Timeless Returns to E4 on 4th April

On Wednesday, 4th April (that’s tomorrow), at 9pm, Season 2 of Timeless begins on E4 (Freeview Channel 28 here in the UK), although it has been already running for several weeks in the US. The trailer has been running on E4 for several weeks now, along with repeats of Season 1.

To say that I’m excited and eagerly awaiting the start of Season 2 would be somewhat of a massive understatement. Season 1 was a surprise “sleeper” hit for me. Despite being a fan of most things to do with time travel, I’ve become a tad jaded in recent years, cynical and disillusioned by most modern sci-fi series. I’ve liked a few, but most of them inevitably disappoint, either by being bland and failing to deliver on their potential, or in the “ho-hum, seen it all a hundred times before” kind of way.

But Timeless was a rare exception, and proved to be both exciting and a lot of fun. The time-travelling jaunts of Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus, and their attempts to thwart the machinations of both Rittenhouse and Flynn captivated me and moved firmly onto my “don’t miss” TV watch schedule. The individual episodes were entertaining and pushed the overall story arc ahead, leaving excellent cliffhangers and anticipation for the next step in the overall story, and the Season 1 final episode cliffhanger was a corker. I looked forward to every episode, and I made darned sure that I never missed one of them.

There was a nasty scare when the series was initially cancelled after Season 1. Like many fans, I was totally outraged that such a fun series was being dropped, while so much utter rubbish was being renewed for a new season (hasn’t that always been the way?). But the unexpected renewal of Timeless after widespread fan outrage brought sheer relief and jubilation, although we’ve had to wait a bit for the start of Season 2.

Well, now it’s almost here, and I can barely wait for 9pm tomorrow night. I feel like a kid at Christmas.

Bring it on!

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Doctor Who New Series, Series 1-4 DVD Boxset

I recently decided it was time to pony up and fork out for the collected Series 1-4 of Doctor Who, the New Series (aka NuWho) from Amazon.co.uk, which arrived via postie a few days ago.

I’ve been threatening to do this for quite a while now, as I’d never collected any of the New Series on DVD (being more of a Classic Series fan), but kept putting it off. But the price was right, just under £40 for the lot (not a bad price for four seasons, considering Series 5 onwards are £20 a pop individually), so I took the plunge.

Thoughts? This is a great bargain, in my opinion. Nabbing Christopher Eccleston’s single first season along with all three seasons of David Tennant’s run is quite a good start for my NuWho collection. There’s a huge amount of episodes, Christmas Specials and extras in this boxset. Overall, a heckuva nice bargain for under £40.

There are five discs in the Season 1 boxset. Discs 1 and 2 contain three episodes each, plus a variety of special features. Disc 3 has four episodes plus special features. Disc 4 has three episodes plus special features. And Disc 5 is comprised of all the Doctor Who Confidential documentaries that accompanied each episode.

Series 2 follows the same pattern as Series 1, except with six discs. Series 3 is the same, also with six discs. Likewise with Series 4. That’s 23 discs and 55 episodes of great NuWho viewing, plus LOTS of special features/extras and a cracking little landscape format booklet with lots of photos and an episode guide.

I’ve been watching the earliest episodes of Series 1, the first three so far, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s easy to understand why the show was so popular when it hit the air back in 2005 (and deservedly so), and Eccleston’s performance as The Doctor was astounding. It’s a great pity he only did one season.

New Doctor Who DVDs, December 2017 (Part 2)

The Shada DVD arrived on the 21st, and a nice box of DVDs landed from Amazon UK today. Everything’s here now except for The Dominators, which was shipped separately and should’ve been here on Friday. Hopefully it’ll get here tomorrow. If not, it’ll either be after Christmas, or it’s gone missing in the post.

Update: The Dominators arrived in the very first post after Christmas, so everything’s here now. I’m very happy with this massive stack of classic Doctor Who DVDs, which should keep me super-glued to the telly for weeks to come. The best Christmas pressies I’ve had in a while, even if I had to buy them for myself. 🙂

New Doctor Who DVDs, December 2017 (Part 1)

I haven’t bought any DVDs in a while now due to the ongoing money being a bit tight situation. But it’s coming up to Christmas, and I have to get my Christmas pressies sorted out. So guess what I’ve ordered myself for Christmas? Yeah, a bunch of classic series Doctor Who DVDs, that’s what. They’ve been dispatched, and are on their way. I reckon I’ll have them Friday, or Saturday at the latest. Here’s what will be in Santa’s Christmas sack for poor ol’ Phil.

  • The Rescue & The Romans (boxset) [Hartnell]
  • The Reign of Terror [Hartnell]
  • The Sensorites [Hartnell]
  • Planet of Giants [Hartnell]
  • The Time Meddler [Hartnell]
  • The Underwater Menace [Troughton]
  • The Enemy of the World [Troughton]
  • The Krotons [Troughton]
  • The Dominators [Troughton]
  • The War Games [Troughton]
  • Shada [DVD] [2017] [Tom Baker]
  • Shada LIMITED EDITION Blu-ray [2017] [Region Free] [Tom Baker]

That’s five Hartnells (actually six, as The Rescue and The Romans are two separate stories in one boxset), five Troughtons and two Tom Bakers (well, one story, but both the DVD and the limited steelbox blu-ray edition of the new release of Shada). Aside from the two Bakers, the others are all 1960s black & white stories, which, as far as I’m aware, completes all of the black & white releases, with the exception of The Gunfighters, on the Earth Story DVD boxset.

Since I started collecting classic Doctor Who DVDs many moons ago, I’ve been working my way up slowly from the beginning of the series to the end, and, as I’ve said, I’ve now more or less completed all of the 60s black & white stories. Next step is to move onto the colour classics and complete the entire run of Jon Pertwee stories, but I’ll leave that until the New Year, when (if) I manage to get the finances sorted out. I already have most of the Pertwee and Tom Baker stories on DVD, but I still need a handful of each to complete their runs. Then onto Peter Davison.

I don’t care so much about the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy eras. I’ve already got my favourite stories from those (I only really liked two or three from each), but I’ll probably eventually get the rest, just to complete the collection. But to be honest, I never really much liked 90% of the output during those two eras. The first five Doctors was where it was at, story wise, as far as I’m concerned.

Doctor Who Series 10: Episode 1 – “The Pilot”

Earlier this evening saw the welcome return of Doctor Who to our TV screens after a prolonged absense, when the first episode of Series 10, “The Pilot”, aired on BBC1 at 7.20pm.

This is the beginning of not only Peter Capaldi’s final series as the Doctor, but Steven Moffat’s final series as showrunner. We’re also introduced to the new companion, Bill Potts, a “canteen lady” at a university, who has, for some reason unknown to her, somehow been called up for an interview with one of the university’s most prestigious and popular professors, who just happens to be the Doctor, ably assisted by his rather strange companion, Nardole. After her interview at the Doctor’s office, he becomes her “tutor”.

Much of the episode focuses on Bill and her personal life (she may not be the first openly gay companion in the series – that honour goes to Captain Jack Harkness – but she is certainly the first gay, black, female companion). She starts a relationship with a student called Heather, but things immediately take a turn into the twilight zone when Heather shows Bill a weird puddle, which gives “wrong” reflections of the people who look into it.

The puddle is actually an alien “space oil” entity that eats/absorbs Heather and proceeds to chase after Bill in a watery form that mimicks Heather. First to Bill’s flat, then to the Doctor’s office, where Bill, the Doctor and Nardole are forced into the TARDIS, which jumps first to some kind of locked, guarded vault (which I reckon we’ll see a lot more of later in Series 10). Then it’s to the other side of the world, to Australia (where the Doctor has to explain about himself to Bill). The Heather-water thingy follows them there.

Next the TARDIS travels to a planet on the other side of the universe, twenty-three million years in the future. The Heather-entity finds them even there. The damned thing can time travel. It can go anywhere that the TARDIS can go. Finally, the TARDIS lands in the middle of one of the greatest space battles in all of time and space, between the Daleks and Movellans. The Heather-entity follows them there as well. Bill, against the wishes of the Doctor, decides to confront her pursuer, and realizing that the Heather-entity is only following her because of the promise that Heather had made to Bill that “she would never leave her”, Bill releases Heather from the vow, and the entity just melts away and vanishes. It hadn’t been following Bill to harm her, but to invite her to join it (unfortunately she would’ve ceased to exist as a human, just as Heather had). The TARDIS returns to the Doctor’s office, where he tries to wipe Bill’s memory, but she refuses to let him, and leaves, only to meet him waiting outside with the TARDIS, inviting her to join him.

Overall, I quite liked “The Pilot”. It wasn’t Earth-shatteringly brilliant, but it was a pretty decent story, and although quite subdued and relatively low-key, it served as a good introductory episode for the new companion. It was a nice “character” episode, and I thought that the whole introduction of Bill thing echoed strongly the very first episode of NuWho (“Rose”) very nicely indeed. The entire exciting chase sequence later in the episode only lasted a few minutes, but was pretty effective, and I loved the very short “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo of the Daleks vs the Movellans, giving us our first short glimpse of that famous war first mentioned way back in the Peter Davison era.

The short sequence with the Dalek blasting away (totally ineffectually) at the Heather-entity was quite chilling, with it just standing there ignoring the Dalek laser blasts as if they were nothing, and repeating “Exterminate!” every time the Dalek screeched it. It was a strong reminder that there are lifeforms out there far more powerful than even the Daleks. The Heather-entity assuming the Dalek’s likeness makes me wonder what happened to the poor old Dalek. Did she destroy and absorb it, or did it crap itself and scarper? 🙂 The scene where Bill touches the Heather-entity and it shows her all of time and space was also pretty well done. That was a tough one for Bill to turn down, but I reckon the dying and being absorbed thing kinda put her off a bit. 🙂

Anyway, a good start to Series 10. Roll on next week and the second episode, “Smile”.

The Golden Age of Science Fiction (Kindle Edition)

All of my posts on SF books up until now have been on “real” books, the paper, printed kind. Which is fine and dandy, as I have a massive collection of books. But back in 2012, I bought myself an Amazon Kindle e-reader (3rd gen), and since then, I’ve been reading more and more SF in electronic format.

Despite being a computer user since the mid-1980s, I’ve always been a bit slow keeping up with the newest technologies (I still don’t have a smartphone, and can’t be bothered with them, to be honest). I’ve been the same with e-readers. I’m pretty old-fashioned when it comes to books, almost always preferring the actual physical book to a bunch of pixels on a computer monitor. That’s the book collector side of me showing his face. But, as a mere reader, as opposed to a collector, I spend a lot more time actually reading books on my Kindle these days. The computer is on virtually from when I wake up until I go to sleep, so, in many ways, I actually now find it easier (or at least AS easy) to read on a Kindle or computer monitor than I do reading from a book.

It seems that I’ve been split into two personas – the obsessive book collector, who will always prefer “real”, physical books, and the reader, who likes a quick, dirty read on his Kindle. It’s much easier to carry hundreds of books around on a Kindle, and it certainly is a huge space-saver, not having to clutter up the house with yet more paperbacks (I’ve long ago run out of space, and my home is already totally cluttered up with paperbacks), and the Kindle certainly seems to have replaced the mass market paperback for me, leaving the buying of physical, print books mostly in hardback or trade paperback for more collectible books or my favourite authors.

Since I bought my Kindle four years ago, I’ve been buying huge numbers of cheap Kindle author collections and anthologies of vintage and classic SF. So I reckon that it’s long past time that I start listing and recommending a few of these ebooks, in addition to the print books I’ve been collecting. I’m going to start off with a series called The Golden Age of Science Fiction – I’ve found fifteen volumes so far on Amazon, although there may be more. Here’s a listing of the fifteen volumes and their contents:

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume I

They Twinkled Like Jewels, by Philip Jose Farmer
This Crowded Earth, by Robert Bloch
Time and Time Again, by H. Beam Piper
Time Enough At Last, by Lynn Venable
Toy Shop, by Harry Harrison
Two Timer, by Frederic Brown
Watchbird, by Robert Sheckley
Year of the Big Thaw, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Sensitive Man, by Poul Anderson
The Skull, by Philip K. Dick

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume II

Warrior Race, by Robert Sheckley
Advanced Chemistry, by Jack Huekels
Spacewrecked on Venus, by Neil R. Jones
The Martian, by A.R. Hilliard and Allen Glasser
The Velvet Glove, by Harry Harrison
Gambler’s World, by Keith Laumer
Invasion, by Murray Leinster
The Knights of Arthur, by Frederik Pohl
The Missing Link, by Frank Herbert
Sand Doom, by Murray Leinster

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume III

The Silver Menace, by Murray Leinster
The Birds of Lorrane, by Bill Doede
Half Past Alligator, by Donald Colvin
The Weather on Mercury, by William Morrison
Today is Forever, by Roger Dee
Education of a Martian, by Joseph Shallit
Earthbound, by Lester del Rey
Not Fit for Children, by Evelyn Smith

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume IV

A Gleeb for Earth, by Charles Shafhauser
The Highest Mountain, by Bryce Walton
Soldier Boy, by Michael Shaara
Tea Tray in the Sky, by Evelyn Smith
Alien Minds, by E. Everett Evans
Proof of the Pudding, by Robert Sheckley
Green Grew the Lasses, by Ruth Wainwright

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume V

The Moons of Mars, by Dean Evans
Orphans of the Void, by Michael Shaara
The Luckiest Man in Denv, by Simon Eisner
The Awakening, by Jack Sharkey
A City Near Centaurus, by Bill Doede
How to Make Friends, by Jim Harmon
A Bad Day for Sales, by Fritz Leiber
Bimmie Says, by Sydney van Scyoc
Shipping Clerk, by William Morrison

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume VI

Proof of the Pudding, by Robert Sheckley
Green Grew the Lasses, by Ruth Wainwright
The Luckiest Man in Denv, by Simon Eisner
The Awakening, by Jack Sharkey
Orphans of the Void, by Michael Shaara
The Moons of Mars, by Dean Evans
A Bad Day for Sales, by Fritz Leiber
How to Make Friends, by Jim Harmon
A City Near Centaurus, by Bill Doede
Bimmie Says, by Sydney van Scyoc
Shipping Clerk, by William Morrison

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume VII

The Highest Mountain, by Bryce Walton
A Gleeb for Earth, by Charles Shafhauser
Not Fit for Children, by Evelyn Smith
The Barbarians, by John Sentry
He Walked Around the Horses, by H. Beam Piper
Last Enemy, by H. Beam Piper
Assassin, by J.F. Bone

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume VIII

Sjambak, by Jack Vance
One Man’s Poison, by Robert Sheckley
Earthmen Bearing Gifts, by Frederic Brown
The Leech, by Phillips Barbee
The Day of the Boomer Dukes, by Frederik Pohl
No Strings Attached, by Lester del Rey
Keep Your Shape, by Robert Sheckley
The Machine that Saved the World, by Murray Leinster

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume IX

The Protector, by Betsy Curtis
Jaywalker, by Ross Rocklynne
Picture Bride, by William Morrison
Two Weeks in August, by Frank Robinson
Queen of the Flaming Diamond, by Leroy Yerxa
No Shield from the Dead, by Gordon Dickson
Fair and Warmer, by E.G. von Wald
Human Error, by Raymond Jones
Oogie Finds Love, by Berkeley Livingston
The Prophetic Camera, by John McGeevey
Sinister Paradise, by Robert Moore Williams

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume X

Yesterday House, by Fritz Leiber
Wailing Wall, by Roger Dee
The Valor of Cappen Varra, by Poul Anderson
The Thing in the Attic, by James Blish
The Street that Wasn’t There, by Clifford Simak
The Snare, by Richard Smith
The Repairman, by Harry Harrison
The Bluff of the Hawk, by Anthony Gilmore
The Problem Makers, by Robert Hoskins

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XI

Bodyguard, by Christopher Grimm
Med Ship Man, by Murray Leinster
The Judas Valley, by Gerald Vance
The Misplaced Battleship, by Harry Harrison
Piper in the Woods, by Philip K. Dick
The Happy Unfortunate, by Robert Silverberg
Genesis, by H. Beam Piper

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XII

Once a Greech, by Evelyn E. Smith
Pandemic, by J.F. Bone
My Fair Planet, by Evelyn E. Smith
Sorry: Wrong Dimension, by Ross Rocklynne
Junior, by Robert Abernathy
Song in a Minor Key, by C.L. Moore
The Right Time, by Walter Bupp
The Man Who Saw the Future, by Edmond Hamilton
Citadel, by Algis Budrys
The Doorway, by Evelyn E. Smith
To Remember Charlie By, by Roger Dee
The Last Place on Earth, by Jim Harmon
Do Unto Others, by Mark Clifton

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XIII

Death Wish, by Ned Lang
Assignment’s End, by Roger Dee
Double or Nothing, by Jack Sharkey
The Victor, by Bryce Walton
The Nostalgia Gene, by Roy Hutchins
Garrity’s Annuities, by David Mason
The Freelancer, by Robert Zacks
My Lady Selene, by Magnus Ludens
The Great Nebraska Sea, by Allan Danzig
On the Fourth Planet, by J.F. Bone
$1,000 A Plate, by Jack McKenty
Sweet Tooth, by Robert F. Young
Hot Planet, by Hal Clement

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XIV

Problem on Balak, by Roger Dee
Star, Bright, by Mark Clifton
Man in a Sewing Machine, by L.J. Stecher
Point of Departure, by Vaughan Shelton
Of All Possible Worlds, by William Tenn
End as a World, by F.L. Wallace
Arm of the Law, by Harry Harrison
Subspace Survivors, by Edward E. Smith
Prison Of A Billion Years, by C.H. Thames
The Nothing Equation, by Tom Godwin

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XV

Project Mastodon, by Clifford Simak
The Holes Around Mars, by Jerome Bixby
Big Ancestor, by F.L. Wallace
Jack of No Trades, by Evelyn E. Smith
The Piebald Hippogriff, by Karen Anderson
Shipwreck in the Sky, by Eando Binder
Sentiment, Inc., by Poul Anderson
Postmark Ganymede, by Robert Silverberg
The Next Logical Step, by Ben Bova
Tedric, by E.E. Smith

Sci-Fi Cinema vs Sci-Fi TV – The Verdict?

I rarely go to the cinema any more, if at all. The last film that I went to see was The Avengers, four years ago in 2012. Before that, it was X-Men: First Class in 2011, Avatar and Star Trek, way back in 2009, and The Dark Knight, in 2008. All in all, I think I’ve been to the cinema no more than a half dozen times since my son died, back in April 2006.

Why? For starters, the cost. Going to the cinema is an expensive pursuit these days, and the cost of admission alone isn’t much less than the price of a DVD. Then on top of that, you have to factor in the transport costs to and from the cinema, plus paying out for something nice to eat afterwards or during the film. It can make for a costly night out, and it just might be cheaper to go to the pub instead.

So is it worth paying that kind of money just to watch a film, particularly when the chances of being badly disappointed by any new Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster are unfortunately extremely high? The quality of the typical big Hollywood sci-fi movie over the past couple of decades has been absolutely dire, especially when we look back at how good the classic sci-fi films of the 1950s-1980s were by comparison. I don’t even bother going to see most films at the cinema at all these days, no matter how much they’re hyped. I simply prefer to wait for the DVD to come out and watch the film in the comfort of my own home. The fact is that, for me, the cinema is no longer the essential large viewing experience that it once was.

In years past, if I wanted to watch the film on a large screen, I HAD to go to the cinema. Now I have a lovely big widescreen TV at home, I can buy the DVD when it comes out, and watch it as often as I like (with subtitles, pause, rewind, etc) in the comfort of my own home, either alone, or with friends. So Why bother forking out a load of cash to go to the cinema, where there are all kinds of annoyances (mobile phones flashing non-stop throughout the film, disruptive cretins yapping incessantly and misbehaving, annoying kids kicking the back of your seat, people walking up and down the isles or back and forth in front of you during the film, the inevitable sore backside sitting on those crappy cinema seats, which makes the last hour or so VERY uncomfortable during longer films, etc), when, for a less than £20, I can have the DVD, a few cans of beer (a pleasant bonus when viewing at home, but strictly verboten in cinemas), and lie back on the sofa and enjoy the film on my BIG television in comfort and in peace and quiet?

But the most important reason? It’s illustrated by a remark made by friend and fellow member (Dennis Howard) over on the FanCentral social network a few years ago. He said (in words to this effect) that he rarely watches (modern) sci-fi films any more, because he’s very rarely impressed by them, and because all of the best sci-fi is happening on television anyway, not in film. It’s a spot-on observation, in my opinion, and one that I agree with very strongly. There’s only so much you can squeeze into a two-hour film, and when you consider that most modern Hollywood sci-fi movies are mostly made up of action sequences, big explosions and special effects, it doesn’t leave much time for anything else. As a result, two of the most important things that should be paramount, but tend to suffer badly in newer Hollywood movies, are the actual stories/plots and character development. I almost always walk away from the cinema afterwards feeling dissatisfied about those two aspects of a film.

This is where television has cinema beaten hands down. Old-style sci-fi television was strictly episodic in nature, with a built-in reset button at the end of every episode. But Babylon 5 changed all that back in the 90s, and today, most decent modern sci-fi series can have intricate on-going plot arcs and sub-plots that simply are not possible in a two-hour film, and the same holds true for the ongoing character development of both the main and the supporting cast. Add to this the fact that modern special effects on TV have reached such a high level of technical quality and sophistication that television sci-fi no longer looks cheap and cheesy, and we can see that most decent sci-fi concepts would be better served in a television series than in a film. Hey, even if the series gets cancelled after one or two seasons (an ever-present danger with the TV networks), we still get a LOT more than we ever would from a two-hour movie.

Sure, I still buy the best of the films on DVD, although they do tend to be older sci-fi cinema classics rather than modern films. But these past couple of years, I’ve turned more and more to television shows, and taken to buying DVD boxsets of classic and modern sci-fi series. I started off with buying classic older series such as Doctor Who, Sapphire and Steel, UFO, The Tomorrow People, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Time Tunnel, Timeslip, Children of the Stones, Sky, Quatermass, The Invaders, Fireball XL5, Space Patrol, Moonbase 3, Babylon 5, the X-Files, Stargate SG1/Atlantis/Universe, Quantum Leap, and Star Trek TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY/ENT. But I’ve also been grabbing boxsets of more modern series as they’ve come down in price – Fringe, BSG, Heroes, Smallville, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, NuWho and a few others. I just wait patiently for new stuff to be released on DVD at reasonable prices, and buy them.

I’ve pretty much adopted the same policy as Dennis, to concentrate mostly on sci-fi television series, but take that further to such an extent that my objective has become one of grabbing as many classic sci-fi television series as I possibly can on DVD. Aside from having all these old gems to watch, it also gives me a lot more to talk about here on my blog, on FanCentral, and in any of the other geek forums that I hang out in. Which can only be a good thing, if I do say so myself. 🙂