Books, LIterature, Technology

Interview about The Horror Book Club

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a freelance features writer who wanted to ask me a few questions about the new book club that I set up and about book clubs in general. The answers that made it into her piece can be viewed here but I enjoyed writing all of the answers so I thought I’d post all of the answers in full.

Hope you enjoy. Please let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree with any of my answers.

Q. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has rather dramatically announced 2015 is “the year of books” and started a Facebook book club. What is your opinion of this?

A. Anything that encourages more reading and discussion can only be a good thing. Zuckerberg said he wants to move more from a “media diet towards reading books”. A book club is the best way of doing this as it causes you to engage more critically with what you’re reading because you know you’ll have to articulate your thoughts to others.

Q. What major differences do you think there are between online and in person book clubs?

A. I have tried both and there is something really magical about a meeting people face-to-face that is lacking from an online discussion. When meeting in person you express what you think, get immediate feedback and then hear from others who might have a completely different perspective. The debates, agreements and arguments that result create an amazing atmosphere that is really hard to replicate online.

Q. What do you think people get out of meeting and more specifically why should people sign up to the Horror Book club?

A. We have only held two meeting so far but we already have over a hundred people signed up as members. Whether it’s a love of Halloween, Tim Burton films or Zombie TV shows, lots of us are drawn to the dark and strange side of the world – we want provide a welcoming home for those people so we can explore weird and wonderful fiction together.

Q. Do you think simple pleasures like reading are becoming a bit of a lost art?

A. The technology of a hardcopy book might be relatively simple but the act of reading is far from a simple pleasure. There is nothing quite like reading to experience emotions, explore ideas and learn about ourselves and others, all from the comfort of an armchair. I don’t think this experience can be beaten by any other medium at the moment and things will remain this way for a very very long time.

Q. Why do you think people have such a fascination with the dark, disturbing and downright terrifying novels that make up the Horror Genre?

A. Horror is one of the oldest elements of fiction and this is probably because fear is one of the oldest emotions. It appears in different ways in all cultures – cautionary tales, folklore and monster legends all have elements of the strange, weird and scary. There are many things about Horror that means it endures so powerfully but I think the most important thing is that it confronts the fact that there are things in life can be dark, difficult and make us afraid. By acknowledging this and exploring its effects we gain a greater understanding of fear, the role it plays within society and how it’s an important part of being human.

Q. Do you think that for some people social media is replacing genuine human interaction?

A. I think that the panic around social media’s negative effect on the way we communicate is overhyped. As a rule, face-to-face communication is best but that doesn’t undermine the usefulness of the telephone, email or all of the different social media channels we now have. We even organise the Horror Book Club through a social network site called Although we eventually meet face-to-face, is a tool that allows to do this incredibly easily.

When people worry about social media, I refer them to what Douglas Adams said: “There’s a set of rules that anything that was in the world when you were born is normal and natural. Anything invented between when you were 15 and 35 is new and revolutionary and exciting… Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.” Wise words as usual from Mr Adams.

Q. Where would you go if a Zombie Apocalypse hit?

A. I would go straight to find my girlfriend – if you have to go through an apocalypse it would be best to do so with the ones you love. After that I like to think I’d be calm, rational and really good at crafting weapons – in reality I’d probably be eaten quite quickly. One thing I know for certain is that if I was bitten I’d confess straight away – there is no one worse than those people in books or movies who cover up an infected wound until they change and murder half of their friends. Not cool guys.


‘Tigana’ by Guy Gavriel Kay – Classic Fantasy book review

Published: August 1990

The plot of Tigana is played out on a peninsula, resembling renaissance Italy, which is dominated by two opposing Sorcerer-Tyrants of terrible power. We see the story unfold through the eyes of Devin D’Asoli, a young singer who joins a quest to overthrow the sorcerers and restore the once glorious nation of Tigana. To make this endeavour even harder, one of the sorcerers has made everyone not born there, forget that nation ever existed (ouch!). Myth, magic and mayhem ensues.


I read Tigana for a book club (the Fantasy Book Club) and would not have normally chosen it for myself. My overall feeling was that I didn’t like this book. That is not to say that I did not get a lot out of it; Kay explores the themes of memory, tragic love, belonging, power, and magic in subtle and masterly ways. Unfortunately, the insufferably dull central character and signs the book never saw a proper editor, spoiled my whole experience of reading it.

Beware, here be spoilers!

The good bits
The unusual love story between one of the Sorcerer-Kings (Brandin of Ygrath) and Dianora was my favourite element of the story – and was a lot more compelling than the main hero’s quest! This sub-plot was the golden thread that ran through the book. The first is that the relationship that Kay created was beautiful; Dianora was a mistress, whose original purpose for achieving that position was to restore the fallen Tigana by destroying (not just killing) King Brandin. However, she fell deeply and tragically in love with the Sorcerer-King and eventually became the key to endearing him to his conquered subjects.  This tragic love story was so compelling that I found myself desperately wanting Devin and the heroes to lose in favour of Brandin.


This leads me on to the second thing I liked about Tigana. Throughout the book, Kay played with the morality of his characters. The good guys did terrible things in pursuit of their goals, the bad guys were sympathetic and sometimes even admirable. This resulted in me rarely knowing who to cheer for. For example, Prince Alessan and his troupe were ostensibly the heroes, fighting to restore their homeland. However, Kay had characters question whether Alessan’s victory would be a good thing or whether the peace and order that Brandin promises might have instead been preferable.

Infuriatingly, Kay undermined his owns interesting explorations of moral ambiguity by neatly reassuring us of the moral rightness of the heroes’ cause in the last few chapters.

The bad bits
My fundamental issue with this book was that I really didn’t enjoy reading it (quite fundamental I know). One part of this was been made to see most of the story through the eyes of Devin D’Asoli. I know when writers use an ‘everyman’ as a device for readers to see a world through, those character are not supposed to be particularly exciting.. However Devin was so incredibly boring and hardly even did anything instrumental to the plot. His main purpose seemed to have been to have a bondage sex encounter with one of the peninsular’s female rulers, which again served no purpose within the actual story!

BW - Tigana

Secondly, the writing was overly descriptive and there were whole sections and even chapters that felt completely unnecessary. I am not normally turned off by lengthy descriptive passages in books; I actually enjoy this style of writing when used by those who have used it best (Wilde and Proust are two classic examples). However, in Tigana, the description was lengthy but not particularly beautiful and there were too many sections that should have been cut by a good editor. Related to this, there is a notorious chapter in the middle of the book (Chapter 18) that adds very little to the plot and almost feels as if the printers accidentally dropped in pages from a different book.

Final verdict



Secrets & Surprises – Recap & Review of ‘The Name of The Doctor’, Doctor Who Series 7, Episode 13

Summary – spoilers from the start
I had to wait to until the morning after the airing to watch week’s finale episode. I avoided online news, twitter and Facebook to make sure it wasn’t spoiled for me, and thank god I did. This episode was almost perfect and had two stonking reveals; the solving of Clara’s ‘impossible girl’ mystery and the introduction of John Hurt as the Doctor.

I may have avoided spoilers for the episode but I did look at information about John Hurt and the 50th anniversary afterwards. There are leaks that look like they explain who Hurt is and the secrets he represents. I’m not going to talk about them here but if want to find out more, here is a link.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Recap – huge spoilers
This week’s opening really was for the true TARDIS-blue Whovians. It began in a workshop with an alarm sounding. One of the workmen (Work-Lords?) asked the very sensible question “What kind of idiot would try and steal a faulty TARDIS?” The first Doctor and his niece Susan of course! We panned out to see Gallifrey ‘a very long time ago’ and were then treated to a fast and furious journey of Clara trying to interact with the previous incarnations of the Doctor. This as intersected with her falling down a fiery tunnel and explaining “I’m breaking into a million pieces and I know only one thing, that I have to save the Doctor”.

After the credits, we saw Madame Vastra find out something intriguing about the Doctor from a murderer and then call a ‘conference call’ with Jenny, Straxx, Clara and Riversong. The conference was held within Vastra’s dream with people participating from across time and space. Before Riversong has time to explain the murderer’s words, they were attacked by the Great Intelligence (Richard E Grant) with his ‘The Whisper Men’, and Jenny is killed. The Great Intelligence tells them he wants the Doctor to go to Trenzalore and he is keeping the trio hostage until he does.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Clara woke and told the Doctor about the conference. He explained that Trenzalore must be his grave and it is somewhere that he, as a time traveller, must never go. But of course, he went anyway. Once on Transalor they saw a gigantic TARDIS from the future, the Doctor’s tomb. Unseen by the Doctor, Riversong then appeared to Clara and revealed a secret entrance to the tomb.

Outside the TARDIS-tomb, Straxx restarted Jenny’s heart before the Great Intelligence and his Whisper Men turned up. Underneath the tomb, Clara’s memories of when the Doctor explained his ‘impossible girl’ mystery returned to her before they reached the entrance to see the Great Intelligence waiting for them. He wanted entry to the tomb but needed the to Doctor to speak his real name as the password. Within the tomb we saw the wasted future console room with the Doctor’s ‘scare-tissue’ suspended as glowing blue energy in the centre. The Great Intelligence entered the ‘wound’ in the universe to rewrite the Doctor’s entire timeline and ‘turn his victories into defeats’.

Source: The Telegraph

Source: The Telegraph

Clara then figured out the source of her ‘impossible girl’ nature and entered the wound to save the Doctor. We saw an expanded repeat of the start of the episode including Clara advising the Doctor on which TARDIS to take. Back in the TARDIS-tomb, we saw that Clara’s action had saved them all and then the Doctor revealed that he has always been able to see and hear the echo of Riversong. After they kissed the Doctor entered his own timestream to save Clara.

Before the Doctor pulls her out, Clara spotted a figure who is a previous incarnation of the Doctor that she did not recognise. The Doctor reveals that the figure a regeneration who broke the promise that comes with the name ‘The Doctor’.

Clara then conveniently passed out before the figure turned around and said “I did what I did, without choice, in the name of peace and sanity” and the Doctor retorted “But not in the name of the Doctor.” The figure was then revealed to be John Hurt and “Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor” was stamped across the screen.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC


Bad bits
Only two small flaws this week: 1) The terrible digital placements of Clara into old episodes felt like they were done by an A-Level student. How bad they were distracted from the fun of seeing her dotted throughout the Doctor’s past. 2) The souffle and leaf references felt very forced. I understand why Moffat had them in there but maybe they could have less corny.

Best bits
The funny parts – This episode was full of laughs, mainly coming from Straxx. Our favourite Sontaran was on top form and the highlight was his bar fight in Glasgow – a place where he now goes when he has some time off so he can spend it with the ‘pleasant primitives’.

The mystery – the explanation of why Clara was the ‘impossible girl’ was surprisingly satisfying. Ignoring the souffle references, her entrance into the Doctor’s timestream to try and all of his incarnations was exciting, made sense (enough for Doctor Who anyway) and left enough unsolved for us to still find Clara interesting i.e. why was Clara lurking in the depths of the TARDIS as a lava-zombie in episode 10?

The shock – the appearance of John Hurt in the show as the Doctor was kept impressively quiet and took me by complete surprise. It was the perfect set up for the 50th anniversary episode that comes out in November. Which takes me on to…

Next episode

We will have to wait a little while to see the trailer for this episode but so far we know that David Tennant, Billie Piper, John Hurt and Jemma Redgrave will all star and that we will see Daleks, Cybermen and Zygons. It will be shown in both 2D and 3D and will also air in cinemas across the UK and the US. It is not yet known when the tickets will go on sale, but when they do they will be the hottest geek-gold in the Universe. Expect a tough race against your fellow Whovians – it will be bloody.

Politics, Uncategorized

Still Waiting: A day at the Progress Annual Conference

I have been feeling quite gloomy about the Labour Party recently. I have been frustrated that the party has failed in the public’s eyes to provide strong leaders, and is not ready to be trusted on the economy. This was the mood I was in when I walked into Progress’ Annual Conference yesterday morning.

Source: Progress

Source: Progress

I arrived with a tax-dodging Starbucks coffee to wake me up and maybe jolt me out of my negativity. After chatting to some of the people I met at Progress’ political weekend, I took my seat 2for the opening speech.

Andrew Adonis gave the usual attack on the Coalition and the expected plug for his new book, ‘5 days in May’. He got applause for an increase in the minimum wage and called for action not austerity, but the speech was an introduction rather than a rally so it wasn’t a surprise to not hear anything new or particularly rousing.

The post-intro opening panel summed up the tensions that the Party seems to be feeling at the moment. Peter Kellner of YouGov and Phil Collins from The Times talked of the public’s, and their own, discontent with the Party’s leadership performance. They warned that the polls are not promising and we are still not where we need to be to win. These two speakers reflected my own low mood and I find it worrying that at the moment I tend to agree with journalists and pollsters far more often than Labour MPs. Their two big messages were that the public still need to be convinced of Ed Miliband’s ability and Ed Ball’s trustworthiness on the economy.

On the other side were Harriet Harman and Andrew Harrop (general secretary of the Fabians), who were both more defensive. Harriet was passionate and compelling when she argued for continuing to increase the diversity of the Party and MPs, but it didn’t feel as though she successfully rebutted the negativity, and the session ended in stalemate.

For the breakout session I chose ‘Economic competence: Have we earned the public’s trust?’ because Margaret Hodge was on the panel. The other panelists were economists who were united on their Keynesian analysis of how to get the economy moving and the opinion that we need to escape from the narrative of being blamed entirely for the recession.


After lunch it was time for the day’s keynote speech from Ed Miliband. I was really hoping that this would be the speech to force me out of my pessimistic attitude but unfortunately I will have to wait a bit longer for this to happen. There was no need for this to be a great speech and it did exactly what it needed to do to keep the room happy but it was a shame, with the growing negativity in the party, that Ed didn’t do something special to silence his critics. He started well with a joke about driving around the block looking for cyclists and his general theme seemed to be that the old certainties that were true in ’97 had broken down. The message I thought could be built upon was that living standards are falling; this theme has the ‘kitchen table’ appeal that the One Nation message lacks. In the end I felt that I have heard this speech a dozen times before. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t hear much that would have the cut through with the public that would aid Ed’s credibility and affability.

Ed did better with the post speech Q&A but failed to answer the question so many were thinking – “The party is doing well in the polls but you and Ed Balls are not. What are you going to do about it?”

In the afternoon I went to the discussion on ‘One Nation appeal: How can we win across Britain?’ PPC for Norwich North, Jessica Asato and Alison McGovern MP did well and illustrated a point that Phil Collins made in the morning; that there were people in the Party who could propose interesting policies to start convincing the public, but they don’t get the cover from the leadership that they need.

The final panel in the main room was very entertaining but summed up what had become the unfortunate theme of the day; the growing discontent with the Party’s performance. The panel was an echo of the first of the day – journalists versus politicians, and again I agreed with the journalists. Peter Mandelson, one of the founders of Progress, gave what he knew would be the naughtiest quote of the day – “I agree with One Nation Labour because it is a good New Labour theme.”

David Aaronovitch of The Times spoke angrily that we still haven’t seen ‘Baldric’s cunning plan’ that the leadership is plotting, but remained hopeful (just barely) that the plan would be a good one. Aaronovitch then put the nail in the coffin of the day by asking the question that he called the ‘elephant in the room’ – will the Party win with this leader? At that point everyone realised how interesting their shoes were because they were still waiting for Ed to ‘wow’ both them and the country. We do wait in hope but if we are still hoping by next year’s conference, the mood won’t be gloomy, it will be hostile.


“We are going to the North!” Review of ‘The Crimson Horror’, Doctor Who Series 7, Episode 11


Unexpectedly fantastic episode. From last week’s trailer I was worried that The Crimson Horror would be just be hammy and silly. However, I had forgotten that it was from the beautiful pen (because I can only imagine him to have beautiful pens) of the wonderful Mark Gatiss. Although by no means perfect, it was chilling, entertaining, funny and well just about everything you want from a Doctor Who episode. This is one that I will enjoy going back to watch as a standalone episode that also helped to move the story arc along. I doth my bowler hat to you in gratitude Mr Gatiss.

Source: BBC
Source: BBC

Summary – huge spoilers

This week’s romping mystery saw Vastra, Straxx and Jenny being hired by the brother of a victim of the crimson horror, a strange affliction that somehow kills you and makes you look like you have really bad sunburn. The victim was himself investigating the disappearances of believers who had joined a religious factory commune in Yorkshire called Sweetville. The commune is lead by the charismatic doom-monger Mrs Gillyflower (Diana Rigg) who use her own blinded daughter Aida (Rachel Strling) to demonstrate the consequences of sin. Jenny infiltrates the commune, discovers that the factory is fake and the Doctor has somehow caught the crimson horror but it has failed to kill him and he is locked in a cell.

After the Doctor cures himself he explains that he and Clara had teamed up with with the threesome’s client’s late brother to investigate Mrs Gillyflower. He reveals that Sweetville preserves its most fit and beautiful applicants and the ones who fail the preservation  process get the crimson horror and are thrown “in t’ canal”. They rescue Clara and set about stopping Mrs Gillyflower from, with the help of Mr Sweet, killing almost everyone on Earth. Mr Sweet, it turns out is a gross prehistoric red leech who lives symbiotically on Mrs Gillyflower’s chest (thank you Mr Gatiss, that really was lovely). With the help of Aida, who saved the Doctor from being thrown in to the canal and who was experimented on by her mother, they stop the apocalypse in time for some lovely Yorkshire tea.

This episode also contained a postscript that was a set-up for next week. The children who Clara is the nanny for discover her time traveling secret and force her into promising to take them with her. I am really not fond of the idea of children in the TARDIS but I will remain open-minded until I see the episode.


I always complain about boring side-characters that are hard to care about – this is one of the reasons why this episode made me so happy. The return of Vastra, Jenny and Straxx, combined with the appearance of Diana Rigg and Rachel Stirling as the love-to-hate villain and her blinded daughter,  meant that the episode was compelling even though the Doctor and Clara didn’t feature in much of it. The Victorian threesome are always fun to watch but the tragic relationship between Mrs Gillyflower and Aida added a depth that had been missing from this series so far.

The plot itself weaved wonderfully around mysteries that kept me guessing and pleasantly surprised. Things that I did not expect were the vacuum sealed Adams and Eves in waiting, the fake factory with gramophone noise effect, the stomach churning appearance of Mr Sweet and just how close he and Mrs Gillywater really were. I also really liked the religious zealotry in the motivation of the villain’s desire to destroy the world to create a paradise. This both alluded to the Eugenics movement that begin in the year this episode was set (1883 was the year Eugenics was given its name) and the horrors of fundamentalism.

I mentioned before that the episode was not perfect and what I didn’t like was the unnecessary Thomas Thomas/TomTom joke,  the grainy effect that was used for the flashback and the  fact that it wasn’t well explained how the red leech could show Mrs Gillyflower how to build a huge rocket with only a handful of helpers. However, these are only minor points that don’t spoil what was definitely the best episode for a long time.

Next week

‘Nightmare in Silver’ – Neil Gaiman is back and so are the Cybermen. I have picked up an interest in cybernetics and body modification recently so from the trailer it looks like this episode will feed my current obsession. It is also set in a creepy dilapidated theme park world – in the hands of Mr Gaiman, I’m struggling to see how this could go wrong.


Geek gathering – An evening at the Arthur C. Clarke Award

Last night was the first time the Clarke Award was open to the general public. Tickets sold out fast so here is a review of the night from a fan’s perspective for those not lucky enough to get one.

The night started with 250 geeks, nerds, writers and boffins filtering themselves into a large lecture hall in the beautiful Royal Society building off Pall Mall in London. I went just as a fan with some of the members of the Science Fiction Book Club and Postapocalyptic Book Club and we chatted through our excitement of the upcoming night.

When the event itself started it was with an intellectual bang – a panel discussion that glided around designing the ecology of a living spaceship, detecting gravitational wave direction, mathematically modelling visual illusions and virtual reality torture from experts in these unusual and fascinating fields.

We then had speeches to build the tension. At some points that tension was a little drawn out but once the head judge stared his run through the book descriptions the room went silent everyone felt the climax of the prestigious award was close.

Professor Ian Stewart of the science of Diskworld fame came to the stage with the envelope that felt like the most important piece of paper in the galaxy for the 10minutes he took to expound upon be importance and meaning of the award and Clarke himself.

Quite abruptly, Professor Stewart opened that pregnant envelope. And the winner was … Chris Beckett for ‘Dark Eden’. There was a screech from the audience at the announcement and Chris came up to collect his award. His speech was wonderful and included the memorable “I was a solitary child who spent his time reading and writing indoors. The other children might have got other things like healthy fresh air but [brandishing the award] have they got one of these? Probably not!”


The post announcement drinks reception were an interesting affair filled with mainly people from publishing houses, writers and organisers of geek groups such as the Sci-Fi Society. As someone who was there just as a fan this was an odd experience as networking events are when you lack a networking motive.

There were murmurings of displeasure from the literary agents about the panel discussion that they might normally appreciate but not when they give up their evening for what for them was work. However, overall there was a positive buzz as the free wine was downed in the hallowed halls surrounded by portraits of the great scientists of old.

After being very politely thrown out of the Royal Society a hundred strong party left for the pub and I got to spend time speaking to the winner, his lovely wife and the editor of the book. I hadn’t thought I’d get this opportunity to talk with these guys at such length but hey, when you throw yourself into the Clarke Award evening, odd things can happen.

I’m confident that next year they will find a stronger balance between appealing to the literary agents and the general nerds so when the 2014 Award comes around I would advocate every sci-fi fan try to get a ticket. It will be a tough race and you will have to beat me to one first.


“The Doctor’s Library!” Review of ‘Journey to the Centre of the Tardis’, Doctor Who Series 7, Episode 10


As I wrote last week,  when Doctor Who features big industrial spaceships I’m already happy – The Girl in the Fireplace and The Satan Pit are two episodes where this trope is used best – but this episode also gave us a journey through the bowels of the universe’s most mysterious blue box, making it by far my favourite of the the series so far. In the end it was an episode for the fans – but hey, I’m a fan so I loved it.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Full review – huge spoilers

Opening scene and cue the aforementioned industrial spaceship, an enormous salvage vessel searching the galaxy for junk, scrap and hopefully treasure. On board a young man uses his bionic eyes to get a reading of a ship that keeps appearing and disappearing. At first I thought these were just implants but then another crew member called him an android – thankfully my Whovian radar is still functioning adequately and my first guess would later be proved right.

On the TARDIS the Doctor and Clara have an argument about the fact that Clara and the TARDIS are not exactly getting on very well. The Doctor tries to mend the rift between his two favourite girls by having Clara try piloting the ship. Then the salvage ship disturbs the test drive by capturing the TARDIS with a ‘magnetic grab’, which also causes a violent reaction from inside the console room. During the usual explosions and thrashing about, Clara notices a small silver object rolling towards her that she picks up, burning her hand.

We return after the opening credits to see the TARDIS being passed along by huge mechanical arms (with the help of some unfortunate Doctor Who CGI) into the salvage yard where the crew try to crack it open. The Doctor makes his entrance with a friendly, “It’s rude to whisper” as three crewmen debate whether to dump the TARDIS and his body. After quickly explaining that he knows they have used an illegal piece of tech to grab his ship he promises the men the salvage of a lifetime if they come with him to help find Clara.

We then cut to Clara who wakes up covered in TARDIS parts and nursing her burnt hand. As she wonders around dodging fireballs she starts to notice that the burn looks like it might be something more than it first appears.

Back with the Doctor and the crewmen. Now we of course knew that he wouldn’t actually give them the TARDIS, but trapping them inside and setting a self-destruct timer so they are forced to help does seem a little harsh. He warns them of their mistake with my favourite line from the episode – “Don’t get into a spaceship with a madman, didn’t anyone ever teach you that?”

Then the episode got really interesting for fans as we got to stroll around some of the deepest parts of the TARDIS with Clara – before needing to run around them as she is chased by horrible burning lava zombies. We see a little Time Lord’s crib, the famous swimming pool and, of course, the library! Oh, the library! For someone who loves a bit of book porn this was Doctor Who heaven. Luckily, instead of wading through copies of Agatha Christie, Clara went straight to the History of the Time War and finds out the Doctor’s real name – a fact she will of course forget as she must do for the story arc of the series to continue.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Whilst Clara is catching up on her reading, the least savoury crewman is of course doing something unsavoury by stealing some living metal from a glowing tree that has the ability to make any other machine. The Doctor warns of a TARDIS tantrum but the episode wouldn’t have been interesting if the crewman just did as he was told and put it back.

After hiding behind the Encyclopedia Gallifrey, which is contained in an interesting liquid word technology, Clara is chased out of the geek paradise by the lava zombie. And, speaking of lava zombies, we then see the rather slow-witted crewman, who has been tasked by his unsavoury brother to strip the console room apart, killed by one of these burning baddies – oh well, that was bound to happen so it was hard to feel sorry for him.

The Doctor, the unsavoury and unhuman crewmen are now stuck in the labyrinth that the TARDIS has created within itself and Clara also feels these effects as she finds herself in an echo of a control room that she can’t escape. The Doctor duly saves her and, just before she is fried by one of the lava creatures, reveals that the self-destruct countdown was just a rouse (using the “wiggle some buttons trick”) to frighten the crew into helping. But again that wouldn’t have been dramatic enough so we find out that the TARDIS is about to explode for real because of the effects of the magnetic grab and now everyone has to go straight to the centre of the ship to stop this from happening.

On the way Clara gets lost again (of course she bloody does) and encounters some ghostly memory versions of herself and the doctor as the past starts to leak in around them. After finding each other aand running away to avoid the TARDIS impaling them with metal spikes, they come across the crewmen and see that the android has already been skewered, which forces the unsavoury crewman to admit that the android is really his brother with a few implants (I knew it!) and that the android thing was all some sick joke to allow the unsavoury brother to be captain – brotherly love indeed.

Then things got weird and interesting. As our group find their way to the exploding star kept in a permanent state of decay that powers the TARDIS (you have to love Time Lord engineering), they are then trapped by the lava zombies. The crewman’s scanner then uncovers the secret that the Doctor has been hiding – that at least one of the zombies is a future version of Clara (yes, this is the weird and interesting part). So, the Doctor brought Clara to the TARDIS to keep her safe from whatever happens to her but seems unable to stop whatever it is that is causing her horrible end – confusing, but in a good way. After they fight off some of the zombies and touch each other exactly when the Doctor warns them not to (silly secondary characters), the crewmen brothers meld together into the creepy conjoined zombie that they have just killed – timey wimey stuff I suppose.

The Doctor and Clara run out of the chamber and stop just before going over a chasm. The Doctor explains the history of his encounters with her and her other versions – well he might as well if they’re about to explode – to try and force her into telling him who she is, but she genuinely doesn’t know. After a nice hug the Doctor realises that the chasm is just the TARDIS trying to frighten them and they take a leap of faith into the heart of the TARDIS that has already exploded but is temporally held in stasis for the Doctor to fix. He despairs before noticing the backwards writing on Clara’s hand “BIG FRIENDLY BUTTON” and figures out how pin-point the right moment through the music (thankfully there was a reason for it) and rewrite time so that the whole episode doesn’t happen – well at least we get to remember that awesome library.

Before the Doctor does the rewriting and kills this version of himself in the process, Clara tells the Doctor that she knows his name but he stops her from revealing it – damn you Doctor! We then go back to the moment of the magnetic grab. The Doctor hits the big friendly button on the remote and time is rewritten with some unusual side-effects i.e. the unsavoury brother is now kinder to the still-thinks-he’s-an-android brother.

Overall this was a great episode for one that didn’t happen. The side characters were more interesting than the ususal expendable drones, and although there wasn’t a particularly strong narrative, the tour around the TARDIS and teasing nods at Clara’s mystery were enough to please any fanboy or girl. This journey gets a strong 7 out of 10.

Next week

‘The Crimson Horror’ – a Victorian mystery with Strax, Vastra and Jenny. I predict there will be the usual fun high-jinks from this threesome but I’m not optimistic about the plot from what we saw from the trailer. If something more is revealed about the Clara mystery then I’ll be happy but my expectations are low.


“Ghosts, busted.” Review of ‘Hide’, Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 9


It was a dark and stormy 70s and the Doctor and Clara are hunting a ghost… or are they? This episode worked best when the Doctor and Clara stuck to exchanging witty remarks in a house haunted by spooky cliches but the convoluted plot and dull side characters soured what could have been a great ghost story.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Full episode review – huge spoilers

The episode opens with two ghost hunters (Professor Palmer and Emma Grayling) as they go through a quick seance with the ‘witch of the well’. Immediately afterwards the Doctor and Clara announce their arrival with a jovial ‘Boo!’ before the opening credits role. Next comes my favourite scene – the Doctor’s whirlwind entrance. Complete with witty banter and confuddeld supporting characters, in these entrance scenes (which almost every episode contains) the Doctor can be his most eccentric and the companion play his apologist/fellow-eccentric. Best bits from this week’s whirlwind introduction were:

Doctor – “I’m the Doctor.”

Professor Palmer -”Doctor What?”

Doctor – “Oh, I suppose that’ll do.”


Doctor – “I do love a toggle switch. Also, the word ‘toggle’. Nice vowel, excellent verb!”

The whirlwind was followed by the standard set up and this week’s was a wonderfully creepy ghost story. Primerally recounted by the Professor, the tale of the Caliburn ghost contained some choice spooky cliches such as “The witch in the well is accompanied by a knocking that sounds as if the devil himself is demanding entry” and “Written on the wall was “for the love of god, stop screaming””- chilling indeed.
One thing I that I didn’t really like in this episode was the Doctor’s patronising tone towards Clara. The best example of this came straight after the ghost story set up. Being the last remaining Lord of Space and Time means that talking down to his companions comes naturally to the Doctor but “I dare you. No takesies backies” and “your pants are so on fire” took the talking to a child tone a little too far and I hope this doesn’t continue through the rest of the series. That being said, in ‘Hide’ the Doctor and Clara looked more comfortable together than ever before and she is beginning to feel like a real companion, which is odd because it is actually the first episode that Jenna Louise-Coleman filmed for the season.

Throughout the episode, there was a subplot of unspoken love between Professor Palmer and Grayling but unfortunately these side characters were extremely forgettable (they are no Thomas Kincade Brannigan from ‘Deadlock’). It’s ironic that in an episode in which an empath plays a vital part, the Professor and his psychic love-interest assistant left me as cold as the Doctor’s icy hearts.

Whilst the dull side characters were failing to express their love for each other, the Doctor and Clara explored the dark corridors with a candelabra that begged to be blown out by a mysterious gust of wind, which of course happened about five minutes later. The cliches came thick and fast: Cold spot, chalk on the floor, dodgy ghost-detecting machinery, a huge drop in temperature, ‘HELP ME’ being written on the wall, and the classic “if you are not holding my hand, who is?” Cliched? Yes, but these ‘the Doctor meets a ghost story’ scenes were the most enjoyable and saved the episode from its flabby narrative.

The rest of the story followed along the usual lines – mini-scary part, a lull in which the characters have deep conversations and the Doctor figures out what is really going on, followed by the bigger dramatic scary bit.

This week’s lull involved the doctor have a manly war chat that included carrier pigeons and Grayling and Clara have a heart-to-heart culminating in the former telling the latter not trust the Doctor. The Doctor and Clara then travel in time (but not space) so that the Doctor can take pictures of the ghost who he has worked out is a pioneer of time travel (named Hila) trapped in a pocket universe – as usual the you really have to ignore the appalling pseudo-science. During this sequence there was a lovely reappearance of the orange heat suit from ‘The Satan Pit’ and Clara and the Doctor have an exchange in which she claims that the Doctor must view us all as ghosts. The Doctor responds by saying that “you” (not clear whether it is Clara or humans/mortals in general) “are the only mystery worth solving”.

Now that the Doctor has solved the problem, he rescues the pioneer using Ms Grayling’s empathic powers and a make shift psychochronograph (wonderfull pseudo-science again). Unfortunately, the rescue leaves the Doctor trapped in the misty pocket universe alone with the monster (a crawling boney creature) that has been causing the pioneer all the distress felt by Grayling. At this point I was praying that as he didn’t have to get out using love and memories like the last time he ended up trapped on the outside of reality (‘The Big Bang’). Thankfully, it was Clara and the TARDIS who come to the Doctor’s rescue and he hitches a ride back to safety.

In the episode’s resolution phase, the Doctor reveals to Emma Grayling that he came here for her and not the ghost because he wanted her to ‘read’ Clara and tell him if there was anything odd. To the Doctor’s annoyance Grayling says she is just an ordinary girl.

After the Doctor lets slip that the link between Hila and Grayling was so strong because the former is the latter’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddaughter he has a head-slapping ‘Doh!’ moment and realises that the monster he met in the pocket universe was just trying to get his mate. It only remains for the Doctor to reunite ‘old romeo’ with his corridor dwelling love, which he does before the credits role.

Next week

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ looks like my favourite kind of Doctor Who episode – dark industrial space drama; I just hope this episode can combine the elements of this promising genre with a tight narrative so that is doesn’t leave me as cold as this week’s did.