Visit the official Doctor Who website

Visit the official Doctor Who website
Look to the future

Asylum seekers...

Asylum seekers...
Refuge of the Daleks

Doctor Who picture resource

Doctor Who picture resource
Roam the space lanes!

Explore the Doctor Who classic series website

Explore the Doctor Who classic series website
Step back in time

Infiltrate The Hub of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood

Infiltrate The Hub of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood
Armed and extremely dangerous

Investigate The Sarah Jane Adventures

Investigate The Sarah Jane Adventures
Fearless in the face of adversity

Call on Dani’s House

Call on Dani’s House
Harmer’s a charmer

Intercept the UFO fabsite

Intercept the UFO fabsite
Defending the Earth against alien invaders!

Uncover the secrets of the Dollhouse

Uncover the secrets of the Dollhouse
Programmable agent Echo exposed!

Hell’s belles

Hell’s belles
Naughty but nice

Love Exposure

Love Exposure
Flash photography!

Primeval portal

Primeval portal
Dressed to kill or damsels in distress?

Charmed, to be sure!

Charmed, to be sure!
The witches of San Francisco

Take on t.A.T.u.

Take on t.A.T.u.
All the way from Moscow

Proceed to the Luther website

Proceed to the Luther website
John and Jenny discuss their next move

DCI Banks is on the case

DCI Banks is on the case
You can bet on it!

On The Grid with Spooks

On The Grid with Spooks
Secret agents of Section D

Bridge to Hustle

Bridge to Hustle
Shady characters

Life on Ashes To Ashes

Life on Ashes To Ashes
Coppers with a chequered past

Claire’s no Exile

Claire’s no Exile
Goose steps

Vexed is back on the beat!

Vexed is back on the beat!
Mismatched DI Armstrong and bright fast-tracker Georgina Dixon

Medium, both super and natural

Medium, both super and natural
Open the door to your dreams

Who’s that girl? (350-picture Slideshow)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Santa banter!

I’d like to take the opportunity to wish readers of this journal a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous, or perhaps in the current economic climate that should read preposterous, New Year! Don’t worry, the ordeal will be over in a few days!! Then, we can stop kidding ourselves and get back to the real world. Why so many of us, sheepishly, centre our hopes and dreams around these few days when it might be just that little bit warmer during August, I’ll never understand. Still, the children seem to like it and that’s all that matters, right? As long as I don’t have to listen to that awesomely awful, utterly insincere, record by Mariah Carey (again), I should be able to keep my thoughts to myself.

What is there to distract each and every misery guts, like myself, on the big day?

There are at least five different versions of the Scrooge story on terrestrial television, on Christmas Day, to keep us company. If you’re up really early, you can catch “Dani’s House” at 7am on BBC2 in a seasonal repeat entitled “Scrooge Tube”. Harmer’s annoying younger screen-brother learns the true meaning of Christmas when visited by the ghosts of Christmas past.

“Scrooged” is on Channel 4 at 1pm if you prefer your comedy American. Bill Murray plays a TV executive planning a season of violence for the festive break. I still have my light blue “Get SCROOGED With BILL MURRAY” badge which I was given by a rep to promote the film back in 1988. In fact, I’m wearing it. You think I’m joshing?

Staying across the Atlantic, “The Grinch” is on ITV1 at 3.10pm. Dr Seuss’s cult children’s favourite “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” gets the big-budget Hollywood treatment in this seasonal spectacular from director Ron Howard. More detailed reviews of these two films can be found on page 82 of the current Radio Times. Other listings magazines are available.

Quintessentially British, despite originally being (partly) devised by a Canadian, “Doctor Who” is back on our screens at the Unearthly hour of 6pm on BBC1. In “A Christmas Carol” the only way the Doctor can rescue Amy and Rory, trapped on a crashing space liner, is by saving the soul of a lonely old miser played by Michael Gambon. I don’t have the foggiest what’s in the fog!

Ending up back where we started, on BBC2, “Blackadder’s Christmas Carol” is at 8.35pm. Like “Scrooged”, this special was made in 1988 but flips the traditional Dickens’ story on its head. And, if you’re in need of something with a pretty “Doctor Who” companion, this extended episode briefly features Peri actress Nicola Bryant. What more could you want?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Warden’s Watch Special: Highlights of the Year

It hasn’t been a particularly memorable year for those of us interested in brilliantly-crafted television drama. The fifth series of new “Doctor Who” was disappointing but my expectations weren’t that high to begin with. I worried that, under Steven Moffat, the stories would become increasingly esoteric and my fears proved well-founded. One of the problems is that, creatively, the most-successful stories written by both the new Executive Producer and Mark Gatiss were the ones they wrote back in 2005 for Christopher Eccleston! It’s a bit like Ben Aaronovitch trying to top “Remembrance of the Daleks”, in the late Eighties, and coming up with the vastly-inferior “Battlefield”, itself a reworking of one of his earlier scripts. The irony is that the finest story of the year to feature the new, eleventh, Doctor, played brilliantly by Matt Smith, was one of “The Sarah Jane Adventures”! And, to compound the irony, “Death of the Doctor” was the one written by Russell!! It almost made me feel sorry he’s gone and I’m sure that that was his intention. This third story in the fourth series of “The Sarah Jane Adventures” was equalled, if not bettered, two stories later by Rupert Laight’s “Lost in Time”, a two-episode reworking of an entire twenty-six episode (“The Key to Time”) season of classic “Doctor Who”. With segments reminiscent of “Ghost Light” and “The Curse of Fenric”, and another nodding to the Hartnell historicals, the story gently acknowledged the 47th anniversary of “Doctor Who” with the dateline of the newspaper cutting which the three adventurers had initially set out to investigate.

Aside from stories set in space and time, another mainstay of 2010 has been the continuing dreamlike-investigations of American “Medium” Allison DuBois. Freeview viewers have got as far as Season Five while, if you subscribe to satellite, then you’re enjoying Season Six and, for the more impatient among us, Season Seven episodes have been materialising on the internet from the early hours of Saturday mornings for the ten weeks up to the beginning of December with the remaining six scheduled to resume in the New Year! It’s a miracle the show is still with us, having been picked up by CBS after cancellation, while other series, such as “Heroes”, have fallen by the wayside. Back in the UK, we were treated to the second, and sadly final, series of “Survivors” which I believe to be a more successful reworking of an old hit than the reincarnation and enduring saga of everyone’s favourite Time Lord. Why the BBC have picked up ITV’s “Primeval” and dumped their own is beyond me! I wasn’t as enamoured by Season Six of “Hustle”, at the beginning of the year, as I was Season Five in 2009, despite guest appearances by Brian Murphy, Colin Baker and Danny Webb. Last year it was given a new lease of life with the introduction of two new regular characters, as well as the return of a familiar face, so, by this year, the con seemed to have settled back into a familiar routine once again. On the other hand, “Spooks” has benefited from the introduction of new characters! Still not as good as when Rupert Penry-Jones led the cast, Season Nine was a distinct improvement over recent years. “Luther” was this year’s detective success story, although I’m sure there are those who preferred Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s modernisation of “Sherlock”, but it doesn’t look as though the BBC know where to take Idris Elba’s character next as there isn’t to be a second series as such, just a couple of one-hour specials! Bizarre or what?!

The real triumphs of the year came in the form of selected repeats. I’m not talking about the endless rotation of “Inspector Morse”, “Poirot”, “A Touch of Frost” and “Foyle’s War”, for the older generation on ITV3, or the constant repetition of “The Sweeney”, “The Professionals”, “Minder” and “The Prisoner”, for real men on ITV4, as good as all these series undoubtedly are, but a couple of gems that have surfaced on Yesterday. First was a rerun of the six-part Dennis Potter serial “Lipstick on Your Collar”, originally a Channel Four conclusion to the musical trilogy begun and continued on the BBC with “Pennies from Heaven” and “The Singing Detective” but much-underrated in their shadow! Secondly, and unquestionably one of the ten best series ever to come out of Britain, the two seasons of “Colditz” have recently enjoyed a long-overdue re-screening. The first season is the most consistent, especially when dealing with the psychological aspects of imprisonment rather than boy’s own heroics, while the second suffered a smidgen after the “escape” of Edward Hardwicke’s Pat Reid though his replacement, a new character in the German ranks played with thorough viciousness by Anthony Valentine, aids the drama in delving into the infighting of Nazi politics of the time. There’s no incidental music to tell you what to think or how to feel just bloody good writing, acting and directing from the likes of “Doctor Who” stalwarts Michael Ferguson and Terence Dudley. They just don’t make thought-provoking series like “Colditz” anymore.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Twelve Doctors

Actor Sylvester McCoy has said he would be keen to return to “Doctor Who” for its fiftieth anniversary.

McCoy, who played the seventh Doctor from 1987 to 1989 (his last regular appearance was twenty-one years ago to the day, on 6th December), said fans wanted a multi-Doctor story to mark the programme’s golden jubilee in 2013.

Sylvester, now 67, also suggested that earlier Doctors - played by actors who have since died - could be brought back using computer technology.

“They’ve got such imaginations, they could do anything,” McCoy added. “I was a lucky little fellow to get that job,” he concluded.

Cynics may suggest Sylvester could simply be “touting for business”, to quote “Revelation of the Daleks”, but I believe he was sincere in his proposal. He doesn’t necessarily need the work. He’s participating in an Evelyn Waugh stage production well into the New Year before heading off to New Zealand to work on Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit”. McCoy was actually down to the last two for the role of Bilbo Baggins in “The Lord of the Rings”. The other actor got it, and that was Ian Holm. Sylvester also continues to work on “Doctor Who” audio dramas so he’s keeping busy! He did once say that he shouldn’t have been in the 1996 American “Doctor Who” TV movie, not because he didn’t want to be but because they should’ve started afresh rather than change lead actors thirty minutes into the story! Introducing the concept of regeneration so early into a revamp, and to an American audience unfamiliar with the idea, was one of the reasons, he believed, the production ultimately failed. I’m curious to know how he thinks a multi-Doctor story might succeed…

And, I’m not sure how much truth there is in the notion that die-hard “Doctor Who” fans want a multi-Doctor story. They’ve not always been amongst the show’s most successful adventures. There were three official ones in the classic era of the series, “The Three Doctors”, “The Five Doctors” and “The Two Doctors” celebrating the tenth, twentieth and twenty-first anniversaries of the programme respectively. My favourite of these is the latter. It was skilfully written by Robert Holmes but let down by poor direction. Robert rejected authorship of the previous celebratory offering on the grounds that its spec included too many leading characters. While “The Five Doctors” might be fun, sharing the limelight with all your illustrious predecessors and numerous companions, and enemies, proved Holmes’s fears well-founded. “The Two Doctors” is more focused with fewer actors, and a longer playing time enables it to highlight the banter between the chosen incarnations, together with their respective companions, to greater effect. By the time we reach 2013, Matt Smith’s eleventh Doctor is likely to have regenerated into a twelfth and the problem, as Holmes saw it, will be all the more compounded.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Countess was a Vamp

Hammer horror actress Ingrid Pitt, best known for starring in cult classics such as “Countess Dracula”, has died at the age of 73.

The Polish-born star passed away at a hospital in south London after collapsing a few days ago.

She was regarded by many fans as the queen of Hammer Horror films.

The star’s death comes weeks after film-maker Roy Ward Baker, who directed Pitt in “The Vampire Lovers”, died at the age of 93.

Many will remember Ingrid for her two guest appearances in “Doctor Who”, particularly for her role as Queen Galleia in the Jon Pertwee story “The Time Monster” back in 1972. Her character in that story provided what almost amounted to a romantic interest for the Doctor’s nemesis, The Master, played with great panache by the late Roger Delgado. Ironic that she died on the programme’s 47th anniversary.

It’s interesting to read what she thought of the new version of “Doctor Who”… “Great stories. Acting - brilliant! Photography - superb. Effects - stunning! BUT....... I do miss the shaky sets, the Marks and Spencers wardrobe, the discontinuity. Now we are so overwhelmed by the professionalism of television that it is hard to feel connected. We are chained to the sofa while we are lasered with the latest state of the art technology. You can never tell if what you are seeing is real or the product of CGI. At least in its first incarnation you knew that the cardboard walls, Bacofoil interiors and Domestos bottle spaceships were the real McCoy. And sex! Come on now. The whole point of the Doctor is that he is far above such earthly pleasures. We aren’t even sure if, under the costume, he has the necessary equipment. After all - he is an alien.”

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Bristol’s knockers!

A US man has been arrested after an armed stand-off with police - which began when he shot his TV set because he did not like what he saw on “Dancing with the Stars”. Can’t say I blame him but couldn’t he have changed the channel or simply switched it off?

Wisconsin man Steven Cowan, 67, was allegedly upset by the performance of Bristol Palin, the daughter of politician Sarah Palin, on the celebrity dance show.

Court documents revealed that Cowan was “fed up with politics” and thought Palin “wasn’t a very good dancer”. I’m considering sending him recordings of Ann Widdecombe. And, since when did not being the best mover in the world stop someone gyrating on the box? Hasn’t he heard of the talent-free zone that is pole dancer Lady Gaga?!

Anyway, after blasting the television at his home, Cowan pointed the gun at his wife Janice. The harassed woman escaped and managed to call the cops.

Not being a country known for low-key, a SWAT team surrounded the couple’s farmhouse and negotiators eventually persuaded Cowan to give himself up. You couldn’t make this stuff up and have it believed yet the law was clearly taking the situation seriously and taking no chances!

Cowan’s wife said her husband had been drinking when he sat down to watch “Dancing with the Stars”. Well, how else is a poor guy meant to sit through such quality programming?!

When Palin began her routine, Cowan jumped up and began swearing. Steady on, old man, but I bet it’s not the first time big-breasted Bristol has elicited such a response.

Janice Cowan said Steven was upset that a political figure’s daughter was dancing on TV even though he felt Bristol had no discernible talent. Anyone can see she has at least two although they don’t necessarily make a tiptop dancer, however visually arresting!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Bruce is back!

The name of the next “Batman” movie, the seventh in the series, not counting the one made in the ’60s, has been revealed. The new sequel will be called “The Dark Knight Rises” and will not be shot in 3D (thank God for that!), Christopher Nolan says. It follows the director’s previous caped crusader films, 2005’s “Batman Begins” (pictured) and 2008’s “The Dark Knight”, starring the late Heath Ledger.

UK-born Nolan, 40, told the Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex blog he wanted “the look and feel of the film to be faithful to what has come before”. I’m assuming that doesn’t include Joel Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin”! It’s time to start a petition to bring back Katie Holmes, Mr. Cruise permitting!! “The Dark Knight Rises” is due for release on 20th July 2012.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Vital Statistics of “Doctor Who”

There’s interesting news for “Doctor Who” enthusiasts, as the television series approaches its forty-seventh anniversary, with the confirmation of a double world record for the programme…

“Doctor Who” star Matt Smith has been officially recognised as the youngest actor to take the role in the new edition of the Guinness World Records. The 2011 book also features another record for the hit show which is listed as the longest-running science-fiction TV series in the world. I’d never have guessed!

Smith, as we all know, made his debut as the Time Lord on New Year’s Day at the end of Part Two of “The End of Time” although, rather bizarrely I thought, his casting was announced in a special programme on BBC One almost a year earlier. He was just twenty-six when he filmed his first scenes last year, three years younger than Peter Davison.

“Doctor Who” has extended its own record for a lengthy run, having produced 769 episodes up to June of this year, consisting of 212 storylines plus a TV movie.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Waiting for God no longer

Scottish actor Graham Crowden, known for his work on British radio, film and TV has died at the age of 87, his agent has confirmed.

Graham is perhaps best known for his roles in the Andrew Davies comedy-drama series “A Very Peculiar Practice”, in which he appeared as the often-inebriated head of a University medical practice alongside Peter Davison and David Troughton (a career high for all three actors in my opinion), and as a resident in an old people’s home, wisecracking with Stephanie Cole (currently Auntie Joan in “Doc Martin”), in BBC sitcom “Waiting for God”.

Crowden turned down the role of “Doctor Who” after the departure of Jon Pertwee, eventually playing a villain in the series opposite Tom Baker in “The Horns of Nimon”. In the picture, Graham is seen confronting Mrs Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward, while in the background, feigning interest in-between them, is ex-“Blue Peter” presenter and sometime panellist on “The Wright Stuff” Janet Ellis.

Graham also appeared as a clergyman in Neil Jordan’s film “The Company of Wolves”, a dramatisation of Angela Carter’s take on “Little Red Riding Hood”. The actor’s agent, Sue Grantley, said he was “a lovely, lovely man”.

Topical Girl

Vocalist Ari Up, of British all-girl punk band The Slits, has died aged 48 following a “serious illness”, her stepfather John Lydon has announced.

The death of the singer, real name Arianna Forster, was revealed in a statement on Lydon’s website which said she would be “sadly missed”.

Punk-reggae act The Slits were known for tracks including “Instant Hit” and “Shoplifting” as well as their cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”.

Debut album “Cut”, released on Island Records in September 1979, went to number thirty in the UK chart.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Full Moon

Were I to watch only one hour of television this week it would have to be the second instalment of the three-part “A History of Horror” with Mark Gatiss which, in an episode entitled “Home Counties Horror”, focuses on the genre’s films from the 50s and 60s, an era dominated by Hammer Films. In the first programme, Mark covered the Universal pictures made in the States, in the 30s, recalling Bela Lugosi’s performance as “Dracula” and Elsa Lanchester’s seminal outing as “The Bride of Frankenstein” while, in next week’s final show, he will be exploring the US horror films of the late 60s and 70s such as “The Exorcist” and 1979’s “Dawn of the Dead” where four people, barricaded in a shopping mall, struggle to repel rampaging zombies. But Mark’s favourite period, and mine also, is the one covered in tonight’s documentary. Not only that, he also cites “Blood on Satan’s Claw”, made in 1971, as the era’s finest example and, again, I agree it is definitely amongst the best…

“Blood on Satan’s Claw”, ironically not from the studios of Hammer but from Tigon Pictures, stars Linda Hayden and concerns witchcraft and superstitions. Unlike in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, with which it has much in common, the fears of local villagers are well-founded as Linda, playing temptress Angel Blake, attempts to seduce popular “Doctor Who” character The Master! Yes, Anthony Ainley appears as a preacher, the Reverend Arthur Fallowfield, who gives into her naked charms inside his very church. A whole host of famous faces appear in this film. Wendy Padbury, as Cathy Vespers, is ritualistically raped. Simon Williams dons 17th century period costume as Peter Edmonton while Michele Dotrice, playing Margaret, gets away from Frank Spencer! The film is extremely seductive owing, in no small part, to the direction of Piers Haggard. He is the great grand-nephew of author H. Rider Haggard, though perhaps equally famous, in his own right, as the director of Dennis Potter’s much acclaimed television serial, with musical numbers, “Pennies From Heaven”.

Another contender for the crown of best horror movie is the Peter Sasdy-directed “Taste the Blood of Dracula” from 1970 which, like “Blood on Satan’s Claw”, stars Linda Hayden as well as a certain Christopher Lee! You guessed, this one’s a Hammer horror… I did at one time know more about this studio’s films than I did “Doctor Who” simply because they were oft-repeated while I was growing up. I especially love their vampire movies and “Taste the Blood of Dracula” is the fourth in their seven-film “Dracula” cycle. Dracula doesn’t actually get to say much, except count the number of his victims, but boy is this film sensually erotic. It details three bored hypocritical aristocrats, including Geoffrey Keen from the “James Bond” films and Peter Sallis from long running sitcom “Last of the Summer Wine”, seeking ever-extreme thrills until, one night, they take on more than they bargained for in the crypt of a church. Plenty of heaving bosoms but little nudity, it is in fact James Bernard’s music score which delivers the romance with such beautifully-orchestrated melodic punch. Linda Hayden, as Alice Hargood, is the heroine to die for. I’d quite happily be bitten by her, anytime!

Finally, I would suggest another Hammer movie for the aforementioned title. It’s also another vampire film although with John Hough’s “Twins of Evil”, made in 1971, the inspiration isn’t from the pen of Bram Stoker but J Sheridan Le Fanu, albeit interpreted rather loosely. It’s one of a trilogy of films centring on the legend of the Countess Mircalla and my favourite movie to feature the much-missed Peter Cushing. Here, though, he isn’t playing Van Helsing but a witch hunter called Gustav Weil, rather in the mould of “The Witchfinder General”. The beauty of this film is in the blurring of the lines between who is the hunter and who the hunted. Good and evil are Twins of the same coin when both lead to the deaths of innocent young women (if there is such a thing!). The title, taken more literally, stars real life twins and “Playboy” playmates Mary and Madeleine Collinson, as Maria and Frieda Gellhorn, who, while undoubtedly beautiful, aren’t exactly the world’s finest actresses. The incidental music strangely makes the film feel like a western at times and, amongst the many delights on offer, concludes with the gruesome decapitation of one of the sisters! But, which one?

Following Mark’s programme on BBC Four, there is an increasingly rare chance to see the fifty-year-old Hammer film “Brides of Dracula”. Despite the title, Dracula does not appear but when a beautiful young teacher unwittingly frees the mysterious Baron Meinster, he turns the students of a school for girls into vampires. And with a synopsis like that, “Brides of Dracula” is definitely ripe for a remake! “St. Trinian’s” with fangs!! Actually, in my younger days, when one of the brides escapes the confines of her coffin and advances upon a possible victim pleading “Let me kiss you”, it scared the hell out of me. Also showing later this week, on the same channel, is Brian Donlevy in “The Quatermass Xperiment” in which the sole survivor of a British rocket’s crash is revealed to pose a deadly alien threat. At the weekend you can catch the Tigon Picture most claim is their best, apart from Mark and myself, the previously mentioned “The Witchfinder General”, filmed in 1968. It’s a disturbing tale of evil, set during the English Civil War, telling the story of Matthew Hopkins, Oliver Cromwell’s Witchfinder General as portrayed by that other bastion of horror Vincent Price. And, if you can’t get enough of Mr Gatiss, in his capacity as an actor he can be seen in a new adaptation of HG Wells’s science fiction classic “The First Men in the Moon” tomorrow evening. With a playful new twist on the original, beginning with the Apollo astronauts set to land on the Moon in 1969, an old man tells of how he and a professor were first there in 1909!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Debbie did a Stiff Pilchard

I’m not a Cliff Richard fan! You wouldn’t think there was any need for me to say that. OK, I admit to buying his second Eurovision Song Contest entry, “Power To All Our Friends”, back in the early Seventies in a rare error of judgement but, no, I am not a fan of Sir Cliff. His version of the Lord’s Prayer, with Myleene Klass on backing vocals, is a strong contender for the title of Worst-Ever Single. The English language is notoriously difficult to set to music but this effort is abysmal. Lord only knows how it ever got to Number One but that’s the British record-buying public for you. No taste! Embarrassingly, I now have another confession to make. As of last Saturday, I am now the proud owner of Cliff Richard’s final film, “Take Me High”, which he made in 1973. I can hear you all collectively crying, “We don’t care when it was made! What on earth possessed you?”

Well, please bear with me as I attempt to explain. You may or may not remember but when I started this Journal’s “Telly Visions” strand, my first choice was “Doctor Who” actress Debbie Watling. In the post, I mentioned “she played the female companion throughout what is my favourite year of the science fiction series”. What I neglected to say is this season is also the most heavily depleted in the BBC archives. Most episodes featuring Deborah, as Victoria Waterfield, were junked simply due to lack of storage space, little realising their future value… and I certainly don’t mean financially to the BBC, but culturally. In the intervening years, we fans of Ms Watling have had to get our fixes of her gorgeousness from wherever we can. And one of those sources was repeat screenings, which now seem to have sadly dried up, of “Take Me High”. Long since deleted on VHS and unavailable commercially on DVD… until the Daily Mail came to the rescue on 25th September and for only 80p!

“Take Me High”, as you probably already suspect, isn’t exactly what you would call essential viewing! It has a pretty good cast that includes Arthur Daley, “Minder” star George Cole, and “Brideshead Revisited” actor Anthony Andrews. Deborah would work with the latter again on television wartime drama “Danger UXB”. “Take Me High”, however, is essentially a vehicle for Cliff, surprisingly written by “Space: 1999” author Christopher Penfold. The plot, such as it is, concerns Tim (no, not me but Mr Richard himself!), a successfully-ambitious young financier working for a London Merchant bank. But, even his happy-go-lucky attitude is severely jolted when he is sent to Birmingham instead of the promised New York for his posting! Comedy, romance and songs follow when the enterprising bank manager helps an unsuccessful restaurant compete with its rivals by introducing a new fast food - the Brumburger! Don’t ask… just be thankful that at least these 87 minutes of Debbie have survived the snip!!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

When Knox’s knickers become Panettiere’s panties!

The story of convicted murderer Amanda Knox, nicknamed Foxy Knoxy by certain parts of the media, is to be turned into a film, with “Heroes” actress Hayden Panettiere set to play the lead role.

US student Knox, 23, is serving a 26-year sentence after being found guilty of murdering her British housemate Meredith Kercher in 2007.

The film’s producers say Knox’s story includes the perfect elements to be transformed into a movie as it features an all-American girl involved in sex, drugs and murder.

The screenplay is being written by Wendy Battles who has worked on scripts for US TV shows such as “CSI New York”.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Telly Visions: Sophia Myles

When the BBC run a themed evening, the schedule often includes no more than two programmes related to the chosen subject! So, with this criterion in mind, Monday night is Sophia Myles night!! First of all, you can see her on BBC Three at 7:45pm, straight after “Merlin”, in yet another repeat showing of an early David Tennant episode of “Doctor Who”, “The Girl in the Fireplace”. The story, as you probably all know, is written by Steven Moffat, currently trying to sell the next season of “Doctor Who” to fans in two halves of seven episodes from Easter with the remaining six to air in the Autumn, and stars Sophia, rather elegantly, in the title role of Madame De Pompadour. I think she fits neatly into the Kate Winslet mould of actresses, which isn’t intended as a criticism but a compliment. There probably isn’t a better example to showcase what she does best, than this episode, although I do think the story itself is a little overrated. Maybe her role as Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, in Jonathan Frakes’s awful live-action version of Gerry Anderson’s “Thunderbirds”, is another fine example of Ms Myles playing posh totty!

We’ve seen Sophia on our screens all too occasionally over recent years. She was in a reasonably memorable version of “Dracula”, broadcast later in the same year as her “Doctor Who” episode during the Christmas season of 2006. Marc Warren played the Count with Sophia Myles one of his conquests, Lucy. Her innocent friend, Mina, was portrayed by Stephanie Leonidas. Timothy Spall’s son, Rafe, brought solicitor Jonathan Harker to life, so to speak! He travels to Transylvania to sell Dracula a London property but never returns hence the arrival of “Poirot” actor David Suchet as archrival Abraham Van Helsing. This one-off special possibly helped secure Sophia a leading role in the short-lived Stateside vampire-show “Moonlight”. At least it ran for a full season! Michelle Ryan wasn’t as lucky with “Bionic Woman” while Tennant’s legal eagle comedy didn’t progress beyond pilot stage. Anyway, the lovely lady in question has returned to Blighty and can be seen afresh as agent Beth, alongside Peter Firth as Section D boss Harry Pearce, avenging the death of Ros Myers, together with Richard Armitage as Lucas, in the opening episode of Series Nine of “Spooks”, on BBC One at 9pm, the second of her two appearances this coming Monday evening.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Did you see her bum, Fernando?

A former bodyguard for pop star Britney Spears has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her.

Fernando Flores, who worked on the singer’s security detail, has accused Britney of frequently parading around in the nude and having sex in front of him.

Mr Flores also claims Ms Spears caused him emotional distress by having violent quarrels with her boyfriend in front of her two children.

Flores’ lawsuit claims Spears repeatedly exposed herself to him and that he witnessed her punish her young sons with his belt and act inappropriately in front of them.

The singer’s lawyer did not comment. A lawyer for her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, called the case “baseless” and “motivated by money”.

Federline added that Flores’ lawsuit had been leaked to the media before the suit was filed - an action that “spoke for itself”.

Hearing this story gave rise to much merriment! Is someone seriously trying to tell us a man/guy wouldn’t enjoy seeing Britney naked? And not just once, but over and over! Lucky bastard!!

How come, if Britney was having sex in front of him, Fernando wasn’t offended by the sight of her naked boyfriend, as well as her? I suppose it’s conceivable she may have been masturbating alone. But, why did he hang around to watch if it isn’t his thing? And why didn’t he record it for the rest of the world to see?

Furthermore, how did Spears get hold of Flores’ belt, which presumably was holding up his trousers/pants, unless he was involved in some way? Ah, the lives of the rich and famous!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

All Change?

It’ll probably come as no surprise that I’m glad to see the back of “GMTV”. In Fiona Phillips and Kate Garraway, ITV1’s newly-defunct breakfast show spawned the two worst-ever female presenters on British television. I think they like to think of themselves as journalists despite lacking any of the traits that just might qualify them for such a position. It didn’t matter who Phillips was interviewing, Gordon Brown or Robbie Williams, she would always conclude with a “well, alright!” She might as well have said, “now shut up, you’ve had your three minutes!” And, Lord knows how many cups of coffee Garraway consumed before going on air each morning?! She always seemed to be on some kind of adrenaline rush, ecstatic over the most trivial of things. Recently Phillips was replaced by Emma Crosby. She wasn’t as bad as the other two but irritated me, quite early on, by not getting Peter Davison’s surname right. Not once, but twice! When he returned, some months later, to promote something new, Ms Crosby was still calling him Davidson. There really is no excuse. She spent most of the final morning leaving viewers straining to see whether or not she was wearing any knickers, so short was her skirt and so ungainly her position!

The trouble is ITV are replacing “GMTV” with something that promises to be equally as tatty, “Daybreak”. The new show’s presenters have absconded from BBC One in a flurry of media speculation but my expectations are not great. I’ve never watched an entire edition of “The One Show” but have seen Adrian Chiles on “The Apprentice” spin-off and he’s just so bloody boring I can’t understand why he’s on TV at all? I’m led to believe he’s some sort of football pundit so perhaps he’s the new Eamonn Holmes. God help us. Better make sure we’re all HD ready as television these days is completely unmissable. Judging from the trailers, Chiles’ co-presenter, Christine Bleakley, looks like being about as unwelcoming as her surname suggests. The changes are entirely cosmetic. It’s like changing a channel name from Virgin1 to Channel One where the output remains the same. What’s the point? And I hear that Kate Garraway is remaining anyway, to give us insightful interviews with all the Hollywood glitterati. Lorraine Kelly keeps her 8.30am slot too, although, after seventeen years, she was noticeably absent during the final weeks of “GMTV”. This last week saw pretty Myleene Klass confidently, but superficially, sitting in for Kelly which is only worth mentioning because I refuse to post a picture of either garrulous Garraway or the preposterously pretentious Phillips.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Shower Flower

Not so long ago, the Doctor, the eleventh Doctor to be precise, took up lodgings in order to sort out a bit of an alien problem on Earth, as you do! Wisely, he took the opportunity to avail himself of some of the amenities. I think he’d been playing football or something. So, our hero Matt was a bit sweaty, had mud on his knees, that sort of thing. What better way to freshen up, you might think, than to take a shower. Only problem was, when he got out the cubicle, who should he bump into but his landlord, the lesbian-loving, vampire-loving, bit-of-a-killer James Corden. Oh, dear! And all Mister Smith was wearing to protect his modesty was a towel!!

A similar thing happened to me, quite recently. I’d been driving round the track at Silverstone, one of my many manly pursuits in the quest to maintain a fit body. A hobby suggested to me by motor-racing pundit Eddie Jordan, no less. Anyway, like the good Doctor, I, too, was a little bit hot under the collar. Nothing else for it but to nip in the shower. Steaming hot, plenty of lather, soon cools you off and gets you clean. With not a care in the universe, I stepped out singing Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen in Love)”. You won’t believe it but guess who I bumped into? One thing’s for sure, I was so much luckier than Matt!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Starting Over

Charlotte Church is to try to revive her chart career - but admits she is “scared” of returning to the scene.

Charlotte - who was most recently seen as a judge on BBC1’s “Over the Rainbow” - will release her first pop album in five years before the end of the year.

Miss Church has revealed the title track of her new LP - and next single - “Back to Scratch” has new resonance following the break-up of her relationship with rugby star Gavin Henson.

Charlotte has pointed out, “It became the perfect song for my situation, so I sing it with a lot of conviction.”

What the news fails to highlight is that this will, actually, only be Church’s second pop CD. I hope she has better songwriters on board, this time, than she did on her debut. Her most well-known song, “Crazy Chick”, left a lot to be desired. The lyrics rhymed “therapy” with “PhD” while the music would’ve suited her voice better in a higher key!

Charlotte is undoubtedly a very attractive woman, and reasonably talented, but whether or not the record is musically challenging remains to be seen. I look forward to hearing it later in the year. In the meantime, if she’s looking for someone new to scratch her back…

Saturday, 7 August 2010

No More “Survivors” Any More!

I’ve recently discovered the BBC has cancelled “Survivors” and I’m a little disgruntled to say the least! Apparently, the series was given the elbow back in April. There’s nothing like being first with the news!! I found out via a footnote to a magazine competition, of all places. I suppose the powers that be decided there might be an outcry if the cancellation of a science fiction series was announced publicly. Following the furore surrounding the “postponement” of “Doctor Who”, in 1985, the Beeb learnt quite quickly better to brush these things under the carpet, and the series came to a discreet conclusion four years later!

What’s ironic, in the case of “Survivors”, is that the British Broadcasting Corporation has only recently rushed to the aid of ITV’s science fiction show “Primeval” and saved it from the same fate. Why would they save a programme on a competing channel at the expense of one of their own? Strange! I’ve lately rewatched Series Two of “Primeval” and, in all honesty, it isn’t very good. (The worst episode was the one written by “Doctor Who” writer Paul Cornell!) Adding to the irony is the fact that both shows, the revamped “Survivors” and new creation “Primeval”, are the brainchildren of the same man, Adrian Hodges.

The BBC have made a habit of terminating fantasy shows before their natural conclusion. They invested in John Christopher’s trilogy “The Tripods” during the mid-Eighties only to cut it short after two series. Director Christopher Barry claimed the series was better than “Doctor Who”. It wasn’t but it was a nice try. The episodes set in “The City of Gold and Lead”, during Series Two, had beautiful production design. Those filmed on location were not as captivating, where usually the great outdoors aids realism, but the superior model work wasn’t enough to save the series.

A decade later and the treatment of Brian Clemens and Stephen Gallagher’s “Bugs” was appalling. Following episode seven of Series Four, viewers had to wait nearly a year to see the final three instalments. Episode ten ended on a cliff-hanger, with the kidnap of some of the team, only for the series to be cancelled so that we would never learn their fate.

“Survivors” suffered because of the delay in broadcasting the second series. It was supposed to go out last year. When it eventually reached transmission, in January this year, there was a further delay between the first and second episodes due to the BBC prioritising football over drama. Sport is more important than fiction and politics more important than sport in the gospel according to the BBC!

There was a time when dramas went out at the same time, on the same day, every week. Look at the scattered start times of the thirteen episodes comprising this year’s series of “Doctor Who”. In 1985 all thirteen began at 5:20pm and ended at 6:05. A bit early but regular at least! Every episode of the original “Survivors”, broadcast between 1975 and 1977, went out at the same time bar one. 37 out of 38 isn’t a bad strike rate!

I shall miss new “Survivors”. It was serious where new “Doctor Who” is frivolous. I’ll miss Julie Graham’s irresistible Abby Grant as she desperately searched for her missing son against the backdrop of the pandemic. I was already missing Robyn Addison as they killed off her character, Sarah, at the end of what turned out to be the penultimate episode. And, now, we’ll never find out where Tom Price was headed, having stowed away aboard the mysterious Patrick Malahide’s aeroplane!

Friday, 6 August 2010

“Doctor Who” actor’s cancer diagnosis

TV star Geoffrey Hughes, who played “Coronation Street” binman Eddie Yeats, is being treated for cancer for a second time.

The 66-year-old collapsed with back pains at his home in Newport, on the Isle of Wight, on Friday.

The actor, who also starred as Onslow in BBC sitcom “Keeping Up Appearances”, was taken to hospital in Portsmouth for intense radiotherapy.

He was appointed deputy lieutenant for the Isle of Wight last year.

There’s a lovely story, dating from 1986, involving Geoffrey and, former “Doctor Who” producer, the late John Nathan-Turner. After a day’s filming on the two-part season finale, “The Ultimate Foe”, concluding the fourteen-part epic “The Trial of a Time Lord”, the cast and crew returned to the location hotel and naturally those with a strong constitution headed for the bar!

Eventually, writers Pip and Jane Baker made their excuses and retired for the night. When they came down for breakfast, the following morning, Geoffrey and John were still propping up the bar, still deep in conversation! Sounds like they were making the most of things!!

I can only wish Mr Popplewick a speedy recovery.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Television in Trash Shocker

Next Wednesday, on ITV2, the younger Minogue sibling gets her own three-part fly-on-the-wall television series, “Dannii Minogue: Style Queen”.


What particular talents does Miss Minogue junior bring to enhance our viewing pleasure? Alright, we can all think of a couple… and she hasn’t been slow to exploit them. Let’s not beat about her bush here, we’re talking breasts. Or, as The Stranglers once so eloquently put it, “What was the size of her tits?”!

Well, I’m not sure how big Dannii’s boobies are and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really care. They’re decently sized, big enough to previously model her own range of underwear and now she’s back to promote her new fashion range… and new range of perfume… and latest pop record. Yikes, she’s working incredibly hard, it must be exhausting! What with all that, having a baby, and “The X Factor”!!

I’d like to know if Dannii, or any so-called celeb, pays for the air space or is she paid for her time? I sometimes pondered that same question when “artists” appeared on “Top of the Pops” promoting their latest single, including the delightful-looking auburn-haired Minogue. Surely these slots were essentially three-minute commercials.

So, there they were, bouncing up and down, though I don’t remember the names of any of Dannii’s songs! She even admits her music has come in for some criticism, in the past, but doesn’t say whether or not she thinks it is justified. Everyone is always too busy, getting jiggy wit it, to pay any scant attention to something as unimportant as musicality!!

And, getting urgently back to the subject of scanties, I bet Dannii’s designer bra and knickers cost a bob or two even before they reach E-Bay!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

If U Seek Amy

If you’ve been suffering from withdrawal symptoms since Series Five of “Doctor Who” finished just over a month go… if you didn’t get around to setting your VCR to record all the episodes on original transmission… if you haven’t purchased either of the currently available DVD vanilla releases or downloaded every episode in AVI format… then help is at hand…

BBC Three takes you right back to the beginning of the Matt Smith/Steven Moffat era of “Doctor Who” this coming Friday with “The Eleventh Hour”, continuing next Tuesday and Wednesday with the second and third episodes, “The Beast Below” and “Victory of the Daleks”. This is your first chance to see it all again, from the top, since “The Big Bang” drew to its strange-but-majestic conclusion at the end of June.

You’ll be able to wonder, like you did originally, just why the Eleventh Doctor believed Amy Pond to be a real WPC when she was wearing such non-regulatory uniform! And, dramatically, why did Karen Gillan have to slip into that impossibly-tight short skirt anyway? Viewing figures?!! I constantly keep abreast of them! So settle down with another plate of frozen fish fingers and custard… and enjoy!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Who’s been a naughty Doctor?

Billie Piper has confirmed she has signed up for the fourth and final series of “The Secret Diary of a Call Girl”.

Billie said, “I have an 18-month-old son now (with husband Laurence Fox), so I should probably hang out with him instead of doing a long list of sex scenes with various different men”.

The former “Doctor Who” companion admitted that, as a mother, she is starting to feel uncomfortable filming the scenes.

She joked, “Suddenly I’m starting to feel slightly guilty about putting it about”!

However, the actress revealed there are plans to develop a film of “Secret Diary”.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Pied Piper of Swindon

Billie Piper has confessed that she is embarrassed about her music career.

Piper landed her first number one with “Because We Want To” when she was fifteen but revealed that she now refuses to let people listen to her records.

“I don’t play my songs to anyone,” the Daily Star (April 10th) quotes her as saying. “It’s one of those things I lock in a box.”

Piper also ruled out working on more music in the future.

“There’s not enough money in the world to get me singing again,” she admitted. “I would be happy to turn down a million.”

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Television Set

“Heartbeat” returns on Sunday evening for its final run of nine episodes to conclude its twenty-four part eighteenth series. Have no fear, this isn’t a post about to sing the praises of this easy-going show. Its demise has prompted Alison Graham, on page 51 of this week’s Radio Times, to claim that “the era of the long-running television drama is over”. In her conclusion she goes on to suggest that “maybe even “Doctor Who” should call it a day after another couple of series - there’s nothing like going out on a high”. I don’t actually think “Doctor Who” has reached anywhere near its full potential and could continue as long as there is the imagination and creativity to invent “new worlds and new civilisations”, to borrow a popular American slogan! Is Ms Graham suggesting that television drama, from here on, will become totally transient? I enjoy series with returning characters. It’s one of the reasons I prefer television to cinema.

What exactly constitutes long-running? I’ve often thought, in the back of my mind, if a series makes it to its seventh year then that show is a commercial success. Other folk may have different ideas. There are no hard and fast rules. American seasons have greater episode counts than their British counterparts. “Medium” is about to enter its seventh year of production, and seems to alternate between sixteen and twenty-two episode runs. It has reached the benchmark set by most of the series in the “Star Trek” franchise! Were “Doctor Who” to finish at the end of Matt Smith’s three-year run then Russell T Davies’s baby would achieve approximately the same. It would be a mistake for Alison Graham to assume that “Doctor Who” has been running since 1963. It was as good as off-air from the end of 1989 to early 2005. It was given a long rest and this new interpretation is but five years old. That’s not to say it won’t be rested again, when ratings eventually fall, only to be reincarnated again another day.

I’m not even sure I would’ve resurrected “Doctor Who” in the first place. It suggests a lack of new concepts and ideas where once there was an abundance. “Doctor Who” was a happy memory and RTD’s vision tainted it for me. I was forgiving when the original series presented weak stories where, now, I’m relentlessly unforgiving. Perhaps it’s because I’m older, more critical, cynical, and probably less accepting of writing that falls short. I’m a loyal personality, though, and will stand by the programme through hell and high water! I remember Alison Graham being a fan of “The Cops”, a short-lived, relentlessly grim, police drama. That appeals to one type of viewer while “Heartbeat” appeals to those who find pleasure in stories about something other than drugs and prostitution! Live and let live!! And, now that Nikki Sanderson has taken off Dawn Bellamy’s mini-skirt for the last time maybe the actress should consider joining the cast of “Doctor Who” before it’s too late!!!

Friday, 16 July 2010

In Time

Production started at the beginning of the week (Monday 12th July) on the 2010 “Doctor Who” BBC One Christmas Special in which the thrilling adventures of the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and newlyweds Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) will continue in a fun-filled and heartfelt festive story.

In the grand tradition of “Doctor Who” Christmas specials, this year the show has once again attracted stellar guest stars as veteran actor Michael Gambon (“The Singing Detective”, “Cranford”) and mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, in her first acting role, join the Time Lord for what might be his most Christmassy adventure yet!

Arriving on set for her first day of filming, Katherine Jenkins said, “I’m over the moon to be involved in the “Doctor Who” Christmas Special - I can’t quite believe it as it’s a part of the family tradition at the Jenkins household. I heard the news that I got the role on my 30th birthday and it was the best birthday present ever!”

About the story, lead writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, commented, “Oh, we’re going for broke with this one. It’s all your favourite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters and the Doctor and a honeymoon and - oh, you’ll see. I’ve honestly never been so excited about writing anything. I was laughing madly as I typed along to Christmas songs in April. My neighbours loved it so much they all moved away and set up a website demanding my execution. But I’m fairly sure they did it ironically.”

Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, said, “Matt Smith and Karen Gillan captivated audiences in their debut series and the “Doctor Who” festive episode’s clever twist on the much loved “A Christmas Carol” will thrill BBC One viewers this year with special guest stars Sir Michael Gambon and singing sensation Katherine Jenkins joining Amy and the Doctor for an unforgettable present!”

Filming on this year’s “Doctor Who” Christmas Special continues until August.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Return of the Rani!

The names of the six new narratives comprising Series Four of “The Sarah Jane Adventures”, as usual running over twelve episodes, have been detailed as follows…

4.1 & 4.2 “The Nightmare Man”
by Joseph Lidster

4.3 & 4.4 “The Vault of Secrets”
by Phil Ford

4.5 & 4.6 “Death of the Doctor”
by Russell T Davies

4.7 & 4.8 “The Empty Planet”
by Gareth Roberts

4.9 & 4.10 “Lost in Time”
by Rupert Laight

4.11 & 4.12 “Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith”
by Gareth Roberts & Clayton Hickman

The series is expected to be the biggest and best yet (don’t they always say that?), due to the support from CBBC, and hosts some brand new villains including The Nightmare Man, The Dark Horde, Men in Black, Tudors and Nazis!

Julian Bleach, who appeared in “Doctor Who” as Davros, two years ago, and previously played The Ghostmaker in “Torchwood”, guest stars in the opening story of “The Sarah Jane Adventures” as The Nightmare Man. This new character is rumoured to be his scariest villain to date (again, don’t they always say that?)!! Will Julian be the only actor to have appeared in all three titles?

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Chris talks about Who exit

Actor Christopher Eccleston quit “Doctor Who” after one series because he “didn’t enjoy the environment and the culture” of the show.

Eccleston, who is about to star in BBC Four biopic “Lennon Naked”, took on the role of the Time Lord when Russell T Davies revamped “Doctor Who” in 2005.

He told the Radio Times he was proud of the show but “wasn’t comfortable” working on it.

“I think it’s more important to be your own man than be successful, so I left.” Rumours, at the time, suggested Chris had had a huge falling out with one of the directors!

Christopher Eccleston has also said he has no jealousy towards his former “Our Friends in the North” co-star Daniel Craig, who made it big as James Bond.

Eccleston said: “No, really there wasn’t. You wouldn’t cast me as Bond physically. The sexual charisma that Dan has was a huge part of it.

“And I’m a different animal. I saw him on those billboards and it was a great feeling.

“I was an obsessive Bond fan as a kid. I loved the Sean Connery Bond and Dan is just as good. Fantastic.”

Eccleston will next be seen on TV playing John Lennon, whom he called a showman, but a cripple inside. “Torchwood” and “Absolutely Fabulous” actress Naoko Mori, whom Chris has worked with previously on the “Doctor Who” episode “Aliens of London”, features as Yoko Ono.

Elsewhere, “Doctor Who” star Karen Gillan has hit back at the “uproar” over her character Amy Pond’s sexy clothing - saying feminism was not the issue any more.

Gillan said Amy did not conform to a simple “girl next door” formula - and her short skirts were typical of what young women like to wear (no contradiction there then, Karen).

The 22-year-old told the Radio Times Amy was a “strong female” who would not stand around in awe of the Doctor.

She said the relationship between Amy and the Doctor was one of equals - and she liked the fact that Amy was the one who sometimes drove the plot with her own storylines.

Monday, 14 June 2010

The NICOLA BRYANT Years 1984-86

Most of my favourite “Doctor Who” companions hail from the 1960s. Carole Ann Ford was the original, back in 1963. She played Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, over the first ten stories. In her final story, “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”, the Doctor told her she was in need of a good smacked bottom. Perhaps that’s why she left! Anneke Wills personified dolly bird Polly, who saw Hartnell regenerate into Troughton. Poor old Pat didn’t know what hit him when she wore a t-shirt to rehearsals with the slogan “Bring back Bill” emblazoned across her chest!! When Anneke left the series to marry “The Celestial Toymaker” Michael Gough, whom some of you may know better as Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred, her immediate successor was Deborah Watling. As Victoria Waterfield, she was adopted by the Doctor when her father was exterminated in “The Evil of the Daleks”. She left for a spot of rumpy-pumpy with David Essex in “That’ll Be the Day”!!! And, last but not least, the diminutive Wendy Padbury played squeaky-voiced computer boffin Zoë. Between takes, Padders took the occasional nap until, one day, Doctor Pat and Jamie-actor Frazer Hines decided to undo her skirt, in a church, with disastrous consequences when she woke and stood up to greet the incumbent vicar!!!!

I say “most of my favourites” because the exception to the rule is Nicola Bryant. Peri Brown joined the TARDIS crew, two decades later, in the mid-1980s. And what an entrance! Many fans assume she spent her entire time on “Doctor Who” in a bikini because of the first episode of her debut adventure, “Planet of Fire”. However, it is true that she spent some of her time in tightly fitting leotards and hot pants! In “Attack of the Cybermen” she sports a nice little bright-pink number until the Cybermen come over all caring and suggest she change into something a little warmer, more suitable for the cold climes of the tombs on Telos. Luckily, Nabil Shaban’s Sil wasn’t as thoughtful on Varos! Here Peri dons a super little bright-blue outfit for the entire serial. A couple of stories later, while opposing Laurence Payne’s Dastari’s illegal time-travel experiments, she’s back in skimpy shorts shaping up to the Sontarans in “The Two Doctors”, the excuse for her attire, this time, being that it was filmed in Seville, Spain… where it’s hot! But, hey, I didn’t mind!! I pretty much thought Peri looked perfect during the tail end of season twenty-one and for the whole of season twenty-two!!! Following the hiatus, Peri’s appearance changed for the first two stories of “The Trial of a Time Lord”. Gone was the cute bob, maybe inspired by Jenny Agutter’s hairstyle in “Logan’s Run”, to be replaced by a longer permed cut and more sensible clothes. Michael Grade had ruined everything!!!!

Almost a quarter-of-a-century after Nicola’s departure from “Doctor Who”, I’m happy to report that all is not lost! As of today, Monday, 14th June, 2010, Miss Bryant’s three-year portrayal of Peri is now available complete, to drool over as-and-when you choose, on DVD. With the release of “Planet of Fire”, partly filmed in Lanzarote… where it’s even hotter, all her adventures are, at last, available on disc. Coupled with a Special Edition of the story, on a separate disc, featuring an augmented soundtrack, “Planet of Fire” forms part of the boxed set “Kamelion Tales” and is complemented by the earlier two-part Peter Davison adventure “The King’s Demons”. At the RRP of £29.99, or even with a moderate discount, it’s fairly expensive for what is essentially six twenty-five minute episodes of “Doctor Who” but this is a special case. Well, it’s probably made of card and plastic, like all the others, but you know what I mean! Go on, be a devil, pretend you’re Mark Strickson’s Turlough, for the day, and go rescue Peri from drowning in the ocean in her pretty salmon-pink bikini!

(And, I didn’t even mention Nicola Bryant’s two best “Doctor Who” stories, “The Caves of Androzani” and “Revelation of the Daleks”!)

Monday, 31 May 2010

Warden’s Watch: Medium

During 2009 the programme that became a regular viewing fixture for me was “Medium”. BBC Two ran repeats of the first four series, mostly in double bills, during the early hours of Saturday mornings. Living has shown Series Five in the UK and now Freeview viewers have a chance to see it on Virgin1. Meanwhile, in the States, Series Six has just completed airing. There are a total of 117 episodes (16, 22, 22, 16, 19, 22). While both “Heroes” and “Ugly Betty” have fizzled out after just four seasons apiece, “Medium” is quietly stronger than ever. On paper “Medium” doesn’t look as though it should work. It’s a supernatural-cum-detective-cum-domestic drama about a housewife, Allison Dubois, whose dreams help solve crimes. Sounds ludicrous but it’s terrific.

As regular readers may know, I’m not keen on kitchen sink anecdotes in fantasy stories. It’s the main reason why Steven Spielberg films aren’t a favourite of mine. Spilling milk on the wood-panelled floor adds unnecessary clutter, getting in the way of a rollicking good adventure! In “Medium”, however, the family scenario is the programme’s most interesting feature. That’s not to say the show falls down elsewhere. Dream sequences are often imaginatively constructed while the information needed to solve the criminological puzzle can be disseminated non-chronologically. It seems ironic that I can relate more easily to the domestic arrangements and traumas of this fictional American family than I could those of the Tylers in “Doctor Who”!

Cast in the lead role, in “Medium”, is Patricia Arquette, best known hitherto for her performance in Tony Scott’s “True Romance”. I suspect the original casting director, on the television series, may possibly have remembered her from “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”. Despite having wildly different iconography, the essential scenario of a “Medium” episode and an instalment in the “Elm Street” franchise is the same - criminal enters the dreams of the protagonist. When at home, Allison’s husband Joe is her moral compass, while, at work, District Attorney Devalos and Law Enforcement Officer Lee Scanlon perform the same function. However, it is Allison and Joe’s three daughters who invariably steal the limelight! Bridgette, the middle child, is just the right side of precocious in her curiosity over all things worldly. Maria Lark’s performance is the best I’ve ever seen by any child actor while Sofia Vassilieva, as eldest daughter Ariel, is thoughtful and stunningly beautiful. “Medium” is a marvellous mixture to mull over!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Telly Visions Special: Michelle Ryan

This is an extra post for fans of Michelle Ryan mainly to let you know she will be appearing on BBC Two this Sunday morning, at 10am, as a guest on “Something for the Weekend”. Not quite sure what she’s there to promote but I’ve heard she may be returning to “EastEnders”. You’ll probably have to put up with Tim Lovejoy’s endless waffle on football but you can always leave the programme on in the background until the lovely Michelle’s appearance!

You’ve probably realised by now - my new blog-header kinda gives it away - that I enjoyed last year’s “Doctor Who” Easter Special, “Planet of the Dead”. I expected to enjoy November’s “The Waters of Mars” more, being horror based and directed by Graeme Harper, but preferred the rapport between the two leads on the red bus to the comedy robot on the red planet! Due to the prominence of said bus, “Planet of the Dead” reminded me of the Sylvester McCoy adventure “Delta and the Bannermen”, for which I’ve always held a soft spot. Both stories are great fun. However, I suspect Michelle’s episode was probably more influenced by “The Mummy Returns”. I thought David Tennant and Michelle Ryan worked extraordinarily well together and, like the relationship between Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor and Nicola Bryant’s Peri in “The Caves of Androzani”, they left me wanting more…

Michelle is building quite a reputation for herself in the fantasy genre altogether. What with a returning role, playing a villainess, in the first series of “Merlin”, an aborted attempt, after eight episodes, to revive the “Bionic Woman”, and as one of the protagonists in Steven Moffat’s “Jekyll” it would be good to see her continue in this vein rather than return to soap land. It may be a question of needs must but that would be a shame for this fine actress. Her turn in corset drama “Mansfield Park”, alongside Billie Piper, is also worth a mention. Support Miss Ryan on Sunday!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Telly Visions: Ruth Wilson

It seems a little ironic that, a few years ago, Ruth Wilson made her name playing plain “Jane Eyre” when she is clearly one of the best-looking actresses working in television today! It’s the long red hair, searing eyes, and that thing she does with her lips that make her so striking. More than a regular femme fatale!! However, with the use of theatrical cosmetics, and unflattering costumes, an actor can be made to appear dowdy where, in the everyday world, makeup would be applied to enhance one’s appearance. It seems a shame to go out of the way to make a beautiful girl look less pretty. Jane Eyre, the character, is renowned for her inner beauty but television, being mainly a visual medium, has to express this loveliness outwardly so Ruth Wilson seems perfectly cast.

I discovered recently that Ruth and I have a number of things in common. Before her breakthrough role, she read history at Nottingham University. This is the same establishment of further education I attended, though my subject was music. Whilst there she participated in amateur dramatics, as some of us do with a theatrical inclination! If we ever cross paths at least we’ll have something to talk about!! She was born in the same month as me so we’re both Capricorns. And, she’s also a big fan of American soap-cum-murder-mystery “Twin Peaks”. That revelation may go some of the way to explain why she took one of her most recent roles…

Ruth Wilson is currently appearing in two television series. On ITV1 she is 313, appearing alongside Sir Ian McKellen in the six-part remake of the 1967 cult classic “The Prisoner”. She says she took the part because of similarities to David Lynch’s earlier surreal television series “Twin Peaks”. In last Saturday’s episode, “Schizoid”, Bill Gallagher, screenwriter of the new version of “The Prisoner”, even went so far as to quote “Twin Peaks” delight of food stuffs. Perhaps it was that which made Ruth think of her childhood favourite. I’m not sure how well the new series works. It quotes the original’s catchphrases in abundance but is colder and less colourful. The interiors of Number Two’s residence, for example, are shot in a manner similar to “Blade Runner”. It may all be going on in his wife’s medicated mind but Sir Ian assures us that, unlike the end of the original series, everything will be explained in this week’s final episode.

On BBC One Ruth is playing Alice Morgan, a psychopathic genius who has murdered her parents, in the six-part classy crime thriller “Luther”. Detective John Luther is played by Idris Elba while a whole host of famous names pop up throughout the run. Eighth “Doctor Who” Paul McGann comes to blows with the lead in the first episode while Third Doctor Jon Pertwee’s son Sean battles the police from within his prison cell in the following instalment. You may recognise Suzie (“Torchwood”) Costello actress Indira Varma as Luther’s wife with whom McGann’s character is having an affair. There’s a marvellously stylish moment, near the end of part one, where Luther is holding Alice over a bridge and she invites him to “kiss me, kill me”! He should’ve reluctantly unhanded Ruth at that moment and said “be seeing you”!!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Warden’s Watch: Doctor Who - Series Five, Episodes Four to Six

The new series of “Doctor Who” continues to be a mix of the good and the downright awful! Episodes four and five, “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”, attempt to develop ideas from two of Steven Moffat’s earlier stories, the Weeping Angel statues from Series Three’s “Blink” and Alex Kingston’s River Song from the two-part library story of the Fourth Series. I like the former, not so keen on the latter! All this “sweetie” nonsense, and continued reference to “spoilers”, is a bit cringe-making. For heaven’s sake, it was only in the previous story, “Victory of the Daleks”, that the Doctor called one of the pepper pots “sweetheart”! Despite liking the statues in the Carey Mulligan episode, I’m not so sure it was a good idea to bring them back. The new story seemed to virtually ignore the original concept of what happens to an Angel’s victims. Less importantly, but nonetheless irritatingly, the Doctor loses his jacket to one of the stone beasties, at one point, then, unseen by the viewer, somehow manages to retrieve his tweed threads by the end!

The best scene in the Fifth Series, so far, came in the second part of the Weeping Angel yarn. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best scene since Jefferson’s eulogy to Scooti Manista, four years ago, in “The Impossible Planet”. I’m talking about the marvellous dialogue between the Doctor and Father Octavian upon the latter’s demise. Genuinely moving. The trouble is, it is almost immediately undermined by the ending of “Flesh and Stone”. New “Doctor Who” does this a lot. It’s afraid to capitalise on truly emotional moments. What does Moffat do? He has new companion Amy come on to the Doctor in the most ludicrous manner. We’ve been there before. Russell did all that ad nauseam… for five blooming years! I’d hoped we’d put such crassness behind us. At first I thought it was padding because the story had under run again, like the Dalek episode two weeks earlier, but its dubious purpose is to set up a ménage à trois between the Doctor, Rory and Amy exploited during the sixth episode, “The Vampires of Venice”, written by Toby Whithouse - the man behind “Being Human”, the “Doctor Who” episode “School Reunion” and the “Torchwood” episode “Greeks Bearing Gifts”.

And what a flippant beginning to the much-awaited vampire tale. It would’ve been amusing in any other drama but “Doctor Who”. We’d already had Amy as a WPC kissagram, in the opening story of the series, and so we return to the idea with the Doctor replacing the stripper at Rory’s stag night! I was hoping for some genuine gothic horror, just for once, but “The Vampires of Venice” is undermined before it has barely begun. Why does the series try so hard to be domestic just to appeal to the “EastEnders” crowd? Why doesn’t it simply be itself? It managed it for twenty-six years. I don’t buy into the notion it had to change to appeal to a modern audience. Only if said audience lacks intelligence! (There is a current series does domestic brilliantly, by the way, even though it’s ostensibly a supernatural drama. I won’t reveal its name here as I hope to devote a future post to it.) The vampires themselves were terrific looking, as you can see from the above picture - a scene reminiscent of the Haemovores breaking in through a vestry window in “The Curse of Fenric”, while their two leaders were portrayed suitably seriously until being revealed, predictably pseudo-scientifically, as “fish from space”! “They bite”!!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Telly Visions: Eliza Dushku

Hello, Dolly! Eliza Dushku first aroused the interest of the viewing public playing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s young daughter, straddled across the nose cone of a Harrier Jump Jet, in James Cameron’s James Bond-esque “True Lies”. That’s a pretty titanic start to anyone’s career! However, the actress has really made her name working in American television. It’s probably fair to say that Miss Dushku became more of a household name when she became a recurring character, a semi-regular as they’re known in the television industry, in Joss Whedon’s “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and its spin-off series “Angel”, playing a violently-wayward member of the Scooby-gang.

From a supporting role in “Buffy”, Eliza has gone on to play the lead in not one but two US series. First up was “Tru Calling” in which she inherits her mother’s gift for saving lives through reliving days at a deceased’s request. “Groundhog Day” with a pretty girl at its centre. Sounds an unlikely concept for an ongoing show and sometimes it works brilliantly, others not so. Tru works at a morgue, whilst studying to become a doctor, and each episode a dead body will suddenly turn to her from the slab and cry “help me”! The show ran for two seasons but the second was cut short. People lose interest very easily these days!! Anyone curious in seeing what it’s all about, for themselves, can find repeats on Sky Three (Freeview 11).

Reunited with Joss Whedon, Eliza Dushku is currently starring, as programmable agent Echo, in the unusual Sci-fi adventure series “Dollhouse”. Already broadcast in the States, the show returned to British television, again on ITV4 (Freeview 24), for its second season, on Wednesday, 28th April, 2010. In the first episode, “Vows” (as in wedding), after her encounter with Alpha, Echo has seemingly recovered. But, as she embarks on a long-term engagement, she begins to behave strangely. And, in the next episode, “Instinct” (as in maternal), Topher’s extraordinary abilities backfire when Echo takes too strongly to her new role as mother to a newborn baby and runs away with the child.

If you’re familiar with “Joe 90”, Whedon’s new show plays like a sexed-up version of Gerry Anderson’s Sixties’ Supermarionation series, with the added attraction of supermodels rather than models! But, the characterisations in “Dollhouse” are even less-well developed than those of either their earlier wooden counterparts or the figures of the actresses inhabiting the American show!! Still, over the course of the next thirteen weeks, I’m looking forward to uncovering any evolution of Echo and her gloriously well-endowed bunny girls!!!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Warden’s Watch: Doctor Who - Series Five, Episodes One to Three

It’s “Doctor Who”, Tim, but not as we know it! The much-loved science fiction fairy tale is back and it’s still as beleaguered with problems as under its previous show-runner. On the plus side, gone are the gratuitous references to homosexuality which Russell T Davies forced upon his audience every episode - John Nathan-Turner was gay too, but didn’t see the series as the place to air a personal agenda - and, better still, gone are all the companions’ annoyingly-grating mothers. Rose, Donna, Martha - they all came with one! It’s already established, in “The Eleventh Hour”, that Amy’s parents are dead and that she lives with her aunt. We’ve never had that before in “Doctor Who”! I was also hoping new Executive Producer Steven Moffat would drop the season-umbrella idea, so poorly realised previously with Bad Wolf, Torchwood and Saxon, and keep the stories self-contained. But the crack in the wall in the first episode and again this week, at the end of “Victory of the Daleks”, coupled with Amy’s lack of memory concerning the events of “The Stolen Earth” suggest these ideas are the running themes of Series Five.

Upon his arrival, Mister Moffat indicated a desire for all things new. New Doctor, new short-skirted rather than trouser-wearing companion, ghastly new opening titles in which the actors names are almost unreadable, terribly uninspired new logo, the worst arrangement of the theme tune ever, new - better than the last one - TARDIS console room, new lick of paint for the old Police Box, and now five new impressively-oversized individually-coloured Daleks! But all these things are cosmetic. It doesn’t really matter that much which actor plays the Doctor, ask Tom Baker! What you really need are superbly-written scripts and both “The Beast Below” and the Dalek extravaganza were too short for their good ideas to be fully realised. We’ve been landed with the same format, ten stories over thirteen episodes, when we’d be better off with just six stories over those same thirteen instalments. The classic series’ four-parters were ideal in length, structured a bit like a traditional symphony. If you want superficial then forty minutes is fine but, if you’re looking for substantial, one hour forty minutes is preferable. There was never any need for this change in format when the programme originally returned in 2005. The one thing they should’ve retained they threw out with the bath water!

The “new” Executive Producer has held onto those blessed stallholders much beloved of RTD. We met them in “The Long Game”, we met them in “Gridlock”, we met them in “The Fires of Pompeii” and again in “Turn Left”, and up they popped most recently onboard the Starship UK. These villains return more often than the Daleks! The stallholder, one of many ideas “borrowed” from the JN-T era, was better realised by Peggy Mount in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”. Then there’s the obligatory gunk-tank, splattering all and sundry, firstly whenever there’s a Slitheen around, next getting messy in the canteen kitchen in “School Reunion”, and now hurtling down a tube into slime onboard, yes you’ve guessed it, the Starship UK! And where are the Doctor’s table manners? Compare the Tenth Doctor’s eating habits in “The Unicorn and the Wasp” with those of his successor in “The Eleventh Hour”. Both very very mucky!!! I did admire how writer Mark Gatiss managed to cram all three best things from Christopher Eccleston’s single year into a single episode, namely an historical figure, new-look Dalek and Blitz-ravaged London. Churchill was fun, the pepper pots buggered off too quickly and the Second World War setting always works in “Doctor Who”… just watch “The Curse of Fenric”!