Thursday, 4 February 2016

Mystic Mountain - Digital style.

I've taken the plunge into digital painting and really enjoyed it. I used Krita, an art program which is free to download:

I followed a series of linked tutorials from the Age of Asparagus which sets out to convert the legendary Bob Ross' lessons on painting. The intro to these tutorials start here:

It was lots of fun and I'm hoping to do more!  (Click on the image for a closer look.)

Friday, 15 January 2016

New Doctor Who Fan Audio - Terrror Forming

A new Doctor Who fan audio from the creative team at DAM Productions.. Terror Forming!

Episodes 1 and 2 are already available with more to come!

The TARDIS is drawn off course and onto a Star Ship, the Doctor, Mike and K9 are separated and a familiar evil returns to conquer all whom oppose them.

Starring David Nagel, Michael Maher, Christopher Thomson and Jeff Smith. Written by Matthew Chambers!

I don't want to give away any further details, but you might get a clue from the artwork above!

Go here to learn more:

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Doctor Who - The Time Trap! Fantastic full cast audio production

I was thrilled to play the Doctor again for the first time in a number of years for a brand new Doctor Who audio adventure entitled "The Time Trap" from the Gallifrey Stands Podcast. This is a full cast production featuring a number of well known superstars from the worlds of science fiction including John GuilorRichard James, Toby Hadoke, Ross Mullan, Andrew Chalmers, Ian McNeice and lots more!

Not only that BUT delightfully this production is dedicated to Ronald McDonald House - a very worthy cause and one of great importance to us as this is where we stayed when my son Ben was so poorly. Ronald McDonald House is a wonderful facility for families when they are going through the worst of times. Please have a listen!

The Gallifrey Stands Podcast presents…

Doctor Who: The Time Trap.

Download The Tangent-Bound Network, iTunes, Stitcher :

When Time gets unstuck in the TARDIS, the Doctor must travel through its corridors experiencing moments from the past.

Joined only by his new companion Orla, they meet many friends & foes from their past and face some of their personal demons on their journey to fix the TARDIS, save the Doctor's timeline and the TARDIS herself.

Please give whatever you can to the charity ‘The Time Trap’ is recorded in support of, Ronald McDonald House charities Giving a place to stay for the families of children undertaking or recovering from surgery on or next to hospital grounds worldwide.

Doctor Who – The Time Trap Stars (In order of Appearance)

Doctor Squee as The Doctor
Michelle Sewell as Orla
Ross Mullan as Cowboy Bill
Toby Hadoke as Grandfather
Stuart Shaw as the young
Craig Lucas as Bar Tender 1
Paul Boniface as Bar Tender 2
John Guilor as the 1st & 4th Doctor
Scott Holden as ‘That Man’
Ben Gummery as the Newsreader
Lewis Mainwaring as The Weatherman
Robert Lloyd as The War Doctor
Richard James as The Master
Melissa Dwyer as Tegan
Mike Mann as Van Statten
Blake and Naimh Sewell as Orla’s Children
Claire Shaw as Sarah-Jane Smith
Andrew Chalmers as the Dark Journey Doctor
MA Tamburro as F.R.E.D
Adam Manning as the Doctor from Tyranny of the Daleks
Brian Coombes as the Brigadier

Special guest appearance by Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill


Sound effects by Monkey Basement productions
Music by Dan Parkinson at Wooden Heart recording studios Southampton
Artwork by Doctor Who artwork by VortexVisuals
Doctor Who the Time Trap was a Gallifrey Stands production
With thanks to AM Audio Media
Cheeky Monkey Pictures!
 Dottie Who.
The Doctor & Orla will return next Christmas in ‘Death at Christmas

Gallifrey Stands is sponsored by Check out the Doctor Who range today.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Doctor Who – Episode 1 - a review

Doctor Who – Episode 1

An Unearthly Child

A Review by Adam Manning

Doctor Who begins with the TARDIS.  After a shot of a policeman glancing at a junk yard on Totters Lane, for the first time we see the enigmatic form of a police box.  A common sight then, an item from a time gone by now, the opening sequence for Doctor Who sets a tone of mystery and forebdoing.

The episode introduces Barbara and Ian, two teachers at a school near to Totters Lane. They are an immediately attractive couple with warmth, familiarity and an understated closeness.   The subject of their conversation is one of their pupils, Susan Foreman, and her peculiar behaviour. The sense of mystery from the first scene in the junkyard is given a particular shape by the girl and this expository sequence is intriguing.

I managed to watch the pilot episode as well as the original and the differences between the two are quite telling. In the original episode that was broadcast, Susan is more innocent and sweet and seems a much more likely school girl in her mid teens than the petulant, knowing older adolescent suggested by the equivalent performance in the unaired pilot.

This engaging trio of characters propels the story along to a new scene, set back in the junkyard.  Here at last, seemingly by accident, we encounter the extraordinary character of the Doctor for the first time.  Barbara and Ian, investigating the enigma of Susan, the Unearthly Child, follow her to her purported home at Totters Lane and enter the gates that we saw in the first scene.  Susan is nowhere to be seen and then, hiding behind what looks like the remains of an old staircase, they see the figure of the Doctor, looking somewhat dandy with a smart hat and cloak.

The teachers, Ian and Barbara, are throughout touchingly concerned about their pupil and the encounter with the Doctor heightens their alarm until eventually, hearing Susan’s voice, they burst through the doors of the TARDIS and enter the fantasy world of the console room inside.  The writing and structuring is admirable as the tension builds to the point of the reveal of the inexplicably larger interior.

Though in the episode broadcast on Saturday 23rd November 2013 the Doctor grins and smiles with more impish charm than the pilot, he continues to be arrogant, condescending and a bully who ultimately cannot stop himself from acting maliciously.    This is all rather different from how the Doctor eventually became to be written.

The row between the teachers and the Doctor continues inside. The Doctor implausibly tries to explain how the interior is larger than the exterior and Susan explains that the name TARDIS was her creation, something that never again seems to fit within what we know about the Doctor’s past.  Another point of illumination comes when the Doctor gently mentions that he and Susan, his granddaughter, have had to flee from their own people and are not from Earth.  These little touches fire the imagination and the rationing of the background only increases the hunger to learn more.

This scene in the console room gives us some very memorable lines which herald so much of the series that is to come. “A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?” This wonderful line, delivered so well by William Russell, effectively sums up the whole series for the audience in one sentence.

At another point William Hartnell, in his prime in the role that he loved, wistfully asks, “Have you ever thought what it's like to be wanderers in the Fourth Dimension? Have you? To be exiles? Susan and I are cut off from our own planet - without friends or protection. But one day we shall get back. Yes, one day....”  Again, this line helps sum up so much about the series and indeed very little background was added to the Doctor for many years beyond this point.  The whole series has been set out in a short conversation. Interestingly, it foreshadows one of Hartnell’s other most cherished performances when he says goodbye to Susan at the end of an adventure on 22nd Century Earth.

The performances are all splendid.  This scene conjures up in the imagination a wildly exciting premise for the series, breathlessly outlining that the whole universe of space and time, and perhaps even beyond, is within reach and ready to be adventurously explored.  An attractive quartet of characters already seems suitably etched in the understanding.

Given that the Doctor’s general practice now is taken to be kindly inviting his companion’s along for the ride, it is something of a shock that here the Doctor concludes the episode by kidnapping Susan’s teachers, with little justification and a certain amount of trickery.  Yet within the confines of just the episode, the Doctor has a touch of malign capriciousness.  In a way not seen really until the beginning of the new series some forty years later, the TARDIS’ passengers are thrown to the floor when it launches into whatever random journey awaits them. Barbara and Ian even pass out.

The mood of dark mystery concludes the episode as well with a final shot of the TARDIS towering over a broken wasteland while only the shadow of a new figure appears, the character himself off screen to the side, unseen.

An Unearthly Child is an impressively successful opening for Doctor Who. It’s pervading sense of mystery is applied to all of the elements of the series, with the exception of Barbara and Ian who act as a believable centre from which the rest of the imaginary world can be viewed.  The fantasy context is set out in a richly detailed manner that intrigues the audience and the sharp performances bring out the intelligence of the setting.  The setting of the old, dark junkyard, with its antiques and clutter, cleverly accentuates the brightly illuminated, futuristic minimalism of the TARDIS interior.  Perhaps reminding us where the TARDIS is standing, the interior has a few old antique chairs and what looks like a hat stand.  The console itself is a beautiful hexagonal design.

Such a stunning debut can only make the viewer wander what will come next.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Doctor Who Returns – recollections from a fan

Part 1 - Rose

Can it really be ten years since it has returned? How has the Doctor warped time so that ten years ago doesn’t seem much more than a fortnight ago? To a Time Lord of course such tricks are trivial but it astonishes this Earth bound fan that the new series (we still call it new, whether it be new Who, nuWho or other alternatives) has been with us now for so long. In classic terms, it’s the equivalent of 1973 and a trip with the Brigadier and UNIT chums to Cromer, or the anti-matter universe as the Doctor insists on calling it.
After so many years of Who’s absence, it was with stunned amazement that the first announcements of its return were received.  As breathless, insistent fans we were tantalised with somewhat cryptic photos of props and sets.  Christopher Eccleston’s casting was greeted with general praise and a certain puzzlement. The BBC were throwing their gauntlet down; they weren’t going to be playing to type with this new version of the Time Lord. This was perhaps the first real shock about the returning vision for Doctor Who.  As wonderful an actor as he is, it was difficult to see Chris as the Edwardian gentleman scholar we were expecting.

After the cancellation of the classic series in 1989, the audience had of course grown older. New fans appeared to be sure, and they are to be thanked and blessed, but in essence as with any show that comes to an end, enjoyment of the show turned more and more into nostalgia for what had been.  As this process continued, a residual concept of what Doctor Who was, it’s style and look, became more prominent.  With no more new episodes to rein in an already very imaginative audience in, an abstraction developed, based on all the years of the series coupled with fan’s desire for what the series should be.

The 1996 Television Movie had encapsulated this somewhat automatic conception of how Doctor Who ought to be revived.  He would be a rather dashing but slightly diffident dandy, dressed in a Victorian or Edwardian costume and the general setting, at least as far as the Time Lord and his TARDIS were concerned, would be a fabulous gothic with whiffs of steampunk.  The gothic meme weighed heavily on the Doctor, combining with the vistas of H.G. Wells and Jules Vernes.  The Eighth Doctor and his TARDIS in 1996 beautifully and perfectly portrayed this approach to the Doctor.

Doctor Who has always been, fundamentally, a family show principally aimed at children at junior school.  Yet after the cancellation and as the audience grew older, the needs of its audience changed and any revitalisation would, we as fans implicitly felt, be aimed at the much older audience that had grown up with the series.

And in a way, the first proper trailer for the new series appeared to pick up on the idea of an older, more adult series.  It’s a very powerful, effective trailer.  The first shot is a dank, crumbling tunnel seemingly deep underground with a sinister off yellow tint to it. This isn’t glamorous Victoriana. It’s a real looking location that has an almost dystopian feel to it.  There’s an explosion, but it’s not some weird outlandish science fiction blowing up. It’s a genuine, matter of fact looking blast and happening as it does down a tunnel it seems shockingly true to life and terrifying.

In quick succession there is then a double cut of Chris’ Doctor raising his face to look into the camera.  These are intercut with a shot of the Doctor’s booted feet as he runs down the tunnel.

Shooting feet like this is evocative stuff as the mind goes into overdrive trying to imagine the rest of the person, adding to the tension. We are teased with a glimpse around the wonderful new design of the TARDIS console, just enough to make us salivate for more. It’s not steampunk, it’s not gothic. It’s far more exciting. Something new.

A forced zoom down the tunnel adds to the real life quality of the footage. Chris’ Doctor then, in slow motion, climbs steps up to the new TARDIS console.  The distinctively assertive, confident nature of the Doctor’s movement is matched by his style of speaking, giving the striking impression of being in the presence of someone dynamic and powerful. Of course to many in the audience the fact that he speaks with a northern English accent put him immediately at odds with all our expectations of how the Doctor should talk.  Subverting stereotypes in this way broke the series into new territory.   This isn’t the audience’s party anymore; it is the Doctor’s and, as he suggests in the trailer, you are lucky to be invited.

This was a stunningly different way to present Doctor Who. The cumulative effect of the intercutting edit, Chris’ spell binding performance and the design and visuals all work to suggest a show that is very modern with a sophisticated, non-linear style.  The lonely figure of the ninth Doctor running down that exploding tunnel suggested more a sixties era character always on the edge of real world danger – a Danger Man or Steed from the Avengers – rather than Tom Baker offering a bag of jelly babies to an adversary.  It was a very exciting trailer and like many fans I watched it a lot in the build up to Rose.  I was full of admiration for the team working on the new series as they seemed to be aiming for something different and unexpected for Doctor Who.

Of course, trailers are always in danger of creating in the imagination of the intended audience a programme or series that is totally different from the final, full product and in retrospect there seemed to be something of that going on with the first episode of the new series, Rose.

I will never forget sitting down that Saturday evening with a gang of friends to watch it.  Obviously the over-expectation was enormous.  The ninth Doctor was as revelatory as expected but the episode as a whole left me somewhat deflated.  This was purely due to my implicit need as a viewer to have the show be for me, an adult.  Lots of episodes of the new series are more adult in content than others so I would go into be delighted with so many episodes.

Yet Rose was in retrospect a proper family friendly, child targeted episode and the wise people at the BBC, especially that national treasure Russell T. Davies, wanted it that way. The Autons are frightening. We see them killing people in a busy shopping street, with all its implications for domestic horror especially as by implication it is clear that children are in the danger zone.  But it’s family drama style frights, not 28 Days Later. The humour is funny and much of it at the proper level for children as well.  In hindsight, I admire and love the episode as much as any other. It is just that we were at the start of a fairly lengthy journey of rediscovering what family or mass audience fantasy and adventure programmes were like.

The scene on the street near the TARDIS where the Doctor describes to Rose how he can feel the cosmic interplay around them is breathtaking and wonderfully laid down markers for further explorations of the Doctor and his new history, particularly in the following episode End of the World.

So my expectations as a long term fan coupled with my over eager interpretation of the Trip of a Lifetime trailer had lead me to require Rose to be a certain thing and when it wasn’t, it felt like a bit of an anti-climax.  It has to be remembered that when the new Doctor Who started, the national habit of watching this sort of programme had been neglected for many years.  Doctor Who’s success prompted other fantasy shows such as the surprisingly good Primeval  and the BBC’s Merlin, Robin Hood and Atlantis.  Perhaps in a similar way to Harry Potter’s revival of children’s literature, the new Doctor Who has brought a lot of fantasy and imagination to a whole new generation of children.

It didn’t help of course that the broadcast of Rose was famously affected by a “leak” from the studio where Graham Norton was presumably engaged in some post-show banter with his audience.  This really irritated me as due to the very different style of the show I was finding it hard enough to engage with Rose.  Looking back, it just seems a rather funny anecdote for fans to mention when discussing their show.

This though, was only the beginning..



Sunday, 31 May 2015

Full length review of Tyranny of the Daleks

I was fascinated to read a full length review of Tyranny of the Daleks and flattered that the writer took the time to set out their thoughts on it.  I agree with a lot of the comments in it. As a fan film maker, one of the defences I've always employed is that when we made our film, the enjoyment and fun of making the film was at least as important as the finished article. At the same time though, it's fair to say that if we had the skill (and budget!) to cure it of its deficiencies we would have done so as we were keen to make it as good as we could.

Have a read here:

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Champion of Saturn - full length release!

At long last a full length edition of our science fiction mockumentary,Champion of Saturn is available for viewing!

It is the futuristic year 1950 A.D. Earth is under threat from the evil Emperor Zang, ruler of Saturn. Only Henry V, King of Earth, and his brave band of rocketship pilots can save Earth from devastation by atomic cannon attack!