High 5! The Bradscribe Celebration!

It’s Time To Come Together!

Thor: “Hey, let’s do the Bradscribe Celebration! Come on, you love it.”

Loki: “It’s humiliating.”

Thor: “Do you have a better plan?”

Loki: “No.” 

Thor: “We’re doing it.”

YAHOO!

There’s a party goin’ on right here! A celebration to last throughout the years. Come on now!

Yes, friends, it’s FIVE YEARS AGO today since Bradscribe made its first tentative steps into the blogosphere. Essentially the main platform to bring my writing to a wider readership (i.e. not just my mother) it has grown (hopefully in a healthy way) with the original SF articles and movie and book reviews now accompanied by Bronze Age (comic) Bonanzas, fiction, music compilations and – oh yes – parties. 

Such a monumental anniversary could not go unheralded. Besides, we could all do with another Bradtastic party, right? Let’s all celebrate and have a good time!

What better way to get these proceedings under feelgood way than with the Synchronised Sneakers Squad: 😉

“OH! Feels so good, doesn’t it…? I just 

can’t

help

myself!” – Doctor Stephen Strange. 

 

Freaky Facts About Bradscribe: 

 

1. Actually, my original sign-up with WordPress was made during the first months of 2012, but – thrilled at having access to my very own Dashboard from which my distinctive creativity (and waffle 😉 ) could pour forth – no matter how much the instruction manuals were read and reread, none of them made any sense; they may as well have been published in Lithuanian!

Only by constantly repeating a How To vid on YouTube did yours truly discover that the little white box in the top right corner of the Dashboard activates any  New Post…

 

2. Brad is NOT superstitious and yet over the past 60 months, not a single Post got published on the 13th day of ANY of them. At least something – even if it’s just a music Post, (the quickest and easiest to compile) – has appeared EVERY month. Strangely enough, no Posts materialised during November 2013. As soon as the technical side to blogging was mastered, so me ol’ mucker Writer’s Block came a-knockin’. HA!

 

3. Posts have been published in 3 different countries. Having watched – and thoroughly enjoyedBirdman in Singapore (in February 2015an equally enjoyable night was spent at a 24-hours Starbucks typing up this Review: 

 

4. Passing the 200 Followers milestone (in February 2017 is (Statswise) my most successful Post with 21 Likes and 36 Comments. 

My most popular Post remains my tribute to one of the greatest actors: Peter Cushing It’s the one where the majority of my Spam Comments tend to accumulate. Although some are unintelligible – or in Portuguese – these are unanimously positive and full of praise – or giving tips on how to improve my hydroponics system… 0_0

The next two clickbaits in the Bradscribe Archives honour a couple of the most iconic female characters in popular culture: Rey Of Light: Who’s That Girl? and Here’s To Hela: The Girl With The Awesome Antlers

 

5. The first video to appear here happened to be the trailer for Ex Machina in January 2015. 

Not comfortable with the way in which the text of this site looked too gargantuan on other consoles, and miffed that new readers could not access my wonderful About page, the decision to change my Theme was taken in June 2015. 

The first gif – now a (beloved?) mainstay around here – featured (of all people) Max Von Sydow (!) and appeared during this fiction Post: in August 2015. 

Dr. Hank Pym: “Hiya, champ, how was school today?”

Scott Lang: “Aw, ha ha ha! Alright, get your jokes out now, can you fix the suit?”

Hope van Dyne: “So cranky…”

Speaking of shining stars, ;-) this site would be nothing without YOU. 

Surely, the main aim of avy blogger is TO BE READ, yes? Taking this opportunity to extend gushing gratitude and virtual hugs to you all! 

The main reason to get embroiled in this blogging lark was to meet and chat with a myriad of groovy, like-minded peeps. Starting out all those moons ago, admittedly, there was some trepidation: would other bloggers be kind and sane peeps to converse with?! Moreover, would they be sociable with Brad? At all?!

No worries. 

Such intelligent, interesting and witty individuals you are! Just the sort of lovely folk one expects to find in the local village.

And another reason why you are all so amazing? 

You got soul! If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in here 😉

Peter Quill: “I like your plan. Except, it sucks. So let me do the plan and that way it might be really good.”

Drax: “Tell him about the dance-off to save the Universe.”

 

Behold! The 5 Most Gobsmacking Moments @ The Movies In The Last 5 Years: 

 

2014 

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

If I could save time in a bottle…”

“Prison break? That’s illegal, you know?” – Pietro Maximoff.

 

2015

Mad Max: Fury Road 

The Perfect Storm!

“Angharad, is that just the wind or is it some furious vexation?” – The Dag.

 

2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

You don’t know the power of the Dark Side... until his Lordship kindly gives us a demonstration…

“Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director” – Darth Vader.

 

2017

Thor: Ragnarok

She’s not a queen. Or a monster. She doesn’t hold back neither! 

“…But it can’t be you. You’re just the worst” – Thor.

 

2018

Avengers: Infinity War

SNAP to it!

“You should have gone for the head…” – Thanos.

Hey!

Is it possible that something got left out here?!

Can YOU think of a scene – shown on the big screen within the last five years – that needs to feature on this list?

As always, your awesome Comments will be very much appreciated! 

“He’s not so bad… deep down he’s all fluff… He’s also a huge dork. Chicks dig that!” – Natasha Romanoff.

Okey-dokey then, enough about ME!

Hope you have enjoyed these grooves, gags and gifs – thank you ever so much for popping round.

As long as WordPress continues, there will ALWAYS be good times and laughter on the site endearingly known as Bradscribe. For the rest of this month, it’s back to the spooky stuff as we hurtle hectically towards Halloween. 

Had intended to round off this one-in-a-half-decade jamboree with a few deep and profound words, but really: can anyone still see/hear me above that joyous cacophony of loud music, merry banter and balloons popping?!

So, in eager anticipation of many many more positive and productive Posts ahead, let me just wish you ALL: 

A Very Happy Triple Choc Cheesecake Peanut Butter Caramel Cake!! 🙂

“Yes, it’s true…! We’re all here together… truly together, for our hearts are open books and this atmosphere breeds understanding and mutes the ego. Here we are all one, and in this oneness there can only be… love” – Adam Warlock. 

 

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The Vault Of Horror: Creepy Comics From The Cellar

When Darkness Falls, Beware!

For In Those Night Hours, Brad Trips Over His Comics Collection… 😉

“You ask me to explain why I am afraid of a draught of cool air; why I shiver more than others upon entering a cold room, and seem nauseated and repelled when the chill of evening creeps through the heat of a mild autumn day” – H. P. Lovecraft.

This month – in preparation for Halloween – we will be taking a special look at horror.

The nights draw in; no matter, for we descend into the darkest domain Brad Manor – where even me minions dare not tread…

Despite not being much of a horror comics fan, several rather creepy mags still lurk in these musty – Blimey! Get a loada’ the cobwebs down ‘ere! – corners of my gaff.

One British title, in particular, comes to gleeful and nostalgic mind.

During March 1984, my weekly editions of Battle Action Force (produced by IPC Magazines, more famous for the longest-running SF comic: 2000AD) ran increasingly intriguing ads for a forthcoming horror comic. 

Couldn’t wait?

You’re telling me! ‘Twas like enticing me with cake…

Greetings, mortals! I am the once-human editor of this gruesome publication. If you horrors out there want to read something really spooky, you’ve picked the right paper…” – Ghastly McNasty. 

Will always remember reading and re-reading that first ish of Scream. Waiting for the “Second Spine-Chilling Issue” turned out to be the longest week of my life! 

Let me tell you why: 

The opening story: The Dracula File could so easily have been skipped – the Count is the most overused/recycled horror character, but this version entranced me from the get-go, especially as it is illustrated by Eric BRADbury (one of my fav artists from Battle Action Force) and a tense script by Gerry Finley-Dey (another Battle and 2000AD regular) interestingly set in the 1980s, against Cold War politics.

A “defector” flees across the East German border, surviving a hail of machine-gun bullets and manages to be transported to a military hospital in Britain. Colonel Stakis, at first sceptical, sets off in pursuit, wary of the realization that he may very well be dealing with the Prince of Darkness himself. He cannot inform the authorities in the West of his “unholy” mission, while they, in turn, are exceedingly dischuffed at having a KGB operative lurking freely around the back streets of London.

It’s a compelling thriller, gifted with some amazing surreal moments, especially Drac seeking sanctuary at… a fancy dress party! 

He drains the blood of Harry the Gorilla and seduces Cinderella – not even Christopher Lee could boast that! 

“Poor devil – I bet it’s been like a nightmare for him. But he’s defected safely – he’s got a whole new life ahead of him in Britain…” – Nurse Nightingale. 

(The Dracula File received a much-welcome reprint in a hardback collection published in October 2017) 

 

“That cough of yours is getting worse, Nathaniel! It’s time you prepared for the final journey. Pay me now in advance, and I’ll bury you at half my normal price!” – Joshuah Sleeth.  

For me, by far the outstanding story of every issue was Tales From The Grave, 2 or 3-part chillers set in the early 19th century, narrated by The Leper who described the various spine-chilling background stories laced with all the period detail you could eat.

Although Jim Watson’s “untidy” artistic style divided comic fans (especially in my school playground!) he lent the ideal, twisted gothic touch to this series; the grisly opening 4-parter: The Undertaker proved to be a clever tale of murder, deception and intrigue. At its (devilish) heart loomed Joshuah Sleeth, “an evil beggar alright,” as The Leper explained. “If yer needed a helpin’ hand into the next world, so ter speak, he was always ready to give it…”

The Cabbie And The Hanging Judge is also rather effecting, but, on this relatively mild autumn eventide, the very thought of Willard Giovanna RIP makes me shiver.

One day, whilst The Leper is digging with his old mate Finley, a gentlemen dressed in “old-fashioned clobber,” enquires to the site of one Willard Giovanna. Finley pipes up and directs him over to a rather untended grave.

“You crafty coot, Finley!” the Leper whispers, “Yer after the tuppenny tip he’ll be offerin’!”

Thereafter, a macabre plan to exhume the remains is set into action that very night. Restin’ his achin’ bones awhile, Finley happens to glance at the nametag in the gent’s fine coat: Willard Giovanna! ‘Tis the same name as on the stone – the gent’s diggin’ up his own grave!”

Sure enough, when Finley resumes this unspeakable exercise, he finds the coffin, and opens it to find it empty, except for a letter – “an’ Saints preserve us!” – addressed to him! 

Dear Finley, 

Here is your payment as agreed for digging up my coffin. A similar payment will arrive for you each month if you keep my grave in good order. Then there will be no need for me to return!

Yours,

W. Giovanna.

And with that, the startled Finley turned around to get the shock of his life: Willard Giovanna had turned into a rotting corpse. 

This tale left me not so much fearful but fascinated: how do horror writers concoct such amazing stuff?! 

In addition, a different story appeared every week in a series entitled: Library of DeathBeware The Werewolf! was a great crime-caper drawn by yet another great artist we lost far-too-soon: Steve Dillon; Spiders Can’t Scream presented the terrifying consequences reserved for evil treasure-seekers who wipe out ancient civilizations in the South American jungle; the 2-part Sea Beast offered a freaky variant on the Don’t-go-into-the-water theme; while particular moody fav Ghost Town features ill-fated present-day car-drivers pitting their wits – and rifles – against Wild West ghouls who are always far too quick on the draw! 

But the story that started it all off: Ghost House became an instant classic due to such spine-chilling art supplied by the always-reliable Cam Kennedy, then blowing me socks orf on 2000AD’s Rogue Trooper. His nameless ghoul (almost!) made even Brad’s flesh crawl – check out that grisly beckoning hand! (see below!)

“They thought they were too old to enter the house. They were wrong. No-one is too old… and no-one is too young! Age does not concern those who dwell in the Ghost House” – The Nameless One.

Apart from a handful of Holiday Specials, Scream comic never got a 16th issue…

Popular belief maintained that irate parents demanded the publication’s closure after giving their children countless nightmares.

The truth, it seems, is rather more mundane. 

A printers strike at IPC Magazines affected half a dozen titles. Unfortunately, the one title NOT resumed post-crisis happened to be the one yours truly most craved every week!

Bah!

Over the last three decades, however, Scream comic has attained a richly-deserved cult status, with reprints now becoming widely available.

 

English horror didn’t vanish with the fog and gas-lit cobblestones at the end of the Victorian era. Riveting, spine-chilling stuff” – Alan Moore. 

Hellblazer used to be one helluva haunting read.

This series – part of Vertigo: DC’s “Suggested For Mature Readers” range – kickstarted my DC – and, to a certain extent, Marvel – revival in 1988. 

Offering eloquent, yet disturbing, forays into the crass, yuppie-driven, Thatcherite terrors of ’80s London – as if the dirt, grime and lousy English weather was not enough! – the scintillating, and yet exceedingly creepy, writing by Jamie Delano helped me “escape” from the rigours of that school year (luckily, mercifully, my last). Each issue appeared unmistakably graced with glorious cover art by Dave McKean; the 1st issue’s collage (see above!) holds a reserved place in my Top 10 Best Comic Book Covers Ever. 

Co-created by Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bisette, and John Totleben, and based on Police frontman: Sting,  John Constantine is a heavy-smoking, obnoxious fella (from Liverpool) who just happens to know a fair bit of the occult and is continually haunted by the ghosts of friends he failed to protect.

Making his debut in Moore’s Swamp Thing, his own solo mag’s opening shocker: “Hunger,” dripping with voodoo – actually one of my least fav horror themes – remains a gobsmacking gamechanger.

The first seven ishs offer a superb introduction to the work of British co-auteurs: Jamie Delano and John Ridgway, and would now be hailed as literary classics if they featured in anything other than the comics medium.  

Delano had this unfathomable knack of weaving bloodcurdling chills on one page, and then surprising you on the very next page with the darkest rib-tickling humour! Some marvelous descriptive text, and, complete with John’s trenchcoat, it all seemed rough and hard-boiled, not unlike a Dashiel Hammett novel, except this dick had to deal with demons and diabolical dipwits… 

And this writer sure was glad that this title promised and delivered! – SHEER terror, and not that cockamamie terror – or halfassed terror – with which too many indie companies were wont to churn out back then…

Am fond of one particular, indelible moment: in one episode, Constantine has to bail out of a London black cab, unable to tolerate the driver’s incessant vile and xenophobic rants any further. As he does so, said callous cabbie bristles:

“‘Ere! Don’ I get a tip?” 

“Yeah, it’s this: your mind is narrow and full of crap. I suggest you get a new one.” 

Attaboy, John! 🙂

“…Bloody rain! Bloody England!” Ha ha HA, yeah! Too bloody right, mate!  😉

“Pure reaction slams the door on the scuttling horror. I ought to just walk away and not come back. Jesus… Lord of the Bloody Flies, eh? I feel like I’ve had my share of bad craziness for a while. But like they say, you shouldn’t join if you can’t take a joke” – John Constantine.

 

“Berni Wrightson really is the unquestioned master of the medium and that’s not just because the cover blurbs say so and because the field is about 95% saturated with superheroes… Oh, Berni knows his grave-dirt all right… and while we huddle there, backs turned, eyes averted, minds set, Berni pops up in front of us with his magic mirror and says “Boo!”” – Bruce Jones.

It is impossible to compile such a Post as this without featuring the extraordinary talent of the late, great Bernie Wrightson – arguably THE quintessential horror comic artist. 

In fact, Pacific Comics gratefully collected some of his classic works in Berni Wrightson: Master Of The Macabre (only 5 ishs published during 1983).

He produced a suitably chilling 😉 adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cool Air, as well as his own SF horror story: The Last Hunters, a far-future saga in which an android hunter exterminates the last vestiges of humanity. On a distant world… called Earth…

Who could ignore the malformed terror that is Jenifer, the sinister deception played on The Laughing Man or the heartrending beauty of Clarice?

But my thirst for awesomeness would be well and truly slaked with The Muck Monster, Berni’s moving version of Frankenstein, as told from the monster’s perspective. 

Oh, which of these seven sublime pages should Brad select?!

Ha, he cheated! And presents TWO.

Read with wonder, friends, for you will find this is not in the least bit horrific, nor is it particularly creepy; quite simply, this is a mighty fine example of this medium at its sumptuous and breathtaking best: 

“…But, Doctor, it’s the same dream. It doesn’t change!” 

“Even so, I’d like you to go over it once more.” 

“Okay, Doc… It started like before – with me losing my footing on the wall. I crash down to the ground… so hard that I break every bone in my body… Then the soldiers come and say there’s nothing they can do for me! I know the dream is going to come true! It’s a warning! I’m going to fall!” 

“Rubbish! I’ve told you before. If you want to stop this nightmare… you must stop reading these horror comics, Mr. Dumpty!” 

 

The Feast From The East: Tales From The Cosmic Casbah

Something To Read With Relish

And Tempt The Taste Buds… 

SinbadThe dream I had, Rachid, this is all part of it somehow! We’ve been brought here by some mysterious force. Is it not written that a wise man will try to realise his dream, to follow it?” 

Rachid: “Some say it is through dreams that Allah speaks to mortal man… Captain! He who walks on fire will burn his feet…” 

The being “spontaneously generated” in a cave on a remote island, many parsecs off the Arabian coast. Seafarers discovered that stranger and brought him to Baghdad where he described in intricate detail th countless worlds to be found beyond our own, before the Caliph assured him that none of these realms could surpass the beauty of his own land and the glory of Allah.

This is the synopsis for Theologus Autodidactus, written by Ibn Al-Nafis, dating from as early as the 13th century is believed (in some quarters) to be the earliest precursor of science fiction, although its curious contents lean more towards science-fantasy. 

The notion of Middle Eastern Science Fiction seems so unlikely, compounded by the view that science and the proliferation of (new) ideas conflict with the principles of Islamic ideology. And yet there is so much more to this surprisingly burgeoning scene than it looks. The recent successful SF and Fantasy Book Festival held in Abu Dhabi highlighted what this unexpected region has to offer – most notably:

Iraq+100, a groundbreaking SF anthology that poses an intriguing challenge to contemporary Iraqi writers:

What might your home city look like in the year 2103 – exactly 100 years after the disastrous American and British-led invasion of Iraq?

And now there is the English translation of Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. 

From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, Hadi the junk dealer collects human body parts and stitches them together in order to make the government grant them the proper burial they deserve. However, the corpse goes missing; soon, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, leading to reports of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. 

Hmm, not my cup of (cardamom) tea, this, but interesting to see how arguably the most famous classic SF/horror theme has inspired a uniquely – not to mention unlikely – Middle Eastern variation.

“Two tablets brought forth to the light, yet a third remains from sight.

“A final place must still be found, a place that lies deep below the ground…” – The Oracle Of All Knowledge. 

Once upon a time, shortly after we moved to my childhood home, my parents let out our upstairs rooms to students attending the local university. The vast majority of them hailed from the Middle East. So, fortunately, from a very young age, yours truly grasped the opportunity to savour the music, language, art, aromas, rugs and – Allah be praised! – delicacies of distant domains. 

Thus, fuelling my imagination by gawping at various awesome adventures such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and – ah! ‘im again – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad; and much later, stopping at nothing to acquire my own ornate antiquarian hardback edition of Tales From The Arabian Nights (translated and annotated by Richard F. Burton – the definitive rendering) (1888) – plus acquiring a degree in Near Eastern Archaeology – Brad was all set to trample all over such esteemed sites as Babylon, Nippur, Lagash and Umm Dabaghiyah (umm-what?!)… until…

Mum beseeched me not to go, fearing an escalation in tensions and violence in that region – ultimately, in sheer disbelief, yours truly witnessed/read about the vandalism and destruction of Iraqi cultural heritage (during 2003-04) from the relative quiet and safety of Bangkok instead…

To accentuate this scheherazade for the senses, there will be light sprinklings of the more exotic platters that nestle deep within the jukebox @ Brad Manor – all by the same combo who accompanied me on the streets of Manhattan, kept me occupied during those looong hours waiting at Middle Eastern airports, and inspired me to write both fiction and non-fiction during the Pre-Bradscribe Era @ a lovely seaside retreat on the Gulf of Thailand… 

“Flashing swords, leaping bandits, holy magic, bloodthirsty monsters, and sumptuous cuisine… what more do you want me to do, draw you a map? Read this thing” – Scott Lynch. 

Throne Of The Crescent Moon (first published in 2012) is a lush fantasy set in an alternate medieval Middle East. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the last real ghul hunter of Dhamsawatt, King of Cities, Jewel of Abassen is aching to retire – presumably to spend lazy days relaxing with copious cups of cardamom tea –  but a new threat of ghuls: zombie-like beings reanimated by evil sorcery, more fearsome than any he has ever encountered, brings him back into this rather unusual fray.

Before setting out wholeheartedly to acquire a copy, my heart sank upon recalling my persistent – almost legendary – inability to track down any potentially groovy novel that comes to my attention.

And yet!

Before you can say: “Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel,” the very tome of which we speak managed to reach my grubby mitts, for a hardback copy indeed lay in wait at my nearest library!

The book itself has received rave reviews and its author, Saladin Ahmed happens to be the very same Saladin Ahmed who contributed to the recent Star Wars Canto Bight anthology compendium and – my minions inform me – is now writing Spider-Man! So far, it is proving to be an engrossing read; like one reviewer remarks, it plays in your mind rather like a Ray Harryhausen fantasy – high praise inseed! 

And why does the premise sound so intoxicating? 

Because it seems exactly like the sort of Arabesque swashbuckling fantasy adventure that Brad would write. Come to think of it, not so long ago, he DID attempt such a saga, whilst living near the beach a few years back – inspired by my study of ancient seafaring.

Accounts by Arab writers of exotic eastern lands can be dated as far back as the mid-9th century CE. The earliest existing text: the Akhbar al-Sin wa’l-Hind (unfortunately anonymous) compiles stories from merchants who told of uncharted islands rife with pirates, troglodytes, headhunters and “beasts” more fantastic than anything Magizoologist Newt Scamander encountered! 

More crucially, this is where we first obtained those fantastical tales of Sinbad, that adventurous sailor who had to brave evil sorcerers, giant crabs and whatnot WITHOUT the comfort of cardamom tea…! 

“He’s awake and listening to us. Sly little rascal. But royalty has need of slyness. And if he’s really the Kwisatz Haderach… well… Sleep well, you sly little rascal. Tomorrow you’ll need all your faculties to meet my gom jabbar” – Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam.

Well, bless my Chicken Arabiatta!

It is difficult to discuss this material without acknowledging the HUGE impact of Frank Herbert’s Dune. 

Exuding more pertinent geopolitical resonances in the 21st century than it ever could have managed on its initial publication in 1965, Herbert drew inspiration from the Bedou way of life, to create an elaborate desert culture: the Fremen, native inhabitants of the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. 

For possibly the first time, numerous examples of Middle Eastern terminology filterted into Western literature. In their jihad against House Harkonnen, the Fremen launch razzia raids, wear aba and bourka robes, fear a “devil” named “Shaitan” and so on.

Please click here for an expanded study of this landmark work, winner of both Hugo and Nebula Awards, and praised by Arthur C. Clarke for its “depth of characterisation and the extraordinary detail of the world it creates. I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord Of The Rings.”

“Is that the end… of all the races and civilizations, and the dreams of the world, to be able to leave a few stones buried beneath the sands, to tell the Dark that we were here?” – Niun.

Another SF series profoundly influenced by Middle Eastern themes came in the eclectic form of the Faded Sun Trilogy by C.J. Cherryh.

Set in the Alliance-Union universeKesrith, Shon’Jir and Kutath each chronicle the Mri-Wars in this coming-of-age saga of Niun, the plucky protagonist.

The first volume begins with the Regul having just concluded a forty-year war with humanity. As part of the peace, they are ceding the desert world of Kesrith to humanity. However, they have neglected to inform its inhabitants, the Mri, who have served them as mercenaries for over two thousand years. These mercenaries have been nearly exterminated in these wars, and young Niun is one of the few remaining warriors. When the Regul seek to double-cross his people, he and his sister Melein, the last of the priestly Sen caste, form an uneasy alliance with the human Sten Duncan to rescue a holy relic that may hold the key to the Mri’s survival.

Despite being shortlisted for the Nebula Award in 1978 and the Hugo Award in 1979, this – and its two successors – are among the most elusive SF series to track down in print!

Time to set sail – for “every voyage has its own flavour”further east, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, across the azure Maha Thalassa towards the enchanted shores of what Persian seafarers called: “Al-Hind”…

“Mighty Kali. Mightier than thou am I. Make obeisance to me…! Dance. Dance for me!” – Khoura. 

 

“One of the five best SF novels ever written” – George R. R. Martin.

Why shouldn’t India have its own panoply of science fiction tales?

Delve into the wondrous textures of Hindu mythology and it will not take you long to discover bizarre accounts of gods striking out of glistening cities in the clouds, charging across the sky in “celestial chariots” firing bolts of lightning against inhuman enemies…

So it comes as no surprise that Roger Zelazny drew extensively upon such myths to produce one of the SF greats: Lord of Light. 

A distant world where gods walk as men, but wield vast and hidden powers. Are they truly immortal? Who are these gods? Their names include Brahma, Kali, Krishna and also he who was called Buddha, the Lord of Light, but who now prefers to be known simply as Sam. 

Although it has not ascended to Dune-like heights of literary adulation and popularity, Zelazny’s masterpiece is richly-conceived and plotted, and still widely-regarded by those who know as a richly-crafted work, its curious yet compelling non-linear narrative lauded by other top contemporary SF authors.

Your foreign correspondent here will endeavour to surge through this classic right now (for the unpteenth time) aided by a set of lamb biryani, with a bowl of naan chips, baked with cumin, coriander and kalonji seeds, (seasoned with Kashmiri spices and coconut – the way Brad likes ’em!) – and a cup of cardamom tea, of course

Love, light and peace.

 

“There is that about them which repels… The trident of Shiva cuts a path through everything. But no matter how much he destroys, we raise up more against him. So he stands like a statue, uncreating storms we will not let end” – Tree Of Green Fire. 

“You pace the deck like a caged beast; for one who enjoys the hashish you should be more at peace…” – Sinbad.

 

Tales Of Sprained Deltoids: Throwback Thorsday!

By Order Of Odin – FIVE Ishs Of The Mighty Thor – What Sayest Thou?! 

They are brave, Vizier… braver than any gods before them, or any who will come after, I think. Would that I could sail with them… but Asgard holds me… ‘Twas not so long ago my son and I were enemies sworn. I hope that I have not sent him to such a terror… with enmity still burning in his breast. ‘Twould be too great an irony for this elder god’s mind to bear” – Odin. 

Heimdall’s Eyes! 

Why, Brad wouldst hath flown atwixt the fiery jaws of Fafnir the Dragon isself if ‘twould ensure the completion of another blogpost!!

But nay. 

For the last three months now, trying to describe the joys of Bronze Age comics (commonly referring to those ishs published between 1970-1985) has proved to be an unnecessarily difficult chore. Amass some suitably groovy ishs and discuss their merits: how could such an innocent task be so… troublesome? 

Only the God of Thunder – one of my all-time favourite Marvel characters – could lure me out of this annoying phase of inactivity. Gladly, a copy of The Mighty Thor was snapped up back in the day, and one of the objectives of my recent Bronze Age expeditions involved searching for as many back ishs of this title, as possible!

Enjoying the God of Thunder’s scene-stealing turn in Avengers: Age Of Ultron the other week, and my copy of Thor: Ragnarok (for the umpteenth time!) this past week reminded me how, not so long ago, the idea of a study based solely on those exceptional ishs of The Mighty Thor – all dating from the ’70s (of course!) – would be fun to compile. Besides, such great ishs doth lie in easy reach, for they can be – and yea! Verily, are – read and reread, and never become tiresome.  

So, from whence do we begin?!

Rereading #218, with its bold and suitably heroic splash page (see above!) provides tne ideal point with which to commence this scintillating journey through Asgardian awesomeness.

 

Tana Nile: “Silas, beware! We’ve fallen afoul of the mutant class – the underground dwellers of Rigel, creatures deformed both in body… and mind!” 

Silas Grant: “I can see that, lass… Tell me now what I’m to do about it! They’re all around us!”

The Mighty Thor #218 (December 1973) turned out to be SO EPIC that it’s very title: “Where Pass The Black Stars There Also Passes… Death!” did not appear until a special double (explosive) spread across pages 16-17. 

By The Golden Gates Of The Eternal Realm! 

The five Black Stars are among the deadliest threats to be witnessed in the Marvel Universe. Ever.

Gerry Conway is on top form here.

‘Pon Odin’s orders, doughty vessel: Starjammer carries Odinson and his faithful companions: Balder, Sif, a Rigellian woman named  Tana Nile, and curiously, a Midgardian sea captain by the name of Silas Grant, to the planet Rigel, only to find it abandoned. The Colonizers – billions of them crammed into a gargantuan fleet, hurtling across the stars – are fleeing the threat of the  Black Stars, which ultimately consume their planet in full graphic – and irresistible – John-Buscema-detail! 

For those itchin’ to seek out Classic Thor, this ish – with that striking cover produced by Rich Buckler – provides an excellent point at which to jump in. Why, page 18 on its own is absolutely frameworthy: 

“Even as we speak, the menace of the Black Stars grows more ominous... their terror greater with each passing second… Look… and tremble at a sight few gods have lived to describe… a vision which staggers the very imagination! The Black Stars… each three times the size of Jupiter…” – The Grand Commissioner. 

 

Grombar: “I say thee, young warrior… make the best of matters here! Verily, to dwell in dark Valhalla be not as tragic as thou dost think! After a time, thou shalt come to accept things for what they are. Mayhap thou shalt come to enjoy them!” 

ThorAccept this madness, old one? Enjoy it? Thor doth say thee- – Nay! I say thee- – nay! NAY!! A thousand times do I say thee- – 

NAY!!”

You know Brad: once he starts droning on (and on) about Odinson, Hela: the Goddess of Death won’t be far behind.

#251 To Hela And Back! (September 1976) did not reach my grubby paws until shortly after publishing this Post about her:

Despite not making a dramatic entrance until page 26(!) there is still plenty of thrills to savour amid these grim proceedings. Part of the “If Asgard Should Perish” storyline, Thor confronts the Vizier concerning the missing Odin’s whereabouts. Vizier tells him that he has scanned everywhere, except the Dimension of Death, because he cannot see into it. Thor decides to ride there to look for his father.

Once there, Thor is confronted by the legions of Einherjar. The God of Thunder sees a shadowy figure that looks like Odin. He fights his way to him, only to find it is Grombar, not Odin. 

Hela lets Thor leave her realm untouched. 

The late Len Wein took over script-duty from #242 (December 1973), thus establishing one of the classic tenures of the Bronze Age. 

“Aye, Harokin… he is free to continue his quest for his missing father! When the Goddess of Death doth come at last to claim the mighty Thor, ’twill be on her terms… and in her own good time!” – Hela. 

 

“If ’tis action thou dost seek, friend Thor, methinks thou hast found all thou couldst desire! A great alien vessel hath swooped silently up behind us… discharging a heavily-armed band of angry-visaged beings!” – Hogun. 

Strangely enough, the Avengers #191 not only introduced me to the Grey Gargoyle – who swiftly, and surprisingly, trounced Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! – but briefly referred back to The Mighty Thor #258 If The Stars Be Made Of Stone! (April 1977). Most grateful for the tip, ‘cos this tale – part of the “Quest For Odin” story arc – is such a swashbucklin’ cosmic caper of the highest order!

Riding the spaceways aboard the incomparable Starjammer, our heroes are set upon by a pirate vessel, its animal-headed crew led by the Grey Gargoyle. 

Captured aind shackled, our heroes are banished to “work” in th furnace room, but there is such a delicious twist in this ere tale! Again, created by those indomitable co-auteurs of awesomeness: Len Wein and John Buscema, you can find this very ish invariably atop the nearest comics pile @ my gaff. 

When setting out to accumulate the Bradscribe Collection just over two years ago, this was exactly the sort of cosmic classic yours truly set out to find.

The continuation of this particular adventure in #259 is – no surprise -equally splendid!

Fee-Lon: “Considering the way he is decimating our forces, only your invincible touch of stone can hope to defeat him! Or… are you perhaps afraid of this Thor?”

The Grey Gargoyle: “I advise you to hold your rebellious tongue, Fee-Lon… unless, of course, you wish to feel my touch yourself!”

 

Thor“Stand ye DOWN, base villain! Stand ye down from this throne… whilst thou still canst WALK!”  

Loki: “Tsk tsk. I see thy temper hath not yet mellowed, my brother. And I had so hoped thou wouldst take my good fortune well.”

Know ye this:

by the time we reach The Mighty Thor #264, Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me! (October 1977) the sprawling quest (story arc) for the long-missing Odin All-Father at last is over!

Bone-weary but unbowed, the Thunder-God and his stalwart companions return to Asgard only to find that Loki: God of Mischief, Lord of Tricksters – and (by the Norn!) Thor’s own half-brother! – hath usurped the Golden Throne!  

Come ON! 

If we’re going to have Hela in this Post, then we’ve always got space for her malevolent Dad.

Big John Buscema had already departed this title, but the ever-reliable Walt Simonson took up the pencils. His style is very impressive; here, his rendering of Loki is devilishly distinctive. Fortunately for us, Len stayed to handle some supercool scripts; ultimately, this ish provides rollicking good fun. 

All the while Thor and his companions had endured cosmic capers aboard the Starjammer, the Enchantress and Executioner plotted wicked deeds in Asgard. This ish proves no exception – they steal the sleeping form of Odin. While a couple of unruly Storm Giants take up Thor’s thunderous time, the Warriors Three: dashing Fandral, grim Hogun and the voluminous Volstagg, must rescue the All-Father from the evil duo.

Thor bursts into the Throne Room to confront Loki, but the mischievous one vanishes: “leaving only the bitter stench of brimstone behind, as befits him!” 

In a dramatic final one-page panel, who else but The Destroyer comes crashing through the wall!

Below, it reads: Next Issue: When Falls The God Of Thunder…!

And don’t forget the small print: “Thou shalt be here, right?”

Volstagg: “…When we find them, thou shalt see why Volstagg’s mere presence makes women swoon and brave men quake with fear…! Pfah! Thine enchantments are no match for mine own fabled battle prowess!” 

Enchantress: “Away thou over-stuffed mutton-sack! Thine awesome girth doth threaten to squeeze the very breath from me!” 

 

Iron Man: “…That leaves us only… Project 13!”

The Beast: “My sweet stars and garters! The Doomsday Device?! Isn’t that a little extreme, Shellhead?”

Nick Fury: “I’m with ya, Fuzzy! The way I heard it, that gizmo can waste this whole blamed planet if anythin’ goes wrong!” 

You know when people say that Cap America: Civil War is a more superior Avengers movie than Age Of Ultron? 

Well, one thing is for sure: 

The Mighty Thor #271 Like A Diamond In The Sky (May 1978) is a whole lot better than some Avengers ishs produced around this time. What an irresistible cover, featuring The Vision, Scarlet Witch, The Beast and Thor and Iron Man fighting side-by-awesome-side.

AND special guest star: Nick Fury!

The Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is another of my all-time fave characters, and to see him ponse about displaying his trademark badassery amidst the hallowed pages of Bronze Age Thor provides my own morsel of comic book heaven. 

Fantastic scenario, this:

The Thunder-God and Shellhead transport inside FAUST th super-machine but are repelled by its multiple defences. It warns our dynamic duo that it has absorbed the contents and properties of the chest that was stolen by Stilt-Man – aha! Been wondering when that particular bounder would put his treacherous, albeit extended, foot in it! – and, if they attack, it will fire a laser designed to obliterate New York. Against Thor’s protestations, Iron Man attacks anyway. The laser blast disperses harmlessly in the sky and FAUST begins to self-destruct. Easy-peasy, Shellhead explains. Thor’s lightning changed the properties of the chest, so that when FAUST absorbed it, it unwittingly altered its own structure into a fragile state. 

This ish is notable for being Len Wein’s last ish as a writer of this series. In the closing panel, as Thor soars into the sky above NY City, a billboard can clearly be seen in the background with the text:

“So long, Len – good luck!”

Thor: “Praise be to Odin! IRON MAN DOTH LIVE!” 

Iron Man: “You’d better believe it, Asgardian… if you can call this living! Hang on a second, while I discharge the excess energy your little transfusion fed into my armor… and then the two of us can start taking this place apart!!” 

Praise be to the late, great Len Wein.

These ishs offer a deliciously deft masterclass in how to craft top swashbuckling SF mixed with Norse goodness. And lo! He even cleft the chaff in twain! It has been an absolute pleasure over these last few months getting to know – at lasthis wondrous way with words. 

When Thor: Ragnarok director: Taika Waititi remarked how his main aim entailed capturing the the spirit of Thor’s “cosmic adventures from the ’70s,” these are probably among the very ishs from which he drew inspiration.

Yea, that, dear reader, wrappeth up this intriguing screed for the nonce. Verily, methinks Brad hath got thy mojo back!

And Fafnir can wait!

FOR ASGARD!!

 

“The gates of Hel are filled with the screams of his victims! 

“But not the screams of the dead, of course. No, no… wounded screams… mainly whimpering, a great deal of complaining and tales of sprained deltoids and… gout” – Thor.

 

HALA!: The New Captain Marvel Trailer Is Here!

Higher Further Faster

 “I’m not what you think I am” – Carol Danvers. 

By The Great Pama!

Only a half-human-half-Kree superwoman hurtling Earthwards and crashing into a branch of Blockbuster Video could bounce Brad back into the blogosphere!

The hotly-anticipated trailer for MARVEL STUD10S’ 21st movie: Captain Marvel – MCU’s first solo female-led movie, set in the 1990s – finally arrived yesterday morning.

Here it is:

“War is a universal language. I know a renegade soldier when I see one – never occurred to me that one might come from above” – Nick Fury.

You may not be surprised to learn that a Captain Marvel bio is already in the works on this site!

While the original (male) Captain Marvel was a Kree superhero called Mar-Vell, Carol Danvers served as a USAF pilot who trained with NASA before getting caught in a psyche-magnetron, whereby Mar-Vell’s DNA was fused with Carol’s, imbuing her with superhuman strength and a mysterious seventh sense.

As a big fan of cosmic adventures – already impressed with Guardians of the Galaxy – we are set to see Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) and Korath (Djimon Hounsouagain! -and Thor: Ragnarok, this movie looks like it could be another groovy entry in this scintillating subgenre.

Guardians of the Galaxy already introduced us to the Kree, who, in the comics, were at war with the Skrulls, a nasty race of shapeshifting aliens, set to make their big screen debut in this movie.

Nick Fury: “So, you’re not from around here?”

Carol Danvers: “It’s hard to explain. I keep having these memories, I see flashes. I think I have a life here, but I can’t tell if it’s real.”

 

First Impressions: 

In its first TEN hours online, the Captain Marvel trailer notched up 10 million views.

The general consensus among fans is that the movie looks awesome. Yes, these photonic-blasted rapid scenes look impressive, but…

There is a montage of memories from Carol’s past, both here on Earth, and on Hala, the home planet of the Kree, so the factor of determining who she is and where she really comes from looks set to dominate proceedings. By The Black Nebula! Let’s hope this origins storyline is handled well.

Part of my speculation aimed at this trailer concentrated on what “classic” rock or hip-hop platter would we be subjected to. In the end, alas, we get neither – just the standard bombastic dirge that besets nearly all trailers these days.

It really is swell to see a younger Nick Fury (sans eye patch!), so you can’t help wondering what role S.H.I.E.L.D. (or Hydra?!) will play in this movie.

No sign of Ronan or Korath, but at least we got to see Starforce, the combo of Kree superheroes as featured in the comics (see above). They are led by an enigmatic figure (played by Jude Law) who may likely be Mar-Vell himself – the original “Captain Marvel.” 

Most intriguingly, the Skrull archvillain: Talos is played by Ben Mendelsohn. If he is allowed to be even half as impressive as he was in Rogue One, the MCU will be blessed with a stronger, more compelling, villain. But he had no badass line, not even the barest glimpse here! The only shot of a Skrull we get is an autopsy. And that is a long shot. 

This trailer did not super-psyche me up in quite the way Ragnarok or Infinity War trailers managed so easily. 

Hopefully, this long-awaited Captain Marvel movie will manage to be about as great as any of the Captain America movies, and not as weak as the most recent Ant-Man And The Wasp. 

Personally, if Carol shouts “Hala!” at all the right tense and exciting moments like she did during her own Bronze Age comic book series, Brad should be a happy bunny. 

This blockbuster will be crashing into our popcorn parlours from Friday 8 March 2019International Women’s Day, of course! 

 

Are YOU impressed with this trailer? Let me know in the Comments! 

Cheers!

 

Fantastic Beats And Where To Find Them: Vol. 4

Now A Trilogy In 4 Parts! 

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Korg. I’m kind of like the leader in here. I’m made of rocks, as you can see, but don’t let that intimidate you. You don’t need to be afraid, unless you’re made of scissors! Just a little Rock, Paper, Scissors joke for you” – Korg.

Hiya! How ya doin’? Thought you’d be glad to see me! 

Apologies for the extended absence from your WordPress Reader. 

The first half of this month was spent writing this, that and the other. Tried writing a few round-ups of Bronze Age comics – they didn’t sing, didn’t fly, no matter how much frenetic fiddling went into them. Various other intriguing topics occupied my time and energy, but actually completing any of these Posts proved to be inexplicably challenging. 

Two weeks ago, at the height of an unusually rare heatwave, yours truly took a few days off, hoping that my creative batteries would be recharged. Nevertheless, on setting down to write again, my “talent” still lay on a beach somewhere…

Perhaps something quick and easy -like a music Post – would suffice?

No! 

Determined to combat this lull in activity and produce something awesome again, decided to open up totally new reviews and discussions. 

Another week later, and… 

Ah well, quick and easy it is then, just in time to close this gruelling month. Anyway, it’s been ages since the last Fantastic Beats, right?

With over a million new Posts loaded on WordPress each day, the “experts” advise making your blog as distinctive as possible.

Well, where else during any weekend can you find a disco lovingly illustrated with some of my fave quotes from Thor: Ragnarok (a DVD that only recently made its way into my MCU Collection!) and Seinfeld gifs?!

Honestly, what are the chances of finding anything around here quite like Bradscribe?!

“I have been falling… for 30 minutes!” – Loki. 

Give up blogging altogether…? 

Ever-diminishing Stats, and no new “Followers” since the Obama administration sound like reasonable excuses to jack it all in.  

However, Brad is NOT a quitter! 

Besides, popularity is an alien concept to me. Heck, this is the kid who was so insignificant at school that the bullies never noticed him!

Apart from derelict blogposts, there is still a hefty number of unfinished novels and short stories lying around here. This site (when at the peak of my powers!) can help address this unwanted backlog – WordPress has, easily, provided the most conducive platform on which to churn out my own unique stuff.

Music, generally, is a good motivator/inspiration for my writing. And, every so often, a truly monumental stomper pops up that gets the ol’ noddle working.  

Here is the One for this Volume:

“No, no, no. I don’t even like Hulk. He’s always like, grr… smash, smash, smash. I prefer you!” – Thor. 

“The Lightning Field has collapsed, sir!” 

What?! How can this be?”  

“It’s no good, Captain – the outer perimeter has been breached! Our MB Space is diminishing at an exponential rate!”

“Scanners detect something massive and malevolent approaching at high velocity.”

“Titan’s moons!! What- what IS it?!”

“It- it’s the Swarm Intelligence…”

Thor: “I love what you’ve done with the place. Redecorated and everything.”

Hela: “It would seem our father’s solution to every problem was to cover it up.”

Thor: “Or cast it out. He told you you were worthy. He said the same thing to me.”

Hela: “You see, you never knew him, not at his best. Odin and I drowned entire civilizations in blood and tears. Where do you think all this gold came from…?”

It occurred to me that after all this time, one of my all-time fave pop vids has never appeared in my own blog.

Might as well rectify that right now.

Th DJ aka Norman Cook is a local boy – our paths have crossed twice in the village supermarket; but the chances of bumping into the legend that is Christopher Walken – in this case: Christopher Dancen 😉 – in said supermarket seem just as likely as ever completing my Review of... oh, forgotten the name of the bally thing, it’s been so long… 

And to think that this beloved star of The Anderson Tapes and Annie Hall started off as a professional dancer. 

Well, by Jiminy, didn’t we all…?

Thor: “If you knew where he was, why didn’t you call me?”

Dr. Stephen Strange: “I had to tell you. He did not want to be disturbed. Your father. He had chosen to remain in exile. And you don’t have a phone.”

Thor: “No, I don’t have a phone but you could have sent me an electronic letter. It’s called an e-mail.”

Dr. Stephen Strange: “Yeah. Do you have a computer?”

Thor: “No. What for?”

Another reason for me to keep on pressin’ on is the fact that only two months stand between us and the 5th Anniversary of Bradscribe.

Naturally, let’s make a big song and – hahaha! – dance about all this, with special features, lists and – oh yes – a party or three 😉

And if such a grand jamboree finally burns Brad out for good, then at least he’ll be going out on a high note!

“I just, I gotta say. I’m proud of you all. This revolution has been a huge success. Yay us! Pat, pat on the back. Pat on the back. Come on. No? Me, too. ‘Cause I’ve been a big part of it. Can’t have a revolution without somebody to overthrow! So, ah, you’re welcome. And, uh, it’s a tie” – Grandmaster.

So here we are: on the verge of pressing Publish for the first time since… too long, that’s for sure…

During the next few days, oh course, another Post – preferably one featuring some original work – will see the light of day(!) Hopefully, September will turn out to be more favourable month writewise for me.

For our closing foot-tapping selection, here is a classic beat that you might not have expected, but – as you will no doubt have noticed – is just typical of the zany material you have come to expect from this site.

And just what the blazes is goin on in that gif?!

Is that what a trouser press looks like…? 

“Guys, we’re coming up on the Devil’s Anus!” – Bruce Banner. 

 

“Exquisite, Absolutely Exquisite”: Just What The Doctor Ordered!

Ah-haaar! Loooong Scarf. Would You Like A Jelly Baby? Come On!

Costa: “Name and date of birth.” 
The Doctor: “Well how would I know? I don’t even know who he is yet.” 
Costa: “YOUR name and date of birth!”
The Doctor: “Oh well, I’m called the Doctor. Date of birth difficult to remember. Sometime quite soon, I think.”

My life changed on 1 September 1979. 

Destiny of the Daleks just happened to be the opening story of Doctor Who Season 11. 

For the next five years, my Saturday evenings became a magical time catching the cosmic – sometimes Earthbound – shenanigans of a dual-hearted Gallifreyan renegade in his Type 40 time capsule (better known as the TARDIS).

The programme’s effervescent mix of mayhem and monsters, humour and horror – and jelly babies – proved to be an irresistible delight. To me, and twelve million other viewers.

EVERY Saturday evening. (And this Saturday teatime is the ideal time to launch this Post! 😉 )

For those of you who believe that the time is right to delve into Classic Who, who better to guide you through the best stories than someone who tried to alleviate the inexorable wait for that following weekend’s unmissable instalment by grabbing each ish of Doctor Who Weekly and, using his own wardrobe for a TARDIS, accompanied by (cuddly) companions: Jallo Bear and Teddy Edwards, enacted his own adventures in time and space (imagination permitting!) 

It seems unbelievable now, but back then, the producers simply could not select a suitable replacement for the very popular Jon Pertwee (the 3rd Doctor: 1970-1973). Until Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks (Producer and Script Editor respectively) were captivated at the cinema by the evil sorcerer in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, played by a little-known actor named Tom Baker. At a meeting, where this actor discussed the morality in children’s literature, the duo realised they had found the new Doctor. 

This regeneration’s distinctive “Bohemian and battered” look would be inspired by a portrait of Aristide Bruant by Toulouse-Lautrec. A delightful misunderstanding caused Begonia Pope to use ALL the wool she had been given, resulting in the twelve-foot technicolour scarf that has become the most iconic part of his wardrobe.

Despite a mixed reaction – “too silly,” or “too crazy” cried some of the dissenters – Baker swiftly transformed this Gallifreyan into a national institution. Once again, Doctor Who triumphed at exacting what secured its status as the longest-running SF series: its boundless capacity for change.

For me, the 4th Doctor IS the Doctor, not just because he was my first to watch, but with his large eyes, imposing height, riot of curly hair, that toothsome grin, his amusing penchant for shouting: “Ah-haaar!” and “Come on!” in almost every episode (in that rich and renowned voice of his!), his cool loping gait – and jelly babies – he actually exuded an “otherworldly” nature that no other actor in the role has managed to recreate.

From his debut story: Robot (28 December 1974 – 18 January 1975), THIS is the definite article, you might say:

The Doctor: “You’re improving, Harry!”

Harry Sullivan: “Am I really?”

The Doctor: “Yes! Your mind is beginning to work! It’s entirely due to my influence of course; you musn’t take any credit…”

The 4th Doctor’s first three seasons (12-14) were exceptionally produced by Philip Hinchcliffe – widely regarded by fans as the Golden Age of Doctor Who.

Despite Robot resembling a stock Jon Pertwee adventure, Ark In Space (25 January – 15 February 1975), The Sontaran Experiment (22 February – 1 March 1975), Genesis Of The Daleks (8 March – 12 April 1975), and Revenge of the Cybermen (19 April – 10 May 1975) remain such well-crafted SF masterworks, (all now available on Blu-ray!)

Moreover, the 4th Doctor was truly blessed to be joined by arguably his best-ever companions: UNIT Surgeon-Lieutenant Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). 

Sarah Jane (still the longest-serving companion) had first wandered into the TARDIS at the beginning of Season 11; Harry, on the other hand – regrettably – fared less well. A much older actor – harking back to the Hartnell years – had been the original intention to play the 4th Doctor, with Harry drafted in to manage the more physical, feisty moments. However, when it became all-too-apparent that Tom Baker could more than take care of himself, the Surgeon-Lieutenant was soon written out. This is a pity, as Baker and Marter shared an amazing chemistry together onscreen.  

Season Th13teen got off to a rip-roaring start with Harry’s swansong: Terror of the Zygons (30 August – 20 September 1975): a taut tale of tartan and teeth written by Robert Banks Stewart. Good to see the return of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (even if his appearance in a kilt looks more terrifying than your average Zygon!) Particularly impressive is the sinister performance of John Woodnutt as the Duke of Forgill – there’s much more to him than meets the eye! 😉 Okay, so the model effects for the Skarasen (better known as the Loch Ness Monster) always look cringingly bad, the quality of the script and the quickening of the pace leaves a lot of NuWho to be desired. 

Of course, cliffhangers added extra excitement to Classic Who. NuWho, in its mundane way, deals in self-contained stories, so no place for cliffhangers! Some rather clever episode-closers can be seen between 1974-81; most notably, one of the very best – cited by most Classic Who fans as the scariest – is this from Terror of the Zygons first episode: 

The Brigadier: “You get on well with the landlord, don’t you?”

RSM Benton: “Well, yes, sir. I suppose I do.”

The Brigadier: “Well, use your influence to get him to play the pipes when we’re out, will you?” 

During the mid-’70s, Doctor Who continued to try the patience of the BBC – and the dreaded National Viewers’ Association – infusing gothic horror into the sci-fi, with mechanical Egyptian mummies lumbering around English forests in Pyramids of Mars (25 October – 15 November 1975); The Brain of Morbius (3 – 24 January 1976) is such an obvious copy of Frankenstein; the ecological terror of The Seeds of Doom (31 January to 6 March 1976); the occult and sacrificial subplots in The Masque of Mandragora (4 – 25 September 1976); and is there anything not creepy about The Hand of Fear (2 – 23 October 1976)?

Unfortunately, the violence featured during The Deadly Assassin (30 October – 20 November 1976) proved too deadly, and caused Hinchcliffe to be “transferred” to another programme.

The next three seasons (15-17) would be supervised by Graham Williams; and although, in some cases, diminishing production values would show through (no thanks to a technicians’ strike crippling the BBC during the late-’70s) some great stories would still be produced.

The Doctor: “Now which box is larger?”
Leela: “That one.”
The Doctor: “But it looks smaller.” 
L
eela: “Well, that’s because it’s further away.”
The Doctor: “Exactly. If you could keep that exactly that distance away and have it here, the large one would fit inside the small one.”
L
eela: “That’s silly.” 
The Doctor: “That’s transdimensional engineering, a key Time Lord discovery.” 

The Robots of Death (29 January – 19 February 1977) is the fifth serial of the 14th season, written by Chris Boucher. 

Essentially a murder-mystery set onboard a mining vessel, it boasted the most incongruously lavish (and outlandish!) costumes ever seen on any show from that decade. But it’s those intricately designed Voc robots, with their mellifluous voices, and sporting an uncanny resemblance to the ancient Chinese terracotta army, that linger long in the memory. These robots were THAT CLOSE to appearing in my recent celebration of robots, but their place is rightfully deserved here. 

This is the story in which Leela – the feisty warrior-woman played by Louise Jameson – asks the Doctor how the TARDIS can be bigger on the inside…

Season 16 (1978-79) turned out to be an ambitious story-arc for new Producer: Graham Williams to exert his influence. The six fragments to the Key To Time lay scattered across the universe; and the Doctor – accompanied by Romana, a fellow Time-Lord, played by Mary Tamm – had to find them, before the Black Guardian could get his dastardly mitts on them.

Must admit, however, that while K-9 (the Doctor’s robot dog) may have “enchanted younger viewers,” Brad was not one of them. Strangely enough, one can’t recall those stories where K-9 made a positive contribution to the plot…

“Curious the tricks time plays on one, isn’t it…?”

The Doctor: “Adric, I give you a privileged insight into the mystery of time, yes? Open your mind to adventures beyond inagination, yes…? And you criticise my logic?!” 

Adric: “No… no, I’m just saying that a lot of the time you really don’t make sense.”

The Doctor: “Aarh. Aarh! You’ve noticed that, have you? Well, I mean anyone can talk sense as long as that is understood. I think we’re going to get along splendidly! Come on!” 

 

Frisk: “Who are you? The company you said you worked for was liquidated twenty years ago!”

The Doctor: “I was wondering why I’ve never been paid…”

Frisk: “That’s not good enough!” 

The Doctor: “That’s exactly what I thought…”

Doctor Who heralded the new decade with a drastic image makeover.

Not only a brand new title sequence, but a completely (ahem) regenerated, synthesized theme tune, a new Producer (John Nathan-Turner) and new companions were introduced, but, unexpectedly, Baker continued in the role for one more season. Having served as the longest-serving Time-Lord, he felt it his duty to speak out against anything unWhovian. 

This viewer still watched avidly every Saturday evening, even if the quality used to fluctuate. Among the weaker stories from this period: The Mandrels (above) from Nightmare of Eden ‎(24 November – 15 December 1979) always looked great to me even though the costume department loathed them. Re-watching this story, nearly four decades later, the script (provided by Bob Baker) is uproariously funny! The much-derided Horns of Nimon (22 December 1979 – 12 January 1980) still appealed to me because their minotaur-like monsters latched onto Greek mythology: my other great obsession around that time. 

Baker’s penultimate story: The Keeper of Traken (31 January – 21 February 1981) has become another personal favourite. Especially liked the way in which arch-villain The Master lurked inside that creepy Melkur statue (see below!)

After kicking up a grand bally-Who with Nathan-Turner, Baker, rather inevitably, threw in the scarf. His beloved era of wit, warmth, and wool, came to its conclusion in the Season 18 closer: Logopolis21 March 1981: a date forever seared into my memory.

“It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…” 

The Doctor: “When I mentioned the black hole to Soldeed, he didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.”

Romana: “Ah, well, people often don’t know what you’re talking about!” 

The Doctor: “Exactly!” 

 

In other Who’s: 

As well as time, space is an issue, but surely you can make room to discuss those other glorious masterpieces such as: The Ark in Space, The Deadly Assassin, and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, yes? These gems, all masterfully written by Robert Holmes, will appear together in a special forthcoming Post reviewing this great writer’s work.

If one had to recommend just one story that best exemplifies the Baker era, it would have to be Genesis of the Daleks (1975, written by Terry Nation). It not only restored the menace of the series’ most popular villains, but with its tense and terrific storyline – plus a wicked performance by Michael Wisher as Davros, creator of the Daleks – it redefined what SF TV could achieve. 

It contained the single greatest scene in the history of British TV drama which can be found here in this previous celebration of Doctor Who.

And which single Classic Doctor Who story counts as my personal favourite?

City of Death (29 September – 20 October 1979). Without a doubt. 

Scaroth, Last of the Jagaroth (“an infinitely superior race”) remains one of SF TV’s greatest villains; Julian Glover’s performance of megalomaniacal malevolence landed him the role of General Veers in a blockbuster the following year called: The Empire Strikes Back. 

The destruction of the Jagaroth ship caused the chemical reaction that gave birth to the human race. And the Doctor must stop Scaroth from going back in time to prevent himself from initiating the launch sequence: GENIUS. 

Doctor Who: written by Douglas Adams, and guest-starring John Cleese?

Come on! 

It’s a shame that NuWho is nowhere near as witty and clever as this: 

Scaroth of Jagaroth: “Time is running out, Doctor!”

The Doctor: “What do you mean: Time is running out?’ It’s only 1505…” 

 

The Doctor: “Good, well now he’s gone, any chance of a cup of tea?” 

General Ravon: “WHAT?!”

The Doctor: “Or coffee. My friend and I’ve had a very trying experience. Haven’t we had a trying experience, Harry?”

Harry Sullivan: “Very trying, Doctor.”

General Ravon: “STEP INTO THE SECURITY SCAN!”

The Doctor: What, no tea…?”