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 MiƩville. 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...