Some Things I Liked In 2018


Since I don’t feel comfortable doing a traditional top ten list, I’m just going to list a few things that I liked in 2018.

When it comes to last year’s movies, my two favorite films were both comic book adaptations.  Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse both redefined what we traditionally expect from the comic book genre and they worked as both entertainment and as something a little bit deeper.

Among the other films I liked this year, Mission Impossible — Fallout reminded us of just how exciting a good action film can be while Game Night was hands down the best comedy of the year.  Deadpool 2 proved itself to be a worthy sequel while Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Three Identical Strangers, Free Solo, and Shirkers made this a great year for documentaries.

David Peisner’s Homey Don’t Play That was a fascinating book about the history of In Living Color, examining both the show’s tumultuous history and how it continues to be relevant today.  Also worth reading: Thanks A Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite by Roger Daltrey and Cult City by Daniel J. Flynn.

In a year that seemed to be dominated by adaptations of comic books, it seems appropriate that one of the best comics was about the history of the medium.  Written by Fred Van Lente and illustrated by Ryan Dunlavey and Adam Guzowski, Comics For All was the second installment in their Comic Book History of Comics.  No matter how much you think you may know about comic history, you’ll learn something new from Comics For All.

When it comes to the year’s video games, I’m torn.  Red Dead Redemption II is a totally immersive gaming experience that challenges much of what we’ve come to expect from video games.  On the other hand, Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of the most purely enjoyable games that I’ve ever played.  If I had to pick a best, I’d go with Red Dead Redemption but Spider-Man is the game that I’ll probably end up replaying a month from now.

On television, I continued to enjoy and occasionally be baffled by HBO’s Westworld.  I also enjoyed playing around with Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive program that introduces you to a likable game designer and then give you the chance to totally mess up his life.

In the States, BBC America televised the the animated restoration of the “lost” Doctor Who serial, Shada.  As an episode of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, Shada was just as disappointing as many have warned that it would be, an overextended mix of inside jokes about Cambridge.  However, as a piece of Doctor Who history, it was priceless.

Finally, as far as the year in music is concerned, I recommend The Who’s fifth studio album, Who’s Next.  I know Who’s Next came out in 1971 but good music is timeless.

Mary Whitehouse’s Worst Nightmare: 8 Frightening Serials From Doctor Who’s Classic Era


“Tea time brutality for tots.”

That was the term that a woman named Mary Whitehouse used to describe Doctor Who in 1975.  Mary was the founder of the National Viewers and Listeners Association and, in her crusade to return Britain to decency, she often leveled her harshest criticism at Doctor Who, a show that she regularly claimed was too scary for television.

Did she have a point?  Of course not.  Even children who were scared of the Daleks when they were nine or ten eventually grew up to realize that all you had to do to escape those mutant bastards was run up a staircase.  Still, Doctor Who did occasionally have its memorable horror moments.

Here are eight frightening episodes from Doctor Who‘s classic era:

  1. State of Decay (4 episodes, 1980)

Everyone remembers this classic from the Tom Baker years.  The TARDIS materializes on a planet where the villagers live under the shadow of a dark tower.  Ruled over by three cruel lords, Zargo, Camilla, and Aukon, the villagers are forced to regularly sacrifice their young to appease their rulers.  The Doctor, Romana, K-9, and Adric investigate and discover that Zargo, Camilla, and Aukon are vampires!  After being defeated by the Time Lords, the vampires retreated into E-Space, where they found a new planet to rule.  Of course, that little tosser Adric wants to become a vampire.  Why Romana and the Doctor didn’t leave Adric behind on the vampire planet, I’ll never understand.

2. Horror of Fang Rock (4 episodes, 1977)

This underrated serial is also from the Tom Baker era.  The Doctor and Leela land on the Island of Fang Rock, just off the coast of England, in the early 20th century.   The inhabitants of an isolated lighthouse are being killed, one-by-one, by an alien known as a Rutan.  This episode is full of gothic atmosphere and, despite the Doctor’s best efforts, almost everyone dies.

3. The Talons of Weng-Chiang (6 episodes, 1977)

Of all the Tom Baker episodes, this is my personal favorite.  The Doctor and Leela find themselves in Victorian-era London, where they investigate a murder and discover that they are not the only time traveler in London.  When most people talk about this serial, they focus on the terrible giant rat and the wonderful supporting characters of Jago and Lightfoot.  What I always remember is the Peking Homunuculus, a psycho killer who looks like a puppet and squeals like a pig!

4. The Deadly Assassin (4 episode, 1976)

One final Tom Baker episode.  The Deadly Assassin is unique in that it features the Doctor with no companions.  When the Doctor travels to Gallifrey, he discovers that The Master (played by Peter Pratt) is still alive and determined to destroy the Time Lords.  Having used all of his regenerations, The Master is now not only at his most evil but also horribly disfigured and decaying, a sight to give nightmares to any impressionable viewer!

5/6. Kinda (4 episodes, 1982) and Snakedance (4 episodes, 1983)

Peter Davison was an underrated Doctor and never was he better than in Kinda and its sequel, Snakedance.  In both of these episodes, The Doctor must deal with the efforts of the Mara to possess his companion, Tegan.  Both of these episodes were more creepy than scary but, thanks to the performances of Peter Davison and Janet Fielding, they were effective nonetheless.

7. Spearhead From Space (4 episodes, 1970)

Jon Pertwee made his debut as the Third Doctor in this serial.  The Doctor is exiled to Earth just in time to deal with an invasion by the Nestenes.  Serving as the Nestenes’s invasion force are the Autons, life-size plastic dummies that come to life at inopportune times.  With their stiff movements and expressionless faces, the Autons were regularly cited as one of the Doctor’s creepiest enemies.

8. The Daemons (5 episodes, 1971)

The Third Doctor vs. The Devil!  The Master as a vicar!  A killer statue!  Not even the Brigadier’s order of “Chap with wings!  Six round rapid!” could lighten up the atmosphere of this Jon Pertwee classic.

The Doctor and friends

4 Shots From 4 Films: Star 80, Doctor Who, The Dark Knight, Stalked By My Doctor: The Return


4 Shots from 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots from 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Eric Roberts, who turned 62 years old today, has appeared in over 500 movies since 1978.  Here are 4 shots from 4 of them.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Star 80 (1983, dir by Bob Fosse)

Doctor Who: The Movie (1996, dir by Geoffrey Sax)

The Dark Knight (2008, dir by Christopher Nolan)

Stalked By My Doctor: The Return (2016, dir by Doug Campbell)

Music Video of the Day: Doctorin’ The Tardis by The Timelords (1988, directed by ????)


Today’s music video is for the song that Melody Maker called “”pure, unadulterated agony!”

Recorded in 1988, Doctorin’ The Tardis was produced by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, who would later be better known as The KLF.  The song is a mash-up of the Doctor Who theme music, Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll (Part Two), Sweet’s Blockbuster, Steve Walsh’s Let Get Together, and the famous Dalek war cry.  The song was Drummond and Cauty’s attempt to write a number one hit single, as opposed to the more esoteric and socially conscious work for which they were better known.

As Drummond explained it,  “We went into the studio on a Monday, thinking we were going to make a house track, a regular underground dance house track using the Doctor Who theme tune… [but] we [then] realised it was in triplet time and you can’t have house tracks in triplet time. The only beat that would work with it was the Glitter beat. By Tuesday evening we realised we had a number one and we just went totally for the lowest common denominator.”  Drummond also later said that Doctorin’ The Tardis was, “the most nauseating record of all time.”

While the critics may have agreed with Drummond, the music-buying public loved the song and Doctorin’ The Tardis spent a week as number one on the UK pop charts.  Drummond and Cauty responded by writing a book called The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way), which was advertised as being a guide to how to have a number one hit record without having any musical talent whatsoever.  Among The Manual‘s advise: Be on the dole and, if you’re already a musician, stop playing your instrument and sell it.  The Manual also warned that all of its advice will be obsolete within twelve months.

The video, which cost £8,000 to make, was filmed in Wiltshire and features Cauty’s 1968 Ford Galaxie police car being pursued by some poorly constructed Daleks.

Exterminate!

This is what a real Dalek looks like, son.

 

Jedadiah Leland’s Horrific Adventures In The Internet Archive #18: Daleks (1985)


For my next adventure in the dark side of the Internet Archive, I played Daleks (1985).

I’m the Doctor!?  It’s about time!  And I’m battling the Daleks?

It’s time to let those dogmatic salt and pepper shakers know who’s the boss!  Press any key to continue?  Just try to stop me!

Those do not look like Daleks.  I guess that stick figure is me, the Doctor.

The game itself is simple.  Every time that The Doctor moves, the Daleks move:

If a Dalek touches you, the game is over.  The only way to eliminate a Dalek is to get it to run into another Dalek.  It is not easy but it can be done, as my high score of 30 attests.  It took me a while to get over my disappointment that the Daleks in the game did not say “Exterminate!” but if you can overlook that, Daleks is an addictive and challenging game.

A Movie A Day #54: Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 (1966, directed by Gordon Flemyng)


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When London Special Constable Tom Campbell (Bernard Cribbins) spots a robbery at a jewelry store, he runs into a police box to call for backup.  But this is no ordinary blue police call box.  Not only is there no phone but it’s bigger on the outside than on the inside and it’s inhabited by Dr. Who (Peter Cushing), an eccentric inventor, and his niece, Louise (Jill Curzon) and his granddaughter, Susan (Roberta Tovey).  The call box is a time machine that’s known as a TARDIS and Tom just happens to stumble in at the exact moment that the Doctor and his family are heading into the future.  When they arrive in London in 2150, they discover that Earth has been conquered by the Daleks.

Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 was the second and last Doctor Who film to be produced by Amicus Pictures.  As both a sequel to Dr. Who and the Dalekand an adaptation of the televisions serial The Daleks Invasion of Earth, Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 shares many of the same flaws as the first movie.  Of course, the main one is that, as any true Whovian can tell you, the Doctor was not named Dr. Who, he was not human, and he did not invent the TARDIS.  He also never had a niece, at least not one named Louise.  Hearing the Doctor introduce himself as “Dr. Who” just sounds wrong.  The comedic relief also feels as out of place here as it did in Dr. Who and the Daleks but at least Bernard Cribbins’s Tom isn’t as annoying as Roy Castle’s Ian.

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Even taking all of that into consideration, Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 is still a clear improvement over the first film.  The futuristic location, with a London made up of the ruins of recognizable landmarks, is well-realized and far superior to the cardboard sets of the Dr. Who and the Daleks.  The moment when the Daleks first appear, rising out of the Thames, is a great Dr. Who moment and, for once, the Daleks comes across like a real threat instead of just oversized salt and pepper shakers with attitude.  Unlike the first film, the Daleks use their “EXTERMINATE” war cry and they exterminate almost everyone that the Doctor and his companions meet.  Since the Daleks are killing Brits instead of Thals, the stakes are higher in Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150.

Even though he was playing a human version of the character and therefore, cannot be considered canonical, I have always liked Peter Cushing’s interpretation of the character.  Cushing’s firm but grandfatherly Doctor was quite a contrast to William Hartnell’s strict and abrupt version.  (Cushing’s Doctor has always reminded me more of a combination of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee than William Hartnell.)

Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 may have been far better than the first film but it was also a flop at the box office, ending plans for any further Dr. Who movies.

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