Archive for January, 2008

The Slumber of the Beast

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008


What then of the second episode of Torchwood? The first obvious question is: where’s the humour gone? One episode (by one of the creator’s admittedly) does not a vision make, but one would hope that there would be a consistence approach to the episodes by all writers.

Or was this left over from last season? Certainly, this story could fit into the first season, with its grim and gritty team, and the focus on one human going through emotional problems and identified with by Gwen. She (Gwen) is the easy link for the writers and has been set up as the “human element” among the more emotionless crew. When in doubt, go to Gwen pointing out that the human view is the good one.

(And let’s be in no doubt that the alien view is the wrong one. Once again Encyclopaedia Jack knows exactly what’s going on and that the alien menace is indeed an alien menace. No wonder that the old woman in episode was complaining about Torchwood, how did they ever manage to do anything properly without Jack explaining everything they had to know?)

Unfortunately, the main story itself isn’t at all original. A sleeper agent that wakes up but the cover element dominates their thinking… (for some reason, I want to make a Total Recall reference here, but mentioning Arnie isn’t a sufficient excuse). Frankly, you could eliminate the second half of the episode, and go straight from Beth finding out she was an evil alien to her dealing with it in the only sensible way. But we needs our action sequences, and so we get an entire Declassified episode dedicated to blowing up a Cardiff high-street in one shot.

There is a hint that this might speak to a bigger arc, but given the speed with which the cell moves in this episode, I would think the other cell members around the world would have taken over everything before anyone had time to react. Torchwood does follow up on past episodes, but usually from a character arc point of view, not a plot-element perspective. More likely the writer threw in “there are more cell members out there” to allow for future call-backs, but not with any definite plan in mind.

The focus of this episode is on Beth, with the Torchwood crew taking a background role to allow her story to be played out (and, frankly, her story could be told in nearly any series). Unless this story proves to be vitally important to the development of Torchwood, this episode ranks as unexciting filler material.


Tip-toeing into the new year

Sunday, January 27th, 2008


It’s 2008, and the series and fandom is swinging slowly toward Doctor Who‘s 45th anniversary. Russell T Davies has promised a great series cliffhanger ostensibly to mark the event, although some might note with concern that the word “fanwank” was used by him to describe it.  Indeed, there seems to be a significant number of fans viewing the promised series finale with its confirmed returning companions, rumoured villains and speculated links with next year’s TV specials with no small amount of circumspection. You can see also on the Doctor Who Forum the existential questions being formed along the lines of: what do the ‘Not We’ (non-fans) think of x?

It’s nothing that new, but recently this divination of audience figures and reviews seems to be more cautiously oriented towards the opinions of the general public and major dailies rather than the usual SF media. Need it be said that at the end of the day and despite our enthusiasm for the series, we know full well that its fate is not ultimately in our hands. Perhaps an all-star finale for this year will be every bit as succesful if not moreso than the patchy ratings darling Voyage of the Damned, and maybe that’s all that matters in the larger scheme of things? Beyond the immediate future lies the likelihood of a new production team, with Phil Collinson having already doffed his hat in farewell. The series has so far survived a change of lead and a change of companion; the inevitable challenge must now be a change of producer. When that occurs we may have an answer.

For now though, welcome back to the blog. There have been some changes for the new year. After co-editing Zeus Blog for 2007 and being the driving force behind Zeus Plug, Jono has announced his plans to leave New Zealand for the UK in April, and has stood down from blogging duties. Joking aside, I and the other regular contributors will miss his presence – although it’s strange to be writing this in the knowledge that in the online world London really is no farther away than Auckland, or even the other side of town.

Despite one’s best efforts though, blogs can sometimes be quite static things, and as one-sided as a lot of Web media, something we’d like to address in some new features. Zeus Blog will continue to review the new series as well as Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures; Fast Return will remain as well as the occasional editorial, but with Battle of the Seasons now finally complete it’s time for a new head-to-head competition. This time the votes will be open to you the reader, and so the search for the ultimate winner can be something we’ll all be able to participate in and enjoy together. The new competition starts in February, and it’ll be Monstrous!


So – how did it end?

Friday, January 25th, 2008


You’ll laugh, really, but it appears that with 2007 being such an enormously busy year what with the blog starting, the blog’s teething problems, commitments to other zines, broken arms and trips hither and yon, Battle of the Seasons, the possibly-awaited follow up to 2006′s controversial Companion vs Companion series (it was in the pubzine. Leela won), was never completed. Colour us stupid!

For the sake of anyone who was following at home, and in order to prevent any future discoveries of the thing in a Mormon Church basement in Hong Kong or something, here’s how it was going to turn out:


Season 5 VS Season 13

So it comes to this – monsters. How clairvoyant! But which season has the best? Which offers the most originality between a year of stories that feature two returning monsters from the stable, and a new monster with built-in sequel to boot; and one based around the idea of pastiching other people’s classics? They’re both the Devil’s sweetmeats! And it’s the Devil’s job deciding between the two.

It seems false to elect the season of which very little survives because the implication therein is that one is basing their choice on the reputation of fan mythology. On the other hand, choosing Season Thirteen surely smacks of populism and a lack of originality! Perhaps the choice is Solomon’s: if we were to lose both seasons right this moment, which would we miss the most – that which we’d enjoyed or knew the less about? Which would we want back?

Feeling all a little Meryl Streep at this moment, if we HAD to choose, Season 13 could be surrended, letting go of one year of Tom Baker whilst knowing there are two, maybe three other years which are about as good. With Pat Troughton, S5 is the one to watch out for. Fans can be wrong about the things they revere – they’ve been wrong before and there are still some out there who think we were wrong to be so rose-tinted about ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ once it was discovered.

But you know what? The reputation it once enjoyed was great not because it was misplaced, but because for those fans in the 80s who carried a flame for it, it had been to some a formitive experience – Season Five was the monster season built for kids to enjoy with a friendly Doctor, young companions and plenty of harmless scares, compared to which the sophisticated horrors of the Holmes-Hinchcliffe era Season Thirteen come across as something a little harder, a little less childlike, a little more bloody, a little more frightening, without the reassurance of an uncle-like Time Lord to steer the young viewer through. It’s that formula of childlike wonder and frights that makes the new series the success it is today – not the more mature ‘serious’ adult horror of later years that older and slightly more complacent fans would embrace in its wilderness years.

So in the end, with our three intrepid voters unanimous in agreement, the Best. Season. Ever. crown goes to:



Comeback Jack

Monday, January 21st, 2008


Torchwood‘s back! And front! And left! And… well, has it ever been right? Clearly the producers have been giving it some consideration as the show has had some change over the intervening months. The Torchwood team has been forced to grow up without Jack around, so there’s no surprise that they are back to the general squabbling as soon as he returns.

No, that’s a lie. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a show that concentrates on the team with the addition of Spike… I mean, James Masters as… well, I won’t give spoilers away here, so let’s call his character John for the purposes of this review. John’s come to town, and now Jack and the team have to deal with him. Old secrets are raised, size jokes are made, and we get to see many of the characters show actual depth for a change.

Owen’s clearly been swapped for someone who isn’t as much of a prat, but I’m sure we’ll get to see him return to form in Owen-centric episodes. Tosh has… slightly become more confident, and Ianto has become… a bit of a prissy boy, really. Unless the production are careful, he’s going to become an extremely wet character and the first against the wall when the revolution comes (and, indeed, this is only a single entendre). But the focus of the episode is, of course, on Gwen and Jack. Gwen has moved on in her life with Rhys, and clearly doesn’t pine for Jack in any way with her long stares with large puppy dog eyes in his direction. Jack remains as jubilent as ever, hiding a mask of anguish, and still hits on anything that moves (although because this is a “proper adult series for the 21st century”, this means anything male). And I’m sure James Masters will be back as he got most of the best lines and has plot information that hints at an over-arcing (in a good, non-RTD, way).

Although we shouldn’t judge from the first episode (not that that’s going to stop us), the series has lightened up, with actual humourous moments given more weight and fit nicely into keeping the episode from being too angsty-dark, but we’ll see if they keep that up. I have to say I liked that side of it, and hope they do develop that more (without, obviously, becoming a comedy sit-com… although considering the series is British, it would actually be funny, unlike certain products from other countries).

This episode is a good reintroduction to the team, and the trailer for up-coming shows promise a lot of action (but then again, they wouldn’t show lots of the team filling out paperwork). I’m not saying the series is off rocky ground, but it looks like there’s a team with planks of wood around the hull, trying to pry it back into the water.


2007 in Review

Monday, January 21st, 2008


2007. It was a game of two halves. We began the last twelve months in Cardiff and walked the globe with Martha and journeyed to the end of all time or something like that with Jack and the Doctor’s hand. Peter came back for char-i-dy, Kylie saved Her Madge and got a honour for her efforts, and Dalek Sec became a cover model for the Radio Times. TSV turned twenty, RTP! turned ten, and Outpost Gallifrey turned into Doctor Who News, apparently. But what for Fast Return were the most interesting things to take place in 2007?

Well, don’t expect miracles. Instead, here’s a selection of things that slipped through our net. It’s all here, after the jump:


TSV 75

Friday, January 18th, 2008

One might think with the somewhat subdued and narrowly-focussed response to TSV‘s 75th issue and its 20th year of existence that this issue’s success is mainly down to the masterly artwork on its wraparound cover and little lese. This is an oversight – to be sure, Alistair Hughes’ cover is a striking and vivid piece, reliably faithful to its sources and composed pleasingly on the eye, and easily the best cover in recent years; inside however, there’s more going on than just the status quo.

tsv75.jpgtsv75.jpgTSV 75 is less a look back than some – ZeusBlog among them, may have predicted. Of course there’s an article by current and former editor Paul Scoones on its creation, but there’s also much of the new in the mix, and the recent – Amy Mebberson provides the highly appealing artwork accompanying the new series round-table reviews (one of the zine’s main features) and Lorna Fleming and Jez Strickley provide their own articles, respectively on the DW canon and the symboloism of the series’ traditional top-tier monsters that, while they would certainly benefit from a firmer editorial hand, are evidence of new blood. Elsewhere Chris Skerrow continues his very enjoyable voyage through the BBC Past Doctor adventures (with only one instalment remaining the series itself has been a mainstay for some issues), and Jon Preddle researches the original series’ screenings in Singapore – reading the Straits Times so we don’t have to. It’s scholarly stuff, but this sort of thing needn’t always feature in The Disused Yeti, and when it’s put together as well as this, even no news of old footage being unearthed is worth publishing. Oh, and a special mention to the continued Drabble Who Challenge section, particularly the rather fun entry by Tim Beverstock. We didn’t know you had it in you, lad!

So it’s a decent mixture of old and new, with solid long-term contributors like Jon and Neil Lambess boosting the page count while newcomers are bedded in and Ms Mebberson’s artwork gives the zine some well-needed breathing space from all those lines and lines and lines of text. There’s even some extremely fannish fun to be had with the Vote Hi Fi article linking (and I use that term very loosely) The Chase with Series Three. As an anniversary issue there’s nothing ‘special’ here (the dropped ball that is no Sylvester McCoy interview after his second visit to NZ in three years is puzzling and warrants explanation), but there’s enough for a few sessions’ read rather than a hurried cover to cover dash. And why not – after twenty years of Her Majesty’s Fanzine and with the series back on air there’s every opportunity for a leisurely leaf through the pages, right?


Newtons Sleep Book Launch

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Come one o’clock today, several of us congregated at  the Toi Pōneke Gallery in Wellington for the launch of the first of a new line of Faction Paradox books published by locals Random Static.  Faction Paradox, for the unaware, originally spun off from the BBC Doctor Who novel range, but are now doing very well on their own, thank you.  As usual, you can read about the series in any good encyclopaedia.

Once everyone was gathered, Kelly from Random Static began proceedings, and soon the ghostly image of author Daniel O’Mahony appeared on the wall to read us excepts from the novel.

Daniel O’Mahony

Although the decidedly dodgy connection lost a word here or there we got the gist, and dispensing with the video for an audio only experience seemed to help.  After some amusing voices from Mr O’Mahony, the book was officially unveiled.  The author couldn’t be there in person, but cover artist Emma Weakley was on hand to sign books.

Newtons Sleep can, of course, be ordered from Random Static’s website.


Message to my Girls

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Dear Martha

We were sorry to hear you’d gone so soon. Truth be told, you’d really grown on us. There wasn’t that much to disapprove of – you’re independent, funny, spirited, very easy on the eye, and you had that endearing way of bringnig that very cool theme tune around with you when you appeared – that was excellent. You were everythign a companion is exected to be. But now you’ve left him, to look after a family that – let’s be honest, doesn’t owe you too many favours. And you left in such a strange fashion (mind you, you should have seen what happened right after you exited those doors. Phew). Twelve stories, some brilliant, some pedestrian. A year playing John the Baptist to a shrivelled Tweety Bird in a wire cage – none of us saw that coming. And then he let you leave. He hardly gave you a chance, did he?

But you did well – very well, indeed, despite the circumstances. Jack liked you too, and you got a quick snog in during that episode about the sentient sun – nice work! So farewell then, for the mean-time. We’ll be sure to look out for you in Torchwood. Speaking of which, pack some disinfectant and don’t let Owen near you – you may have fancied your last workmate, but they do things very differently in Cardiff.

Above all, take care. We’ll see you later in the year

Your loyal followers.

Dear Donna

How are you? We met briefly last Christmas, but you might not remember us that well – there was an awful lot of shouting going on at the time. We hear you’re to be the Doctor’s new companion soon? Well dnoe!

Normally we’d offer you some tips towards being a Doctor Who companion, but we’ve a feeling you’ve got a pretty good handle on that already. And maybe you’re ignoring the rest? Vive la difference, as they say in France. France, dear – it’s that big bit southwest of Germany. In Europe.

So then – thanks to the tabs and paps we think we might have a few ideas as to what you may be in store for this year. Good luck! There’ll be some challenges in store for you, if we think we’ve got your persona right. Challenges indeed – classical history, crime literature – that’s a bit broad and deep for a Heat reader perhaps, but we know you’ll rise to the challenge. Then there’s likely to be Daleks at some stage, Sontarans for sure, and who knows – maybe some other classic’ monsters and baddies toutted to pop by before the gap year arrives. From at least one redhead to another, we’re rooting for you – especially if you can keep that Time Lord of yours on the straight and narrow. Do your best – the last one was dogged by some inexcusable mooching about the one that got away(ish) in 2005. Stand your ground – and if you play your cards right we think you could be a real breath of fresh air.

Most of all, ignore the moaners, love. Do your best. He may say he’s not a ‘second chances’ guy, but we know different, and what sort of fans would we be if we didn’t give you a second chance as well?

All the best,
Your fans