Posted in Comics n Stuff

Weathering the Storm: Sympathy for the Devil

One of the advantages of a shared fictional universe is the picking up of someone else’s toys to do more with them than their creators got around to. Whilst the appeal of creator owned IP and stories does tend to speak for itself, being able to take interesting characters from someone else’s mind and taking them in new places can lead to interesting stories too. The mini-series Point Blank and the follow-up maxi-series Sleeper were excellent examples of how this can be done, whilst still adding new characters to it.

Point Blank was released in August 2002. Written by Ed Bubaker with pencils by Colin Wilson, it told the tale of Cole ‘Grifter’ Cash, a member of the WildC.A.T.S who was helping out another Team 7 alum Jack Lynch who was searching the underworld for information on an old protege of his called Holden Carver. Carver has started working for Tao (Tactically Augmented Organism) a former member of Wild.C.A.T.S whose intelligence usually dwarves everyone around him. Part way through the series, Lynch is shot in the head and everyone lost and confused, with the exception of Tao, who is ruling his growing little criminal syndicate that no one knows exists.

This thread was picked back up in Sleeper #1 a couple of months later. Brubaker returned and this time was joined by Sean Phillips who carried the story forward by focusing on Holden Carver, who it turned out was working for Tao on an undercover assignment from Lynch. With Lynch in a coma following his gunshot, Carver is trapped as only Lynch is aware of the assignment and the whole world thinks he’s gone over to the bad guys.

Sleeper carried on in the superhero noir style of Point Blank, but this told a more spy-themed story. Holden was affected by a piece of alien tech and could no longer feel anything, but could conduct pain and damage to other people. Cut off from his friends, his fiancee and even his own body, he must become more of his cover to survive.

This is a tense series full of twists and turns, friends become enemies and back again and you can see how this wears on the main character. We also get treats of characters like XXX-Ray, a coward who is kept around because he can see through anything. Genocide Jones, who’s back story sort of explains why he is such a violent and nihilistic soul. The standout star of these new characters is Miss Misery, who maintains her health and vitality by doing things she knows are wrong. Theft, violence, sex with the wrong people and even being verbally cruel, it’s what she needs to do to stay alive, literally.

It never gives you the idea that Holden is a hero, his talent of surviving means he is capable of committed horrible crimes to protect his cover and the mission and as his safe extraction and exoneration become more and more unlikely, Holden starts to blur the line between posing as a criminal and actually being one. Is he a talented survivor? Or is he more like the bad guys than he wants to admit, in fact as he learns more about his former employers, he starts seeing less and less of a difference between the two of them and his options to survive this whole thing is becoming limited.

All told, this series is a lot of fun and the whole story from soup to nuts is 25 issues (or 5 tpbs) long and is purely and simply self-contained. To be honest, the first trade (Point Blank) is not essential to understand or enjoy Sleeper, which for the most part is its own thing. Either way it’s a solid and engaging story from a writer with form of crime/spy/noir stories that are high quality and an art team perfectly suited for the genre they find themselves in.

I have re-read this series recently and 3rd or 4th time I still enjoyed it. Looking forward to looking into some more WildStorm hits of yesteryear.

Posted in Uncategorized

5 more theme tunes that transcend

Well here are some more tv ear worms for your enjoyment. Clips courtesy of YouTube

The Flintstones

The Flintstones was the first real success in adapting a sitcom into an animated show. Another example is Top Cat. This was an adaptation of the Honeymooners and one of the early fat guy with inexplicably hot wife set ups that continues to this day. The tune though is memorable and when the show was adapted to a live action film, the tune was released as a single. Also, who wouldn’t want to leave work that way?

Rawhide

I have never seen an episode of the TV show Rawhide. Westerns aren’t my thing and I am not as old as all that. But I knew the tune and it’s fun. Then I was watching the film the Blues Brothers and here it was again.

The A-Team

In 1972 a crack commando unit …… It conjures a tale of betrayed heroes and rising action and was much like the show, larger than life and an almost cartoon like spectacle. It showed up again in the ubiquitous live action film and also in the sitcom Spaced and if you are of a certain age, the staccato gunshots showing the opening titles with bring a Saturday afternoon smile.

Ally McBeal

This was a suggestion by the MIGHTY Rosie and I am not sure I agree, but it is a testament to this shows popularity and its watchability, because I hated this tune. Much like the A-Team however, the opening bit gets a smile.

Spider-Man

Is there any way at all that this wasn’t going here? It’s a tune 🎶 that people who have never seen the show know. Almost more that Batman it’s the super hero show tune people think of the most. It’s appeared on film, on TV and more. The show has also made it to memes, but that’s another story

Well that’s all folks, these are the ones I thought of, but clearly I missed some. Let me know which ones internet people, am counting on you.

TTFN

Posted in TV Stuff

5 Theme tunes that transcend the show

One of the most endearing elements of the television show is the opening credits. This is becoming something of a dying art, with shorter openings and some shows having no theme tune to go with it. Some tunes do so well that just hearing it brings the show back to mind, Cheers had Where everybody knows your name, almost a perfect theme tune.

For me, some go beyond that, transcending the show that they are opening and get to a point where you remember the tune far more than the show.

Monkey

This one might just be personal to me, very few people I know even remember this show. But this tune often floats around in my head. When re-designing the site, I used a line from this song ‘funkiest monkey there ever was’ as a sort of sub-title. It was catchy and fun and sticks in my head better than the show ever did.

Knight Rider

Beyond the show that catapulted ‘the Hoff’ to megastardom, it was a show with one of the best mood setting tunes in TV history. The tune has been repurposed several times, a memorable one is part of Busta Rhyme’s ‘Fire it up!’ and that brought the tune back to prominence again. To describe how this lives rent free in my head, all I need say is that it’s my alarm tune. I hear it 5 days per week and am glad of it.

Batman

Nana nana nana nana Batman! It’s become a meme. It’s been a joke for a long time, but you know it. When you think of comic book stuff on TV, it’s one of the first you think of. Whenever comic related stuff was discussed in mainstream news, the sound effects from this show appear to highlight it’s silliness. That said, it was supposed to be camp and silly and when viewed through that lens is exactly what it should be and has the theme song to match.

Scooby Doo, where are you?

This is another one that might just be me. but the song and it’s opening credits stick in my head more so that the show ever did. Despite there being dozens of movies and shows featuring the most famous Great Dane and his human side-kicks, this is the one that they are all based on, or are all compared to.

Friends

“Well no one told you life was going to be this waaayyyy.’ and with that, you’re already clapping

One of those theme tunes that hit the charts and became synonymous with the show and yet more still. Can’t say anymore than that really.

Well that’s what’s been rolling around my head for the past few days. I will no doubt think of more and do an unnecessary sequel before too long.

Ttfn Internet people,

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Weathering the Storm: Not quite super heroes

One of the things I mentioned in my last look at the WildStorm Universe was the absence of the traditional super-heroic tropes. There were heroes in this universe, costumes, code-names and villains, but often the heroes weren’t really that. One comic where that difference was more delineated was StormWatch.

StormWatch was a series launched in 1993 about the UN created crisis intervention team. These were more soliders and law enforcement types that had super-powers rather than masked vigilantes. Most of the team’s operatives were altered by radiation produced by a comet passing by Earth that blanketed the entire world, meaning that the team was truly international. The operatives were grouped into 4/5-man teams that were numbered. StormWatch 1, StormWatch 2 etc. The operatives were seedlings found by an activator called Christine Trelane (call-sign Synergy) and trained by team trainer Marc Slayton (call-sign Backlash) and they worked under the organisations leader Henry Bendix (known as the Weatherman) and there were dozens of support staff operating out of an orbital station called Skywatch. With the primary colours on the support staff uniforms and the bald leader it all looks very Star Trek. The comic mostly featured StormWatch 1, which was originally comprised of Battalion, Winter, Hellstrike, Fuji and Diva, but other cast members included Cannon, Fahrenheit, Flint, Swift and Strafe (Battalion’s younger brother) as well as several others, from several other places around the world. The international flavour really helped set the book apart as did the fact that they were more soliders than super-heroes and had no problems dealing out death to their enemies when the situation called for it. Over the next three years the series became a bit bland and lacked anything to make it stand out. Then in the story Fire from the Sky, some former team-mates (Flashpoint, Sunburst and Nautika) came back into the team and the team was betrayed and for the most part decimated.

In the wake of that story, a new writer was brought on board with the remit of shaking the title up and making it something different from everything else. In came current wunderkind Warren Ellis (now, I am aware of the reputation this writer has and the numerous allegations against him. I personally have decided not to buy anything new that bears his name, because I do not want to endorse this man or put money his way, but at the time this wasn’t a thing that was known to many) who in one issue changed the title and the direction of the WildStorm Universe as a whole. After the funeral of Flashpoint, Henry ‘the Weatherman’ Bendix reorganises the teams. Backlash having gone many years past, he puts Battalion into the trainer job, so his relationship with Synergy can be allowed, Sunburst and Nautika (a married couple) are also taken off the team and become consultants. Fuji and Hellstrike work under Winter in the main team of StormWatch Prime. Bendix then recruits the murder machine known as Rose Tattoo to work with Flint under Fahrenheit as part of StormWatch Red, used for reprisals and more violent actions. He recruits spirit of the 20th century Jenny Sparks and Jack Hawksmoor, a man who is bio-engineered to live in cities join Swift in StormWatch Black, the black-ops/espionage division. Sparks was born in 1900 and has lived through the 20th century, seemingly not aging since the 1920s. She’s bitter, drunk and cockney (Ellis had a habit of putting a character like that in every book he did) as well as having been a super-hero at least twice. This more cynical character matched the feel of the book from here. These 9 ‘heroes’ took on aliens, terrorists and rogue states in lethal ways as Bendix worked in the shadows with his own agenda. This comes to a head at the end of the 4th year. This led to a larger story and a relaunch.

StormWatch vol 2, well that’s a different story.

Posted in TV Stuff

5 Hidden Gems of 90s Films

Due to stuff related to home, I have been going through my admittedly expansive DVD collection. It left me with the idea that there are a lot of fun films both in my collection and not that came out in the 90s and are ignored or undervalued. These aren’t parts of large franchises, or huge blockbusters, but are films I both have enjoyed and feel deserve a bit of recognition for being a lot of fun.

Lets start with an obscure one – Cold-blooded

This was a bit of a dark comedy from 1995. Directed by Wallace Wolodarsky and had Jason Priestly, Kimberley Williams-Paisley, Peter Riegert and Robert Loggia. It’s about bookie working for the mob who is promoted to apprentice hitman, given his calm and dispassionate nature, he’s very good at it. He’s also trying to have a relationship with a yoga teacher and work out what it is he should be doing. It’s a charming film that I don’t know if anyone else has seen.

Dark City

Written and directed by Alex Proyas and featuring acting talent of Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt and the always fun Richard O’Brien. This is a story that plays with concepts of memory, free will and perception as beings known as Strangers meddle with the memory of the denizens of some unnamed city where it’s always night, as they try to find something and when they find it, things get even more strange.

Mallrats

After the critical smash of Clerks, Writer/Director Kevin Smith was given a budget, access to a set in daylight and a larger cast of actors to make his second film. This second film did not do well at the box office. Comic obsessed slacker Brodieman Bruce and his best friend TS visit their local mall to win back their ex-girlfriends through a series of escapades with a variety of bizarre characters in their New Jersey town. Starring a cast of Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Michael Rooker, Ethan Suplee, Claire Forlani and the legend that is the late Stan Lee, this is a fun and foul mouthed romp that while sank like a stone at the time, found it’s audience on DVD and late night TV. I watched this before seeing the movie Clerks and honestly as a result it has more of a place in my heart. It also gave the world a number of quotable moments, one of my favourite exchanges being “…screw her in an uncomfortable place.”

“What? Like the back of a Volkswagen?” 27 years on, still makes me giggle.

Gattaca

This was a small almost Outer Limits style story, written and directed by Andrew Niccol that was given a budget and a tremendous cast including Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, Uma Thurman, Jayne Brook, Elias Koteas, Tony Shaloub and Alan Arkin. It’s a sepia tinged future were designer babies are the norm, their paid for genes being all they need to have to succeed and anyone born less than perfect, or even born naturally are considered in-valid, creating a two tier system. This genetics based aparthied allegory is the story of Vincent, an in-valid who borrows a crippled man’s superior genes and identity to become an astronaut, but as his launch day nears, his lies begin to unravel as a murder opens his workplace to the police. This is sci-fi with thought and tension and keeps your interest in the story throughout.

The Fifth Element

Luc Besson brought us this neon-flavoured chunk of space opera in 1997. We get a story about an ancient evil, the hero/saviour trying to save us from it and the more of less regular guy caught up in the whole thing. I know, so far, so Star Wars. But two things up it from such a limited idea. The first is humour. This is a funny film with several comedy moments and ludicrous ideas being thrown out. Even Chris Tucker and Lee Evans, two ‘comedians’ I struggle to stand doing their mugging to the camera and manufactured zaniness work in this world adding fun to a usually po-faced type of story. The other thing that this has is production design. This film looks like nothing you have ever seen before. It is neon and bright and yet somehow relatable. It gives us a grimy future, but still one with promise. The cast is amazing, a still fun Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman being bizarre and in fact the whole cast is amazing. The story is fairly basic and there’s the odd problematic thing here and there, but it’s a fun slice of sci-fi action that looks nothing like anything else that was out there at the time.

So there, 5 underappreciated films of the 1990s, since starting this, 3 or 4 more have to come to mind and I’m guessing that there may be a sequel in here somewhere, but with so much going on, both personally, nationally and globally, I suppose I wanted a bit of comfort food for the soul and a good hidden gem is exactly what was needed.

I will be back internet people, I don’t know what to say yet, but I didn’t when I started writing this post either.

TTFN

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

5 90’s Comic Book Films

It is hard to imagine in the days of the MCU and the DCEU that a vast array of comic book related movies is still a relatively new concept. Go back 15 years and there was a glut of them of varying quality, 10-15 years before that and it’s still varying quality, but there is only a few of them, which meant it was easier to see them all. That said there was some quality in there.

Most of the ones I chose had a very pulp heroes feel to it, with only one being a traditional super-hero from the big two. The was less product, but more variety, which is a bit sad.

First up is…..

The Rocketeer: 1991 – Dir Joe Johnstone

This is not so much an adaptation, but an homage to republic serials of the 30’s like ‘King of the Rocketmen’ and has been adapted to comics several times since. This is a genuinely fun film, suited for a bank holiday afternoon. It’s a period piece, set in that sweet-spot between the pulp heroes era, the start of the golden age of comics and before the second world war. The cast are fantastic with stand-outs being Jennifer Connelly, who does her best with the thankless ‘damsel in distress’ role and Timothy Dalton taking whole chunks out of the scenery. It’s a sort of film that doesn’t get made anymore and we are sadder for it.

The Shadow: 1994 Dir Russel Mulcahy

Before he was known as a Trump imitator, a comedy performer and a guy famed for his anger, Alec Baldwin was something of a leading man. Here he stars as Lamont Cranston, a criminal searching for redemption posing as a rich dilettante by day and crime fighting mystery man called the Shadow at night. Able to cloud the minds of men and alter his face he battles criminals with his skills, his guns and a network of people who owe him their lives. He battles a descendent of Genghis Khan in 1930’s New York while romancing Margo Lane. A lot of it is silly, but this is again a fun film that doesn’t ask much of you and is a lot of fun beside.

Batman 🦇 Forever: 1995 Dir Joel Shumacher

After the culture phenom that was Tim Burton’s Batman films, Warner Bros went in a different direction for the follow up. Gone was the gothic themes and quirky performances and here was something a bit more camp and over the top. Val Kilmer does an okay job as Bruce Wayne and Batman and Jim Carrey channels his inner Frank Gorshin to give us an energetic Riddler. There are missteps, but honestly this is a comic book on the big screen and if you wanted nuance, realism and coherence in your comic adaptations, then you were not reading comics in the 1990’s. Comparing this to Batman, or Batman Returns shows the films flaws, compare it to Batman & Robin and it starts looking like Citizen Kane.

The Phantom: 1996 Dir Simon Wincer

This was one of the last of those campy superhero-esque films of that decade. Billy Zane dons the purple (yes purple) tights of Kit Walker, the current iteration of the Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks. Battling pirates, mercenaries and corrupt businessmen in the 1930’s this film feels in keeping with Rocketeer and the Shadow and is again a lot of fun. Zane is not the best actor, but he gives it his all and this puts some earnestness to the character that carries him across the finish line. The Phantom is an interesting character and it’s a shame that this under-appreciated classic didn’t lead to more of a series of films, maybe exploring this past and future of the ghost who walks.

Blade: 1998 Dir Stephen Norrington

This was one of the films that changed the who comic book movie genre forever. Blade was a side character in the critical darling Tomb of Dracula comic by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. New Line took the idea from the comic, jettisoned some of the more 70’s ideas and added some stuff and out came this fun and violent action-horror. Wesley Snipes owns the screen as Blade, a half-vampire/half-human who craving for blood is curbed by a serum and with the vengeance obsessed Whistler fights a nightly battle against a subculture of vampires whose daytime familiars cover up their existence. When a haematologist is turned, Blade becomes personally involved just as Deacon Frost, the vampire who turned his mother, altering him in-utero is trying to change the nature of the vampire/human world. This is a lot of fun, action, some comedy and body horror that put a marvel property on the big screen and made some money. When other studios started paying attention we got the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises and the rest is history.

So that was 5 comic booky movies from the 90’s, all of them are worth checking out if you just want some mindless fun that’s better than you expect it will be.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Weathering the Storm: The foundation

When 7 of Marvel Comics’ most popular and valuable pencillers left to form their own company, it started something and that thing became so much bigger than those original 7 people. Two of the 7, Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee were almost immediately capitalising on their initial success by expanding their creator owned titles into expanding shared universe comics, much like Marvel and DC had done. I imagine looking into Extreme studios and their books would be interesting, but for me Wildstorm was where the interesting things were found.

I wrote this about the first series released, WildC.A.T.S Covert Action Teams 1, but this initial few issues had elements that would become larger part of this new universe  (no  not that one) and done so in a manner that seemed organic. IO, Jack Lynch,  Team 7, the Daemonites,  the Kherubim and more all were introduced to be expanded upon later.

So the concepts that were fundamental to the Wildstorm universe were…..

The Kherubim/Daemonite war. Two space ships (opposing sides in a war) crashland on Earth 🌍 in ancient times, the human looking Kherubim passing as locals and moving through history like the cast of Highlander.  While imperious, they generally like humans and separately from one another, help where they can. The Daemonites possess humans and live on them as parasites building power and amassing influence as part of a cabal. Its a micro of Marvel’s Kree and Skrull, just limited to one planet and cut off from their warring brethren.

Team 7 and their descendants: Many of the main characters/teams were connected to the special forces Team 7 years earlier. Wetworks’ Jackson Dane, Wild.C.A.T.S’ Grifter, Backlash, Deathblow and IO’s Jack Lynch amongst others were all members and were involved in lots of different adventures which had repercussions that echoed in 20 years later.

Gen-Factor, seedlings and alien s**t: There was usually only a handful of ways to possess superpowers.  1 – Alien or alien interference were nonterrestrial technology or biology is what made someone super. Most of WildC.A.T.S fell into this category. 2 – the seedlings. A comet passed by Earth 🌍 soaking it in radiation, this left them and their descendants possessing the potential to develop superpowers.  These seedling based SPBs (super powered beings) were the majority or the UN special ops group Stormwatch. This prevented the ideas of metas or mutants being too prevalent a thing.  3 – Gen-factor was a mutagenic process which altered many of Team 7 and their children.  The sons and daughters of Team 7 were brought into Project Genesis and several of them fell into the group known as Gen-13.  The benefit here was reasons why there were SPBs without the plethora of variety of metas that Marvel and DC had.

More espionage and sci-fi, less long underwear characters:  International Operations, Stormwatch, the Cabal and other shadowy organisations were the order of the day. Spy-fi and cyberpunk over Silver Age silliness. This was super heroes without heroes, like a lot of Image properties, but with time, a lot of the cliches fell into well realised stories.

So much of the Wildstorm titles had one or more of these elements and it gave the universe a feel that was different to what else was on offer and added the illusion of depth and history that you need to make this sort of thing work and some good titles and stories came out if it

How about all of you, do you remember Wildstorm fondly? What titles did you like? What didn’t work for you.

Posted in Mental Health Struggles

I am literally smaller

This last year, have had to do some work on me. Over the last few years I have sort of lost myself. When my breakdown happened nearly ten years ago now, I lost myself all at once and had to work very hard to get back. It took medication, therapy, support and time to do that and get myself back to a similar place than I had been before. But the thing is, that wasn’t entirely the goal. In truth, I never got back to where I was, I had aged, changed and taken on new responsibilities and outlooks and looking back, it feels like I got to some place after a lot of work, but then needed to do some more work to get to a better place and kind of didn’t, I just carried on.

This has cost me, but that’s neither here, nor there. The point is, I am not where I want to be and this has left me very unhappy. So one of the things I have neglected is my health. So I had replaced my glasses (after a dog-related mishap) and am now wearing old man glasses (varifocals) and as per this post I have found a new physical activity to keep me active and able to set and achieve goals. The one thing I have yet to work on is food. I am overweight and one of the things I have learned about myself is that I have unhealthy habits and issues in regard to food. I know, a shock. Who would have thought a middle-aged man with self esteem issues and a sedimentary lifestyle would also have weight issues, I mean I was surprised. I am both a stress/comfort eater and also have portion control issues. So a lot of times I struggle with diets, I even tried slimming world a couple of times. Whilst I had a great rep at slimming world, with it’s focus of balance and not on portion, I was able to eat more even when doing well and so when I fell out of good habits (and we always do) I was used to eating more and as a result, I gained more weight than I had lost.

So nothing was working, not that I was trying all that much. As always when a good idea is needed, the MIGHTY Rosie stepped in and suggested a thing she was doing. It was one of those meal replacement things. Now we’ve all seen the adverts for slimf@$t and all that, but this isn’t quite the same and it did offer a solution to my biggest problems, snacking and portion control. With only a smoothie for breakfast and lunch, it was only tea that offered an issue and I could plan one healthy meal a day. But there’s also a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack which are very calorie controlled and mostly down to a list of prefered options. There is also a person to talk to and a group that you meet with, but it’s very drop in and out, stay for 5 minutes or half and hour, it’s up to you. With their support/products and as always the support of the MIGHTY Rosie I have been on this program for a bit over 3 weeks, dropping in every 2/3 days to be weighed and pick stuff up. Yes, it’s a bit of a racket in that you only get the products from your supplier and yes it isn’t cheap, but based on my existing costs per day in food, it actually ends up saving a little bit of money.

But here’s the thing, it works.

The structure of it helps with my obsessive side, I am either eating or drinking every few hours and I am enjoying food in a manner I have not in years. It’s not comfort, it’s food. But numbers are proof and in that, I have lost in overall size 21cm (or 8 1/4 inches in old money) and 9cm of that off my belly. I am also 9kg (19.84lb in old money) lighter as of this morning. I have a more positive outlook and am feeling good. I recognise it’s a small thing, but this feels like a small thing that has made a positive impact on my life and we could all do with a bit of that.

Ttfn Internet People, will have something to actually say soon

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Weathering the Storm: Introduction

A while back as a sort of retrospective, I looked at Image Comics, 30 years from it’s launch back in the spring/summer of 1992, the post is here.

The studio/line that I was more drawn to was Jim Lee’s Wildstorm. Launched by WildC.A.T.S. (Covert Action Teams) it soon blossomed into a shared fictional universe as complex as anything early Marvel/DC did and with it’s own rules, tropes and cast of characters. With DC trying again to integrate these properties into the DCU (it hasn’t gone great before) I wanted to have a look at the comics, the characters and titles that shaped this line and why it was I so enjoyed it. I want to look at characters, stories and titles that made me enjoy this so much and also ask, where did it go wrong, or did it?

But my first question is to you all, do you remember the initial Wildstorm series and the ones that followed, are you nostalgic for them, feel they weren’t good or that they haven’t stood the test of time.

Posted in TV Stuff

Calling for a Doctor: William Hartnell part 1

Doctor Who started with the remit of putting something on telly between the sport and Juke Box Jury on a Saturday night in the early 1960’s. This was a bit of a gap where families were sitting down together after a day doing whatever and this could cause them to move to the other channel and cost the British Broadcasting Corporation millions of viewers in this nascent field of television.

Produced by Verity Lambert, it was conceived as a show that could be fun, exciting and educational, showcasing science and history in a new and engaging light. It had a modest budget to go along with the modest capacity of special effects of the time, but it had so much heart it pulled it together and produced something a little bit special.

Episode 1: An Unearthtly Child aired on 23 November 1963 and told the tale of school teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Lewis, who were discussing an odd student they both teach called Susan Foreman. She seems at odds with current fashions and concepts, yet is far advanced in science and in history. She seems amazingly bright and yet also lacking the most basic of knowledge that children her age should know. To make matters worse, her home address is just an old junk yard. Feeling concerned and yes a bit nosey, Ian and Barbara go to check it out. Through misunderstandings, they force themselves inside what appears to be a Police Box, a common enough sight at the time, but inside is a large room, too large to fit inside the box. (The first depiction of “it’s bigger on the inside”)

Susan’s only family member is her abrasive and mysterious grandfather who only identifies himself as the Doctor. He gives no name and precious little other information either. Whilst the teachers try to get answers off him, hearing only that he is from neither this place or time, their argument is ended when this ship, which Susan calls TARDIS lights up and with an eerie noise vanishes from the junk yard and appears in a wasteland. The TARDIS is still a Police Box, which concerns the Doctor greatly.

What follows is a story with people from the future interacting with cave people, desperate to learn the secret of fire. Ian raises himself up as an early leader of this group, whilst the Doctor is not shown as friendly, or even really a good man. At one point, he considers killing a captive they have to help them move more quickly and stay safer. Finally this motley foursome make it back to the ship and travel away, finding themselves on a world and time unknown to all of them and as they leave to explore, the Geiger counter (or whatever TARDIS have in its place) shows an alarming amount of radiation outside. They may not be in the caveman era, but they are neither home, nor are they safe.

What was the Doctor Like?

With no particular mould to fit into, in a show that hasn’t really settled on the Doctor as your protagonist, there was no reason to treat the Doctor as a hero and he isn’t. In the first episode he wants little to do with humanity, his staying on Earth in the 1960’s is simply to indulge his granddaughter. He wants to be left alone and as a result is very combative with the two stowaways. Ian and Barbara are in the way and he wants rid of them and I suppose that makes him just as much as stowaway as they are once all of them are forced together through circumstance. But despite his prickly and abrasive demeanour, he is devoted to his granddaughter. Their interactions are genuine and loving. Hartnell doesn’t make his Doctor particularly likeable, but he does give you hints that there’s a good man in there. He’s far from the jovial 4th Doctor, or the charming 10th, but you imagine you can see how to get from one to the others.

What is the story like?

The problem with TV from years gone by is length. Modern Doctor Who operates on a 44min 1 episode story model, at most an 88 minute 2 parter, whilst classic Doctor Who was based on a 25 minute episode, 4-6 part story model and this creates some pacing issues in comparison. They group are captured several times and the main themes and ideas are laid out for the audience several times. It was jarring, but you re-think that as a problem when you realise it was a show that had to appeal to children and maybe a bit of spoon-feeding of plot might not be such a bad thing.

Outside of that, there’s the dialogue, which as for the time is clunky and expositional and the performances are often melodramatic, but in this heightened world that also fits in. William Russell is a good leading man, trying to be both a man of action as well as a thinking man, trying to take care of these people he’s found himself marooned with. The jeopardy feels real and earned and each character has a moment to take the spotlight.

It’s not Doctor Who as I know if, but if there’s anything the show can do it’s reinvent itself. All you need is the basics, a traveller in time and space, a blue box, trouble and people who need help. Everything else can be changed.

I am going to carry on with his and hope to see where this character goes and more importantly what happens next.