Who Review – The Keys of Marinus

Posted by Richo On February 2, 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to the Fifth instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to watch and review all available episodes of SF’s longest running television series, Doctor Who. This week, we’re off to locate the hidden Keys of Marinus!

For a complete listing of the previous Who Review posts please click here – Who Review Archive


The Keys of Marinus (6 Episodes)


11 April – 16 May 1964


William Hartnell


Spotlight On…Remakes part 5

Posted by David On January 29, 2012 ADD COMMENTS

This is the last installment of my current Spotlight On…Remakes series. I might return to this topic in the future but for now enjoy part 5!

The Time Machine

Released: 1960

Directed by: George Pal

Starring: Rod Taylor, Alan Young

Plot: H.G Wells creates a time machine that he uses to travel in time. After a couple of adventures he eventually ends up in October 12, 802,701 and meets the apathetic Eloi, and monstrous Morlocks.

For: Old school adventure / Rod Taylor is Australian! / The 2nd coolest time machine / the time lapse effect showing the world changing is awesome

Against: Some poor acting / Kinda racist – the Morlocks aren’t inherently evil, they just do what they do to survive. So why should they be wiped out? H.G laments the fate of the Eloi but doesn’t bat an eye to wiping out scores of Morlocks.

Favourite Scene: the Time travelling

Rating: 4 Lukes

The Time Machine

Released: 2002

Directed by: Simon Wells (and Gore Verbinski)

Starring: Guy Pierce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons

Plot: After his wife is killed, Dr. Alexander Hartdegen invents a time machine to go back and save her. When he is unsuccessful he travels to the future to find another means. There he meets the Eloi and monstrous Morlocks.

For: Guy Pierce is Australian! / Time travel sequences

Against: Simon Wells can’t direct (We’re Back!, Balto, Mars Needs Moms – case closed) / Samantha Mumba can’t act / Boring

Favourite Scene: None

Rating: 2 Lukes

Winner: The original classic by a long way

The Wicker Man

Released: 1973

Directed by: Robin Hardy

Starring: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Eckland

Plot: Devout Christian, Sergeant Neil Howie of the West Highland Police, is investigating the disappearance of a young girl on the island of Summerisle. Confounded at every turn, and appalled by the pagan ceremonies the islanders perform, he eventually discovers that there is no missing girl, and he is who they wanted all along.

For: Incredibly creepy / Lee is awesome / Nicely shot

Against: The plot becomes incredibly obvious by halfway and Neil’s inability to figure it out becomes quite frustrating.

Favourite Scene: The end.

Rating: 3 Lukes

The Wicker Man

Released: 2006

Directed by: Neil LaBute

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn

Plot: Policeman, Edward Malus, is asked by his ex-fiancee to find her missing daughter Rowan. He travels to an island where a commune of neo-pagans live and produce honey. He eventually finds Rowan and discovers that she isn’t in any danger. But he is.

For: Features some of the best over the top Nic Cage scenes ever – seriously, check out this clip (all Wickerman) and this one (classic Nic Cage moments) for an awesome laugh – ‘Not the bees!’

Against: Everything else. This film is a travesty of cinema and the perfect example of how not to do a remake.

Favourite Scene: Everything in the Youtube clip 😛

Rating: 0.5 Lukes

Winner: Although I don’t think that the original Wickerman is worthy of the high praise some people feel it deserves, it is a masterpiece when compared to its disgraceful remake.

The Wolfman

Released: 1941

Directed by: George Waggner

Starring: Lon Chaney Jnr, Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers

Plot: After learning of the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns to his ancestral home to reconcile with his estranged father John Talbot. While there he meets and falls in love with antique shop owner Gwen. After saving Gwen’s friend from a wolf attack, Larry is informed that the wolf was actually a werewolf and now he is too. Struggling to retain his humanity, Larry eventually transforms into a werewolf and terrorises the village, until he is killed by his father.

For: Great SFX, atmospheric cinematography, Chaney Jnr gives it his all

Against: Can’t think of anything

Favourite Scene: The climax

Rating: 4 Lukes

The Wolfman

Released: 2010

Directed by: Joe Johnston

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving

Plot: After learning of the death of his brother, Lawrence Talbot returns to his ancestral home to reconcile with his estranged father John Talbot. While there he falls in love with his brother’s fiancee  Gwen. After saving a gypsy from a wolf attack he transforms into a werewolf and goes on a rampage.

For: Great SFX, atmospheric, Anthony Hopkins is great

Against: This was a passion project for Del Toro, so you’d think he would put in a bit more effort, but alas no, he sleepwalks through this film / Direction is lazy / Tone flip flops all over the place

Favourite Scene: The Wolfman gets revenge in the asylum

Rating: 2.5 Lukes

Winner: The original is a classic for a good reason.

Now, while the next three are technically not remakes, I thought it would be interesting to compare them, especially considering our last podcast featuring the War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds

Released: 1953

Directed by: George Pal

Starring: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson

Plot: In an updated version of H.G.Wells’ novel, the Martians land in 1950’s California, and Dr Clayton Forrester struggles to survive their attack.

For: Awesome Academy Award winning special effects / the ‘manta ray’ style Martian war machines look and sound very cool / fun adventure

Against:  The plot now includes a painfully obvious religious subtext, made most evident by the Martians beginning to die shortly after blasting a couple of Los Angeles churches.

Favourite Scene: Matian war machine first appearance

Rating: 5 Lukes

War of the Worlds

Released: 2005

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto

Plot: Dockworker and deadbeat dad Ray Ferrier struggles to keep his children alive during an invasion by Martians.

For: FX are great / some great action set pieces, including the ferry and harvesting scenes / tripods look cool

Against: How did Robbie survive? It makes no sense and throws the whole plot out the window / none of the characters are likeable so I had no desire for them to succeed or live.

Favourite Scene: The Martians arrive riding the lightning / the crashed jet

Rating: 3 Lukes

H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds

Released: 2005

Directed by: David Michael Latt

Starring: C Thomas Howell, Jake Busey

Plot: Astronomer George Herbert struggles to survive a world ravaged by invaders from Mars

For: Direct to DVD cash-in, that is surprisingly not total crap / more of a horror take / some ok action sequences

Against: Acting is terrible, especially Busey / tripods changed to 6 legged walkers / poster a blatant rip-off of ID4

Favourite Scene: Can’t think of one

Rating: 2.5 Lukes

Winner: The original wins it. One of my favourite films and a classic of sci fi cinema.

So, what do you think NCP fans? Agree / Disagree? Let me know 🙂

Who Review – Marco Polo

Posted by Richo On January 28, 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to the fourth instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to watch and review all available episodes of SF’s longest running television series, Doctor Who. This week, we look at the first of many “lost” episodes of Doctor Who, discuss briefly what happened to these episodes, and review an abridged version of the Doctor’s fourth storyline, Marco Polo.

For a complete listing of the previous Who Review posts please click here – Who Review Archive


Marco Polo aka A Journey to Cathay (Originally 7 episodes)


22 February – 4 April 1964


William Hartnell


Ian Chesterton

Susan Foreman

Barbara Wright


During the 1960’s and 70’s, the BBC chose to destroy, erase or reuse the videos containing all of the first 253 Doctor Who episodes. This was a common practice at the time and a great many BBC productions were lost in this manner. The first six years of Doctor Who broadcasts suffered due to this practice.

Over the years, however, efforts have been made to retrieve these missing episodes. Many have been recovered from overseas broadcasters, including Australia’s own ABC.  Scenes from missing episodes were even recovered from the Australian Censorship archives, as these scenes were edited out of broadcast episodes and stored in archives. As recently as December, 2011 it was announced that two more episodes had been found. Overall, there are 27 incomplete Doctor Who serials, with 106 of 253 episodes missing.

What’s amazing is that audio recordings of all the missing episodes have been recovered, mainly from fans who recorded the episodes by holding up cassette recorders to their television sets. I applaud those fans, not only for their dedication to the series but because without them we may not have even these remaining fragments.

Unfortunately, Marco Polo is one of only three Doctor Who storylines for which there is absolutely no known surviving footage. All that remains of this 7-part story is an audio recording and production stills. A 30-minute condensed version of the audio track, illustrated by production photos, appears as part of the box set The Beginning. My review is based on that presentation.


Marco Polo is the first major historical Doctor Who episode. In the early days of the series, these episodes were common. They focused on a specific period in human history (season 1 includes episodes on the French Revolution and the Aztecs) and utilised science fiction elements sparingly, if at all. As a children’s series, Doctor Who contained an educational focus in these early days and the historical episodes were a key part of that focus.

With the TARDIS badly damaged and in need of repair, the Doctor and his companions arrive in the Himalayan Mountains of Cathay in the year 1289. There, they are found by Marco Polo, the famed Venetian merchant traveller and associate of Emperor Kublai Khan who the Khan has denied the right to return to his home in Venice. Polo and his caravan are travelling the famed Silk Road to Cathay. Polo claims the TARDIS as his own, hoping to trade it with the Khan for his own freedom.

The TARDIS crew becomes involved in the machinations of the Mongol Warlord Tegana, who plans to assassinate the elderly Khan in Peking and seize control of Cathay. We are first introduced to Tegana as he journeys with Polo and the caravan. He tries to convince Polo to kill the Doctor and his Companions, believing them to the evil spirits in human form, but Polo refuses. Later, as the caravan crosses the dangerous Gobi Desert on the way to Peking, he attempts to kill all in the caravan by sabotaging their water supply, then organises a band of raiders to attack on the travellers.

A quick online search reveals that, unlike Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, Tegana isn’t an historical figure, or at least not as depicted in this storyline. Clearly he was written in to the plot merely to serve as an antagonist and allow for some part of the historical story of Polo to be revealed. Despite his simple motivations, he’s an entertaining villain, always scheming and concocting devious new plans.

Arriving at the stately court of Kublai Khan, the TARDIS crew manage to convince Polo of Tegana’s duplicity. Tegana attempts his assassination but fails, accidentally killing the Khan’s Vizier instead. Polo battles Tegana in a sword fight and manages to disarm him. Defeated, Tegana impales himself on a guard’s sword rather than face execution. Having gained the trust of the Emperor and the respect of Polo, the Doctor and his companions are allowed to depart.

The court of Kublai Khan is beautifully realised, the most lavish production design in the series to date. Designer Barry Newberry certainly seems to have outdone himself for this storyline. It’s unfortunate that all we have left is a series of photos for these scenes as I would love to have seen the Court in all its glory.

Obviously, it’s impossible to fully judge Marco Polo based on a 30-minute soundtrack illustrated by photos. The original tale was 7 episodes long and I have no doubt that many of the details are missing from the shortened version. Having read online synopses of the missing episodes, there is clearly a richer and more complex story than what is presented. What remains seems like it might have made for a very entertaining storyline, although there are numerous historical inaccuracies presented even in 30-minute condensed presentation.


Unfortunately, it’s difficult from the fragments we have to know just how effective and resourceful the Doctor is. There are some key moments, especially in his unravelling of Tegana’s plans, but without the full episode, it’s hard to assess the depiction of the Doctor in this storyline.


Much like the Doctor, judging the characterisation and resourcefulness of Ian, Barbara and Susan is problematic. From what I’ve seen and read it appears that Ian was a strong focal point of the story.


Tegana is one of those classic villains whose insatiable quest for power leads him to do truly despicable things. What’s more, he’s resourceful and adaptive, hatching several plans to kill Marco Polo, the Doctor and Kublai Khan, often using his environment and the resources at hand to aid him. There’s even a certain twisted nobility to his death that adds weight to the character.


It’s not really fair to judge Marco Polo on an abridged version of the storyline, but I’ll give it my best shot. I can’t even begin to imagine what my rating would be for the whole 7-episode storyline. The 30-minute presentation made for a nice extra feature on the Daleks DVD, and I’m hoping we’ll see similar treatment given to the other missing storylines.

2.5 Lukes

Who Review – The Edge of Destruction

Posted by Richo On January 19, 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to the 3rdinstalment of Who Review, NCP’s ongoing column reviewing, in chronological order, every storyline from TV’s longest running SF series, Doctor Who. This week, it’s terror inside the TARDIS itself as we look back on the Doctor’s 3rd storyline, The Edge of Destruction.

For a complete listing of the previous Who Review posts please click here – Who Review Archive

TITLE: The Edge of Destruction aka Inside the Spaceship (2 episodes)


08 February – 15 February 1964


William Hartnell


Who Review – The Daleks

Posted by Richo On January 12, 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to the 2nd instalment of Who Review, my new ongoing column reviewing, in chronological order, every storyline from TV’s longest running SF series, Doctor Who. This week, I’ll be looking at the first appearance of the Doctor’s most famous enemies, The Daleks!


The Daleks (7 episodes)


21 December 1963 – 1 February 1964 (more…)