Wednesday 30 January 2013

Doctor by Doctor (Sidestep 1)

Grandad, We Love You:

Peter Cushing, 1965-66

Yes, Peter Cushing is getting an entry. Of course he is. OK, his version of the character exists wholly outside the continuity of the show, but so what? Cushing played Dr Who in two movies which, for decades, were the only regularly repeated Doctor Who on TV. The regular airing of these two films made them some of the most seen Doctor Who of the twentieth century, far more familiar to casual viewers than the Hartnell serials they were based on. Dr Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD are the earliest clear Doctor Who memories I have (I do have some very vague memories of watching the McCoy stories on first broadcast). It was only years later, when I got into the series proper, that I learned that they were not ‘proper’ Doctor Who.

Both of the Aaru/Amicus Dalek movies are Technicolor remakes of black-and-white serials; tartrazine-infused explosions of sound and colour aimed at a broad cinema audience. The main story beats of The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth are kept, but the plots are necessarily streamlined to cut the serials down to fit ninety minute runtimes. Comedy is brought to the fore, taking much of the edge off the originals. It’s fair to say these movies don’t have a particularly high standing in fandom, but I enjoy them. They’re simple, straightforward sci-fi for kids. Dr Who and the Daleks is tremendous fun, from the Dayglo Thals to Daleks reimagined as supreme interior decorators (check out all those lava lamps!) Daleks – Invasion Earth tones down it down somewhat, and, although it’s generally regarded as the better film, I prefer the first. The second film is certainly technically superior, but it drags in the middle. It’s naturally speedier than the original serial, but that was intended to be watched over the course of six weeks.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

WHO BOOK-QUEST #1: The Time Travellers by Simon Guerrier

Just about squeezing into January, here’s my first retro book review for Doctor Who’s anniversary year. I’m planning to read one book per Doctor as we go along, on the now well-established Doctor-a-month system. Some will be BBC Books, some will be by Virgin. Might even get a Telos novella in there. Some will be old favourites, others will be new to me – the only condition being that I won’t cover a book that I’ve written about before. We start with a first Doctor story – Simon Guerrier’s The Time Travellers.

Published in late 2005, this was the penultimate novel in BBC Books’ Past Doctors Adventures line. With the new TV series a runaway success, and ninth Doctor books reaching a younger demographic and selling in huge numbers, the earlier ranges that the BBC had published had fallen into decline. The Eighth Doctor Adventures had already ended back in June, with Lance Parkin’s The Gallifrey Chronicles, and the PDAs wouldn’t last much longer. However, while almost everyone’s attention was focussed on the new series and the upcoming adventures of the tenth Doctor, the PDA range quietly got on with producing some remarkable books.

Despite being Guerrier’s first novel, The Time Travellers is an assured, well-written work that perfectly captures the spirit of the era it recreates. It’s easy to see why he became such a regular writer for Big Finish, particularly for the Companion Chronicles releases featuring the first Doctor. In my head this is all in monochrome – always a sign of a successful depiction of the Hartnell years. It’s a spot-on depiction of the relationships between the four principle characters at that specific point in the series – the brief gap between Planet of Giants and The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Ian and Barbara are clearly on the cusp of romance here – something that was never explicit in the series but was unquestionably present by the time of The Romans, only a few serials later. Their developing feelings for each other both raise tensions between them and hold them together during the course of the book. Susan is clearly outgrowing here role in the series, which she had done virtually as soon as the first episode ended. The Doctor is a kinder, more moral figure than the one who began the series, but is still very much a difficult man with his own sense of superiority. His relationship with both Ian and Barbara develops further during the course of the novel, their mutual respect increasing in line with what we saw on screen, while the Doctor comes to the inescapable conclusion that he will soon have to part ways with Susan.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

WHO REVIEW: A Big Hand for the Doctor by Eoin Colfer

So, the first of this latest range of cash-ins celebratory releases is now out. Each month, a noted author will release a story featuring one of the Doctor’s incarnations. One Doctor per month. £1.99 for an e-book, with a printed omnibus expected at the end of the year. Nice idea. However, A Big Hand for the Doctor is a big disappointment.

OK, I know I’m not the target audience for this. These books are clearly aimed at younger readers, and that’s all well and good. That’s who Doctor Who is for, after all. Colfer’s prose is functional but enjoyable, skipping along nicely. Having had a very busy day, I left this till this evening to read, so that I could spend some time on it. Had I known it would take me about ten minutes to read, I would have done it on my tea break. Even as a printed book, two quid would be asking a lot for something so brief. For a download, it’s pretty shocking. But the big the problem is, this just doesn’t read like the first Doctor to me.

Imagine an author was given a brief to write a first Doctor story. He’s never seen any of the classic series, but knows the modern version through and through. So he gets a basic description of the first Doctor’s characteristics, and works from that. This is exactly how the story reads. The story would work fine for the tenth or eleventh Doctor, or even the fourth, and they’d fit the style of the telling well. But this is a version of the first Doctor who acts exactly like his dashing successors, except that he’s a bit grumpier and worries about his granddaughter. It’s a generic modern Doctor with a couple of sixties Doctor Who trappings bolted on.

So, maybe I’m just grumpy like the first Doctor. You could call this a reimagining, I guess. If it were an adventure of a much younger first Doctor, maybe I could buy it. But this is supposedly the old geezer who appeared on TV from 1963 to 1966, and it doesn’t fit. It’s a shame, as there are some nice ideas here – some vague mentions of the Doctor’s family, and the revelation that he gets visions of his future selves. These are revisionist ideas that could be made into something. Instead, we get a very generic story that would work happily as a Doctor Who Adventures comic strip, and has none of the appeal of the version of the character it’s supposed to be celebrating. So what’s the point of it?

Tuesday 22 January 2013


 Don't worry, I'm not trying to sound young (I'm childish, yes, but not young). I'm just celebrating the arrival of my set of new OMFG toys - that's Outlandish Mini-Figure Guys, you see.

OMFG are produced by October Toys. It's a crowd-funded project, with character designs chosen from a vast selection sent in by members of October Toys' forum.  Series One came out last year, and Series Two has just arrived - well, I got mine a bit later, what with shipping times from the States and all.

I love the ugly little sods. They're a nostalgia piece, made by and for fans of MUSCLE and Monster in My Pocket. I never collected MUSCLE, but I was an avid MIMP collector. Actually, who am I kidding - I still am an avid MIMP collector. In the absence of resurrecting that series for a third time, OMFG will do nicely.

Each series consists of five characters. S1 has the Crawdad Kid, King Castor, Multiskull, the Phantom Shithouse (!) and Stroll, while S2 features Grimm Gourd, Shirtle, Cuddlehard, Cry-Borg and the delightfully named Puke Knight. Originally I was going to keep them in their boxes, but I decided no, they're made to be displayed properly. Here's all ten, plus a ZOMBIE Ape (also from October Toys) for comparison:

My favourite from the first series was Multiskull, due to the impressive level of detail on the sculpt. Out of S2, I'm a little torn. They're all more imaginative than the S1 monsters. Puke Knight is actually two figs that fit together, which is a nice touch, and I like how Cuddlehard acts like the personification of the OMFG logo. However, I think it's the half-shakr, half-turtle Shirtle that is my overall fave. He's just so adorably stupid-looking.

Small quibble: I've got the standard flesh-coloured sets, which are the basic sets for those contributing to the crowd-fund campaign at a low level. It's a bit annoying that the S1 and S2 flesh colours aren't quite the same. OK, it's a petty, pedantic niggle, but we collectors are petty, pedantic people. I'm tempted to buy a set of the exclusive colours, but there are so many to choose from. This is a sure-fire way to waste money...

Saturday 19 January 2013

REVIEW: Faction Paradox: Burning with Optimism's Flames


Stories within stories, histories overlaying histories… the Faction is back, and they’re around here somewhere…

A short introduction, for those who aren’t familiar with this range. Faction Paradox are a time-travelling fetish cult, originally from the Homeworld of the Great Houses (read - Time Lords), dedicated to the disruption of history for chaotic effect. Set against the backdrop of a vast War in Heaven, between the Great Houses and an unnamed Enemy, the stories of the Faction span time, space, fiction and reality. Obverse Books are the current licence holders, and Burning with Optimism’s Flames is their second major anthology release for the Faction.

As I’ve come to expect from Obverse, this is an excellent release, although I don’t think it’s quite up to the superlative standards of their first volume, A Romance in Twelve Parts. Nonetheless, there are some truly stunning pieces here, from the best upcoming fantasy writers. Although some stories explore similar themes, each of them involves different characters and settings, from ancient mythological history to a distant, posthuman future. Many are only tenuously linked to the Faction, others feature them directly. There’s a good mix of genres on offer, although most of the stories veer towards horror, a genre that suits Faction Paradox perfectly.

Both the opening and closing stories delve into history, as the Faction and their enemies look to manipulate events to suit their own aims. Both Elizabeth Evershed with ‘Raleigh Dreaming,’ and Philip Pursar-Hallard with ‘De Umbris Idearum,’ explore how one well-placed, remarkable individual can change the course of a civilisation’s development. Both works take a historical period and insert the anachronistic influence of the time-active powers. ‘Raleigh Dreaming’ sees the great explorer confronted by the fallibility of memory as he languishes in the Tower of London. It’s very different to Evershed’s previous story in Tales of the City, but exquisitely written.

Tales of the City was in fact edited by Philip Pursar-Hallard, who here explores a different facet to the Faction universe than his own creation, the City of the Saved. ‘De Umbris Idearum’ features the Remote, a media-dependent group that is essentially the offspring of Faction Paradox. PPH is a Christian, and when his work explores his faith the results are always fascinating. ‘De Umbris Idearum’ explores the life of one of history’s true visionaries, Giordano Bruno, and the history, and destiny, of the Catholic Church. With nested stories in the past, present and future, this closing story is one of the best in the book.

The book explores more than just European history, however. ‘La Santa Muerte’ links the eponymous Mexican death spirit to the Faction in a brief but effective tale of murder. ‘Dharmayuddha,’ by Aditya Bidikar, is a stunningly well-written piece that looks at Hindu myth through the prism of the War in Heaven, or at the War through Hindu myth. Complex, creative and illuminating, it’s a highlight of the collection.

Some authors opt for a contemporary setting to produce gripping horror stories. The truly talented Kelly Hale crafts a sexually charged story of manipulation in ‘Dos Hombres -  A Fable,’ which shares some elements with Juliet Kemp’s chilling ‘Squatter’s Rights.’ In fact, the latter story’s musings on memory tie it in nicely to the concepts explored in the opener, ‘Raleigh Dreaming,’ providing an element that helps hold the disparate collection together. ‘Office Politics’ by Alan Taylor is one of the creepiest things I’ve read in a long time, developing from the simple concept of a new boy coming into an established office team and ending as something quite disturbing. I’ll never be able to look at a Matryoska doll in the same way again. Any reader who enjoys tales with a touch of the horrific will relish these three stories.

James Worrad’s ‘The Strings’ starts slowly, but had me utterly gripped by the conclusion. Set in a distant future, ‘The Strings’ spans high fantasy and science fiction, on a world touched by godlike beings and subject to manipulation from all quarters. ‘All the Fun of the Fear’ is an overlong comedy story by Stephen Marley. A slice of far-fetched fiction in the style of Robert Rankin, it has some cute ideas but crucially isn’t very funny. It’s the collection’s only real miss for me. Marley’s author bio at the back is pretty good, though.

‘Wing Finger,’ a historical piece by Helen Angove, is a tale of European politicking, strange travelling companions and “Ptero-dactyles.” Written in a pastiche of the early 19th century epistolary style, it’s hugely entertaining. ‘Remake/Remodel’ features an underused aspect of the Faction universe, Faction Hollywood. Jonathan Dennis provides a cutting satire of the movie industry, marketing and the return of the superhero, as Faction Hollywood takes one young hopeful, use him to further their aims and then spit him out.

‘… and from the Tower she did fall’  is the most explicitly Faction Paradox based story in the collection, set in their own realm of the Eleven Day Empire. Cate Gardner’s tale is slight but filled with some arresting imagery. ‘After the Velvet Eon,’ by Simon Bucher-Jones, is an opaque but poetically written fantasy, which sees a future legend become a battleground. Just gorgeous.

The penultimate story, ‘A Star’s View of Caroline,’ is a quietly ingenious piece by Sarah Hadley. In the aftermath of an extraterrestrial invasion (a very familiar one, at that, and rather appropriate in this anniversary year), a temporal catastrophe has left some unfortunate individuals in a state of trauma and possibly with visionary insights. It’s an exploration of the strangely misplaced hero worship of the damaged and disabled, a look at the hardships faced by the survivors of terrible events, and an intriguing look at the possible consequences of meddling with time. It’s also a sequel to an earlier story by Hadley, ‘Man of Smoke and Dust’ in 2001’s Doctor Who charity anthology Walking in Eternity. Caroline is a fascinating story in its own right, but having read the earlier story did add a little something.

Burning with Optimism’s Flames is a fine collection of tales with real scope and depth, held together by a mostly consistent tone. There’s a sense of paranoia to be gained from reading it, as the malign forces of the Faction universe each work at us and our history for their own ends. Unlike many shared universe collections, there’s both consistency and variety here, with characters and settings drawn from throughout history and imagination. One thing links all the stories: the inescapable sense that nobody’s safe.

Available as hardback and e-book

Thursday 17 January 2013


A belated review for Big Finish’s other grand boxset of 2012, a sweeping adventure that brings together many disparate strands of BF’s developing mythology. Dominion acts as a sequel to the Klein trilogy of seventh Doctor main range plays; a follow-up to Raine’s adventures in the “Season 27” of Lost Stories; and a relaunch for UNIT. Quite a mash-up, but it works, introducing enough new elements to make this far more than a parade of continuity points. Like the eighth Doctor’s Dark Eyes boxset, Dominion is split over four discs, but is written as a single expansive storyline rather than four discrete adventures. It takes a similarly epic approach, providing not only a worldwide vista, but multiple parallel dimensions as the walls between worlds begin to crumble.

Also like Dark Eyes, this release shows BF trying a rather more visual approach to their storytelling. Again, a visually arresting audioplay may seem oxymoronic, but this aspect really works. In the lead-up to the story’s release, BF posted numerous illustrations by the multi-talented Alex Mallinson (who also voices several characters throughout the adventure). There are some genuinely intriguing images on offer throughout Dominion, supported not only by the accompanying artwork but also some superlative sound design by Martin Johnson. Gigantic flying baby heads with foghorn voices, cybernetic cuboid creatures, lava-spewing spiders,  mind-sucking leeches and the fabulously cockney-voiced Nexus organism – the interdimensional lifeforms are a testament to the imaginations of Jason Arnopp and Nick Briggs.

However, Dominion doesn’t get so carried away by its epic scope that it forgets about the characters. On the contrary, this is one of the most character-driven stories I’ve recently heard, with a large cast that is well-served both by writing and performance. There are a lot to cover, so I’ll start with the character I’m least familiar with: Raine Creevy. I haven’t listened to any of the seventh Doctor Lost Stories, not really being tempted by the storylines, so I haven’t heard anything of Beth Chalmers as the seventh Doctor’s newest companion. Here she’s presented as an occasional returnee to TARDIS travel, enjoying the chance of travelling without another companion in tow. Judging her just on Dominion, Raine strikes me as an excellent companion to this Doctor, willing to be astounded by the wonders of the universe but not afraid to question the Doctor when things aren’t quite right. She’s tremendously loyal to him though, hugely likable and brings a little flirtatious charm to the TARDIS.

Tuesday 15 January 2013


It would be easy to mistake this film for one of the innumerable straight-to-DVD cash-ins that line Tesco’s bargain shelves these days. Anyone who’s seen Tremors, will, of course, make the obvious connection between Grabbers and Graboids, and the movie certainly owes a debt to its predecessor’s irreverent take on the  monster movie. However, Irish-British movie Grabbers is very much its own beast.

Grabbers only had a limited release in England, so I waited for the DVD to come out before taking a look. It’s the cast that got me interested – Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey (the three Rs?) star, supported by a wealth of Irish talent. Set on Erin Island – although that might as well be Craggy Island – Grabbers is both a pastiche of the B-movie formula and a knowing snub to the stereotype of the Irish country drunk. Coyle is Garda Ciaran O’Shea, de facto head of the Erin Island police force while his sergeant is on holiday. Coyle is one of today’s most underrated actors, and it’s about time he got a big break into the sort of major roles he deserves. O’Shea is a barely functioning alcoholic, hopelessly incapable of running a police force, of which he is normally the second, and bottom-ranked member. Not a lot happens on this island, as you might imagine.

Still, as Bradley’s character, Garda Lisa Nolan says, “It’s the quiet places where all the mad shit happens.” Lisa is seconded to Erin Island as cover while the chief’s away, something that aggravates the sour O’Shea, who’s determined that he can keep law on the island alone. The two of them go through the usual relationship development from mutual dislike to smooch romance at the end; all very predictable of course, but predictability is part of the film’s charm. It’s an easy ride through the a well-worn genre.

Both Bradley and Coyle are gorgeously watchable as the leads, but many of the best moments go to Tovey’s  Dr. John Smith, a marine ecologist studying the island’s local sealife. Tovey plays him with a posh, fey Englishness, just as stereotypically endearing as the boozing Irish copper. Smith’s openly taken with Lisa, and Tovey plays almost every scene with his eyes fixed firmly on Bradley. The only thing that can distract his attention is the new life form that’s washed up on the beach.

The Grabbers themselves are a fine creation, brought to life by an effective mix of CGI and puppetry. Hatching from eggs, the foot-long, slug-like creatures attack their victims with a vicious tongue, allowing them to drink their blood. Seemingly the only thing that can kill them is alcohol. The only way to survive the onslaught is for everyone on the island to increase their blood alcohol level to become toxic to the creatures. Time for a lock-in!

It’s a little slow to get going, but that merely emphasises the slow-paced way of life that the island is about to have snatched away from it. Once the party starts, and the truly impressive Daddy Grabber turns up, things kick into high gear. It’s funny, exciting, with some superlative drunk acting by all. The supporting cast are all excellent, but Bronagh Gallagher (best known for The Commitments), and Lalor Roddy as local soak Paddy steal their scenes. The movie storms along in its final scenes to a gripping climax as Gardas O’Shea and Nolan face down the Daddy Grabber.

The film is beautiful, of course, utilising the best locations of Ulster and Donegal, making the contrast of the monstrous Grabbers all the more effective. It may not be the most original film released in 2012, but it’s so much fun that it’s impossible not to love.

Looks more like a Krynoid to me.

Best line: “’Tis no feckin’ lobster!”

Friday 11 January 2013

Doctor by Doctor #1

A Citizen of the Universe: 

William Hartnell, 1963-66

It’s hard to imagine now, of course. Doctor Who has been running for very nearly fifty years, through times of massive popularity and cultish obscurity, through vast changes in style and theme. We’re used to seeing different actors (and actresses) in the role of the Doctor. Regeneration is part and parcel of the phenomenon that is Doctor Who. It’s difficult, for those of us who weren’t there in the beginning, to imagine a time when only one man could be called Doctor…

 “That’s not his name. Who is he? Doctor who?”

When we first met the Doctor, we knew very little about him. He was a mysterious, possibly malevolent figure, a caustic old man, camped out in a junk yard, tending to the upkeep of his incredible, impossible time-and-space machine. At first, we knew more about his granddaughter, Susan Foreman, and the little we knew about her we discovered through the eyes of her schoolteachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Doctor Who was a very different programme in the beginning. Perhaps the strangest aspect, to a modern viewer, is that the Doctor wasn’t the hero of the piece. That was Ian, the ordinary man thrown into an extraordinary world, while Barbara was the show’s heart. It was they who accompanied us on adventures through time and space.

The Doctor, on the other hand, was far from being a hero. Selfish, callous, even heartless, in his first few stories the Doctor was a far cry from the character who leads the series now. This was a man who would lie to his fellow travellers in order to trick them into exploring the Dalek city, and who seemed quite capable of murdering a prehistoric man just to ease his own getaway. While William Hartnell played the Doctor with an air of confidence and bluster, at the same time it was clear that for the character, much of this was a front. This was a man driven by fear, hiding on Earth to make repairs to his TARDIS and terrified of discovery. Even his virtual abuction of Ian and Barbara is driven by his blind panic that someone will come for him and Susan. In his earliest appearances, the Doctor is not a hero, but an explorer, who drive to see the universe is tempered by his fear for his safety, and that of his granddaughter.


Sunday 6 January 2013


It is the year AD 2013. Or, if your prefer, 2013 CE, or MMXIII. In Thailand it is 2556 of the Buddhist calendar, although it is 2557 in the traditional scheme of things, before they synced the dates to the Gregorian. It is the twenty-fifth year of the Heisei Period of Japan. In the months to come, the Chinese calendar will reach 4649, it will hit 1435 in the Islamic calendar, and 5774 in the Hebrew calendar. It is the 12,013th year of the Holocene, also known as the Human Era, which is close enough to being the Humanian Era that my Time Lord geek side takes notice.

All of which just goes to show that a New Year is entirely arbitrary, and only means anything in the current version of our civilisation's calendar, which happens to be the dominant one worldwide these days. (This state of affairs won't last forever, of course.) Still, it's a good excuse to start taking stock, making plans and generally assessing where we're all going with our lives.

I'm fully aware that New Year's resolutions rarely make it past February. Still, this year I'm going to persevere. Last year I cut down on my alcohol intake - which isn't to say I don't go out and get sloshed every now and then - so this year I'm following it up with a caffeine reduction. I've realised that my caffeine intake is worryingly high; I average about eight or nine cups of black tea a day, and maybe three cokes when I'm working, plus coffees when I'm out. So that's ten to twelve caffeinated drinks pretty much every day. I've cut myself down to two cups of black tea a day, although I've cracked and had a coke a couple of times. Other than that, I've stuck with decaffeinated Earl Grey and herbal infusions. I always thought that caffeine withdrawal couldn't be that bad. After three days of headaches, nausea, exhaustion and twitchy discomfort, I realise that, by fuck, it is. Thankfully, the expected irritation and depression haven't kicked in, probably because I already have those so simply haven't noticed. I'm starting to feel a lot better now, although I think that if I'd known this was going to be a six-day working week, I'd have left it for a while.

What else? Well, apart from the usual - get fit, learn to drive, find a new job - I need to seriously get back on track with my reading and my writing (but I'll leave the arithmetic). 2012 wasn't a great year for me creatively; although I wrote a fair bit for the blog, I did very little fiction. So this year I intend to make up for that. I still owe some people some very overdue fanfic, but I also want to get back to just writing the stuff for fun, then see about posting or submitting it somewhere. I'll keep writing the reviews and articles, though; there'll be more to come from me at Television Heaven, and I plan to enjoy my favourite shows some more by taking them apart and over-analysing them, as fans are wont to do. It's been a while since I did a Captain's Blog, and I also want to keep reviewing the Doctor Who material that's being released, and I'm dying to write more on Ghostbusters. So watch this space, fellow geeks.

On the subject of Doctor Who, and of 2013... you may have realised that there is an anniversary this year. In fact, there are several. It's the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, and the Daleks, but also the fiftieth anniversary of the X-Men. It's the sixtieth anniversary of Quatermass, the twenty-fifth of Red Dwarf, the twentieth of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (just a few days ago, in fact), and the fifteenth of Iris Wildthyme in the Whoniverse. So yes, there'll be some celebratory material coming. A number of fans are going to be reading some original Doctor Who novels over the course of the year - one per Doctor, one a month, leading up to the anniversary in November. I'm going to join in, with a mix of old favourites and those previously unread. Which ones depends one what I still have hanging around the place, and what I can get my hands on, but look out for some reviews. I also plan to write articles on each of the Doctors, looking at their characters, the performances of the actors behind them, their time on the show and their legacy. That's twelve articles, not eleven (yes, twelve), so one month with include two articles to keep in step with the book reviews.

Iris, on the other hand, will be celebrating her anniversary in style, with a new anthology of stories from Obverse Books, this time featuring a whole range of her incarnations. So expect a review of that, and maybe a little feature on her various iterations. In fact, expect a lot more reviews of Obverse books to come in the very near future. I also have a rough resolution to a) read more classic of science fiction, and b} read more non-genre fiction. This boils down to one directive: read more fiction. God bless Kindle (or your preferred e-reader of choice).

Where I'm going to find time for all this, I don't know. Don't be disappointed if I don't fulfill all my plans. Actually, be disappointed, I'd rather that than disinterest - but look forward to the future. I am.

Friday 4 January 2013

Another one down...

2012 has finished, and four days in to 2013, I finally find time to sit down and properly consider this. Our fairly arbitrary calendar has flipped over another digit and a year has officially come to a close. For me, I think, 2012 will be remembered as a year of notable deaths. This may sound morbid, but we did lose a lot of people I respected and followed, and I imagine many of those reading this science and sci-fi obsessed blog will feel the same way.

We lost a man with a vision for the stars and a man who stepped on another world; Sir Patrick Moore passed just weeks ago, and the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, left us in August. Gerry Anderson, a master sciencefictioneer, almost made it to 2013, but not quite. Ralf McQuarrie and Joel Goldsmith, who respectively gifted the movie world with wonderful designs and musical scores, were both lost. We lost many actors, particularly from the worlds of Doctor Who: Philip Madoc, Caroline John, Mary Tamm and Geoffrey Hughes are all gone, while Warren Stevens, famous for Star Trek and Forbidden Planet roles, also left us.

Even while Johnny Depp brought the vampire Barnabus Collins back to life, the original, Jonathan Frid, was taken from us, going shamefully unremarked in much of the press. Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, the artist of strange vision, failed to reach 2013, as did equally influential sci-fi authors Ray Bradbury and Harry Harrison. Michael Clarke Duncan, another fine actor, died at an unjustly young 54, while Trek fans noted the passing of respected director Winrich Kolbe.

Beyond the world of laser ships and rocket guns, we lost Davy Jones, Donna Summer, Andy Williams, Phyllis Diller, Maurice Sendak and the notorious Gore Vidal. I was particularly saddened by those faces who were always on my TV screens growing up, be they at the primetime edge or the ubiquitous repeats: Terry Nutkin, Bob Holness (the forgotten Bond), Erik Sykes and the legendary Clive Dunn. Many a man mourned the loss of Sylvia 'Emmanualle' Kristal and the beautiful Angharad Rees. Soapy types mourned the passing of Bill Tarmey and Larry Hagman.

Of course, many, many more people lost their lives in the past year, and many of them in far more noteworthy, tragic or significant circumstances. Nonetheless, the familiar faces and names of our popular culture shape our view on the world. However, for me, 2012 was also a year of new starts, and many of my friends celebrated the birth of a child, very often their first child. They'll be the ones making the headline and shaping culture in the years to come.