Friday, 30 September 2011

HYPNOBOBS - An Announcement!



Just a micro-cast to remind any folks still listening from the old Podomatic feed that it's time to resubscribe!

But for everyone else, there's some chit chat about what's coming up on the show and some bonus comedy nonsense that you might not have heard before...


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

The Stars (with Headhunter)


The Mystics Ones reveal your stars for the next seven days... This week in two parts and featuring a special guest beamed in from the late '60s!





Tuesday, 27 September 2011

HYPNOBOBS 48 - The Natural History of the Batman Part 4


At last it's back to Bat-history, as Mr Jim Moon explores Batman in the late '60s and early '70s! In this episode we discuss the aftermath of Batmania and see where comics legends Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams took the Dark Knight Detective! 

Direct download - The Natural History of the Batman Part 4

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

Saturday, 24 September 2011

DOCTOR WHO 6.12 - Closing Time

Scanners indicate an absence of spoilers!

So then, the end draws near! And as you'll probably know that this episode see the Doctor catching up with both an old friend, in the shape of Craig from last year's The Lodger and some old enemies, the Cybermen.

Now then, as we remarked last year, James Corden who plays Craig, is one of those members of the comedy fraternity that polarize opinion - people either want to cuddle him or hunt him down for his blubber. However as in The Lodger, Corden is on his best behaviour, putting in a restrained performance rather than doing that excitable shrieking that makes me want do him a severe physical discourtesy. Also back this episode is Daisy Haggard as Craig other half, Sophie, who again is charming loveliness walking on two very long legs. And completing the trilogy of returns, Gareth Roberts was back on script duties too.

And once again, he's delivered a rather lovely little story. Like  The Lodger, it's an episode filled with the right kind of witty humour and bags of heart, however Mr Roberts has upped his game again. Yes, we have the delightful double act antics between Smith and Corden, and once again Roberts shows he has a natural gift for writing Eleventh Doctor patter, however also this episode is shot through much darker shadows than The Lodger.

On one hand, we have some very sinister Cyber-antics, including a plot element that will delight the old school fans. And as the tale's threat, the Cybermen are rather well deployed - for although they are second only to the Daleks as recurring villains, they've not always the menace they could be. Let's face it, in the past Cyber master-plans have been known to be a bit, well, overly complicated...  Often to the point of stupidity. For example, the Cyberking in The Next Doctor might have looked cool but was it really the best use of their resources? And some forty years  on, no one yet has been able to adequately explain what the hell they were playing at in The Wheel in Space.

But this time round there's no such cyber-lunacy thankfully. They lurk and menace, and although the precredits sequence makes it clear that the threat of the week is Cyber-based, the story nicely follows the Doctor working out, piece by piece, clue by clue, what they are up to.

However the real darkness doesn't come from the silver giants, but the thread of melancholy running throughout the episode. Although there is plenty of fun to be had in the Doctor bantering with Craig and mingling with humanity again, there's a sense of time running out, as the fate we know  is waiting for the Doctor next week begins to cast a long sonorous shadow over this little adventure. And this is more than just  plot foreshadowing touches, the fact that this may be the Doctor's last house call is woven into the emotional fabric of the story. It's beautifully written and superbly played by Smith and Corden.

Now I do have a small niggle with this episode which I'll wont mention here. Partly as it's a big spoiler and also partly I'll have to watch this one again to be sure. However I will tackle this in the forthcoming spoiler zone review. Other than that though it's gold jammy dodgers all round for this outing!

Of course this episode comes with two implicit big questions. Firstly "Is this a stealth Part One of the series finale?" and secondly "Do we learn anymore about the connection between the Silence and that mysterious pseudo-TARDIS seen in the Lodger?".

But this being a spoiler-free review I can answer neither. However, let's just say that by the time the credits roll, there are plenty of pieces on game for next week's endgame...


Friday, 23 September 2011

DOCTOR WHO - The God Complex Spoiler Zone

Shh! Spoilers sweetie!

Now then, although I think I pretty much covered all the important stuff in my spoiler free review, I couldn't let this episode pass by without having a closer look at it. And why? Well it's got a bloody Minotaur in it for a start!

And aside from a long standing love of these fabled man-beasts of Grecian myth (thank you the Ladybird's Famous Legends Book 1), the Minotaur is subject to an unofficial and somewhat jokey fan rule of Doctor Who. And this states, rather bluntly, that any story with a Minotaur in it is shit!

Previous to The God Complex, this legendary monster has appeared three times in Who history, and it is fair to say that the results haven't exactly been the show's finest hours. The first Minotaur appearance was in The Mind Robber, a second Doctor adventure which saw the TARDIS crew marooned in the Land of Fiction, where they encountered a whole slew of characters and creatures from stories, including our bull-headed friend, Medusa, Gulliver, Rapunzel and a comic hero from the future the Karkus who appears to be an uncanny prediction of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Now I quite like The Mind Robber, however its surreal and quirky nature make it something of a love it or hate it affair. However as the Minotaur only appears briefly, it's also true to say that generally fans weren't thinking of this story when the 'rule' was coined.  Oh no, it was the horrors of the following two tales that featured the Minotaur more heavily that inspired it.

In the Third Doctor adventure The Time Monster, we had a confusing story involving Atlantis, Chronovores and the Master executing a rather dubious evil scheme and making a right TOMTIT of himself. On the plus side, we have the legendary Ingrid Pitt as the Queen of Atlantis, Dave 'the body of Darth Vader'  Prowse as  the Minotaur, and this serial added much to the mythology of the show. On the downside though, we have a plot that makes little sense and the lead monster, Kronos the Chronovore, looks like a bizarre chicken-chess piece hybrid constructed by origami.

Knight takes bishop! Fold along dotted line! Cluck!

However with its cult favourite casting and a truly bonkers storyline, The Time Monster can be said to possess a certain charm. Which is more than can be said of the next Homo Bovine outing, The Horns of Nimon...

On now paper, I'm sure this Fourth Doctor adventure looked like fried gold - essentially being the Theseus myth transplanted into outer space. However what reached the screen was a bored looking Tom Baker mucking about in the same six foot of dull white corridors over and over again, and annoying the titular Nimons, a race of disco-galactic Minotaurs in platform heels. Yes, a promising idea not so much let down as ruthlessly torpedoed by a grand slam of poor script, direction, design and performances. And it's no surprise that this serial regularly features in the round-ups of the worst Who story ever made.

However what is very surprising is that The God Complex turned out to be a sequel of sorts to this much (and rightly) maligned story. But more shocking still was that this cousin of the Nimon tale actually was a rather decent outing for the Eleventh Doctor! Proof, I guess, that rules are made to be broken and that you can teach on old dog new tricks.

Say oops upside your head! Oops upside your head!

But that wasn't the only surprise in store; for all those not familiar with the horrors of the Nimon (oh you lucky breed!), the big shocker was the departure of Rory and Amy. Now obviously this revelation set many viewers all of a flutter, as although the previous episodes had seemingly been laying the ground for them leaving, it was something of surprise for them to go right now.

However others were less convinced that this was really their departure from the show. After all, both Arthur Davrill and Karen Gillan had said recently in interviews that they would be back for the next series. However to keep the big secret under wraps, they naturally would say that! And earlier there had been speculation that they would leave at the end of the current series following announcements of the pair's future acting commitments which appeared to rule out them having the time to film Doctor Who. 

Now I don't think we've seen the last of the Ponds, and it's a safe bet that they will be back for the final episode of this season The Wedding of River Song at the very least. However I tend to think that perhaps their travels in the TARDIS are over and that after the finale it might be just be the odd guest appearance now and again when the Doctor drops by. Certainly I have the impression, that this time time our Time Lord hero may make more of an effort to visit these particular old friends.

Then again with Mr Moffat in charge, there's all sorts of timey-wimey means by which they could reappear. And I think it's also a very safe bet that the final episode of this series will feature a fair few twists and turns. For example, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that River Song is not actually Melody Pond and than Amy and Rory will leave again with a babe in arms to raise...



I Wear My Stars On My Sleeve...


Once again, the Mystic Ones foretell your fortunes for the coming week... allegedly...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

THE FADES Episode 1


I see dead people... but no spoilers

So then what is the The Fades? Well, it's a new six part series, airing on BBC3, and promising to serve up spooky chills and thrills. 

Now I'd seen the trails and obviously being a horror buff, I booked my spot on the sofa. However also it's fair to say that I wasn't holding out high hopes. Firstly because BBC3's output, as one of the more experimental arms of the Auntie Beeb, can be rather hit and miss. And indeed, horror television series in general tends to be a risky proposition. For every hit like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, there's a dire miss like Demons And indeed, the fact that I gleaned from the promos that The Fades would feature a young cast did bring back bad memories of that latter series.

However on the plus side, it appeared to be a serial rather than an episodic show, which is usually a better footing for horror on television, as a multi-part story avoids the main pitfall of becoming a monster of the week circus. But also BBC3 had scored a previous success in this area with Toby Whithouse's Being Human, a series about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost living together in a house. And despite sounding like the set-up for an old joke, Being Human served up an entertaining brew of drama and horror, leavened with  a twist of dark humour. 

Now I went into the world of The Fades pretty much blind - yes, I'd seen the trails but they just gave the flavour rather than masses of detail - and I'd recommend you do the same. So I'm not going to tell you much about the show other than it concerns ghosts. But ghosts with an intriguing twist, and judging from this opening episode, a whole mythology which we are going to discover as the weeks progress. Writer Jack Thorne has clearly thought out his world in detail and presents us with the ideal balance of interesting character work and plot hints to guarantee you'll be tuning in next week. However that's not to say this is a slow-burn starting episode - The Fades hits the ground running and crams alot into its first hour. 

Now, what I can tell without giving anything away is that The Fades is cut from similar cloth to Being Human- we have the same high standards of writing, acting and direction, and a similar approach of rooting its fantastic and macabre events in believable characters and kitchen-sink realism. However the big difference is that The Fades, although not afraid of a little wit, is a far darker story. And while Being Human earns its horror credentials by being viscerally gory, The Fades is going for the more subtle creepy approach; it's clearly going for the fear factor and is aiming to be a show that scares its viewers. 

And that my friends is a very refreshing change for a horror television series, for unlike all the series referenced above, and a great more others too, The Fades isn't about having fun with supernatural monsters. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's good to have series that is actively seeking to make its viewers anxious to turn out the lights. There are some marvellously eerie scenes in this first chapter and also some high strange imagery that will linger in the imagination. And the fact that all of this is occurring in a recognisable ordinary corner of contemporary Britain and being witnessed by down to earth and well observed characters give these weird and spooky moments all the more weight.  

If this first episode is anything to go by we may well be in for a real treat this Autumn...  




DRACULA EXISTS OR NOT?


So asked some anonymous soul on Formspring...

Now obviously the quick answer would be ‘No!’

But that’s not very entertaining and, more to the point, not strictly accurate...

For as many of you probably already know, there was a real life Dracula - Prince Vlad III of Wallchia. Classed as on the great monsters of history, this 15th century Prince was famous for his cruelty and brutality, particularly his penchant for impaling his enemies on long poles, hence is his popular sobriquets of or Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler. However it should be noted that some historians have pointed out that many of the accounts of his atrocities were penned by his enemies and therefore it is possible that Prince Vlad is the victim of a Middle Ages smear campaign. Indeed in Romania, he is still considered a national hero for defending his lands against invasions and incursions by the Ottoman Empire.

Also it should be noted that his second name is not a surname but an honorific. His father Vlad II was inducted into the Order of the Dragon, an elite order of knights and hence became known as Vlad Dracul - ‘dracul’ being a translation of ‘dragon’ into his native tongue. And therefore ‘Dracula’ simply means ‘son of the dragon’, as Vlad III very much took followed in his father’s footsteps, vigorously defending the country against all aggressors.

However while this Dracula certainly existed, the waters become murky when we considered the character who bears his name. Now Bram Stoker originally called his famous villain ‘Count Wamphyr’, however in the course of his researches he came across the history of the Wallachian Prince, and as ‘dracul’ can also be translated as ‘devil’, Dracula leapt out as a far more fitting perfect name for his Satanic vampire.

But ever since the popular imagination became aware of the historical Dracula, largely through In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972, the two figures, one real and one fictional, have become confused. Many have assumed that Stoker’s Count is meant to be Prince Vlad III, still living on as a vampire, and indeed many versions of the Dracula story have made this connection explicitly, most famously Francis Ford Coppola’s mendaciously titled Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).

Stoker does have a reference to the infamous 15th Century noble, in Chapter 3 the Count tells Harker -
Who was it but one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery on them! Was it not this Dracula, indeed, who inspired that other of his race who in a later age again and again brought his forces over the great river into Turkey-land; who, when he was beaten back, came again, and again, though he had to come alone from the bloody field where his troops were being slaughtered, since he knew that he alone could ultimately triumph!
Later on Van Helsing in the novel more or less confirms that this ancestor he speaks of is highly probably a case of the Count indulging in that old immortal’s trick of attributing one’s own past deeds to a forebear.


However while there are parallels between the Count and Vlad III’s histories, this does not make them necessarily one and the same. For scholars are still arguing over how much Stoker actually knew about the historical Vlad. We know for certainly one of the books he used for research mentioned “Voivode Dracula” and his battles with the Turks but little else. Hence in the novel there is no reference to his first name being Vlad or his position as a Prince and national ruler.

Furthermore Stoker appears to show this limited knowledge of the historical Dracula when Van Helsing reveals the Count’s origins. Yes, you read that right - it’s a little known and much overlooked fact that Stoker does reveal an origin story for the Master Vampire. We learn that he has made a pact with the Devil, attending the legendary Scholomance, a secret academy where the Dark Lord teaches a select few students the secrets of magic. According to Transylvanian folklore, the Devil takes on ten students to tutor, and in chapter 18, we are told -
The Draculas were, says Arminius, a great and noble race, though now and again were scions who were held by their coevals to have had dealings with the Evil One. They learned his secrets in the Scholomance, amongst the mountains over Lake Hermanstadt, where the devil claims the tenth scholar as his due.
And in chapter 23, Van Helsing says of Count Dracula -
He dared even to attend the Scholomanse, and there was no branch of knowledge of his time that he did not essay
The implication is that the Count is the tenth student who has become the Devil’s pawn in the world. However what is interesting is that the first quote seems to show that Stoker was unaware of how powerful the historical Draculas were; rather than a royal house, they are depicted as a merely aristocratic line.

However some scholars have noted further connections - that Stoker’s description of his vampire villain seems to tally with portraits of Vlad and the fact that the stake through the heart appears to be an ironic a take on Vlad’s preferred method of execution.

However in the case of the former, the text’s description equally matches the stereotypical Victorian villain, all arched eyebrows and long moustache, and also Stoker’s employer Sir Henry Irving who the author wished to play Dracula in the stage adaption of the novel.

As for the staking, firstly this is a method of vampire destruction common in Eastern European folklore. And secondly although the vampirised Lucy Westernra is dispatched in this manner, the Count himself has his throat cut and is stabbed through the heart with a Bowie knife.

Now the case can be made either way, but personally this writer tends to the view that Stoker only had limited knowledge of Prince Vlad, and so while his vampire Count has some elements inspired by history, Vlad III wasn’t the sole source of inspiration from the Count, as Stoker’s use of the Scholomanse shows. And certainly there is no evidence or even rumours of the historical Vlad rising from the grave to suck the blood of the living.

So then to recap, historical Dracula existed but certainly wasn’t a vampire. Stoker’s Count of course is a literary creation and therefore doesn’t exist...

...Or does he? In the strange world of quantum mechanics, there is the highly weird Many Worlds Interpretation. Now, without becoming entangled in the complexity of this field of physics, basically the Many World Interpretation holds that whenever there is a choice in the universe, it splits into two different realities where each possible outcome happens. Now a great number of these branching off worlds differ only from ours in the position of one particle, however some have theorised that the range of branching universes is pretty much infinite, with every possible variation happening.

So as well as worlds with larger changes, such as scifi staples such as universes where Hitler won the Second World War and the Roman Empire never fell, some theorists have postulated that wilder universes exist where the laws of nature operate differently.

And hence as the range of possible worlds is infinite, somewhere in the multiverse there are universes where not only magic and legendary creatures exist, but where Hogwarts and Middle Earth are real. And naturally in an infinite multiverse where every possible world is played out, there will be not only one where the events Stoker’s Dracula occurred as historical events, but worlds where every version of Dracula, from the Universal version of the story, to comics like Tomb of Dracula, and even Z-grade movies like Zoltan Hound of Dracula, have actually happened!

So then if the Many Worlds Interpretation should prove to be correct, then not only does Stoker’s Dracula exist somewhere in the multiverse, but every Dracula - Lugosi, Carradine, Lee, Langela, Jordan, Oldman and all the rest - exists!

However the arcana of modern physics aside, finally we should note there are profound philosophical issues raised by the question of whether Dracula exists. For example, does ‘exists’ mean the same as ‘real’, and how do we measure or define either quality? Stoker’s Count never walked upon this earth, yet there are reams of print, miles of celluloid, and endless conversations about him. Is a concept or an idea as real as an actual person? Does the fact that Dracula only exists as fiction make him any less actual than existing in the flesh? Strictly speaking if he didn’t exist at all, in any form, neither the question or this answer would exist.

Personally I feel that defining actuality or reality purely in terms of physical objects is a dangerous business, for so much of what we are, our thoughts, emotions and memories, and so much of what makes us human, such as notions of art, love, humour and justice, only exist in the same abstract realm as fiction.

Of course none of the above can quite explain why after receiving this question, for the last three nights legions of web-winged bats gather about the house after sunset or why I have seen a red eyed, coal-black hound of monstrous proportions sat waiting in the midnight shadows of the garden...


Monday, 19 September 2011

Regarding the Statement of Randolph Carter


 Illustration by PICKMANS-MODEL

The SFFaudio Podcast #126 – a complete and unabridged reading of The Statement Of Randolph Carter by H.P. Lovecraft, read by Wayne June (from the Audio Realms collection The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft – Volume 3), followed by a discussion of the story. Participants include Jesse, Scott, Tamahome, Jenny Colvin (of the Reading Envy blog) and Mr. Jim Moon (of Hypnogoria.com).



Sunday, 18 September 2011

HYPNOBOBS 47 - What Was It?


By the fireside of the Great Library of Dreams, Mr Jim Moon reads a seminal genre crossing tale of invisible terrors, What Was It? by Fitz-James O'Brien.

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - What Was It?

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


CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

Saturday, 17 September 2011

DOCTOR WHO 6.11 - The God Complex



Scanners indicate an absence of spoilers

First off, the very important stuff - if you've not seen this episode, as your attorney I strongly advise you avoid being spoilered at all costs! Seriously don't let the goblins of the internet ruin the big surprise in this one. If fact there's two shockers, one which catch all viewers off-guard and another that will greatly amuses fans immersed in the lore and history of the show.

And obviously I'm saying nothing more on the subject, though there will be a spoiler review of this episode coming in the next few days. But on to the bits I can safely tell you about...

Now I'm  assuming you've seen the trailers, blurb and whatnot... Oh, you haven't? Well, in a nutshell, this is another good one, now run along secure in your ignorance towards the surprise of this tale...

Ok, so everyone else, you lot already know that The God Complex is set in a creepy hotel where spooky things happen in the rooms. You probably also know this episode is written by Toby Whithouse, who previously gave us School Reunion in Series 2 and Vampires in Venice last year. Plus this week we've got a guest star in the shape of comedian David Walliams. And the very sharp eyed among you will have spotted an old enemy in the NEXT WEEK trailer last week.

So let's address those points in order. Firstly, yes it is creepy - I mean just look at the picture above for Cliff's sake! However this isn't an exercise in just trading on tired and true fears and phobia like Night Terrors, although there is an element of that obviously. Rather The God Complex is more weird and unsettling, delivering the kind of strangeness that David Lynch has made his own. But even that's not the full monty, as what propels the storyline is a solid mystery that is unravelled clue by clue and I must say it's good to see the Doctor had to work to piece the puzzle together.

All of which brings nicely to our second point... Mr Whithouse's writing. Now I enjoyed School Reunion a fair bit but Vampires in Venice left be slightly underwhelmed. And as I remarked in my review of that episode, I'd have liked to see some of the depth and flair he has demonstrated in his own show Being Human. Well folks, with The God Complex I got my wish - we not only have a solidly thought through tale but also a story that makes all kinds of emotional and symbolic connections between it plot points and the emotions of the characters. It is, if you'll pardon the pun, a complex episode, and for my money not only  the best of the three adventures he's penned so far, but a darn fine outing all round. Additional kudos to director Nick Hurran who brings this challenging story to screen with real flourish.

Now then, going into the this one, I'm sure I was not alone in feeling slightly apprehensive when I saw we had a guest comedian onboard. For we all remember what happened last time... Yes, the shadow of Love And Monsters runs dark and deep.  However in fairness, the wince making moments in that episode weren't  Peter Kay's fault, but I've ragged on Russell T Davies enough in the last few weeks... And deservedly so I might add... The bloody Blessing! Honestly! I'd slap him so fast it would n't even be funny...

*Ahem* moving swiftly on... where was I?

Oh yes, having a comedian as a guest star. Well, I'm pleased to report that David Walliams put in a fantastic turn as the rabbity in more ways than one alien Gibbis. On first encountering this character, you think they are playing to the actor's strengths and that Gibbis is the comic relief. After all, his backstory is delightfully redolent of the humour of Douglas Adams and the sideways scifi satire of prime era 2000 AD. However as the episode unfolds, we discover that there a lot more to Gibbis than serving up some light relief. And Walliams shines even under the layers of latex.

So then to the last point. Yes, they are back. But  there's also a fair few other familiar faces in The God Complex too. And I honestly can't say any more...

So then to wrap this up, The God Complex is a cracking tale. It delivers a fascinating mixture - there's horror, there's scifi, and a mystery to be solved. There's some laughter, some chills and a lot of heart... All the best elements of Doctor Who in  an attractive sinister hotel shaped package.










Friday, 16 September 2011

The Stars Wit Attitude!



Beaming directly from the outer voids, the Voice of the Mystic Ones (distant brother of Captain Scarlet's Mysterons by the sounds of it) deliver your stars for the week...


Be sure to listen right to the end, as Pisces is a belter this week....



Thursday, 15 September 2011

TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY Episode 10 - The Blood Line


456 Classification - Thank the Lord! It's over!

Well, we got here at last! And I must say that writing these weekly reviews has turned into something of a war of attrition, where every seven days I've had to struggle to find new and amusing ways of saying 'this storyline's broken!". And so for that reason alone, I minded to be kindly about this final episode...

...Of course I bloody well won't! But it has to be said that The Blood Line IS an improvement on The Gathering - well as far as it is possible to make any improvement in the grand finale of a story that hinges around a massive rude looking gash in Mother Earth.

But there are some positives all the same. Firstly this closing chapter manages to have Jack and Gwen both on top form and doing what they do best, and at the same time unlike many of the previous instalments where we've have had one but not the other doing anything interesting. Secondly there is a rather neat extended confrontation with the Families' agents. I must admit I didn't see the blood switch trick Rex pulled coming and we had some real proper tension building in this stand-off over over two continents.

And thirdly, and possibly the most welcome, was the fact that considering this was a Russell T Davies finale, it was played out in a rather simple and restrained fashion rather than hurling everything the FX wizards can muster at the screen in a swirling maelstrom of logic defying plot holes.

But of course that's not to say that this episode wasn't thoroughly riddled with nonsense. Oh come on, don't look surprised! This is still an RTD script after all! Because if  you were you looking for an explanation for the Blessing, forget it!  Now, I'm not adverse to story tellers leaving a gap filled with mystery sometimes, and arguably the giant stone labia could qualify. However the scant details we do get about it, notably that it's two ends act as some species of morphic poles, only serves to increase the idiocy of the concept.

Now I could have bought the polar thing if they hadn't shown us a computer model that clearly shows that the colossal crack is off centre - tracing a point from Buenos Aires to Shanghai gives you a line that doesn't pass through the core of the earth . So while this may help some viewers reconcile its existence with small barriers to belief such as the entire field of geophysics, having a pole that doesn't pass through the centre of the earth - i.e .it's not a pole - only replaces the first foolishness with an equally massive hurdle to credibility.

Similarly the reveal that the Families plan to wreck the world with immortality in order to rebuilt it in their own image is similarly half-baked. As we're told they are effectively the secret puppet masters of the world anyway, did they really need this elaborate plot in the first place? Yes, they get immortality but honestly the Miracle isn't really worth having - eternal life coming with eternal pain and aging. But most damningly, we discover at the very end that this whole charade was just 'a trial run'... So effectively the whole Miracle was pretty much a colossal waste of everyone's time. Including yours.

Similarly the end of Dane's plot thread also proves how useless he was a character. Now don't get me wrong, I've really enjoyed Bill Pullman's performances, but in the end the character has been fraught with problems and ultimately serves no real purpose. And indeed how this finale plays out only serves to highlight how irrelevant the majority of what has gone before has been.

Seeing at last how the Miracle Day storyline concludes, I am inclined to suspect that is was originally planned as a five part affair and them clumsily expanded. And that would certainly explain a great deal about the many and varied dead ends and blind alleys the narrative has took us down. But I believe I have harped on about the poor story structure more than enough in previous reviews, so then let's skip to the end.

I doubt many are going to happy with the fact that Davies chooses to kill off Esther, who appeared to strike a chord with most viewers, instead of Rex, who everyone has decried as having all the depth of a cardboard cut-out. And then to add insult to injury, he makes 'the assholey one' of the team immortal. Yes, having Jack's blood as somehow infected Rex with the Captain's same indestructible nature. Insert your own stream of tired, bitter abuse here...

...And the stage is also conveniently left wide open for another series. Or to be rather less charitable, there's a whole mess of plot threads left flapping for another season. And I have to say that the prospect of another ten episodes like this fills me with more tension and dread than the entirety of Miracle Day managed in its frustrating two and half month lifespan.

Now I don't hate Torchwood, and even the messy disappointment this series turned out to be doesn't make me want to see the show vanish forever. Indeed I used to enjoy the series and I still believe the format has potential (and if you want to hear how I'd fix it check out HYPNOBOBS 46 - Torchopsy). However at the same time, I rather suspect that this debacle may well have cooked the Torchwood goose, and what's so galling is that it is the show's own creator who has served up the sauce. And with Starz seemingly not rushing to stump up for another series, the ultimate irony of Miracle Day is that while the world became immortal, the show may have expired...


Reviews of previous episodes can be found here
Also don't miss HYPNOBOBS 46 - Torchopsy! for more Torchwood talk! 



Tuesday, 13 September 2011

INSIDIOUS - Devilishly Good or Diabolically Derivative?


With Insidious worming it way to you on DVD and Blu Ray soon, it's high time we unravelled the complicated charge of whether this movie is a great ghost story in it's own right or just an unoriginal Frankensteinian patchwork of stolen pieces...

Click here to jump into the spoiler-heavy discussion

And find my original review here




Sunday, 11 September 2011

HYPNOBOBS 46 - Torchopsy!



In an impromptu off the hip episode, Mr Jim Moon dissects the history of Torchwood and answers a listener's query on how he would make it better!

Direct download - Torchopsy!


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

Saturday, 10 September 2011

DOCTOR WHO 6.10 - The Girl Who Waited


Scanners indicate an absence of spoilers

Well, dear friends I suspect this may well be a very short review, as it would appear Tom MacRae has been taking make-life-hell-for-the-non-spoiler-reviewer lessons from Steven Moffat!

Now then, first up I must confess I didn't have huge expectations for this episode. Partly this  was due to the fact that while I quite enjoyed Mr MacRae's Rise of The Cybermen, I did felt it suffered from a little too much borrowing from other areas of Doctor Who past and present - John Lumic was slightly too close to a rerun of Genesis of the Daleks era Davros and the attempts to elicit sympathy for the Cybermen echoed Dalek in Series One too loudly. 

And secondly judging from the preview, it looked like it would be a fairly run of the mill outing - Doctor and companions get trapped in a futurist complex and do alot of running about and robot dodging until escaping at the 45 minute mark. And while the white rooms and matching droids seemed to promised some old school thrills in the vein of The Celestial Toymaker or The Mind Robber, it still appeared from the preview to be standard fare, fun but not exceptional. 

However, I do love it when I'm utterly wrong... For this was anything but standard. Quite the opposite in fact, The Girl Who Waited turned out to be actually rather stellar! And although it's true that the episode IS the Doctor, Rory and Amy trapped in a futurist complex and trying to escape while ducking its robotic denizens. However it delivers so much more...

Of course, the trouble is I can't tell you too much about it without giving the game away. However what I can say is that as you have probably surmised from the title, this is a very Amy-centric tale, but also it features a beautiful central performance from Karen Gillan. And we're talking  real knocking it out of the park stuff here. And she's matched with an equally powerful performance from Arthur Davril and some rather subtle work from Matt Smith. 

It's looks great and  features some eye catching direction from Nick Hurran. And indeed it was so well crafted, that it was only when I started to look up a few background facts for this review that I discovered that this is the cheap Doctor-lite episode for this block!

However the biggest credit must go to Tom MacRae, who has delivered an episode which both plays with some deep sci-fi concepts and delivers some very powerful drama. Now some will undoubted say that there was either too of the latter or not enough of the former, however personally I think the balance was spot on, with both elements complimenting and strengthening each other. 

Now I honestly dare not write much more for fear of spoilers slipping in, so then I shall round this off by saying that The Girl Who Waited is on par with the likes of Amy's Choice and The Doctor's Wife, so if you loved those stories, you are in for another treat...



Thursday, 8 September 2011

TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY - Episode 9 The Gathering


546 Classification - Dial F For Fuckwittery

That's right folks, I'm dispensing with the usual spoiler status notifications as it's now very apparent that the show has already been well and truly spoiled... by the appalling plotting! Ba-dum-tish! Thank you, thank you, I'm here all week... But you can take it as a warning of torrents of  bad language to follow!

Well then the penultimate episode eh! Bet you're expecting loads and loads of really exciting stuff, with the script pulling out all the stops and the production crew spending the budget like a yuppie on a coke and hookers bender! And what does this episode actually deliver? A lot of squabbling in a Welsh terrace house! Brilliant eh! Bet you didn't see that curveball coming did you!

But wait, it gets better! Besides hammering down the brakes on the pace, we also jump forward in time two months! And why? Search me! Perhaps to let Jack heal from being shot? Or possibly so the date of the finale in the story matches on of the production crew's wedding anniversary? Or perhaps it's part of the number 2 motif Miracle Day seems to be developing - you know, how plot threads and story elements are shown then forgotten about and not mentioned for a a couple of weeks.

But aside from arguing over take-aways, the viewers at home are treated to a veritable feast of witless events. Now, yes it's a sci-fi show and a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is necessary but The Gathering insists on gut-punching you with idiocy after idiocy.

Highlights of imbecility include the following...

1) Gwen is using a common or garden search engine - a thinly disguised Google - to research the ultra secret 'the Blessing'. Because shadowy evil masterminds always post up details of what they are doing online don't they...
2) And apparently it's taken her two months to get through the first page of results....
3) Despite evading capture by the CIA and the Families, merrily hopping to and fro across the Atlantic, she can't hide her dead-ish dad from the local Gestapo.
4) Oswald Danes also apparently can globetrot with ease despite being the most high profile child murderer on the planet.
5) Data specialist Esther apparently is foxed by the simple task of translating foreign languages... If only there was some vast electronic network where you could contact a student of Mandarin or perhaps even an automatic translation service...

So far this incarnation of Torchwood have been fairly slow off the mark in tackling this Miracle malarkey, but the way they are carrying on in this episode is criminally stupid. And I'm now fairly convinced that with just the basic academic research skills I use in writing reviews and articles, I could have made more headway in getting to the bottom of the mystery than they have in nine episodes.

However, all this moronic scripting does actually have a purpose - I'm guessing it's to soften us up for the crowning cretinous big reveal of what the Blessing is...

(drum roll please)

...A giant geological lady's front bottom!

Yes, it's the biggest smutty joke Russell T Davies has attempted yet, making farting Slitheen and paving slab blowjob gags look like innocent and subtle innuendos.

I heavily suspect that what he's doing is shouting  'hey you gay agenda haters, choke on my massive gash!' And if you don't believe me, after you've gotten over the shock of the Blessing, listen again to the introductory dialogue, sorry exposition as we don't do dialogue anymore in Torchwood...  We are clearly told that the sight of the blessing has a worse effect on men and women seem to be able to handle it better. Yes folks, Freudians across the land will be having heart attacks and the rest of us not versed in psycho-sexual symbolism will be wondering whether this is Davies calling us a bunch of c***s.

And if a giant vaginal crack was quite insulting stupid enough for you, it apparently stretches right through the globe from Shanghai to Buenos Aires. Yes, it's fuck you geology, fuck you sense and reason, and fuck you audience! Lord alone knows what he's cooked up for next week...

But considering how Jack's blood is magically drawn towards the Blessing, I now rather suspect that the grand finale will be Jack shagging the titanic cleft to death accompanied by a large popping noise as RTD finally disappears up his own backside.

Honestly the only good thing about this episode is that it provides a devastating riposte to anyone bleating on about how Steven Mofaft has ruined Doctor Who. Just look at the awful dialogue, the idiotic plotting and that, that... Blessing and dare to tell me that you wish RTD was still in charge of the TARDIS. Unless of course you think we're sadly now missing out on adventures like Doctor Who & the Labia of Doom...

Still on the bright side, just one more to go....


Reviews of previous episodes can be found here


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

HYPNOBOBS 45 - The House Among The Laurels


At last we're back to the adventures of Mr Thomas Carnacki the Ghost-Finder in a chilling tale, as recounted by his biographer Mr William Hope Hodgson, entitled the House Among The Laurels...

Direct Download - HYPNOBOBS 45 - The House Among The Laurels

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

Saturday, 3 September 2011

DOCTOR WHO 6.09 - Night Terrors

Scanners indicate an absence of spoilers

Now Mr Mark Gatiss surely need no introduction to followers of the TARDIS, as he wrote The Unquiet Dead, The Idiot's Lantern and last year's Victory of the Daleks, was the eponymous star of The Lazarus Experiment, and author is the author of several Doctor Who novels and audio plays. And indeed, he's no stranger to fans of cult television in general, as one quarter of the League of Gentlemen, co-star and co-creator of Sherlock, and numerous roles in the likes of Spaced, The Quatermass Experiment and Nighty Night.

And after the Daleks meet war movie homage of the last series, he's back on spooky ground! And Mr Gatiss does scary rather well, as he demonstrated with the eerie mini series Crooked House, which pleasingly continued the BBC tradition of televising ghost stories at Christmas. And I am sure I am not alone in being a bit creeped out by the pictures of the strange doll-like figures before the episode had even aired.

Now ultimately, how effective this episode will be for you, depends on how you feel about creepy old dolls.
Personally I'm not a fan after being traumatised at a young age on hearing a version of this old chiller. Hence I found there were eerie moments aplenty in this episode. Plus the haunting sound of old fashioned songs sung by child voices also never fails to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.

However the actual story is fairly simple and straight-forward, looking almost basic after last week's plot explosions. However this is a story all about the atmosphere and emotions, and an uncluttered narrative full of spookiness and dark ambiance was a refreshing change of pace after the high octane madness of Let's Kill Hitler. Indeed, even if the dolls and decaying Victoriana don't push your fear buttons, you may well still be pleased with this little tale for it has a traditional beginning, middle and end format with none of that  time-wimey mucking about.

Also it was also refreshing to see a story set on present day Earth, as this is the first time we've been back since The Lodger last series! And the fact that it seemed a novel location only goes to show how well the Moffat tenure has moved the Doctor back to exploring space and time after the earthbound feel of the Davies years. Additionally however, what Night Terrors does rather well is to make the familiar unsettling. It's full of well observed little touches that may well transport you back to the days when bed time was an unwelcome prospect as you knew that as soon as the light went out, the toys in your bedroom would cast bogeyman-shaped shadows on the walls...

And it's good to see the Doctor tackling a relatively small scale local threat for a change. We don't need mind bending paradoxes and the universe blowing up every week. Indeed for those types of tales to work, we need the smaller scale stories in between. Hence with regards the scope of the tale and traditional storytelling, Night Terrors felt like a classic series tale in many respects, and that's not a bad thing at all.

 However it's not totally old school though as it does have the emotional warmth that the show again when it returned in 2005 too. However it's prime focus is still the story rather than tugging at the audience's heart-strings in a contrived fashion as the new version of the series has been wont to overdo at times. Also Night Terrors felt like it fitted it's running time perfectly - I didn't feel like this was a story that would benefit from being a two parter or felt overly rushed.

So all in all, quite a successful blend of the new and old, which is just as it should be...  Indeed, to invoke a shared childhood memory, this episode was like the perfect bowl of porridge. Not the stuff of banquets or haute cuisine, but at the same time, sometimes you know there's nothing more satisfying than porridge - when it's not too hot and not too cold, it's just right...



DOCTOR WHO 6.08 - Let's Kill Hitler Spoiler Zone



So then somewhat belatedly - it's been one of those weeks folks! - here's the Spoilers Zone for Let's Kill  Hitler! The spoiler free review can be found here


Shh! Spoilers sweetie!


Well, the first thing to address is probably that title Let's Kill Hitler... Now contrary to expectations, this wasn't an episode exploring the age old time travel questions as the moral implications of killing a young Adolf before his rise to power or the consequences of messing about with historical time lines. Indeed, this story is actually rather Fuhrer-lite, and on reflection this is probably a good thing. 

For while there's acres of decent potential material for stories here, Doctor Who perhaps isn't the right arena for them. Certainly it would be ideal for a Big Finish audio or the old Virgin/BBC novels, but on the box on a Saturday tea-time not so much. Being a family orientated show and having an eccentric and often funny lead character, it would be difficult to explore the material properly, doing justice to the moral complexities and the horrors of the Third Reich without either appearing to make light of the very serious historical events or being accused of getting too dark and intricate for the younger viewers. 

So then, I think Moffat chose wisely to keep Hitler in the cupboard, and instead delivering a tale which nicely touches on the concepts of using time travel to right historical wrongs but mainly is about a very different time criminal, River Song. It's very much her origin story and surprisingly Moffat actually gives us a ton of answers. In the course of the episode we learn who the Silence actually are, why River doesn't regenerate when she died in Forest of the Dead, who taught her to fly the TARDIS and what may be truth about a very old fan bugbear temporal grace. And there's more tidbits revealed too but we'll get to them later.

So then alot of reveals here, tying up a great many dangling threads, which should please all those fretting that Series  6 has been getting rather continuity heavy. Now the second half looks to be clear to build up to concluding the question of what really happens with the Doctor's apparent death at Lake Silencio. 

Of course, this being Doctor Who, a show whose format allows it tell many different sorts of stories in diverse tones, as always you're not going to please all of the people all of the time. For while some will applaud the batty cocktail of thrills, drama and comedy packed into Let's Kill Hitler, others will be left cold by the romping nature of the story. 

Now personally, I tend to think that new Who has tended to over-egg the comedy pudding, something that Moffat has largely reined in a bit. However, not always and this episode is one of those occasions, hence some will love it as a return to the over the top shennigans of the RTD era, and other loathe it for precisely the same reasons. 

And I must to confess to being slight conflicted on the matter myself. On one hand, if you're going to be a romp, you might as well really let rip and be outrageously daft as Let's Kill Hitler. For example, I loved the Teselecta which managed to be both a sly dig at the pompous moralising of some incarnations of Star Trek and also a homage to  The Numbskulls a comedy comic strip about a man who was piloted by the titular little fellas living in his head, appearing first in The Beezer and later The Beano. And quick-fire quippage from all the regular cast was comedy gold. All in all, if you're going over the top, do it in style!

Now largely Moffat managed to keeps the balance pitched so that the fun didn't detract from the drama and keep the plotting tight. However on the downside, there was a few instances where I felt the writing was so hurried that key plot points weren't explained enough. Now after a second watch, I'm convinced this isn't a case of Moffat taking a soiled leaf out of RTD's books and papering over plot holes and logical gaps with some big shiny spectacle. I think it's more a case of shoving so much into the episode, a couple of issues didn't quite get enough dialogue or screen-time to give them the correct dramatic weight. 

Firstly, I'm thinking specifically of the climax, where River decides to switch sides and/or break her Silence conditioning and the business of how she saves the Doctor. For although her change of heart was seeded, I don't think there was enough on screen for her change of heart to be properly convincing. Or alternatively, there was enough there but it was smothering by everything else the plot was doing. 

As for her giving up her remaining regenerations to save our hero, I can buy that in her post regenerative state she could channel the energy into the Doctor to heal him. However I honestly think we needed a line or two more to make this seem at little less than a deus ex machina. Just having River say 'I'm still regenerating you know' after she says 'I'm trying to help' would have made everything clearer and more credible.

Now all of this did have me wondering whether it was wise to try and cram so much into the episode. However I can forgive these missteps as on the whole the story was just so much fun and so bold in it's storytelling. Highly enjoyable but the niggles do mean it misses the classic adventure mark. 

But while we're on the subject of regeneration, there's been much speculation that just as River could shrug off the Nazi bullets, this is how Moffat will get the Doctor out of his death by Astronaut. Well, this theory doesn't actually work as this super healing only occurs AFTER a physical regeneration - it's a feature of the post regenerative cycle as The Christmas Invasion makes clear. Hence the Doctor would have had to transformed into his 12th body and the new incarnation be 'still cooking'  to be able to negate damage in this way.

Furthermore, the crew of the Teselecta state that the Doctor's death at Lake Silencio is a fixed point in time - it cannot be changed and hence would suggest that there can be no contradiction of the death as we've seen it. In last week's Radio Times feature, Mr Moffat himself writes in the introduction to the coming batch of adventures -
We all saw it happen - his final moments, the failed regeneration, the body in the burning boat. No hope, no escape, no excuses: we have seen the future and the Doctor is not going to survive it.
 And you what, I think he means it!

Now obviously the Doctor is going to survive by some means... but how? Is that chap we saw die the Ganger Doctor? Unlikely as he didn't dissolve to white fleshy goo. Is it the Teselecta? Also unlikely as despite its powers of mimicry, this time traversing Numbskull vechicle wasn't exactly adept at acting naturally - this robot had trouble not moving in a jerky mechanical fashion, so it's hard to believe it could replace the Doctor convincingly enough to fool Amy, Rory and River... Hang on, could it be the Teselecta piloted by the Ganger Doctor?!?

Well that's a possibility! However considering this series is the second chapter in a story line that started in Moffat's first season, and what next year's series is going to be is shrouded in mystery but certainly appears that it will be building up to the big 50th anniversary in 2013,  I suspect that there won't be a simple get-out to the Doctor's impending death.

So then we know that the Doctor will die as we've seen. And this episode tell us that River is indeed wanted for his murder. However is that why she's in prison in the Stormcage Facility? And is it her younger self in the space suit that rises from the Lake in Utah?

However as Moffat has shown in this outing, he's not adverse to giving out answers before the very end. And no doubt he's got more surprises still stuck up his capacious sleeves...




Thursday, 1 September 2011

TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY - Episode 8 The End of the Road


456 Classification - Sensitive Information Revealed

So The End of the Road eh? An early finish for this fumbling series?... No such luck - we've another 2 hours of this nonsense to go yet! But Sweet Jesus, how I wish it was over, for the only miracle I can discern in this series of Torchwood is how no one turned round to old RTD and said 'Look Russell, this is shit!' 

I would apologise for such a bile-soaked opening but I'm reaching the end of the road too with bloody Torchwood, and no one can say I've not tried to be fair and even handed in my critiques. Indeed some would say, I've been overly generous in giving this series the benefit of the doubt. Hell, I even liked last week's episode, which apparently bored the arse off most of you, who felt it should have been shrunk down to a ten minute flashback! 

And while it is true that the strengths of Immortal Sins, the stronger story telling, decent performances, period detail etc. were pretty much cancelled out by the fact that they only served to highlight firstly what was wrong with the rest of the series and secondly the shoddy story structure, at least I didn't come away bruised from the plot holes I'd fell down and bleeding from where the clumsy dialogue has tripped me up and right out of the show. 

However, this week's dollop - I'm not going to call an episode as that would imply some narrative cohesion - seemed specifically designed to right the karmic balance and be at least as twice as annoying and irritating as usual. So frankly I feel like if there's any apologising to be done, it should be from the production team for putting together this half-baked mess.

Now last week ended with the promise of revelations as the still living Angelo knows how the Miracle started. Except we discover he doesn't really - the team learns that the three mysterious fellows are the Families mentioned earlier and that it's something to do with morphic fields and Jack's blood. All well and good but the audience knew all of this already, so yet again we have pointless info dumps where the characters tell each other what we the viewers are already aware of.

The big reveal for us is that Angelo is behind Jack's new mortality thanks to some Null-field alien tech which he apparently salvaged from the ruins of the Hub but Jack never thought to bother mentioning before. Yeah, great, thanks for that... Mr Logic was off ill again when this was scribbled I presume, for surely you would have thought that Jack would have been digging in those ruins for this handy gizmo as soon as he found he could die and suspect morphic field manipulation was behind it.

Also on the choppy to the point of inducing seasickness plotting was the sudden  reappearance of Friedkin who has played no part in all of this cobblers for the last half dozen episodes. And as quickly as he came back, he was conveniently blown up so the team are back in the CIA's good books.  Also picked up again was the plot-lines about Danes and Ester's sister which have left unceremoniously hanging for several weeks too. I honestly felt in danger of whiplash from the number of plot thread suddenly flapping back into life.

And if dodging blows from the flailing plot wasn't bad enough, you also had to keep constantly ducking cluster bomb attacks of shoddy dialogue and unnecessary, unfunny quippage from all concerned. Yes, the show might be picking up the pace but just running about aimlessly, ironically like a headless chicken that doesn't realise it's dead,  just isn't going to do the trick.

Frankly at this point, I just don't care anymore and evidently the script editor didn't either. What so annoying is that you can see there is a good story in here. But at every turn it's missed the mark, focused on the wrong elements and seemingly done all it possibly could to avoid telling it's story properly.

Now despite all the vitriol above, Torchwood isn't the worst show on TV, however it's one of the most frustrating. Each week it's like watching a band where the singer's off-key, the drummer's off-beat and the guitars are out of tune. The series just hasn't found its own rhythm and there's not enough episodes left to find it.

So sad to say, but a safe bet that it's not going to get any better - I'm totally expecting the grand finale will be horrid - best case scenario at this point looks like more pointless running around, a few bad guys shot, and Captain Jack pulling a big switch marked "Off' and saying "T-t-that's all folks!" And that's the best case scenario! I fully expect the last two parts to deliver some far worse drivel that will have eyes rolling out of sockets up and down the land. I'm stocking up on gaffer tape now and as your  attorney I advise you to do the same...

Further reports to follow... Although I am tempted to hop on a plane to LA instead and go all C Thomas Howell on all concerned....

Reviews of previous episodes can be found here