Saturday 24 May 2014

Chaps and chapettes, I'll soon be off to America for a week to see my good friend Ashley, so expect no updates till next month.

After that, I shall return with tales of my trip, hopefully some photopics, and shall then return to the reviewing game. X-Men: Days of Future Past, Doctor Who: The Elixir of Doom and other bits to come.

Thursday 22 May 2014

Comicbook movie stuff

The comicbook movie news just keeps coming. Between them, Disney/Marvel, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros/DC have flooded the market with superhero movies, each setting up one or more franchises and with plans to continue doing so. While we're already in serious danger of exhausting the desire for comicbook movies, there's plenty to get excited about. There's also plenty to make us sigh and shake our heads.

X-Men: Days of Future Past goes on release today, continuing Fox's premiere superhero franchise onto its fourteenth year. The series has proven itself to be surprisingly resistant to rebooting, primarily by adopting a soft-continuity approach that makes a top-down reboot unnecessary. Hugh Jackman continues to be the core actor in a star-studded cast, with at least one more solo vehicle planned. As well as that, we have X-Men: Apocalypse, and plans for X-Force and Deadpool movies.

With a huge array of both heroic and villainous characters, the X-Men franchise can feasibly run for years more, especially with the recasting of their core characters. At some point, they're going to have to bite the bullet and recast Wolverine, though. There's also the likelihood that Channing Tatum, recently cast as Gambit for Apocalypse, will get to headline his own movie.

Next year will also see the release of The Fantastic Four, rebooting the fun but flawed franchise from a few years back with a supposedly 'grittier' version. There have been contradictory comments concerning whether this film and its sequel will be part of the X-Men movie universe. We do know that Toby Kebbell is set to play Dr. Doom and that Tim Blake Nelson will appear as Harvey Elder, setting him up to be the Mole Man for the sequel. That could be a lot of fun, and make up for our never getting to see him as the Leader in the Marvel movies.

Back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things are rumbling along nicely. The second trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy has been released, and I cannot stress just how much I am looking forward to that film. Both trailers suggest that this is going to be a joyfully fun movie, exactly the thing we need when so many superhero properties are obsessed with being gritty and serious, or god help us, 'dark.' After that, Phase Two will come to a close with Avengers: Age of Ultron, for which we will have to wait till next year. Hopefully, it won't be too busy with all six Avengers from last time, Nick Fury and Agent Hill, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the Vision, Ultron and von Strucker all in there. Plus, presumably, a hint of Thanos.

Phase Three is already looking good, with Ant-Man set to star Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. UPDATE: Edgar Wright is no longer directing Ant-Man, which is a massive disappointment and frankly removes the key selling point of the film. A third Captain America film has been confirmed, with a third Thor movie, based on the Ragnarok storyline all but guaranteed (which means Surtur as a baddie, so I'm owed a tenner). Kevin Feige has confirmed that a Doctor Strange movie will be happening, and even mentioned the possibility of an Inhumans movie. A Runaways script has reportedly been in development for some time but has been shelved for the time being, but we might see that in Phase Three. As for other properties, Hollywood Reporter claimed that both Ms. Marvel and Blade were getting movies in the near future, but there has been no definitive statement on either of them.

With Marvel's Agents of SHIELD now over in the US (we're two weeks behind here in the UK), Marvel have confirmed that season two is a go, along with an eight-part series for Agent Carter. This is good for many reasons. SHIELD really picked up once The Winter Soldier was released, so hopefully the new, improved version can continue to do good things into season two. They're not afraid of using lesser elements of the Marvel mythos either, with Lorelei, Graviton, Blackout and Blizzard all making some kind of appearance. Even Man-Thing got a mention (after his missus appeared in Iron Man 3). Agent Carter could be something really special, and I feel that a shorter series is the way to go. Something more self-contained, showcasing Hayley Atwell.

There's also the animated movie Big Hero 6 to look forward to. I'll admit that I know bugger all about the Japanese superhero team, but the just-released trailer looks like it could be a fun movie. Presumably, this is not part of the MCU, although I wouldn't rule out a cheeky reference here or a character cameo. What's odd is that, being a feature-length animation, it will be listed in Disney's Classics range, along with things like Frozen and The Little Mermaid.

After months of wondering if the Man of Steel follow-up will be called 'Batman vs Superman' or 'Superman vs Batman,' it has been revealed the actual title is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Which is fairly awful, in a clunky kind of way, but at least makes it even more abundantly clear that this is just WB's attempt to create a Marvel-styled Justice League franchise. The difference being that Marvel spent some time thoughtfully creating a franchise, with the major characters each getting their own movie to establish themselves with the audience. Seeding between the films was minimal at first, developing more as time went on. Not everything worked – The Incredible Hulk failed to garner enough praise to get the sequel it was clearly setting up – but what's most impressive is how much Marvel did, and how quickly, without coming across as heavy-handed. Unlike WB/DC, which is looking increasingly desperate. At least the logo looks pretty decent. Nonetheless, the creative team's contempt for their core audience is making me less and less interested in this overstuffed movie.

On television, on the other hand, DC seem to have nailed it. I have people shouting at me to hurry up and watch Arrow, which has just finished its second season. I'll get to it, but I'm still catching up on stuff from the seventies. The trailer for The Flash is very promising – just the right level of silly fun. 'Run, Barry, run!' The Constantine series trailer looks less promising, however, coming across as a very generic supernatural telefantasy. Time will tell, of course. I wonder if the Vertigo properties are entirely right for the screen treatment. Guillermo del Toro is still slated to be make a Justice League Dark movie, which could work – if anyone can pull it off, it's him – but I'm really not sure what to make of the news that Joseph Gordon Levitt is producing a Sandman movie. Oh, and David Goyer is co-writing it, which again, not so keen on. Sandman is one of my most adored comic series, and I really, really don't want to see it fucked up.

The most exciting news of all, of course, is that DC Thompson has signed a deal with Elstree Studios to finally produce a big budget Bananaman movie for release next year. No answers yet for the big questions. Who will play Bananaman? Will his alter ego be Eric Wimp or Eric Plinge? Will he fight General Blight, or the nefarious Appleman? This all remains to be seen.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Warp Drive and Interstellar Travel

In the wake of the release of the full trailer for Christopher Nolan's upcoming movie Interstellar, 'Sploid' has produced a short article summarising the latest theoretical thinking on faster-than-light travel. Read it here (and watch the trailer there too).

The important things to remember are:

a) This is all very theoretical at the moment, and the questions about the energy requirements for warping space-time are still unanswered;

b) If the energy requirements are feasible, there will still be limitations on what we can produce. The "just punch it and you're there" comments in the subscript reveals a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the theoretical requirements. It will take vastly more energy to warp space sufficiently to travel at ten times the speed of light than at light speed itself, and orders of magnitude more to travel at higher speeds still. While interstellar travel through our local neighbourhood might be worth aiming for, travel across the galaxy is another major step beyond that. Intergalactic travel is likely to be simply unfeasible. 

c) However, relativistic problems are, indeed, irrelevant. According to all current understanding, baryonic matter and known forms of energy cannot exceed the speed of light. Indeed, nothing with an intrinsic rest mass could even reach it. However, an object within a warp field would not be travelling at superluminal speeds. It would be stationary relative to its own bubble of space, but the bubble itself would be shifting relative to its surroundings. By contracting space-time ahead of a ship and expanding it behind it, apparent superluminal speeds could be achieved without any relativistic effects or breaking the light barrier.

d) Even if the physicists demonstrate that this is possible for low mass experiments, we're a long, long way from developing actual warp drives for spacecraft.

e) The fact that we will very likely run out of drinkable water in the near future due to global temperatures rising and ever-growing populations is more of a major concern. I'm with the author on that, all the way. How flying to other star systems  is going to help with that, I don't know. No matter how earthlike a planet is, it isn't going to be anywhere near as suitable for us as even a depleted Earth.

Film looks good though.

Friday 16 May 2014

Blogs I Like (I Like Blogs)

Fish Stix and Custard  The extremely beautiful and rather wonderful Ashley, aka Fish Stix aka Iso Suicide aka Papyrusaurus, blogs geeky stuff. Frequent awesome crafting updates. Occasional rudity.

Little Weirdos  A blog that explores the wonderful world of tiny plastic critters. Monster in My Pocket, Mini Boglins, MUSCLE etc, plus new lines being manufactured today. Cool stuff.

Yog-Blogsoth Michael Bukowski's eldritch illustrations of Lovecraftian monstrosities and creatures from myth. Good for nightmares.

The Theropod Database  Amateur palaeontologist Mickey Mortimer analyses the latest theropod finds and sees whether the main papers stand up to scrutiny. Pretty in depth and not easy for the layman, but still fascinating.

Written Worlds  Author Christopher L. Bennett talks about his own work and the shows he loves. Lots of Trek, Mission: Impossible and Godzilla.

E.G. Wolverson  Former supremo of The History of the Doctor, now finds time between child-rearing duties to read books and play with Lego, then blog about it. Particularly worth reading are his 'Prose vs Pictures' pieces.

Doc Oho Reviews  Doc Oho, aka Joe Ford, has been reviewing Doctor Who books, audios and episodes forever, along with Star Trek DS9, Voyager, The X-Files, Buffy and lots more. Reams of stuff on this site.

Doyleockian An excellent blog dedicated to all things Sherlock Holmes, with a special focus on the man himself, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Life on Magrs  One of my very favourite authors, Paul Magrs, blogs about his own work, what he's been reading, and his cat. And if there's one thing the Internet loves, it's cats.

Peculiar Times  Another great writer, Phillip Purser-Hallard, the creator of The City of the Saved and the editor of the upcoming Iris Wildthyme of Mars. Especially worth checking out around Christmastime, for special stories.

From a Story By...  Obverse Supremo Stuart Douglas reviews stuff and bibbles about anything that takes his fancy. Not updated very frequently, but worth reading whenever it is.

The Further Adventures of Bret M. Herholz  Bret's scratchy line drawings are unique and wonderfully characterful. He has a particular penchant for Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes, but he illustrates all sorts. Definitely worth checking out.

KitchenFoyle Michael Kitchen/Foyle's War Tumblr. Lovely.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Alien Explorations

With the sad death of the terrifyingly talented (and talentedly terrifying) H.R. Giger, perhaps this would be a good time to sing the praises of this excellent blog: Alien Explorations. It covers all seven Alien films, right up to Prometheus, investigating the inspiration and production of each film and their designs. There's a huge amount on Giger, his own influences, his work on the Alien creatures, and the designs that his work later inspired.

Sunday 11 May 2014

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: TNG 2.16 - Enter the Borg

2.16) Q Who
Awww Shit, the Borg

The Mission: Escape the Borg and return home. It's Voyager, five years early.

Planets visited: None as such. Q throws the Enterprise over seven thousand light years across space, to star system J-25. (Given what we learn later of the location of Borg space and the layout of the galaxy, this is probably deep into the Beta Quadrant, still well outside the Borg's main territory.)

Alien lifeforms:

Q: Following his previous dicking about with the Enterprise crew in season one, Q has been kicked out of the Continuum and is now homeless. Well, assuming he's not lying and it's just another one of his tests. He wants to join the Enterprise crew, petitioning Picard in the only way he knows how – by annoying him into submission. It doesn't work, and when Picard refutes Q's claim that they need him, he throws them across space into the path of...

The Borg: At last. After the rubbish attempt at a new baddie they gave us with the Ferengi, the TNG team create a proper alien menace. Q describes the Borg best: “The Borg is the ultimate user. They're unlike any threat your Federation has ever faced. They're not interested in political conquest, wealth, or power as you know it. They're simply interested in your ship, its technology. They've identified it as something they can consume.”

The Borg are humanoids with cybernetic enhancements grafted into their bodies. The away team finds babies on their ship, in coffin-like cots, already in the process of being augmented. They operate with a collective consciousness, unified by a single will, with no sense of individuality. Their only interest is in technology, and they will take anything they see worthy of use. The death of one Borg is meaningless to them; another will be along to replace it. They can adapt to the weapons of the Enterprise; a phaser blast fells the first intruder, but is repelled by the second. They just keep coming; they are relentless.

The Picard Manoeuvre: Picard is at his most arrogant and disagreeable here. Q does not bring out the best in him. Knowing that he will not simply agree to allowing Q to join the crew, the superbeing whisks him away in shuttle to the middle of deep space and threatens to keep him there until he listens. Q is willing to stay there for decades, and you can fully believe that Picard is so stubborn he'll keep him waiting that long. Picard is totally out of his depth in the fight against the Borg, but has the balls to admit it, and asks Q for help. This impresses Q enough to send the ship back where it came from, out of harm's way.

Number One: Remains pissed off at Q for his interference in his life in previous episodes. He's got the guts to go poking around the Borg ship when it's briefly disabled.

Elementary, Dear Data: Seems worryingly impressed by the Borg and their technological society. He'll get closer to the Borg in future, than anyone save Picard.

Hat-tastic: Well, then. Finally, we get to learn something about Guinan, and she's been hiding some secrets. For a start, she's been in this part of space before, something Picard is aware of (possibly, she's from there originally). She knows the Borg of old; they destroyed her home planet, although she wasn't there at the time. More intriguingly, she knows Q, and they do not have a good relationship. He describes her as “an imp,” knows her by a different name, and warns Picard to get rid of her. She even seems to be able to defend herself against Q, if her stance in his presence is anything to go by. Altogether, this paints her as far more dangerous and powerful than any other time we've seen, but the questions remain unanswered in the series.

Crew Roster: It's the first appearance of Sonya Gomez, clearly designed as a recurring character and a love interest for Geordi. She's played by Lycia Naff, and is pretty gorgeous and adorable. The Enterprise crew is already so capable that having a green recruit onboard to sympathise with is a good idea, and Sonya is perfect for this. She's polite to the drinks dispensers (she'd do well on Red Dwarf), immediately throws hot chocolate all over Picard and is understandably utterly terrified in the engagement with the Borg. She's a great character, but is only in the show for two episodes.

Starships: The Borg Cube, an iconic Trek design. It's an eminently sensible design for the Borg to use; completely decentralised, a platonic shape with no need for aerodynamics or aesthetics beyond the mathematical. It comes across as just as much alive as the Borg themselves, healing from its wounds. In fact, it's less a ship, more like a body, with the Borg as cells performing functions within. The Cube is capable of holding the Enterprise in place with a tractor beam, and carving chunks out of it like a turkey.

Best line: Too many to choose from, but here's some of Q's finest:

“You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you've encountered so far. The Romulans, the Klingons – they're nothing compared to what's coming.”

“If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you should go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires, both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid.”

and, to Worf:

“Microbrain! Growl for me, let me know you still care!”

Links: The devastation of the planet at J-25 match that of the outposts along the Neutral Zone seen at the end of the previous season. Q's actions in “Hide and Q” supposedly have led to his being evicted from the Q Continuum.

Focus on... Q and the Borg: There's a debate among fans as to whether Q did the Federation a favour in introducing them to the Borg, or whether he endangered them by alerting the Borg to their existence. I'm firmly of the opinion that he helped them. There's no doubt that the Borg were already aware of the Federation and their region of the galaxy, as the attacks along the Neutral Zone show. Later episodes, in Enterprise and Voyager, indicate that the Borg knew of the Federation decades, if not centuries before these events.

Guinan points out to Picard that, now the Borg are aware of their existence, they will be coming. Yet, they were already coming. Feasibly, the sudden appearance and disappearance of a Federation starship in their hunting grounds might have encouraged the Borg to begin the invasion, but this was merely pushing them ahead of schedule. The Borg were slowly advancing across the galaxy, sending out ships to take samples of alien civilisations for future harvesting. Starfleet would have been taken completely unawares, had Q not allowed Picard this sneak peak of his future. (Q explicitly calls this a glimpse of what's to come.) An early invasion fought off with vital foreknowledge is far better than a later one that comes completely out of the blue.

The Verdict: One of the best single episodes of The Next Generation's run, easily the best of the season, a complete turnaround of fortune for Picard and crew. Genuinely thrilling, the desperate race to escape the Borg is one of the series' finest hours, with the almighty Starfleet for once completely out of their depth, lost and alone in a deadly part of space. As brilliant as it is in itself, “Q Who” will be remembered for its legacy. Star Trek was the never the same again.

Saturday 10 May 2014

REVIEW: The Annual Years by Paul Magrs

The Wilderness Years were not just the terrible empty span with no Doctor Who on TV. They were also the Annual Wilderness Years, a time with no yearly compendium of bizarre extraterrestrial text stories. World Distributors published Doctor Who throughout almost the entire original run of the TV series. However, the annuals weren't quite like the series. They weren't quite like anything else, really.

A lot of fans dismiss the annuals as speed-written tosh, but for many, they are a significant part of the Doctor Who experience. In the years before DVD and year-round repeats, the annuals were a vital part of keeping the show alive when it was off the air. The traditional Christmas day reading material for the young fan.

Paul Magrs was one of those children, and in The Annual Years, his tautologically-titled tome, he analyses the entire run, from 1965 to 1986, featuring six distinct version of the hero, Dr. Who. He even finds time to cover a handful of extra publications, including the novella Doctor Who and the Invasion from Space, The Amazing World of Doctor Who and the K9 and Company annual. Magrs looks at these strange publications with both an adult fan's eye, and through the lens of nostalgia. He not only gives us an idea what these books meant to him as a child, but how well they stand up today.

The stories in the annuals explored a vast and wondrous omniverse, far stranger and more varied than anything we saw on TV, even if Dr. Who did find himself visiting world on the surface of a uranium atom more often than might be expected. It's commonly supposed that the characters and themes of the annuals had little to do with their counterparts on TV, but Magrs shows that this was often not the case. He tracks the development of the Doctor and his adventures through this strange parallel continuum, noting at which points it is most in line with the series, and when it veers off the rails. Covering each story in detail, Magrs not only gives each one a quick summary, but analyses each annual as a whole. Section titles such as 'Curious Companions,' 'Egregious Errors' and 'Fiendish Wheezes' will give you some idea of the aspects he focusses on.

As well as the contents of the annuals themselves, Magrs provides swift background on the origins of these publications, and ends the book with a set of fascinating interviews with the people behind them. Together with a selection of correspondence extracts, this gives a candid look one of the least documented aspects of Doctor Who's long history.

Adam Bullock's gorgeous cover illustration begins a journey into the weirder recesses of the Doctor Who universe. A world of Sinister Sponges, Eye-Spiders and Devil Birds. A world where Dr. Who, aided with such inventions as the Floater and the vibro-flange, confronts evil, and often blows it up. The little boy called Paul grew up to become a beloved and prolific author. It's not hard to see what inspired him to write his stories, of dimensionally transcendent buses and tiny angels that incubate in the flesh of people's legs. The stories of the annuals can be even stranger than that.

The Annual Years is published in June and can be pre-ordered from Obverse Books 

Sol: twinned with HD 162826

In a rather interesting discovery, a star in the constellation of Hercules has been analysed and astronomers have concluded that it originated in the same stellar nursery as the sun. HD 162826, aka HR 6669 (we need a better name for this thing) matches the sun in its basic chemical composition and is likely to have formed from the same primordial nebula. This article explains the findings nicely, or you can download the original paper here.

Located 110 light years away, the star is not visible to the naked eye, although it can be made out with a good pair of binoculars on a clear night. The team at the University of Texas have analysed fifteen years worth of observations to build up a coherent picture of this star. While it does not have any of the easier to spot superjovian planets, it may have still undetected terrestrial planets. If it does, it will be a key target in the search for extraterrestrial life, since the composition of its planets is likely to be similar to our own solar system.

The fact that our two stars have drifted over a hundred light years apart shows just how much movement the stars manage in the billions of years since their formation. There is likely to be many more stars, possibly hundreds, in the local vicinity that originated in our sun's stellar nursery.

Friday 9 May 2014

HAMMERAMA The Abominable Snowman (1957)

Nigel Kneale's best known contribution to science fiction is, of course, Quatermass. However, he also scripted several other tall tales, one of the best of which, The Creature, was aired as a ninety-minute television play by the BBC in 1955. As with The Quatermass Experiment two years earlier, The Creature was well-enough received to catch the eye of Hammer Film Productions, and was remade as a feature film for in release in 1957.

Like many such early productions, The Creature was not recorded, so we can be very thankful that Hammer chose to buy the rights and develop a cinematic version. The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, to give it its full US title, could like quite clichéd to a modern viewer. Indeed, the English scientist on the trail of a legendary beast wasn't a new story even in the fifties. Professor Challenger was up to this sort of stuff in 1912, and that was a holdover of the classic Victorian explorer trope. Yes, this is all very Boy's Own Adventure stuff, but it's a solid, well-written and well-made example of that genre.

The film is bound to score points with me because it stars Peter Cushing, who reprises his role as Dr. John Rollason from the original. This is still early in Cushing's movie career, only his second film for Hammer, after his big break earlier in the year, The Curse of Frankenstein. The sturdy, gentle and terribly English naturalist Dr. Rollason is a standard Cushing performance, subtly physical and perfectly proper. He outclasses everyone else in the film. He's in a different league to Forrest Tucker, who plays the brash American entrepreneur Dr. Friend. The only reason he's even in this film is to get the film to sell in America. In return for providing an American name actor, co-producer Robert Lippert received the US distribution rights. It's the same reason we got the woefully miscast Brian Donlevy as Quatermass. Still, he might not be the greatest actor, but Tucker fits the arrogant yeti hunter part well.

Keeping the British end up is Richard Wattis, a well-known face in comedy from the fifties and sixties, as Rollason's fretful sidekick Peter Fox. Maureen Connell gets little to do as Helen, Rollason's wife, except exclaim her worries about her husband, until the revised final act, wherein she and Fox mount a rescue. These characters were not in the television version, and while they are a little surplus to requirements for the early part of the film, they allow for a more rounded cast and more complex relationships than otherwise. Arnold Marle is reasonably dignified as the Tibetan lhama, and there are at least some actors of Asian descent in smaller roles. As an aside, I think it's pretty clear that Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln saw either this or the original. Their Doctor Who story The Abominable Snowmen has almost exactly the same set-up and plot beats as this. They added in the alien intelligence and made the yeti robots, but take that away and they're practically the same story.

Very little alteration was made to the script for the movie version, thanks to its already compact running time, although director Val Guest made some uncredited rewrites to speed things up a little. Guest, who had collaborated with Kneale on the two Quatermass adaptations for Hammer, made a good call. While the film is pretty snappy for one of its vintage, it slows down abominably (sorry) in the middle section. Once the premise and location are set-up, the actual hunt for the yeti goes slowly until the final thirty-five minutes, when the Creature itself finally makes itself known.

Wisely, Guest keeps the yeti in the shadows for most of the film, with the explorers only on the cusp of its discovery. This serves the central theme of the story, that of rapacious humans being the true beasts rather than the noble snowmen, and saves them from the impossible task of making a realistic and budget-friendly monster. We receive only glimpses of the Creature, the most significant for much of the film being the huge, hairy hand that rips through the canvas of a tent. Once Rollason finally comes face to face with the beings, a theorised sideline of hominid evolution, we are treated to a glimpse of a face. It's a subtle design and a powerful moment, selling the strength and intelligence of the apelike beings. It's a strong outing for early Hammer, enough of a chill factor to be recognisably theirs but clearly before they had elected which direction they would be following.

Tuesday 6 May 2014


Bones was unimpressed with Spock's Christmas tree attempt.

2.11) Friday's Child
Captain Kirk vs. Female Oppression

The Mission: Secure mining rights for the rare mineral topaline, vital for life support systems, on Capella IV.

Planets visited: Capella IV, a standard Earthlike planet.

Stellar Cartography: Capella, or Alpha Aurigae, is a star system forty-two light years away. It's actually a quadruple system, made up of a binary pair of red giants and another pair of red dwarfs gravitationally bound. Which would likely make for a more interesting planet than we see here.

Alien life forms:

Capellans: Capellans over seven feet tall are not unusual (not that you'd guess that from the specimens we see in the episode). They're basic humanoids in coloruful clothes, with big shoes and tall hats to make them look taller. Some thought has gone into their culture, though. They're aggressively patriarchal, with women and children considered little more than property of the ranking males. Their society is split into the Ten Tribes, each ruled by a Teer (te-er). If a man touches a teer's wife, he is killed. If another teer takes over, he kills the old teer's wife and child. What a bunch of bastards.

Klingons: Naturally, the Klingons are also after mining rights, although they are just as likely to invade the place if they don't get what they want. The Capellans are far more likely to side with the Klingons, who are almost as big a bunch of arseholes as them. The Klingon agent, Kras, is pretty much the smallest Klingon we've ever seen. Helps the Capellans look taller, I guess.

Captain James T: He's cut up with guilt over his redshirt man's death. The guilt's really geting to him, now, isn't it? No wonder he always insists on going on landing parties himself. He ends up with a death sentence on his head for touching the teer's wife, Ele'en. He's pretty awesome in the fight against Kras, although his attempt to get one up on the Capellan rebels does have the side effect of introducing them to the bow and arrow, which this proud warrior culture somehow never developed.

Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: Totally uneasy when handling a baby. He's unsually snippy in this episode, and is thoroughly irritated by Kirk and McCoy's glee at Ele'en's naming her baby after them.

The Real McCoy: Some good background and characterisation for Bones here. He gets to be the one dispensing the advice for once, since he visited Capella years earlier and is familiar with their taboos. Nonetheless, he puts his duty as a doctor ahead of the risk to his life, and tends to the pregnant Ele'en's health despite it marking him out for execution. Ele'en is so impressed with him, she accepts him as the baby's new father. McCoy tries to convince Ele'en of her own worth, even though he's fighting a losing battle against centuries of mysoginistic culture.

Great Scott: Left in charge of the Enterprise, he elects to help a distressed ship, knowing it may very well be a Klingon ruse. He doesn't fall for the same trick twice, and gets back to Capella to lead a daring rescue of Kirk and co.

Cliche Count: There's a redshirt death within about thirty seconds of beaming down. We're back at Vasquez Rocks, and it's one of the best and most extensive uses of the location. Chekov starts his claims that everything of interest anyone may bring up was invented in Russia. Bones says to Spock, “I'm a doctor, not an escalator!” Which is certainly one of his more eccentric ones.

The Alternative Factor: This episode has had a major impact on the novel line, for some reason. The battle for Capella is seen in Invasion! First Strike, while an elderly Admiral Leonard James Akaar is a recurring character in the DS9 novels. James Blish's novelisation changes the name of the planet to Ceres and makes it a forgotten human colony.

Funny bits: The fake distress call that dupes Scotty is from the SS Dierdre.

Trek Stars: Forever seen as a camp sixties icon, Julie 'Catwoman' Newmar is in fact excellent as Ele'en.

The Verdict: Pretty good, if a bit culturally imperialistic. Then again, it's hard to have much sympathy for the woman-hating Capellans. Kelley and Newmar have some real chemistry. The fight scenes are some of the best the series have to offer, and everything move along at a fair lick. Good fun, with an obvious but essential message about mother's rights.

Sonic Technology

A clever chap here is working on a functional tractor beam. While the article begins by trumpeting how this is just like the thing the Enterprise uses to shift asteroids around, it's really not. It's a micro-scale acoustic beam, so it works only in an atmosphere or fluid medium. However, as outlined, it has enormous potential for medical use.

He's also working on a sonic screwdriver.

Also, here are some Star Trek cakes. Note to the original compiler: the final cake is clearly a work in progress, not an "epic fail." Prat.

Friday 2 May 2014

Maketh the Man

It's fashionable to dress like the Doctor now. Look, The Radio Times is even doing a fashion guide. Truth is, I already own most of the things required to dress up as the Doctor. (I will say, Tesco's own brand tenner-a-pair plimsoles are far more durable and cosy than real Converse). I've been dressing Doctorishly for years. To begin with, when I was but a lad, I got into Doctor Who and part of its appeal was his clothes. I particularly fell in love with Paul McGann's frock-coated look and Jon Pertwee's dandyism. I discovered the joys of second-hand shops and filled up my wardrobe with as many snazzy items as I could - dress shirts, tailcoats, velvet jackets, militaria - as long as it more-or-less fit, I wanted it. Over the years I paired it down a little, got rid of most of the less well-fitting items and developed more of a dress sense, but I've always retained a rather fancy sense of dress.

The thing is, by the time Doctor Who returned to our screens, I'd already developed a style of my own, and begun to play around with it. I decided that a more casual look might be better for a while, especially as I was travelling a good deal back then and something practical would be, um, practical. I acquired a rather swish leather jacket, and although I sometimes wore it over a waistcoat and ties, I also went pretty casual at times. Then the Doctor turned up, wearing a casual outfit with a leather jacket. So, I smartened myself up again, took to wearing suits and rediscovered the joy of pinstripes. I even got a long, tan coat to wear over the top. Then David Tennant came along and stole my look. Everyone thought I was cosplaying.

Time-travellers kept pinching my look. I got hold of a gorgeous RAF greatcoat to wear in the snowy weather. And what did Captain Jack wear? I have a red military tunic from, I believe, the early twentieth century. Captain John turned up in something not dissimilar. I've been wearing tweeds, and sometimes even bowties, for years. Once the pinstripes went out, what did the Doctor switch to?

So, I might as well go with it. I got a nice stack of cash to spend of clothes for my birthday, which I eventually opted to spend on a gorgeous new coat. I got myself a Crombie-styled one from Brighton mod-shop Jump the Gun, complete with lovely red lining. I'm well pleased with it. Seeing that I've also found myself getting into cardies lately (it must be my age), and I wear navy trews quite often, my twelfth Doctor look is pretty much ready to go.

OK, sometimes I do dress up. I also own a fez.

New issue of Panic Moon now available

The May 2014 issue of Panic Moon fanzine is available now.

It’s a real mixed bag this time, but has an unintended – but nevertheless welcome – slight first Doctor bias, with articles about An Unearthly Child,Marco PoloThe Time Meddler and The Savages. We also look at The Time of the DoctorDoomsday and The Girl Who WaitedDoctor Who in Germany, missing episode animations and space opera in Doctor Who. As if that weren’t enough, we speculate on a connection between The Daemons and Ghost Light, and write in praise of Carmen Munro, Michael Grade, the Raston Warrior Robot, Tanya Lernov, the TARDIS doors and moments from Planet of Giants and The Enemy of the World.

The issue is lavishly illustrated with beautiful original artwork. The issue comprises 36 monochrome pages in Panic Moon’s distinctive A6 ‘pocket-sized’ format. Just right for reading on the bus (or in the loo!).

It costs just £1.50 in the UK including postage. For those outside the UK, it’s £3.00. Ordering details can be found here.