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Doctor Who: The King’s Demons (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.

The King’s Demons originally aired in 1983.

Do our demons come to visit us? Bid them attend us.

Demons? Very odd indeed.

Makes a nice change for you not to take everything in your stride, I must say.

– King John, the Doctor and Tegan set the mood

The show’s twentieth anniversary deserved better than this. Okay, there are a number of qualifications that can made, excuses that can be offered. The King’s Demons was never intended to close out the season, and was instead intended as a two-part episode to bridge into the triumphant return of the Daleks, a return that ended up postponed a year and reworked into Resurrection of the Daleks. There’s also the fact that The King’s Demons wasn’t the last piece of Doctor Who to air as part of the show’s twentieth anniversary year, even if it was the season finalé. The Five Doctors would be broadcast later in the year to celebrate the anniversary.

However, none of these excuses take away from the fact that The King’s Demons is an exceptionally weak piece of television, and a demonstration of everything wrong about how John Nathan Turner and the Doctor Who production staff approached the show’s twentieth season.

Hardly a Master piece...

Hardly a Master piece…

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Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

Stephen King’s Dark Tower Omnibus is an absolutely stunning collection. It might, in terms of production value, be the finest hardcover that Marvel have ever produced in their prestigious omnibus line. Ignoring the issue of content, it’s hard to think of any collection that looks or feels more impressive than this massive slipcase edition, housing two gigantic tomes of King’s iconic lore. One volume reprints the first six story arcs of Marvel’s Dark Tower series, all written by Peter David and stunningly illustrated by Jae Lee. The second book contains all manner of supplementary material – from interviews with the creators, to sketches, to prose pieces and background information on King’s absolutely monumental fantasy epic. While the comic book itself might have some flaws (some serious, some less so), there’s absolutely no faulting the skill and care that went into crafting this deluxe special edition.

A towering accomplishment?

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The Final Cut (Review)

The third and final part of the House of Cards trilogy, The Final Cut exists to bring to a close the story of Francis Urquhart, the iconic and conniving fictional British Prime Minister. Portraying Urquhart during his twilight years, the series presents a man who has arguably faced and overcome all the challenges that the world has to offer. While The Final Cut lacks a clear focal point like House of Cards and To Play the King, it is a fitting conclusion to the epic saga, with a powerhouse central performance from Ian Richardson as the Machiavellian Tory Prime Minister.

Still in his Prime?

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To Play the King (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. Read my thoughts on the service here, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

You’ve got the King against the Prime Minister, the Lords against the Commons. The bishops are in now, you’ve got “don’t blame the royals”, and – in particular – you’ve got Urquhart’s plan to bring down the monarchy for good and all. And they’ve all played the personal morality card. Every one of them. Which means, in my book, that everybody’s private life is now up for grabs. And I mean everybody’s!

– Sir Bruce Bullerby sums it up

The second part of the House of Cards trilogy has some fairly interesting subject matter. While Francis Urquharts Machiavellian rise to power was enough to ground the first four-part serial, it does occasionally feel like To Play The King has just a bit too much going on. Of course, Andrew Davies’ tight scripting ensures that all the necessary subplots are tidied up before we reach the end credits of the final episode, but things do occasionally feel just a little bit too packed. Still, it’s hard to blame a television show for having too much substance, and there’s a compelling issue at the heart of To Play The King, as novelist Michael Dodds takes the opportunity to explore Britain’s constitutional monarchy, and the possibility of friction that a proactive King might present.

A crowning accomplishment for the BBC?

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Blueprint for Success: Is The Dark Tower The Future of Multi-Media Experience?

Perhaps it’s down to the fact that movies have always been inherently distrustful of other forms of media (particularly newer modes like television or the internet), as reflected in the constant battle with them (with movies seeking an edge – like 3D – that other media can’t quickly ape) – but I’m surprised that an idea like this hasn’t been tried before. After quite a long period of speculation, it has been confirmed that Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is coming to the big screen. But it’s also coming to the little screen, at the same time. In fact, the not-at-all unambitious plan for the franchise can be laid out as follows:  

Step 1: They’ll kick it off with a movie, presumably the movie will tell the story of the first book, The Gunslinger which is a shorter book and extremely cinematic. They could also maybe fit in The Drawing of the Three in which the Gunslinger Roland meets his companions.  

Step 2: That movie will be immediately followed by a TV series which will pick up where the movie leaves off. A TV series is the ideal format to tackle some of the longer, more episodic stories.  

Step 3: The TV series will then lead into a second feature film.  

Step 4: After that second feature film, a TV series will then cover the events of the book Wizard and Glass in which the story of Roland’s youth is retold.  

Step 5: That will then launch into a third feature film… perhaps to wrap the story up or maybe simply to take the next step. Whether they end it there or plan more movies and more television presumably depends on audience response.  

That’s certainly one heck of a roadmap for a franchise, right there.  

Towering ambition...

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