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May 10, 2010

Review: Doctor Who - 5x6 - The Vampires of Venice

Posted on May 10, 2010 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Vampires of Venice

In the UK: Saturday 8th May 2010, 6.25pm, BBC1
In the US: Saturday 22nd May 2010, 9/8c, BBC America

So you want a Doctor Who story that's funny, about relationships and involves vampires? Well, the obvious choice is that bloke who wrote School Reunion way back when, isn't it? I mean that had flying thingies and monsters and a bit of banter between the Doctor, companions, blokes, women et al, didn't it?

Not seeing it yet?

Then let me put it to you another way: so you want a Doctor Who story that's funny, about relationships and involves vampires? Well, the obvious choice is Toby Whithouse, creator of 20something vampire/werewolf/ghost flatshare comedy-drama Being Human, isn't it?

You're seeing it now, aren't you?

Spoiler and more after the jump.

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May 7, 2010

Review: Chris Ryan's Strike Back 1x1-1x2

Posted on May 7, 2010 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Chris Ryan's Strike Back

In the UK: Wednesdays, 9pm, Sky 1/Sky 1 HD

It's easy to forget that while Armando Iannucci and co urge the BBC to set up its own subscription-only version of HBO in the UK, one company is already in the fledgling steps of doing just that: BSkyB. Sky have one mission in life and that's to sell subscriptions and Sky boxes - in particular HD Sky boxes and HD subscriptions (an extra £10 a month). After years of assuming that buying lots of US TV was the way to attract subscribers - to diminishing returns - the last few years has seen a change of strategy: a concerted effort to create home-grown, quality drama, usually based on Terry Pratchett books, in an attempt to get the viewing public to hand over the cash.

Chris Ryan's Strike Back is the latest part of this strategy. Starring everyone's favourite Dick Head, Richard Armitage - the actor on everyone's speed dial when they need to cast an SAS soldier - Strike Back sees Armitage's down-and-out MI6 security guard (and former SAS soldier) go back to Iraq to recover a kidnapped reporter, who might be in the hands of the Iraqis he fought in his last mission. His MI6 handler: the army intelligence officer who accompanied him back then (Andrew Lincoln).

And you know what? Despite being on Sky 1, it's actually very good.

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May 7, 2010

Weird old title sequences: Children of the Stones (1977)

Posted on May 7, 2010 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Children of the Stones

Back in the 70s, kids TV was full of the weird and wonderful. Whether it was on ITV or BBC1/BBC2 (youngsters: we only had three channels back then), you could come home from school, turn on the TV and pretty much be guaranteed some mentalist of a commissioner had ordered up 25 minutes of LSD-fuelled lunacy that seven PhD students couldn't decipher the plot of but which was sure-fire certain to scar you for the rest of your life.

We could go through the list without too much trouble for quite some time and still not be complete: The Tomorrow People, Ace of Wands, King of the Castle, Timeslip, Sky, Catweazle, The Feathered Serpent, Escape into Night, The Jensen Code, Raven, Into the Labyrinth, Michael Bentine's Potty Time, Pipkins, Robert's Robots, The Owl Service.

See what I mean? And I haven't even started, really.

One of the most complicated, clever, "scare the sh*t out the kids", yet hard-to-fathom shows was the seven-part serial Children of the Stones. This followed the adventures of astrophysicist Adam Brake (Gareth Thomas of Blakes 7) and his son Matthew after they arrive in the small village of Milbury, which is built in the middle of a megalithic stone circle. There they meet village squire and noted astronomer Hendrick (Iain Cuthbertson) and possibly the most well behaved bunch of kids in the world, almost all of whom are doing quite well in quantum mechanics at the village school.

As you do.

Yes, there is something rotten in the heart of this village Eden, and it's not just the quantum mechanics. There are mysterious deaths, Matthew seems to have a psychic link with a mysterious painting, there's the mysterious stone circle that somehow seems to prevent them leaving the village, there's the mysterious housekeeper, there's the mysterious personality changes of anyone who goes to dinner with Hendrick. You get the idea. It's all very mysterious.

Cue the mysterious, weird and soul-chilling title sequence, followed by the first ten minutes of the first episode.

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