Saturday, 5 July 2008


Babylon 5
1x17 Legacies

Doctor Who [classic]
The TV Movie (aka The Enemy Within) [4th watch]
See here for my thoughts on this story.

Doctor Who [new]
4x13 Journey's End [season finale]
See here for my thoughts on this story. [coming soon]

2x12 Partners in Crime

Wimbledon 2008
A fair bit of 14-year-old Brit Laura Robson beating Noppawan Lertcheewakarn to the girls' singles title. Hurray for the British! Also, the Incredible Hulk had two matches. I didn't watch either.

Near the end of Wimbledon they had a bank of four trailers... all for Olympics-related programmes. Dear God, it's going to be a bad summer. At least the football's over.


24: Based On the Hit TV Series by J.C. Vaughn, Mark L. Haynes, Renato Guedes & Manny Clark
Collection of the first three 24 one-shot comics, including One Shot, Midnight Sun and Stories. See here for my thoughts on all three.

Dan Dare (Collector's Edition / Oversized UK Edition) by Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine
Chapters 1 - 3 [the end]
See here for my thoughts on this book.

"24: Based On the Hit TV Series" by J.C. Vaughn, Mark L. Haynes, Renato Guedes & Manny Clark

24: Based On the Hit TV Series is a collection of the first three 24 tie-in comics. It includes:

24: One Shot by J.C. Vaughn, Mark L. Haynes & Renato Guedes
You might think 24's split screen style could lend itself to comics, especially with the potential to depict terrorist attacks unachievable on TV, or, conversely, tell more contained, dramatic tales than a Fox action show would attempt. But no. This, the first 24 tie-in comic, tells of Jack Bauer's first day at CTU, so it's set before season one, before his affair with Nina (you see them meet for the first time), etc etc. Unfortunately, it tries & fails to replicate the 24-hour format, it's padded out (numerous pointless frames), the dialogue's poor, the story implausible, the art heavily photo-referenced, the colouring like Photoshopped photos... Hopefully the other two tales will be better.

24: Midnight Sun by J.C. Vaughn, Mark L. Haynes & Renato Guedes
The creative team from One Shot return for this story, set between the show's second and third seasons, and only bring some of their previous faults with them. Guedes' art is definitely improved: it's done 'properly' this time out, with improved colouring to boot, and while this sometimes means you have to guess which character Chase is, everyone else is clear. The storyline is more engrossing and better handled than the last, with fewer pointless frames, though some still repeat the same image for no good reason.

The permanent daylight of the Alaskan setting is a good concept, but 24 always seems to work best after dark, and this plot is a bit action-light. The villains aren't especially menacing, and there are times when the writers seem to just be playing out male fantasies -- for example, when Jack's undercover, the women all support him while the men distrust him, and at least one attractively-drawn girl is apparently happy to be sleeping with a middle-aged balding geek. Better than before, then, but still far from essential.

24: Stories by J.C. Vaughn, Mark L. Haynes & Manny Clark
The final one-shot in the collection is also set before season three, during the time Jack was undercover with the Salazar drug cartel. They send him to LA on an errand, where he gets caught up in a hotel siege by a Chechan liberation group. Vaughn & Haynes' script is passable though not exemplary, as before, while Clark's art is unusual: unquestionably edited together from photos, which have then either been treated or painted over (or both) -- if you've ever played Max Payne, think of the comic strip cut scenes from that. It's an effective idea for TV tie-ins, but an odd style to get used to as a reader.

So, taken as a collection, it seems 24 doesn't really convert very well to the comics medium -- at least not in this incarnation. A second 24 graphic novel has been released that tells the story of Operation Nightfall, the mission Jack performed several years before the start of season one that directly led to all of that season's events. Hopefully, with a whole book to play with and a story less bound to the show's normal generic structure, the creative team on that came up with something better.

"Dan Dare" (Collector's Edition / Oversized UK Hardcover) by Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine

This volume collects the first three issues of Virgin Comics' Dan Dare revival, written by Preacher scribe Garth Ennis, in which an older Dan Dare is brought out of retirement to help defend Earth from a reappearance of his arch-nemesis, the Mekon. In this respect it seems primarily aimed at long-term Dare fans, as many of the early character reveals and past references are near meaningless (I only understood some thanks to Ennis' introduction, while others surely passed me by).

The book's quality is disappointingly mixed in just about every respect: Ennis attempts to mix obvious commentary on our current political situation with pro-British high adventure (not a comfortable pairing), while Erskine's art is variable -- some panels are great, but often his proportions are off and it's occasionally tricky to follow who's who from frame to frame. It's helped by Parasuraman A.'s colours though, which are suitably modern. Also, despite being a British hero, from a British author, launched by an originally British company, at the behest of its British founder/owner (Branson is even quoted on the cover), the book still has irritating displays of Americanism -- mainly in the spelling ("color", for example). Hardly a major point, but it annoyed me.

This particular collection is mainly a promotional tool, I feel, as it only contains the first three issues of the new miniseries, albeit in a nice oversized hardback format. Somehow I doubt there'll be another matching volume to round out the series, especially as it would be almost twice as long (four issues remain, and one is double-length), so if I want to know what happens I'll either have to track down the remaining issues individually or buy the inevitable complete collection. At this point, I'm undecided.

Doctor Who: The TV Movie

First broadcast on the second May Bank Holiday weekend of 1996 -- six and a half years since new Doctor Who has last graced British TV sets (it sounds hardly any time at all now, but it seemed like forever back then) -- the American-produced Doctor Who TV movie (or TVM for handy abbreviation, or The Movie as the DVD would have it, or The Enemy Within as executive producer Philip Segal would have it) was a ratings success in the UK, but flopped in the US where it was scheduled against the final episode of popular sitcom Roseanne. In many ways, retrospectively, this is a good thing -- if it had been a success it would've led to a US-produced new series, which would probably have lasted seven years at the absolute best, at variable quality, and then disappeared again. Instead, we've had a hugely successful and artistically sound revival, which has so far lasted four years, will definitely do two more, and most likely more beyond. For many Who fans, who view the TVM as an Americanised aberration, this can only be a good thing. But they're wrong, you know, because the TVM is actually a lot of fun.

Let's start with the point nearly everyone can agree is good: Paul McGann. Right from the off, he's a brilliant incarnation of the Doctor, arguably the only actor to have nailed the part so confidently in their initial performance. The greatest loss is that we didn't get further TV adventures with him, though thanks to the Big Finish audios those with a decent disposable income can enjoy a raft of stories with the eighth Doctor. The rest of the cast are great too, right down to the supporting artists (having been watching Babylon 5 lately, I've seen how bad minor-role actors can be). Daphne Ashbrook's Grace would make a great companion, as would Lee, played by Yee Jee Tso. Eric Roberts' version of the Master is often highly criticised, but there's nothing wrong with his camp panto villain portrayal, which seems to suit the character rather well. John Simm's turn in the new series could be seen to be developed from this as much as any other variation on the part. Several other highly criticised elements have also emerged in the new revival -- the kiss(es), hand-holding, fast pace, action-packed, etc etc. The revelation that the Doctor is half human may still cause debate among fans, but, really, it's not that bad -- it can be see to add to the mythology, or written off as a quirk of his eighth life, or any other number of sci-fi explanations.

The same can be said for the climax of the plot. Bringing Grace and Lee back to life may be somewhat dubious, and "temporal orbit" barely makes sense either, but if you care enough for them to bother you you should be able to come with some explanation or another (I'll make some up for you, if you really want). Otherwise, Matthew Jacobs' much criticised script is actually a joy. Yes, the opening is exposition heavy, and is awkward enough to follow even for knowledgeable fans, but if you can sidestep that the rest is pretty straightforward, packed with exciting sequences and great dialogue. There are laughs aplenty, especially from the Doctor, and for once they're not at poor production design. Even jokes that some call nonsensical -- the Doctor saying he's English, for example -- make sense -- in that example, he's speaking with an English accent, so why wouldn't he say "I suppose I am" when called English! The 'car chase' is brief, not executed out of character, and helps keep the plot moving. Geoffrey Sax's direction serves the same job. It's exemplary, in fact, with some great shots and fantastic editing -- look at sequences like the Doctor choosing his outfit while Lee searches through his items; the Genghis Khan moment; the furiously-edited climax... It's great to watch.

Despite the low opinion many fans hold of the TVM, it's one of my most-seen Who stories. It's fantastic fun, especially once you get past the rather leaden first half hour. McGann is great, the script is exciting and witty, the direction glorious to watch. It's not perfect, but it boldly dragged Who into the '90s and had a great time doing it. Really, I don't think I'd've minded some more.

Days til New York...


For a full explanation, please see the start of the countdown.