Category: television

one of my oldest memories is krullsettling down on a sunday afternoon to watch a piece of tacky 80s sci-fi or fantasy. films like Tron, The Dark Crystal and Willow are all films that i have faint memories of sitting down to watch between the ages of 5 and 10, only for them to disappear from my consciousness until years later when some rattle at the back of my head made me pick them up again. Krull was always one of the most mysterious of these films, for the simple fact that i’d try and describe it to people, “it’s got a big castle and they shoot lasers and ride around on horses!” only to get blank looks back, people obviously doubting the memory of a five year old viewer. i managed to tear the knowledge from someone on a long forgotten message board a few years back, leading me to finally get hold of the DVD and watch it again. this afternoon, i decided to relive those sunday afternoons of old and curled up in a chair to watch it.

krull actors

David Battley (left), Freddie Jones (second left), Liam Neeson (third left) and Alun Armstrong (right)

now this is probably the point at which (if you hadn’t read the title of this post, anyway) you might expect me to confess its utter rubbishness, ‘best left as a fond memory!’ i hear you cry. well actually no! because while i can watch it now with a far more critical eye, it hasn’t actually lost any of that magic which made me think about it year on year through the 90s. looking at the cast list now, it reads like a who’s who of british actors, yet in 1983, this was a breakthrough role for many of them. Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane have probably gone on to have the most successful careers, but Alun Armstrong (New Tricks), Todd Carty (Eastenders), Freddie Jones (Emmerdale) and the gorgeous Lysette Anthony (Corrie, Hollyoaks and others) all star, along with David Battley, bassist in Eric Idle’s comedy band The Rutles. for the proper geeks like me, we even spot Ken Marshall in the lead role, who later went on to star as Commander Eddington in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

as has been noted in countless reviews of the film, a cross between The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, we see the heroes embark on their epic quest to rescue the captured princess, battling against cyborgs and clones, while encountering giant spiders and seers. there’s something quite quaint about the basic special effects, though the faceless slayers provide an element of horror, with their inhuman wails upon dying remaining as clear in my memory as the day i first sat down to watch the film on that rainy sunday afternoon. krull filmupon reaching the lair of the The Beast, the heroes start dropping like flies, with most of them meeting a grizzly end at the hands of slayers. this fantastic (meant in the literal sense) yet slightly naff world, coupled with the appearances of many a future soap star, is why it remains such a favourite of my youth though. there’s something quintessentially British about the film that makes it charming even now, and while it doesn’t really stand up to its yank counterparts of the time (Star Wars, Blade Runner, E.T., Star Trek II, Dune were all american contemporaries), it’s one of those films i can’t help loving. having snored through a viewing of Blade Runner the other day in yet another attempt to see what the fuss is about recently, there’s no doubt which one i’d rather be watching. sure, it’s technically inferior in almost every way, but that’s not necessarily what i want from a film every time. Krull is funny, it’s exciting, it doesn’t take itself seriously, and it contains just the right amount of british silliness to make it a classic in my eyes. i might be alone in that, but meh, i’ve never been a trend setter.


right, now strictly speaking, berthaBertha wasn’t a robot, she was a factory machine who would usually solve the crisis of the day by manufacturing some vital item. nevertheless, i reckon she definitely qualifies through virtue of having big robot hands, a big robot mouth, and generally being totally sweet. i remember watching this show in my very early childhood and being wowed by the important socio-economic class issues of the time. i mean, who could forget the episode where the workers go on strike and shut Bertha down? of course, the bit where they go on to scab after being tempted by a large pot of tea somewhat ruins it, but we’ll forget about that… there was definitely a worker/boss divide in the show that mirrored the miner’s strike going on at the same time.

Tom Berthaback to the robots. Bertha made a range of items such as springs, garden gnomes, other robots, cuckoo clocks, windmill shaped money boxes… Bertha truly is the most versatile factory robot ever created. hardly surprising that the bosses often relied on her as their best machine! i have to say, my memories of the show are somewhat vague, and it’s only the theme tune that sticks well in my mind. all the other details i’ve had to look up, but this has jogged my memory, leading me to remember that there was in fact another robot in the show called T.O.M. (Talk Operated Machine). i’ve been watching some YouTube vids and i forgot how cool he was! especially when he dropped a plant pot on one of the boss’s head from the top of a flight of stairs. this was during the workers’ strike. great show of solidarity T.O.M.!

anyway, i’m off to watch as much Bertha as i can find on YouTube. i’ve given you two cool robots for the price of one in this issue, so that should keep you ticking over for a little bit. all i need to do now is get rid of the theme tune that’s running round and round in my head…

The First Men in the Moon – review

wow! how good was that? Mark Gatiss has long been one of my favourite comic actors, ever since he burst into the mainstream consciousness with the League of Gentlemen. his dedication to the sci-fi genre is well documented, with him being the author of several Doctor Who books in the 90s, but his CV has been well enhanced in recent years with writing credits on the Sherlock Holmes remake, The Quatermass Experiment, the new series of Doctor Who and his History of Horror trilogy, currently showing on BBC4. Gatiss has proven his credentials as a connoisseur of the peculiar, and this didn’t disappoint.

as you might or might not know, i’m a big fan of sci-fi, and i’ve recently started to check out a few of the old sci-fi classics. while i’ve worked my way through The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, The First Men in the Moon is not one i’ve got round to reading yet. that wasn’t going to stop me tuning in for this show though, and from the start we were introduced to the eccentric british gent that we’ve seen Gatiss performing before in previous shows. Gatiss plays that slightly twee and offkey character so well, and his part as Doctor Cavor has a charming air of buffoonery, not least as he frequently proclaims that he and his fellow adventurer Mr Bedford (played by Rory Kinnear) will be absolutely fine… probably.

the low budget for this gives the adaptation that distinctive lo-fi BBC feel, but that doesn’t detract from the piece, as it’s for precisely these kind of productions that BBC4 gets its good reputation. as well as Gatiss’s usual excellent performance, his script contains no mean amount of humour, delivered excellently as he proclaims the moon to be some kind of desolate outpost, like Wales.

i’ve always been fascinated by the novels of HG Wells and his early brand of science fiction. it always delivers that curious mixture of modern science fiction ideas before their time coupled with edwardian Britain. it’s clear where much of the modern steampunk genre takes its influence from, and yet many of these ideas are contained within damning allegories of imperialist rule and human society at the turn of the 20th century. this adaptation plays on that splendidly as intrepid scientist and explorer, Cavor, battles against his businessman companion, Bedford, who appears determined to seek some kind of advantage from his visit to the Moon, whether it be in the form of requisitioning treasures or returning with guns to conquer the civilisation they discover. it finished on a sad note, with no little amount of pathos in Gatiss’s familiar acting style.

as i’ve already mentioned, i’ve yet to read the original novel myself, but i’d love to hear from anyone familiar with it who watched the adaptation, with your views on how successful you thought it was. i’m going to chalk it up as another success for Gatiss and his ever increasing pedigree in all things weird. good job BBC4 and more like this please! by the way, don’t miss The Quatermass Experiment (original film version) on BBC4 tomorrow at 10.45pm!

The First Men in the Moon

just a quick heads up that a new BBC production of The First Men in the Moon is going to be televised tomorrow! the TV adaptation of HG Wells’ classic novel has been written by self confessed sci-fi geek Mark Gatiss and should be worth a look, if it follows the Gatiss trend of turning out great television, with his recent series, A History of Horror and the remake of 1950s classic, The Quatermass Experiment. Gatiss takes a leading role in this remake, along with fellow League of Gentlemen stars Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton who will be playing the Moon and Sun respectively! (should be interesting seeing how that works out…) fingers crossed, this is going to be a faithful adaptation of the original novel, and another show to add to Gatiss’s growing reputation as a sci-fi/fantasy afficionado.

it should be appearing on BBC4 tomorrow night (that’s Tuesday 19th October) at 9pm, though as with most of my televisual viewing, i suspect i’ll be catching it on iPlayer at a later date. possible blog to come when i’ve watched it. let me know if anyone who reads this manages to see it!

Hot Rod was always my favourite transformer. when i was growing up, my two brothers had huuuuuge collections of transformers toys, with one collecting autobots and the other collecting decepticons. all i was left with was a couple of small crappy toys that had sparks fly out of the back of them as you dragged them across the floor (which were obviously pretty cool, but nowhere near as cool as massive robot toys that turned into guns, sports cars and fighter planes). unfortunately, when transformers was still being published by marvel comics, i was just a little too young to be getting into them, so all my memories come from the toys and the 1986 animated transformers movie, which i somehow managed to procure a pirate copy of at the age of 7.

i’ll probably alienate most of the people reading this now, but i always thought Optimus Prime was a bit of a dick. i mean, for a start, he just turned into a big truck. Galvatron/Megatron turned into massive guns! and  Hot Rod’s sports car was infinitely more kickass than either Prime or Ultra Magnus’ freight trucks. added to this, Prime was killed by being chucked over a cliff by Megatron and proceeded to hand leadership over to the biggest pussy on the autobot side. it was only once Hot Rod came to the rescue and relieved Ultra Magnus of his duties that everyone was saved from being screwed over by the planet eating robot, Unicron.

apparently, one of his catchphrases was “action is my middle name”, which is pretty cool, as long as you forget that another one was the slightly more rubbish “wisdom will always defeat firepower”. like most transformers, he could fire lasers out of his arms, but he also had a retractable saw blade in his arm , which let’s face it, pisses all over anything Ultra Magnus or Optimus Prime had. in fact, the only downside to his whole character, was when he had to take on the crappy name of Rodimus Prime, upon taking over leadership of the autobots. but then again, i guess crappy names kind of go with that job.