Another Doctor Who Night In
(Part Four)

Last time out, I mentioned having a nice evening in watching a couple of classic Doctor Who DVDs, namely the first and third stories from Season 16’s Key to Time sequence, The Ribos Operation and The Stones of Blood. I’ve already given my views on The Ribos Operation, So, on now to The Stones of Blood.

The Stones of Blood has always been, by far, my favourite story from the Key to Time sequence, and is one of my Top 3 from the Graham Williams era. It features an excellent script by David Fisher, and a great cast, with particularly strong performances not only by the regular cast, but by fantastic supporting characters Professor Emilia Rumford (played by Beatrix Lehmann) and Vivien Fay/Cessair of Diplos (played by Susan Engel).

I found the aliens in this story to be pretty interesting. I loved the idea that the Ogri (the Stones in the title of the story) were a silicon-based lifeform that fed on blood. A pretty good variation on the vampire theme. I really wish the Ogri had made a reappearance in the series, rather than being “one-hit wonders”. Likewise the alien justice machines, the Megara. And the Cailleach, the Celtic goddess who is actually 3,000 year-old alien escaped prisoner Cessair of Diplos, who carries the Great Seal of Diplos, which is actually the next section of the Key to Time, and who also controls the Ogri. And the alien prison ship itself, which is in hyperspace, but which also happens to occupy the exact same space in our world as that between the stones. Entertaining and fascinating sci-fi concepts – this story is positively overflowing with them.

There’s even the almost-compulsory cult, led by their crazy High Priest (de Vries), who worship and serve the Cailleach. Doctor Who seems to have an obsession with taking pokes at cults and religions, which is all fine by me, as I tend to share those views. As a matter of fact, there are TWO stories featuring cults in the Key to Time sequence, the other one being the hilarious Swampies in The Power of Kroll. The scene where the cult are about to sacrifice the Doctor also gives us one of the best lines in the series, as Tom Baker looks up at de Vries, who has a knife raised in the air, and says “I hope that knife has been properly sterilised”. Cracking line! 🙂

Overall, The Stones of Blood is a fantastic story, full of inventive ideas, good acting, and which moves along at a cracking pace. It’s one of the very few Doctor Who stories from the Graham Williams era that I’d argue holds its own against the classic Hinchcliffe era of the series. Great stuff!

Another Doctor Who Night In
(Part Three)

Last night I had another Doctor Who DVD-watching session, swinging back to the Tom Baker Doctor again. I watched a couple of Graham Williams-produced stories from his second season, this time concentrating on two of the tales from the Season 16 Key to Time sequence, the first and third stories respectively, The Ribos Operation and The Stones of Blood. I’ll give my views on The Ribos Operation this time out, and leave The Stones of Blood for the next post.

The Ribos Operation is a pretty decent story, if a little slow and lacking in excitement. The main plus points are the strong script and excellent cast. There is a new main supporting character and companion joining the Doctor and K-9 Mark II (voiced by John Leeson), in the form of the elegant and gorgeous Mary Tamm as Time Lady Romana. We also have the first appearance of an occasional recurring character, the White Guardian (played by Cyril Luckham). The rest of the supporting cast was also very capable, with particularly strong performances from the two lovable rogues Garron and Unstoffe (played by Iain Cuthbertson and Nigel Plaskitt), the main bad guy’s right-hand man Sholakh (played by Robert Keegan), and the old hermit Binro (played by Timothy Bateson). I really liked the exchanges between Unstoffe and Binro.

The negative cast performances stem mostly from the almost compulsory late-Tom Baker/Williams era failing of overly-melodramatic and ham acting from some actors. The Spam Awards for this story go, in particular, to The Seeker (played by Anne Tirard) and the annoyingly exaggerated cartoon villain/insane galactic ex-tyrant ruler the Graff Vynda-K (played by Paul Seed). This type of pantomime acting has always been one of the things that I find really irritating in Doctor Who, and I really do consider it the bane of the classic series.

And then there’s Prentis Hancock, playing the Shrieve Captain. Prentis is a lovely bloke, but every time I’ve seen him in any television role (and I’ve seen him in quite a few), he seems to play the same brooding, angry, unsociable stereotype. I dunno whether he’s just been typecast in that role, or it’s simply because he’s lazy and is comfortable playing the same part over and over again, but I don’t recall ever seeing him do any other character than the same stereotype that he’s played so many times in Doctor Who and elsewhere. Even as a regular cast member on Space: 1999, most of the time he seemed to be playing a barely slightly more mellow version of the same grumpy, permanently angry character.

Last but not least, let’s not forget this story’s scary monster, the Shrievenzale, which was about as scary as Kermit the Frog, if you ask me. In other words, complete crap. The Shrievenzale is one of those Doctor Who monsters which is very dodgy-looking and barely any better than the infamous Myrka from Warriors of the Deep.

Still, aside from those few small quibbles, I quite enjoyed The Ribos Operation. Next time out, I’ll be giving my views on The Stones of Blood.

Another Doctor Who Night In
(Part Two)

In my last post I detailed my latest recent DVD-watching binge of Doctor Who stories, the recent choices all being Tom Baker stories. Last night I watched a couple more Doctor Who stories, switching this time to Jon Pertwee and the two Auton classics, Spearhead from Space (Special Edition) and Terror of the Autons, as featured on the Mannequin Mania DVD box set.

Spearhead from Space is one of my favourite Pertwee stories. When Jon Pertwee fell out of the TARDIS, almost exactly one month after my ninth birthday, I wasn’t too pleased. I’d been a Pat Troughton fan since I first started really paying attention to Doctor Who back in 1966 or so, at the young age of five-going-six years old. Up until that point in my life, he was the only Doctor I’d known, as I’d been too young to really remember Hartnell, although I’d doubtless seen a few of his as well, and had a view brief flashes and memory fragments of several stories.

So when Troughton left, and this new guy, Pertwee, took over, I was not a happy camper. But that mood didn’t last for long. By the end of the first episode of Spearhead, I’d completely forgotten about Troughton, and Pertwee was now most definitely The Doctor in my eyes. The sheer excellence of the story itself greatly eased the transition, and at that tender age, I found the concept of the Nestene Consciousness, and in particular the Autons, very scary and unnerving. For years afterwards, I was extremely nervous whenever I walked past any department store window. My young imagination already had the shop front dummies ready to smash through the windows and grab me. 🙂

Terror of the Autons is also a good story, but it never quite had the same impact on me as Spearhead from Space, although to this day, I still hate plastic flowers, plastic chairs and telephone cables. 🙂 The Autons in this one (except for the cops) weren’t quite as frightening as those in Spearhead. With their massive heads and their circus background, they looked faintly silly and ridiculous, although the fight sequences with the UNIT troops were excellent.

However, this was the story that first introduced The Master, played by the late, great Roger Delgado, who quickly became a great favourite of mine. For that reason alone Terror of the Autons will always hold a fond spot in my heart. The story also introduced the new companion, cute and cuddly Jo Grant, played by Katy Manning, who joined Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Captain Yates, Corporal Benton and the rest of the UNIT cast, and who was to be at Pertwee’s side for the next three years of his run on the show. The classic and much-lauded “UNIT family” was now well and truly in place to usher in a new and one of the most fondly-remembered periods in the show’s history.

Overall, another cracking night’s viewing on the Doctor Who front.

Leonard Nimoy (1931 – 2015)

The news of Leonard Nimoy’s death yesterday has had a strong impact on me in a way that the vast majority of celebrity deaths usually don’t. When I woke up yesterday morning and saw the news for the first time online, it was like a kick in the gut. I spent the entire day stunned, in tears, just sitting in front of my computer browsing the web for more news. Even though I usually don’t give a damn about the passing of most celebrities, this one has left me totally gutted. Why?

This sad news really should’ve come as no great surprise to anybody. Leonard Nimoy was 83 years old, and had been in pretty bad health for many years. But like a sick relative that everyone loves dearly, we’re still in mourning when they die. Leonard Nimoy, in particular his iconic Mr. Spock persona, was like a close friend or relative. His passing truly is almost like losing a member of the family. But why has the death of a television actor, someone I’ve never met, had such an effect on me?

To get an answer to that, we have to go right back to my early childhood, in the late-1960’s and early-1970’s, when I still hadn’t yet entered my teens (I turned 13 in December 1973). I’ve been a huge fan of the original Star Trek and Doctor Who since those early days, and back then I was totally obsessed with both shows, and both have always been a major part of my life, even to this day. But back to the beginning. My family life in those days was pretty rough, poverty stricken, constant domestic disputes and fighting between my parents, and all set against the dark, terrible earliest years of the Troubles, in Northern Ireland. Star Trek and other sci-fi was a way of escaping from real life and domestic problems into a much more pleasant world of make-believe, where Spock, and the Doctor, were major characters in my fantasy world.

I’d actually been a sci-fi fan since the mid-1960’s, that delicate age of 5-7 years old, where you start to really notice and get into stuff for the first time. I first began to notice Doctor Who on UK television about 1966 or so, and soon after that, sci-fi films such as George Pal’s The Time Machine, Irwin Allen’s The Lost World, and the classic film version of Journey to the Centre of the Earth also became favourites of mine. So the way was well-prepared.

Then in 1969, during the summer break between seasons of Doctor Who, something called Star Trek began its first run on UK television, making its debut on BBC1. I was a starry-eyed eight year-old back in 1969, and I’d never seen anything remotely like Star Trek. And this weird alien guy with the pointed ears, Mr. Spock, he made a huge impact on me right away. He immediately became my favourite character on the show, and has always remained the main man for me, in EVERY incarnation of Star Trek. He has always been my favourite Star Trek character, and more than any other character in TOS, he has always epitomized the whole ethos of Trek for me. Star Trek was always more than just a TV show to me, and Spock was always far more than just another television character.

Leonard Nimoy may once have written a book titled I am NOT Spock, but, as far as I’m concerned, he IS and always WILL be Spock. No disrespect intended to Zachary Quinto or any other talented newcomers who try to fill Nimoy’s huge shoes, but the man is irreplaceable.

Live Long and Prosper my friend, wherever you may be.

Doctor Who: Galaxy 4

Older Doctor Who fans will instantly recognize Galaxy 4 as the title of a really ancient, dusty old Doctor Who story, which originally aired on the UK television channel BBC1, over a four-week period during the months of September-October 1965. The story itself no longer exists in the BBC archives, as it was wiped during the shamefully short-sighted BBC “space-saving” purge of old TV shows back in the early 1970’s, although a few bits and pieces did survive here and there.

The previously existing audio-visual material, including six minutes of footage from the first episode, “Four Hundred Dawns”, was initially included on a 1998 VHS video as part of the documentary The Missing Years, and subsequently re-released on the 2004 DVD release of Lost in Time. Episode Three, “Air Lock”, which was recovered back in early 2011, was released on the March 2013 DVD release of The Aztecs: Special Edition as an extra, along with reconstructions of the other 3 episodes, plus the other surviving clips and photographs, all of which had originally been intended for the DVD release of The Time Meddler.

The only way to enjoy the original story in its entirety is in book form, and the complete soundtrack also exists, released in 2002. Actually, there were TWO books, and I have really enjoyed both the Target Books novelization of Galaxy Four, by original writer William Emms, and the Doctor Who: The Scripts edition (Titan Books) of the William Emms Galaxy 4 script. The titles Galaxy Four and Galaxy 4 seem to be interchangeable, and vary from book to book, although Galaxy 4 seems to be considered the correct title. Either of these books will give you the full story, if you manage to get your hands on them. I’m uncertain if either book is still in print (if not, try Ebay or Amazon).

In this story, the TARDIS lands on an unnamed planet in the aforementioned Galaxy 4, a world which is only days away from exploding. The Doctor (the first Doctor – William Hartnell) and his companions Vicki and Steven encounter the Drahvins, a race of female clone warriors, who have crash-landed on the planet and are unable to take off again. Also on the planet is another crashed spaceship belonging to the frightening, alien Rills and their robot servants, the Chumblies (this rather silly name being given to them by Vicki). The Drahvins tell the Doctor that they were attacked by the Rills and both ships were damaged and had to crash-land.

The Drahvin ship is irreparable, but the Rill ship is almost fully repaired and will escape the death of this world. The Drahvins need to capture it, to get away. They are trying to enlist the Doctor’s help, but the Doctor realizes that it’s the Drahvins who are the aggressors and the Rills are peace-loving and civilized. The Doctor helps the Rills finish repairing their ship and escape, and one of the Chumblies stays behind and helps the Doctor, Vicki and Steven escape in the TARDIS, while it and the Drahvins perish when the planet explodes.

By all accounts, the televised story was a fair-to-middling mid-1960’s Doctor Who adventure, pretty decent, although nothing special, certainly not one of the greatest classics of the series. However Galaxy 4, like a few other old Doctor Who stories, seems to go a little bit further than other sci-fi television shows of that era, with a few more twists and a less predictable plot. Back in those days most TV sci-fi was very simplistic – you always knew who the bad guys were, because they were almost always the ugly, scary ones.

Most of the time, Doctor Who was as guilty as any other show in that respect – the series was, after all, dependent on the monsters and aliens for its kiddie “scare factor”. But in Galaxy 4, the writer, William Emms, turned all that completely on its head, making the repulsive, reptilian, warthog-like, ammonia-breathing Rills the intelligent, civilized “good guys”, and the beautiful, blonde amazonian Drahvins the villains of the story.

I’ve also always admired the bravery of the production crew on Doctor Who, for at least making the attempt to create “alien-looking” aliens on the show’s miniscule shoe-string budget, whilst US sci-fi series with much larger budgets (Star Trek, for example) have traditionally served up “aliens” who are, ninety-five percent of the time, obviously only humans wearing latex masks or with bumps glued onto their heads and markings painted on them. The effects and make-up on Doctor Who often looked tacky and cheap, but at least they had the guts to try and make the “aliens” look a bit “alien”.

To the younger viewers of the modern Chris Eccleston/David Tennant/Matt Smith incarnations of the Doctor, most of these old 1960’s Doctor Who stories must be virtually unwatchable. Compared to the modern, frenetically-paced, slick CGI series, these ancient shows creak along at an unbearably slow pace, with too much jibber-jabbering, not enough action, have rather simplistic stories (they were supposedly aimed at kids, after all, and seen from this perspective, they are pretty good), and terrible or non-existent special effects. But having said that, I wonder just how much of the current version will still look good in fifty years time. Modern sci-fi shows tend to depend far too much on SFX, which date very quickly, and less on strong storytelling, which endures pretty much forever.

Old farts like myself still love those ancient 1960’s television shows, and we remember them fondly from our childhood (although I have no memories of Galaxy 4, as I was only four years old at the time). Nostalgia is an incredibly addictive drug. It’s probably also stating the obvious to point out that we must take into account that, FOR ITS TIME, and compared to the rest of the 1960’s BBC output, Doctor Who was an innovative, exciting, frightening and controversial television show. There was nothing else like it on UK television at the time, and the series has influenced countless other sci-fi shows over the decades since then.

I’m hoping that it’ll still be around in another fifty years, long after I’m gone, entertaining yet another new generation of fans.

The Age of Innocence – “Sensawunda” and the Older Science Fiction Fan

Older sci-fi/SF fans (or “fen”, to give them their correct title), almost all have an incredibly developed Sense of Wonder, more often referred to in the SF world as “sensawunda”, that wide-eyed innocence and boundless enthusiasm, that willingness to see beyond the mundane world around us and embrace the infinite potential and possibilities of the universe, of all time and space.

It’s almost like a special extra sense, an ability to link to our “inner child”, something that makes us different from the rest of the mainstream “mundane” population, who seem to have lost that link to their childhood once they became adults. Many of those people would look at us and consider us “big kids”, adults who have refused to grow up and drop the obsessions and attitudes of childhood (or even something much less flattering). We, on the other hand, look at them and consider them boring, unimaginative old farts, having lost all the childish aspects that made life fun, and growing old long before their time.

Our sensawunda keeps us forever young. Unfortunately, very few of the younger generation these days seem to have it, at least once they grow out of the wide-eyed innocence of their childhood years. We older fen were instilled with a powerful essence of sensawunda from a time before we could even read or write. The kids these days have seen it all a thousand times, and have had everything handed to them since birth. They lose their sensawunda at a very early age, and today’s teenagers are for the most part very worldly-wise, cynical, and almost impossible to impress.

All of the things we saw on TV and at the cinema, way back when they were new and ground-breaking, are part of background culture for these kids. They don’t see anything remarkable about these great films and TV series, because they’ve “always been there”, as far as the kids are concerned. They miss out totally on one of the greatest aspects of geekhood, and we older geeks are so, so lucky to have lived through it all.

Back “when we were young”, every new sci-fi series, every new sci-fi cinema release, every new book release by Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov or other top SF writers, every new issue of the Spider-Man Comics Weekly, The Avengers, The Mighty World of Marvel, Countdown and TV Action, Lion and Thunder or any of our favourite comics, any and all of these geek objects were things of wonder, and we all waited on them obsessively, like addicts waiting on their next fix (but in a nice way, of course).

I try to compare cynical modern teens with the wide-eyed innocence and enthusiasm of my teenage self, sitting eagerly in front of the TV every week, waiting for the next episode of Star Trek or Doctor Who. Or sitting in the local cinema, mouth wide open, watching Star Wars for the first time, and listening in awe to the tie fighters roar all around me over the amazing new THX sound system. In the pre-video, pre-internet age, every new sci-fi TV series and sci-fi cinema release was SPECIAL. The newness and uniqueness of it all was overpowering.

In those far-off days, you saw a series episode or film ONCE, and then they were gone, forever. Now, with DVDs, streaming and all the modern recording techniques, you can watch anything, over and over again a hundred times. It may be amazingly convenient, and none of us would be without it, but it has also played a huge part in killing the magic, the sensawunda. It’s all become as common as muck, so easily accessible and available. There’s nothing special about any of it any more.

The current generation of kids, at least here in the West, are spoiled rotten. All of this great technology and sci-fi culture has been around since long before they were born, and they’ve grown up with it as an integral part of their lives. But you know the old saying – “Familiarity Breeds Contempt” – they just don’t appreciate it. It’s no big deal to them. We older fen, on the other hand, we were there when Star Trek first appeared in the 1960’s, when Star Wars ushered in the era of blockbuster sci-fi movies in the late-1970’s. Before that, with only a handful of exceptions, sci-fi movies were cheap B-movies, sneered at by everyone except the hardcore fans.

We were there for the first appearances of Blake’s 7, Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner, Alien, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We were there when all of these great television shows and films (which are now familiar cultural icons) were new, fresh, and NOBODY had ever seen anything like them before. Some of us were even there for the first appearance of Doctor Who (although I don’t remember anything about it, as it was two weeks before my third birthday!). And the oldest fans were there for the three original Quatermass TV serials – The Quatermass Experiment (1953), Quatermass II (1955) and Quatermass and the Pit (1958), Captain Video and His Video Rangers, and even the sci-fi “pulps”. Well before my time, and I’m so envious of them.

All of us older fans, we’re starting to get on a bit (I’m 53). But the one great thing about being middle-aged or older is that we lived through the truly great eras of nearly EVERYTHING – sci-fi TV and cinema, the growth and explosion into popular culture of SF literature, the great eras of US and UK comics, and the great popular music eras of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. We are SO lucky. We’re the most fortunate of all, because we lived through the one, true geek generation. We’ll never see its like again.

The kids these days missed out on all of that, and will NEVER experience anything like it. There are so many bright, shiny new fads these days, massive marketing machines making sure that they happen seemingly one right after another. And each of them lasts all of five minutes until the next one comes along. Nothing is unique or special any more. They’ve seen it all before.

To be honest, I’m not overly enthusiastic about the rapidly looming advance of my “senior years”. But being a geek is the one area in life where I can honestly say “It’s great to be old”. 🙂

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 11)

Here’s the penultimate part of my look back at Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary:

  • The Radio Times Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special
  • The TV Times Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special

11. Radio Times 50th Anniversay Special

The Radio Times Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special is a real doozy, with no less than TWELVE variant covers featuring all of the Doctors, including “War Doctor” John Hurt.

There’s also a Steven Moffat article, on set with Tennant, Smith and Hurt, a celebration of 50 Years of Radio Times Doctor Who covers, a detailed overview of all eleven Doctors, and even a competition to win the Doctor’s bow tie. What’s not to like about this? Another nice one.

12. TV Times 50th Anniversay Special

The TV Times had their own 50 Years of Doctor Who Anniversary edition, which was also pretty good, although they didn’t go quite as overboard as the Radio Times, with only four variant Doctor Who covers.

There is a nice Classic Companions piece, interviewing Peter Purves (Steven) and Frazer Hines (Jamie), plus a mini-review of The Day of the Doctor. But the main piece of the Doctor Who anniversary is the five-page 50 Years of Doctor Who Special celebration, which includes interviews with not only David Tennant and Matt Smith, but also Tom Baker and Peter Davison.

However, my absolute favourite was the A Brief History of Time (Lords) timeline, which runs along the bottom of the entire five pages of the main 50 Years of Doctor Who Special section. Anyone who knows me knows how much I like my timelines. Lovely.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 8)

Here’s the next part of my look back at the Best of the Bunch from Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary:

  • The reshowing of An Unearthly Child
  • The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who
  • The Science of Doctor Who Special

5. An Unearthly Child

In fifth place was the reshowing of all four episodes of An Unearthly Child on BBC4 at 10.30pm on Thursday 21st November, right after An Adventure in Space and Time ended on BBC2, was also one of the highlights. These two together on the same evening provided a great night’s viewing, a comprehensive overview of the beginning of Doctor Who.

6. The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who

In sixth place was the two-hour The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who, which aired on BBC3 from 8pm-10pm, on the night of Monday 18th November, was a fun, all-encompassing retrospective of all eleven Doctors, the companions, and the most popular monsters. I missed this one first time out, but was fortunate enough to catch it again on re-runs, when Part 1 of this was reshown on BBC3, on Sunday 15th December at 7pm, and Part 2 on BBC3, on Saturday 4th January 2014, at 7pm. I enjoyed it immensely.

7. Science of Doctor Who Special

In seventh place was the Science of Doctor Who Special, which aired on BBC2 on Thursday 14th November, at 9pm, and was hosted by Professor Brian Cox (with a guest appearance by none other than the Doctor himself, Matt Smith), was another excellent programming choice. It was a fun look at the science of time travel, through the lens of Doctor Who, in front of a studio audience made up of celebrities from science and many other areas of life.

To Be Continued…

Sci-Fi on Television (Part 2)

If the 1970s were the golden years of telefantasy for me, the 1980s were a bit of a disappointment, with many of my favourite series going into decline or disappearing off the air altogether, and very few decent new sci-fi series stepping up to take their place.

My favourite TV series, Doctor Who, after the glory decade of the 1970s with Pertwee and Baker in the role, was now on the slide. After Tom Baker left in 1981, the series began to go into decline, and following Peter Davison’s departure in 1984, Doctor Who rapidly degenerated into a pathetic parody of its former self, sliding towards its final demise in 1989. As a hardcore Doctor Who fan, I was NOT a happy bunny from 1981 onwards.

The early 1980s also saw a few of my other favourite telefantasy series wrap up – Sapphire and Steel, Blake’s 7, The Incredible Hulk, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Battlestar Galactica/Galactica 1980. With the exception of V and the remake of The Twilight Zone, the period from 1982-1987 was pretty crap, filled with bland, silly, formulaic US series such as Knight Rider, Airwolf, Automan and The Greatest American Hero. It wasn’t until 1987, and the first appearance of Star Trek: The Next Generation, that the Eighties started getting interesting for me again, at least as far as telefantasy is concerned. With both Quantum Leap and Alien Nation appearing in 1989, at least the end of the decade had three decent sci-fi series that I liked on the air at the same time.

As the 1980s moved into the 1990s, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and Star Trek: Voyager were pretty dominant in the US telefantasy world, each with an impressive seven-year run (Quantum Leap was the only other decent sci-fi series on the air at that time). TNG and DS9 were favourites of mine, but once DS9 ended, my love of new Star Trek started to wane drastically, as Voyager was the only Trek left on the air, and I didn’t rate it highly at all.

I’d been a hardcore Star Trek fan since the original series, and Voyager was the first Trek that I actually really disliked, to such an extent that I never even bothered following it on a weekly basis. I thought the scripts were really lame, excessively based around and padded out with treknobabble nonsense, and most of the characters were less likeable and less well defined than those in earlier Trek series. There were very few truly stand-out episodes in the entire seven-year run, and the only real redeeming features were the holodoc’s sarcasm and 7 of 9, who was absolute heaven on the eyes.

Aside from Quantum Leap, the only real competition Trek had in the early 1990s was when both Babylon 5 (my favourite 1990s sci-fi series) and the X-Files burst upon the world in 1993. This was a complete game-changer, as the X-Files, in particular, rocketed to the top of the popularity charts. Star Trek (of ANY kind) was now no longer top dog among telefantasy shows. And by the mid-to-late 1990s, it was no longer even in second or third place, as the three really big telefantasy successes of that era, in terms of popularity, were the X-Files, Stargate SG1 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I really like both the X-Files and Stargate, although I’d agree with the common criticism that they both might’ve gone on a bit too long and run out of steam in their last few seasons. I watched the X-Files religiously when it was on TV, but for some totally unfathomable reason, and despite the fact that it became a big favourite with me when I watched it on DVD a few years later, Stargate SG1 never registered with me at all back in the day. I have absolutely no recollection of ever seeing it on TV back in the Nineties.

Buffy (and its spin-off Angel) never really did much for me although it was extremely popular. I did watch the occasional episode whenever it was on, and I thought it was okay, but I’m not really a big vampire or zombie fan, more of a time travel, space adventure kinda guy. Two other very popular series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and its spin-off series Xena: Warrior Princess also weren’t what you’d call huge favourites of mine, as I’m also not big into fantasy either. I thought they were both ridiculously silly and formulaic, and I could take them or leave them, only watching the odd episode when nothing else was on.

The second half of the Nineties also gave us the new version of The Outer Limits, which ran for seven years. I quite liked this one, although some episodes were better than others. But in my opinion it was, overall, never as good as the original classic 1960s series, and I was really surprised that it actually made it to seven seasons.

On the downside, there were a few Nineties telefantasy series that I liked which unfortunately never got a fair crack of the whip, and ended well before their time. The ones that I recall (there were quite a few others, but these were favourites of mine) were Babylon 5: Crusade, which was cancelled after only thirteen episodes, Dark Skies, Space: Above and Beyond and American Gothic, all of which got axed at the end of their first season, and Chris Carter’s Millennium, which also suffered a premature end, although it, at least, made it to three seasons. Even Babylon 5 itself, although it did make it to the end of the fifth and final season, had its last two seasons totally messed up by network interference and cancellations.

Unfortunately, telefantasy series are very expensive to produce, compared to mainstream TV programming. During the 1990s, US and UK television networks seem to become much more inclined to quickly cancel even relatively successful series, if viewing figures weren’t good right from the outset, or so much as dipped slightly. For every Buffy, Stargate or X-Files, there were many other potentially classic telefantasy series that were cut short or never even got off the ground, while crap US and UK sitcoms, soaps and reality TV shows seemed to breed like rabbits.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 7)

Here’s the next part of my look back at the Best of the Bunch from Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary:

  • The November DVD release of The Tenth Planet
  • The November 50th Anniversary edition of Doctor Who Magazine

3. The Tenth Planet

In third place, it’s the November DVD release of The Tenth Planet. I’ve been waiting to see this one for a long, long time, and it didn’t disappoint. I’d never actually been lucky enough to own the VHS video release, and had only seen the few surviving clips on the Lost in Time DVD box set. So, finally being able to watch the whole story after all these years, featuring the very first appearance of the Cybermen, was really exciting.

The missing Episode 4 is expertly recreated here in animated form by the same people who did such sterling work animating the missing episodes on the recent Reign of Terror, The Ice Warriors and The Invasion DVD releases. And the excellent Telesnaps reconstruction of Episode 4 which had featured on the VHS video release is also here, in among the plentiful features on this top-notch and long-awaited double-DVD release.

4. Doctor Who Magazine 50th Anniversary Edition

In fourth place, it’s the November 50th Anniversary edition of Doctor Who Magazine, the biggest and one of the best ever editions of the magazine. There was so much good stuff in this one, simply choc a bloc with 50th Anniversary goodness, that it’s difficult to know where to start. But if I had my arm twisted up my back and was forced to choose, my two favourites would have to be Ghosts in the Machine, a behind the scenes feature on the excellent An Adventure in Space and Time, and An Unearthly Beginning, which features never-before-seen drafts of An Unearthly Child. Great stuff!

To Be Continued…

Sci-Fi on Television (Part 1)

I’m a big fan of sci-fi on television, which I almost always refer to by its “proper” name, telefantasy. The 1950s-1990s were, in my opinion, the Golden Age of telefantasy, and the first real telefantasy started about a decade or so before my birth (in December 1960), when Captain Video and His Video Rangers first appeared on US television in 1949, followed closely in the early 1950s by the likes of Space Patrol, Tom Corbett: Space Cadet and Rocky Jones: Space Ranger.

UK telefantasy was slightly slower to get off the mark, and it was mostly with one-offs like the 1949 adaptation of H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine and the prestigious 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. The first ongoing, serialized sci-fi productions of any note were the three Quatermass serials which aired in 1953, 1955 and 1958. These were the first real stars of pre-Doctor Who UK telefantasy, and, in my opinion, the classic 1958 six-part serial Quatermass and the Pit remains, to this day, one of the greatest examples of telefantasy ever produced.

But those were all produced and televised well before I was born, and it’s only really been in more recent years that I’ve discovered and begun looking back at some of the much older telefantasy series, which aired in the years between the first appearance of Captain Video and His Video Rangers in 1949 and the very first episode of Doctor Who, in November 1963. It would be the mid-1960s before I started to show the first glimmers of interest in any kind of sci-fi on contemporary television.

I’ve been an avid viewer of sci-fi television of all kinds ever since the time that Doctor Who first began to register in my very young and impressionable mind around 1966-1967. But it was when Jon Pertwee first fell out of the Tardis at the beginning of Spearhead from Space, in January 1970, that marked the moment where I can definitely say that I made the leap from merely enjoying Doctor Who, to becoming an obsessive, life-long fan.

I also became a huge fan of the original Star Trek, which first appeared on UK television channel BBC1 in July 1969, and also the new live-action Gerry Anderson series UFO, which first aired on ITV in 1970. I’d previously watched, and enjoyed, the various Anderson puppet shows such as Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds and Stingray, but I preferred the live shows, and UFO was where I first became a real Anderson fan.

By December 1970 (when I’d reached my tenth birthday), with Pertwee almost a year into his tenure on Doctor Who, Star Trek at the height of its popularity on BBC1, and UFO featuring prominently on ITV, I was now old enough to really start understanding and appreciating television sci-fi in general. These were the first three telefantasy series that I really got into, and it’s no big surprise that these series have always remained right at the very top of my list of favourites.

As I moved into the 1970s, things really started to heat up. I began to get heavily into other UK telefantasy series such as Timeslip, The Tomorrow People, Space: 1999, Blake’s 7 and Sapphire and Steel. I was also hooked on then-current 1970s US telefantasy such as the animated Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica. And, of course, UK television was also awash with re-runs of the various Irwin Allen series, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants, The Time Tunnel and Lost in Space, plus re-runs of other classic US “cult” TV sci-fi series such as The Invaders, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Take all these great telefantasy series, and the fact that the early 1970s marked the time that I was moving into my teens, and it was a great time for a young fan of sci-fi television like myself.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 5)

In my previous posts, I discussed the various 50th Anniversary activities in Doctor Who Magazine, the Radio Times and the TV Times, as well as the various television celebrations, in particular the 50th Anniversary Special itself, The Day of the Doctor, and the remarkable historical drama An Adventure in Space and Time.

The final big November 50th Anniversary landmark (as far as I’m concerned) was the much-anticipated DVD release of The Tenth Planet. The recent rediscovery of classic Patrick Troughton stories The Web of Fear and Enemy of the World had already caused a huge buzz in the world of Doctor Who, and the release of The Tenth Planet certainly added to that. One of the most important Doctor Who DVD releases of the year, it features the final adventure of the William Hartnell Doctor, as he and his companions Ben and Polly have their first-ever encounter with the Cybermen. The story is also a landmark as it features the very first regeneration of a Doctor into a new incarnation.

The DVD release of The Tenth Planet was something that I had been looking forward to for many years, never having seen the original VHS video release, although I have seen various surviving clips which feature on the Lost in Time DVD box-set. I do have a few very dim memories of some parts of this story from its original 1966 airing on BBC1, although these are only extremely brief, vague flashes of individual scenes. Quite understandable, as I was only five-going-six years old at the time. My first really strong memories of Doctor Who didn’t come from until shortly afterwards, during the Troughton era.

But it was my first encounter with the Target Books novelization of The Tenth Planet during my teens that was the real revelation, confirming it as one of my favourite Doctor Who stories. This was the first time I had actually come across the story in full, as opposed to the much shorter synopsis I had read in the 1973 Doctor Who 10th Anniversary Radio Times Special. And did I enjoy it? Damn right I did! It has always been one of my favourites from the Target Books range.

Now, with the 50th Anniversary DVD release of The Tenth Planet, we get to see the story in full, although the original final episode is still missing. Instead, we have an animated reconstruction, produced by the talented team who did the animated episodes for The Invasion, The Ice Warriors and The Reign of Terror. The original VHS Telesnaps reconstruction of the final episode is also available in the bonus featurettes, as is the original short regeneration sequence that was featured on Blue Peter.

There are lots of other extras as well, but I’ll leave elaborating on those for a proper review of The Tenth Planet, which will be coming up in a later posting.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 4)

In my last post, I discussed the Doctor Who contents of the 50th Anniversary editions of both the Radio Times and the TV Times, and both magazines have pulled out all the stops for the 50th Anniversary. But when it comes to the magazines, nothing beats Doctor Who Magazine.

The November 50th Anniversary edition of Doctor Who Magazine is an extra-special bumper 116-page souvenir special issue, and comes inside a lovely hard-card “envelope”, with lots of nice stuff both on back and front. The magazine itself is full of tasty anniversary articles and interviews, including:

  • A massive preview of the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor
  • Ghosts in the Machine, a behind the scenes feature on the prestigious An Adventure in Space and Time drama
  • An Unearthly Beginning, featuring never-before-seen drafts of An Unearthly Child
  • The Wonder of Who – what is the secret of Doctor Who’s appeal?
  • Who Was Anthony Coburn? Part 1
  • The Fact of Fiction – The Five Doctors a detailed examination of the 20th Anniversary adventure
  • The Watcher’s Guide to Anniversaries
  • The Watcher’s 50th Anniversary Quiz
  • Interviews with Matt Smith and David Tennant, Jenna-Louise Coleman (on how Clara coped with three Doctors) and Mary Peach (Enemy of the World)
  • Reviews of Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear, The Complete Seventh Series, and various new releases on the books and audio drama front
  • A nice comic strip John Smith and the Common Men
  • Plus all the usual regular stuff that DWM gives us each and every month.

There are also some nice extras inside, in addition to the magazine. There’s a very nice twelve-card series of collectable art cards featuring all twelve Doctors (Peter Capaldi is in there as well). And we’ve also got a special mini-magazine, a gorgeous little A5 1960s-themed “mini issue” of Doctor Who Magazine (dated November 1964. Only 2d!), with a really nice “Dalek on Westminster Bridge” cover.

This November 50th Anniversary issue of DWM is a real cracker, one of the best, ever. I’d advise all Doctor Who fans to snap up a copy while they still can.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 3)

With the Radio Times celebrating Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary, with no less than TWELVE variant covers, the TV Times also got in on the act with their own 50 Years of Doctor Who Anniversary edition for the week of 23rd-29th November, with four variant Doctor Who covers. I have the 1963-1969 Cover #1, featuring Hartnell and Troughton, plus companions Jamie, Zoe, Steven and Dodo, and a selection of the favourite b&w era monsters. A very nice cover, although it’s strange that all the background companions and monsters are Troughton-era. There’s nothing from the Hartnell era, except the First Doctor himself, and maybe the Daleks, as they were from both eras.

Inside the magazine, we have:

  • A mini-review of The Day of the Doctor
  • A five-page 50 Years of Doctor Who Special celebration, A Very Special Birthday. This is a nice one, and includes an interview with David Tennant and Matt Smith, and interviews with Tom Baker (the 1970s) and Peter Davison (the 1980s)
  • There’s also a Classic Companions piece, featuring interviews with Peter Purves (Steven) and Frazer Hines (Jamie)
  • And to crown it all, there’s A Brief History of Time (Lords), a very nice timeline running along the bottom of the entire five-page feature, starting with An Unearthly Child in 1963, and taking us right up to the 2012 Christmas TV Special, in which the Matt Smith Doctor faces off against the Great Intelligence, in the shape of Richard E. Grant

Overall, a pretty good Doctor Who 50th Anniversary edition. It’s well worth grabbing at least one copy of this one.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 2)

Last time out, I talked about what TV has been dishing up for us to celebrate our favourite Time Lord’s 50th birthday. This time, I’m having a look at what’s been happening on the magazine front. In this first part, I’ll be looking at the Radio Times.

The November 23rd-29th edition of the Radio Times is a Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, with no less than twelve variant covers, each one featuring a different Doctor (including the “War Doctor” John Hurt, which is why there are twelve covers, not eleven). So far, I’ve got the Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee and Tom Baker covers, and to be honest, that’s enough.

I honestly think it’s going a bit overboard trying to collect all twelve covers, unless you’re a reseller wanting to make a big profit, or a hardcore, dedicated fan or collector, who simply has to have every cover. I’ve always been a huge fan of the first four Doctors, so I’ve decided just to collect only the magazines with the covers of those four Doctors.

Inside the magazine itself, we’ve got:

  • A golden celebration of Radio Times Doctor Who covers, with fifty covers for all fifty years
  • A Steven Moffat article You Can’t Destroy the Doctor
  • On set with the Three Doctors (Smith, Tennant and Hurt)
  • A detailed overview of all eleven Doctors
  • And, finally, a competition to win the Doctor’s bow tie

Oh, yeah, and don’t forget that this issue is also interactive, if you happen to have an Apple or Android smartphone. Which I don’t. Life is so unfair! 🙁

This one is worth grabbing at least one copy of.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 1)

As this month marks the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, my all-time favourite telefantasy series, I reckon that now is the perfect time to relaunch this blog as a dedicated Doctor Who thingie, rather than the more general telefantasy blog of its previous regeneration.

I now do all of the more general stuff over on my main Tales of Time & Space blog on wordpress.com, so I’ve cleared out all previous posts from this one (they can be reposted in some form on Tales of Time & Space at some point in the future), and I’m starting from scratch here with Doctor Who-only posts.

This coming Saturday (and I get a real thrill out of the fact that the 23rd November actually does fall on a Saturday this year) marks the 50th Anniversary of the very first episode of An Unearthly Child (aka The Tribe of Gum – I still refuse to refer to the overall story by that name), which first aired on BBC1 at 5.15pm on Saturday 23rd November, 1963. I’ll make sure to be sitting in front of the telly at 5.15pm on Saturday with my DVD box-set of The Beginning, plus a little drinkie or two, ready to mark the anniversary of the exact moment when the very first ever episode of Doctor Who exploded upon an unsuspecting world. Actually, it’s more like “sneaked by unnoticed”, due to the widespread furore surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy the day before, but “exploded upon” sounds much more dramatic, doesn’t it?

There has obviously been quite a bit of activity on television to celebrate the lead-up to the anniversary. Aside from the almost compulsory annual Children in Need silliness, we’ve had, most notably: the fun The Science of Doctor Who special on BBC2 (Thursday 14th November, at 9.00pm), hosted by the seemingly ever-present and absolutely brilliant Professor Brian Cox (with a guest appearance by the Doctor himself, Matt Smith); Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited (Watch, Saturday 16th November at 2pm); a three-part Doctor Who: Monsters and Villains Weekend documentary (BBC3, Friday/Saturday 15th/16th November at 8pm, and Sunday 17th November at 7.30pm); and the bumper two-hour The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who (BBC3, Monday 18th November, 8pm-10pm).

That leaves the two biggies still to come. Every Doctor Who fan on Planet Earth is chomping at the bit, waiting for the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor (BBC1, Saturday 23rd November, 7.50pm). Obviously I’m as eager as anyone else to see The Day of the Doctor, but, as far as I’m concerned, the true highlight of the entire anniversary celebrations is An Adventure in Space and Time, which airs tonight on BBC2, from 9pm-10.30pm.

I’ve been waiting for months for this one, and I consider An Adventure in Space and Time to be potentially the most important Doctor Who production of recent years. It promises to be something truly special and unique, and I haven’t been this excited about any Doctor Who-related programme since the unsurpassed Philip Hinchcliffe era of Tom Baker’s run on the classic series.

And just for good measure, after An Adventure in Space and Time ends, you can hop channels over to BBC4 at 10.30pm, where they’re airing all four episodes of An Unearthly Child. This is gonna be the best Thursday night’s television viewing in years!

To Be Continued…

It’s a Geek’s Life… (Part Two)

The Golden Years – Geek Nirvana During the Seventies

The start of our teenage years is the sweet spot for the vast majority of us, particularly geeks, the beginning of what is probably the most fondly remembered period of our lives.

It’s long enough ago that most of our memories are fond, rosy ones, but it’s also the first time in our lives from which we retain reasonably accurate and continuous recollections of events (unlike our earlier childhood – most memories from our first decade are pretty vague and fragmented). And it is also during these years that many of us have the most fun and freedom to do what we want (after we finish our homework, of course), before adulthood arrives and the bland banalities, responsibilities and worries of “grown-up” life start to descend upon us.

I mentioned in my previous posting that my childhood was a far from happy one. Things got even worse when I was eleven years old, when my parents separated, leaving my father to raise five kids on his own. He was forced to leave his job, and our descent into poverty became even more severe. To top it all off, my father’s health began to decline sharply after my mother left, and, as the “oldest”, I was shoehorned into the role of “surrogate mother” from this very tender age, taking over the extremely heavy responsibilities of not only looking after my father, but also the other four kids, one of whom was also very severely disabled.

To be blunt, I was a very unhappy young boy as a teenager, one who sought refuge in a world of make-believe. Any kind of an escape from this dreary and depressing reality was a welcome one, and I immersed myself in an alternate world of comics, sci-fi worlds on television, in films, and in great SF literature. I also became very preoccupied with drawing and writing.

To refer to these interests as mere “hobbies” would be a complete understatement. They were obsessions, a vital lifeline for me, and I depended on them utterly to keep me sane, when everything around me was so gloomy and depressing. Since childhood, and throughout my entire life, these “obsessions” have been entrenched as fundamental pillars of my personality and way of thinking, and I simply cannot imagine my life without them.

I may already have been a proto-geek from a much earlier period in my life, but the beginning of my teens marks the time from which I can seriously start referring to myself as a true, hardcore geek. Things may not have been rosy on the domestic and personal front, but my hobbies and obsessions certainly first started to kick into overdrive in a very big way at this age, almost certainly to compensate for my miserable “Real Life”. I was also now growing old enough to be much more sophisticated, systematic and discerning when it came to what I was “into”. And what I was into, and I mean REALLY into, was the Holy Trinity of SF literature, Sci-Fi on television and in films, and Comics.

All through the 1970’s, up until around 1977-78, was a “Golden Age” for me, from a geek perspective anyway, the completely opposing mirror image of my crappy “real life”. All during my teens there was a steady procession of classic sci-fi TV shows and films on local television, and although I had my favourites – Doctor Who, Star Trek, UFO, The Time Tunnel – I loved them all to a lesser or greater extent.

By this stage of my life I was also a totally obsessive reader of both comics (particularly the Marvel UK reprint comics) and SF literature. I’d started off initially in my pre-teens with Wells and Verne, then moving onto Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, and anything else that I could read. By my early teens, the whole world of SF literature was my oyster. I was discovering great new (to me, anyway) authors like H. Beam Piper, Cordwainer Smith, Cyril M. Kornbluth, Frederik Pohl, John W. Campbell, Alfred Bester, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith and many, many others.

By my mid-teens, I was neck-deep in my alternate geek world, spending every available second on my hobbies. I just couldn’t get enough of the whole Sci-Fi/Comics/SF Literature thing, and it seemed like the good days would never end.

But I was wrong.

To Be Continued…

It’s a Geek’s Life… (Part One)

Here’s the first part (of three) in the story of my rise to geekhood.

Early Days in the Sixties – Genesis of a Geek

I’m a card-carrying geek. I’ve always been a geek. I’ve been one all my life, right from when I was a very young child, and I simply can’t conceive of being any other way. It’s as natural for me as breathing.

I’m also not one of those shy, retiring types who tries to hide the fact that I’m a geek out of view, for fear of ridicule. I’ve always been very proud of my geek status. I don’t give a damn who knows it or who doesn’t like it. They can all take a great running leap off the top of a high building, as far as I’m concerned.

My early childhood was not a particularly happy one, what little of it I can recall. My family was poor, very poor, and we never had much in the line of material goods. For much of the time it was a struggle for our parents to even feed and clothe us. We also lived on a council estate in Northern Ireland during that infamous period in Irish history known as “The Troubles”, which began in 1968 (I was only seven years old at the time), and was to last right up into my thirties. It overshadowed my entire earlier life, and for everyone of my generation who lived through it, it was a dark time, full of tensions, fear, and unhappiness.

Any kind of an escape from the dreary and depressing reality of life in a poverty-stricken, 1960’s Northern Ireland council estate was a welcome one, and so I took every chance I could to escape from “real life” into the realms of my incredibly active imagination. But WHEN did I actually become a geek, and, more importantly, HOW and WHY? Why did I choose that path, rather than follow the more mundane hobbies that the vast majority of other kids my age indulged in?

I suppose it all began at a very early age, before I’d even started school, back when I started to read my first “proper” books (books with lots of words, rather than mere “picture books”). By the time I first went to school (aged four and a half years), I was already a voracious reader, very advanced for my age, and my parents and other relatives encouraged me as much as possible by continually giving me new books to read. My uncle started buying me books on a regular basis, and these were invariably based around science, nature and technology. They were full of dinosaurs, spaceships, and stories of other worlds and solar systems, all of which captivated my fertile young imagination. My preferences were already being shaped around science-oriented themes even at that early age.

Even this early in life, I showed a very strong preference for the fantastic rather than the mundane, for wild adventures into space and through time, dinosaurs, aliens, indeed anything “out of this world”. I took every chance I could to escape from boring “real life” into the realms of my incredibly active imagination. So all the influences and obsessions of a future geek had already been laid down right from the start. It was almost like I was pre-ordained to become a geek, although we all know that couldn’t be true, could it?

Soon afterwards, at about four or five years old, I started reading comics and quickly developed a strong preference for the more SF-oriented strips over the less fantasy-oriented stories, particularly the war and sport strips which were more dominant in British comics at that time. And around the same time, I also started paying attention to sci-fi and fantasy films and sci-fi television series on UK TV.

Doctor Who, on UK television, started having its first really strong influence on me about 1966-67, when I was about six years old, and at about roughly the same time, my life was changed forever when I saw the classic George Pal movie adaption of The Time Machine (1960) for the first time on Irish television (RTE). I became totally obsessed with the concept of time travel, which remains my favourite SF theme even now. At the young age of six or seven, I was already a confirmed SF nut, at least as far as comics, films and television were concerned.

As a direct result of this obsession with The Time Machine (1960) movie and Doctor Who, I was also to start reading SF. About a year or two after I’d seen the movie, I found the original H. G. Wells’ novel The Time Machine in a local library, and I just had to read it. I was hooked, despite the drastic differences between the novel and the film, and moved from there on to reading anything else I could find by Wells, then on to Verne, Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein and the greater world of SF authors at large. I’ve never looked back, and remain a hardcore SF literature fan to this day.

As I got older, I immersed myself ever further into the fascinating world of comics, watching sci-fi TV and films, reading great SF books, and also drawing and writing, almost always something connected with the aforementioned comics, books, TV series and films.

I drove my poor parents mad. They just didn’t “get” sci-fi at all, but humoured their crazy kid. My father really hated all of this “silly sci-fi nonsense”, and Doctor Who in particular, but tolerated it when I was very young. He hoped desperately that I’d “grow out of it” as I got older, but there was absolutely no chance of that happening! Here I am, more than forty years later, and still a hardcore SF fan.

Poor Dad! He must be turning in his grave!

To Be Continued…