Doctor Who – The Resurrection Plant

It’s surprising to realise that Doctor Who has rarely used the Industrial North as a setting. We have seen adventures set in futuristic factories and warehouses, visited the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Mark of the Rani and had a few romps into Steampunk. Big Finish has touched on it in The Peterloo Massacre and Industrial Evolution but that landscape of terraced houses, looming smoke-belching factories and municipal buildings that could be found from Birmingham to Newcastle has remained the province of Coronation Street and contemporary drama. So having the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land on the corner of a cobbled street in Will Hadcroft’s The Resurrection Plant feels quite fresh.

Not that this is the actual North of England. In fact the TARDIS has brought our friends to Calico Three, a small habitable planet where the rural colony the Doctor remembers is in the grip of an unexpected mechanisation. What’s more the factories are capitalism run wild, with human workers mere expendable cogs in the machine. But nobody minds because on this planet everyone can be brought back to life thanks to the Resurrection Plant, even if occasionally they change gender along the way. The travellers investigate but are soon captured, just in time for a factory accident to lead to the creation of a terrifying mutation in the newly grown humans.

The author captures the the characters of the regulars extremely well. Patrick Troughton’s Doctor can be hard to capture in print, since so much of his character is in his delivery, but here he’s compassionate, curious, mischievous and has moments of righteous indignation. Jamie and Zoe both get moments to shine on their own too. The story seems to be setting up as a Frankenstein-influenced piece about Ren, a technocrat facing up to consequences of treating his workforce as commodities, together with a fearsome but misunderstood monster, but there’s a second act twist which takes us into another kind of drama, one that I was worried was going to ruin the authentic Sixties atmosphere that Will had recreated. Thankfully he skilfully avoids this.

Fraser Hines has been sharing his enjoyable Troughton impersonation for a while in Big Finish audio plays and books. It’s great to hear it again. Elsewhere he is an excellent reader in general and tells the story with animation and a good pace. Similarly impressive is the soundscape.

There are echoes of The Rebel Flesh and The Quatermass Experiment, but ultimately this is a great original adventure. It tells a story probably too difficult for the television series of the time to realise well, and instead takes advantage of the freedom of prose. An excellent addition to this year’s mini-Troughton celebration, along with the recently released animated recreation of The Abominable Snowmen.

CD cover

Will Hadcroft of course is a friend of mine and its been marvellous to see him achieve the ambition of writing an official Doctor Who story. He’s previously written several novels and many moons ago an adventure for my old fan audios Fine Line, called The Chattath Factor, which has recently been re-released on Youtube. It was a marvellous story to end my fan series on.

Doctor Who – The Resurrection Plant is available now from all good bookshops.

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.

Tripodscast

It’s very flattering when someone credits you as an inspiration. John Isles and Rebecca Wray were inspired to create their own podcast, partially by my own Very British Futures podcast. Together with Dani Wray, the result is Tripodscast, a series discussing everything you could possibly want to know about John Christopher’s Tripods series. The books, the TV series, the comic strips and more. A good choice, because my episode on the BBC TV series is still my most downloaded instalment.

Episode one is out now and its excellent. A very entertaining 50+ minutes of conversation about the first novel The White Mountains, along with an charming interview with another friend of mine, author Will Hadcroft about his correspondence and eventual meeting with John Christopher, a pen-name of Samuel Youd. It is well produced too and reminds me that when I start season two of my podcast I want to do some in-person recordings as well as Skype chats.

You can listen to Tripodscast on Spotify and at Anchor.fm – https://anchor.fm/the-tripodscast

Wishing them the best of luck for future episodes.

Very British Futures – Outcasts

When I started thinking about Outcasts, in my mind it was a series just a few years old, and I was shocked to find out it was actually broadcast in 2011. Nevertheless its striking how little impact this expensive primetime BBC1 science fiction series seems to have made. A quick google search reveals no dedicated fan sites, only a few reviews on newspapers and general purpose geek TV review sites. In the comments section underneath them, a mixture of short thoughts evenly divided between bouchets and brickbats. Creator Ben Richards tried to generate some excitement with teasing a few things which might have happened in season two but to no avail. No streaming company was rushing to Kudos’ door for more stories from Carpathia and it seemed there was no one campaigning for more. And revival campaigns are surely one of the defining factors of SF fandom?

Looking back there hasn’t been a really successful show about colonising a planet, despite the apparent strengths of such an idea. Neither Earth 2, or Terra Nova lasted more than a season and Outcasts continued the trend. Distant space colonies of explorers and farmers it seems, are more a place we like our heroes to visit, have an adventure, then blast off again to somewhere new. Post-apocalyptic survival tales seem to fare better. The Walking Dead and Survivors have both tackled themes about setting up a new society from the ground up and hooked us into the characters and their plight, yet both had more than their share of soapy storylines. Maybe when we go into space we’re always looking for new worlds to explore, preferably with interesting lifeforms to fight or fall in love with.

Perhaps another lesson to learn from Outcasts is that a great episode one is still important. Maybe a Netflix series can afford a slow burn when all the episodes are simultaneously online, although I wish they didn’t indulge in them quite so often, A weekly series however needs to grip from the first night. Most of the really negative, virulent reviews of Outcasts are based on the first episode. Watching the whole series I agree with some of my guests that the series does improve but the drag factor of the first two slow episodes sets a gloomy tone that later episodes never really shook off, even as the plot picks up momentum. At the same time some of the reviews themselves are weirdly hysterical. For example one newspaper asked if Ed Wood Jr (the notorious low-budget director) was in charge. Whatever else can be leveled at the programme, the production values are first class.

In this episode, I’m joined by Nicky Smalley, Dr Rebecca Wray and John Isles to talk about our rewatch of Outcasts and what we think worked and what didn’t. There’s some interesting discoveries along the way.

Essential facts

Cast
Hermione Norris – Stella Isen
Daniel Mays – Cass Cromwell
Amy Manson – Fleur Morgan
Ashley Walters – Jack Holt
Eric Mabius – Julius Berger
Michael Legge – Tipper Malone
Liam Cunningham – Richard Tate
Langley Kirkwood – Rudi
Jeanné Kietzmann – Lily Isen

Production
Created by Ben Richards

Written by Ben Richards, David Farr, Simon Block, Jimmy Gardner, Jack Lothian

Produced by Radford Neville
Co-produced by Jörg Westerkamp, Thomas Becker, Vlokkie Gordon, David Wicht
Executive Produced by Jane Featherstone, Faith Penhale, Matthew Read, Simon Crawford-Collins, Ben Richards
Directed by Andy Goddard, Omar Madha, Bharat Nalluri, Jamie Payne

Production companies
Kudos Film and Television
ApolloMovie Beteiligungs
BBC America
BBC Wales
Film Afrika Worldwide

You can now follow Very British Futures on Audible, as well as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and most other major platforms. If they don’t work for you, you can also listen or download it from here:

Very British Futures – Outcasts

As I explain at the end of the episode, this show marks the end of season one. The podcast will be taking a hiatus until Summer 2022, whilst I concentrate on other work. But it will be back. Thanks for reading.

Very British Futures – Out of the Unknown

Since I started this blog, my Out of the Unknown articles have been the most popular posts, so this series was a natural to cover on the podcast. In fact, making this episode and watching these episodes alongside Stephen Hatcher and Dylan Rees has only deepened my appreciation of this remarkable adult SF drama, as well as my frustration that so many great episodes remain lost.

There have been other good adult SF dramas on television. In the last decade probably the best UK example of a serious anthology has been Black Mirror, but even that thoughtful series can be criticised for being narrowly focused on media matters and its formula summed up as “a new media technology brings out the worst in everyone”. A couple of years ago Channel 4 did a co-production with Amazon Prime, Electric Dreams, adapting stories by Philip K Dick. Some of them were excellent, but Out of the Unknown has such an impressive range of stories and authors, covering genres from comedy to chiller.

I felt the best way to cover this anthology was for myself and guests Dylan Rees and Stephen Hatcher to pick an episode each to concentrate on, as well as a general appreciation. It was a formula that worked particularly well and I’m going to apply it again on other long running series.

Out of the Unknown Essential Facts

Producers – Irene Shubik, George Spenton-Foster, Alan Bromley
Story Editors – Irene Shubik, Robin Parks
4 seasons (1965 – 1971)

For more information on Out of the Unknown, including my reviews of all the existing episodes, start here.

Very British Futures is available from Anchor.fm and most leading podcast platforms, now including Soundcloud. You can listen or download this episode from here.

Very British Futures – Out of the Unknown

Hope you enjoy this one as much as we enjoyed making it.

Very British Futures – The Nightmare Man

The Nightmare Man was one of the first titles I wanted to cover with this podcast series, however finding the guests to talk about it proved harder than I expected. It seems this BBC SF/Horror serial is even more obscure than I thought and quite a few of the people I thought had seen it and would like to talk about it, revealed themselves unaware of it. Happily Ian Taylor, who I had met through amateur dramatics, was a big fan. So much so that he had created a horror discussion group on Facebook named after it. John Isles had not seen it but was keen too, so I lent him my DVD copy, and we were away.

The Nightmare Man is a very entertaining horror B-movie in four parts, adapted from a yarn by David Wilshire. It feels like a slightly more adult Doctor Who adventure, except the timelord has not turned up and its left to the local police, with a little military assistance, to save the day. Inverdee, a Scottish island preparing for winter, is shaken by a violent murder. A woman resident appears to have torn apart by something with super human strength. We know hoarse-breathing killer with blood red vision is out there, but exactly what is he is the central mystery. An alien, a drug-crazed madman, or something stranger?

Atmospheric, filled with likable characters and well paced over four half-hour episodes, The Nightmare Man should be better known but perhaps coming out before home video really took off meant that it could only live in memories of the few million who watched it on BBC1 in the summer of 1981. Hopefully this podcast should direct a few more people to seek out the DVD. It would certainly be a good choice for BritBox.

Cast
James Warwick – Michael Gaffikin
Celia Imrie – Fiona Patterson
Maurice Roëves – Inspector Inskip
Jonathan Newth – Colonel Howard
Tom Watson – Dr. Goudry
James Cosmo – Sergeant Carch
Pat Gorman – The Killer

Written by Robert Holmes from the novel Child of Vodyanoi by David Wilshire
Produced by Ron Craddock
Directed by Douglas Camfield

There are a limited number of copies Ian Taylor’s book on Jenny Agutter on sale available from We Belong Dead.

Very British Futures – The Nightmare Man

You can listen to the podcast on most major podcast sites and apps. If you do, any ratings or reviews are much appreciated. You can also listen or download it from this page. Thanks for your interest.

Very British Futures – Threads

A definite change of tone for this episode and possibly the most serious drama I’ll be covering in the series. Not to mention being a BAFTA award winning production. Threads is Mick Jackson and Barry Hines’ coal-black spectre at the feast of television. A dramatic portrayal of the effect of nuclear war on Britain, including the then new theory of a nuclear winter. What makes Threads such a shocking watch is not the graphic radiation injuries, the shootings or the wrecked towns and cities, it is the complete loss of hope, kindness and any kind of compassionate humanity. As far as this film is concerned, not only will the immediate survivors be quickly reduced to merely surviving, but their descendants will be barely be better than stunted savages.

Before that grim, almost surreal last act, the film is an expertly written and produced drama documentary, full of well-observed Northern characters and believable detail, as Sheffield City Council prepares for a possible attack, whilst the populace get on with their lives, feeling helpless and detached from the news of conventional war in the Middle East.

To discuss Threads I was glad to invite Rik Hoskin, writer across many platforms from award-winning comics to novels by way of games and audios, and Andrew S. Roe-Crines, lecturer in political science at Liverpool University. The latter has already contributed to my Tripods episode.

Find out about Andrew’s forthcoming book Corbynism in Perspective.

Read Andrew’s article on the recent Labour leadership battle, “Selecting Starmer” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00344893.2021.1927809

And of course Rik is no stranger to this blog.

Cast:
Karen Meagher – Ruth Beckett
Henry Moxon – Mr Beckett
June Broughton – Mrs Beckett
Reece Dinsdale – Jimmy Kemp
David Brierly – Mr Kemp
Rita May – Mrs Kemp
Harry Beety – Mr Sutton
Ashley Barker – Bob
Phil Rose – Medical Officer
Michael O’Hagan – Chief Supt. Hirst
Steve Halliwell – Information Officer
Brian Grellis – Accommodation Officer
Peter Faulkner – Transport Officer
Anthony Collin – Food Officer

Producer and Director – Mick Jackson
Writer – Barry Hines

You can listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean, Listen Notes and many more platforms. You can also download it from this very page.

Very British Futures – Threads

If you do listen to it on a platform that encourages feedback, we would love a review. Or share a link. Many thanks for reading.

Very British Futures – Star Cops

Star Cops is a series which has grown on me over the years. When it was first shown on BBC2 back in 1987, I watched it but left with the impression it was distinctly average. In trying to get away from one set of SF clichés, it had ended up embracing a whole bag of detective tropes instead. Years later I bought the VHS videos at a charity store and viewing it again it seemed a lot stronger and cleverer than my 21 year old self had given it credit for.

When I was canvasing friends for what TV shows they would like to talk about on my potential podcast, Star Cops was mentioned quite a lot. So much so that this is my first four handed episode, with regulars Kevin Hiley and Dr Rebecca Wray joined by Peter Grehen, a friend and writer who I had first met through BBV as the author of Sontaran: Silent Warrior and later asked to write an Agents of Psyence script, which sadly was never made. I was slightly worried that some guests would get marginalised but I’m pretty happy that we all had our say, whilst keeping the episode down to a reasonable length.

Important credits to know about Star Cops as you listen:

Main cast
David Calder – Nathan Spring
Erick Ray Evans – David Theroux
Linda Newton – Pal Kenzy
Trevor Cooper – Colin Devis
Jonathan Adams – Alexander Krivenko
Sayo Inaba – Anna Shoun

Production Team
Created by Chris Boucher
Written by Chris Boucher, Philip Martin, John Collee
Produced by Evgeny Gridneff
Directed by Christopher Baker, Graham Harper

Very British Futures is now also available on Pod Follower and Pod Bean. If you do listen to the podcast on one of the platforms which allows reviews, then please consider leaving a review for us, because it helps raise the show’s profile.

As ever you can listen and download the show from here too. Thanks for listening and enjoy the show.

Very British Futures – Star Cops


Doctor Who Most Wanted Episode One

Television and logo

Shortly before I started out making my own podcast series, I took part in Nigel J Anderson’s own video podcast Doctor Who Most Wanted, alongside Brian M Clarke. The same line-up would meet again online a couple of weeks later to record the first episode of Very British Futures.

Brian, Nigel & Gareth on Skype
, Nigel

Now that podcast is available on Youtube and I urge you to watch, especially if you have been enjoying Very British Futures. The focus of this episode is on reconstructions of missing episodes, both official and fan-made. I knew Nigel had ambitious ideas but I’ve been taken aback with how polished and visually entertaining the episode has turned out, thanks to the many hours he has put into it, to turn a Skype chat into a proper half hour episode.

Where possible the Skype footage is enlivened with CGI illustrations, alongside an animated clip of the unmade William Hartnell story Masters of Luxor, a clip from Nigel’s live action recreation of the opening chapters of Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks, plus other animations.

We cover quite a range of topics in course of the episode, including a look back at The Stranger series starring Colin Baker, the recent animated Troughton stories, and what stories we would especially like to be returned to the BBC archive.

Visit Youtube to watch the episode.

In other news, there is still a little time to take part in Rik Hoskin’s Terror Trumps Kickstarter campaign and get a copy of his marvelous 70’s retro horror card game. If you want to learn more, take a look at their Kickstarter page http://kck.st/3bLx6zm

Very British Futures – The Tripods

One of the benefits of inviting different combinations of guests on to each episode is that you get a variety of tones. It keeps it fresh and surprising. This episode, covering the BBC Eighties series The Tripods, for example welcomes Andrew Roe-Crines to the guest sofa, along with regular contributor Kevin Hiley. Andrew is a senior university academic and he brings a certain thoughtfulness and rigor to his answers. Combined with Kevin’s great enthusiasm for this programme, it results in our deepest and most analytical hour so far, and one that has made me look at this drama series with fresh eyes. I hope it does for you too.

The Tripods was an unusual commission for the BBC, who have tended to regard Doctor Who as fulfilling their annual family science fiction needs. There hadn’t been an example of two major SF series on BBC1 since Blake’s 7 had appeared 1978 on mid-week evenings during the Star Wars boom. Based on the popular children’s novels by John Christopher, it followed the adventures of teenagers Will, Henry and Jean-Paul (nicknamed Beanpole) as they go on the run across Europe and eventually join the human resistance against the Tripods, gigantic machines which rule the human race through “capping”, a metal circuit fused to the skull. The cap makes the wearer an obedient drone. Ultimately the resistance discover that the Tripods are in fact vehicles for an amphibious alien race known only as the Masters.

Co-funded by the Australian channel WGB, this was an epic production, with lots of location filming and impressive effects. Unfortunately that epicness also led to a leisurely pace, especially in the first season. Viewers were frustrated by the lack of Tripods in many episodes, often only appearing for a moment, striding by. But when the action came it was excellent and the second season was much livelier than the first. But it was too late and the audience never returned in large enough numbers. Unlike the current BBC/HBO adaptation of His Dark Materials, which publicly committed itself to making the whole trilogy from the start, the BBC were making decisions on a season by season basis and fresh productions from new producers were lobbying for its budget. So The Tripods became a trilogy of only two parts.

In the subsequent years there have been rumours of a Hollywood movie but nothing has come of that. Personally I think the series, with a bit rewriting, especially to boost the female participation, would be a great fit for a streaming service. You can learn more about the series by listening to the podcast, which is available on Anchor and Spotify amongst other platforms. You can also listen or download a copy below.

Very British Futures – The Tripods

Future programmes coming up on Very British Futures podcast include: Star Maidens, The Uninvited, Max Headroom, Out of the Unknown, Star Cops and The Nightmare Man. If there are any British SF shows you would cover in the future, why not drop me a line or leave a comment? All the best.