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?

Monday, 6 July 2015

Sherlock Scribbles: The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002)

For a Sherlock Holmes fan, I really don't blog about Holmesian-related matters all that much. Today I'm hoping to rectify that by starting a new series of posts in which I look at a different Holmes adaptation each time. We start with a BBC TV version of the most famous Sherlock story of them all...

 Starring: Richard Roxborough (Sherlock Holmes), Ian Hart (Dr Watson), Neve McIntosh (Beryl Stapleton), John Nettles (Dr Mortimer) and Richard E Grant (Jack Stapleton)

Synopsis: At Christmas time, Holmes and Watson are employed to investigate the strange circumstances surrounding Sir Charles Baskerville's death. Was he really killed by the monstrous hound which is said to plague the family? Or is the murderer a mere mortal?

Doyled or spoiled?: This adaptation largely stays faithful to the iconic tale, apart from a few key details. Obviously it changes the action to taking place at Christmas - the TV film was first shown on Boxing Day - and also embellishes certain elements, one memorable example being the inclusion of a seance to contact the dead Baskerville which heightens the gothic atmosphere of the piece. It also presents Holmes unusually in the thrall of his drug habit during a case, when in the stories he only uses it in between cases. The villain of the piece, Stapleton, is also enhanced to make him a much more vindictive and worthy foe.. 

Highlight: Definitely Richard E Grant's Stapleton. The 'whodunnit' aspect of the story is bravely thrown away quite early so that we may have Grant being malcious for as long as possible. Almost Moriarty-ish in his obsession at beating the great Sherlock Holmes, he also badly wounds Dr Watson and Henry Baskeville and would have succeeded in killing Holmes if it wasn't for the timely intervention of the good doctor.

Verdict: While brave enough to beef up certain aspects of the story, this version of the well-told tale fails to really take off, largely due to mishandling the most important part of any Holmes story: the relationship between the detective and his Boswell. While Ian Hart is a capable, if humourless, Watson he snaps at Holmes so much you wonder why he hangs around with him. Likewise, Richard Roxborough is a rather bland Holmes, demonstrating none of our hero's usual vigour and brain power. It's a shame Richard E Grant didn't get the central role but at least he is on hand to save the show as the deliciously odious Stapleton. Certainly not the definitve version of the story.

Doctor Who's Dr Simeon and Madame Vastra turn up in this Holmes adaptation
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...