30/06/2012

Race Against Time

The last four episodes of season five of Primeval are some of the best the series has produced.
Episode 5.3 sees the return of Emily thanks to a rather unlikely set of coincidences. When the team accidentally sends a dinosaur back into the 1800s, Matt goes after it and meets her again. The plot is confused, with some idea that she is pretending to be a murderer going by the name of Spring Heeled Jack in order to cover the raptor’s killings. You do wonder why though. Nonetheless it allows the production an opportunity to move into a rich period setting while the duo debate what they should do. The hurly burly of Victorian life is well captured in these scenes.

27/06/2012

Blakewatch - Week 26: Star One

Season Two Episode 13- Star One
(1979) Writer: Chris Boucher / Director: David Maloney
With Star One finally located the Liberator heads there despite misgivings from the others over Blake’s intentions. However the facility has already been invaded and a plan is unfolding that threatens the entire Federation.

Star One` is a terrific episode, bristling with developments, action and a wholly unexpected alien invasion that changes the game. It glides into view with an eerie sequence in which a space collision gradually becomes inevitable and the off screen voice of the pilot changes from normal to panic. Chris Boucher’s script covers all bases and yet unfurls at an even pace. If anything matters are underplayed- after all the Federation is collapsing here-which has the advantage of not losing the characters in the rush to finish that happens in some series.

"I''ve always believed in you Avon." "Get lost, this is my show now"

25/06/2012

Up-words - A Long Way From The Sun

Up-words features the best articles from the paper issues of This way up

A Long Way from the Sun
By Ben Findlay
October 2006


This year there’s been a right hoodoo happening up there in the Milky Way because boffins have been re-drawing the planets and the results of their work mean that what most of us have been taught- that there are 9 planets in our solar system- is now wrong. Without recourse to a fleet of spaceships or even a nifty destructor ray, scientists have destroyed Pluto, at least as far as its planetary status is concerned. In late August, a new definition of a planet was approved by a seemingly self appointed clique of scientists with presumably nothing better to do.


23/06/2012

Big Monsters Are Back!

The first two episodes of season five of Primeval suggest a series in top form.

Primeval has somehow never quite managed to reach its potential.  There have been perfectly enjoyable episodes and Ok episodes; remarkably there has never really been a bad episode. On the other hand neither has the series delivered anything classic and what support it had amongst the public in the early days has ebbed away. ITV must sense this as they have waited more than a year to show season 5 long after it debuted on Watch and was subsequently released on DVD. Shoving it on in the midst of the sports filled summer schedules hardly displays confidence.

He soon regretted inviting the neighbours to the picnic



22/06/2012

Blakewatch - Week 25: The Keeper

All 52 episodes of Blake’s 7 reviewed, one per week

This week: Season Two Episode 12- The Keeper
(1979) Writer: Allan Prior / Director: Derek Martinus
In search of an amulet that contains the location of Star One, Blake, Jenna and Vila arrive on the planet Goth where they encounter tribal rivalries and a lot of shouting.

Can you imagine living on a planet where you had to yell all the time? Like going into the Sainsbury’s Tent for example and bellowing at the top of your voice “Milk! Now or I’ll slice you from ear to ear!” That’s what it’s like on Goth the amusingly named planet  where Blake and co find themselves this week in the quest to discover the location of the elusive Star One. It’s a weird place alright; the woodland above is full of dry ice and spotlights as if they are ready to stage impromptu rock concerts at the drop of a woolly hat. The inhabitants live underground in tepees in a cave which for some reason looks very silly indeed. They all have designated tents, even Servalan gets one. Yes, she and Travis are here too eschewing their usual ruthlessness to wait and see which of the royals has the location dangling round their neck.


"Got any Iron Maiden?"

21/06/2012

Caroline John


Caroline John got rather an unfortunate deal from Doctor Who. She was already cast as Liz Shaw when Barry Letts took over as producer and he really wanted a different sort of assistant.  Liz’s slightly superior, cynical, academic approach was well played by Caroline in` Spearhead from Space` but the character was perhaps not the most suited to be paired with Jon Pertwee’s establishment baiting Doctor. Liz was very clever but initially dismissive of aliens when first briefed by the Brigadier, a scene that highlights the subtle humour that Caroline’s performances often encompassed.

Yet she did strike an intellectual rapport with the Doctor during their four stories together and Liz was someone the writers were able to use intelligently and pro actively.  The Doctor knew he could rely on her and the viewer felt as safe in her company as they did with him. In the end her outlook overlapped too much with the Doctor’s and Caroline’s pregnancy meant she would not have been able to stay even if Letts had wanted her to. She did appear in a quartet of highly regarded stories though, meeting the Autons and SIlurians plus she got to drive Bessie, despite not having a driving licence in real life! Not to mention playing a parallel version of Liz Shaw in Inferno. The Ambassadors of Death is still awaiting release on dvd.

She returned to the role of Liz Shaw briefly in `The Five Doctors` and subsequently in a series of amateur video dramas called PROBE where the character smoked a pipe! She also played Liz in some Big Finish audio plays as well as a different role in Dust Breeding. These later appearances made better use of Caroline’s skills showing  the character actor she really was. She also appeared at conventions form time to time and developed an amusing and very well played performance piece as a cleaner in the research centre where `The Silurians` took place.

Caroline John was born in October 1940 in York and attended the Central School of Speech and Drama before working for both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre in a range of productions.  Amongst her television appearances were roles in Silent Witness, Doctors, The Choir, Dangerfield, House of Elliot, Harry Enfield’s Television Programme, Poirot, Wish Me Luck, A Very British Coup, The Power Game and Z Cars. She played opposite Tom Baker in a 1982 adaptation of Hound of the Baskervilles.  She was married to Geoffrey Beevers (wih whom she did several radio plays and an episode of Poirot) with three children. She passed away on 5th June though her death was not announced until today.

18/06/2012

Up-words - Shades of Blue

Up-words features the best of the articles from This way up when it was published as a print fanzine from 2002- 2010.

Shades of Blue
featuring The Story of Sky /Tim Worthington & Back in the Sky Life / Ben Finlay
April 2006

NB Since these articles were written Sky has been released in DVD.


The Story of Sky

by Tim Worthington (with additional material by John Connors)

Bob Baker and Dave Martin were highly imaginative and sorely underrated writers; had they diversified into books, films and radio, perhaps I'd even regard them as highly as I do Nigel Kneale. As well as several ambitious Doctor Who scripts, there's a string of other excellent series they worked on for HTV in the 1970's which few know about and even fewer have seen. Among these were the daring retelling of Arthurian legend Arthur of the Britons which stripped the fabled king of all his magical powers and even his right to the throne, the weird allegory with fairytale overtones King of the Castle which was actually moved out of a children’s' slot because it was too disturbing, and of course Sky. First shown in 1975, Sky is in many respects very different to the shows it is usually bracketed with by telefantasy critics and their incomprehensible compulsion to 'categorise' everything (what profits it a man to know that Stargazy on Zummerdown is a bit like The Old Men at the Zoo? And more to the point, who cares?). Sky has no Ace of Wands style over-the-top mysticism, no Tomorrow People fashion flashy futurism, and definitely no Freewheelers-like megalomaniacs with entire fleets of hot air balloons carrying poison gas. There is in fact little bar pure disturbing eeriness, not least due to the fact that the title character seems to perform acts of both good and evil and not really cares about the outcome of either. He is a clear offshoot of the Solonians from Baker and Martin's Doctor Who script The Mutants' but unlike those particular 'beautiful people' he does not necessarily lead a planet to a brighter future. In fact, he almost manages to destroy one without doing anything at all.

16/06/2012

Decisions, Decisions

 
Sophocles’ classic play Antigone at the National Theatre
Reviews of this adaptation of Sophocles’ classic play have been mixed, though at least some of the criticism has been levelled at Don Taylor whose version this is. To someone without any knowledge of the play - or indeed of Sophocles - I have to agree that the National Theatre’s Antigone sits awkwardly at times. Mind you with Greece very much in our minds at the moment let’s hope they don’t go looking for answers here!

13/06/2012

Blakewatch - Week 24: Gambit

All 52 episodes of Blake’s 7 reviewed, one per week

This week: Season Two Episode 11- Gambit
(1979) Writer: Robert Holmes / Director: George Spenton Foster
On the trail of Docholli, the cybersurgeon who knows the whereabouts of Star One, Blake, Jenna and Cally are in Freedom City. Meanwhile Avon and Vila decide on a trip of their own.

`Gambit` has always had the reputation of being one of the best and certainly the most outrĂ© Blake’s 7 episode, filled as it is with the gaudy decadence of a faux casino and bar.  In 2012 it looks a little bizarre but still works. We are in Freedom City, outside of the Federation so Robert Holmes and designer Barbara Kidd take their cues from an amalgam of 18th century fop fashion, Las Vegas, Westerns and the musical Cabaret. You might imagine such a mix would curdle whereas the result is actually fascinatingly realised and makes it seem like a radical place and the perfect setting for something a little different.


"Do you want to swap?"

11/06/2012

Stand Up, BBC!

It’s time for the BBC to stop apologising

The BBC finds itself in one of those moments that seem to occur every so often. Something they’ve said- or not said- has caused hundreds of people to complain. As a result they issue excuses and apologies and are generally made to look like a repentant giant. In this case, their coverage of the Jubilee river pageant is the issue de jour. This sprawling event lasted several hours but basically consisted of a lot of boats chugging up the Thames. Only a handful of these vessels contained members of the Royal Family or celebrities, the rest were occupied by people from all over the country who had sailed there, presumably setting off weeks earlier.

08/06/2012

Disappointing Discoveries

Prometheus looks good but does not live up to the promise of the trailers...

The problem with having the best trailers of the year is that expectations for Prometheus have risen very high indeed. Inevitably the end result disappoints being no more or less than a competent enough blockbuster. It’s packed with incident, jeopardy and a couple of difficult to watch not for the squeamish sequences. It has its exciting moments for sure. If it were another film that would probably be enough.


06/06/2012

Blakewatch - Week 23: Voices from the Past

There are 52 episodes of Blake’s 7 and 52 weeks in the year.....

This week: Season Two Episode 10- Voices from the Past
(1979) Writer: Roger Parkes / Director: George Spenton Foster
Blake is hearing voices in his head that seem to relate to his tria and which will him to take the Liberator to meet lost rebel Shivan who has enlisted the help of a Federation governer and others to present the truth to Federation delegates at a conference.

When they tried this sort of thing with Gan the results were mixed, here Gareth Thomas proves to be a reasonably good `voices in my head making me go crazy` actor though you might initially put his condition down to the silly yoga Cally is making them all do at the start. What unfurls is something more nuanced than `Breakdown`; with Blake’s past catching up with him in different ways. In his first story for the series, Roger Parkes devises something a little too talky to tell easily in this form whereas as a novel one suspects the story would come across better.


Huzzah! Abba are back!


01/06/2012

Up-words - High Spirits

High Spirits / John Connors / October 2005

A masterclass in script writing and studio acting, The Ghosts of Motley Hall has been hidden away in children’s television history behind the outwardly similar BBC series Rentaghost for far too long. It’s time for that to change though, because the ITV series is infinitely superior in every respect. Motley Hall delights in rich language and revels in its own world of ghosts who are only human after all; it pivots gracefully on tiny plots weaving them brilliantly into 25 minutes of character interaction and fun. Where Rentaghost goes for the cheap panto laugh and slapstick every time, Motley Hall will delight you with wit, energy and even drama. It’s a shame that it hasn’t been acknowledged because at the time the series was incredibly popular, being nominated for a BAFTA award and twice winning “junior TV Times” `Look In`’s readers award for favourite series. Perhaps with all the episodes now available on dvd this will change and the true worth of the show will be recognised.