His Dark Materials Series 2 Episode 4 review

So just what is inside that tower that we keep getting mysterious glimpses of? In this episode we find out it’s veteran actor Terence Stamp and a crazy boy in pyjamas who has taken the subtle knife from Tezza to protect himself from the Spectres. And he doesn’t want to give it up easily. Much of this episode dwells on somewhat familiar sorts of mystical objects and venerable teachers that abound in literary and visual fiction. So while Will and Lyra finally discover a way into the Tower of Angels, Scoresby tracks down John Parry or as he is currently calling himself Jopari which sounds like his Twitter name! Some of the intrigue is drawn away from these encounters by an introductory sequence which explains it all to us before the characters learn about it but really it should happen simultaneously. So as the kids gawp at the Subtle Knife we already know all about it . Incidentally Terence Stamp aka Giacomo Paradisi pitches this role just right. The actor can do these sort of roles, which amount to extended cameos, with authority and it works a treat. 



Top of the Pops 7 &14 Nov 1985

Both shows reviewed by Chris Arnsby 07/11/1985
Steve Wright: “Yes!! Hello!! Good evening!! Welcome to another Top of the Pops!! With me and him!!.” Level 42!! Far Corporation!! And so many other bands tonight!!” Peter Powell: “For starters though we start off with one of the records that's one of the biggest selling in the world at the moment! Number one in five different countries! Number two in Britain! A-ha, Take On Me!”

[2] A-ha: Take On Me. Check out Morten Harket in his fashionable distressed denim jeans and leather band wrapped wrists. He looks very sharp, and so do his magnificently well defined cheekbones. There's not a lot to say about A-ha. This is a solid performance, I almost certainly watched it at the time and I would have been disappointed that Top of the Pops didn't show the video. On YouTube, you can find A-ha performing Take On Me on Saturday Superstore from April 1985; the songs second release in the UK when it reached the dizzy chart height of 154. It's worth a look just to see how pop music looked on BBC1 when it didn't have access to the full resources of Top of the Pops. The answer, a bit drab.



His Dark Materials Series 2 Episode 3 review

Sometimes when stories open up as they have to after their initial stages we veer off the main path into unnecessary side alleys but the impressive aspect of this story is that each of the plot strands is intricately connected to the others even if we don’t exactly know how. The mysterious Boreal makes a welcome return to the centre of things this week and remains an impressive presence in a series packed with them. His casual menace is matched by deeds this time as he uses his brief acquaintance with Lyra to steal the altheiometer. The way it is done is a bit clumsy but nonetheless sets up an impressive scene at the end of the episode. Arlyon Bakare is one of those actors who can make a point with economy and the character’s controlled ambition is a highlight in a week that ups the game for all concerned.



Space 1999 - The Mark of Archanon & Brian the Brain

The Mark of Archanon
A more thoughtful and considered episode akin to much of season one, `The Mark of Archanon` sees a rare exploration of the lunar underground by Alan Carter and hitherto unseen mate Bluey (who turns out to be called Johnson so I’m not sure where the nickname comes from). Quite why a pilot is undertaking this particular expedition is as odd as why Koenig and Maya have taken an Eagle to go on a space exploration- surely these tasks should be swapped? Perhaps they just decided to have a Do Something Different Friday. Anyway what Carter and pal find are two frozen alien beings who turn out to be alive. The viewer will have known that already as we spot them swaying while trying to stay still.



How to Build A Girl review

The trick to making a film about a writer is to visually enhance it or else you end up with too many scenes of people sitting at keyboards. This boisterous adaptation by Caitlin Moran of her own novel succeeds triumphantly in doing so with the superb direction of Coky Giedoryc and a sparkling cast to bring this “true-ish” story to life. In the Eighties bookish sixteen year old Johanna Morrigan yearns to escape her humdrum life in Wolverhampton where she resides in a noisy, crowded house and finds solace in great figures of the past. Pictures of them adorn her bedroom `God Wall` and spring to life to offer advice from their historical perspective. On the suggestion of her fanzine making music loving brother Krissi she expands her horizons into popular music about which she knows nothing and starts submitting gig reviews to one of the big music papers. When the staffers dismiss her polite scribblings she re-invents herself as Dolly Wilde, an outrageously styled critic who has no mercy.



His Dark Materials Series 2 Episode 2 review

A low key but frequently tense episode is packed with a certain amount of exposition that some may find drags but which does a good job in expanding the storyline and squaring some circles. With last week’s cliffhanger unresolved- just what did happen with that looming Spectre?- Will takes Lyra to his Oxford for an extended trip that sees them become more proactive trying to solve the mysteries. On the advice of the alethiometer Lyra finds a “scholar” courtesy of the picture on her office door. 




Who lives in a TikTok House?

Decades ago people thought The Beatles lived in a house together because they were seen co-habiting in one of their films. More recently the contestants in series like The Apprentice or The X Factor shared a house yet only for the duration of whatever reality show they were in. Now though social media influencers are actually properly sharing a house all in the cause of TikTok. If, like Claudia Winkleman and I, this platform is something you view with bewilderment or whether you are TikToking away regularly the idea of actually moving in with fellow TikTokers seems a bit bizarre. It’d be like deciding to live with five other people you work with.


The Wave House TikTokers


Top of the Pops 31 Oct 1985

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Janice Long: “Hello. Nice to see you. It's Top of the Pops.” Simon Bates: “Hello, welcome, it's Elton John's video a little later on but we've got a cast of thousands over here. Have a look. Feargal Sharkey and A Good Heart at number twelve.” 

[12] Feargal Sharkey: A Good Heart. I've written before about my pathetic claim to fame, that in 1997/98 I worked in an office* next to Feargal Sharkey. (John- Was he just stood outside the building then? Or was there a Feargal Sharkey Office dealing with the world’s Feargal Sharkey things?) I would once again like to apologise for the fact that he had to work in the vicinity of a room full of ignorant 20 year olds who knew nothing of Teenage Kicks, or The Undertones, but who used to quietly sing A Good Heart in quavery voices after he'd been spotted in the lift. Tonight, Halloween the most evilest night of the year, Simon Bates can only speak the truth. Feargal Sharkey's stage is indeed packed; there's Mr Sharkey himself, three backing singers, a keyboard player, two drummers, and a saxophonist who appears to have jammed a torch down the bell of his instrument.


His Dark Materials Series 2 Episode 1 review

The opening episode of this second season is something of a slow burn affair which courtesy of a lengthy prologue and a whole new locale might bombard newcomers with just a bit too much information. The issue with the lengthy reprise at the start is it tends to overwhelm the viewer in one crowded rush. Better to gradually call back than dump it all at the start I’d say especially as the episode is slower than most were last year and therefore could have been designed to contain flashbacks at different junctures. Some of the clips included are not particularly relevant to this episode so could have been left aside altogether. The one key thing the scenes don’t really show is the full horror of what happened to Roger and why which informs Lyra’s mood as the second series dawns. The episode boasts high production values with the impressive city set as well as plenty of airships and a speedy attack on the Magisterium’s submarine but is generally light on action and more focused on atmospherics. 



Space 1999 - The Rules of Luton

After 892 days Alpha has only got as far as Luton? You’d imagine that some of the British contingent on the show would have pointed out the name was well known over here for its association with hats, cars and an airport. In fact we’re on the planet Lu-ton as it is pronounced where the judges are trees and anyone caught picking flowers or eating berries is subject to the traditional tv sci punishment of trial by combat. Star Trek did something similar back in the Sixties which even had the same denouement (though not the trees). By a bizarre coincidence the following month after this episode first went out, Doctor Who saw the Doctor battling a foe in a wasteland environment. With this sort of affair it is tricky to get the tone right. How do you make what is essentially two parties chasing each other round scrubland interesting when they can’t properly meet till the final ten minutes? Additionally they are shorn of the usual tech and have to resort to making things out of whatever is about, eating berries and making catapults.


The episode features a guest spot from The Bee Gees.


Top of the Pops 24 0ct 1985

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Dixie Peach: “Good evening and welcome to another edition of Top of the Pops and tonight, as usual, we have a great line up for you. Live in the studio we've got Jan Hammer and Level 42.” (John- Slight contradiction there, Dix, mate)  Mike Smith: “And we start tonight with a man who's been living for this night ever since he was a kid, will you welcome with St Elmo's Fire at number six, John Parr.”
[6] John Parr: St Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion).
Tonight's Top of the Pops (retrieved from the Sutton Hoo horde https://mega.nz/folder/h0snQACa#uiNNqosfbdrfzODHsE1clw) is quite bad for the eyes. It's a digital conversion of an off-air VHS copy. It turns out that if you want to be really cruel to an MPEG encoder you should force it to convert something with massively variable light levels, rapid camera moves, and lots of smoke and fine detail. (John- Honestly I have no idea what he is talking about here!) Throw in Mike Smith's suit, charcoal grey with a sort of tartan pattern overlay, and a VHS tracking error at the bottom of the screen (how nostalgic), and it's probably a miracle this edition exists at all; frankly I'm amazed it wasn't rejected by the internet.