Monday, 31 August 2015

The Ninth Doctor Year

In this, the fourth guest blog post, @BlueCollarDrWho shares his thoughts on the first season of Doctor Who, and on Chris Eccleston's portrayal of the titular Time Lord. The article presents an interesting perspective on the socio-political undertones of the first season, and of the Ninth Doctor. It is, as a reader, fascinating to see how Doctor Who impacts fans in different ways, and how we each apply a variety of interpretations to the stories, and so, without any further ado, I'm proud to present...

The Ninth Doctor Year

This blog post intends to review each episode of the Ninth Doctor year plus a summary of the Ninth Doctor himself, the companion Rose’s time with Ninth.

Christopher Eccleston’s time on Doctor Who was so short that he played the Doctor from 26 March 2005 – 18 June 2005, which is only 84 days! (Yes, I did the sums using my Mac Own Numbers software) 



Rose

Rose not only shows a new companion for the Doctor but marks the return of a new TV series of Doctor Who since 1989. A passage of 16 years! What was clear in the first few minutes of Rose was that the companion would play a bigger role in Doctor Who by showing the life of Rose such as her mother and her boyfriend Mickey. Doctor Who returned by bringing back the Autons last seen in ‘Terror of the Autons’ back in 1971.

Rose also brought a new phrase in Doctor Who history “Every Planet has a North” & “Lots of Planets have a North” I always viewed the Ninth Doctor as being the first Doctor with a strong accent because although Sylvester McCoy has a Scottish accent it is very mild in comparison to Christopher Eccleston. Christopher Eccleston himself made it abundantly clear that he deliberately kept his Salford Accent in reaction against the Received Pronunciation accent common in BBC. Something I agree on with Christopher Eccleston.

Rose criticized the Doctor for not remembering the name of her boyfriend Mickey. I think the reason the Doctor may not have remembered Mickey’s name is because of what I see as the Ninth Doctor ethos. I think the Ninth Doctor ethics is based on utilitarianism which holds that all life is equally important and if he remembered Mickey’s name it would attach too much greater importance to one individual over another or everyone else which is contrary to the ideas of utilitarianism. 

Rose ended up saving the day by using her gymnastic skills by swinging on a rope to knock over the Autons holding the Doctor which then caused the anti-plastic solution to tip into the Nestene Consciousness.

The End of the World

The End of the World highlights the concept of the Adherents of the Repeated Meme, an idea introduced by the scientist Richard Dawkins 1976 book The Selfish Gene. “A meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture" By this definition the Adherents of the Repeated Meme shared an idea, behavior and style repeatedly in person by offering a stainless-steel orbs as a, "gift of peace in all good faith" When the Doctor explains a repeated meme is just an idea the true nature of a repeated meme is implicated. The villain of the episode Cassandra used tiny robots to control space station which remind of ‘web crawlers’ which trawl the Internet to collect data and control different elements of the internet. Self-hate, denial and survivor guilt are themes touched in this episode by the Ninth Doctor expressed by anger at Rose when she asked the Doctor what species he belonged to. The Ending of End of the World always make me want to get chips from the chip shop when Rose says “I smell chips, do you want chips?”

The Unquiet Dead

The Unquiet Dead should be seen as a great historical drama as all the guest casts really get into the mannerisms of the 19th century characters they portray. The Unquiet Dead, I think, is open ended about religion, as Charles Dickens says to Ninth Doctor “There are more things in heaven and earth than be dreamed of, even for you Doctor”. I think this open minded and open ended approach at end of The Unquiet Dead is good, as although I am an atheist, not everyone is so open ended and open minded, in terms of philosophy of religion, which within Doctor Who is more inclusive.

Aliens of London

Aliens of London features the best farting joke ever; “Would you mind not farting, while I’m trying to save the world”! Out of all the actors who have played the Doctor, only Christopher Eccleston could deliver the line in the serious tone needed ironically to make the farting joke work. I like the farting joke as it flys in the face of po-facedness and snootiness which exists in the Doctor Who community. I remember feeling sad that the space pig was killed. I wish the space pig had lived.

World War Three

No.10 Downing Street got attacked by a missile from the Royal Navy! What is overlooked about the Slitheen is the fact that they have a plausible reason for so much farting. The compression suit which squeeze the Slitheen’s huge body into human skin create a lot of gas exchange. Aliens of London and World War Three reminded me very much like a base under siege like ‘The Wheel in Space’.

Dalek

Angry Doctor. I believe the Ninth Doctor would have killed the Dalek on two separate occasions. First time when he attempted to electrocute the Dalek to death but was stopped by staff of Van Statten, and again by words of Rose at the end of the episode.

The Long Game

The Long Game was basically a critique of mainstream media, which is a theme that has become topical again in 2015. When the Doctor, at the end of the episode, confronts Adam over what he did, I thought the Ninth Doctor was going to punch him.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day plot reminds me of the Stephen King short story the Langoliers in which creatures of time itself what is left of the past by eating it. The difference between the Langolier monsters and the Reapers in Doctor Who is that the Reapers only intervene if someone has been trying to change the past, whereas the Langoliers consume all of the past even if history has not been changed. The Ninth Doctor explains that all people are important when he speaks to a couple in the church this is a continuation of utilitarian ethics discussed in Rose.

The Empty Child

When the Doctor is talking to the homeless children during a bombing raid during the Blitz and discovers they steal food during a bombing raids the Ninth Doctor replies “not sure if that is Marxism in action, or a West End musical”, which I thought was a brilliant line.

The Doctor Dances

I think ‘The Doctor Dances’ and ‘The Empty Child’ are one of Steven Moffat’s best story ideas, as they are clever episodes with the idea of nanobots getting confused a plausible concept. ‘The Empty Child’ and ‘The Doctor Dances’ show a simple concept can be a clever.

‘The Doctor Dances’ introduce the memorable scene of “go go go with bananas, a good source of potassium. By chance, bananas played a crucial role in defeating the racist white man march in Liverpool when an anti-fascist threw them at the racists and they slipped on the bananas!

Boom Town

The moral theme explored in ‘Boom Town’ was if something is lawful, does it necessarily mean it is moral? The dialogue in the restaurant between the Ninth Doctor and Margaret Blaine had its witty moment when the Slitheen tried to poison the Doctor with a dart from her finger, and then with poisonous breath which The Doctor filled her mouth with mouthwash to neutralize the poison, the look on her face was priceless!



Bad Wolf

Badwolf has one of the best opening scene as the Doctor within a couple of minutes of the episode Ninth Doctor is inside the diary room of Big Brother sitting on a red chair being asked “not to swear” to which Ninth Doctor replies “you got to be kidding me,” then theme tune started, implying that between theme tune at start of episode and continuation of story the Ninth Doctor was actually swearing from Satellite 5 in front of billions of viewers.

I remember back in 2005 getting really excited by the ‘Big Brother’ reference as it was so funny seeing the Ninth Doctor being indifferent to people being excited over ‘Big Brother’.
Bad Wolf is filled with many pop culture references. The episode ‘Bad Wolf’ reminds me most of all of ‘The Happiness Patrol’ story in that both ‘Bad Wolf’ (until end of episode) and ‘The Happiness Patrol’ are both quirky.

The Parting of the Ways

‘The Parting of The Ways’ had the companion, just like in episode ‘Rose’, save the day when she absorbed the power of the time vortex. ‘The Parting of the Ways’ has one of ‘the best lines delivered ever in Doctor Who, by Rose Tyler "You don’t just give up you don’t just let things happen you make a stand ,you say no, you do what is right even when everyone has run away". Rose Tyler, acknowledging that there is nothing keeping her at Powell estate, is something I can relate to as anyone who is working class can, who are desperate to choose a role in their life of their creation but fail or struggle to do so because of economic barriers. The theme of self-hate felt by Daleks created by humans was also a feeling shared by the Ninth Doctor in ‘End of the World’ when Rose asked what species the Doctor belonged to he was very reluctant to tell her.




Conclusion

I often wonder if deep down the Ninth Doctor reflects the true origins of the Doctor on Gallifrey. While Time-Lords are seen as the race from Gallifrey, what if Time-Lords refer to an upper-class of Gallifreyans and what if the Doctor was trying to pass himself off as upper-class on Gallifrey when in truth he belonged to the working class of Gallifrey.

Maybe, if this is the case, this would explain why the Ninth Doctor connected to Rose as also being from a working class background, but from a different planet that of Gallifrey. I think the clothes the Ninth Doctor wears are closest to what most people wear every day.

What is the difference between Rose with Ninth Doctor and Rose with Tenth Doctor?
The sadness Rose feels at end of the second series from never seeing Tenth Doctor again is a romantic loss, whereas the anger Rose feels when she temporarily is sent back to Powell Estate by Ninth Doctor is anger and despair, not just at missing a friend, but at losing an opportunity to better herself and create her own meaning and values in life whatever that may be in the future, such as engineer or artist.

The Ninth Doctor is her means to escape poverty, as recent evidence shows social mobility for the working class rarely happens, and is a myth designed to control her. I think Rose saw past the myth of social mobility, although she did not articulate the actual words. The Ninth Doctor really was a means for Rose to better herself.

In summary, the fact I have chosen the Ninth Doctor as my favorite Doctor does not mean the other Doctors are rubbish. This is not a competition. My reasons for choosing the Ninth Doctor as my favorite Doctor is because I think I relate most to the Ninth Doctor as he is the Doctor who reflects a working class person suffering extreme emotional stress as most if not all working class people feel through poverty wage. 

Finally, I would like to express why I felt it was a bad idea by both Russell T Davies and Steven Moffatt to bring back the Time-Lords and undo the actions of the Ninth Doctor during the Time War. 

Consider the concept of Kantian Moral Law by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kant using the example of the concept of a promise, said if a promise was broken then the definition of the concept of promise is under minded as to make the concept of a promise meaningless. Therefore by undoing the actions of the Ninth Doctor during the Time War, the concept of regret and redemption of the Ninth Doctor is made meaningless. By having the Doctor undo the events he caused during the Time War, we give the Doctor a moral privilege denied to humans. The fact the Ninth Doctor, to the best of his knowledge, could not undo the events of the Time War, the Ninth Doctor felt and understood the concept of regret and redemption.

By undoing the events of the Time War, the concept of regret and redemption are concepts without meaning to the Doctor. Russell T Davies and Steven Moffatt both equally have undone the flawed Ninth Doctor who was the human, all too most human of the Doctors, which was a point many human beings could identify with. The Ninth Doctor was like a character made from the psychological novels from Russian Writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. We see a foggy shade of the Ninth Doctor through the brashness and rough mannerism of the Twelfth Doctor. 

As an actor for the role of the Doctor, I really felt Christopher Eccleston was not acting, but genuinely feeling the emotions. So when the Doctor was angry at Adam I felt the anger touching from a distance as if telepathically; but as I know there is no telepathy, so I know it was me experiencing the extremely intense emotions Christopher Eccleston could bring right out into the open. 

So ends this blog post, any more words would be just filler, and we all know fillers are just boring, just like in TV. I hope you enjoyed reading!


You can follow the author on Twitter @BlueCollarDrWho, and my thanks to him for taking the time and effort to contribute to my humble little corner of the blogosphere! 


Sunday, 23 August 2015

River

On the 23rd August 1970, an extraordinarily talented, remarkable and unconventional young man was born. Today would, or rather, should have been his 45th birthday. I remember the day River Phoenix died as if it were yesterday. It seems impossible that almost 22 years have passed since he left us. A dirty sidewalk outside a club wasn’t supposed to be where he would die. Another young life lost to drugs, another family devastated, and a world left shocked and empty at the loss of one of the worlds most gifted actors, and a warm, gentle human being. I, along, no doubt, with countless thousands worldwide, cried on the day the worlds most gentle River stopped flowing..



I was first introduced to River’s films by way of “Stand By Me”. I had probably seen his earlier film “Explorers”, but if I had, it had no particular impact on me. “Stand By Me” did. Arguably the best Coming of Age drama since Fran├žois Truffaut defined the genre with the stunning “Les Quatre cents coups”. River’s performance stood out among an already impressive cast. Here was a truly talented young man. Devastatingly good looking, sensitive, River exuded a quiet awe, both in his performance and in his life.



Later, River gave notable performances alongside actors such as Harrison Ford, Sidney Poitier, and Helen Mirren, to name a few. His role as Danny Pope in “Running On Empty” earned him an Academy Award nomination, but it was probably his role as narcoleptic gay hustler “Mike Waters” which gave him the opportunity to put his talents to the test, and to give the audience a taste of what he was capable of. He was also a talented musician.

Until his death, River had always lead a clean, if somewhat unconventional life. Brought up as a member of the “Church of God”, River was a teetotal vegetarian, a member of PETA, with a passion for animal welfare. The morals he lived by, and his quiet, unassuming dignity made his death all the more shocking….



River Phoenix died aged 23, on a sidewalk outside the now infamous “Viper Club” on the 23rd October 1993. His death was unpleasant, probably painful and was witnessed by members of his family as well as friends. It serves as a shocking reminder, were it needed, that drugs KILL. If one young person learns from River, and stays away from drugs, his death will not have been completely in vain. A line from Stand By Me comes to mind, literally as I write this – “We never had any friends like the ones we had when we were twelve. I doubt we ever will”. I’m not sure why those words are floating around in my head, but there is probably a lesson in there somewhere. The world is an emptier place without him. He never got to explore life, discover his full potential. His future was decided on a sidewalk in 1993. The River had run dry, only flowing on in his films and in our hearts.
.

River Phoenix
 23rd Augst 1970 - 31st October 1993

And now the winter clouds it glow so coldly
Beneath the grayness of the morning sky
The autumn leaves are melting into soil
It seems less often that I wonder why

I might have walked with you a little farther
And on the bus I would have held your hand
I might have said to you "come on my brother
Let's get going home"


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

No Benefit Britain

Rol up, roll up! Come and gawp at the poor people! Chuck 'em a bun for a penny! 

It is little wonder that people who receive State Aid are so vilified. It is expected, though still unacceptable, to see newspapers filled with horror stories about "scroungers" and "moochers". With a largely right wing controlled, and in most cases, Murdoch owned, press, the demonisation of the poor and disabled is par for the course. Lately, however, there has been an upsurge in "poverty porn", with Channel 5 leading the pack. 

Benefits: 19 Kids and Counting.
Benefit House: Me and My 26 Kids.
Great British Benefits Hotel.
Undercover Benefits Cheat.
Can't Pay: Benefits Special
On Benefits and Proud.
Gypsies on Benefits and Proud.

That's a short list of the programme line up on Channel 5. This WEEK alone. Benefits, benefits, benefits.. 

Are these programmes really necessary? What purpose do they serve, other than to further divide people? 

Let's turn, for a moment, to the Oxford English Dictionary..

BENEFIT. (n) An advantage or profit gained from something: enjoy the benefits of being a member.
BENEFIT. (n) A payment made by the state or an insurance scheme to someone entitled to receive it: part-time jobs supplemented by means-tested benefits.

Let's be very specific. There is NO advantage to receiving state aid, beyond the ability to survive. People receiving welfare do not "enjoy" the benefits of anything. Secondly, as the word has found its way into the dictionary, as a blanket term for state aid, let's look at the key word in the second definition. A payment made.. ..to someone ENTITLED to receive it. The vast majority of people on welfare are fully entitled to the money they receive. Most have paid into the system, and, for whatever reason, now rely on that insurance policy to survive. This is true of the unemployed, the underpaid, and above all, the disabled, who NEED the money to which they are ENTITLED, to survive.
Certainly, there are a minority of people who game the system. But they are precisely that. A small minority. So let's look at the figures..
Benefit fraud accounted for just 0.7 per cent of welfare spending in 2013/2014, according to government figuresMeanwhile 1.3 per cent was overpaid through error (0.9 per cent in claimant error and 0.4 per cent in official error).
Latest estimates show £3.4bn of benefit was overpaid due to claimant error, fraud or official error in 2013/14. This is 2.1 per cent of benefit expenditure.

Benefitsj

Peter Grigg from the Who Benefits? campaign said:

“The vast majority of people who receive support from benefits claim correctly and need this support because they are seriously ill or disabled, caring for a loved one, unable to find work or in work but struggling to get by on low pay. Where fraud is found it needs to be dealt with, but it accounts for less than one per cent of the total benefit bill.”

He added:

“Yet public perception of benefit fraud is 34 times higher than the reality. Our recent research revealed that hundreds of thousands of ordinary people experience discrimination and even verbal and physical abuse simply because they are supported by benefits.”

According to DWP statistics from February 2014, there were 5.3 million people on working age benefits. Research carried out by the Who Benefits? campaign found that 15 per cent of those receiving benefits had experienced verbal abuse because they are getting support, while 4 per cent reported that they had been physically abused.

And a total of 16 per cent said a landlord or letting agent had refused to let them a property and 18 per cent said they’d been treated less favourably by a potential employer or had difficulty accessing a bank account or financial services because they were claiming benefits.

Enter Channel 5, with its over abundance of benefits related programming. Thinly disguised as "documentaries", these programmes find selective groups of claimants, and present them as the status quo amongst welfare recipients. Channel 4 has been little better, with programmes such as Benefits Street, however Five remains the worst offender, by far. These programmes serve absolutely no purpose, other than to support Government propaganda that "scroungers" are all around us, when the reality is under ONE percent of claims are fraudulent. They neither inform or educate; the very purpose of documentary television. Neither do they entertain, unless you happen to derive a perverse pleasure from watching people less fortunate that you, struggling to make ends meet.

Poverty porn makes people angry. Hell, they make ME angry, but for very different reasons. Whilst others are angry at the hoardes of scroungers clamerbing their way to the DWP to grab whatever they can get, they make ME angry for encouraging people to believe that the statement I've just described is a factual one, rather than a media driven campaign to fuel hatred toward the most vulnerable people in our society. 

People on welfare, especially the disabled, are frightened. Terrified of losing the meagre pittance they receive, due to the draconian austerity measures implemented by the Conservative government. The weakest members of society are already being hit harder than any other societal group. Compounding this with divisive nonsense spewed out by the media is the LAST thing they need. 

Channel Five seldom show programmes depicting the impact of austerity cuts on the disabled. Doing so might make people CARE, and we simply can't have that, can we? No.. It's much better to find the minority, present them as the majority, and let division run rampant. These "documentaries" are harmful, irresponsible garbage, which serve no purpose whatsoever, beyond inflaming tensions. Please, do the responsible thing, and don't add to their viewing figures. If people refuse to watch this crap, eventually, with a little luck, television channels will return to responsible, fact based journalism, and not bandwagon jumping, incendiary divisive bullshit.

There is no "benefit" to being poor. There is no "reward" for being disabled. And there is certainly no justification for presenting a handful of rogue claimants as the majority. Channel Fice should be ashamed at the rubbish they show. And people who watch, and buy into the narrative, should be equally ashamed. The people who SHOULDN'T be ashamed, or shamed by our national media, are those who are receiving the aid to which they are rightfully entitled.

Friday, 7 August 2015

For Ollie

The 7th August 1957. A date which is tattooed on my shoulder. Why? Today marks the 58th anniversary of the passing of my (nick)namesake, Oliver Norvell Hardy.
 
Better known to family and friends as simply “Babe”, Hardy was born in Harlem, Georgia, on 18th January 1892. Named Norvell by his parents, it wasn't until much later that he adopted the name Oliver, in tribute to his father, who passed away a year after Babe was born.
 
As a child, Babe had little interest in education, and ran away to join a theatrical group. Recognising his vocal talents, Hardy’s mother sent him Atlanta to study music. Again, Babe was less than compliant, and elected to sing in a vaudeville house.
 

 
In 1910 Ollie became the manager of a theatre, and soon became convinced he could do a better job than the actors he watched on his screen. On the suggestion of a close friend, he moved to Jacksonville, where, in 1913, where he worked as a cabaret and vaudeville singer at night, and at the Lubin film studio during the day. It was at this time that he met and married his first wife, Madelyn Saloshin. The following year he made his first movie, "Outwitting Dad", for the Lubin studio. He was billed as O. N. Hardy, taking his father's name as a memorial. He was known as Oliver Hardy for the remainder of his career. In his personal life, he was known as "Babe" Hardy instead, a nickname coined  by an Italian barber.
 
By 1915, he had made 50 short films at the Lubin studio. He later moved to New York and made films for the Pathe, Casino and Edison studios. He then returned to Jacksonville and made films for the Vim and King Bee studios. He worked with Charlie Chaplin imitator Billy West during this time. In 1917, Oliver Hardy moved to Los Angeles, working freelance for several Hollywood studios. The following year, he appeared in the movie "Lucky Dog", produced by "Bronco Billy" Anderson and starring a young English comedian named Stan Laurel. Hardy played the part of a robber, attempting to Stan's character. They did not work together again for several years, eventually forming the famous team of Laurel and Hardy.
 
Between 1918 and 1923 Oliver Hardy made more than 40 films for Vitagraph, playing the "heavy" for Larry Semon, another Charlie Chaplin imitator. In 1919, he separated from his wife, ending with a divorce in 1920, due to Babe's infidelity. The very next year, Babe married again, to Myrtle Reeves. This marriage was also unhappy, with Myrtle eventually becoming an alcoholic.
 
In 1924, Oliver Hardy began working at Roach Studios, where he made some of his best films, working with the Our Gang films and Charley Chase. In 1925, he was in a film "Yes, Yes, Nanette!" starring James Finlayson, who, of course, became a regular returning actor in many Laurel and Hardy films.
 

 
In 1926, a hot leg of lamb changed the future of both Laurel and Hardy. Oliver Hardy was scheduled to appear in "Get 'Em Young" but was unexpectedly hospitalised after being burned by a hot leg of lamb. Stan Laurel, who had been working as a gag man and director at Roach Studios, was recruited to fill in. Stan kept appearing in front of the camera rather than behind it, and later that appeared in the same movie as Oliver, "45 Minutes From Hollywood", although they didn't share any scenes together.
 
In 1927, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy began sharing screen time together in "Slipping Wives", "Duck Soup" (no relation to the Marx Brothers film of the same name) and "With Love and Hisses". Roach Studios' supervising director Leo McCarey had realised the audience reaction to the two, and had begun intentionally teaming them together, leading to the start of the "Laurel and Hardy" series later  that year.
 
Laurel and Hardy made the transition to talking films with "Unaccustomed as We Are" in 1929, a feat that many of their contemporaries stumbled over. Their comic bond was even stronger with sound, and they used sound to comedic effect, never more so than in the Academy Award winning film "The Music Box", in 1932.
 
In 1939, Laurel refused to renew his contract with Roach Studios. Roach had kept each of them on separate contracts, with each set to expire at different times. Roach felt that this gave him maximum control over the very popular team of Laurel and Hardy, but Stan had finally had enough. While awaiting a resolution, Hardy made the film "Zenobia" with Harry Langdon, a surprisingly funny film. Eventually, Stan got his way, and the boys were both signed to new contracts, and the team was loaned out to General Services Studio to make "Flying Deuces"  one of Laurel and Hardy's best known films.
 

 
While on the lot, Babe fell in love with Virginia Lucille Jones, a script girl, whom he married the next year. Laurel and Hardy also began performing for the USO, supporting the Allied troops during World War II. They also made "A Chump at Oxford (1940)" (a classic, where Stanley "recovers" his memory and becomes a genius professor, with some humorous role reversals in Laurel and Hardy's relationship) and "Saps at Sea (1940)." 
 
Beginning in 1941, Laurel and Hardy were beginning a decline in their professional careers. They left Roach Studios and began making films for 20th Century Fox, and later MGM. Although they were financially better off, they had very little artistic control at the large studios, and the films they made reflected that.
 
In 1947, Laurel and Hardy left Hollywood to begin a six week tour of the English Music Halls. It enabled Stan to visit his home country, as well as serving to prove to Laurel and Hardy that they hadn't lost their touch over the last six years of less than successful comedy films. In answer to that question, their six week tour was extended to nearly a year, and grew to include engagements in Scandinavia, Belgium, France, as well as a Royal Command Performance for King George and Queen Elizabeth.
 

 
In 1949, Oliver Hardy's friend, John Wayne, asked him to play a supporting role in Wayne's latest film, "The Fighting Kentuckian." Oliver had previously worked with John Wayne and John Ford in a charity production of the play "What Price Glory" while Stan began treatment for his diabetes a few years previously. Oliver initially refused, due to his loyalty to his partner, Stan Laurel. Stan however insisted that Oliver take the role, which he did, and did quite well. In the same way, Frank Capra invited Oliver to play a cameo role in "Riding High" with Bing Crosby in 1950.
 
In 1951, Laurel and Hardy made their final film, and, arguably, their weakest. "Atoll K" was a simple concept; Stan inherits a boat, and the boys set out to sea, where they discover and claim a brand new island, rich in uranium, making them powerful and wealthy. However, it was produced by a consortium of European interests, with an international cast and crew that couldn't speak to each other. In addition, the script needed to be rewritten by Stan to make it fit the comedy team's style, and both Oliver and Stan suffered serious physical problems during the filming.
 
In 1954, Oliver Hardy and Stan embarked on a third European tour, which again was a major success both financially and artistically for them.
 

 
In 1955, it looked as though the new medium of television would provide an avenue for Laurel and Hardy to return to their former glories. The boys had contracted with Hal Roach Jr. to produce a series of TV shows based on the Mother Goose fables. However, this was never to be. Stan first suffered a stroke, which required a lengthy convalescence. Next, Oliver Hardy suffered a heart attack and stroke later that year. Oliver never physically recovered.
 
Hardy was, for me, a childhood hero. One who has remained with me throughout my life. With a simple twiddle of tie, a straightening of his trademark bowler or a withering look, usually at Stan's idiocy, he could reduce me to tears of laughter. Laurel and Hardy were, and still are, the ultimate comedy duo. Often imitated, never bettered. Whilst Stan's onscreen persona was very much that of the clown, Ollie was the pompous straight man, always trying, and usually failing, to maintain some sense of dignity. His presence brought light to every scene! He was wonderful actor and comedian, with an angelic voice and a larger than life personality. The joy he, and his lifelong partner, Stan, have brought, to myself and millions of people is unparalleled.
 
Oliver Hardy, "Babe" to his friends, "Ollie" to people around the world, passed away on August 7, 1957, at the age of 65, following a series of strokes. His ashes were interred in the Masonic Garden of Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood.
 
Oliver Norvell Hardy
18th January 1892 - 7th August 1957
 
 
For Babe
With love and gratitude.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Buckety Bloggity!

Well.. This whole "guest blogger" idea has turned out to be a roaring success! When I tentatively put the idea out, on Twitter, I wasn't sure anyone would be remotely interested in writing for me. Got that wrong! Two guest posts have already been published, both Doctor Who related. Today, it is my pleasure to share the third guest post, and something a little different from the usual posts, in which my dear friend, Karen, gives us a warm and entertaining insight into the world of "bucket lists". It is a subject one would think would be rather depressing, but Karen's idea of "bucketing" while living, and not dying, is both uplifting and inspiring. 

THE BUCKET LIST by Karen (@KarenKts11)

After my grandma had died, we were clearing out her flat and we kept coming across little packets at the back of drawers, carefully wrapped in tissue paper. Once opened, these were revealed to be various treasures she had accumulated over the years and put away for best. We had never seen any of these things before and it was clear they had never been used. There was some stunning opal jewellery her brother had sent her from Australia, never worn. There were some beautiful expensive table linens that had never been taken out of their packaging. There were a myriad other things. It seemed so sad that these things had never been enjoyed, they had been kept for a day that never came. I know the fear. I have some expensive handbags (a weakness of mine!) and I was always afraid to use them in case they got ruined. Eventually it struck me that there was no point owning them if I wasn't going to use and enjoy them. If they got ruined then they did, but I would have the pleasure of using them first. 

This was one of the things that got me thinking about how life can sometimes be 'saved for best,' for that day when we have more money or more time. That day may never come and you could spend your life waiting for it. A programme I used to really enjoy on TV was The Labours Of Erica. In it Erica (Brenda Blethyn) had a list of things she wanted to achieve before she was 40. These thoughts coalesced until I decided to write a bucket list. 

Traditionally of course, the bucket list has been something people write when they discover that they are dying. It has always seemed to me such a shame to try to do the things you have always wanted to, at the end of your life when you may be too physically frail to do them. Even if you are up to them physically, they cannot bring you the same joy in those circumstances. I would write a bucket list because I wanted to have a reason to be alive and not because I was dying. 

There is something about having things written down in a list, that makes you want to do them and tick them off. It gives you a little extra motivation. I wrote down all the things I had always wanted to do. Top of the list was to visit Sydney, Australia. I had to get a bank loan to go and I have never, for one second, regretted that. My trip was the most wonderful holiday of my life and those experiences and memories can never be taken away from me, no matter what. I think about it often and I am SO glad I went. I was slightly concerned beforehand that it may be an anti-climax after all the years of wanting to go there and reading about it. If anything, it was even better than I had hoped! 



I had always wanted to do a parachute jump. Instead of vaguely thinking 'one day' as I had in the past, now I looked up parachute jumps in the phone book and rang them up and booked it. The day of the jump was beautiful, I was incredibly lucky. Headcorn airfield was the location and I arrived feeling very nervous but determined. Up I went, with my tandem partner who I was harnessed to, in a small airplane (an experience in itself) Then came the moment of truth. Standing in that open doorway, looking down at the ground far far below I was truly terrified. I had a video made of my jump and the look on my face as I exited the plane is priceless! 



As soon as I was out I absolutely loved it. I can't describe the wonderful sensation of freedom and exhilaration you get whilst free falling. Adrenalin pumped through me and I was so alive. Then the parachute opens and it is unbelievably peaceful and beautiful, drifting down to a patchwork of fields in the sunshine. When I landed, I was SO proud of myself for doing it. I felt such a sense of achievement. I have the video and the photos of that day but even without them it was an unforgettable experience. 



Another thing on my list, was a day trip to Lapland to visit Father Christmas. I organised it and went with my friend and her young children, that was my excuse for going sorted! I love snow. I mean I really love snow. I dream about it sometimes. Living on the south coast of England I hardly ever get to see it. Lapland was blanketed in thick, beautiful snow. When we arrived we had a traditional drink in a Lapp tent, around a fire and were told traditional tales. We went on a sled pulled by huskies, we stroked reindeer and went in a sled pulled by them. We went on a snowmobile ride on a carpet of snow, through thick forests and under the spectacular Northern Lights dancing green in the sky. We were taken to a wood cabin in the middle of the forest and there the children sat on Santa's knee and were each given a bell, the traditional gift. We visited Santa's post office. We were miles from anywhere, when the airplane had come in to land, the handful of wooden buildings associated with Santa were all you could see. The rest was trees and snow, in all directions. There were just the people on our plane and the day was truly magical. As an adult, there are few experiences that are genuinely enchanting and magical, but this was one. It was the best day of my life.


Back to the bucket list. I wanted to get a tattoo done. Again it was something I had always wanted to do and had always thought 'one day.' That day was now. I decided on a simple heart and I made the appointment. I had it done and again I felt so proud that I had, I realised that even when I'd been saying 'one day' to myself, I had never really thought I'd ever do it. Someone actually said to me that I was the last person on earth they thought would ever get a tattoo. I was really pleased with that. I was pushing my boundaries and surprising people and myself.
    
Not all the things on my bucket list are big, expensive or permanent. One of the things I wanted to do was be in a car as it went through a car wash! We never had a car as a family and I have never driven, so it was something I'd never done but had seen on TV and always wanted to experience. My friend took me to the fanciest local car wash and as the first roller thing approached the car I started laughing, something about it struck me as so funny and exciting at the same time. I laughed the whole time and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a unique experience. Another thing ticked off the list. 

Some of the things on my list I'm unlikely ever to do, go into space, for example. Although never say never and all that! There are many other things on my list both big and small and I have done quite a few already. Nearly all the best experiences of my life have come from the bucket list and without it I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have done most of them. Why not write your own bucket list today? Live your life now, don't save it for best. 

You can follow Karen on Twitter @KarenKts11

Monday, 3 August 2015

Big Finish Favourites - A Guest Post by Jack Ryan

Who knew that my suggestion for guest blog posts would be so well received! It's my pleasure to add my second guest article, by Jack Ryan, in which he shares his thoughts on the Big Finish audio stories, a subject he, and I, are very passionate about! Whilst familiar with the majority of the Big Finish material, Jack's post has inspired me to dig into some of the goodies on offer, beyond Doctor Who and it's various spin offs. I'm particularly drawn to his thoughts on the Dorian Gray series, about which I know nothing, I look forward to changing that, soon! And so, without further ado, I'm proud to present...


BIG FINISH FAVOURITES By Jack Ryan.

 

I want you to cast your mind back to 2007. A year of Deathly Hallows and bad superhero movies. It was also the year after I became a Doctor Who fan. And as such Series 3 (with the fantastic Freema Ageyman) was the first one I saw from beginning to end, as I joined the bandwagon the previous year, thanks to Elisabeth Sladen. Also, later that year, I obtained my first great collectible, The Complete Davros DVD collection. OH HOW I CHERISHED THAT THING!!! So why am I bring this up? Well, me getting that box set was my introduction to the fantastic world of Big Finish...

 

Since then I have picked up two dozen CDs and nearly 250 downloads from the great audio-drama powerhouse and I have loved every single one of them. But of course, there are those I love more than most; the ones I listen to again and again and never get tired of hearing the brilliance pouring into my ears. And these are them. Now bear in mind, these are my personal favourites, not a list of “the” best. You might agree with some, you might disagree with others. Also bear in mind two further things; A) Spoiler Alert and B) There will be some usage of ‘language’. With that said....

 

THE WORLDS OF DOCTOR WHO


SPIN-OFFS, GLORIOUS SPIN-OFFS!!! So many to enjoy!!!!


Like most good things, when I heard that Big Finish were planning a Special Release celebrating 15 years of Doctor Who audios, I was intrigued. When they said it was going to be a crossover, I immediately said “WHERE’S THE PRE-ORDER BUTTON?!?!” And I’m glad I did. This is an absolutely brilliant release, and whilst it still sticks to the regular box-set formula, the main difference is that the stories are all from different series, all joined together by the enigmatic Mr Rees, played by the glorious Jamie Glover. Going from Jago & Litefoot, to Counter Measures, to UNIT and Gallifrey, and ending with Colin Baker’s reborn 6th Doctor, the greater story is a fantastic romp which I love listening to again and again, and the box as a whole is a perfect introduction to the spin-offs it showcases.


DARK EYES

 




May I be frank here, when I say that.... THIS SERIES IS FUCKING AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!


Being the replacement and continuation of The Eighth Doctor Adventures, Dark Eyes had some big shoes to fill, being set immediately after the epic and climactic To The Death, and not only did it work, it worked spectacularly. Introducing the fantastic Ruth Bradley as the Doctor’s new IRISH companion, Molly O’Sullivan, and reintroducing the amazing Nicola Walker as Liv Chenka, this series went from strength to strength with each box set and became a must have for not only Doctor Who and Big Finish fans, but those with any interest in audio drama as a whole.

 

UNIT: DOMINION


Does the name Alex McQueen mean anything to you? He played a slithy Government official opposite Peter Capaldi, a fountain of comedy delight alongside the Inbetweeners and Matt Lucas, and he has now also played (in my opinion) THE MOST INSANE INCARNATION OF THE UNIVERSE’S MOST FAMOUS PSYCHOPATH!!!!

This 7th Doctor mini-series is an absolute gem and, unlike the likes of Dark Eyes, all four stories are directly connected as they’re not stories; they’re parts of the bigger story. Alongside Beth Chalmers as the fun and quirky Raine Creevy and the domineering Tracey Childs and the cold but compassionate Dr Klein, Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor comes into his absolute own here, showcasing comedy and dark drama and setting up McQueen’s Master perfectly for the his long awaited return in the Dark Eyes series...

 

THE LIGHT AT THE END




“Please Doctor, do come out to play....  I’m waiting for you.”


THIS. WAS. MARVELLOUS!!!!!!!


With 2013 being the year of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary, every medium had its special episode; BBC had Day Of The Doctor, DWM had Hunters Of The Burning Stone, and Big Finish had one of their many Magnum Opus-es. The Light At The End did what I believe the TV series would never be able to on a practical level; include every Doctor and companion they could, and still make it a story rather than a huge round of continuity bingo. Add to that, Geoffrey Beavers as the chilling voice of the pre-Ainley Master, the glorious return of India Fisher as the amazing Charley Pollard, and Straxus. STRAXUS, YOU B*ST*RD!! You are the perfect character that I love to hate for every conceivable reason. There are a multitude of reasons why I love this story. Too many to list here, so I’ll leave you with the main reason to get this story; Tom Baker and Paul McGann, IN THE SAME SCENE!!! Every moment of that is perfection... 

 

THE 1963 TRILOGY



I love the sixties: great music, brilliant films and the beginning of the greatest TV series ever. So for the 50th anniversary, Big Finish did a trilogy of stories featuring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, all set in the later part of 1963. And they all set the time perfectly, from the music scene to the space race to the cold war and the paranoia of mutually assured destruction, every story hits its head straight on the plot and never disappoints. Plus, add one of the best Big Finish cliff-hangers (the only thing to make if perfect would be a certain spoilery sound effect), an amazing homage to The Beatles, and a captivating prequel story to the fantastic spin-off Counter-Measures, these stories do exactly what they say on the case, and more...



THE WORLDS OF BIG FINISH


I know The Worlds Of Doctor Who is on this list already, but this is just too good to leave off. Connecting six of Big Finish’s most popular original series is a task in itself, but one that writer David Llewellyn not only took on, but completely excelled at. Having known and listened to half of the shows represented in the box, it did an excellent job in introducing the others and now, Big Finish have six brand new reasons to clear out my bank account. As well as the story, the acting is top notch. And not only that, but the guest appearances of David Warner, Hugh Skinner and Terry Malloy, was like music to my ears. Plus, being the first time hearing the delightful Katy Manning as Iris Wildthyme... I CANNOT STOP LAUGHING!!!! I’m definitely getting the new box set coming out this month.

 

THE CONFESSIONS OF DORIAN GRAY


Words cannot describe how much I love this series. But they’ll try anyway...


Based on Oscar Wilde’s most famous creation, Confessions creates a world where Dorian Gray was a real man, who made the deal and lived for nearly 150 years. And because of this exceptional source material, this allows Big Finish to go to new extremes in storytelling, and not once does it feel like exploitation. Everything fits into place creating an atmosphere both intriguing and shocking. And Alexander Vlahos. DEAR GOD, I FUCKING LOVE HIS VOICE!!!! With the fantastic guest cast from Doctor Who and beyond, the amazing tone-perfect music and even a crossover Christmas Special with SHERLOCK BLOODY HOLMES, this is not only a brilliant original series, it is a must have and a must to listen to. Believe me, you will thank me and Big Finish when you get this...

 

I, DAVROS


THIS IS THE REASON I LOVE BIG FINISH!!!!!!


This is a story where the rules are flipped on their head. No Doctor, no Time Lords, instead we’re dropped right into the middle of the Great War Of Skaro (AKA The Thal-Kaled War) and are introduced to the most hated man in creation.... before he became infamous. Taking cues from I, Claudius, the original Dalek serial and the background of World War II, this presents a very realistic view of what the other side sees. Rory Jennings and Terry Malloy excel as the titular megalomaniac and the story as a whole is just a fantastic, well constructed tale about a side that isn’t explored very often in stories of its kind. Add to the fact Peter Miles is in the last episode and you have got, what I consider, Big Finish’s greatest mini-series ever.

 

JUBILEE




Otherwise known as the story that inspired ‘Dalek’, ‘Dalek’, this is not! And yet it still is. It’s a story you can’t just listen to it whilst your mind is on other things. It requires every last bit of your attention, and yet, you still don’t know the half of it. You need to listen to it again and again to get every last detail. And because this story is so brilliantly written, so brilliantly constructed and so brilliantly performed, it would never be considered a chore. Also, this story marked my introduction to the amazing and lamented Maggie Stables as Dr Evelyn Smithe. And she was, is, and always will be, glorious...

 

THE LOST STORIES: THE FOURTH DOCTOR BOXSET


Tom Baker. Do I need another reason to say why I love this box setOh, I do? Okay...


The Lost Stories series started in 2009 adapting unmade TV stories onto audio, and when it was announced that Tom Baker would be joining Big Finish proper in 2011, as a special treat, this box set was made featuring two bloody good stories that would have fit straight into the series proper. Despite one of the stories sounding vaguely familiar to The Android Invasion, these two stories are great. The plot, the acting, the obligatory 70’s humour that always makes me laugh, everything in these stories are spot on. They are just amazing, fantastic romps and proved a brilliant introduction for Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor into Big Finish.



Follow Jack on Twitter @ClassicDWFan