Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Big Finish - The Architects of History

This is Big Finish release 132 - The Architects of History by Steve Lyons, and directed by John Ainsworth. And it's a bit of a cracker.

Tracey Childs steals the show as Klein, and Klein has stolen the Doctor's Tardis, using it to create an alternate history in line with the one she came from. Her Galactic Reich is a force for good and has created a golden age of peace and prosperity. Obviously the monsters are not going to allow that and here the shark-like Selachians arrive in force and are suitably loud and shouty. Hopefully they are also green which is the correct colour for Doctor Who Monsters.

The alternate timeline allows for some more clever tricks with Doctor Who's history and, in particular, gives the Seventh Doctor a new companion called Rachel Cooper played by Lenora Crichlow from Being Human. As ever there is a great clash of wills between the Doctor and Klein. It is so good that the battle between the Selachians and the future Nazis is almost an irrelevance.

This is a terrific trio of Big Finish stories which is really worth checking out. This great concluding episode is getting 4.5 out of 5 Shark spacesuits. Next up will be The Butcher of Brisbane.

I should add that I only discovered Klein and this great trilogy through my friend Brian from the British Invaders podcast. Cheers, mate!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Big Finish - Survival of the Fittest

Big Finish 131 - Survival of the Fittest by Jonathan Clements, John Ainsworth and Lee Mansfield. Directed by John Ainsworth, with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Tracey Childs as Klein.

Having established Klein as a German scientist from a time line where (or when?) the Nazis won the war, this story attempts to fill in her back story. And, in particular, how she came to be in Colditz castle in 1944. This is the most interesting part of this Big Finish audio drama and involves some neat manipulations of known Doctor Who history in an alternate world. A special guest star turns up using a German version of a name that will be instantly recognisable to fans.

With my increasing enjoyment of the character arc of the questionable Klein I would have been quite happy if this section of the story had gone on longer. However it is only a prologue to the main events which feature the Doctor and Klein landing on a planet and finding themselves in the middle of a fight for survival between human colonists and the insect like Vrill. There's some clever stuff about the Vrill who use scent markers to communicate so that their messages float in the air after they have moved on. The battle for supremacy allows for some interesting discussions about Klein's political background. The Seventh Doctor is at his manipulative best and there is a great cliff-hanger ending. But all the while I was waiting to get back to Klein's story.

It is a perfectly fine Doctor Who adventure but not quite what I was waiting for. Maybe The Architects of History (which is a great title for a Who story) will complete the picture for me.

3 out of 5 misplaced Tardis keys for Survival of the Fittest but I am really enjoying this unexpected Klein trilogy. Now on to the Architects if History.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Versatile Blogging

Blogging? Huh! What is it good for?

Paul from the Timevault podcast and Goldfish & Paracetamol blog was kind enough to mention me in his Versatile Blogger Award post. This is a rather fine idea which is all about sharing the blogs we read and maybe introducing some new readers to them.

After thanks and links as above the VBA calls for me to pass on the compliment and nominate some blogs that I follow so here goes:

D'Blog of D'Israeli
Everything Comes Back to 2000AD
Brit Cit Reviews
2000AD Covers Uncovered
Reading Watchmen
Comic Book Daily
Kiss of the Dalek
Doc Oho Reviews
Polite Dissent
Brian Vs The Internet

And finally, I'm supposed to reveal seven things about myself. Well I'm not telling but:

  1. At the time of writing I am 50 years old. Turn that music down would you?
  2. Tom Baker called me "Doctor". He really did.
  3. I got to the top of Kilimanjaro. Possibly the worst night of my life, but the morning was pretty spectacular.
  4. I watch an awful lot of classic British cult television but I still haven't watched a Colin Baker Doctor Who story. Sorry, Sawbones Hex.
  5. I've got a 1965 Morris Minor. Well, actually I'm minding it for my son.
  6. In my spare time I annotate comic books.
  7. I have a serious Big Finish habit thanks to my Canadian friend and co-host, Brian from British Invaders.

And that is it. Now I have to let the next ten bloggers know about their VBA.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Big Finish - A Thousand Tiny Wings

Big Finish release 130 was A Thousand Tiny Wings by Andy Lane. Directed by Lisa Bowerman and starring Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Tracey Childs as Klein.

It is 1953, Kenya and the Mau Mau uprising has trapped a group of women in a remote house. There is a mystery illness and a strange creature in the woods. And into all this comes the Seventh Doctor for a confrontation with Elizabeth Klein who he first met in Colditz.

I bought this as part of a special offer for the three stories in the Klein trilogy and it was very enjoyable. If you have read my previous reviews you will know that I love a confrontation between the Doctor and a strong willed opponent with a different philosophy. These battles of wills seem to be what I like most about Doctor Who. Obviously I enjoy a good monster story from time to time but listening to the Doctor clash minds with an opposing point of view makes for terrific audio drama.

Klein is a fascinating character, a scientist from another time stream where Germany won the second world war. She is very different from the conventional stereotype of a Nazi scientist, Klein is a believer but not in a straight forward way. She is complex and humane and quick to point out the flaws in the Doctor's own arguments against her. It takes a terrific performance from Tracey Childs to bring her to life and to make her a hero in a strange way.

Right now I am trying to decide which is my favourite of the Big Finish Doctors but if you asked me to pick which of the supporting characters I would like to see brought into the TV show I would pick Klein. Of course it is not all just a clash of wills. There is a mystery and a monster and it is all played out in a neat variant of the classic "Base in Peril" story. The monster itself is a clever commentary on the role of the English occupiers and the struggles of the Kenyans for independence.

All in all this was a great starter to the Klein trilogy. I have found some of my recent listens to be either too short or too long but this was like that third bowl of porridge, just right. It gets 4 out of 5 straw boaters. Next up will be Survival of the Fittest.

Monday, June 11, 2012

2000AD Prog 1787 - A medical review

Spoiler alert! Mild spoilers for 2000AD prog 1787 follow. You have been warned.

There are some more medical details about the chaos bug in the latest 2000AD. Chaos Day has arrived and the deadly micro-organism is sweeping through Mega-City one. According to the caption in the second panel there are now millions of victims which suggests we are on the third day of Professor Wyant's projections.

Dredd is working with a small team of Judges and members of the Citi-Def citizens' militia as they try to regain control of a single city block. After Dredd deals with an infected victim in characteristic, uncompromising  fashion we get another snippet of information about the infectious nature of the Chaos organism. Respirators are apparently essential to prevent airborne transmission, but the Judges have also covered their exposed skin with a barrier gel. This suggests that either the organism can penetrate human skin, or more likely the airborne organism can settle on human skin and then be transferred internally later by the usual hand to mouth touching that we all do throughout the day. This is how we normally pick up the common cold virus and manage to infect ourselves. It would be nice if we had a barrier gel that we could wear during flu and cold season.

Having established that the chaos illness can be caught through breathing or skin contact we then get a standard scene for any Zombie type infection story - a human bite. Clearly the bite of a Chaos victim will transmit the bug to the unfortunate Citi-Def member and Dredd prepares to take drastic action with a laser. But this is a bit strange because it seems fairly clear that the Citi-Def are not wearing any form of masks. Having established that respirators are mandatory it would appear that the militia members are already at risk of airborne infection. Could the Judges have made a deliberate decision to sacrifice the Citi-Def members? And if so why does Dredd bother with the laser surgery he is planning at the end of this page. It does seem like a strange omission, unless their lack of respirators has been explained somewhere else? Please email me if I have missed this.

Having said all that the story of Chaos Day is completely engrossing and this minor detail does not detract from John Wagner's masterpiece. The full scale of the disaster is becoming clear and strangely Dredd seems to be on the periphery of the action as the Mega-City falls. Presumably his moment is coming but it is difficult to see how the Judges are going to save the day.

My nit-picking point about the respirators means this issue only gets 3 out of 5 medic-droids for medical accuracy, but it gets a full 10 points on the Zarjaz scale. Watch this space for more soon.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Alien Resurrection - Four most in my mind

Alien reaches its fourth instalment and it comes from the unlikely pairing of Joss Whedon writing and Jean-Pierre Jeunet directing. Whedon is everywhere right now thanks to the success of The Avengers movie and Jeunet is best known for Amelie, although it is his dark fantasy The City of Lost Children that this most resembles.

200 years after the last film and Ripley is back, somehow. And there's a crew of weird space pirates which means we get Ron Perlman, Winona Ryder and the great Dominique Pinon. The only problem is I've never understood the whole weapons potential of the Aliens which seems to drive the plots of the sequels. I suppose if you could contain the beasties somehow you could fire them at your enemies. Clearing up afterwards might be a problem and there would be a lot of collateral damage. And as this film illustrates the whole issue of containing the Aliens is a bit of a problem. Acid blood seems to be a way out of every trap.

Still the whole idea of cloning Ripley to get Aliens to use as weapons does mean we get my favourite mad scientist Brad Dourif in charge of the whole experiment. And after an early exit he reappears at the end of the film to explain the science bit and let us know why Ripley is so cosy with the Alien hybrid thingy. I love Brad Dourif, he plays one of my all time top fictional doctors in Deadwood and he is great here. In fact the cast are generally fantastic.

The direction seems a bit strange and I still cannot quite understand how Jeunet went from this straight on to Amelie but that is the mystery of movies. The actual Aliens themselves are fine when they are the man in the suit but they turn to nonsense again once the CGI kicks in.

It's actually all a lot of fun and a fitting end to the series. Well, until the Predators got involved. And Sigourney Weaver actually did make that over the shoulder basketball shot!

Next is some AVP nonsense