Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Who View: The Invasion Of Time

Tom Baker's Doctor isn't quite himself in this story as he returns to his home planet of Galifrey to take presidency, banish his companion Leela (Louise Jameson) to the wasteland  and drop the force field around the planet of the Time Lords to make way for an invasion force lead by The Vardans then ultimately The Sontarans.

Sounds great doesn't it? Re watching 1977's The Invasion Of Time on DVD this week, I discovered why I have stayed away from this story since it aired in 1977, it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

The Doctor is collaborating with a shimmering tin foil like alien race called The Vardans in the first few episodes which despite looking totally unimpressive, sound it too, (their voices don't even come across as menacing). When they eventually arrive on Galifrey there are only three of them, (a nod to The Dalek invasion of Auderley House in Day of The Daleks no doubt) and appear to take human form, The Doctor himself admitting they are rather disappointing to look at.

The Galifrey scenes are equally unimpressive, shifting between what looks like an old Top Of The Pops set, endless corridors of a disused hospital, a quarry and an elaborately designed lead coated room with clock cogs and wheels (the budget clearly used on designing this).

Once The Doctor comes to his senses and Leela musters up some help from the quarry (I mean wasteland) the Vardans are banished by the end of episode four. Hooray! Not quite - perhaps the most dramatic point of the story occurs at this episodes climax when The Sontarans arrive.

Unfortunately it doesn't get much better after that, we have four Sontarans invading Galifrey, (as opposed to seven guards and around seven Time Lords). The action then shifts to The TARDIS for the next two episodes as The Doctor and his friends take refuge in it, except because of industrial action the scene shifts back to the disused hospital to make up alternative corridors and rooms. Unconvinced? So are The Doctors friends as they criticise the look of it "I'm a time traveller, not a painter and decorator" pleads The Doctor.

The story wraps with Leela's departure to stay back and marry the guard commander Andred (who?, exactly!) and K9 also decides to stay too, but we know he'll be back the next season with a MK II version.

Although The Invasion Of Time left me wondering what was going on most of the time I think the concept and story is a great idea. Particular highlights are John Arnatt as Borusa and Milton Johns as the sneaky Castellan Kelner. My whole issue is the final execution was unconvincing from the poor excuse of invaders The Vardans (who lacked conviction) to the rasping Sontarans (who lacked numbers). In fairness, I'm aware the production of this story was hampered by industrial action and was a hasty rewrite because another tale was going to prove too much to make. Fair enough, but surely it must have crossed someones mind that invading The Doctor's home planet might be also quite ambitious to do effectively?

Leela's departure was also unconvincing and not fitting with such a great character, I think Louise Jameson has it right that Leela should have been killed off saving The Doctor's life, although that would have been nigh on impossible given the fact that Leela was more than capable of taking out the entire Vardan and Sontaran force on her own. The Doctor's farewell to her seems detached and unmoved.

Not the best example of Tom Baker era Doctor Who, but certainly a good example of cast and crew muddling through to make the best of a story hampered by industrial action.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Theatre Review: Eric and Little Ern, Newport Riverfront

Morecambe and Wise were the funniest comedy double act on television during the 1960s and 70s and even though their partnership ended when Eric Morecambe died of a heart attack in 1984 their popularity has endured.

Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens stage presentation Eric and Little Ern is therefore most welcome. A tribute to Morecambe and Wise’s greatest comedy moments combined with dialogue of what Ernie might have said to Eric had he had the chance to see him one final time.

The opening scene, set in a private hospital room has an ailing Ernie visited by Eric (in Doctor Coat) and transformed back to Morecambe and Wise’s glory days. Classic scripts from the pens of Eddie Braben and Hills & Green were thrown into the mix including Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Eric’s throwaway comment when a police car siren wails past the hospital window, “He’s not going to sell a lot of Ice Creams going at that speed.”

Of course, it’s not just the dialogue that makes Eric and Little Ern brilliant, its Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens delivery and portrayal as the duo. Everything is there from the face slapping to the adjusting of Eric’s glasses via Des O Connor jokes and dance routines.

Sunshine and laughter certainly came into the Riverfront Theatre as the pair kitted out in trademark suits performed famous Eric and Ernie routines in the second half of the show.

Let’s hope it’s not too long before this brilliant show returns to Wales, as Eric Morecambe might have said, “Keep going you fools!”

Sunday, 12 October 2014

CD Review: Madness - One Step Beyond (35th Anniversary Edition)

One Step Beyond is 35 years old, yet this special edition release containing the original album, a 14 track 1979 rehearsal tape and comprehensive booklet comes marching onto the review desk with all of the Madness charm and charisma while still bustling with excitable energy.

As debut albums go, this ones a gem, it contains four (now classic) hit singles One Step Beyond, My Girl, The Prince and Night Boat To Cairo and demonstrates the bands creativity as they marry the world of ska with storytelling in Bed and Breakfast Man and Mummy's Boy.

The band also demonstrate themselves as excellent instrumentalists turning Tchaikovsky's swan Lake into an upbeat ska track.

Much of Suggs and co's popularity grew from their television appearances and comic pop videos making them the heroes of many a schoolboy across the UK and we have several here on an additional DVD including an appearance on Top of The Pops that got them banned for several weeks.

You'd be mad to miss this release, even if you bought it on vinyl the first time around, this is all you'll ever want and more from Madness' One Step Beyond.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Who View: Kill The Moon

Perhaps the most surreal Doctor Who episode so far this series, Kill The Moon sees The Doctor,  Clara and Courtney on a space shuttle heading for a crash course with the moon in 2049.

Coming across Captain Lundvik and two other astronauts on the shuttle, the group crash land on the lunar surface.

Finding a mining base full of corpses and vicious spider-like creatures poised to attack, Clara finds herself given a dilemma that only she can decide the outcome as The Doctor disappears.

The Doctor seems to have acknowledged here that he maybe interferes a little too much and steps away from an earth shattering predicament, needless to say it backfires as it displays how much The Doctor is depended on to solve scenarios. With Clara basically threatening to disassociate herself from The Doctor , I am almost at liberty to plead give him a break for at least a week.

This episode seemed a little implausible despite having some fabulous mutant spiders in it, I'm also getting a little tired of the current Doctor companion dynamic, or lack of it, Capaldi's Doctor almost screams independence for me, maybe Clara and The Doctor really do need some away time from each other.