Friday 29 November 2013

Western Gold

Western fans will be pleased to know that our old friend Chap O'Keefe has a new eTitle for sale on Amazon.

The Archive urges readers to support the creative community by paying the meagre price for the book - we can guarantee you a damn good read.


San Francisco was hot. Too hot for troubleshooter Joshua Dillard after a vice lord drew a gun on him in a ritzy Russian Hill parlor house and he was obliged to blast him down with his Peacemaker. So Joshua brought forward a railroad trip to the wilds of Colorado where he had a job lined up for him by a mysterious Leigh Jordan, of New York City. In Colorado he was soon embroiled in more bloody mayhem, this time with hostile  attorney Walt Sloane and his thugs. Enter a femme fatale needing his unorthodox services, take a ride into the rugged foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and Joshua was soon neck-deep in deception, deviancy, and murderous gunfire. The facts that emerged concerning an abusive father, an adopted daughter, and a contestable Manhattan inheritance fell into place to tell an ugly story...

Another devilish death

The latest Granny Smith adventure, The Welsh Connection will be published on the 1st December and exclusively on Amazon the first two Granny Smith books will be on a countdown deal for seven days and seven days only.

This means that not only will you be able to catch up on the intrepid pensioner sleuth's latest mystery but you'll be able to pick up the earlier books for mere pennies or cents or euros - delete as applicable

I enjoy when an author successfully takes on an established genre -- the British village cozy mystery in this case -- and gives it a twist. consider that Agatha Christie's Miss Marple was probably born in the 1860s. Granny Smith was born in the 1950s and was a teenager in the 1960s. Granny Smith answers the question how might Miss Marple have turned out had she matured... Four Star AMAZON REVIEW

Granny Smith -- a pipe-smoking senior citizen who listens to heavy metal and can't keep her nose out of other peoples' affairs. I fell in love with this character within the first couple of pages. The story never drags and the secondary characters, such as Granny's quirky son and submissive husband, are just as lovable as Granny herself. Five star AMAZON REVIEW

This was a very exciting book. I could hardly put it down. That granny was a very good detective and entertaining. I may have to get the next book she is in also. Five star AMAZON REVIEW

Thursday 28 November 2013

Lewis Collins: A True Professional

The following article was originally published as part of our TV Cops Weekend back in 2010 but is here reposted after the sad passing of actor Lewis Collins.

"I knew what it was like to be pushed around as a kid,' Lewis Collins told the TV Times in 1979. 'When you grow up in the jungles of Birkenhead you know how to look after yourself. I guess you could say I'm a survivor."

It was always difficult to distinguish Lewis Collins, the actor, from the tough guy Bodie he played in the long running TV show, The Professionals.

The show was made by Avengers MK1 Productions and LWT and ran for 57 episodes between 1977 and 1983.

'We (Collins and Martin Shaw) wanted to do all our own stunts. When you see those cars belting down the streets that's us at the wheel.' Collins boasted to TV Detective Annual 1980.

Created by Brian Clemens of Avengers fame, the show was initially to be called A-Squad before the name was changed to The Professionals at the eleventh hour. The show was set around the adventures of two detectives Bodie and Doyle who worked for CI5 - an elite law enforcement organisation that was a mixture of CID and MI5. And although the show still aired until 1983 the final episodes were actually filmed in 1981.

"Although I like to keep fit," Martin Shaw told The TV Times in 1978. "I wasn't prepared for the strenuous training schedule they put us through before the series started filming."

The Professionals was extremely successful and was made to be a cross between The Sweeney and Starskyand Hutch. The crime fighting duo even had their own iconic cop car - The Ford Capri. And even after the show ended it still drew in an audience - when it was shown on the now defunct Granada + in 1997 it was the channels highest rated show bringing in 1million viewers per episode. A remake CI5 The New Professionals was produced by Sky One in the late 1990's but it was not a hit.

The Professionals on the web - there is only one place to go really and that's HERE

The Afterlife of Slim McCord First Review

'Having followed Jack Martin’s western writing career since the beginning I have to say this is his best book so far. The use of a mummified outlaw adding an unusual touch to this fast moving tale. 'Western Fiction Review

Check out the full review HERE

'Jack Martin also had me grinning when a reporter and dime novelist is discovered walking towards town. His name Gary Dobbs, which is Jack Martin’s real name. The fictional Dobbs will also have a small part to play in building the legend of McCord.'

Reviews are very important to a writer - it's a solitary profession and no writer is ever truly sure of their work so it's great when reviews justify all that hard work.

The Afterlife of Slim McCord is available at the end of this month.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Tarantino heading West again

There I am moaning about the state of movies (see previous post) and straight away I find myself excited by a forthcoming movie. Ahh well it is a western, my favourite genre, and directed by Quentin Tarantino who gave us the excellent, Django Unchained.

"I had so much fun doing Django, and I love Westerns so much, that after I taught myself how to make one it's like, 'Well, OK, let me make another one now that I know what I'm doing,'"  Quentin Tarantino on the Today show.

Why I'm fed up of Movie Blockbusters

One of the movies I was looking forward to in 2013 was Man of Steel, the umpteenth reboot of the Superman franchise. As soon as I heard Batman's Christopher Nolan was involved and that the Supes story would be given a darker edge, somewhere along the lines of the Dark Knight trilogy I was hooked, but what did I get? - a generic blockbuster that was big on spectacle but low on heart. This Superman was mean and moody and whilst there were some nice touches the film quickly turned into a video game. It may have been breathtaking to see a skyscraper being brought down but gazillions of them suffering the same fate was overkill. And Lois Lane on a spaceship talking to Superman's dad - WTF?

And then there was The Hobbit, Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth after the triumph of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. But the money men get involved and one slim story was stretched out into three movies. The first part was far too long, with too little happening for large chunks of the running time. We've still got the final two movies to go but I certainly won't be going to the cinema, not after the yawnfest that was the Hobbit. I certainly don't want to sit through another two movies if the first was any indication of how they would go - in fact I'd find it less painful to have my testicles chewed on by a rabid hamster. I never thought it
would happen but after the Hobbit I am finding myself Bored of the Rings.

What happened to characters? Storytelling? And all that jazz?

The problem is that even truly stupid franchises like Transformers make big bucks, no scub that, - massive bucks, so they'll keep making them. It is likely that the forthcoming Superman/Batman movie will make huge profits and yet, believe it or not, I can't be bothered to muster up a single iota of excitement. I might have been more interested had the Man of Steel been better.

I usually go to the cinema at least twenty times in a year but we're about to enter the final month of 2013 and I've only been to the cinema five times this year. I ended up skipping Iron Man 3 and catching it on DVD and although I really enjoyed the Avengers I think I've had enough of superhero movies. I loved the Nolan/Batman series but the third film let the side down with those tacked on endings that undid everything good about the franchise. I can just about excuse the Alfred/Bruce cafe scene. That made sense given revelations in the movie, but the autopilot thing - I mean,come on!

Amongst all this there was one summer blockbuster that was rather cool and yet it bombed at the box office - I'm talking the Lone Ranger, a summer blockbuster that was actually good but as I say it bombed. Ah well there's no accounting for public taste...or maybe the lack of it. We live in a world where the Lone Ranger fails and Pacific Rim rakes in the cash.

Ah well...I guess the cinema is no longer the place for me but at least I have DVD and those movies made by true giants - the Hithcock's , the Ford's, the Scorcese's. And if I do want something not designed to sell action figures I can always turn to the television where the real deal resides these days. Television has traditionally been second to cinema but not any more. Shows like The West Wing, Sopranos, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad stand head and shoulders above most of the travesties playing at your local multiplex.

So it's goodbye big screen and hello widescreen TV.

Archives Writer's News

Jesus Kicks Ass - The US based Midnight Diner series offers hardboiled fiction with a Christian slant. Editor Michael Pendergrass is looking for quality fiction for the quarterly publication. Details can be found HERE

Now in it's fourth year -The New Media Writing Prize, with a top prize of £1000 is activelly seeking entries for the 2013 awards. The prize rewards exciting and creative stories from innovative writers. Details HERE

Short Stories wanted - has issued new guidelines for short fiction to be featured on its world famous website. Find details HERE

Gay Geeks - Gadfly Productions are looking for one act SF/Fantasy plays with a gay theme for their Final Frontier Festival which will take place in June 2014. Details HERE

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Sherlock Season 3 - Broadcast date announced

It is now official that the third season of the BBC's Sherlock will start on Christmas Day, and if that wasn't enough good news we've also learned that it will follow the Doctor Who Christmas Special in which kiddie Doctor Matt Smith bows out and the awesome Peter Capaldi takes over the TARDIS controls.

The battle for the  Christmas UK ratings then look assured for the BBC.

The Afterlife of Slim McCord - Exclusive extract

Nov 30th - The Afterlife of Slim McCord-my newest western is out in hardcover  from Robert Hale's Black Horse Western imprint and is available for pre-order from Amazon, The Book Depository and Robert Hale's own website now. My previous titles have all been quick sellers and pre-ordering is the best way to be sure you'll get a copy on publication day which is now less than a week away.

It's an unusual western and I'm eager to see what my readers think of it. It's got all the traditional elements that have made my previous westerns so successful, but it's got a twist in that the main character is dead for most of the novel and the narrative doesn't rely on flashback scenes to propel the story. Now does it require ghostly goings on - confused? All will become clear when you read The Afterlife of Slim McCord.

Below is an exclusive extract

‘Shot in the back,’ the barker yelled. ‘Ain’t no lawman who could have taken Mad Slim McCord face on.’
‘You sure got that right,’ Clay Blackman offered a nickel but the barker held up his hands, palms forward.
‘No, no, old timer’ he shook his head vigorously. ‘Not me, give it to him.’
‘Sure,’ the barker smiled. ‘Put it in his mouth. He’s the one you’re paying to see and it’s only right he takes your money.’
‘In his mouth?’
‘Sure, he’ll gobble it right up.’
Blackman frowned. It seemed a particularly gruesome thing to do but nevertheless he pushed the coin between his dead friend’s lips. He winced as his fingers brushed the dry, almost abrasive tongue.
Strange but McCord didn't even look dead, propped up as he was against a wooden frame, more like he was sleeping on his feet. The preservation was incredible, and the dead man’s skin, although cold and leathery, seemed to glow with vigour. His eyes of course were glass; Blackman knew that because Slim’s eyes had been a pale grey, rather than the vibrant blue that now stared sightlessly into an unfocused distance. One of the eyes had also been placed at an irregular angle, which gave Slim something of a cock-eyed appearance.
‘How’d he end up like this?’ Blackman wasn’t aware that he had given the thought a voice.
‘Well now,’ the barker rubbed his chin, as though considering his reply rather than going into a well-practised sales pitch. ‘Was a time Mad Slim McCord was one of the most feared man in the West. He terrorised the badlands and sent many a lawman to an early grave.’
Blackman smiled at that. As far as he knew Slim had never been much of a killer, he hadn’t liked killing, and would avoid doing so whenever it was possible. He tended to scare folks with a dazzling combination of skilful gunplay, which was often all it took. One time, Blackman remembered, Slim had shot a sheriff’s hat clean off his head and then plugged it twice more as it spun through the air. After that the lawman hadn’t been any trouble to them and they had been free to go about their unlawful business.
‘The fact that he lived as long as he did is testament to how successful a bandit he was,’ the barker continued. ‘But McCord’s luck ran out one day down in Santino when a lawman recognised him from an old wanted poster and shot him in the back. Just like that. No warning and a bullet in the back.’
‘Long way from Santino to here,’ Blackman said.  ‘How’d he end up here?’
‘You see no one claimed the body,’ the barker said. ‘And so the undertaker, figuring he could profit from such an infamous outlaw, decided to embalm the body in a preserving solution made of arsenic and strong spirits.’
‘And you bought him?’ Blackman looked the barker directly in the eyes.
The barker nodded, proudly.
‘He’s been dead close on seven years now and looks as if he could have been shot this very morning,’ the barker said. ‘The undertaker had to remove a lot of his innards you know, stuff him back up with sawdust and the like, but that’s a darn fine preservation job, darn fine.  American craftsmanship at its best.’
‘You bought the body to turn a profit?’ Blackman found that the most tasteless thing he had ever heard.
‘Sure did,’ the barker said. ‘And I charge a nickel a view. That’s what’s called the entrepreneurial spirit operating in a free market. God bless America.’
‘Guess he sure ain’t gonna’ choke on that nickel,’ Blackman said.
‘We're only here one week in Possum Creek,’ the barker said with a broad smile. ‘Be sure to tell all your friends.’
Immediately another man entered, holding his nickel out between a thumb and forefinger. There was a queue of at least fifty people outside the tent waiting for a chance to see the dead outlaw. Slim had never been that successful an outlaw, Blackman recalled and guessed that he was making more money dead than he ever had alive.
‘I hear he’s been preserved with a paint made of strong whisky,’ someone in the crowd said as Blackman pushed through and made his way to the saloon.

The story continues in The Afterlife of Slim McCord by Jack Martin out this month but available for pre-order now.

Monday 25 November 2013

Five days to go

The world will never be the same... RIP faithful friend

Today the Archive is in deep mourning after the sad loss of Brian, run over by a car.

And the news is that the beloved pooch is not coming back. In fact a new dog has already been introduced into Family Guy in the shape of wiseguy mutt, Vinnie.

Bring back Brian...we say.

Foreverly - Norah Jones goes Green with a little help from Billie Joe

It may seem an unlikely pairing but Norah Jones, her with the voice of an angel and Billie Joe, lead voice with the pop punk stadium filling Green Day, have teamed up to record an old Everly Brothers album. The original Everly's album was titled, Songs Our Daddy Taught us and was a collection of traditional folk songs, and so taken with the album was Billie Joe that he roped in Norah and together the unlikely pair set out to recreate the 1958 album. They called this album, Foreverly - see what they've done there, FOR-EVERLY.

I'm a fan of the original Everly album and as soon as I heard about Billie and Norah's version I was hooked - I've had the album on pre-order for a couple of months and it finally fell through the letterbox this morning. Once upon a not too long ago I would have braved the icy morning and trekked to the local record shop (now a kebab joint) for the album but these days it comes via Amazon and a whistling postie, but that's another story.

The album works well and the harmonies are wonderful -Norah's female voice serves to distance the album from the Everly's original, but other than that it's a very faithful rendering of the original. Norah's smoky pipes entangle themselves with Billie Joe's earthy vocals and I think this album will be a grower. The sparce acoustic instrumentation and beautiful vocals means that the album sounds both old fashioned and contemporary at the same time. Upon first listen Barbara Allen and Rockin' Alone seem like standout tracks,  but the entire platter seems hits the groove.

You'd have to be an American Idiot to ignore this album as a curio, a moment of madness from Billie Joe. It's a rootsy album that could become something of a minor classic - it's up there with  Alison Kruass and Robert Plant's  Raising Sand of which it reminded me.

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 18 Nov - 24 Nov 2013 


Unique Visits1511691911481491711681,147164
First Time Visits1361551691311381541421,025146
Returning Visits1514221711172612217

Sunday 24 November 2013

Fifty Years in Time and Space - the final act

And to end our fifty years in time and space series we acknowledge the fact that the Day of the Doctor rewrote Who history and so here are all twelve Doctors in the correct order. Peter Capaldi the forthcoming new Doctor will now be the 13th.

Fifty Years in Time and Space - THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR

And so the big event came and went and it certainly didn't dissapoint - The Day of the Doctor reinvented Doctor Who, remained faithful to the history of the show and yet left us with a show that is forever changed. For instance forthcoming Doctor Peter Capaldi will now be the 13th and not the 12th Doctor, and it seems we've been counting wrong ever since the 9th Doctor. WARNING IF YOU'VE NOT SEEN DAY OF THE DOCTOR then major spoilers follow.

All I can say after watching the lovingly crafted 50th anniversary special episode is - wow, pass me another jelly baby.

The story was close to perfect - we already knew it would deal with the Time War but it played out in a way that nobody expected, and the climax was punch your hand in the air exciting. Through clever editing every Doctor turned up to put the plan into action that would save Gallifrey and the Doctor's soul -

'Oh no,' a Time Lord quips. 'All twelve of them.'

And then all of a sudden Peter Capaldi, the next Doctor, turns up and says, 'all thirteen of them.'.

This episode may have started the biggest ever Wikipedia editing session in history.

Showrunner Steven Moffat gave us one of the best ever Doctor Who stories - this was an epic and truly moving story. The frantic action scenes, showing a full scale war, were as grand as anything we've seen in the cinema and we could even make out what was going on - Michael Bay should watch this episode several times before churning out his next SF yawnfest.

For a fifty year old show Doctor Who is incredibly full of life and youthful - this special 75 minutes episode to my mind tops both of the recent big screen Star Trek movies and for a fraction of the budget. In fact the 50th anniversary special may be one of the best SF productions in recent years, and proved beyond a doubt that Doctor Who is simply awesome. We even got to see John Hurt regenerate into the 9th, no 10th Doctor, which means that, including the recent mini episode Night of the Doctor, we've now seen every regeneration of every Doctor to date.

The episode left us with enough possibilities to fill another fifty years of the iconic show - the return of the Time Lords,  the black archive and UNIT's TARDIS proof room will all, no doubt, be explored in future episodes and for now we have just over a month to go before the next Doctor Who mega episode when the 2013 Christmas special is aired and Peter Capaldi finally takes over as the Doctor - I can't wait.

Doctor Who, fifty years young and still the best SF concept there ever was.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Fifty Years in Time and Space 33 - The Eighth Doctor to get spin off series

It is likely that this is just a wild rumour, but there is gossip that after the success of The Night of The Doctor mini-episode,that the BBC are in talks with Paul McGann about filming a series of eighth Doctor adventures as a spin-off from the regular series. Although this is an unsupported rumour at the moment its got enough notice to have been discussed on the Blue Box Podcast, and to be mentioned in several national newspapers.

Only time will tell.......

Fifty Years in Time and Space 32 - Fanfare for the Common Men

Broadcast this week on BBC Radio 4 Extra, this four part audio drama which stars Peter Davidson as the fifth Doctor was made by Big Finish who are responsible for a vast amount of Doctor Who audio fiction. The plot sees the Doctor taking Nyssa back to 1963 so she can witness Beatlemania. However something's gone wrong with time and the Doctor is puzzled to find that the Beatles are a little known group and the biggest group on the planet are a Beatle-like band called The Common Men.

The plot sees the Common Men following the path set out by the Beatles, and this is an enjoyable if offbeat story for the Time Lord. The story plays around with known Beatle myths, for instance a twist is put on the Paul McCartney is dead and was replaced by a lookalike, rumours that went around in the late 60's.

Oh, and the Beatles sort of turn up at the end.

The audio play is available from Big Finish in both download and CD.

Fifty Years of Time and Space 31 - A new science fiction series

Fifty years ago this week the above cutting appeared in the Radio Times Magazine

Fifty Years in Time and Space 30 - The Guide

Available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and anywhere else eBooks are sold.

The Archive's guide to the adventures of the first Doctor.

Every Doctor, every story in a series of concise guides stuffed full of trivia.


Fifty Years in Time and Space 29: The Yeti

Doctor who: The Abominable Snowman

Doctor Who has a fervent fanbase and the BBC obviously know this - what we have here is a DVD release of a six part Doctor Who story in which only the second episode exists. The other five are missing from the archives and believed to have been junked - Wiping or junking is a colloquial term for action taken by radio and television production and broadcasting companies, in which old audiotapes, videotapes, and telerecordings (kinescopes), are erased, reused, or destroyed after several uses. The practice was prevalent during the 1960s and 1970s, although it is now less common since associated storage costs have decreased, and especially since the advent of domestic audiovisual playback technology (e.g. videocassette and DVD), with broadcasters and production houses realizing both the economic and cultural value of keeping archived material for both rebroadcast and potential profits through release on home video.

What the BBC have done in order to put this DVD onto the market is provide the missing five episodes as soundtracks, with existing stills and an all new narration. The second episode is of course show in a remastered form. It makes for a strange viewing experience and to my mind the BBC are being brazen in releasing it as a full price release, however I suppose it has historical worth particularly to fans of the show and TV historians.

It's a pity that the only surviving episode is one of the less action packed ones, but at the same time it's always great to see Pat Troughton in action - Troughton was a little before my time - Jon Pertwee was the Doctor when I was a kid - but since discovering Troughton via old reruns he has become my favourite. Everything about his scruffy little man with a Beatle-haircut image was great. The yetis do appear in this episode - looking like drunken Wombles they amble about the mountains trying to appear deadly - still, they must have looked awesome to the pre CGI generation with their tiny black and white TV sets.

Fifty Years in Time and Space 28 : Fifty Shades of Doctor Who

In stuff that shouldn't be news there is now a Doctor Who themed dildo - I kid you not! Shaped like a penis-like time vortex, with a tiny TARDIS inside which flies around  when the device is in vibraion mode.

Apparently it feels bigger on the inside!

The original dildo was made by Kristen for her Toymaker Project blog, but a leading sex toy manufacturer have taken on the design for part of their new Autumn collection - as long as they don't use the words TARDIS or Doctor Who on the product there is little the BBC can do, since the police box design comes from actual vintage British Police boxes and is not copyrighted.

The Tardis Tickler will be on sale soon.

Fifty Years in Time and Space 27 : Third Soldier from the left

Third soldier from the left.
Gary M. Dobbs

This article was originally published in SF Memories

It’s a little after six on a freezing cold January morning and I’m driving, with the utmost care I add, through the Welsh countryside – my destination RAF St. Athens’ for a days work as a background artist on the new Doctor Who. There’s an unreal feeling in the bottom of my stomach. After all, I'd been a fan of the show ever since as a seven year old I watched Jon Pertwee fighting hordes of massive spiders and then falling to his death only to regenerate into the rather gormless Tom Baker. I’d collected all the figures cut from the back of a Weetabix box and staged my own adventures on my bedroom floor, I’d attended several Dr Who exhibitions and had once had posters of Sarah Jane Smith, The Doctor and assorted monsters covering my school books. In fact I once had a cane from the headmaster (Yeah, they actually did this a long time ago during the distant days of childhood when the world was black and white. Anthony Head’s sinister headmaster from School Reunion was nothing compared to our brutal teachers.) for passing a poster around the classroom of the lovely Katy Manning draped naked around a Dalek. Ahh, those were the days!

It was strange how I got the gig. A friend had casually mentioned a friend of theirs who was getting a lot of television extra work and I asked them to find out who his agents were. They returned with a couple of telephone numbers and I promptly set about getting myself on their books.

The result – a phone call in January asking me if I was available for a days filming starting at 7:30 the following morning. It was short notice and I had other work to do but as soon as I heard the show was Doctor Who I knew I’d move mountains, shift continents or at the very least arrange a day’s cover from my regular job. I’d be there. Details were given and I tried to contain my excitement and not appear too fannish. Act professional, I kept telling myself but my blood was racing through my body and I felt like this was all a dream and any moment the bubble would burst. I would be playing a soldier and so this meant I needed to get my shoulder length hair cut. Thankfully, another friend offered the use of his own shavers and he set about giving me something called a number one – apparently this was a style much favoured by World War II POW’s, and 1970’s football hooligans; I decided there and then that I had far too many friends.

And so, looking like a cross between an aged Leeds fan and a threadbare broom, freezing my butt off and avoiding the icy patches on the roads, I neared my destination with the LOCATION signs directing me the last mile or so towards destiny.

I was gonna’ be on Doctor Who!
My imagination was racing, what would I have to do? Which monsters would I see? Would the Doctor be there? Sod that, would Rose be there? I had delusions; that the delectable Ms. Piper would not be able to resist my smouldering charms.

“As is turned out she was there and was more than capable of resistance. “

I pulled up and went to the checkpoint and gave my name to the security man. He checked his list, me peering over his shoulder and noticing the names of both David Tennant and Billy Piper. He then informed me I wasn’t listed. I would not be allowed entry to the set. Panic followed but a quick telephone call to my agent soon sorted things out. The location manager had forgotten to supply a list of the required background artists and I was allowed through and onto the set of a real live Doctor Who shoot.

There were a dozen or so other extras and we were all led to costume where we were each given a military uniform bearing the Torchwood insignia. As I was slipping into my fatigues I glanced out of the window and happened to catch sight of an actor wearing the bottom half of a Cyberman costume and my heart skipped a beat. Not only was I going to work on an episode of Doctor Who but it would contain one of the most iconic monsters in the show’s history. Damn, the Cybermen were second only to the Daleks.
It couldn’t get much better than this.

It was about to get a whole lot better.

We were then served a wonderful breakfast – all of us extras, cast, crew all crammed into a double decked bus that had been decked out with the type of tables you see in caravans. I was seated directly facing the stars of the show and I tried to appear casual as I tackled my bacon and listened to David Tennent and Billy Piper discuss Rula Lenska’s antics on Celebrity Big Brother which was currently airing on ITV1.
This was all absurd. A long time fan of the show, only a couple of years earlier I, like most other fans, had been watching the old episodes on DVD and wondering if the show would ever return and then after hearing the wonderful news that Russel Davies was finally bringing it back and sitting through thirteen wonderful episodes and one Christmas special, I was now becoming a part of this national institution. A small part granted but a part nonetheless.

Breakfast over and it was time to go to work.
It was almost like a real military parade as all us extras were led across the tarmac towards the aircraft hanger that housed the set. Once inside we were each given a futuristic looking machine gun, a side arm and a badge, which identified us as members of the Torchwood force. How cool was this!
With all the props and the uniform I was starting to feel my character and there before me stood a familiar looking blue police box. Funny I’d managed breakfast with Billy and David, taking it in my stride but I was completely star struck by the sight of the TARDIS. And I knew that as soon as it was possible I was going to sneak a look inside. Would it be bigger on the inside? Was it really only a small box? Course I knew it must have been- it was television magic that made it bigger on the inside. All the same the child inside me thought that maybe, just maybe…

We were then given directions by the stage manager. We were to be involved in a huge fight between the humans, Cybermen and Daleks.

‘Excuse me,’ I lifted a hand. ‘Did you just say Daleks?’ I asked the bemused looking stage manager.
‘I did.’ Came the stoic reply.

Oh my God – not only was I in Doctor Who, not only was I in an episode with the Cybermen but also with the Daleks. It would be the first time the two species had ever appeared on screen together. I was to be a part of something truly historic and the relevance was not lost on me. In fact, I’m sure this scenario had once been acted out on my bedroom floor with the Weetabix figures.

Moments later and we find ourselves standing before a green screen, surrounded by Daleks and Cybermen. We’re directed through events by Graham Harper, a man who seemed to be coping with carrying all this upon his shoulders, and then the action begins.

For the first take I find myself running through a laboratory shooting every which way as the Daleks and Cybermen also fire in all directions. It’s like Die Hard on steroids as SCI-FI bullets whiz above our heads. A few of the extras fall down dead but I make it to a point of cover behind a large table and once again start shooting.


We’re all keeping in position, waiting for the director to be ready for the next shot when the Dalek next to me loses control of his eyestalk and whips me on the side of the face.
‘Sorry mate.’ Comes a voice from within the pepper pot.

‘No problem.’ I said, unaware of the absurdity of the situation, and turned my attention back to the director who was talking us through the next shot. Though I think this particular Dalek must have been carrying a grudge since he would exterminate me later in the scene.

We went through this countless times and I became aware of the sheer amount of work everyone from the crew, to the actors, to the extras, to the make up department put into bringing the spectacle to the screen. Everything had to be perfect and if it wasn’t it would be repeated again and again until it was.

Between takes Dalek head pieces would open up and the human operators would appear, all wearing dark woollen hats, Cybermen would remove their masks and dance about and the director and his crew would frantically brainstorm. And while all this was going on there was another shoot taking place at the other side of the massive hanger with Billy Piper, Shaun Digwell and David Tennent shooting scenes involving crane work for episode six. I and a couple of other extras would wander over from time to time and watch and I found myself again feeling like a fan, captivated by the display of talent as the professionals went about their work. This scene would eventually appear on the screen with the Doctor, Rose and her alternative father climbing the rope ladder towards a Zeppelin with the Cyberleader in hot pursuit. It gave me a kick while watching it, later on screen, to think that while all this was going on I was standing underneath, staring up at childhood icons reinvented for the modern age.

The day ended all too soon. We finished by shooting a final scene in our regular clothes – walking through a corridor, wearing flashing earpieces as cyber controlled people being led to our doom in that shredding machine.

And so we were thanked for our hard work, reminded to sign out and hand over our props and led away as the set was wrapped up. I hung behind for a moment though and took a furtive look around. I had to look in the TARDIS and, feeling like the eleventh Doctor, I walked towards it and experienced a tiny tingle of anticipation as I reached for the door.
I pulled it open and……

Fifty Years in Time and Space 26 - Today is the Day of the Doctor

Tonight the long awaited 50th anniversary Doctor Who special will be broadcast in more than 90 countries around the world at the same time, as well as being screened in 3D in selected cinemas. A lot is expected from this episode which, we believe, deals with the time war and its aftermath.

"It's got a big emotional wallop at the end, I think fans'll be cheering." Steven Moffat

Expect a review on the Archive sometime after the showing.

Friday 22 November 2013

Fifty Years in Time and Space 25 - Those bloody spiders

Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders was the story that stopped me watching Doctor Who for many years - that's not a great way to start off a review but let me explain. It's not that this is a particularly bad episode, nor do I suffer from arachnophobia - well, no more than anybody. I can get a spider out of the bath and everything. Mind you those ones with big furry legs do creep me out a little.

Planet of the Spiders, a six part story, was originally broadcast between May and June 1974 - I was eight years old at the time and had only discovered the show the year before. I had no knowledge that any actor other than Jon Pertwee had ever played the Doctor, I don't think I'd ever heard of that regeneration thingie the producers use when they need to replace the lead actor. To me Jon Pertwee was the one and only Doctor Who, and yet at the end of this story the dashing Jon Pertwee changed into the rather goofy looking Tom Baker. I must have been puzzled, couldn't figure out what was happening but I do remember being horrified - Jon Pertwee was the Doctor not the bulging eyed intruder named Tom Baker. It was Jon Pertwee I'd watched battling the DALEKS, Autons and Dinosaurs and yet I was supposed to believe that this newcomer who looked kinda scary was now the Doctor. I wasn't swallowing it and as a result I turned away from the show and didn't return until Peter Davidson replaced Tom Baker. I think I must have been a particularly stubborn eight year old and couldn't forgive this gurning new face for replacing the real Doctor - I also remember not being amused when the real Doctor Who later turned up on the other channel (there were only two in those days - well ignoring BB2 which was beyond me at that age ) as a scarecrow. I couldn't understand why Pertwee would prefer wearing the rags of Worzel Gummidge to the frilly shirts of Doctor Who. It made no sense and I switched my allegiance to Star Trek - after all, I reasoned, it wasn't as if anyone other than William Shatner would ever play Captain Kirk, nor would he ever jump ship and turn up as some sort of uniformed cop. No, I must have figured, I was safe with Star Trek.

Of course years later, watching the Tom Baker episodes on video tape I realised that Tom's era contained some of the best ever episodes. But the fact remains that Jon Pertwee's Doctor was the first time I'd ever experienced the show and even now, Pertwee remains my favourite Doctor with Pat Troughton whom I never saw on his original run coming a close second. Mind you I have revised my opinion on Tom Baker and think he did some great stuff in the show, but deep down, where I'm still that eight year old, that old grudge is still burning strong. 

And so onto the new DVD release.

The thing with the BBC's classic Doctor Who DVD releases is that even if the story is not one of the better ones, the added extras are always superb. And this time it's a double whammy because, corny lines and dated effects aside, Planet of the Spiders is a damn good story. Or at least it is, to my mind. More fervent Who fans may have a different opinion.

The second disc is where the real interest comes in - rammed full of bonus material - among other goodies there's a commentary by Elizabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin, Barry Letts and Terrance dicks, an interesting documentary looking at Jon Pertwee's era as the Doctor, The Planet of the Spiders omnibus edition, material from the radio times and a coming soon trailer.



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