Playing with Fire

The Hunger Games film reviewed by John Newman

If you’ve ever been involved in a discussion about reality TV, you’ll know that someone will inevitably suggest that it won’t be long before contestants will be seen killing each other. Essentially that is the premise behind The Hunger Games. It is not an original idea but what make it prescient now is that it seems possible in a way that it did not to previous generations. The setting is in the future some times after a rebellion almost wiped out the United States. The authorities have since divided the people into Districts depending on the work they do and each year they must each provide two Tributes by random ballot from the ranks of their children who will battle to the death in the titular tournament. The whole thing is broadcast live, lapped up by the ruling elite who live in shiny cities and dress like 1980s New Romantics.


Blakewatch - Week 13 Orac

52 Weeks in The Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7.

This week: Season One Episode 13- Orac
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Vere Lorrimer
With most of the crew suffering from radiation sickness the Liberator races to Aristo in the hope Ensor can help but Servalan and Travis are already there seeking Orac.

After a run of strong stories, this last season one episode is rather disappointing by comparison as if both budget and inspiration are in short supply.  While the former is perhaps understandable, the latter is less so but director Vere Lorrimer seem unable to marshal anything approaching a flourish until the last section.

The crew were disappointed the box contained a super computer rather than sanwiches


Remoulding The Legend

Camelot, the latest version of the King Arthur legend, reviewed by John Newman
There are so many versions of the King Arthur legend that it runs the risk of being a story so familiar we can gain nothing more from it. This latest attempt to re-tell the story, titled Camelot, may have been made by an American company but it was filmed in Ireland and helmed by an English writer. Chris Chibnall, best known for his involvement with Law and Order: UK, the football drama United as well as both Doctor Who and its Torchwood spin off has fashioned a version of the venerable tale that approaches matters from an earthier angle in every respect.


Up-words - The Brothers Capek & Robotica

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

November 2003 (with amendments March 2012)
The Brothers Capek
by Oliver Wake

Josef and Karel ńĆapek were born the sons of a doctor in Bohemia, in 1887 and 1890 respectively. They both inherited their father’s keen intellect and from a young age harboured literary and artistic aspirations. Karel first demonstrated the political sensibility which would characterise all his work when only eleven years old, being expelled from school for writing for a secret student newspaper. He later completed his schooling in Prague before travelling to Munich with Josef to enjoy the city’s cultural highlights. Both started writing profusely at this time. Karel stayed on in Munich to study philosophy, enrolling on a university course that took him to Berlin and Paris. He graduated in 1915 and returned to Prague, narrowly avoiding conscription to fight in the Great War on medical grounds.


Blakewatch - Week 12 Deliverance

52 Weeks in The Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7.

This week: Season One Episode 12- Deliverance
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Michael E Briant
A stricken craft’s inhabitants escaping to an icy planet below lead to Jenna being captured by cave men, Avon declared a god, the Liberator hijacked again and Travis getting his job back. And all because of something called Orac…

"Yes, I do bring these walls with me wherever I go"
Unlike some previous episodes, the constituent elements of `Deliverance` are arranged well, allowing enough time for each to be fully explored. With a triple plot involving the Liberator being hijacked, the others on an icy planet and a couple of lengthy scenes between Servalan and Travis, there is plenty to engage.


Hats Off

Why don’t people wear a hat when it’s cold?
It’s a well known fact that we lose most of our body heat through our head yet when it’s cold these days most people still don’t wear a hat. Worse; they emerge from overheated buildings or cars without a hat which means they are moving unprotected instantly between temperatures that could be as much as 20 degrees apart which, at the very least, might give them a brain freeze.  Why do they do it? Aren’t they cold? Have they developed hair that acts like a thermos flask trapping the heat next to their skull?


Whites and Bells

John Connors reviews the documentary Way of the Morris
When a documentary opens with an invented creation myth involving a dancing fox and read to us in the sumptuous tones of Donald Sumpter and animated gorgeously by Elliot Dear you know you’re in for something special. Rather than explore what some might consider the `weird` world of Morris dancing either for laughs or some outsider’s attempts to understand it, writer / co-director Tim Plester’s beguiling film approaches the subject from a different angle.


Blakewatch - Week 11 Bounty

52 Weeks in The Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7.

This week: Season One Episode 11- Bounty
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Pennant Roberts
Blake and Cally try to persuade the exiled former President Sarkoff of the planet Lindor to return to his people. Meanwhile the Liberator is hijacked by bounty hunters.

`Bounty` would be easy to overlook being un-showy and home to alternate sequences of long dialogue followed by lots of running around in woods. Nonetheless it has plenty to recommend it not least TP McKenna’s suave performance as Sarkoff. Rocking a look that is half John Steed and half Jon Pertwee, the dapper ex-President has self esteem issues after his fall from grace and takes solace in his 20th century antiques collection.

"Fancy a butterfly sandwich?"  "Shush Sarko this tune is the nuts!"


Victorian Modern

Episodes 3-6 of the third series of Whitechapel

It’s interesting what you can do with the insides of houses to make them unsettling. After the previous story gave us someone dangerous hiding in passages between walls, the second tale (comprising episodes 3 and 4 of the season) unveils a grand old house stacked high with old furniture, fittings and traps. Metal wire strings together this bizarre interior and if you don’t notice it you’ll not only get a nasty wound but tons of stuff will fall on you. When Chandler and Miles begin exploring this strange labyrinth, it reminds you again how cleverly Whitechapel balances the line between intrigue and absurdity.

Muse look a bit different these days don't they?


Blakewatch - Week 10 Breakdown

52 Weeks in The Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7. Can we watch them all?

This week: Season One Episode 10- Breakdown
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Vere Lorrimer
When Gan’s limiter malfunction causes him to become a serious threat to the others, the only way to save him is XK72 facility. Despite Zen’s warnings they set off through a perilous uncharted area of space yet even when they arrive, there are new dangers from the supposedly neutral neurosurgeon they trust.

You know what it’s like.  You’ve been trundling around the Universe for months with only the same group of people for company spending your time pretending to pilot the ship while everyone else breaks into high security facilities. You’re bound to go a little stir crazy. Hence this episode opens with Gan hurling people around and generally off his nut! Actually it’s because his limiter, that pesky device designed to curtail his rage, is malfunctioning meaning he is rampaging about causing the sets to wobble. From this somewhat unpromising start `Breakdown` proves to be much better than you expect teasing out some of the crew’s inner thoughts and confirming what we already suspected regarding Avon.

"Vila, can you check if we need Julian Glover's autograph."  "Mmm, I want his watch"


Up-words - Doctor In Distress

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

Doctor in Distress - the Doctor Who cancellation crisis of 1985

May 2003 (with occasional 2012 edits)

by John Connors

The history of Doctor Who is littered with skirmishes and battles, none of which involve Daleks, Cybermen or that jackanapes The Master. In fact, given the creative and financial challenges and the cross departmental involvement it’s a wonder much got made at all but often the end result was achieved only after considerable stress and trouble. Right from the early days, it was a controversial programme within the BBC, whether due to inter departmental sniping over who should take ownership of it or the fact that the first producer was a young woman with little experience. This was the world of the early 1960s; male dominated and union controlled. With so much at stake it’s perhaps unsuprising that the series seemed to endure rather a lot of `6th floor` interference down the years. Ratings success with the Daleks may have ensured it’s shelf life exceeded the proposed 13 weeks, but there were to be many instances when it’s content was the source of internal strife and or public criticism. Even the pilot episode had to be remade when declared bobbins by BBC high ups.


Blakewatch - Week 9: Project Avalon

52 Weeks in The Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7. Can we watch them all?

Episode 9- Project Avalon
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Michael E Briant
Blake’s attempts to contact renowned resistance leader Avalon are thwarted when she is captured by Travis who has a plan to lure his nemesis into a trap.

"Well, this is just ridiculous.."
This story confirms that what we’d now call the `arc` episodes with Blake and co trying to do something against the Federation are more successful than the standalone ones like `Mission to Destiny` or `The Web`  which seem as if they could be slotted into any tv sci-fi series. It may eventually become repetitive watching people sneaking in and out of top secret locations but it is the kind of action that goes to the heart of what the series is about. `Project Avalon` choreographs its constituent elements very well, without the slack that has pulled on some of the previous episodes. It’s as if the production team have now worked out what sort of show Blake’s 7 is and how best to make it fly.