Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (USA, 2015) ****½
      Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Production Company: Lucasfilm / Bad Robot; Release Date: 14 December 2015 (USA), 16 December 2015 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 May 2014 – 3 November 2014; Running Time: 135m; Colour: FotoKem; Sound Mix: 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Dolby Digital; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version), DCP (2K DCP) (Normal 3D versions), DCP (4K DCP) (IMAX Laser versions); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, IMAX (source format) (Escape from Jakku scene), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: J. J. Abrams; Writer: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt (based on characters created by George Lucas); Executive Producer: Tommy Harper, Jason D. McGatlin; Producer: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Kathleen Kennedy; Associate Producer: Michael Arndt; Director of Photography: Daniel Mindel; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; Casting Director: Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg; Production Designer: Rick Carter, Darren Gilford; Art Director: Neil Lamont; Set Decorator: Lee Sandales; Costumes: Michael Kaplan; Make-up: Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin; Sound: David Acord, Matthew Wood; Special Effects: Chris Corbould; Visual Effects: Nina Fallon, Meredith Meyer-Nichols, Lillias Ng, Louise Bertrand, Ben Lock, Sophie Dawes, Chrysta Marie Burton, Janet Lewin.
      Cast: Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca Double), Pip Andersen (Lead Stormtrooper), Simon Pegg (Unkar Plutt), Kiran Shah (Teedo), Sasha Frost (Jakku Villager), Pip Torrens (Colonel Kaplan).
      Synopsis: 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
      Comment: The best of the STAR WARS films outside of the original trilogy, fans of which will no doubt readily accept this continuation and overlook some of its flaws – notably in originality in plot and character development. But as the start of a new trilogy, it also succeeds in capturing the uninhibited spirit of those first three films. The result is a lively, action-packed and thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series. It is great to see Ford back as Han Solo and his scenes will give older fans a warm and satisfying smile. The new characters portrayed by Ridley and Boyega are likeable and the script keeps the right tonal balance. Yes, it is a virtual replay of the original STAR WARS, but there is also a freshness here that was lacking in the second trilogy. Also shot in 3-D.

Film Review – BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970)

Views From Da Crow's Nest: Rise of the CGI ApesBENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (USA, 1970) ***
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / APJAC Productions; Release Date: 23 April 1970 (Italy), 26 May 1970 (USA), 11 June 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: began 14 April 1969; Running Time: 95m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: G/15.
      Director: Ted Post; Writer: Paul Dehn (based on a story by Paul Dehn and Mort Abrahams and characters created by Pierre Boule); Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs; Associate Producer: Mort Abrahams; Director of Photography: Milton R. Krasner; Music Composer: Leonard Rosenman; Film Editor: Marion Rothman; Art Director: William J. Creber, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Walter M. Scott, Sven Wickman; Costumes: Morton Haack; Make-up: John Chambers, Edith Lindon, Daniel C. Striepeke; Sound: Stephen Bass, David Dockendorf; Special Effects: Johnny Borgese (uncredited); Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Art Cruickshank.
      Cast: James Franciscus (Brent), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius), Linda Harrison (Nova), Charlton Heston (Taylor), Paul Richards (Mendez), Victor Buono (Fat Man), James Gregory (Ursus), Jeff Corey (Caspay), Natalie Trundy (Albina), Thomas Gomez (Minister), Don Pedro Colley (Negro), David Watson (Cornelius), Tod Andrews (Skipper), Eldon Burke (Gorilla Sgt.), Gregory Sierra (Verger).
      Synopsis: The sole survivor of an interplanetary rescue mission searches for the only survivor of the previous expedition. He discovers a planet ruled by apes and an underground city run by telekinetic humans.
      Comment: This sequel to the phenomenally successful PLANET OF THE APES (1968) was designed as a cash cow for the ailing Fox studio. The rushed nature of its production is often apparent in a film which had its budget halved with ape masks  compromised for the extras. The story sees Franciscus arrive in similar fashion to Heston in the previous film to find Heston is still alive but has vanished. Harrison, as Heston’s companion from the first film, takes Franciscus to the ape city where he discovers the apes are planning a war with human mutants who live underground in the Forbidden Zone. Sets re-used and re-dressed from previous Fox productions such as HELLO DOLLY (1969) are effective in portraying a decayed New York City which has become the mutants’ home. The final act sees doomsday played out in apocalyptic fashion as the apes invade the mutants’ base. Dehn’s script has lots of anti-war messaging but lacks the nuances and polish that made the original so good. The film moves from set-piece to set-piece with little room for character development or conflict. Once the action moves underground in the final act the pace and often violent action picks up through to the gloomy conclusion. However, the film feels a little lacklustre and whilst Hunter and Evans reprise their roles they have much less impact here. Gregory is the standout as the gorilla general who leads his army to their ultimate fate. Followed by ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971).

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – ASCENSION OF THE CYBERMEN/THE TIMELESS CHILDREN (2020)

Image result for doctor who the timeless childrenDOCTOR WHO: ASCENSION OF THE CYBERMEN/THE TIMELESS CHILDREN (UK, 2020) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 23 February & 1 March 2020; Running Time: 115m (1 x 50m & 1 x 65m); Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Jamie Magnus Stone; Writer: Chris Chibnall; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Sam Heasman; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Rebecca Trotman; Production Designer: Dafydd Shurmer; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Harry Barnes; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Sacha Dhawan (The Master), Jo Martin (The Doctor), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Ian McElhinney (Ko Sharmus), Julie Graham (Ravio), Alex Austin (Yedlarmi), Matt Carver (Ethan), Rhiannon Clements (Bescot), Seylan Baxter (Tecteun), Kirsty Besterman (Solpado), Steve Toussaint (Feekat), Rhiannon Clements (Bescot), Jack Osborn (Fuskle), Evan McCabe (Brendan), Branwell Donaghey (Patrick), Orla O’Rourke (Meg), Andrew Macklin (Michael), Paul Kasey (Judoon Captain Pol-Kon-Don), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of Cybermen & Judoon Captain), Matthew Rohman (Cyberman), Simon Carew (Cyberman), Jon Davey (Cyberman), Richard Highgate (Cyberman), Richard Price (Cyberman), Mickey Lewis (Cyberman), Matthew Doman (Cyberman), Paul Bailey (Cyberman).
      Synopsis: In the far future, the Doctor and her friends face a brutal battle across the farthest reaches of space to protect the last of the human race against the deadly Cybermen uncovering the secret of the Time Lords in the process.
     Comment: Enjoyment of this two-part finale will very much depend on the viewer’s willingness (notably die-hard fans) to buy into writer Chibnall’s re-invention of Time Lord history. The opening episode is an excellent scene-setter full of energy and drama, featuring the Cybermen on a mission to reassert their domination, with an injection of mystery surrounding the so-called “Timeless Child”. Then at the cliffhanger, the Master resurfaces along with a gateway through to a destroyed Gallifrey and we move into a second episode that will divide fandom right down the middle. Firstly, Dhawan’s take on the Master as some form of unhinged psychotic has taken the character away from the charm and subtlety established by Roger Delgado back in the 1970s, with more than a nod toward John Simm’s similarly unhinged portrayal. Dhawan’s performance is way OTT and ill-serves the character, robbing him of any real menace. Secondly, the Master’s appearance relegates the Cybermen to a mere side-show as his battle of wills with Whittaker’s Doctor in the Matrix takes centre stage. The Master’s motives are muddled and his seeming alliance with the Cybermen (mirroring that in The Five Doctors) lacks any core logic beyond the madness displayed in the character. The frenetic nature with which Chibnall tries to cram so many revelations and explanations ultimately weighs down the second episode. The story’s whole is very much less than the sum of its parts – the excitement of the first episode giving way to bafflement in the second. That said, the second episode still has its moments. Whittaker is able to stretch her range more, for the most-part dialling down the motormouth patter. The visuals are very good and each of the companions gets room to breathe. However, I can’t help feeling Chibnall has created a rod for his own back here, by trying to create his own vision and tying it with what has gone before. The result feels overly forced in its attempt to re-boot Time Lord history, leaving the viewer pondering how this will change things going forward. The likely answer is it won’t as the general premise of a time traveller fighting evil throughout the universe remains.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – THE HAUNTING OF VILLA DIODATI (2020)

Nadia Parkes, Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, and Lili Miller in Doctor Who (2005)DOCTOR WHO: THE HAUNTING OF VILLA DIODATI (UK, 2020) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 16 February 2020; Running Time: 49m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Emma Sullivan; Writer: Maxine Alderton, Chris Chibnall; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Ed Moore; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Agnieszka Liggett, Joe Skinner; Production Designer: Dafydd Shurmer; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Harry Barnes; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Lili Miller (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), Nadia Parkes (Claire Clairmont), Jacob Collins-Levy (Lord Byron), Maxim Baldry (Doctor John Pollidori), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Lewis Rayner (Percy Bysshe Shelley), Sarah Perles (Elise), Stefan Bednarczyk (Fletcher), Nicholas Briggs (Cyberman Voice).
      Synopsis: The Doctor and gang arrive at the Villa Dioscidati, Lake Geneva, in 1816 – on a night that inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The plan is to spend the evening soaking up the atmos in the presence of some literary greats – but the ghosts are all too real. And the Doctor is forced into a decision of earth-shattering proportions…
     Comment: Another episode that has a lot right with it but still manages to frustrate. The story has a great setting in an old house at Lake Geneva and the premise is obviously geared toward events inspiring Mary Wolstencrof to create the vision for her novel Frankenstein. The house is suitably spooky, populated with quirky characters and some chilling surprises. But yet again there is too little time to cover all the ideas on show and the narrative appears muddled as a result. There are still too many companions to fully justify themselves Cole’s acting has been wooden at best and here he gives possibly his worst performance delivering lines with little conviction or flair for humour. The shoe-horning in of the Cyberman threat – which we could all see coming following pre-empts earlier in the series – raises more questions than are answered here. The closing two-parter will hopefully square these off. Whittaker has the occasional strong moment, whenever she is given more to do than just dial-up the quirky scale beyond Tennant levels. She is very good in the scene close to the finale where she debates the actions she should take with her friends.  The series is running out of time to hit the heights we have come to expect but hopefully, the season finale will deliver.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: CAN YOU HEAR ME? (2020)

Image result for doctor who can you hear meDOCTOR WHO: CAN YOU HEAR ME? (UK, 2020) ***½
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 9 February 2020; Running Time: 49m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Emma Sullivan; Writer: Charlene James, Chris Chibnall; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Ed Moore; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Agnieszka Liggett; Production Designer: Dafydd Shurmer; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Harry Barnes; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Ian Gelder (Zellin), Buom Tihngang (Tibo), Clare-Hope Ashitey (Rakaya), Sharon D Clarke (Grace O’Brien), Bhavnisha Parmar (Sonya Kahn), Aruhan Galiva (Tahira), Sirine Saba (Maryam), Nasreen Hussain (Anita Patel), Everal A Walsh (Gabriel), Michael Keane (Fred), Amanda Liberman (Mum), Willie Jonah (Old Tibo), Anthony Taylor (Andrew).
      Synopsis: From ancient Syria to present-day Sheffield, and out into the wilds of space, something is stalking the Doctor and infecting people’s nightmares.
     Comment: An episode with lots of ideas around the psychological impact of nightmares linked to a god-like race known as the Eternals who feed off the mental instability that the dreams cause. It’s an intriguing and creepy episode for two-thirds of its runtime powered by some wonderful visuals, an intelligent script and a deliciously evil villain in  Gelder’s Zellin. The companions all get their own sub-plots as each has an element of their psyche manipulated by Zellin.  Unfortunately, things unravel a bit in the final third and give us a finale which is resolved all too quickly – continuing the issues the production team have in trying to tell complex stories and deliver new concepts in a single-episode format. It’s a shame as there is so much promise here, but Chibnall either lacks sufficient editing skills to understand how to best land the ideas of his writers or he is trying to cram too many story threads together and as a result creating too much for the viewer to absorb.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: PRAXEUS (2020)

Image result for doctor who praxeusDOCTOR WHO: PRAXEUS (UK, 2020) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 2 February 2020; Running Time: 50m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Jamie Magnus Stone; Writer: Pete McTighe, Chris Chibnall; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Catherine Goldschmidt; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Rebecca Trotman; Production Designer: Dafydd Shurmer; Supervising Art Director: Rebecca Brown; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Deian Llyr Humphreys; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Warren Brown (Jake Willis), Matthew McNulty (Adam Lang), Joana Borja (Gabriela Camera), Molly Harris (Suki Cheng), Gabrielle Tolol (Jamilia Velez), Soo Drouet (Joyce), Tristan de Beer (Zach Olson), Thapelo Maropefela (Aramu).
      Synopsis: The Doctor and her friends split up to investigate multiple mysteries across planet Earth. What connects a missing astronaut in the Indian Ocean, birds behaving strangely in Peru and a US naval officer washed up on a Madagascan beach
     Comment: There’s much to like in this episode through individual scenes and lines of dialogue but, as a whole, the story suffers from gaps in logic and character actions. It’s a shame because this episode is very effectively and visually directed by Stone, who manages to create a few moments of tension as well a sense of menace in those early scenes. McTighe and Chibnall’s script has some strong ideas around a viral epidemic being created through plastic pollution. But once again the production team feels the need to preach to the audience about populist issues via its heavy-handed messaging at the expense of solid story construction. Structurally, the story initially creates its mystery by having the Doctor and her companions split across three continents to triangulate seemingly independent events into a solution the answers each individual mystery. This works well and allows each companion a sub-plot. But as the story progresses the writers seem more concerned with getting over their environmental message of doom and ensuring they tick all the boxes on diverse and inclusive specifics, that they lose the plot with the plot. Historically, the series provided a haven from sexual politics but now it has almost become a campaign board, so much so that the relationships feel forced to fit the political agenda rather than add anything to the story itself. McTighe had written possibly the best episode of last season’s run (Kerblam!) and here too shows signs he potentially has a strong story in him. Whether or not Chibnall’s contribution knocked this off course cannot be discerned, but the early promise gave way to a disappointing conclusion.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: FUGITIVE OF THE JUDOON (2020)

DOCTOR WHO: FUGITIVE OF THE JUDOON (UK, 2020) ****
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 26 January 2020; Running Time: 50m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Nida Manzoor; Writer: Vinay Patel, Chris Chibnall; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Sam Heasman; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Rebecca Trotman; Production Designer: Dafydd Shurmer; Supervising Art Director: Rebecca Brown; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Deian Llyr Humphreys; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Jo Martin (Ruth Clayton), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Neil Stuke (Lee Clayton), Ritu Arya (Gat), Paul Kasey (Judoon Captain Pol-Kon-Don), Michael Begley (All Ears Allan), Judith Street (Marcia), Katie Luckins (Tourist), Nick Briggs (Voice of Judoon ), Simon Carew (Judoon), Richard Highgate (Judoon), Richard Price (Judoon), Matthew Rohman (Judoon)
      Synopsis: Ko Sho Blo! Trigger-happy space police the Judoon are targeting 21st-century Gloucester. The Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham race back to Earth in order to prevent them doing too much damage to the cathedral city. But who are they looking for, and what did they do to incur the wrath of the Judoon?
      Comment: Well, last week I said I felt a strong story may be just around the corner. It’s difficult to fully assess The Fugitive of the Judoon in isolation because it is really a set-up episode which should hopefully pay off over the remainder of the series. As such it achieves its objective splendidly by creating some genuinely surprising plot twists. The episode, co-written by Vinay Patel and Chris Chibnall, started shakily with the Judoon arrival in modern-day Gloucester initially failing to grab interest. However, once the true reason for their arrival is revealed the episode shifts up a couple of gears and moves into one revelation after another to set up a hugely promising conundrum for the Doctor to solve. The return of Captain Jack Harkness was intriguing and his involvement in the story is still to be fully explained. Barrowman clicks back into character and Jack delivers a message of warning to the Doctor’s companions before vanishing again. The character of Ruth is the most intriguing and raises even bigger questions around the direction Chibnall is taking us with this series. The tension builds through the episode as the Doctor discovers the true nature of the fugitive. Whittaker delivers her strongest performance to date and finally gets some moments of dramatic conflict to work with. There are now many unanswered questions and it will be a real test of Chibnall’s skills as a writer to resolve them all satisfactorily. For now, we can be glad we finally have an episode worthy of the brand name and whilst I am hedging my bets on the outcome, I have much more optimism, albeit cautious, than at any time under Chibnall’s stewardship.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: NIKOLA TESLA’S NIGHT OF TERROR (2020)

DOCTOR WHO: NIKOLA TESLA’S NIGHT OF TERROR (UK, 2020) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 19 January 2020; Running Time: 51m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Nida Manzoor; Writer: Nina Metivier; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Sam Heasman; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Tim Hodges, Rebecca Trotman; Supervising Art Director: Rebecca Brown; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Amy Riley, James Spinks; Sound: Harry Barnes; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Goran Višnjić (Nikola Tesla), Robert Glenister (Thomas Edison), Anjli Mohindra (Queen Skithra), Haley McGee (Dorothy Skerrit), Paul Kasey (Harold Green), Robin Gulver (Bill Tallow), Erick Hayden (Mr Sorenson), Russell Bentley (Mr Brady), Brian Caspe (Mr Martin), Shaun Mason (Foreman).
      Synopsis: 1903. On the edge of Niagara Falls, something is wrong at Nikola Tesla’s generator plant. Who or what is sabotaging the maverick inventor’s work? Has he really received a message from Mars? And where does his great rival Thomas Edison fit into these events? The Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham must join forces with one of history’s great minds to save both him and planet Earth.
      Comment: An improvement on Orphan 55, but problems still remain with Chris Chibnall’s vision for the series. The positives include a more coherent story, excellent visuals and convincing production design. The story itself is rather generic, despite the interesting setting in turn of the century (19th to 20th) New York City. Chibnall continues his fascination with lesser remembered historical figures, who are given a platform to raise awareness of their important contribution. This time its Tesla and his innovative use of electrical current. The invading monsters here resemble the Racnoss from The Runaway Bride – substituting scorpion-like beings for spiders – but repeating the Queen of the Hive theme – even down to similarities in make-up design and the way Mohindra’s interpretation closely matches that of Sarah Parish. The story again needs more room to breathe and develop its theme of the competition between Edison and Tesla. There is again too little room for the three companions to contribute to the story effectively and the production team need to see the errors of their way in over-crowding the TARDIS. Whitaker is also partially sidelined here in favour of building up the historical elements in the story and the script gives her little scope to add depth to her performance. The need to cram as many elements into a 50-minute story as possible leaves the thing too crowded to fully satisfy, but there are signs that a strong story may be just around the corner. For me, two-parters are the way forward. Spyfall, despite its flaws, demonstrated this. Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror is a standard Who story told at breakneck speed in a series that is finding it increasingly difficult to demonstrate the story-telling strengths that have kept it popular for nearly sixty years.

Film Review – THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE (1967)

THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE (UK, 1967) **
Distributor: Anglo Embassy (UK), Embassy Pictures (USA); Production Company: Amicus Productions; Release Date: May 1967; Filming Dates: began 12 September 1966; Running Time: 85m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Freddie Francis; Writer: Milton Subotsky (based on the novel “The Gods Hate Kansas” by Joseph Millard); Producer: Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky; Director of Photography: Norman Warwick; Music Composer: James Stevens; Film Editor: Peter Musgrave; Production Designer: Bill Constable; Art Director: Don Mingaye, Scott Slimon; Costumes: Eileen Welch; Make-up: Bunty Phillips; Sound: Gerry Humphreys; Special Effects: Les Bowie, Terry Schubert (uncredited).
      Cast: Robert Hutton (Dr. Curtis Temple), Jennifer Jayne (Lee Mason), Zia Mohyeddin (Farge), Bernard Kay (Richard Arden), Michael Gough (Master of the Moon), Maurice Good (Stilwell), John Harvey (Bill Trethowan), Hedger Wallace (Alan Mullane), Luanshya Greer (Girl Attendant), Diana King (Mrs. Trethowan), Paul Bacon (Dr. Rogers), Christopher Banks (Doctor – Street), Dermot Cathie (Peterson), Norman Claridge (Dr. Frederick Andrews), James Donnelly (Guard), Frank Forsyth (Blake), Leonard Grahame (McCabe), Michael Hawkins (Williams), Jack Lambert (Doctor – Office), Robin Parkinson (Maitland).
Synopsis: Scientists investigating an unusual meteor shower in a rural field are possessed by an alien force bent on an ulterior purpose.
      Comment: Low-budget sci-fi struggles to be anything near convincing despite straight-laced performances of its cast and occasional visual flourishes from director Francis. The story is a sub-Quatermass plot of aliens infiltrating the English home counties and their intentions being misunderstood. Horton in the lead role lacks presence and the rest of the cast struggle to retain their dignity given third-rate props to work with. The script lacks intelligence and logic for the most part, but the experience somehow remains lightly entertaining for those in the right mood.
Notes: The production used many of the sets and props left over from Amicus’s DALEKS: INVASION EARTH: 2150 A.D. (1966) as a cost-cutting measure. Released on a double-bill with THE TERRONAUTS.

Film Review – REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955)

REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (USA, 1955) **½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 29 March 1955; Filming Dates: late Jun–early Aug 1954; Running Time: 82m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Universal 3-D (dual-strip 3-D); Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild violence, scary scenes.
      Director: Jack Arnold; Writer: Martin Berkeley (based on a story by William Alland); Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: Scotty Welbourne; Music Composer: William Lava, Herman Stein (both uncredited); Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Paul Weatherwax; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen, Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Russell A. Gausman, Julia Heron; Costumes: Jay A. Morley Jr.; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Jack A. Bolger Jr, Leslie I. Carey.
      Cast: John Agar (Professor Clete Ferguson), Lori Nelson (Helen Dobson), John Bromfield (Joe Hayes), Nestor Paiva (Lucas), Grandon Rhodes (Jackson Foster), Dave Willock (Lou Gibson), Robert B. Williams (George Johnson), Charles Cane (Captain of Police).
      Synopsis: The Creature from the Black Lagoon is back! This time he’s captured by scientists and transported to an aquarium in south Florida.
      Comment: Sequel to CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) follows genre convention by having the creature (the Gill Man) taken from its natural habitat (the Amazon) to be exhibited at a sea life centre in Florida. There professor Agar and student Nelson study the creature and try to assess its level of intelligence. Of course, the creature escapes and mayhem ensues. There are some well-shot scenes that stand out as individual moments, but once the creature is on the rampage the film descends into routine thrills and chills. Agar is pretty wooden as the male lead, but Nelson is appealing. The finale is something of a let down in its swiftness of resolution.
      Notes: Look for a young, uncredited Clint Eastwood in his first screen appearance as a goofy lab assistant. Also shot in 3-D. Followed by THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956).