Who’s The Doctor? Who Knows?

The Tale Of A Time Lord: Are You Coming And Going… Or Going And Coming?

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“You may be a Doctor, but I’m the Doctor, the definite article you might say” – The Doctor.

By the gods of Gallifrey, it was only a matter of time before my attention turned to Doctor Who: that beloved, enduring phenomenon of British TV. This weekend, BBC1 showed “Heaven Sent,” the penultimate episode of this current series – a fascinating outing featuring just Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, in a creepy castle constantly reconfiguring itself, stalked by a mysterious veiled entity: “extraordinary; one of the best episodes ever.”

Admittedly, it looked a more engaging viewing pleasure than usual. Too many of the stories in recent years have been incomprehensible, or just dull. Looking – and sounding – so radically different from the Who of old does not help either. Despite their notoriously shoddy sets and terribly-dated special effects, their classic scripts sparkle stronger than ever. 

A huge fan of the series between 1979-1984, it was a joy to be introduced to this Saturday evening ritual during the years of the Fourth – and arguably the greatest – regeneration played by Tom Baker (1974-1981).

Having witnessed the demise of the show in 1989, hearing about its resurrection in 2005 failed to instill any excitement or curiosity whatsoever. David Tennant turned out to be surprisingly successful as the Tenth Doctor, but failed to interest me; the same, alas, can be applied to the Eleventh reincarnation: Matt Smith. Just as well really – working abroad in recent years has kept me away from the BBC’s longest-running series.

However, things are looking up with Peter Capaldi – probably the best casting for the role since, well, Tom Baker. 

Bless both your hearts, Doc. 

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“Homo sapiens, what an inventive, invincible species… Puny, defenceless bipeds, they survived flood, famine and plague – they survived cosmic wars and holocausts; now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life, ready to outsit eternity. They’re indomitable… indomitable…” – The Doctor.

Since 2005, of course, the series has metamorphosed into something bigger than ever, even attracting a huge following on the other side of the pond, which is fantastic, considering how quintessentially English this phenomenon traditionally set out to be.

No matter where the Doctor (not just the Fourth, but any of them for that matter) and his companions ended up – Gallifrey, Skaro, Traken, etc. – the aliens always spoke impeccable English, and their planet looked suspiciously like a more terrestrial quarry. Whenever the more malicious species decided to invade Earth, they always ended up targeting England. 

One reason why this bigger (better?) incarnation has failed to lure me in is the standard of the scripts. The writers assembled for the Baker years (1974-1981) were a formidable bunch, including Terrance Dicks, Chris Boucher and Terry Nation (the creator of the Daleks, the Doctor’s most fearsome – and consistent – foe), but particular praise should go to Robert Holmes, who is responsible for penning some of the best-loved stories: including The Ark In Space (1975, above), Pyramids of Mars (1975), The Brain of Morbius, The Deadly Assassin (both 1976), and The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (1977). His scripts really exuded charm, even intelligent dashes of wit – how often can you say that of the series now? 

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“I can see your long rest hasn’t done anything to cure your megalomania. Have a jelly baby” – The Doctor.

What set the the Fourth Doctor apart, and endeared him to multitudes of fans worldwide – besides Baker’s wonderful performances and consistently amazing scripts – was his iconic look: the floppy hat and that seemingly endless scarf, plus the amusing habit of offering any of his adversaries a jelly baby.  

9 million viewers at Saturday teatime sat enthralled or, as legend would have it, “cowered behind the sofa.” During the 1970s, the show was heavily criticised for being too scary and too violent. None of it scared me – on the contrary, it never failed to excite.

And engage my imagination: once that week’s thrilling cliffhanger was absorbed, and taken over by the haunting theme tune (it still induces goosebumps even now), it was off to Gallifrey (i.e. my bedroom) and convert the wardrobe into my very own Tardis. 

To all those fans who insist that Tennant is the best Doctor (pah!) please feel free to (try and) make your case in the Comments below – recommend any stories or individual scenes worth my while.

Good luck: surely there cannot have been any stories in the past decade as stunning as Genesis Of The Daleks (1975). The following scene from that story out of all 41 of Baker’s reign is my all-time fave – not just a classic Dr Who moment, but one of the most impressive scenes in the history of British TV drama.   

You don’t have to wait – the Doctor will see you now…

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“It’s the end… but the moment has been prepared for” – The Doctor.

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Where We’re Going, They Don’t Have Flying Cars, Doc!

Well, Bless My Flux Capacitor! It’s October 21 2015 Already – Welcome To The Future, Marty!

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“Wait a minute, Doc, what are you talking about? What happens to us in the future? Will we become assholes or something?” – Marty McFly.

Great Scott!

October 21? 2015?! “You mean we’re in the future?!” 

At last, Marty McFly, who is the “only kid ever to get into trouble before he is born,” has arrived today on this date – to sort out his kids. 

Back To The Future, released 30 years ago, is a fine sci-fi adventure, held together by Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s great buddy-repartee – once you get past the heavy premise of his Mum falling in love with him and not George McFly,

Back To The Future II, on the other hand, is a sequel that failed to impress me back then. After finding 2015 too heavy to handle, Marty must travel back to 1955 again to prevent the chaos of an alternate 1985… without interfering with his first trip. So, it’s needlessly complicated, and too heavy to sit through

Even in November 1989, when Back To The Future II was released, there was no way to predict what 2015 would bring. So it really doesn’t come as any surprise what the visual futurists managed to come up with. Rather than pine for the lack of hoverboards – which thousands of other bloggers will be doing today anyway – let’s take a look and see what the ’80s perception of 2015 brought us.

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“The encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum, and destroy the entire universe…!” – Dr. Emmett Brown.  

When 1985 McFly wanders bewildered around 2015 Hill Valley one of the more intriguing revelations is Jaws 19 (directed by Max Spielberg, Stephen’s son, born in 1985) at the Holomax. Holographic movies may be imminent, according to the latest science sources, but there is greater sophistication of 3-D technology in movie-making now than ever before.

People dispose of their garbage on the back seat and still – incredibly – along the dashboard, but not in a Mr. Fusion energy converter. Doc’s rejuvenation clinic is not far off from all the botox injections and chemical gubbins that proliferate nowadays. You do realise, of course, that plot device was put in so that Christopher Lloyd could complete Parts II and III without spending so much time and angst in the make-up chair…

Yes, nostalgia for the 80s is quite prevalent now, so having the Cafe 80s in Hill Valley is spot on; and – get thisCharles Gherardi plays “Ayatollah Khomeini Video Waiter.” Swell. 

Actually, there was one horrendous moment which thirty years cannot erase from my memory. The doorbell rings. Marlene McFly comes stomping down the stairs and we see that “she” is played by… Michael J. Fox! Holy flux!!

That’s heavy enough for anyone to choke on their hydrated pizza… 

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“Now look, just take it easy and you’ll be fine, and be careful in the future” – Officer Reese.

Before you criticize the ridiculous get-up of Biff Tannen and his gang, this blogger can actually report – quite sobre, but with dread – to have seen any number of morons dressed like this… and in several countries too. 

The wall of multiple channels on a large widescreen TV and video-conferencing (Skype!) look eerily familiar, and it’s amazing to see how preoccupied Marty Jr is with his hi-tech specs. No handheld phone gadgetry, although in one scene, one character campaigning to restore Hill Valley’s clock tower seems to be holding a tablet. But making a call on an AT&T payphone? In 2015?! Ha! Remarkably, the worldwide web only made its debut in the same year as the release of Back To The Future II! 

Interestingly enough, among Part II’s DVD extras, the Director: Robert Zemeckis tells how he did not want the sequel to take place in the future as any movie set at a future date always ends up “mis-predicted.” No doubt, he had envisaged hordes of bloggers on this very day nitpicking all the stuff that Part II got wrong… 

Personally, the original Back To The Future works perfectly well as a standalone film. It didn’t need a sequel; the final scene – setting the premise for one – works perfectly well as a joke. These, funnily enough, were also the exact opinions of Robert Zemeckis. 

As the Doc said: “Your future is whatever you make it, so make the best of it.” 

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The future starts right here: 

And that’s 1 Challenge down – 4 to go. 😉

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Synchronize your watches! The future’s coming back…

Yeah, today also marks another Anniversary – it’s two years(!) since the very first Bradscribe Post wandered tentatively out into the big wide blogosphere. 

To find out how it all began, you can view it here: 

A BIG THANK YOU to Followers old and new for ALL your support along the way, and hey, here’s to even bigger and better awesomeness in the – ahem – future.

Cheers!

Quasi-Scientific Powers: A Blog About Magic

Is There Any Argument To Include ‘Magic’ In Science Fiction?

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“Magic is, by definition, not science. It is, therefore, that which cannot be entertained within science fiction. Its banishment, however, has been less than total” – Brian Stableford. 

Perhaps the best way to tell the difference between science fiction and fantasy is that while the former emphasizes science, a great deal of fantasy deals with magic. 

By definition, magic is the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. Imagine magic disciplined into an “applied” science. Some SF writers have dabbled in it, leading to a varied array of stories about magic, or – more precisely – quasi-scientific powers.

It’s all James George Frazer’s fault. In The Golden Bough: A Study In Magic and Religion (1890), magic is represented as a kind of proto-science based on presumed natural laws: the law of similarity and the law of contagion. The first states that one can influence a process by imitating it, or influence an object by operating upon a likeness of it; the second states that objects once in contact remain associated, so that – ah, stuff it: anyone fancy any cake?

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“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur C. Clarke. 

No matter how determined SF authors have been in shutting out the mysterious lure of magic, they have invariably kept returning to it. It is said that one branch of specialised (science-based) jargon can easily pass into fantasy territory; strict boundaries btween the two no longer apply. Why should there be any boundaries in fiction?  

As just one example, psionic power can be converted into witchcraft, and vice versa. The combination of “careful extrapolation and absurd premises” fuelled the fantasy that appeared in “Unknown Worlds,” at one time a short-lived companion magazine to Astounding Science Fiction. One of its most notable stories was “The Devil Makes The Law,” (aka “Magic, Inc”) by Robert Heinlein.

A number of SF authors have toyed with pseudoscientific versions of supernatural phenomena. The shape-shifting inherent in “There Shall Be No Darkness” (1950) by James Blish comes to mind. The world really thrives on the mythology of magic in Black Easter (1968) by James Blish, while a world “where magic works and has been disciplined for application” featured in Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos (1971).

Yet perhaps the most awesome SF/fantasy crossover is the The Book of the New Sun, a four-volume series by Gene Wolfe. He pioneered the innovative concept of “science fantasy” whereby conventional science fiction was rearranged into a new “posthistoric” Dark Age centuries after the collapse of our own civilization.

The first volume: The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) carries one of my all-time favourite SF book covers (see above), so – if the whole series can be found this Winter during my festive book hunt – then some thoroughly enjoyable reading is in order!

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“I’d like to see little girls playing Avengers in the playground and doing the Scarlet Witch hand gestures” – Elizabeth Olsen.   

While scientific mishaps created (most of) the comic book heroes we know and love today, there are plenty of mystical mavericks ready to fight for justice, especially in Marvel Comics.

Leading the way, dazzling the least-suspecting with her luminous pink hex power is the Scarlet Witch. Wanda Maximoff became one of the most prominent female members of the Avengers; she married everyone’s fave android-in-green-tights: the Vision. 

The mutant mystic made her big screen debut this year in Avengers: Age of Ultron, played by Elizabeth Olsen. Apparently, her character’s powers were useless against the real dangers of filming: “You’re looking around and it’s like all these prestigious actors dressed up in costumes and none of us could stop laughing because we kept screwing up the scene.”  The actress confirms that the Scarlet Witch will make a second appearance in next May’s Captain America: Civil War and the next Avengers adventures.

Sure, my comics radar was well aware of Dr. Strange: the Master of the Mystic Arts, but somehow, his title never appealed. Even when you’re seven years old, a moustachioed man in a mini-skirt, with tights, does not look cool.  

However, having realised (in my teenage years) that he was actually wearing a long tunic, and some of his comics (from the early 80s) were actually quite impressive, the prospect of seeing him on the big screen is intriguing; the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch has signed on to play him has only piqued my interest further. It’s not due for release until 4 November next year, so that leaves plenty of time to catch up with the doctor’s exploits (back issues).

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“m’I tuo fo ym ecaf” – Zatanna Zatara. 

DC Comics – not to be outdone – have their own formidable canon of mystic heroes.

Perhaps this stable’s best-known mystic is Zatanna, who made her debut in Hawkman #4 in 1964. Most notable for her odd knack of casting spells backwards, not only is she more glamorous than either Dr. Fate or the Spectre, but her fondness for white rabbits should be generously rewarded.  

This black-clad, top-hatted, curvaceous conjuror just happens to be embroiled in DC’s Identity Crisis storyline, with all its magical mind-wiping madness. 

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“Pick up any one of the Essential Defenders reprint trades and you’ll see the Hulk and the Silver Surfer venturing into the worlds of magic with the Atlantean prince Namor. Rocking” – Charlie Jane Anders. 

Despite his penchant for blue tights and yellow helmet and cape, there was nothing about Dr. Fate that made me want to grab his comic. Funnily enough, whenever his so-called ongoing series was revived, it never lasted long – so it seems unlikely that we will see him on the big screen any time soon.

So, is there any room in this dizzying technological age for a little bit of hocus-pocus?

You could fly from one side of this galaxy to the other, see a lot of “strange stuff,” but never see anything to make you believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everyone. No mystical energy field controls my destiny! It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

Or is it…?

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Abracadabra!

“Give Me Genisys!”: Or Is This A Case Of Ever Decreasing Sequels?

He Said He’d Be Back…

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“It’s wild… it’s just amazing what they’ve accomplished with the visual effects and then to see yourself the way you were, it’s really fantastic. They’ve imitated exactly the motions and the fights, the way I walked. All this can now be duplicated exactly the same way…” – Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The hardest thing is deciding what to tell you and what not to.

Should this Post tell you that this sequel turns out to be nothing special, barely more agreeable than the last two misguided efforts? That’s a tough one. Will it change your decision to venture to the cinema… knowing? And to think “they” plan to make two more sequels – as part of an intended trilogy – which may be of rapidly decreasing quality?!

God, you can go crazy thinking about all this…

Sure, you can’t deny it’s fantastic to see Arnold Schwarzenegger, back reprising his most iconic role, but it seems that Terminator Genisys has seriously let him down. Originally undecided as to whether to watch this, in the end, what pulled me in was the prospect of a clash between old (not obsolete) “Pops” versus the T-800 from the original movie.

If there is one golden rule in the torturous world of film criticism, then avoid movies that deliberately misspell any part of the title in some lameass ploy to sound cool. Sure enough, this misfire seems to be no exception…

TERMINATOR GENISYS

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“It was one of those: ‘Let’s give it a round of applause’ moments. I mean, Arnie said that line to me, in a helicopter… if that’s not career defining, I don’t know what is” – Emilia Clarke.

So, what good points can we take from this movie?

Emilia Clarke puts in a good, gutsy turn as a decidedly different 80’s girl who can balance her checkbook. There is such a charming subplot about how the “Guardian” came to protect the nine-year-old Sarah Connor lurking somewhere in that script; development of this angle would have added such sorely-needed emotional depth to proceedings, but – typical – we got no more than the briefest of hazy flashbacks.

What about this Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney)? Sent back to a 1984 none of us expected, then – before you can say “mimetic polyalloy” – he has to hurl back to the strange and disconcerting “future” of 2017! Jeez, poor boy. A tad too much tampering with the temporals for my liking. How much more of the space-time continuum can they screw up? 

It was intriguing to see J.K. Simmons involved in this; however, after an astonishing (well-deserved) Oscar-winning performance in Whiplash, he is wasted here, with nothing significant to contribute.

And as for John Connor (Jason Clarke), well, how they’ve handled him this time round is just… wrong. Didn’t like it at all. What can one say – what can one do – when the smartest aspect of the whole movie is having both Connors played by two Clarkes? 

Terminator Genisys is watchable – notably less painful than the last two; but it could – certainly should – have offered so much more. Towards the end, one dissatisfied viewer was seen marching for the Exit, presumably seeking to keep intact the timeline he knew and loved. Sarah Connor herself at one point summed up this whole fruitless exercise rather well: “I know it needs work…” 

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“They’ve reimagined it. They’ve upgraded it. It’s left me in a state of paralisys. It’s crushing every brain synapsys. This is a personal crisys and I may need analisys… Terminator Genisys is the antythisys of enjoyable” – Peter Bradshaw.

Hey, buddy, did you just see a real bright light?

Riding a wave of nostalgia has done wonders these past two months for other fondly treasured franchises such as Mad Max and Jurassic Park, but does it – should it – work for The Terminator? Reshooting the sequence in which the original T-800 arrives at Griffith Park Observatory in LA, was actually quite a nifty move, and the twist was kinda cool – yet if they’re going to digitally recreate 1984 Arnie, then it’s only fair that 1984 Bill Paxton should reappear as well.

The general consensus of reviews basically dismissed Genisys as “witless,” “artless,” thus a pointless exercise. A major factor in the success of those first two movies was the abundance of cool and quotable lines, but here – and you know how much Brad digs groovy quotes – there are no lines worthy of note. Also, there are a few attempts at humour, but they fail miserably. The whole package does look hastily and shoddily assembled, as if by machines (ha!) – the 600 series, most likely (we spotted them easy.)

…And James Cameron himself personally endorsed this? 

If you need me, you can find me drowning my sorrows down at Tech Noir. (You know it, it’s on Pico.)

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Cheese!

What The Flux?: Brad’s Guide to the Future

Happy New Year! Hope you all have a Good One! Not too Heavy!

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“There’s that word again: ‘heavy.’ Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?” – Dr Emmett L. Brown.   

1984 and 2001 are just two examples of years forever synonymous with visions of the future. As an integral part of SF, visual conceptions of future times are practically inevitable. What better way to start this new blogging year than seeing what lies ahead? Here are some of the futures we can look forward to… 

Naturally, we begin with:

2015: in the “Present Time” – Oct 21 to be exact. Marty McFly will travel from 1985 to sort his kids out. Apparently this year, we can get Home Energy Reactors, Jaws 17, self-drying jackets, hoverboards and flying cars. The latter will also play a major factor come:

November 2019: In permanently-dark Los Angeles, a group of Nexus 6 Replicants have to be hunted down by everyone’s fave Corellian smuggler. 

2022: Overpopulation and the inevitable food shortages mean that the deceased are reprocessed into green Ryvita. Order will be MAINTAINED by a gun-toting (fully-clad) Charlton Heston. 

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“You see how clever this part is? How it doesn’t require a shred of proof? Most paranoid delusions are intricate, but this is brilliant!” – Dr. Peter Silberman. 

2029: In the War of the Machines, skull-crusher tanks and heavily-armed cyborgs try to vanquish the last vestiges of the human race. A Terminator – inexplicably programmed to speak with an Austrian accent – is sent back to 1984 to terminate the resistance leader’s mother. And hey, Los Angeles is still dark (that’s permanance for you!)

2054: An officer at the Precrimes unit of Minority Report, as described by Philip K. Dick, is accused of a future murder. This has to be a monumental bureaucratic cock-up because that officer is none other than Tom Cruise! 

2077: Would u Adam-an’-Eve it? Tom frickin’ Cruise again! Only this time, the Cruiser is Jack Reacher Harper: one of the few remaining drone repairmen assigned to Earth. The movie’s called Oblivion; go figure…

2084: Mars has become colonised in Total Recall, yet-another Philip K. Dick scenario: “We can Remember It For You Wholesale.” Memory implants, Sharon Stone and an Austrian accent. Is there life on Mars? Well, there’s certainly no green Ryvita…

2087: The crew of the Nostromo have to respond to a distress signal from Planet LV426, but unleash a nasty, acid-for-blood Alien. 

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“Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen!” – Private Hudson. 

2144: Officer Ellen Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, is discovered (after floating in space for 57 years). She becomes “Adviser” to a group of gung-ho Space Marines who get wiped out by a nest of Aliens. At least Mr. Jones (the cat) survived, so that’s nice. Or it could be:

2176: There is an ongoing debate as to precisely when these two films are set. In the Special Edition, a photo of Ripley’s daughter has a date: 2174 (two years previously), which implies that Alien would have to be set in 2119… right? But heck, how can you even think about the time when you have to contend with rampant chest-bursters and face-huggers?!… And it’s another SEVENTEEN DAYS until any rescue-ship arrives?! Game over, man! Game over!   

2150: The Dalek Invasion of Earth ensues. Luckily, Peter Cushing (because William Hartnell was not deemed acceptable to a US audience) and Bernard Cribbins save the Doctor’s favourite planet from the notorious pepper-pots. 

2154: The super-rich live on a space station, while the rest lead a monotonous existence on Earth munching through green Ryvita. Except for Matt Damon who – desperate to cure his radiation sickness – goes in search of Ben Affleck Elysium. 

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Luna Schlosser: “What’s it feel like to be dead for 200 years?”                                                                  

Miles Monroe: “Like spending a weekend in Beverly Hills.” 

2173: Woody Allen awakes from a 200-year old cryostasis to find that he is Flash Gordon; smoking and deep fat come highly recommended; and his rent is 10,000 months overdue. He could have made a fortune selling green Ryvita in his health food store…

March 22, 2233: James Tiberius Kirk is born, which means that the USS Enterprise mission to boldly go and drag down new life and screw up new civilizations transpired between:

2263-68: When the “original” Star Trek takes place.

2274: Boys get to wear lycra body-suits and the girls don chiffon nighties, holding green Ryvita parties in a 70s City-state, as featured in Logan’s Run, but death is compulsory as soon as they turn 30, hence the Run

2293: Last vestiges of humanity are concentrated around green Ryvita-processing-plant apparently in rural Ireland, overseen by huge flying head known as Zardoz. Embarrassing undies modelled by: Sean Connery…?! (The future looks bleak!)

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“Beedeebeedeebeedee” – Twiki. 

2491: Due to a “freak mishap,” subjected to “cosmic forces beyond all comprehension”, Captain Buck Rogers awakes from 500-year deep-freeze to find that he is Flash Gordon and Earth’s population has been reduced to wearing brightly-coloured spandex.  

3973: The human race has reverted to primitive mute level, while snazzily-dressed (no spandex, thank The Lawgiver!) talking apes have taken over. Curiously enough, there are no Austrian accents… Order will be SCREWED UP by a gun-toting (semi-clad) Charlton Heston. 

10,191: On the distant planet of Dune, Kyle MacLachlan and the Fremen defeat the Emperor of  the Universe with the aid of an incoherent script. And lots of giant worms. Everyone – speaking without talking; travelling without moving – is popping Spice. Pure, unrefined Spice sure beats green Ryvita any day, man… Embarrassing undies modelled by: Sting. (The future looks bleaker!)

802,701: The Earth is a shambles, despite having no guns, no spandex, certainly no sign of any talking apes. No Charlton Heston for that matter. Not only has the Ryvita run out, there is no Spice to be had either! Times don’t get tougher than this. Embarrassing undies modelled by: …what looks like a grotesque bunch of subterranean trolls. (Bleaker than bleakest.) Rod Taylor is left wondering why he travelled so far forward in his Time Machine…

If none of this has made you develop a taste for History instead, nothing will! 

Cheers!

And The Biggest Star Of The Year Is…

Lots in space.

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“There is a theory which states that if ever for any reason anyone discovers what exactly the universe is for and why it is here it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another that states that this has already happened” – Douglas Adams.

The big space movie: Interstellar may have turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year, but there were a handful of awesome images to just about maintain my interest. None were any more powerful than the sprawling Gargantua, a mighty and omnipotent force located near Saturn.

Are we any nearer to understanding what exactly makes black holes work?

In his new book: “The Science of Interstellar,” Prof. Kip Thorne warns that much of the film “must be taken with a pinch of salt.” In dealing with such mind-twisting aspects as curved spacetime, and “holes in the fabric of reality,” the astropysicist branded them as: “the warped side of the universe.”

Essentially, a black hole is a collapsed star. It comes into being when those celestial fusion reactors (commonly known as ‘stars‘) have burnt through its entire stock of hydrogen and collapses under the force of its own gravity. The crush is so hardcore that not even light can escape. In space, no one can hear you gasp.

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“Since gravity is the dominant force acting over large distances, its inexorable pull should evidently lead to strong condensations of matter. Can anything ever stop it?” – Prof. Fulvio Melia.  

One thing is for sure: weird things happen near black holes. Albert Einstein suggested that the gravity of huge celestial bodies – such as black holes – can distort the fabric of the universe. A typical black hole may have a mass equivalent to 100 million suns. It spins at almost the speed of light, and can “drag” parts of the universe with it.

In order to allow the Endurance to reach the nearest star – a feat absolutely impossible by today’s standards of technology, that most convenient of plot-devices: the wormhole was concocted. To validate Nolan’s story of time dilation, a black hole of immense proportions was required; enter Gargantua.  

The distortion of the stars adjacent to Gargantua has come to be known as “gravitation lensing.” From computer simulations, Thorne was able to deduce that black holes are “slightly concave on one side, and have a bulge on the other.”

That’s gravity for you; relativity is superweird.

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“Because of the hole’s gravity warping spacetime into a fold, flying into, and subsequently through, a black hole could mean you ending up in another space or time. SF has speculated for years that… to travel through a black hole could… access other dimensions” – So You Created A Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide To Time Travel (2012).

What about that great quandary: what would it be like to venture through a black hole – and come out the other side? There is NO WAY that you could exit a black hole once entered. Being sucked into a black hole would entail your atoms being dispersed in an instant…

Honestly… there are times when several so-called Hollywood stars who – based on their (dis)service to what is laughably labelled: “entertainment” – could do with this kind of… displacement. It is ironic to think that in this bland age of overblown movies, the biggest ‘star’ of 2014 will just turn out to be a black hole.  

And why ever not?

This beguiling behemoth is testament to what can be achieved through the incredible advance of special effects – Gargantua is impressive on both scale and grandeur. It holds – now and forever – more mass, depth, power, integrity and credibility than a 100 million Mark Wahlbergs. 

So there!

 

Great Xpectations: A Tale Of Love, Mutants And Apocalypse

What’s the last thing you remember?

cerebro

“Get off the bloody chandelier, Hank!” – Charles Xavier.

With the release of X-Men: Days Of Future Past on DVD, this ol’ X-fan has finally got round to enjoying what was inevitably shaping up to be one of the best blockbusters of the year; with Bryan Singer back at the helm, and a plot grabbed from a major story arc in the original comic, it was looking like a very promising prospect indeed.

In the original Days of Future Past comic, it is intriguing to learn that it was Shadowcat (aka Kitty Pryde) and not Logan, who was tasked with the time-travel duties.  Also, the “future” events supposedly take place in 2023, but interestingly enough, the original 1981 comic specifically mentions 2013 – the year incidentally in which filming began.

Well over thirty years ago, visits to London during school hols would always culminate in raiding the bottom shelf of the station newsagent for a comic to read on the train home. Obsessed with finding as many crazy-costumed-crusaders as possible, the search usually concentrated on teams rather than solo heroes. So, er… X marked the spot as it were. No pun intended, for any Uncanny X-Men issue swiftly became the treasure of my (modest) comic collection.

x-men daysxaviers

“So, I wake up in my younger body, and then what?” – Logan.

Why – if you like the X-Men so much – has it taken so long for you to get round to watching this: one of the finest in the franchise? Oho! Trust you to come up with such a good question, dear Follower.

When X-Men:DoFP was released in mid-May, my usual mid-year sojourn in the UK was weeks old; the film was available in multiplexes throughout the country, humongous billboard posters of Wolverine and Mystique taunted me in London Underground tunnels, but still, no muto-show. What on Earth was holding me back?

Thousands of miles at home on the Gulf of Thailand, Mrs. B waited patiently. During our daily chats on the phone, we agreed to not seeing it separately until my return.

In the past “a new and uncertain world” as Charles Xavier called it, (late 2000 to be precise), while flying down to Australia, watching The X-Men as inflight entertainment was such a great experience, and helped allay pressing concerns about how (and where) to find gainful employment and/or the love of my life.

Fast forward to May 2003, Bradscribe – living and working in Southeast Asia – sat in a fine, yet freezing cold, cinema, with his gorgeous girlfriend (who is now the lovely Mrs. B) enjoying X2: X-Men United beside him. My own “world of endless possibilities and infinite outcomes” had been seized successfully. Such an amazing movie – we ended up watching it together at the cinema three times. Not only did we promise to grow old together, but vowed to watch any more X-Men sequels that came our way!

It’s such a shame that X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) turned out to be a huge disappointment, jettisoning the drama and character development of the first two films for a monotonous cascade of lame fight sequences. It may have been a weak movie, but our love remained strong.

magneto ballsmagneto hat

“We were supposed to protect them. Where were you when your own people needed you? Hiding! You and Hank, pretending to be something you’re not! You abandoned us all!” – Erik Lehnsherr.

It should be said that it was stupendous news to learn that Michael Fassbender had been cast as a young Eric Lensherr, in X-Men:First Class (2011). Mrs. B acquired the DVD when it came out. We settled down to watch, and sure enough, Fassbender as Magneto proved to be impressive; his presence made the film work and took the franchise to an interesting new level. But it soon became evident that my beloved clearly did not dig what was going on. To her, an X-Men movie without Scott or Jean – or completely Ian McKellen-less for that matter – ain’t worth her time. Yet this new instalment, with all of Her faves reinstated, and some spectacular scenes on offer, looked like rekindling our mutual mutant appreciation.

For me, DoFP did not disappoint. Again, Fassbender is on top menacing form. An instant classic scene sees a sinister fedora-clad Eric, infiltrating the facility where his helmet is stored; the image of him marching down the corridor levitating metal balls above his palm, was cool and impressive, not only requiring  inmmediate playback, but just had to be incorporated into this Post by any means necessary. The tension between Erik and Charles in 1973 clearly in my view surpasses the ’60s drama of the previous movie. The scene between the young and elder Xaviers is especially astounding, and the dialogue between Wolverine and a dispirited Charles in Cerebro is a contender for one of the best scenes from the whole franchise.  

The final scene where Logan wakes up in a peaceful but busy Xavier School and sees Jean Grey was a nice touch and brought back teary-eyed memories of that happy month in 2003… when only one movie mattered.

x apocalypsex apocomic

“The thrust of Apocalypse is really to complete the trilogy… There will be familiar characters and new characters that we haven’t seen… ever… but it’ll be the completion of what we began in First Class” – Simon Kinberg.   

Last, but by no means least, the post-creds sequence for DoFP must stand as the most thrilling this fanboy has ever seen in any Marvel-related movie. From the depths of my dark, tangled mind, the character portrayed was instantly discernible. Apocalypse was one of the most powerful mutants, also known as En Sabah Nur (“the first one”). This final instalment in the trilogy may feature other mutants not previously featured onscreen, but should provide an awesome spectacle when it is unleashed in May 2016. But will Mrs. B appreciate it? “It’s going to take the two of us.”

Well, as our new DVD got underway, it came in for instant criticism. She frowned discouragingly during the opening mutants vs. Sentinels battle.

“Who are these guys?!…”

It is with deep regret that even yours truly had to confess to not knowing who any of those mutants were.

“You’re the fanboy! You should know!”

Yes, my dear, but 1981 was a very long time ago, and none of the onscreen X-Men sport their unique costumes as seen in the comics, so it all looks rather confusing.

When Logan wakes up in 1973, he just had to be absolutely starkers, didn’t he? Mrs. B was clearly not amused. She huffed discontentedly, snuggled down on the sofa, and fell fast asleep, leaving me to sit through the rest of the movie on my own which, as mentioned before, is what this blogger should have done four months ago anyway.

Oh well…

Er... no, not exactly
Er… no, not exactly