Here Lies Amicus & I Don’t Do Sci-Fi

Hope you are well. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited on to two more excellent podcasts recently – Here Lies Amicus and I Don’t Do Sci-Fi.

Here Lies Amicus is the brainchild of Cev Moore and is an in-depth review of the films of legendary Sixties and Seventies exploitation studio Amicus. Run by Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg, Amicus were one of Hammer Films’ main rivals and often fished in the same pool of actors and filmmakers as the people at Bray Studios. Probably best remembered now for their horror anthology movies like Tales from the Crypt and Asylum, Amicus also made pop music vehicles, thrillers and also two low budget science fiction movies: The Terrornauts and They Came From Beyond Space. This double bill was the subject of the October 2022 episode Amicus in Outer Space!

Here is a link to the Spotify page. The podcast is also available on most popular platforms.

To be honest I thought I had mentioned this at the time but looking back through my blog I shamefully omitted to post about it. I know Cev through our mutual association with the Official Talking Pictures TV podcast, where he also has an interest in reviewing the channel’s fantasy output. He kindly provided some useful background info on the two films, in addition to us re-watching them. Whilst neither film is great, they both have a lot of interest in them. The Terrornauts is more ambitious, featuring scientists being abducted and taken to an ancient alien space station to defend the solar system from an invasion fleet, but consequently it falls so much further, betrayed by wooden dialogue and bargain basement model work. They Came from Beyond Space is another variant on the alien possession trope, set in the Home Counties and having more than a touch of The Avengers about it. Unfortunately, the thin plot is padded out with a lot of busywork about infiltrating the aliens’ base and has a dull lead in Robert Hutton. Nevertheless, I had an excellent time discussing both titles with Cev.

Moving bang up to the date with a podcast only released yesterday – I Don’t Do Sci-Fi is the spiritual sequel to last year’s impressive Tripodscast, from the same team of Dani Wray, Rebecca Wray, John Isles and Kevin Hiley. It’s a conversational podcast based on the concept that Dani is an SF novice who in the past has had little exposure to a lot of the genre. So her friends are showing her examples of futuristic fiction, starting with the cult BBC drama Star Cops. Most episodes will feature a special guest and kindly I was invited to be part of the debut. Recording in person is always fun and we had a lively time revisiting the series which I covered in my own podcast last year.

You can listen to the series here or on your favourite podcast app. Hope you enjoy both series.

Very British Futures – Nineteen Eighty-Four

I like to mix it up on the Very British Futures podcast. After the jolly, lightweight Dominick Hide plays we plunge into the pitch black dystopia of the BBC’s harrowing TV play Nineteen Eighty-Four. Based on George Orwell’s famous prophetic novel, this is ambitious drama brought more lustre to Nigel Kneale and Rudolph Cartier reputations, and remained a high point of Peter Cushing’s career.

You can listen to the latest episode here or on your favourite podcast app.

The story is set in a futuristic austere Britain where the government is led by the IngSoc (English Socialism) party, headed by a man known as Big Brother. The Party seeks to control every aspect of people’s lives, including their thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. Winston Smith (Peter Cushing) is a low-ranking member of the Party who works in the Ministry of Truth, where he is responsible for altering historical records to conform to the Party’s version of reality. Despite being a loyal member of the Party, Winston is secretly unhappy with the oppressive regime and begins to rebel against it. He begins a secret affair with Julia (Yvonne Mitchell), a party member from the Fiction department. Together they become involved with a group known as the Brotherhood, which is rumoured to be a group of rebels who are plotting against the Party. However the Brotherhood is actually a myth created by the Party to lure out and eliminate any potential dissenters. Despite his efforts to rebel against the Party, Winston is captured and tortured until he fully conforms to their ideology. The novel ends with Winston being released back into society, fully loyal to the Party and completely brainwashed.

Writers Andrew Scott Roe-Crines and John Isles return to the show to join me in discussing the messages of the book and strengths of this television play. Find out about what the papers said, how the IngSoc party operates and the nightmare of Newspeak.

Now I am starting work on the next episode, about ITV’s Chocky trilogy.

Very British Futures – The Flipside of Dominick Hide

Time travel is a dangerous business, not only for what effect changes in the past might affect, but the lure of nostalgia for a seemingly more exciting, more authentic world. A temptation which young Dominick Hide cannot resist any longer. He’s a time travelling historian from a future where life is peaceful and advanced, but most records of the past have been erased by an unknown catastrophe. His curiosity about the wild world of 1980 leads to an adventure which changes his life and that of Jane, a boutique shopowner with whom he falls in love, despite being married to Ava in his present.

Play for Today is generally remembered for its dramatic socially conscious dramas, yet over the years it has featured several notable comedies such as Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May and Jack Rosenthal’s Bar Mitzvah Boy. In fact one of its most successful and beloved installments was a science fiction romantic comedy The Flipside of Dominick Hide. In this episode, we analyse this play and its sequel, Another Flip for Dominick.

Making a welcome return visit for this episode are the warm and witty Tim Reid and Charles Auchterlonie, the hosts of The Randomiser, a podcast reviewing Doctor Who old and new, as well as other British cult TV. Hope you enjoy this one.

You can listen to Very British Futures on all the major podcast platforms, or online at Anchor.FM

Treasure Island sails with the Berkeley Players

I’m delighted and flattered that the Berkeley Players are staging my co-written pantomime version of Treasure Island on the 8th, 9th and 10th December, at Berkeley Town Hall.

When adapting Robert Louis Stevens’ classic children’s adventure for the stage, in tandem with Adrian Barradell, I was keen that the theme of Long John Silver being a unreliable father figure for Jim Hawkins was kept in the story, together with the pirate being something of an anti-hero, rather than an out and out villain. I also wanted to make sure there was still plenty for Sally Trelawny and Jim’s mum to do, in what is very much a boy’s own tale. There’s plenty of groansome jokes, as well as some quite decent character ones. I’m particularly fond of cheese obsessive Ben Gunn. It was a lot of fun writing all that pirate speak too.

You can buy tickets at Berkeley Pharmacy. Wishing the cast and crew every success!

Next February 2023, Aldbourne Light Entertainment Club will be putting on Adrian’s and mine’s retelling of Aladdin on Aldbourne Memorial Hall on Thursday 9th, Friday 10th and Saturday 11th. Again this makes me very happy and I’m pleased that they were impressed enough by our script. I’ll be plugging their production again nearer the time, but for now, enjoy your rehearsals.

Very British Futures – The Aliens

It’s been longer arriving than I hoped but Season Two of my podcast Very British Futures is finally taking flight. I’ve found a better way of planning my time, and so I’ve been able to invest some energy into editing my recordings from the last few months.

So first released blinking into the online world is our discussion of The Aliens, E4’s 2016 drama with blackly comic moments, set in a world of human and alien drug dealers, ghettoised resentful alien immigrants and one hapless protagonist who keeps trying to do the right thing but generally just digs himself deeper into trouble.

It has a marvellous cast of people who were just getting recognised for their talent, including Michaela Cole (I Will Destroy You), Jim Howick (Ghosts) and Michael Socha (Being Human) and Michael Smiley (Kill List) and was produced by a lot of the same team responsible for Misfits.

This is also best produced episode so far, thanks to the technical brilliance of Kevin Hiley (Tripodscast) and being the first to be recorded in an actual room instead of online. I was joined by two guests from Tripodscast: Rebecca Wray and Dani Wray. Both of them were excellent and had plenty of fascinating observations about the show and its characters. Look out for their forthcoming new series with John Isles I Don’t Do SF in the new year.

You can listen to the episode at Anchor FM or on all the major podcast platforms. You can also check its dedicated page at my new website for the podcast which also has links for further reading, including the original E4 website which contains a lot more background information about the fictional history of the aliens’ arrival in Britain. For the first season I also put the episode up on this blog as a downloadable MP3. I’ve decided to stop that for season two, partly to cut down on housekeeping, and also to hopefully encourage more listeners to the podcast platforms and build up the podcast’s official stats. If you would like to download a file to listen to offline, may I suggest checking out the episode’s page at Spreaker, which has a download option.

Hope you enjoy this episode. More coming soon, continuing with The Flipside of Dominick Hyde.

Rik Hoskin’s latest story, plus an interview about White Sands. Plus a little news about my websites

No time for a catchy post title I’m afraid but I’ve got a few bit of news about myself and my friend Rik Hoskin.

Rik first! His latest short story has been published in Cosmic Horror Magazine, entitled The Invincible. It is available in print or digital format. Cosmic Horror, stories in which humans encounter vast, terrifying and often uncaring creatures or forces is intrinsically linked with the works of HP Lovecraft and his alien elder gods. These beings often act through unknowable motives, have dimensions which the protagonists find hard to comprehend and there is often a theme that we mortals almost without the monsters being aware of them. Aside from Lovecraft, another favourite of mine from this genre is The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson. More recently, it has been interestingly suggested that the award-winning television series of Chernobyl had horror overtones and could be an example of a new kind of cosmic horror, with radiation as the uncaring, unstoppable monster.

Rik has also given a excellent video interview to a Spanish website dedicated to Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere universe. Talking to Tamara of cosmere.es Rik talks about adapting Sanderson’s manuscript White Sand into a series of successful graphic novels, working on other Brandon Sanderson properties, and his working process. He also talks about his career, including Deathlands, Disney comics, Game of Khans and his own original novel Bystander 27.

In other news I have moved the website of my Very British Futures podcast to a new permanent home. You can find it at https://westlakefilms.uk/verybritishfutures/

Similarly the website for my old Doctor Who audios from the 90’s can be found at https://westlakefilms.uk/fineline/

Weird Weird West

The wild west is one of the USA’s greatest creations. Based on historical fact, but the legend, landscape and characters have grown into a defacto fantasy kingdom. One that is big enough to hold many kinds of stories, from simple white hat/black hat children’s adventures, to gritty period drama to out and out horror. That’s where Card Trumps enter the picture with their latest pair of card games – Weird West – a easy to play Trumps style game featuring real life personalities mixed with hideous monsters, each realised with lurid artwork from Tim Brown and droll descriptions from Rik Hoskin.

Horror and the sinister works well in the West because it is already a harsh environment, where death can be sudden, a character can be isolated away from help, and it’s believable that there are unknown regions, or even bizarre creatures like Bigfoot. A theme of horror is the modern world coming up against ancient terrors and evils that its characters are trying to put behind them. The colonisation of the west is often that classic drama of an old life fighting back against a modern European civilisation with new kinds of danger. Putting monsters from the old country like vampires and zombies into the land of Stetsons and Colt 45 Peacemakers has novelty appeal too. Most of my references are movie based and amongst notable entries in this sub-genre are the anthology Grim Prarie Tales, Dead Birds, and Ravenous. There was also DC’s western occult hero Jonah Hex, television cult series Wild Wild West (forget the movie) and many of the works of horror author Joe R Lansdale.

Two cards from the pack
That tank looks kinda familiar

Long time readers of this blog will already be familiar with the work of Hoskin and Brown from their previous packs of Horror Cards, inspired by Top Trumps infamous Horror packs released in the Seventies. They’ve been extremely well received and this latest range has already achieved its Kickstarter minimum but there’s still time to pledge money and get hold of your own sets and some attractive stretch goals. I was sent some preview samples and can confidently it is well up to the standard of their previous titles.

You can learn more over at their Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/terrortrumps/weird-west-terror-trumps-two-new-top-quality-horror-packs

Happy trails!

More Randomness – My latest podcast appearances

I always enjoy recording podcasts, either my own or as a guest. September is turning into a busy month for me. First off is the second part of my interview for The Time Scales YouTube channel. Greg continues our conversation with questions about writing pantomimes, Bolton Little Theatre, Will Hadcroft’s Fine Line story The Chattath Factor, promoting yourself on social media, taking rejection, and the future of Doctor Who. You can watch Part Two here and I hope you’ll find it interesting. Greg and his wife have done a great job creating a programme out of our lengthy, pleasant conversation.

You might remember The Randomiser from previous mentions, a brilliant Doctor Who podcast featuring my old friends Tim Reid and Charles Auchterlonie. It’s a chat show where the two of them debate a story chosen at random, alongside several mini-features like “No complications”, finding magic moments of greatness and naffness in the long-running programme. The latest episode is out now and I had the pleasure of being their special guest for the the second time. We talked about The Faceless Ones, the recent Star Trek The Motion Picture cinema re-release, Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s fascinating children’s drama King of the Castle and held a tribute to the much missed Bernard Cribbins. I only hope we did justice to him. You can listen to Just looking for Wombles, officer on their Anchor.fm website or find them on all the major podcast platforms.

Interviewed by The Time Scales

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of being interviewed by Greg for his Youtube channel The Times Scales, a place dedicated to Doctor Who. I’d originally planned to try and keep to a disciplined hour, but we ended up talking for nearly three, so the interview is being released in two halves. You can watch part 1, about being a fan of the classic series, thoughts on the so-called Wilderness Years, and the joy of its mainstream success when it returned. We also talk about my BBV productions, Audio Visuals and my own fan audio stories. The second half will continues with more about Westlake Films, my pantomimes, the future of Doctor Who and the excellent writing advice of Georgia Cook.

We had met online via Will Hadcroft, whom Greg had already interviewed as part of Will’s promotion of his BBC audiobook The Resurrection Plant. Greg was interested in covering my journey as a creative too, so we arranged a date and had an enjoyable conversation. Greg proves to be an excellent interviewer and I think he’ll only get better. You can watch part 1 now below and I hope you get something good out of it. If you have any questions yourself as a consequence, feel free to drop me a line here or on Twitter @gazhack.

Interview on Time Scales Part 1

The Resurrection Plant and The Folklore Podcast

Several fun news items to report on today. My old friend Will Hadcroft has achieved one of his personal ambitions (and mine too someday) of having an official Doctor Who story released. The Resurrection Plant is being released on CD and download by the BBC and Penguin Books on 4th August 2022. It features the Second Doctor (as played by Patrick Troughton), together with Jamie and Zoe and is read by Frazer Hines, who not only played Jamie in the television series but in recent years has been acclaimed for embodying the Second Doctor in new adventures for Big Finish. Here’s the description:

The TARDIS brings its occupants to Calico Three, an Earth-like planetoid where industrial foundries are worked alongside sophisticated technology. The Doctor is staggered to learn about the Resurrection Plant, which re-births anyone mortally wounded in the line of work. While Jamie is put to work in the foundry, Zoe and the Doctor investigate the Plant – but when the machine goes terribly wrong, they must work with the locals to combat a horrifying monster. The Doctor also uncovers a shameful secret that, for him at least, hits close to home.

You can buy Doctor Who – The Resurrection Plant from Amazon and all good bookshops as they say. Or directly from Penguin

Will’s been on the publicity trail for his audiobook and was recently extensively interviewed by Greg for the YouTube channel The Time Scales. He’s also just guested alongside myself on The Folklore Podcast.

Hosted by author, lecturer and folklore expert Mark Norman, The Folklore Podcast is a long running series which “…began in the summer of 2016, after it became apparent that there were very few podcasts which dealt with folklore in an accessible and yet informative way. Most were of the storytelling, ‘campfire’ variety. The ethos of this podcast is simple. To bring world-class experts in the fields of folklore and its associated areas of interest to a wide audience, completely free of charge.” (taken from the official Folklore Podcast website)

Will mentioned my name to Mark after being invited on to talk about the crossovers between Doctor Who and folklore. What followed was an entertaining hour and a bit of conversation between the three of us, looking at the ways the programme had used not just British myths but legends of other cultures too, such as China and Greece. A theme developed that in an almost Scooby Doo fashion, whatever was introduced as supernatural was almost inevitably unmasked as alien by the end of the story. We gave special attention to The Daemons, The Awakening, The Curse of Fenric and The Shakespeare Codex. Our debate moved into the show’s educational remit, its treatment of religion and the often thin line between genuine folk stories and cinema inventions. I enjoyed guesting a lot, and you can listen to the finished episode on your favourite podcast platform or directly from the website.

Speaking of podcasts I have recorded two conversations so far, covering The Aliens and The Flipside of Dominick Hide and I am currently editing them for hopeful release later this month. So watch this space.

I am pleased to say that I have graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University after four years, having achieved a First Class honour in BSc Digital Technology and Solutions Apprenticeship.

Finally, I have begun work as the sound designer/operator on Bolton Little Theatre’s forthcoming production of ‘Allo ‘Allo by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Based on the hit BBC sitcom it will be running from 12th to 17th September and you can book tickets now. This includes me using QLab extensively for the first time and to support this and future web design work I’ve bought my first MacBook after a lifetime of PC use.

Thanks for reading and I’ll post again soon.