Up-words - Crossing the Boundaries

Up-words- The Best of the Paper Issues of This way up 2002-10
May 2002

In the television schedules, there are some timeslots that are synonymous with certain kinds of programming. Channel controllers may ramble on and on about how this isn't the case and their output is diverse and varied blah blah blah etc, but there is no escaping the fact that, by and large, they tend to put the same genres in the same timeslots. If it's on between eight o'clock and nine o'clock at night and lasts for either fifty minutes or an hour, chances are it will be a detective series aimed squarely at a mainstream audience. Similarly, if it is supposed to be shown in a ridiculously unsuitable early evening or late night timeslot but instead ends up being shunted wildly around the schedules to make way for Championship Snooker or Crown Green Rowing, then chances are that it is a popular telefantasy series with a loyal and sizeable audience (who, so the schedulers would appear to believe, are available to watch television at any given hour of the day on the off-chance that their favoured programme might actually end up being shown at some point). Sadly, while science fiction, fantasy and mainstream audiences were once virtually inseparable in the world of television, they are now kept segregated as widely apart as possible, and on current evidence it would seem that most people in the industry wouldn't even have nightmares about combining them. Yet not so long ago, the BBC did attempt to combine them. Back in 1992, with a suitable flourish of publicity, they launched an impressive and highly enjoyable series named "Virtual Murder", which on face value seemed likely to win over mainstream and cult audiences alike. So, in that case, how come it still isn't pulling in huge viewing figures to this day? Well, in all honesty, that's almost as puzzling a mystery as the ones that were investigated in the series itself.


Blakewatch - Time Squad

52 Weeks in a Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7

Episode 4- Time Squad
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Pennant Roberts
Blake’s plan to attack the Federation’s key communications centre on Saurian Major is diverted to pick up a small spaceship whose centuries old inhabitants are cryogenically frozen. As the others transport down to undertake the mission, Jenna and Gan are left on the Liberator to battle the now awakened aliens.

It’s interesting how perceptions about an old programme prove not to be the case. Having not seen most of these episodes since they were originally broadcast when we were all much younger and more easily impressed, I’d always thought that Jenna was a boring character there to do little more than decorate the set while Vila was a witty, cool addition to the crew. Watching `Time Squad`, this is certainly wrong at this stage of the series development.

Cally spots some paint drying


A Different Sort of War

Can Steven Spielberg’s film version of War Horse win its spurs?

It’s only because the First World War was nearly a hundred years ago that we can approach it in the way that War Horse does. Sad though the treatment of animals during the conflict was it pales into irrelevance when you consider the human cost. Distance allows us to embrace other sorts of war stories though, just as we do for conflicts of an even older vintage. Also, it is worth remembering that War Horse is a children’s book so as a way of introducing younger people to the horrors of war, you can see the importance of Michael Morpurgo’s story.  So critics who mock the idea that war is being sanitised by the story or in particular by this film should really know better. True, there is no blood, the moments where people are killed cleverly disguised and the entire narrative has the glossy sheen of family friendly entertainment but the message is there strongly enough.

"The catering truck's open!"



The Best of This way up on paper 2002-10


Introduction by John Connors

It really is a whole ten years since the first issue was written and produced which is amazing. It’s flown by very quickly. By the time This way up was launched in early 2002 I’d already been editing fanzines for quite a long time but the landscape had changed. Instead of rival paper zines competing for readers, most fan activity had migrated online in the form of message boards, blogs and websites. However the content of many of these was very similar to paper based zines except not usually as thorough or well written.

My theory was that if a paper zine could beat the blogs and websites in quality, the fact that it couldn’t match the speed or interactivity would not matter to the proportion of fans that preferred to read more considered material. In order to level the playing field further I also decided to offer the zine free. This was something that had not really been done before mainly because it means the editor having to pay for the printing costs. Luckily these were falling relatively year on year. The idea was that you could request a particular issue or be added to the mailing list to receive all issues.

By the end of the last decade it was becoming obvious that online articles were now as good as ones in paper zines, in fact I was amazed by how quickly perceptive in depth pieces were being posted within 24 hours of broadcast or release. A new generation of writers had grown up without the space to refine and re-edit their work making the idea of regular `issues` redundant if they were trying to compete with up to date online formats.

So in 2009 we started a dual format; still producing a paper version for people who wished to receive it but also having the issue available in PDF format from the Live From Mars website. In truth, this was only ever a temporary fix and after a few issues solely as PDFs, in 2011 This way up moved into this current format which allows new material to be uploaded quickly while retaining something of the feel of a zine.

The other main aspect of the zine from the start is that while starting with a proportion of Doctor Who content this would gradually be phased out to fulfil the remit of covering things not well served by the professional media. This was all going well until the 2003 announcement of the series’ return which meant a change of direction albeit a welcome one.

Up -words is a new series that starts this week and will run throughout our tenth anniversary year interspersed between regular posts. I’ll be selecting what I consider to be the paper zine’s `greatest hits`. I’ve tried to include the articles or reviews that generated the most response or which I feel are the most interesting, different or accomplished. There may be some issues not represented at all and lots from other issues. I’ve left them in the context they were written so you can see how accurately (or not) we predicted trends.

Watch out- it's starting very soon!



Season One Episodes 1-3

There are 52 episodes of Blake’s 7 and there are 52 weeks in a year. Our challenge is to watch one episode each week of 2012. Can it be done? Will it dispel some of the myths that have grown up around the series? Does Avon really say “let’s go” every episode?
One proviso. This is not, by any stretch, a proper episode guide and if you’re the kind of person that takes Blake’s 7 seriously you might not agree with the tone. What it is are observations, theories and comments on each episode based partly on pub conversations. What better way to celebrate the, erm, 34th anniversary of the start of the show.

Inevitably then, let’s go…



Best of Enemies

Can the much anticipated showdown between Holmes and Moriarty possibly live up to expectations? Do you really need to ask!

A hat trick? Of course! If Steve Thompson’s first season episode is considered the weakest of the three that’s only because the other two are so good.  This time he gets the season finale and `The Reichenbach Fall` once again changes tack from its predecessors but is their equal in every way. Filled with devilish asides, clever and most unexpected developments and at its core three fascinating characters portrayed by a trio of actors at the top of their game it is nigh on perfect. Plus it leaves us with a great big mystery to chew on at the end.

SPOILERS- Go no further till you’ve seen this episode!


Misfits Moving On

Season 3’s second half saw some stories drawing to a close...

The second half of the series sees the show take on the familiar genres of both zombies and ghosts in separate episodes giving something of an interesting and irrelevant spin on them. The zombie episode is the most straight forward, outrageously fun episode of the show so far. The scenario does recall the gory humour of the first season with bodies everywhere, lots of running about and wise cracking. It’s a glimpse of what the show has lost to some extent. Director Will Sinclair pulls all the expected tricks out of the bag to good effect – especially involving the cat- but it’s the actors that sell it.

Just an average sort of day for the Misfits...


Ideal Holmes

On the trail of `The Hounds of Baskerville`

We’re only in the second week of 2012 and both main terrestrial channels are running big adverts about original drama but the bar has already been set. It would indeed be surprising if many of the other series being touted can match Sherlock’s stellar second season. Last week it was sexual shenanigans, suggestive twists and blink and you miss it turns, now we have something else.

Sherlock and John are surprised by Mrs Hudson's choice of wallpaper


Brilliant Minds

After the brilliant first series, could Sherlock get any better?

Genius at work. And that could apply equally to Sherlock Holmes or to Steven Moffat. We’ve waited the best part of eighteen months to discover just how the cliff hanger to the first series of Sherlock is resolved and inevitably the suggestion has been that a second season might somehow disappoint, that the first series’ powerful mixture of inscrutable Englishness, modern tech and character based interaction was a fluke. Not a bit of it. `A Scandal in Belgravia` is the best Sherlock yet, packed with pin sharp wit, clever plot twists, intriguing characters and some excellent editing tricks to pull us through. It is the best thing Steven Moffat has ever written for TV, it is seriously that good. What a way to start the New Year!

"I think I used too much wallpaper paste."