Thursday, 28 February 2013

Name the Fish - Results

A few weeks ago I gave you the wonderful opportunity to suggest some names for the fish that sit perpetually to the left of my blog.posts And, the great people that you are, you responded and made some excellent suggestions. However, as competitions don't work that way, I couldn't choose them all and so have, after much deliberation, decided upon the names with which to christen my fish. Odd sentence, that one.

Blue - Sexy. A nice Doctor Who reference by the person who suggested this one. In Neil Gaiman's 'The Doctor's Wife', the Doctor nicknames his TARDIS 'Sexy' so this one chose itself. Geddit? TARDIS? Blue?  Oh, you get it.

Red & Red: Holmes and Silas. The name Holmes needs no explanation but the second might illicit some confusion. It's the name of one of my own characters, a pastiche of Holmes, whom I created for a university assignment before he span off into his own blog.

Yellow - Fish Custard. Another fun Who joke here. Any familiar with Matt Smith's series will understand this one.

Green - Stock Cube. Technically someone suggested this for blue but I thought it fitted the green fish better. As far as I can tell there's no reasoning behind the suggestion, which is why I was drawn to it.

Black - Damien. This fish shares its name with Damien Molony, the vampire lead in one of my favourite series, Being Human. 

And there you go. Thanks all of you for getting involved in this frivolous fish exercise. To celebrate the fish having names, I've introduced a new fish into the fold; an orange one called Creature. Please go make him feel welcome.


Monday, 25 February 2013

Doctor Who at 50: The Best Monsters

As we now find ourselves in Doctor Who's 50th birthday bash of a year, I'm dedicating at least one post a month to celebrate the show (yes, as if I didn't do that already). This month I'm picking my favourite monsters - however, there's some rules. So that it's not full of the usual suspects (your Daleks and your Cybermen, for example) I'm only picking monsters who have appeared against just one Doctor.

First Doctor: Zarbi

Yes, they do look like men in ant costumes but the Zarbi - and their fellows, the Menoptera (butterfly-people) - feature in one of the First Doctor's most inventive serials. In their sole appearance, the Zarbi are actually docile creatures but have long lingered in children of the 1960s' minds as terrifying creations.

Second Doctor: Quarks

The greatest monsters of the Second Doctor's era are, of course, the Cybermen and then closely followed by the Ice Warriors but as they don't here count I've plunked for the diminutive but dangerous Quarks. Although they are only subservient robots for a bigger evil, the (if I'm honest, fairly boring) Dominators, their distinctive design makes them a very memorable adversary.

Third Doctor: Axons

A common feature of many Third Doctor stories was that they involved the Master teaming up with an alien race after the Earth (before being unfailingly defeated by the Doctor). Probably one of the most well-known of these are the at-times Golden and humanoid and yet at other times tentacled and monstrous Axons. Part of a single being Axos, the Axons tricked humanity into thinking they were benevolent by bearing a valuable gift, Axonite, which in actuality was draining the planet of its energy.

Fourth Doctor: Zygons

Sporting one of the most striking designs ever for a Doctor Who monster, the Zygons, despite being ferociously popular amongst fans, have only appeared in one Fourth Doctor story. In the serial, from their spaceship hidden within Loch Ness, the Zygons planned to use their shape-shifting technology to impersonate important human personnel to, you've guessed it, take over the world. Their distinctive style plus the fact they appear in a creepy, atmospheric story have made the Zygons one of the most cited monsters in 'Doctor Who Aliens who should return' lists. Who knows, maybe this could be their year..

Fifth Doctor: Mara

A very different kind of monster now. The Mara was a creature that existed in the dark recesses of the mind and fed on the madness and anguish of its host. Through the poor individual it latched on to, the Mara tried to gain physical form (in the shape of a snake). In the two occasions the Fifth Doctor encountered it, it infected his companion Tegan. The Mara is a stand-out monster in all of Doctor Who's history but especially the 80s when most Who aliens tended to be green and slimy.

Sixth Doctor: Sil

Like Sil, actually. A thoroughly nasty slug-like creature, Sil is a ruthless businessman who makes his money from various cruel and immoral schemes that include enslaving races, causing endless suffering and all those things villains do. A cowardly, sly worm of a monster who takes great glee from his evil, Sil is an enjoyable creation who falls somewhere between disgusting and comic; similar to the show's own tone at the time.

Seventh Doctor: Haemovores

Basically vampires, the Haemovores are the future form of the human race from a horribly polluted future Earth. As with most vampiric creatures, the Haemovores drunk blood, were repelled by faith and were killed with a stake through the heart but also lived in the sea, causing their skin to become wrinkled and suckered. A chilling, well-executed monster in one of Doctor Seven's finest episodes, the Haemovores should be up with Who's scariest monsters.

Unfortunately the Eighth Doctor only adversary was the Master who most definitely does not fit the bill here. Apologies, Eight. Moving on...

Ninth Doctor: Gasmask Zombies

In Steven Moffat's first script for Doctor Who he created one of the show's most effective creatures. We all know how this goes; if you're touched by the creepy boy in the gasmask looking for his mummy you become just like him. As the Cybermen show, there's something inherently creepy about monsters that make you like them and with their blank faces and unnerving catchphrase, the gasmask zombies are one of the creepiest.

 Tenth Doctor: The Family of Blood

When the Doctor turns himself human and resides as a school teacher in 1913, he is pursued by a family of disembodied aliens who are after a Time Lord-sized meal. Led by the twitching, eerie Son of Mine (very well played by Harry Lloyd), the Family are simple yet glorious villains who, as if they aren't enough, are ably supported by their living scarecrow soldiers.

Eleventh Doctor: Silence

I certainly like the scary ones, don't I? Bulbous-headed, 'The Scream'-inspired, Slenderman-alike Silence are the most memorable of the monsters to come out of Matt Smith's series as the Doctor. And, like their fellow Moffat-created counterparts, the Weeping Angels, I doubt we've seen the last of them.

And while, we're here I thought I'd pick my favourite Torchwood-original and Sarah Jane Adventures original aliens.

Torchwood: The 456

Although the first two series of Torchwood gave us several interesting aliens, Children of Earth's Earth-shattering aliens, known only as the 456, top the list. Aliens who threaten to invade or destroy the Earth are ten a penny in science fiction but not many want to kidnap the world's population of children to use them as drugs, as the highly original 456 do. The fact we see very little of them, apart from a few claws, adds to their effectiveness. And also because it's due to them that fan-beloved character Ianto Jones bought an untimely end.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Trickster

A faceless creature whose sole purpose is to create havoc with a strong dislike for Sarah Jane, the Trickster is a gloriously over-the-top villain who works perfectly in the Sarah Jane Adventure's colourful version of Doctor Who world. He's even so good he's been mentioned in both Torchwood and the parent show itself.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Review: Being Human Series Five - Episodes 2-3

Shortly after the series five opener aired, the BBC released some shocking news for Being Human fans everywhere; this would be the final series! Showrunner Toby Whithouse has since promised to end the show on a high note, with the finale of Series Five acting as a full, proper climax for the entire five-year-old series. Suddenly, each of the next five episodes to come became that bit more precious…but would they deliver?

'Sticks and Rope', the second episode, really covers all the bases to deliver a solid instalment of the show. There’s a lot of comedy on show, courtesy of the Employee of the Month contest at the hotel which sets Tom and Hal against each other (will those two just get on?) and the bossy ghost of Victorian boy Oliver, who is haunting Honolulu Heights. Touching moments come largely from Alex this episode as she has to accept that her family have moved on and so must she. Plus, there’s a rare moment of proper horror this episode in the form of the Men With Sticks and Rope, the oft-mentioned but never-before-seen guardians of the afterlife. 
Captain Hatch – the Prince of Darkness personified as a grouchy old man - is also hugely enjoyable to watch – as I'm sure he was to play. I'm also a fan of Mr Rook, the cool, calculating Man in Grey who seems to have a plan for Crumb (who I'm more lukewarm about). 'Sticks..' is once again a hodge-podge of all the elements but gives them all a tad more breathing space than the previous episode. 

However, while 'Sticks and Rope' suffers as the first episode did from having to continue setting up the disparate plot threads for the series, 'Pie and Prejudice' has no such responsibility - with Crumb and Hatch both entirely absent - and so seems to enjoy itself a lot more. 
This week, we get introduced to egotistical TV weatherman and werewolf Larry Chrysler who tutors Tom on how to become a success (one must aim for a bite of the success pie, apparently) and Hal’s 250-year long acquaintance ghost Lady Mary who Alex discovers may not be quite what she seems. The first half of the episode is a generally light-hearted affair although it becomes somewhat darker – and to this reviewer, more interesting – as things escalate.
Although Tom and Alex get a sizeable slice of proceedings this week, it’s Hal who gets the best moments - his motivational speech to Tom and a tense scene with Larry being the best. Hal is my favourite character of the new trinity, Damien Molony regularly gives a sturdy performance as the obsessive-compulsive vampire. The latter half of the episode's focus on Hal's struggle with his blood lust and his friendship with Tom reassured me of why I'm so fond of the character. I do hope he and his friends will get the end to their story they deserve. But I'm going to guess and say it's going to be a bumpy ride. 

Overall, although neither episode is an instant Being Human classic, both are very enjoyable episodes that, although Being Human is sadly soon to end, prove - if you excuse me this - the show is both taking its success pie and eating it. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Name the Fish - Competition

Since the dawn of time (of this blog), this site has had a feed-able fish tank widget to the side of the posts. It's proven a popular feature with visitors, so I think it's high time I named the fish, as they seem to be here to stay.

As you may have guessed, I've decided to leave it up to you, readers. This is your once-in-a-lifetime chance to name some computer-generated fish.  Just comment your suggestions in the comment section below or tweet me at Chalbo100. The more creative the suggestions are the better; let your imaginations run wild. One rule though, each name has to have something to do with what I cover on my blog. For instance, you might suggest that the blue one should be called Doctor. Though, you can't now as I've just used it. Sorry. 
So please get suggesting and I'll announce the winners (and who came up with them) in another post to follow. 

Happy fish-naming, 


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Review: Being Human Series Five - The Trinity

With a shorter run of episodes than the last few years, you would expect this new series of Being Human to cut back on the multiple plots and side-plots but writer Toby Whithouse again shows his dexterity at handling his show by stuffing this opening episode full of different story threads. Apart from our own heroes' problems, we are introduced to a host of characters; dullard but dangerous vampire Ian Cram or ‘Crumb’, the inhabitants of the sleepy yet oddly sinister Barry Grand Hotel and we get to see more of Mr Rook and his Men in Grey organisation after their cameo at the end of last year’s finale. Add in a series of flashbacks concerning Hal in league with the leader of the werewolves, Lady Catherine, and ‘necromancer’ ghost Emil in 1918 and you have quite a packed episode. While having scope and breath of storytelling is no bad thing (it's one reason why BH is such a great show), dealing with setting up all these series-starters does mean the episode doesn't get a time to do much else. There’s little room for, say, the series-finale level of excitement that last year’s opener managed (although I'm fine with that if it means we don’t have a main character leave as in that case). However, now that all these story-plates are spinning on their series-sticks (this metaphor’s getting a bit laboured, isn't it?) it will be interesting to see how things develop.

As the episode is called ‘The Trinity’, you’d expect it to perhaps focus on Hal, Tom and Alex coming together as a group. Although this isn't really the case (just as Tom and Hal’s growing friendship last year, the trio’s gelling as a whole may be on an on-going thing) there are some nice moments for our heroes. Hal gets most of the action as we follow him trying harder than ever to shirk his blood cravings as he enters another bad phase. That said, there’s some touching scenes involving the usually nonchalant Alex’s emotions coming to the fore as she realises the weight of what being a ghost means; that she can’t do anything from kissing someone to eating chocolate or change her shoes. Tom gets little to do on his own but we do get to see him and Alex bond after he starts to annoy her feisty soul with his old-fashioned, overly-polite, ways of treating women. Overall, it shows great promise from the new trinity over the next few episodes.

By the looks of things, the show might always be this busy with the both the Men in Grey and Captain Hatch seemingly sharing the status as main antagonists for the series. Without giving anything away – the devil’s in the detail, you know - veteran villain actor Phil Davis has the potential to be a great nemesis for our heroes and, although they don't really meet, from what we see of him here he can go from foul-mouthed vitriol to conniving politeness to downright creepy. It’s difficult to see at the moment how Hatch and everyone will fit together but, on the whole, this episode has done the tough job of starting up the series again as well as being funny and ambitious alongside - just like the best of Being Human.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Monthly Mini-Reviews: January

Welcome to a brand new feature for the new(ish) year in which I round-up my thoughts on a selection of different types of fiction which I have seen/read/experienced/devoured/ogled at throughout the month. Firstly, time for a trip to the cinema...

Les Miserables

A film with a ton of hype you can't have missed, Les Mis sees Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne (among others) stretch their vocal chords as a host of characters having a grim old time in Revolutionary France. It's a big, sprawling musical epic which goes right for the emotional impact - which in this instance is a good thing, as I did rather enjoy it. I'm not an amazing fan of musicals but this one is so emphatic in its approach it's hard not to be won over. A very good production with some great performances, it's well worth a watch. A warning, though, you may be humming the tunes for days.

Fragile Things

Although Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite writers (quite possibly my most favourite) I've still to read his entire output - he's done a lot you know. The latest of his works I've come to is the most recent collection of his short fictions, written at various points over his career. As expected from Mr Gaiman, although the stories are all very different - covering a multitude of genres, tones and forms - the standard is consistently high. My favourites include the quirky yet melancholy 'October in the Chair' (which went on to inspire his children's novel The Graveyard Book), the enchanting poem 'Instructions' and the Sherlock Holmes story with a twist 'A Study in Emerald.'                                                                                

The Simpsons (Season Eight)

Being a fan of The Simpsons for many years, I've of course seen this season before, but rewarded myself by re-viewing (and then reviewing it here) this month. From back in the show's most prestigious period, nearly every episode  is a classic, each hilarious but also often being touching and intelligent. There's also a lot of time dedicated to supporting characters who get to steal the limelight for a change - Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner and Edna Krabappel being among the characters who get an episode to themselves. Some may disagree with me but I think it's the best Simpsons series.


Alan Moore's Watchmen, often seen as a seminal work in its field, explores an alternate reality where superheroes actually exist and the effect on society and the world this has. It follows a particular band of disparate heroes who's various motives and reasons for doing the extraordinary things they do are discussed, including the vigilante Rorschach, God-like Doctor Manhattan (the blue one) and the 'world's smartest man', Ozymandias. It's a gripping and engaging read that gives a wholly more believable and thought-out rendering of superheroes than you'll find anywhere else.

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