Doctor Who

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Doctor Who "Daleks" Images Find The TARDIS Looking Pretty Sick & More

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/12/2021 - 5:41am in

Set to land on New Year's Day, the BBC released more images from Doctor Who "Eve of the Daleks"- including one of a very sick TARDIS.

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol – Steven Moffat's 1st Overbaked Special

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/12/2021 - 12:38am in

Doctor Who A Christmas Carol is Steven Moffat's first and most overbaked Christmas Special, just throwing in way too much for the viewers.

Dan Slott Writes New Doctor Who In 2022

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/12/2021 - 4:18am in


Comics, Doctor Who

I know it must have stuck in his craw for some time that I'd written a Doctor Who comic and he hadn't. And I also guess that Dan Slott is no longer a

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Four. Starburst #15.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/12/2021 - 9:39pm in


Doctor Who

Today I’m continuing my tour through fond objects and texts from my past with something I left the tattered remains of behind in that attic I mentioned. I’ve been re-buying a whole run of these.

Such an interesting order of priorities on the cover.

I chose #15 (from 1979) at random, and because the cover brought back strong associations, but I wasn’t sure, before this re-reading, quite of what. It turns out, though, that this issue really does exemplify what made Starburst such a big part of my childhood, for good and ill.

My first issue of the magazine was #2, which shouted out to me from the shelves of my local newsagent because of the giant space battleship on the cover (editor Dez Skinn had taken a punt on this obscure-for-the-UK movie having the most striking cover). It was a bit irksome, though, that the price was 50p. That was one week’s pocket money. So I could bicycle the two miles to Calne on a Saturday morning, and either buy two whole Marvel comics or a single Starburst. Distribution was also spotty, so I missed loads of issues.

That price point indicates that awkward place that Starburst occupied in terms of audience demographic. Children bought it, but so did adults, and the magazine did its best to use one voice to cover both. So there’s no swearing, but lots of sniggering, because often that awkwardness ended up being adolescent. Still, in 1979 I was an adolescent.

#15 starts with Skinn’s editorial column, where he talks about bumping into, at the 37th World Science Fiction Convention, earlier that year, ‘a gentleman named Douglas Adams. Shame on you if the name means nothing, but it soon will.’ He mentions this because the magazine has its first article on the radio series in that issue, complete with the single publicity photo they’ve managed to source. The editorial goes on to mention Doctor Who Weekly, ‘a cross between Starburst and House of Hammer‘ will be coming soon. That HoH reference is probably there to underline that DWW will contain comic strips, something Starburst tried in the early issues, but gave up on, seemingly due to reader outrage that they should be exposed to anything so juvenile as comics. (Like I said, adolescent, and it gets worse.)

That’s such a weird photo.

The collective voice of Starburst, while of course shaped by Skinn, is largely formed, in these early issues, by three writers: Tony Crawley, Tise Vahimagi and, most of all, John Brosnan. In this issue, Brosnan reviews the new John Mills Quatermass series in a feature article. Starburst reviews seem odd to modern readers in that they detail the plot of the subject matter at some length. At the time, this made enormous sense; whatever it was, you were only going to see it once, twice if you were lucky. The reader needed to be reminded of the details, and this reminding helped keep the oral tradition of the movie or TV show’s plot alive in the playground. The other odd thing to modern eyes is how harsh the reviews could be. Starburst, at this point, was the only means by which production companies could connect their product to a mass fannish audience. The magazine had the upper hand, getting lavish visual materials from the film makers and then slagging off the end product. (There are even cast interviews where the questions they’re asked are based on the assumption that everyone knows the show they’re in is rubbish. You can hear in the answers American actors reacting with defensive incredulity and British ones awkwardly apologising.) In this issue there’s a feature review entitled: ‘Prophecy: A Monster Flop?’ Of course it’s exciting, and it appealed hugely to the readership, that here was a magazine telling the truth, just giving its unvarnished opinion, and sticking it to the bigtime producers. Whoever they were. But you can see why producers might wonder why they’re offering such cooperation.

Brosnan’s Quatermass review is very positive (‘a triumph for all concerned’), but ends with the BBC being scolded for not making the serial (‘one trusts… [the BBC] are hanging their heads in shame’). As well as summarising the plot, it includes interview snippets with the production team, and a lot of trying to fit this into the continuity of the previous Quatermass serials, which are, of course, seen in that time as having happened really not that long ago. There’s a lot of worrying about continuity and plot holes in Starburst. Brosnan’s voice really bloomed, however, when he got his own column, It’s Only a Movie, where he seemingly got to talk about whatever he liked, offering short reviews, and often starting from a (comedic, but also real) place of trying to get his latest novel onscreen. His job was to cause controversy in the letters page, and he knew it, going beyond honesty to actively antagonise the readership on a handful of occasions. He’s going to review Star Trek positively and negatively, holding the standard opinion of British male SF fandom at the time that the original series was cheap and cheesy, and that thus The Motion Picture’s pomp was laughable. He did that, however, with a side order of mocking ‘Trekkies’, who he felt were inherently mockable. He regarded ‘feminists’ as simply another word for ‘censors’, and talked back to feminist correspondents with a sort of grand disdain. (The magazine’s collective voice, however, did take a stand against the meaningless violence of the huge number of slasher movies of the time, and Brosnan shared that view.) Starburst in general always had a problem when it attracted a female audience, dealing immensely awkwardly with the (very woman-led) Blake’s 7 fandom that was emerging, who wrote in with an agenda that included wanting more pictures of Paul Darrow and which also cared more about story, character and fun than about continuity, plot holes and cheesiness. Skinn clearly didn’t want to alienate any audience, but the letters page has some wince-worthy moments of treating women readers like alien ambassadors. Also, there are a lot of cheescake photos in Starburst, including a whole article’s worth of them in the ‘Fantasy Females’ issue (#20).

It’s hardly FHM, and yet it’s full on objectifcation.

Now, at the time, this was, for me, a major part of the attraction of the magazine. I can’t deny it. And I’m not ashamed of the shape of my sexuality back then. But what is worrying is the combination of the once-every-three-issues cheesecake photo (in #15 it’s Joanna Lumley as Purdey, and that alone may be why the cover gives me a frisson) and the opinionated, angry, proto-that-guy-on-the-internet voice of the magazine. I think that cocktail influenced my own work in a bad way, in that it gave me licence to dismiss and perve, all at once. (When I wrote my own column for SFX, which is several years’ worth of monthly stumbling disaster, I now realise I alternated between the different voices I’d picked out from Starburst, leading to quite a lot of awfulness, all of which was my own fault.) This powerful combo works for the Daily Mail, and I kind of hate now that I was an avid consumer of it from the age of twelve. I don’t think it’s Dez Skinn’s fault. I think it’s just capitalism and culture using my hormones against me.

But let’s talk about those other Starburst voices that I drew upon. Tony Crawley, in this issue and always, writes the news and gossip section Things to Come, which gives the reader the feeling of having a conversation with a proper insider, someone who keeps stories stewing with tiny details across several issues. We’re given here, for instance, a startling insight into how terribly the making of Superman 2 seems to be going, which isn’t even a matter of ‘a source close to the production’ but just tells us ‘the row is about [Brando’s] cut of the sequel’s profits’. The column is opinated, but also playful, a whisper in the reader’s ear from one in the know. ‘These kind of absurd financial gambles are going to crush a producer or two soon, if not bury an entire studio or two… and very soon.’

Quite some advertising on the Things to Come pages.

The third of the great Starburst writers represented in this issue is Tise Vahimagi, more of a scholar than the others, and , sharing as he did my interest in ancient TV, my favourite at the time. Here, he gives the first two Sapphire and Steel serials a very mixed review (‘strange, roving camerawork which is likely to disorientate the viewer’). He doesn’t like that nothing is explained, which is very him. He also got a regular column, TV Zone, which was one of the first scholarly attempts to catalogue genre TV. It largely featured Vahimagi, working from memory and his own notes, talking about the history of shows he’d once seen and we, the readers, had not. One memorable column had him gently tutting at the audience about how difficult it would be for him to actually see any of the shows he talked about. (And he was right.) I loved his love of The Outer Limits, and him continually having to tell the readers that he shared their frustration at TV stations not actually screening any of this material.

The canon of the three role-playing games which readers had ever heard of.

Also in this issue there’s an (of course highly opinionated) history of Doctor Who, which ends by speculating that Graham Williams and Tom Baker will both be leaving soon, and Phil Edwards, the magazine’s other great historian, describing and reviewing The Day the Earth Stood Still, part of the brand’s commendable efforts to create a canon of SF movie and TV history. (Back then, I and my peers still had the vague sense that we might be able to one day see all movie SF.) There’s also an example of the magazine’s willingness to bend over backwards for a small movie that will send them lots of good images (I’ve recently looked up a few movies whose titles I was familiar with from big Starburst articles but whose fate, undistributed or unmade, I wasn’t aware of.) Gandahar vs. The Metal Warriors gets a two part feature and the cover! The letters page includes correspondence hoping that SF has evolved beyond being ‘childish and frivolous’ and another that uses the phrase ‘What piffle!’ Angela Montgomery’s Book World column (the non-fiction, YA fiction and SF fiction combo of which made it the first thing I read every issue) is just as opinionated as everything else, calling the plot of Alien hokey and saying a children’s novel grips ‘like… a Bandaid in the bath’.

Gorgeous advertising (including some Brian Bolland art) from the inside front cover.

All in all, I find the distance I have now from this central feature of my childhood a little disturbing. It was a different time. Of course it was. But that time formed me, and Starburst helped form me, and I can’t deny that what made me remains in me. I think you’ll find. Actually.

Tomorrow: My Picks of the Year. (Yes, I’m doing some of the regular features too!)

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Full Gold Free Comic Book Day 2022 Solicits – Including Dog Man

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/12/2021 - 7:08am in


Comics, Doctor Who

In order to qualify for Free Comic Book Day 2022 status, retailers have to order at least twenty copies of each of the following twelve Gold Free Comic

Doctor Who: BBC/BBC America Release "Eve of the Daleks" Preview Images

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/12/2021 - 10:59am in

With less than three weeks to go, the BBC and BBC America released a set of four preview images for Doctor Who special "Eve of the Daleks."

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: One. Star Wars and Other Space Themes.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/12/2021 - 9:13pm in


Doctor Who

Yeah, it’s that time of the year again. I know what this signifies: you have no time left to do that thing you need to do. The start of Radio Free Skaro’s Advent Calendar should have warned you. But no, you left it until we got here. Well, go off and do it, then come back, that’s what I say. Okay? You’ve done it? Cool. Let’s go. (Yesterday I went into London for a comic mart, my first since the pandemic. I’m recording the Hammer House of Podcast Christmas Commentary tonight, and tomorrow I’m back to London for festive drinks. So we’re all having a busy week together.)

This year I’m aiming, for most of the 12 Blogs, to feature some specific items from my past, be they physical texts, like comics, magazines or today’s vinyl LP or perhaps TV episodes or movies, in order to begin to grapple with the hardest of topics for me: nostalgia. I’ve always thrown myself into the future without much thought for the past. I still automatically feel the future is better than the past, the new generation is better than previous ones, etc. I’m proud of that. I get itchy when people start to talk about how ‘everything was better back in my day’. The sentence contains the implicit premise that their day is over. To talk like that is to court death, to say that one is now past enjoying the now, never mind the future, and can only look back. (I’m sure Thanos was always going on about how the universe was better when he was a small, blue lad and it was all fields on Titan.) I’m helped in this regard by my truly terrible memory.

So, when my Mum died, and left an attic full of stuff from my childhood, I didn’t really touch the boxes of old British comics, books, records and annuals (which were, I admit, covered in the dust of an attic), I left it to my brother to try to auction them. (I’d taken the American comics with me, decades before.) They ended up being disposed of. From the vantage point of now, I think there was more going on than me feeling there was much monetary value to anything there, and not wanting to set off a huge allergic reaction by getting down and dirty with those boxes. I think I was denying that I felt any connection to that house, my parents, the past. I could let that all go, so I did. And now I think that was an enormous over-reaction to my troubled childhood. I have a sort of time tunnel in my head, which leads from my thoughts now to a fixed point of memory: standing at the top of the ladder in that attic, looking at it all. I often feel I could just step forward and start picking it all up. I’ve been past the house a couple of times, and, ridiculously, I’ve felt the urge to go and ask the new owners if I could have a look in their attic. (Where I would meet Sapphire and Steel.)

I started to collect the items I was most missing. And I’ve now got my hands on quite a few of them, mostly in better condition than when I let go of them. (One of them, which we’ll be talking about later in the run, I think might actually be my original copy.) I even bought a vinyl player to access some of them, initally thinking to record the tracks onto digital before I realised that I actually now owned them on a playable storage system! So I thought for this year’s 12 Blogs I’d talk about several of these items, about what they mean to me now, and what they meant to me then. Perhaps we can walk along that time tunnel together.

Let’s start with something extremely fun.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is th-5.jpgArt by Tom Chantrell (thanks to Nick Setchfield for identifying the artist).

This was a major Christmas list item across the UK in 1978 (of course), the cover neatly summing up the British public’s confused reaction to the arrival of Star Wars as a culure-changing force. It’s quite something, that cover, managing to avoid copyright by adding noses to spaceships and re-casting our leads while nevertheless conveying to the buyer exactly what they’re getting. (It sold in such enormous quantities that there still, by law, has to be at least one copy in every UK charity shop.)

What it isn’t is an attempt to say these are the original pieces of music. To hear those on disc in 1978 would have been startling. The public were used to the idea of original music, even Top 40 hits, being too expensive for compilation makers to take a risk on. (The Now That’s What I Call Music series broke that pattern, to enormous success, a decade or so later.)

Into the breach stepped Geoff Love (and many lesser artists). Love was a British dance band leader who’d risen through the ranks of jobbing musicians at a time when that largely involved playing live. As the dance bands died out, he started concentrating on a recording career, working with Shirley Bassey and Peter and Gordon, and scoring enormous hits under his secret identity of Manuel and his Music of the Mountains. Then he branched out into the theme business, and started having huge hit complilation albums (on the budget Music For Pleasure label) such as Big Western Movie Themes (1969) and Big War Movie Themes (1971), getting seriously successful with Big Bond Movie Themes (1975) at a time when nobody could hear the Bond themes at home in any other way. And then came this, a truly enormous hit which cemented Love’s place in every front room in Britain, as a truly mainstream artist, less hip but way more accepted than even Abba.

A truly mainstream artist of colour. A fact which he hardly hid, but, because his greatest successes took place not on television but in the living room, nobody at the time seemed to know. I certainly didn’t. If I thought of Geoff Love as a person at all, rather than as a style of music, I’d have thought of him as someone you’d see as the host of, say, the orchestra on a TV variety special, a middle-aged white guy in a tuxedo and a frilly blue shirt.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mw58793.jpgGeoff Love in his younger days.

The genius of Geoff Love is that, unlike several of his lesser copyists, he didn’t attempt perfect copies of the themes as originally heard. If he had we wouldn’t remember him. He made very much his own versions, with arrangements that continued the big band era into the 1970s, showing what a current dance band would do with modern musical trends. That makes some of the music a little camp, some of it genuinely groovy or ground-breaking, and most of it extremely charming.

Let’s go through Star Wars and Other Space Themes track by track. (All titles as they’re printed on the sleeve.)

Side One.

1: Main Title from Star Wars.

This is actually not a great place to start with Geoff Love, because we’re all so used to the original now that any other orchestra covering it can’t help but feel inferior. Love doesn’t take any great liberties, knowing that with this one the kids will want exactly what they heard at the cinema.

2: U.F.O.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Love puts a wah-wah funky bass up front, and picks out a morse code signal across what feels like an exciting new middle eight, making the whole thing sound like loungecore espionage luxury.

3: Theme from Star Trek.

This is truly amazing. It starts like a 1970s L.A. rock number, then has brass come in to chart a fairly conventional start to the Original Series theme, before going all wild, like we’re strolling with the Enterprise crew down to the disco in flares and built-up boots, all Shaft urban grit. This is what Nile Rogers would do with this theme. Then it breaks into a funky mid-section, flirts with the original theme again, still to a dance beat, and returns to something relatively conventional before the end. All in all, it says Trek is very American, quite funky and kind of a year or so past it’s time, all of which was very true back then. (I’m normally very concerned about copyright, but I don’t think this is available anywhere that the Love estate could benefit from it.)

The Shaft section really should have lyrics. ‘He’s a complicated man and no-one understands him but his Captain.’ ‘Just talkin’ about Spock.’

4: Barbarella.

This is great, because it’s where Love’s aesthetic really melds with the original subject matter. Love picks out the spelling out of our heroine’s name in little tinkly bells, gets epic every now and then, only to comfy it back down to something terribly fond, smooth and caring. This feels like it loves Barbarella and we should too. It’s actually a bit better than the original soundtrack sung version.

5: Space 1999.

The original was pretty funky, but this adds a little more slapped bass, big drums and keeps the guitars going for a middle eight that’s almost a clap along call and response thing before bringing the theme back in with a bang. There’s some guitar improv around the lead going on here too. Putting the strings up front is nice, making them sound almost like sirens singing. Still, the original is awesome and this doesn’t do enough that’s different to really compete.

6: Also Sprach Zarathustra.

This one is a bit of a trap for other cover orchestras. Neil Norman and his Cosmic Orchestra, notably, do a truly horrible job on it on Galaxy Gold, reminding one of that amateur orchestra who’ve picked up the instruments for the first time. (‘Parp… parp…. par-parrppppp!’) Love abandons the Strauss after a little while and wanders, eccentrically, into a violin solo that seems to suggest something falling through space before the big drums thunder back in. Tinkering with this stuff is pretty brave, but, incredibly, it works. Then it’s back to the original big moments for a rousing ending to the side. Phew, he added stuff to a classical standard!

Side two.

1: March from “Things to Come”.

This might have been chosen because, by Sir Arthur Bliss it’s a ancestor of the Star Wars theme, doing a lot of the same things, including the big start followed by the lighter strings. Seriously, John Williams might well have had this in mind, alongside the various classical tracks used by the Flash Gordon serials. Also, there wasn’t that huge a canon of movie and TV SF themes that were much fun. This is why there’s a picture of an astronaut with a weird egg-shaped thing behind him on the cover, this still being pretty much all we knew about the movie Things to Come when I was growing up.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1936_things_to_come_002-raymond-massey-600x361.jpgBig helmet.

2: Thunderbirds.

This tinkly arrangement goes in the opposite direction from the epic march of the original, instead concentrating on the already-funky high kicks that say, in the title sequence, that this is mod fun for this year’s kids. Then it goes all out on the Lady Penelope bits, giving her a long bit of sax improv. Then it breaks into some more high kicks. All in all, it’s much more pop than pomp, and actually rather more like the series was than what the original theme wanted it to be.

3: Princess Leia’s Theme from “Star Wars”.

This starts as a gentle piano solo, before the strings come in to make it more epic, and again initially doesn’t do too much to scare away the kids who’d seen the film. But then, enormous brass comes in and we’re suddenly in Lawrence of Arabia, with Carrie Fisher tracking across the desert in an epic sweep. It’s the sort of big, bold stuff that’s there for the character in the movie, but which needs this underlining in the soundtrack, and Love really gets that.

4: Dr. Who.

Wow. I want to hear this played at the Gallifrey One disco, because this is the most genuinely danceable disco version of the theme ever. It’s magnificent, leading with funky guitar, of course, with what sounds like a space train, or a spinning Tardis, rushing past in the first few seconds. The heroic middle eight sounds aptly brassy and bold, but then the space train comes back, bigger, and we’re falling, with a kind of McCoy era emphasis on the three big notes that say ‘Doc Tor Who’. But then it stops, counts time, and gets even bigger, led by saxophone, then strings, genuinely epic, and a little sad underneath it all. It ends with a sighing little flourish that says ‘back next week’ and recalls the flutter at the end of the Hinchcliffe-era opening theme. It’s perhaps my favourite version of the Who theme! And here it is!

Complete banger.

5. When Worlds Collide.

Being from a lesser-known movie, albeit one that was a staple of BBC1’s SF movie seasons, I think the reason Love chose this one is because he has such a good idea for the arrangement. It goes from being a little low key and sad, albeit cool and loungecore in a way that I don’t think entirely matches a George Pal disaster movie. ‘Hey, tiger, I think our worlds should collide.’ But then it goes all completely funky breakdown, pow! Then, having had tremendous fun, it returns to gentle hanging out at the club with lava lamps. It makes the imminent destruction of the Earth via collision with another planetary body feel like an incredibly chill and groovy experience, baby.

6: Mars, Bringer of War from “The Planets”.

Perhaps wisely, there’s no attempt to represent Quatermass on the album sleeve, and this is a straight rendition of the original Holst that merely demonstrates that Love’s orchestra can perfom admirably as a genuine classical outfit too. Honestly, it’s no When Worlds Collide. But it does end the album on a bang.

Back then, at Christmas 1978, I couldn’t have told you much of the above. I knew what some of the more obscure tracks were, because I was that sort of kid, but I had no hope at all of ever actually seeing Things to Come, for instance, and Thunderbirds was, for me then, the holy grail of adjusting the aerial on a portable television to try to pick up Southern TV, which showed it in the years HTV didn’t. But I do know that I loved the album and played it many times, and that these versions of the themes became the standard versions in my head, complete with all the cultural information they smuggled in about fashion and choice.

Thank you, Geoff, for that small broadening of my young mind. I’m sorry I felt I had to leave you behind.

Tomorrow: Avengers Weekly #1.

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Doctor Who Star John Bishop Shares "Flux" Finale BTS Video Diary

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/12/2021 - 6:56am in

With "Eve of the Daleks" set for New Year's Day, Doctor Who star John Bishop takes us behind the scenes of the Flux finale "The Vanquishers."

Doctor Who: Davies Wants to "Scare the Living S**t Out of You"- Moffat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/12/2021 - 2:11am in

Steven Moffat made it pretty clear what one of new Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies's plans are for his return to the show.

Chris Achilléos Passes Away, Aged 74

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/12/2021 - 6:04am in


Comics, Doctor Who

We have heard the news from friends that Chris Achilléos, the Cypriot-born British painter and illustrator who specialised in genre work, passed away on