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Why a superhero in Doctor Who is NOT too silly

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OK, my next post was going to be about my Harry Potter read-athon, but seeing how I still haven’t finished Deathly Hallows yet, that’s been delayed somewhat. However, something has propped up which is worth talking about- the Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio.

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Now, the common criticism I’m hearing from people is that the premise- the Doctor teams up with a superhero to save New York- is too silly and too outlandish for the show. Then cue angry fans using this as an excuse to attack Steven Moffat, complain the show was better with David Tennant/Matt Smith, unlimited rice pudding etc etc.

Right… so a show with a two thousand year old alien who changes faces and travels through time and space in a police box that’s bigger on the inside is acceptable, but a superhero is where people draw the line? This isn’t even the silliest Christmas special. Remember A Christmas Carol, with Dumbledore flying a shark? Or Voyage of the Damned, with a replica of the Titanic hijacked by robot angels? Or Last Christmas, which had FATHER CHRISTMAS? This isn’t even the first superhero in the show. Case in point, I give you the Karkus, from the Second Doctor story The Mind Robber-

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In this instance, the Karkus is a fictional superhero from a comic strip which the Doctor’s companion Zoe reads in the almighty future of the year 2000. The Land of Fiction where the main characters are trapped in brings fictional beings to life. The story has a cliffhanger where Jamie and Zoe are crushed by a giant book, Jamie loses his face and the Doctor accidentally gives him the wrong one, and a unicorn. This story, incidentally, is awesome, and makes total sense in context.

Yet, a superhero in Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who is totally pushing the boundaries of the show.

I haven’t even mentioned The Gunfighters, which is a musical set in the Wild West. Or The Happiness Patrol, where a robot made out of sweets forces people to be happy and the TARDIS is painted pink. Or maybe the Pirate Planet, where a cyborg pirate with a robot parrot controls a hollow planet to crush smaller planets. How about Amy’s Choice, with killer grannies? Or perhaps I should refer the naysayers to Smith and Jones, where rhinoceros policemen move a hospital on the Moon and hunt down a vampire disguised as an old lady who sucks people’s blood with a straw. Doctor Who has always been inherently silly and a superhero is absolutely not the worst thing linked with the show.

Uh huh, Steven Moffat’s tenure is totally the only time the show got really really silly. I actually really like this story, but it is ridiculously silly.

Yes stories like Heaven Sent, Inferno, Vincent and the Doctor, The Seeds of Doom, The Waters of Mars and The Curse of Fenric are all fantastic and among the show’s best, but we can’t have body horror, mental illness, and the whole world being torn apart every week. Sometimes we need some light hearted, fun and occasionally comedic scripts to balance the mood. Stories like City of Death (which is possibly the silliest script the show has ever had), The Unicorn and the Wasp, Robot of Sherwood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Romans and Carnival of Monsters are all delightfully absurd and wacky.

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Need I remind the “Doctor Who must always be serious” brigade that one of the best stories of all time, Genesis of the Daleks, has giant clams? I think that’s a lot sillier than a superhero.

Some Doctor Who fans just can’t get to grips with the fact that sometimes the show needs to be light hearted. People complain that the show is too comedic now but I’m sorry, I don’t see it. In the past two years we’ve had scripts involving cyborgs gouging people’s eyes out, creatures under the bed, a mummy that slowly murders people one by one, two dimensional beings that flatten people, Cybermen being resurrected from graves, ghosts, a Zygon terrorist group, Clara being killed (I don’t care, Face the Raven is the end of her story), not to mention the Doctor being trapped in an endless maze and being murdered billions of times over and over again. We’ve had stories dealing with genocide, war, psychological horror and grief.

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Yup, this is a totally funny and lighthearted romp through time and space with a nice and fluffy monster isn’t it?

If anything, the show is a lot darker than the David Tennant and Matt Smith years. There have been comedic scripts such as Robot of Sherwood (which contained a darker and mature subtext), In the Forest of the Night (OK, that was terrible), The Girl Who Died (which dealt with the Doctor coming to terms with who he was) and The Husbands of River Song (which was emotionally linked with Silence in the Library), but they are infrequent compared to the serious stories.

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This is an actual monster from an actual story of Doctor Who. I also really like this story, but it is once again really really silly.

This year’s Christmas special will be comedic, but Series 10 will be (hopefully) the balance of comedy and drama that the show is known for. Part of the reason 80’s Who is disliked by some is because there was no comedy. Just look at Peter Davison’s final season- nearly every story was a total bloodbath with little to no laughs. Conversely, Tom Baker and Patrick Troughton were both really funny and embraced the silliness of the show as well as the serious side. Just like the characters and stories, the variety in tone is what makes Doctor Who great. Sometimes a comedic script like City of Death can be awesome, whereas sometimes a serious script like Kill the Moon (shakes fist in rage) can be absolutely terrible. All that matters is the story- the way it’s told is mostly irrelevant.

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A pretty accurate image to sum up the doom and gloom of the Fifth Doctor’s final season. Warriors of the Deep isn’t exactly liked by fandom, but it has a “so bad it’s good” quality for me.

So this Christmas, don’t approach The Return of Doctor Mysterio (nice title) with apathy. If you enjoy City of Death or any of the other comedic scripts in the show’s history, you should have no problem here. Just remember that there’s a whole series of adventure just around the corner.

Christmas… in November

So I’ve been out recently and everywhere I see focuses on Christmas, even though surprise surprise, it’s still November. Admittedly it’s less of a problem now as it’s three days until December (and then a further 24 until Christmas and Doctor Who, then a further week until New Year’s Day, Sherlock and hopefully a year not full of doom and gloom). But last week, in the middle of November, I saw Christmas decorations, Christmas lights and people putting up a Christmas tree. Why?

Now I get it from a commercial standpoint. Christmas is a huge event, although arguably over marketed, and unlike Halloween actually does deserve an entire month’s worth of buildup. The big businesses need a way to get Christmas merchandise quickly and it’s perfectly within reason to start Christmas shopping in November- in fact it’s probably better. But do we really need Christmas carols and fake snow and snowmen in the middle of November? Not really, in my opinion. The whole second half of December is very special in the lead up to Christmas Day. The whole atmosphere is very warm (metaphorically, not literally) and feels very unique in a way I can’t describe. If the whole atmosphere of Christmas is stretched through from November, then the feeling is ruined when Christmas approaches, which is bad.

It’s arguably the same with Halloween, although the Christmas situation is a lot better. From October 1st, everyone goes “Oh look, better get your favourite horror movies out!”. Even if I did like Halloween, I’d want to wait until the actual day to watch any horror movies (horror is incidentally probably my least favourite genre of film). With Christmas, Advent means there is a reason to count down the days until Christmas. At least there’s a reason. Even so, could we seriously not wait until December 1st to do a Santa’s Grotto and not on the 19th of November, as I saw in Eastleigh?

So, what will I be doing during the actual lead up to Christmas in December? Well, I’ll be doing the Nightmare Before Christmas, because I didn’t get the chance to watch it during Halloween, several Doctor Who Christmas Specials (I’m partial to The Christmas Invasion, A Christmas Carol, The Snowmen and The Husbands of River Song) and the hilarious Blackadder Christmas Special.

Bonfire Night and the question of whether Doctor Who should return to the pure historical

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Tonight is Bonfire Night, an important day in British history and one which is well worth remembering. I’ve already talked about Bonfire Night before, but today I’m going to use the occasion to talk about the Doctor Who pure historical.

I’ve been thinking for a while as to why Doctor Who hasn’t done a story set around the Gunpowder Plot, and I was struggling to come up with a strong sci-fi plot to go with the setting. Then, having seen the historical stories in the First Doctor era, I stand by my point even more, with a slight amendment: Why hasn’t the show done a pure historical in ages?

The revived series has dabbled in the past loads. From Charles Dickens to Vincent van Gogh, the Blitz to Vikings, Pompeii to Agatha Christie, the show has used the show to tell great stories based in the past, however all the stories have used alien threats. There was a time in the show when the historical stories had no sci-fi elements, merely educating the audience about the area of history the TARDIS crew has landed in. Examples of these stories are Marco Polo, The Aztecs, The Reign of Terror, The Romans, The Crusades and The Gunfighters.

These stories were in the early years of the show, when the show was trying to figure out exactly what it wanted to be. One week the Doctor would be fighting giant ants, the next he would be in the court of Richard the Lionheart. The historical stories proved to not be as popular as the sci-fi stories, so they were written out in the Second Doctor’s second story The Highlanders, with the only return being the Fifth Doctor story Black Orchid. All other stories set in the past had sci-fi elements, such as The Time Warrior, The Visitation and countless new series stories. Despite their unpopularity at the time, the historicals are well regarded now by fans, with many clamoring for a return to the genre that the show had for the first few years of its life. Many historicals which have been wiped from the archives such as Marco Polo and The Crusades are very popular.

So what’s the case for? Well, as somebody who would like to see the genre of Who return, as I am a history fan and a huge fan of the historical stories which have survived (The Aztecs in particular is a favourite of mine). In fact any story set in the past pretty much has my seal of approval, pure historical or otherwise. I feel like having a pure historical would be a very daring move and very interesting to see. If done well it could go down as a classic. After all, it’s only going to be one story. If the audience don’t like it, move on. If it works however, more interesting stories could be told. It is kind of predictable in the new series for their to an alien threat. Wouldn’t it be great if the Doctor thought there was one and it turned out there wasn’t? However, the setting needs to be interesting enough to justify the lack of sci-fi. Linking back again to the Gunpowder Plot- the Doctor and co end up in the cellar of Parliament, ending up being arrested on suspicion of treason as they were found next to the gunpowder. Cue a race to prove their innocence, catch the perpetrators and get back to the TARDIS. No aliens needed. Then the week after we can have a base under siege with giant mosquito monsters. How about a story set in World War One? Or the Black Death and the Peasant’s Revolt, with the Doctor inspiring a teenage Richard II to stop the revolt? The BBC have so many historical TV shows, so a historical Doctor Who story would attract a wider audience than a regular one.

There are however several arguments to be made against the format returning. One is that the format is outdated and wouldn’t sit well with the faster pace and bonkers monsters of the new series. I don’t see this though- Doctor Who has been very experimental recently. We had a story with no monster (Listen) a found footage story (Sleep No More) and a story with only one main character (Heaven Sent). Audiences don’t care what the story is like, as long as it’s good. The Woman Who Lived was almost a historical until Lenny the Lion popped up, as was The Unicorn and the Wasp, although removing the wasp would basically make it Black Orchid again. The new series has come close- it just needs the courage to go that one step further.

Big Finish has done some pretty great historicals, such as Doctor Who and the Pirates and The Marian Conspiracy. There was also a Sarah Jane Adventures story called Lost in Time where Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani are sent back in time on a quest. The Doctor Who fandom is accepting of almost anything, provided it sticks with what we love about the show. The pure historical was one of the very earliest formats of the show, and enough time has passed to show that modern audiences will be accepting of it if done well. I for one would love to see this format return.

Doctor Strange movie review

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a lot of strange stuff. From Norse gods to talking raccoons, synthetic androids and shrinking guys that can talk to ants, the MCU has done plenty of bizarre things in their movies, lifted straight from the comics of course. Their most recent movie, Doctor Strange, sees Sherlock Holmes become a sorcerer to defend Earth against threats from across the multiverse. Totally weird and bonkers, and totally Marvel.

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This movie is about Doctor Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who gets involved in a near fatal car accident and loses the ability to move his fingers properly. As a result, he goes to Nepal to find a new way of life, and ends up working with a secret group of sorcerers to battle a bunch of radical sorcerers who aim to bring chaos to the world. Most of this is his backstory in the comics, so revealing this isn’t spoiling much.

There’s a lot to like in this movie, mostly the visual effects. It is one of the most unique Marvel movies and the visual effects help add to this unique nature. Think the ending of Ant-Man was really weird and awesome? Well it gets tripled here, and Doctor Strange’s initial trip into the multiverse is truly breathtaking. I don’t watch movies in 3D but I think this movie would look great in 3d due to the great imagery. The action sequences are also great, with stunning choreography and incredibly interesting and dynamic sequences. I won’t spoil much, but the final fight is so bizarre and brilliant that it has to be seen to be believed. The best fight however, has to be the battle in New York (no you won’t get Avengers flashbacks). I won’t say much, but just-wow.

Another highlight is Doctor Strange himself. At first it was very weird hearing Benedict Cumberbatch in an American accent, but you’ll get used to it. Doctor Strange represents everything I love in a character- he’s snarky (this is Marvel), wears a cape, uses magic and has a strong arc through the film. At the beginning, he is arrogant and takes his job for granted, not really caring for anyone and believing himself superior to everybody else. Just like Sherlock really, so it’s perfect casting. When he loses his job due to his injuries he loses faith in everything and risks everything to reach Nepal and find a way to fix his hands. He shuns his new job at first, wanting only to heal himself, but events in the movie forces him to become Doctor Strange and battle evil.

A common criticism of Marvel movies is the climax always being “things in the sky trying to hit things on the ground”. Marvel have fixed this in recent movies, from Ant-Man’s hilarious subversion of the city battles of the Avengers movies to Civil War’s emotional and character driven final brawl, and Doctor Strange continues this trend. The climax seems like any other Marvel movie- then things get really clever and really fun to watch. I won’t spoil it, but it remained me a lot of the Doctor Who episode Heaven Sent. I guess good Doctors think alike.

Just like any comic book movie, there’s Easter Eggs and fun references to the comic books, but casual viewers should be able to get into it due to the standalone nature of the movie. There are references to the rest of the MCU, but as with Guardians of the Galaxy it is very accessible to anybody who has an interest in it. As per usual with the MCU, Stan Lee gets a great cameo and stay after the credits for an AMAZING tease. The opening Marvel logo has also changed, and it is glorious.

Overall, Doctor Strange is another fantastic entry into the MCU. Not only am I pumped for the sequel, but I desperately want to see Doctor Strange with the rest of the Avengers in Infinity War. I highly recommend this movie even to people who have not heard of the character or don’t enjoy superhero movies. It is a lot more character driven and clever than a standard Marvel movie and is more akin to Inception or Harry Potter.

My favourite Sarah Jane Adventures stories

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This week sees the first two episodes of the new Doctor Who spin off Class. To celebrate, I thought I would look back on the show that I arguably loved even more than Doctor Who- The Sarah Jane Adventures.

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The beloved companion of the Third and Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane was so popular she returned in the new series in one of my absolute favourite Doctor Who stories ever- School Reunion. Following this, a whole spin off was commissioned, aiming to be a more kid-friendly series than Doctor Who. However, at points Sarah Jane Adventures was more mature than Doctor Who. I cannot explain how awesome it was when this show crossed over with Doctor Who and Torchwood (I had no idea who the characters apart from Jack were but my dad explained) in the Series 4 finale. The show continued until 2011, when Elisabeth Sladen unfortunately passed away. I was 10 years old and I can’t remember exactly how I reacted, but I did miss the show, and watching Sarah Jane’s original Doctor Who stories has solidified her as my favourite companion. It helped that she was in some of my favourite Classic stories- Planet of the Spiders, The Ark in Space, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons, The Brain of Morbius and the Seeds of Doom. I’ve yet to reach the Time Warrior on my Classic Series marathon, but I look forward to it a lot.

So with all that aside, let’s dive into this brilliant show with a look at my favourite stories, in chronological order-

  • Warriors of Kudlak

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I love the concept of this one a lot- training kids to fight for a galactic war using a Laser Quest style game to lure them in, with the best warriors being kidnapped for the Uvodni war (incidentally, I love the Uvodni-they were mentioned in the Pandorica Opens but I’d love to see them appear in the show properly). Where this one gets really good is the second half with the concept of The Mistress, the battle computer, hiding the peace treaty from Kudlak to continue the war as she thinks peace does not compute. It’s a dark concept for a kid’s show and proves that this is a show for all ages. This story also continues the friendship between Luke and Clyde, my favourite SJA character other than Sarah Jane and I really hope he becomes a companion one day.

  • All three Trickster storiesthe-wedding-of-sarah-jane-smith-27

Cheating yes, but I find all three stories featuring the Trickster, Sarah Jane’s ultimate foe, to be outstanding. The Trickster himself is probably my favourite villain in the whole Whoniverse, and his design is simple yet utterly terrifying. The stories themselves are brilliant. Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? is a great introduction to the character and serves as the Sarah Jane lite story, where the Trickster causes Sarah Jane to fall off a pier when she was young and her friend Andrea being saved and living at 13 Bannerman Road. The Trickster aims to cause the world to be destroyed by a meteorite which Sarah Jane could easily stop, so the Trickster changes history to cause chaos. It’s a great character driven story. Incidentally, the events in the Doctor Who episode Turn Left are linked with this story.

The next Trickster story, The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith, is my favourite of the bunch. It incorporates time travel into the show and addresses themes common in Doctor Who, namely the idea of changing the past with dire consequences. In this case, Sarah Jane is given the opportunity to save her parents from a car accident that happened when she was a baby. Timey-wimey occurs, and once again the Trickster is behind everything and Sarah Jane’s parents are forced to sacrifice themselves to save the world. Hard to believe this is seen as the Doctor Who spin off for kids.

The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith features a guest appearance from David Tennant (!) and is amazing, as is the course for a Trickster story. It starts off comical and light hearted with Sarah Jane preparing to get married, then the Doctor appears as the cliffhanger and things get really, really dark. David Tennant is awesome here, and his confrontation with the Trickster is one of the highlights of the story (with foreshadowing to The End of Time, clever). This is also a great story for Clyde as he gets to zap the Trickster with artron energy. Awesome! Overall, these three stories to me represent the height of the series.

  • Day of the Clown

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One of my favourites when I was younger, this story did creep me out when I was younger, even if I’m not scared of clowns. Some of the imagery is pretty disturbing for a “kids” show, especially the scene in the toilet where Oddbob almost takes Clyde. The clown has great music and commands the screen whenever he’s on screen and while there, is of course, a sci-fi explanation, it doesn’t explain everything and leaves some details to the imagination, which is great. This story introduces Rani, who would become a permanent fixture of the show from this story onwards. Sarah Jane also has some great development here, as she has to confront her fear of clowns to take down Oddbob (she should be glad she wasn’t in Greatest Show in the Galaxy). Overall a pretty simple one, but one of the creepiest.

  • Enemy of the Bane

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Probably one of my most rewatched stories ever, this one is my favourite season finale of the show, tying together many ideas and characters previously established. Mrs Wormwood from Invasion of the Bane is back, Kaagh from the Last Sontaran is back and most importantly, the Brigadier is back! Oh yeah! Throughout Series 2 themes of family had been addressed, from Rani’s family to Clyde’s dad to Sarah Jane’s dilemma involving her parents, and in this story Luke is forced through the dilemma. He was created as a weapon for the Bane in their initial invasion but turned on them, and in this story Mrs Wormwood, the leader of the Bane and technically Luke’s mother, returns and forces Luke to make a choice. Great stuff, and anything with the Brigadier has my seal of approval.

  • The Eternity Trap

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Along with Waters of Mars, this story was one of the few Whoniverse stories to genuinely scare me and still scare me now. A much better version of Hide from Series 7 of Doctor Who, this creepy haunted house story is one I’ll be popping in this Halloween (because if you can’t beat them, join them). A great mystery tale with a fantastic villain, The Eternity Trap combines ghosts, red eyed monsters and science fiction to create one of the most unique stories in the series, with character development taking a backseat to atmosphere and scares. The attic isn’t in this one, neither is Mr Smith or Luke, so the focus is on Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani trying to solve the mystery of Erasmus Darkening. It’s a prototype to Series 4 in a way, and it’s one of my personal favourites.

  • Death of the Doctor

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And I thought the Brigadier and the Tenth Doctor was the pinnacle of Who crossovers with The Sarah Jane Adventures, but no, my favourite Doctor teams up with not only Sarah Jane but Jo Grant, who I’m currently watching in my Classic Series marathon. This story has everything: UNIT, alien vulture undertakers, blue Graske (or Groske) and continuity overload! The scene where the Doctor tells Sarah Jane and Jo to remember their memories of travelling with him to overload the memory weave is one of my favourite scenes ever. Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Drashigs, Axons, Davros, Sea Devils, Krynoids, Morbius, Omega, Daleks, Eldrad, the Wirrn- clips from the Classic Series which make me squee with delight. It made me squee then and, due to my new found passion for Classic Who, will definitely make me squee more. In short, my reaction throughout the story is this-

So those were my favourite Sarah Jane Adventures stories. I’ve mainly gone for ones I have watched the most, as most of these aren’t necessarily the best, but they’re certainly the most enjoyable- to me anyway.

My favourite TV shows that aren’t Doctor Who

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Most of you will probably know that Doctor Who is my favourite show. However, there are plenty of other shows that I enjoy and love. All of these are comedy programs or sci-fi/fantasy shows, and I have fond memories of watching these shows when I was younger. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that these have all stopped, I’d probably like them just as much as Doctor Who, if not more-

  • Merlin

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Between 2008-2011, I watched Doctor Who in the spring and Merlin in the autumn. This show was a reimagining of the King Arthur legend, with Merlin as a young man working with Arthur, who is still a prince while his father, Uther, is King of Camelot. Also in the mix is the Great Dragon, played by the War Doctor himself John Hurt. Naturally, as a fan of fantasy, this show appealed to me immensly. My favourite episodes always focused on the monsters such as the Griffin, the Lamia, the Manticore, the Afanc and a skeletal army. The story arcs were also incredibly strong and captivating. One of my fondest memories of this show was being absolutely terrified by the Series 3 two part opener . I admittedly didn’t watch every episode but I did watch most and I enjoyed them all. Also, the title music is just brilliant-

  • Primeval

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The third high concept sci-fi/fantasy show that defined my childhood, Primeval was about creatures from the Earth’s past (and occasionally future) that entered the modern world through anomalies, while a team of scientists tried to stop them and solve the mysteries of the anomalies. As a fan of prehistoric life, this show appealed to me in every way. The first series I watched in full was Series 3, which is one of my favourite things ever. My favourite creatures from the show were the iconic Future Predators, the mosasaur, the giant worms, the Mer, the Fungus, the terror birds and the Spinosaurus(!). Every episode was defined by the creature that had gone through the anomaly and also whatever story arc was happening. I spent lots of time going through the episodes on DVD and I will go through them all again if I have the time.

  • Blackadder

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My all time favourite comedy show, and my recent passion for history has made Blackadder even funnier than when I was younger. While I enjoy all 4 series (even the first one) I have to agree with popular opinion- Blackadder Goes Forth is just brilliant. That’s not to discredit Blackadder II or III though- I especially like the episode in III where the actors have to train George to perform a speech while Blackadder is just winding the actors up (Macbeth!). The fourth series is easily the most iconic though, and for good reason- every episode is fantastically funny. Blackadder himself is one of my all time favourite characters. He’s so sarcastic and cynical, yet so likeable. Rowan Atkinson would be a great Doctor. My other favourite character is General Melchett, played by Stephen Fry, who is so obnoxious, loud and stupid that he steals every scene he’s in. It’s hard to pick a favourite scene, but here’s one from the parrot episode-

  • Monty Python’s Flying Circus

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Another British comedy classic, Monty Python really needs no introduction. They are so ingrained into British pop culture that I was aware of them before I even saw the show. The sketches are so absurd yet done in a way that seems so normal. In the Monty Python universe, a cheese shop lacking cheese is as normal as asking for a fish license. My favourite sketches include the Parrot Sketch, the Cheese Shop sketch, the Argument Clinic, the silly job interview, the restaurant sketch and Spam. Quite why Monty Python works so well is hard to explain, but it’s something about the utterly ridiculous scenarios and characters that just make the whole thing work so well.

  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars

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I’m willing to defend the Prequels, and I believe this show justifies the existence of them. Telling the story of the Clone Wars between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the series takes many controversial aspects of the Prequels and improves on them. There’s barely any politics, but there are massive battles, lightsaber duels and unique worlds. On top of making Prequel characters like Mace Windu, Kit Fisto, Plo Koon and General Grievous (my favourite Star Wars character for the simple reason that he’s a cyborg) more fleshed out characters, the show also introduces great original characters such as Ahsoka, Ventrass, Savage Opress and the awesome Cad Bane. My favourite aspect of the show is how vast it makes the Star Wars universe and truly shows how global the war is. My favourite episodes involved the Zillo Beast, a giant monster accidentally unleashed on Coruscant, and the story arc involving a second war on Geonosis. Any episode with bounty hunter Cad Bane is also great.

There are many more shows that I loved when I was younger, including Deadly 60, all the David Attenborough programs and the Walking With series, but I wanted to focus on the non educational shows and talk about them. I still have a lot of TV to get through, so hopefully one day I will do an updated list.

What kind of a reader am I?

Recently I finished the Lord of the Rings books after being inspired to finally give them a go after enjoying the movies so much. Honestly, having now read it, I’ve got to admit- I don’t get it.

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Now this post won’t be about me going on a rant about the books and how I prefer the movies, even though I do. Rather, it’s going to be about why certain books appeal to me and others don’t. It’s not the genre I can’t get into, it’s the way it’s written. I did a post on books three years ago but to be honest, that post didn’t really go in depth enough about what kind of a reader I am, and having now read more books and experienced different genres, I think I can say what books appeal to me.

To me, a book needs to entertain. As a very visual person who loves films and television, books, without visual images, need to be able to make me feel like I’m seeing the characters do what’s happening in the story. That’s one problem I had with the Lord of the Rings books- everything was too vague. The parts I really liked such as Sam versus Shelob and Eowyn versus the Witch King worked because I could picture what was happening in my mind due to the descriptions. Helm’s Deep on the other hand was literally an afterthought in the book and I couldn’t picture anything happening except people whacking orcs with swords, as opposed to the awesome battle in the movie.

Part of the reason I like Derek Landy’s writing is the fact he writes his books like a movie script. Actions are described vividly and in detail, and characters are described well but still vague enough for me to imagine people while reading them (I know Skulduggery is supposed to be Irish and have a smooth, velvety voice, but David Tennant is too perfect to not be cast). This is the same effect I had while re-reading the first Harry Potter book recently. J.K. Rowling really goes in depth with the world and characters but still keeps things flowing and even though I’ve seen the movies countless times, the way the book described things meant I could have another picture in my mind.

I’m not saying books need to describe EVERYTHING- that’s partly why I gave up on the Harry Potter books later and just listened to the audio books and watched the films. That said though, now I’ve done Lord of the Rings, Order of the Phoenix will be a walk in the park, and I do want to read them again. Books are a style of writing where anything can happen, and what the author describes can be interpreted in different ways by different people. Books that just waffle on and on without having anything happen physically in the story really annoy me because then how am I supposed to imagine it in my head? Do I just imagine Harry standing there thinking? My favourite books always have something happening in the story on every page- just like a movie.

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Another book I read after loving the movie was Jurassic Park. I ended up enjoying that book too even though I adore the movie. Part of the reason was I had the characters in my head based on the movie, which I found really helpful. To me, if I can’t picture a character in my head, then the author has failed in making me care. I remember reading so many books in junior school where the characters were literally amorphous blobs in both what they looked like and personality. It’s why if I haven’t seen a movie beforehand of a book, then I need descriptions of the characters in the book to allow me to imagine people there. Obviously, if the books are based on something like the Doctor Who books or if I’ve seen something beforehand such as Jurassic Park, it’s easy, but in an original book, failure to set up visual images of characters in my head means I’m probably going to give up.

So what about genre? I obviously like sci-fi and fantasy, but just because those are the genres I read doesn’t mean I won’t try anything else. At school thankfully the books we read are getting better. I really liked To Kill a Mockingbird in Year 9, and in Year 10 we’re doing Jekyll and Hyde, and again I really like it, convincing me that 19th century gothic literature is awesome. Despite these books being really old, the writing is still vivid enough for me to have the same enjoyment while I read them as I do reading modern books.

So ultimately what it boils down to is the fact that a book needs to paint a picture in my mind. I am definitely a visual reader and need things to connect to while reading. That’s why some books appeal to me, while others don’t, even if I love the movies they’re based on.

I love 60’s Doctor Who!

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My Doctor Who marathon has brought me to the end of Doctor Who in the 1960’s. Before this marathon, I had barely seen any Doctor Who from the 60’s. Now, I wish I had started earlier. In a year when the latest episode is still over three months away, Classic Who is my way of coping.

My favourite aspect of this era of Doctor Who is the sheer imagination at play. It puts the new series to shame. Most of 60’s Who is the definition of high concept sci fi, which is what I think is what the show should be. I don’t want convoluted plots, bland drama with no tension or lazy villains. I want science fiction. Stories like The Space Museum, The Ark, The Edge of Destruction, The Web Planet, The Enemy of the World and The Mind Robber are just so imaginative and clever. That’s not forgetting the awesome Cybermen stories. Sure, not all of them are great, but the imagination and storytelling is prevalent. Alien planets, messing about with time, detailed worlds and clever plots are all present in 60’s Who. Sure, they happen in the rest of the Classic Series and the New Series, but the black and white limitations of the 60’s means that they could go nuts with silly costumes and sets and it just felt so genuine.

A story entirely set in the TARDIS? Sure. A planet with giant ants? OK. A land where fictional characters come alive? Why not? A politician who looks like the Doctor tries to destroy the world with volcanoes and the Australian government try to stop him? See what I mean? The imagination and ambition is simply brilliant. Quite why the New Series can’t reach these heights is beyond me. I grew up with David Tennant and Matt Smith so obviously I love the New Series. It’s fantastic and in terms of emotion, character development and production values, it’s in some ways superior (not saying there wasn’t any in Classic Who). But I feel like the storytelling was more risky and brave in the Classic Series, especially the 60’s.

ooo wooo ooo

Now why the New Series don’t have the ambition baffles me. It’s not the budget problems, as the show has a big budget to create alien worlds and fascinating concepts. The audience is smart enough to have high concepts thrown at them. Examples of high concept storytelling in the new series include The Beast two-parter, 42, Silence in the Library, Midnight, Turn Left, The Beast Below, Amy’s Choice, The Doctor’s Wife, The Girl Who Waited (is it too late for me to have a complete change of heart over this story?), Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, Listen, Flatline, Before the Flood, Sleep No More and Heaven Sent. All these episodes either have imaginative premises, clever time travel or risky ideas. Whether they’re any good is a matter of opinion, but these are the type of episodes I’m looking for.

So anyway, back to 60’s Who. Watching the entire show from 1963-1969 is difficult because of the amount of lost stories, meaning many companions such as Ben (the companion with my name has two surviving stories- urgh), Polly and Steven barely have any stories, making it hard to judge them. Fortunately, the original companions Susan, Ian and Barbara are awesome. OK, mainly Ian, although Barbara did destroy Daleks with a truck. The missing stories are legendary in the Who fandom, and the discovery of the Enemy of the World and Web of Fear recently brings back hope that the 12 part epic The Dalek’s Master Plan (they could do an epic universe spanning threat in the 60’s, why can’t they do it now?) Fury from the Deep, Patrick Troughton’s first story The Power of the Daleks, The Evil of the Daleks and many more can be discovered.

So, what about the Doctor himself? Well, before watching all the remaining 60’s stories, neither Hartnell nor Troughton were particularly high on my favourite Doctors list because I hadn’t seen much of them. While William Hartnell still isn’t among my favourites, despite the fact he is an awesome Doctor for being THE Doctor, Patrick Troughton has risen to my favourite Doctors list alongside Matt Smith, Jon Pertwee, David Tennant and Sylvester McCoy. Watching the Second Doctor, it’s clear that most of the Doctors that followed took something from Patrick Troughton’s Doctor. He is easily the most important actor to play the Doctor, as without his performance the show would have struggled to continue after William Hartnell left due to his poor health. The Second Doctor’s mannerisms are shown in future incarnations. Tom Baker has the eccentric side, Peter Davison has the caring side, Sylvester McCoy has the cunning side, Paul McGann has the optimistic side. Matt Smith in particular took most of his Doctor from watching Tomb of the Cybermen, and it shows, as both the Second and Eleventh Doctors are like that really strange but cool uncle or imaginary friend.

Now I’m going to discuss my favourite stories from the First and Second Doctor eras. Some of the stories here have become some of my favourites-

First Doctor

first doctor

  • The Edge of Destruction- This story is one of the aforementioned high concept stories that I love. The basic story is that a mysterious force has taken over the Tardis and the Tardis crew are slowly losing their minds over it. This is a fascinating story as it is purely a character piece- except it’s a character piece done really, really well as their is no contrived monster or heavy handed plot. The character arcs from the past two stories come full circle here as the four Tardis members blame each other for the scenario. It also has one of my favourite monologues from the show-

  • The Aztecs- This is my favourite William Hartnell story. It’s a pure historical, so it might put people off who are used to the semi historicals of the New Series where history is combined with an alien threat, but in the First Doctor’s era pure historicals were combined with high concept sci fi. The Aztecs establishes a rule that has stuck with history- time can’t be rewritten. The drama from this story comes from Barbara, a history teacher, trying to change the Aztec’s ruthless ways. There’s also some really good comedy in this one, like this brilliant moment-

  • The Dalek Invasion of Earth- This is one of the most iconic Doctor Who stories of all time, thanks mainly to the promotional photo of Daleks on Westminister Bridge.

dwexp-daleks-westminster-gall5

This was the first reappearance of the Daleks and the first story to be a classic Earth invasion type after the experimental nature of the earlier Hartnell stories. There’s a really epic feel to this story and while the plot is silly (the Daleks want to drill into the Earth to pilot it as a ship), the tone of the story and the threat of the Daleks make it worthwhile. There’s also the moment when Barbara rams into Daleks with a truck, which is so awesome it needs to be mentioned twice. This is also the first companion departure story, when the Doctor leaves his granddaughter Susan behind to live her own life in another one of the most famous scenes in the show’s history-

  • The War Machines

Doctor Who has a trend of using London’s new and fancy buildings as alien hideouts, from the Shard to Canary Wharf. The first use of this trend was in the War Machines, which used the BT Tower, at the time the tallest building in London. This story was unique to the First Doctor in that it was set on modern Earth and featured the First Doctor in an action type role continued by his successor. It served as the prototype to the UNIT stories of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. I also really like the monsters in this one, the titular War Machines. Not much to say about this one really, it was just a really fun story.

war machines

Second Doctor

oh my giddy aunt

  • The Tomb of the Cybermen- The story that inspired Matt Smith’s Doctor and probably the most iconic Second Doctor story. The image of Cybermen emerging from their tombs is simply unmatched by any subsequent story and the atmosphere in this one is fantastic. This is the earliest complete Second Doctor story and it is a great starting point, as it defines this incarnation as a playful, jokey type who acts like a bumbling cosmic hobo to trick his enemies into falling into his traps. Despite the Cybermen being a powerful presence here, the main villains are merely humans who want to use the Cybermen, without realising the Cybermen are too powerful for them. There’s also a really great scene between the Doctor and Victoria which shows the Classic Series had just as much character and emotion as the New Series-

  • The Enemy of the World

enemy of the world

Whoever found this story deserves a whole wad of jelly babies. This was an amazing story partly due to its unique nature. There are no aliens or monsters here and it’s basically a James Bond movie with the Doctor. Patrick Troughton plays two roles here really well- the Doctor and Salamander, the ruthless politician who is set on his diabolical schemes. There is a very cinematic scale to the story, which is surprising given that it’s nearly 50 years old. My favourite part is when the Doctor pretends to be Salamander, so it’s basically Patrick Troughton playing the Doctor playing Salamander. This story was in Season 5, and every other story in this season was the “base under siege” type which I love, and this one broke bonds to be truly unique and to this day there is no other story quite like it.

  • The Mind Robber

the mind robber

This is about as bonkers and high concept as Doctor Who gets. The Tardis finds itself in a strange reality where fictional characters such as Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels and Rapunzel are real. It’s not a particularly complex or thought provoking story but it’s so absurd and unique that it’s impossible to be bored. The amount of ideas here are fantastic and the Land of Fiction, despite being a world where there are no rules, is surprisingly well thought out. I would love to see a return to the Land of Fiction in the new series. The BBC have plenty of shows with their own versions of fictional characters such as Sherlock, and the setting of the Mind Robber allows for crossovers. Seriously, why hasn’t this happened?

  • The Invasion

the invasion

Another iconic story with the image of Cybermen walking down St Paul’s being easily their most famous moment. That doesn’t happen until Episode 6 however, but the rest of the story is just as good. Once again the scope is epic and grand for the 60’s and the threat of global domination is ever present. It starts low key, with a simple trip to Earth and a mystery surrounding missiles on the Moon before escalating into full on war against the Cybermen. The human villain, Tobias Vaughn, is fantastic. He’s so delightfully and obviously evil and the Doctor’s interactions with him are a major highlight. The Cybermen in the sewers of London are also a highlight, and this is probably my favourite Cyberman story, alongside Earthshock.

  • The War Games

I’m just going to come out and say it- The War Games is my favourite story in the whole of Classic Who, and is my second favourite of all time just under The God Complex. It is over 4 hours long yet never feels boring or padded, which is a feat considering how many single part episodes of the new series feel padded. The plot is perfectly paced- what starts off as a simple trip to what appears to be World War One turns into a massive conspiracy involving mysterious aliens kidnapping Earth soldiers to recreate famous wars for nefarious purposes. There are so many good parts to this story. I adore the villains in this story- the War Lord, the War Chief and the Security Chief, all with their own goals and motivations. However, the true brilliance comes in the final episodes. As the situation spirals out of control, the Doctor is forced to call on his own people for help, and the Time Lords make their perfect debut. The Doctor knows asking the Time Lords for help will result in his capture and punishment for stealing the Tardis and interfering in time and space, but he does it because it’s the right thing to do. It speaks so much about this character and why he has endured for so long. All this and more makes the War Games my favourite story in the entire Classic Series.

And that was my love letter to the Doctor Who of the 60’s. I’m currently on Jon Pertwee’s first series and when I’m done with him (I started with Planet of the Spiders) I will have finished all of Classic Who in time (hopefully) for Series 10.

My Iceland trip

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I haven’t written in a while, but a part of that is because I’ve been on a holiday to Iceland. It was a very eye opening and interesting holiday and I learnt a lot about the Icelandic culture, which has helped my passion for Norse history and mythology.

We arrived on Friday and spent most of the day relaxing in the hotel as we were all very tired, however in the evening we explored the capital Reykjavik. I say evening but even at 10 PM it was still very bright outside, as the Arctic sun meant that the days were really long and the nights were incredibly short. The hotel room had double curtains so it would seem dark at night.

View outside

View outside the hotel room. The sun was quite bright during the week so the visibility was low.

Reykjavik is an interesting city. It has about a third of the population of Iceland but still only has a population about the size of Eastleigh. The city is extremely spread out with the longest shopping street I’ve ever been on. The city is completely surrounded by a giant mountain, which blocked out the wind and made the city quite warm. Our hotel was on the outskirts of the city centre and was near a shopping mall, which is apparently the largest in Iceland. There was a shuttle bus into the city centre everyday, which was dominated by a church, Hallgrimskirkja, which we went inside to explore.

Hallgrimskirkja

The impressive church Hallgrimskirkja

 

The church is the tallest building in Reykjavik and has a very impressive tower which can be seen across the city. The shops are also really impressive, with a mixture of tourist and local shops. What was confusing however, was the currency. I don’t know whether things are naturally more expensive in Iceland or whether Brexit has completely destroyed the exchange rate, but everything is really expensive. 5000 krona is about £30. The coins themselves are awesome, with crabs and fish representing heads and the coat of arms representing tails.

The first major trip out was whale watching in the harbour on Sunday. While I couldn’t get any pictures of the whales, I did see three humpback whales diving and a few minke whales as well. There were plenty of puffins flying by too, but they were too fast to take pictures of. The trip was very tiring but worth it, as I got to see animals in their natural habitat, which my David Attenborough obsessed brain appreciated.

Harbour at Reykjavik

The harbour of Reykjavik

Monday was a bank holiday so we didn’t go on any huge day trips. Instead we explored the museums around Reykjavik. The Saga Museum was the museum about Vikings, with stories about the formation of Iceland. Legend says that the first guy who discovered Iceland sent out three ravens on his ship from the Shetland Islands to see if there was any land ahead. One flew back to the Shetlands, the other flew back to the boat but the third flew on ahead, indicating there was land ahead. My favourite guy was a priest who had leg impediments so travelled around in a wheelbarrow. Now that’s awesome! There was also a lot of focus on Eric the Red, who discovered Greenland and named it Greenland to attract people there, even if it was anything but green.

The other museum we visited was the Whales of Iceland museum.. The museum had life sized models of all the whales of Iceland (hence the name) with a really awesome blue whale right in the centre. My favourite whale/dolphin, the killer whale, is also there. We also saw the square shaped concert hall.

Tuesday was the first of three day trips out to see the landscapes. We went on the Golden Circle tour to explore the waterfalls and geysers. We saw the pipeline running through the mountains to Reykjavik, which powers the city with geo-thermal energy. The mountains are really impressive, and I see no reason why Doctor Who hasn’t filmed in Iceland yet. Seriously, Iceland is perfect for Peladon.

The waterfall Gullfoss was the most impressive part of the day. It was absolutely stunning to look at and it really needs to be seen to be believed. It’s great to see something completely natural in the modern day world.

Gullfoss

The next part of the trip was visiting the geyser called Geysir. The whole area smelt of sulphur but the smell was worth it because of the sights of the geyser erupting. Sadly, the geyser erupted too quickly for me to take any photos.

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The geyser not erupting-unfortunately

The following day was the glacier tour. This was the longest day but it was really worth it. The glacier, Langjokull, is huge and the second largest in Europe, with the largest also in Iceland. Inside the glacier were lots of ice caves. I learnt about the way glaciers are formed and I saw the ash that separated the layers from before the Eyjafjallajökull eruption took place in 2010. The tour guides had a lot of fun mocking the newcasters from around the world for mispronouncing Eyjafjallajökull during the week.

The glacier tour had fascinating views and icicles in the caves. It was a tiring journey but it was really worth it to see the glacier in full. I was really impressed with how the glacier tunnels were created for the tour.

Ice cave in the glacier

The final day was another long trip to explore the inside of Thrihnukagigur, a dormant volcano. There was a long hike across the lava fields and incredibly impressive views of the city when we got to the top of the volcano. Before we got to the inside of the volcano, we had a seven minute journey down in a lift where we could see the strange looking formations inside. The bottom of the volcano was vast and the magma chamber was breathtaking to see, although my phone couldn’t take the full scale of the chamber so the pictures seem quite unimpressive. I also learnt that the lava fields and caves were used by bandits in the Viking times to hide out in the wilderness, as one form of punishment at the time was exile. Unfortunately, this was our final day.

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Strange formations in the volcano

So overall, my trip to Iceland was absolutely amazing. I learnt so much about Nordic history and experiencing new culture is always good. This will be a trip I will remember for a long time.

Movies I want to see get made

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I have a very obvious passion for movies and as someone who wants to get involved in the film industry, I have some ideas of my own to pitch to Hollywood. So here we go-

  • A sequel to the Nightmare Before Christmas
    tnbc

I know, sequels sometimes suck, and making a sequel to one of my favourite films would be hard to get right. But I believe it can work, just as long as it’s done in stop-motion and the songs are good. The reason I pick this movie to have a sequel is because the film established a brilliant universe, and we only see Halloween and Christmas Town, meaning there’s a lot more potential. In a sequel, Easter Town could be explored, as well as others like St Georges Town (a dragon as their ambassador perhaps?) a Chinese New Year’s Town (with 12 rotating ambassadors) and a Valentine’s Day Town (with Cupid as the ambassador). So here’s the plot. The Krampus, the Sandman, Nian and the Bunyip have risen from the dark corners of myth and folklore and launch an attack on the collective Holiday Towns. So Jack must team up with Santa and the other holiday ambassadors to fight them off.

  • A Ben 10 movie

ben 10

One of my childhood shows, Ben 10 appealed to me because I was 10 and I’m called Ben. The show is about a young boy who discovers an alien watch that turns him into different aliens, each one unique and interesting. The series evolved into a more mature show called Alien Force, with Ben and his friends as teenagers and a slightly darker tone with cooler, less childish aliens, which has my all time favourite alien from the show, Brainstorm, who still sits on my shelf. Also, he’s a psychic crab. This was my favourite version of the show. Ultimate Alien then followed with even more awesome aliens. I don’t watch the show now obviously but I think it was genuinely great and it has fantastic potential for a movie. There were two TV movies but I don’t remember much from them and a Hollywood movie would bring the show to life. I know I’ll be there opening weekend.

  • A Dungeons & Dragons film

dungeons and dragons

This is excrutiatingly easy to do. D&D is one of the reasons nerds exist, so a film based on it should happen, and apparently is happening. The genius of D&D is that there are no characters or storylines, so whoever writes the film can create an original plot while using the D&D world as a template. Fantasy is very popular thanks to Lord of the Rings saving the genre (not to mention the awesome Merlin TV show), but the D&D film needs to be different enough to distinguish itself. Incidentally, Lord of the Rings would be an awful D&D campaign. Too much walking and not enough dungeon crawling, and the Battle of Minas Tirith would take about a year’s worth of gaming sessions. A D&D movie would star a wide variety of species and different types of characters to reflect the 11 different classes, and the film could use D&D monsters such as the beholder and mind flayer and of course, dragons.

  • A Skulduggery Pleasant movie

skull dude

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this awesome book series deserves a Harry Potter style movie franchise. Just as long as it’s done with respect to the book series then us fans will be happy. Today’s technology will make Skulduggery easy to present on screen, and to have a film franchise with an unconventional hero, strong female characters and not having a dark, depressing and gritty tone would be refreshing indeed. While I’m perfectly content with the books, having a film would be the perfect way to introduce this great series to a wider audience. But, if it is made, the characters must stay Irish. I say this as a British person who loves the fact that they actually let everyone in Harry Potter have British accents, rather than American accents (which they considered) so it seems right that the Irish Skulduggery Pleasant series has Irish actors.

  • A Brexit movie
united we stand

I can’t find anything suitable so I’ll put up a Civil War poster seeing how that’s basically what was happening to the Tory Party.

This needs to happen. Seriously. A comedy-drama about the EU referendum which will probably win a lot of awards will be fascinating to watch. Everything about this whole situation is film material, from the civil war (Cameron vs Johnson), to the logistics in how David Cameron handled the referendum, to the fact that everyone involved heavily in Brexit (Johnson, Gove and Farage) have all quit/been kicked out of important positions, leaving the state of events in this country in a bit of a pickle. I would love to see how a movie presents the events that have transpired in the past few months here. Have some big name British actors (Peter Capaldi as an angry SNP member would be hilarious) to play the politicians and go nuts. I predict in a few years this movie will be nominated for Best Picture/Director and possibly Best Actor for whoever plays David Cameron or Boris Johnson.

So those were five movies I want to see get made. Honestly, I’d be fine if none of them were made, as we live in a world where geek franchises and movies are being more and more popular and mainstream. Let’s hope the trend of great geek films doesn’t come to an end.