Seven Wonders

The WordPress Daily Prompt: Khalil Gibran once said that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

Every once in a while the Doctor Who writers smack the nail fair on the head…

Blink was one episode so clever in its inception and execution; the one word test from The Snowmen another…subtle, challenging, provoking…

Seven words.

In no particular order.

Love.

Trust.

Help.

Feed.

Follow.

Lead.

Protect.

The challenge is not whittling a list down to seven but building it up…I stalled at four (not saying which four) for quite a while.

If eight words were allowed, the eighth might be ‘you’. But ‘you’ becomes redundant…

Daily Prompt: Don’t You Forget About Me | The Daily Post

I used to have a jumper like that...

I used to have a jumper like that…

Daily Prompt: Don’t You Forget About Me | The Daily Post.

Just for a change, this post isn’t about me…well, maybe it is…

In Love Letters in the Attic, Caron mentions the destruction of what are now considered priceless items of cultural heritage…

“…I’ve been thinking about the idea that things must be saved for posterity since I was reminded recently of how much TV footage the BBC taped over or destroyed, including most of the British coverage of Apollo 11’s moon landing in 1969, which was the first time it had broadcast all night, for a start.

Today, it seems incomprehensible that the BBC also destroyed 97 early episodes of Dr Who in the 1960s and 1970s to save space…”

At the time, I intended (and still do) to base a post on the broader themes in her post, but these lines about the loss of early Doctor Who episodes has stuck with me in the month or so since Caron posted Love Letters in the Attic. There has been a lot of coverage of this issue since the recent recovery of some of the lost episodes from a vault in  Africa and this has highlighted the factors contributing to the loss of this material…

Ultimately, it seems that this was simply a case of the bureaucratic mindset the grows in monolithic organisations – not necessarily solely government-run agencies but they can provide lots of good case studies – when in the absence of a rule saying something is to occur, it simply doesn’t regardless of the short- or longer-term potential consequences. While at first glance, it may be considered that the commercial potential of older black and white material might have been minimal once colour television became common and affordable in the early 1970s, one only has to look across the Atlantic at the sheer quantity of American television that was archived in the same period and which is now still be both re-released AND watched, to wonder what exactly was being put into the water in the UK in the 60s and 70s…

While, in fairness, video tape in the early days of television, probably into the early 80s was a valuable AND reusable commodity, one would really thank that there might have been a plan to archive material onto film – and, that there would be a controlled environment storage vault for such archived material. In 1976, my school had a big find raiser activity to purchase its first video-based audio-visual system…I remember trudging door to door many afternoons after school selling chocolate bars for this. It wasn’t an unwanted task as I was highly incentivised by the prizes offered to the top sellers – I think I made the top ten – and what else was I going to do after school excerpt watch stuff like The Tomorrow People before Mum kicked us outside for fresh air and energy burning. The next year, one of our 3rd Form art projects was to make our own Doctor Who movie – I think, the class was split into groups of 5-6 for this and each ‘movie’ had to be around ten minutes long…move over, Sundance!!

I don’t remember much about our group’s version other than we filmed alot of it in the squash courts, a plotted struggle got out of hand and it featured the flaming demise of one of these…

RevellBoeingSSTPanAm BOX ART

…which I lamented for many years and. like many such Revell releases, it became a collector’s item until re-released a few years back (and, yes, there is one sitting safely in the garage stash!). Sadly, in true Beeb Doctor Who tradition, these creations were all erased at the end of the year so that the expensive video tape could be reused. I think that perhaps some photographs may have been taken of the screens as I have a vague memory still-shots of some of the scenes appearing perhaps in a school magazine around that period…

What prompted this post was the first screening of the rebooted The Tomorrow People series here last night. Having been a fan of the original series, I was dubious of how well it might survive translation into 21st Century television values i.e. ratings and profit, profit and ratings. While my jury is still out after the first episode, on doing a little research to jog my memory on the original this morning (I was looking for the same of the teleportation belts from the original series which have now been written out – jaunting belts, is what they were) I was surprised just how much of the original concepts have carried over. Even the inability of homo superior to kill (which I had rolled my eyes at last night as 21C ‘niceism’) was actually part of the original concept.

In reading the wiki on the original series, I came across mention of Timeslip which is a series that I have been trying to track down for a long time – another memory of 1970s black and white science fiction (although in our home in the 70s, ALL TV was B&W regardless of its source format!). I had been searching – not very hard admittedly – for variations on The Time Tunnel (which is, of course, the Irwin Allen series from the same stable as Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea). In reading the wiki piece about the almost total loss of the original colour videotape of the series, I though immediately again of Caron’s comment above…as it turns out, the wiki piece does not quite tell the whole story – how surprising – seeking a title image for this post, I discovered that the full 26 episode series is available via Amazon, albeit only in B&W but that’s not a biggie for me as that is how I remember it…

So…coming back on topic, I think that it is important that we do today preserve as much as we can as, just like the Beeb drones of the 60s and 70s, we don’t really have any idea of what value may be seen in today’s apparent dross in decades to come…

Who really knows what their legacy to the future may be…?

Zygons…Schmygons…

Image

I would like to say that I made a special effort to get up early on a Sunday morning for this but even for me on a sunny Sunday  morning, 9AM is comfortably civilised…

I only vaguely remember the first Doctor, William Hartnell, but grew up with the Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and, to a lesser extent, Tom Baker takes on the role. I guess it would have been midway through the Tom Baker era that I grew up and gave up such childhood tales in favour of adult things like girls and beer…I remember think that the Doctors after Tom Baker’s #4 were quite silly and frivolous and the monsters pale in the face of the Daleks, Autons, Cybermen and Abominable Snowmen…

So now, fifty years on, where are we? The Doctor is now a major exploitable franchise being worked for all it is worth. I was a latecomer to the revitalised Doctor in the mid-2000s…I equated it with my memories of silliness and frivolity and that might never have changed if I hadn’t stopped over with friends on my way back from a trip to the UK and they were watching the finale of the Christopher Ecclestone series and I hooked drawn back into the world of the Doctor. I still haven’t seen any of that series bar the finale but loved the David Tennant era with companions Rose, Martha and Donna. I thought that that era ended well but have been unimpressed totally with the much more commercially-exploited Matt Smith era where the fez, fish fingers and custard, and the whole Amy Pond thing just left me cold – mercifully the BBC resisted the temptation to thrash the Pond thing any further in the 50th Anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, that screened globally this morning…

If you haven’t seen it yet, you may not wish to read past this point…you have been warned…

There were too many cutesy distractions in this 75 minute special…although the multiple Doctor thing has been done before, there was no real sense of drama of impending threat in this story and what there might have been was continually eroded away by the Morecombe and Wise style of repartee between the Tennant and Smith Doctors: if the intention was to play the 50th for laughs, then the story should have reflected this…

The Zygons were never amongst the great or scariest of Doctor Who aliens…barely Second XI, if that…what value they added to this story is tenuous at best and resolution of this part of the plot really only seemed like a loose vehicle to enable the Tennant and Smith Doctors to work off each other. Take the Zygons out of the story, and you essentially have…the same story, just shorter – I’d be keen to see a Zygon-less bootleg version of The Day of the Doctor…

The time wasted on the Zygons could have been employed much more effectively to further develop the thirteen Doctor concept and the ultimate destruction of Gallifrey – an apparently pivotal event that the Smith Doctor regularly angsts about – we seem to have forgotten that the Tennant Doctor committed genocide on a universal level against the Daleks in his final series and that this has never been mentioned since. That may be because the Daleks have become like British Paints and ‘keep on keepin’ on‘ and so never did quite get genocided…

One of the things that I liked about the Tennant series was that it was all about hope, where the Smith era has been characterised by alternate frivolity and angst. It is revealed this morning that it was the (John) Hurt Doctor that pushed the button on Gallifrey as the only way to end the war between the Time Lords and the Daleks. Hurt’s depiction of the dilemma of sacrificing to few to save the many is very well done and if maintained, would have made this special an epic…unfortunate the writers succumbed to contemporary niceness and introduce an unlikely hope-based solution in which everyone (less the Daleks) gets to live happily ever after…

Although, yes, this is only a TV special and science-fiction at that, this is symptomatic of a malaise that seems to be affecting us more and more, a distancing from the realities of the world in favour of a cloud cuckooo vunderland where there are no harsh dilemmas and everything always turns out alright on the day. Sometimes  there are no real winners, just maybe lesser losers, where hard decisions have to be made…as much I may diss the Fulda Gapists that long for a return to the less complex days of conventional conflicts, one thing that those dinosaurs knew was the use of force as an instrument of, not so much national power, but of national survival…where the needs of the few are outweighed by the needs of the many.

This is not just in the sense of wielding the big nuclear stick but also in how even tactical actions are conducted where it may be necessary to risk one element in order to enable or save a larger formation, to employ area weapons to neutralise greater threats like air defence structures, or the growing spectre of accidental or deliberate release of bio-chem weapons…and sometimes civilians and other non-combatants get caught in the middle of all this and become part of ‘the few’…

…that war can be conducted in clean surgical manner is the ongoing Myth of Desert Storm that fails to take into account that there has not been a major force on force conflict since Vietnam and the October War in the early seventies…this myth ignores cold hard realities and results is military generations that are not capable of considering the hard issues and making those hardest calls where there are no winners…just lesser losers…ultimately it is NOT all about ‘the people’ but achieving national objectives…

So this morning we were presented, in the end, a happy happy joy joy ending instead of the deeper darker theme implied in the original idea…hope is nice but sometimes you have to be prepared to get down and dirty and make those tough decisions when hope is not enough…

With the (finally) demise of the Smith Doctor, the ball is now in the 13th Doctor’s court to restore some of the drama to the Doctorverse and dispel the silliness and frivolity that have been allowed to, Seeds of Doom-like run amok and dominate the ‘verse…

“…the scariest things ever…”

Caron Eastgate Dann pens the most recent blog that I have started following…I didn’t spend much time online over the weekend – not necessarily a bad thing – as youngest daughter came to visit for the first time in a few months…

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…but I do have to occasionally check the (e)mail for booking requests for the Chalet Raurimu, especially since it is ski season and the weather is so damn good at the moment.  Caron’s weekend post I, Robot or, “Danger, Will Robinson! “Exterminate! EXTERMINATE!) made me laugh out loud: it was so close to my own memories…

When I was a kid, robots were all the rage. Before the digital age, before the time of personal computers, they had a kind of mystique about them.

This was encouraged by the romanticisation of robots on screen as either heroes or villains. The loyal bodyguard-type robot in the 1960s series Lost in Space, which I saw in endless repeats in the 1970s, was endearing and long-suffering, as Dr Smith referred to him variously as a “Neanderthal ninny”, a “blithering booby”, a “nickel-plated Nincompoop”, a “tintinnabulating tin can” and many more sensational insults….

…so near my own experiences, it was scary…I too was terrified by Doctor Who and Lost In Space…Dr Smith was soooo despicably evil – quite the counter-role model for primary school me…last year, I found LIS Season 1 in the bargain bin at The Warewhare: for a price I couldn’t walk away from and so I grabbed it, enjoyed it and the next time I was in civilisation I was searching the bins for Seasons 2 and 3 – still no joy on Season 2 which is apparently quite elusive but Season 3 kept me off the streets during the rainy part of last summer. I can switch off any disbelief or even incredulity at the sheer hammishness of the dress-up monster and alien costumes or the flatness of the characters and plotlines and just enjoy it as a new phrase I heard last week, just enjoy it as “…brain candy…”

cyber

My own specific terrifiers were more the Abominable Snowmen (but I tried to find a suitable scary pic but now they just look like walking furry bean bags) and the Cybermen who have so far survived their First Contact with the uber-franchised new Doctor Who…I was more a child of the second and third doctors and the Daleks really made their initial play for power against the original Doctor. That notwithstanding though, I was sufficiently aware of the Dalek evil to have the stuffing scared out of me one afternoon exploring the darker confines of the Oamaru Squash Club and running headlong into a five-foot tall metal badminton shuttle which in the shadows to a six or seven year old liked exactly like guess what!!

My earliest scary memories are of Stingray, which must have been about 1967ish – definitely before I started school…not so scary now but good still entertainment…

stingray

…and from a few years later, Forbidden Planet when it screened as the Sunday afternoon movie – what were you programming people thinking?!!! The whole idea of an invisible monster that could creep stealthily up stairs – our house had stairs – and slay whoever it liked stuck with me as the most scariest ever movie til I saw Halloween (the original not the rehashed copies) around 1980…I used to carefully check our internal stairs for any signs that might indicate an Id monster on the loose in Oamaru…

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Like Caron, I also did not get to see 2001 until sometime in the early 80s – having read the books a number of times, I must admit to being rather underwhelmed by the movie and more so by its sequel…for me the 2001 legacy is now much more than “open the pod bay doors” and some cool additions to the archives of cool spaceships with the Discovery, Moonbus, Aries 1B and Space Clipper all being wannabe builds I never got to – all bar the Space Clipper are now Uhu02 designs so I may finally get to build them…

uhuo2 aries 1b

…and, as I may have mentioned before, I am bitterly disappointed that all those 1960s and ’70s predictions of flying highways and moonbases and jetpacks and, yes, robots, especially robots that are our friends (but not nerdy like C3PO)…curse you, George Jetson and Gerry Anderson and…and…and you other predicting type people…!

I don’t remember having any robot toys but I do love the retro look of these toys – of many toys from this era – I was lucky that my parents kept all of my toys (those that survived three younger siblings) and – one day – I plan on restoring them all, purely for my own satisfaction. Many of these are 40+ years old now and some have had quite a beating: I’m looking forward to new technologies like 3D printing allowing me to just ‘print’ out a new set of hooks for Matchbox 1972 #74 Toe Joe, or a new deck cover (I still remember when the original was broken) for #61 Alvis Stalwart (no year listed so I’ll have to be careful that I don’t get parts for what ever #61 became as Matchbox used to rollover the catalogue numbers)…

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Caron is right when she says that even the box for her brother’s robot toy would be valuable today… I misread  what she wrote and thought that the photo was the surviving memory of the robot but on checking it now, her mum is also a non-tossing mum and the robot lives. It would probably be worth quite a bit now as there are not that many toy survivors from that era but I don’t think that any amount of money could outweigh the memories that particular toy carries…that why I so glad my  mum saved mine: regardless of their actual or potential worth, they are valuable links for me to the younger me that believed in flying cars and moonbases…

So although I never had any, I still like the retro robot toys – not so much that I am likely to buy any of the repopped modern imitations – but enough that I will, in the fullness of time, build some of the paper model reproductions of these toys as they have a retro appeal in their own right…

ipmc 2013This little guy was designed specifically for this year’s International Paper Modelling Convention – each year there is a simple downloadable model – and by clicking on him, you can learn more about the convention next month and even download him and his buddies…we’re all kids at heart deep down inside somewhere…have a little fun…try it with the kids or grandkids: they’ll get hours of enjoyment watching mum, dad, poppa or nana playing with sharp knives and superglue…

So today’s meander from Supermarionation, 50s science-fiction, BBC, retro robot toys, paper models and moonbases has been inspired by The Crayon Files – please check it out, even if only to learn why its called The Crayon Files….

Afterthought note thingie – I just zipped over to Caron’s homepage to grab its URL and noticed that her home page introduction concludes “...“Actually, it’s fine,” he said. “Not everything old has to be thrown away”....” Nothing could be more right…

Things Pop Culture Ruined for Me

Another great thread from Rarasaur here, always so thought-provoking, at times just provocative…

I get where Rara is coming from with this and my thoughts since she posted it the other day were that perhaps she is being just a little precious over this…I mean, if something is precious to us, then we should still be able to hold it close…right?

Then I woke this morning, considered the issue again and the first thing that leaps into my head was Jar-Jar Binks (I hope you didn’t arrange that just for me, Rara, because it wasn’t a very fun experience…) and all of a sudden, I got it…

While I think that the original Star Wars trilogy started its downhill slide when the Muppets took over Return of the Jedi (and Palpatine thought he had problems) and then the revisionism of the 20th and 25th Anniversary releases (yes, I am on gain about Han shooting first!) but the following prequel trilogy just leaves me COLD. The one anchor of my faith in the Star Wars Universe is the theatrical release of Star Wars that George Lucas grudgingly included on the 25th Anniversary release DVD – even though he spitefully refused to remaster this version it remains the same awe-inspiring epic that first wowed me in January 1978. And, just for the record, I have great hopes for the Disney/Abrams epics in this universe planned for first release in 2015…

The other modern take on an old classic that leaves me shivering is the last few seasons of Dr Who, specifically the Matt Smith regime of weirdness. The original BBC black and white Doctor series used to terrify me as a child because it was a. really scary, b. had a diverse range of monsters, and c. it had lots of cliff hangers (each story would typically run over 4-6 30 minute episodes – At one a week the terror could be drawn out to the nth degree…now the Doctors all about love, fish fingers and custard (an offence against humanity in its own right), and Daleks, Daleks and more bloody Daleks – what part of extinct don’t you guys get???? And it’s all driven my how much the Beeb executives think that they can squeeze out of the franchise as opposed to any desire to actually rethink or revitalise it for this century…

So little Sunday morning rant over…Rara again drives her point home when I open my mind a little…

PS. I love both BSGs even if the 21st century version does ramble on a bit at times…

Edit: another WordPress tool that doesn’t work so well – I thought I’d give the reblog tool a go but the editing tools in it are sooo limited, I will just stick to my current practice of ‘pressing this’ on any page I feel like commenting further on…if I could have saved this, it might have been longer (that could be a good or a bad thing); ditto if the reblogging text window was more than three lines high – clearly this is meant to attract twits et al…and the formatting is all screwed up too…fail WordPress…..

BBC – Media Centre – Matt Smith to leave Doctor Who

BBC – Media Centre – Matt Smith to leave Doctor Who.

Fish Fingers and Custard Doctor

Well, I cannot say that I am that sorry to hear this news – nothing personal against Matt Smith but I think that he has exploited the quirky side of the Doctor at the expense of the serious more introspective side and and had to rely more on the supporting cast to offset this; and no, I do not support the rumour that his last role before the Doctor was JarJar Binks…

It probably does not help that during his tenure the series has slipped more into the single episode story model than the more traditional serial model that original Whovians grew up with. While this change might be more commercially viable, it means that each self-contained episode has to have more peaks and troughs than the old serial format and as a result, we, the viewers, are subjected to a much higher proportion of  ‘fish fingers and custard’ quirkiness than might have occupied using the older format.

The serial format was probably better for bringing fans back each week to see ‘what happens next’ (it works for Coro!) than the self-contained model; certainly I find myself less compelled to view the more recent series than when they were serialised. Another advantage of the serial format that might have been lost on BBC Wales is that longer stories offer greater opportunities for character development than trying to cram EVERYTHING into a single 42 minute episode…

Of course, the big teaser in the finale (the one where the Doctor’s name is mentioned – sorry, I yawned and missed that bit) of the current series is whether John Hurt might be the next Doctor; from my traditional Whovian perspective, this would be a welcome return to the traditional Doctor from the good days when the series used to terrify me, when Daleks were truly scary and not like metallic Energiser bunnies that JUST WON’T DIE, when the Cybermen and Abominable Snowmen were  real threat to world peace and life as we know it, and the sets looked like they would fall over if you leaned on them. Yep, those sets, we might laugh at them know but, funny old thing, with good stories, who really cared? There’s a bit more to an enduring story than fish fingers and custard, glitzy special effects and an uber-franchise… _64935546_64935545_64936035_64936034_64936037_64936036

Real Doctors

Five Question Friday! 6/1/12

1. What were you scared of as a kid?

The even stevens top three are…

…classic Doctor Who monsters, of course the Daleks but they’ve been rather overhyped since the Doctor Who renaissance since 2004 – worse than cockroaches, they just won’t die – but equally as scary were the original Cybermen…

Regardless of incarnation, the Doctors always had such crappy situational awareness….

….and the Abominable Snowmen – although now they kinda just look like decapitated Big Birds (in good old-fashioned black and white, of course)…

But being strictly honest, it was a Dalek that almost got me in the end…Dad used to right into squash and while he played, us kids would roam the depths of the squash court complex (which also supported a decent size badminton club). Can you imagine my sheer gibbering terror when I rounded a shadowy corner – right into an eye-level real live Dalek!!! Looking back from now, there is a slight possibility that it was just a super-size display shuttlecock….

Stingray hit the screens back home around 1967-8 – I used to watch it with Mum but mainly through my fingers and/or behind the couch as Troy Tempest, like most heroes seemed to have this innate ability to get himself right into the middle of a bad situation EVERY episode – why did WASP keep such a klutz on the staff? OK, so fair enough, he managed to recover things in thirty minutes…but even so….

And finally, there is the ID monster from Forbidden Planet – after almost sixty years it remains a classic that is totally not in need of a glitzy CGI-heavy remake…the whole idea of a an invisible monster that could crfeep in anywhere and get you took a long time to get over….

2. Do you sleep well in a hotel?

I hope so as I get enough practice at it!!! I think I spent two months overseas last year in one form of hotel accommodation or another – this year is a bit milder but still looking at four or five week in hotels – and that’s not counting other ‘alien’ beds as I travel around New Zealand for work…or my days on-base when I am not working from home. Actually, I have to admit that I don’t mind it too much as if there’s one thing you pick up from an infantry career is how to sleep just about any place and feel good about it…

Can’t really complain if this is the worst view I have this trip..!

Looking back, I think that the only time I have had trouble sleeping in a hotel room was one night I spent in the Crowne Plaza at Changi Airport where I checked in late in the evening and found that the first flight went out at 0534 in the morning as my room (directly overlooking the runway)  rattled and shook…nothing like an early start to the day!

3. If you could meet any celebrity, dead or alive, who and why?

[Edit: Holy heck!! I skipped a whole question!!!]

I see that Mama M struggled with this one too…I’m not really too much into the whole celebrity thing nor whatever it is that might define ‘celebrity’…so often the public persona of an individual is so different from who they really are…the mighty(yeah, right) knowledge base, Wikipedia describes celebrity as:

celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media. The term is synonymous with wealth (commonly denoted as a person with fame and fortune), implied with great popular appeal, prominence in a particular field, and is easily recognized by the general public.

And that doesn’t help at all…if anything that definition is of someone to be feeling sorry for that particularly wanted to meet for any reason – think I’ll pass on this one…

4. It’s a hot summer day. Do you prefer to be pool side or at the beach?

“It’s a hot summer day.” Ok, it probably is somewhere but it hasn’t quite made it here yet – although it is not unpleasant outside….if ‘at the beach’ could be stretched to include ‘lakeside’ then I think that’d be the preferred option with a pool the slow second option – there’s nothing quite like naturally moving water over the canned variety…

5. What is your favorite summer dish?

Hmmmm….this is a real toughie…after much very careful consideration, I have to opt for a cold chicken salad with lots of crisp salad, tomatoes, croutons, peppers, et cetera… accompanied by a tall chilled glass of genuine root beer…

Taking a break

Today anyway and only from the generations of war thing – not because I have lost interest at all but because I am doing the accounts this week and it’s not much fun and any distractions are welcomed but dangerous.

John Birmingham has two blogs at the Brisbane Times and The Geek is by far the most fun. His recent item on Dr Who is worthy of posting in it’s entirety:

Who’s the master of cool sci-fi (not a question)
November 13, 2009

Have you ever noticed that when a bunch of geeks gather around the campfire to nut out once and for all the important question of what was the coolest science fiction TV series ever, that the actual coolest science fiction TV series ever almost never gets a look in. Why is there no lovin’ for Dr. Who?

Stargate SG1 is always pushing to the front of the line blowing everybody out of the way, goosing Star Trek, snorting in derision at the original BSG and Space 1999 (with good reason, admittedly). But where does it get off calling itself the longest-running sci-fi series on TV. That would be the Doctor you’re gazzumping there Jack. He first appeared on our screens back in 1963… and he’s still here. Not just in syndication and repeats either.

Sure the effects were crap in the early days. Okay, they were crap right up until cheap CGI and more generous production budgets meant the most recent series didn’t have to build their aliens out of old garbage bins and lengths of rubber hose. But go back and look at some of those original Star Trek episodes and hang your head in shame American sci-fi TV producers. I mean, tribbles, come on, really?

So great is the show’s longevity of course that eleven actors have cycled through the lead role, and God knows how many supporting cast have been there with the Doc, twisting their ankles, getting captured, occasionally getting killed, and generally raising the question of why he bothers with traveling companions anyway since they just get in the way or cause cliffhangers every 22 minutes. But putting that aside, which other serious, sci-fi or mainstream, can claim to have survived a change in lead actor so regularly, or even once.

Much as I liked Ben Browder’s character on Farscape for instance, he was really just Jack O’Neill lite in the later SG1 series.

And where most TV shows get weaker as they get older, Dr. Who has arguably grown stronger with the years. Partly this is a function of great writers and producers coming to the latest series of in a spirit of paying homage to a much loved show from their childhood, partly it’s to do with increased production values, and partly the Doc has hung around for so long he couldn’t help but benefit from the improved aesthetics of the medium as it matured. Bottom line however, it has improved while other series, particularly some big-budget American shows (yes Lost, I’m looking at you, and your mate Heroes) have all but sputtered out creatively after a couple of good early years.

So let the word go forth from this time and this place that I have settled this debate once and for all. Dr. Who is the coolest TV sci-fi series ever made.

While Stingray is my first memory of ANY TV series, it is also my first memory of a science-fiction show, followed closely by Forbidden Planet: both had me squinting at the screen through my fingers from an early age…three perhaps…? But it was Dr Who that sits still at the top of the heap: I was terrified by the Abominable Snowmen, Cybermen and Daleks (the Big 3 – all the rest, including the over-rated Master are Tier Two scaries) but refused to miss my weekly doses of terror. I still recall almost crapping myself when I was 7 or 8: running around the shadowy passages of Dad’s squash club, I turned a corner and ran smack into an oversized badminton shuttle. Obviously it must have been some sort of promo item but it was as tall as me and it definitely looked like a Dalek. I was adios amigo and refused to go back there for weeks.

I lost interest during the latter part of the Tom Baker years – possibly because the Beeb was starting to chew through the Doctors and some of them were pretty silly; or equally possibly because teenage boys develop other interests. I had a brief resurgence of interest when the US-made movie came out in the 90s (had Eric Roberts in it?) and then that was it until 2005. The new series had come out but I’d dissed it believing that it would just be a shoddy rip-off of the 60s and 70s classics. On my return from CLAW 1 in Salisbury, we were spending the weekend with friends in Rotorua; Dr Who just happened to be on during dinner (Bad Wolf, I think the episode was) and I became interested very quickly.

Although I have lapped up Season 2-4, I have still to see most of Season 1 (too cheap to pay full price and waiting for the box set price to drop). JB is correct: Dr Who IS the most enduring science fiction show around; yes, there are those that are older but NONE that have been develped and evolved so consistently over four decades and into a fifth. Thunderbirds is as enduring but is a year younger and has not evolved from the original series – still a bit hit with young kids today though.

While I was a big fan of all the other Gerry Anderson series, nowadays there have more of a cult fascination appeal (apart from Thunderbirds) than serious interest. UFO was the centre of my known universe when I was 10 and 11 but now it seems vaguely pretentious and overdone -still very cools toys though – and, yes, I too was going to build my own Moonbase (on the Moon, of course) and use my secret organisation defend the world from the Aliens. Still might but if so I really do need to pull my finger out…

If I was to have my Top Five science fiction series they would be:

  • Thunderbirds. Everything EXCEPT Jonathan Frakes’ miserable 2004 movie.
  • Bablylon 5. Up until the end of Series 4 – after the two big storylines were dealt to, Series 5 seemed a bit anticlimatic.
  • Dr Who. Everything from the very first episode to the Series 5 teaser episodes.
  • New Captain Scarlet. Please, please do more with this: the animation is great, and it builds upon the gritty dark side of the original series.
  • Firefly. The whole series + Serenity. A great concept that just didn’t quite get the support it needed although Serenity did really tie-off the original storyline so they would have needed a new one for further series.

I enjoy Star Trek in chunks but actually prefer the books, especially William Shatner’s first trilogy. Voyager and TNG were great once they figured out that violence was OK; Deep Space Nine was like Star Trek does Mallrats and just boring; but I do have a bit of a soft spot for Enterprise possibly because they can not use the transporter or time travel to get themselves out of narly situations. I do have the Star Trek Borg and Animated Series sets though and and do rate them quite highly.

I’m also a big BSG (both series) fan but in terms of a top five, the original is a bit campy now, and the rethink version is just a little too complex and intertwined to be enduring for me.

Farscape, Andromeda, Stargate? Whatever…just light relief.

Almost famous…

…excusing a bit of  a time lag from unwinding the rubber band back to NZ over the last few days hence the silence…I was quite flattered to open up Cheeseburger on Monday to find one of my comments re the Birmoverse starring on the front page as it were. Certainly led to an interesting dialogue – people should check out the various discussions re what’s next in the Birmoverse and maybe even contribute if they have anything meaningful to say…while I’m interested in a 50s/60s sequel to the Axis of Time trilogy, I’m way more interested in a 21C prequel that explores the modern Birmoverse (less the wormhole device) – this would be a great tool (shades of self-interest!) to explore possibilities for where our version of this century might go…

Am now safely back at home (thank you very much to Singapore Airlines – truly a great way to fly!!) having enjoyed another brief stopover in Singapore which I largely slept through despite being booked into the Crowne Plaza Changi which is right by the main runway (ask me how I know that the last flight into Changi is at 0230 and the first out at 0600!!!. The beauty of Singapore though is that the light rail system can get you pretty well anywhere in an hour or so absolutely max so I still got to spend a good 4-5 hours in town hopping from one airconned enclave to the next. I very much enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with Miniature Hobbies (03-380) in Marina Square – so fun fun to explore an unfamiliar top-class model shop and of course I managed to make a couple of acquisitions that I’ll probably never build: the Academy I-19 sub is very nice, more so for only $20 and comes with some very nice etch work; and the Trumpeter B-4 203mm gun is one of those big chunky ‘I was built in a tractor factory‘ bits of Soviet kit.

The Singapore Air entertainment programme for October was a bit weak – I was expecting Up, GI Joe and G-Force at least but had to make do with Transformers II which didn’t rock and I watched first movie straight after just to confirm that it wasn’t just a teeny screen issue…even though I was awake the whole Singapore-Auckland leg, all I watched was the canned TV episodes because there was nothing in the movies that appealed in the slightest…I did enjoy the first Doctor Who special from Season IV and have to wonder what is going to happen between the Doctor and Lady Christina who is just way too hot to be written out so early in the season…as I was watching Doctor Who of which I have always been a fan since it stopped scaring me witless in the late 60s, It struck me that the whole idea of the Tardis drifting aimlessly lost in space and time may have been inspired by a BBC writer who got caught up in the Oxford Ring Road space-time discontinuum (no, obviously, I’m still NOT over it yet!!)…

Just doing a final peruse of the blogs before I sign off…yes it is 0158 which just shows how screwed up my body clock is from the rubber band…anyway here’s a commentary on the Coming Anarchy about the US and China buddying up in Afghanistan – when you step back from currently-held models, it sounds sensible and when you get down to it, China has a pretty good track record for countering insurgencies as well – just not according to our book, speaking of which, David Kilcullen’s visit to Wellington on 1 Oct, from all reports, went exceptionally well and I hope to get a more detailed backbrief in a few days…

And making a good point for possibly the wrong reasons, The Strategist has mention of what is probably the best chance of success for Afghanistan ( as opposed to every other man and his dog who are trampling around the place)…good old COIN principle #1 Compromise IS Good!