NetflixFest!: “Top Picks For Brad”

Behold! Brad The Binge-Watcher?! 

“Hi Brad! Thanks for joining Netflix. You’re all set to start enjoying TV programmes and films. We’re here to help if you need it” – Netflix. 

What do bloggers do when they don’t blog? 

They watch Netflix!

Yes, as a special birthday treat this year, Brad finally signed up to the top streaming service.

At last.

Had originally intended to join last September, but my laptop detected a virus so immediately denied access to the site. Besides, the urge to unwind “in front of the telly” after loooong increasingly-difficult days refuses to go away, despite hundreds of unappealing terrestrial and satellite channels now churning out a seemingly inexhaustible supply of the most insufferable pap!  

Lately, summoning the concentration and energy to sit through entire movies and novels has become an unnecessary pain (grief! Even the quality and quantity of my writing has suffered); therefore, the demand for individual TV episodes to offer me more taut writing and direction has become more pressing than ever. 

Okey-dokey, let’s see what Netflix served me during these past few weeks:

 

Takeshi Kovacs: “I didn’t ask you to bring me back into this world.” 

Laurens Bancroft: “All I ask of you is that you solve a murder.” 

Takeshi Kovacs: “Whose?” 

Laurens Bancroft: “Mine.” 

Heard some encouraging publicity surrounding Altered Carbona “futuristic thriller” based on the 2002 cyberpunk novel by Richard Morgan. It looked Blade Runneresque, but a tad rougher. Set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored, a prisoner, known as Takeshi Kovacs, returns to life in a new body and must solve a mind-bending murder to win his freedom.

Yeah, methinks, let’s give this a go.

However, after a brutal and brooding first half, the pilot episode proved too much of a hefty slog to sit through. Sheesh, if Brad WANTS to be belaboured continuously, monotonously, with unsavoury dialogue and uncontrollable violence, he can hang out any time @ Granny Turnip’s gaff down in our own village! For me, the whole point of watching Netflix shows during the late-night hours is the chance to ESCAPE into bizarre and/or intriguing (hopefully well-written!) worlds, away from the tedium, shocks and inconveniences of “real” life. 

The last slice of SF to bring an unsuspecting fella out of a 200-year carbon-freeze was Woody Allen’s Sleeper, an altogether more clever and rib-ticklingly funny adventure.

Takeshi Kovacs? 

Nah, gimme Takeshi’s Castle any day, man! 😉

 

BECAUSE BRAD WATCHED ALTERED CARBON:

Lost In Space:

This version of the classic ’60s series has been totally revamped for the SJW crowd to such an extent that the makers forgot that annoying little matter known as The Script… It took me FOUR attempts to slog through the pilot episode, so felt no compulsion to click onto Episode 2. It’s oh-so-woke it ‘urts…

The Umbrella Academy:

“What if Wes Anderson made a superhero movie?” This intriguing – and, let’s face it, one heckuvan irresistible! – pitch drew me towards this series (based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name), but the pilot episode’s languid pace proved to be such an unexpected struggle. A pity, as one really hoped to enjoy this…

But never fear! 

It still resides on My List, so there is plenty of time and opportunity to return and reassess it. Besides, Pogo is quite an intriguing character, so am looking forward to catch more of him 🙂

Suicide Squad:

Oh, Good Lord, no. Avoiding this rubbish at the cinema became one of my Greatest Achievements of 2016… 

 

The Royal Cake-Maker: “I think you will be very pleased with the revised cake, Your Highness!”

King Zog: “Nice likeness, competent lattice-work; moving down… Sugar columns seem structurally-sound; back looks good, and just a cursory glance at the bottom tier and it says: “Get Bent Dad.” Isn’t that- WHAT?!! 

BEAN!!”

Matt Groening’s latest animation project: Disenchantment, intended as animated fare for adults, caught my eye upon its release last August. 

Even me Mum laughed when she first saw the portrait of its goofy-toothed anti-heroine: Princess Tiabeanie (or Bean for short). Her co-anarchists: Elfo and Luci (that weird cat!) are irresistible; thankfully, the snazzy scripts are uproariously funny, with lines and visual gags delivered at a rate more rapid-fire than yer standard trebuchet. And it’s difficult to select a fav character – another promising sign! Hard to believe it’s received mixed reviews – roll on Season Two already!

They didn’t have to put Bowie on the trailer – this already held a high place on my Watchlist.

Actually, one had wolfed down the whole Season before completing the first episode of Altered CarbonPerhaps the latter should have invested in a laughing horse… 

Elfo: “You do the slightest thing here and everyone freaks out! It’s like they’ve all got peppermint sticks up their asses.”

Kissy: “Ooh yeah! Your whining really turns me on…!” 

The Elf King: “Kissy! What in humping heaven is going on?!” 

Kissy: “Nothing, father!”

The Elf King: “Weirdo doesn’t take his pants off for nothing! Elfo! This is the last straw! You’re going to be punished!” 

Elfo: “What are you going to do? Give me a paddling with a big wallypop?” 

 

BECAUSE BRAD WATCHED DISENCHANTMENT:

GLOW: 

From elves to leotards?? Now that makes sense… …

Suicide Squad:

Hey… didn’t we already-? How does enjoying a medieval fantasy cartoon make me want to watch THIS as well?! No Thank You! 

Black Lightning: 

Sure, why not? At the very least, it’ll be interesting to compare this with Marvel’s very own hot-headed, Harlem hard-hitter: Luke Cage.

OHO! Speaking of that bullet-proof bro… 

 

“Sweet Christmas!” – Luke Cage.  

Back in the day, one ish of Power Man and Iron Fist somehow found its way into my initial stash of comics, and into my heart. A considerable portion of my recent Bronze Age expeditions has concentrated on acquiring more ishs.

Why? 

In addition to being brash and super-tough, Luke Cage had an amusing penchant for yellow silk shirts and the peculiar habit of yelling: “Christmas!” during the more shocking moments of any of his action-packed capers. Both seasons of his TV series couldn’t possibly incorporate those particular character traits.

Or could they…? 

Mike Colter nails the indestructible titular protagonist, and the supporting cast – especially Alfre Woodard as the local corrupt politician and Mahershala Ali as her gangland cousin: Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes – are also impressive. And, of course, the theme tune is pretty slinky too.

It isn’t until the excellent Episode 4: Step Into The Arena, that we discover how Luke acquired his super-strength and bulletproof skin. Realising that he now has the power to punch through walls with his bare fists, he yes! – utters the above cool line. During his prison-break, he nabs some clothes from a washing line, including yes! – a yellow silk shirt. 

Ultimately, you’ve got one happy viewer here 🙂

Good gravy, Ms Evans – playing herself as one of the acts @ Cottonmouth‘s club – certainly knows how to get on the good foot!

Ain’t it funky now!

BECAUSE BRAD WATCHED LUKE CAGE:

Iron Fist: 

It’s great to learn that Luke’s partner in Heroes For Hire acquired his own TV series too, but personally, not too sure about the choice of actor for the titular role, though. Nevertheless, will sample the pilot and take it from there. Ta very much! 

Jessica Jones:

Bronze Age Boy here is unfamiliar with this particular modern Marvel character, but you can’t escape those rave reviews for this series, now into its third season. So, naturally, one is curious to find out what all the fuss is about.

The Defenders: 

Oh yes please! Despite NOT featuring Dr. Strange, nor Valkyrie (not even The Hulk!), once Luke and Jessica’s respective series have been gorged, then this will be the logical progression.

Suicide Squad:

Aww… and you were doing so well… …

 

Landry: “We’re not going to stay and fight?!” 

Godfrey: “There are too many of them! We must make sure the Grail is safe!” 

Landry: “What about Acre?!”

Godfrey: “All is lost. We meet at the docks. Get the Grail! NOW!” 

Personally, this next choice is rather special.

Templar History has fascinated me for several years. Here in Southern England, a 900-year-old Templar church still holds regular services in the adjacent village; and in the next town, what had served as the regional House of Templars lies at the bottom of the river (that changed course over 400 years ago.)

Fortunately, Knightfall (originally shown on History channel) made for engrossing viewing. Beginning with a suitably cinematic portrayal of the Siege of Acre in 1291, the ensuing drama of intrigue and infamy, brotherhood and betrayal, never lets up.

Of course, there is another – more urgent! – reason for gorging on this opening season. In an intrepid – albeit shrewd – piece of casting, Season Two is graced by the addition to the cast of none other than Mark Hamill! For the last few years, this first-generation Star Wars follower hoped to catch a wizened, bearded Master impart his sage advice to young initiates…

Never realized that such a joyous spectacle would come, instead, in the most unlikely form of a drama series set in medieval France! 

Worryingly, it’s been a whole month since completing Season One, and there’s still no dickie bird as to when Netflix plan to play Season Two. Hmm, would subjecting myself to Suicide Squad help… rectify this matter? Uff, seems such a hefty price to pay…

This, below, is just a sample of what we’re missing:

Say! Who gets the tingles when he says: “…an impenetrable force“?! 😉

 

BECAUSE BRAD WATCHED KNIGHTFALL

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: 

Sounds like it could be the title to my Autobiography… Actually, that esteemed tome will be known as:

“From Brad To Worse: How To Survive A Whole Night Stuck In A Flamin’ Elevator Wth Marky “Mark” Frickin’ Wahlberg” 

Harrowing reading? Uff, tell me about it…

Transformers: The Last Knight: 

BWAHAHAHAHA!! Oh go away… Actually, best move on pretty sharpish meself before they recommend

Suicide Squad:

GAH!! Phooey, fiddlesticks and flapdoodle!! (Oof, pardon my FrenchOh, fer cake’s sake, this is gettin’ RIDICULOUS. Honestly, what part of “No Means No” don’tcha fellas NOT understand…?!

Ash Vs. The Evil Dead: 

AHA! My dear Netflix, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

 

Ash: “Yeah, we were just passing through – thought we’d pop in and say hi!” 

Kelly’s Mum: “Why are you covered in blood?”  

Ash: “Um, we hit a deer on the way up here, and when I tried to pull it out of the grill, the sucker just exploded all over us…! So we had to cut it up with my chainsaw… arm.”

Kelly’s Pop: “I’m actually a hunter and I’ve never seen a deer explode.”

Ash: “Well, maybe you’re not huntin’ the right deer…”  

WAHEY!!

Now THIS is more like it!

Confession time: Ash Vs. The Evil Dead was my Second Main Reason for signing up to NetflixYou can probably guess what the First happened to be; let’s just say that: in forthcoming Posts, Things will be getting a whole lot Stranger on Bradscribe 😉

Ash Williams is one of the legendary characters in horror movie history and, as you may recall, holds an eternally-reserved place in Brad’s Badass Brigade Three decades after the original cinematic mayhem, this series opens with Ash Williams – played as always by the irrepressible Bruce Campbell – trying to carry on a “normal” life, hidden away in some deadend trailer park, “working” at a local DIY depot. Yet after some decidedly dodgy pot-addled shenanigans, the NecronomIcon is inadvertently opened once more, and a new wave of deadites lurch forth into our long-sufferin’ mortal plain.

And before you can say: “Suicide Squad is a right loada’ cobblers!!” Ash has reverted to his old uncompromising ways: shooting! slashing! mincing! and screwing! his trusty chainsaw back onto ol’ stumpy to gain the upper (ahem) hand.

Yay, the brawling badass with the boomstick is back!! 

And what a barmy, Bradshit bonkers – but brilliant! – bloodfest this series is too. It’s great to see Sam Raimi return to ensure that this wild and wacky ride works, and hear Bruce Campbell spout some truly hilarious one-liners in his own inimitable style. Such a supercool soundtrack too! 

It is one of those immutable laws: whatever Ash gets up to, Brad will always be keen to see what develops!

There was a time (many many moons ago, you understand!) when the goriest horror vids passed thro my rickety ol’ VCR; but, eventually, it seemed as though one had “grown out” of such explicit tomfoolery…

Nevertheless, the prospect of an Evil Dead TV series seemed just too groovy to resist.

Well, really!

A fella of my age?! Indulging in such an outrageous, gory, undeniably imbecilic freakshow?!

HELL yeah! Guilty as charged, baby! 😉

Ash: “You were right, no more running.”

Pablo: “It’s good to see you, Jefe!”

Ash: “Good to be back.” 

Pablo: “How does it feel?” 

Ash: Groovy…”

 

Remember When: The Bradscribe Retro Party!

We’re Having The Time Of Our Lives! The Only Question Is – What Time Is It?!

“Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!” – Abraham Lincoln.

Here it is! 

You can step (click?) out of the 21st century a mo and sample some of the delights of yesteryear!

As you’d expect, the drinks are fizzy and the music is stellar in this sector of the blogosphere! There are bowls of Twiglets and Cheesy Wotsits as far as the eye can see, and a whole stash of Curly Wurlys, Banjos, Jammy Dodgers and Wagon Wheels to enjoy.

Amidst snazzy streamers and popping balloons, let’s get this groovy get-together off and flying!

The mystery. The suspense. The adventure. The call… that started it all.

Elliott: “He’s a man from outer space and we’re taking him to his spaceship.”

Greg: “Well, can’t he just beam up?”

Elliott: “This is reality, Greg.”

Remember when:

Brad said he would NOT go to watch E.T. back in ’82?

Even when yours truly was only that high, he felt too old to indulge in such mushy, sentimental falderdash! Wanted my aliens to be cool, menacing, even hostile if it guaranteed great action sequences. All the kids in my class knew that this quiet, spindly lil blond moppet sitting at the back of the classroom forever reading comics, was the one most likely to dig sci-fi movies, and yet none of them could understand why he was the only one not to go watch E.T. Quite clearly, Dyzan moves in mysterious ways… 

Yeah, watched this Spielberg classic upon receiving its belated UK TV premiere, and loved it. 

Was absolutely delighted to hear this personal fav pop song played in Spider-Man: Homecoming. 

Captures perfectly that John Hughes vibe:

All he wanted to do was dance... 😉

Ren: “You like Men at Work?”

Willard: “Which man?”

Ren: “Men at Work.”

Willard: “Well where do they work?”

Ren: “No, they don’t, they’re a music group.”

Willard: “Well what do they call themselves?”

Ren: “Oh no! What about The Police?”

Willard: “What about ’em?”

Ren: “You ever heard them?”

Willard: “No, but I seen them.”

Ren: “Where, in concert?”

Willard: “No, behind you.”

Remember when:

No matter what creative pursuits occupied this particular tiny mind, in his Command centre (i.e. his bedroom), or wherever he was on his Grifter bike, Brad just had to be in front of the telly every Thursday evening at around 7pm to catch the latest edition of Top Of The Pops, in which groups performed their latest singles.

With YouTube, it’s great to re-watch some of the best performances to appear on the show, many of which one really believed would never be seen again.

Bought a few singles myself, (mostly EPs on cassette) but not anywhere near as many as one would have liked…

If you enjoyed the 80s vibes and nostalgia of The Midnight – Explorers you’ll love this too:

SPOILER!: They’re heading for the medical frigate…

Admiral Ackbar: “All craft, prepare to retreat.”

Lando Calrissian: “We won’t get another chance at this, Admiral!”

Admiral Ackbar: “We have no choice, General Calrissian! Our cruisers can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!”

Lando Calrissian: “Han will have that shield down. We’ve got to give him more time!”

Remember when:

there were only two Star Wars movies?

Come 1983, almost eweyone at school anxiously wondered if Revenge Of the Jedi had any chance of equalling its illustrious predecessors. Then the deflating story swept through the classrooms: George Lucas had changed the title (to the more dull Return Of The Jedi, upon realising that vengeance is not exactly a trait associated with “that old religion”). Obviously, we concurred: the production was doomed, and thus we feared the worst. 

No worries!

This Richard Marquand-directed presentation blew us all away with its spectacular story and spills. Naturally, we ended up gawping all the way through it, just as much as we’d done all the way through Star Wars 2 three years earlier. 

Can’t remember any of the Trigonometry lessons from around that time, but will never forget that acquiring the latest range of Star Wars action figures and filling up our Official Return Of The Jedi Sticker Albums became essential endeavours. 😉

Greetings, Retrowaver. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against smartphones and mainstream “music” 🙂

Alex smiles + Grig smiles = Everybody smiles!

“Am I to understand that you’re actually declining the honour of becoming a Starfighter? Extraordinary…! This is all highly irregular!” – Grig.  

Remember when:

The “experts” insisted that the revolutionary “new” computerised special visual effects technology utilised in The Last Starfighter (1984) would transform the ways in which SF movies were produced?

Unfortunately, such is the rapacious rate at which computer technology has advanced in just the last three decades, so the sfx of this little sci-fi action/adventure outing have dated rather poorly. Anyway, the film neatly tapped into the video-game-craze that was massive back then, and carries a charm, sensitivity and sense of wonder that is badly-needed in the CGI-driven dross we are lumbered with nowadays.

The central performances provide its other strong points: Lance Guest as the top video-gamer: Alex Rogan who wins a trip to a galactic war, is always entertaining, certainly more memorable than some wooden leading players we could mention, but Dan O’Herlihy made Star Navigator 1st Class Grig awesome enough to become one of my all-time fave cinematic aliens, 

Easily the most enjoyable aspect of compiling these music posts is that moment when (you think) you’ve got all the platters that matter and are set to launch, when –at the last minute! – something captures your senses. This next number is the latest instance of this astonishing trend, discovered only this past weekend!

The assortment of freaky aliens hare – designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop! – appeared in the video to Billy Ocean’s 1985 hit single: “Loverboy”(!)

These grooves are so cosmic they can’t be from this Earth! This has become my new favourite track: 

Beware of geeks bearing gifs 😉

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit” – Dr. Emmett Brown. 

Aow!

It’s one of those parties where you just don’t want the merriment to end, right? 

For those who want to enjoy more Retrowave jollities, you’re welcome to zip along to my last volume of Electric Dreams (and follow the Links back to the other instalments!)

There will be LOTS MORE parties, reviews and fiction to come on Bradscribe

IF 

we can all pull ourselves away from this dreamy gif: 

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – Ferris Bueller. 

Cheers!

 

“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…?”

 

Dead Cool At Dork’s Drift: A Fartlighter Story

DON’T Fire At Will! What’s ‘E Ever Done Ta YOU?!

“Gotta hand it to ya, Totem Pole – either you’re hard as nails or scared as shit: WHICH ONE IS IT?!” – Griff. 

 

Magnum Farce! 

Whilst trying to deliver vital consignments of food and supplies to the long-suffering peeps of the planet Woebegon in the Vairdafujarwi System, Brad Company barely managed to dodge some unwanted attention from a cluster of Zandokan patrol-ships.  

Will it be a classic case of out of the marzipan and into the ire as they head towards the hopeless station of Dork’s Drift? 

In amidst all this excitement, the irrepressible Battleforce-Commander-turned-blogger is bound to bump into an ol’ frenemy… 

 

“Innit bloomin’ marvellous?!” Brad wondered as the Calista Blockhead descended into the planet’s atmosphere.

“No mat’er ‘ow many marksmen the Empire can muster, as long as I’m onboard, they can’t put in a precise shot on target! Aah… the gift a’ bein’ – ‘an bein’ wiva groovy galactic ‘ero – it’s GREAT ‘avin’ me arahnd, eh…?! ‘Ello… …?”

“Yo, Brad,” Helmsman Gaz suddenly drawled. “Look lively, m’man – the Purple Haze is entering this sector @ 2:10-“

“Kronsteen?! What in blue blazes is that nerk an’ ‘is combo: Oprah’s ‘Ombres doin’ follerin’ us-?!” 

“Don’t slouch, Blondie,” warned Second Officer Lexi Waldorf. “But MY sensors have also picked up the Harsh Mallow coming out of hyperspace just beyond the Rigellian Ridge-“

“The Harsh…? Uff, stone the flamin’ Porgs, that’s none other than-“

“Ya gotcha! Moab Mungoflumpz: the notorious Gundagun bounty hunter.”

“Blimey, ya’d ‘avta be notorious wiv an ‘andle loike THAT… What in Edrio Two-Tubes’ name is goin’ on ‘ere?! Is this a convention, or what?!”

“Hey! Yer not only a groovy galactic ‘ero, but quite th popular one- Whoa, ‘eads up, mate,”

Harris fiddling with the Intercom. “Yer ol’ mukka: Kronst is ‘ailin’ us!”

“Well, fer cakes’ sake, fella! Switch ta Audio – dahn’ wan’ ‘is ugly mug breakin’ our main screen! Nah, on second thots, let’s jus’ skip it – Company! We got work ta do! I can’t stop ta mess arahn’ – the original Fartligh’er’s in tahn!”

“Just don’t do anything I would do, and definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. There’s a little grey area in there and that’s where you operate, alright…? That’s not a hug, I’m just grabbing the door for you. Good luck out there” – Tony Stark. 

“Okey-dokey, then, y’all know wotcha doin’?” Brad softly exclaimed to Lexi as he loaded his backpack with survival kit, supplementary respiratory apparatus and extra rations of cupcakes.

“Sure thing, Commander,” she nonchalantly replied, leaning against the doorway of the Battleforce-Commander-turned-blogger‘s cluttered quarters. “Gaz, Lee, Monty and I will deliver the goodsOkizaki will beam us back when we’re done, while you check in with Supervisor Waldo aow, for goodness sake…” she stepped closer staring intensely into th hapless hero’s deep blue eyes. “You be extra CAREFUL out there, Brad – something tells me this just might be -“

“A trap? Heh, isn’ everythin’ in this “business,” lov…?”

“Well, also, watch out for the rest of ‘is goons – they’re as demented as fudge and have no hesitation to take matters into their own hands-“

“Or take their own fists inta other people’s mat’ers – yeah, I know, I’ve run inta them on numerous occasions…”

“Nevertheless, I’m still going to keep my eye on you… just in case…”

“Really appreciate that, lov. I want ya ta know that-”

“Blimey Charley, Brad!” Chief Engineer Harris Wrench interjected. “Why d’ya ‘avta get mixed up wiv Kronst- huh, talk a’ the Devil! Would ya Adam-an’-Eve it? ‘E’s tryin’ ta ‘ail ya AGAIN!”

“Well, shut ‘im orf. Again! Let’s get on wivvit, Company!” 

“But what if ‘e follas ya down there? An’ confronts ya, like?”

“Y’know me, ‘Arris! Got a few wisecracks an’ put-dahns lined oop.”

“Delivered in yer own, inimitable way, nah doubt?”

“Yo momma…” 

“I was wondering when El Kapitan would get a chance to use his popgun” – Palmer. 

“UFFF, FFFLAMIN’ FAJITAS!!” Brad growled as a laserblast slammed into his shoulder. He’d only just walked through the door and found the welcome not as hospitable as he’d hoped…

“‘Ere, what th blazes?!” he spluttered as he flopped to his knees. “Since when are the bad guys such good shots…?!” 

“When the bounty on ya is so frickin’ high!” drawled the all-too-familiar peel of Captain Kronsteen, psychotic leader of Oprah’s ‘Ombres, as he lunged over to switch on the desk lamp, illuminating his unmistakable, twisted features.  

“Flamin’ Nora, look what the Wompa dragged in… What the blazes didya do with Waldo?!”

“That moofmilker? Had a close encounter with my rifle butt left ‘im zedding away on the couch in the next room. Personally, yer only good use ta me, Fartlighter, is as target practice, but I’ve come here fer the shop – so let’s talk it, fella.”

“Okey-dokey, but I’m seriously dischuffed by this bonkers twist – I’m in an ‘urry, so bet’er make this snap’y. Spill the beans, fella – wotcha want?” 

“Oh really? Your high cheekbones an’ insuff’rable pecs are suddenly in big demand now, huh? So… here we are, dumbass, two thrill-seekers meeting in a Dyzan-forsaken hole o’ the galaxy, while the hopelessly inept Federation crumbles – you really believe you’re serving a just cause?” 

“‘Ey man, chill, know wha’ I’m sayin’? Why can’tcha be mo’ migh’y fine, Kevin Bacon an’ dandy? Like me an’ me Company? Why d’ya ‘avta be such a-“

“ENOUGH, Dipwit! Don’tcha DARE say anythin’ goldarned SMART. Why should I spare a thought for these… dregs? It’s not my problem…”

“Not yer…?! Oof, reverse thrust wiv THAT attitude, Crotchstain. I tell ya: the last thing Brad wants ta do is sit back an’ wateh while the provincial planets suffer. I see NAHbody else intervenin’ – so it’s got’a be us. Heck, if we can make a diiff’rence, we’ll certainly try-“

“Uff, spare me,” Kronsteen muttered irritably. “Reckon I shoulda’ finished you off when I ‘ad the chance – shoulda’ aimed straight fer yer heart instead, but YOUR ticker’s bleedin’ far too much already-“

“Shoulda’ thought a scrote like you wouldn’t know where the heart was anyways…”

“Ha! Cute… From what I hear, Fartlighter, you’ve become quite a sought-after dude since your little fracas with the Emperor on his flagship Hacked off just about every Imperial nerk this side a’ the Oort Cloud, AND – of course – we witnessed you recently escaping from prison-“

“Yeah, heh heh, get’in’ quite notorious in me middle age, ain’ I?”

“An’ I hear Zan Doka ‘imself has despatched his very own cut-throat praetorian division: the Kriegzlide Killzquad ta bring ya back – ya know what I can get right now fer handin’ you in…?” 

“Egg custard tarts?”

“Wrong again, Bright Eyes – yer bounty now stands @ 75,000 creds-“

“WHOA, would ya Adam-an’-Eve it! I’m now worth more than me own crate? HA!”

“DON‘T crack wise with me, fella – one wrong move an’-“

“An’ you’ll BOTH be kissin’ the dirt! So DON’T try anythin’ stoopid!”   

The door swung wide open and they turned to watch a grotesquely obese Gundagun dwarf waddle frantically towards them, brandishing a blaster.

“Blimey Charley!” Brad gasped. “It’s a talking beachball on legs!” 

The seething three-footer turned his blaster on the Cakecharmer. “An’ don’t SAY anythin’ stoopid neither!” 

“Grief, that’ll be the day with this jackass…” Kronsteen sighed.

Moab swung his blaster towards the Ombres’ Head Honcho instead. “YOU! Kronsteen? Are coming with me! Somebody levelled a sizable bounty on your despicable head!”

“WHAT?! That’s the most ridiculous- There is NO bounty on me, Shrimp-” 

“Lookee here, Longshanks!” the Gundagan chirped sternly, enthusiastically brandishing a gadget displaying the Captain’s mugshot. “See the eye-patch? The scowl? All those warts that spell out: ‘Bad Attitude’? That’s YOU, that is! You’re coming with me!”

“Woohoo! Way ta go, Migh’y Mo!” Brad bawled.

“An’ you, what’s-yer-face,” the dwarf frowned at the hero. “You seem to be taking a most unusual pleasure in all this… are we cool…?” 

“As ice, man…”

“For the umpteenth time,” Kronsteen butted in. “Point that blaster someplace else, Short Round. Why don’tcha go fer the REAL bounty, like this-“

“Yeah, man!” Brad interrupted. “Like goin’ fer this notorious Cakecharmer-chappyapparently ‘is boun’y is bigger than ‘is own crate, hyuk hyuk hyuk…” the Battleforce-Commander-turned-blogger quipped.

Kronsteen spun round, enraged: “You’re jus’ lovin’ this… aintcha?” 

‘ELL YEAH! Ev’ry minute, baby…”

He’s a looney. Just like his tunes…” – Bats. 

A laserblast rang out.

The lamp exploded, and in the abrupt darkness, Moab screamed and Kronsteen bellowed. And Brad yelped as someone grabbed his hand and tugged him out of the office.

“Shoosh, Commander. Hurry! We gotta split – another Zandokan patrol-ship is onto us!” Lexi whispered as they ran down the corridor. “Okey-dokey, Okizaki! Me and the blond bombshell are ready to beam up! NOW!”

Meanwhile, in the Transporter Room of the Purple Haze, two figures materialized.

“Who the blazes is THAT?!” Drogen the Transporter guy cried the moment he saw Moab standing alongside Kronsteen. 

“NOT BRAD, OBVIOUSLY, DIPWIT!” the Captain stormed. “What a cosmic screw-up – you were supposed to beam up the six-foot Terran, but NO! Ya had ta pick up a three-foot Gundagan instead! GAH! Captain to the Bridge! Open hailing frequencies with the Calista! I want that-!”

“But Sir, the Calista no longer appears on our scopes…” Tabasco Tuffnutz replied.

“WHAT?! How can this be…?!”

“They made the jump to lightspeed while you were too busy monologuin’…”

‘Twas true: Tabasco stared into his monitor, squinting at the trail of ionised particles sparkling against the blackest blanket of space – the only sign the Calista had left behind.

“…An’ you LET them ESCAPE…? Hey, Dumbo, flap yer ears an’ ventilate yer BRAINS!! What do I PAY you DIPWITS for, exactly?! “Gah, fer the love a’-”  The enraged Captain grabbed Moab, and growled: “Okey-dokey, Short Round! WHO set the bounty on ME?!”

“Some Terran… b-by th name of Br-Br-Brad-!”

Brad Burrito Fartlighter, I presume?!” he winced.

“Aha! That’s the bunny! What… you know him?”

“KNOW HIM?! I practically wasted this whole episode talkin’ down to him!” 

“That?! That was th C-Ca-Cakecharmer…?! But… nah, that dashin’ fella couldn’t have been him – he was badly wounded in the shoulder – galactic heroes NEVER get-” 

GAH! DON’T lecture me, halfling! Fer someone so SMALL, yer mouth is too BIG!” Kronsteen hollered, hurling the pint-sized bounty hunter into Drogen’s clutches. “We’ll drop off this insignificant lil sideshow – who has no bearing on the plot WHATsoever – on that casino-planet we passed on the way over here…”

The enraged leader of Oprah’s ‘Ombres brandished his fist against the tapestry of distant stars stretching before them on the Main Screen. 

BRAD!! NEXT TIME, I WON’T hang around makin’ idle chit-chat, you’re gonnayou’re gonna- UFF!! You CANNOT evade me forever, jackass – goldarn it… 

“If I havta scour the galaxy fer the

RESTA’

MAH

DAYS

trackin’ you an’ yer accursed, goody two-shoes Company down…

GAH! Just as well yer gettin’ another blasted sequel real soon, hero ya AIN’T heard the last a’ Captain Korsten Kronsteen!!” 

 

“We’re just like Kevin Bacon” – Gamora.

 

The Company Of Robots: My Devotion To Droids

Look, Sir, Droids

Lt. Charley Pizer: “V.I.N.CENT, were you programmed to bug me?” 

V.I.N.CENT: “No, sir, to educate you.” 

Lt. Charley Pizer: “When I volunteered for this mission, I never thought I’d be playing straight man to a tin can.” 

“I don’t mean to sound superior,” remarks V.I.N.CENT, cool and quote-dispensing droid of the USS Palomino, “but I hate the company of robots.”

No worries – when infant Brad first gawped at The Black Hole in 1979 there was no doubt in his tiny mind that he could easily dig the company of robots.

First, and foremost, hovered V.I.N.CENT (“Vital Information Necessary Centralized”), whose laser-precision, drills and other assorted attachments, and mellifluous voice (provided brilliantly by Roddy McDowell) granted his place as my very first favourite movie star. He was wonderfully accompanied by Old B.O.B. (“BiO-sanitation Battalion”), a battered early-model robot similar to V.I.N.CENT (voiced equally suitably by Slim Pickens, no less!).

The antagonist came in the mute, but mighty, imposing, crimson form of Maximillian; thus, a nail-biting David vs. Goliath duel looked inevitable. An army of sentry-robots guarded the USS Cygnus and more than satisfied our yearning for laser-battles as we could barely contain our excitement for the imminent Star Wars 2…

Also that year, British comics grabbed my attention – and pocket money. One of these homegrown titles featured a cosmic hero – white and fair-haired, obviously – who patrolled the spacelanes with a robot sidekick. Genius!

Unfortunately, my memory banks should have been reprogrammed a lot sooner as the names of this pair, the story-title, even the comic in which it appeared every week escaped me. And has proceeded to bug me on-and-off for the last 39 years…

Can vaguely recall one panel presenting this pair racing along in a landspeeder. All British comic interiors back then had no colour, but every so often, the first page of a story would be cyan-tinted, such was the case with this particular episode. This stylistic factor emanated from one company: D.C. Thomson – so ’twas with them that my search would concentrate. When commencing my foray into Bronze Age comic collecting two years ago, one of my objectives involved trying to rediscover the identity of this very first favourite comic character.

Whilst revising my notes (reprogramming my output?), you can sit back and enjoy this classic magic moment from the distant past when Star wars and Disney exrsted as two very separate entities – aah, get that music! get those ultracool sound effects! but mostly – WAHEY!! – somebody get those droids!: 

“Your crack unit, outwitted and outfought by some Earth robot, and that antique from Storage!” – Dr. Hans Reinhardt.

Fortunately, my copy of Starblazer #21: Robot Rebellion – a cherished pocket-book – is still in pretty good nick.

During the school year of 1984, you didn’t need to buy 2000AD – somebody else brought every weekly Prog into class! So, the wacky wonders of Robo-Hunter and ABC (Atomic, Bacterial and Chemical) Warriors could still be enjoyed without denting our meagre coffers. The title of coolest droid ever to be activated must go to the ABC Warriors’ Joe Pineapples. Leather jacket and thongs look DAFT on any male carbon-based lifeform, but Joe somehow made it work.

All these mechanised marvels inspired me to delve into robo-history.

The term: “robot” was coined by Czech novelist/playwright: Karel Capek in his play: R.U.R. (1921) – a satire in which artificial men are gradually made more competent, until they harness the will to rebel and replace mankind.

The author most synonymous with robots has to be Isaac Asimov, whose series of robo-tales extends through three collections: I, Robot (1950), The Rest of The Robots (1964), and The Bicentennial Man (1977) – all based on the premise that robots are equipped with an unbreakable code of inbuilt ethics: the three laws of robotics. Primarily, Asimov sought to combat the “Frankenstein Syndrome,” whereby people sometimes exhibit a neurotic fear that their creations will destroy them. He attempted to allay such anxieties, and in so doing, called into question the philosophical basis for our attitudes to machines.

One SF author to take this stance further was Philip K. Dick. As one of the few members of my generation to have read “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” before watching Blade Runner, the whole issue of not so much how artificial beings look human, but can/do they act human had a most profound effect on my perspectives towards human – and non-human – behaviour.   

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law” – Isaac Asimov. 

Having made the case for droids programmed to speak, so the next two awesome candidates for inclusion here, weren’t. 

Once you’ve seen “her” you can’t forget “Maria” from Fritz Lang’s ground-breaking Metropolis.

For 1926, the sleek and sophisticated style of “her look” was truly staggering.

It still is. 

Soon after its grand opening during the ’80s, my mother took me to MOMI (Museum Of the Moving Image, in London) – there, in a special case, stood the actual life-size metal suit used in that German silent movie.

Must have stood there for AGES, honoured to be gawping at such a complex design; 1926?! Incredible!

“Gort! Deglet ovrosco!” – Klaatu.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) remains one of my most beloved SF masterpieces.

The charismatic – though enigmatic – Klaatu arrives on Earth (in Washington, USA, of course) to present a dire warning to the human race, but it’s his travelling companion – “that big iron fella” – an eight foot robot named Gort who stole the show. Instead of using a frightening voice, Bernard Herrmann’s eerie score helped enhance the fear factor quite considerably.

In his closing address, when Klaatu explained that Gort acted as a policeman, “patrolling the galaxies, protecting the planets,” his place in my Hall of Fame was assured. 

Obviously, sprawled across the living room floor, watching avidly back in the day, it’s a shame Klaatu couldn’t drum into me the name of this elusive blond space hero with the same intensity he instructed all us seven-year-olds that in order to prevent Gort from destroying the Earth, we must go to Gort. We must say these words:

Klaatu.

Barada.

Nikto.

“I thought it was a bit too quiet in this place, Boots. Here come the guard-dogs and I don’t like the look of their teeth” – Rory Pricer.   

“Robots, and they look like military versions too.”

“Something sinister was afoot without doubt. It was bad enough that alien ships had trespassed in Federation space, but these looked too like the representatives of a sophisticated and alien civilization for Boots’ liking…”

At this phint, allow me to mention one of my fav droids featured in one of the very first SF books to grave my shelves (and still standing beside my desk, nestled behind the smaller – but no less significant – Science Fiction Source Book 

The Space Warriors by Stewart Cowley, telling the galactic exploits of Commander “Boots” Walker and Rory Pricer as they battle the evil Phantor Gorth and his droid army. Apart from the menacing warbots (illustrated above by the legendary Eddie Jones), there was an amazing yellow sentry-robot (who cannot be found anywhere on Google Images or Pinterest) and the delightful domaestic robot who was so ecstatic to see Boots come home again he almost blew a fuse…

Droids can also offer unlikely moments of comic relief.

Take Woody Allen’s zany (and only) SF offering: Sleeper (1973), for instance. Trying to acclimatize to 22nd century life, Miles Monroe is given a robot dog called Max: “Is he house-trained or will he be leaving batteries all around the place?” Who could forget Reagan The Gaybot (“Here’s your silly hypervac suit!”) or the Jewish Tailor Robots (“What’re we gonna do with all this velvet?!”)?

And then there is The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, written by the late, great Douglas Adams (we shared the same birthday!) which featured Marvin The Paranoid Android.

He was hilarious in the TV series; one feared the worse when it received recent Hollywood treatment, but, with a HUGE sigh of relief, the Hitchhiker’s movie turned out to be pleasantly entertaining, especially with Sam Rockwell, Mos Def and Martin Freeman onboard. And of course, the late, great Alan Rickman provided the voice of Marvin: 

Chewbacca: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgh!”

C-3PO: “He made a fair move. Screaming about it can’t help you.”

Han Solo: “Let him have it. It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.”

C-3PO: “But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.”

Han Solo: “That’s ’cause droids don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.”

Chewbacca: “Grrf.”

C-3PO: “I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.”

(Been waiting patiently for the most suitable Post to insert this all-time classic exchange!) 🙂

 

Inevitably, we reach Star Wars. 

There are more droids to be found in this galaxy far far away than you can shake a lightsaber at. The original trilogy helped bolster my devotion to droids even further.

Apart from the iconic duo of C3PO and R2D2, take a look at The Empire Strikes Back (1980): especially 2-1B, the medical droid that tends to Luke Skywalker in the bacta tank after that nasty Wampa attack on Hoth, and the one responsible for replacing Luke’s hand in time for this episode’s finale.

My one gripe towards arguably the saga’s greatest instalment, is that FORTY SECONDS did NO JUSTICE to that awesome assembly of badass bounty hunters. Not enough time to see IG-88 (blink and you’ll miss the moment when he actually TURNS HIS HEAD). Unlike other droid action figures, Iggy not only came with a blaster, but an extended assault rifle! Curiously enough, the insectoid 4-LOM is actually defined as a protocol droid – blimey, who knew?! 

More comic relief in Return Of The Jedi (1983)8D8 assigns R2D2 to waiter-duty aboard Jabba The Hutt’s sail-barge, but please, have mercy on the little, upended droid, screaming with a Munchkins voice, getting his soles branded while EVERYBODY in the cinema LAUGHS at him! And Wookieepedia can’t even tell me his name. Poor lil fella…

And yes, you guessed it, one of the joys of Rogue One (2016) came in the sure, yet surly, ex-Imperial form of K-2SO, who just like the best droids, instantly captured our attention – and hearts? – with a unique “personality.” In addition, “he” followed the old SF tradition of letting the droid steal the best lines… 

A unique, seldom praised, factor about that original smash hit of 1977 is how, to begin with, the events are experienced solely through the two droids. Although never a big fan of C3PO, perhaps his finest moment in the whole saga came on Tatooine, arguing with “that malfunctioning little twerp.” There followed another great joy: those pesky Jawas, roaming the Midlanowhere Plains inside their ginormous clanking Sandcrawler with its diverse collection of droids, including the Death Star Droid: 5D6-RA7 (see above) – always liked its slick design, and unnerving vocalizations; the Power Droid (nothing more than a cute box on stumpy legs, its unremarkable and weaponless action figure has since become so rare, it is now THE most valuable one out there!); and spare a thot for that R5 unit (even if it did have a bad motivator).

And to think these adventures transpire before we even get to meet that blond kid from the moisture farm… 

K-2SO: “I’m surprised you’re so concerned with my safety.”

Jyn Erso: “I’m not. I’m just worried they might miss you… and hit me.”

K-2SO: “Doesn’t sound so bad to me…”

Speaking of blond galactic heroes, it is heartening to be able to end this Post (yes, even this insufferable dirge has to be deactivated at some point! 😉 ) with some promising news.

Just a few months ago, following an extraordinary incident of Baggins-like philosophy, yours truly finally managed to find what he was looking for. By looking for something completely different instead!

Naturally, this year’s birthday triggered a tremendous nostalgia-rush. Among my recollections happened to be a short-lived “boys’ paper” produced in 1983 (by D.C. Thomson) named Spike. It covered the full gamut of boys’ stories: football, war, espionage and school gangs, but the SF entry: Starhawk Against The Powerbeast (not surprisingly, my best of the bunch) rang a few bells…

It featured a fair-haired cosmic hero. With a robot sidekick.

AHA!! 

My search is finally OVER. 

Should have known he’d be called Star-something; just consider the number of Starlords to have passed through the comics industry on both sides of The Pond – why, even the obscure precursor to 2000AD was entitled: Starlord! And, the original combo of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy boasted a member known as Starhawk! 

Yes, checking the D.C. Thomson database, the Starhawk of Spike 1983 did make a previous appearance in 1979. 

The comic? The Crunch!

Jeez, how could it be possible to forget such a groovy title?! Especially when it sported such a formidable masthead?

Scant info told me that the sidekick was merely called “Droid.”

That’s it? Just “Droid”?!

Nothing facetious like Cecil? Or Humphrey? Or anything remotely badass like Joe Pineapples? Or Marvin…? 

Still, as long as it’s NOT a meaningless stream of numbers and letters…

Anyway, a recent Bronze Age expedition into the heart of London returned with some encouraging findings. Only one awemonger (to my knowledge) stocks British comics, and much to my surprise – and sheer delight – when it came to The Crunch, substantial copies were indeed in stock. Came away with two ishs #35 (dated 15 September 1979, see below; tried to upload the first page, but, apologies, being produced on rather cheap “newsprint” paper, it does not copy satisfactorily) presenting Starhawk‘s debut; while #40 (dated 20 October 1979) featuring on its back page the aptly-titled: Gallery Of Heroes, and that week’s subject?

YES!

It IS (please pardon the pun) the droid that Brad‘s been looking for!!

Amazed to learn that Droid came equipped with such a cool array of gadgets: his “eyes” were actually highly sophisticated radar sensors; a medipak, computer, scanners and vidcams installed in his chest; an Impulse Unit was attached to his right hip; a repair kit fitted to his left thigh; a communicator built into his wrist; and – get this! – lasers AND “space blasters” loaded in EACH arm!

The text added:

“But Droid has another more important function. He can pilot the Space Raider – Starhawk’s battlecraft – by remote control… He can also aim and fire the ship’s weapons. So Droid is the perfect side-kick for Starhawk…”

Oh, so much more than a mere “side-kick” as finally getting to perusing this forgotten nugget in British comics history would reveal…

Of course, as we all know, by the 26th century, the Terran Empire is in serious decline:

“…survival once again depended on the swiftness of man’s gun. Chaos reigned in solar systems that had reverted to barbarism (hence the men wearing pleated mini-skirts…?), but one man stood for law and order. His name, Sol Rynn, known as… 

STARHAWK

Interestingly, ultimately, this Sol cuts quite a drab figure, nothing more than a typical, one-dimensional blond galactic hero. Ironically, his only merit is that his co-pilot is a robot! Droid, on the other hand, comes across as cool, clever and regularly cracks wry remarks pertaining to the human condition. Even his tendency to address his mundane “master” as “Mister Rynn” is classy in itself. 

Thus, the revelation struck me: 

‘Twas NOT this ordinary protagonist, but his extraordinary partner, who had captured my imagination all those years ago!

Perhaps the traditional low-key status of robots in SF, plus his dull, inconsequential name, had prevented him from making a more significant impact on my sensors. But now – it’s been too long – he (not it, he) is back in my life, and in my collection. And he’s here to STAY.

As Asimov professed, there is no reason why intelligent machines should not be considered good people. 

Thus, rather than the happenstance of flesh and blood, through the capacities of wit, moral behaviour and rational thought can a being rightfully claim recognition as human.

To that end, then, rather than rediscovering my very first favourite comic character, this feels more like reuniting with my oldest friend. 

Starhawk: “A successful mission, Droid. Luckily I didn’t fall for the old drugged food routine. You see, my mechanical friend, they made us too welcome, and that’s downright suspicious!”

Droid: “Trying to analyse human thought processes causes severe strain on my logic circuits, Mister Rynn. Course laid for Cygnus Alpha…”

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Bradscribe Review

Your Spoilers – They’ll Have To Wait Outside! We Don’t Want Their Kind Here!

“Ryan Johnson’s movie has a sense of humour about itself and a sense of joy, but its emotional generosity, even in the midst of all the extravagant green-screen work, is its best special effect” – TIME Magazine. 

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror…

“I fear something terrible has happened.” 

You betcha!

Only the terror manifested more in the unwelcome form of spite and bitterness – there has been a Starkiller-sized amount of hate for VIII over this past weekend alone.

Truly, we waited on tenterhooks for two years for... THIS?! 

Okay, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is NOT terrible, but, alas, it is not great either.

You will be relieved to know that – unlike the barrage of bile foisted upon IMDb over the last few days – this review will refrain from descending into an expletive-laden rant. 

Unlike other episodes on the big screen, nobody cheered, nobody applauded, as the goosebump-inducing score broke out, or the legendary title scrawl began trundling upscreen… 

Hello, methinks, quite a different Star Wars movie is unfolding here… 

“And, as for Luke, Hamill comes into his own here with a very intelligent and sympathetic portrayal of his great character. Luke is now part Prospero, part Achilles… potentially the great magician or teacher on this island, ready to induct Rey into the Zen priesthood of the Force” – The Guardian. 

The biggest gasp in the auditorium did not go to the – admittedly awesome – praetorian guard fight, nor towards the surprise appearance of a dear old friend on Ahch-to (arguably Last Jedi’s most charming scene). No, as the opening space battle gets underway, the very first First Order officer we see on the bridge is played by none other than Ade Edmondson!! 

My non-British blogging friends might like to know that this cult fave star appeared in a few classic BBC TV comedy shows during the 80s. To see him here was extraordinary, but, immediately, alarm bells started ringing.

Uh-oh, they’re gonna play this for laughsunfortunately, this proved to be precisely the misguided and cringe-inducing case as a thoroughly underwhelming first act ensued. There are certain lines that should never be uttered in the Star Wars galaxy – “Let me put you on hold” (?!) should NOT be one of them, by Jove!

Amidst all the much-maligned New Hopisms of The Force Awakens, the trio of new characters: Rey, Finn and Poe were most welcome, and refreshing additions. Here, none of them, frustratingly, were allowed to develop any further.

The only thing to strike me about Holdo is that she looked all dressed and coiffured ready for Canto Bight, not saving the Resistance.

Laura Dern?! As an Admiral?! 

Come OFF IT… That absurd premise turned out to be more hilarious than anything “General” Gleeson managed to spout…

And “Captain” Phasma…? Soz, but that was the moment Brad blinked…

With the Asian cinema market larger than ever, it was just a matter of when, not if, a character like Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) would appear in this franchise. Personally, she gabbled too fast, so none of her scenes could be followed. No matter,  by the time she had become miraculously embroiled in the shoddily “written” derring-do, my attention had well and truly drifted. 

Speaking of cringe-inducing: by far the weakest – certainly most useless – sequence takes place on Canto Bight.

A cosmic Monte Carlo might be more suitable for crap like Valerian. But not Star Wars, for cake’s sake!

“We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life… …”

On a positive note, however, it was fabulous to see the lovely – and still feisty – Princess (sorry) GENERAL Leia again – thankfully, watching Carrie for the very-last-time proved not to be the emotional slog one had expected. However, one particular scene glided past 😉 that elicited a few sniggers in the darkness around me.

My time and patience was also saved by Adam Driver, who managed to bring some much-needed gravitas as perpetually-petulant-teen-with-ridiculous-mask: Kylo Ren.

And Chewie!

But then again, despite his instant-classic “Roast Porg” scene, this weary Wookie had – as feared – too little to do.

More sketches with those delightful, albeit dotty, “Caretakers” on Ahch-to would have cheered me up.

Most of all, though, it was great to catch a powerful and moving performance by Mark Hamill  as Ireland’s living legend: Stragglybeard, Lord Of The Grumpy Teatsqueezers.

The Last Jedi ranks with the very best Star Wars epics by pointing ahead to a next generation of Skywalkers – and, thrillingly, to a new hope” – Rolling Stone. 

Mercifully, this instalment is not as atrocious as the universally-reviled prequel trilogy, but still lags several parsecs behind last year’s Merry Sithmas Special: Rogue One. 

Disney – obviously – were too preoccupied with designing those cute critters: porgs, crystal foxes and whatnot – and all that blasted associated merchandise! – to worry about the inconsequential stuff. Such as story structure and a cohesive narrative, etc. etc.

And what is so Supreme about this Leader?

Deeply disappointed.

After being so intrigued by such a potentially-menacing figure, and wanting to know more about his origins/history, here (in his snazzy golden dressing gown) his “character” is – shamefully, almost embarrassingly – barely onscreen long enough to frighten us, let alone fascinate us further.

Snoke is a joke! (And like this film’s other “light-hearted” moments: simply not funny. And doesn’t deserve to be.)

Similarly, our fascination surrounding Rey remains almost-painfully unresolved. Amounting to nuthin’, this simply splutters out as the most annoying non-event ever. 

And Brad grows tired of asking this so it will be the last time: how did Maz find Luke’s lightsaber?!

Oh, never mind…

Not only do these unsettling anti-climaxes remain unsettled, but the way we all got psyched up and brainstormed out for NOTHING (partly inciting the extreme antipathy that has clogged up the internet these past few days) has brought me to the brink of indifference. And a complete, crushing state of apathy towards Episode IX, or – Sith forbid! – a whole new trilogy by Rian Johnson. It’s as if he didn’t BOTHER to watch The Force Awakens. Or, at least, consult JJ Abrams’ notes…

Whilst pondering whether to discuss Spoilers in this Review, let me conclude by stating that this whole bally venture felt like it spoilt just about everything that makes the Star Wars phenomenon so stupendous and awe-inspiring.

 

The most memorable moment of this particular viewing experience happened to be the severe cramp. 

After two and a half hours, all feeling in my right leg had gone. As the last dude stuck in his (plush, velvet, Edwardian) seat after this evening’s performance of The Last Jedi, a young attendant – black eyeliner, black lipstick, rings and studs protruding from the most unlikely places – came to check on me.

After explaining my predicament, whilst rising awkwardly to my feet, she chortled:

“Yer jus’ gonna ‘avta FORCE yerself, darlin’, he he!” 

Honestly!

What IS it with Brad and cheeky Goth girls?! 

She noticed me grimace at the endless end credits.

“I know!” she complained. “Absolute blooody roobbish, innit?! I ‘avta put up wiv this three times a day fer the rest o’ the week!” 

Ah yeah, your job really sucks…

“Anyways, enough abaht me – what did YOU think of it… …?”

 

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“That’s NOT how the Force works!”

 

 

 

Blade Runner 2049: The Bradscribe Review

Future Perfect? More Sequel Than Sequel…?

“This is not some clunky franchise-farmed cash-in… With all the art and craft of the original, Denis Villeneuve has… gotten down and dirty in the gene pool, marinated in its enzymes, slept in its bed and dreamt its dreams. And then he’s gone to work” – The Sunday Times.  

“I want more life!” demanded Roy Batty, the peculiar, but poetic, doomed replicant from the classic original Blade Runner. 

Well – after all this time – should that masterpiece, one of the greatest – and self-contained – SF classics reviewed here: have been granted an extension of its existence?

Remarkably, these past few weeks, some critics have argued that Blade Runner 2049 has surpassed the original, taking the issues of humanity, genetics and identity to whole new astounding levels. 

Now, considering how this blogger included himself as one of those teeming masses baulking at a “new” Blade Runner movie, it is a revelation – not to mention a relief – to report that Blade Runner 2(049) has turned out to be a surprisingly engrossing visual and emotional experience.

“Despite all the overlaps, this is not a simulacrum of a Ridley Scott film. It is unmistakably a Denis Villeneuve film, inviting us to tumble, tense with anticipation, into his doomy clutches” – The New Yorker.

The plot of Blade Runner 2049 begins with Ryan Gosling, turning in an appropriately vacant and artificial presence as a new Runner: K (as in Philip K. Dick?), paying a visit to the isolated warehouse/abode of Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morton – retired from the rumble-tumble world of WWF to a barren sector of the Californian wasteland to Grow Green Stuff, Man. What the officer’s surveillance equipment discovers onsite leads to the main plot development: K questioning the nature of his own existence – “basically Pinocchio with more eco-pollution” as one reviewer rather facetiously described it.

When we eventually get to see the Main Man/Replicant/? Himself, it’s nice to see Villeneuve honour that traditional sci-fi dystopian trope of the protagonist wandering into somebody else’s gaff without even a knock or a “Yoohoo!”

As tired and drawn as the world he now (barely) inhabits, Deckard cuts a haggard, whiskey-slugging figure, with only a dog and a holographic Elvis to keep him company. Perhaps Ford’s finest performance in years. 

That wasn’t a real dog… was it? 

Shame it wasn’t a sheep – that would’ve been neat. No, seriously, in the novel, Rick Deckard keeps an artificial sheep on his roof, and only takes the job to retire those wayward  Nexus-6 replicants so that he can afford to buy a real domesticated ruminant mammal with a thick woolly coat…  

“The question at Blade Runner 2049’s pulsating heart has no glib answer… With dazzling adroitness, [Villeneuve] has built on Scott’s legacy to create something grander in scope and emotional range” – London Evening Standard. 

What about the Soundtrack? 

There are no exceptional tracks here – nothing to compare to Vangelis’ sumptuous Blade Runner Blues, the sensuality of the Love Theme, the achingly beautiful Memories Of Green, or the sweeping grandeur of Harps Of The Ancient Temples – regrettably, the score is just as equally soulless as its artificial antagonists…

There is another unsettling observation concerning Blade Runner 2049 that has largely gone unmentioned in other reviews. In this post post-feminist “society” women can look forward – ha! – to not much in the way of beneficial or progressive roles. There are some strong female characters – who can forget Sylvia Hoeks’ “Luv”? Robin Wright is enjoying a promising upturn in her career – here she plays K’s superior: Lieutenant Joshi, in an interesting, but underused, performance.

Apparently, Blade Runner 2049 fails the Bechdel Test i.e. can two female characters share the screen and NOT have a conversation about a man? Morover, this movie just falls short of the Bradscribe Test, specifically: are there 3-4 lines cool or snazzy enough to be quoted herein? When you consider how the original movie positively brims with terrific lines and conversations, sill fondly remembered and quoted 35 years later…

The virtual love interest is brought to you by Joi (Ana de Armas), a hypnotic beauty, but then, she would need to be a top-of-the-range model distracting enough to make any man (or woman?) forget that they exist in a murky dystopia beset with biospheric collapse, child labour camps, distracting neon billboards and Jared Leto – blind, bearded and as bonkers as a bat – ruling the roost from his ambient asylum, inflicting poor, unsuspecting souls with his unintelligible pseudobabble. His (mis)casting as Niander Wallace is perhaps my biggest grumble with this otherwise captivating movie.

Tell you what: going for a spin in his spinner, tha last thing Brad (hopefully not looking as old and thoroughly dischuffed as Harrison Ford does here) will want is to be distracted by a 50 foot holographic ballerina pirouetting past the bally windscreen, thank you very much…

“Blade Runner 2049 has been made with impeccable craftsmanship and taste, yet the film is so terrified of disreputability that it renders itself dead from the waist down, unable to derive pleasure even from a theoretically kinky robot three-way” – Slant Magazine.

Will 2049 end up matching – or even surpassing – its predecessor’s revered status in the pantheon of SF greats? 

Well, no. 

Look at its core components: more bleak, more brutal, less memorable and less inspiring – can these really be considered to be superior traits…?

Certainly not. 

Those folks who reckon this movie supersedes the original are merely revelling (somewhat prematurely) in hype. Nevertheless, during all the time we were suppressing the prospect of a sequel, little did we know that such a wondrous filmmaker as Denis Villeneuve could even exist…

“You’ve never seen a miracle,” Sapper Morton mumbles before being wiped off the cast list. Considering how much the audience were fidgeting, yawning and groaning throughout 2049’s 2hrs, 44 mins (unlike the spinners, time doesn’t fly in this hazy, amber-tinted future), it looked like they were being hard-pushed to find anything exceptional in this languid concoction. 

Always keen to watch more sophisticated, less action-stuffed film fare, my patience, however, was awarded with incredible visuals, an extraordinary narrative atmosphere, and the golden opp of seeing – no matter how grumpy he looks these days – the Ford Legend grace the big screen once more…

In answer to the question: “would you recommend it?” it strikes me as being one of those movies absolutely magnificent to watch once, but fails to incite the urge to pay it numerous viewings. Guess one misses that rain-soaked Chinatown and those fire-spewing ziggurats of good ol’ 2019 a tad too much… 

Brad doesn’t know how long it will take to get round to watching Blade Runner 2049 a second time.

Who does…?

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4 out of 5 glittering C-beams, but ooooh, only just…

 

“I was quit when I come in here, Bryant, I’m twice as quit now” – Rick Deckard.