Merlin to bow out at its peak

The news that season 5 of Merlin will be the last means the show has succesfully reached its creative destination.
Since it was announced yesterday that season 5 will be the last series of Merlin there has been speculation as to why such a successful show is being, as the news items put it “axed.”  With ratings up on the early seasons and a general critical upswing it seems on the surface to be an odd decision. Perhaps the BBC can no longer afford to make a series that has a higher budget than Doctor Who and an extensive overseas location base? Maybe some of the lead actors have refused to sign contracts for further seasons unless they get a pay increase, something that can happen on successful US shows? The truth would seem to be that the series was always planned as a five year run so instead of being cancelled before it’s time, we should instead be applauding a rare example of a show reaching the fulfilment if its creative target, a show that will bow out at an absolute peak.

The real reason for the cancellation is that Colin was not impressed by the even larger red bib he was expected to wear.


Doctor Who Special: The UNIT Picnic

To celebrate the 49th anniversary of Doctor Who, we have unearthed a previously unscreened scene buried deep in a vault somewhere. Transcribed here, you can see that the original version of the 1971 classic `The Daemons` might have been somewhat different..
A strange storm of wind and rain has descended over the picturesque English village of Devil’s End. The wind is so powerful that the local unconvincing policeman is only able to walk horizontally and the local white witch Miss Hawthorne is declaiming “Avast ye elementals!” in a very loud voice.
Sgt Benton approaches her, “Excuse me, Miss, are you a pirate?”
She looks at him as if he is mad and yells, “No, I am not a pirate young man, I am Miss Hawthorne, the local white witch.”
“Well you don’t have to shout.”
“I am trying to disperse these elemental storms, young man.”
Benton grinned; “Sorry, Miss, they aren’t storms. It’s Sergeant Osgood’s turn to make the soup. He’s used rather too much minestrone I think.”


Blakewatch: 52 weeks of Blake's 7. Week 47: Games

Season Four Episode 8- Games
(1981) Writer: Bill Lyons / Director: Vivienne Cozens
In pursuit of valuable energy generating Feldon crystals, the Scorpio crew have to deal with the wily head of the mining operation Berkov, whom nobody can trust.
 Bill Lyons seems to have a strong handle of what works and what doesn’t in this series. Keeping matters moving along, he frames the entire scenario as an elaborate game with trickery and deceit all over the place. We may smile now at the primitive – though still deadly- electronic games people have to play during the episode but remember this was made at the dawn of the computer age. Lyons does complicate things by having too many locales but this is a strident and enjoyable piece of 1980s TV.

Stratford Johns posters featured on many walls in the 70s


ITV drama Monroe is victim of poor scheduling

Put up against BBC’s most successful drama, the excellent second series of ITV’s Monroe stood no chance.
When it was announced last week that ITV has cancelled Monroe, few people were surprised but anyone who watched it would be disappointed. The fact is that the second series was never given a chance to shine. Pitted against the BBC’s New Tricks which is the corporation’s highest rated ongoing drama series, Monroe was doomed. It is a shame because the series was showing all the vital signs of growth and development and had it been screened on a different night the story could be different.

Monroe spots an ITV scheduler


CBBC's Leonardo Takes A Darker Turn

Leonardo Season 2 Episodes 7 -10
The ramifications of Piero de Medici’s acts in `Dragon Hunt` are played out in the equally strong (and  cleverly titled) `The Mask of Death`. The seventh episode plays completely differently though eschewing the adventure elements for a thriller that ends with two dead characters and our hero being tricked into agreeing to design a war machine for Piero’s planned attack on Milan. Just half a season in James Clyde has made this role his own and this proves to be the character’s finest moment yet. The comparatively trivial schemes of last season have been replaced by a real ambition to rule across Europe. What really impresses is the way the overall storyline is coming together and how Leonardo is more gullible than we imagined.
Mack and Angelica's first date does not go too well


Blakewatch- 52 Weeks of Blake's 7. Week 46: Assassin

Season Four Episode 7- Assassin
(1981) Writer: Rod Beacham / Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot
The Scorpio crew intercept a message from Servalan revealing she has hired a notorious assassin to despatch them. Seeing this as an opportunity Avon leads them on a dangerous mission that goes badly wrong.
`Assassin` continues the general upwards trajectory of the season with Rod Beacham’s script inspiring a story of deception and trust. It could be better; almost as soon as we meet Piri, the rather too traumatised girl supposedly prisoner of Cancer the unfortunately named assassin, seasoned TV watchers will know who she is. 

"Are you William Hartnell?" "No I am not. Chesterton, mmm."


Merlin Season 5 - Growing Pains

Merlin Season 5 Episodes 3-5
When it was revealed that Uther would be making a return appearance numerous eyes rolled at the prospect because somehow fantasy does not seem capable of keeping dead characters dead. Surprisingly though, `The Death Song of Uther Pendragon` works rather well as a mood piece that also places Arthur’s kingship under the microscope while also demonstrating how Merlin has become a stronger and sometimes far more serious character.

People were slightly concerned by the backing singers


Blakewatch - 52 Weeks of Blake's 7. Week 45: Headhunter

Season Four Episode 6- Headhunter
(1981) Writer: Roger Parkes / Director: Mary Ridge
A rendezvous with eminent scientist Muller goes awry leading to a situation that could threaten the existence of humanity.
There’s nothing like exploring the big questions and `Headhunter` does not shirk from suggesting the demise of humanity and our replacement by machines. How such a well worn but always interesting theme plays out on the show’s relatively tiny budget we’re initially unsure of. It looks as if it will be a silly looking caper yet as developments pile up it proves to be this season’s most balanced and exciting episode to date.

"I'd like to buy that head there, mate"


Plaything of Sutekh- the Doctor Who fanzine: Issue 2

Issue 2 of the acclaimed fanzine `Plaything of Sutekh` is available now featuring
Season Eighteen- When Doctor Who grew up?
Warrior’s Gate – One of the series’ most unusual stories is examined by David Rolinson.
Goodbye to Amy + Rory - The first five episodes of the latest season reviewed includes Q + A with  director Saul
TARDIS Radio – Oliver Wake on the un-transmitted 1960’s radio pilot starring Peter Cushing.
Strip for the Doctor – Richard Farrell looks at the `TV Action` and `Countdown` Doctor Who comic strips.
Plus: `Death to the Daleks` , `The Happiness Patrol`, `The Ambassadors of Death`, `The Greatest Show in the Galaxy`, `Dragonfire`
Illustrated throughout with stunning new art by Richard Farrell and Euan Mactavish
For details on how to get your copy go to www.playthingofsutekh.blogspot.co.uk
We think you’ll find it good!


James Bond Comes Home

The new James Bond film Skyfall is a tribute to both the franchise and England.
When franchises acknowledge or echo anniversaries within their fictional world it can be a sign of creative inertia but in the case of Skyfall the opposite is true. Rather than seem like a re-tread of Bond iconography Sam Mendes’ take on the venerable spy is both fresh yet faithful. Everything you might expect is there but there is more. It is becoming a bit of a cliché to declare each modern Bond atypical but Skyfall really does venture beyond in a way that few have dared. Best of all it bucks the general 2012 trend of just making things bigger; instead this is a personal mission for all concerned.
“Beware, the spoilers if you click below, 007”


Blakewatch: 52 weeks of Blake's 7. Week 44: Animals

Season Four Episode 5- Animals
(1981) Writer: Alan Prior / Director: Mary Ridge
Trapped while visiting a former teacher Dayna discovers the true nature of his genetics work and is unsure whether or not to help him.
Dayna has always seemed one of the more credible regular characters with the writers generally serving her well but it is Josette Simon that has really brought her to life. With most of the key scenes in her hands this week, she manages to make what would otherwise be a middling episode into something much more interesting. Its 18 minutes before we even see any of the others apart from Tarrant and it makes you wonder whether Dayna might have been a better choice as series lead. Enjoyable though Paul Darrow is, he does not seem very human much of the time whereas it is the element of vulnerability that Josette Simon gives Dayna that makes her a more three dimensional character.

"`Blake's 7` is on BBC1"  "Oh no, I hate that show."