Archive for June, 2007

Natural High

Friday, June 22nd, 2007


There are a number of fans who might once have said that you can’t turn a New Adventure into a television programme; that such stories belong in their own time and place, contextually removed from the series by readership, maturity and the eagerness to break many of the taboos of the old TV series. That the New Adventures represented in themselves stories which simply could not be reduced to fit inside a small box of wires and light, and that in the language of this episode they were, literally, Books of Impossible Things. Those people were right, for the most part; but Human Nature is one of a few exceptions, because its author Paul Cornell writes small enough for the small screen, in the most important ways.

What made Human Nature‘s reputation is that it was a simple idea executed masterfully, without the distractions of space opera settings, alternative realities, cyberspace (yikes, remember that?) conclusions and the remnants of a Cartmel Masterplan(tm). Here in 2007 we are in the thick of a Davies Masterplan, and that’s always going to be more intimate and personal and emotionally-driven; so our man Cornell, who writes for these things predominately and very very well, is in his element.

There are hazards associated with the story’s relocation to Davies’ era however; part of the original Human Nature‘s charm was that it featured a Doctor visibly matured and for whom ‘settling down’ was a mildly outrageous concept. What we have now with the Tennant Doctor is a young man Time Lord who’s already professed his eternal love for one and a half ladies while of sound mind and body. He also has a young companion in town following him around with puppy dog eyes (again), so the ‘surprise’ has been anticipated before this series. Cornell has to work harder to make the romance between ‘John’ and Joan more plausible and significant, but make it work he does, despite the casting of a known-face in Joan and aided undoubtedly by the luxury of a double-episode, allowing the story to be told steadily. It deserves to be told well; the story is not about love but sacrifice, and without the time to discover what is at stake and who is under threat from The Family, the Doctor’s pursuers, the story risks becoming a set piece runaround-with-snogs, in the manner of The Girl in the Fireplace. Of paramount importance of course is that this is not the Doctor’s story, it’s John Smith’s and that of his maid, and we shall see the importance of that in the story’s second act.

 In the mean-time, some last points: Harry Lloyd is a great find – there’s a future in upper-class cads for this guy, if not lop-grinning alien fiends. Tennant is, alas, on top form as John Smith; it’s almost painful to admit that the Doctor (as he and RTD interpret him) is not missed, and this vulnerable, fumbling and believable reluctant protagonist is at times preferable to our usual hero. The ‘Doctor-ish’ scene with cricket ball and piano seems distracting as a result – drawing too much attention to the Time Lord lurking in the wings, surely to reappear. But while he’s away this is a joy to watch. It’s not Doctor Who, but it must surely become Doctor Who, just as John Smith must inevitably be shrugged off to find our hero hiding within.

With a build-up like this, the resolution has a lot to live up to.


Fast Return – May 2007

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Fast Return

So, let’s see – ZeusPlug the pubzine issues a hard copy sample of itself through the pages of TSV (and then turns into a blog). Then, TSV issues an online sample of itself throught its website (and remains hard copy). Surely, logically the next fanzine sample out on the market will be RTP (both blog and hard copy- see below) doing a pubzine sample of itself?

…but it is the best thing to date with Farmergeddon’s name attached to it.

Blogs – once a Zeus Blog editor was said to ask “what are they”? Now everyone has one, busily updating their lives online. In the midst of all of this activity, Christchurch loungezine RTP has capitulated and traded in its Geocities web ad for a real blog (see above). And it’s a cracker, taking its cue from Paul Scoones’ online TSV diaries. Apparently Colin Baker was so impressed he started a blog of his own (that’s enough links – Ed.)

We weren’t able to make it, but were thrilled to hear about the powerpoint (or something) presentation of the Restoration Team’s efforts on TSV No. 1. At least we think it was them. Nobody’s saying anything about the recent event, but for the record we’d like to see:

  • A 5:1 ratio and isolated score
  • Linking narration by Peter Purves
  • ‘Now and Then’ – the usual documentary visiting sites of the ‘zine’s creation,
    seeing how that Auckland University photocopier room looks today.


[VidFired version of cover]

(1. Russel Norman, Co-Leader NZ Green Party as featured in the NZ Listener August 2006)
(2. Michael Cullen, Deputy PM as featured in the Dominion Post 7 June 2007)


DW fandom and the tabloid press have always enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. We think they’re self-seeking rumour-mongering scum, they think we’re scarf-wrapped twats with Oedipus complexes. Who then could have predicted that after a fortnight of Freema-baiting sacking rumours and ‘RTD will can the series in 2008′ tattle in The Sun, and Kasterborous would launch these salvos? Blimey!


Well done to Jam-Master Jamas Enright and the rest of the National SF Convention Committee for a succesful convention (Conspiracy 2) run over Queen’s Birthday Weekend. They may not have managed to get Sam “‘that man could bore for his country’ – T Baker” Neill as media guest, but they did get a shot of a fan and a remote control Dalek in the pages of the Dominion Post without either looking like a backyard Klingon or manga-addled Armageddon junkie. $100 NZ for a toy worth… well, we’ll ask Darrell Paterson for the latest prices, but it sounds like a bargain to us!   


Spoiler-free Zone

Saturday, June 16th, 2007


Righto. It’s fingers in the ears time for Zeus Blog.

With Utopia broadcasting the first trailer for the final epic two-parter, we here at Zeus Blog are going spoiler-free, so don’t expect any mention of the final episodes for a while. There’ll still be blog posts but we’re resisting the temptation to read anything online about the episodes until we see them. It’s going to be tough - extreme measures have been put into place, including deleting bookmarks for news pages from our Favourites, and keeping well clear of every site except our own. Maybe it’ll be a piece of cake. If we don’t crumble that is…

Oh and steer clear of Outpost Gallifrey and its spoiler-tastic news page… The plot of Episode 13 is there for all to see (admittedly in a spoiler tag, and admittedly I opened it… the temptation was too great!).

See you in 3 weeks!


Battle of the Seasons – Quarterfinals

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007


It’s on to the quarterfinals, as we aim to find out which season of Doctor Who was the best ever… 


How do you like your eggs done? Sunny-side up or hard-yolk Gothic? It’s all a matter of taste, and neither season can sustain the flavour long enough to be the ‘definitive’ Fourth Doctor season (if there is such a thing). By Season 17, the series is winging along without a care in the world. Tom Baker could do no wrong, and Lalla Ward was the delight of the nation. The scripts were witty and life was high. But when push comes to shove, it’s Season 13, because spine-chilling cliffhangers built the series, and it’s the programme’s birthright to every young sofa-shielded viewer.  


Now the weak parts begin to show themselves. The Key to Time season – the first ‘arc’ in many a year, is, sadly, an imperfect beast. It has its ups and its downs, and structurally, it’s a bit wobbly with Megaran meanderings and a finale that’s at least one episode and an OTT performance from the lead too long. They say memory cheats, but Season 19 does have a more pleasant ‘aftertaste’ about it that Season 16, more fonder moments. So Season 19 it is. And by God, Season 19 – it’s so YOUNG! 


Mummy! Monsters everywhere – which to choose from? Season 14 definitely has the scares, but Tom in his ‘back off, I’m an alien’ phase does lack the warmth of Pat Troughton’s cosmic fun uncle. If all of Season 5 were still about and intact the answer might be different (as it was with its last-recovered story), but for many it’s still a gem waiting to be unearthed. People, it’s worth the dig. The quality of the stories, the acting and the heart behind Season 5 is a tough call to beat, and Season 14 just hasn’t the chops to stand up to it. 


What a difference fifteen years make, eh? Season 26 is a series in its dotage, still learning new tricks through denial of the old ones. Mysterious? Aloof? Unearthly? Done that – here’s another spin before tea-time and an early night. Truth be told, some of Season 26 creaks a little after all these years, and while Series 1 is by no means self-assured, it symbolically opens with a buzzing alarm clock, the rest has clearly done it good, and those old criticisms and bad jokes about Daleks, stairs and wobbly sets get sent packing. General “fan” opinion certainly makes this match-up a foregone conclusion, but when you consider the scripts and the care that was taken, and the gloss (taking into account the budget available)…well, in this case, the fans are right. Series 1 is the winner.

The Joy of Sets

Sunday, June 10th, 2007


Let’s talk about sets, baby… or more importantly one particular boxset that graced our shores last month. New Beginnings is quite quite brilliant, not only because of the arc of the stories contained within, but also because of the wealth of extras contained within.

Tom! You’re being candid! Like… proper candid! We’ve been waiting for that for ages! Thank you! Matthew! You could have shaved, but how nice that you were asked back! Sarah! Must seem like a long time since talking to Noel Edmonds on Swap Shop! Peter! Please be on every commentary! Even for stories you weren’t in! Janet! Well, it would have been lovely to have seen rather than just hear you but wow – the team back together! It’s superb! Simply superb! Even if Keeper of Traken is a pile of tosh.

But this is more than just a gushy review. It’s a general bravo to the fact that we are now in the fantastic position of finally having extremely well produced quality boxsets like every other TV show. I’ve always been a bit dubious about the single releases, especially for some of the more vanilla titles (both in terms of the extras and the story itself – yes Claws of Axos… I’m looking at you), and as such to have the added value of some of the ‘lesser’ stories coupled with classics makes me a very happy consumer. I’d buy a Season 24 boxset over any of the individual titles, and the idea of the upcoming Timeflight / Arc of Infinity set is much more appealing that having either of the stories by itself on the shelf.

The only negative thing I would say is that in some ways it’s a shame that the classic series was never released in seasons as the current series is. Yes, I see the illogical side of this (Season 5 would be, what, one disc if that?, and no one in their right minds would buy Season 11), but to have each story surrounded by its peers with perhaps an extra disc of special features covering the making of each season would be rather nice. Probably cheaper too.

But I’m happy with the status quo. Well done BBC – you’ve hooked in one happy consumer.


Dark Side of the Sun

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

42 logo 

This story comes across a little like a reality TV programme set in hell. Contestants are forced to cooperate and battle for their survival against a relentlessly ticking clock, extreme physical tests, rogue team mates and, yes, general knowledge questions, all in a Dante-esque setting of lurid fiery colour and unbearable heat.The premise of this story is relatively straightforward and wastes no time in getting started.  Which is a good thing too because our heroes are cut off from the TARDIS and have 42 minutes to save the SS Pentallion and its gritty, industrial, surnames-only crew from plunging into a sun, in real time. 

The main strength of this episode, and apparently defined by the keyword ‘suffering’ in the Production ‘tone meeting’, is that the Doctor and Martha are both fed through the wringer as never before – and with barely a sonic screwdriver in sight! It’s wonderfully refreshing to see the vulnerable side of Tennant’s ‘Super Doc’, needing the urging of a minor character to find the strength to fulfil his promise to save Martha. And most movingly, the Doctor desperately admitting his fear as she struggles to return the favour.  Having him succumb to the threat and be taken out of the picture is a very welcome move, allowing Martha to move centre stage and take charge for a while.  “More pace and energy!” was apparently Director Graham Harper’s war cry during the filming of this episode and it certainly shows, but what surprises is how effective the quieter, more emotional moments are amongst all the super-heated frenzy.Martha’s ‘last moments’ in the escape pod, both with her mother and Riley are sensitively handled and very affecting.  But the standout has to be the demise of Michelle Collins’ ‘Ripley unleaded’ character, spinning slowly to a fiery oblivion in an almost balletic embrace with her doomed husband.  Of course this might also be seen as a good lesson never to work in the same business with your ‘other half’.  Not only do we have a beautifully directed story unfolding in real-time, but two over-arcing storylines are also advanced: the claws of Saxon tighten a little more around our heroes, and more significantly the Doctor and Martha’s relationship appears to move to the next level.42 does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it well without trying to be too clever.   In fact, the only aspect which leaves me dissatisfied is its probable reception from Fan viewers in particular.  I really wonder if we are being spoilt more then we realise; in years gone by I‘m sure that this story: ‘The one with the sun’ would have been a season highlight, but this year will probably be regarded by the majority as merely average and adequate.AH

Ten things we love about the Ninth Doctor’s Era

Friday, June 8th, 2007


  1. We never got the chance to take Ecclestone for granted
    Playing it tough on the outside, bruised on the inside, the first to do away with received pronunciation, frock coats and unruly manes – and he left at his peak

  2. Billie
    Those huge eyes, teeth and erm… nostrils, you made the whole world shut up and pay attention.  We’ll always love you, and miss you as much as he does.

  3. Effects that really are Special
    One of the most excruciating things about being a ‘Who’ fan; effects sequences where every cent not spent was up there on the screen, has been banished forever.

  4.   “Fantastic!”
    As catchphrases go, shorter than “Reverse the polarity” and “Brave heart, Tegan” – and in one word sums up the ninth Doctor’s guileless delight in encountering something new.

  5. Bad Wolf
    Whether you thought it made sense or not, the Goddess Rose was the only way we were ever going to get out of that one!

  6.  “D’you wanna come with me?”
    The first ever trailer, complete with the Doctor running away from the fireball that never happened is probably still the best series opener of them all (and we bet it was the most downloaded, too)

  7. Best regeneration. Ever
    No passive locked-off shot/lying on the floor for Chris, instead we get the equivalent of a volcanic eruption – and his hands regenerate too!

  8. How many million?
    Probably never to be equalled again – as far as opening nights go, over 10 million bums on seats was a triumphant return which still has some people pinching themselves and ensured that we still have new Who to watch years later.

  9. Scary Daleks!
    The masterstroke of reintroducing a lone specimen as an unstoppable killing machine, forcing viewers to imagine what hordes of ‘new’ Daleks might be capable of.  A perfect application of the ‘what you don’t see is far scarier…’ principle.

  10. The Slow Reveal
    Simply the best way to reintroduce a 16-year-absent Time Lord to a new generation. Episode one is through the companion’s eyes, we learn that the Doctor is alone in episode three, meet our first Dalek of the series (just one!) in episode six – and all done very subtly and very stylishly. And we didn’t hear the word Gallifrey for two years! Compared to this, the McGann movie’s infodump really was a hiding to nothing.


76 Comeback

Thursday, June 7th, 2007


If there’s one hang-up I have at the moment that just won’t go away it’s Baby Boomers. Can’t stand ‘em. Born into a fully-operating welfare state, brought up on milk in schools, served the best era of rock and roll, and the first real generation to get not only a proper Yoof Culture, but also Free Love. Bastards! Of course we know how it turned out – by the Eighties they had the power and used it to make movies about themselves and their nostalgia (Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, The Big Chill), they became Yuppies, the Stock Market crashed and the inevitable loss of dignity carried on from there. More recently of course they’re making the headlines by Not Retiring, Spending The Grandchildrens’ Inheritance on Holidays and Harleys, Outbidding First-home Buyers For Investment Property, and in general Not Moving On and Letting Someone Else Have a Crack.  Their crime? Longevity.

Doctor Richard Lazarus is no Baby Boomer, having been a child of the previous generation, but he too has lingered and devoted his last years to recapturing the past. He has a young man’s weaknesses and faults; age has only brought him power without wisdom. And he’s a creepy sod too – hitting clumsily on Martha’s sister Tish when he really ought to be old enough to know better. In many ways Stephen Greenhorn’s script is essentially a box-ticker – there’s weird science, the ambitions of people trying to live beyond the boundaries of nature, and there’s reconciliation and a moral at the end. What gives it the edge, along with some nice design, some very good performances (Mark Gatiss is reliably good, although Thelma Barlow is criminally underused)  and fairly decent CGI work, is the umbrella arc showing through – Martha’s battleaxe mum only wanting the best for her kids, the implied threat of Mister Saxon’s people to the Doctor’s future. The race to the season cliffhanger ending begins now…

Perhaps after two slightly bat-arsed episodes in Old New York the injection of a story arc into the season is a little jarring, but we’re here at last. Wherever the Doctor goes on contemporary Earth, Saxon’s peole will be keeping tabs on him, and now that Martha’s permanently on board her future is in question as well. And it does prove that old adage so true to Lazarus’ plight that, in the words of one celebrated Baby Boomer Mr Robert Zimmerman – you really can’t go home again.


Reverse the Polarity! 24

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007


As fans we often pride ourselves on being part of a highly creative community and reading RTP! seems to really make this ring true.  This issue not only gives us the mix of reviews, fiction, interviews, artwork and opinion that you’d expect, but also manages to present an original 8 page comic strip.  More on that later, but I mention it now to illustrate how RTP! always manages to surprise with its content, in an almost ‘bigger on the inside’ sort of way.
Anyone who knows Andy Poulsen must have read the absorbing interview with a wry smile on their faces.  I’ve always liked him, and if Poulsen occasionally comes across as a little full of himself, reading about his various enterprises and achievements makes it very difficult to deny him that.  The interview seems to shy away from nothing, and I’m left wondering if NZ fandom should feel a collective twinge of remorse over what Poulsen’s had to bear in the wake of 1990’s WhoCon, and collective admiration at how well he’s come out of it since. The centrepiece of the issue is undoubtedly Peter Adamson’s latest instalment of his Cydonia epic.  Stark and beautifully crafted images with an almost poetic narrative make this strip unique and fascinating. More frivolously, I wonder if Adamson is re-establishing the might of the ‘other alien race’ which appears in this strip, to redress the treatment they received in their recent televised ‘monster-match’?But what really made RTP! 24 a Fanzine that I wanted to read was the fact that it tackled Torchwood (At last!)  Literally tackled, given the tone of the relevant articles.  I seem to be part of a minority that enjoyed Doctor Who’s first adult spin-off, but David Ronayne does argue very convincingly for the prosecution.  Slightly less convincing was Editor Alexander Ballingall’s sweeping statement: “The regulars beyond Jack are all boring…” RTP! is better than that, and so is Ballingall in his reviews, artwork and replies to one of the wittiest and most entertaining letters pages which I’ve ever read.

In this incredible age of ‘Who healthiness’ which we’ve unexpectedly found ourselves living in, RTP! manages to find its own particular, fun and irreverent voice to celebrate this as well as showcasing fan talent of an international standard.  That the ‘funky vegetarian platter’ of New Zealand Fanzines deserves a wider audience and contributor list is beyond doubt.  But I have the impression that it has been a little overlooked and neglected by Fandom in the past (although this never shows in quality) so perhaps it should be asked: “do we deserve RTP!”?


Ed note: RTP!s new online home is at