Sunday 29 January 2017


Britain has lost one of its most remarkable and respected actors. Sir John Hurt has died, aged 77, following an ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer. While he previously announced that he was in remission, pancreatic cancer is a particularly vicious form of the disease and it would seem that it has now taken him.

John Hurt was one of the most beloved actors of his generation, instantly recognisable by his distinctive voice, which only grew more gravelly and cultured with age. His presence added an element of class to even the most beleaguered production - even Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Crystal Skull was improved by his involvement. Over the course of fifty-five years, Hurt appeared in over a hundred films, including some of the most respected and influential in British and Hollywood history.

I'm not alone in citing his performance as John Merrick as a personal highlight in this long career. Although quite loosely based on the life of the real Joseph Merrick, David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980) is a truly powerful and moving film, that hinges on Hurt's incredible performance. Being able to deliver such pathos and heart while so buried in make-up is a testement to his skills as an actor. It's clearly a role that made an impact of him. Hurt later became patron of the Proteus Syndrome Foundation, which researches into the rare condition that Merrick is thought to have suffered from, and also Project Harar, which supports children living wtih disfigurement in Africa.

Hurt revealed the hardship of his childhood later in life, having been brought up in a strictly religious household, and also abused at school. Although his mother had been an actress, he was banned from visiting the cinema as a boy. Nonetheless, he developed ambitions to become an actor, something that was, as seems to be traditional, poo-pooed by his schoolmasters. Nonetheless, he proceeded to art school, and won a scholarship to RADA in 1960. His first film role, in The Wild and the Willing, followed in 1962.

Over the years Hurt took on some of the greatest roles in film and television. He was Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant (1975) and its latter-day sequel. He became the first victim of the eponymous creature in Alien (1979), in one of the greatest and most shocking scenes in cinem history. He appeared in such acclaimed films as Midnight Express (1978), for which he won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe, The Field (1990) and Contact (1997). One of his most celebrated roles was as Winston Smith in the film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four, released in its eponymous year. Years later, as something of a counterpoint, he played the High Chancellor in the film of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta (2006).

Hurt lent his vocal talents to numerous animated productions. Some will remember his performance in the, frankly terrifying, 1978 adaptation of Watership Down, others for the same year's animated version of The Lord of the Rings. He voiced the Horned King, the monstrous villain of the underrated Disney epic The Black Cauldron (1985), while people of more recent childhood's may recognise his voice best from his role as the dragon in the BBC series Merlin.

Hurt was one actor I was always desperate to see play the Doctor. I felt that, if ever there was a modern Doctor Who movie, then he would be the perfect choice for the role. In 2013, for the series' fiftieth anniversary, he was drafted in to play the War Doctor, a previously unknown, secret incarnation of the Time Lord, and was absolutely, utterly perfect in the role. In the last couple of years, Hurt has returned to the role on audio, for Big Finish Productions.

John Hurt is one of those rare celebrities who no one seems to have a bad word against. An absolute treasure. He will be missed.

Saturday 28 January 2017

REVIEW: Sherlock 4-3 - The Final Problem

Named for "The Final Problem," and incorporating elements of "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" (both 1893).

Tonight on Doctor Who, our hero faces the ultimate challenge when he is caught in a trap by "The Two Masters!"

Sherlock reaches another season finale, and very possibly the final episode of the series altogether. Over the years the series has drifted from an action-detective programme to a contrived melodrama. This isn't a complaint - there's been a tremendous amount to enjoy during the last two series - but it's a far cry from how it started. There's precious little of the consulting detective left, and although logic puzzles abound, this is more about the interactions between increasingly bizarre characters. Characters that include an increasingly Doctorish Sherlock, and two arch villains who bear a significant resemblance to the last two iterations of the Master. Sian Brooke's entertainingly chilling portrayal of Eurus Holmes is very similar to Michelle Gomez's performance as Missy, while Andrew Scott's version of Moriarty has been basically just John Simm's Master with less restraint since the beginning.

There's a lot wrong with The Final Problem, which detracts little from how enjoyable it all is. The plot is contrived to the point of nonsense, but it pelts along from set piece to set piece, quickly enough that you don't notice how paper-thin it all is until after it's finished. Benjamin Caron's direction isn't as elaborate or as original as his predecessors', but it's stylish and works perfectly for a mostly enclosed, claustrophobic episode. There are some very impressive scenes; the opening sequence in particular stands out, both as being unsettling and dreadfully cliched. Which perhaps sums up this episode; cliches performed perfectly. (One wonders how Sherlock and John would have explained away the situation if Mycroft had stuck the killer clown with his swordstick.)

Having revealed Eurus as the hitherto-unknown third Holmes sibling, the mystery of Sherrinford is answered. It's the name of the island prison in which she is held captive (and not her codename, which I had suspected). It's this which paints Mycroft in the most terrifying light yet, even in an episode that humanises both him and Sherlock more than any other. Not only is he capable of locking away his sister in maximum security solitary confinement for almost her whole life, but he tells their parents she's dead. Well, she did say Sherlock was always the kind one. (The setting also lays Gatiss's influences open; the island prison screams The Sea Devils; another way that Eurus evokes the Master.)

Eurus is a disturbing character; Mycroft and Sherlock's worst aspects without any humanistic redeeming features. Her intellectual prowess, which apparently stretches to the power of precognition, far outstripping Sherlock's own astonishing development in this area, receives little exploration. The script is of the "tell, don't show," school in this regard. We hear of how Eurus can reprogram someone's mind just by talking to them, but other than the actions of Art Malik's prison governer, we don't see it demonstrated. She's spent weeks as both John's seducer and therapist, but has made seemingly no impact on his psyche at all.

Nonetheless, she's far more impressive in every respect than Moriarty. I approve of the villain being kept dead (although that was a splendid bit of misdirection), but having him just pop up on tape every now and again leaves only the character's irritating aspects, and none of his power. For a genius, Mycroft can be exceptionally stupid, allowing Eurus and Moriarty their brief tete-a-tete, although perhaps he was hoping his sister would reprogramme the man to be less of a threat. Other elements work extremely well, but stand up poorly to scrutiny. Why would Eurus try to blow up Sherlock, John and Mycroft, if she wants them to come to Sherrinford and play her games?

All I can think of is that she knew them all well enough that they would survive the attack, but needed it so that they would believe the similar threat to Molly.  Poor Molly. Perhaps the episode's standout scene and a wonderful performance from Louise Brierly. It's simplicity makes it more believable than, say, the truth about Redbeard or Sherlock's remarkable memory fugue. The strength of the episode is in the performance of the central trio. It's Cumberbatch, Freeman and Gatiss who sell all this nonsense and make us believe in it. All three are now so attuned to their roles that they can find new aspects to their characters, although it's Martin Freeman's powerful last turn as John Watson that stands out.

So, will this be the end of Sherlock? Somehow I doubt it, although it may well be some time before it's possible to get Freeman and Cumberbatch together again for long enough to film anything. I imagine there will occasional one-off specials for years to come. For now, though, The Final Problem, for all its flaws, makes for a triumphant send-off for Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Stray thoughts:

The use of the little girl on the plane is the most contrived element of all, yet actually very effective. Cinematic pseudo-psychology at its finest.

It's great to see Cumberbatch/Sherlock's parents back again, although they seem to forgive Mycroft's decades of lying rather quickly.

This is the first season of Sherlock to end without an actual cliffhanger as such, although the dynamic duo are mid-adventure. Given how poorly the cliffhanger between The Lying Detective and this episode is resolved, this is perhaps reassuring.

Rathbone Place: lovely touch.

REVIEW: Sherlock 4-2 - The Lying Detective

Based on "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" (1913)

You have to hand it to the BBC, it takes guts to let a programme go out with Jimmy Saville as the villain, after being institutionally culpable for his continued crimes. That said, the character played by Toby Jones, Sherlock's version of canonical villain Culverton Smith, isn't especially like Saville. He simply occupies the same niche: a man who is continually able to commit grotesque crimes due to his beloved public persona. He's a showbiz charity darling, in spite of being, on the face of it, utterly revolting and sleazy. The Lying Detective wouldn't work half as well as it does without Jones's repellant characterisation of Smith, and we wouldn't believe Smith's acceptance and success if we hadn't already seen Saville manage it in reality.

As far as Sherlock episodes go, The Lying Detective sticks reasonably closely to the story that inspired it, keeping the main shape of "The Dying Detective." It changes pretty much all of the cosmetic elements, of course, and even the villain is very little like the original; the literary Culverton Smith was merely an implied murderer, not a boastful serial killer. Equally, Holmes is suffering from a disease in the short story, rather than crippling drug addiction. Still, the spirit of the story remains, albeit adapted to the ongoing Sherlock/John/Mary emotional triangle, and the denoument of the story remains essentially the same. Although in the case of The Lying Detective, the episode carries on after the story finishes in order to set up the next instalment of the ongoing series.

This is a standout episode for Cumberbatch, who absolutely sells Sherlock's descent into addiction. Admittedly, we've seen this before on the series, but this is a deeper descent, and the fact that it has all been prompted by Mary's posthumous demand that he "go to hell" to save John doesn't negate this. Whatever kind of plan Sherlock has, there is no way that someone pushes themself to this level without having genuine problems. His friendship with John is what holds Sherlock together; without that, he's one step away from becoming a true obsessive who can only moderate himself through drugs.

The direction in this episode is superb. Nick Hurran is the perfect choice for an episode that revels in confusion and hallucinatory. He has a wonderful knack for the arreting visual. Beyond Cumberbatch, the cast is uniformly excellent, with Martin Freeman, as always, beyond reproach. I'm overjoyed that we haven't seen the last of Amanda Abbington as Mary, even if she is relegated to the faintest of supporting roles. Louise Brealey and Mark Gatiss both get some excellent moments, but it's Una Stubbs who steals this episode. For an episode that is so wound up in the Sherlock-John relationship, it's Mrs Hudson who absolutely steals the show. This series would be a shadow of itself with Stubbs.

The Lying Detective is, if not a stand-out episode of Sherlock, at least a return to form. This is a fine example of the series doing what it does best: a combination of mystery, character drama and arresting visuals.

Stray throughts:

Would anyone, honestly, allow someone to drug them before imparting a confession, just so they could unload themselves without repurcussion? How does Smith find these people? What is wrong with them?

Sian Brooke puts in a wonderful performance as the faux Faith Smith, protraying her as a kind of female equivalent of John Watson, stick and all.

Also a treat to see Tom Brooke back as Bill Wiggins, however briefly.

Strangely satisfying to have a reference to H. H. Holmes, one of the earliest documented historical serial killers, and someone who was a contemporary (albeit in the USA) of the original fictional Sherlock Holmes. 

Tuesday 17 January 2017


As We Are is a new online TV series, exploring life for young LGBT people in Brighton and Hove. The first series was released towards the end of last year, in short, easy to enjoy episodes. As We Are was created by Deborah Espect, an award-winning writer who also acts as director and producer on the series. Espect first decided to write the series after watching lesbian characters in TV series continually being killed off. This led to the creation of a series where the main characters happen to be gay women and aren't punished for it by the narrative.

As We Are features a number of prominent LGBT writers, performers and activists both on screen and behind the scenes. It tells the story of Chloe, a young woman who agrees to flatsit for her dreadful ex-girlfriend because someone will need to look after the cat. The cat's much nicer than her ex, so it's fair enough. There she strikes up a friendship with Blake, the gent living in the flat above, who just happens to be transgender. Their friendship leads to Chloe facing her preconceptions, especially as she becomes more attracted to Blake.

If this all sounds like it could be extremely preachy and hard-going, rest assured it's not. We follow Chloe and Blake through drinks, dates and cat hunts, and the series' philosophy is kept very conversational. Actress and comedian Jenny Harrold plays Chloe, opposite artist, film-maker and trans activist Fox Fisher as Blake, both of whom give strong, realistic and likeable performances. There's a wealth of talent on screen, with award-winning performers appearing even in very brief roles.

As We Are has serious things to say but doesn't take itself too seriously, and finds plenty of opportunity to poke fun at how painfully Brightonian it is. (Trina, played by Sarah Charsley, is probably the most Brightonian person ever committed to film.) It's good fun for those of us in the area to see some well-known haunts on the screen, as well as well-known types of people, and anyone who's been involved in the Pride and LGBT scene, or the Brighton Fringe, will likely recognise a few faces. If you  have an interest in LGBT life, or just enjoy a light-hearted drama, it's definitely worth your time.

You can watch As We Are and read about its cast and creators here. If you enjoy it and want to help it continue, crowdfunding for series two will begin soon.

Friday 13 January 2017

REVIEW: Black Mirror Season Three

A recent bout of sickness has led me to engage in a project known as "catching up with Netflix." One of the series I'd been looking forward to catching up with was Black Mirror, the third run of which was released exclusively on the site back in October. So, I was a couple of months behind, but blasted through it just after Christmas when the missus was away and now I've finally gotten round to recording my thoughts.

I'll look at the episodes individually, in the order that I first watched them rather than the set order (completely arbitrary in a series of this nature, in any case). Firstly though, general observations. This is, inarguably, an Americanised take on the series, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. To start with, it's not as if it has been stripped of its British identity entirely. Three of the episodes are set in the UK, British actors appear in both British roles and otherwise, and, partiularly in the episodes penned by Charlie Brooker himself, there's no getting away from the distinctly British flavour of cynicism that pervades the series. It still feels like Black Mirror. And making the series more marketable to American audiences is a necessary step in having Netflix create this third series, which has brought it to far wider critical and audience attention. It's also allowed a much higher budget than the previous runs, leading to twice as many episodes and a remarkable cast, which has further increased attention. This can only be a good thing. Another six episodes are due in the near future, and after the mix of material we had with season three, I'm very intrigued to see what directions they will go in.


The first episode of the series, and it's clear that this is where a lot of the casting budget went. Bryce Dallas Howard is the headline draw here, but there's also Alice Eve as the horrendously shallow Naomi. For me, though, the standout performance is Cherry Jones as "Who gives a shit?" Susan, although Daisy Haggard's staggeringly banal high flyer sticks in the mind too. 

A world where everyone's social interaction is recorded and rated on social media is disturbingly easy to imagine, and there has even been an attempt to market an app like this: Peeple, which thankfully had its more insidious elements removed after poor feedback and seems to have failed to catch on. This is the only episode of the third series that Brooker didn't write, although he did set out the storyline, which extrapolates the idea to its inevitable conclusion: a society in which the very economy is based on "likes." Rashida Jones and Michael Schur developed this into a fine script with an admiral lightness of touch, low on exposition but easily understandable. Howard manages to keep her character Lacey likeable, in spite of the fact that she's really quite a terrible person throughout, both when she's desperately clawing for ratings and when she's angrily over the whole system. 

The chain reaction of events that lead Lacey's points to crash and burn unfolds with agonising inevitability. It's a brilliantly structured tale, but the final scene, though cathartic, doesn't really work for me.


Watched next due to recommendation from my friend Nim, this was the best episode of The X-Files I've seen in years. One of the best casts out of the lot, with Kelly MacDonald and Faye Marsay sharing a gloriously uncomfortable sort of chemistry. Faye Marsay is blatantly one of the best new faces in television, and hopefully her recent appearances on Game of Thrones, Doctor Who and this is the beginning of many great roles. And then there's Benedict Wong as one seriously cynical agent. This episode, more than any, could kick off its own series. 

"Hated in the Nation" is an episode that goes further down the sci-fi adventure route than Black Mirror usually does. The great strength of this series has been the sheer variety of genres expressed across its half-dozen episodes. This is positioned as the finale, seemingly to justify its extended runtime, and it's an excellent mix of sf, police procedural, horror and political scrutiny. The use of robotic bees as a replacement for the real kind that we're currently wiping out is a fine central conceit as it is, but combining it with the episode's real subject - the seemingly unpoliceable trolling of social media - makes for an incredible mixture. 

The disturbing thing is that we can empathise with people using the #DeathTo tag, even more so once they know it actually has consequences. From the Katy Hopkins-like columnist who attacks the disabled, to paedophiliac former ministers, we can all identify with hating these people enough to wish them dead. Ultimately, though, everyone faces the consequences of their actions. No one gets away this time.


Watched next on the recommendation of just about everyone, this is by far and away the best episode of the series, and also the least typical. Unique amongst Black Mirror episodes in that it actually has a happy ending, "San Junipero" is best watched with as little introduction as possible, since a lot of the pleasure is working out just what is going on in this strange world of perpetual Friday nights. Then again, it's also wonderful to watch again, knowing the truth and noticing the little clues peppered throughout. It's achingly romantic; who'd have thought Charlie Brooker was such a softie underneath? I watched this alone first time round, and immediately wanted my girlfriend Suz to come back home from her New Years holiday so that we could watch it together.

What really makes it such an excellent piece of work is the combination of Brooker's script and the wonderful performances of Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The two have an astonishing chemistry, but while Mbatha-Raw is excellent throughout, it's Davis who truly shines, with a heartbreaking, awkward and hugely loveable performance as the oddly-named Yorkie. Added to which is an eighties soundtrack, a potent philosophical message and a timeless sf concept, making for a truly superb hour of television. It's another episode that could potentially spin a sequel, but that really seems like it could spoil it. It's so perfect as it is. I plan to write on this one again at length, but for now, I suggest you watch it if you already haven't. Probably the most beautiful hour of television I've ever seen.


I was a little disappointed with this episode. It's one hell of a slog, but that's the point, making the viewer experience the hell that Kenny is going through, step by arduous step. Alex Lawther is absoutely brilliant as Kenny, engendering real sympathy, while also being supremely aggravating in the patheticness of his plight. Finally, after he's been through an unrelenting series of humiliations, we find out that he's not the sympathetic character we originally thought. In this respect it forms a companion piece with "Hated in the Nation," putting us in the uncomfortable position of sympathising with the trolls rather than the vicitms of their attacks, be they nasty little paedos or just people who made a stupid mistake.

What sets this apart from every other episode is that it could happen now, with current technology, and involves now explicit science fiction elements at all. Indeed, it's not so different from something that has already happened, to some poor teenaged sap who thought he was talking to a hotty on the internet, only to have his pictures and Skype videos used as leverage in an attempt to blackmail him into paying money he didn't have. That young lad killed himself, something Kenny tries here, and thus this episode cuts close to the bone, while never really hitting greatness.


Black Mirror has had plenty of episodes with horror elements, but this is the first out-and-out horror episode and as such, it works very well. "Playtest" doesn't really have anything to say; it's purely terror in descending steps, each scenario of the virtual reality more harrowing than the last. And, to be fair, it does this very well, with a great central performance from Wyatt Russell. His character, Cooper, is a bit of a dick, but a likeable one, and the worst that can be said about him is that he doesn't call him mum often enough. This is unusual, in that most characters in Black Mirror suffer because they've done something that, arguably, means they deserve it. Cooper goes through hell because of a simple mechanical fault due to his flouting of the "no mobile phones" rule, which is rather excessively cruel even for this series. Still, this is in keeping with the genre of the episode; the victims in horror films are frequently innocents. On the other hand, "Playtest" could still be considered a warning against technology; the ever-more sophisticated nature of our entertainment and computer systems will take us into unexplored territories with unpredictable outcomes. All I know is that I would never, ever consent to having any system explore my subconscious fears. It's bad enough having them in the subconscious; bringing them to life is a monstrous idea.


Undoubtedly the simplest episode of the run, "Men Against Fire" is predictable and tells a well-worn story, but nonetheless an important one. There have been a number of productions with a similar premise, from episodes of The Outer Limits and Voyager to The 5th Wave last year (although that one I take on advisement, I haven't seen it). This is a simplistic tale about the dehumnaisation of the enemy, but it works well, and while it plays its hand early, it's predictable enough that this doesn't really matter. We know from the outset that the "roaches" will turn out to be ordinary humans, but there's still some original elements here. It's an interesting touch to have the dehumanised faction be white, eastern Europeans, while black and white westerners form the ranks of the army. It adds some complexity by revealing that Stripe (an impressive Malachi Kirby) voluntary signed away his memories to join this campaign of ethnic cleansing. It ends with him making a horribly difficult choice, one that reflects every time that we turn a blind eye to some cruelty or try to forget an injustice. One thing thing I'm certain of: if the American military could doctor their troops minds like this, they'd do it in a shot. 

Friday 6 January 2017

REVIEW: Sherlock 4-1 - The Six Thatchers


Loosely based upon "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" (1904)

And so, after another long break, Sherlock is back and, more or less, on form. The episode chugs along nicely, with plenty of action and derring-do. A very exciting, cinematic opening for the latest run, with some excellent character moments for all the principle players. It's all very disjointed though, never quite cohering into more than a series of vignettes. For every element that is added early and picked up in the climax, there is an element that never ties into the main storyline. Which is fine, I guess, but after three series we've come to expect everything to be a clue, or a plot point, or a running gag. I'm not sure if this is Gatiss losing track of the series' style, or playing with the audience.

The six Thatchers is a clever updating of the six Napoleons, and naturally prevents us from sympathising with the victims too much. I mean, it's terribly sad that the rich couple's son has died in a desperately grim and arbitrary way, but they had a fucking shrine to Thatcher in their house. That's a straightforward way of telling that someone is an appalling person. Watson is too polite to say anything, and Sherlock genuinely doesn't care, but no one would blame them for just walking out as soon as they saw that collection of dragon portraits.

Sherlock's behaviour is baffling at the outset, and it's not clear if he is head-spinningly high, or just pretending to be to take the piss. I don't think we've ever seen Cumberbatch play him so giddily and, well, Doctorishly before. It's tremendous fun, but not what we've come to expect from the character. I like that the exile plot has been so quickly written off. It's not as if the British government can't just doctor footage and wipe someone's record clean with a few choice instructions.

As much as we focus on Sherlock during the episode, it's really all about the Watsons. It's easy to feel desperately sorry for John, upstaged by Mary as the ultimate sidekick. The script plays cleverly with this though, both making John into a more flawed, less sympathetic character by having him tempted to be unfaithful, and by keeping Mary resolutely the star of her own show, albeit one that happens almost entirely off screen, only occasionally intersecting with Sherlock.

So, John. Given the quieter, less exciting material, Martin Freeman nonetheless excels. So far, it appears that John has merely been texting the woman on the bus, a pretty minor indiscretion, but it's entirely possible there's more to it than we've seen. Even so, with a wife and a baby, John's behaviour plays with our sympathies, Of course, by the end, we're desperately sorry for him, even as he (quite understandably) shuts Sherlock out.

Mary, on the other hand, is more of a question. As always. The episode has great fun exploring Mary's superspy skills, only to happily skewer it by having Sherlock simply slap a tracer on her. Making her background the key to the mystery of the week is effective, even as it shows Sherlock at its most contrived. Until, finally, Mary is killed off, seemingly to drive a wedge between Sherlock and John. Presumably, the status quo will eventually be restored, with Holmes and Watson back as they started, albeit with added baby. This is assuming, of course, that Mary is really dead. It would hardly be the first time this series has played that game, and this is a Moffat show we're talking about. No one seems able to stay dead in these things. Not forgetting the fact that the London Aquarium is just up the road from one of the capital's largest hospitals.

Stray thoughts:

I hope they don't involve Moriarty in this season at all, and he just remains Sherlock's personal obsession.

Whatever the provenance, "ammo" is a poor choice of code word in a combat situation.

This episode includes the best ever use of the classic "As always Watson, you see but you do not observe" line.

The best bit, however, is the part with the dog.

Waiting on Sherrinford here.

Monday 2 January 2017

FANS WHO: Fury From the Deep - 2002 Stageplay

Nick Scovell first played the Doctor in a self-penned stageplay in 1996, titled Planet of Storms. It was this production that brought him to the attention of Rob Thrush, who cast him as the Doctor in his fanfilm The Millennium Trap, still the most popular and well-known production to star Scovell as the Doctor. Thrush joined Scovell's theatre group, and they went on to hold four further Doctor Who stageplays. Each of these was based on a 1960s serial, lost from the archives: The Web of Fear (performed in 2000), Fury from the Deep (2002), Evil of the Daleks (2006) and The Dalek Masterplan (2007).

After this, plans were afoot to adapt The Power of the Daleks for stage, but the BBC declined, in this instance, to provide permission. A mistake, in my view, as the previous plays had been very popular with fans (both old and new, in the case of the more recent plays), and had raised money for the BBC's own charity, Children in Need. Still, we can't expect too much logic from the Beeb, who junked the episodes in the first place, after all. Scovell and Thrush went on to create Power of the Daleks: Reimagined, a fanfilm which was made available via YouTube in 2012, and won great fan acclaim until the Beeb stepped in again and demanded its removal.

However, there has been a recent burst of new enthusiasm for Scovell's Doctor, with a Facebook group being created to celebrate his Doctor's 20th anniversary by providing access to new and archive material. Just before we ushered in the new year, the group released a brief two-hander episode to mark the occasion, "A Moment in Time." Before that, however, we were briefly treated to a recording of a performance of Fury of the Deep, made available for only a few days before being withdrawn. h

Fury From the Deep was performed at Portsmouth Theatre Royal, the same venue that would later play host to both Evil and Masterplan. It was when Evil was being publicised that I first found out about Interalia Theatre's Doctor Who productions, and so while I saw and thoroughly enjoyed both Dalek plays, I never had the chance to see Fury performed. As such, it was a great opportunity to experience this version of the serial. Two things struck me about the production. Firstly was the use of pre-filmed inserts, which were played at the original performance on a screen mounted above the stage. While this may have been a little disjointed to see, it makes it quite an interesting multimedia experience, and when played "full screen" as it were, as part of the video, the inserts work extremely well.  These include some excellent location work, and the recreation of some classic scenes, including the chilling moment when Maggie Harris walks to her seeming doom beneath the waves. They're certainly not unambitious either, bringing in a helicopter for the Doctor and co. to zip about in.

The Doctor catches sight of a helicopter

Secondly, within the play itself there is a very clever use of the structure of the theatre itself. With Fury From the Deep involving all manner of plunges to the depths, through pipes and pits, a single level stage was always going to feel rather flat. Instead, Thrush directs the play to make use of the many levels of the theatre itself. The cast begin some scenes in the uppermost levels ("That power would put me up above the gods!) before descending down scaffolding into the heart of the theatre. It's tremendously effective, giving real scale and, well, depth to the production.

Nick Scovell is excellent as the Doctor, giving a performance that is akin to Patrick Troughton's without ever being a pastiche. There's an earnestness to his Doctor, but with a twinkle and occasional bursts of pure glee at the adventure. Victoria Waterfield is a central figure to this story, here played with great sympathy by Laura Ford. (Victoria had previusly been played by Nancy Holloway in The Web of Fear, while Rosie Grant took on the role for Evil of the Daleks - ironically the character's debut story was adapted after her departure.) Jamie is played by John Paul McCrohon, who gives his all as the canny Scotsman and absolutely fits the part.

I also have to sing the praises of the creature operators (one of whom is named Matt Smith, although I presume not that Matt Smith), who bring the weed creatures to life far more effectively than in the original serial. Making an angry bunch of algae into a credible threat isn't easy, but they managed it here, and the cast all play it with absolute conviction. Fury From the Deep is definite classic in the world of Doctor Who fan productions. Planet of Storms is still available to view (being a non-copyrighted script), but the quality of the recording is sadly somewhat poor. Here's hoping some of the other remakes will be made available for a short time in future. They are most certainly deserving of new fans.