SFScope friend Fred Lerner alerts us to this BBC article alerting us to the fact that two of the missing Doctor Who episodes have been rediscovered.
As with most early television, producers and broadcasters as a rule did not keep copies once programs had aired. As a very-long-running, well-loved series, Doctor Who is one of the targets of the ongoing Missing Believed Wiped project (part of the British Film Institute).
At Sunday’s event, the recovery of two episodes was announced: one from 1965, with William Hartnell as The Doctor; and one from 1967, with Patrick Troughton.
The recovered 1965 episode is part three of the four-part series “Galaxy Four,” in which the race of cloned females called Drahvins attempt to escape a planet which is about to explode. The story is the only appearance of the tiny robots called the Chumblies.The 1967 episode was part two of “The Underwater Menace,” in which a mad scientist tries to restore Atlantis by draining the ocean into the Earth’s core.
There are times we lose sight of Ricky Gervais’ comedic genius now that he has become a celebrity in his own right. The news that he will once again host the Golden Globe Awards brings with it nervous anticipation but the better news is that The Office Special Edition is coming out this week from Warner Home Video. The 2001 series is collected in its entirety with both Christmas specials included along with new featurettes plus the original bonus material.
Never before has there been a television series set in an office environment that felt so accurate even though there were some distinctly English touches. Coming two years after Mike Judge’s brilliant Office Space, Gervais and partner Stephen Merchant gave us the employees at Sough’s Wernham Hogg Paper Company and a mockumentary style that has been imitated by numerous shows ever since.
Gervais’ David Brent is everyone’s worst nightmare of a boss; a man who desperately wants to be liked and is willing to ignore the company’s smooth running so as not to ruffle anyone’s feathers. He’s surrounded by your basic office drudges, self-deluded ladder climbers, and the utterly clueless. With sharp writing and excellent casting, the series arrived on BBC 2 with a splash and it wasn’t long before American audiences embraced it. As happens all too often, NBC snapped it up for adaptation but in a rare feat, managed to do so successfully. With Steve Carrell and a wonderful ensemble, the show quickly exhausted the source material – a mere twelve thirty-minute episodes — and found its own voice. (more…)
I grew up on Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin, long before I knew there were graphic albums featuring Belgium’s greatest export after chocolate. Then, in the 1990s, they tried again with different results and it is that latter series being collected on DVD this month from Shout! Factory.
For those in need of reminding, take a look: (more…)
Imagine the BBC fifteen years ago, before the current explosion of science fiction and fantasy fare. It was a dowdy set of channels, working on the cheap, and not being necessarily accommodating to the needs of its shows. Instead, they often said we have a hole for X, please take your concept and make it fit.
While their schedules were not entirely devoid of genre fare, it came few and far between with offerings like [[[Neverwhere]]], which aired on BBC Two and was written by Neil Gaiman, in the flush of his success in America with Sandman. He met with producer Lenny Henry during England’s annual Comic Relief event and they began talking about a story. Lenny imagined a society below London and that was enough of a spark to get Gaiman going.
He conjured up a fully realized fantasy world and used the character of Richard Mayhew, a thoroughly typical citizen, who does a good deed and is rewarded with being plunged into this realm. The story of Neverwhere has been told and retold, first as a BBC miniseries, complete with 1996 novelization by Gaiman, and then, years later, a comic book adaptation from Vertigo. There’s been a steady stream of talk of a film version but it remains trapped in a realm of its own called Development Hell.
The BBC at the time treated it like any of its other broadcasts, giving the fantasy a budget fit for a situation comedy and then insisting it be produced in thirty-minute installments coupled with the even odder demand that it be shot on video not film. The result was an unsatisfactory event that has left Gaiman and fans demanding a Redo.
Instead, the BBC is releasing a fifteenth anniversary DVD edition of the miniseries on Tuesday. They had a Region 2 edition around for some time now but this is a first official release in the States. (more…)
Treacherous mermaids in the Sargasso Sea, mysterious death in Accra, an alien race beneath Mombasa and Voudou sorcery in Haiti? All this and more inside…. Jungle Jim is a bimonthly African pulp fiction magazine featuring genre-based writing from all over Africa. This inaugural issue contains three stories and the first part (in a series) of The White Darkness – a real-life account of cult film-maker Richard Stanley’s extraordinary experiences in Haiti as recorded in his private diaries while filming a documentary on Voudou for the BBC. Issues 1 – 5 are now available on Kindle through Amazon UK. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jungle-African-Pulp-Fiction-ebook/dp/B0055SW5NW/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1309464363&sr=8-10
PRIME SUSPECT was one of the most revered BBC series of all time. Now NBC is bringing a new version to their fall season with Maria Bello in the lead role. We talk to her about the good and bad things in taking the part, and what is the deal with that hat?? And a BEETLEJUICE sequel? Yep!
Doctor Who returned to TV last night and my household is thrilled. Big fans of the Doctor here; I once wrote and tried to produce a Doctor Who stage play with the idea that this was the only way I would ever get to play the Doctor. The play never got to production and, despite being the writer and the producer, I couldn’t get cast as the Doctor which tells you, right there, one of the big reasons I gave up acting.
There’s a lot to be done in this new series of episodes, including explaining how the Doctor, who was shot dead in the first episode of this season’s series of episodes, escapes (the Doctor who was killed was from 200 years down the time stream; did I mention that Doctor Who is about time travel?). If the show does not explain that by this end of this season, I will personally hunt down the show’s brilliant writer and show-runner, Stephen Moffat, and throw him into a Pandorica until he tells. (If you haven’t seen the show, don’t bother trying to understand the reference. In show in-joke.)
However, that’s not the point of this rant. When last seen, the current Doctor (Matt Smith) went to war to recover his companion, Amy Pond, and her newborn child who would grow up to become River Song who would become the Doctor’s wife at some point later in the time stream. The adult River is along for the adventure, by the way. Sound confusing, perhaps, I know; it’s a timey-wimey-wivey thing. It works. Trust me.
However, towards the end of the episode, River gives the Doctor crap about how his life is going, how he is becoming too much the warrior, and some such bilge. Excuse me? The Doctor goes up against nasty horrible bad guys that are trying to take over the Earth and/or destroy/enslave humanity and/or destroy the universe or time itself and the Doctor time and again defeats them armed with nothing but his wits and a sonic screwdriver.
This has happened before. The previous incarnation of the Doctor – David Tennant (The Doctor regenerates from time to time when they need to change the lead actor and it’s a wonderful idea that keeps the series fresh) – got taken to task by one of the worst of his enemies, a fiend called Davros who invented the Daleks who go around killing anything that isn’t a Dalek. Said fiend accuses the Doctor of manipulating his companions so that they do the dirty work so the Doctor doesn’t have to. And the Doctor appears to take him seriously! Where does the creator of the Daleks have any moral ground against the hero who has saved the universe time and again from the product of Davros’ invention?
Is the Doctor supposed to feel bad about being the hero? Am I supposed to think the Doctor is not the hero me thinks him is? The Doctor is the good guy here, folks; I don’t want him all angsty and doubting his own motives. I mean, c’mon – the next thing you know, he’ll be doubting that bow ties are cool!
I know bow ties are cool. The Doctor told me so. And I trust the Doctor.
*19 NOCTURNE BOULEVARD PRESENTS…THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP!
19 Nocturne Boulevard: Your Address for Strange Stories
has just released an audio version of Lovecraft ’s pulp-tastic tale of body-swapping , “The Thing on the Doorstep”. Go give it a listen, then maybe cycle through the rest of the episodes…you won’t be disappointed!
The Robert E. Howard Foundation is proud to present their newest collection of hard-to-find REH work, Spicy Adventures! Available now for pre-order, the collection contains eight full-length stories as well as odd bits and bobs of miscellanea as well as a kick-butt cover by Jim & Ruth Keegan! For information:
“This isn’t about humanity! This isn’t about the future!”
So said a member of the Outcasts cast late in the show’s abbreviated run and it’s a shame because a story set in the future should be about that very thing. Creator Ben Richards wrote earlier this year,
“The inspiration behind Outcasts was the desire to tell a pioneer story, and the only place you can do that really now is in space.
“I wanted to explore second chances, most fundamentally whether humanity is genetically hardwired to make the same mistakes again and again.
“The stories that kick start the series are intense, and hopefully moving, but the world view is never cynical or willfully pessimistic.”
In other words, he was hoping for the critical success of Battlestar Galactica but told stories more worthy of Space: 1999. The BBC series ran eight weeks earlier this year while it came to America in June to meet the same dismal critical reception. Now, BBC Video releases the complete series on a three-disc set.
Never heard of the show? That says a lot about how poorly received it was on both sides of the Atlantic. It was a serious-minded SF series, a counterpoint to the more over-the-top SF from England including Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Primeval. Sadly, it may have suffered more from self-importance than bad production.
Set in the middle of the 21st Century, mankind has ruined the Earth and its survivors have been coming in drips and drabs to the world of Carpathia, a mere five years’ travel distance. The remnants of humanity are trying to forge a new society but they all come with such baggage that fresh starts seem impossible. We join them ten years after the first colonists arrived and long after regular contact with the nuclear-devastated Earth was lost. A ship, perhaps the very last from Earth, arrives as we begin the series. We then see how life tries to work with the Protection and Security team keeping the peace while the Expeditionaries goes foraging for foods and medicines while studying their new home.
Richards wrote five of the eight episodes and may have had good intentions, but his internal story logic and execution left a lot to be desired. There’s a sprawling, attractive cast ill-served by their individual storylines and they never really gel as an ensemble. His talkative scripts rob the show of momentum and its slow pacing, reminiscent of 1999, doesn’t help.
His characters all feel like ones we’ve seen before, in far better science fiction concepts. There’s the President (Liam Cunningham), the madman (Jamie Bamber), the better former VP (Eric Maibus), the man with a secret past (Daniel Mays), and so on. It’s an international group, trying to reflect humanity so there’s Maibus the American, Bamber the Brit, and the South African (busty model Jeanné Kietzmann). If only we grew to care about them.
About the freshest element in the series is the notion of the Advanced Cultivars, artificially created humans designed to survive in the alien environment and blamed for unleashing a virus that killed many of the colony’s children, threatening the humans’ future.
The thing is, each episode should be advancing stories and themes but there are a lot of retreads and flashbacks and no real sense that the society is settling in. Still, there’s something, some quality to each episode that keeps you watching, keeps you hoping things get better. By the sixth episode, things feel like they are finally coming together then the subsequent episode spins its wheels and the final episode ends on a less-than-compelling cliffhanger. One that will never be resolved because the ratings dropped so dramatically that the series was yanked from its high profile time slot after five airings and dumped on late Sunday nights when good British telly watchers had gone to sleep. The day after the finale aired, the BBC announced the show’s cancellation.
The episodes look fine in high definition and there was at least some interesting thought into the colonization of this alien world that is as bleak as the stories told on its surface. One of the set’s extras if a set tour for Forthaven, which details the thinking. The other is “Reach to the Stars”, a featurette that has cast and crew try to convince you they’re doing something unique and wonderful.
You can judge for yourself whether this was a missed opportunity or hidden gem. Either way, these eight installments are all you’re ever going to see of this world and its dreary inhabitants.
Sapper’s BULLDOG DRUMMOND, ex-military man turned adventurer, is coming to BBC Radio on Tuesday, August 9th 2011. An adventure in six parts, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt, the episodes will air in chronological order all week, and will be available on BBC iPlayer for those of you unlucky enough not to be British.