Manchester Memories

2017-10-21e Hanley & Rigby.JPG

Went up to Manchester yesterday, to interview Jenny Hanley and Jonathan Rigby for the 28th Festival of Fantastic Films. Both guests and audience seemed to have a great time, and my conversation with Jenny was recorded for use in a future issue of the The Dark Side. The photographs above were taken by Chrissie Harper. (No, I wasn’t kneeling next to Jonathan; he’s just really tall.)

Not So Bold

Discovery4.jpg
Discovery3.jpeg

Forty years ago, Paramount Television attempted to set itself up as a fourth US network, with Star Trek as its ace card. William Shatner would return as James Kirk, although Leonard Nimoy had declined the studio’s entreaties to bring Spock back aboard the USS Enterprise bridge (and was, in any case, locked in a legal row over unauthorised exploitation of his image). Star Trek: Phase II began as a tv movie, stretched into a full series and eventually shifted onto the big screen as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, whilst plans for the putative fourth network were quietly shelved.

Well, here we go again: CBS (successor to Paramount’s tv assets) wants to slice itself a piece of the pay-per-view pie which has proven so profitable for HBO and Netflix, beginning with its own Star Trek spin-off, Discovery. Set a full decade before the Enterprise embarked upon its five-year mission and allegedly firmly locked into that original timeline (as opposed to the ‘Kelvin’ timeline created for the three recent movies featuring Christoper Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock), Discovery was initially announced for January, rescheduled for May and finally made its debut last month; worrying warning signs, you might think, but CBS clearly have their minds focused on higher things, such as profit forecasts.

Much has been made of the fact that the new lead is a “woman of colour”, but Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-99) already featured an African-American actor in the commander’s chair and Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001) a female captain, so that’s hardly noteworthy. In fact, one early rumour I heard was that Discovery would continue the adventures of the female first officer played by Majel Barrett fifty-two years ago in the unaired Star Trek pilot “The Cage”. Instead, Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Lt. Cmdr. Michael Burnham, a human raised on Vulcan following her parents’ deaths during a Klingon raid. Of course, the makers can’t resist some half-arsed fanwankery, so her adoptive father is none other than Sarek, although there’s curiously no sign of his current wife Amanda Grayson (better known as Spock’s equally human mother).

So far, so so-so, but it gets worse. The opening two episodes are located aboard the USS Shenzou, described by its captain as a veteran of the fleet yet just as absurdly huge and tech-encrusted as any of the shiny starships seen in JJ Abrams’ ‘Kelvin’ reboot. Its sister vessels have been similarly upgraded, zipping out of warp drive like the dark wizards in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Pixels. In contrast, the Federation’s Klingon adversaries have shaved off the beards, reupholstered their foreheads and now resemble a gang of Orcs with the social skills of Big Brother contestants.

Much of this could be overlooked, were the entire enterprise (ahem) not so dreadfully dull. With the possible exception of Saru, an alien science officer with an amusing bias towards self-preservation (Doug Jones), none of the characters engaged me in the least, leaving their dramatic tribulations of negligible interest. Phaser beams fly, starships fry, crewmen die, uncaring I.

Matters reportedly improve with the third episode (the reverse is difficult to conceive), but by then CBS will be expecting US fans to subscribe to Discovery via its “All Access” platform, and I strongly suspect many will already have walked. In this latest quest to monetise Gene Roddenberry’s creation, CBS may well have guaranteed this wobbly spin-off neither prospers, nor lives long.

#Disc.jpg

Blu-ray reviews: Blood Diner (1987), Waxwork (1988), Vampira (1974)

[From The Dark Side #186, August 2017.]

Dark Side #186.jpg

DVD review: The Doctors – The Pat Troughton Years (2017)

[From Infinity #3, August 2017.]

Infinity #3.jpg

Another Nice Mess [2]

John Ullah.jpg

There’s a nice article in the autumn edition of Wetherspoon News, in-house magazine of the JD Wetherspoon pub chain, covering my chat with Laurel & Hardy historian John Ullah about local comic Charlie Hall. It was a follow-up to an earlier interview which aired on Made in Birmingham TV and was originally intended to go out on the same show, but our slot was unexpectedly cancelled as part of a programme shake-up at the channel, which has apparently sub-let eight hours of its daily schedule to the Sony-owned TruTV and has consigned much of its locally-produced content to the early hours to stream its new tenant’s American programming. Quite how all this conforms with Made in Birmingham TV’s franchise commitments is up to Ofcom to decide.

[Scan by John Ullah]

The Lure of the Silver Scream [7]

Set photo 3 (detail).JPG

The cast and crew of All Bad Things…, photographed yesterday outside the Rajnagar International Restaurant in Solihull.

Left to right: Joe Dempster, Sham Zaman, Gabriela Zogall, Anthony Atkins, Sophie Sharp, Olivia Comer, John Messer, Kevin Clarke, Steve Green, Rob Eadon, Demelza O’Sullivan, Abul Kalam, Liam Woon, Aliy Haycox, Jamie Lambe. Not shown: Chrissie Harper (back behind the camera), David Shakes, Omar Kasis.

The Lure of the Silver Scream [6]

Set photo 1.JPG

Principal photography commenced yesterday morning on All Bad Things…, a short film directed by Chrissie Harper from her own screenplay (developed from an idea of mine). The two leads are played by Liam Woon and Demelza O’Sullivan, with Sham Ali as the waiter. We were generously offered a chance to film at the award-winning Rajnagar International Restaurant in Solihull, which really added to the authenticity of the storyline. There are two short scenes left to shoot, but we hope to have the final edit completed by early October.