Archive for sci-fi

Classic Doctor Who on Horror Channels

Posted in TV with tags , , , , on October 28, 2014 by bytor

Following the successful run of classic Doctor Who episodes shown around the time of the 50th Anniversary celebrations, Horror Channel has recently acquired the rights to show a new group of ‘classics’. They started in October and run on weekdays. Two episodes are shown each day and they are repeated morning, afternoon and evening, so there are plenty of chances to catch them.

Here is a list of the start dates of each serial. (Keep checking back as list will be updated).

28/10/2014   The Sontaran Experiment (2 episodes, 4th doctor)

29/10/2014   The Sunmakers (4 episodes, 4th doctor)

31/10/2014   The Ribos Operation (4 episodes, 4th doctor, Mary Tamm as Romana 1)

1/11/2014      The Three Doctors (omnibus) (Saturday)

4/11/2014     The Pirate Planet (4 episodes, 4th doctor, written by Douglas Adams)

6/11/2014     The Stones Of Blood (4 episodes, 4th doctor)

8/11/2014     Death To The Daleks (Saturday omnibus, 3rd doctor)

10/11/2014   The Androids Of Tara (4 episodes, 4th doctor)

12/11/2014   The Keeper Of Traken (4 episodes, 4th doctor)

14/11/2014   Logopolis (4 episodes, 4th doctor, regeneration episode!)

15/11/2014   The Masque Of Mandragora (Saturday omnibus, repeat)

18/11/2014   Kinda (4 episodes, 5th doctor)

20/11/2014   Frontios (4 episodes, 5th doctor)

22/11/2014   The Robots Of Death (Saturday omnibus)

24/11/2014   The Two Doctors (6 episodes, Troughton & Colin Baker)

27/11/2014   The Greatest Show In The Galaxy (7th doctor)

29/11/2014   The Horror of Fang Rock (Saturday omnibus, repeat)

1/12/14         Silver Nemesis (7th doctor)

3/12/14         An Unearthly Child (1st doctor, repeat)

6/12/14         The Brain Of Morbius (Sat omnibus, 4th doctor, repeat)

10/12/14       The Mind Robber (2nd doctor, repeat)

13/12/14       The Caves of Androzani (Saturday omnibus)

15/12/14       The Seeds of Death (2nd doctor, repeat)

18/12/14       The Silurians (3rd doctor)

20/12/14       Attack of the Cybermen (Saturday omnibus, 6th doctor, repeat)

23/12/14       Inferno (3rd doctor, repeat)

27/12/14       Remembrance of the Daleks (Saturday omnibus, 7th doctor, repeat)

29/12/14       Terror of the Autons (3rd doctor, repeat)

31/12/14        The Daemons (3rd doctor, repeat)

2/1/15             The Sea Devils (3rd doctor, repeat)

3/1/15             The Sun Makers (Saturday omnibus, 4th doctor, repeat)

7/1/15             Carnival of Monsters (3rd doctor, repeat)

9/1/15             The Three Doctors (repeat)

(to be updated….)

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The Lost Stories of Classic Doctor Who

Posted in TV with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2013 by bytor

In my last post I looked at what were generally considered to be “classics” of the “Classic” era (1963-89) of Doctor Who. As I have become more familiar with the Hartnell and Troughton eras, it has become obvious that a lot of the lost episodes were at least worth investigating, and some might be considered classics in themselves.

In total 106 episodes are currently missing from the first two doctors’ eras, and it seems unlikely that any more will be recovered. So how can you enjoy them?

Well you need a little dedication and persistance, but here are several ways:

  • First check out which serials are missing here at Wikipedia
  • There are novelisations of all of these stories available from the usual places. Example for “Marco Polo” from the first season.
  • The audio soundtracks from the original TV episodes still exist, and many are available individually as CDs or download (E.g. Marco Polo). There are also 5 boxed sets of CDs containing between them all the missing serials, along with some interesting additional info as data on the CDs e.g. original scripts.

Doctor Who photonovel exampleSometimes, however, you need a visual cue to really engage with the story even in audio form. The official BBC Doctor Who website has hidden away in the “Classic” section, a number of “photonovels” that are basically still pictures with captions to tell the story. Some of them have links to sound effects, but these are clearly from another era, as they are Real Audio links which most broswers no longer accept. These give a surprisingly good feel for the stories.

In addition, the episode guide at the BBC Doctor Who website also gives additional insights into each story. (Example: Marco Polo). Strangely, there is another, separate, episode guide also on the BBC DW site, that contains further different information about each of the old episodes. These often include a picture gallery, and sometimes even video clips. (Example again, Marco Polo).

Finally, there is the synthesis of the soundtracks and available clips and photos, in the form of fan-made “reconstructions” (or recons). These are certainly unofficial, and no doubt infringe BBC copyright, but appear to be tolerated by the Beeb. These are made by various groups of fans, but one of the best collections is by Loose Cannon Productions who have a full collection covering all the missing serials. You can find them from various sources that you might expect, such as their website, on video sharing sites like YouTube. If you really like them, the whole collection is floating about the internet in one big 8GB torrent. It’s not too difficult to find.

Essential Classic Doctor Who

Posted in TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2013 by bytor

dw banner

With the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who taking place later this year, my interest in “classic” (i.e. 1963-1989, before the 2005 restart) Doctor Who has resurfaced. I have scoured various blogs, and websites and taken a consensus view on which are the classics to seek out.

A significant number of the old shows (especially from Patrick Troughton years) are lost forever, but the majority of what exists is available in some form on DVD. (see wikipedia list). Also quite a few are on various online video sites like Daily Motion etc.

Stories that were recommended more than once among my sources, have been marked with an asterisk.

It’s well worth having a look at the source web pages (listed at the foot of this post), to see why the various stories were recommended.

First Doctor (William Hartnell, 1963-65)

*An Unearthly Child

The Edge of Destruction

*The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve (unavailable on DVD)

The War Machines

Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton, 1966-68)

*Tomb of the Cybermen

*The Mind Robber

The Invasion

Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee, 1970-73)

*The Spearhead From Space

The Silurians

The Ambassadors of Death

*Inferno

Terror of the Autons

The Daemons

The Green Death

The Time Warrior

Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker, 1974-80)

The Ark in Space

*Genesis of the Daleks

Pyramids of Mars

The Deadly Assassin

The Robots of Death

*The Talons of Weng-Chiang

Horror of Fang Rock

*The City of Death

Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison, 1982-84)

The Visitation

Earthshock

*The Caves of Androzani

Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker, 1985-86)

Trial of a Time Lord series

Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy, 1987-89)

Remembrance of the Daleks

Ghost Light

*The Curse of Fenric

Sources: (thanks to each)

http://io9.com/5939314/old+school-doctor-who-episodes-that-everyone-should-watch

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/series/the-best-doctor-who-episodes-of-all-time

http://www.geeksofdoom.com/2011/04/18/new-to-who-10-classic-doctor-who-adventures-worth-checking-out

http://flavorwire.com/380883/11-classic-doctor-who-episodes-for-fans-of-the-reboot

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3674193/The-10-greatest-episodes-of-Doctor-Who-ever.html

http://theoncominghope.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/5-best-classic-who-episodes-for-newbies.html

New Doctor Who (spoiler-free)

Posted in TV with tags , , , , , , , on April 3, 2010 by bytor

Matt Smith as the Eleventh DoctorSo, the new series of Doctor Who has started and with it the reign of Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor. I can’t believe I almost missed it. In this day of PVRs and time shifting that hardly is the earth-shattering faux pas it might have been, but still… I sort of knew the new series was coming, but I had tried to avoid getting caught up in any hype, hoping I could watch it objectively.

I knew it was on today, but I didn’t realise it was so early. I didn’t even have a Season Pass set on Tivo! Aaaaaanyhoo. Here are a few first thoughts, and in deference to all and sundry out there who haven’t yet watched it, this post shall be free of spoilers.

First of all, it was great. Anyone who was any kind of fan of the previous few seasons of the rebooted “Who” will enjoy this. Of course anyone who was a fan of the rebooted “Who” agreed that the very best of it was written by a certain Steven Moffat, who just happens to be the new controller in chief. Of course with his new great powers, comes great responsibilty and one might have had concerns about meeting the challenge of introducing a new Doctor, kick-starting the series after a year long semi-drought (only the “specials” to keep the fans going), introducing a new companion, and new Tardis even.

It was a good story, but not Moffat’s best. It recycled a few key plot elements from one of his past classics. It’s tone was noticable lighter than the “dark and scary” we have come to recognize as the signature of Moffat’s stories. However it was perfect at doing all the setting up and introduction of new characters. The new Doctor is a bit like Tennant’s doctor but a bit wackier. Also a bit more full of himself, but not in an annoying way. It may be that Matt Smith was playing the character deliberately a bit like Tennant in view of his recent regeneration (he said himself he “wasn’t cooked yet”) but if this is how the new Doctor is, I could deal with him. In short, Matt Smith has in one episode made the character his own, and only the most ardent Tennant fan-boy/girls would be complaining. As someone said on Twitter, there’s a bit of Tom Baker in him, and I can see that, a bit of an weird alien gleam in his otherwise human-like eye…

The new companion, Amy Pond, a bonny Scots red-haired hotty – what’s not to like? Jesting aside, she seems a perfect foil for Matt Smith’s new Doctor. Not as bolshy as Donna was, but independent and feisty nevertheless. The new Tardis interior is revealed, not hugely different from the previous one, but a bit more…..steampunky?

One complaint – the new music. I don’t like it. The beginning has a stupid orchestral bit to it and takes an extra few bars to get to the familiar theme. Because of this the actual best bit has been left out. You know, that bit where the melody modulates into a major key. Maybe I’ll get used to it but I don’t think so. On the plus side the visuals for the new title sequence looked good. Even the new logo (which I must confess I hated the look when I first saw it) seemed to fit in OK.

There were a few nice nods to the past history of the series and the trailers for the future epsodes look fantastic. Key enemies return (ones that you would predict, and a couple you might not) as well as possibly the return of some old friends. There was what looked like an episode set in WW2, and another with an apparent coven of female vampires (strangely NONE of them were touched by the ugly stick), as well as a few special guests such as Bill Nighy. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

Doctor Who – The Waters of Mars micro-review (minor spoilers)

Posted in TV with tags , , , , , on November 16, 2009 by bytor

waters of marsI just finished watching the latest Doctor Who special and the last before the two part Christmas finale which marks the end of the Tennant reign. I loved the trailers for this special and have looked forward to it eagerly. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed. It was not bad, just not nearly as good as the trailer hype.

Liked:

 

  • The Mars biodome – shades of Silent Running. Could have been a great atmospheric setting for many scenes. Instead criminally underused.
  • Ensemble cast of trapped workers in an alien environment with some monster(s) on the loose. Always a good potential – see “Alien” and many others.
  • The exploration of the idea the the Doctor was getting fed up being a slave to cosmic events, and wanted to take more control
  • The actual infected people. Great make up.
  • Adelaide’s ultimate act
  • The trailer for the Christmas special

 

Didn’t like:

  • The underuse of the outside/biodome setting.
  • The shallowness of the characters. We never really got to know any of the supporting characters. Even with Adelaide I didn’t feel I really connected with her. There was a hint of tension between her and the 2nd in command Ed but this was never expanded upon.
  • The stupid robot (reminded me of the dumb robot guards in the Phantom Menace)
  • The over the top uptempo music for the running scenes.
  • David Tennant’s portrayal of the change in character of the Doctor seemed forced and black and white with little subtlety.
  • The use of the newspaper/website reports to “fill in” the backstory of the characters seemed a lazy way to do it.
  • It wasn’t nearly as frightening as it could have been. Previous episode “Blink” was much more frightening.
  • The explanation of why the water was infected was lame and confused.

Overall I think I can only give it 6, maybe 7 at a stretch. I was hoping it was going to be a 8 or a 9 out of 10.

District 9 review

Posted in film with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2009 by bytor

district9 poster[FIRST SECTION HAS NO SPOILERS]

District 9 tells the tale of aliens among us. Among the citizens of South Africa to be precise, after a huge alien ship full of refugees becomes stranded above Johannesburg 20 years ago. The story is of the tensions between locals and the huge and growing refugee camp population as they are being forcibly evicted and moved on by the authorities to another camp further away from humans. Some humour, much gore and violence, and a little discomfort ensues as the treatment of the aliens show the humans in a pretty bad light.

The story is told in a docudrama style with excellent realistic effects despite the relatively limited budget. Despite being a bit uneven, particularly toward the end, it holds the attention well enough to be fun. Underneath however is a fairly conventional story of bad guys, Nigerian scammers, cat food, aliens, and redemption. There’s even a cute kid in there.

Rating: ☻☻☻1/2

[THIS PART HAS MINOR SPOILERS]

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The new movie produced by Peter Jackson and directed by South African newcomer Neill Blomkamp District 9 has been receiving quite a bit of hype recently ahead of is UK release this week.

It tells the story of a alien refugee camp set up in the outskirts of Johannesburg after the mysterious appearance of a huge alien space ship 20 years ago. It is shot in a documentary style, full of shaky cam, and faux news-reel footage. Interspersed are talking head vox pops from key players in the story reflecting back on events from some future point, hinting at the main events in the unfolding story.

Early on it is clear that there are many tensions between locals and aliens mirroring similar situations during the  apartheid era and inevitably trouble ensues. In the middle of this is Wikus Van De Merwe, an employee of MNU – Multi National United, a private militarised organisation who are tasked with a mass eviction and removal of the settlers/refugees to a “safer” new camp located further away from J’burg.

At first Wikus’s actions and attitude as he goes about serving “eviction notices” is reprehensible, but a chance incident changes him and his course of life completely. Later on Wikus is no longer part of the establishment, but now an outsider and a fugitive, and has to turn for help to those he was formerly persecuting.

The effects, despite being a relatively low budget film (only $30M) are excellent, and prove that modernfilmmakers have truly nailed integrating photorealistic CGI into hand held live action (see also Cloverfield). There are a lot of obvious sources that are swiped, or alternatively paid homage to; Robocop, Starship Troopers, Transformers, Independence Day, Minority Report, and any number of console first person shooters with bald space marines and gravity guns.

The style slightly confused me. On the one hand the early scenes seemed somewhat over the top with humour that seemed to point to a Robocop style satire. But later things seem a bit more serious with some thought provoking scenes covering issues of detention, torture, vivisection and governmental and corporate greed.

However in the end it turns into an action-fest complete with a fun but unnecessary battle involving a heavily armoured troops and a giant manga-style exoskelton, and ultimately winds up as a heartwarming but conventional tale of redemption.

I’ll never eat prawns again.

Moon is a harsh mistress

Posted in film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2009 by bytor
Duncan Jones' "Moon".

Duncan Jones' "Moon".

[SPOILER FREE]

[Update: Moon has received 4 nominations for SpikeTV’s Scream awards; Best SF Film, Best SF Director, Best SF actor (Sam Rockwell) and Best Screenplay. Vote HERE!) ]

So I finally managed to go and see the new movie Moon (warning there are spoilers on the official site!) directed by Duncan Jones. I had heard a bit about it from the internet (and inevitably the Twitterverse in particular, Peter Serafinowicz was vocal in his appreciation of the film) and it sounded right up my street. I am a science fiction fan, and while I enjoy they recent trend of CGI heavy explosion-fests as much as the next man, I have a soft spot for the more low fi gritty realism and thoughtfulness of films such as Silent Running, Outland, 2001 and Alien.

Trouble was this is a relatively low budget offering from a new director and it wasn’t on widespread release. So eventually I decided that this bank holiday I would track it down. I found that it was still playing at a number of cinemas near Leicester Square in London, and I decided on the small independent Prince Charles Cinema. It took just over an hour to get there, and the cost of travel was more than the entry ticket, but thankfully the film was well worth the effort.

Sam Rockwell gives an outstanding performance as Sam Bell, a solitary worker at a private corporation run mining facility on the far side of the moon. He single handedly runs operations with the aid of a HAL-like computer system, Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey). When not on the job, he spends his time watching video messages from his wife back on earth, growing plants (just a hint of Silent Running), and meticulously hand crafting a model of his hometown on earth.

The first act puts us in the boots of Sam, showing us the grind of his day to day work and his longing for his 3 year contract to be over so he can go home. There is just a hint of loopiness to his demeanour, but is it eccentricity borne of years in effective solitary confinement or the signs of something more?

The film deals with themes such as the loneliness of space, isolation, and how humans might deal with such situations. There are stylistic nods to 2001 in the white futuristic-retro octagonal corridors, and the soothing voiced computer who may or may not be completely on Sam’s side, but also shades of Alien in the future environment as a contemporary dirty work environment. Ridley Scott’s truckers in space behaviour is echoed by the miner in space of Sam (in a similar way to the drillers under the sea in The Abyss, or indeed the mining facility setting of Outland). The base seems lived in and real, not some space operatic construction.

Later as twists and turns unfold, we are asked to ponder the meaning of self and memory. The film despite being made on a small budget looks great, and a special mention must also go to the fantastically atmospheric and evocative score by Clint Mansell (formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself). The film is by turns laugh out loud funny, sad, thoughtful and tense. It doesn’t blast you out of your seat with effects but makes you think. It also is well paced (maybe a touch slow for some people, but I liked Solaris…☺) and hangs together well as a whole. I left the cinema feeling that I had seen a great movie. You know, when everything just feels…right. I can’t wait for more from Duncan Jones.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥