Wednesday 21 December 2011

More Earthlike exoplanets

A little update on the ongoing search for planets. NASA confirmed yesterday that the Kepler telescope has successfully located two planets of Earthlike size and mass. After the 'twin' planet of Kepler-22b getting all the fanfare, this latest discovery has slipped by with little fanfare, yet it's just as significant, since these are the first confirmed terrestrial planets of comparable size to our own.

The two planets have been located in star system Kepler-20, which has now been thoroughly investigated and has previously revealed three larger planets. With five planets, Kepler-20 is quite a busy system, although not the most populous known (HD 10180 and Kepler-11 both have a confirmed six planets, still behind our own system with its eight major planets). Kepler-20 is about 290 parsecs away (that's nearly 950 light years) in the constellation of Lyra, and is a reasonably close match to our own Sun.

So, these two new worlds, designated Kepler-20e and 20f, are the smallest ever found. Detecting planets this small isn't easy. There's a good article here on the discovery, which explains some of the long process that was required to confirm the discovery. There's also a nice little animation illustrating the planetary system.

The previously trumpeted planet Kepler-22b has a radius approximately 2.4 times that of Earth, while the previous record holder of smallest exoplanet was K-10b, the first confirmed terrestrial exoplanet with a radius of 1.4 Earths. It's clear to see that the Kepler project has been slowly getting closer to an Earth-sized planet. Now it has been rewarded with two. K-20f is the larger of the two, at 1.03 Earth radii, while its sibling K-20e is only at 0.87 of Earth's radius; roughly the size of Venus.

However, there's no use getting excited about alien life forms or comfortable planetary colony sites. All the planets found orbiting Kepler-20 do so much closer than Mercury does the Sun. K-20f is the outermost, and orbits in only twenty days. There is a slim chance it may retain an atmosphere of heavier chemicals - water vapour, perhaps - but K-20e, is in a six-day orbit, with an estimated surface temperature of 1040K, so there's no chance of it retaining any atmosphere.

It's a peculiar system altogether, really. Planet b is the innermost, followed by planets e, c, f and d - which means it's running big, little, big, little, big. The three larger planets are probably gaseous, and are somewhere in the super-Earth size band, smaller than Neptune - hot gas dwarfs. It's a far cry from our own system, with four terrestrial planets, two huge jovian gas giants and two smaller, colder gaseous planets, all much further from the Sun and from each other. It seems that the Solar System is by no means typical for the galaxy. It'll be very interesting to see what the next few planetary systems turn out to be like.

UPDATE: Only hours after I posted this, a further discovery was announced, detailing two planets found orbiting the star KOI 55 (aka KIC 05807616), a dying subdwarf. The two planets, KOI 55.01 and KOI 55.02 are even smaller than Kepler-20e, at 0.76 and 0.87 Earth radii respectively, and they have extraodinarily close orbits that last only a matter of hours. Betsy Green, one of the researchers on the project, has issued a statement saying that KOI 55 must have previously been a red giant star, having long since passed through this phase of its existence, and that the planets must have been drawn inside its mass during its giant period. Furthermore, to have survived this immersion in the star's outer layers, the planets must once have been gas giants, with their thick atmosphere's taking the brunt of the star's energy. The fluid layers would have been stripped away, leaving the dense metallic cores behind. Such planets, known as Chthonian planets, have been theorised before, but never definitively identified.

There's a detailed article on the findings here at the Daily Galaxy.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Doctor Who Christmas Special now available

Well, OK, not the Christmas Special. However, The Doctor Who Project has now made available its Christmas Special, Stromboli's Comet, by Jez Strickley and Jake Johnson.

You can download it for free here.

Friday 16 December 2011

Still searching for answers

Just read a very interesting article on the search for God in the Universe over at The Independent. There are plenty of articles out there that address the challenge of combining theology and science, but this is a particularly good example, addressing the various approaches and difficulties in just enough depth for an informative layman's article of reasonable length. There are also some reader comments that are worth checking out.

It's an intriguing ongoing debate. While I would consider myself an atheist - or, at least, a skeptical agnostic - I see no reason whatsoever why a scientist cannot also be religious. While the above article focusses on Christian scientists (not to be confused with Christian Scientists), there is no reason not to discuss the nature of objective, empirical science when applied to practicing Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, et al. I certainly find it impossible to correlate a rational view of the Universe with a literal interpretation of the Bible, or of any religious text. The twin creation stories of Genesis (for there are two, rather clumsily cobbled together - it's easy to see the join) are patently absurd, stories of an ancient people that have no place today beyond historical and mythological study. It's quite terrifying that there are still many, many schools in th United States that refuse to teach Darwinian evolution but which preach Biblical Creationism as fact.

And yet, there's nothing to stop a scientist from believing in a created Universe, or prevent a Christian, Muslim or Jew from accepting the tenets of empirical science. A literal interpretation of Old Testament stories is out of the question, but there is still room for a more developed, modern view of these religions, which many people worldwide ascribe to. I know less about pantheistic faiths, such as Hinduism, so cannot really comment on how compatible these would be with such an approach, although I'd be very interested to learn. Animistic faiths, still followed by many tribal groups throughout Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas, are in many ways highly compatible, worshipping, essentially, the laws of nature.

Personally, I find it difficult to believe in the Christian God, for the simple reason that the Universe, in all its complexity and splendour, is evidently not perfect, and I fail to see how an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God could create a flawed creation, filled with suffering and basic errors. Too many children are boon with terrible, agonising genetic diseases for me to ever accept such a belief. However, that doesn't preclude the possibility of some form of Creator God.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Phantoms, Time Lords and Elder Things

On Monday night, my family and I went on an outing to Theatre Land, that garish and luvvie country nestled within Central London. My Dad treated us all to a night at Her Majesty's Theatre, to see the classic musical The Phantom of the Opera, now celebrating its 25th year. I love a musical, and it's been a good little while since I went to see one. Phantom was, I am pleased to say, absolutely fantastic. The early operatic moments were over the top, and I worried that the show might turn out to be rather naff. My concerns were totally unfounded; Phantom proved to be an astonishingly powerful play, with a roaring score backed by staggeringly effective sets and lightwork. It was the two-handed scenes that I enjoyed the most, particularly those that saw the Phantom (a rich performance by Earl Carpenter) in his attempts to woo Christine - played in this performace by Katie Hall, who isn't the regular for the role, something I don't understand, as she was perfect throughout. The entire cast were very good, although worth mentioning is Cheryl McAvoy as Madame Giry, and I've a particular soft spot for Anna Forbes as her daughter Meg, the ballerina.

Monday 12 December 2011

Two lost Doctor Who episodes - FOUND!

The BBC announced last night that two of the many missing episodes of Doctor Who have been recovered, and returned to the BBC archives in their entirety. Well, we call them 'lost' or 'missing,' but destroyed is a better term - the BBC committed wanton acts of vandalism against its own product throughout the Sixties and Seventies, wiping, and sometimes even incinerating, old video stock. The list of lost Doctor Who eps tallied a whopping 108, until two more were recovered recently. Staggeringly, according to the news story, both episodes were bought at a school fete in the Eighties, and have been kept pristine since then, with the owner unaware that they were missing from the archives. These aren't the original transmission tapes, which have all invariably been destroyed. However, film transfers for overseas sales resurface from time to time, very often having been sold on by foreign television stations and now residing in private collections.

Doctor Who isn't the only series to have suffered such a fate - Dad's Army, Hancock's Half Hour, Softly Softly, Not in Front of the Children, Adam Adamant Lives! - dozens of series are missing episodes. There's a list in this wiki entry, and we can see that cop shows were hit particularly badly - Dixon of Dock Green is missing 381 episodes, and Z-Cars a whopping 466! Although this does show just how prolific the creators of these series were, to have made so many episodes in the first case. Monty Python's Flying Circus almost lost its entire first series, according to the tales, but the engineer charged with the task of wiping it decided to pinch it, and took it home instead. Good forward thinking, that man. Emergency Ward 9 also turned up in this latest haul, along with a Pete and Dud sketch - slowly, the BBC is getting its goods back.

So, Doctor Who is missing over a hundred episodes from the Sixties, featuring the original Doctor, William Hartnell, and his successor, Patrick Troughton. Thankfully, one episode for each has just been discovered. For Hartnell fans, we have Air Lock, the third episode of Galaxy Four - a major find, as this was one of the truly lost stories, with only tiny fragments of film remaining as a visual record. Troughton lovers can look forward to seeing Episode Two of The Underwater Menace, which joins the third episode in the archives, leaving episodes one, four, five and six still unaccounted for. Menace is widely considered one of the worst stories of the Sixties, but still, it's a laugh, and it's great to be able to actually see the lunacy again. Clips from both shows can be seen at the Doctor Who News Page.

So, this leaves 106 episodes still missing from the archives. It's unlikely there are many more out there - not all can be as fortunate as these, and been saved from a second act of destruction and acquired by collectors. Still, they do turn up from time to time - the last time this happened was back in 2004, when the Dalek episode Day of Armageddon surfaced. Until the next lucky find, we can make do with the off-air soundtracks - fortuitously recorded by industrious fans during the original broadcasts.

Best have a quick check in the loft though, just in case Grandad hid the complete Marco Polo up there. You never know.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

A new Earth?

The latest scientific story to grab the headlines is the discovery of planet Kepler-22b, an apparent 'twin' of the Earth. This is certainly a fascinating and important discovery, but the matter has been overstated.

Kepler-22b, located 600 light years away on the edge of Cygnus, is the most Earth-like planet so far discovered beyond our solar system. It is the first planet of a comparable size to our own to be confirmed to exist within its system's habitable zone. Smaller planets, closer to that of the Earth, have been detected, but so far all orbiting their primaries at close proximity that would likely make them too hot for life. Kepler-22 is a Class-G star, much like our own, but a little smaller and dimmer; the planet lies 15% closer to its star than we do to our Sun, putting it in a similar position heat- and radiation-wise.
So, the position is a good one, giving a potentially temperate environment for the planet. Yet the 'twin' aspect of Kepler-22b to Earth has been overstated by the stories. The planet has a radius about 2.5 times greater than the Earth's. That's a pretty good approximation of the Earth, in the scheme of things, but not quite what I'd call a twin. As a contrast, look at Venus. Venus is almost an exact match for Earth, size-wise, and is very similar in terms of structure and composition. It's also within the solar habitability zone, just about, so you would expect an environment very similar to that of the Earth. Yet Venus is a broiling hellhole, and any human being who set foot there would be immediately choked, crushed and boiled to death. Venus is a much better match for the Earth than Kepler-22b, but it's hardly a promising colony site.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Things to look forward to in the Whoniverse

I'm supposed to be writing some fan-fiction, but I feel like I've swallowed a cactus and my brain seems to have turned to porridge. So I'm going to attempt to get myself in the Doctor Who mind set properly. I've rewatched The Doctor's Wife and listened to part two of Serpent Crest, and am now amusing myself by looking ahead to what's to come in the world of the Doctor.

The Radio Times has a nice preview ahead for the Christmas special, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. I'm starting to really look forward to this one. I enjoy the RT articles on Doctor Who - they usually get the balance right, neither fawning over the show or mercilessly tearing it apart, and, while I might not necessarily agree with a review, I always feel the reviewer has been fair in their appraisal. RT previews often put a little hint in for diehards, letting them know of a reference to watch out for. It's a fun little fan game. Apparently there's a nod to a 1984 story in this one, so I'm hoping the Malus is hiding somewhere in the woods. Plus, there's a host of new images, including this marvellous one of Bill Bailey in a spacesuit:

I adore Bill Bailey, and I'm pleased to see that he hasn't changed his classic bemused expression for his Who appearance. Whenever I see him on TV, he always looks as if he was expecting to be somewhere else, as if he's just walked into the wrong room.

Monday 28 November 2011

The Tram Experience

Just going to add my tuppence into the latest furore. I'm referreing to the latest video to have gone viral - no, not Fenton the dog, but 'The Tram Experience.'

This article in the Periscope Post covers everything you need to know - the background, the fallout, the video itself. You can watch it there, all two and a half horrible minutes of it. To be honest, it's not as shocking as many people are claiming. I hear people ranting about this sort of thing fairly often. Perhaps it's the fact this woman has a young child on her lap, and still considers it perfectly acceptable to left forth a tirade of bile like this.

What's most distressing is that, immediately, people have sprung to this woman's defence. Some people consider it her right to hurl abuse at people like this. The woman has been arrested now - an internet viral actually leading to some good, it seems - yet some people are claiming that this infringes on her right to freedom of speech. Of course, the majority of people saying this have then gone onto their own beliefs regarding the segregation of the races and white superiority, and other gibberish. It's true that they, and this new internet starlet, have a right to their own opinions, and to express them. This, however, is nothing more than verbal abuse, which should never be considered acceptable, whatever someone's questionable beliefs are.

Sure, the UK has issues with immigration, and there are people who have come from overseas who should never have been allowed to stay here. But to possibly claim that this vile invective is a legitimate expression of opinion - that's almost as offensive as the video itself.

Friday 25 November 2011

Trek Review: Watching the Clock by Christopher L. Bennett

Time for another Star Trek review, methinks. I like the Trek novels that are a little unusual, the ones that stray beyond the core character groups. While it can be fun to read a book that makes you think "That would have made a good episode of DS9," or whatever, many of the best books are the ones that explore the wider Trek universe, taking the chance to explore strange new... well, you know what I mean. There are hundreds of intriguing supporting characters in Star Trek, and sometimes it can be fun to see what they've been up to since they guested in an episode. Equally, there are whole eras of history, before, after and between those we've seen in TV and film, which can be explored to add further colour to this fictional universe.

So: Watching the Clock. Or, to give it the full cover title, Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations - Watching the Clock. Bit of a mouthful, so I'll stick with the shorter version. This was released in April, and I read it in September, but have only just got around to writing the review up. It's the latest novel by Christopher L. Bennett, a fairly prolific Trek author in recent years. I've previously read his atypical Borg story Greater Than the Sum, and Ex Machina, his excellent sequel to The Motion Picture. He's a fine author, with a clear prose style that manages to get across complicated ideas quickly and easily, which is a talent in this frequently technobabble-heavy range. He's also one of the Trek authors who is clearly determined to have fun with the series, as well as one who likes to explore loose ends and continuity points. So, he'll spend a page trying to come up with a solution to a decades old plot point... but also has a tendency to get his female characters naked whenever possible, which stops things getting dull...

Wednesday 23 November 2011

REVIEW: The Tally by E.G. Wolverson

Anyone who is reading this blog is likely to be familiar with the work of E.G. Wolverson. It was Mr Wolverson who created and ran The History of the Doctor, filling it with hundreds of articles, reviews and works of short fiction. The whole time he was working on that, he was also working on The Tally, his first novel. It's now available to download from Amazon, although anyone looking for some whimsical Doctor Who-like fantasy should look elsewhere (although he has managed to sneak the odd reference to both Who and Star Wars into the mix).

The Tally takes us to Hull, where a bunch of hapless students are struggling with the harsh realities of life. Wolverson has described this novel as 'bloke lit,' the opposite of chick lit, and it's easy to see where he's coming from. From the outset, the book is puerile, profane and sex-obssessed. Yet this is down to the very nature of the characters, who are just like this - or endeavour to be, in each other's company. As the story moves on, we see that much of this is merely the surface of the characters' personalities. While Will tries to mark up as many conquests on his tally as he can, he struggles with an eating disorder to maintain his perfect image. Tom is hopelessly in love with an unattainable girl, and is slipping further and further into depression. Legendary dropout Spadge is trying, and failing, to move on in life, while meathead Gristle... doesn't really think about anything much. Young teaching student Jamal is so uptight he's ready to snap, until student life shows him what he's been missing.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Shut Up, Hitler! Part Two: Fucking Nazis

"Let's kill Hitler!" said the Doctor Who title sequence, back in August, then locked him in a cupboard and forgot all about him. Misfits, on the other hand, takes things much further, with an apparantly throwaway line back in the Christmas special leading to a full-blown Nazi-fest in the current series. Misfits whole raison-d'etre seems to be to take episode concepts as far as it possibly can, as one elderly, time-travelling Jew messes up his mission to assassinate Adolf, irrevocably changing history. The idea that the Nazis would have won WWII if they'd have got hold of more advanced technology from the future isn't a new one (Doctor Who did it, amongst others, although this was in the Big Finish audio range, not on telly). The moral of the story is: if you're going to go back in time to kill Hitler, take a proper plan and not your mobile phone.

Misfits has gone from strength to strength this year, each episode stronger than the last, and each with a different feel and atmosphere. The series is still missing Nathan, it's true, probably due to Rudy not making a major impact once his introduction was over. Yet the remaining characters are getting more focus now, whereas they were often overshadowed by Nathan in the second season. Curtis got an overdue chance to shine in episode two (played by both regular Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and by guest star Kehinde Fadipe), while last week's ep brought Simon and Alisha's ongoing story back to the fore. However, I can't help but feel that Lauren Socha is the star of the show, making a bolshy, violent dropout like Kelly impossible not to love.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Doctor Who movie might possibly happen - eventually

OK, so everyone and his dog is blogging about this right now, but I'm going to hop on the bandwagon. Earlier today there was an announcement over on Variety that David Yates is going to be helming the production of a new Doctor Who movie. Since then, the sections of the web concerned with Who, sci-fi and movies in general have gone into overenthusiastic reportage and speculation, the British radio stations have all started dropping in DJs' opinions on the news, and no doubt tomorrow's papers will be spinning it and stretching it into a headline worthy 'exclusive.' Already, I'm told, irate fans have started organising a petition to shut down production, incensed at news that the film won't be a direct continuation of the show. This is particularly laughable; not only the desire to shut down a production that hasn't actually started yet with only the vaguest idea what it will be like, but the very suggestion that a few angry geeks could have any bearing on such a thing.

So, while I'll happily join the opinion and speculation brigade, let's get a few things in perspective here. Firstly, there have been rumblings about a Who movie periodically for years, that have come to precisely nil. There were two movies in the Sixties - the Amicus Dalek movies, remakes of early TV serials - and a TV movie in 1996, which was the end result of a long and torturous production development which was one of many that struggled on in the Nineties. All the rest of these came to nothing, as did Tom Baker's attempt to produce his own movie in the Seventies, Doctor Who Meets Scratchman. The rumour mill has slowed down a little with the show's return to telly, but now seems to be stepping back up to full power again. Only a few months ago, the web was awash with totally unfounded rumours of a Tim Burton reimagining.

David Yates is a notable director, with numerous film and television directorial credits behind him. He's shot to great acclaim recently due to his directing the final four films of the Harry Potter series. Nothing that he has said, as far as I can make out, suggests that his Doctor Who aspirations are currently anything more than that. It's being planned, negotiated, talked about. That doesn't mean it will actually make it into production. Worthwhile films helmed by hugely talented people can languish in Development Hell for years. Nonetheless, this is not just an internet rumour - there are genuine, if brief, quotes from the man - but it's still early days. There's no guarantee that this will become anything more than another failed project.

I hope I'm wrong. Yates has some clout, and a better chance of getting this into production than most previous attempts. The BBC would be foolish to dismiss the idea. Even if it's not a BBC production, they would still generate huge revenue from the rights sale. A big bucks Hollywood Who could be huge. A number of fans are getting upset by the indication that it will break with the continuity of the TV series. “It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena,” says Yates. “Russell T Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch.” That's pretty hard to argue with. A TV series is a different beast to a movie. The audience will be somewhat different. It will have to sell worldwide from the off, rather than being a British production that's flogged overseas as a secondary. I'm not certain it needs to totally break with continuity - the nature of Doctor Who is such that it can have an entirely different cast, with a different array of characters, to the TV series, with its own setting and storyline, and still be comfortably part of the wide world of Who. The series has been enough different things over the years. The recent Star Trek film, which recast and rebooted but maintained a respectful link to the original, is a good example of how it could work. Nonetheless, a full wiping of the slate is more likely, with only the basic concepts the same. While, as a fan, I'd prefer the possibility of it all fitting together, I won't have a problem with it starting afresh. I would prefer a British actor as the Doctor, but I won't refuse to watch it if an American or Canadian or anyone else is cast. I would prefer the TARDIS to remain a police box, but I won't write an angry letter to Yates if he decides to change it for a fire hydrant or the Zero Milestone.

What I'm trying to say is, "Let's wait and see." Calm down, angry fans, it may never happen, and, if it does, give it a chance. You may even like it.

Wednesday 9 November 2011


I wonder if all my posts from now on could have pertinant headings that happen to be video game titles. Probably not, unless I start blogging heavily about gaming. Still, it's a challenge. What this post is actually about is the huge asteroid that flew past the Earth last night. You may have seen something about it in the news, although there hasn't been a huge amount of coverage. Perhaps this isn't too suprising. The asteroid is invisible to the naked eye, and doesn't have a proper name, merely a number - 2005 YU55. Invisible rocks without names are a harder sell than the more obvious, in-your-face type event, like a nice, shiny comet (remember Hale-Bopp?)

In spite of its apparent obscurity, 2005 YU55 is pretty noteworthy. A C-Type asteroid - essentially a big, black boulder - it's about 400 metres across, and came within spitting distance hitting the Earth. The official classification for something like this is a 'Potentially Hazardous Object.' YU55 has an orbit that takes it through our own, passing even closer to us than the Moon. Sadly, the proximity and size of the rock aren't sufficient to allow us to see it without optical aid. A good pair of binoculars would have been sufficient on a dark enough night, but the Moon's brightness was too much and whited it out. Without a fairly wide-apertured optical telescope it remained invisible, although the radio astronomy boys have reportedly got some excellent readings from it. It's all academic for me, anyway - it was cloudy down my way, as usual.

We're assured that there was never any risk of YU55 hitting the Earth. If it had, it would have been pretty damned serious. An impact on land would have left a four mile wide crater and triggered a mag 7 earthquake. An impact in the ocean would have caused gigantic tsunamis. Not an extinction event, but something to be glad we've avoided. Nonetheless, 200,000 miles is shiveringly close in astronomical terms. A narrow squeak.

Mind you, it's got to come back through yet. It should swing back round the sun and past Venus in eighteen years time. Where it goes from there depends on exactly how Venus' gravity affects it. In 2041, it should sail past us at a similar distance to last night's event. It should...

But don't worry too much about it. Apophis will be along in 2029. That should miss us too...

Monday 31 October 2011

REVIEW: Misfits 3.1

Fantastic! While I may have a job that precludes any chance of taking in a party, and had to watch shop during the Brighton Zombie Walk for yet another year, this Hallowe'en still promises to be a good'un. I'm off to see Ghostbusters on the big screen for the first time tonight, but until then I've kept myself busy with some spooky classics (Poltergeist, H.P. Lovecraft short fiction and plenty of episodes of Trap Door) and the first in a new series of Misfits.

It's got a tough job this third run, with Robert Sheehan moving on to bigger and better paid things. Nathan, everyone's favourite foul-mouthed superhuman, is now gone, although fans can catch up with his exploits in Vegas in a special online short. It's a shame we couldn't have him back for a full farewell episode, but never mind. Replacing Nathan was never going to be easy, but creator and lead writer Howard Overman just about manages it with the new dropout Rudy. In some ways, he does come across as a Nathan stand-in: he's smutty, sex-obssessed, completely self-absorbed and the prime source of comedy in the show. Still, he's different enough to show promise as a successful character in his own right, with a vulnerability that Nathan rarely showed, something that could make him more likeable in the long run.

Two things make Rudy work. First is Joseph Gilgun's performance, at once swaggeringly offensive and surprisingly sympathetic. The other is the nature of his power, which sees him split into two individuals, representing the light and dark sides of his personality. Rather than going down the obvious 'evil twin' route, instead this gives us a larger-than-life version of Rudy with a positive attitude, and a depressive, restrained version who is both more sensitive and more given to self-loathing and self-pity. Combined with Rudy's past with Alisha, this promises some very interesting character exploration, with plenty of pussy gags thrown in for good measure.

Rudy's entrance pushes the remaining cast member into the background quite drastically, but that's a necessary sacrifice for a successful introduction. We've plenty of time to see how they're developing into their new powers. These mostly have potential - Simon has limited precognition, Alisha can step into other people's shoes, and Curtis can change sex - all of which could provide strong storylines and tell us something new about their characters. Kelly, on the other hand, gets a joke power: she's a rocket scientist, blessed with superior intelligence - but only for designing rockets. Still, with the mysterious power trading superhuman Seth set up to be a major recurring character, I wouldn't bet on any of these powers to stay the length of the series.

As a whole, the episode is pretty solid, although nothing special. The humour and dialogue doesn't seem as strong or fluid as before, but should improve as the new group dynamic develops. The freak-of-the-week is pretty good, a psychotic blonde with the ability to stall time, although she's dealt with pretty perfunctorily. The corpses continue to pile up, and surely that's got to start having some consequences soon. Hiding the murder of their probation officer was the main thrust of the first series' ongoing story; nowadays, the gang seem free to off as many people as they need to keep their lives conveniently mutant-free. It's important for the show to hold onto some semblance of reality; the whole thing could come crashing down if it descends too far into comicbook fantasy territory. On the basis of this episode, though, the future looks fucking brilliant.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The song is ending, but the story goes on

A couple of things have come to an end lately, through necessity or choice. The Whoniverse has got a little smaller. Sadly, The Sarah Jane Adventures have finally reached their end. Of course, there is very little that could have been done about this. It is fortunate for fans of the character and the series that the first half of the proposed fifth season was filmed at the end of the fourth. Plans for further episodes were halted by Elisabeth Sladen's tragic death. I understand that there may have been talk of continuing the series in an amended format, although this is probably just the work of the Internet rumour mill. Perhaps Katy Manning could take over - The Jo Jones Adventures? Perhaps the 'kids' could continue, carrying the series on their own. Perhaps there might be a way, but it could never be a true continuation. The show belong to Sladen, and it's right that it ended with her. I hope that perhaps one or more of her sidekicks might turn up on Doctor Who one day, but otherwise, it's quite right that the series has ended.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Panic Moon

Just a quick post to say that the new issue of Panic Moon is out. It's a great little fanzine, printed at A6 size so that it's super-convenient to slip in your pocket to read on the way to work. Panic Moon is created by Oliver Wake, and includes articles and reviews by a whole lot of Doctor Who fans - including a couple by me. There's a good mix of views inside, on both the latest episodes and the original series, and there's some gorgeous artwork.

It's super cheap too - £1.20 in the UK including postage. If you fancy a copy - and I heartily recommend it - you can order one here.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Who Review: Tsar Wars by Paul Magrs

Tsar Wars is the first instalment in Serpent Crest, the third series of BBC/Tom Baker/Paul Magrs audio Doctor Who. The first run, Hornets' Nest, went for an unusual style, somewhere between a narrated audiobook and a Big Finish-styled audio drama. It was an approach that took some getting used to, but was ultimately successful, primarily because Magrs's lyrical prose so suits Baker's distinctive voice and eccentric performance. Demon Quest followed a similar route, but Tsar Wars takes a more traditional tack and opts for a full-cast audio play. It makes for an easier listening experience, but does rob the story of much of the uniqueness of previous episodes.

Fortunately, Magrs's trademark whimsy is still present and correct. The story is based on a series of dreadful puns - the Tsar Wars are fought by the Robotov Empire, a galactic imperium ruled by androids who have overthrown their human masters. It's more of a standard sci-fi setting than the walking, stuffed badgers of Hornets' Nest, but it's early days - there's plenty of time for further absurdity in later instalments. Really, the pseudo-Tsarist trappings are an excuse for Tom Baker, and guest star Michael Jayston, to essentially reprise their roles from Nicholas and Alexandra. While Jayston - already a major figure in Who, thanks to his role as the Valeyard - plays the Robotov Tsar, Baker plays not only the Doctor but also Father Gregory, basically space Rasputin. To me, Baker's return to the role of the Doctor has previously sounded more like a channelling of his own eccentric self. A peculiar old man living in a Sussex cottage who used to play an alien Time Lord, and now returning to be play a peculiar old man living in a Sussex cottage who happens to be an alien Time Lord. Here, he sounds somewhat more like the Doctor, but still an older, more avuncular, less abrasive version (not unlike Peter Davison more seasoned performances in his audio plays). He's completely different as Father Gregory, the only human trusted by the Robotov aristocracy, hamming it up magnificently and evidently having a wonderful time.

Sunday 9 October 2011

'The Silent Stars Go By' and the future of Doctor Who novels

There's been a marked improvement in the range of Doctor Who novels of late. I'm not alone in missing the ongoing range of adventures for the eighth Doctor, and the 'past Doctor' adventures that were released along side it, which were released by the BBC in the years before the return of the show to TV. This was itself the continuation of a tradition started by Virgin, which published New and Missing Adventures in the 1990s. There were clunkers, yes, but overall, we were treated to a collection of complex, well-written, full-length prose adventures for Doctors one through eight, many of which really pushed the envelope of what Doctor Who could be. The more recent releases, featuring Doctors nine, ten and eleven, have been shorter, more simplistic, and often rather generic. There have been a few excellent examples, and the range in, undeniably, a huge success, yet I'm pleased that the BBC has begun to allow a little experimentation and development again.

Firstly, the regular range has improved of late. I began to regularly buy the novels again once the eleventh Doctor arrived, in order to review them for The History of the Doctor. The fact that they could be bought super-cheap from Sainsbury's didn't hurt. And, although they've been good fun, with some fine examples of the style, they've mostly stuck to the lightweight formula. The last batch of three, however, was a great improvement. Naomi Alderman's Borrowed Time, George Mann's Paradox Lost and Touched by an Angel by Jonathan Morris make for the best batch in a long time. Add to these the superb and suprisingly mature Dead of Winter, James Goss's novel from the previous lot, and there are clear signs of improvement.

Most encouraging of all, however, is the introduction of sporadicly released novels in a larger, longer format. First was The Coming of the Terraphiles, by the legendary Michael Moorcock. Some dislike the fact that this is a typical Moorcock novel that happens to feature the Doctor, but I loved it, and now want to read more from an author about whom I'd heard good things but not previously tried. The Silent Stars Go By, the new novel by Dan Abnett, doesn't quite live up to the expectations due to it's predecessor, but it's a grand read. Essentially a Christmas special, albeit one not actually featuring Christmas, it draws the reader into a world of devestating cold with great skill. I put it aside for a few days - it arrived on my doormat on October 1st, during a week in which Britain was experiencing unseasonably warm weather - and picked it up once the temperaturees began to drop on Earth, as well as Hereafter. Abnett perfectly nails the regular trio of Amy, Rory and the Doctor, and his Ice Warriors are a joy, all raw power and aggression. Aside from the somewhat increased length, there's not much to distinguish it from the main range; but, considering how good this has lately become, this isn't actually a bad thing.

Dan Abnett isn't such a draw to a non-fan audience as Moorcock, but he is the tie-in king, hugley popular with fans of Warhammer novels and having been involved in numerous other shared universes. He even wrote for the nineties Ghostbusters comic, which is very cool. Nonetheless, I'm more enthused with some of the names announced for the future. Shada, the abandoned script from 1980, is due to be novelised by Gareth Roberts, whose recent work on the TV series (he wrote The Lodger and its sequel) has been Doctor Who comedy at its best. While this is a project and an author more likely to appeal to established fans such as me, the adaptation of a Douglas Adams script should turn a few heads. Better still is the announcement that both Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter are to write full-length Who novels. Reynolds and Baxter are two of the most talented, highly regarded hard sci-fi authors writing today, and the prospect of Doctor Who written with their skill and style is very exciting. I just hope Baxter doesn't have to pull out, as he did with his Big Finish script. It also means that, after seven years, we'll finally be getting new novels for old Doctors, with Roberts taking on the fourth, Reynolds the thrid and Baxter the second. This, and the direction of the main range lately, give me hope that Doctor Who novels could be entering a new age of quality, sci-fi adventure.

Monday 3 October 2011


I'm not going to do a full review for The Wedding of River Song - to be honest, I'm so ambivalent about the finale that I don't know where to start. Tremendous fun yet disappointingly predictable in many ways, the ending was a dreadful cop-out. Yet the build-up was a joy, with some truly memorable scenes. I suspect it'll be more enjoyable on later rewatches, without the overbearing expectation and hype. As a single adventure, it delivered. As the culmination of two years of ongoing mystery, not so much.

Nonetheless, the slate has been, if not wiped clean, then giving a good scrub. With the Doctor pretending to be dead - not that it can really matter much to his enemies, when any of his earlier selves could pop up at any point in history - perhaps we'll get a more mysterious, less overt sort of Doctor hiding his interventions, like in the early days. I hesitate to make predictions, but the rallying cry of "Doctor who?" (guessed that was the question a while ago), along with "the Fall of the Eleventh," plus the upcoming fiftieth anniversary, suggests to me that in 2013, a mystery concerning the Doctor's origins will be revealed, and a regeneration will occur. I may well be wrong, but it seems plausible to me. Matt Smith is explicitly signed up for the anniversary, but there's no word on his carrying on any further...

Sunday 25 September 2011

Doctor Who: Peace of Mind - now online

For those who haven't had their fill of Doctor Who tonight, the award-winning fanfiction series The Doctor Who Project has just begun its series of specials. First up is my very own story, Peace of Mind. Just click on the link to be taken to the free downloadable PDF! Please let me know if you enjoy it, or even if you don't.

Friday 16 September 2011

Quickie reviews: Doctor Who and Torchwood

Some short reviews for the latest episodes. Trying to stay concise for once.

If people like these, I might do some for the summer's movies.

Monday 12 September 2011

Trek Review: Indistinguishable from Magic by David A. McIntee

David McIntee is best known for his Doctor Who novels, which include such excellent works as Sanctuary, Bullet Time, The Face of the Enemy and The Eleventh Tiger (and those are just his best ones). This year, after a couple of short stories, he finally got the chance to write a Star Trek novel. I don’t follow the Trek line regularly, preferring to pick up the occasional book that takes my fancy. To be honest, the description of Indistinguishable from Magic didn’t fill me with excitement - a Geordi focussed novel about starship engineering didn’t sound particularly thrilling to me. However, as a big fan of McIntee’s work, I sought it out, and was justly rewarded. Indistinguishable from Magic is a cracker of a Trek book.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Space: 1971

OK, so that doesn't have quite the same ring to it as Space: 1999 (or even Space: 1969, for Matt Smith fans), but still. I thought this was cool:

It's like a glimpse at a world that could have been; one that had a hint of The British Rocket Group or the near-future of the UNIT years of Doctor Who. Britain would have launched revolutionary British-made spacecraft, pioneering space technology in the 20th century. Instead, the project was curtailed before the first satellite even got launched. I guess it's not too surprising; space exploration is an incredibly expensive endeavour, and a government always has a host of expensive, worthy projects to finance. But there's a hint of British bloodymindedness there; the project was cancelled, but they went ahead and launched it anyway. Wonderfully, Prospero is still up there, happily orbiting the Earth, waiting to be contacted.

Does anyone else think it looks like a Mechanoid? We should get a few more up there, they could be a valuable line of defence in the event of a Dalek invasion...

Monday 29 August 2011

Extra Torchwood rant

The Daily Mail ran a story over the weekend complaining about the gay sex scenes in Torchwood. No, don't worry, I'm not a Mail reader, but occasionally I pick up a newspaper of someone else's table and have a flick through. There've already been a few complaints about Jack's gay pick up in an earlier episode - scenes that were cut heavily for the UK, which is a strange about face - and now, the episode 'Immortal Sins,' which was about Jack's affair with a man named Angelo in the 20s, has caused 'outrage.'

"Hundreds complain over 'pointless' Torchwood sex scenes" yells the headline. OK, let's put some perspective on that. Hundreds complain, out of an average audience of 3.4 million.  So, it's hardly a majority of viewers. Still, two things from the article really piss me off. One is the idea that science fiction shouldn't involve sex scenes. "It's sci-fi, not sex-fi!" It seems we sci-fi fans can't win. If we're not being mocked for being sexless geeks, we're being told that our genre of choice can't look at sexuality or romance. Regardless of the complaints, the scenes were not pointless. They illustrated the relationship between Jack and Angelo, which was the crux of the entire episode, and, as we have had hinted already and will no doubt have explained this week, will have consequences for the Miracle Day story as a whole. It's on after the watershed, so any young sci-fi fans of a delicate age and disposition shouldn't be watching Torchwood anyway. It's not like it's ever been shy about sex since it started, five years ago. (Although I do agree that a watershed means nothing when any kid can click 'Yes, I am over 16' on iPlayer at any time of the day).

The second thing that angers me is that the complaints stem, not from the fact that it was a sex scene, but that is was a gay scene. I haven't heard of anyone complaining about the straight sex between Vera and Rex earlier in the run. Clearly, to some people, gay sex is offensive. Fine - that's your view. You don't have to watch it. This is a series notorious for its broad view of sexuality. Surely people can realise by now that there might be some men kissing in it, or a brief flash of willy. (Hardly the 'explicit' scenes the article infers). "Some questioned the needs for sex scenes, gay or straight," it says, the only suggestion in the press that perhaps some people can accept that gay scenes have the same validity as straight ones.

I know, I should hardly be surprised that the Mail is running a homophobic article. I'm surprised they didn't pick up on the fact that Angelo was an illegal immigrant. But honestly. Complain that the scene went on too long, or that the dialogue was terrible, or that it was all a bit rubbish, really, when you get down to it. It wasn't a terribly good sex scene - but that is irrelevent. It could have a work of true, beautiful art, and the bigots would still be complaining, and hatesheets like the Mail would grant them exposure.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Shut Up, Hitler!

Well, Doctor Who returned tonight with a deeply strange, but extremely fun episode. With a title like Let's Kill Hitler, it had to be a bit of a barmy one, but I wasn't expecting it to play out like it did. Some beautiful performances, great writing, a strong mix of humour and pathos, and some important forwarding of this year's ongoing storyline. Strange that after all the drawn out mystery of the past series-and-a-half, more seemed to happen to drive things forward in this one episode than in the last seven. I won't go into details here; not only will a lot of people not have watched it yet, but I'll be penning a full review for Whotopia magazine over the next few days. Make sure you catch it if you already haven't, though - it's a cracking episode.

Along with the trailer for next week's spooky-looking episode, it's boding well for a fine second half of the season. Far better than the current Torchwood revamp. That's not to say I'm not enjoying Miracle Day, but it's been hugely flawed so far. The central concept is sci-fi gold: what would happen if, one day, eveyone stopped dying? A deceptively simple high concept, taking to its logical conclusion to explore human nature - that's what science fiction's all about. So it's a shame that the actual series has had so much wrong with it. The plotting's all over the place; sudden twists and revelations pop out of nowhere at the end of episodes because it't time for another surprise, not because the plot demands them. The core character's are all deeply stupid, handing over vital evidence to obvious villains, and phoning their families in the middle of major crises, despite being on the run. In fact, the writers seem to forget that the main characters are fugitives for several episodes at a time. John Barrowman and Eve Myles really can't compete with the new American cast, either. Actors like Bill Pullman, Alexa Havins and Lauren Ambrose really up the game for a show like this. Having Eve Myles throwing a Welsh wobbly in the middle of an episode brings it all crashing back down again.

And, while I'm all for more gay sex on television, the sexy dialogue thrown about here should never have made it to paper, let alone film. Still, applause for the truly nasty elements on show. It's nothing compared to most horror films these days, but there's been some strong stuff for prime time TV.

Whatever, I'm deeply involved in it now, and there are only three episodes left. It finally feels like we're getting somewhere with the mysteries behind the Miracle. I'll watch it to the end, and no doubt enjoy it; it just seems like a drop in quality after the superb Children of Earth. Probably the best Who spin-off out there now is The Minister of Chance, which I'm glad to say is gearing up to produce a third episode. Check it out - it's only £1.29 an episode, and the prologue's free!

Friday 26 August 2011


I'd hoped that this was going to be a productive week. Hasn't really gone to plan. Come down with the latest lurgy, plus had to work extra hours to cover those who are off sick at work, so it's all been a bit on the knackering side. My brain doesn't really seem to be in gear. When you go to work with odd shoes on, you know you're not quite with it. When you do it twice, you need a holiday.

So, not much progress made on my new story for The Doctor Who Project, tentatively entitled 'Timebase.' Still plenty of time left till deadline, but I had hoped to get it done good and early so I could start work on some other bits. Ah well. Still, the Project now has a rather marvellous poster up for my story Peace of Mind, the first of the 2011 specials.

And you can read a little about it here.

Also on the fanfic side of things, E. G. Wolverson has released the second part of his excellent audio story, Wolfshead. Part two, 'All of History's Heroes,' which you can download from The History of the Doctor.  It's the official end of the site now, which is a real shame, but Eddy has a whole world of more important things to focus on now. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to be part of it; and yes, my story for the Wolfshead sequence, 'The Six Pillars,' is one of the things on my ever-growing to-do list.

Doctor Who is back tomorrow. Rejoice!

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Stuff and Nonsense...

...which was very nearly the title for this blog.

Anyway. Brighton Pride has been and gone for another year. Due to the strange structure of my saturday, I managed to miss both the beginning and end of the event, arriving in the late afternoon, migrating slowly from the beach to Kemp Town before losing my friends and wandering back in the direction of the station (ending up in Krispy Kreme for quite some time, although I'm not sure why). Still, that middle bit was very good fun, I met a lot of new people (some of whom I even remembered the next day) and I got to enjoy a bit of the street party. Thankfully, there didn't seem to be any really big trouble on the day; I had been worried that if the Moron Riots that had spread across England had continued, something might have kicked off in Brighton. On the whole, it seems that peace won out, at least where I was, although there was a paramedic unit surrounded by a lot of blood on St James's Street at one point. So, mostly peaceful.

As you can see, while not sober at this point, I am far more so than my good friend Paul, who had been there since the early hours. The rainbow hat and garland are only the cusp of his ill-gotten gains for the day. Also, the paint on my cheek says 'Princess.' I did want a glittery Stegosaurus, but I wasn't allowed to choose.

In my more highbrow news, I've been expanding my reading material a bit. I want to try out some new authors, and go back to ones I haven't read in a long time. It's easy, when following a few favourite authors and series, to lose track of anything else. I've just read Smut by Alan Bennett. Subtitled 'Two Unseemly Stories,' it's the usual sort of middle-class oddness that he likes to write about, but with a good dollop of, well, smut. It's good to read something that's strange in an entirely different way to my usual fare. Smut was a short but enjoyable diversion into the wilfully perverse. I'm now ensconced in Kraken, by China Miéville. I'd tried reading some of his work before; I began the highly regarded Perdido Street Station but couldn't get on with it. I thought I'd give him another go though, and I'm absolutely loving Kraken. Moving from the Natural History Museum all over London in search of the stolen preserved corpse of a giant squid, it takes in magic, mystery and godhood. With its peculiar 'other London' existing alongside the everyday one, it's similar in feel to Neil Gaiman's NeverWhere, but with a bloody, kick-your-teeth-in mentality that means you can never feel that any of the characters are remotely safe. About half way through, and so far it's very good indeed.

I'm also trying to find both time and funds to watch some of the big summer movies. Harry Potter is one the list, though I might end up missing it with so much else on offer. I've already seen Captain America: The First Avenger, which was a fine superhero flick, and gives me high hopes of The Avengers, but I also want to squeeze in Super 8, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and less showy, harder to find films like Project Nim and Arrietty. Hopefully I'll manage to see them all before they stop showing.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Audio Adventures

If you head on over to The History of the Doctor, you'll find a little treat from site maestro E. G. Wolverson. We've had a little fanfic up on the site before over the years - much of it from the prolific pen of Chris McKeon - but this time we've decided to go for something a little different. Wolfshead is the first in a short series of audio stories for the Doctor, available for MP3 download exclusively from the site. Featuring the tenth Doctor during his last days, Wolfshead is written by Mr Wolverson and read by James Bolton, a broadcaster for Rother FM. It features original sound design to complement James's wonderful, pacy reading. Only Part One is available right now, with the conclusion to follow shortly, but I've read the original script and it's a cracking story.

So, although The History of the Doctor is winding down as a reviews site, the occasional little something will be made available for our faithful followers. Wolfshead is the first in what we hope will be a trilogy of stories, the second of which shall be written by me for production at some point in the not-too-distant future. So pop over now and download Part One for half an hour of audio goodness.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

The Doctor Who Project

A quick heads up on some fiction I've been working on lately.

The Doctor Who Project is a Canadian-based fanfiction series that has been running for about twelve years now. Bob Furnell and his team decided to tell stories continuing from where the original Doctor Who left off in 1989. The first couple of stories featured Sylvester McCoy's seventh Doctor, but he was soon regenerated into a new, original eighth incarnation (unrelated to the Paul McGann version). Since then, the Doctor has regenerated twice more - I wrote the penultimate story for the ninth Doctor, who was based on the legendary Basil Rathbone.

The series usually runs in seasons - starting with the 27th (following on from the TV series) and now up to the 37th. However, this year it took a short break, but is now back with a short selection of specials, much in the style of David Tennant's final run on the revived TV series. The stories take the form of novella-length, freely downloadable PDF pieces. The first of the specials, Peace of Mind, is written by none other than yours truly. I won't spoil it, but the story does feature elements of a classic adventure. Also, our new tenth Doctor is based on handsome French actor Vincent Perez. He can be a bit of a git, this Time Lord, so he's great fun to write.

Peace of Mind was originally planned as a summer special, but has been delayed, as these things tend to be, and should now be out in September. It'll be followed by The Mountain of Light, by Duncan Johnson, who's brilliant, and then there's a fascinating-sounding Christmas special in the form of Stromboli's Comet, by Jez Strickely and Jake Johnson.

Next year, TDWP is back on with a regular season - the 38th! - so I'd better get on with writing my next one...

Sunday 31 July 2011

Cultural Reflections: Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

Finally got round to reading Surface Detail, the latest Culture novel by Iain ‘Optional M.’ Banks. It’s the seventh novel to feature the Culture (well, the ninth if you include the novella State of the Art and the sneaky Inversions), and one I’ve been meaning to buy for a while. Banks is one of the finest authors in Britain, science fiction or otherwise, and his Culture sequence is a universe I particularly enjoy visiting. Good thing, too - Surface Detail makes few concessions for someone new to the Culture. If that includes you, then here goes: the Culture is an apparently benevolent, hedonistic super-society that has existed from the distant past and will exist far into our future, populated by various interbreeding humanoid species (or ‘pan-humans’) and a vast array of sentient artificial intelligences known as Minds. They span the Galaxy, which they share with sundry other space-faring civilisations of varying levels of sophistication, promoting a façade of diplomatic integrity and righteousness while interfering left, right and centre in secret.

Surface Detail expands the universe of the Culture, introducing a variety of new alien civilisations and exploring in some detail the nature of their sophisticated virtual realities. Central to the novel is the idea of an artificially created Hell: the Culture, and its peers, can copy and store a living being’s mind, restoring it after the individual’s death, either to a newly grown body or a virtual afterlife. It follows that some, less salubrious civilisations will not only create heavenly versions of cyber-afterlife, but hellish ones too. Depressingly, this is probably right. Although belief in a literal Hell has diminished among the various religions of the world over recent years, it certainly persists in some fundamentalist quarters. Some people genuinely believe that the threat of eternal suffering is all that can keep our sinful species on the straight and narrow.

This is also the view of the Pavulean civilisation, who have created a particularly loathsome Dante-esque virtual hell. We follow the suffering of Prin and Chay, two Pavuleans who bravely, or foolishly, infiltrated Hell to bring back the truth of its existence, only to find escape very difficult indeed. These sequences are, in some cases, extremely distressing, Banks presenting us with some truly abominable punishments. It’s easy to forget that Prin and Chay are two trunk-bearing quadrupeds. Why Banks decided to tell the Hellish scenes from an elephant’s point of view I’m not sure; perhaps it’s easier for a reader to stomach if the victim isn’t exactly human.

Monday 25 July 2011

REVIEW: Skaldenland by James Mortimore

“Physics with extra romance.” 

That’s a phrase used by a character in Skaldenland to describe music, but it’s a pretty good summation of the whole story. James Mortimore, the author previously known as Jim Mortimore and known best for his Doctor Who novels, has created an original work that draws heavily on Norse mythology, but also touches on esoteric physics and astrophysics, along with the power of words and music, to create an epic picture of the end of the world. It’s a departure for publishers Obverse Books, whose previous publications have been anthologies of short stories and novellas, and is hopefully only the first of many.

For all its epic ambitions, Skaldenland starts small, with young siblings Brun and Chad on holiday in the country. Brun is an aspiring author; younger Chad is conscious that he lacks any particular talents. Both are, however, possessed of the most incredible turn of phrase. They’re a likeable pair, particularly Chad, the protagonist, but you have to be able to accept these two kids talking to each other in Shakespeare quotes, snatches of poetry and distinctly old-fashioned aphorisms. Chad comes out with phrases like “Her words are to fiction as fiction is to fact. Additional strata, extra space for the meaning to unfold into.” But then, he also says things like “Cool bananas!” so it’s not all grand wordplay. Still, the dialogue and prose style together lend the novel a poetic feel.

Sunday 24 July 2011

REVIEW: Faction Paradox: A Romance in Twelve Parts

A short story anthology from Obverse Books
Edited by Stuart Douglas and Lawrence Miles
Faction Paradox has had, rather aptly, a long and fairly tortuous history. Beginning as a mention in Lawrence Miles’s New Adventure Christmas on a Rational Planet, they developed into a fully-fledged adversarial organisation in the BBC’s eighth Doctor novels, before Miles ripped them free of the Whoniverse and took them into worlds their own. Having fuelled novels by Mad Norwegian Press and Random Static, audio series by both BBV Productions and Magic Bullet, and a sadly short-lived comic series by Image, the Faction are now in the hands of Obverse Books.

A Romance in Twelve Parts is, in Obverse tradition, an anthology of short fiction, set within the vast universe that is the Spiral Politic. The universe is in the thrall of War, between the Great Houses (read: the Time Lords, only far more impressive than they’ve ever been in Doctor Who or Gallifrey) and the Enemy (read: whomever you like, frankly). While these two sides battle over the right to construct history according to their own essential needs, the Faction skulk on the sidelines, causing as much trouble as they can. They don’t care too much who wins the War, as long as there’s some kind of history left to pervert afterwards. What’s so appealing about this shared universe is that it requires little to no knowledge of other Faction Paradox materials to enjoy any one release; the individual stories are linked, often tenuously, only by the universe in which they occur (those that do occur, many stories telling of things that never actually took place, retroactively speaking). Indeed, the Faction don’t appear in every story of the anthology, although their insidious presence is felt throughout. More overt a theme is, once again in Obverse tradition, the power of story and narrative. History is our ongoing story, after all, and we are writing it all the time. Fear those who choose to go back and rewrite the details.


Good morning, afternoon, evening or night.

My name is Daniel Tessier. If you've deliberately come looking for this, you presumably either know me personally, or have previously read my reviews or occasional fiction. With crushing inevitability, I have decided to start my own blog. This is mostly due to the upcoming closure of The History of the Doctor, the review site run by Mr E. G. Wolverson, which has hosted the vast majority of my work until now. The site will continue to exist for the forseeable, with all our reviews and features archived.

You probably know what to expect from this blog by now - reviews and musings on books, movies and TV shows that I have recently enjoyed (or not enjoyed, if I'm feeling disagreeable); general ramblings on things I find interesting. Much of it will be related to Doctor Who, but not all. I do have a few other interests. There may even be some material on myself, if and when I actually get up to anything interesting. Plus, hopefully, some fiction, when I feel creative.

If you enjoy it, please let me know. If you don't, keep it to yourself. I'm fragile, you know.