Friday 27 February 2015

To Boldly Go...

My love of Doctor Who is well known amongst my Twitter followers. It is, perhaps, one of the main reasons so many of us follow each other. Less well known, however, is my love of Star Trek. There isn't a single episode, out of any of the five television series I haven't seen. Likewise, the twelve Trek Movies. My Kobo has every Star Trek novel published on it. 

Throughout my life, Star Trek has brought me an enormous amount of pleasure. Today, it brings an enormous amount of sadness, as we learned of the death of Leonard Nimoy, best known, of course, for his portrayal of Mr Spock.

Spock was, arguably, the most iconic, enduring Trek character created. He appeared in the very first episode, before the character of Kirk had been conceived. He reprised the role in The Animated Series, and again in two Next Generation episodes. He also starred in six movies, two of which he directed. Twenty years after the final "classic" film, he appeared in both of the J.J. Abrams movies. As Mr Spock, he even appeared in two episodes The Simpsons.

Spock was often portrayed as cold, logical, dispassionate, even aloof, and yet Nimoy made his character uniquely loveable and memorable, in equal measure.

Aside his portrayal of Mr Spock, Nimoy had a long acting career, and was an equally accomplished director. He was a qualified pilot, a poet, a highly accomplished photographer. 

No words I can write can do credit to Mr Nimoy's long and prolific career. There are biographies on numerous sites, more detailed and more appropriate than anything I could write here. Nor can I do justice to the impact he has made on so many people, on the lives he has touched, both as Mr Spock, and as a fellow human being. 

I followed him on Twitter, and he always seemed to me, an outside observer, as a kind, peaceful, gentle, warm, funny and intelligent man. His wisdom and dignity far surpassed that of his highly logical screen persona. He was, quite simply, a true legend. 

Mr Nimoy's final tweet read "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.  LLAP". Perhaps, he knew his time was coming to an end. Perhaps, he was simply a poet, wise and gentle. Perhaps both.

On this, the saddest of days, I know this much. He leaves a legacy unique to the world of science fiction. A truly alien character, portrayed by the most human of men. Millions of Star Trek fans will be mourning his loss today. I am one of them. To his family, I am sure you will join me in extending our deepest sympathy and condolences at their loss. To Mr Nimoy, I can only say thank you. You brought joy into the hearts of millions across the world. You were loved, and you will be missed, as you go on your journey into The Final Frontier, to The Undiscovered Country. 

Leonard Nimoy
March 26th 1931 - February 27th 2015

He lived long. He prospered. He has boldly gone..

Thursday 26 February 2015

Short and Sweet

At the end of January, I wrote a blog post, musing on Twitter, and upon the friendships I have formed on there. Today, I want to reflect on my blog.
It will be a mercifully short post (!) however, having viewed my stats is one I believe is necessary.

I started this blog way back in 2009, and after a few posts, promptly forgot about it. It was only on the 8th January, this year, that I decided to resurrect it, musing on anything that happened to wander into my tiny mind. The intent was was for the blog to be predominately dedicated to Doctor Who, with a smattering of politics, science and so forth.

Twitter followers will have noticed that I post, from time to time, stats on my various posts. I do not do so out of self aggrandizement, or ego. I do so as a "thank you" to each and every person who has pissed away their valuable time reading the arse-gravy that spews forth from my brain. I seldom mention compliments, although always try to thank people who make them. Neither do I retweet them. Frankly, I find people who retweet every compliment aimed at them rather crass. Twitter does seem to provoke a desire amongst some people to seek validation or praise for everything they write, which they gleefully feel the need to pass on. I don't. And it may, to some, appear as a result of this, that any praise or compliments sent my way are unnoticed. Nothing could be further from the truth..

I didn't start blogging for any reason other than I enjoy writing. I enjoy sharing my opinion, certainly, but more than anything, I simply love writing. That anyone would get pleasure from my ramblings was genuinely the last thing on my mind.

Since January, my little blog has been read a mind boggling 2,000 times. By far and away my most popular post has been my recent tribute to Stan Laurel, which alone has been read almost 400 times. I mention these numbers, not out of ego, but out of pure gratitude, to each and every one of those readers. To think that 400 people read a tribute because I wrote it would, in all honesty, be delusional. They, or you, read it for exactly the same reason I wrote it. I love Stan Laurel. Similarly, those who read my tributes to Nick Courtney and Lis Sladen. I can take no credit, nor do I want any. That people read the posts dedicated to them is evidence of how respected they are.

I am going to name-drop, something I seldom do, because, as I am sure you know, Lis Sladen was particularly special to me. I grew up watching her as "My Sarah Jane". Today, Daniel Anthony, who played Clyde Langer in "The Sarah Jane Adventures", read my tribute to Lis, and tweeted "lovely tribute mate". Why do I mention this? Again, it isn't (I promise!) born of ego. It is out of sheer joy and gratitude. That someone who knew and worked with Lis cared enough to read it means more than you can ever imagine. 

I am deeply humbled and grateful, in equal measure, to each and every person who has taken the time to read my blog, to retweet it, mention it or comment, whether in agreement or otherwise. I never, for one moment, imagined I'd be thanking so many people. 400 reads on one post alone is insane, and a total of 2,000 is gratifying and, I must confess, a tad daunting. I feel, perhaps, I should be writing something more deserving of so many readers.

I hope, in all of the tributes I have written, that I have done some small justice to the subject to whom they are dedicated. As to my other posts, I hope they have entertained or interested you. I have certainly enjoyed writing each and every post. That people have been so receptive has been surprising and has not gone unnoticed,

Quite simply, thank you! Just that. Thank you. I am not good at handling praise, so if I simply say "thanks" on Twitter, it is not out of disinterest or ego, but because I never really know quite how to respond, hence this post, which takes me beyond he confines of 140 characters, where I can better articulate my thoughts. I am truly honoured that you would give my ramblings the time of day. I appreciate the support more than words can adequately express, on any platform, but please know that it is never unnoticed or never taken for granted.

2,000 views.. Who'd a thunk it..! From the heart of my bottom and the bottom of my heart, thank you. You're all fucking amazing!

Monday 23 February 2015

For Stan..

It seems, in the past month, I have marked the passing of several personal idols. I choose the word 'idol' with great care and precision. All of those whom I have memorialised thus far have, for me, been constant companions throughout my life, bringing me pleasure, each in their own, unique way.

Today, the 23rd February 2015 marks the 50th Anniversary of the passing of one of my greatest idols, and, for me, one half of the funniest comedy duo ever to have graced the big screen. 50 years ago, we lost the inimitable Stan Laurel.

Born, Arthur Stanley Jefferson, on 16th June 1890, In Ulvereston, England, the son of an actress and an actor-director-producer-playwright-impresario, Stan made his own stage debut at 16 at a small Glasgow, Scotland, theater and for the next few years played both drama and comedy in plays and danced and clowned in British music halls. In 1910 he joined the famous Fred Karno company and became Charlie Chaplin's understudy in the troupe's first American tour that same year. He also played various roles in the company's feature attraction A Night in an English Music Hall.

He was Chaplin's understudy again during Karno's second US tour in 1912. When the troupe returned to England, he stayed behind and began a lengthy stint in American Vaudeville, changing his name to Stan Laurel. In 1917 he made the first of 76 film appearances that preceded his fortuitous teaming with Oliver Hardy in 1927. The two comedians appeared in the same two-reel short, 'Lucky Dog' in 1917, however their pairing in that film was accidental, with Stan playing the lead role, whilst Hardy had a 'bit part'.

Laurel's screen character in those early days was that of a clown, typically wearing oversized clothes and playing the misfit. He continued performing in Vaudeville while pursuing a part-time film career in comedy shorts. He worked for various studios, including Universal, Vitagraph, Hal Roach-Pathé and Metro, where he performed for a unit supervised by G. M. Anderson of "Broncho Billy" fame. Many of these comedy shorts were spoofs of popular feature films of the period. Laurel wrote many of his own comedy routines and occasionally helped with the directing. In 1926 he signed a long-term contract with Hal Roach as a gagman and director but shortly after was persuaded to return to acting, and to begin his long and auspicious partnership with Oliver Hardy.

The "thin man" of the fat-thin duo, Laurel was often considered the funnier member of the team, with a wide array of mannerisms that endeared him to film audiences, among them a infantile weep, a confused eye-blink, and a bewildered scratching of the top of the head. He was the creative mind behind many of the team's comedy routines, a master of comedy nuance and technique.

On 7 August 1957, Oliver Hardy died. Laurel was too ill to attend his funeral and said, "Babe would understand". Those who knew Stan said he was devastated by Hardy's death and never fully recovered from it. He refused to perform on stage, or act in another film without his dearest friend. However, he continued to socialise with his fans. many of whom were surprised, and delighted, to find that his phone number was listed in the telephone directory. He took many calls from fans much to his, and their delight. How wonderful must it have been to phone Stan Laurel for a casual chat! Laurel was described by his fans as a charming man, with a sense of humour that will never be forgotten.

In the Academy Award ceremony for 1960, he received a special Oscar "for his creative pioneering in the field of cinema comedy.

Stan Laurel passed away on 23 February 1965, aged 74, four days after suffering a heart attack on 19 February. Moments away from his passing, Stan told his nurse he would not mind going skiing right at that very moment. Surprised by this, the nurse replied that she was not aware that he was a skier. "I'm not," said Laurel, "I'd rather be doing that than this!" A few minutes later the nurse looked in on him again and found that he had died quietly in his armchair.

At his funeral, fellow comedian, Buster Keaton was overheard commenting on Laurel's talent: "Chaplin wasn't the funniest, I wasn't the funniest, this man was the funniest.". Laurel had earlier quipped: "If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again."

Speaking personally, Laurel and Hardy were, quite simply, the funniest duo ever to have lived. The joy they have brought into my life is immeasurable. They had the capacity to make me cry with laughter..the sort of laughter that no modern day double act can ever provoke. Since I was very small, I have always been reduced to a laughing, hysterical wreck at the sight of Stan, as he scratched his head, with a bewildered look, or by Ollie's pomposity. Some of my earliest television memories are of Laurel and Hardy, and those memories have remained with me throughout my life.

To me, Stan and Ollie are the very essence of comedy. So much so that I have their portraits tattooed on my shoulders. They are portraits I wear with pride, and with immense gratitude. Often lonely as a child, I had two friends I could always count on. Two, very dear, friends, who could lift my spirits, make me howl with laughter until the tears rolled down my cheeks. I had Laurel and Hardy. Until the day I die, I will always have them as my constant companions, my comedic heroes, and although I never had the great honour of meeting them; my friends.

No-one ever had quite the edge that The Boys had, somehow I doubt they ever will. And so, today, on the 50th Anniversary of Stan Laurel's passing, all I can do is mark his passing in writing, express my deep and very heartfelt thanks for all the joy and laughter he brought, and continues to bring, into my life. 'The Boys' may be long departed from this earthly realm. From my heart, and the hearts of millions worldwide, they have never truly left us. They are always there. Our friends. Our heroes. Our boys...

Dedicated with love and gratitude to Arthur Stanley Jefferson

"Stan Laurel"

16th June 1890 - 23rd February 1965



Sunday 22 February 2015

Remembering Nicholas Courtney..

Today marks four years since we lost Nicholas Courtney, better known to Doctor Who fans as Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart. Most fans already know that Courtney made his Doctor Who debut in The Dalek Masterplan, alongside William Hartnell, as Bret Vyon. His first appearance as Lethbridge-Stewart came in 1968 in the recently discovered "Web of Fear", although sadly, his debut is in episode three, which remains lost or unreleased, depending on your "omnirumour" stance.

Courtney appeared alongside every "classic era" Doctor, either on screen, or later, courtesy of the Big Finish audio range. Whilst appearing in archive footage in the "New Who" the character was never reprised beyond McGann. He did, however, resprise the role in the Sarah Jane Adventures story "Invasion of the Bane", and a meeting with the Tenth Doctor was planned in the SJA story "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith", although sadly due a stroke suffered by Courtney, this encounter never took place.

It was, of course, during The Pertwee era that The Brigadier really came to prominence. His partnering with Jon Pertwee was, quite simply, perfection. A perfection enhanced beautifully by characters such as Sgt. Benton, Liz Shaw, Jo Grant and of course The Master. This was the definitive UNIT era and its legacy still resonates throughout Doctor Who to this day. It is well known among my Twitter followers that the Pertwee years are my favourite. Nicholas Courtney and the irrepressible character he created and sculpted play a large part in my love of that era.

In an  interview from 2008, Nick Courtney expressed his displeasure at the pacing of the revived series, claiming: "It’s all a bit rushed sometimes. It’s a heck of a lot to get in in three quarters of an hour, the whole story. In the old days, it used to be half an hour every Saturday for four Saturdays, or six Saturdays, so it does all seem to be a bit of a rush. In fact, it leaves me rather gasping for breath sometimes." Courtney also remarked "I think people’s attention span is more limited than it used to be.". From a personal perspective, this is a view I share. Courtney's vision of Doctor Who was certainly, much like mine, very "old school".


On a personal level, I was fortunate enough to have met Mr Courtney at a 30th Anniversary gathering at Longleat. It is a memory I shall treasure forever. He was the epitome of a British gentleman. Extraordinary charming, erudite and a consummate professional, he took the time to chat and to sign several autographs for me. Perhaps it is, in part, this meeting that has cemented him further into my consciousness and enhanced my love of the UNIT years. He was, quite simply, an exceptionally lovely man. There was no arrogance, no braggadocio or ego to Courtney. Simply a kind, embracing, warm gentleness that is often lacking in some actors of his stature. 

I have mentioned the Big Finish stories many times, and need to do so again. I make no apology for doing so. On screen, The Brigadier never encountered the Sixth Doctor, who, as I am sure you are by now aware, I hold in high regard. I was overjoyed when "The Spectre of Lanyon Moor" rectified this. Once again, I was able to spend time with the Brigadier, and a "gap" in Who history had been closed.

I, along with every Doctor Who fan, mourned his passing four years ago, at the age of 81. He had, of course, an extensive resume beyond Doctor Who, but for me, he will always be Brigadier Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Friend and honorary companion of the Doctor, a soldier, loyal to his country and to his friends, bombastic and authoritative, but always with a twinkle in his eye. That twinkle, I believe, belonged not only to Lethbridge-Stewart, but to Courtney himself. A true gentleman, a fine actor and an unparalleled part of Who history. 

Mr Courtney, for your contribution we thank you, more than words can possibly say. You brought joy into the hearts of millions. Brigadier, we salute you, we miss you, and we love you. You are forever with us. I'd say that's a pretty damn good legacy to leave behind.

Nicholas Courtney
16th December 1929 - 22nd February 2011

Tuesday 17 February 2015

An ordinary day?

It is the 18th February 2015. An ordinary day, for you, and thankfully, for me as well. Why, then, are you blogging about an "ordinary day" I hear you ask.
I am overjoyed, quite literally, to announce an anniversary. Today marks TWO YEARS minus one testicle, but more importantly, minus CANCER. Two years, CANCER FREE! 

Unlike many cancer victims, I didn't have an almighty battle with the 'Big C'. I'm not brave, or 'a fighter'. What I am is incredibly bloody lucky. There are so many people who struggle with cancer, people who, quite literally, fight for their lives. Sometimes, sadly, it is a battle they will lose.
As I write this, I cannot help but reflect on my dear friend, John. Simply thinking of him is making me cry. John was the same age as me. I first met him when at school, when we were 11. For 30 odd years, we remained dear friends. And, boy, were some of those years odd! He was a loveable rogue. An 'Arthur Daley type' character. As kids, we got into a fair amount of trouble! Nothing criminal, but it's safe to say we were, as my parents would call us, "a right pair". I saw him through his depression, and he, equally, supported me through mine. 

John lost his life on the 29th April 2011. Busy lives meant we didn't see each other as often as we liked, or as often as we should have. The first I learned of his death was courtesy of the obits in the local paper. He went from a strong, healthy (albeit as unfit and out of shape as me!) guy to a few lines in a newspaper within the space of THREE WEEKS. Pancreatic cancer took a good, kind, healthy young man, and decimated him, to the point of death. And I fucking miss him. Every bloody day. I never saw him in the hospice. I had no idea he was ill. I think, while I wish I could have said goodbye, and told him how much I loved him as a friend, I'm glad. I'll always remember the cheeky rogue as opposed to a husk of a man lying in a bed, unable to recognise me due to the copious amount of painkillers I understand he was receiving. I'll always remember John, my mate. My friend. 

I never, for one moment, imagined that, two years later, I would be on the receiving end of my own cancer diagnosis. Didn't fucking see that one coming! I've blogged about that extensively, here. As my previous post attests, I got, if there is such a thing, the "best form of cancer". I got an easy one. Bollock out, cancer gone. No chemo, no radiotherapy. Just intensive monitoring. Nothing more. I was in no pain, and aside from a hilariously large bollock, could barely tell I had a disease as pernicious and indiscriminate as cancer. 

I have no deities, no gods, to thank. I have a healthy dose of bloody good luck, an extraordinary health care system, the NHS, without which I wouldn't be writing this today, a loving, supportive family, who reassured me, kept me sane, aided my post-operative recuperation, and still, to this day, care about every blood test, every CT scan, every part of the small journey I am still on. My journey is, and for two years, has been, painless, straightforward, even mercifully easy. I can live with the lack of a testicle. Fuck it. I can LIVE. Period. 

Every day forward means the likelihood of my cancer returning diminishes. I am under no illusion that I'm "home free", however after two years, my odds are pretty good. The average odds of a man getting testicular cancer is around 1 in 400. My odds are, at this stage, 1 in 200. I don't play the odds. I just take each day as it comes. Life is a lottery; a game of poker in which you play the hand you are given, like it or not. There are no reshuffles, no "do overs" and dwelling on what may or may not happen in the future is futile. What I can do, however, is continue to self examine my remaining, lonely little testicle regularly. Complacency isn't an option when you've had testicular cancer. And this is the point.. It isn't an option when you HAVEN'T.  I am in a position now where I can, and do, frequently urge men to check their nuts. If you are male, go and check yours. PLEASE. It takes 30 seconds. 30 seconds which can save your life. 30 seconds which can spare you the adjuvant therapies associated with cancer. 30 seconds. Is that too long for peace of mind? It may seem to some that I never shut the fuck up about self examination. You're right. I don't. And I won't. If, one day, just ONE person  stumbles upon my tweets and has a fiddle. I've done something good. If, and I hope it never happens, anyone finds anything irregular and seeks advice, as a result of my tweets, THEY have done something amazing. They have probably just saved their own life. Or given themselves peace of mind. 

Throughout my time with cancer, and in the following two years, the support, kindness and well wishes I have received on Twitter have been extraordinary. To every single person, from the bottom of my heart, I genuinely thank you. I am fortunate. I am not in a position to say "I couldn't have made it without you", thankfully. You have, however, made the journey a hell of lot easier, and simply knowing that people care, people whom I have never met, will take the time to ask "how are you" or say "congratulations" when a milestone is reached, is an extraordinary feeling. The kindness of strangers becomes the comfort of friends.

In closing, I turn my thoughts back to John. For you, my old mucker, you incorrigible bastard (!), I'll live every fucking day striving to be a better person. You'll never read this. That particular "pleasure" has been robbed from you. I hope you knew just how bloody special you were. I'm damn sure I'll never forget you. Not a day goes by that I don't think of you. Now, I can do so with a chuckle, thinking of some of the antics we got up to! There is still sadness, but equally, there is gratitude for a friendship which lasted for decades. You have given me a better awareness of my own mortality. That is a gift as precious as your friendship. It is a gift I promise not to take for granted. I love you bro, and I miss you so fucking much. 

Lastly, and I make no apology for repeating myself. For the love of sanity, self examine! Don't do it for me. Don't do it out of a sense of obligation because some of this post is a little sad. Do it for YOU. You have one life, and, assuming you are male, one pair of bollocks. Be kind to them. They might just save your life,

Dedicated to the memory of John Forgeard

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Musing on the aftermath of Chapel Hill

Today we learned of the horrific killing of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were all brutally executed by Craig Stephen Hicks. On his social media sites, Hicks identities himself as an atheist, who had, allegedly, posted images critical of all religions, including Islam.

U.S. media coverage, particularly by right-wing organisations such as Fox News has been conspicuous by its absence. Twitter, on the other hand, has gone into overdrive..
A day, one might think, when humanity would be united in the face of such a senseless act of violence. And yet, on the very day their deaths were announced, I have read comments claiming this is a result of atheism, leading some to question why prominent atheists aren't speaking out against this atrocity.

When a prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, speaks out about this, he is subsequently attacked for "defending atheism". Dawkins has made an error of judgement, I believe, in leaping on press reports that the murders were the result of a dispute over a parking space. Remaining silent on the reasons behind this senseless slaughter would have been a more sensible approach, at least until we are in possession of all the facts.

Dawkins is right, however, that atheists should not be rushing to apologise for the actions of one man. To do so is ridiculous. One cannot hold an entire group of people responsible for the actions of one man. Equally, let us not be under illusion that atheists are exempt from scrutiny. While it is, I believe, rarer than amonst religious groups, atheists have the capacity to be as bigoted, racist, homophobic, judgemental and intolerant as their religious counterparts. That three Muslims lay dead bears testament to that.

This leads me, neatly, to my next point. Comments regarding atheists have been, largely, from Christians, predominately those who identify as evangelical or fundamentalist. The Muslim community, which has a legitimate grievance on occasions such as this, have, as usual, been more rational than their Christian counterparts. Certainly, there have been fundamentalist Muslims who have blamed atheism, but they are a minority in comparison.

Much worse, however, are the comments I have seen which imply, either tacitly or overtly, that, since the victims were Muslims, they "got what they deserved". "The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim", the killer, Hicks is "a hero" (yes, someone genuinely tweeted that nugget of wisdom), and that this, somehow justifies the taking of three innocent lives.

Some have postulated that the family had "extremist views" with regard to Palestine and Israel. As yet, I have seen no evidence to support this, and in the event of any being presented, it changes nothing. Holding extreme positions is a cornerstone of freedom of speech, and more importantly, of thought. It is when we act on those extreme views that retribution is, although unacceptable, perhaps understandable. Even if we assume that they held a strong position on Israel (again, no evidence to support this), they did not deserved to murdered. 

This assassination of the victim's character is nothing new. We saw Trayvon Martin and Michael a Brown portrayed as "thugs" long before any evidence came to light. Only hours after news that the death of ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller had been confirmed, a report emanated from the conservative blogosphere alleging Mueller had served as a "human shield" for a pro-Hamas group. Mueller worked for a pro-Palestinian organisation in 2010-11, and also for a variety of refugee organisations in Israel and Turkey. But her Palestinian activism led to the following reactions,  the first from a Breitbart editor; the latter from a self-styled conservative pundit:

“When people ask me what I think of Kayla Mueller, I’ll say, I think she’s incinerated,” Schlussel’s post concluded. “Buh-bye, Kayla. Have fun with your 72 Yasser Arafats.”

Meanwhile, the murders of the three Muslim students in Chapel Hill occasioned this response from would-be vigilante blogger Chuck Johnson:

Johnson retweeted a number of pro-Palestinian posts from Deah Bakarat, the 23-year-old shot murdered in Chapel Hill, despite none being anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.
Incidentally, this was Bakarat’s tweet from two weeks ago:
Naturally, the most tired canard to rear its ugly head, again is the claim that all terrorists are Muslims, as if this serves as some justification for their murders. Again, this is promulgated, largely, by right wing, fundamentalist Christians. I will concede that, if there is an act of terrorism receiving media coverage, chances are, the perpetrators are committing it in the name of one religion. Note my caveat. Media coverage. Certainly, with groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Queda etc, Islamic fundamentalism is a subject we cannot avoid. As I've previously written, the VAST majority of Muslims, particularly, but not limited to, those in Western Countries, are peace loving, kind, decent human beings.
So what of the claim that all terrorists are Muslims? Do you think the IRA were all Muslims? They systematically carried out a campaign against the UK for over two decades. The Oklahoma bombing.. Timothy McVeigh can hardly be described as a Muslim. There are more than enough organisations which have nothing to do with the Muslim faith, all carrying out terrorist attacks across the world. Here's a list of just a few, some disbanded, but most still VERY active. This does not include 'lone wolf' terrorists, such as Anders Brievik, Timothy McVeigh. A list of examples of those can be found HERE

Christian Terrorists..

* God's Army A terrorist group in Myanmar.
* Nagaland Rebels (1947-present) Active in predominantly Christian state in Hindu majority India. Involved in several bombings in 2004. Goal: Independence from India after annexing parts of neighboring Indian states and Burma if it has Christian majority.
* National Liberation Front of Tripura (1989-present) A group that seeks the independence of Tripura from India to create a Christian Tripura.
* Phineas Priesthood An American based Christian Identity movement.
* National Democratic Front of Bodoland, active terrorist in the Indian state of Assam, involved in the murder of Bineshwar Brahma, prominent Hindu Bodo activist


* Barisan Merah Putih; ultra nationalist group first recruited by KOPASSUS
* Laskar Jihad; Islamic ultra nationist group.

Leftist, Communist, Leninist, Trotskyst, Maoist and Marxist

* Action Directe - France
* African National Congress - South Africa (renounced violence)
* Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA, disbanded since 1986) - Lebanon, Armenia and the USA
* CCC - Belgium
* Chukaku-Ha - Japan
* Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) - Nepal - currently taking part in disarmament and cooperation in a new interim government for Nepal
* Ejército de Liberación Nacional - Colombia
* Forças Populares 25 de Abril - Portugal (1980 - 1987)
* GRAPO - Spain
* Japanese Red Army (Sekigun) - Japan
* June 2 Movement - West Germany (disbanded)
* Khmer Rouge - Cambodia (disbanded)
* Naxals or Naxalites - India
* NPA or New People's Army - Philippines
* Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N) - Greece
* Pan-Africanist Congress - South Africa (renounced violence)
* People's War Group - India
* Red Army Faction (popularly known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang) - Germany     funded 1967, disbanded)
* Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse) - Italy (founded 1969)
* Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) - Colombia
* Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP & DHKP/C) - Turkey
* Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) - Peru (active since the late 1960s)
* Symbionese Liberation Army - USA (disbanded)
* Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) - Peru
* United Freedom Front - USA (founded in 1976, now disbanded)
* United Liberation Front of Assam - India
* Weathermen - USA (founded in 1969, now disbanded)
     o Spin-off: May 19th Communist Movement (active 1978-85)

Ethnic terrorists (including neo-Nazis and white-supremacists)

* Army for the Liberation of Rwanda - Rwanda (Hutu emancipatory;genocidal)
* Aryan Nations - United States
* Boeremag - South Africa
* Combat 18 - United Kingdom
* Column 88 - United Kingdom
* CSA - United States
* Creativity Movement - United States
* Jondollah - Iran
* Ku Klux Klan - United States (founded in 1865 and revived several times since).
* Mouvement d'Action et Défense Masada - France (disbanded). This was a French neo-Nazi organization, disguised as a Zionist extremist group, which attacked Arab targets.
* National Socialist Movement - United Kingdom
* The Order - United States (disbanded)
* Racial Volunteer Force - United Kingdom
* White Aryan Resistance - United States


* Contras - Nicaragua
* Alianza Anticomunista Argentina - Argentina
* Alianza Americana Anticomunista - Colombia
* Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - Colombia
* Ranvir Sena - India

Cuban exile groups

Further information: Opposition to Fidel Castro

All groups recognised by the International terrorism report from the United States Central Intelligence Agency.[16] The principle aim of these groups is to forge political change in Cuba.

* Abdala
* Alpha 66
* Anti-Castro Commando
* Anti-Communist Commandos
* Brigade 2506
* Condor
* Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU - includes Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles)
* Cuba Action
* Cuba Action Commandos
* Cuban Anti-Communist League
* Cuban C-4
* Movement Cuban Liberation Front
* Cuban National Liberation Front (FLNC)
* Cuban Power (el Poder Cubano)
* Cuban Power
* Cuban Representation in Exile
* Cuban Revolutionary Directorate
* Cuban Revolutionary Organization
* Cuban Youth Group International
* Secret Revolutionary United Cells
* JCN (expansion unknown)
* Latin American Anti-Communist Army
* Movement of Cuban Justice Movement of the Seventh (M-7)
* National Integration Front (FIN; Cuban Nationalist Front)
* Omega 7
* Pedro Luis Boitel
* Command Pedro Ruiz Botero
* Commandos Pragmatistas
* Scorpion (el Alacran)
* Second Front of Escambray
* Secret Anti-Castro Cuban Army
* Secret Cuban Government
* Secret Hand Organization
* Secret Organization Zero
* Young Cubans
* Youths of the Star



* Animal Liberation Front (ALF) - operates worldwide. Property damage and animal release, related to animal rights issues. Listed as one of the top domestic threats by United States Department of Homeland Security, FBI and ATF.
* Earth Liberation Front (ELF) - Founded 1992; operates in US, Canada, and UK. Property destruction, related to environmental issues. Listed as one of the top domestic threats by United States Department of Homeland Security, FBI and ATF.
* Environmental Life Force - Disbanded in 1972. Used explosive and incendiary devices in defense of the environment.


* Army of God -- anti-abortion, operates in the United States. Property damage and loss of life in attacks on abortion clinics.



* Interahamwe - Rwanda - Hutu nationalist, strongly anti Tutsi. Responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide
* Janjaweed - Sudan
* Mungiki - Kenya
* Revolutionary United Front - Sierra Leonean rebels


* Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) - Haiti
* National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti - Haiti
* Tonton Macoutes - Haiti


* Action Directe (AD), an anti-NATO organization responsible for the 1986 murder of Georges Besse.


* FLAMA Madeira Archipelago Liberation Front, separatist group from Madeira.
* Frente de Libertação dos Açores (FLA) Azores Liberation Front, separatist group from Azores.


* Black Metal Inner Circle (disputable), a group comprised of seminal Norweigian black metal musicians widely believed to have existed in the early 1990's. Some of these members burnt more than fourty churches throughout Norway on the basis of violently expelling Christianity and supplanting it with alternative ideologies such as satanism and neo-paganism - which were endorsed and supported by Euronymous, the alleged leader of the group - hence some have perceived this group a relatively minor terrorist group.


* ETA Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, main terrorist organization in Spain responsible of the numerous bombings, seeking an independent Basque Country. See also Kale borroka.
* GAL Grupo Antiterrorista de Liberacion, terrorist organization of the government in the 1980s.
* GRAPO Grupo Antifacista Primero de Octubre, terrorist organization of extreme left
* FAG Fuerzas Armadas Guanches, terrorist organization of the Islas Canarias part of MPAIAC in the 1970s.
* Terra Lliure terrorist group of Catalonia in the 1980s. and 1990s.
* Exercito Guerrilleiro do Povo Galego Ceibe separatist group in Galicia

United Kingdom

* Animal Rights Militia, a terrorist organization responsible for numerous letter bombs in Great Britain during the 1980s.
* Scottish National Liberation Army, a Scottish terrorist organization fighting for the cause of Scottish independence.
* An Gof, a Cornish terrorist organization fighting for the cause of Cornish independence.

United States

* Afro-American Liberation Army (AALA), a terrorist organization active in Los Angeles during the 1970s.
* Aliens of America, a terrorist organization active in Los Angeles during the 1970s.
* American Indian Movement (AIM), originally founded as a civil rights organization, the AIM was involved in the 1972 occupations of the Mayflower II, Mount Rushmore and the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. as well as the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee during which members were involved in gun battles with federal agents.
* Americans for Justice, a terrorist organization active on the west coast during the 1970s.
* Bay Bombers, a radical terrorist organization active in San Francisco, California during the 1960s.
* Black Afro Militant Movement (BAMM), a militant terrorist organization
* Black Liberation Army (BLA), an offshoot faction of the Black Panther Party reportedly involved in murders of police officers in San Francisco and New York between 1971 and 1973.
* Black Muslims, a separatist involved in numerous shootouts with police and other violent activities including the "Zebra Killings" in which fourteen people were murdered in the San Francisco-area.
* Black Nation of Islam (BNI), a terrorist organization active during the 1970s and 80s.
* Black Revolutionary, a terrorist organization active in New York during the 1970s.
* Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a terrorist organization responsible for the 1973 murder of Oakland school superintendent Marcus Foster and, most notably, the 1974 kidnapping of Patricia Hearst.

* Weather Underground (WU), radical terrorist organization responsible for nineteen bombings between 1969 and 1974, including the U.S. Capitol Building in 1971 and The Pentagon in 1974.

The media loves nothing more than a scapegoat. I have no doubt whatsoever that far right extremists will seek to justify the killing of three innocent Muslims, or to use their deaths as a battering ram against the evils of atheism. The bottom line is these were senseless murders, whether they were motivated by atheism, by racism or hatred of Muslims, or by a parking space dispute. The fact that it is Islam coming under scrutiny from certain quarters, when it is an entirely innocent Islamic family who are the victims is sickening, but unsurprising.

To hear ANYONE describe the animal who killed three people, execution style, in cold blood as a "hero", is disgraceful. To them, I say, look to your own. If you believe your religion, your ideology, your belief structure to be immune from wrongdoing, or incapable of being used as justification for violence, you are wrong. Hands down, wrong.

ANY ideology can be distorted and used to justify the most horrific acts upon our fellow human beings. And all too frequently, it is...

Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.
Rest in Peace

Wednesday 4 February 2015

More Musings on Chris Eccleston.. An apologetic update.

In a previous blog post, I took issue with Chris Eccleston and how he handles his time as The Doctor. In particular, I found his hanging up on a reporter, during a telephone interview, particularly twattish.

Chances are, by now, you've seen the excellent Kasterborous article, "Eccleston hates Doctor Who so much he helped a Whovian with a wedding proposal". The article includes an extraordinarily heartwarming video, with Eccleston surprising a fan alongside her boyfriend In my previous post, I went so far as to call Chris "an arse". I think, with hindsight, the "arse" on this occasion is yours truly! Eccleston is notoriously guarded about his tenure as the Doctor, and his public appearances seem scant. Perhaps, on my part, and the part of many fans, it is a desire to see more of him in the public eye, at conventions and so forth, because we have such high regard for his portrayal of the Doctor. We may never know the reasons why he is so elusive, but it's clear from the video it isn't out of a lack of respect for us, the fans.

Whilst, personally, I wouldn't have terminated the interview in the way Chris did, again, perhaps this is somewhat judgemental, not to mention hypocritical, particularly given that I hang up on telemarketers for a pastime. Eccleston clearly did not wish to discuss Doctor Who with the reporter. Perhaps the reporter in question did cross a line by asking, despite three requests not to. Certainly, it is the job of a reporter to ask probative questions; questions which the interviewee doesn't necessarily want to be asked. But, perhaps, there is a time and a place..

What is abundantly clear is that I've badly misjudged Eccleston. Whilst he will never read this blog post, I offer him my sincere apologies for doing so. Anyone who takes the time to aid a fan in the way he demonstrates in the video clearly doesn't lack respect for either the fans, or for his time spent in the titular role.

I've always been a big fan of the Eccleston series, and, in a broader sense, of much of his other work. If you haven't seen the magnificent 'Let Him Have It', you should. It's an early work by Eccleston, and it's a superb film. Similarly, his role as Stephen Baxter in Russel T. Davies' unique 'The Second Coming' is a magnificent testament to his skill as an actor. For me, he has always been a fine actor. I've also regarded him, for the most part, as egotistical, aloof and dismissive of his time as The Doctor. I hold my hands firmly UP. Got it wrong. There are times when being proven wrong sucks. On other occasions, being proven wrong is a positive joy. I was wrong when I assumed Bille Piper would be a lousy companion. Likewise, Catherine Tate. And I'm glad I was. Equally, I was wrong in my assessment of Chris Eccleston. And I'm glad about that as well.

I do believe if Mr Eccleston were a little more candid about his body of work, including Doctor Who, it may make it easier for people, like me, to understand him better as an actor and as a human being. That he chooses not to is a pty, but, ultimately, it is his decision, one which we must respect. Perhaps, one day, he will elaborate on his decision to remain largely out of the public eye, certainly in regard to Doctor Who, and why he chose only to play the role for a single season. I hope so, as I'm sure we could learn a great deal about him.

So there we are. I got him completely wrong. I daresay there are times when he IS an arse. There are certainly times when I am. My previous blog post on Eccleston bears testament to THAT! Likewise, there are time when he is clearly extraordinarily generous, kind and giving. Something we should all aspire to be.

What is clear is that Chris Eccleston is complex, professional, and certainly misunderstood. This leads arseholes like me to be quick to judge. For that, Mr Eccleston, you have my profound apologies.

I hope he's proud of his time as the Ninth Doctor. He has every reason to be. He was, as Nine said himself, "fantastic"!




Tuesday 3 February 2015

The Great Doctor Who Poll 2014 - Musing & Moaning - Part Three

And so, here we are, once again. The third, and final part of my musings on the 2014 poll. "Thank fuck for that" I hear you cry!

This post covers the largest category of all "Best Overall Episode (Classic and New Series combined). Theoretically, this should be a mercifully short post. Having already looked at the "Classic" and "New" rankings individually, there is little commentary to make on their respective rankings, only how the stories fare when ranked in one, large collective.

Riding high on the coat tails of the 50th Anniversary, it comes as no great surprise that 'Day of the Doctor' takes top spot. That it ranks above 'Genesis of the Daleks', 'Pyramids of Mars' or 'Seeds of Doom' (plus quite a few others!), is, to me, perfectly laughable! I enjoyed 'DOTD' for the most part. It was a fun story, though in the context of Who 'canon' (a term I've never particularly cared for), I found it rather irritating. It's complete retconning of The Time War, a topic which had great potential for future exploration, was deplorable. Since Gallifrey is now safe, tucked away up a squirrels arse, or wherever Moffat decides to rematerialise it (assuming he doesn't simply forget it exists), it is all the more puzzling that the 12th Doctor seems to be carrying a burden bigger than his predecessors. Nevertheless, top placed it is, and I will have to learn to live with that. I'm sure I'll struggle with this for many seconds to come...

Second place goes to another bloody overrated story, 'Blink'. On first transmission, I loved 'Blink'. I still enjoy it. I don't, however, hold it in quite the same esteem as many do. I don't believe it stands up to repeated viewings terribly well, unlike 'Genesis of the Daleks', a story which I can watch over and over again, without tiring of it.

The next appearance in the poll by a New Series episode, is at position 7, where 'The Empty Child' resides neatly above 'Pyramids of Mars' at 8. I don't have a huge issue with this, although would switch their positions. 'Empty Child' is a superb story, and deserves a high ranking, even against some of the best classic era episodes. It demonstrates Moffat's capability as a writer, leaving one to wonder where the hell it all went wrong..

Human Nature ranking at 9, is, I suspect, due to the fan base Tennant has accrued. It is a solid story, arguably one of the finest since the series returned in 2005. Whether it deserves to be ranked above 'Rememberance', 'Terror of the Zygons' or 'Inferno' is questionable. As someone with such a strong passion for the classic era, perhaps I am not best placed to judge, as my thought processes will always be skewed toward the halcyon days of Who..

Moving down the poll, there are numerous New Series stories outranking those from the classic era. This is, of course, to be expected. That 'Rose" should find itself ahead of 'The Time Meddler', or 'The Lodger' above 'Ambassadors of Death' is, at best, a shame. At worst, a fucking joke (my blog, my opinion!).. Disagree? Comment below!

The middle of the poll is something of a hotchpotch of stories. Most of the placings I would take issue with, certainly when comparing classic era stories against the new series. It would be interesting to see a demographic of the voters. I wonder how many have seen the classic era given some of the placings..And so, to the bottom of the poll.. Placed at 229 'The Doctor, The Witch and The Wardrobe' fares particularly badly, ranking marginally above 'Paradise Towers'. Hardly a shock, since it is an utterly terrible story! Faring even less well is 'The Rings of Akhaten'. I have to admit, this surprises me, as does the general disdain which surrounds the story. Personally, I rather like it, which serves to prove the old adage to be true: there's no accounting for taste..!

'TimeFlight', 'Timelash' and 'Time and the Rani' take positions 237, 238 and 239 respectively. Perhaps the voters dislike stories with 'Time' as their first word! The first two are, I believe, somewhat unfairly maligned, and against stories such as the aforementioned 'Doctor, Witch, Wardrobe', or equally weak stories such as 'Love and Monsters', which I personally cannot abide, or the interminably dreadful 'Nightmare in Silver', I would have ranked them substantially higher.

And so, to the very dregs of the barrel. I make no apology for my desire to see 'Paradise Towers' placed there. There, however, it is not. In last place, ranking one place above 'Fear Her' lies 'The Twin Dilemma'. Speaking, as always, personally, I would place 'Twin Dilemma' above 'Fear Her' and quite a few other stories. Yes, the twins are more irritating than inflamed haemorrhoid, but Colin makes his mark in a bold, brash and very loud performance. Azmael's death scene is beautifully played, and at the end of the episode, we are left in doubt that Colin is indeed, The Doctor. Whether you like it or not..!

That 'Fear Her' places so badly comes as no shock. Of the New Series (excluding Season 8 stories) it is, arguably the worst, with the possible exception of 'Nightmare in Silver'. I would be hard pressed to choose between them, however I would rank both above 'Paradise Towers'. Just.

Whilst stroking my Pertwee-esque beard during last nights musings, I hit upon the idea of "putting my money where my (exceptionally large) mouth is". In the next post, I am going to attempt to replicate the poll as I would have voted, placing each season, each Doctor, each story as I would rank them. It's a rather daunting prospect, something I've never attempted before. It should be... interesting..!

And so, that concludes my analysis of the Great Doctor Who Poll 2014. As always, your thoughts and comments are most welcome. I hope you enjoyed reading the posts; that they weren't too tedious or long, and I hope you found plenty to disagree with! Doctor Who is a divisive topic, but one which, ultimately, we all share a common love of, regardless of our personal preferences. We can, and should, disagree on what ranks where, and which Doctor is the best. It makes for lively debate. Provided the debate doesn't turn into vitriolic unpleasantness, with accusations of "hater" being bandied around, we should be free to share our opinions and to disagree, passionately, but respectfully with each other. Wouldn't it be nice if that were always the case...


See you on the Twittersphere..!



The Great Doctor Who Poll 2014 - Musing & Moaning - Part Two

Well.. Part One ended up being substantially longer than I bargained for! If you managed to make it through the entire post, you deserve a medal! Sometimes, when the words start flowing, all one can do is embrace them, rattle them off, and hope to high heaven they make sense. I enjoyed wading through the various segments of the poll, covered in part one, and expressing my thoughts on the results. Some have already, and very kindly, commented on Twitter. Some in complete agreement, others disagreeing with some of my comments. And that's great! The fact they are provoking thoughts or inviting commentary is immensely satisfying. There is a comment section on the blog, and I welcome any and all comments, positive or negative. I'm certainly interested in hearing the parts with which you disagree. I love hearing other people's opinions, particularly when they clash with my own. It makes for good, lively debate. Usually! Sometimes it descends into madness, or even rudeness. You'll get none of that nonsense from me. Your opinion is every bit as valid as mine, or anyone else's. There are no "right or wrong" results in a poll. Only opinions. I welcome yours!

And so we come to the second part of the poll, commencing, quite naturally, smack bang in the middle. After all, I started at the last category and worked up!

Episode rankings (classic series only). Taking its rightful place AS THE SUPREME POWER OF THE UNI... Poll, we have, unsurprisingly 'Genesis of the Daleks'. Quite right too! I've seen it displaced in polls, on occasion, by the second placed story, 'Caves of Androzani'. Something I take issue with. In fact, I take issue with 'Androzani' taking second place. Don't misunderstand me; I think it's a bloody good story. Well paced with Davison acting his arse off. But, would I rank it above 'Seeds of Doom' which failed to make the top ten, placing at 13, or above 'Pyramids of Mars', which did manage a very respectable fifth place. The answer, in respect of both stories is a resounding NO. I'd probably have 'Androzani' somewhere in my top 20 (which gives me an idea for another blog post *strokes imaginary beard in Pertwee-esque syle*)..

I'm pleased to 'Rememberance of the Daleks' fare so well, at a very strong sixth position. It's an action packed story, arguably McCoy's finest. I can't really disagree with the placings of other stories in the top 20. It's a positive joy to see 'Power of the Daleks' ranked so highly. For a story missing in its entirety, save for a few snippets, it is much respected (and much desired). That fans have clearly taken the time to read the book, or listen to the audio adaptations, of which two exist, with different narrators. If you aren't amongst those who have, you should be. You'll thank yourself for doing so. Aside from its obvious status as the first post regenerative story, it is also exceptionally good.

I have to confess a real disappointment that the Pertwee stories seemed to fare less well. Only two managed to make the top 20, namely 'Inferno' and 'Spearhead from Space'. Both deserve their high ranking, but that stories such as 'The Daemons' and 'The Green Death' just miss making the top 20 is a pity. Much more disappointing, on a personal level, is 'Ambassdors of Death' which ranked at 58. Really? Only 58? Bettered by stories such as 'Kinda', 'Stones of Blood' or 'The Keeper of Traken'? There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those stories, however I question their place above 'Ambassadors', which I consider to be one the finest stories ever. This will, I have no doubt, provoke disagreement. It is, undoubtedly, long, protracted, but it works. And it works bloody well.

Again, Colin Baker doesn't fare terribly well, with his first entry at 42 with 'Revelation of the Daleks'. Perhaps, however it is unsurprising, as his screened stories are weak when compared to other Doctors. As mentioned in part one of this analysis, he is served much better courtesy of Big Finish. In fact, I'd posit that if a poll were conductedp, ranking all of the Big Finish audios, Baker would do incredibly well. 'Vengeance on Varos', which I, and quite a few others, consider a pretty strong story, manages to rank at a rather paltry 83.

A story which fares much better than I anticipated (or than it deserves, in my opinion!) is 'Greatest Show in the Galaxy'. I have to confess, I've never understood the appeal of this story. I don't hate it, but it would certainly place considerably lower than 65 on MY list (*scratches imaginary beard again*).

Moving down the poll, there isn't much to irritate me until we reach no 84. In a piddling pathetic 84 resides 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs'. I KNOW the dinosaurs look shit, I KNOW the Pterodactyl looks like someone plucked the feathers out of Rod Hull's "Emu", rammed a brush up its arse and waved it about in an attempt to make it threatening. And I don't give a damn. It's a bloody good story. Top 20 material, for this fan. I love everything about it (yes, even the effects!). Fake spaceships, an empty London, UNIT, a traitor, Sarah Jane Smith.. What's not to love? I know all these stories are subjective, but 'IOTD' in 84th place.. It irks me!

The placing of 'Battlefield' at 100 is surprising. I had always understood it to be well liked. I certainly enjoy it, if, for no other reason, it has Winifred Bambera, a character I wish we had seen a great deal more of. Like 'Remeberance', it dared to poke into 'racism' territory, with Morgaine's mind games evoking a racial epithet from 'Ace'.

At 136, I find another story I have come to love. 'Monsters of Peladon' is better than its predecessor, 'Curse'. There. I said it. Sue me! Why is it better, particularly when the majority of the cast seem to be sporting a collection of blow-dried badgers on their heads? I have no idea, is the boring, but brutally honest answer. I just happen to prefer it.

The bottom of the list makes for interesting reading. I find it hard to disagree with much of it, although I do confess a certain fondest for Timelash, which narrowly avoided the bottom spot. I'm also rather fond of Time-Flight, or at least, the concept. It does, I have to admit, go rather bonkers when 'Kaleed' is revealed as The Master. I am, however disappointed to see Colin Baker firmly in bottom place again. Yes, 'Twin Dilemma' is bloody awful. No dodging it. It's crap. Or "cwap"..

But, I'll take 'Twin Dilemma' over the interminably dull 'Dominators' (placed at 150) any day of the week, thank you very much! Squeezing just ahead of 'Twin Dilemma', 'Time and the Rani' manages to take position 155. I can't really say I'm surprised. It isn't a good story, by any stretch of the imagination. But. And here, we come to the conclusion of my analysis of this poll segment. It, and every fucking story listed is better than 'Paradise Towers', which, polled at 147. 'Paradise Towers' is, I believe, the worst classic era story ever. Period. I would have ranked it as the worst story ever, including the Big Finish range, novels, comic strips, New Series, fan written garbage by an illiterate eight year old with the imagination of a small chimpanzee.. But, along came 'In The Forest of the Night'. 'Paradise Towers' is saved from my bottom spot, solely by that steaming, fetid, worthless, scientifically insane, preachy, pointless heap of rotting dung.

That concludes the 'Classic Only' segment of the poll. One or two surprises, but nothing dramatic. With a little shuffling here and there, the elevation of several Pertwee stories, and the throwing out of the window of every dvd copy of 'Paradise Towers' in existence, I am, reasonably content. How 'bout you?

I'm going to continue, briefly, with a cursory look at 'Overall Season/Series' ranking. Largely because it's repetitive of the individual analyses of the two, segregated categories. Pleasingly, Season 7 (Classic) retains top position, which given the lack of enthusiasm for 'Ambassdors' is a testament to the other three stories featured in that season. Likewise, Season 26 places well at no 6. Again, perhaps, due to the quality of 'Curse of Fenric' and 'Ghostlight'.

Series 4 (New) holds a very strong 7th place, though whether I would personally rank it higher than Pertwee's final season (11), which ranked at 18th place, is questionable. That Series 7 (New) is so highly ranked, beating the very first, classic, season of Doctor Who is a mystery. I believe Season One to be considerably stronger than it is given credit for. From 'An Unearthly Child' to the first appearance of the Daleks; the much desired, and sadly missing 'Marco Polo', and two epic, varied stories, 'The Keys of Marinus' and 'The Sensorites', it's place at 19th is disappointing, to say the least.

Unsurprisingly, bottom place goes to the much detested Season 24. Containing 'Paradise Towers' it is bloody well worthy of bottom spot! Disappointingly, once again, Colin Baker fares badly, with Season 23 managing position 33, staved off only by the aforementioned Season 24. I neither know the general consensus surrounding 'Trial of a TimeLord'. Nor do I care. I have never been one for sticking with convention, so I would, personally, rank it somewhat higher. The concept of the season works well, the individual stories are decent enough, and the courtroom scenes alone make the season worthy of a much higher place than second to last.

So, there we are. In the next post, I'll take a look at "the biggie". Until then,congratulations, if you made it all the way through the thoughts that have spewed forth from my tiny brain. Comments are, as always, most welcome!

Sunday 1 February 2015

Remembering Lis...

It is difficult to quantify exactly why Elisabeth Sladen became such an iconic companion. As Sarah Jane Smith, she was strong, independent, smart, funny, beautiful and more than a match for the two Doctors with whom she travelled.

Her popularity is beyond question. During the "classic era" she reprised the role of Sarah Jane twice. Once, in 'The Five Doctors', and again, in the unsuccessful, and perhaps unfairly maligned 'K9 and Company', a story for which I must confess a certain fondness, due, in no small part, to Lis Sladen's performance.



In 1993, she reprised the role once again, in the Children in Need special 'Dimensions in Time', and again, in the 1995 story 'Downtime', reunited, this time, with the superb Nicholas Courtney.

Between 1996 and 1997, Sarah Jane appeared alongside the Third Doctor in two BBC produced audio plays, 'The Paradise of Death' and 'Ghosts of N Space'.

One could be forgiven for thinking at this point, the character would never been seen again. Not so. Courtesy of Big Finish, Lis achieved something no other companion had done; her own, full length spin off series, which ran over two seasons, to critical acclaim.



In 2006, to the sheer delight of many fans, myself included, she appeared alongside the Tenth Doctor in 'School Reunion'. I remember a chill running down my spine, a giddy thrill, when she first saw The Tardis and realised that, after so many years, The Doctor had entered her life once more.

So successful and well received was her appearance, that Lis Sladen was given her own series, the aptly named 'Sarah Jane Adventures'. In an age where asinine tv characters grace our screens on a daily basis, it was remarkable that a lady in her 60's was so readily accepted and loved by a whole new generation of children, and embraced, once again, by a loyal army of fans, many of whom grew up with Sarah Jane as 'their companion'. It is a testament to Lis that 'SJA' ran for five seasons. Her chemistry with the young cast was evident, both on and off screen, in particular with Tommy Knight, who, as Luke, was to become her son.



Sarah and Luke appeared in 'The Stolen Earth' and 'Journeys End' in which she, once again, faced Davros and the Daleks. In an exceptionally emotive scene, the prospect that she may lose her son to Daleks, Sarah seemed more real, more vulnerable than we were accustomed to seeing. As always, the scene was played perfectly by Lis. Her final appearance in Doctor Who came in 2010 when the Tenth Doctor bade his farewells.

In the 'Sarah Jane Adventures', guest appearances were made by The Brigadier, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, and, in a stroke of genius, her predecessor, Jo Grant. All guest stars in HER show.

On April 19th 2011, we were all shocked to learn that Elisabeth, at the age of 65, had passed away. A devastating loss to millions, who had adored this wonderful lady & her endearing portrayal of Sarah Jane. I cried. I suspect many tears were shed by people who's lives she had touched. She had, for many of us, almost become a part of our families. She was certainly a part of the Who family, and will remain so forever.

Today would have.. No, SHOULD have been Elisabeth's 69th birthday. Today we celebrate her life, and while she is no longer with us, we still wish her a happy birthday. Quite right, too. We will forever love her; we will forever miss her. And we will always be eternally grateful that we were able to call her 'Our Sarah Jane'..


Elisabeth Sladen

1st February 1946 - 19th April 2011

Sarah Jane Smith

15th December 1973 - Forever

The Great Doctor Who Poll 2014 - Musing & Moaning - Part One

Ye Gods! Where do I start? Perhaps, with a disclaimer.. "And, I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to..."; no, wait, DISCLAIMER. Not a bloody Proclaimer! Though I shall, no doubt, as I wade through the poll, do plenty of proclaiming, exclaiming, expleting, opining, and more expleting. So. Disclaimer. This is my OPINION. Nothing more. Nothing less. Some of it is based on personal preference, some on past polls, and most simply on whatever pours out of my brain. It will almost certainly contain a LOT of swearing. If this offends you, stop reading now. No. Really! If you're easily offended.. fuck off..!

It is said that profanity is the weapon of the witless. I don't agree, and whoever spewed forth that particular apothegm was talking out of their arse. When used to be cruel or deliberately malicious, the quote has merit. When used for humour, it can be very, very funny. I find it so. I have a crude side to my humour. If this offends you, you should have stopped reading a paragraph prior to this one. You have been warned...

I'm going to start at the bottom of the poll and work upwards. Why? Because I want to. Because the shorter answers to the poll questions lie there, and because it will give my brain time to formulate something vaguely resembling cogent sentences for what lies ahead in the full episode poll.

So, we begin with the first (or rather, last) category. Companion. The winner of this category was, frankly, a no-brainer. Had anyone BUT the magical Sarah Jane Smith won, I would be spitting feathers. There could be no other winner. She was, quite simply, "My Sarah Jane". And probably yours too. I don't know by what margin she won, but I suspect it was a comfortable lead. Deservedly so.

Second place is an interesting choice.. Donna Noble. She wouldn't be my second place, personally, but I fully understand why she's there. She was bloody brilliant, that's why. I don't need to opine on her merits. Suffice to say, when I heard Catherine Tate had been cast as a companion, I was horrified. In much the same way I was horrified when Billie Piper was announced as the first companion to board the TARDIS upon the series' resurrection. I was wrong about her as well. Both had qualities and capabilities, both as actors and as companions, which far exceeded my expectations. Tate, in particular, became my favourite of the New Era companions, and remains so. She is, quite simply, very likeable. Add her relationship with Wilfred into the mix and you've got a winning combination before you set foot aboard the TARDIS.

Moving further into the list proves to be disappointing, particularly for an "old school" fan like me. Clara "interesting as plankton" Oswald takes seventh place, above Jo Grant, Leela, The Brigadier and Barbara Wright. REALLY? Clara above ANY of those esteemed characters is just wrong (my opinion.. don't like it, feel free to comment. Or to fuck off. Your choice!). Barbara is, was, and always will be the "First Lady" of time travel. Much as Moffat has sought to shovel Clara into every aspect of the Doctors existence, is she really worthy of a place higher than companions like Barbara, the incredibly endearing Jo Grant, or the superb Brigadier, now, sadly relegated to the role of a fucking Cyberman. Thank you, Mr Moffat.

I can't move away from the companion poll without commenting on the bottom place. Tegan Jovanka. Presumably, Nyssa, Adric, Zoe, even Susan were not placed highly enough to even make the top 15. For shame. That Clara bloody Oswald would best any of them is a mystery to me. But Tegan? I loved her to bits. She was grouchy, irascible, bad tempered.. oh, Christ, she was ME..! No wonder I liked her! The idea that her place in history is bettered by Rose Tyler or Clara "I have the personality of a coffee table" Oswald, fair boggles the mind. Oh well. There's no accounting for taste!

The next category is, arguably, the most contentious. A category which never fails to divide.. 'Favourite Doctor'. I'll lay my cards on the table and state that I'm always torn. Tom Baker was "my Doctor"; my formative years, as a child and as a Doctor Who fan occurred under his tenure. That said, I have, as many of you are aware, an extraordinary fondness for the Pertwee era. I am a big fan of the UNIT stories, I adored The Brigadier, so, of my dvd collection, his era is probably the most viewed. The poll, rightly, I think, places Tom firmly in top place. As the longest serving, and probably most memorable actor to take the lead role, his position was, I thought, perhaps, only threatened by David Tennant. Tennant has an incredibly loyal fan base. There's no denying he is exceptionally popular. Understandable. He was bloody good. It is, therefore, curious that he was beaten into third place, by Matt Smith.

Don't misunderstand me. I liked Smith, for the most part. I found him endearing, although his flapping, flailing and childish nature could grate at times. It surprises me that he beat Tennant. It irritates me that he beat Pertwee. Frankly, it irks me that Tennant is placed above Pertwee. Or Troughton. He was good, but was he really better than EVERY classic series Doctor, bar Tom Baker? In my opinion, and since this is my blog, no he bloody wasn't. It saddens me that Hartnell always fares so badly in the polls, managing to secure ninth place this time around. Yes, he fluffed his lines from time to time. Yes, he was crotchety, on and off screen. But he was also the First Doctor. The definitive article, one might say.

I can only surmise that a vast majority of people voting have never heard the Big Finish audio stories. If they had, I firmly believe Paul McGann would have fared better than tenth place. Stories such as 'Chimes of Midnight' or the 'Dark Eyes' series demonstrate his capability as an actor beautifully. Which brings me to the bottom of the poll. With the inclusion of John Hurt, dear old Colin Baker is, this time, at least, elevated from last place. Hurt did a fine job in Day of the Doctor, but beyond that, his role is fairly Insignficant in the annuls of Who history. Personally, I would have much preferred his role to have been played by McGann, but that's a whole other conversation. Back to Baker...

Colin is, I believe, one of the most overlooked, underrated actors to play the Doctor. Treated abysmally by the BBC, he stll continues to pour his heart and soul into the role of The Doctor, perhaps moreso than any other actor to take the role. Some of his on screen adventures were less than sterling, but anyone who's ever heard him reprising the role in the aforementioned Big Finish plays knows how capable he truly is. That Matt Smith is placed higher than him indicates many more "Nu Who" fans voted than "Classic". If only they would take the time to enjoy stories such as 'The Reaping', 'Spectre of Lanyon Moor' or 'Jubilee', he might have fared better.

With Colin, to all intents and purposes, at the bottom (yes, I know,, John Hurt.. Not counting him!) I suspect many Classic era fans will be understably piddled off. Tennant fans will be equally irked at Smith's ranking. And every "Nu Who" fan on earth is doubtless highly pissed off that Sylvester McCoy ranked above Chris Eccleston. Personally, I am delighted to see him above Eccleston. Baffled that he ranks above McGann, but again, I suspect the "Big Finish" factor is again at play. With that said, the Big Finish audios serve McCoy well, and while perhaps not in quite the same league as Colin Baker (for me), they do give us the pleasure of more time in the company of the Seventh Doctor. If you haven't listened to any of the Big Finish audios, you really are missing a treat. To digress from the poll for a moment, they really are worth hearing. They offer extensions to all of the Classic Doctors, from Tom Baker to Paul McGann, and surely, spending some more time in the company of any of those Doctors can't be a bad thing. They also greatly expand the Who universe, with epic stories such as the Dalek Empire saga, Gallifrey, UNIT and Counter-Measures, which continue the adventures of characters first established in 'Remembrance of the Daleks'. I cannot extol the virtues of Big Finish enough. Frankly, I should be on bloody commission!

The next category is 'Best Nu Who Series'. Taking the lead, rightly, is Season Four, so I have nothing complain about there! The rest of the poll is a bit of a mess, frankly. That Season Seven managed to beat ANYTHING, much less Seasons Two and Six, is a fucking miracle. That Season Five beat Season Three is questionable, and that Season Two ranks in seventh place is a bit of a mystery. Fuck me, what a lot of numbers to digest! As you're probably bored off of your tits after "Season this and that", here's a picture of a cat wearing a fez.

Moving swiftly on.. Next up is 'Best Nu Who Episode'. Predictably, the top spot is taken by 'Day of the Doctor' and followed by 'Blink'. Both hugely popular episodes. And both bloody overrated in my opinion (my blog, my opinion!). 'Empty Child' manages a respectable third place, although I would place it above the two aforementioned stories. By a LONG way. It pleases me to see 'Vincent and the Doctor' so highly ranked (8), likewise, 'School Reunion', both stories which dealt much more with emotion and personal relationships than with the threat of alien incursions. Dont worry.. I'm not going to go through every episode, one by one. Otherwise this is going to get very boring. If you aren't asleep already.

Highly ranked at 13 is 'The Doctor's Wife'. A hugely popular story for reasons I will NEVER understand. I fucking hate the damn story. I hate the Doctor's Wife almost as much as I hate MY (ex) wife! Still, at least, unlike her, it only drones on for 3/4 of an hour. 13 bloody years.. Never mind. That's another story!

Quite how 'Time of the Doctor' fared better than anything amazes me. Even 'Fear Her' which takes pride of place at the bottom of the poll (almost where it belongs.. but, as you'll see, not quite!) was better than 'Time'. Staring at a fucking coffee table for three hours was better than 'Time'. Personally speaking, I would have placed 'Time' in the second from bottom place. Just ahead of the interminably dreary, lacklustre, steaming, fetid pile of shit that makes up 'Nightmare in Silver', a story which has few, if any redeeming qualities. It is a story which, until 'Forest of the Night' came along, would have ranked as one of the worst stories ever. Thankfully, 'Forest' isn't in the 2014 poll, or this page would have so much swearing in, it would read like 59 Shade of Grey, without the sex. Neil Gaiman is a talented writer, but, for the love of all that is sane, keep him the hell away from Doctor Who. Please!

The remainder of this particular poll question is pretty hit and miss. 'Let's Kill Hitler' ranks above '42' so I can only assume the cat pictures above was randomly stabbing at a keyboard for six hours to illicit that particular ranking. 'Midnight', an outstanding epsiode, is served fairly well at 18, although the equally superb 'Planet of the Ood' scrapes in at a meagre 49. *sigh*

The Classic Series poll does, for a short time, appease my irritation, with Season Seven at the top spot. This pleases me immensely, both as a Pertwee fan and as a fan of Liz Shaw, a companion who, I believe, is woefully overlooked. A lot of people talk about Ace being the first "feisty" companion (a term, incindetally, which I detest, as each companion has their own, respective merits). However, Liz was more than a match for the Doctor, particularly one as vibrant as Jon. She was intelligent, brave, rational, sceptical.. Strong characteristics lacking from even some present day companions, in a time when we are (allegedly) more enlightened in attitudes toward women. A female scientist in the 1970's, while not groundbreaking, was unusual, and a welcome addition to the series. So to see S7 take the top spot satisfies me greatly.

I'm not sure how I feel about Season 13 taking second place, while Season 12 resides at seventh. Season 13 is, undoubtedly, outstanding. After all, it contains 'Terror of the Zygons', 'Pyramids of Mars' and 'Seeds of Doom'. Perhaps it deserves its ranking. Season 12, however, contains 'Genesis of the Daleks', which surely must rank it higher than 7th place. The biggest problem with ranking the classic era by season is that each series contains some very strong episodes. With Season 3 containing only 3 extant episodes, none of which are stellar, it is no surprise to find it in 24th place. Colin Baker fares marginally better here, although still close to the bottom. 'Trial of a Timelord' is, I believe, worthy of a higher place than 25th. The bottom position goes, unsurprisingly, to Season 24. Any season which contains 'Time and the Rani' (which I don't mind.. much!) and 'Paradise Towers' (which I'd rather gnaw my own legs off than watch) is never going to fare particularly well.

I confess a fondness for 'Delta and the Bannermen'; I find the setting, the music, the whole 50's holiday camp "vibe" rather charming. But, this is a season containing, what is, I believe, the single biggest pile of excrement ever committed to video (at least until 'Forest of the Night' came along). I bloody loathe 'Paradise Towers'! I'm sorry, if you happen to be one of the four people on earth who likes it. I don't. It's shit. Grade A fertiliser. Dung. Crap. Turgid, tedious, silly, tiresome rubbish. In case you haven't gathered from my astute assessment, I don't like it very much! For that reason, S24 is welcome to the bottom spot. And 'Paradise Towers' is welcome at the bottom of a pit.

And so, I am concluding, for the moment, here. This post is already quite long enough, and frankly, if you've managed to stay conscious throughout it's entirety, I'm impressed! Tomorrow, I'll be looking at the remainder of the poll, which focuses largely on individual episode rankings.

Until then, I welcome any comments, dissenting or otherwise. And please, bear in mind, all of this is only my opinion. It isn't right. It isn't wrong. It's simply the musings of one individual. There is no "right and wrong" when it comes to Doctor Who. We like what we like, and that's fine. Unless you place 'Paradise Towers' as the single, greatest episode ever. If that happens to be the case, you're probably a complete twat...! ;)

Until tomorrow..