Author Archives: Stuart

Have been a die-hard Doctor Who, Star Trek and Sic-fi fan for as long as I can remember. This site is part tribute to everyone involved in the genre and a bit of fun. If you do take the time to read some of this stuff, then share it around - would be appreciated. Thanks Stu

Windows Phone 8.1

Hello. Anyone that knows me, will know that I am an ardent supporter of Android and a hater of windows phones.

My trusty Android phone, HTC Mini One 2, decided to die a death the other month and I have been limping along with it. It was taking forever to load apps, take ages to return messages and an inordinate amount of time to boot!

So, I was faced with a quandary. My upgrade isn’t due for 8 months, I can’t afford a top spec Android phone sim free… What’s a boy to do.

Well, this boy took to the internet for help. I spent an awful lot of time looking at phones. Was I to go for a cheap Android from a brand? Was I to chance a grey phone from China? Was I to – heaven forbid – take an iPhone into my life… Not in a million bloody years!!

So, I was left with either a brick or a windows phone.

I plumped for windows… Lumia 640xl to be precise.

Coming from Android, I am a bit concerned about the lack of apps, connectivity and general ability to bugger about with a windows phone, but so far it has done what I need it to… Most notably just work.

As a bit of a power user, there are huge gaps in windows 8.1 that you could drive a fleet of busses through when it comes to comparing with Android. I’m currently writing this on my trusty Nexus 7 (2012). I can now quite easily stream music from my ftp site, or my home network, or anywhere… I can watch films in a similar manner. I can delve into the internal workings of my raspberry pi. I can download things at the touch of a couple of buttons.

None of these things are done easily, if at all, with a windows phone. I can barely get it to talk to my PC to transfer music.

But, I quite like it. I did dabble with Windows 10 on it for a couple if days, but it is nowhere near finished and should be ignored for now. Saying that, if it is half as good as it promises to be then it will be something to definitely rival the apple offering. If… That’s a very big if!

Day to day, though, it is working well. Doesn’t like installing things too much but if you leave it and go and have a cup of tea it sorts itself out.

I’m probably going to switch back to Android when I get an upgrade, but until then I shall be happy with my big bright orange phone and enjoy the simplicity it has brought to my life

Count Arthur Strong… the TV Series

I never thought I would say that I am giving up on the Count.

I have DVD’s of the live shows, all the radio shows, some of the radio stuff before that and have seen some of the earliest appearances of the Count on television… All of which is immeasurably better than the current content on BBC1.

It just feels like the heart of the character has been ripped out to be replaced by politically correct casting and secondary storylines that aren’t either funny or needed.

The radio show is where I do and Count Arthur and I loved him straight away. The malapropisms, the spoonerisms, the bumbling old actor that he was, the ensemble cast all just created a reality that I could see in my head as I listened. It was beautifully crafted and allowed the Count to shine, like the star he is.

The characters around the Count were funny and distressed and clever and knew how to get one up on him, but they never stole the show. It worked as a complimentary affair – even Malcolm… – and I never wanted it to end.

I had reservations about the TV show, but thought that with Steve Delaney at the helm ably assisted by another comedy legend it would be ok.

We ended up with a show full of two dimensional politically correct stereotypes.

The second lead, Michael, is played appallingly by Rory Kinnear. But to be fair I don’t think anyone else could do that part justice.

I don’t care that Michael has a crush on the cafe owners sister, or that his dad was blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

It’s the Count Arthur Strong show…

Let’s get rid of the dead wood and bring back the formula that works, and works well at giving us one of the funniest characters from this century.

Doctor Who – Random thoughts in the fourth dimension…

I have to be honest, I sat in front of the tv on the 25th December at 6.15pm and muttered “Please don’t be sh*t” under my breath before this began.

I am loving Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, and Clara has always been a fantastic companion, but series 8 has just not quite hit the mark for me so far.

I want a grumpy old man as the Doctor, and we got an old man pretending to be in his twenties… more to do with the writing I feel than the performance.

Series 8 was supposed to be a bit of a reboot, starting all over again with a new cycle of regenerations etc. Peter was now playing the “First Doctor” – who was a bit of a grumpy, tetchy, old git most of the time. The thing that made William Hartnell great was the way that he had that way of being childlike when it was required and could play those lighter moments so naturally.

What we have in series 8 is a Doctor that is still trying to be in his mid twenties – like the previous incarnation – and it doesn’t always work. Yes, we have the dark moments but they are few and far between. I want the Doctor to be dark and mysterious again.

It pains me to say this – as I can’t stand RTD – but he did the best thing ever when he decided to get rid of all the baggage – Timelords – and have the Doctor as a tortured soul wandering the Universe. This adds a fantastic dimension to the show, he can’t just go “Oi, Timelords… give us a hand”. It gave a depth to the character and Chris Ecclestone went with it bringing the Doctor back with a bang.

I want Peter Capaldi to be fantastic – as he is an outstanding actor – but the writing needs to give him more to do than running about the TARDIS being a big kid.

Which, getting back on topic, was why I quite enjoyed the Christmas Special. I’m not saying it was the best story ever, but after a difficult series it was a breath of fresh air. Once you get over Santa being a dream it settles down into a base-under-siege-but-not-really-cos-something-weird-is-going-on type of story.

I’m already looking forward to series 9 – and will always love the show – but please do something to make the Doctor special again.

Doctor Who – Series 8 (or Season 8 if you happen to be American) (or series 34 if you follow the original numbering) (or… just shoot me)

Just a quick note to say that the best science fiction programme in the world is back on the telly in a FORTNIGHT!

I may be going to see it in the cinema… not sure yet…

I may have also started reading the scripts that the BBC carelessly lost – but I stopped cos I want it to be a surprise and I think you should not read them either.

Just wait!

 

Why I love Doctor Who (Part 1a)

Or

The scary wary music that I lovey wovey

There is something to be said about a TV show that has lasted for fifty years, and I think that a major part of this is the theme tune.

Back in 1963 when Ron Grainer composed the, now iconic, theme for a programme that was supposed to run for about 6 weeks, little did he know just what he was creating.

The credit for the popularity of this composition has to go to the fabulous and immensely talented Delia Derbyshire. Without her dedication to running round the Radiophonic Workshop with miles of tape that she had cut together there would be no Doctor Who there today that we know and love. Of course, being the 1960’s they weren’t going to allow a woman to take any credit for the arrangement of the theme so her name is a mystery to most people that don’t love the show.

I can’t even begin to think of the hundreds of hours that her and the team put into creating each and every single sound for the theme… individually… on tape… then splicing it together and recording miles of tape onto a master tape. It’s a work of dedication and genius.

Delia is sadly no longer with us, but her fantastic legacy lives on.

Over the first twenty years of the show, the music stayed virtually the same. There were a few changes made here and there – for example the music was cut to fit with the lengths of the credits rather than just fading out. There were tweaks made for new doctors, or new opening titles, but it remained essentially the same.

Then came along Peter Howell. As I remember Doctor Who from approximately the late 70’s and early 80’s I grew up with this version, and it still brings a joy to my heart and tear to my eye when I hear it.

Sounds a bit daft that, but I don’t care. It reminds me of being a kid, enjoying the summers and not having a care in the world – apart from catching Doctor Who that is!

To me, the Peter Howell version of the theme – along with the fantastic title sequence by Sid Sutton – is perfection. If I could have it playing along with the show today I would. In later years, I have seen how this was created in the Radiophonic Workshop. Not quite the level of work that Delia had to go through – thanks to these modern synthesiser things – but still a labour of love no less.

This version of the theme said goodbye to Tom Baker and ushered in Peter Davison. It stayed with the show for six years in total and even captured the first season of Colin Baker.

Then things start to go a bit weird for a while. The show had been cancelled – for the first time – and came back with a thirteen part story – The Trial of a Time Lord. I duly sat down – after the Roland Rat show – and watched… little did I know that they had decided to change the theme tune to something that was completely different. At the time I don’t think it bothered me that much but now, years later, it was a bold and brave move.

Dominic Glynn was the arranger of this version and at the time it may have seemed strange, but listening to it, as I am right this minute, it is just brilliant. While I will love Peter Howell’s version until I die – I want it played as I go behind the curtain – this has a real darkness to it and an edge that you don’t notice until you listen to the whole version, which of course you never got to do watching the show.

It has a real depth to it that not many other versions have. I know that people in the know aren’t overly keen on this version but it has its merits and is a valid arrangement that suited the tone of the show at the time.

Of course, Doctor Who was cancelled again!!

Joy of joys, it was coming back with a new Doctor. Mr McCoy.

Again, I duly sat down in front of the telly and switched on. WOW! CGI Titles and this amazing version of the theme tune.

Keff McCulloch had arranged the theme into a dance track and it was bloody great. It’s my second favourite version of the theme.

It really worked with the title sequence and as the adventures of the Doctor unfurled in his seventh incarnation, it became – like the seventh Doctor – a new start for the show. It was fast and furious and completely different to anything that had come along before.

Again, I know that some people were not happy with this arrangement – among the Delia Derbyshire and Murray Gold (more on him later) – but I have to err on the side of Keff, it is a bloody good version and deserves a lot more recognition than it gets.

So, Doctor who was cancelled again… this time for a long, long time… was it ever going to come back?

Yes!

1996, with a wonderful tribute to the late Jon Pertwee, the Doctor was back on our screens – all be it in an American way.

Paul McGann was instantly fantastic as the Doctor, and John Debney did a good job with the theme tune. I don’t know if he’d ever seen the show or knew anything about it or had even heard the theme before he put pen to paper, but he did a damned fine job.

It’s only on careful listening that you realise just how clever he was. The theme starts in the bridge, the bit you don’t usually hear. The bit that the fans always want to hear cos then they know it’s a full version. It then triumphantly blares into the main theme that we know and love.

Yes, it’s a bit panto in parts, and it’s not quite right… but the orchestral arrangement is fantastic and it does give a little foreshadowing as to what is to come.

Nine years later, the Doctor is back. He’s all 21st century and streetwise and stuff, but he’s back. Easter 2005 I sat down to watch the show – I didn’t download it the week before off the internet to watch the slightly unfinished version… honest – and we are treated to the Murray Gold arrangement of the theme.

I have to be honest, I’m not a fan of Murray Gold.

I think his music is bombastic and derivative… and this goes for his version of the theme.

He also slagged off the Keff version on the internet and that really made me hate his guts.

It’s great to have a full orchestral version of the theme, but he ripped the heart and soul out of it. The  duh duh duh duh’s were virtually gone, there were bits – now called chasers – all over the place and it just felt wrong.

In the last 8 years, his version of theme has been modified so many times, it’s difficult to keep track. There was the original version, the rock version, the other one that I can’t remember and the Pet Shop Boys version – if you don’t believe me, look up the song Pandemonium on YouTube and just see how similar they are.

The closest that he has come to the original is the latest version for Matt Smith, and even then that’s been altered already!

I love Doctor Who, I love the music and I always will – whoever the arranger is.

Some I like more than others, but that’s life.

Below is a compilation by Brian Rimmer of all the themes (well up to today)

Enjoy!

Why I love Doctor Who (Part 1)

Or – From Wibbley Wobbley Settey Wettey to Wibbley Wobbley Timey Wimey

One of the first things that I remember from watching TV is Tom Baker dressed like a cactus in, what I know now to be, the story Meglos. I don’t really remember much else about it to be honest, it was on the telly when I was 7, and everything is a bit vague from those times.

But it must have stuck in my head as I remember watching other later Tom Baker stories: Leisure Hive; some of the E-Space Trilogy etc.

I didn’t know that this was a programme that had already been going for nearly twenty years and that it had a cult following, I probably didn’t even understand half of what was going on, but I know I liked it. It was also something innocuous enough for that my parents would let me watch it – even on the sacred Saturday night of TV Heaven.

I really got into the programme when Tom Baker regenerated. That was just such a mind blowing concept. This person was a different person but still the same. It was kind of cool and weird and at the same time something you could just accept happening.

Again, my early years are a bit of a blur these days, but I remember tuning in to watch Peter Davison as the new Doctor – even when it was flung around the schedules (small side note of thanks to my parents for having the foresight to rent a very early video recorder).

I know I started to watch the stories and get more out of them, not just the running round with lasers and guns and (not always) special effects. You really became a part of the gang – almost another assistant. To me it felt like being part of a family. You had your ups and downs – and the occasional take over by a malignant snake being – you had the good times and you had each other.

It was around this time – of the fifth doctor – that I also joined DWAS (Doctor Who Appreciation Society). That was when my mind was opened to all the workings of such a production, and that other people also felt the same way about it that I did. People out there were passionate about this weird little show, made by the BBC. I also started to realise that there was a lot more to the show before I started watching and this is where the books came in.

I’d bought a few Target Novelisations and really enjoyed them, but pocket money as it was back then, didn’t really stretch to more than a couple a year. I remember coming home one day to find a box in my bedroom. Mum and dad had managed to find – Lord only knows where – a box of Doctor Who books for sale and bought them for me. I was absolutely ecstatic – for a ten year old anyhow – and proceeded to work my way through them.

Thanks to this I was introduced to even more doctors, more outrageous adventures, and more worlds than I could shake a stick at. So by the time the twentieth anniversary story was being shown, The Five Doctors, I knew who they were, all the references to past companions and adventures. In fact, I was a Doctor Who fan…

… to be continued