Rocky Horror fans

Silver Screen Singalongs

I felt very relieved a couple of weeks ago after our Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again singalong event at Bolton Little Theatre came to a successful close. For some reason my normal pre-show nerves were greater than usual, even though this had been our twelfth singalong event. But the anticipation and knowing that a whole audience of people have been looking forward to this night did bring a weight of responsibility on myself as the projectionist and co-organiser, and my friends who generously donated their Saturday night to help. Thanks to Adam Manning for his sterling work as the MC in getting the evening started with plenty of cheers and laughter, Jeff Lunt for making sure the lighting and the auditorium are ideally set up, Mark Pillar for House Managing and David Smart for his encouragement, co-organising the night and operating the bar with his wife Susan.

   Every one of these events has had special memories for me. For this last one, it was the audience’s reactions every time Cher appeared, especially her set piece number “Fernando”. There is a special shared joy in those spontaneous moments when a cinema audience reacts as one to a film, and it is probably that more than anything that has encouraged me to continue running Bolton Little Theatre’s big screen nights.

   Favourite memories from the control box include: The big reaction and applause to “Does Your Mother Know” in Mamma Mia! Then the end of that movie, when Meryl Streep looked into the camera and asked, “Do you want more?”, the dancing audience answered back “Yes!” and for a moment the movie felt thrillingly live and happy. The teenagers who got up to the front and danced for the crowd during the end titles of Grease. During our first showing of Frozen, there’s a moment when Prince Hans asks Anna to marry him and a chorus of little girls’ voices said “Yes”, even though they must already have known he was a wrong’un.

   Probably our biggest gamble was The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Partly because our copy did not actually have the onscreen Singalong lyrics and partly because out of all the movies we had shown, this one came with a substantial reputation and a whole history of audience interaction. Plus, I was not sure what the audience mix would be. I think it was my worry which led to me arriving on the night feeling quite ill from a virus. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of attendees who arrived in costume, I think we had at least one of every character, including two strapping Frank-N-Furters in basques and suspenders, as you can see in the photograph above. As the MC, Ryan Smart-Stanton was inspired that night with some of his improvisations. Then the film was underway, and everyone seemed to be on the same party vibe. “The Time Warp” maybe its most famous number, but my special memories of that screening were the audience rocking out to “Wild and Untamed Thing” and the emotional roar of cheers and applause after Frank-N-Furter’s torch song “I’m Going Home”.

   A good Singalong movie is a very specific prescription. It is not enough to be a great musical, it needs to have enough songs in it that people recognise, plus it should be a fairly upbeat. That leaves a fairly small selection to choose from. Hairspray has the right mood for example, but its songs do not have much of a life beyond the movie. Walking on Sunshine is filled with well-known pop songs, but it is so ghastly in virtually every other respect that would hesitate to programme it.

But we are always open to new ideas. For example, the screenings of the Bolton-set film versions of Bill Naughton’s comedies Spring and Port Wine, and The Family Way, complete with on-stage introductions and an exhibition, courtesy of Live from Worktown, were well received and it was great to feel a whole auditorium reacting to those 1960’s movies. It is always gratifying to welcome people to our theatre who have never been before too. So now we are getting ready for The Greatest Showman, a musical tailor-made for watching in company and so popular we are holding two sold-out showings on 2nd November. I will no doubt be nervous again, but fingers-crossed by the end of the day I will have some new fond memories.

This article first appeared in the September 2019 edition of Bolton Little Theatre’s newsletter The Prompter.

Poster art of Alistair Sim and David Prowse

Green for Frankenstein and other news

Plenty of activity this month. First up, the latest episode of The Official Talking Pictures TV Podcast is out and amongst it marvellous cotirie of reviewers, you’ll hear me outlining the merits of two very different comedy thrillers – Green for Danger and The Horror of Frankenstein. Which one most alarmed the British censor? You might be surprised. Compliments to Adam Roche for another excellent installment.

Still on podcasting, BERGcast the series all about Quatermass, has now reached Hammer’s first adaptation The Quatermass Xperiment, and it’s an entertaining hour looking at the pros and cons of the 1955 movie. As usual it also has background information I have never heard before. Personally I have disagree over Brian Donlevy though. Often criticised as hopelessly miscast, for me I like his driven, almost monstrous version of the scientist. It may have come about more be accident than intention, but Donlevy’s Quatermass as tough private eye portrayal is memorable and distinctive compared to many other academics of Fifties SF. This is a movie where the hero is actually adding to danger as much as combating it, and for me that is part of its strength.

book cover

Rik Hoskin has two exciting projects to talk about. Out now is an audio drama adaptation of his bestselling White Sands graphic novel set in Brandon Sanderson’s shared Cosmere universe. You can listen to the trailer and buy it from Graphic Audio right now. I have not heard it yet but intend to obtain it soon. Coming in November is a follow-up to his excellent comic series Red Rising: Sons of Ares. A prequel to the bestselling space opera adventure series Red Rising by Pierce Brown, Wrath carries on the early career of terrorist/freedom fighter Fitchner and his fight against the tyranical caste-based empire which rules the Solar System in the future. I loved the first six issue run and I’m looking forward to more of Rik’s storytelling and Eli Powell’s intricate but fluid art. Follow the link to read an interview at Bleeding Cool.

Ultimate Finality posters

Finally Bolton Little Theatre are presenting A Bunch of Amateurs between 16th and 21st September. As well as assembling the sound effects and music, I’m helping with the marketing. Part of that is creating a quick video advert and I had the idea of coming up with some fake posters for faded US star Jefferson Steel’s recent movies, which you can see above. It should be an excellent comedy and having seen rehearsals I can recommend it.

Cover artwork montage

Fine Line Doctor Who audios are back online

Back in the Nineties, when new Doctor Who had been absent from our televisions screens for a while, a fan mini-industry of fiction, audio and video adventures sprang up. I had become caught up in serious Doctor Who fandom in the mid-Eighties and it was in the pages of Celestial Toyroom that I first discovered adverts for the Audio Visuals, Doctor Who stories made by some of the talents who go on to found BBV and Big Finish Productions. They were extremely polished for the time and inspired me and some friends to create our own stories on cassette, selling them through fanzine advertisements. I decided to called our group Fine Line, after a quote from the marvelous comedy film This Is Spinal Tap. For me, these sonic adventures gave me a chance to write and produce credible adventures without the limitations that VHS films made in the local suburbs had.

In time, cassettes were replaced by CD-R’s, which in turn were supplanted by MP3 files. My old Fine Line website began as a way of advertising and selling my productions, and became the main means of distribution. Eventually I decided to concentrate on original work and gave up paying for the host.

Recently I have been learning up to date skills in website creation via my BSc degree apprenticeship. It’s been fascinating to learn HTML, CSS and Javascript in an organised course. The first time I was learning as I went, using magazine articles and whilst I made working pages, there significant gaps in my knowledge. In order to keep mind in the zone over the summer, I decided to create a website to host my old fan fiction projects. Audios which taught me a lot about writing, directing and seeing a creative project through.

You can find the results at http://18060801.webdevmmu.uk/ You’ll find two seasons of stories, trailers, some behind the scenes articles, and cover images and more. It’s an evolving site and I intend to add more material from time to time. Who knows I might even complete a couple of unfinished shorts we recorded back then. If you download them, I do hope you enjoy them. Love to hear what you think if you do.

Injured spaceman with helpers

BERGcast – The Quatermass podcast we’ve been waiting for

The history of Professor Quatermass in all his many incarnations across television, cinema, books and stage is a particular love of mine, so I would be a cheerleader for this new podcast series, even if I wasn’t one of it many contributors.

It’s the brainchild of cult tv enthusiast, Jon Dear and Howard Ingham, and over the next few months will cover every serial, film, and spin-off, together with a couple of diversions into media which is closely connected to the development of Quatermass.

Episode one is out now, in which Jon is joined by writer, comedian and television historian Toby Hadoke to talk about the origins and significance of BBC’s The Quatermass Experiment, and analyse the first episode “Contact has been established”. The remainder of this now largely lost serial will be covered by them in the next segment.

It’s an excellent debut. Ingham writes a fascinating introduction in which he points out that in many ways, watching Experiment is to witness not so much a show as the ghost of a television programme. The subsequent conversation between Dear and Hadoke is full of fascinating information that I didn’t know about the making of the serial. Hadoke is the ideal guest to start off this series, since he has been corresponding and interviewing as many people behind the scenes of the Quatermass serials as he could since he was teenager. Since few of the cast and crew involved are still with us, this has resulted in a unique archive of memories. He has also spent hours in the BBC archives reviewing the paperwork and uncovering all kinds of incidental gems, such as the cat being recast because the original was “too savage”.

You can listen to it at Jon’s blog Views from a Hill or with the Podbean app.

Sixth Doctor action figure, with DVD

Vengeance on Varos

Television loves a drama about itself. In fact it is almost a surprise it took 22 years for Doctor Who to set a story in a TV studio. Vengeance on Varos cleverly uses the audience’s awareness of both the language of television, and the lively debate about the effects of screen violence, which has rumbled on since popular entertainment was first projected on to a white sheet. Back in 1985, the whole “video nasty” controversy was still fresh in minds of many UK viewers. The early burgeoning video rental market had seen gory exploitation fare like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Driller Killer and SS Experimentation Camp suddenly leaving the relatively controlled environment of late-night cinemas and into the living rooms of family homes. Not only that, but objectors pointed out that unlike broadcast television, video recorders had the facility to pause, slow-down and replay disturbing scenes. Doctor Who had courted controversy in the past with some of its frights, and this legacy is also re-examined in this Special Edition DVD. For some fans, Vengeance on Varos is the story that crossed the line in the depiction of violence, by explicitly involving the Doctor as a perpetrator. More on his acid bath murders later.

The TARDIS is stranded in space. Only by obtaining the rare mineral Zeiton 7 can the Doctor hope to travel again. He and Peri make an emergency landing on Varos, an ex-prison planet turned brutal mining colony. Here the Governor and his officers control the population through violent repression and lurid reality television, filming what happens in the “Punishment Dome”. They’ve even started selling packaged programmes of the disturbing footage to other worlds. Somehow the Doctor must escape the many death-traps of the Dome, and outwit the loathsome Sil, an intergalactic business shark.

Vengeance on Varos was the first Colin Baker story to be released on DVD. For the time the extras seemed quite generous, most of them based around the unedited studio footage. But the presentation of the programme on DVD has become a lot more sophisticated since then, as has the methods of converting the video tape into digital. Hence this two-disc special edition with improved picture and sound, plus three new featurettes.

The core of the story is a satirical look, both at violence on television and the debate over its effects on the audience, and modern democracy. Its vision of an emotionally deadened audience, watching a constant diet of violence and death 24 hours a day maybe exaggerated but there are some prophetic observations. About the way news is reported and the cynical producers who shape the material to create stories. Or the risk that continual public referendums via TV voting, could result in meaningless democratic choice and poor government. The real complexities of the planet’s problems are reduced to platitudes and soundbites from the Governor when he asks the people for their yes or no vote. Yes, watching this story in June 2019, its hard for a UK viewer not to think about Brexit and the way the referendum has failed to achieve anything so far, except increasing our cynicism in politics.
“Well he makes me sick!” complains Arak to his wife Etta. “He’s the worst governor we’ve had since…well since…”
“Since the last one?” she finishes mockingly.
This bickering couple who watch the story unfold on the video screen in their dingy room, are obvious avatars for the both the the populace of Varos, and the real life television audience at home. But their commentary gives the rest of the story more reality and a lot of their dialogue is entertainingly meta. “I like that one,” coos Etta at the Doctor, “the one with the funny clothes.”

Television is accused of cheapening human life, reducing traumatic experiences to shallow entertainment. But ultimately it is the evil regime and economic poverty that is driving the misery, so it can be argued that the exploitative television is a symptom rather than the cause. The most important quality of this story is that it both entertains and asks serious questions to get the audience thinking. It also features one of my favourite cliffhangers, a clever post-modern moment where the Doctor’s apparent death is being directed onscreen and the episode ends with the line, “And cut it…now!” If only the end titles had crashed in on the Governor’s words, rather than the television static and Sil’s maniacal laughter, and would have been in my top ten of greatest moments in the show.
Writer Philip Martin had some form with this kind of fourth wall breaking. The second season of his Seventies crime drama Gangsters became increasingly self-aware of its nature as a television show, memorably ending with an actress walking off-set in indignation, as the picture pulled back to reveal the studio set.

Sil is the most memorable character, thanks to a marvellous performance by disabled actor Nabil Shaban and a good costume. This greedy squirming amphibian with a gurgling laugh and pompous manner is the highlight of every scene he appears in. A ruthless, cowardly businessman obsessed with profit over lives, he is an obvious comment of commercial greed but Shaban gives the character a powerful, funny personality, with some nice alien touches, particularly his gurgling alien laugh. He was popular enough to be brought back in the following season and has made a further appearance on audio. This year will see him return in his very own Reeltime spinoff video – Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor.

Martin Jarvis is excellent too as the haunted,resigned Governor, a leader who is literally tortured by every negative vote. There’s an interesting complexity about him. Although he mostly presented as a sympathetic character, by contrast with Sil and the duplicitous Security Chief, the fact that he originally came up with the idea of selling footage of the torture as entertainment and his willingness to use executions to achieve his aims means that his hands are far from clean. There is certainly no guarantee when the Doctor leaves that the colony is in good hands. Colin Baker is in his early days here and his Doctor is still pretty bombastic and unsympathetic. Colin Baker’s idea that his Doctor would mellow over time proved to be bad choice in my opinion, since his character too often ended up alienating viewers rather than intriguing them. Worse still, in an already violent story, the Doctor seems to come under the influence of the Dome. He fights with two guards who have recently carried his unconscious body into a disposal room. In the ensuring struggle, one guard falls into a vat of acid, and then accidentally drags his compatriot in. Watching them dissolve the Doctor remarks with a smirk, “You’ll forgive me if I don’t join you!” This hardly seems heroic, especially this Schwarzenegger-esque quip at the end. as they thrash and disappear under the bubbles. A completely wrong choice by actor, writer and director there.

Nicola Bryant is meanwhile fine as Peri, although she is pretty much a victim for much of the story. But her natural emphatic reactions to the wrongness of the world around her as a welcome balance in a story so steeped in amoral attitudes.

As I mentioned above, there are three new extras on this release.  Nice or Nasty hosted by Matthew Sweet is a cheery making-of doc that concentrates on the writers for a change, namely Philip Martin and script editor Eric Saward. It looks into the controversy of the story’s violence, as well as the budget problems. The Idiot’s Lantern sees Channel 4 News presenter Samira Ahmed looking at all the instances where television itself has appeared within Doctor Who. It’s a good succinct feature and its striking just how much both televisions and the language of the medium are threaded into the show. Characters frequently watch television (or video monitors). Events are often reported on by TV presenters to give them more reality. Occasionally characters even comment with self-awareness on the show’s own cliches. “Not even the sonic screwdriver will me get out of this one!” announces a worried Fourth Doctor to the camera in Invasion of Time.

Tomorrow’s Times looks at the press coverage of Colin Baker’s tenure. After an initial burst of positivity with his casting and arrival, sadly most of it was pretty critical. This was the time of the 18-month ‘hiatus’ when Michael Grade nearly cancelled the show and it was here that the show seemed to stop being a popular mainstream hit and the narrative became that of a struggling cult series.

It’s an actor’s commentary for this story: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Nabil Shaban discuss their memories in a laid back manner. The original extras, based on the raw studio recordings are all here. Also archive clips of Colin Baker’s first interviews in the role, on Saturday Superstore and Breakfast Time which are quite charming. There is also a deleted French and Saunders sketch in which they play actors in monster costumes who keep spoiling a take, but it is tin-eared and unfunny. In addition there are the traditional high quality photo gallery and information subtitles.

Despite its relatively low budget qualities, such as the guard’s amusingly slow moving electric buggy which is in-advisedly used in an action scene, this story’s ambition and performances make it possibly my favourite of Colin Baker’s short era in Doctor Who.

Montage of actors

Westlake Films Remastered Part 2

Sometimes you look back at old work and marvel where you found the time and the energy to make so much material. Recently my friend Kevin Hiley has been remastering the best of Westlake Films and putting them on Youtube. Upscaling them to HD and correcting a few flaws, although resisting the urge for any George Lucas style revisionism, I’m glad to say.

Two men. One deserted station. In a place that might as well be the middle of nowhere.
A comedy about the sheer hell of other people.

The best ideas are often simple ones. This comedy short was written by John and Kevin, and edited and directed by Kevin Hiley. It was great fun to make, even if it was a long day, I can’t remember much waiting about. Most of the story is conveyed like a silent movie, with a nice escalation of events. It really felt like an isolated location and for most of the day we completely alone and uninterrupted. The scene where the two rivals start walking, then break into a race to the other platform was a spontaneous moment between myself and Nigel. For a while this film was one of our most viewed videos. We were only slightly disappointed to discover that many of the viewers were railway enthusiasts clicking on it to see a now defunct station on the Settle and Carlise line, rather than watch our creativity.

Only George “Shuttle” Kipper stands between Earth and the fiendish Emperor Vorkon in this thrilling tribute to the Saturday matinee serials of yesteryear.

A personal favourite of mine, because it’s one those films where everything clicked and cast and crew were on top of their game. It’s also good to see a few more fresh faces in the cast. I loved the old Saturday Matinee serial which BBC1 used to show in the summer holidays. Especially the first Flash Gordon serial which has a glorious free for all adventure vibe that is reflected in the way the people of Mongo look like they just told the extras to go into the costume store and grab whatever they fancied, a look we recreated in Emperor Vorkon’s court in a local church’s multi-function room. It was great fun to return to that world of sputtering firework rocketships, BIG acting, and cartoonish fight scenes. I play three roles in this episode, Eddie the reporter, the cave monster, and a courtier in a feather headress and drooping mustache. I also provided the *spoiler* for the cliffhanger, a scene which has always got a big laugh wherever we’ve shown it. I’m particularly pleased with how the clunky robot turned out, a real credit to John, Rebecca and Kevin’s crafting.

A young radio astronomer discovers an incredible secret behind our universe, and faces a terrible choice.

A great little short film that packs a lot into twelve minutes. I was not involved directly with this film, which Kevin Hiley produced whilst studying an NVQ Level 3 in Media Production, together with Rail Rage. John Isles, the lead in this film, would later undertake the same course himself. It holds up pretty well, an entry into that genre of mysterious organisations working behind the scenes to protect our world. Nigel Peever is at his sonorous best as the enigmatic stranger. Jodrell Bank is always a great location to film at.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton was one of the bestselling authors of his day and a pioneer of the historical romance and science fiction genres. Filmed at Knebworth Castle and elsewhere, this is a short biographical novel about his life and works.

For many years I have had a hilarious book on my shelf called It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: 101 Funniest Opening Sentences from the Worst Novels Never Written. It is an amusing collection of deliberately bad opening sentences from imaginary novels and contained a potted biography of the man who first wrote those infamous words. There was something about Lord Bulwer-Lytton that stayed with me and inspired me to write this script and present it. Man of Words is another example of something I had planned as a simple talking heads documentary, turning into a much more elaborate and entertaining film thanks to my friends. One of our most polished films, alongside Deconstruction, it involved getting permission to film at Knebworth, together with dramatic reconstructions filmed at Brodsworth Hall and Gardens (near Doncaster), Mawdesley, Lancashire, and some follow-up scenes at Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds. We were blessed with a sunny day for the filming and our major complication was that the grounds were also hosting a lavish wedding, which we had to film around. Once again Lisa Hiley’s large collection of period costumes was a lifesaver, and they, together with Kevin’s skill as a graphic designer and cameraman, gave this production a gloss which belied its tiny budget (mostly taken up with travel and catering costs). Once again Alistair Lock lent us his dulcet tones reading the excerpts. At the time we felt that if the right people saw it it could open a possible professional direction for Westlake. That did not happen but it is still a film I’m proud of.

A man goes to visit an uncannily accurate fortune teller.

A great example of a one day film shoot producing a very polished little film. I can’t remember why I was not involved in this one, probably a double-booked weekend as usual. My only contribution was buying the tarot cards, which in those pre-Amazon days necessitated quite a search around town to find a suitable set in time for the filming.

The history of the Space Race, from the Wright Brothers to the Space Shuttle.

Something of a follow-up to Man of Words in spirit, Carl Bowler pursued one of his own fascinations in this short documentary. My main memory of this was the sunny day’s filming at Jodrell Bank, and our race back to Manchester to see Rik Mayall on stage as The New Statesman that night.

Carl Bowler explains why an Australian film about competitive ballroom dancing means so much to him.

Lately we have been thinking of creating more film appreciation vlogs like this one, a genre the internet has opened up in the last decade. I’m a big fan of BBC2 ‘s Moviedrome series and love the idea of creating introductions similar to those which Alex Cox and Mark Cousins used to deliver. As it is Carl , Rebecca and Kevin have been the people to actually get some made. We started with Scott Pilgrim and followed up with Strictly Ballroom. I am hoping to film on for The Keep this year. Carl does an excellent job of selling this cult Australian comedy drama.

If you have enjoyed any of these films, there are a host of other productions to be found over at Westlake Film’s Youtube Channel. Hope you enjoy watching these movies and stay tuned to the blog for more news about future projects. All the best for now.

Auton, K9, cosplay Doctor, Cybermen

Westlake Films Remastered Part 1

My friends and my experiences writing, acting and gophering have been a big part of my creative life. Looking back we have created quite a varied body of work on a micro-budget. Now Kevin Hiley has decided to give our ten generally accepted best productions the remaster treatment. HD upscaling, picture and sound fixes, and in some places new FX and music. If you have never seen any of these films, there has never been a better time.
With ten of our films getting producer/director Kevin Hiley’s love and attention, I’ve decided to break this article into two posts so that I can properly write about them.

A distant human mining colony on a moon-sized asteroid is devasted by a Cyberman attack. Chinon fears he is the only man left. Soon his thoughts turn from survival to revenge.
A gripping homage to the monochrome years of Doctor Who.

Still our most ambitious film. Not only did we travel to Scotland for several days, filming in the TV studio at Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Kelvingrove Park, and then the beaches of Argyll, we hired transport, employed actors and even a make-up artist to create our protagonist’s wounds. Took me years to pay off that credit card, but I don’t regret it because the film is a gem. I still think it is unlike any other Doctor Who fan film I have seen, with the harsh monochrome noir lighting and its nihilistic atmosphere. I remember we were surprised ourselves when we watch the first assembled cut at how tough it was. Shuttle Saves the World and Auton Diaries 2 are funnier, perhaps more accessible, Man of Words is glossier, but Deconstruction remain our most complete film experience.

Some of the cast and crew at RSAMD back in 2001.

It was a film where we pushed ourselves and overcame quite a few unexpected obstacles. For example the battle scenes had been planned out but we realised we were fast running out of time and had not got nearly enough footage. Between Kevin, Tim, John and myself we came up with the idea of throwing out the storyboard and going handheld and improvising close quarter, fast cut fight scenes. The test footage of the fight between myself and John in a hotel room was sight to watch in itself.
The script was based on a short story by Tim Reid published initially on a fan forum called Timelord. We used to write chain stories, called Random Fictions. Many of them didn’t work but the ones that took off were often alot of fun and I learnt a lot about writing from the ones I contributed too. Maybe I’ll post the best to this blog at a later date?

What happened to old Doctor Who monsters when the original television dried up in 1989? Spinoff videos are one answer but every actor knows that this business has as many downs as it has ups. A comedy about the rich inner life of one thesping Auton.

For a little while I seemed to be Bill Bagg’s go to writer for the wackier ideas. This short was made as an extra for the Auton 3 DVD. Auton 2 had already featured a funny skit written by Paul Ebbs in which an Auton with the personality of a fruity old English actor described his resting years. After discussing several ideas, John Isles and I decided that the best follow-up was a film about the return of Doctor Who and how it affected this monster.
Initially I had envisioned a much simpler set-up of the Auton being interviewed in his garden, with a few photos. But John and Kevin pushed me to be much more adventurous, so we ended up with a foundry (filmed at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry), a theatre, and a recreation of the famous high street invasion from Spearhead from Space. I have made no secret of the fact I think this film is a lot more successful than Do You Have a License to Save This Planet? as comedy, because I kept much more control over it.
Playing the Auton was quite a gruelling experience. As other actors who have donned monster costumes on film over the years have commented, there was little visibility in the mask, and under the bright lights in the theatre I nearly collapsed from the heat at one point. But there is also a freedom in being an anonymous masked alien in public places, (Huddersfield mainly) and I felt free to mess about and react to be public ‘in character’. Mind you, I do remember taking my mask off at one point, only to hear a couple sat nearby jokingly cry out “Uhgh! What a hideous monster!”

Meet Dave Smalls and his robot partner K9. Together they fight crime! And sometimes commit it too. This week, Dave received a mysterious phone call and stumbles into a fast food conspiracy that not even a dog with an IQ of 900 may be able to digest.

The opening titles of K9 and Company are some of the worst ever seen on a BBC programme. When I was given a homemade K9 prop by a family friend, my initial intention was simply recreate them with a chavvy idiot detective replacing the polished, capable Sarah Jane Smith. Once again my friends convinced me to go further and write a whole mini-episode. The ideas came pretty fast, and luckily I had met a talented Manchester actor called Charles Allen-Wall, who was more than happy to be the bloke. Equally happily Alistair Lock agreed to provide his fabulous K9 impression to my words. It was also fun to welcome back Nigel Peever as the villain. Looking back I’m impressed we got it all filmed in a relatively quick time, using our regular locations of the Black Bull pub, my house, and a local Bolton church. The best of our films usually have a clear central idea and that’s exactly what this one has. One of the few films we have made to be mentioned in a commercial publication- Doctor Who Magazine.

We’ll make a Third Doctor out of you yet! Welcome to a very special school for training the very best Intergalactic Dandies.

Tom Baker may be the most recognisable Doctor, but I don’t think there is another incarnation with quite so many clear foibles to impersonate and gently rib as the Jon Pertwee regeneration.
As we have grown older and busier, the opportunities to make films have decreased. And when we do get together, it has to be scripts we can pull off in a day. This is one of the best examples of our later work, just lots of fun and silliness as we improvised ideas around the theme of the Third Doctor’s era. It was Jonathan Miles’ idea initially. Jonathan is a keen cosplayer and provided most of the costumes, whilst I brought the old Auton gear out of wardrobe for one more airing.
I’m particularly fond of Carl Bowler’s Worzel Gummidge character and the classroom scene where he’s just a bit out of sync with the rest of the students.

These are the Doctor Who films that Westlake Films has revived. Next time I’ll take a look at our varied output away from the TARDIS.

Vintage film poster

Talking Pictures May Podcast

It’s Hammer (Films) time! The latest episode of Adam Roche’s podcast, dedicated to UK vintage film and television channel Talking Pictures is out now at your favourite podcasting source. Search for the Talking Pictures TV Podcast. I’m delighted to say I have made the cut again with a quick piece on 1961’s Terror of the Tongs, an interesting Hammer Film which is more of a period adventure than a horror film, despite the way it was advertised. Find out what Christopher Lee thought of playing Chung Ko, an Asian villain not a million miles away from Dr Fu Manchu, at least visually.

In addition there are plenty of other entertaining reviews including Bedazzled, The Camp on Blood Island and some reminiscences from Robert Powell about his late Eighties adventure series Hannay. The channel continues to unearth half-forgotten gems. At the moment I am catching up on Callan, a melancholy spy series from the Sixties and Seventies that still feels realistic, mature, and features two remarkable performances from Edward Woodward and Russell Hunter. 3rd June sees the arrival of the fondly remembered children’s supernatural anthology Shadows too. Looking forward to rediscovering that.
For more on Talking Pictures, read my earlier article. Stay tuned!

Promoting Ladies in Lavender – and myself

One of the aims of this blog is to be a one stop shop for my work. It’s been busy lately, both with completing the first year of my Digital Technology Solutions Apprenticeship and supporting the last three productions of the Bolton Little Theatre season. But this does give me creative outlets: two new videos and my first self-created webpage in a long time.

Ladies in Lavender, based on the popular film written by Charles Dance and starring Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench. Adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna. I decided to go for a simple slideshow style trailer due to having limited time. Finding a good young male violinist photo was surprisingly hard. I shall also be designing the sound and operating the sound desk for that week 11th to 18th May.
Spring and Port Wine, the classic Northern comedy drama by Bill Naughton, which became a beloved Sixties Bolton movie starring James Mason and Susan George. Again a simple slideshow format, using vintage newspaper photos, a location from the film, and music from Youtube’s stock library. The music was originally intended to be “Times They Are A-Changin'” but that is not allowable due to copyright. I’m compiling the sounds for this final play of the season, but happily I am getting help on the sound desk.

Please visit Bolton Little Theatre’s website for more information about our excellent productions. You can also see more of my trailers for local am dram groups by browsing my Youtube channel.

Back in the late Nineties’ I was keen to join in the internet revolution and make my own webpage. I self-taught myself HTML and created a small website to promote my Fine Line Doctor Who audios, uploaded to the personal webspace I received as part of my NTL subscription. It was great fun but once my audio production days faded, my skills faded. One of my favourite parts of my current degree has been Web Development, and its been good to learn HTML, CSS and Javascript in an organised way, as well as updating my conception of how today’s web works.

As part of this I had to create a personal profile page as an assignment and you can take a look at it. The webspace comes courtesy of the degree course, but it is owned by me, rather than the university, and might well host a more interesting creative site in the coming months. Watch this space.

Friends’ fantasies: White Sand 3 and Quantum Assassin

There’s two new books set in exciting fantasy worlds coming out soon and the link between them is that they’re written by friends of mine. Talented comrades who have been rather more productive than me on the fiction front of late.

First up is the third and final volume of Brandon Sanderson’s White Sand graphic series, as adapted by the multi-gifted Rik Hoskin. The first two volumes have been a big hit for Dynamite Comics and Mr Sanderson himself has been delighted with Rik’s revision of his unpublished manuscript, set in what would become his Cosmere Universe. Rik was recently interviewed about the third volume, its new artist Fritz Casas, and what it has been like collaborating on a huge project like this. There’s also a bit of news for fans of Death Lands too. You can read the interview right here. I am biased but I thought it was a fascinating read.

White Sand 3 is released in hardback on 25th June and is available for pre-order at all good bookshops now.

Meanwhile Michael Langley and my erstwhile BBV collaborator Paul Ebbs are launching a new trilogy of fantasy/SF novels under the moniker
Quantum Assassin , starting with Chain World. To quote Paul:

“It’s a rollicking SF\Fantasy adventure with big swords, big spaceships, big guns and a load of big dumb objects which meet at the intersection of Science and Magic.”

Looking at the blurb on Amazon we learn more: “Between two impossible worlds, three heroes must rise. Shryke the warrior, Galdar the curate and Barl the trainee Assassin. Each on a mission that will bring them into collision, not only with each other, but also with an enemy of immense power, the God-Queen.
Chainworld: sixteen planet-sized links with terraformed inner surfaces. Sixteen wholly different environments where science holds sway, or magic, or an uneasy equilibrium of both. Sixteen worlds of warriors, mages, and scientists, plasma-soldiers, steam-pirates, airship captains, and the ravaging forces of the God-Queen. Shryke is a killer who wields secret magic – on the run but searching for clues to reveal a threat to all reality. Barl has been kidnapped from the endless vistas of God’s Heart, a mysterious sphere that completely encloses its host star. He is taken on a journey through the vast magical-technological training spaces of the Guild of Assassins. Here he will be trained not only to kill but also to travel through the spaces between atoms. When Galdar’s people are massacred by the forces pursuing Shryke, they must find a way up through the atmosphere to the hidden city controlling all life bringing forces at the centre of Chainworld. Shryke, Galdar and Barl alone must stand to the Sun Machine and the world beyond the quantum. “

So that is Chain World, coming soon to paperback and Audible on 18th June.

Happy reading!