Thursday, 30 September 2010

Review: Blackadder: The Cavalier Years

"Baldrick, your brain is like the four-headed man-eating haddock-fish beast of Aberdeen. It doesn't exist."

I post so rarely nowadays, Blackadder is a nice treat. The Cavalier Years was a Comic Relief Special, set in the period after the English Civil War. It had its own Edmund, its own Baldrick and a low budget, reusing sets from Blackadder III. Steven Fry also stars as Charles I.
     Atkinson doesn't really get much oppurtunity to develop this Blackadder, but through his efforts, he can be seen as a cross between Blackadders II and III - constantly pandering to their monarch, but at the same time outwitting them in a near-murderous fashion. It marks a progression between the two, and I like watching this between those two series. Fry's Charles I is also a good character design, although it's a clear pastiche of the current Prince of Wales - and a good one, at that.
     The plot basically surrounds Blackadder trying to avoid the Roundheads and save Charles' life. Baldrick accidentally becomes his excecutioner in the process. The episode was for an audience already accustommed to the with of Series II and III, and so it's packed with brilliant one-liners (see quote).
     Overall, it's funny, and that's what matters. It acts as a decent enough homage to that particular era, and its Blackadder III ideas makes it a great piece to watch beforehand. On Saturday, I go forward a few hundred years to a Butler, E. Blackadder Esquire, in Blackadder III.


Monday, 27 September 2010

Review: Merlin 3.3: Goblin's Gold

Distinguished Actor and Comedian, Richard Wilson.
"Merlin! What have you done?" - The Continuity Announcer for BBC1

When I saw the trailer for this episode, laden with ridiculous, childish humour, I was horrified. So early in the series, and Merlin was making a misstep that I fear could never be fixed. Then I watched the episode. It wasn't as bad as I feared, but it still didn't rise to the standards of Series Two. While it did stroke the mythology once in a while, the incursions were brief, and mostly the episode was mindless filler.
     Merlin goes to fetch a book for Gaius, and in the porcess finds a secret room. In the room, he accidentally releases a Goblin from its lead cage, which then goes about vandalising the castle and playing pranks. Yeah, because this series of Merlin is so much darker in tone. When Merlin and Gaius get round to trying to catch the Goblin, it possesses Gaius and makes him become a straight-talking, rude prankster who likes to lick gold coins. Among his escapades are:
  • Making Uther bald
  • Telling everyone about how Merlin is a wizard. (Unfortunately reversed by the end.)
  • Making everyone in the throne room flatulate. (The real down point of this episode.)
  • Burping loudly.
  • Insulting knights and getting hideiously drunk.
  • Exorcising money from the townspeople by selling fake potions.
  • Scaring Morgana.
  • Giving Arthur the ears and voice of a donkey.
Regardless, the status quo (or whatever seems to be reminiscient of that in Series Three) is restored by the end of the episode. While the episode wasn't the train wreck I imagined it to be, one still has to consider the sparse amount of influence it actually had on the overall plot. This felt more like a Series One episode - but it shouldn't. It really shouldn't, not at this stage.
     Series One of Merlin was battling, in spirit, with the other Doctor-Who filler Robin Hood. They both had medieval fantasy based off of a British myth, but Merlin was still finding its feet and thus Hood proved more popular. When the already shoddy Robin Hood declined in its third series (as we witness here) Merlin's second series became high-quality entertainment. And now it seems to have snapped back to the first series again. Why? It can't be budget, because it's got the highest budget the show has ever had.
     Merlin needs to pull its socks up if it's going to get anywhere with the already stunted mythological side of things. Next weeks' episode looks like even more filler.


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Invasion

1969. The Invasion is a powerful story, and it's also a long one - it's eight episodes and 200 minutes leave plenty of time for the slow-burning thriller to mature. While one would think that this length could bore viewers, Invasion manages to keep one's attention for all three and a half hours....
     Tobias Vaughn is the head of International Electromatics, which controls all of the world's electronic goods. He and his secret police control areas of housing and have sites all over the world. When The Doctor arrives, with Jamie and Zoe in tow, they seek out their old friend Proffessor Travers, to help them fix some of the TARDIS' circuits. Instead, his collague Professor Watkins has moved in in Travers' absense - but now even he has gone missing. As The Doctor and Jamie explore IE and their plot to control the world, they also meet UNIT, led by the Doctor's friend The Brigadier (who would later star in episodes with UNIT until the show's final series in 1989). By the half-way point in the story, it is revealed that Vaughn's allies are a very early form of the Cybermen.
     The most interesting thing in this episode is definitely Tobias Vaughn. Kevin Stoney does a wonderful job in creating Vaugn's silent megalomania, and his overall sense of authority from the word go. The tone of the story is also quite dark, despite there not being many particularly dark things in it.
     Like The Moonbase, two episodes of The Invasion are missing - Episodes 1 and 4. However, an extra slice of budget for animator group Cosgrove Hall (who had created non-canon Scream of the Shalka and later went on to broadcast the canon Infinity Quest) meant that they, using photographs and sound recordings, were able to recreate the lost episodes. And they fit rather well; in some places I think they work rather better than the filmed episodes, with much more of a dark tone and feel.
     So, to sum up, The Invasion is a triumph. Well written, well directed by Douglas Camfield, and it's a tense, slow-burning sci-fi thriller that is well-worth the time and money spent on it.


Friday, 24 September 2010

Review: The Resistance, Revisited

The Resistance, Muse (2009)

Times change. Opinions change with them. Long-term readers of the site will remember my earlier review of The Resistance. It was a little confused; half-way through the review, I suddeny started to love the album. To clarify the issue, I present to you this review.
     The Resistance is the latest in British indie-rock band Muse's repetoire of albums, and in my opinion it is by far the most immersive album. It has long been said that art can take one to another world; mentally, of course, Muse succeeds here where many others have failed.
     So what is the secret to the sheer number of great hits on this album? Three things. The first is continuity. Each song has a distinctive sound and yet blends in with the ones around it. The second are the instruments involved. As well as having brilliant rock, Muse blend classical music into their pieces, taking the best from both and making something that feels both enjoyable and emotional to listen to. The third are the lyrics, which are powerful yet appropriate, stirring and yet silently witty.
     Yes, this was just an excuse for me to gush over Muse, but that's my point. A line in my first review said that you had to concentrate. I now believe that the opposite is true. If you can sit back and listen to the music, without expecting anything of it, then The Resistance will blow you away. Get caught up in the hype, and you may be a little too ready to enjoy it.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Overview: Blackadder II

"It isn't every day a man wakes up to find that he's a screaming bender with no more right to live on God's clean earth than a weasel. Ashamed of yourself?" - The Apocathary, Bells

After The Black Adder, the budget for the series was cut due to low viewing figures. Changes had to be made, and anyone that's read my Red Dwarf reviews will understand why they were for the better. More focus on writing and continuity made the show completely different - and certainly more laugh-out-loud that its predecessor. The series was now written with Ben Elton instead of Rowan Atkinson, and the loss of his slapstick nonsense meant that finally all of the humour came from the dialogue or the plot.
    We now find Edmund's grandson (The Black Adder had a child?), his surname incorporating his grandson's nickname. Unlike the stupidity of his relative, Edmund here is the far superior intellect when compared with the now repulsive Baldrick and Lord Percy. He is quite charming and witty, but is constantly pandering to the needs of Queen Elizabeth. Baldrick, on the other hand, has become the epitome of filth.
     The series has a good variety of episodes and themes, with a seemless introduction in Bells and a suitable finale in Chains. The new cast additions are of high quality as well - actors returning in later series include Steven Fry, Miranda Richardson (here playing the hysterically mad Queen Elizabeth), and Rik Mayall. The two most prominent guests are Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor) and Hugh Laurie, who would later play a recurring part in later series.
     Overall Blackadder II is much funnier than it's predecessor, with better writing, character design and certainly a more interesting setting. Next week I follow Edmund's similarly named grandson, Edmund, in the Comic Relief Special, Blackadder - The Cavalier Years.


Review: Chasing Lights

Chasing Lights, The Saturdays (2008)

For me there are three types of music - Music played by proper musicians, Music I like to Listen To, and then Chart Music. Very rarely, the last two overlap, but here they do not. When I review Chart Music, I always manage to find some problem or just some way of not liking it. But I've set myself a challenge. Listen to some stereotypically Chart-Pop and see what I can make of it. Cue The Saturdays.
     The high-time of my music Nostalgia is Summer 2008, and this is where The Saturdays really stepped onto the market with single "Up". It was formulaic, but catchy, and so it of course shot up the charts. The rest of this albums' singles and all of the tracks in general are quite similar - electro-pop melodies with little passion or energy, mostly about talking to some man about some vague relationship troubles. Does it entertain? To the populist mind, yeah. They're ok songs for the teen market, and qualify well for the Chart Music category. As a more experienced and private thing? Well, for nostalgia maybe, but no self-respecting person listens to The Saturdays for their entertainment value.
     Looking at the group dynamic, it's certainly a strong bond. You get a certain feeling of sisterly bonding but each is audibly different enough to stand out in her own right. The problem is more structure and content than anything else - songs that have lazily repetitive lyrics with uninspiring subjects. The Saturdays fill the Chart niche just fine, and I don't think they want to climb out of it.


Sunday, 19 September 2010

Review: Happiness (and 150th Post)

Happiness, Hurts (2010)

Ironic album titles are nothing new. Only a few years ago, Leona Lewis had the hit single, "Happy," which was about feeling down. Here, an entire album gets the treatment, as a series of sad, down or outright deppressing songs are collected into "Happiness". The name of the band should have tipped you off, though.
    Happiness is, of course, about looking back upon despair, and that it does in many varying ways, utilising many different musical styles in the process. Maybe light rock is your forte, or maybe gospel choir-infused indie pop? Regardless, the songs are entertaining enough in their own right and the album flows well. It isn't what I would call an "emo album," - what my mother would refer to as, "Songs to slit your wrists to." There's a definite twinge of hope amongst the sorrowful chords, some little spark that stops Happiness from going too far. Whatever it is, it works well to make the album less generic.
      Notable tracks... are everywhere. I couldn't really pick out any tracks better than the others. Of note, of course, is "Devotion", which features Kylie Minogue - a positive sign to see big celebrities sponsoring actual talent for a change ("cough"Justin Bieber"cough"). Happiness is an entertaining album to listen to in all moods, with its freshness of tone and its hopeful "twinges" that bring everything together.


This is Audenshaw Reviews' 150th Post, and I'd like to say that so far, I have had a lot of fun. Occassionally it has felt like a chore, or an extra piece of work to complete, but I see it more as a hobby. And, like all hobbies, my writing has changed a lot over the past months. Why don't you go and check out my older posts, in the archives to the right? Some are bad, others masterpieces. Regardless, I hope this blog continues for another few years, and that my readership grows with it.

For the 151st time, Thanks.

Review: Merlin 3.2: The Tears of Uther Pendragon (Part Two)

It's very often the case, with Saturday entertainment shows like this and Doctor Who, that a terrible first part is followed up by a much better second. And this is the case here, with Tears Part Two being far more enjoyable than last week's narrative casuality. While some of the aspects I was disappointed at last week still remained, it managed to pull itself together enough for me to overlook them.  
     Merlin has been carried off by The Dragon after he's been poisoned by Morgause in the woods; back in Camelot, the armies of Cenred apporach and Arthur feels the need to stand and fight while his father lies ill and enchanted in bed. Meanwhile, Morgana begins to work of taking the castle down from the inside. As the battle commences, Merlin and Arthur must help each other to defeat the enemy.
    There were some quite good scenes between Merlin and Arthur, which harkened back to their Series Two characterisations as good colleagues. Uther's hauntings in both episodes served to take the show another notch down the route of it being a darker and more adult programme. To help this, we also get some CGI undead and less of the horribly clownish evil-acting from Morgana and Morgause. Still some melodrama, yeah, but that's Merlin's bread and butter.
    Overall, a vast improvement on last week. Tears Part Two managed to make scrambled eggs into an ommelette, take a stumbling set of story ideas and fashion them into an entertaining piece of work. It seems now that the dynamic for this series will have the evil Morgana attempt to destroy the kingdom once-per episode, and Merlin has to fix things without anyone noticing his magic. It's a shame that once again it adheres to a formula, and thatthe formula is so predictable, but I think that the show will try to vary where its going this year.
     A look ahead to the next episode and... oh my. Oh god no. This is horrible. Horrible.


Saturday, 18 September 2010

Review: Scouting for Girls

Scouting For Girls, Scouting For Girls (2007)

Prior to me becoming a real fan of current music, I'd often be surprised when certain pop songs in the charts all belonged to artists that I'd heard of from the same place, like I'd never made the connection. Here we have a band that has produced a series of very memorable, very enjoyable soft-rock songs, and here they are, condensed into one album, as well as a lot more of the same. While a large amount are covers, the Scouts give their own, memorable touch.
     The album's main vibes are, as is exceedingly common, relationship based. Luckily this is done well, with believable vocals and realistic sentiment (well, for the most point.) The songs have an inescapable charm about them that distingushes them from other bands (and perhaps the song's original versions), and they all sound different enough for you to have an interesting and dynamic experience.
      It's against my reputation as a critic to accept that I find no negative criticism of Scouting For Girls' eponymous album, but I'm willing to risk it. SFG as a listening experience is an exceedingly pleasant one; the lyrics are fun in some place and profound in others, and there's enough variation in style and tone for it to not grow stale. It's just a fully enjoyable album.


Review: Life for Rent

Life for Rent, Dido (2003)

Music can trigger memories. You can be anywhere, at any time, and when that song or artist plays, you're suddenly thrown back to a happier (or sadder) time. When I sit here and review Life for Rent by Dido, I am called back to trips across the penines in our Toyota, the cold and the wind battering the sides and misting the windows. But here, I have to be critical.
      Luckily for me and my memories, Dido's album is a wonderful set of tracks that are a joy to listen to in all moods. Her USP is perhaps her light, almost silky vocal quality, and the way she conveys emotion is especially skillful. Making use of a range of instruments, her lyrics are powerful but still light enough for a casual listening. The singles that shine the most on this album are the now-famous White Flag, the titular song, and Sand in My Shoes.
    Seeing as this is Dido's second album, I'm sure you'd expect me to comment on how it compares to the first. No such luck, I'm afraid. Not only haven't I listened to that album, it's simply that this is the album that I feel the most connection with - the one most rooted in memory, and the one I'm using as a gauge for all of Dido's work on the whole. And here we come to the main critisism of Dido's work... her voice never varies from song to song. No experimentation. No difference in key, or genre, or anything. If any two of the none-shining songs were played in a supermarket, I would recognise the artist but not know the difference between the two. It would help as well if she managed somewhere along the line to sing about something other than relationships.
     To summarise, Dido is a great vocal artist in her own right - emoteful, light, and very good at getting across what she wanrts to say. However, her songs need some variation, and if she can experiment with different genres, then she would cease being a great artist and become an excellent one.


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Overview: The Black Adder

The Black Adder is a different and distinctive comedy. It varies greatly from the next three series in both budget and characterisation, and, as is typical, this made the show much better. Despite that, BA1 is still entertaining and funny - just a different form of humour.
     Rowan Atkinson tends to prefer physcial comedy to witty speech, as seen in his Mr. Bean roles, and his influence on the writing team really shows. This is the only series in which assistant Baldrick, played by Tony Robinson, acts as the more intelligent and witty of the two. This dynamic would later serve to form the core of the series' comedy.
     Also unique to this series was the role of Brian Blessed, who added a violent sense of fun. BA1 never had a subtle delivery, and it seems fitting that the stereotypically loud Blessed be cast as King Richard (IV). Along with this greater focus on visual styles, the bigger budget meant that sets and shots were often large and extravangant - something that didn't necessarily improve the quality of the comedy.
     Overall, it's quite a fun watch, taking a mixture of farce, historical in-jokes and political satire to decent direction and large amounts of research. Low viewing figures led to Blackadder II being given a much lower buget, and thus the Blackadder that we know was born. Join me next Thursday when I review Blackadder II.


Monday, 13 September 2010

Review: Merlin 3.1: The Tears of Uther Pendragon (Part One)

Merlin was a fun fantasy romp, taking a Smallville-style look at Arthurian legend and playing with the mythology while still producing something of a decent entertainment value. This applies mostly to Series Two, which kept a fun atmosphere while flirting with large plot developments.
      Series Three starts off with the pickup from the last series, with the forces of Camelot searching the land for Morgana. Morgana turned over to the Dark Side in the Series Two finale, but away from the good guys. As she returns, we watch as she slowly destableises the court of Camelot with the help of evil sister Morgause and an army from somewhere else. Meanwhile, Merlin gets kidnapped and has to summon The Dragon to save himself.
     You know what's really fucking annoying? Apart from the fact that Morgana is evil, nearly everything has been reset to before the Series Two finale. All of the characters' development, all of their chemistry - gone. To the point where the once amiable relationship between Merlin and Arthur has degenerated into practical jokes. The plot was long and drawn out, and there wasn't a sense of tension or even a sense of entertainment.
      Overall, a bad start. But we can only hope.


Saturday, 11 September 2010

Summer's End

Now I shaln't pretend,
That I can't witness Summer's end,
And how before I wrote reviews,
And now I'm getting those school blues.
There are things that I can't mend,
After I've witnessed Summer's end,
But what I can do, in some ways,
Is make a post every few days,
On things that I can send,
To people after Summer's end.
And now the autumn comes around,
Bringing TV and a mound,
Of homework that I'll have to tend
To now, after this Summer's end.
Who reads this blog anyways, I thought,
Or at least until the shield cut short,
And I could no longer pretend,
That at this wonderous Summer's end,
That people do read the blog, well some,
Simply find the link and come
Here to read and comprehend
My work from before the Summer's end.
So now new shows float around,
Merlin and Sarah Jane surround,
To be reviewed here, by my amend (ment),
Until the horrible Winter's end.


Friday, 10 September 2010

Opinion: Latest Episode of Eastenders (Volume Two)

Phil comes round.
After that train-crash of an episode, the follow-up is a wonderfully written and expertly crafted denouement, surprisingly written by the same writer, Simon Ashdown. It helps that the more absurd aspects of the previous episode are in fact addressed here, and the episode acts as an excellent, tear-jerking send-off to Peggy Mitchell.
     It's the day after the fire, and there's a full clean-up operation. Peggy moves, solemn, around the square, everyone helping her and she taking care of Phil, who is coming round from his month-long crack binge. She goes and talks with Stacey, where they both teach each other a few home truths. Eventually, Peggy decides to leave Walford - taking Phil with her. Elsewhere, Ryan grapples with the motivations behind Stacey's revelation - and whether he should leave on his honeymoon.
When Peggy confronts Stacey, she reminds her of her family.
     There are some tear-jerking scenes with Peggy remembering the past while walking around the ruins of the pub, and the last 10 minutes is an eye-watering sad set of scenes where Peggy finally persuades her family that she needs to leave and that they can live on without her. It is mainly a series of inspirational speeches, but they do work.
     I think its maddening that such a powerful episode can come after such a wallbanger, but it makes up for that car crash. Barbara Windsor's last half-hour (well, 40 minutes in this case) is powerful, evocative, and a beautiful end-point in her career.
Goodbye, Babs. You'll be sorely missed.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Opinion: Latest Episode of Eastenders (Volume One)

Just about sums up the episode, really.
Eastenders is one of those shows which never really gets on my nerves enough to invoke a post; in the past few years, I've found that the soap has provided a good source of powerful and evocative drama, usually with a background moral subtext. An episode/arc has to be really bad for me to even consider writing a review.
     The episode that aired on 9/9/10 was supposed to be the climax of several arcs that had been building up for the past year: Who Killed Archie, Phil's breakdown, Stacy's child and Peggy's exit from the show. This episode should have been a complete epic. And it was, in a way, but it was also horribly written, confusing to watch, and the most recent of a bad month for the series so far.
     We carry on from Tuesday's cliffhanger, and mad teenager Stacy has just told pub landlady Peggy Mitchell that it was she, not her dead husband, that killed Peggy's ex-hubby Archie. Who Killed Archie was a powerful storyline at Christmas and afterwards, and the tension broke during the 25th Anniversary earlier in the year, where Stacy confessed to the camera. Why its taken her six months to tell Peggy I'll never know (she was off her meds, but she still sounded sane.) Anyway, Peggy doesn't believe her, even though she despised Archie, and commands her out of the pub. Regardless, Stacy has other things on her mind - it's the wedding reception of Janine and Ryan, and the groom is the father of her recently born child. Last episode Stacy somehow sneaked the child into an upstairs room in the Vic. She confronts Ryan who gets the wrong idea, and mother-in-law/matriach Pat physically assaults her.
Looks a little like a Sontaran, does Phil Mitchell.
     Meanwhile, upstairs, Phil Mitchell (The most iconic character in the soap) is bargaining with cousin Billy (who has a crowbar) for some food and water, in his drug-addled state. Peggy has gone a little mad and bordered up the windows - spare planks are left around to border up the door. Billy tries to escape, but LEAVES THE CROWBAR IN THE ROOM. Phil breaks out easily, and goes downstairs, where he breaks out some booze and sets fire to it. Naturally there is a tremendous but not life threatening explosion. Phil is a really formulaic character, and I think he has so much potential - his low points involve addiction of some kind, and just that. The angle where Peggy is inadvertantly responsible for him losing his two children is a nice twist, but his sudden jump to Coke (when Vodka was previously his drug of choice) is a little sad.
   So; here's the basic set-up; Peggy evacuates everyone outside, save herself (she stares around at her burning pub), Phil (who's in the cellar drinking and burning stuff) and then Stacy and her baby (in the women's toilets and an upper bedroom, respectively.) Who lives and who survives? Well, spoilers here, everyone lives. That's right. One of the situations where there is a viable reason for the whole building to explode, and everybody lives. 
"And THAT's for wanting to leave the program!"
If I could make a few comments on Stacey. Stacey Slater has been lauded by critics one of the most powerful characters on the show, with a realistic progression from stroppy teenager to reliable adult, and then dealing with her inherited mental health problems. However, when she is off the meds, her maddened state is always, and I mean always, cringingly written (apart from one scene back near the beginning of that story.)
     Anyway, back to the action, and here we have some of the worse scripting imaginable. It's often a complaint in drama that people don't speak over each other enough because of the nature of script, but this takes it to ridiculous heights - sometimes painful, as everyone on the screen is talking at once. Elsewhere, and in your attmepts to adress who is in the Vic and who is out, it is often a confusing matter - you're expecting someone to die, for the sheer sake of realism. As I say, they all live, although hopefully someone will die of smoke inhalation.
The woman on the right is breaking the law.
     Finally, Ryan manages to rescue both Stacy and Lily. When Lily is safe, and Ryan and Stacy are lying, ash-covered on the ground with severe wounds and burns, not to mention the horrific somoke inhalation from that amount of booze, Stacy finally finds the time to tell Ryan about his daughter. His facial expression is priceless.
     This is a bad episode. It's  full of awful characterisations (For example, most of the pubgoers ignore the raging fire until peggy rings a bell) as well as a general lack of relevance; it doesn't feel like a good send off to these arcs. Not that these arcs were anything special to begin with, but this plot could have been so much better. A little coherance, perhaps, maybe a more clear and realistic rescue plan. In this case, a rarest of cases, it's true that realism would have had a bigger effect.
It's my wedding day. I am now married to the most wonderful woman I have ever known. Then my reception caught fire and exploded dramatically, and I rescued a madwoman who has seemingly fallen for me on the day I got married. And now, when I'm brusied, ash-covern an wheezing like an old bicycle, you tell me that I have a child with that madwoman? Really? You couldn't have told me before I got married? 


Monday, 6 September 2010

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Moonbase

1967. It's hard to review stories where half of the episodes are missing, and its hard to critisise the black and white stories based on their aesthetics. These are the difficulties I face, as I listen/watch The Moonbase, the second Cyberman story from far back in 1967.
      As I said in my review of Tomb, The Tenth Planet was important in Doctor Who history for two reasons; it introduced the concept of Regeneration, and it introduced the Cybermen. As the most common recurring monster of Troughton's era, the Cybermen returned in this serial. It needed to reintroduce the concept while spicing up the monsters.
     For the story, the Cybermen were given a robotic makeover (pictured) as well as new voices and a new aim. (It's explained in bonus material from around 1988 that these are a different subspecies of Cyberman than in The Tenth Planet.) I find that while these Cybermen lose one type of fear from their counterparts (in that they are less human, and therefore they are less easy to envisage as the next stage of humanity,) but they do have their own fear - an eerie emotionless face and voice.
     The story is basic, and more-or-less a rerun of The Tenth Planet - The Cybermen attack the Doctor, his companions and a specialist team while cooped up in a base. In this case, that base is the Gravitron Weather Controller, or the titular moonbase. The base has been affected by a virus that is strangely selective, and when the Doctor arrives, he soon finds that an old enemy are involved... (The Cybermen, obviously.)
     Only the second and fourth episodes remain, leaving me to have to listen to the audio recordings of the first and third. While it doesn't make up for the loss of picture, I can certainly get a slim idea of what's going on. It doesn't feel right to criticise the story. But the truth is that it is dull, repetitive and doesn't make use of any of the concepts with any skill.


Sunday, 5 September 2010

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Tomb of the Cybermen

1967. Tomb of the Cybermen is one of the classic stories in the early history of Doctor Who, making the most of the low budget and making something that's interesting, compelling and sometimes a little genuinely scary. The Beeb wanted another Cyber story to follow up on the success of The Moonbase (which I might review later), which had repopularised them after their debut in The Tenth Planet. These ruthless, emotionless creatures were a real hit with fans, second to the Daleks, and Tomb was in fact the strongest story ever featuring them.
     It's around 2486 AD. An expedition of archeologists arrive on the Cybermen's second planet, Telos, after their 200 year sleep. They discover a pair of electro-wired doors with the Cyber symbol. The Doctor and his companions Jamie and Victoria arrive and help out the exhibition. as they explore the inside, it is realised that some members of the expedition have ulterior motives...
      Everyone acts brilliantly (With the exception of a black slave and a very ambitious American), and are very well characterised. Everything is more or less believable, and when the Cybermen do appear, they aren't too bothered with revenge, and come off more logical and efficient than in later stories. The story also acts as a first adventure for companion Victoria Waterfield, and while some of the acting is a little hyperbolic, her times and trends are well demonstrated without it infringing upon the stroy's progress.
     This story is responsible for many aspects of the Cybermen's fame: Cybermats, The Cybercontroller, Cryogenics, and the chilling catchphrase, "YOU WILL BECOME LIKE US."


Friday, 3 September 2010

Opinion: SuperTed

"Rocketing Raspberries, Look at this!"

Childhood's an interesting thing, isn't it? I remember a menagerie of programs from when I was around 3/4 years old, that hang loosely on the memory. Some were funny, others unintentionally fearful, or a creepy mixture of the two. In any case, they were completely absurd, concepts on brought together in dreams. And here, a prime example, is SuperTed.
     And now, to explain the concepts present, I give you the intro sequence (with thanks to the Youtube channel, The Cartoon Archive.)

For those who can't or won;t watch the video, it's basically about a stuffed toy brought to life by a spotty banana-shaped alien. The narration persists throughout, and it doesn't feel intrusive because usually his voice is the only thing happening. Not shown in the intro are the villians, which are perhaps the things which scared me as a child; Texas Pete, a mad cowboy (in space, of course) and then the two comic relief characters, a fat guy and a really camp skeleton. Not that this show needed comic relief.
     I think the show is admirable for the sheer nerve of having such a wild premise while really sticking up for the Sci-Fi genre. The humour that's to be derived from it is from the absurdity, and the humour never strays into either lowbrow or highbrow territory. (I've got this image now of someone with perfectly middle-distance eyebrows.)
     As for quality, the voice acting is fine enough, and the animation does well to convey the advanced settings. Characters of note? Spotty (the aforementioned Banana-shaped alien, from the planet Spot) is quite an nice character to work with, as well as being voiced by none-other-than JON PERTWEE. I also love the camp Skeleton. He's just so openly camp, something unusual for a kids show.
     If there is a criticism that I can give (and it's harsh for a kids show, and I really am nitpicking to be honest) is that it doesn't accurately portray the vaccuum of space (as in, you can breathe and speak et. al.) Other than that, it's a brilliant absurdist series produced with high production values, funny characters and a passion for the sci-fi world that makes me love it even more. Oh, and the theme tune rocks.


Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Opinion: Torchwood: Top 5 things I want

So. Torchwood: The New World is a production between the BBC and American company, Starz. And it's going to be terrible. At least I think so, and so when it airs next year, I'll hopefully be reviewing it here, on Audenshaw Reviews. In the mean time, here's a list of what I want from the new series.

5.) Doctor, Doctor, Just Give Me The News

Torchwood was founded to fight with/against The Doctor and other aliens. The Doctor is in their charter - essentially, the reason for their existence. And yet he plays no part in the organisation, even after learning of its beneficial effects in The Sound of Drums. At least make reference to him.

4.) The World is Not America

We've brought in an American studio, which really worked out in the past, didn't it. Not only is there the culture shock, if you've read the press release, there's a complete and total misunderstanding of the characters. So, I'd like to see a subversion of the trope; I want true multiculturism, proving that Torchwood effects the world, an not simply the convenient Western hemisphere.

3.) Start from the Beginning.

Torchwood hasn't exactly had a top quality run. Enjoyable, maybe, but its treatment as a Doctor Who with sex and gore isn't a good use of the concept. For New World, I would personally love to see some form of revamp, ignoring every. last. thing. from before that point.

2.) Lose Chibnall.

Again, Chibnall is sloppy. This time, however, it's surrounding minor characters. He can write a good sci-fi plot, but when it comes to realistic character relations, he fails considerably. Evidence? Cyberwoman. The concept is sound, and yet the relationship between Ianto and Lisa is only held together by tremendous acting instead of the script. Over in Doctor Who, we have 42 and The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood. Yet again, good sci-fi ideas, but all of the characters are boring, predictable and unltimately bland. No chemistry with anyone. At all. Lose Chibnall.

1.) Lose Russell.

I'm sorry, Russell, I really am. But you can't write properly. Yeah, the plots are epic. Wow, they're epic. But that's not the point. Having a wide scope doesn't just magically equal high quality. And when it comes down to the facts, his stories are laced with holes and are generally sloppy, disappointing messes. Lose Russell.