Saturday 30 November 2019

Buy me a cuppa?

I've joined up to Ko-Fi aka "Buy Me a Coffee," so if you enjoy my posts and reviews, please consider supporting me by dropping me a couple of quid. Even a little support goes a long way. Thanks x

Monday 25 November 2019

Casting Call: The Watch

There's been some very interesting news released regarding The Watch, the BBC and Narrativia's upcoming series based on Terry Pratchett's City Watch books (or rather, those Discworld books and plot strands that featured the Watch, since there was never a clear distinction between different sequences in the books).

The previous casting announcement, including the most important of them all, Vimes himself, was exciting, and in some cases surprising. Richard Dormer is a pretty inarguably good choice for Vimes. I don't know Adam Hugill, but he certainly looks like a Carrot. Marama Corlett is another new one to me, but she has a look about her that says Angua to me. Then things are little more unexpected. Already people are complaining about Lara Rossi, a mixed race actress, being cast as Lady Sybil. Now, she's certainly not how I pictured Sybil, more highly bread than a hilltop bakery, but more than anything, she seems too young and attractive (of course, if there are elements of Night Watch in the mix here, there may also be an older version of the character). But a non-white Sybil? Well, really, why not? Cue everyone with a keyboard and a jammed caps lock pointing out that there weren't black aristocrats, and OK, there were very few rich people in Britain who weren't white and probably no one who was landed, but this isn't Britain. It's a fantastic city on a flat planet which happens to share some similarities with London. You know what else they didn't have in pre-WWI London? Trolls.

Racism isn't generally a thing in the Discworld books, at least not in Ankh-Morpork, since everyone's far more interested in speciesism. Sam Adewunmi as Carcer is no problem - Carcer could just about be any race and it wouldn't really make a difference as long as he was enough of a bastard. More interesting to me is the choice of Jo Eaton-Kent as Cheery Littlebottom, famously the first openly female dwarf. Although if all dwarfs look male to humans, I guess it makes sense to have a male actor in the role.

The new announcement has some even more intriguing choices, though. It's very clear that Narrativia aren't going to be going for a strict adaptation of the books, since several characters have been gender shifted. I suspect that the stories are going to be reworked quite heavily to make the series. There are also quite a few non-white faces in the cast (well, not that many - four out of twelve in the cast list so far). Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Keel, Vimes's mentor, is an interesting choice. In the books, Vimes had at least a passing resemblance to him, so to have them as different races changes things quite considerably. Anna Chancellor as Vetinari is a huge change, and I'd never have considered changing the Patrician to a woman (the title alone is distinctly masculine) but I can actually really imagine Chancellor playing the role.

Then we have the brilliant Ruth Madeley, star of Years and Years, as Throat, a character based on Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler. Let's be clear: this is a disabled woman playing a character previously described as an able-bodied man. It's unexpected to say the least. We have James Fleet playing Archchancellor Ridcully, which is so perfectly acceptable to be obvious, while Bianca Simone Manie is playing a character called Wonse - not apparently the same character as Lupine Wonse - who is described as a "wizard hopeful in waiting." And female wizards are, traditionally, very rare indeed. Then there's Ingrid "Osgood" Oliver as Dr. Cruces, head of the Assassin's Guild, which is another unexpected bit of casting.

Some people are pretty angry about this, others just baffled, and to be fair, some of these casting decisions are totally different to what I'd envisioned reading the books. But then, why even bother making the series if it's just going to look exactly how everyone imagined it when they read it? Reinterpretation is the most interesting thing about a work like this. And to those who are saying this cast isn't realistic, two things: this is not the real world we're talking about, it's a world on the back of a giant turtle; and you what? This looks more like the real world than I ever expected it to.

Sunday 24 November 2019


Here's a complete list of the articles I've had published at Television Heaven, covering classic TV from the 1950s onwards, all the way up to this year's most interesting releases.

Lately I've written articles on the classic BBC sci-fi series Out of the Unknown, covering two episodes: "Some Lapse of Time" and "Stranger in the Family." There will be more to follow. Bang up-to-date we have Neil Gaiman's Good Omens and Russell T. Davies's Years and Years, and somewhere in between is Gaiman's Neverwhere.

There's a whole host of material on Television Heaven, covering everything from Terry and June to Sliders to Twizzle.

The Good Life: Silly, But It's Fun
Good Omens
Out of the Unknown: Stranger in the Family
Out of the Unknown: Some Lapse of Time
Pathfinders in Space
Pathfinders to Mars, Pathfinders to Venus
The Quatermass Experiment
Quatermass 2
Quatermass and the Pit
Raumpatrouille Orion
Red Dwarf
Years and Years
Doctor Who: The Daleks/The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus
Doctor Who: The Time Meddler
Doctor Who: The Mind Robber
Doctor Who: The Daemons
Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks
Doctor Who: Terror of the Zygons
Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin
Doctor Who: 2005-2019

Tuesday 19 November 2019

WHO REVIEW: A Pile of Good Things (ed. Ginger Hoesley)

“Every life is a pile of good things and bad things,” once said the eleventh Doctor, and he wasn't wrong. He could just have easily have said, “Doctor Who is a pile of good things and bad things – The Caves of Androzani on one side, The Twin Dilemma on the other.” Or, “a fan fiction anthology is usually a pile of good things and bad things – cross your fingers when you open one.”

Fortunately, A Pile of Good Things, the new eleventh Doctor fanzine put together by Ginger Hoesley, is accurately titled. There's not a single poorly written story in here, which, in even the slimmest collection, is really saying something. For me, there was a nice mix of new and recognisable names, and even those stories that were slightly weaker than the best in the collection were great reads.

The collection runs in roughly chronological order from the Doctor's point of view, beginning with “Displaced Persons” by Michael O'Brien. This is a bit of a delight, an affectionate spoof of space opera that drops the Doctor and Amy into the middle of a thinly-veiled episode of Star Trek to solve the problem of the week, only to find some familiar enemies cropping up. I won't spoil it, but I will say that while I might have guessed the first alien race that brought back from the archives, I was happily surprised by second. And for Trek fans, there are little nods at the Whoniverse equivalents of Section 31 and the Department of Temporal Investigations. The interplay between the Doctor and Amy is great, although their dialogue sometimes seems a little off.

Katie and Claire Lambeth bring us a beautiful story with “Lost Soul,” a wartime drama with a solid mystery at its centre. This story sees the Doctor travelling alone but paired up for an adventure with the sparky twelve-year-old Edna. Seeing the Doctor from a new character's point of view, especially a child's, is always a great way to explore him. “Lost Soul” is a quite touching story with some classic sci-fi elements.

“Someone Kidnapped, Something Blue,” my personal highlight of the collection, is a follow-up to the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip adventure “Hunters of the Burning Stone.” This strip saw the eleventh Doctor reunited with Ian and Barbara for the fiftieth anniversary, and was deserving of a follow-up. Author Tina Marie DeLucia absolutely nails the three characters and their dynamic, with Ian and Barbara affectionately coming to terms with this new Doctor while absolutely refusing to get drawn into another reckless adventure. It's a small scale story and all the more effective for it. Beautiful.

Two stories take place during the Doctor's extended sulk on top of a cloud in Victorian London. Paul Driscoll gives us a fun story with some unexpected elements in “The Birds of Sweet Forgetfulness,” which sees the TARDIS try to set the Doctor up with a new companion picked off the streets of London. It's an effective examination of the Doctor's loneliness and depression, which also points out that if he really wanted to be left alone, he wouldn't have picked a bustling capital to hide out in. Driscoll's story even sees the Doctor take over the ownership of a pub, yet still complain about people bothering him, which sounds exactly like the sort of thing he'd do.

Dana E. Reboe's story, “The Stars and Their Promises” is set a little later in the Doctor's self-imposed exile, it seems, as he is beginning to defrost and enjoy his time in London. He's only a little put-out when Madame Vastra recruits him to deal with an alien threat to the capital. It's a lovely little horror story with some great interplay between the two heroes. Both Vastra and Reboe can see clearly that whatever he says, the Doctor's only really content when he's in the middle of an adventure.

It's appropriate, then, that the next story sees the Doctor struggling with the challenge of spending a few days in London without taking in an adventure. “Staying Put” by Ellen Montgomery brings us into the era of Clara and Coal Hill School. Clara doesn't think the Doctor can stay put for a week without the using the TARDIS, and to his credit, he does technically manage this. Perhaps with a little string-pulling from school governor I. Chesterton, the Doctor is given charge of a group of Year 8 pupils. Naturally, his idea of a suitable field trip is to take them back to his junkyard on Totter's Lane, only to find it's been replaced by a Nando's. A very fun story indeed, with a particularly good rendition of the eleventh Doctor.

The funniest adventure, however, has to be William J. Martin's “Lost in Translation.” This doesn't involve two disparate souls thrown together in Tokyo, but the Doctor and Clara's trip to the planet Delphon. Yes, that's the same planet Delphon where they communicate with their eyebrows; the idea of sending the opto-follically challenged eleventh Doctor to this planet is hilarious. The idea of eyebrow language makes you wonder just what sort of creature could possibly evolve to communicate like that, and Martin comes up with a clever answer. It's a funny but clever piece of sci-fi on the universe's quietest planet. (Now do one set on Tersurus.)

Michelle Alvarez brings us “Making Memories,” a very beautiful tale of the Doctor and Clara's of a world where memories can be recorded onto snowflakes. It's a brief but touching look at the friendship between the two time travellers. Kara Dennison's “Universal Love” is another funny one, a biting take on New Age nonsense alternative medicines, which sees the Doctor take Clara on a shopping trip to the least exciting locale in the universe. Fair enough, he needs specific types of crystals and knows that a Wellness Fair is exactly where to find them – even if the vendors have no idea what they're actually useful for.

The stories have enough variety to keep things interesting, while fitting nicely together as a single collection. There are one or two Americanisms that stuck out in the main characters' dialogue, but otherwise this is well-edited and thoroughly enjoyable selection of tales. Not only are the stories great, but the design of the fanzine is eyecatching and the selection of artwork is fantastic. It's a stunning piece of work altogether.

Perhaps surprisingly, there are no appearances by everyone's favourite Roman, Rory Williams, nor any stories set during the Doctor's long vigil on Trenzalore. It shows just how rich the eleventh Doctor's era was that there can be so much in here yet still be more to explore. Still, there's always room for a second Pile of Good Things.

You can order A Pile of Good Things here, but hurry - it's only on sale till the 25th of November!

All proceeds go towards the Cancer Research Institute. There's merc too!

Ginger's site and shop can be found here.

Sunday 3 November 2019


Finally, I've time to sit down and write about Joker, perhaps the most talked-about film of the year. And it's been out long enough now that I feel it's safe to straight in with a SPOILER-filled review, so for those who haven't seen it yet and don't want anything spoiled (although to be fair, it mostly unrolls fairly predictably), stop here. For everyone else, carry on after the break.

Saturday 2 November 2019

"Master Pieces" out now!

The new Doctor Who fan anthology, Master Pieces, featuring no Doctors and lots of Masters, is now available in paperback form. You can get it from Amazon right now, with stories by Paul Driscoll, Chris McKeon, Jon Arnold, Rachel Redhead and more, plus a little something called"The Devil You Know" by me myself. All profits go to the Stroke Association.

An ebook version will be out soon.