18/04/2018

Top of the Pops 7 April 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: "It's exactly 7.25. Welcome to studio 3 for a live presentation of Top of the Pops. Now, all the bands are here, though some of them may be miming tonight." Peter Powell: "But we start off! For starters! Right! We give you The Celtic Soul Brothers! This is Dexys!"

[24] Dexys Midnight Runners: The Celtic Soul Brothers. Two weeks of data are missing from BBC Genome. Hold me. Radio Times went unpublished in the weeks of 2nd and 9th April due to industrial action. This is only relevant because I use BBC Genome to give me a heads up on what editions of Top of the Pops were broadcast live. I wouldn't normally rely on Simon Bates to tell me the time and yet here we are. This is the second time round for The Celtic Soul Brothers. It was first released just over a year ago and peaked at number 45. Now, in the wake of Come On Elieen, it's been given a second chance. Watch out for the mystery man who kneels down at the edge of the stage, just beyond where violinist Helen O'Hara, is standing. He's wearing a smart shirt and tie, so I guess he's a member of the production team, but what is his job? He's there for the whole performance. He's not holding a camera although there is a cameraman lurking in the same general area. Maybe his job is to stop the audience becoming tangled in the camera cable? Or, it could be a sighting of the elusive Floor Manager Tony Redstone. 

13/04/2018

Doctor Who Specials #1 The Making of Doctor Who 1972


For the first eight years of Doctor Who there was precious little in the way of behind the scenes information beyond whatever appeared in Radio Times. Then in 1972 a book appeared that changed all that and really started the momentum of the series moving from popular to iconic. The Making of Doctor Who was published by the Piccolo range of Pan Books, penned by Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks and sold at the princely price of 25p! The cover features a rather odd photo from `The Sea Devils` of the moment where the Doctor is a prisoner of the titular creatures. Hardly the heroic posed stance you might expect it has the Doctor looking rather worried and sharing the cover with a Sea Devil rather than Jo Grant. Nonetheless the red on Jon Pertwee’s cape matches that of the series logo above it and the end result is a charismatic photo that was also rare at the time.

09/04/2018

Ad Break#two V6, V10 and Commisery


Virgin Media- “That chick is a sick individual”

Virgin’s recent two ads for their latest stuff have been brilliant! First there was the idea that various characters and vehicles from very strand of television were charging together up the pipe which resembled a tunnel. The latest – called `Entertainment in Harmony` was launched at the turn of the year and created by BBH London. It is even better drawing in iconic modern TV types and then making them dance! It starts with the declaration “That chick is a sick individual” and the music - Missy Elliott’s 2005 track `We Run This` - kicks in. The premise is similar to the previous ad bringing instantly recognisable tv types together this time in dance. So it starts with Orange is the New Black, then The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and so on.  There’s even a detective and his team and when they start dancing so does the white outline of a body on the floor in front of them! 

06/04/2018

Scott and Sid



Most `true story` movies are about famous or well -known people written and directed by other people.  Scott and Sid is a film made by Scott and Sid about, erm, Scott and Sid. Scott Elliott and Sid Sydowskyj are/ were two Yorkshire based teenagers who aspired to ambitious plans and compiled a list of things they really wanted to do. Some of them were silly or puerile, others more ambitious. By the time they were 24 they had made large amounts of money via several business ventures and a little fortuitous happenstance along the way. It sounds unlikely and if you read the synopsis in full you’d think- no way could this have actually happened but it actually did. As you’ve probably guessed the latest addition to that hand scrawled list was to make a movie. And this is that movie.

04/04/2018

Top of the Pops 31 Mar 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Steve Wright: "Good evening and welcome to another Top of the Pops. Sorry about the studio tonight. It's a bit messy, we're spring cleaning and we couldn't get all the scenery in. Richard Skinner: "But we've made with it with some excellent live bands in the studio. All of them. Kicking off with New Order. Playing live. Singing Live. With Blue Monday!"

[17] New Order: Blue Monday. Welcome to Easter 1983. Richard Skinner is very excited. Maybe it's the presence of the Easter Bunny (some poor audience cheerleader in a furry bunny suit, clutching a basket). Whatever the cause, Richard Skinner is peaking at approximately 0.75 Peter Powells (or 0.9 Cheggers for those of you who prefer imperial measurements). Despite his overuse of the word "live" it's not actually clear if this show is live. BBC Genome doesn't think so, and it seems unlikely that BBC1 would schedule two live editions back-to-back. New Order are definitely -and defiantly- live but they seem oddly subdued. You'd think they'd be over the moon at being allowed to sing and play live in studio but for some reason they seem almost embarrassed. Bernard Sumner is doing a remarkable job of hiding as much of himself as possible behind the microphone stand. Stephen Morris probably summed up this ramshackle performance best on Top Of The Pops: The Story Of 1983, "we made the cardinal error of looking like we were miming but actually playing it live."

30/03/2018

Ready Player One


It’s easy to forget just how many great movies Steven Spielberg has made, not just the iconic ones but the more serious ones and those that are perhaps less well remembered but still a good watch. I’m not sure yet which category Ready Player One will slot into but as if it needed being said is yet another hugely entertaining, visually strong and well composed film. While I feel there is something lacking overall it is frequently as breathlessly exciting as the virtual reality world it depicts. If you see it- and you should- find the biggest 3D IMAX screen you can!

Spoilers from here…

28/03/2018

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool


An unlikely sounding though true story of how Oscar winning actress Gloria Grahame fell for a younger actor from Liverpool called Peter Turner. Based on the latter’s book the film works up the slim story into something substantial by virtue of two excellent performances and some cinematic devices along the way. It’s the late 1970s and Turner is in London digs into which Gloria moves while starring in a play. Soon they become more than just friends, the large age difference seeming to make no difference as her zest for fun and his mischievous calm seem to meet in a perfect place. They bond initially over disco dancing and end up as lovers and more.

25/03/2018

Top of the Pops 23 March 1983


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "Well hello there fans and welcome to another Top of the Pops... sorry can we do that again Tony?" Tony [off camera]: "No". David Jensen: "No wait a minute, this is live. It's a live Top of the Pops tonight." John Peel: "Live?"David Jensen: "Oh dear... you know. Like we rehearsed it."John Peel: [mumbles]
David Jensen: "Across the nation tonight. Let's get on with it. Making their Top of the Pops debut tonight, never mind John, it's JoBoxers!"

[21] JoBoxers: Boxerbeat.  Yes Top of the Pops is live but on a Wednesday. The programme has been wrenched from its familiar Thursday night home and wedged unnaturally between A Question Of Sport and Dallas. Suddenly up is down. Ceilings are floors. Hats are shoes. I don't know what to think any more. Actually, Top of the Pops started on Wednesday 1st January 1964 and moved to Thursday in September of the same year. It was moved to Friday in April 1973, for apparently no better reason than BBC1 wanted to show The Virginian on Thursday night. Top of the Pops shuffled back to Thursday when that series of The Virginian ended in September 1973 and then moved to Friday again in September 1974 because BBC1 was desperate to show Chico and the Man to the nation. Evidently the nation didn't take to Chico and the Man because it was quietly moved to BBC2 in October and Top of the Pops returns triumphant to its ancestral seat where it stayed forever and ever and we all lived happily ever after (except for occasional moves to make space for the Olympics, or in tonight's case A Song for Europe). In summary; Top of the Pops has always been on Thursday except for the times it wasn't. Meanwhile, listen to the crowd chanting "beat, beat, beat," as the song starts. Surely The Look's lawyer was tempted to reach for his pen? And keep an eye on lead singer Dig Wayne. He is really chucking that microphone around. He drags it backwards. He pushes it forwards. He drags it backwards and pushes it forwards again. Each time it gets closer and closer to the front of the stage. Until finally, right at the end of the song, he lets it go and it tips forwards and tumbles off the stage.

23/03/2018

We leave personal data everywhere


Serious though the personal data breach from Facebook is, it represents the tip of a very big iceberg. If you look into it the fact soon becomes apparent that our personal data trail is left everywhere. From what we search, log into, register on to our credit / debit cards, deliveries, purchases to wherever we go with our smartphones. It would be possible to build an hour by hour picture of what a person did all day.  If the so called Internet of Things takes off then this will intensify so that anyone who made an effort could find out what was happening in your home even if you weren’t there.  This cannot be re-boxed; all we can do now is find a way to ensure it is reasonably safe. What makes it more frustrating for the public is that we have to go through an increasing number of ever more complicated passwords and set ups supposedly to protect our data when in fact it doesn’t seem to. 

18/03/2018

Call Me By Your Name


The buzz about this film it is so loud that if, like me, you missed it at the cinema you probably have overly high expectations as to what to expect. It is true that the narrative- adapted from Andre Aciman’s novel- doesn’t really tell a new story but it does tell the most important story. It is simply about two characters who unexpectedly fall in love but whose relationship can never really pan out. Not a new scenario by any stretch yet rarely is it portrayed with a minimum of associated melodrama and overstated movie-isms. 

16/03/2018

Top of the Pops 17 March 1983



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: "Hello, good evening, and welcome to Top of the Pops. The last time I was with you was just a few weeks ago. Tony, when were you last with us?" Tony Blackburn: "The last time I was here Vera Lynn was at number one in the charts, Gary." Gary Davies: "Well at number five in the charts at the moment it's Bananarama." Tony Blackburn: "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye."

[5] Bananarama:  Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye. Gary Davies is trying to make a hilarious joke, but the boring answer is that Tony Blackburn last appeared barely six months ago on the 30/9/1982 live edition for the 15th anniversary of Radio 1. Before that he really had been off for a while having last hosted a show on 05/04/1979. Unusually Gary Davies and Tony Blackburn are standing in front of the projector screen (on the left hand side of the main Top of the Pops set) rather than in front of the neon logo (on the right of the set) where hosts usually start the show. The reason for this change seems to be so that the Director can set up a shot that pulls back from the hosts to Bananarama. It also means we get a better than normal look at the DJ's exit routine. Davies and Blackburn both turn, place their microphones carefully on the floor, and then leave via the side of the set. During the Bananarama performance a studio microphone is left on and at various points someone (Floor Manager, Tony Guyan?) can be heard shouting instructions. "Get your hands down, is yelled at one point. Followed later by the contradictory, "wave your hands in the air." Make up your mind. Later there's "let me see you clapping, hands in the air," as, presumably, instructions come down from the Director that the audience aren't pretending convincingly to have fun. (John- And they were always careful the viewers never saw the electrodes)

14/03/2018

Ad Break #1 Dilly Dilly, Natalie Portman and U



An occasional series looking at ads of the moment.
Bud Light - “Dilly, Dilly”
The best thing for an ad campaign is that it contains a slogan or saying that sticks in people’s heads yet this can also be the worst thing if they don’t actually remember what the advert is for! Bud Light’s latest may be destined for such a fate as it’s tagline is much more prominent on the advert than the product. Though American Bud Light- a sort of weaker version of Bud – seems aimed at European markets with its medieval theme showing a banquet at which people bring gifts for the King in the form of packs of Bud Light. The King accepts these with a call of “dilly, dilly” which is then repeated by the assembled. However one man brings “honeymead” beer that he likes for which he is dispensed to the “pit of misery”. The campaign was created by the Wieden + Kennedy ad agency and launched last August to coincide with the season finale of Game of Thrones and there’s a second ad, not yet seen in the UK, that follows up the story in the Pit. A third ad set on a battlefield debuted at the Superbowl last month. 

11/03/2018

Papadopoulos and Sons



A feelgood movie about the recession sounds unlikely but this film, shot in just 40 days, is presented as such. Written, directed and financed by independent filmmaker Markus Markou it’s the story of millionaire entrepreneur Harry Papadopoulos whose plans to build a shopping precinct are derailed by financial woes to the point where he loses his fortune and even his mansion. His estranged wayward brother Spiros comes to the rescue with the idea that the family live and work with him reviving the fish and chip shop their parents used to run. Such a plot could be a serious –even tragic- film or a comedy of manners but Markou choses neither option. Instead he presents as realistic a scenario as he can on what is clearly a low budget. It’s more reminiscent of a TV drama than a big screen outing but has its heart in the right place.

07/03/2018

The return of milk bottles!



It’s funny how we’re often told that such and such a thing will be obsolete by a certain date and yet somehow it endures. Vinyl was a recent one; a seemingly moribund format that has enjoyed quite a revival in recent years. Now one of the most surprising rebounds turns out to be….milk bottles! You wot? Yes, milk bottles. For the past twenty years people in the UK have increasingly bought their milk in plastic containers from shops. It’s cheaper and more convenient because you can just chuck the container away in the recycling bin afterwards. However it now turns out that far too many of these plastic containers end up in the sea becoming a pollutant. None other than Sir David Attenborough, the nation’s wisest man warned in Blue Planet 2 about the harm caused by disposable plastic products and this has helped fuel large numbers of people reverting to having their milk delivered in glass bottles. It’s not just Sir Dave of course, the trend back towards glass bottles was already underway due to an increased awareness of the environmental dangers of plastic containers. 

05/03/2018

Top of the Pops 3 March 1983



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "Hello again. We're the joy boys of radio." David Jensen: "Chasing electrons to and fro." John Peel: "Welcome to another Top of the Pops. Lots of treats again this week including the Top Ten Video Show." David Jensen: "Our opening melody comes from Icehouse and Hey Little Girl."
[17] Icehouse: Hey Little Girl. The David Jensen/John Peel double act continues to develop. Tonight the pair are wearing jumpers with the others name on the front. Rather unfairly John Peel's jumper reads "Kid Jensen," when David (that's Mr Jensen to you) dropped the Kid moniker ages ago. In case you were wondering, that "joy boys of radio" comment is a reference to Ed Walker and Willard Scott of Washington D.C. radio station WRC. (John- Is Chasing Electrons a band? It’s a good band name)

04/03/2018

The Death of Stalin



Armando Iannucci’s inspired reading of real life events following the 1953 death of the USSR’s legendary leader boils down the power struggles that ensued amongst his Central Committee colleagues to a level roughly equivalent to student politics. With killing. The portrayal of the committee members reminds me of those US films about student council elections where vanity and greed is as much drivers as power and with a cast well versed in this sort of comedy the film can’t go wrong. That the Russians banned the movie suggests it hit closer to the truth than they might admit. That neighbouring countries followed suit also suggests that some the apparatus of intimidation employed back in the 1950s is still standing.


26/02/2018

American Assassin

This 2017 film doesn’t actually do anything especially new when it comes to films about exceptional undercover agents with a chip on their shoulder that makes them take untenable risks. The genre presents people who are a breath away from being superheroes except it’s all down to training and bravery rather than strange powers. So Mitch Rapp is the `hero` of what I discovered is a 16 book and counting series of novels created and originally written by Vince Flynn in a somewhat random order. American Assassin is actually the origin novel but was written and published following ten other books set afterwards! 

25/02/2018

Weather Or Not



So Britain is about to be hit by the so called “beast from the east”, a chunk of Siberian weather that will bring freezing temperatures, snow and ice. At the end of February! Who would have imagined it? Actually anyone would; it’s still winter and it was more unusual last year when we had very little wintery weather. Yet the imminent arrival of any weather other than calm, mild and settled seems to set off panic alarms amongst people while the country’s media fall over themselves to declare it as if they’re talking about the end of the world. Whether the weather is an “Artic blast” or a “tropical heatwave” one thing we can definitely be assured of is that it’s a “crisis” and – oh yes – there will be “chaos”.
An Arctic Blast. This bloke should be wearing a hat.

23/02/2018

Top of the Pops 17 Feb 1983



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "Hi folks! Welcome to Top of the Pops! Gary just give me two names of any bands that are on the show tonight." Gary Davies: [talking over Peter Powell, in a very unprofessional way] We've got Madness, Fun Boy Three..."

Peter Powell: " And Tears For Fears! And Haysi Fantayzee! Gary Davies: "And we're going to get underway with Wham! and Wham Rap!" Peter Powell: "Yes!"

[8] Wham!: Wham Rap! Peter Powell and Gary Davies dash off through the recently revealed secret DJ exit from the Top of the Pops set. Peter Powell, being the old hand, knows how to do this off camera. Gary Davies isn't quick enough. His exit can be witnessed at the back of shot. It looks like he's moving a little too fast for the shiny studio floor. He stumbles a bit. This is a breakthrough performance for Wham! Andrew Ridgeley finally gets a close-up (about two minutes into the performance). Proof positive that Top of the Pops now considers him half as important to the band as backing singers Dee C. Lee and Shirlie Holliman (keep up, Pepsi won't replace Dee C. Lee until sometime after Club Tropicana); who get two close-ups. For those keeping score Andrew Ridgeley's got some way to go before he's considered as important as the Greek chorus who get to say lines like "D.H.S.S." and "yeah." They get a mighty seven close-ups. A feature in the Smash Hits Personal File must follow soon.

18/02/2018

Black Panther



The cultural significance of this film could not be more pronounced as it serendipitously arrives while Hollywood is in the throes of a seismic upheaval. Behind the scenes behaviour – which the public knew little of – has now been publicly exposed amidst a welter of accusations. Whether all of them are true – or eventually upheld in the legal system- the fuse has been lit and there is no going back to those old ways. While it has been allegations of a sexual nature that have been at the core of recent events, the issue of representation has long been overdue a similar scrutiny.  It has often been referred to as representation of `minorities` but if you add up these so called `minorities` they outnumber the apparent majority considerably. Given this backdrop it seems a bit unfair to put so much expectation on a movie that is, after all, a fantasy adventure and also an ongoing chapter in a mega saga. There is a risk either that Black Panther will be lauded well above its actual quality or assessed too harshly for evidence of a narrative it was never going to have. Plus every Marvel film usually turns out to be either good or excellent. So, no pressure reviewing this one then! 
 

14/02/2018

Doctor Who The Invasion of Time



Season15@40. Up until the startlingly realised revelation near the end of `Utopia`, the most thrilling `live` moment of Doctor Who I can remember is when at the end of part 4 of `Invasion of Time` the Sontarans suddenly turn up. Just like that 2007 reveal I had absolutely no idea it was going to happen and even though I’ve seen it many times since it is still quite a moment.  Then again this is anything but a conventional story, even for this season. It takes risks, plays with the expected format and while far from perfect and rather too long, I prefer it to something more ordinary.

Essentially the story was penned by Anthony Read, with Graham Williams acting as script editor and the results are Holmesian if not Robert Holmes himself. The dialogue is often oblique with an intellectual polish that sometimes sits uneasily with the lumbering monsters and spangly effects. On first showing these conversations seemed difficult to grasp but on repeated viewings you appreciate the script’s clever, unusual approach. The script also scores with Kelner whose convenient acquiescing to every authority figure he’s faced with is fun to watch. 

11/02/2018

Top of the Pops 10 Feb 1983



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Janice Long: "Hello, good evening, and welcome to Top of the Pops. We're going to have a great time tonight. Aren't we Pat." Pat Sharp: "We certainly are Janice and, kicking us off at number 3, here's The Belle Stars and the Sign Of The Times." 
[4] The Belle Stars: Sign Of The Times. Pat Sharp gives Sign Of The Times a definitive article and an extra chart position. Still, it's a great song so I don't care. Thanks to The Belle Stars appearance in last week's Top 10 Video Show this is probably the first non-number one song to be played three weeks in a row on Top of the Pops. The opening shot of the performance is striking because someone -presumably Designer Graham Lough- has rigged the projection screen at the back of the set to display a coloured Moiré pattern (you might remember seeing one in Star Trek as part of Doctor Spock's science station). The entire picture is just a big close-up of Stella Barker and a shifting coloured background. It looks great but it's a surprisingly low technology effect.

09/02/2018

God's Own Country



Francis Lee’s deservedly awards laden debut film released last year is earthy in every respect yet more honest than many a bigger movie that might tell a similar story. There’s plenty of material here for sentiment or melodrama but Lee- who both writes and directs- never crosses that line right to the end. I’ve often wondered if such a story would work as well without the music cutting in just so to carry you along and the answer, in this case at least, is that it does. There is some music but it appears sparingly and dialogue is never tumbling out of people’s mouths. In that respect it suits its Yorkshire setting to a tee. Yorkshire folk seem to call a spade a spade but mostly they don’t say anything. And some subtle direction and excellent camerawork together with fantastic acting means they don’t necessarily have to.

05/02/2018

Hard Sun Episode 6



Episode 6: Written by Neil Cross / Directed by Richard Senior/ showing on BBC1 and available on the BBC iPlayer

Whatever it’s outward appearance Hard Sun has been about how far people will go to protect their family and this blistering final episode certainly amps that aspect up. It delivers another tense episode which heightens the fantasy element always lurking in the background but never to the detriment of the human drama playing out. The kind of dramas were you are persuaded to root for characters who have done bad things- check that list of what both Hicks and Renko have done in this series- are the best because they challenge your own perceptions of morality too. The episode makes us want their plan to work even though in a way they are just playing dirtier.

Spoilers past here

03/02/2018

Top of the Pops 3 Feb 1983



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David Jensen: "Evening and welcome once again to Top of the Pops." John Peel: "Hello admirers. We're the Torville and Dean of popular music. No actually he's Kid Jensen. He may not look like it but he's lots of fun." David Jensen: "Honest I am, but not half as much fun as Haysi Fantayzee who kick off with Shiny Shiny.
[36] Haysi Fantayzee: Shiny Shiny. John Peel and David Jensen might be overstating exactly how much fun they find Haysi Fantayzee. The host normally pretends to watch the act for at least 20 seconds before making an exit. John Peel and David Jensen dash off immediately. In fact they make a rookie mistake because they give away a previously secret DJ escape route. The pair turn stage right and nip off between two scenery arches instead of turning stage left, past the neon Top of the Pops logo, and walking down the edge of the stage like I expected. Singer Jeremy Healy performs an interesting conjuring trick with a guitar. He's suddenly holding a guitar, which he pretends to play with disdain, and casts it to the floor and it's gone in the long shots. It's probably handed to him, and subsequently picked up by the bloke who resembles Bob Geldof (from the back) who sticks his head right up into the middle of shot just before the first chorus.

29/01/2018

Hard Sun Episodes 4 & 5



Episode 4: Written by Neil Cross / Directed by Nick Rowland/ showing on BBC1 and available on the BBC iPlayer

In which Richard Coyle joins that pantheon of memorable television killers with a string of incidents that have quite an impact on the drama and the characters within it. Following on from the third episode, Blackwood’s reign of terror spreads to the point where the case is taken out of police hands and becomes a counter terrorism issue. All the way through what is a slower but equally tense episode, Blackwood’s presence is felt even when he’s not there. Neil Cross masterminds some audacious acts of violence that, while the camera rarely lingers too long, still have the capacity to shock. You do wonder how a writer can think of such things. 

26/01/2018

Top of the Pops 27 Jan 1983



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby: Simon Bates: "Welcome, welcome to Top of the Pops."

Richard Skinner: "Have we got a show for you today. Everything from Bauhaus to The Beatles." Simon Bates: "For example, here's Level 42 and their new single called Chinese Way."

[35] Level 42: The Chinese Way. The stage behind Level 42 is a mass of dancers whirling streamers, holding lanterns, and wearing silk tops and straw hats. Colour slides of Chinese scenes are projected on the screen behind the band. It's not giving me middle-class anxiety hiccups like Aneka did when she sang Japanese Boy surrounded by Legs and Co dressed as Geishas. It's a reflection of the grind of making weekly television that the costume and set designers tend to grab hold of the most obvious visual hook for a song. If Incantation are singing Cacharpaya then break out the wacky South American hats for John Peel and David Jenson to wear. It's probably just as well Men At Work never visited the studio. The stage would have been decorated with gum trees and jars of Vegemite, Mike Read and Andy Peebles would be wearing Sydney Opera House hats, there would be a hilarious visual gag involving turning the picture upside down, and some unfortunate dancer from Zoo would be dressed in a moth-eaten Koala suit. 
Level 42: "Seriously THAT is what you're wearing?"

24/01/2018

The first ever Doctor Who Convention



Doctor Who Conventions these days are held in vast arenas and gain national publiclity but it all started in somewhat more modest circumstances. On August 6 1977 the first ever UK Doctor Who convention was held at Broomwood Church Hall in Battersea. It was organised by Keith Barnfather on behalf of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society (aka DWAS) itself less than 18 months old. The event was simply titled Convention 77; the distinctive PanoptiCon moniker wasn't used until the following year. On the day it was pouring with rain; a convention tradition that became as familiar as long autograph queues and colour coded badges in subsequent years. Eager attendees can't have known quite what to expect and were greeted with a hall covered in photos from the show as well as entries for an art competition. At Star Trek cons these sort of participation events are part and parcel of proceedings but somehow they never really caught on in Who fandom despite this early enthusiasm.
The stage was dominated by the Tardis prop from the two 1960s films and a couple of Daleks as well. One of the traditions of early cons was to have a slide show which may seem a quaint practice today but don't forget that in the Seventies few had access to a video recorder and even if they had there were no old episodes available to the public to play. These presentations were nostalgic and, often, a particular slide would draw applause notably any of the older Doctors or of Roger Delgado which indicates that 70s fans enjoyed the show in a simpler and more open way. The pictures were accompanied by a soundtrack mixing extracts from the episodes with suitable music. There was also a props display featuring such creatures as an Exxilon and Aggedor. 

21/01/2018

Hard Sun Episodes 2 and 3



Episode 2: Written by Neil Cross / Directed by Brian Kirk/ showing on BBC1 and available on the BBC iPlayer
There’s probably not many occupations where you could almost beat a work colleague to death and then four weeks later still be working with them but this second episode sees Renko and Hicks investigating a new case whilst the cat and mouse games both over the Hard Sun scenario and the murder of Hicks’ previous colleague continue. The episode is bookended by two fantastically taut sequences, the first of which takes place immediately after the events of the first episode. Nikki Amuka-Bird’s poker faced MI5 hard nut Grace Morrigan is very much at the centre of events. Overseeing what is seen to be a ruthlessly efficient machine more reminiscent of the KGB, she comes to within a moment of having Hicks’ wife killed and the atmosphere is unbelievably tense. It’s a masterful sequence squeezed out to its full potential and delays the opening credits by some ten minutes.  

18/01/2018

Hard Sun Episode 1



Written by Neil Cross / Directed by Brian Kirk / showing on BBC1 and available on the BBC iPlayer
I’m not sure anyone’s tried to splice an apocalyptic (or as it’s been described pre-apocalyptic) drama with a police series before but I am sure that it’s a long time since the opening episode of anything matched the intensity of this. You’d probably have to go back to The Shadow Line for that.  Hard Sun seems to play by the same rules which are that you take the viewer one step at a time from something that seems routine and becomes more surreal as it goes. Whereas The Shadow Line chose to open with a very long atmospheric scene, Hard Sun on the other hand smacks you- and indeed its chief protagonist- in the face right away. And it never looks back.
Spoilers past this point.
 

14/01/2018

Top of the Pops 20 Jan 1983



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: "Hi. Good evening. Welcome to Top of the Pops. What a great show we've got for you tonight and what a way to start."
Janice Long: " It's with a band who've been together for a year. They come from Leighton Buzzard. It's their first appearance on Top of the Pops. It's Kajagoogoo. Too Shy."
[33] Kajagoogoo: Too Shy. Kajagoogoo, the subeditor's nightmare. Limahl has very eighties hair; bleached and spiked to perfection. The computer magazine Zzap!64 used to have little thumbnail sketches of the reviewers and Limahl looks like one of those come to life. I didn't have a Commodore 64 you understand. I was a proud Crash reader and Spectrum owner. I just used to glance at the magazine for a glimpse into a strange otherworld. A bit like sneakily trying to read Tammy in John Menzies. It's probably too late to complain but the lyrics really are nonsense. "Modern medicine falls short of your complaints/Try a little harder/You're moving in circles/Won't you dilate." You wot? (Wikijohn – The Kaj’s went on to have two more top 20 hits and an album `White Feather` before sacking Limahl and trying to carry on without him. `Lim`had a couple of hits including the title song to The Never Ending Story. The group briefly reformed in 2003 before fully getting back together in 2007 and technically are still going today!)

08/01/2018

Top of the Pops 13 Jan 1983



Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. [John Peel and David Jensen are both wearing Mexican mariachi hats] John Peel: "Hello. We're on a five pounds a man bonus for wearing these hats. Welcome to another Top of the Pops. We're the Burke and Hare of British broadcasting. I'm John, he's the likeable Canadian." David Jensen: "And this week we're going to kick off, amigos, with Incantation and Cacharpaya."

It's a new year on Top of the Pops. Michael Hurll (now credited with Production, rather than as Producer for some reason) has resurrected the dual presenter format. Wisely he's gone for two Radio 1 DJs instead of the terrible DJ plus guest format used in 1980 that gave us such combinations as Peter Powell and BA Robertson, or Tommy Vance and Roger Daltrey. Also different, weirdly, are the Top of the Pops titles. The 23/12/1982 edition introduced a modified version where the Top of the Pops logo was superimposed over the flying records rather than being on its own slide with a black background. This week we're back to the original film which strobes as it rapidly cuts between the logo and the records. Three editions of Top of the Pops have just been skipped by BBC4 and a quick check of Youtube shows all these (25/12/1982, 30/12/1982, and 6/1/1983) used the old titles. Was the new version done as a one-off technical demo, or did Michael Hurll hate it, or was it just lost in the Christmas hangover? Lets see what version gets used next week.

05/01/2018

Will we ever all use driverless cars?



It all sounds a bit weird. You get into a taxi and instead of there being a chirpy (or sometimes taciturn) driver there is just some sort of control panel. It is probably made of silver because we are after all in the future. You slide your all- purpose card into the slot and key in your destination and –whoosh- off the taxi goes. There is no driver at all, just technology whirring away which interacts with all the other driverless cars on the road in a seamless, traffic jam free ride. It sounds idyllic doesn’t it but think for a minute- would you really want to get into a car driven by a machine rather than a person?

03/01/2018

Doctor Who Underworld



Season 15@40 There it sits, unloved, at the foot of many a fan poll almost from the moment it was shown. It came bottom of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society series vote in 1978 and has remained rooted nearby ever since. With `Underworld` there is no leeway. It’s hardly even Marmite; in this case nobody likes it. So, why is this? Has anybody in fact really watched it? Well, I did. And do you know what? It’s the best Doctor Who story ever. Ok, I’m exaggerating but it is certainly not the disaster it is often described as. I think this may be the first time I’ve actually watched it properly because I saw things I’d not noticed before.