Thursday, 31 December 2015

Doctor Who - Review of the Year: 2015

It's the end - but the moment has been prepared for. Yes, 2015 is crisping over like the Fourth Doctor in his strange cocoon-like regeneration and to celebrate I'm reviewing this year in Doctor Who. And what a year it was...

Starring: Peter Capaldi (the Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Maisie Williams (Ashildr), Jemma Redgrave (Kate), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood) with Michelle Gomez (Missy) and Alex Kingston (River Song)
Written by: Steven Moffat, Toby Whithouse, Jamie Mathieson, Cathering Treganna, Peter Harness, Mark Gatiss and Sarah Dollard
Directed by: Hettie MacDonald, Daniel O'Hara, Ed Bazelgette, Daniel Nettheim, Justin Molotnikov and Rachel Talalay

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Review: Doctor Who - The Husbands of River Song

The Twelfth Doctor encounters his wife in 'The Husbands of River Song' - but was their meeting a marriage made in heaven?

'When you love the Doctor, it's like loving the stars themselves.'

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Ranking The Chronicles of Narnia Books

It's not Christmas without a trip to Narnia in some form so this December I decided to go the whole hog and readthrough the entire septology of The Chronicles of Narnia. And just as I did for the Harry Potter series, I thought I'd give my ranking of the books. Everyone seems to have their own favourite Narnia adventure which I think acts as a testament to the consistency of the writing from CS Lewis and the childlike wonder that each book imbues in the reader, regardless of age. Let's have a look at how I've rated them...

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Sherlock Scribbles: A Study in Pink

As a new episode of Sherlock - a Victorian-set special titled 'The Abominable Bride' - will arrive this New Year's Day, now seems a good time to revisit the mini-movie which started it all, in our on-going series of 'Sherlock Scribbles'...

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Review: Doctor Who - Hell Bent

Every story ever told really happened. Stories... are where memories go when they're forgotten

Read more at:
Every story ever told really happened. Stories... are where memories go when they're forgotten

Read more at:
The Doctor has finally returned to Gallifrey but he's got an axe to grind in this fearless yet controversial finale...


'Every story ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they're forgotten.'

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Review: Doctor Who - Heaven Sent

The Doctor is without hope and trapped in an inescapable prison in 'Heaven Sent' which sports a masterclass performance from Peter Capaldi...

'It's a killer puzzle box designed to scare me to death and I'm trapped inside it. Must be Christmas!'

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Review: Doctor Who - Face The Raven

The Doctor. Clara. Rigsy. Ashildr. Someone has to 'Face The Raven' in this week's finale come early...

'Let me be brave... Let me be brave...'

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Review: Doctor Who - Sleep No More

Mark Gatiss delivers the first single-parter of the year in 'Sleep No More' but did it scare us wide awake or send us to bed early...?

'Excuse me, you've got something there... Just in the corner of your eye.'

Friday, 13 November 2015

Review: James Bond - Casino Royale

Now that Spectre has wrapped up the Daniel Craig era of James Bond (even if he does come back, I don't know how the next film could be more of a finale), it seemed like the perfect time to go back to the beginning and review Craig's first - and still best - film as... oh come on, you know his name.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Review: Doctor Who - The Zygon Inversion

The world wide threat of last week is subverted here in the surprising and suitably-titled 'The Zygon Inversion'...

'This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you.' 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Review: Doctor Who - The Zygon Invasion

There's double trouble in 'The Zygon Invasion'. But was it just a copy of a great Doctor Who episode or the real thing? 

'We have a Zygon revolution on our hands.'

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Scary Books To Read This Hallowe'en

The evenings have drawn in, the leaves are falling from the trees, the shops are already stocking Christmas stuff... it must be Hallowe'en again. So how should you spend your time scaring yourself silly at the witching hour? Gorging on sweets while watching the latest slasher film? Psh! From the Hallowe'en-themed reading I've done this month, might I recommend these four tomes of terror, each guaranteed to give your Goosebumps book collection goosebumps. Read on... if you dare.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Review: James Bond - Spectre

James Bond is back with this long-awaited follow up to Skyfall. But are we in 007th heaven with Spectre...?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Review: Doctor Who - The Woman Who Lived

The Doctor revisits Ashildr in 'The Woman Who Lived' but did this episode stand and deliver?

'You didn’t save my life, Doctor. You trapped me inside it.'

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Review: Doctor Who - The Girl Who Died

The title might suggest a gloomy tale but there is a surprising amount of fun to be had in 'The Girl Who Died'...

'Immortality isn’t living for ever. That isn’t what it feels like. Immortality is everyone else dying.'

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Review: Doctor Who - Before The Flood

'Under The Lake' dived straight into the adventure but did the momentum continue when we went back to 'Before The Flood'...?

'Doctor, such an honour. I've always been a huge admirer. This is really a delight. Finally! Someone worth talking to.'

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Review: Doctor Who - Under The Lake

This week saw a return to classic Who stylings but did 'Under The Lake' rise from the depths or sink without a trace?

 'It’s impossible. It’s evil. I hate it. It’s astonishing. I want to kiss it to death!'

Friday, 2 October 2015

New Doctor Who Spin-off Alert!

In a surprise announcement, the BBC have revealed that a new Doctor Who spin-off is in the works titled Class and set at Coal Hill School 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Review: Doctor Who - The Witch's Familiar

Missy! Davros! Daleks! Something's definitely familiar here... but did this episode carve out something new?

'I’m not sure any of that matters – friends, enemies – so long as there’s mercy. Always mercy.'

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Review: Doctor Who - The Magician's Apprentice

Doctor Who returned for another series tonight - but was there magic in this opening episode?

"This is the last will and testament of the Time Lord known as the Doctor."

Friday, 18 September 2015

Jenna Coleman to leave Doctor Who

It's official. Today it was announced that Jenna Coleman will leave Doctor Who after Series Nine.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Doctor Who: Series Nine Episode Titles Revealed

Unusually this year we knew several of Series Nine's titles quite early on but now, with just a mere handful of days to go until the premiere, we have the entire set, released today in one handy image on the official Doctor Who twitter account.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Review: Marvel's Agent Carter (Season One)

Today we take a look at the forgotten hero of the Marvel universe - move over Iron Man et al, it's Peggy Carter's time in the limelight...

While I wouldn't say I'm an out and out fanboy, per se, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe I am certainly an appreciator of it. The Avengers is a perennially entertaining film and I also enjoyed the single-hero films, particularly the Captain America ones (though Iron Man is probably the best Avenger). In regards to the first 1940s-set Cap film - The First Avenger - a big reason for my liking it was the brilliant Peggy Carter, by far the best super-hero 'love interest' around. Well-played by Hayley Atwell, Peggy was a capable soldier and secret agent and didn't fall into the damsel-in-distress model. I was excited, then, when I heard she would be the first female character to lead her own instalment of the MCU in Agent Carter, the series. Eat your heart out, Black Widow!

Thankfully, Agent Carter was a genuinely thrilling show - the driving force of which is Peggy's fight to prove herself despite the fierce sexism of her co-workers at the SSR (the forerunner to SHIELD). The pace and plot more or less consistently gain momentum over the trim eight episode series so that, by the time of the finale, I was both excited and saddened to see it end. While at first the supporting characters seem plain and the villains too obscure, Peggy's fellow agents, such as the boorish Thompson, stern Chief Dooley and the understanding Souza, are fleshed out as the series goes on and two effective villains are introduced. Here's hoping we have more of them if the series is renewed. Oh, and word must be given to James D'Arcy's lovable stiff-upper lipped Edwin Jarvis, butler to Howard Stark, whose double act with Peggy makes up the majority of the humour - and heart - of the series. 

But the show can only belong to Hayley Atwell who triumphs in the starring role. Though at times the series itself seems less sure about her as its lead. For instance, whenever Dominic Cooper's Howard Stark turns up, as he does from time to time, the focus almost totally switches to him as if as the audience would much rather be watching a show about Iron Man's womanising Dad and Peggy is just holding his place. Mostly, though, Peggy is handled well by the showmakers and it's refreshing to have both an adventure-based period series and an exciting female lead. 

US TV seems to be superior to British telly in its female lead characters - Buffy comes to mind as the queen of them all - but still there's too few well-developed female characters like Peggy around today. For that alone, I'm very happy that, after some uncertainty, Agent Carter has been given a second series. It's lucky then that Agent Carter is a fun show on its own two legs regardless of Peggy. It may employ the odd familiar plot point or guessable twist but its general consistent quality more than make up for a few quibbles. Agent Carter, you had better report back for duty soon.

Female agency - Peggy Carter has to prove herself to her colleagues in a post-War America.

P.S. Despite the links to the popular MCU and starring three brits as the leads, for some unfathomable reason Agent Carter took an age to be shown in the UK. Hopefully, this will be sorted out next year or will simply just go up on Netflix. Come on, she's even nicknamed 'Miss Union Jack'...

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Monthly Scribbles: The Return of River Song

Now that August has augustly bowed out for another year, we can finally say that Doctor Who is on this month! 'The Magician's Apprentice' will materialise on our screens on the 19th but there are a few news items and tidbits to chat about before that happens...

River Song Returns!  

The big Who news released in the last day or so is, oddly, not about the upcoming series but rather this year's Christmas special. Namely, it's been revealed that River Song, otherwise known as the Doctor's wife, is to return to the show this Chrimble. After a two series absence (her last appearance was in 2013's 'The Name of the Doctor'), River will encounter the Twelfth incarnation of her other half for the first time. A vague synopsis of the special has also been released:
It’s Christmas Day in the future and the TARDIS is parked on a snowy village street, covered in icicles, awaiting its next adventure. Time traveller River Song meets her husband’s new incarnation, in the form of Peter Capaldi, for the first time this Christmas. 
Interestingly, this is hot on the heels of the announcement that River will soon meet the Eighth Doctor on audio. Can we have River and Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor team up next? 

Hayley Atwell wants to be the Doctor!

The actress who has won fans worldwide for her awesome portrayal of Marvel's Agent Carter (expect a review of the series to be up on here soon) recently joked to a fan on Twitter, who asked her if she would like to be in Doctor Who, that she would love to be the Doctor. As happens, this then created an internet storm and whipped up the old 'should the Doctor be a woman?' argument again.

Personally, while I believe that there really needs to be more characters like Atwell's Peggy Carter around and am open to the idea of a female Doctor, I do worry that the issue is talked about so much that the production team, when choosing the next Doctor, will be influenced by the fans who are calling for a gender-swap rather than simply looking for the best person for the role, man or woman.

In the mean time, we've hopefully still got Peter Capaldi for quite a while yet!

Blackadder return 'on cards'

Away from Doctor Who, Baldrick himself Tony Robinson has got fans of historical sitcom Blackadder excited by saying that a new series is 'on the cards.' Most seem to be overjoyed at the news but, speaking as a huge fan, I'm wary of the notion of another series so long after the original four in the 1980s. Perhaps a one-off special, akin to 2000's Blackadder Back and Forth (which saw Blackadder and Baldrick travel through time in a TARDIS-like time machine), but a full series might be risking besmirching the name of one of the best British shows ever. In fact, if you've got a minute, it might turn out to be the worst mistake since someone said ‘yeah, let’s take this suspiciously large wooden horse into Troy, statues are all the rage this season.’

Mission DALEK

And, finally, I'll leave you with this mini Doctor Who adventure. Recently, the BBC launched a competition asking fans to design a Doctor Who story in video form for the chance to meet Peter Capaldi. The entries are a hugely varied bunch so far - including fans acting in cosplay, clip-based ones and animation. You'll have to click below to see which one this is. Warning: features some git failing to do a good impression of Peter Capaldi.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Sherlock Scribbles: Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows

Continuing on the series of posts where I take a magnifying glass to a certain Holmesian adaptation, today I look at the sequel in the hit Robert Downey Jr duology as the Great Detective.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Doctor Watson), Noomi Rapace (Madame Simza), Jared Harris (Professor Moriarty) and Stephen Fry (Mycroft Holmes) with Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler)

Synopsis: After a spate of bombings cause tensions to brew across Europe, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson travel across the continent on a hunt for the man who wants to create a world war for his own ends - the Napoeleon of crime, Professor James Moriarty...

Doyled or Spoiled?: While Doyle never wrote such a James Bondian adventure, many details of the film are lifted from the canon, as if to compensate. The story is extrapolated from 'The Final Problem' where we are told that Holmes and Watson travel across Europe in pursuit of Moriarty. The death of Irene Adler could be a reference to the unexplained mentions of The Woman being 'the late Irene Adler' in the canon. Watson marries Mary Morstan, as per Doyle and Sherlock (though Holmes is a far less obsessive Best Man here than he is in that version). And, finally, Colonel Sebastian Moran is Moriarty's right-hand man and assassin, just as we are told he was in 'The Empty Hearse.' Also, it's not Doyle, but one of Moriarty's victims is Professor Hoffmanstahl - the real surname of Holmes' love interest Gabrielle Valadon in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Highlight: For me, it's probably the several references to Doyle, as they help to remind you that you are watching a Sherlock Holmes film. The use of Watson's eulogy of Holmes being taken verbatim from 'The Final Problem' is a lovely touch and probably my favourite Doyleism in the film. Elsewhere, another highlight is Downey and Law's partnership. While they are not my favourite Holmes and Watson they have an enjoyable banter-masking-fierce-friendship relationship.

Verdict: Without a specific mystery for Holmes to solve - rather more of a globe-trotting manhunt - and the loss of London, this sequel lacks the the feel of a Sherlock Holmes story unlike the first film which cleverly trod the line between Sherlockiana and being a modern action film. Likewise, the cast is squandered - Noomi Rapace is in a thankless role as Simza, Jared Harris is nothing special as Moriarty and, worst of all, Stephen Fry is fantastic casting (he's a perfect match for Sidney Paget's drawings) but his Mycroft is sadly played for comic relief. Apart from Downey Jr's idiosyncratic Holmes then, it's a decent run-around with fights and explosions and other things people like in blockbuster films.*

*I really like the first one which is why I'm extra grumpy in this review.

Sherlock and friends run away from an explosion. They do a lot of that.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Another Doctor Who Series Nine Trailer Breakdown

Unusually, if memory serves, we've been granted two full-length trailers this year in the run-up to Series Nine (which is still a month away!). While a few clips are the same as the one released last month, it's mostly all-new material. Let's watch the new trailer and then take a closer look at what it has to offer...

A lot of the minute is made up of the Doctor and Clara doing Doctory/Claray things (I particularly like the Doctor apologising to the TARDIS for being late and Clara's clearly been taking lessons from Torchwood's Gwen Cooper on how to be an action-hero). On the supporting characters front, there's a shot of a scared-looking Rigsy (returning from last year's 'Flatline') and, I think, we also see the impossibly-resurrected Osgood out for a jog.

But the most important thing are the monsters - and there seems to be a bumper crop this year. Including this CGI dragon thing. As the Zygons are back, this could be the modern rendition of a Skrarasen, the Zygons' pet that was actually the Loch Ness Monster. If so, I sort of miss it looking like a rubbery toy dinosaur...

Also, of course, this fella who's on loan from Pan's Labyrinth

We also get more glimpses of Maisie Williams' character, who appears to be in league with this leonine creature (who elsewhere in the trailer breathes fire). A relation of the Tharils, the lion-like aliens from Fourth Doctor adventure 'Warrior's Gate'?

And look what have we here. It seems the Master and the Daleks will team-up (or perhaps go head-to-head) - for the first time since the Third Doctor battled them both in 'Frontier In Space.' If I were a Dalek, though, I'm not sure I'd be pals with Missy if she was cackling in my face like that. Unless I'd just told a hilarious joke. Which I wouldn't have done, being a Dalek.

But trumping even the promise of Missy and the Daleks is more Daleks! Namely, Daleks old and new coming together. Below we have the usual bronze Time War Daleks, some 60s models (including a couple with blue domes), a Special Weapons Dalek and even the red Dalek Supreme from 'The Stolen Earth/Journey's End.' Oh, and there's a 70s one elsewhere in the trailer. Just about everyone apart from the despised Paradigm Daleks. One day they'll come back...

Overall, this trailer just fuels my already very high hopes for Series Nine. From what we've seen so far, the Twelfth Doctor has settled down into himself this year and he and Clara are back to having good times rollocking around the universe. To misquote Clara, I haven't seen this series yet - but I will do and it will be spectacular.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Sherlock Scribbles: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking

Last month I kicked off a new series of posts looking at different Holmesian adaptations with a look at 2002's The Hound of the Baskervilles. This month I'm following it up with its semi-sequel made in 2004. Unusually, while the actor of Holmes isn't carried over, Watson is, with Ian Hart reprising his role from the previous production.

Starring: Rupert Everett (Sherlock Holmes), Ian Hart (Doctor Watson), Jonathan Hyde (George Pentney), Helen McCrory (Mrs Vandeleur) and Michael Fassbender (Charles Allen)

Synopsis: In 1902, a new terror has struck the fog-bound streets of London in the form of a serial killer who is murdering young debutantes. Can the estranged Holmes and Watson come together to solve the case of the silk stocking?

Doyled or Spoiled?: With an original storyline, very litle of the plot is dervied from Doyle although Holmes often quotes directly from the stories (e.g. 'I cannot make bricks without clay,' 'Watson, you are the one fixed point in a changing age' ETC). Much like Hound, it also presents Holmes taking drugs during a case - including using opium, rather than just morphine or cocaine.
The biggest departure from the canon, however, is the identity of Watson's fiancee. Rather than the books (and most adaptations) he does not marry Mary Morstan but rather Jennifer Vandeleur, an American psycho-analyst. Similar to other modern versions - the Downey Jr films and Sherlock - Holmes is at first jealous of his best friend finding a(nother) partner before being won over by her.

Highlight: 100% Rupert Everett. A much better Holmes than Hound's Roxborough, he's something of a proto-Sherlock (interestingly, the special even uses the same font as the series) with his Cumberbatchian anti-social behaviour and snarky sense of humour. Although he lacks the manic energy of the best Holmeses, he absolutely looks the part and it would have been fascinating to see him take on the role in an adventure that more closely looked at Holmes' character. 

Verdict: An enjoyable if not totally successful Holmes adventure. While the storyline could have done with more inspiration from the canon, the film's great strength is how it really evokes the setting of Edwardian England, with the rich partying at debutante balls while murderers lurk in the treacherous fog. Likewise, the key relationship between Holmes and Watson is better handled here than in its predecessor although not entirely fixed, being much less prickly if not quite warm. In fact, the most interesting pairing of the piece must be that of Holmes and young girl Roberta who the detective seems to take under his wing. As such, while it is much better than the tepid Hound, my main gripe is that the plot, involving the hunt for a sexually-deviant serial killer, is much too modern crime drama and too little Sherlock Holmes to be completely satisfying.

Rupert Everett's smooth-as-silk Holmes saves the day in this pastiche

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Monthly Scribbles: The BBC, Bond and Robin Hood

Now that July has been and gone (yes, I know, we're now over halfway through the year but hold off on the realisation that your life is dwindling away, all right, this is a light-hearted post) it's time for another sporadic round-up of the month's Scribble Creatures-y news in Monthly Scribbles.

Capaldi's Credentials

July was a busy month for the Big Two - Sherlock and Doctor Who - as tantalising trailers for both were released. But as I've already blabbed about those here and here, I'll look at a less covered item now. Namely, this fun interview that appeared online recently which shows Peter Capaldi at his Who-loving best. Everyone knows Capaldi is a life-long fan of the show but this interview - in which he seemingly can't stop himself from talking about his favourite Who episodes - is a great demonstration of his fan credentials. It's always nice when the Doctor loves Doctor Who just as much as the fans. 

The Game is over...

I'm sad to report that Toby Whithouse spy drama The Game has been cancelled. It's a great shame as, despite a couple of criticisms I had, it had a lot of promise. What with the loss of the brilliant In The Flesh earlier this year as well, it seems the Beeb have either gone off their rocker or simply can't afford to take a chance on such shows as they used to (thank you very much, government). Either way, the BBC may make mistakes but we would miss it terribly if it wasn't there. Hint hint: please sign this petition to protect the BBC. It's very worthwhile.

Anyway, now to get off my soapbox...

'Their name is... Spectre.' 

Not to be outdone by his fellow British heroes, there was also a trailer for the latest James Bond film Spectre released this month - and it was a whopper. As well as being an effective teaser for the film it is also littered with lovely kisses to the past - Bond and the new M seem to be at odds, suggesting the relationship between 007 and the original Ms, Christoph Waltz is wearing a very Blofeldian nehru jacket and Q is giving Bond a car with gadgets. Not to mention the rousing theme music from On Her Majesty's Secret Service playing throughout. The last film Skyfall somewhat converted me from Bond liker to fledgling fan so I'm eagerly awaiting this instalment, which seems to be a series finale to Craig's Bond films. 

Mini-Review of the Month

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Until this month, I had never read nor seen anything to do with Robin Hood (well, except such non-canonical takes as last year's Doctor Who episode and that Disney film with the foxes). After twenty-odd years I finally put that right when I came across a copy of Robert Lancelyn Green's children's novel, which tells the story of the Prince of Thieves' life, drawn from the classical ballads and folk stories. It's written in a charming fairy tale style which brings Sherwood Forest and its inhabitants to storybook life in a way that sends you back to being ten years old, even if like me you weren't familiar with the world at that age. Highlights include the bizarrely supernatural 'The Witch of Paplewick', a Maid Marion who is pleasingly pro-active rather than a damsel-in-distress and - spoiler warning for a 700 year old legend - the surprisingly moving final chapters.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Top Five Faceless Villains

While we all enjoy a good villain to boo and hiss at (such as these fearsome females), sometimes it can be more interesting and unsettling to have a more unknowable - faceless - antagonist. In this list I won't be looking at baddies who hid their faces like The Claw from Inspector Gadget but those soulless villains, often corrupt corporations or surveillance states, who conspire against our hero for their own nefarious, and usually nebulous, ends. Evil organisations such as James Bond's SPECTRE aren't eligible as they often have a single leader (in SPECTRE's case, Blofeld) who acts as the hero's nemesis rather than the organisation themselves.

Wolfram & Hart

Appeared in: Angel 

Built around the premise 'what if lawyers actually were as evil as people say they are?, Wolfram & Hart are the demon-worshipping law firm that plan to end the world on Buffy spin-off Angel.
We get to know several of the firm's smarmy employees over Angel's five season run but we never meet the mysterious 'Senior Partners' - beings who are basically personifications of evil. An organisation of humans as the evil enemies of our traditional monster hero, W&H are the perfect villains for the more moraly-grey world of Angel. 


Appeared in: Marvel comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Originally featuring in The First Avenger, HYDRA were used to a brilliant effect in The Winter Solider. In the Captain America sequel, that niggling doubt about the modern world - that we're all being spied on for evil purposes - turns out to be true and, what's more, the good guys we thought we could trust (namely SHIELD) are in fact controlled by HYDRA, the ex-Nazi terrorist organisation. HYDRA are one of the best faceless villains, as they have no one head person in charge. Quite literally as their catchphrase is 'cut off one head, two more will take its place.' Hail HYDRA!

The 'Listen' Creature

Appeared in: Doctor Who - 'Listen'

Number three on our list is a bit of a different one; rather than a headless organisation this one is an unseen creature. The most ambiguous Doctor Who monster, 'the perfect hider' that the Doctor hunts for in 'Listen' is left unseen, leaving it to the audience to make up for themselves whether such a creature exists. It's a sophisticated twist on the usually front-and-centre Who antagonists - but, come on, that is clearly an alien standing behind Clara...

The Village

Appeared in: The Prisoner

Probably the most nebulous of the villains on this list, we never get any real sense of what the mysterious overseers of the Village in 60s spy series The Prisoner actually want. We know they wish to find out why our nameless hero Number Six resigned from his job but just why it is so important we never find out. Regardless, the ever-changing figure of Number Two, who runs the Village, the unique architecture and the almost-lobotomised residents make the Village one of the most insidious faceless villains in all of fiction. But, as Number Six always asks, who is Number One?

Big Brother

Appeared in: Nineteen Eighty Four 

Turning our list on its head is our leader. All Big Brother is is a face - whether he exists or not is never discovered but the image of Big Brother is certainly used by corrupt dictators IngSoc to keep control of the dystopian Britain featured in Orwell's seminal novel. Created in the forties, Big Brother infamously predicts the rise of the surveillance state. If you need proof that Big Brother is the most evil faceless villain on this list it inspired the inexplicably long-lasting Big Brother reality series. It may appear that we are the ones who are watching Big Brother but, in fact, Big Brother is watching you...

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Review: Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning: this post contains a review of Neil Gaiman's latest short story anthology Trigger Warning. 

The title of Neil Gaiman's third short story collection comes from the internet trend for articles to preceded by a warning of what's to come. Apart from allowing the writer in his introduction to muse on if such an idea should be adopted for fiction, it is a perfect title for an anthology of Gaiman's work. Part of the thrill of diving into one of his short stories in particular is that, due to the wide range of genres and tones he adopts, you never know what you are going to get. Be warned, the title tells us, I'm not going to tell you what you should be warned about, but I think you should be on your toes. 

In Trigger Warning, Gaiman delivers fairy tales and ghost stories and sci-fi and fantasy adventures, as well as new spins on familiar characters and love letters to the likes of Ray Bradbury and David Bowie. Many of these stories might be familiar to Neil Gaiman devotees, but the quality of each is that you certainly won't mind owning them more than once. Besides, having them tied together with other wildly different pieces brings out something new in them. The twelve micro fictions that make up 'A Calendar of Tales', for example, brilliantly compliment and juxtapose with each other.

Likewise, two of my favourites - now don't say you didn't see this coming - are Gaiman's takes on Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. They represent contrasting takes on famous fictional heroes and their worlds. 'The Case of Death and Honey' is a genre-bending tale which presents an elderly Holmes undertaking the greatest, and the longest, investigation of his career. It is mournful and touching and quite unlike any other Holmes story out there.

'Nothing O'Clock', however, is a fun-loving adventure story that is bouncing with invention, as it sees the Eleventh Doctor and Amy facing a clever new take on the alien invasion. It is fantastic to have another Gaiman-penned entry into the Whoniverse and a must-read for anyone who loved 'The Doctor's Wife' (and thought 'Nightmare in Silver' could have been better).

Yet my absolute favourite is surely 'Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains...', a story as atmospheric and opaque as the mist that surrounds the island that the protagonists journey to. Apparently based on an old Scottish folk tale (as Gaiman's fascinating in-depth story notes tells us), it is a bleaker piece than most of the writer's other work, where death and danger are more often than not met with some light and humour. Nonetheless, it is an engrossing read and showcases Gaiman's storytelling and prose at its peak.

But then my other favourite is the fantastically feminist 'The Sleeper in the Spindle', or perhaps the brilliantly bonkers 'The Return of the Thin White Duke'. Or 'Orange', a tale told entirely through answers to unseen questions. Or the creepy epistolary 'Feminine Endings.' Or maybe 'Black Dog', a new story set in the American Gods universe.

Each story in Trigger Warning is better than the last. That is the only forewarning you need.

P.S. Has anyone thought about the potential meaning of the wounded-looking wolf on the cover? Perhaps he has been shot? If so, does he represent the piece of writing, made innocuous by the addition of a trigger warning?

Friday, 10 July 2015

Doctor Who: Series Nine Trailer Breakdown

Thanks to the geek mecca that is Comic Con, last night we were treated to two sneak peaks at the upcoming episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who. Over on Sherlock's Home you can read my analysis of the clip from the Christmas special (which looks to tick all this Holmes fan's boxes) but in this post I'll continue a Scribble Creatures tradition and take a closer look at the first trailer released for Doctor Who Series Nine. Have a butcher's at it below and then read on for some analysis:

'Everytime I think it can't get any more extraordinary, it surprises me...' 

The trailer gave us some glimpses at the settings of the Doctor and Clara's adventures this year. For one, there seems to be an underwater compound - a great setting for a classic 'base under siege' Doctor Who story.

But even more mouth-wateringly, there is this shot of a very Dalek-looking city (notice those bumps). The trailer revealed the fact that the Daleks are back so perhaps we are making a return visit to their home planet, Skaro, last seen in 'Asylum of the Daleks.' Skaro is an irradiated, barren world so the following shot, which sees the Doctor and allies being fired at by some familiar laser beams, could be the Dalek homeworld too.  

'It's impossible.. it's evil... it's astonishing'

Going by the trailer, the set of monsters this year look set to be the most sinister bunch yet. According to the BBC press release, we know one of them is called the Mire. I'm guessing the possessor of the Zombie hand...

With their long hair, space-age helmets and eye thingies the following fellas must be the 'Vikings in space' that Peter Capaldi mentioned recently. It is thought that they will appear in the two-parter 'The Girl Who Died' and 'The Woman Who Lived.' Along with these rocky robot types we have seen previously.

Then there's this cosmetically-challenged chap who looks as if he is on Karn from 'The Night of the Doctor.' He is also in the vicinity of a red-robed figure, the usual attire of the Sisterhood of Karn. What could be going on there?

Speaking of returning things, there is also a bumper crop of familiar foes this year. Alongside the aforementioned Daleks (they never give up, do they?), we also have Missy back to plague the Doctor in the opening episodes 'The Magician's Apprentice' and 'The Witch's Familiar.' Who knows what - hang on, she's not going to team up with the Daleks, is she? Only time will tell...

Of course, we also have the third appearance on the show of the shapeshifting Zygons. The BBC have described the Zygon two-parter as 'a global Zygon uprising.' Perhaps, after 'The Day of the Doctor', Zygons agreed to peacefully integrate with humanity - but now they have changed their minds...

'I'm the Doctor and I save people.'

The Doctor seems set to be more at peace with himself this series. He's smiling, hugging Clara and Peter Capaldi's showing his punk rock roots in the shot of the Doctor wearing sunglasses with a guitar.

Elsewhere we can see the new costume the Doctor will be wearing for at least the early part of this series - the hoodie from 'Last Christmas' plus some Patrick Troughton-inspired chequered trousers. 

'What took you so long, old man?'

Now, here's what's set Who fans' minds racing. Game of Thrones favourite Maisie Williams was previously theorised to be playing a younger version of Clara but now it has shifted to to her being a relative of the Doctor's, due to her 'old man' comment. Perhaps Jenny, the Doctor's Daughter previously played by Georgia Moffett in, erm, 'The Doctor's Daughter'? Others are saying Susan, the First Doctor's granddaughter, but I would have thought her return would have happened in the nostalgia of the 50th anniversary year if it was ever going to.

Regardless of her true identity, Ms Williams' get-up here seems to confirm the rumours that she will play a highway(wo)man who encounters the Doctor and Clara. She is set to appear in 'The Girl Who Died' and 'The Woman Who Lived' - even though that is presumably the Vikings in Space episode. Perhaps she'll become a companion?

Doctor Who - don't you just want to kiss it to death?

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