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...