!' also annoys me, and not just for reminding me of Craig Bloody David but for for reasons we'll get to later.

Anyhow, I pen my spoiler-free review basically saying 'fun episode, divisive end I'm not sure about yet' and leave it at that. Then I make another large pot of Earl Grey and sit down to start pondering this business properly...

Mr Jim's reasoning goes like this...

Sip 1 - As soon as they mentioned the Teselecta in the Previously montage, the thought occurred that this was probably how the Doctor was going to cheat to death.

Sip 2 - Though as the episode progressed and built towards the end, I was still wondering whether Moffat was going to the Doctor actually die... Now obviously he has to survive somehow as we know he's coming back for the Christmas special. But I had concocted a dubious theory - I'd read somewhere Moffat had said that this year's Yuletide special would be riffing on another classic Christmas story and as he'd done a Christmas Carol last year, the next obvious choice would be It's A Wonderful Life. And this tale concerns a fellow being taken out of time at the point of his death, I wondered whether Moffat would have something similar in store for the Doctor i.e. the Doctor would die but in the Christmas special a Clarence analogue would restore him to life...

Sip 3 - I quite liked that idea... that would have been brilliant! Stupid Teselecta!

Sip 4 - But it's not a cheat is it? Cheating would be altering how that death scene played out or making it not happen - but it does play out how we first saw it. Admittedly with a Time Crisis occurring within a split second we hadn't seen the first time, but  it IS the same - the difference is that now we know that the event has effectively been mislabelled - the Doctor only appeared to die or rather a decoy Doctor died. The fixed point happened, and the real Doctor was actually present too, but it's only historical archives that have wrongly recorded that he didn't survive.

Dunks biscuit - And of course that was the point - really like the way now the Doctor is set up to have small adventures - no more Lonely God hyperbole and everybody knowing who he is. Yes, back to being a mysterious man in a box. Me likee.

Sip 5 - And he did set it up too! It's perfectly in line with Chekhov's Gun isn't it - he introduced it five episodes ago and 'fired' it in the final act. Plus there was the business with the Gangers as a red herring. Yes, I did rule out the Teselecta as the solution originally (see here) as it wasn't exactly brilliant at mimicking natural behaviour... But I had considered what if a Doctor was driving it... And honestly as for all this blubbing about beginning of a regeneration means it can't have been the Teselecta, Moffat did deliberately shown us this android turning into a Nazi on a motorbike, so obviously some orange fireworks aren't stretching it's abilities very much at all. Especially with the Doctor at the wheel!

Sip 6 - So not a cheat - and it's not a rewind or reset either. During the Time Crisis, there's plenty of dialogue to confirm that all the events of this season have happened - the Silence's taunt to Rory was very cheeky but most explicitly the scene with Amy and Madame Korvarian... And how she deals with Madame, blimey that was COLD! Still in the words of the legendary Adham Fisher 'the bitch had it coming!'  Damn, she looked hot firing that machine gun... Do I have time for... No, moving swiftly on...

Dunks biscuit again - How does Amy not remember the Time Crisis before this episode though? Hmm... No, got it! It's a case of Who's Time-line Is It Anyway. And the defining time-line is the Doctor's naturally. At the start of the season, Amy meets Future Doctor and see his Teselecta gambit play out. What I'm calling the Time Crisis happens, but it's resolved and every one's none the wise. Her Doctor appears and the season unfolds, so then when he enters the Time Crisis the Amy he meets in that alternate world has shared all those adventures. And so Amy can only remember the Time Crisis after it occurred, which for her happens after at some point after The God Complex. More simply put - the Doctor's time-line sets the continuity for every one else as he's the focus of the Time Crisis!

None of that is probably very important... I should get out more... Where was I?

In the kingdom of Inferno, the one eyed Brig is king!

Sip 7 - Oh yes! Speaking of eye drives, very nice tribute to dear of Nick Courtney. I mean, aside from the lovely scene with the Doctor discovering the Brig has passed away, the whole business with an alternate world and everyone wearing eye patches was a very subtle tip of the hat to the old fella. He used to love telling that tale about the filming of Inferno, in which he played an evil version of the Brig who sported an eye patch and one day on set every one else donned on to surprise him...

Sip 8 - Yes, there was alot to enjoy in this one - live chess, Churchill, Area 52 - but it was not quite as triumphant a finale as usual. This prophecy about the fall and the fields of Trentzalore is intriguing. Now looking at the series timeline, effectively we've got one more series before hitting the 50th anniversary in 2013. So is this the middle section in a Silence trilogy to take us up to the big event? Yes, I think it could be - certainly would fit the tone of this finale... a moody one like the end of Empire Strikes Back!

Dunks biscuit again - Bloody hell! Just realised something - that shot from the 'Coming Soon' bit at the end of A Good Man Goes To War - you know the skeletal hand holding a dying sonic? Obviously that was NEVER any thing to do with the events at Lake Silencio... Is that yet to come?

Sip 9 - But what about the answer to the oldest question in the universe apparently being 'Doctor who?' Can't decide whether that's daft or just rubbish! Surely the oldest question would be something like 'Is there a God?' or 'Why are we here?'... But hold up matey! It's only the oldest question according to the beliefs of the Silence! And they're blatantly Doctor-obsessed nutters! So that does work... and on several meta-levels! You cheeky git Moffat!

Sip 10 - Still a bit disappointed by the Teselecta though. I'd thought of that one! It should have been something I didn't anticipate dammit!

Sip 11 - But I bet alot of other folks didn't see it coming, and most heavily I guess in the general audience... You know those millions poor sods outside the hallowed halls of nerdom, who are either wheeled out as victims of cruel scriptwriters and their complex plots, or the despised element that's making the show is now being crap because it's writing down for them.

Sip 12 -  Hang on! In that case, shouldn't I be patting myself on the back for being a clever dick rather than whinging? Me guessing and the set of expectations I cultivated aren't exactly Moffat's fault are they?

Drops biscuit in tea! - Thank Rassilon I didn't charge onto the net and start shrieking like a twat!

Sip 13 - We're a right pack of gits sometimes aren't we? We can't just say 'I didn't like that one' and move on, we have to make out it's an apocalypse event. And in doing so we're often missing important points. Just because we may feel let down that we guessed, we're too quick to accuse Moffat terrible writing, and  yet screaming 'cheat!' and 'rewind!' shows us to be guilty of the same sloppy thinking we're claiming he's guilty of.  In the case of this episode, the plot mechanics of the Doctor's survival aren't actually the most important thing. The fact is we've been mass debating his apparent death for so long, nitpicking over the scifi bullshit - and I stress I'm guilty of this too - we've forgotten to pay attention to the proper content of the story.

And that's partly why genre work isn't taken more seriously, why there's a split between art and pop culture. Because we're always claiming our favourite scifi deserves to be taken seriously, but when people from the other side of fence pay us a visit they find us squabbling over the specs of spaceships and what abilities androids have built in rather than discussing the themes and character development...

In this season, the real story has been the Doctor coming to terms with the consequences of his actions, of what he has actually become through blithely flying through time and space and helping out as he sees fit. And it has ended with the Doctor deciding to let the cosmos think he has gone and be far more circumspect in what he does...

 And I rather suspect that future Who fans, who will come to this season without the blinkers of expectations over the Doctor's death, will judge this set of stories on the above basis. And they'll find all this hullabaloo rather foolish and somewhat embarrassing, in much the same way we look back at the tantrums, or should that be fantrums over The Three Doctors which was absolutely despised for the heinous crime of making the Time Lords look a bit doddery.

Last sip - One of the great delusions of being in a fan is thinking we know better. However what we often forget is that Doctor Who isn't our show, it a god-damn British institution. And furthermore it's probably the most difficult program on television to write these days. Now there's no brief for the series at the BBC, but in the ruins of the Death Zone on Gallifrey - and yes, yes, I know it's not there any more but don't go missing the point again - there is an ancient prophecy carved into the primordial rock. And it reads thus...

For those who would chronicle the adventures 
Of the One they called the Doctor, 
Beware the legions of the Howling Halls,
For if it is too simple they shalt carp,
If it be too complex they will bleat,
If you recount tales in isolation
You will be accused of pandering to fools,
Yet if thou constructs a serial
They will complain said fools cannot follow it!
Should thou be witty in your tellings
Bile and venom shall follow,
Be thou serious, and kickings will descend,
Show a heart and thy name shall be soap,
And if it be terrifying, they shall bitch
'Won't some one think of the children!'

Yes, as Our Lord truly said "There's no pleasing some people!" (Brian 6 v2). And although I am undoubtedly an obsessive Who, there are still enough corners in my brain not stuffed with Daleks and wooly scarves to realise that I really wouldn't relish being in charge of the show and having to somehow balance these multifarious polarities and try to please millions of people. And obviously you can't please all of the people all of the time and sometimes episodes do falter. 

But more importantly, far too often we forget the fact that both Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat have managed to pull off this Herculean feat on many many occasions. And as we always claim the Doctor is a great role model, we therefore should act with a little more grace when we perceive they do drop the ball...

Right, I'm putting the kettle again on, anyone fancy a cup? I've got a whole season to rewatch and some Jammie Dodgers...






Sunday, 2 October 2011

HYPNOBOBS 49 - Let Loose


From the fireside of the Great Library of Dreams, Mr Jim Moon brings you a quasi-vampiric Victorian weird tale, 'Let Loose' by Mary Cholmondeley...

Direct download - Let Loose

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Saturday, 1 October 2011

DOCTORWHO 6.13 - The Wedding of River Song



So here we are at last! Not since Bad Wolf has a story arc generated so much interest, and considering how Mr Moffat set this plot running with a bang in The Impossible Astronaut with the Doctor's apparent death at Lake Silencio, The Wedding of River Song is probably the most hotly awaited, speculated and debated finale so far, eclipsing even The Parting of the Ways in Series 1.

The Radio Times preview article even managed to make this episode seem all the more tantalizing with the following quote -

"Loose ends are tied up and, more importantly, the series and its heroes are repositioned in line with Moffat’s vision. Sorry to be so cryptic."

As indeed am I! Now as this is was a Moffat scripted episode, I was fully expecting it to open with an almighty swerve. And indeed it does! And that probably the most plot detail you're going to get from me!

So then, yes there are answers, and yes there some old familiar faces making guest appearances as you'd expect in a series finale. And yes, the matter of the Doctor's death is dealt with.

Now for the most part this episode is a twisty, turny road to resolving THAT final question and ultimately how well you like the finale is going to depend on how well the last five minutes sit with you. And be warned, a quick look at my Twitter stream is showing extremely divided reactions to this one.

Now the thing is when you set up a massive dilemma like this, whatever solution you eventually present will leave a certain proportion people dissatisfied. Often it's a case of damned if you do and damned if don't - if you plan the seeds for the big answer and people can guess it, they'll be disappointed and cry 'cop out!', but if you pluck something new and mental out of the ether, everyone also will scream 'cop out'!

But even if your solution can avoid both the above reactions, it still might fall somewhat flat - falling prey to that old Buddhist concept that dictates that often the journey is more exciting than the destination. And I think in the case of The Wedding of River Song, the afore-mentioned high levels of expectation coupled Moffat's reputation of being an extremely clever time-wimey writer are probably going to work against it  for many viewers.

And personally, I will say I have mixed feelings on the resolution.

Now on one hand, we all know that the Doctor isn't going to REALLY die. Come on, we've always known that. And the method by which he gets out of this terminal fix isn't just pulled out of thin air. It's not an RTD deus ex machina - which instantly ranks it over some other previous season finales I could mention - and to quote another dying Doctor "the moment has been prepared for..."

But on the other hand, to paraphrase Obi Wan Kenobi,  this was not quite the resolution I was looking for...

However I would stress I rather enjoyed the bulk of this episode's ride, and it's only the resolution I'm not sure about. And more on that in the forthcoming Spoiler Zone review after I've had more time to ponder all the ins and outs. (Time-wimey note for future readers - remember I am writing these spoiler-free reviews mere  minutes after the credits roll!)

Ultimately though, you're going to have to judge this one for yourselves folks! Some of you will love it, some of you will hate it and others, like myself, will be somewhere in between...


DOCTOR WHO 6.12 Closing Time Spoiler Zone


Shh! Spoilers sweetie!

Well there's not too much to add to the spoiler-free review, however there are a couple of items worthy of comment!

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly for old school Who fans, was the return of the Cybermats! Now for those of you who don't know, these little cyber-infiltration units first appeared back in the Second Doctor era, making their début in the classic adventure Tomb of the Cybermen

 Cybermat Mark I

And despite looking insanely goofy with their googly eyes and oh-so-1960s antennae, the little critters proved such a hit that they quickly made a second appearance in The Wheel In SpaceHowever despite an upgraded design (most notably the eyes were made, well, a little less googly), this was the last time we were to see them for quite some time, although apparently they were originally pencilled in to appear in The Invasion too. 

Cybermat Mark II

In fairness, however this wasn't due to the Cybermats being an unpopular creation, but due to the fact that the Third Doctor never tangled with the Cybermen (although one of the silver giants did appear in a cameo appearance as a denizen of the Miniscope in Carnival of Monsters and this Doctor did eventually battle them in the 1980s reunion story The Five Doctors). 

Cyber-appearances were thin on the ground too during the Fourth Doctor's reign. However Tom Baker did encounter them once in his first season in Revenge of the Cybermen and the Cybermats were back too, albeit with a radical redesign...

 Cybermat Mark III

...Yes, I know, they do now look like some species of hideously prehensile martial aid!  I'm not sure I should mention that their prime function in this story is spreading diseases... Anyhow, moving swiftly on! The Cybermen would return to plague to the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, but sadly they no longer brought their pets with. 

However the Cybermats would make reappearances in various Doctor Who audio dramas, novels and comics - evidently the concept of the Cybermen having these quasi-animals, and perhaps those googly eyes,  hold a deep appeal. So then, it was really only a matter of time before they made a reappearance in the new series - they'd been mentioned in The Almost People and played a part in the adventure game Blood of the Cybermen, so the stage was set to bring to a new audience. 

Cybermat Mark IV

The new design is a nice synthesis of the previous versions, but with a rather pleasing though somewhat disturbing twist - a set of very organic and nasty looking teeth! Not only did the reveal of these biological components provide a decent shock for Cybermat lovers old and new but also was a rather well thought-out  addition, as the Cyber-race are flesh and steel cyborgs after all.  

And I think it safe to say these little beasts have proved to be a big hit, and not only with old fans who are delighted to see them back in a cool new form, for it looks like a toy Cybermat will now be top of many children's Christmas lists this year *. 

So then, moving on from silver rats, the other issue for this Spoiler Zone is the possible niggle I mentioned in the previous review, which I can now reveal concerns the final confrontation with the Cybermen. Now the fact that the silver giants were defeated by an emotional overload has had alot of folk rolling their eyes and muttering about a sentiment over sense RTD style ending. 

However interestingly, I've noticed that this finale seems to play out better with viewers who have children, and this is a key point here. For while it is something of a scifi cliché that the cold hostile machines are defeated by a surge of human emotions, the strength of the parent-child bond is a far more valid source of feeling than say, the Tenth Doctor's affection for Rose. Firstly there's a subtle but rather nice all the same thematic parallel woven into the plot - basically it's human reproduction versus Cyber reproduction. 

And secondly this pay-off is set up carefully in the story, rather than just chucked in for some sentimental fireworks  - for example the climax of The Satan Pit and the Doctor's out of the blue "I believe in her!" routine. Yes, it's still sentimental but it's alot more profound than the Doctor and Rose sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G or his Tinkerbell return from Gollum in The Last of The Time Lords

Thirdly, it's not like the Cybermen haven't been defeated like this before.Essentially Craig overloading their emotional circuits is a callback to the old Cyber-classic The Invasion, where Tobias Vaughan's cerebratron  mentor device does exactly the same thing. And certainly it's far better than the late period original series Cybermen who were immune to most weapons but promptly fell over when encountering  a small amount of gold!  

But all that said, I do have a quibble with it. And it's simple that this final confrontation in the Cyber-ship just feels slightly too rushed. As I've outlined above the defeat by emotional overload is played for and won in the plotting, however I think the reason it doesn't work for some people is the fact that it plays out so quickly and hence can come across as an RTD magic trick deus ex machina. 

Now I've said it before, and no doubt will say it again, but I really do think that Doctor Who needs it's running time extended to a full hour. And those extra ten minutes, would give the stories that bit of extra breathing space to retain all those little moments that can help to build dramatic weight. Now in the case of Closing Time, I don't necessarily think the episode needs another ten minutes, but I got the distinct impression that the Cyber-climax was hurried to make room for the coda which sets up the big season finale. 

And speaking of which, these closing scenes certainly seemed to smooth over any feathers ruffled by the Cybermen's demise. So it is River is the Astronaut! And what;s this in the Next Week preview - Pterodacyls! Pyramids! Daleks! 

I suspect the next spoiler-free review is going to be a bugger to write...


* And probably a great many folk in their middle years too :)