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. 


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?"


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. 


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.  


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.


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!)


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.


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?


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.