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April 27, 2010
» Doctor Who: The Time of Angels


April 21, 2010
» Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks


April 13, 2010
» Doctor Who: The Beast Below

Your friendly local election candidate

In his second outing as executive producer and main series writer Steven Moffat seems to have followed a pattern, established by his predecessor Russell T. Davies, of putting the “here and now” in strange ‘future’ situations. This is a pity, because it underrates his own imagination and the audience’s ability to see themselves from an altered perspective within a totally strange world. Had Starship UK been populated by a totally alien race it would not have altered our empathy for them and would, I believe, have enhanced it because all those twee Disneyland-like UK icons scattered around the story simply distracted from the pathos of the story. Frankly I don’t believe people are so shallow that they can’t connect with characters unless they are framed as the everyday and familiar “us”.

It was Darko Suvin who defined Science fiction as “a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment.”

In other words, SF allows you change everything so that you can view a situation from a fresh perspective without having all that baggage of prejudices and biases we all carry getting in the way of the real point of the story.

Another way to look at science fiction is as an anthropological thought experiment. And an hour wasn’t long enough to explore, or indeed explain, all the ways Britain had changed as a nomadic star travelling species (not to mention all the bits that hadn’t). Why were those gruesome, fairground manikins (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWdi8lGXY7g)  being used to teach children and why where children thrown to the beast below when they did badly at the schoolwork? It would be easier to accept a situation like this in a culture that was already alien and that didn’t beg for a sequence of explanations to these odd changes to “our” culture.

The story itself was interesting with a happy “feel good” twist at the end that Steven Moffat is noted for, though I did feel I was being rushed through it in order not to dwell on all the plot holes (again).

My fear is that the pressures of being Executive Producer and main series writer might force Steven Moffat to churn out substandard scripts the way that Russell T. Davies seemed to do.  My hope is that we begin to see some fresh and stylish stories from a very talented writer who quickly develops the confidence to be different from his predecessor.

Written by Peter Grehan

April 7, 2010
» Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour is a solid eight out of ten for me.

I don’t like the new theme music but that’s a fault with the whole season, not the episode.

I felt the food tasting scene went on a little long and this seemed at such an early point in the episode to be padding to get it up to that one hour running time. I wonder if the discarded foods will end up innocently being consumed by the eleventh Doctor without complaint in later episodes / series? It’ll keep the continuity police busy.

Although the camera moves used for the sequence (the tracking shot over, around and under the bench in particular) of the information taken in by the Doctor at the duck pond were overly and improbably showy, I like the idea. It chimes neatly with the way the new Doctor’s eyes are constantly darting about, something that was also a key characteristic of William Hartnell and Tom Baker’s performances.

Mind you, there’s something very Freudian about the set up of this episode. A young girl invites a strange older man up to her bedroom to show him a crack that frightens her. He hurries off but comes back when she’s older and helps her face a menace that takes the form of a giant snake like creature. Later her whole world is threatened by one eyed monsters. Sigmund could probably get a whole book and a lecture tour out of that lot!

How many people went out into their hallway to count the doors after this episode? Like Amy, I’ve got six, one of which I almost never open…

The dark fairy tale quality the new production team are aiming for is a welcome change after five years of urban Earth backdrops. The lack of parental figures in the story is also a step away from the heavy soapy elements of those years, although the wedding dress in the closet indicates that there is a hint of soap to come for those who want it. The long gap between the first and second meetings of the new Doctor and companion neatly repositions the new Doctor as being the companion’s imaginary friend as well as the audiences’.

After the episode ended, I was feeling ever so slightly hyper, enthused and infused by the energy and liveliness of the episode. I was properly carried along by it and far more satisfied than I had been by any of the 2009 special episodes.

Written by Timothy Farr, Cardiff Timeless SF Group

March 21, 2010
» The Art of Francesco Francavilla

Many thanks to sequential artist Francesco Francavilla for permission to use his wonderful work ‘Mad Doctors’.  Here is a link to Francesco’s website and his sketch blog.

March 18, 2010
» Space Hoppers on BBC iPlayer

The latest episodes of Space Hoppers, the BBC tv programme on which science communicators Professor Mark Brake and Jon Chase helped innovate the science, are now available on BBC iPlayer.

In Lost in Lava, the space hoppers go on the trail of volcanoes in the solar system, and Wet and Wild (a curious choice of title for a children’s programme perhaps) looks at how finding water in the solar system may be every space explorer’s dream.

March 15, 2010
» Science Communication Showcase on iTunesU

Podcasts and other media highlights of the science communication work led by Professor Mark Brake play a major part of the recent launch on iTunesU.  The highlights include podcasts on major works of science fiction, such as Frankenstein and Dr Strangelove,

And the superb Alien Worlds, a multimedia presentation of the search for life in the Universe developed by Barry Richards, and supported by Sue Burnett, Mark Brake, Martin Griffiths, and Toby Murcott, is also a major feature.  Barry’s excellent animations have been enhanced with a voiceover, and is one of the flagship items of the site.  The work has also made an impression on Apple, as they featured Alien Worlds as one of the noteworthy items on the iTunesU homepage.

March 8, 2010
» Science Communicators in BBC Hit

The BBC tv programme, on which science communicators Professor Mark Brake, the University’s Professorial Science Champion for Public Engagement, and his colleague Jon Chase, worked on last year, is to be broadcast tomorrow on BBC 2 at 7:30am.

Full story here