26 March 2017

Why don't people like The Ambassadors of Death?



There are a number of Doctor Who stories people just don't seem to have taken to and `The Ambassadors of Death` is high up that list. People says its too slow, that it doesn't have the same weight as it's contemporaries on the 1970 series. I say give it a chance! Without it that season would be a poorer place indeed. Whatever else you might think of it `The Ambassadors of Death` never looks silly. It may seem absurdly naive in its depiction of (literal) rocket science, it may take some liberties with its time frame and it may play out sluggishly for modern viewers but not once does it look silly. More than that though, at times, `Ambassadors` is hard as nails. It shows the sort of things that you’d probably not even be allowed to show at teatime nowadays and it does it with such panache that you can only doff your cap.


22 March 2017

Kris Marshall and co- the ongoing next Doctor speculation part 145



As always happens when a news story neither concludes nor develops speculation has filled the lengthening void between Peter Capaldi announcing his departure and whomever replaces him being confirmed. Thus we’ve had the media deciding several times that so and so will be the new Doctor only to come up with a different name a few days later. Tilda Swinton was favourite, then Kris Marshall was such a `shoo in` that betting on him was suspended. Now it’s gone back to names being thrown into the mix. Damian Molony, a leading candidate in the media’s eyes last time round has re-appeared courtesy of Toby Whithouse which is interesting only in the sense that the writer was one of those speculated to become show runner long before Chris Chibnall was announced. Had Whithouse taken the job (not that as far as we know he was offered it) we can at least see who his Doctor would have been. Now there’s another era unfolding in our imagination and if Chibnall is found wanting you can be sure fans will start saying `Urrgh it should have been Whithouse and Molony”. Fans are like that.
"I'm the Doctor you know"

19 March 2017

Good Times! Coda



So there you have it, 21 years of Conventioneering. As a whole I must say the abiding memory of all these conventions is that however much I enjoyed them there were always probs with the seating n heating. Oh yes, the seating was rarely comfortable, the heating was always too high. At most of them the hotel staff thought we were nuts, the food was dodgy or expensive but we didn’t really care.

All the reviews in this series have been pretty much left as originally written with the odd polish and yet I can see an unintentional narrative threading through them. It starts with my fresh enthusiasm- I was buzzing for days after my first event- through getting to know the in crowd, through actually being involved in them, to going back to just being an attendee through gradually realising that I’d seen all this before. I end up spending the Friday night at one latter event watching a band in a pub because it’s more interesting. It’s a narrative about getting older, more cynical perhaps. It’s the same narrative anyone my age might tell about their interests, their job or even their marriage. 

17 March 2017

Good Times! #21 PanoptiCon 25 2002



(originally published 2002, zine unknown)

The familiar purple robed and golden masked figure of Heironymous strolling about in the road outside Manchester's Palace Hotel is a bit of a giveaway really. Skirting past in case there's a video camera lurking, I'm met by a Sea Devil taking the steps surprisingly well and once inside there's a Voc padding around the lobby. Yes, it's twenty five years since the very first Panopticon was held in a church hall in London and nowadays it seems to have relocated to a gothic hotel oop North. The umpteenth event was a surprise addition to 2002's convention calendar and, as it turned out, rather a disappointing one. The two main attractions had to pull out, leaving a void that was difficult to fill not least because the main hall had very little atmosphere and echoey sound that seemed out of sync with the big screen. Then there was David Bickerstaff whose interviewing style was off-putting and often unsupportive of the guests (nobody paid to see him). Nevertheless a lot of the audience seemed fairly happy, though many who attended June's big shouty SFX Event have commented on the relative lack of atmosphere at Doctor Who events. 

13 March 2017

Build Your Own Tardis?



When I was a child I used to visit an old hermit who lived up a mountain. Actually that’s not true (it was a cave) but it was the case that a friend of mine lived four doors up the road and he was a huge Doctor Who fan like me. Once we became mutally aware of our fanship, we used to play our own adventures though his younger sister always insisted on playing a dog called Bonnie rather than a proper companion. This of course meant she didn’t have to make up any lines and could be even more annoying than normal. So we had many an intergalactic adventure all within the space between four houses. This was great and everything until the day my friend announced he was going to build a Tardis.
Voila! Paint it blue and you wouldn't be able to see the difference

12 March 2017

Good Times! #20 Blue Box 4 and Battlefield 6 2001





Blue Box 4(first published in Fringeworld 2001)
Bristol is not Mars but for the country's beleaguered public transport system it may as well be. Why else would I have to board the 9.13 train (itself a journey up to town from where I live) a full 24 hours before the event began? Arriving at 12.30, I had to wait two hours to meet Neil Hutchings from his London train and, after exploring the city for a while, the moment came to find the venue. Most conventions are within a stone's throw of a town or city centre but the Aztec Hotel is approximately 15 miles away in a bleak, deserted industrial park served by one bus; the only option as a taxi fare would have been prohibitive. Tallying all this up with the registration fee for the weekend, £45 and the (admittedly very favourable for a 4 star hotel) £30 per night room fees, something like £125 has been spent before a single person asks Wendy Padbury what its like in space. The real bone cruncher, however, comes as it gradually becomes clear that the Aztec holds a monopoly on all food and drink in the area. There is a lovely country pub opposite owned by them which has marginally lower prices, but check these out - a pot of tea £2.50. Sandwiches £6.95, buffet £10. Any money saved on the room rates is soon clawed back because there is nowhere else to eat or drink; even the alcohol is higher than London prices. So, let's face it, overpriced photos of Sylvester gurning with a stuffed ferret are the least of our worries!That said the Aztec is an excellent hotel full of wooden floors, beams, low ceilings and faux Tudor decoration. The staff are tremendously helpful and friendly more so than in any convention hotel I've been in. Hopefully they get a fair cut of all that cash flowing in. 

10 March 2017

Good Times! #19 Battlefield 5 and Resurrection 2001



Battlefield 5 (first published in Faze 2001)

The best thing I saw all weekend? Well, actually it was a band called Mr Bridger playing at the Rocket pub, just round the corner from Coventry station. Funky Hendrix-like with a touch of Nirvana, they made US style rock seem like it could be interesting though for all the attention the Friday night punters were paying, it might as well have been Mr Bridger's Dixieland Showband. It wasn't that they were bad; it was just that they were the wrong group for this crowd. Two days and many panels later, I've come to a similar conclusion about Battlefield 5. The temptation to go on and on with anything creative is always strong but sometimes you need to sit back and remember the sparks that brought the subject to life in the first place.
Battlefield began as a feisty alternative to the established convention lore, which stated that huge gaps would elapse between panels, there would be as much behind the scenes stuff as front of camera celebs and that evenings would consist of funny videos and large scale parlour games. The convention scene needed this boost and it worked well at first. Never had the two-day event seemed so jam packed with stuff nor had it ever passed so quickly. Now ambition has inspired the team to extend the latest event to a three day stretch, the glitzy celebs are still, for the most part, the same people who've been to all the others and the cabaret has mutated from the slightly old school music hall mentality to amateur hour at a nightclub.