Wizards vs Aliens: Is It Magic?

Russell T Davies and Phil Ford’s new children’s series Wizards vs Aliens has potential despite an uneven first adventure.
 Russell T Davies returns to the place where he started his television writing career with this new CBBC show. Born out of difficult personal and professional problems, Wizards vs Aliens gainfully employs many of the behind the scenes personnel who worked on The Sarah Jane Adventures, with which it is inevitably going to be compared. Unlike that series however, Wizards vs Aliens does not have the protection or heritage of a much loved classic parent show and must stand (or fall) solely on the basis of its own merits. This could be advantageous allowing the writers a clean sheet or it could mean lack of publicity – or even anticipation- will be problematic. Davies has stated how he had to pitch the idea far harder than SJA and it is hoped this will give the new series a rigour it might otherwise lack. As if to buffer themselves from any early doubts, two seasons worth of episodes have already been planned. On the basis of  Dawn of the Nekross`- and bearing in mind debut stories rarely personify a subsequent season- the jury is still out but erring on the positive.

Gran's scarf was a problem in high winds


Royal Blood: Games of Thrones season one

Games of Thrones season one puts the realism back into fantasy.
For those without either Sky Plus or a lot of spare time, TV series flow by without us ever knowing much about them unless people start recommending them.  The more who shout, the more chance that the rest of us will check out what the fuss is about. There is an inevitable buzz about some shows and few currently burn brighter than Game of Thrones. Many who have seen it wax at length about its brilliance while some don’t like it at all. This polarising of opinion usually means there is something worth watching so I recently took in the first season over the space of a week or so. There are only ten episodes, so it is not the sort of investment you need to make when approaching a 22 part series. The question is did the series live up to its reputation?


Cockneys vs Zombies: A Good Match?

Cockneys vs Zombies. Wonder what that film is about then?
We’re going head to head
With the undead,
You can fill ‘em full of lead,
But they won’t stay dead.
Sometimes simple ideas are the best. With a title like Cockneys vs Zombies you know exactly what you’re going to get. It was a working title as it goes but everyone liked it so much and it seemed to sum up the film better than any other one they could think of. From an original idea by London based director Matthias Hoene the script is penned by James Moran and Lucas Roche who turn a simple idea into something that is vibrant, funny and entertaining. A zomedy if you will. Gawd bless ‘em as a Cockney might put it.


Blakewatch: 52 Weeks of Blake's 7. Week 43- Stardrive

Season Four Episode 4- Stardrive
(1981) Writer: James Follett / Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot
The search for a better way of powering the Scorpio brings the crew to where renowned scientist Dr Plxton the inventor of the powerful stardrive is based only to find she is working for the notorious Space Rats.
You’ve got to hand it to Paul Darrow. Whatever nonsense is going on, however absurd the scenery, he just carries on yelling at people, shooting people and generally acting as if he is having the time of his life. Nothing can detract him from taking this all very earnestly. Not even face painted, hedgehog haired bikers it seems. Retrospectively it is claimed his tongue was firmly in his cheek throughout but I don’t believe a word of it. It is perhaps only his commitment to an episode that is either being dreary or ramshackle that sells it to the uninvolved viewer.



CBBC's Leonardo gets serious in season 2

Leonardo season 2 Episodes 3 -6
After the opening 2 parter suggested that Leonardo was going to continue at the same level as the first series, a drop in form across the next three raises some doubts before episode 6 sees a dramatic return to form with one of the series' best episodes yet. `Dragon Hunt` gets down to business with some intent. Conned into helping a stranger track down a golden dragon, Leonardo is led outside the city and into trouble while the injured Duke of Florence is brought to the Medici house.


On The Bake

The Great British Bake Off is a most unexpected success story
You wouldn’t imagine a television baking contest getting noticed especially after a decade of a relentless slew of cookery related programmes. I remember watching the first episode in 2010 and imagining the show would vanish after the one series. And yet I watched the next week too.  And the one after that. Two and a quarter years on, TGBBO is BBC2’s top show with 7.2 million viewers (yes you read that right) watching the final. Next year it is rumoured to be moving across to a prime time slot on BBC1. Why you’re asking? What is so special about some people baking?
"Keep smiling, Mary, I've got a large loaf under the table"


Blakewatch: 52 Weeks of Blake's 7. Week 42: Traitor

Season Four Episode 3- Traitor
(1981) Writer: Robert Holmes / Director: David Sullivan Proudfoot
Trying to discover why so many colonies are suddenly falling under Federation control, the Scorpio crew investigate Helotrix where they find a new mind altering drug is causing mass compliance and they also encounter an old enemy.
The old enemy is Servalan by the way but that probably wasn’t a surprise even in 1981 and she turns up sporting a disco outfit which threatens to engulf her. This may be because with Servalan presumed dead she is masquerading as Commander Sleer though you’d have thought that with the high recognition factor and outrageous dress sense she would be instantly recognisable to everyone. As it is she has to kill anyone who does spot her true identity and disguise her voice so it sounds like Servalan with a sore throat. We learn she has despatched 26 people who have so far recognised her; the mystery is why it is not more. You can imagine the chaos if she were to enter Waitrose!
The General was unimpressed by the latest iPhone



The film of the cult book The Perks of Being a Wallflower is witty, involving and surprisingly life affirming.
It seems an odd way to open a review but some of you won’t like this film one bit. Indeed you might already have concluded as much if you’ve seen it. Its the sort of film that appeals either to people who are going through the things the characters are going through, in other words as Emma Watson gave as one of her reasons for taking a role: “I think the movie can prevent someone from killing themselves.” Or it appeals to those of us who still treasure those special moments that define our younger lives. Oh and anyone who likes action will be rather disappointed to discover the film’s big fight is blacked out and we never see it because the main character doesn’t remember it. OK, now all those people have gone we should be left with those for whom this film means a lot, whether because they identify with it or simply because it is a brilliant film.


Merlin season five- Arthur's Bane

After a triumphant season four, Merlin opens its fifth season with the two part `Arthur’s Bane`
The phrase `darker than ever` that is often used to advertise new series seems appropriate for an opening 2 part story that is a long way from the earlier seasons. Merlin is definitely pitching at an older demographic now which is not to say it has lost its charm, simply that is developing. At times during the first three seasons it seemed as if such growth was going to be very slow and steady. Given the way TV shows come and go we might never even get to see the Round Table. Yet season 4 was a revelation as the show broke free and began to utilise a potential only previously hinted at. The reward was its best ratings even if it had to tussle with The X Factor and now a fifth season that we hoped but in truth never imagined it would reach.

"Look at me- I am evil even on my way to Sainsburys"


The return of Red Dwarf


Red Dwarf is back for its first new episode in over three years.
Words: Will Barber

Red Dwarf was last on British television back in 2009. `Back to Earth` had rather mixed reviews to say the least. It was seen to be too serious, too complicated and nothing like “The old Red Dwarf”. Opinions seem to have changed since then. Red Dwarf triumphantly returned to our screens and it was very much like the old Red Dwarf. Indeed, it was the same old funny Red Dwarf from around series one to three. However, I have to admit to being a tad disappointed that it is almost like Red Dwarf has returned to factory setting.


Blakewatch: 52 Weeks of Blake's 7. Week 41 - Power

Season Four Episode 2- Power
(1981) Writer: Ben Steed / Director: Mary Ridge
Trapped in Dorian’s base unable to reach the Scorpio, Avon and co become involved in the conflict between the planet’s two races, the male Hommiks and the female Seskas..
 Never the series’ deepest writer Ben Steed appears to be attempting to chronicle the battle of the sexes with `Power`. However his somewhat bland conclusion that men are strong and women weak offers nothing to add to the debate and stereotypes that even in 1981 would seem out of date. The men are all long haired, big bearded warriors, the women are servants with telekenisis and perfect hair. You wonder how it happened and what Steed is trying to say, if anything. The women are clearly really quite powerful yet they have been captured by means of sacks and metal clamps. Perhaps this is how Ben Steed views marriage!

"Guys, shall we not bother with one and try the pub?"


Is Looper as clever a film as it thinks it is?

Rian Johnson’s new film Looper is a fresh take on time travel stories.
Looper is more than just the name of the film and job title of the main character, it also reflects the nature of the story. Any time travel based plot provokes post cinema discussions on exactly what happened if that happened if he was… etc. Looper is not as complex as the notoriously knotty Twelve Monkeys though and takes at least some of its cues from the Terminator franchise. Its circuitous storyline is well organised by writer / director Rian Johnson and presented in a relatively linear style. There are clues but they are well signposted and the film never becomes so clever that it stops being exciting. Somehow Johnson has managed to mix the adrenalin and the cerebral in an absorbing mix.
Warning- Spoilers in the rest of the review


Blakewatch - 52 weeks of Blake's 7 - 40: Rescue

Season Four Episode 1- Rescue
(1981) Writer: Chris Boucher / Director: Mary Ridge
Avon, Vila, Dayna and Tarrant are able to escape from Terminal courtesy of a supposed scrap merchant Dorian and his stolen ship the Scorpio. However Dorian turns out to be much more than he claims.
This is a hit and miss episode with honours even by the end. On the plus side, Chris Boucher works in a story that riffs on A Picture of Dorian Gray replacing that tale’s painting with a monster that lurks deep below the surface feeding on unsuspecting victims brought to the planet and somehow keeping Dorian the same age. Yes, it sounds good in writing but you suspect Boucher would be slightly disappointed by the realisation. For the monster is no less than a Sea Devil from Doctor Who (nine years later) and is reached by the same BBC spiral staircase that the latter and several other programmes of the day used. As for Dorian’s behaviour when the rejuvenation is occurring; this consists of the actor writhing around in dry ice. Turn the sound down (and please do) and it could be Top of the Pops!

During the early 1980s, budgets were cut at the BBC and actors forced to eat lunch outside


Why Monroe is great TV drama

Monroe Season 2 Premiere episode
You wouldn’t imagine a series about surgeons would be any good or you might think it would be too dark or that it might topple over into soap opera. Chances are in most cases it would. Yet with a similar dexterity with which the title character of ITV’S Monroe operates, so writer Peter Bowker and company have managed to construct a series that avoids all of the above mentioned traps. Returning for a second season the series is a refreshing take on well worn subjects and what’s more it is surprisingly involving and life affirming.

Before starting work, the hospital staff always took time to play statues


The Power of Two

Will Barber reviews the final Amy and Rory episode `The Angels Take Manhattan`
The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in New York only to find that the whole city has been taken over by the Weeping Angels. Rory soon gets zapped back in time to 1938, where he meets his daughter, River Song who is also investigating the Angels. The Doctor and Amy must race across time and space to find Rory before `The Angels Take Manhattan`.