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Doctor Who: Shada (2003) (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Shada originally broadcast on the BBC website in 2003.

Doctor, a fool would realise that it was written in code!

Skagra, this thing is written in code!

– Skagra and the Doctor have some communication difficulties

Has a failed Doctor Who story every haunted the collective consciousness in the way that Shada does? There’s a wealth of adventures that were proposed and never produced, from the last Master story that never happened in The Final Game, through to the laundry list of unproduced adventures that would have made up Colin Baker’s second season if the show hadn’t been parked by the BBC. However, Shada is something different. So different, in fact, that it has been told quite a few times. In fact, it might be the only Doctor Who story I end up covering twice.

This was a webcast version, a very simply animated version of the tale produced for the BBC website, using an audio play adapted from Douglas Adams’ original script by Big Finish, the fan collective who produce a range of celebrated audio plays for the classic series. Starring Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor who never really got a chance to develop the role in live action, it’s an interesting glimpse at what might have been.

Lost in time...

Lost in time…

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Bob Haney & Neal Adams on The Brave & The Bold – Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

In his introduction to this volume, Adams suggests that Bob Haney is one of the most “overlooked” writers in comic book history. “Though they have not gotten the recognition they deserve,” Adams argues, “Bob Haney’s stories are classics of good old comic-book drama, and dense in plot, incident, and twists.” I actually really agree with that summary of Haney’s work, and I think it’s a shame that he’s not included among Denny O’Neil and Steve Englehart as one of the writers who shaped Batman as comics entered the Bronze Age. His stories were ridiculous, but they had a sense of pulpy energy and dynamism to them. Idle folly like reason and logic are subdued to rapid-fire high-concepts, a no-nonsense Batman and a sense that literally anything could happen.

So this collaboration should be epic. Bob Haney is – to me, at least – a definitive Batman writer; Neal Adams is – widely accepted, I hope – as a (if not the) definitive Batman artist. However, combining the two doesn’t work quite as fluidly as one might hope. The stories here are solid, highly entertaining and beautifully rendered, but they’re nowhere near as effective as either creator would be working with a later collaborator. Still, even if not quite at the peak of their powers, Haney and Adams make for a powerful creative team, and there’s a lot to enjoy on their collaboration on The Brave and the Bold.

Wall-to-wall excitement…

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The Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War (Review/Retrospective)

The Kree-Skrull War is perhaps the grandaddy of great Avengers story. A series of interconnected one-shots with subplots congealing into an arc, it allowed writer Roy Thomas to really define the Avengers. Written towards the start of the seventies, the saga feels like something of a transition from the innocence of the classic Silver Age superhero sci-fi zaniness and a more sombre and mature Bronze Age. Despite its age, the adventure still holds up remarkably well, partially because Thomas has some very clever ideas that are still reverberating around modern comics, and also because Neal Adams’ artwork hasn’t aged a day.

Thomas had quite a Vision for the title…

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