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)

Friday, 28 October 2011

Cottage industry

The following post contains strong language, good grammar, perfect punctuation, and a superfluous sub-clause, I have to say! But when the BBC precede a programme with the announcement - or warning - that it includes strong language, the corporation invariably means swearing, what most people call bad language. Strong is used as a euphemism. Broadcasters do not wish to imply, before it has even begun, that the drama on which viewers are about to invest their time may be poorly written! Strong language, taken literally, is more likely to be found in the work of Dickens, Hardy and Shakespeare than it is in the latest BBC or Channel 4 offering set on a housing estate. Yet I consider Dennis Potter to be television’s all-time greatest writer, and he used ‘vulgar’ vocabulary, likely to upset the late Mrs Whitehouse and all like-minded folk, on a fairly frequent basis. Lipstick On Your Collar opens with a character proclaiming, out of sheer boredom with his mundane job at the war office, “Bum-holes! Bum-holes, say I, in the plural!!”. This, no doubt, seemed shocking at the time of its first transmission, although it certainly grabbed your attention, but, now, not many would bat an eyelid. The passage of time has eroded resistance to left-field literary ideas. In the third instalment of Fry’s Planet Word, entitled Uses And Abuses, originally shown on BBC2 on 9th October, Stephen Fry explored the benefits of so-called bad language, finding out from Brian Blessed how swearing can help relieve pain, and discussed, with Armando Iannucci and Omid Djalili, its power in comedy. I, myself, have found that ‘letting rip’ at key moments is certainly a great reliever of stress! And, if you want to read that the wrong way, be my guest!!

There is, perhaps, only one taboo swearword left in broadcasting and that is the word cunt. Fuck has become acceptable despite many still hating it. I can remember the first broadcast, on ITV, of Alien in which Ripley exclaims, “We’ll trap it in the airlock and blow it the fuck into space!”. “The fuck” was edited out as offensive and ultimately unnecessary whereas, these days, the film is shown complete. The original Terminator has Linda Hamilton sweatily cry out, “You’re terminated, motherfucker!”. This doesn’t seem to me to be out of place. The android has come back through time to kill the mother before she gives birth to the future saviour of mankind and is, as it’s about to be crushed into oblivion, as Linda describes and not in the least gratuitous. But, considering the amount of fuss when Jeremy Hunt’s surname was mispronounced recently, on two separate occasions, how will the powers that be treat the Andy Serkis comedy-horror The Cottage when the time arrives for its initial terrestrial transmission? It concerns the attempts of two estranged brothers, after a successful abduction, to ransom a gangster’s daughter, Tracey, played with an enormous amount of enthusiasm by Jennifer Ellison. The problem with the movie, for any potential broadcaster, is that the girl in question has the ultimate potty mouth. She is gagged for a reason! Once the gag is removed everyone under the sun is a fucking cunt. She’s bright but aggressive with it, breaking the nose of one of the brothers with a head-butt for staring at her breasts. Can’t say as I blame him! But Jen seems to relish the opportunity to give it all she’s got, in her best Liverpudlian accent, and some critics have claimed she steals the show. Maybe the movie would’ve been better titled The Curse Of The Cottage!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Adventures of a lifetime

And so the final episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures was transmitted on Tuesday afternoon at 5.15pm on the CBBC channel. Part Two of The Man Who Never Was completed the curtailed run of the Fifth Season. There was talk that the series might continue without its leading lady. It’s happened before. Blake’s 7 survived, after the departure of Gareth Thomas, as did Taggart, on the death of Mark McManus. But the BBC finally took the opportunity to pull the plug. Credit to Russell T Davies, who fought hard to keep the show on air when it was threatened with cancellation earlier in its life. I believe the BBC took some persuading to make the show in the first place. Bringing back a character, popular in the Seventies, to front a programme aimed primarily at twelve to fourteen-year-olds doesn’t seem like an obvious choice! But it seemed to work, though, in real life, one would no doubt question the motives of a sixty-year-old woman hanging out with a bunch of school children, even if some of the children in question did look as though they were in their early twenties themselves! Yasmin Paige, as Maria Jackson, and then Anjli Mohindra, as Rani Chandra, certainly gave the adventures in which they appeared that additional bounce! But The Sarah Jane Adventures belonged to the late Elisabeth Sladen and, in the present economic climate, it is unlikely we shall see its kind again in the foreseeable future.

It’s a shame really. Programmes such as The Sarah Jane Adventures were commonplace once upon a time. Everyone took them for granted. ITV were always trying to create a winning formula with which they could rival Doctor Who in the mid-to-late Sixties and throughout the Seventies. For the most part, they were as successful. The obvious examples are the string, no pun intended, of hugely popular-to-this-day Gerry Anderson puppet series. They began in the Fifties, of course, but took off when Gerry and then-wife Sylvia turned their hands to science fiction. Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons, Joe 90 and The Secret Service were all hugely exciting. Live action series were equally as popular. Sexton Blake, Freewheelers, Timeslip, Ace Of Wands and The Tomorrow People all left their mark, as did UFO and Space: 1999 when the Andersons put Supermarionation behind them. Peter Davison’s first acting role was in The Tomorrow People, up against the very series he would eventually helm! We’ve seen their like since. The Demon Headmaster and Moondial were two such. Ironically, other than Sarah Jane, the last were Dark Season and Century Falls in the early Nineties, both excellently written by Russell T Davies. Children are being sold short without such fantasy stimulation, and televisual creativity will suffer further because of the demise of this genre!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Strictly Confidential

As the Prime Minister sups on another glass of claret to accompany a not inexpensive joint of roast lamb, and as the rich keep getting richer by not carrying loose change, and while the poorer among us deliberate over whether or not to invest in a six-pack of crisps (cheese and onion flavour), the future of broadcasting is being decided over at the BBC. You might think this a more mundane matter but, despite the country teetering on the brink of financial ruin, the impact of programming on the nation’s health and wellbeing should not be underestimated. My father has been trying to persuade me to indulge in a more modern television, one that doesn’t drift out of tune five minutes into a programme and every few minutes thereafter, one that actually comes complete with a SCART socket! He’s even offered to purchase the thing for me. My thoughts, however, have been leaning towards chucking the old set out and not bothering to replace it. Why, you might be inclined to ask? The answer is simple. Quality drama is in decline. We’ve been told the 20% cuts, to be implemented by the BBC between now and 2017, will hardly be noticed. Unless you’re a totally casual viewer, this simply isn’t true. I’ve been noticing it all year, even prior to the recent announcement, and the axing of BBC Three’s Doctor Who Confidential, at the end of last month, is not an inducement to my continued support.

Added to the demise of Confidential is the knowledge that Doctor Who itself will not be returning until the Autumn of next year. The next series will again be split in two so that the second half will not actually see the light of day until the Spring of 2013. In other words, one series spread over two years. And, all this as the programme approaches its Fiftieth Anniversary in November 2013. Presumably, this will mean next year’s Christmas Special is sandwiched between the two halves of the Seventh Series. All in all, the proposed schedule means less new content than was broadcast over 2008 and 2009 when the Fourth Series was followed by a handful of specials. Doctor Who fans should’ve got rid of their television sets back in 1989 when the show was quietly cancelled following the furore of four years earlier. The resulting accumulative-reduction in license income would’ve forced the BBC to rethink their strategy and reinstate the programme forthwith. Thus, consequently, there would not have been a sixteen-year hiatus. Then, perhaps, the series might still be more like it used to be! Money is tight, I know, unless you’re a politician or banker, but you can rest assured that Strictly Come Dancing will return year after year, budget intact, regular as clockwork, to appease all upstanding simpletons! The only Come Dancing I want to hear is by The Kinks!!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Inspecting Wexford

When Doctor Who finished in 1989, the series of serials that replaced it in my affections was a TVS production called The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. At the centre of these psychological whodunits was a grumpy, weatherworn copper called Chief Inspector Wexford. He was played with tremendous subtlety by a brilliant character actor, mixing tenderness with anger, sympathy with outrage, and I received the news of George Baker’s passing with great sadness. Wexford was a more open-minded policeman than his moralising sidekick, Mike Burden, though Christopher Ravenscroft gave an equally valid performance and the chemistry between the pair was electric. For me, while Jeremy Brett was the quintessential Sherlock Holmes, George Baker was the archetypal modern-day bobby. While not wishing to take anything from the late, great John Thaw’s superlative portrayal of Inspector Morse or Roy Marsden’s thoughtful take on Commander Adam Dalgliesh, the detective holding the greatest appeal was George Baker’s Reg Wexford.

Part of the attraction of The Ruth Rendell Mysteries lay in its format. Each series consisted of several self-contained stories invariably told over multiple episodes. Towards the end of its run, Wexford adopted the Morse structure of imparting a narrative in a single 103-minute film, to a certain degree, and perhaps these were less successful, creatively speaking. But, for the majority of its life, the chosen construct consisted of 51-minute episodes, unravelling its multiplicity of puzzles over two, three or occasionally four-part adventures. In that respect, it became a natural successor to the Time Lord’s escapades, while Cracker adopted the same strategy subsequently. Brian Bennett’s terrific theme tune must, surely, also be a contributing factor to the programme’s immeasurable success.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t in on the magic from the very beginning! I missed, and still haven’t seen to this day, the first television adaptation of a Ruth Rendell Inspector Wexford novel. Entitled Wolf To The Slaughter, it was told over four parts. I believe it was transmitted earlier in the day than subsequent stories. I picked up on the series from the second serial, A Guilty Thing Surprised, related in three episodes and guest starring Michael Jayston and Nigel Terry, and never missed a single broadcast thereafter. I’m not sure why Wolf To The Slaughter has never been repeated on ITV3, or released on VHS or DVD? The other stories have seen the light of day since their initial broadcasts, although ITV now seem to own only the rights to screen the last three tales, Simisola, Road Rage and Harm Done. My favourites include Kissing The Gunner’s Daughter, a four-part investigation into multiple murder which concluded the final series; The Mouse In The Corner, a two-part discourse concerning the abuse of a spouse; but, best of all, An Unkindness Of Ravens, detailing nasty goings-on amongst a female collective and featuring the gorgeous Imogen Boorman (Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, Casualty) as a murderous schoolgirl!

Although Wexford was probably his most famous role, Baker’s repertoire included comedy, drama, soap operas and science fiction over a remarkable six decades. In the mid-Sixties, he appeared in Dennis Potter’s Alice opposite Deborah Watling, before she became my favourite Doctor Who companion! He guest-starred in Doctor Who himself, alongside his namesake Tom Baker, and, between those two, in the first series of the original version of Survivors. He played Number Two in the first episode of the original version of The Prisoner, then shared screen time with John Hurt, Derek Jacobi and Brian Blessed in I, Claudius. On the big screen, amongst numerous roles, he featured in three of the James Bond series, firstly You Only Live Twice (1967), then On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and latterly The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). But, the film most are likely to recall is The Dam Busters (1955). George died yesterday of pneumonia, aged 80, having recently suffered a stroke. He will be remembered as a meticulous man, always smartly presented, who, interestingly, retained a record of all those with whom he worked, both in front of and behind the camera. He met his third wife, Louie Ramsay, on the set of The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, ironically cast as on-screen wife Dora. She passed away just seven months ago.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The girl next door?

Rihanna has been in the headlines again this week, prompting discussions as to the suitability of her live shows for those of a young, impressionable age. “She has to push the boundaries,” enlightened ex-Atomic Kitten singer Liz McClarnon, on Monday’s edition of The Wright Stuff! Does she? Is she? Why? Which boundaries are those, Liz? Musically, like most pop stars, she hasn’t a clue. DJ Tony Blackburn disagrees with me, claiming Rihanna to be very talented and with no real need to overtly sexualise her every single action. And these are the boundaries under discussion, social mores. But, even here, she’s not really doing anything that hasn’t been done before, manifold. In my youth, I was keen on a five-piece all-female band from America called The Runaways. They appeared on the scene around the same time as Blondie and I, for one, found them more appealing than Debbie Harry and the guys! I was older though, than the children parents are taking to see Rihanna simulating sex and sing about guys not being able to get it up! But the lead singer of The Runaways, Cherie Currie, dressed equally as provocatively, in a basque, knickers, stockings and suspenders, whilst triumphantly exclaiming, in their debut single Cherry Bomb, she was gonna, “have you, grab you, ’til you’re sore!”

I saw The Runaways live twice, once in Birmingham, in an enormous converted railway shed - the name of which escapes me, and latterly at The Hammersmith Odeon, London. I suppose, in retrospect, the Brummie gig was the more memorable experience. I was right at the front of the stage, with Cherie, who must be about the same age as me, spreading her legs directly in my face with only a small piece of cotton separating her womanhood from my leering eyes… and those of a thousand other young innocents! I also remember vast tables selling paperbacks including American prints of Space: 1999 novelisations, but that’s another music in a different kitchen!! When I saw the band for the second and last time, Miss Currie had departed, for whatever reason, and Joan Jett had taken centre stage. The Queens Of Noize, as they were nicknamed after the title of their second album, perhaps wanted to be taken more seriously. As a four-piece, they were less glam rock and more hard rock. They were in the UK to promote their latest album, Waitin’ For The Night. The lead single, School Days, has the deepest pressing of any in my collection and is probably the loudest piece of vinyl I own! It’s definitely not as loud on the album, despite being exactly the same recording!

Joan is probably better known, now, as the singer of I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll with her band The Blackhearts. This song was covered by Britney Spears. She, herself, caused controversy for dressing up as a schoolgirl in her debut video for Baby, One More Time. About the same time, Russian duo t.A.T.u. were appalling the easily shocked, running around kissing each other wearing only vagina-hugging panties and see-through shirts. Both Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova have since appeared topless in the uncensored promo for White Robe. Lena takes off her knickers, too, so maybe Rihanna still has some way to go in pushing those social boundaries. Lena’s not the first. I recall a member of L7 pulling her trousers down during a performance on Channel 4’s The Word and giving us all a glimpse of her pubic hair. Can’t remember what the song was! As for lyrics, pop records have always been predominantly about sex. Gary Glitter was chanting Do Ya Wanna Touch Me?, which Joan Jett has covered, back in the early Seventies and bragging he was “the man who put the bang in gang”, so why his later activities came as any surprise is beyond me! And so the debate goes on, with Rihanna the latest in a long line advocating promiscuity of one sort or another but as Mick once put it, “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll… but I like it…”

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Country matters!

Whilst the leader of the Labour Party has been pontificating on society’s lack of moral fibre at his Party conference in Liverpool this week, a very different kind of party has been taking place in a muddy barley field near Bangor in Co Down! Pop singer Rihanna has been peeling off her clothes, while filming a music video on a farmer’s land, and he has told her to cover up! Good for him. Someone not afraid to speak his mind, whether rightly or wrongly. Put your tits away, love, ’cos we don’t want to see them in these here parts! It seems to me like a case of Rihanna Ft The Wurzels but is apparently a collaboration between her and DJ Calvin Harris. Who he? The shoot was being staged close to a busy dual carriageway when the ‘star’ stripped to a red bikini after removing a long checked dress. Some reports suggest that the bikini top came off too, not that I’ve read all of them! Imagine how many red-blooded, heterosexual, male drivers are going to be distracted by the sight of a young woman’s knockers, famous or not. Bloody motoring hazard if you ask me!

Alan Graham, the 61-year-old farmer in question, pulled up in his tractor and told floozy Rihanna he found her behaviour inappropriate. Let’s be honest, it takes a pretty self-confidant young woman to cavort, half naked, down amongst the cowpats! She is clearly a bit of an exhibitionist. Her lack of inhibitions is just the latest example of an attitude that has existed, amongst a certain type of person, since time immemorial. The girl is really a prostitute and the ‘music’ merely coincidental. It’s not hardcore sex but the record industry has been chipping away at standards as long as I can remember. No political party is going to do anything about it as long as the revenues keep pouring in. Jessie J has told us, “It’s not about the money” and yet that is precisely all it is about. Pop has far more to do with what is fashionable, of the moment, than having a true desire to contribute to genuine musical culture. The performers claim they are ‘artists’, an expression more pretentious than anything you will find in the world of what is unfortunately named ‘classical’ music.

The sight of Rihanna’s bare breasts became too much for Graham’s Christian beliefs so he politely asked filming to stop. Blimey! First politics, now religion, what is my fluffy Journal coming to?! Anyway, credit where credit is due, the scarlet woman understood where the farmer was coming from and the production ground to a halt. I don’t suppose she gives a toss? The crew will simply relocate and shoot the cleavage - sorry footage - elsewhere. These people have so much money coming out their collective ear holes, it doesn’t matter to them. Alan claimed he’d never heard of Rihanna despite having four children of his own. She’s as big as it gets as far as pop stars are concerned… only Beyonce has a fatter arse! Clearly, he wasn’t interested in dancing under her umbrella! But the incident ended well. The farmer and the cowhand should be friends. He didn’t put her over bended knee and spank her bare bottom. They parted company on good terms. I have a back garden which, while undoubtedly not as big as Mr Graham’s acres, I’m only too happy to rent out!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Holly’s humongous hooters!

Lest there be any misunderstanding, I am of course referring in my post title to the inordinate amount of maternity leave taken recently by Holly Willoughby from ITV1’s flagship weekday magazine programme This Morning. I mean, what a hoot! You’ve got to hand it to her… the sheer audacity of the woman. She managed to conceive the child so that her time off ‘work’, post childbirth, would run straight into her summer break. Talk about having it made. And, presumably, all the time she would be on a retainer. How else can you account for the fact that, every show, she looks as though she’s stepped straight from a clothing catalogue? Every edition, a different outfit - each designed to show off her assets! If only all mothers had the luxury of being paid to bring up a family on money that’s ostensibly for presenting a television series. I’m sure there isn’t a person in the world who wouldn’t love a similar, all-expenses-paid, protracted holiday!

Holly Willoughby isn’t the first television ‘personality’ to hustle herself some extended paid leave. Natasha Kaplinsky pulled the same trick on Channel 5. No sooner had she acquired the plum position of presenting the early evening news than she, too, took maternity leave. Following her return to work, she ‘fell’ pregnant again and needed more time away. After delivering her second child, she quit her post as the station’s news anchor having presented hardly anything while on the job, so to speak! And, now, Jenni Falconer’s at it! This onetime GMTV presenter filled in on This Morning for Willobooby, as idiot Keith Lemon refers to her (I wonder what’s the key to Holly’s success?!), during her time out. I imagine Falconer will also return, in her case to the BBC’s lottery-presenting game - once the services of a nanny have been acquired. I recommend Alan Sugar, or at least someone with similar inclinations, head one or other of these broadcasting corporations in order to stamp out the abuse of such privileges! Ask these women, before they’re offered a prestigious post in live media, if they intend having a family.

And what are Holly’s qualifications to front This Morning anyway, pregnant or otherwise? Like her co-presenter, Phillip Schofield, she started out in children’s television. Nothing wrong with that except it doesn’t necessarily make you a serious journalist! Some of the subjects that arise on the programme make her unsuitable for the job. She can deal with the fluff alright. She’s in her element discussing all the latest soap updates or X Factor shite. But when it comes to dealing with serious stories like serial killer Fred West or interviewing nurse Rebecca Leighton in connection with saline poisoning, Holly hardly says boo to a goose. Schofield isn’t much better, to be honest, desperately attempting a grim expression while Booby checks to see if her tits are still there! There’s almost a sense of relief when the programme repeats the competition for the umpteenth boring time. Treating the viewer with a considerable degree of respect, to help ‘steal’ the cash required to pay the presenters’ inflated salaries, a question is patronisingly posed for which you might win the princely sum of £25,000 (for the price of a premium rate phone call!)… Who has the biggest breasts on daytime television - is it A) Jeremy Kyle, B) Matthew Wright, or C) Holly Willoughby?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Release Roderick!

You don’t have to have a speech impediment to work at the BBC but it sure-as-hell helps! Replacing the letter r with a w is not necessarily a bad thing though. It’s definitely an attention grabber when done with alliteration. And, if the presenter with the problem delivers the script with boundless enthusiasm, they’ve almost certainly got it made. One such, at the present time, is Dr Lucy Worsley. She’s a diminutive historian who has just completed a three-part BBC Four series entitled Elegance And Decadence: The Age Of The Regency, detailing how British culture was transformed in the early 19th century. We’ve learnt about Britain’s construction boom, following the defeat of Napoleon, and heard the gossip which led to a backlash against the Prince Regent’s excesses… and all to a soundtrack including The Stranglers’ Nice ‘N’ Sleazy in the second instalment!

But it was the trailer for Elegance And Decadence: The Age Of The Regency which initially caught the attention. It’s not just that said trailer has been played to death but whoever wrote it categorically set out to exploit poor little Lucy’s lisp! Why else would they ask her to say, “Britannia really did rule the waves” knowing it would air again, and again, and again! She’s cute but I suspect she’s a no-nonsense lady who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. A big fan of Jane Austen, Lucy soon put one interviewee in his place, pointing out the camera was still rolling when he started to flirt with her. Then there was the Royal Mail coachman who called her “love” as if she’d just boarded a number sixty-nine bus!

To complement Dr Lucy’s show, BBC Four elected to repeat The Romantics, another three-parter, presented by Peter Ackroyd and detailing the effects of literature on historical movements. Each episode was illustrated liberally with the lyricism of Lord Byron, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley played by the likes of David Threlfall, a million miles away from Frank Gallagher, and TARDIS incumbent-in-waiting David Tennant. Peter, like Dr Worsley, ‘suffers’ from a speech defect, though, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying, I don’t find him as alluring as the lovely Lucy. But he delivers with a great deal of panache, worthy of one of the great romantic poets himself, repeatedly gazing off into the middle distance - not unlike Derek Thompson’s Charlie in numerous episodes of Casualty!

One right, royal, pain in the arse I’m glad to see the back of from the BBC is Jonathan Ross. He’s defected to ITV, claiming he was at the peak of his game when earning six million at the Beeb. What game was that, Wossy? Duping the license payer into watching non-interviews in order to fund a telephone habit? Every time I read anything about him, the article always mentions Andrew Sachs. And, I’ve just mentioned him too! JR’s first show on ITV1 gained ‘respectable’ ratings, though, back in the day, Doctor Who was cancelled for achieving its lowest-ever viewing figures with approximately the same figure, a little over four million. Ross’s numbers can only decline hereon in, especially after the deadly-dull interview in which Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton revealed his girlfriend, ex-MoggyDoll front woman Nicole ScarySinger, squeals especially for him! Whoopee!!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Doll parts

He’s shagged Susan Lynch, stolen a bus (causing pensioners to miss their regular game of bingo!), blown up a house (using its central heating system!!) at precisely 6pm and much, much worse in Cracker… attempted to blow up a London railway terminus, as a terrorist in Spooks… mutinied, then had his back flayed for his trouble, in Hornblower… and, if all that wasn’t enough, he wasn’t a particularly pleasant character in Survivors either… but Andrew Tiernan never short changes the viewer. Andy, as he was credited in this week’s episode of Doctor Who, always turns in a bloody good performance. He played the landlord of a rundown block of flats in Bristol, demanding rent money with the menacing aid of his bruiser-of-a-dog, Bernard! Andy had many of the story’s best lines and moments, bemoaning there was nothing to watch on television except thirty-year-old repeats of Bergerac. Lord knows why he was tuned into Yesterday if he was after the boxing! He brilliantly got sucked into his mangy old carpet much to the total disinterest of his pet but, best of all, was his transformation into one of the demon dolls! Possibly the finest use of special effects since Richard Wilson grew a gasmask in the first series.

Then there was Daniel Mays, whose career continues to be in the ascendancy. ITV3 have been running the 2007 movie Atonement, in which he co-stars with James McAvoy, a romantic drama where a man is accused of a rape he didn’t commit. More recently, Daniel attempted to sort out Gene Hunt’s nick, not the easiest task you can imagine, in the third-and-final series of Ashes To Ashes before being banished to the outer reaches of the solar system in Survivors-style drama Outcasts. In Doctor Who he played Alex, father to a little boy, George, unsure how to connect with his son’s phobia of the dark - when all the scary things come out to play. Boy George turned out not only to be adopted but also alien, living his life in fear of rejection. The coming together of father and child, at the story’s climax, was a pure Railway Children moment, and all the more moving for that! If you’re going to “borrow” then do it from the best!!

And the man who wrote Night Terrors, which may well turn out to be this year’s finest episode of Doctor Who… well, all his previous scripts have been set in the past whereas his latest is set in the present day. He tackled Dickens in The Unquiet Dead, when the novelist was in the last year of his life and about to embark on The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, while Christopher Eccleston was The Doctor… bullying in The Idiot’s Lantern, set during the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, was his next choice of subject after David Tennant had taken over the role… and, after a few years away from writing for Doctor Who, he returned to the fold, last year, to pen Victory Of The Daleks, in which the pepper pots from Skaro were outgunned by Matt Smith, with a great deal of help from the forces and spitfires assembled by a certain PM Winston Churchill. I’m talking about Mark Gatiss, author of all three, whose latest (fourth) instalment of everyone’s favourite science fiction series also included the death of a dear, little old lady by multiple black bin bags! Maybe it was because she looked like Patricia Hayes whilst sounding like Frank Spencer?! When Steven Moffat relinquishes his post as show runner, and assuming he wants the responsibility of the top job, surely Mark is his natural successor.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Fox on the box

Actress Emilia Fox comes from a famous theatrical dynasty, but just how far back do her family’s acting roots go, and what was the scandal involving one of her ancestors in the 19th century? You can find out in tonight’s fifth episode of Who Do You Think You Are? beginning at 9pm on BBC One. She also discovers her great-great-grandfather Samson came up with an important invention in the 19th century. Born into an impoverished family, he began work at a Leeds textile mill at the age of eight, and went on to become one of the richest men of his time.

Meanwhile, there’s no getting away from Emilia’s relatives on the telly! Not that you’d want to as they’re all very well accomplished. Her dad, Edward, is probably best known for his role in Edward And Mrs Simpson and for attempting to assassinate French President de Gaulle in The Day Of The Jackal. Edward’s brother James made a terrific start to his acting career, appearing opposite Rolling Stone Mick Jagger in Nic Roeg’s seminal gangster flick Performance. I also remember James in a 1983 Film On Four written by Stephen Poliakoff and directed by Charles Sturridge, co-starring Bill Oddie’s daughter Kate Hardie, entitled Runners.

Emilia’s mum is Joanna David and you may have seen her helping the war effort in Yesterday’s repeats of Colditz or as a suspect in A Touch Of Frost opposite David Jason. Joanna was John Thaw’s long-lost love in my favourite Inspector Morse episode Dead On Time. Both mother and daughter were in Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Emilia playing Colin Firth’s fragile and wronged sister. Near the beginning of her career, Emilia won the title role in ITV’s version of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, gaining experience from Charles Dance, Diana Rigg and Faye Dunaway. More recently, she appeared in a Christmas version of Dickens’ David Copperfield with Bob Hoskins leading a galaxy of stars, again for the BBC, but her name is now synonymous with the forensic-pathology detective-drama series Silent Witness.

As Edward’s daughter has reached the pinnacle of the acting profession, so has James’ son Laurence. While Laurence’s aunt has guest-starred in Morse, he is a regular in spin-off series Lewis, playing the sergeant-turned-inspector’s intellectual sidekick Hathaway. And, of course, Billie Piper has married into the family becoming Laurence’s wife after meeting whilst touring a play together. I’m sure we all know the name of the series for which she’s most famous! Secret Diary Of A… no, not that one!! Anyway, they have a young son together, Winston, and the chances of him becoming an actor, I’d say, are pretty high.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Let’s Stick Together

When it comes to relationships, television - and the BBC in particular - is obsessed with two diametrically opposite aspects. One was laboriously regurgitated, for the umpteenth time, in last week’s seventh episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day. Russell T Davies has his agenda, which he will doggedly pursue to the end of days, that isn’t helping his cause, either as writer or in terms of sexual orientation, in any way whatsoever. Eighties’ Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner was homosexual but didn’t insist on forcing it down our throats, if you’ll pardon the expression, at every available opportunity! All RTD is doing is, metaphorically, boring the pants off everyone by carping on about it and, yes, I know the episode in question wasn’t actually written by him! And, yes, I’m fully aware the instalment was authored by a woman! Similarly, the BBC’s other preoccupation, concerning affairs of the human heart, is about to be foisted upon us, yet again, in a dramatisation of the recent Royal Wedding. Ex-Spooks actor, and one of the many stars of the superlative BBC adaptation of Dickens’ Little Dorrit, Matthew Macfadyen will play heir to the throne HRH Prince William. Ex-EastEnder, though still a Bionic Woman in my eyes, Michelle Ryan will slip into the shoes, if not the smaller brassiere, of Kate Middleton while Rowan Atkinson, assuming he has made a full recovery from his recent motoring accident, will once again attend the Royal Court… this time as best man Prince Harry!!

Alright! It’s a tissue of lies. I made it all up! The BBC aren’t spending any more of the licence payers’ hard-earned reminding us how certain wealthy sectors of the population choose to overindulge. The Royal Wedding reputedly cost fifty-three million pounds which makes the five million smackers that Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone spent on his daughter Petra’s nuptials seem like chicken feed. I do think spending £4,000 per bottle of wine is obscene though. Apparently, both Fergies were there! The ex-Royal, who wasn’t invited to the Royal Wedding, and the female member of Vengaboys sound-alike pop combo The Black Eyed Peas. Stacey and the boys were paid a whopping one-and-a-half million to perform whereas Sarah was the one who could’ve probably done with the cash. Instead, she had to make do with emulating her eldest daughter’s performance at the earlier bash by turning up in another silly hat… presumably! Even the rather feisty Mels, in this week’s opening episode of Doctor Who, lied (or did she?) claiming not to “do” weddings when we all know the series, and its two spin-offs, is obsessed with them. I won’t bore you all to buggery by recounting every single occasion we’ve seen a white meringue in the last seven years. If, in the series finale, the Daleks unexpectedly trundle through the vestry door, and gatecrash The Wedding Of River Song crying ex-ter-mi-nate, then it’ll all have been worth the wait!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Holy Catatonic Catastrophe!

“There are only two things in life you can rely on,” said Commissioner Gordon, earnestly to his Chief, in yesterday morning’s rerun adventure of Batman.

Up against feline adversary Catwoman, and clearly afraid of a bit of pussy, O’Hara half-rhetorically - but completely cynically - asks, “Death and taxes?”

Steely-eyed, Gordon looks straight down the lens of the camera and unequivocally answers, “Batman and Robin.”

If only it were true!

ITV4 have taken Batman off, albeit temporarily, to make way for live cycling from Spain. So much for same Cat-time, same Cat-channel! But, it’s given me the purrfect excuse to post a purrfumed picture of Catwoman Julie Newmar, to complement the one of Batgirl Yvonne Craig in my earlier piece on this most excellent of television series.

Who says Americans can’t do irony?!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Breaking the silence

I haven’t written about Doctor Who in this Journal for three months. I’ve not even mentioned the programme in passing! Give the man a medal!! With the second half of Series Six fast approaching, it’s perhaps time to take a little look at the present state of affairs. I wasn’t happy with the cliff-hangers of the last two episodes. Why? After a terrific and traditional two-part story in which The Doctor advocated living in harmony alongside our Doppelgänger cousins, just as he’d done in Doctor Who And The Silurians in 1970, he whipped out his sonic screwdriver and reduced Amy to sludge. The Time Lord had suspected that, for the last half-dozen episodes, his long-standing companion was a double, constantly checking to see whether or not the TARDIS registered her as pregnant. But, why couldn’t he practice what he’d been preaching… tolerance. Why couldn’t Doppelgänger Amy exist together with her flesh and blood counterpart? The audience was fobbed off with some lame excuse about transmitting signals. Confine her where this couldn’t happen would’ve been a more sensible solution but nowhere near as melodramatic as the shock value of seeing The Doctor seemingly bumping off his friend. Writer Matthew Graham, co-creator of Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes, was asked to add this ending by show runner Steven Moffat to lead into the mid-season finale but, for me, only succeeded in spoiling The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People.

And so to the cliff-hanger of Episode Seven, A Good Man Goes To War, in which we learn the real identity of River Song. She’s none other than Amy’s long-lost daughter, Melody Pond. Doctor Who had been building up to this revelation for some time. Ever since River was introduced in 2008, in Steven Moffat’s two-part story Silence In The Library and Forest Of The Dead, the writer has been teasing us as to her true persona. The resolution is a bit of a cheat, in all honesty, as Amy had yet to be introduced to Doctor Who at the time of her offspring’s inception in the series. Karen’s character was still two years away. It needed to be something that was already in the many and varied worlds of Doctor Who for an audience to be truly taken by surprise. Something connected to The Doctor himself would’ve been best, where it doesn’t matter that Matt’s Doctor was also two years away when River was inaugurated because, central to the concept, the Eleventh Doctor is the same character as the Tenth. Maybe the familial connection, now established as mother and daughter, is a red herring to throw the audience off the scent of a much greater surprise, yet to come over the next six episodes. I hope so because, as it stands, the big mid-season denouement was nothing short of pure soap opera, which wouldn’t have been out of place as the climax to an episode of EastEnders! I wonder when I’ll write about modern day Doctor Who again? Soon, all being well!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Up on the Ruth

No sooner had I posted my previous piece, on the demise of Spooks, when I chanced upon the first publicity still for the new-but-last series. Always the way of things! So, a brief additional post showing Nicola Walker and Peter Firth, in character as Ruth and Harry, on the verge of an embrace… five years on from the Series Five promo used last time! In between, Peter has appeared as a corrupt local councillor, in the three-part Sunday evening serial South Riding, while Nicola has been a guest star - married to a murderous taxi driver played by Eddie the barman from Hustle! - in the first and best series of Luther. Quite a revelation she was, too. Now the two actors are reunited in perhaps their best known roles for one final time.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Don’t bring Harry

BBC spy drama Spooks will come to an end this autumn on BBC One with a final six-episode tenth series.

Jane Featherstone, chief executive of Kudos Film & Television, the company who created Spooks, calls it “a fitting end to a much-loved show”.

The final series of Spooks will focus on Section D’s Head of Counter-Terrorism Sir Harry Pearce KBE (Peter Firth) and a guilty secret that could destroy his relationship with Senior Intelligence Analyst Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker). Joining the established cast, Robin Hood’s Lara Pulver plays an ambitious and hungry new spook determined to make her mark! She replaces Beth Bailey, portrayed by Sophia Myles in the last season. Also on board, for its final outing, are (Borg Queen) Alice Krige and the excellent Jonathan Hyde, of Titanic fame, whom I best remember in BBC Two’s period courtroom saga Shadow Of The Noose.

Spooks is responsible for making household names of numerous actors including Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, Shauna Macdonald, who went on to star in the superb British horror flick The Descent, Rupert Penry-Jones and Miranda Raison, recently seen in Sugartown, to mention but five!

“We’ve followed the arc of Harry and Ruth’s personal story,” said Featherstone. “I think the team have brought Spooks to a natural end,” she concluded.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Choice Period Piece

As a follow on to my recent Telly Visions post on Romola Garai, my recommended viewing this weekend is the network television premiere of Glorious 39 on BBC Two this Sunday evening at 9pm. In 1939, gorgeous toff and aspiring actress Anne Keyes (Garai), the adopted daughter of a prominent politician (Bill Nighy), becomes suspicious when a family friend seemingly commits suicide. As she probes, she discovers her father is involved in an organisation sympathetic to Hitler’s regime… and prepared to murder to further its cause.

Writer-director Stephen Poliakoff’s well-executed dramas are often major television events, the finest example being, in my opinion, Shooting The Past. But Glorious 39, a big-screen release, received mixed reviews and vanished quite quickly from cinemas. Essentially, it’s a country house mystery but played against the backdrop of Europe teetering on the brink of World War II. This ripping yarn is part Gosford Park, part The 39 Steps, with the quality cast including Julie Christie, David Tennant, Christopher Lee and Jeremy Northam.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Knickers in a twist

It’s always a pleasure watching Deep Blue Sea on ITV2 - if only for the moment, about twenty minutes from the end, where Saffron Burrows strips out of her rubber wet suit, ostensibly to use it as insulation, to reveal her perfectly toned body… clad only in the most pristine-as-the-driven-snow bikini/underwear you’ve ever seen! She’s been through ordeal after ordeal and yet the two-piece swimsuit looks brand new - not a blemish on it!! One of the three augmented sharks is dead. There are two left and one is headed straight for her as she tries to retrieve her research into a cure for Alzheimer’s. Saffron has managed to get out of the water by climbing onto a conveniently positioned table. She notices some cabling to a light and decides to rip it from the wall and shock the shark. Cue the Alien rip-off as the gorgeous girl undresses down to her undies in preparation for the battle with the big beastie! In a way I prefer this inferior version of the scenario, simply because I happen to think Miss Burrows is better looking, and sexier, than Sigourney Weaver. Maybe that’s because Saffron has softer features, being an English rose, compared to the harder facial characteristics of the American?

You may have seen Saffron Burrows in other productions. She first came to my attention when she appeared in Dennis Potter’s Karaoke, and adorned the front cover of the Radio Times, fifteen years ago. She’s also more than a little corrupting in the feature film Enigma, concerning the war effort deciphering codes at Bletchley Park alongside Kate Winslet’s more straight-laced character. In Deep Blue Sea, Saffron’s female co-star is Antipodean actress Jacqueline McKenzie. She’s a bit of a looker, too. But, by the time our heroine is warding off one of the nasty monsters in her panties, juicy Jackie has sadly already bitten the dust. Except it was the shark doing the biting! I first saw Miss McKenzie in a three-part BBC adaptation of Ben Elton’s science fiction novel Stark, which also co-starred the author himself doing a spot of straight acting. Staying in the genre, Jacqueline is probably best known now for playing the lead in The 4400, a series detailing the return to Earth of a large group of alien abductees… all on the same day.

I hate rap! As far as I’m concerned, it’s the most tedious and monotonously nauseating noise ever marketed to and inflicted upon a gullible, musically illiterate, general public. However, if you want to know how many eggs to break to make the perfect omelette then LL Cool J is your man - and, no, I don’t have a stutter! That’s the rapper-turned-actor’s moniker but you won’t hear his recipe by tuning into Saturday Kitchen! LL is, actually, quite likable as the chief cook and bottle washer in Deep Blue Sea. When not gawping at Miss Burrows, keep an eye on the chef’s verbose parrot, as well as Samuel L Jackson’s equally loquacious moneyman. I guess that’s what happens to pets and politicians who talk too much! If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’ve at least a couple of surprises in store! Despite Mister Cool J’s winning performance, I could’ve done without his closing theme song. Although, having said that, my head is like a shark’s fin when it comes to breaking the surface to take a peek at the sexy Saffy almost in the altogether. I only wish the camera had dwelt a little longer on her shapely form. Still, the lens certainly covers some interesting angles!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Are you going to the party?

Along with reruns of the 45-year-old Batman series, one of the most enjoyable things on television, at the moment, is BBC Four’s repeats of 35-year-old episodes of Top Of The Pops. Yes, most of it is absolute tosh but each instalment usually contains a gem or two. And I’m not talking about the beautiful Babs - dunno what her name is! This week’s programme opened with Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel performing George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun from their Love’s A Prima Donna album. Great to see the band again, especially Duncan Mackay on keyboards whom I was lucky enough to meet in Bristol after a 10cc gig. It was the week they were No. 1 with Dreadlock Holiday. Even though not enough rock fans know his name, Duncan has been to the top spot on no less than three occasions, the other two being Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), by the aforementioned Rebels, and on Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. Also playing with Steve were the incomparable George Ford on bass, guitarist Jim Cregan, later to join Rod Stewart and more recently Katie Melua, and Stuart Eliot on drums, a regular fixture on the early Kate Bush albums.

This week’s edition of Top Of The Pops: 1976 ended with the brand new number one having been on the chart for three weeks according to DJ presenter Dave Lee Travis. Elton John and Kiki Dee’s duet Don’t Go Breaking My Heart also happened to be the first time Reg reached the top. Can’t claim to have met Mr. Dwight but I did spend a whole day once chatting to the lovely Miss Dee. In the late Seventies, and on-and-off throughout the Eighties, I worked in a record store and she paid us a visit. All our customers seemed too shy to come up and talk to her so we got chatting about the record industry. Pleasant lady and, although Elton is good fun in the recorded performance, Kiki sings her part better despite the bespectacled one being the more famous of the two. The pair displaced a certain Greek singer, perhaps now more notorious for being a favourite of Alison Steadman’s character Beverley in Abigail’s Party! I mentioned Doomwatch and Holby City actor Robert Powell’s wife Babs earlier but, by this time, regular dance troupe Pan’s People had been replaced by Ruby Flipper, still choreographed by the recently deceased Flick Colby however. If my memory serves me well, the mix of girls and boys would soon revert to girls only with Legs And Co.

During the course of Wednesday’s TOTP, we were also treated to another showing of the original performance (of two) of The Boston Tea Party by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. In 1975 I bought their album Tomorrow Belongs To Me as well as their live single Delilah, the same song previously recorded by Tom Jones but here given the full rock treatment. Captain Sensible, of comedy punk outfit The Damned, would later ape this when he recorded Happy Talk from the musical South Pacific. The late Alex’s appearances on these repeats has led to a resurgence of interest for me in the music of SAHB. In earlier editions, Bryan Ferry’s been on a couple of times performing Let’s Stick Together with guitar legend Chris Spedding, aided-and-abetted in the whooping department by Texan beauty Jerry Hall, better known to Roxy Music fans as Prairie Rose and the cover girl of their fifth album Siren. Best of all though was the absolute joy of seeing the original 10cc performing I’m Mandy, Fly Me from their masterpiece How Dare You! Shot a little like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody video, but sadly nowhere near as commercially successful, Lol Crème, Kevin Godley, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman performed to perfection. Again, and apologies for being such a name dropper, I was lucky enough to meet the latter two at the same Colston Hall concert as Duncan Mackay. The colleague with whom I went told the band we’d hyped Dreadlock Holiday to number one. I could’ve shot him - with Rubber Bullets!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Telly Visions: Romola Garai

Romola Garai seems to be popping up/out all over the place on television just recently! She’s been acting professionally since 2000 when she made her debut in The Last Of The Blonde Bombshells. The actress is perhaps best known now for playing the title role in Jane Austen’s Emma, a four-part adaptation broadcast two years ago on BBC One, opposite Michael Gambon playing her father Mr. Woodhouse. The cast also included Jodhi May and Christina Cole.

But Romola has most recently been seen on BBC Two playing Sugar, a young and intelligent prostitute seeking revenge, through a novel she is writing, against all the men who have abused her and her colleagues, in The Crimson Petal And The White. She has commented on her racy part of Sugar, a 19th century mistress, that “standing around in knickers and suspenders, waiting for someone to call action, is pretty cringe-making... By the end everyone on the set was like, ‘Please just put it away.’”

This week Romola is back on our screens in the six-part television drama series The Hour. Set in the BBC newsrooms of the mid-Fifties, and again on BBC Two, she plays Bel Rowley, spirited and ambitious, and facing the most exciting and daunting challenge of her life – running The Hour. Can her passion for the truth survive the political pressure the job will bring – and will her friendship with Freddie survive her undeniable attraction to front man Hector?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Undercover, Underwired Underwear!

The latest series of ‘Undercover Boss’ began on Tuesday, 5th July at 9pm on Channel 4 with a look at adult retailer Ann Summers. CEO Jacqueline Gold is one of Britain’s best known business women. She has developed the family industry away from the domain of the male “raincoat brigade” to a taboo-busting female-friendly high street staple. Too famous to go incognito herself, Jacqueline sent younger sister and Deputy MD Vanessa (pictured) undercover, in amongst the undies, to one of their high-street stores. But little sister Vanessa struggled with some customers’ intimate questions about the products!

You can just imagine it… Browsing in one of the stores, a potential male customer picks up a vibrator, ostensibly for his girlfriend or wife, although one wonders why she’d need it if he was keeping her satisfied, and asks the young attractive female shop assistant if she wouldn’t mind demonstrating how to use the object, on the pretence he’s not exactly familiar with its purpose! Or, maybe he’s not sure how a pair of crotchless panties would suit the love of his life and asks the girl behind the counter if she wouldn’t mind modelling them for him while he sets up his digital camera!! Anyway, you get the picture… I’m glad I don’t work at Ann Summers and have to fend off such questions on a regular basis, although maybe you get used to it.

One thing I’ve often found amusing, in the city in which I live, is that Ann Summers is situated next door to Primark! So the most expensive place to get your knickers is a stone’s throw from the cheapest!!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Yvonne, You Turn Me On

As television becomes less and less entertaining but increasingly neurotic, it’s a relief to be able to tune into ITV4 for the latest reruns of the Sixties’ light-hearted take on comic book hero “Batman”. No doubt Jenny, a downtrodden prostitute in the latest series of “Luther”, might insist on me calling a comic a graphic novel, in order to give such colourful publications increased stature, but I’ll stick with the less pretentious terminology! Comic is more suited to the small screen version of “Batman”, made between 1966 and 1968, because that is what it is, an amusing diversion. Adam West played Batman, with his tongue firmly inside his cheek for a total of 120 episodes, while his trusty sidekick, Robin, the Boy Wonder, was brought to life by Burt Ward. But it was the added attraction of Batgirl, who joined the show for its final season, portrayed delightfully by Yvonne Joyce Craig, that brings back fondest memories!

Without Yvonne Craig, “Batman” would have been cancelled at the end of its second series. Introduced to engage female viewers, though I would’ve thought her addition to the cast might serve only to attract more male admirers, she helped sustain the show for a further twenty-six episodes though sadly not beyond. It was mooted, at one point, that Batgirl would replace Robin as Batman’s sidekick in a fourth series, the boy blunder being written out along with Chief O’Hara. I wonder how that would’ve worked because, throughout the third and final series, Bruce Wayne is unaware of Batgirl’s true identity just as the Commissioner’s mild-mannered librarian daughter, Barbara Gordon, is ignorant of the millionaire playboy behind the mask. The writing joyfully teases the audience, often having the characters on the verge of making a startling discovery then pulling back at the last possible moment, but only Alfred the Butler knows the real identities of both caped crusaders!

Before the groovy Batgirl came on the scene, the most dominant female figure in “Batman” was on the wrong side of the law! I’m talking about Catwoman, though, in her original incarnation, played to purrfection by Julie Newmar, she appears in only twelve of the first ninety-four episodes that comprise the first two seasons. My one disappointment, regarding the series as a whole, is that Yvonne Craig had no scenes with the former “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” actress. Yes, Batgirl comes up against Catwoman in several of her episodes but by now the villain has not only changed identity but race as interpreted by Eartha Kitt. Eartha certainly has the right surname to play the feline, exaggerating the mannerisms for which she is famous, but for this viewer it’s all a little too bizarre. I would’ve loved to see Yvonne slugging it out with Julie but then maybe that’s my own purrsonal predilection! Wham! Bam!! Thank you, Mam!!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Relative Relations

It’s been the subject of mass debate as to why the Doctor keeps stroking bits of his TARDIS. He’s sometimes seen dusting his console with his handkerchief and spends copious amounts of time fiddling with his knobs. Yes, as well as having two hearts, he presses more buttons than anyone else in the universe! And now we know why. His little old Police Box is the love of his life. And when it materializes inside a young woman not unlike the one in the above picture, it transpires - in private - he calls her sexy. Never did I imagine I’d be looking at a picture of the Doctor’s space/time machine wearing such a pretty bra! It’s about time Suranne Jones appeared in “Doctor Who” - she’s already acted alongside the fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, in “Unforgiven” and the tenth Doctor, David Tennant, in “Single Father” as well as guest starring in “The Sarah Jane Adventures” as Mona Lisa. She’s still best known, perhaps, for playing feisty factory girl Karen McDonald for four years in “Coronation Street” which she left in 2004.

In “The Doctor’s Wife”, the fourth episode in the current series of “Doctor Who”, Suranne plays Idris whom cult fantasy-author Neil Gaiman hinted “might just turn out to be an old acquaintance with a new face.” Long term fans surmised as to whether or not it could possibly be renegade Time Lady the Rani, reborn in the same way as the Master. Then there’s the name Idris. Could this be a clue? IDentity RIver Song?! But it turned out to be neither of them. Much more cleverly, the story explored the relationship between the Time Lord and his erratic machine, while in human form. At the outset of the adventure, Idris lives with Auntie, Uncle and Nephew, who are raggedy people - patchwork folk put together from bits and pieces of travellers lured to what has become a junkyard world. Suranne’s character has got all her own bits, as most men will have noticed, but if she’d stayed in the same environment any longer, who knows, she might have found she’d got a new limb which didn’t belong to her! Understandably a little bonkers, Idris bites the Doctor! Tough job, acting!!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Decency’s Jigsaw

If, like me, you found yourself falling for the innocent charms of the Charles Dickens heroine Ada Clare, in the BBC One adaptation of “Bleak House” six years ago, or thought that the Steven Moffat creation Sally Sparrow, in the “Doctor Who” story “Blink” some two years later, might make a more interesting companion than some of the other young ladies to occupy the TARDIS, then you could’ve done worse than tune into BBC Two last night at 8:30pm for the network television premier of the film that finally made a name for ascending actress Carey Mulligan.

“An Education”, made three years ago, is a quirky coming-of-age drama set in London in the early Sixties. Mulligan was Oscar-nominated for her breakthrough role as a gifted 16-year-old schoolgirl, Jenny, whose life is one of drab-suburban conformity. Her strict father, played by Alfred Molina, is determined she shouldn’t be distracted from her studies, and gain the place at Oxford University of which he dreams, by things like going out and having fun! But a chance meeting with a worldly 35-year-old playboy, David, played by Peter Sarsgaard, changes everything forever.

Oozing charm and sophistication, David wins over Jenny’s parents and is soon whisking the impressionable girl off on ‘educational’ weekends away. Well, they do say travel broadens the mind! The situation is perhaps rather dubious but, to a teenager, seems very glamorous and romantic, thanks to smooth-talking David and his good-time friends played by Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike. Inevitably, though, the unconventional arrangement can’t last… “An Education” also features the excellent Olivia Williams, recently seen on ITV1 solving intriguing police-procedural “Case Sensitive”, as Jenny’s enlightened English Literature teacher and “Sense and Sensibility” champion Emma Thompson as her hardened headmistress.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Do the Hustle

The creator of BBC One con-artist drama “Hustle” has said its newly-commissioned eighth series will be the last.

But writer Tony Jordan has not ruled out the possibility that “Hustle”, which first aired in 2004, could be revived.

“Do you allow the show to fade away or… quit while you’re ahead?” Tony asked Broadcast magazine. “You want to go out like James Dean in a fast car,” he added.

A BBC spokesperson confirmed the next series of “Hustle” would be the last “with the current gang”.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Lis Lives!

At the beginning of next week, BBC Four are repeating a classic “Doctor Who” serial in memory of Elisabeth Sladen, aka investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith. Despite already owning the story, I welcome and encourage the repeat of any “Doctor Who”, especially those adventures in time and space originally broadcast between the years of 1963 and 1989, so I will of course be tuning in, as indeed should everyone with an interest in the series. There’s still something magical about watching a show on transmission, however handy and useful the various means of catch-up can be. It’s an odd custom, though, to delay until after someone’s passing the celebrations of the achievements of their life. The four episodes in question comprise Elisabeth’s last regular appearances on the show alongside the ever-irrepressible Tom Baker as the Doctor. Tremble in terror at “The Hand of Fear”!

In Part One, airing on Monday 9th May at 19:40, Sarah Jane finds a fossilised hand and places a ring from it on her finger. She is knocked unconscious by an explosion and taken to hospital.

In Part Two, also airing on Monday 9th May - immediately after the first instalment - at 20:05, the fossilised hand is now in the possession of a technician called Driscoll at Nunton power station. He places it in the reactor core, causing disaster.

In Part Three, airing on Tuesday 10th May again at 19:40, the hand has regenerated into a Kastrian called Eldrad who has modelled his form on Sarah Jane. (I bet that’s only because he likes wearing women’s underwear!) He persuades the Doctor to take him back to Kastria.

In Part Four, also airing on Tuesday 10th May - again immediately after the previous instalment - at 20:05, Eldrad reconfigures his body to its final, male form. Furious with finding his world dead, he states he will return to Earth to rule it.

The script is by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who together later created K-9 for “Doctor Who”, while Bob went on to write none other than “Wallace and Gromit”!

Song of the Siren

Readers with a relatively-long memory may recall, some three years ago, a two-part Telly Visions feature on model-turned-actress Lily Cole. It never crossed my mind, at the time, that one day she might pop up in “Doctor Who”, although unlikelier things have happened, but now here she is, guest-starring as villainess the Siren, in this week’s episode “The Curse of the Black Spot”. A bit of a naff title really… Considering an ex-Marks and Spencer supermodel is at the centre of the story, its designation sounds like a commercial for Clearasil or some other skin cleanser! In mythology, the Siren was a sea nymph, half-woman half-bird, who was believed to sing beguilingly to passing sailors in order to lure them to their doom on the rocks on which she sat. Would it therefore be too presumptuous to suggest that the title of this post might equally suit Saturday’s adventure? Actually, none of the titles this year, so far, have been up to much. And they’ve been extremely derivative. It’s only five years since “The Impossible Planet”, yet this year’s series opened with “The Impossible Astronaut”. “Doctor Who” fan-and-chronicler David Howe suggests on his blog that “Silence Falls” would’ve been a superior title and I agree. “Day of the Moon”, for a title, is just plain dull and perhaps influenced by “Day of the Daleks”. By the same token, “The Curse of the Black Spot” may have been inspired by “The Curse of Peladon” or “The Curse of Fenric”. The fourth episode is “The Doctor’s Wife” when we’ve not long dispensed with “The Doctor’s Daughter”. In a few years time, I’m looking forward to watching “The Doctor’s Concubine”! It’s not all bad news on the titles front, however. Episode six, “The Almost People”, sounds intriguing given the current political climate!

Lily Cole began her professional acting career in “St. Trinian’s”. I think it a little ironic that when David Tennant left “Doctor Who”, one of the first jobs he accepted was the “St. Trinian’s” sequel, “The Legend of Fritton’s Gold”. It might be considered a retrograde move especially now Lily has done the same jobs the other way round. Or maybe it’s a little snobbish to claim “Doctor Who” superior to the adventures of those riotous schoolgirls. On the other hand, “Pride and Prejudice” and “The King’s Speech” actor Colin Firth appeared in both “St. Trinian’s” films yet won awards for neither! So perhaps I’m not far out in my presumptions. The film Lily made after “St. Trinian’s” better indicates her suitability for a role in “Doctor Who”. “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” saw her teaming up with former “Monty Python” animator-turned-director Terry Gilliam. She played the role of Valentina in the film, scripted by the director with his regular writing partner Charles McKeown. As well as Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits, the film was to have co-starred Heath Ledger. Originally scheduled for a 2009 release, production was postponed after Ledger’s untimely death. Plummer played Parnassus, an immortal 1,000-year-old leader of a travelling theatre troupe that offers audience members a chance to go beyond reality through a magical mirror in his possession. Waits played the Devil, with whom the Doctor has done a deal. Cole played the Doctor’s daughter! (Another one!!) She falls foul of the Devil, when time comes to collect on the arrangement, and the troupe, which is joined by a mysterious outsider named Tony (originally Ledger), embark on a journey through parallel worlds to rescue the girl. Ledger’s role was recast with Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell portraying physically changed transformations of Ledger’s character as he travels through different dimensions.

Sunday, 1 May 2011


The moment you’ve all been waiting for has arrived. No, not the passing of the Royal wedding, for which we’re all eternally grateful, not even the start of the thirty-second series of “Doctor Who”, the sixth if you’re a newbie, for which we’re even more beholden, but the day in which Claire Goose exposes her lovely lady lumps on television for the first time! It’s been a long time coming. She’s now 36, married and mum to Amelia. In the past, she’s posed for lads’ mags in her underwear, set our pulses racing in a nurse’s uniform, as Tina Seabrook in “Casualty”, but never before has she plucked up the courage to get her tits out. Tonight, in “Exile”, all that is about to change. It’s been described as her first ever nude scene despite wearing skimpy briefs throughout. Presumably she could’ve asked to keep her bra on if she’d felt too exposed but Claire trusted the director. It’s an important scene where the couple aren’t just having sex, something that’s seen earlier, but are making love for the first time. No doubt John Simm, her partner in the three-part serial, running on successive evenings at 9pm on BBC1, put her at ease and was very masterful!

Claire plays barmaid Mandy, a mother-of-two trapped in a lifeless marriage who embarks on an affair with a journalist called Tom (John Simm). Sacked from his job and dumped by his married girlfriend, Tom Ronstadt heads back up North to see his sister Nancy (Olivia Colman) and their father Sam (Jim Broadbent), a man nursing a dark secret but now in the grip of Alzheimer’s. Sam was originally due to be played by Pete Postlethwaite, who died in January. Jim heard the part had become available and thought, “if it was good enough for Pete, it’ll be good enough for me”! Jim’s mother had Alzheimer’s so he already knew a fair bit about it from her case. But, “Exile” is not a story about Alzheimer’s. It’s a psychological thriller about a man who can’t remember and another trying to get a secret out of him. “Exile” starts as a domestic drama, with some dark humour, but then turns into a thriller. So, there are plenty of reasons to tune in, not just the lure of seeing Claire in the altogether, although, admittedly, that is a major draw however brief, but the prospect of being entertained by some exciting television. Warden’s one to watch!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Passing of Sarah Jane Smith

I couldn’t bring myself to call this post “The Death of Sarah Jane Smith” as death is too final a word but I’m saddened to report that actress Elisabeth Sladen has passed away aged just 63 after her battle with cancer. “News at Ten” was muted when I glanced at the screen and recognised a clip from the First Series “The Sarah Jane Adventures” story “Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane Smith?”, where Sarah Jane and Maria are reunited in limbo land! I thought what on earth is this doing on the news and, in an instant, I realised. To say it took me by surprise is an understatement. “Doctor Who” actors have been dying at the rate of one a month but I didn’t expect the next one to be Elisabeth. Towards the end of last year, Graham Crowden was followed by Ingrid Pitt. At the start of this year we lost T P McKenna, who played Captain Cook in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”, and, after the news of Brigadier Nicholas Courtney in February, March saw the demise of “The Celestial Toymaker” Michael Gough. And now, here we are in April…

Elisabeth Sladen joined “Doctor Who” in 1973 for Jon Pertwee’s fifth and final season, in the story that also introduced the Sontarans, “The Time Warrior”. Before her first year was out, Sarah Jane saw off Daleks, dinosaurs and Ice Warriors only to watch in disbelief as the third Doctor regenerated into Tom Baker at the end of “Planet of the Spiders”. The DVD of Jon’s final regular adventure only went on sale the day before Elisabeth’s passing. A favourite image of Sarah Jane is the still featured on its cover, spider clinging to her back. She would stay with Tom for a further two-and-a-half years. One of the most memorable Sarah Jane moments came during Tom’s first year, during the seminal “Genesis of the Daleks”, when, fleeing her captors, she falls from scaffolding up which she is climbing and director David Maloney freezes her descent as the cliff-hanger! Breathtaking stuff - even if the resolution, at the start of the next episode, is a bit of a cheat. She was at her most gorgeous in “Planet of Evil” but then Elisabeth was always an extraordinarily good-looking woman.

It is often cited that Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith broke the mould of “Doctor Who” companions in that she was no screaming bimbo but an investigative journalist with feminist tendencies. I’m not sure she did counteract the trend, even if that was the original intention, because there are certain requirements necessary of the sidekick in melodrama - to ask questions, get into trouble and scream in the face of danger! But Lis pulled off all of these with such great aplomb that her place in the folklore of “Doctor Who” is assured. She played other characters of course, appearing in Frank Spencer sitcom “Some Mothers do ’ave ’em” and semi-regularly in medical drama “Peak Practice”. A couple of years ago, she had the opportunity to act alongside her husband, Brian Miller, in “The Sarah Jane Adventures” Series Three story “The Mad Woman in the Attic”, one of my favourite instalments. Elisabeth also leaves behind her daughter Sadie. In the last interview I saw with her, She stated they were already filming Series Five of “The Sarah Jane Adventures” and one can only hope Elisabeth completed work on the next series and that it will air, as usual, towards the end of the year as a fitting tribute to her.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Telly Visions: Anneke Wills

Despite the four decades that separate them, Anneke Wills and Billie Piper would have rather a lot to talk about if they ever met.

For starters, they are both former child stars who have played Doctor Who's female sidekick. They both won over fans of the sci-fi series with their blonde hair and thick dark lashes. And after closing the Tardis door for the last time, both turned their noses up at Hollywood.

But while 23-year-old Billie bowed out with a new £250,000 BBC role and a six-figure deal to write her autobiography, life wasn't quite so kind to Anneke.

Had anyone ever asked the Sixties star to pen her life story, they would have unveiled an astonishing tale of love and loss a thousand times more remarkable than that of former teen pop star Billie. While Billie recalls the details of her relatively brief life, Anneke is living like a hermit in a remote two-bedroom cottage on the edge of Dartmoor.

She survives on a tiny pension and knows an awful lot about fame and its pitfalls. 'If I could meet Billie now,' she says, 'I'd tell her to take the money and run. Life never quite turns out as you expect it.'

Anyone seeing the reclusive, bespectacled silver blonde woman pottering around her local Devonshire village would find it hard to believe that in her day, Anneke was at the zenith of 1960s celebrity London. Or that she was thrown out of Rada at 17 for 'behaving badly' with Edward Fox. Or that at just 18 she was pregnant with Anthony Newley's child and forced to abort it when he left her for Joan Collins.

Today, Anneke rarely goes out. She is at her happiest tending her vegetables. In a quiet corner of her garden, she has a bathtub set beneath a canopy of trees which is connected up to the kitchen sink by a hose. On summer mornings, she lies in the warm water, taking in the glorious view across the moors and reflecting on the astonishing events of her life.

The truth is that unlike Billie, who has apparently walked away from her youthful marriage to Chris Evans emotionally unscathed, the men in Anneke's life have always been her downfall. As she puts it: 'My heart has been broken several times. I have always been attracted to men who are extremely talented, beautiful and absolute bastards.'

From the start, Anneke's life was like something out of a film. The daughter of a Dutch-born Parisian catwalk model and a Harrow-educated artist descended from Elizabethan sea lord Sir Richard Grenville, she was born in 1941 in a private nursing home near Pinewood Studios. Her parents Anna and Alaric Willys (she later changed her name to Wills) had planned to buy a little house in the South of France but war in Europe put a stop to that.

Alaric, whose gambling left the family in severe debt, became a captain in the British Army and an absent figure. With no money, her mother took on a string of jobs - companion to a blind aristocrat, gardener, teacher - moving Anneke and her brother Robin around the country several times.

At the end of the war, Anna had saved a tidy sum. When Anneke's father returned, she gave it to him and he promptly fled to South Africa with his new lover.

'He left a ten-shilling note on my pillow,' recalls Anneke.

Her nomadic, bohemian childhood continued. In 1952, when she was 11 and living on a houseboat in Bray, Berkshire, she won her first role in a film called Child's Play and gave her £9 fee to her mother.

'I knew then I wanted to be an actor,' she says. 'All the other children in the film, including Peter Sallis (of Last Of The Summer Wine and Wallace and Gromit fame), were going on to drama school and I told my mother I wanted to go, too.'

She studied drama at the Arts Educational School in London and, with the pretty blonde elfin looks inherited from her mother, became one of the most employed child actresses of her generation. Early roles included a part as Roberta in the first TV version of The Railway Children in 1957.

Rada followed at 17, but she was already fast establishing her reputation as a wild child. She lost her virginity at 14 to 'a man who grabbed me in a corridor at a party'. She adds: 'I remember looking in the mirror afterwards to see if I looked any different. I knew what I was doing. I was searching for love. I wanted lots of love.'

One of her early boyfriends was Daphne du Maurier's son, Kits Browning. But Edward Fox, a year above her at Rada, was the first to steal her heart. Their relationship and her wilful attitude to staff resulted in her being asked to leave. They continued their relationship for about a year. She was flying home from Ireland after filming for four weeks with Michael Winner in 1958 when she picked up a newspaper and read that Edward had married actress Tracey Reed.

'My heart was broken,' she says. It was not for the last time. She met Anthony Newley during the filming of his cult TV series The Strange World Of Gurney Slade - she was playing one of his fantasy women.

'He took me by the hand and said: "Come on, Wills darling. You're coming home with me."'

Soon she was living in his London flat, along with Newley's mother, Grace, and his manager. 'It was pretty daring at the time,' admits Anneke. 'But I adored him. He was the most beautiful, talented, funny, sweet man. I couldn't resist him.'

During their year-and-a-half-long relationship, she helped him work on his musical Stop The World - I Want To Get Off.

'They were the happiest times,' she says, 'sitting by the piano writing songs together and I had my own little room as a studio where I could paint - mainly pictures of him and me.'

She knew he was unfaithful, but says: 'He made sure it wasn't under my nose and our little life was kept apart from all that.'

When Anneke discovered at 18 that she was pregnant, Newley took her by the hand and said: 'Darling, don't worry. I'll look after you. You'll have to clean out your studio and turn it into a nursery.'

'I was in heaven,' says Anneke. 'I started throwing myself into the earth mother role.'

Not long after that, Newley left to work in the U.S. and met Joan Collins. The first Anneke knew about it was when she found a telephone message scribbled on a pad in his manager's office. It said: 'Get Wills aborted.'


She recalls being taken by Newley's manager to see the two psychiatrists necessary to agree to an abortion.

'No expense was spared,' she says bitterly. 'I was in shock, absolutely heart-broken. I didn't know why he had changed his mind.'

When she finally booked into a clinic in Hampstead for a Caesarean abortion at four-and-a-half months pregnant, she remembers taking a doll with her.

'It was ghastly,' she says. 'I was sobbing my eyes out.'

She moved in with her brother Robin at a flat in Paddington, but when Newley returned to London, she went round to their former home to confront him.

'There were pictures of Joan everywhere,' she says. 'It was obvious then what had happened.'

But despite abandoning her in the most cold-hearted way imaginable, Newley continued to see Anneke. 'He turned up at the flat in the middle of the night throwing stones up at the window,' she says. 'He never stopped loving me. Joan didn't know anything about it.

'There was one amusing incident when we were both having our hair cut at Vidal Sassoon - I realised with horror that Joan was sitting the other side of the mirror. Vidal was loving the drama of it. He said: "So how is Tony, Anneke?"'

Anneke felt no guilt about Joan, instead revelling in the opportunity to get her own back on the woman who had lured away her love. Within months she was pregnant again and determined this time that no one would take her baby.

'I wrote to Tony in New York and told him. I said: "It's my baby and I am not going to claim anything or mention your name. This is my baby and my life."'

By this time, while filming one of the Edgar Wallace mystery series, she had met Michael Gough, the actor who would later play Alfred the butler in four Batman films.

She was pregnant and in need of somewhere to stay and he offered her a room in his house.

'Mick absolutely loved babies,' she says. 'He wanted lots and lots. He let me have a little room and we fell in love. It didn't matter to him that I was pregnant.'

After Gough divorced his second wife, they married at Fulham register office on Valentine's Day 1965. Her daughter Polly, later adopted by Gough, had already been born and Anneke, then 21, was already pregnant again with their son, Jasper.

A year later, she was offered her role as Polly in Doctor Who, earning £90 a week - equivalent now to about £1,000 a week. It seemed to her that life couldn't have been more perfect.

'I loved Doctor Who,' she says. 'I took lessons on how to do the perfect scream without damaging my voice. I was the first sexy companion. My eyelashes were longer than my skirts.

'William Hartnell (the first Doctor) was pretty intimidating to work with, but when he was succeeded by Patrick Troughton it was so much fun.'

Even so, she confidently turned down a second series for fear of being typecast and went on to play the assistant to Anthony Quayle's criminologist in the hit series The Strange Report.

Little did she know that her professional acting career was rapidly drawing to a close.

'They were planning to film the second series in Hollywood,' she explains.

'I had two children and a husband, there was no way I could go.

'Perhaps it would be different today, but there was no way Mick would have come to Hollywood with me. I had to make a choice, but really there was no choice.'


Instead she travelled with Gough to Norfolk, where he was filming The Go Between with Julie Christie and Alan Bates. She found an idyllic Elizabethan farmhouse which they bought and she threw herself into motherhood and gardening.

For years they were happy, but when Gough started work at the National Theatre and returned to Norfolk only at weekends, the cracks in their marriage began to show.

'I was living a very earth mother lifestyle,' she says, 'while Mick was very theatrical and thespian. He had a terrible eye for the ladies. He started coming home less and less and we were having terrible rows.

'I had actually got what everybody said was the perfect formula for happiness - I had the husband, career, the two children and a lovely home. It should have equalled happiness, but it didn't. I felt so alone.

'For two years, I tried to keep it together. I thought I could still be Mrs Gough and an individual. But I was growing away from being his dolly bird. I was becoming a woman.'

The evening they agreed to divorce, she says, they went to bed, cried and held each other. 'We loved each other,' she says smiling. 'But we knew we couldn't continue to make each other so unhappy.'

Like Billie, who recently said she wouldn't take a penny of her ex-husband's millions, Anneke also walked away from her marriage empty-handed.

'Mick used to seethe about giving money to his first two wives,' she says. 'I told him I didn't want a penny. I said I'd rather be friends.'

In fact, what Anneke did next left friends thinking she'd gone slightly mad. While taking a course in meditation in London, she heard the controversial spiritual figure Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

Leaving behind her 14-year-old daughter Polly, then a boarder at one of the Rudolph Steiner schools in East Sussex, she took 12-year-old Jasper to Poona in India, donned the orange robes of Bhagwan's cult followers and joined his ashram where free love was the order of the day.

'For the first few nights I cried into my pillow,' she says. 'I'd swapped my wonderful home for a mattress in a communal dormitory.

'But there were some wonderful people there - including Terence Stamp. I was a bit bored by the free love thing. I'd had enough of all that. It was the meditation I was interested in.'

She stayed from 1975 to 1981 - at one stage spending ten days blindfolded on a cushion. Later she followed Bhagwan and his disciples to a ranch in Oregon, then to Vancouver where she scraped a living cleaning houses.

It was while she was there, in December 1982, that Gough phoned to tell her that Polly, recently engaged to be married, had been killed in a car crash with her bridesmaid-to-be.

'It was gut-wrenching,' she says. 'She was about to marry a farmer's son, a lovely boy. She had her whole future ahead of her.

'She was driving home and her car hit a patch of ice and skidded into a ditch. She and her friend drowned.'

Perhaps even more poignantly, Polly died never knowing that Newley was her father. 'We never told her,' says Anneke. 'At what point do you tell a child that? Mick had adopted her. She was ours.'

She told her son Jasper, now a photographer at Sotheby's, the truth about Polly's paternity only last year. Anneke adds: 'He listened and he said: "It's no big deal."'

Newley died in 1999, without ever discussing the fact that Polly was his child with Anneke.

When her daughter was still alive, Anneke met up with Newley in New York when Gough was on stage there. 'We had dinner,' she says. 'He showed me pictures of Tara and Sacha, his children with Joan. I showed him pictures of Polly.

'He said she was beautiful, but that was it. We cooed over each other's children. It didn't feel strange to me. I always thought of Polly as mine and Mick's.

'I was devastated to lose her but I always feel that she is here with me.'

Before she finally found peace in Devon, Anneke's life was to take a few more twists and turns.

After Polly's funeral, she returned to America, paid a man $1,000 to marry her so she could get a Green Card and set up her own interior design business.

'It was very common for followers of Bhagwan to do that so we could stay in Oregon,' she explains. 'It lasted as long as it took to get the paperwork stamped - I can't even remember what he was called.'

At 50, Anneke fell in love for the last time - with a 35-year-old deep-sea diver and marine biologist. They married in 1993 in Hornby Island, Canada, where she was living in a community of artists and running an amateur dramatics group.

But after Anneke remortgaged her house to pay for him to go to drama school, he left her for a 23-year-old fellow student.

'I thought: "This is the last time my heart's going to be broken",' she says. 'I couldn't stand it any more. There have been no men for ten years now. I have no need for anyone else. I am enough in myself.'

She returned to England ten years ago, moving first to a little cottage in Purbeck, Dorset, belonging to Edward Fox, with whom she is still friends; then to Devon four years ago, to a worker's cottage on the edge of a farm.

A portrait of her ancestor Sir Richard Grenville hangs on the wall - a reminder of the roots of her remarkable life.

Her memories could undoubtedly produce several autobiographies. But not surprisingly, after so much turbulence in her life, at 65 she craves only peace now.

'I just love it here completely,' she says. 'I love going to sleep surrounded by cows. Weeks go by and I don't talk to anyone. I am perfectly happy on my own. I don't have a single regret. Out of each heartbreak, you grow.

'Isn't that what life is about?'

The intriguing story of Dr Who's sidekick by BARBARA DAVIES, Daily Mail - Last updated at 10:00, 25 July 2006