The Alternate Start To The Cornetto Trilogy

Tremors By Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Tremors By Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg

As we write this, the finale of the Cornetto Trilogy is entering its final stages. The World’s End is the third (well, third and a half if you count ‘Paul’) movie in the unofficial trilogy of genre fiction/comedy/blisteringly funny, smart and frequently touching dissections of the male geek psyche trilogy that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg started with Shaun of the Dead. The first two movies, Shaun  and Hot Fuzz, are fiercely smart love letters to and parodies of zombie movies and cop movies respectively and The World’s End is…well…here’s the thing. We don’t know. There’ve been conflicting reports ranging from zombies and a musical number to Simon Pegg claiming the movie isn’t actually about the end of the world at all. What we do know is that, decades after they first attempted it at college, a group of friends try and complete an epic pub crawl as…something, begins to happen out in the world. We know Wright is directing, know Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are front and center and we know that this time they’re being joined by a supporting cast including Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine and David Bailey, who I fervently hope, is making his peace with spending the next few years being asked if he’s going to be playing William Hartnell playing the 1st Doctor again soon. We also know it will involve a flavor of Cornetto ice cream, because, in each of the previous movies, the ice cream has appeared. All the signs point to The World’s End being a perfect capstone to two of the smartest, most interesting geek culture movies of the last twenty years.

But what if Shaun wasn’t the first movie? What if the trilogy had taken us down a different path. Like the man says, come with us now on a journey through time and space as we explain how, one universe, Edgar Wright’s first Cornetto movie was both very different and weirdly familiar…

Island of Lost Scripts

In 2002, riding high on the success of Spaced, Wright and Pegg went to LA to meet with the studios. They had a script ready, a self styled ‘zomromcom’ about a feckless young Englishman who finds himself forced to step up again and again as the cosy world he’s built himself is literally eaten away by the zombie apocalypse. The buzz on the script was huge, Spaced had closed out as a vast critical success and its cult status was achieved and the whole movie could be filmed, in London, for a modest budget.

There was just one problem; no studio would finance it shooting there. Pegg and Wright took meeting after meeting, all positive and all, in the end, boiling down to one request;

‘Can you set it in LA?’

The pressure on the two was almost indescrible; they were, at this stage, two UK comedy writers without a tremendous amount of work behind them and they’d been handed the brass ring; a shot at Hollywood. To turn this down would spell career suicide but to compromise the script’s inherent Britishness could mean the exact same thing. In interview years later, Wright admitted they’d kicked around rewriting it for a female lead and calling it Dawn of the Dead, but it had never gone anywhere and, for a while, it seemed Wright and Pegg would do the same.

Until they came up with an idea; they were untried, untested as big screen scriptwriters.

So why not take the initial script out of their hands altogether? The plan they presented was simple; give us carte blanche access to everything you have in devel0pment hell, we’ll pick a script, pitch it and if you like it, then that’s what we’ll push ahead on. Then, if it’s successful, Shaun would be next on the list.

Universal agreed, and Wright and Pegg picked an undeveloped script from 1987 by SHORT CIRCUIT writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock entitled “Tremors”.

The RomMonCom was born. (Romantic Comedy, with Monsters)

 

The Script

Tremors is set in the Desert town of Perfection Valley and follows the misfortunes of two British ex pats with one time big ideas trying to make their way in the world.

Valentine (Val) McKee (Simon Pegg) came to the US on a gap year and never went back. His work as a handy man in Perfection Valley means he knows, and is liked by, very nearly everyone but also means he has no reason to move on.  The fact he lives, and works, with best mate Earl Bassett, also an ex pat and handyman but more the ‘logistical side of things’ (And Perfection’s one and only drug dealer) doesn’t help either. The pair live on the outskirts of town, have all the beer, money and food they know what to do with and can drink for free at Chang’s as long as they unblock the toilets regularly. Life is good.

Life is also complicated. Val has been dating Rhonda, a geologist surveying the valley for the last six months. Now, she’s a few weeks off finishing and heading back to Berkeley. She’s asked Val to come with her. He hasn’t said yes yet. Things are getting awkward. They’re not helped by the fact Earl, whilst utterly charming, is also a foul-mouthed loser:

Earl:  Can I get… any of you cunts… a drink?

Matters come to a head when, on Rhonda’s last night in town, Val suggests they eat at Chang’s. With Earl. Again. Rhonda leaves him and a grief-stricken Val is taken out into the desert by Earl to play house music, blow stuff up and get drunker. The two men pass out on a rock and the camera tracks up as we see vast wakes in the sand, as though something huge was moving beneath the surface, pass the rock on each side and head to town. Unknown to the hapless duo the desert is crawling with giant underground monsters called Graboids. And they’ve found the town…

Walking to Walter Chang’s the next morning to buy a Cornetto, Val finds out from Walter about the disappearance of the doctor building his house on the other side of the valley. Curious, but hung over, he’s stumbles home. He’s barely through the door when there’s a scream, high pitched and squeaky, which is revealed to be Earl. He’s hiding by the back porch, watching their tool shed. The shed subsided in the night as a Graboid passed beneath it and now the creature, screaming in pain, is trying to tear itself free. The fact it takes a while for them to realize this leads to one of the best exchanges in the movie:

Val: Is it still out there?
[Earl checks, revealing a graboid appearing at the window]
Earl: Yeah. What you think we should do?
Val: Have a sit down?

Finally realizing they have to do something they start pelting the beast with cans of beer.

Val: Don’t throw that, its imported

The Graboid breaks free and the pair kill it using various power tools (Wright would later say in interview this scene is crammed full of references to classic ’80s video nasties. Fans also note the S-MART ‘Employee of the Month’ shirt Earl is wearing for much of the movie.) However, walking back along its trail they notice other creatures heading for town. The only reason they were able to kill the one beneath the shed was because it was trapped. Perfection is in a lot of trouble. They need a plan. They get:

Earl: Chang’s?

Val: CHANG’S.

What follows proved to be another fan favorite sequence, starting with Val saving the town pogo record holder (Played by young Ariana Richards) from a Graboid, taking in Val and Rhonda’s (sort of) reconciliation, the revelation that the bookish, polite Rhonda can out swear Earl and Val, Rhonda, Earl, Chang and the other townsfolk killing a Graboid with pickaxes to the tune of  the Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now” on the Jukebox in Chang’s  before they retreated to the roof.

The movie takes a dark turn as, despite Val heroically leading one Graboid away on foot, several townsfolk, including Chang, are killed and Val, coming to his senses and realizing they need to leave, retrieves the radio from Chang’s and calls local survivalist Burt Gummer. With his ultra heavy-duty tractor, and the trailer that Val and Earl were going to turn into a swimming pool hitched up, Burt comes and gets the survivors and leads them out to his compound, showing them his gun vault, which Earl responds to with the now classic line:

EARL: By the power of Grayskull…

They recuperate and Burt assures them the Graboids can’t get in right before one smashes the wall of his gun vault because Earl couldn’t be bothered to close the gate behind them. Everyone bar Burt, his wife, Val, Rhonda and Earl are killed and Val finally loses it at his oldest friend, screaming at him about how unreliable he is.

The survivors realize they need to get out of the valley to get help. The only way to do this is by riding the tractor out across eight klicks of pure sand, but, as Rhonda notes that on the way they’ll pass the geological survey station she was working at and can use the charges she has left to defend themselves. The survivors gear up, in a scene which riffs on the arming up scene in Predator (And would later itself be riffed on in Slither), and they head out.

The Graboids attack almost instantly and just as they reach Rhonda’s, the Graboids tear a wheel off the trailer, trapping them.  Seeing them on the verge of being over-run, Earl leaps from the trailer and runs off, the vibrations of his footsteps drawing the Graboids away. Val and Rhonda get the charges but the largest Graboid they’ve yet seen tears through the shed and a lit charge is dropped into the box of unlit ones. Val grabs a handful, as Rhonda punches the Graboid’s mouth tentacles out of the way and they run out of the shed just as it blows up. Trapped on a rocky outcrop, with a cliff to one side, another Graboid swarming the trailer and Earl presumed dead, all seems lost. In a surprisingly dark twist, they reconcile and talk about asking Burt to kill them at range, leading to Val’s memorable line;

VAL: I don’t think I have it in me to lose my job, my house, my best friend and ask the local gun nut to kill my girlfriend and I in the same day.

RHONDA: Who says I’m your girlfriend?

Val’s had enough. He kisses her, grabs the charges and sprints out towards the cliff, yelling and screaming. The others watch, horror struck as the Graboids all turn and head straight for Val. Standing at the very edge of the cliff, he lights and throws all the carges behind the Graboids, the sound and vibration enraging them and driving them even faster towards him. Val, clearly terrified, holds his ground and at the last possible second leaps aside as the Graboids smash through the cliff beneath him and…sail into thin air and crash to the ground hundreds of feet below, dying instantly.

With Val about to join them, dangling over the cliff edge. Rhonda runs to save him and hauls him back onto solid ground, just as a Graboid scream echoes nearby. The survivors, bloody and tattered, turn to face the new attack and find…

Earl…with a pet Graboid.

EARL (LOOKING AT EVERYONE’S AMAZEMENT): ….What?

Embracing his friend, Val asks how he’s alive and Earl explains he threw everything out of his pockets as he ran off, including his stash. Which the Graboid ate. And which appears to have calmed it down. The screen fades out on him talking to Burt about tourists coming to Perfection, and Val and Rhonda kissing.

It fades up on ad for a brand new Perfection Game Reserve, with Burt as the Head Warden. We see footage of the military coming into town and securing the Graboids, find out Burt refused to let the carcasses off his land until he was given an extensive grant and how Rhonda now divides her time between University of Texas, where she lectures about Graboids, and town, where she helps run the reserve along with Earl and Charlie the Graboid, still permanently high. Val for his part? Is married to Rhonda and taking classes at U of T. He’s training to become a zoologist but in the meantime, he’s still fixing toilets. Just to keep his hand in…

 

Reception and Sequels

The movie opened modestly, was critically acclaimed in the genre press for the unusual step of being a monster movie set almost entirely during the day and continues to enjoy a long life on DVD and On Demand services. No less than three sequels and a short-lived TV show were produced, none of which involved Wright, Pegg and Frost in any way. This wasn’t out of any sense of falling out, after all the studio were extremely pleased with the results, but rather a sense of them having ‘graduated’. Interestingly though, the franchise would remain a regular stopping off point for English screen writers cutting their teeth in Hollywood, with both Harold Overman and Toby Whithouse writing sequels. Also, the Spaced connection remained a close one, with Jessica Hyne starring as a colleague of Rhonda’s in the sequel and Michael Smiley appearing as both the new head of the Game Reserve in Tremors III and the TV show and his own, great grandfather in the hugely entertaining Steampunk prequel, Tremors IV. That movie was directed by Greg Mottola, who would go on to work with Pegg and Frost on Paul.

Spaced fans, still smarting from the confirmation of there being no third series, were split. Many were extremely fond of the movie but many others decried it as the three having sold out. Two of the most vocal criticisms were that they should have made the film in the UK and that Burt Gummer, Michael Gross’ character, was just a beefed up version of Mike, Frost’s character on Spaced. Wright answered the first criticism both with Shaun of the Dead, which he directed to huge acclaim immediately after Tremors, and answered the second when the DVD of the movie was released. A deleted scene sees Burt asks Val and Earl whether they know his nephew Mike, who lives in the UK. Earl opens his mouth to speak and Val cuts him off.  It also caught some criticism over the perceived homosexual nature of Val and Earl’s relationship:

 

Val: [about Earl] He’s not my boyfriend!
Earl: [handing beer to Val] It might be a bit warm, the cooler’s off.
Val: Thanks, babe. [winks]

 

This was also answered by Wright turning the right wing criticisms of the movie into a marketing tool, arranging for a two day film festival at the Alamo Drafthouse, alternating movies dealing with homosexuality and buddy action movies. The festival is still running today, and Wright is viewed as a friend of both the cinema and the city.

 

Next Steps

-Wright parlayed his success into not only Shaun of the Dead but a permanent ‘talent exchange’ arrangement with the US.  This led to him essentially splitting his career between the US and the UK, culminating in the confirmation of his Ant-Man movie at ComicCon in 2012. Rumours persist that Wright is front runner to take over control of the Marvel Movie universe when Joss Whedon steps away but those have yet to be confirmed. The possibility of him directing an episode of Doctor Who however, refuses to go away and Wright seems likely to go behind the camera there for Season 8 in 2014.

– Pegg, despite the doubts of some elements of British fandom, became a movie star in his own right in the US, appearing in the Mission:Impossible and Star Trek reboot series. He also narrowly missed out on a stint on Doctor Who, and, at time of writing, is one of the last few actors in contention for the lead role in Doctor Strange.

-Frost also made it big in the wake of Tremors, not only through working with Wright and Pegg but as a regular fixture on US TV. His laconic, deadpan approach on screen and his fierce love of cooking off made him a personality in his own right leading to him being invited to appear on shows as diverse as Man Vs Food, Dancing With The Stars and The Daily Show.

-The Cornetto trilogy became, in the end, two. The UK trilogy consisting of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End concludes this year but the US version has remained frustratingly incomplete with only Tremors (Red), and Paul (Green) completed and controversy surrounding Paul’s status as a Cornetto movie given the fact it was directed by Mottola. However, in the last few months it’s been confirmed that Wright has chosen another script from the vaults;

an abandoned 1980s action comedy called Police Academy.

It seems that the American blue Cornetto is finally on the way. Even better, Wright and Pegg have confirmed this is the long-rumored crossover movie. Sergeant Nicholas Angel is going to America. And he’s bringing his ice cream with him.

The Other 11 Doctors – Female Doctor Who

(With thanks to Pete Strover and Craig Oxbrow for playing this game on Twitter last night)

So, the Doctor. The Oncoming Storm. DOC-TOR. Call him what you want, but regardless of what you call him he’s always…him. A female Doctor is an idea that’s been floated more than once, with The Curse of Fatal Death giving us a brief appearance by Joanna Lumley as the Doctor, Big Finish releasing a single disc in their Doctor Unbound series based on the premise that when a Time Lord kills themselves they regenerate into the opposite gender and Helen Mirren going on record as saying she’d love the role. Oh and Stephen Moffat polling a convention about it a little while ago and the entire audience essentially telling him they’d stop watching if he did it.

Now, whilst I have my doubts about that, the truth is that right now it’s not really on the cards. Which is a real shame because, HELEN MIRREN! COME ON, MAN! She’d be awesome! But what if it wasn’t an issue…because it was never an issue? What if, in this the 50th Anniversary year, we were celebrating five decades of a show about a female Doctor? Come with us now on a journey through time and space as we explore a very different 50 years of Doctor Who, and a very different 11 Doctors…

1st Doctor- Joyce Grenfell

Doctor Who began as a show with the odds stacked against it; a crew of mavericks put together so the BBC could say they’d given them a fair chance before firing them. However, instead of bowing to the seemingly inevitable, the crew decided to take their once in a lifetime opportunity and work it for all it was worth. The end result was Joyce Grenfell being cast as the first Doctor.

Best known as a perky, cheerful figure in post-war Britain, Grenfell relished being given the opportunity to play a darker, more mercurial role. Her Doctor was a chaotic figure, a cheerful nanny one moment and a stone eyed matriarch the next. Over time, the show even came to play with this, especially in Dalek stories where Grenfell would alternate between the schoolmarm role she was best known for and the darker, intense element she grew to revel in to tremendous effect.  Signing onto the role amidst a sea of criticism, when she left, the BBC were flooded with tributes and pleas for her to come back. She never returned to the role, although remained proud of it for the rest of her life.

2nd Doctor-Hattie Jacques

Grenfell’s replacement was no less controversial a choice. Hattie Jacques had made her name as a comic radio actress and was involved in the Carry On movies, frequently as a matronly figure. However, anyone expecting a continuation of Grenfell’s approach was in for a surprise as Jacques took the role in a radically different direction. A wildly eccentric, deadpan,  puckish Doctor, she used her reputation and physical stature to create an astonishing take on the character; a cosmic clown who could bring a tear to the eye with nothing more than a change of posture. On taking the role, decades later, Miranda Hart would cite her as a major influence.

3rd Doctor-Honor Blackman

Fresh off her success with the Avengers, Blackman took the show in a very different, far more physical direction than Jacques. Her Doctor was an action heroine, the stories filled with car chases, explosions and fist fights. Many fans welcomed this with open arms, whilst many more felt the show had become The Avengers with occasional aliens. Despite this, her run was extremely successful and is notable for a series of appearances by Vanessa Redgrave as the Mistress.

4th Doctor- Penelope Keith

The show returned to the controversy that had defined it’s casting of Joyce Grenfell with Blackman’s replacement. Penelope Keith was best known as a comic actress, and to make matters worse was in line for a leading role in The Good Life, a highly favoured sitcom being put together for the following year. In an immensely controversial move, Keith was awarded both roles and, in doing so, became the face of BBC TV for close to a decade. Her run as the Doctor was, and still is, regarded as the definitive version of the character by many fans, mixing her naturally arch, upper class comic timing with a tremendous flamboyance, laconic wit and theatricality. She attacked the role with a gusto not seen since the Grenfell years and proved such a success that jokes were dropped into The Good Life, hinting, strongly, that Margo and the Doctor were one and the same. However, behind the scenes, Keith freely admitted that the double duty and newfound celebrity was taking its toll and, ultimately, she asked to leave both shows. By the time she regenerated at the end of Logopolis (And a cheeky final line was dropped into The Good Life about Jerry and Margo popping out to Joddrell Bank for a picnic),  she had played the role far longer than any of her predecessors. That record remains intact today and Keith was recently attracted back to the role for a new range of audio dramas.

5th Doctor- Joanna Lumley

Another former Avenger, Lumley was given the thankless task of succeeding Keith in the role. She responded to this with aplomb, opting to go in the exact opposite direction to Keith’s performance, whilst at the same time keeping her inherently British approach. Dressed in cricket whites and with an air of the polite swashbuckler to her, Lumley’s 5th Doctor was arguably the nicest version of the character, a woman desperate to save everyone and shown, again and again, that she could not. Despite this, Lumley continued Keith’s sense of humour in the role and both were major influences on Perkins’ performance, with Lumley appearing alongside her in Time Crash.

6th Doctor-Miriam Margoyles

Margoyles’ performance was, at the time, widely criticised for being both too broad and too similar to earlier takes. Whilst this is debatable, it’s clear she suffered from script problems from the outset and this tainter her entire time on the show. With the advantage of time and distance however, her run as the Doctor is actually one of the most interesting. Margoyles plays her as a truly mercurial, unpredictable figure, mood changing scene by scene and with an unfettered arrogance the role had never had before, making the tragic events of several stories all the more effecting. Whilst her run was widely regarded as the least successful in the show’s history, Margoyles’ Doctor has enjoyed over a decade of new life on audio, giving her the critical acclaim she lacked, and deserved, during her time on television.

7th Doctor-Siobhan Redmond

Redmond came to the show with one remit; to give it back the edge many had felt it had lost during the Lumley and Margoyles runs. She did this almost straight away, using her natural Scottish accent, her distinctive build and red hair and dressed, very deliberately, in male clothing. She played the role with absent minded, academic charm and razor sharp comic timing. This was tempered by a tremendous natural authority and age that she could call on to chilling effect. Despite being the actress in the role when the show was cancelled, her run remains one of the most fondly remembered and critically acclaimed.

8th Doctor-Helen Baxendale

The 8th Doctor’s arrival was met with massive amounts of hype, with the unprecedented stunt casting of Julia Roberts as the Mistress overshadowing the entire production. It came and went with little fanfare, with Roberts vowing never to do TV again and British star Helen Baxendale largely, and unfairly, overlooked. However, the 8th Doctor would have the last laugh as Baxendale continues to enjoy huge success recording audio adventures for Big Finish, with current guest star companion Will Mellor.

9th Doctor-Suranne Jones

The 9th Doctor had everything to prove and the first trailers for the show demonstrated the exact level of bravado needed. Footage of Jones, in jeans, a black t-shirt and a leather jacket, sprinting away from an explosion were intercut with a monologue in the TARDIS control room where she not only trailed the show but made it clear just how dangerous things would be. Despite being around for just one season, Jones’ take on the Doctor is regarded by many new fans as the definitive one; her combination of Northern flamboyance and desperate, desperate need to atone for the sins of the Time War make it an electrifying season, with her chemistry with Rose and Captain Jack pushing these 13 episodes into contention for one of the greatest seasons in the show’s history.

10th Doctor-Sue Perkins

Fans still reeling from the 9th Doctor’s surprise exit were more than a little surprised to see Sue Perkins step into the role. In stark contrast to Suranne Jones’ mercurial, often grim take on the role, Perkins brought a lightness of touch and cheerful eccentricity that hadn’t been seen since the Grenfell years. Complete with brainyspecs, a new found joy in her work and remarkable chemistry with Rose, the 10th Doctor was a massive hit. The burgeoning romance between Rose and the Doctor, heartbreakingly cut short in ‘Doomsday’ and revived in ‘Journey’s End’, was praised by fans and critics alike, as Perkins became the first openly gay Doctor in the show’s history. Her final episodes, featuring the return of Sheridan Smith as the demented Mistress (Having regenerated from an award-winning cameo by Dame Judi Dench as Professor Yana), remain two of the highest rated episodes in the show’s history.

11th Doctor-Miranda Hart

The first real accusations of stunt casting since Catherine Tate’s bravura run as Donna Noble accompanied the announcement that well known comedienne Hart would be stepping into the role. However, just like Tate, Hart rose above the increasingly personal nature of the attacks and claimed the series as her own. Her combination of ‘Jolly Hockey Sticks’ style upper class jollity, physical comedy and surprising emotional depth meshed seamlessly with the role and led to an early run of fantastically well regarded episodes. Later seasons have seen the character take a slightly different, alien turn that many fans have had trouble dealing with, but Hart remains a rock solid core for the show. Rumours that she will leave in the as yet unannounced New Year’s 2013 special, to be replaced by Sophie Okonedo, remain unconfirmed.

So there you go, an alternate, female history of the Doctor. I would happily have watched any of these actresses in the role and who knows, one day I might. Hart does have something distinctly Gallifreyan about her…

Doctor Who Post 50th Anniversary Update

Welcome Back To Honolulu Heights: Being Human Season 5 Preview

Vampire Hal, Ghost Alex and Werewolf Tom - Image © BBC - www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/beinghuman/
I’m a weird Being Human viewer. I remember the pilot being shown and adoring it. It was a perfect combination of full bore supernatural contemporary drama and the sort of crappy bedsit sitcom/drama that British TV does so incredibly well. You got the sense that Mitchell, George and Annie would pop round to Meteor Street to hang out with Tim and Daisy from Spaced, any time they were in London, that kind of thing.

Then the uber plot arrived and the show began to pull away from me. The opening half of series two, with Mitchell struggling to rule Bristol’s vampires and the arrival of the glorious Daisy and Ivan, was fantastic and then…it turned out that anyone with any sort of religious faith was either a dangerous fundamentalist or a pervert.

Again.

I’ve got no interest in having the Religion Conversation but the show’s ridiculously simplistic view of faith managed to erode a lot of the good will it had built up.  Nonetheless I stuck with it and season three was largely great. Not only was Adam the teenage vampire huge fun (And Becoming Human, the online spinoff featuring him desperately needs more episodes), but the fact Mitchell was never off the hook for his actions in the second series made for fascinating drama.  Whilst series three had some missteps; Mitchell and Annie in the least romantic romantic relationship ever, deciding to bring Herrick back, the entire thing had a real sense of impending doom to it. The series culminated in the fantastic, horrifying scene where George kills Mitchell to save him and the final shot, of a tearful George, Annie and Nina preparing to go to war with the vampires once and for all, promised so much.

Then Sinead Kiernan left between seasons.

Then Russell Tovey admitted he was only appearing in one episode.

Which meant the only one of the original trio left was Annie.

Whilst I’ve enjoyed Lenora Crichlow’s work tremendously elsewhere, her version of Annie has always been far too scatty and frantic for me, especially after Andrea Riseborough’s fantastic, quietly laconic turn in the original pilot. To make matters worse, Annie’s plot had followed the same ‘lack of confidence, traumatic event, Akira level powerburst when narratively necessary’ track for three years. It was getting old and I really wasn’t relishing an entire season with Annie as the lynchpin.

If you toss a coin enough times, it will eventually land on its side.

That was Being Human season 4.

Despite being a season dealing with both a prophecy and a baby, two plot elements surely up there with ‘Long lost twin brother’ as overcooked narrative devices, season four was actually the strongest year the show had ever had. Whilst a couple of the comedy beats fell more than a little flat, the overall plot was extraordinarily well done. George and Nina’s daughter, in a future dominated by the vampires, has herself killed so she can travel back in time to try and change the future, at the same time as the oldest vampires on Earth are coming, it seems, to kill her younger self.  The stakes raised constantly, the fact that the baby, Eve, represented her parents as well made for real emotional weight and the final twists in the prophecy were really nicely handled.  Eve, instead of being a narrative crutch, became the hub for the entire season, and whilst there was the obligatory ‘Annie is awkward and cute around the baby’ stuff, this was the year that they finally let Crichlow do something other than mildly scatty. By the end of the season, Annie, along with new boy Hal and holdover from season 3, Tom, was a veteran, a woman who has seen her entire circle of friends die and knows with absolute certainty what she needs to do to make things right.  Until, of course, she doesn’t, because nothing is easy in this world especially when you’re dead.

Annie’s final shot in the series is perfect. Stepping out of Purgatory, with the baby in her arms, we see Annie open a door and smile, beatifically, her entire face lighting up. We know, without ever having to see them, that Mitchell, Nina and George are waiting for her.  It’s a beautiful capstone for the first iteration of the series that, somehow, manages to be a farewell for all four originals even though we only see one.

So as series five opens we have; Alex, a newly murdered ghost who’s death is sort of Hal’s fault, Hal, a centuries old vampire who’s renowned for being savage when he’s off the wagon and is going through detox and Tom, loyal, dependable, werewolf Tom, raised to fight his ‘father’s’ war since he was a baby.  The Cleaners, the mysterious, suited men who clean up after supernatural incidents who were introduced at the end of the last season are back and the always splendid Phil Daniels is playing the series villain, Captain Hatch. And we’re still in Wales. Is there the possibility it will go utterly wrong? Of course, this is Being Human, there’s always that possibility. But against all odds, and every single prediction, this is a show heading into its fifth season looking healthier and more interesting than it ever has before. If you’re not a fan yet, give it a shot. There’s nothing on TV quite like it.

Alasdair Stuart

Being Human series five starts on BBC Three at 10pm

Selection Of The Top Movie Fights To The Death

Nothing is more exciting than a fight to the death and with the release of Death Race: Inferno, on Blu-ray and DVD from 4th February, this has never been truer. Winner of four death races, Carl Lucas (Luke Goss) finds himself just one victory away from earning freedom for himself and his pit crew, but organisers and prison wardens are changing the track and the rules. Order your copy now a (see links on right, or below if using our app)

To celebrate the release of Death Race: Inferno, we look at some other cinematic blood sports that have kept us on the edge of our seats until the very last moment.

Death Race 2000 (1975)

The Annual Transcontinental Road Race, is an American coast-to-coast, three-day race run on public roads, where points are scored not just for speed, but for the number of innocent pedestrians struck and killed. Frankenstein (David Carradine) is the most celebrated driver, but secretly plans to end the cruel competition by winning once again and killing the tyrannical President who orders the annual bloodbath, despite the increasing rivalry from opponent driver Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone). The cult hit subsequently spawned a popular remake in 2008, and two successive sequels, including Death Race 3: Inferno!

The Running Man (1987)

Set in a totalitarian society in the not-too-distant future, a sadistic game show offers convicted criminals the chance of freedom by attempting to outrun professional killers. When framed ex-policeman Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is forced to take part, he attempts to not only win his freedom but reveal the truth about the corrupt government. Producer Rob Cohen was not aware when he purchased the rights to The Running Man that it was a Stephen King novel written under his pseudonym Richard Bachman, it was only after the film began pre-production that he found out.

Battle Royale (2000)

At the dawn of a new millennium, the Japanese economy is close to collapse. Unemployment is high and youth violence is out of control so the beleaguered government passes the Battle Royale Act, where a school class of children can be taken at random to an island and forced to hunt each other in order to survive. The Japanese government attempted to ban the film before its release, however this led to Battle Royale becoming even more successful due to its cult status.

Gladiator (2000)

After escaping an execution, general Maximus (Russell Crowe) finds himself fighting for survival in the bloody arenas of ancient Rome. When the opportunity arises to participate in a marathon of gladiator games held at the command of the new emperor, Maximus makes his presence known to the man who ordered his death before challenging him to fight face to face. When visiting the real Coliseum, director Ridley Scott reportedly announced that it was too small and asked his production designer to design an oversized vision of Rome for his epic instead.

The Hunger Games (2012)

In a dystopian future, the nation of Panem is divided into 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games, a televised fight-to-the-death, as retribution for a rebellion years ago. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to replace her younger sister after she gets selected, despite being pitted against stronger representatives, some of which have trained for The Hunger Games their whole lives. The film was received positively by critics and fans, which led to the announcement that the rest of the Suzanne Collins book franchise is now to be adapted into further films.

Death Race: Inferno (2013)

After the American economy collapses, the sharp increase of convicted criminals leads to privatized prisons for profit. A warden at the Terminal Island Penitentiary earns money from the pay-per-view broadcast of the modern gladiator game “Death Race”, using the prisoners as players by promising freedom to the winner of the brutal car competition. The third installment of the cult series sees Carl Lucas attempt to triumph in his fifth and final race after being transferred to another prison in the harsh, unyielding desert. Will he make it out?

Death Race: Inferno is out on Blu-ray and DVD from 4th February 2013

Luke Goss Interview – Death Race 3

Q: What do you most enjoy about doing the Death Race movies?

A: It is a combination of working with [director] Roel Reine, who has become a dear friend, which gives us a special understanding of each other – also working with Danny Trejo and continuing the same story. The movies are getting better too. This third one, I think, is the best of the bunch and Roel and I are interested in seeing the movies evolve and become more fun – and the studio is behind us. As you step into it everybody is trying to make a fun project and something that is fun to watch. It is nice to be a part of that.

Q: What were the biggest challenges this time round?

A: Death Race 3 (2013) is an action movie but I wanted to make the character a bit more stoic. I wanted him to be slightly larger-than-life, a sort of super-antihero or something, but he is somebody who is more stoic. From the second movie, which was the first for me, I wanted to make him as normal as possible. He finds himself in a predicament. With the third film, he has been in a predicament for a while, so, as I say, I wanted to make him more stoic.

Q: How much of the stunt work do you do yourself?

A: Pretty much all of it, but I paid a price for not having a stunt double. There were a few hits on the head but I guess that is part and parcel of doing an action film. I did most of the stunts on the second film and on a lot of movies I do my own now because it means the camera can get right in there. The audience does not have to suspend its disbelief and viewers can enjoy the action more. I think the audience deserves that. If you cannot do stunts then you cannot, but I always try and do my own.

Q: Do you ever say no to a stunt?

A: As I get older I think ‘That might hurt’ or ‘It might jeopardise the film because if I get injured then we cannot continue’. In Death Race 3 I roll a two-and-a-half ton truck and that was really harrowing. I was genuinely afraid. As the car rolled over for the first time just the noise and the violence of it was really scary. I have also done 30ft falls.

Q: What has been the coolest action scene you have done so far?

A: When I did Blood Out (2011) I was on the roof of a car, with seven city blocks blocked off, and the stunt guy was driving and swerving at 50mph. That was exhilarating but also quite scary. You are in character and you are doing the scene but you have moments where you think ‘What am I doing up here?’ I was attached to the roof but they give you room to slide around. You cannot help but realise the danger of it. On Death Race 2 (2010) we also locked off the main freeway in Cape Town and had all these stunt vehicles. I had two camera rigs on the $300,000 vehicle I was driving and I am on my own in the car weaving through traffic. That was kind of a fun moment, with all the camera crews and helicopters. On this one it is more of the same but in the desert.

Q: How have your driving skills improved through doing these films?

A: They have, yes. The studio insisted I learned stunt driving because the cars I am fooling around in are expensive and they are called ‘hero’ cars because there is only one of them. I am a fairly good driver anyway but once you do those courses or you have the stunt boys showing you how to push through the limits, it definitely helps your driving skills.

Q: Why do you think the Death Race (2008, 2010, 2013) films do so well on DVD and Blu-ray?

A: They are such fun, entertaining movies and we have really tried to up the game and make them evolve. Certainly, with the third one, when I saw it I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it would be good because Roel [Reine] and I had spoken about it before, about making it bigger and better, but he really did put together a great film. It is really entertaining. I am not trying to set it up as, you know, a piece of drama in the purest sense but it is my favourite of the three for sure and it is great to watch at home with your mates, some food, some beer, whatever. People have home cinemas now so you can crank up the volume and enjoy the ride.

Q: Do you have a favourite sequence in the new film?

A: The tie-up at the end is really clever. It illuminates how everything happened and how he got away with it and it is done really well.

Q: You made your name in music but was acting always part of the plan for you?

A: It was not actually. When I started playing the drums that was enough. Then with first play I did, in Hornchurch, I immediately understood the process and also the camaraderie of my fellow cast members. It was more collaborative and did not feel as isolated; in music it is like a one or two link chain but with acting there are hundreds if not thousands of people involved in one project. You are just one of the links in the chain and it feels nice to have that kind of responsibility. What I do for a living now is hugely collaborative and with each movie I make I feel blessed to be a part of it.

Q: Does directing appeal to you?

A: I am going to direct, yes. I am producing a movie called The Offer (date TBC), which I also wrote, and I’ll be the co-lead in it. Roel will be directing that but producing will be fun. Working with the likes of Guillermo del Toro you see these masters at work and you go ‘I think I will wait a while’, but the last few projects I have been part of I have found myself having quite a collaborative input, even on a directorial level so I think it is time to try directing myself.

Q: What is the best thing about living in LA?

A: Living in a city that is kind of the hub of your industry is a good feeling. You feel like you have got the best chance to keep the momentum going. I also love the weather and the food and the optimism. You can have an idea and nobody thinks it is lofty or above your station, it is just an idea that might come to fruition if like-minded people come together and you find a way to make it happen. In this climate – financially, economically, whatever – you need that momentum otherwise it is an uphill struggle every day. LA is a very driven city. The flipside of that is that it can be exhausting because it is always switched-on, but like any city you can find a way to get away from it.

Q: What do you most miss about Britain?

A: I really, really miss the architecture of the city I grew up in. I was in London recently making a movie called Interview With A Hitman (20120 and I was blown away by how beautiful it was. It is such an obvious thing to say, London is stunning, which it is, but I was also in Newcastle and that was incredible too. I miss the familiarity of things that make you feel nostalgic for what I do not have here, but I guess it is just the architecture and the familiar feeling, but then LA feels like home to me now.

Q: Where do you get recognised most?

A: It is happening more and more here in the States but I would say definitely in the UK. There is a different kind of level. I have been sticking around for a couple of decades or more now so it adds up. When I was back filming in England I was surprised the recognition was still there. I was blown away by how lovely people were. I was quite emotional about it, thinking ‘This is amazing’. When I was up in Newcastle, every hundred feet someone would stop me and say ‘Hey’. It was all complimentary and nice.

Q: What’s a great day off for you?

A: I love hiking or driving down to Malibu. Just grabbing some lunch down by the ocean is a nice day off for me.

Q: Is it important for you to stay in shape?

A: It is important for the job I do. It makes sense to stay in shape so I am physically capable of doing stunts. On this movie we shot a fight scene for five or six hours straight, with only a minute between each take. I have got four guys coming at me and I’m on my own in the middle of that. After four takes I was saying to Roel ‘I need a minute to get my breath back and then we’ll go again’, and it was literally one minute between takes.

Q: Who are your acting idols?

A: Clint Eastwood is the epitome of coolness. He is also so gifted and talented on so many levels, as an actor and director. I have also always been a fan of Steve McQueen. Morgan Freeman is a beautiful actor. Anthony Hopkins is flawless. There are lots of actors out there I admire and actresses too, like Meryl Streep.

Q: Who would you most like to work with?

A: Eastwood for sure. I have been a fan of his since I was a boy. I remember my stepfather getting me into spaghetti westerns as a kid and he had such an impact. He is the ultimate antihero in the history of film and as a director he is such a talent.

Q: What do you most enjoy about doing the Death Race movies?

A: It is a combination of working with [director] Roel Reine, who has become a dear friend, which gives us a special understanding of each other – also working with Danny Trejo and continuing the same story. The movies are getting better too. This third one, I think, is the best of the bunch and Roel and I are interested in seeing the movies evolve and become more fun – and the studio is behind us. As you step into it everybody is trying to make a fun project and something that is fun to watch. It is nice to be a part of that.

Q: What were the biggest challenges this time round?

A: Death Race 3 (2013) is an action movie but I wanted to make the character a bit more stoic. I wanted him to be slightly larger-than-life, a sort of super-antihero or something, but he is somebody who is more stoic. From the second movie, which was the first for me, I wanted to make him as normal as possible. He finds himself in a predicament. With the third film, he has been in a predicament for a while, so, as I say, I wanted to make him more stoic.

Q: How much of the stunt work do you do yourself?

A: Pretty much all of it, but I paid a price for not having a stunt double. There were a few hits on the head but I guess that is part and parcel of doing an action film. I did most of the stunts on the second film and on a lot of movies I do my own now because it means the camera can get right in there. The audience does not have to suspend its disbelief and viewers can enjoy the action more. I think the audience deserves that. If you cannot do stunts then you cannot, but I always try and do my own.

Q: Do you ever say no to a stunt?

A: As I get older I think ‘That might hurt’ or ‘It might jeopardise the film because if I get injured then we cannot continue’. In Death Race 3 I roll a two-and-a-half ton truck and that was really harrowing. I was genuinely afraid. As the car rolled over for the first time just the noise and the violence of it was really scary. I have also done 30ft falls.

Q: What has been the coolest action scene you have done so far?

A: When I did Blood Out (2011) I was on the roof of a car, with seven city blocks blocked off, and the stunt guy was driving and swerving at 50mph. That was exhilarating but also quite scary. You are in character and you are doing the scene but you have moments where you think ‘What am I doing up here?’ I was attached to the roof but they give you room to slide around. You cannot help but realise the danger of it. On Death Race 2 (2010) we also locked off the main freeway in Cape Town and had all these stunt vehicles. I had two camera rigs on the $300,000 vehicle I was driving and I am on my own in the car weaving through traffic. That was kind of a fun moment, with all the camera crews and helicopters. On this one it is more of the same but in the desert.

Q: How have your driving skills improved through doing these films?

A: They have, yes. The studio insisted I learned stunt driving because the cars I am fooling around in are expensive and they are called ‘hero’ cars because there is only one of them. I am a fairly good driver anyway but once you do those courses or you have the stunt boys showing you how to push through the limits, it definitely helps your driving skills.

Q: Why do you think the Death Race (2008, 2010, 2013) films do so well on DVD and Blu-ray?

A: They are such fun, entertaining movies and we have really tried to up the game and make them evolve. Certainly, with the third one, when I saw it I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it would be good because Roel [Reine] and I had spoken about it before, about making it bigger and better, but he really did put together a great film. It is really entertaining. I am not trying to set it up as, you know, a piece of drama in the purest sense but it is my favourite of the three for sure and it is great to watch at home with your mates, some food, some beer, whatever. People have home cinemas now so you can crank up the volume and enjoy the ride.

Q: Do you have a favourite sequence in the new film?

A: The tie-up at the end is really clever. It illuminates how everything happened and how he got away with it and it is done really well.

Q: You made your name in music but was acting always part of the plan for you?

A: It was not actually. When I started playing the drums that was enough. Then with first play I did, in Hornchurch, I immediately understood the process and also the camaraderie of my fellow cast members. It was more collaborative and did not feel as isolated; in music it is like a one or two link chain but with acting there are hundreds if not thousands of people involved in one project. You are just one of the links in the chain and it feels nice to have that kind of responsibility. What I do for a living now is hugely collaborative and with each movie I make I feel blessed to be a part of it.

Q: Does directing appeal to you?

A: I am going to direct, yes. I am producing a movie called The Offer (date TBC), which I also wrote, and I’ll be the co-lead in it. Roel will be directing that but producing will be fun. Working with the likes of Guillermo del Toro you see these masters at work and you go ‘I think I will wait a while’, but the last few projects I have been part of I have found myself having quite a collaborative input, even on a directorial level so I think it is time to try directing myself.

Q: What is the best thing about living in LA?

A: Living in a city that is kind of the hub of your industry is a good feeling. You feel like you have got the best chance to keep the momentum going. I also love the weather and the food and the optimism. You can have an idea and nobody thinks it is lofty or above your station, it is just an idea that might come to fruition if like-minded people come together and you find a way to make it happen. In this climate – financially, economically, whatever – you need that momentum otherwise it is an uphill struggle every day. LA is a very driven city. The flipside of that is that it can be exhausting because it is always switched-on, but like any city you can find a way to get away from it.

Q: What do you most miss about Britain?

A: I really, really miss the architecture of the city I grew up in. I was in London recently making a movie called Interview With A Hitman (20120 and I was blown away by how beautiful it was. It is such an obvious thing to say, London is stunning, which it is, but I was also in Newcastle and that was incredible too. I miss the familiarity of things that make you feel nostalgic for what I do not have here, but I guess it is just the architecture and the familiar feeling, but then LA feels like home to me now.

Q: Where do you get recognised most?

A: It is happening more and more here in the States but I would say definitely in the UK. There is a different kind of level. I have been sticking around for a couple of decades or more now so it adds up. When I was back filming in England I was surprised the recognition was still there. I was blown away by how lovely people were. I was quite emotional about it, thinking ‘This is amazing’. When I was up in Newcastle, every hundred feet someone would stop me and say ‘Hey’. It was all complimentary and nice.

Q: What’s a great day off for you?

A: I love hiking or driving down to Malibu. Just grabbing some lunch down by the ocean is a nice day off for me.

Q: Is it important for you to stay in shape?

A: It is important for the job I do. It makes sense to stay in shape so I am physically capable of doing stunts. On this movie we shot a fight scene for five or six hours straight, with only a minute between each take. I have got four guys coming at me and I’m on my own in the middle of that. After four takes I was saying to Roel ‘I need a minute to get my breath back and then we’ll go again’, and it was literally one minute between takes.

Q: Who are your acting idols?

A: Clint Eastwood is the epitome of coolness. He is also so gifted and talented on so many levels, as an actor and director. I have also always been a fan of Steve McQueen. Morgan Freeman is a beautiful actor. Anthony Hopkins is flawless. There are lots of actors out there I admire and actresses too, like Meryl Streep.

Q: Who would you most like to work with?

A: Eastwood for sure. I have been a fan of his since I was a boy. I remember my stepfather getting me into spaghetti westerns as a kid and he had such an impact. He is the ultimate antihero in the history of film and as a director he is such a talent.

LEGO Lord of the Rings Video Game

LORT LEGO Game

LEGO Lord of the Rings Video Game – the Blurb

LEGO The Lord Of The Rings is based on The Lord of the Rings motion picture trilogy and follows the original storylines of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, and The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King. Now the entire family can team up in pairs as adorable

LEGO The Lord the Rings minifigures to experience countless dangers, solve riddles and battle formidable foes on their journey to Mount Doom.

LEGO The Lord Of The Rings takes players along on the adventures of Frodo Baggins and his unlikely fellowship as they set out on a perilous journey to destroy The One Ring and save Middle-earth. Kids, tweens, teens and parents can traverse the Misty Mountains, explore the Mines of Moria, knock on the Black Gate of Mordor, and partake in epic battles with Orcs, Uruk-hai, the Balrog and other fearsome foes while harnessing the humor and imagination of LEGO gameplay to solve puzzles and explore Middle-earth. Players will take on the form of their favorite members of the fellowship – Frodo the Hobbit, Aragorn the Ranger, Gandalf the Wizard, Legolas the Elf, Gimli the Dwarf, Boromir a Man of Gondor, and Frodo’s Hobbit friends Sam, Merry and Pippin – as they relive the most momentous events from the films.

LEGO Lord of the Rings – Recreating Middle-Earth

LEGO Company Ltd

LEGO video games are possibly some of the best out there. Building on the biggest movie franchises, LEGO video games dominate in humour, playability and longevity. At Scifind we are really looking forward to the LEGO Lord of the Rings Video Game no matter if it is played on Xbox 360, PS3, wii, DS / 3DS or PS Vista.

10 Things Netflix UK Should Start Streaming

We at Scifind LOVE Netflix.

But in order to educate the masses about what we love, Netflix UK need to start streaming the below TV and Movies!

Thoughts, comments and other suggestions welcome!

10) Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Seriously! I have to tell you what Buffy is? – Go buy the DVDs and get educated!

9) Angel

Spin off of above.

8) The A Team (Classic TV Series)

Classic 1980’s TV series, don’t you people know anything!

7) MacGyver

MacGyver is an American action-adventure television series created by Lee David Zlotoff. Henry Winkler and John Rich were the executive producers. The show ran for seven seasons on ABC in the United States and various other networks abroad from 1985 to 1992

6) Terrahawks

Gerry Anderson & Christopher Burr’s Terrahawks, simply referred to as Terrahawks, was a 1980s British science fiction television series produced by Anderson Burr Pictures and created by the production team of Gerry Anderson and Christopher Burr. The show was Anderson’s first in over a decade to utilize puppets for its characters; to date, it is also his last. Anderson’s previous puppet-laden TV series included Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

5) Chocky

Chocky 1984 TV series based on ascience fiction novel by John Wyndham, first published in 1968

4) ALL DOCTOR WHO EVER

And yes, including K9 and Company and the Peter Cushing movies.

3) EVERY DAN AYKROYD MOVIE FROM THE 1980s

In the 1980s Dan Aykroid was the king of American Movie Comedy

2) Blake’s 7

Blake’s 7 is a British science fiction television series produced by the BBC for broadcast on BBC1. Four 13-episode series of Blake’s 7 were broadcast between 1978 and 1981. It was created by Terry Nation, who was also creator of the Daleks for Doctor Who. The script editor was Chris Boucher. The series was inspired by a range of fictional media including The Dirty Dozen, Robin Hood, Brave New World, Star Trek, classic Westerns and real-world political conflicts in South America and Israel.

1) Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is a British dark comedy show made for Channel 4 by Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade. Following on from Garth Marenghi’s Netherhead, which won the 2001 Perrier Awards, the show revolves around fictional horror author Garth Marenghi (played by Holness) and his publisher Dean Learner (played by Ayoade).

Darkplace is presented as a lost classic: a television series produced in the 1980s, though never broadcast at the time. The presentation features commentary from many of the “original” cast, where characters such as “Marenghi” and “Learner” reflect on making the show. Darkplace parodies numerous aspects of ’80s low-budget television, including fashion, special effects, production gaffs, and music, as well as the widespread practice of including commentary tracks on DVD releases of old films and television shows.

Sound good? You can buy the DVDs if you think so!

(program descriptions adapted from Wikipedia)

JJ Abrams’ Terrahawks

Original Gerry Anderson's Terrahawkes Logo

The original Terrahawks TV show was notable for four things: the gloriously over the top vehicles, the ridiculous animal-related character names, the genuinely unsettling villains and an inevitable ‘evil pop music’ episode so dreadful I remember being embarrassed watching it at age 10. It was a deeply bizarre show, and the scarcity of copies of it, as well as the in-jokes that litter its scripts have given it nigh- cult status. So how, or who, would reboot it?

Why, JJ Abrams of course.

The Pitch

Fringe meets Thunderbirds.

The Characters

Doctor Theresa Junque – A hot-housed genius raised by the state, Theresa Junque was committed five years ago. She fills endless notebooks with sketches of unusual vehicles and a haggard, artificial, face. She has refused to elaborate on and instead has simply waited, keeping herself in top physical condition as she does so.

Agent Elizabeth Munnin – An MI5 officer directed to the first Zelda Collective attack by a confidential informant who knows everything about her. She joined the service five years previously, and when her investigations uncover a photo of her mother, Alexandra Hugin and Theresa Junque together, she volunteers to act as the scientist?s handler. She is under orders to kill Junque if she steps out of line.

Vincent Hugin – The estranged son of Alexandra Hugin, the first, and last, person to set foot on Mars, Vincent is a decorated pilot and brilliant engineer who has worked deep in the American black ops community for years. Charming, ruthless and completely at peace with his skill for violence, Vincent is asked for by name by Junque, and is instrumental in helping understand Operation Terrahawk and the role Zero has played in it.

Zero – Elizabeth?s secret informant is, in actuality, the first functioning AI on the planet. Developed from the rudimentary AI aboard the doomed Valiant mission and housed in an abandoned prototype spherical combat chassis on Earth, Zero has used his expertise to build up financial muscle everywhere on the planet, as well as an army of smaller, less intelligent, autonomous combat shells.

The Zelda Collective – The first evidence of the Zelda Collective was discovered by the Phobos 2 space probe in the 1990s. Initially designed to be the first mission to land on Phobos, one of Mars? moons, Phobos II was destroyed by something that was, to quote the official statement, ?not supposed to be there,? an automated defence network set up around the moon. I reality, the weapons hive combining a library of combat-sculpted genotypes with a factory to crank out mission adaptable humanoid androids was deisgned to act as Mars? last line of defence. The Collective has awoken, and, using stolen data from Phobos II, mapped out a ruling body that resembles a nightmarish Earth family. These beings, led by one calling herself Zelda, have decided Earth is not only the enemy but the future. Because hidden on Deimos, Mars? other moon, is a library of genetic samples from Mars? original inhabitants, the Mysterons?

The Back Story

The war started five years ago. When the disastrous Valiant mission landed on Mars, its radio silent due to what was reported as a mechanical failure. It stayed less than twenty four hours and when it left, only Captain Alexandra Hugin was aboard. She was taken to a secure hospital where she was placed in the care of Theresa Junque and Constance Hugin. She told them what no one on else on Earth could know;

The ship had been detailed to find out the truth about Phobos and was attacked by small cubic robots when it moved within fifty miles of the asteroid. The robots survived re?entry into Mars? atmosphere and the crew were forced to destroy them hand to hand. Those that didn?t die from their injuries were encased by the robots and taken, apparently, to orbit. Badly injured herself, Alexandra returned home. The war had started and her crew were the first causalities.

Junque, Hugin and Muninn convene the first planetary war council in human history from Hugin?s hospital bed. They assembled a think tank of scientists who frantically worked on the fragments Hugin had brought back with her and the readings she?d taken to develop something which could be used to fight the inevitable invasion. Enter the Terrahawks Initiative, a series of autonomous weapons platforms stationed at strategic points around the planet for use in direct combat, recon, or troop transportation. Using the single, barely functional full Cube Hugin returned with, they also constructed Zero, an evolution of the rudimentary AI aboard the Valiant and the only computer system with first hand experience of the enemy. Expanded into a fractal AI who would learn and evolve exponentially the longer he was active, Zero would be the brain and the Terrorhawks would be the muscle.

Earth was ready for war in eighteen months. The price was Junque?s short term sanity and the collapse of Munnin and Hugin?s family lives.

The Plot

Five years later, against Junque?s pleas, an automated mission is sent to Mars and triggers a full scale retaliatory strike against an observatory in England. Munnin is directed there by a mysterious informant and not only witnesses the Zelda Collective establish a beachhead but sees it destroyed by an impossibly advanced fighter aircraft. Heading up the investigation into the event, her research leads her to the institutionalized Junque and Hugin at her insistence. Together, their investigation leads them to the discovery of the covert and now five year old war, their families? roles in it, and Zero.

But Junque isn?t telling them everything. And none of them know the Zelda Collective were on Earth long, long before the Phobos Omega mission was ever conceived?

Nagging Questions

-Why does Theresa Junque know so much about the Zelda Collective?
-Why do Elizabeth and Vincent have no memory of their mothers working with Junque?
-Why does Junque insist on Vincent joining the team, and by name?
-Why are the Zelda Collective so interested in Earth?
-What did Junque have to sacrifice to get the Terrahawks Initiative on it?s feet?
-What elements of the Initiative, or staff, have been forgotten out in the wilds?
-Who really built Zero?
-Why is there a photo of Theresa Junque giving a lecture to the British Cabinet in 1941?
-How far does Zero?s influence reach?
-How long have the sculpted bioweapons at Zelda?s disposal been on Earth?
-Who is the mysterious, white-haired man who visits Junque whenever Hugin and Munnin aren?t around?
-Why are there records of encounters with something from Mars dating back to the early 20th century?

Automated weapons platforms, a secret war, a very English Armageddon and wide scale property damage meet secret history, Faustian deals and family secrets. The show really is a great fit for JJ Abrams? style. Of course I wouldn?t make room for the boxed set just yet. Anyone fancy a game of noughts and crosses whilst we wait?

Alasdair Stuart

Steven Spielberg?s Alien Invasion

Produced by the legendary Steven Spielberg, Falling Skies ? out on DVD 2nd July ?chronicles the chaotic aftermath of an alien attack that leaves most of the world completely incapacitated. The spectacular series joins a wealthy back catalogue of sci-fi films that Spielberg has put his unique mark on and to celebrate the release, we look at the best extra-terrestrial tales that the three-time Oscar-winner has brought to our screens.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Steven Spielberg?s first major foray into the supernatural follows Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) after he has an alien encounter, becoming obsessed with five musical notes and a mountain-like figure; the movie was unusual for its time as it portrayed aliens as peaceful beings, rather than destructive monsters. Despite being released in the same year as the groundbreaking ?Star Wars,? ?Close Encounters of the Third Kind? became Columbia?s most-successful film of the time and was honoured with eight Oscar nominations.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

In one of the most-loved children?s film of all time, a young boy named Elliot (Henry Thomas) discovers an alien and tries to get him home without raising the suspicions of his parents or the government. Spielberg admitted that he had based ?E.T.? on the imaginary friend he had made up during childhood and shot the entire film at a child?s eye level so the audience would feel more involved with Elliot?s adventure. The film surpassed ?Star Wars? at the box-office to become the highest grossing movie in history, a position it kept for over a decade.

Men In Black (1997)

In this Spielberg-produced sci-fi comedy, a NYPD cop (Will Smith) joins a secret organisation that protects Earth fromgalactic invasions whilst monitoring ?legal aliens? who have chosen to peacefully live amongst humans. ?Men In Black? is considered to be the film that projected Smith onto the Hollywood A-list, however he reportedly turned down the lead role thinking he wasn?t good enough for a Spielberg movie; Smith?s wife talked him into reconsidering and he has since starred in two sequels.

War of the Worlds (2005)

Spielberg adapted the H.G. Wells classic into a tale of a man?s (Tom Cruise) fight to save his family during an alieninvasion; it was a change in approach for the director who stated that “for the first time in my life I’m making an alien picture where there is no love and no attempt at communication.” Spielberg owns one of the surviving copies of the original Orson Welles radio script and had planned to make it into a film decades earlier but decided against it when ?Independence Day? was put into production.

Transformers (2007)

Despite turning the franchise down at first, famously calling it a ?stupid toy movie,? Michael Bay?s desire to work with Spielberg was the reason he eventually agreed to take the helm on ?Transformers.? Although having such differing styles, Spielberg?s main piece of advice to Bay was that at the heart of the explosive action should be a simple tale of a boy and his car; this combination of quality storytelling and stunning action sequences made ?Transformers? a surprise box-office smash and spawned two sequels.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Released nineteen years after the last installment, the fourth Indiana Jones adventure revolved around an extra-terrestrial psychic skull. To compensate for the time difference and Harrison Ford?s obvious ageing, Spielberg set the film in the late 1950s; this allowed him to take into account the Cold War, and once he learnt that Joseph Stalin had been interested in crystal skulls, he made the Soviets the script’s villains.

Cowboys and Aliens (2011)

Despite having the most ridiculous title since ?Snakes on a Plane,? Spielberg?s alien western was received as a credibly fun if ultimately unsuccessful action movie. Charting the story of a man (Daniel Craig), who wakes up in the Wild West with a forgotten past and a mysterious shackle around his wrist; Spielberg provided the director, writers and cameramen with a collection of famous westerns to make sure that they got the authentic look of the genre that he desired.

Super 8 (2011)

The parallels to the Spielberg-written ?The Goonies? was unmistakable in this exhilarating tale of a group of friends who film a train crash whilst making an amateur movie, only to suspect supernatural activities behind it when looking back at the footage. Director J.J.Abrams stated that ?Super 8? ?paid homage? to producer Spielberg?s childhood adventure films and even featured the famous bicycle from E.T. as part of the metal junk that gets attached to the water tower in the final scenes.

Falling Skies (2011)

Spielberg transferred his passion for extra-terrestrials onto the small screen in last year?s sci-fi drama ?Falling Skies.? The series takes place six-months after aliens take over the earth, where history professor Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) helps lead a small army named 2nd Massachusetts in the battle of their lives to preserve their families and what is left of humanity. Wyle admitted that Spielberg?s presence on set was a testament to how much he cared for the project, mentioning that the producer shaped the script, made the editing suggestions and gave notes on how the aliens should look.

FALLING SKIES, SEASON 1 IS RELEASED ON DVD ON 2nd JULY

Red Dwarf – Back To Reality

The Other Cast is a semi regular feature that looks outside of the core cast members of the Brit Scifi Comedy
Series 5 Episode 6 26th March 1992

The Red Dwarf investigates a ocean ship, The Esperanto, where they find the ship’s crew have all committed suicide and they are attacked by a sea monster called The Despair squid. Only to wake up and find they are not who they are and they’ve been playing a artificial computer game for four years.

Once voted best ever Red Dwarf episode by the fans, this episode also saw Red Dwarf win its first International Emmy.

It was also the last appearance of Hattie Hayridge as Holly. Hattie’s career with Red Dwarf has continued though with voice over’s on computer games and commentaries on DVD’s. She has written stand up comedy for the likes of Jasper Carrot and Lee Evans, and is herself a touring stand up comic. In July of 2009, she had to post in the commentary section of the episode on film website IMDB to inform fans she was actually still alive after rumours had surfaced she had passed away.

In the “Reality” world the four, now as there alter ego’s charmless nerd Duane Dibley (Cat), Cyborg Traffic Officer Jake Bullet (Kryten), homeless outcast William Doyle (Rimmer), who is the half-brother of Lister’s character Fascist Police Chief Sebastian Doyle must try and work out who they are. When Jake Bullet takes a human life to save a young girl, the police become involved. The cop in question was played by Twin Peaks star Lenny von Dohlen. Dohlen played Harry Smith in David Lynch’s weird tale of a young girls murder in a sleepy little town, and has gone on to have parts in CSI Miami, Psyche, and more recently horror flick Choose. Lenny has just finished filming “White Camellias” with Cybill Shepherd.

When the next group of players enter to play the “Red Dwarf Game” Julian Lyon’s Rimmer and Scott Charles Bennett’s Kryton are joined by David Lemkin to play the part of Cat and John Sharian wants to play the Lister character in the game. Joining them is Anastasia Hille as the new Kachanski in the game world.

David Lemkin has amongst his credits The Bill, and 90’s favourite Drop The Dead Donkey.

John Sharian has had a very successful career post Dwarf. After starring in Jimmy Nail’s Crocodile Shoes, Sharian has gone on to feature in The Fifth Element alongside Bruce Willis, and has had a recurring role as Joe Brock in CSI Miami. Most recently Sharian has been filming Disconnect with Jason Bateman about a group of people looking for a human connection in a wired world.

Red Dwarf was Anastasia’s big break and she has gone on to be in 1998’s Big Women, as Clare in 2006’s series Tripping Over, Katherine Vandemeer in The Awakening and has just started on our cinema screens as Ravenna’s mother in Snow White And The Huntsman.

Probably the most famous name to us that appeared as a bit part character in Back To Reality is Game operator Timothy Spall. Spall has lit up both the small and the big screen for three decades. From Auf Wiedersehen Pet to this years The Syndicate, from “Wormtail” in the Harry Potter films to new production Sinbad, Spall continues to play a huge role in the future of film and TV.

Interview with Red Dwarf star Tony Hawks

I have loved writing the series of articles “The other cast” of Red Dwarf for Scifind. I have had to rewatch classic shows, Research these episodes, and then write my thoughts and talk about the stars that I’ve never known.

Well this week excitement gripped me as all that changed and the man of many parts Mr. Tony Hawks spared humble little me some of his time. Tony, if we remember from last weeks article, has played everything from a suitcase to Caligula.

Tony Hawks - Image from http://www.tony-hawks.com/

Hi Tony and thanks for talking to Scifind. How did you first become involved in Red Dwarf?

Ed Bye saw me compering at Jongleurs comedy club in Jongleurs London and asked me to come and do the warm ups for the series. So much went wrong with the first recording that I was on nearly all the time! They told me that I saved the day, and as a result they used to find me little parts – as a way of saying thank you.

Of all the characters you played or voiced which is your favourite?

Hard question, I enjoyed all of them but I suppose Caligula. When I was in that role Craig Charles just couldn’t control himself and kept cracking up. We had lots of fun doing those scenes

Do you have a favourite episode?

I liked “Better than Life” a lot. You should write about that one!

Do you have any happy memories of filming you would care to share?

Struggling with the warm up in the first show. Realising that I’d nearly used up every bit of material that I’d ever done and looking at my watch and seeing that it was 8.15. the recording finished at 10!

Were your parts heavily scripted or was there room for you to make your own mark on them?

To be honest, they were pretty much all worked out and there wasn’t much room for improvisation – much as I like working like that

Are you back in any capacity for series X?

No. Ed and the guys were trying to find a part for me – but the only thing they could find was too small, so I politely said ‘no’. I really do wish them luck though and look forward to seeing the show as any other fan is.

Thanks again Tony, Where can your fans catch you in performance at the moment? What’s coming up?

I’m in a new film coming out, I believe you mentioned it last week, details can be found on the website www.moldovansmovie.com. and I have a UK tour coming up, starting on June 21st. more details can be found on the site.

So, there we have it. Words from one of the unsung heroes that keep the good ship Red Dwarf going. Although its a real shame Tony wont be in series X, he is still fond in our hearts and always in my DVD player.

Red Dwarf X Coming soon

Its hard to believe and is crazy when you think about it, but Red Dwarf is nearly a quarter of a century old!!
It is now all set for a return to our screens with the much anticipated Red Dwarf Series X due to start on DAVE in the autumn here in the UK.

There was a minor comeback with “Back to Earth” in 2009, but we are promised more episodes of classic Dwarf tales this time filmed in front of a live studio audience.

Red Dwarf 10 cast, left to right. Danny John Jules, Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Robert Llewellen. (photo courtesy of Grant-Natlor via http://llewblog.squarespace.com/red-dwarf)

In that audience in January for a 3 hour stint of seeing it made (a hard job some people have eh?) was Science Fiction comedy specialist and author Ruth Wheeler. I spoke to Ruth today and here is a quote from her….

I have loved Red Dwarf since I was very little. It?s universe is a cosmos of infinite possibilities, humor and characters that you can really relate to and it holds so much appeal to me that the characters are definitely an influence on my own work as a comedy science fiction writer

DAVE along with the cast, crew, and anybody attached to Red Dwarf are keeping very silent about storylines and what we can expect, but I do know that with Danny John Jules and co in one room together there will hilarity to spare.

Chris Barrie said recently “I think we have done some of the best Red Dwarf scenes ever. I am really looking forward to seeing what the fans think”

Red Dwarf X starts on DAVE in the autumn with a December date scheduled for the DVD release (Dear Santa, Plllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaassssssssssssseeeeeeeee????)

Expect classic, quotable Red Dwarf humour on your box soon, complete with Smeg up’s I hope.

Ruth Wheeler is the author of such science fiction books as All Aliens Like Burgers, Do Aliens Read Sci-Fi and the Truxxe Trilo Trilogy for Hirst Books.