Stan Lee Has Passed Away

We’ve lost comics giant Stan Lee.

I’ve been waiting on this sad news for a while now, but it still doesn’t make it any easier. Reading the posts all over Facebook today has saddened me on a level that I wasn’t quite ready for, even though the news wasn’t totally unexpected. After all, Stan was 95, hadn’t been well for a while, and had been having a rough time since his wife died a couple of years ago. But it’s still hit me hard on an emotional level that I wasn’t expecting. I am almost 58 years old, after all, and I’ve supposedly long since ‘grown out of’ mainstream superhero comics many years ago (still love the old Silver and Bronze Age comics, though, for the sheer nostalgia). So why has the not-unexpected death of an old comics guy hit me so hard?

When looking back at my childhood, it’s obvious just how much of a towering giant Stan Lee was in my life. I discovered the first of the Marvel UK titles at the end of 1972, just before my 12th birthday, when I found the Mighty World of Marvel issue No.6 in a local shop. I was hooked immediately, and sent off the princely sum of 50p (yes, half of one pound) for the first five back issues. That was 25p for the five comics, and 25p for the postage. Unbelievable what you could get for your money back then! It was like a dozen Christmases rolled into one when that package came in the post.

I was already a Marvel addict, and collected every single issue of MWOM, and later Spider-Man Comics Weekly, the Avengers, Conan the Barbarian, and whatever other weekly comics that Marvel UK threw at us. Also, around 1974 or so, I started buying a large number of the then-current Bronze Age US Marvel titles via mail order from specialist UK comics dealers. From the moment that I bought my first issue of MWOM, Stan Lee and his stable of Comics Titans had a HUGE influence on my young life, from that point onwards at the very start of my teens, all the way through the 70s, into the 80s and beyond. For the first half of my life, I was a total Marvel Junkie.

Even now, in late middle age, the memories and the nostalgia of those early years are incredibly important to me. My love of comics (particularly Marvel Comics), SF/sci-fi and music have always been a foundation and fundamental part of who and what I am. I wouldn’t be me without them. I can’t even begin to guess how much of an influence Stan and the rest of the guys at Marvel Comics have had on my life. The passing of Stan Lee is yet another great figure from my childhood now passed beyond the Rim, another part of my past gone. So it saddens me at the deepest level.

I’m sitting here with a big lump in my throat and tears in my eyes right now. RIP Stan ‘The Man’ Lee. You lived long and hard, and brought joy to countless millions. You will be missed. 😦

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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!

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.

Ten Years and Counting – Happy Anniversary “Tales of Time & Space”

Today marks the 10th Anniversary of the creation of this blog and its long-departed “sister” self-hosted blog, “SFreaders.com”, both created back on the evening of May 3rd, 2007. It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging for ten years, although there were lengthy spells during which I wasn’t posting at all for various reasons (mostly domestic problems and health issues causing periodic loss of interest in blogging).

I’ve actually been online for almost 22 years, and most of that time I’ve spent on various forums or, more recently, on Facebook and several other social media platforms. I was already online for over a decade before I even started blogging, so I’ve been doing it for slightly less than half my time online (even less, if you count all the times I haven’t been posting and my blogs have been inactive). Even so, I still think it’s important that I mark the 10th Anniversary of this blog and the long-gone “SFreaders.com”.

It’s hard to believe, looking at this blog now, that back at the beginning, it was the bastard stepchild, the black sheep of my blogs. I never used it. The main one was “SFreaders.com”, the self-hosted WordPress.org blog which I’d set up on my newly-acquired web-hosting platform, complete with unlimited webspace, unlimited bandwidth and all the other bells and whistles. That one was the one that I was focusing on, and was pretty active for six months, hitting 42 posts before I burned out and stopped posting on it.

I had only created THIS blog in order to get the API key for my self-hosted blog, which I, as I’ve said, I had just created earlier that same evening. You had to do that back in 2007 – I don’t know if that’s still how things are done when setting up a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. Once I’d gotten my API key to activate my “SFreaders.com” blog, this blog wasn’t needed any more. It was surplus to requirements. I already HAD the self-hosted WordPress.org blog on my own website, so I didn’t need this one. The stone cold fact was that this was never intended to be an active blog in the first place. It was a “throwaway”.

So, apart from a couple of rubbish posts in June 2007, a month after I’d created it, and four more posts over Feb-April 2010, this blog was pretty much left to rot until the end of 2012. Aside from the above six posts and several throwaway posts on Blogger and LiveJournal, plus a few blog posts on my social networks on Ning.com and FanCentral, I did no serious blogging at all between my last SFreaders.com post on October 29th, 2007 and my first regular posts on Blogger starting from November 2011 through to December 2012. Most of my online activity from Feb 2009 onwards wasn’t on blogs at all, but on forums and on Facebook and other social media sites.

Then, in December, 2012, I switched from my Blogger blog and started posting regularly here instead, and I’ve been doing it ever since. After all the faffing around, I just seemed to decide to settle on this blog as my primary one, and it’s been my main blog for the past five years now. I’ve been beavering away, posting at least once or twice a month, not exactly prolific, but slow and steady does it. Even the early years of this blog (2007-2012), at one time empty and forlorn, are beginning to look a lot healthier and are filling out slowly, as I gradually import the old blog posts from “SFreaders.com” and the other defunct blogs that I’ve set up and abandoned over the years. I have to preserve those posts somewhere, and this blog is where you’ll find them now. I find it extremely ironic how things have turned out, with this blog, which was never intended at the time it was created to be a functioning blog, ending up becoming my main blogging platform in recent years.

Most of the other old blogs are long-gone now, “Other Worlds, Other Times”, the one on LiveJournal.com (only one post and purged back in 2011, due to being inactive for more than a year) and “SFreaders.com” (42 posts, inactive since October 29th, 2007, and completely gone since mid-2009 due to the webhosting provider going belly-up). Then there are the long-gone blogs that I had on the various communities on Ning.com, of which I was a member during the last two or three years of the Noughties.

There’s also my blog on the much loved FanCentral social network community on Spruz.com, where I’ve been a member since 2009, which has become mostly inactive in recent years, as FanCentral very sadly seems to be dying a slow death, due to the members deserting it over the past few years and moving to Facebook. And finally, there’s several of my other old blogs on Blogger.com, which have been booted and rebooted over the years since their initial creation back in early 2010, all now lying relatively inactive, although I do revisit one or two of them every now and again to make the occasional post.

Those other blogs have come and gone, but through it all, this blog still endures, through thick and thin. Sure, there have been long periods over the years that I’ve neglected this blog, but I’m glad it’s always been here, “just in case”. It’s always been my back-up, the one I fell back on when my other blogs failed. It’s been my regular blog since 2012 and the one I always post to first, and it’ll always be here for me to come back to, even if I do seem to lose interest altogether in blogging at times. That is, unless the highly unlikely thing happens, and the massive WordPress.com platform folds and disappears on us. Fingers crossed that that doesn’t EVER happen, but I still make regular backups, just in case.

So, Happy 10th Anniversary “Tales of Time & Space”! May you have many more years ahead of you.

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”.