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Staggering Stories Podcast #142: The Power of a Game Called Mercy

Staggering Stories PodcastStaggering Stories Podcast   on September 30th, 2012

The Power of a Game Called MercySummary:
Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler and the Real Keith Dunn discuss the new Doctor Who stories A Town Called Mercy and The Power of Three, review the new Judge Dredd film known only as Dredd, find some general news and a variety of other stuff, specifically:

  • 00:00 – Intro and theme tune.
  • 00:55 — Welcome!
  • 02:47 – News:
  • 02:55 — Doctor Who: Five Doctors unite to help Janet Fielding.
  • 04:44 — Amanda Tapping: Recuring role on Supernatural.
  • 05:29 — Alfonso Cuarón & J.J. Abrams: New genre TV series.
  • 07:25 — Manimal: Hollywood gets even more desperate.
  • 10:10 — Doctor Who: Peter Jackson interested in directing?
  • 12:17 — Quickfire Plug: Novelisation of the Rush ablum Clockwork Angels, out now!
  • 12:28 — Quickfire Plug: Red Dwarf X starts on Dave, 9pm 4th October 2012.
  • 12:38 — Quickfire Plug: Iain M Banks’ new Culture novel The Hydrogen Sonata published 9th October 2012.
  • 12:41 — Quickfire Plug: Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London novel, out for a while but still really, really good!
  • 12:21 – Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy.
  • 25:15 – Doctor Who: The Power of Three.
  • 41:43 – Dredd (the 2012 film).
  • 56:43 – Emails and listener feedback.* Hit us yourself at show@StaggeringStories.net
  • 79:20 – Farewell for this podcast!
  • 81:18 — End theme, disclaimer, copyright, etc.

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Staggering Stories Commentary #69: Doctor Who – Asylum of the Daleks

Staggering Stories PodcastStaggering Stories Podcast   on September 23rd, 2012

Staggering Stories Commentary: Doctor Who - Asylum of the DaleksSummary:
Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, nanogened, in front of the 2012 Doctor Who story, Asylum of the Daleks, and spout our usual nonsense!

Amy’s all about the hate, Rory is feeling rejected and the iDaleks have rightly shrunk into the background out of self loathing. But enough of their problems, please sit down with us to enjoy Asylum of the Daleks…

NOTE: apologies for the audio quality, one of the two mics failed…

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Staggering Stories Podcast #141: TV Movies of the Week

Staggering Stories PodcastStaggering Stories Podcast   on September 16th, 2012

TV Movies of the WeekSummary:
Adam J Purcell, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler and the Real Keith Dunn discuss the new Doctor Who stories Asylum of the Daleks and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, fondly look back at the recent Doctor Who convention Whooverville 4, play some games, find some general news and a variety of other stuff, specifically:

  • 00:00 – Intro and theme tune.
  • 01:11 — Welcome!
  • 02:12 – News:
  • 03:00 — Doctor Who: Another Hugo win, this time Neil Gaiman gets it.
  • 03:46 — Steven Moffat: Twitter quitter.
  • 04:52 — Joss Whedon: His Marvel TV series pilot called SHIELD.
  • 05:47 — Red Dwarf: New series starts on the 4th October 2012 on Dave.
  • 08:00 — DEAD: Michael Clarke Duncan and the legend Neil Armstrong.
  • 09:13 — Jean Riddler: Finished her Olympic duties.
  • 12:21 – Whooverville 4 Doctor Who convention.
  • 20:40 – Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.
  • 46:11 – Extreme Tea Duelling.
  • 51:59 – Emails and listener feedback.* Hit us yourself at show@StaggeringStories.net
  • 83:57 – Farewell for this podcast!
  • 84:16 — End theme, disclaimer, copyright, etc.

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Random thoughts on Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Adam J PurcellAdam J Purcell   on September 12th, 2012

Dinosaurs on a SpaceshipLet’s cut straight to the chase here, I didn’t enjoy Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

The other night we recorded Staggering Stories Podcast 141, where we discussed this episode (and Asylum of the Daleks). I was given the opportunity to rant about Dinosaurs on a Spaceship but I found I just couldn’t. It’s not that I didn’t want to but, when the time came, I just couldn’t perform! The problem was that I just couldn’t quite figure out what I didn’t like about it. That’s the problem with liking or disliking things, often you don’t really know why. It’s an emotion and that all happens in the more primitive, subconscious, parts of the mind. Nonetheless, after a routine night of not being able to sleep, because of all the oh-so-dark thoughts that constantly hurtle around my brain, I think I may have figured it out…

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was trying to be a comedy. Such things are always subjective, comedy more than most.  Script writing is an art and comedy is another art again, fusing them is always difficult and you’ll never please all of the people any of the time! Now, don’t worry, I won’t get into the discussion on how Hollywood are trying to turn the art of filmmaking into a science, though given how much this episode of Doctor Who relied on common Hollywood formulae, perhaps it wouldn’t be entirely out of place! Anyway, it seems that the vast majority of people enjoyed it and even found it funny. I barely laughed.

My frame of mind at the time my be considered relevant here. To get into the mood for Dinosaurs on a Spaceship I watched, back to back, A Good Man Goes to War and Let’s Kill Hitler, directly before. I had no real knowledge of the upcoming episode, other than its name. I didn’t know if the eponymous Dinosaurs were real, mechanical or even outright imaginary. Nor did I know anything about the guest stars or characters. Basically I knew nothing, I hadn’t even watched the ‘next time’ trailer at the end of Asylum of the Daleks. I was going in cold but for the fine warm up double act of A Good Man Goes to War and Let’s Kill Hitler. I greatly enjoyed rewatching those two ‘old’ episodes and laughed many times. I was in a good mood. That wasn’t the problem.

Sat there watching the new episode, with its comedy double act robots and golf ball chasing dinosaur, I just thought it was silly, rather embarrassing and generally (as I said to myself at the time) rubbish. I honestly expected a severe backlash against this episode due to how childish it was. Clearly I was very wrong!

I normally enjoy Mitchell and Webb’s work but bringing them in as the robots gave me a nasty flash back to the likes of Hale and Pace in the last ever broadcast Classic Doctor Who story, Survival.  True, it’s not the first time that New Who has called upon comedians to ‘fun it up’, with perhaps the most blatant being Lee Evan’s Malcolm from Planet of the Dead.  This time we had bickering robots, though.  Cheesoid this is not! It wasn’t just the robots or the dog-like triceratops but the tone of the whole thing and the general lack of any real drama.  Oh and the comedic robots then suddenly slaughter the aforementioned innocent triceratops. Mixed messages?

It’s time for me to accept that it isn’t you, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, it’s me.  Some almost primal fear that was instilled in me as a teenager, that everybody will suddenly hate Doctor Who (again), welled up.  Note that I had no such problem with the abundant humour in A Good Man Goes to War and Let’s Kill Hitler. I’d like to think that’s because it was just smarter humour in those Moffat penned episodes – no contrived testicle gags, for example!  Then there’s the convenient picking up of a big game hunter – why did the Doctor do that, exactly?  Yet another literal count down to destruction? The two control chairs needing familial DNA, really? Yes, all plots are engineered with the best crafted to near perfection but this one was still rather showing its workings out in the margins.  Things you can probably accept if you enjoyed the experience.  A few people have said of this episode that you shouldn’t complain about such trivial matters, with a title such as it has, you knew going in it wasn’t a serious one (as if that’s really an excuse for lazy writing). The point is, if you don’t enjoy something you may not really be able to say why and all you can latch onto are those untidy little bits but they aren’t generally the cause, at least not wholly.

I may never like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship or I may get lucky, as I did with Victory of the Daleks, and have an enjoyment epiphany after three or four watches.  Time will tell. Even if not, it doesn’t really matter – not even for my ongoing enjoyment of Doctor Who, let alone the bigger picture.  It’s just one episode and they’ll be another along next week.  It’s just ironic that it is probably my deep seated fear that Doctor Who will become something of a laughing stock again, hated or dismissed (as it seemed to be in the mid to late 1980s) that actually prevented me from enjoying it myself.  I so want everyone to love every episode of Doctor Who (most of all me) but I think that has at the very least contributed to me not liking one at all…

 


 

Random thoughts on Dredd

Adam J PurcellAdam J Purcell   on September 10th, 2012

Judges Dredd and AndersonAfter what seems like an age since the original announcement, finally the new Judge Dredd film, named simply ‘Dredd‘, has hit UK cinemas.

Was it worth the wait? For me, definitely, yes.

Now I’m not a life long Judge Dredd fan and can’t ever remember reading an issue of 2000AD but, nonetheless, I am fairly familiar with Joe Dredd and Mega-City One. Most of my knowledge comes from playing the pen and paper RPG and, subsequently, the Big Finish full cast audio plays.  Oh, and there’s the Stallone film, too, but fortunately I’ve all but expunged that from my memory banks!

The first thing you’ll notice about this new film is that they’ve radically changed the look of Mega-City One and its inhabitants. Far from the dense, colourful, multi-leveled look prevalent in the comics, this big screen city is a flat, grey ocean of mostly low-rise buildings with largely spaced out mega blocks occasionally jutting forth.  Apart from the odd Justice Department drone, all traffic is very much on ground level.  This is city that could exist now, just with urban decay turned up one small notch.  It is very deliberately not visually exciting. This is a bleak environment, the same sort of five minutes into the future that Robocop gave us.

Also gone are the ‘safe’ swear words that are so familiar in many science fiction series (such as ‘fragging’, ‘fracking’ and Dredd’s ‘drokk’ – even ‘grud’ is dead!)  In the UK this film is an 18 certificate, so they were very right to drop those cod expletives – with the possible exception of Red Dwarf, I always find them cringeworthy!  Instead real world swearing is in and given the amount of violence involved in this film, that can only have been the right decision.

In essence the, rightly, British director (Pete Travis), equally British writer (Alex Garland) and their team have ‘Nolaned’ up the world of Judge Dredd.  This was, no doubt, influenced by the relatively small budget (half that of the Stallone film of 1995 and, if you take into account inflation, it’s really probably nearer only a third) but I suspect that even if they had a vastly bigger budget that they would still have gravitated towards a more grounded film reality.  I absolutely think they made the right call.  Stallone’s Judge Dredd film may have looked more authentic to the comics but this Dredd feels more authentic.

This brings us around to Karl Urban.  To my mind, he is Judge Dredd.  As Toby Longworth is the definitive audio Joe Dredd, Urban is the definitive film Dredd.  And yes, Dredd keeps his helmet on.  Okay, there is one shot where you can just about make out one of his eyes through the visor of his helmet but, that (no doubt mistake) aside, you never see his eyes and nor do you need to.  This Dredd does not laugh, does not smile and if you could see his eyes all you’d see is pretty a constant scowl anyway!  He is not entirely humourless, though, and has a good line in dead-pan terse comebacks, most of which are simply pitch-perfect deliveries of the word ‘yep’!  Don’t worry though, the film didn’t turn him into a one-line ‘joke’ cracker, like Roger Moore or Arnie at their worst!  No, Dredd is glacially cool, almost machine like.  He is the uncompromising tool of the police state that he should be.

Olivia Thirlby brings us a contrasting sidekick in the shape of Judge Cassandra Anderson.  She’s a rookie who’s on her last chance before being drummed out and would have been gone a long time before if it wasn’t for her psi abilities.  I more ‘know of’ than really know the character of Anderson and have far fewer preconceptions about who she is and how she should be played.  I have seen drawings and some of those vinyl models that ridiculously sexualise the character but, I’m happy to say, they didn’t do that with this film version.  Thirlby does a great job of juxtaposing Anderson’s humanity as compared to Dredd’s granite-like nature and all the violence they both must engage in to survive.

At its heart, it is nothing more than a simple survival film.  Our ‘heroes’ are trapped in enemy territory with little chance of rescue and must fight their way through whatever is thrown their way.  In many ways it is simply a day in the life of Judge Dredd, albeit probably a slightly more intense day than usual.  The implications for Mega-City One are slight, at best. The world isn’t needing to be saved, Dredd is barely changed by the experience (if at all), though Anderson is clearly hardened by it.  This film is very consciously an introduction to the world of Judge Dredd. If we are lucky enough to get a sequel, then we can probably expect a more world endangering plot and perhaps more of the fantastical elements to come into play (hints are being made of maybe a sequel involving the Dark Judges – incidentally, I couldn’t help be reminded of those four when another group of four judges turn up near the end of this film).

Viewers are certainly left to ponder the nature of the police state that is Mega-City One.  The political undertones are left as just undertones and while Dredd is nominally the hero there is no real attempt to paint him as such.  Dredd is tool of a fascist state, able to meter out summary justice with his ‘lawgiver’ gun.  Were the filmmakers right to leave the social commentary as subtext? I think they were, at least for this first film.  If we do get to see the Dark Judges or political strife in the Justice Department next time, then I’d expect a lot more to be made of such concepts.  Anderson is clearly more concerned with natural justice than simply and blindly applying the law and I’d expect any sequel that features her would also delve more deeply into that. As it is, this film does show some of the non-combatant residents of the Peach Trees block as innocents but otherwise the judges and ‘perps’ are about as bad as each another.

Nobody too squeamish should watch this new film (it’s 18 rated in the UK), it is pretty bloody and has some wonderfully shot slow motion effects that add even more to that bloody horror! A twisted sense of humour certainly helps, too. If that’s you, then I don’t hesitate to recommend Dredd.