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After raving about it on first viewing, I now find myself loving and hating ’Planet of the Dead’ in equal measure…

Tongue40 things I hated…

  1. If the Cup of Athelstan has been in the International Gallery for 200 years, why the sudden need to surround it with a security grid (open at the top and a two-foot gap at the bottom, of course)? Or do the armed guards go through their little ritual every night? If it’s been brought out for display, I’d whack it in a vault at night. Little tip. (Incidentally, I’m glad we never got to see this disaster of design and punctuation.)
  2. Might’ve been an idea to have oiled the waving cat, you silly bint.
  3. Why the ricocheting gunshot sound effect when the camera flips? Followed by a quite deathly twenty seconds of Christina looking hither and thither from one police car to the next. Over and over.
  4. Stock working-class bus driver. Irritating in so few lines, with an over the top accent that’s just weird.
  5. incompetentD I McMillan: awful awful awful, like a bumbling comedy policeman from an episode of Terry and June. Or CBeebies. “It’s definitely her, come on! Jackson, follow that bus!” Perfectly reasonable lines, but from the mouth of Adam James somehow… shit. And later he says “You do not have to say anything, et cetera et cetera” which proves he’s a rubbish copper too.

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Circus 1 now online

circus1You know those beastly fellows at The Ninth Circle of Hell and their repository of old Doctor Who fanzines? Well, they’ve taken it upon themselves to upload the first issue of Circus, my old fanzine, just so you modern kids, with your fancy iPoops and your indoor toilets, can cruelly mock its simple innocence and poke it with sticks. Have a look, it’s got words in it and everything, contributed by John Connors, Paul Farnsworth, Daniel O’Mahony, Keith Topping and more, but I beg you to be gentle.

Circus 1 (published December 1993)  is available here. More will follow. Curse you, Ninth Circle of Hell!

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Christopher Samuel YoudWith the release of the BBC Tripods series on DVD and the promise of an Alex Proyas film adaptation, I thought this interview with the trilogy’s prolific author, conducted in 1999, might be of interest. I’d never interviewed anyone before, and found Sam incredibly generous and a true gent.

Were you a fan of science fiction from an early age?

I started to find SF fascinating in the occasional story in more general boys’ magazines, then discovered the (I think) September ‘32 issue of Astounding and was totally hooked. Before that though I had been very fond of Coral Island and Swiss Family Robinson, both of which have characters with whom a boy can identify in - this is the important bit - exotic but at the same time possible settings. As I’ve often said, 30s SF offered extrapolation from current scientific thinking - not entirely and certainly not reliably, but one could fool oneself one might eventually find life on the planets in the way the Swiss Robinsons found that amazing (and quite impossible) variety of plants and wild life on that tiny Pacific island. I tell myself I turned away from SF when later scientific knowledge showed the solar system to be a barren emptiness and extra-planetary travel just wasn’t feasible. But I feel it was also like being through an intense love affair: the passion can’t be resurrected.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

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<Disclaimer> I wrote this article, on writer Robert Holmes’ work in the 80s, way back in 1993 for the first issue of Circus. It’s a bit cocksure and probably riddled with factual errors, but it holds up reasonably well I think. </Disclaimer>


Bob plus trusty pipeDuring one of the economic ice ages that regularly grip our household I bought a Citroën 2CV. The salesman assured me that this machine was the last word in frugality with an engine that ran on gnat’s water. ‘Ran’, in this context, is probably the wrong word. It sort of ambled. But it was a fine car and gave one plenty of time to admire the scenery. There was also the excitement of burn-ups with passing tractors and invalid carriages.

I mention this only because it fills up some of my fifteen hundred words and also to make my point that I am the 2CV of scriptwriters.

Robert Holmes, ‘A Life of Hammer and Tongs’ (The Doctor Who File)

Robert Holmes’ last work for Doctor Who after Anthony Read took over from him as script-editor was ‘The Power of Kroll’, a story with which he was naturally unhappy. He had been asked to write a script that revolved around the largest monster in the programme’s history, a feat he found difficult, particularly when he disliked traditional lumbering monsters, relying instead on unusual, appealingly quirky characters. Although it isn’t in any writer’s nature to deliberately produce sub-standard work, Holmes’ last Who story for six years must have been a disappointment to him.

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