Fortitude, the new ‘must-see’ drama from Sky Atlantic is a big gamble. It’s staking the biggest budget known to man for a series of its kind – close to £30m – on a combination of beautiful scenery, big name stars and, if the evidence of the first feature-length episode is anything to go by, a combination of the scattergun-reference strategy from Lost, the ‘close community’ creepiness of Twin Peaks, and the genuinely oppressive miserableness of Nordic noir like The Killing.
Ah, but does it work?
Tony checked out the first episode of new massively expensive geek-bingo drama Fortitude.
The Seventh Doctor was never more of a mystery man than he is on Big Finish audio.
The Seventh Doctor is probably the most enigmatic incarnation since the First, and made an on screen habit of playing long and often twisted games with the lives of his companions to defeat unimaginable (and rather esoteric) enemies from the dawn of time. Big Finish has embraced that incarnation and taken it further than the imaginations of 80s TV Who audiences would ever have had the patience for.
Despite not being a particular fan of the ‘Dark Doctor’ direction of the McCoy years, Tony found an embarrassment of riches in the stories of the Seventh Doctor on Big Finish.
The Invasion of Time – a great four-parter, spread over six parts.
The Invasion of Time is one of those curious, courageous things – a six-part Doctor Who story. Some of the best stories in the show’s early history were six-parters – from The Dalek Invasion of Earth through Power of the Daleks and Web of Fear, to The Sea Devils and The Green Death, to Genesis of the Daleks, The Seeds of Doom and The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Then there are those other six-parters: the ones that make you scratch your head and think ‘Really? They needed nearly three hours to do this?’
Tony takes a look back at when things all went a bit weird for the Sontarans -when they launched The Invasion of Time.
‘I say, Jeeves, must you always be creeping up on a blighter like one of those bally automaton fellows? Now listen and attend to the young master, and I shall update you on the circs as regards The Auntie Matter.’
Tony remembered that time when Doctor Who did PG Wodehouse – The Auntie Matter.
Here to save the world from potassium deficiency – it’s Bananaman!
There are some comedy shows which translate around the world in the blink of an eye – Monty Python, Mr Bean. Then there are shows which translate with a bit of panel-beating to make them more user-friendly – Steptoe (Sandford) and Son, Coupling (Moffat!).
This year, we apparently get to see whether a particular flavor of 80s, distinctly British, nuttiness will translate around the world, when Bananaman the movie hits screens, so it’s probably an opportune moment to take a look back at the blue-and-yellow wunderkind of doolally, rapid-fire silliness, as he was born and ruled his tiny corner of the British psyche.
Tony paid tribute to a childhood hero who’s also a good source of potassium – the one, the only – Bananaman.
The Daleks as I first knew them – threatening the nice blonde lady in the scarf.
When two writers with absolutely opposite styles come together, the result can be an enormous car crash. Keeping that in mind, Destiny of the Daleks is actually something of a masterpiece of unlikely triumphs, let down by the peskiness of logic and faintly unfortunate late-70s BBC production values.
Tony Shows a little love to Destiny of the Daleks, a much-derided story, but the one that first turned him into a proper, full-on Whovian.
Mr Selfridge is what happens if you smash The West Wing and Downton Abbey together – but base it in the life of a real historical figure. In this case, that figure is Harry Gordon Selfridge, the American shopkeeper par excellence whose signature store on London’s Oxford Street is the White House of commerce in this story. At the time, during the 1910s, it was the biggest and arguably finest such ‘department store’ in the world.
Tony warmed up the crowd for the return of a dazzling prime-time drama – Mr Selfridge is back.
The Sixth Doctor in both his onscreen coat of many colours, and the blue variant he wears in later Big Finish stories.
The Sixth Doctor has long been heralded as the big success of the Big Finish audio world. Whether that’s just a joyful rebuttal of the verdict on his TV stories, or whether he really does outshine all other Doctors in the audio environment is a matter for individual Whovians to settle to their own satisfaction. One thing is objectively true though – there are some cracking Sixth Doctor stories on audio.
Tony continued his slew of recommendation in the world of audio Who by picking a handful of the best stories from the Sixth Doctor on Big Finish audio.
Rebecca Williams. International megastar. And my mate.
I just posted a news story about it being Tom Baker’s 81st birthday today, and realised I hadn’t really though that through. You see, while I bow to no-one in my admiration for Mr Baker, I have someone of staggering talent and breathtaking personality much closer to home who also happens to celebrate her birthday today.
I’m talking about Rebecca Williams.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you may be a bit of a geek, and so may not know who she is. If on the other hand you happen to follow the World Rally Championship, you’re probably swooning right now and calling me a lucky bastard (she has something of a fan base). Yes, I mean that Rebecca Williams. And yes, I real-life know her.
Rebecca Williams is a journalist, broadcaster, honey-voiced vocal artist and in specialised circles, a bit of an international megastar. She’s also my friend.
You know that feeling you get the first time you meet someone truly extraordinary? Not just common-or-garden extraordinary, but the kind of extraordinary that leaves you with your mouth hanging open and your brain double-checking – ‘Wait, did that really just happen?’
That’s the feeling you get the first time you meet Rebecca Williams. I was a teenager, volunteering in a local hospital radio station when this child with hair the colour of hellfire, eyes a ridiculous whirlpool blue and a personality like a benevolent punch in the face breezed in, introduced herself, made everyone in the room smile and breezed right the hell out again. This, I thought, is a kid worth getting to know.
One of the best instinctive judgments of my life, that. We got to know each other more and more, and, at this remove she’s perfectly aware that as I happened at the time to be in my ‘scheming Machiavellian bastard’ phase, I threw various notes of chaos into her teenaged life, mostly as a way of keeping us both interested and keeping us on the same side.
We held teenaged crisis briefings at my house or hers to sort out her insanely tangled life, and at one point, we were writing a book together. It came from a moment of sharing the same sense of humour about, of all things, contaminated custard slices, and I swear to this day it’s the thing I’ve written that makes me laugh most in the world. Sure, everyone else hates it, but in a way, that makes it even better to me.
Rebecca’s gone on to entrance a generation of Rally fans around the world, but she still technically lives here in Merthyr, near her mum, because above all, and beyond the intellect and the skill, beyond the incredible personal maturity I’ve seen her show in her life, refusing to be trapped or boxed or accept only pre-determined options for her life, beyond the fantastic capacity for silliness and the autumn sunshine laugh, Rebecca’s got one of the best hearts I’ve ever seen. No matter what, she’s got time for people, for her family, for her fans, for her friends around the world.
So on this day of celebration that she’s here on this planet at the same time as the rest of us, I figured it was time to say a thank you. ‘S’been a ride so far, Bec. Happy birthday, and here’s to the fabulous future, daaaaahling!