30 December 2017

Salve Tredecim!

"Twice upon a Time" was a highly enjoyable and emotional Christmas special for Doctor Who, a wonderful ending for the Twelfth Doctor. The 'old-fashioned attitudes' of the First Doctor were slightly over done, but this was a relatively minor issue.

Anyway, I want to talk about the new lady. While she only got two words, those were excellently picked ones, squaring the circle of the Doctor discovering that she has become female for the first time. Whittaker's got a wonderful smile and while the accent may take some getting used (especially for non-Brits), she has already won over a lot of people.

So, onwards to the era of Chris Chibnall, who I'd not actually seen a photograph of until today. Considering he can carry off a velvet jacket just fine, I think we're in good hands.

24 December 2017

Vale duodecim

Tomorrow at just before 6pm GMT, the Twelfth Doctor will regenerate, four years to the day after his 'birth' in "The Time of the Doctor".

While looking very much forward to the arrival of 13, who is of course a major change for the show, let us take a moment to give a huge round of applause to Peter Capaldi, who imbued the Doctor with such memorable spirit - and gruffness.

Those eyebrows will be missed.

23 December 2017

Christmas wishes

In a year with a lot of sound and fury with normal decorum becoming increasingly rare it seems, I have to draw comfort from something.

I draw comfort from God's son, who came down to Earth, became a manual labourer and then went around for three years preaching that there is a better way of doing things than acquiring wealth and power.

This Christmas, my call on people is to play the ball not the person. If you disagree with someone's argument, attack their reasoning and persuade them of their point of view. Don't call them stupid or traitors. Understand why they might think that way.

Otherwise words will soon turn to blows.

On that note, have a safe and non-argumentative Christmas.

10 December 2017

Brexit Phase 1 agreement

So I've had a look at the understanding reached on the 'divorce bill'. Here are my thoughts:
  • Protecting the rights of EU citizens already here is important, asking them to apply for permanent residency is an inconvenience, but a necessary one so we know who has a right to live here.
  • The Common Travel Area cannot be eliminated in the British Isles anyway, it's been there for too long. Customs checks are impractical - but perhaps there could be a 'clearing house' system allowing for bulk payments each quarter?
  • Any trade deal will likely involve us making some payments. There is no such thing as a free lunch in these matters.
  • The UK should adopt standards for goods equal to or better than the current EU ones. That is effective regulatory equivalence while not tying ourselves to the single market rules if we don't want that; some goods might have to be labelled differently when rules diverge.
  • This could still all go pear-shaped.

05 December 2017

Northern Ireland and Brexit

It seems that the main sticking point over moves to trade talks is what do about the Northern Irish/Irish border. A ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland is going to be immensely disruptive. A border across the Irish Sea is also going to be rather disruptive for places like Holyhead (who will need a lot of building work done for customs facilities) and will put the whole of the UK under strain. No border at all i.e. staying in the Single Market and Customs Union is remaining in the EU in all but name and completely unacceptable to a lot of leaver supporters as it will mean accepting freedom of movement.


Theresa May is probably regretting having become PM now…

25 November 2017

Net neutrality

On 7 December, the US Federal Communications Commission is likely to vote to remove "net neutrality", the requirement that internet service providers treat all traffic coming through them equally and do not discriminate for or against a particular traffic source with different speeds.

This has got parts of the Internet, Reddit in particular, up in arms. With internet provision in the US largely restricted to four big providers (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon & Time Warner), with some areas only having access to one, they are concerned this will lead to sites that particular ISP doesn't like being throttled or even blocked, especially if the site doesn't pay what the ISP wants. Netflix has had this problem in the past. With US internet costs pretty high as is (like $120 a month) this is something that they are not happy about.

I don't want this to go - it won't personally affect me and there doesn't seem to be any danger of it happening in the UK, Brexit or otherwise. It will be bad for many start-ups - survivable, but still bad.

However, I sincerely hope that social media can also get as worked up about issues more important to all our future than internet speeds. Like climate change.

23 November 2017

54 Years of Doctor Who

Well, it's certainly been an interesting year for the show; Season 10 was on the whole pretty good and Capaldi was excellent - with Matt Lucas surprising in his quality as well.

Then we got the really big news. With Capaldi's departure, speculation over who would replace him was intense... and when it was announced after the Wimbledon final, the fandom went a bit crazy.

We'll be entering a new era come Christmas Day and I for one welcome our new female Time Lord...

21 November 2017

Exit Robert Mugabe

It looks very much like Robert Mugabe is going to be impeached and removed from office tomorrow after refusing to step down following the coup.

He won't be missed; his economic mismanagement turned Zimbabwe into a basket case for one thing. That and he was a dictator.

Hopefully his successors will be better; while the 'heir apparent' is seen as a hardliner, I suspect he will make some serious concessions to shore up his position.

15 November 2017

'Star Trek: Discovery' season review - Part One

The Vulcan Hello 

In what seems to be the first part of a two-part prologue we get a strong introduction to Michael Burnham, who is headstrong to put it mildly. The episode honours original Trek while taking it up a level and the 'new' Klingons look great.


Battle at the Binary Stars

They certainly didn't do battles like this back in TOS, that's for sure. Not quite as good as the first episode, but a strong part two in which Burnham's plan goes completely Pete Tong MBE. It's a pity that Georgiou is only around for two episodes, but someone had to be the sacrificial lamb here and Michelle Yeoh does a great job.


Context is for Kings

Lorca… seems rather untrustworthy. Our proper 'pilot' introduces us to a batch of the new queue, including some welcome comic relief in the form of Cadet Tilly, an intriguing story arc involving new technology that seems likely to end badly and some epic quoting of Alice in Wonderland. Burnham is annoyingly self-confident, but I think she's meant to be here and part of the "Discovery" of the title is her finding her tact.


The Butcher's…

A regular named character dies with relatively little warning, there's some questionable activity going on with this ship and we get a rather classic twist on the big scary alien. A distinctly average episode, but things are moving along.


Choose Your Pain

The strongest episode so far. We're really getting into the story now and amazingly Mudd manages not to be annoying. Deeply dislikeable, that's for sure, but definitely not annoying. Glad that one particular character didn't die and it's also clear that Lorca has some serious issues.



An episode focussing very much on Burnham's own background, this is a well-written tale although arguably not the best. The 'Disco' T-shirts are hilarious – even many of the crew weren't aware of them. Interesting twist ending mind – Lorca is looking more suspicious now.


Magic to Make…

Definitely the most fun – and funny – episode so far. Works perfectly fine as a standalone and is arguably the most Trek episode so far. Harcourt Fenton Mudd again isn't annoying, which is amazing and it's nice to see the 'personal log' back.


Se Vis Pacem...

Another very Trek episode; this wouldn't be out of place in the original series, that's for sure. A lot of good twists along the way, strong material for everyone (including the Klingons) and a strong cliff-hanger.


Into the Forest I Go

A great fall finale, which ties up a good deal – but by no means all – of the loose ends. Some really great action throughout, some strong tension (one particular character has become much loved) and a superb cliff-hanger that I'm looking forward to seeing resolved.


Started fairly strong, got very strong. The characters are all memorable and recognisable on sight, which is a good thing. The visual update works and I'm looking forward to Part 2 in January.

11 November 2017

Remembrance 2017

I've just come back from a holiday in Malta, which was itself subjected to a two and a half year siege and thousands of air raids by the Axis powers during the Second World War. It was the most bombed place on earth in relation to its size. The RAF suffered huge losses defending a small but strategically vital island and 1,300 civilians themselves were killed.

It's not just soldiers who are victims of war - it never has been. Refugees, reporters, aid workers and others, all are impacted in some way.

We will remember them.

06 November 2017

'Mystery Science Theater 3000' 11.10, "Wizards of the Lost Kingdom"

This 1985 American movie is very silly without possessing the understanding that it is silly, which would make it more enjoyable. It seems that only 58 minutes of footage was actually usable from the production with the prologue (heavily edited here) lifted from other films. It has a 2.6/10 rating on IMDB, which is not good by any stretch of the imagination.

Accordingly, we get ourselves a very good episode of the show, with riffs that, while lacking any legendary ones, gently keep me engaged. The interludes further sending up the movie are also very strong.

Not a classic, but another really solid effort.


04 November 2017

Saudi Arabia intercepts long-range ballistic missile heading for Riyadh

BBC News Report


This is probably the first time a ‘rebel’ group has managed to fire a missile of that long a range – I strongly suspect that they modified a Scud to do this. However, it took a lot of work for relatively little gain… as do most ballistic missile programmes.


Suspect this will get quite a bit of analysis in the next couple of weeks.

23 October 2017

Thoughts on Brexit

I strongly suspect we will be heading for a no deal situation and reverting to WTO rules when dealing with the EU-27. This is going to be highly inconvenient for many people, especially in terms of foreign travel and trade. I doubt it will be as bad as some think, but it’s not going to be easy to deal with for many.


Perhaps, in time, we’ll re-join the EU. We’d have to accept Schengen and possibly the Euro, but would either of those be that bad? The problem with immigration is that we’re not building enough houses, basically.

14 October 2017

Harvey Weinstein

The allegations against this man, who had huge power in Hollywood until recently, are serious and deserve proper investigation. However, sexual misconduct is a problem not just limited to Hollywood but is a society-wide problem.

I think there is a simple thing that people should do: ask permission before making any sexual moves on another person. What you may interpret as being a tease is not always so.

07 October 2017

Secret '67

I am currently running a 1960s set espionage game over at Myth-Weavers going bay the name of 'Secret '67':

Please take a look. I'm having a very good time writing this and the research I have done to get the period detail correct (especially regarding transport) has been very interesting indeed.

04 October 2017

60 years of spaceflight

Today marks 60 years since the launch of Sputnik 1 started the Space Age.

I for one think it is a real pity man hasn't gone beyond the moon.

Maybe it will happen by the 70th anniversary. We can only hope.

02 October 2017

Las Vegas

It doesn't ultimately matter what the motivations were for a man to fire masses of bullets into a country music festival in Las Vegas, then kill himself before the police arrive.

58 people are still dead, their families are in mourning. They should be in our thoughts tonight... and we should work out how to prevent more things like this from happening.

22 September 2017

Star Trek Discovery plans

Instead of a series of reviews, I'm going to do a single post with a paragraph or two on each episode. The critics seem to like it and hopefully I will to.

If not, there is always the delete button...

21 September 2017

Berlin highlights

(The journey, Innotrans)

In this post, I will be covering some of the other things that I saw when I was in Berlin last September.

Let's just say that on the Saturday that I visited Innotrans, my legs ended up very sore and I broke my personal step record by quite some margin.

Tempelhof Airport

Closed since 2008, the former main airport of West Berlin is now a large park area. The main terminal area itself is not open to the public, but is planned to be part of a large museum from 2018. It's pretty rare to find such a major aviation facility in a city centre that's for sure.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Central Station)

The new central rail hub of Berlin, opened in 2006, this five-storey facility hosts services that go as far as away as Moscow and is one of the best stations in Europe architecturally. The layout is much better than St. Pancras and the 'spotting' is truly superb, with a brilliant array of rolling stock and locomotive power on display.

It is common place for non-multiple unit international trains to formed of coaches from more than one country; they are designed to work together pretty easily and this blue coach is a Hungarian one, for use on a Euro Night sleeper train going from Berlin to Vienna via Prague and Brno, with through coaches to Budapest. A through coach is a carriage that is uncoupled from one train and attached to another; the Orient Express of old comprised many of these.

From the same train, a Czech carriage.

Finally, a Czech couchette car. Couchettes are sleeping compartments designed to host four or six people; so the 'couchette avec moi' joke doesn't work unless the passengers are very unusual... convention is that you don't fully undresss.


Berlin's U-Bahn network has a general rule about not taking photographs without permission; I was able to get permission to take some photographs in the Hauptbahnhof's station. Currently this is only served by U55, a short line that runs from here to the Brandenburg Gate station; the ultimate plan is to connect this to U5 at Alexanderplatz, but this will not be until 2020.

One particular highlight of my trip - and I waited at the station for a couple of hours to see this - is the Moscow to Paris sleeper train. This was running three times a week when I was there; it has now been reduced to weekly only, although there is now a new Berlin-Moscow service to partly make up for it. There were five other people at least taking photos of this one.

With a German locomotive hauling a train of Russian sleeper cars and a Polish restaurant car, this service is an example of international rail cooperation; services like this ran during the height of the Cold War, although the East German border guards often caused considerable hold-ups...

The Palace of Tears

Speaking of considerable hold-ups, Berlin Friedrichstraße station was once a major stopping point on the international trains, although is now only served by regional trains and the U-Bahn.

When the Berlin Wall was up, this station served as the rail arrival point for East Berlin; people coming for visits (say West Berliners visiting relatives) would have to go through a fairly intense series of checks to enter the GDR and also when they were going out; the queues could be very long and there were over 100 cases of people dying there, mostly from heart attacks.

In addition, West Berlin U-Bahn and the S-Bahn trains from the West (operated by the East Germans until 1984) stopped at the station and one could shop for reduced price Western goods at the Intershop duty free establishment without going through GDR checks... although West Berlin police might be waiting on the other side.

The "exit hall", which is now a museum, became known as the Palace of Tears due to the large number of goodbyes that were said just outside it. It houses an array of exhibits linked to the GDR border regime, including the original wooden passport booths used.

You can step inside these and go out the other side; when I did so, I was immediately reminded of the game Papers, Please.

Well worth a visit.

The Reichstag

Home to the German legislature, this rebuilt (after of course being gutted in the 1933 fire used by Hitler to assume total power) structure has been suitably updated to modern times, with a glass dome accessible by a long ramp, a general emphasis on environmentalism and the ability to look down into the Bundestag chamber from said dome, although not to drop Union Jack flags into it if you were so inclined. You need to apply in advance to visit this and go through the standard security checks; there are guided tours in English, but not at the time that I went, which was a Monday evening.

11 September 2017

Skulduggery in Space (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.10, "Journey to Babel")

Yes it has been far too long but I am finally resuming this. Things review wise may be shorter but they'll still be funny. I hope.

Make it so.

This shipbound tale has three separate plots going on: a murder mystery among a group of diplomats, a mysterious ship following the Enterprise and Spock getting to meet his parents for the first time in four years, which is somewhat of an awkward affair. 

The first of these would be good enough for an episode in its own right... but with a lot more work needed. We get some rather sudden developments that occur without warning (including a Kirk fight) and an overall premise that stretches credibility.

The second is an enjoyable affair with a mysterious spacecraft with some good bridge action that does not involve throwing oneself about. Pity we never get a good look at it though. 

Sarek will feature in the new show played by James Frain, a man who I will not be able to take overly seriously after he got tied to a bed by Tatiana Maslany with his socks on. Anyway, the superb scenes between him, Spock and his human wife massively illuminate Vulcan culture as well as allow Dr McCoy to excel. Even the end comedy scene is good.

Overall, this is a very good episode, although not for the murder part; that's rather weak.

It's the Spock and Sarek story that saves this and does it very well indeed. It runs long and prospers as a Vulcan might say.


29 August 2017

North Korea missile test

Now that was completely and utterly reckless. Firing a missile over another country without any warning...

And we don't know how accurate those missiles actually are.

Yet the cost of taking military action against the DPRK is going to be very high.

There are no easy solutions here.

18 August 2017

Sir Bruce Forsyth 1928-2017

Not many people spend seven decades in showbiz. Not many have a comeback when most of us would have retired. 

A true icon of British television has taken his final bow. It was nice to see him...

03 August 2017

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Yongary

This dubbed 1969 Korean Godzilla rip-off is very tepid; the action is not good but there isn't enough truly bad stuff to make it a classic riff field. Jonah et al do what they can with what they have, but it's not a brilliant episode by a long chalk. 

Great song at the end though. 


16 July 2017

Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor

Came running up in the odds in the last couple of days - and it was clear that the people putting bets on knew what they were talking about. Does the BBC have rules about insider trading?

Anyway, a very good choice - it was definitely time to have a woman in the TARDIS - and a very good reveal. Kris Marshall would have been bored.

So, come Christmas, it will be time for 13... and she looks very intriguing.

11 July 2017

Trump: Smoking Gun #1

We now have clear evidence that Donald Trump's son knowingly attempted to get "dirt" from the Russian government to discredit Hillary Clinton.

There's a word for that sort of thing, especially if a quid pro quo is involved. 


09 July 2017

Berlin railyard - Innotrans 2016

This is the second part of my trilogy of posts relating to my visit to Berlin, Germany in September last year. If you want to read the first part, please click here.

In this particular instalment, I will provide a general guide to the site that I saw on the first public day - Saturday 24 September - including some of the key exhibits that I saw.

Certain pictures are linked to rather than posted in order to reduce loading time of this entry and to avoid breaking up the text too much.

Also, Wikimedia has over 300 photos here including many interior shots from the non-public days.

The site

Innotrans takes place at Messe Berlin, a huge trade fair site dating back to the 1930s, located in western Berlin. It was a fairly long walk from my hotel; especially as you had to go all the way round the site to find the entrance for the public viewing. While walking anyway in Berlin, you have to of course remember that jaywalking is illegal.

The trade days featured a string of interior displays in the halls themselves, but these were not open to the public. All they got was the exterior displays, in which a large array of trains of the present and near future were placed on display in a large rail yard. Multiple long lines were filled with locomotives, multiple units, wagons etc.

Here are some of the highlights.


The bi-mode version of the Class 68 (which operates Chiltern's very nice loco-hauled service), the Class 88 aka the Vossloh Euro Dual is a mixed traffic locomotive designed to haul both freight and passenger stock. These are capable of 100mph operations and will probably be pretty popular for charter services. Class 47s and 86s may have character, but when you're paying several hundred a ticket, you want something with a couple of million less miles on the clock.

I believe this is a Newag Dragon locomotive built in Poland for the Freightliner Group - which is the privatised version of the old British Rail freight transport business. Powered by electricity, I think this also has a diesel engine for 'last mile' operations as overhead wires don't tend to mix very well with freight yards.

Another bi-mode; this is the Vectron AC. This particular version is intended for Finnish use and thus will be on broad gauge tracks i.e. 1,520 mm versus the standard 1,435 mm; hence the special yellow supports underneath to deal with the latter track at Innotrans. Finland was part of the Russian Empire until 1917, so its railways use the same gauge as used there and across the former Soviet Union, which resulting operational difficulties. Believe this will be mainly used for freight.

This old German steam locomotive called Emma, built in 1925 was travelling back and forth, being available for cab rides. The queue was rather long, so I choose to skip this.

Loco-hauled coaches

Locomotive-hauled stock is getting increasingly uncommon as the multiple unit becomes more popular - after all a locomotive takes up extra space that could be used for passengers. However, it still survives in sleeper services - underfloor traction motors aren't conducive to a good night's sleep.

This particular coach is intended for use in Azerbaijan and the wider Caucasus region (i.e. to Tbilisi); therefore it is also using 1520mm gauge... but can also be adjusted for operations on standard gauge lines - such as into Turkey. Changing gauges without physically lifting the carriage off its bogies will save a lot of time at the old Soviet border.

I believe this will be replacing older Soviet-era stock.

Diesel Multiple Units

This Hungarian vehicle is a two-car Rail Diagnostic Train. As the name implies, this is used to drive over railway lines and electronically inspect them for any defects so that they can be fixed before they become a more serious problem. The interior has sleeping accommodation as well for use on longer trips.

This is a Pesa Link diesel multiple unit operating with the private operator Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn; this provides rail services in the north and east of Germany, with trains crossing the border to Koztryn. This is actually a Polish built unit - the first to get certification to run in Germany - and I would ride in one later on my trip.

PP is the Croatian state railway passenger arm and this is one of their newest trains - the three-car diesel electric (where a diesel engine runs an electrical generator to provide power for traction motor) HŽ 7023 intended for regional use. Locally produced, it is capable of 120 km/h - not fast (only 75 mph) - but most of Southern Europe isn't exactly high speed. Low floor entry as well; very useful on stations with barely any platforms.

Electric Multiple Units

Some of my readers may well have used the new Class 700 Siemens Desiro City units currently entering service on Thameslink. While I quite liked them, there have been issues with the seat quality and the accuracy of the seat display system. It seems very much that a short hop commuter unit is being used for too many roles at once; Thameslink is also a medium-distance service and an airport train, which have somewhat different needs.

There should be less issues with the South West Trains cousin to the unit, the Class 707, of which three of the five carriages of 707006 were present at Innotrans. Some of these have now arrived in the UK for testing and service entry was intended for June, but has now slipped. These will be used on Waterloo to Windsor services, allowing for the Class 458s that work the line to revert to Reading operations and in turn allowing the 450s to go elsewhere. Access to the interior wasn't possible, but the photos I have seen elsewhere look quite nice and with journey times of under an hour, there should be less of an issue with the fact there are no toilets. These five car units will also often run in pairs to provide ten-car trains.

However, it appears that this won't be long for the South West as the new franchise holder has managed to find cheaper trains, namely Bombardier Aventras, but with the capacity to fit them for AC operation, these will almost certainly find a new operator quickly.

I fancy another visit to Windsor at some point at any rate.

This rather nice looking train processes one of the stupidest appellations for a railway family I have seen in my life time. This is the Stadler Fast Light Innovative Regional Train... or FLIRT for short. They also have the double decker KISS (komfortabler innovativer spurtstarker S-Bahn-Zug or comfortable, innovative, sprint-capable suburban train), which I actually rode on a few times while I was in Berlin. It kind of begs the question of where you go next in the naming department...

Anyway, I was particularly interested in this one as a modified version will be operating on Greater Anglia from 2019 onwards, with a 12-car electric version for London to Norwich services and a 4-car bi-mode version for services on the diesel lines. These will replace the Class 90 loco hauled trains on the former and 153/170 DMUs on the latter. I will miss the former, but not exactly the latter.

While the interior of the train is nothing like what it will be in UK service; there will have to be modifications for the loading gauge, one particular feature of the FLIRT will be a lowered door area that will make it much easier for wheelchair and pushchair users to enter the train.

The Stadler EC250 is a 250km/h capable unit initially designed for Milan to Zurich operations by SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) and entering service this year. This is another low floor unit - apparently the first such single deck unit in the world. I was able to go inside this - very nice inside.

This is an 36WE unit, built by Neweg of Poland for Przewozy Regionalne, the regional operator operator formed when PKP was broken up (as a result of EU regulations) and now owned by the regional governments. These are three car units, capable of operating at 100mph and are part of the Impuls family.

An interior shot can be found here.

This is a Turkish high speed train - specifically a Siemens Velaro, a relative of the new e320s in operation on Eurostar. Known as the TCDD HT80000, this entered service in March 2017 on two Turkish high speed lines.


A new tram currently in service in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, built by Škoda Transportation. I don't believe that they are part of the same company that makes the car any more; that is a VW subsidiary that has managed to bury its bad reputation.


A Zagro road-rail vehicle - capable of driving on both.

A double deck car transporter. It's more efficient to transport them this way...

Shopping and food opportunities

There were a number of stalls selling new and second hand items, including model railway equipment, old caps from Deutsche Reichsbahn (i.e. the East German operator) and various old badges. I bought a little model of a Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicle (main carrier of West German and contemporary German mechanised infantry) and also another non-running N-gauge model of the V200 locomotive. The latter diesel-hydraulic loco is considered a German classic and was licence-built in the UK (in a modified form for our smaller loading gauge) as the Class 42/43 'Warship' Class. There were other model carriages there, but as I don't have a model railway, I couldn't justify the cost to myself.

In terms of food, there were various stalls selling that, but I seem to recall that they were all rather expensive and not exactly a full filling meal. I certainly didn't have lunch there, that's for sure.


I had planned to stay the entire day, but in the end, I was only there for just under two hours before I had pretty much exhausted everything that there was for me to do there - I am far too old for children's rides, that's for sure. Not being able to see the interior displays or that many train interiors was somewhat disappointing, but I did get to see a lot of railway stuff I don't normally get to see.

The admission fee, which was either three or six euros, was enough to cover the time that I was there. If this had been the sole reason that I came to Berlin, it would have been a big disappointment, but there were many other experiences for me to have...

This will be covered in Part Three.

03 July 2017

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Loves of Hercules

This is a very silly swords and sandals movie dominated by two stars' chests. The SOL crew have a lot of fun and there are many chuckle inducing riffs, although none truly brilliant. 

The vocalising at the end is superb but the rest of the episode is merely very good. 


02 July 2017

Berlin post

The second post in my Berlin trilogy has been completed and will appear next Sunday. I will then do a post covering some of the other places that I visited in this city, which hopefully will not take too much longer. I certainly intend to have it up by the anniversary of me actually going there.

01 July 2017

Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls

More of an emotional episode than an action one, this very much gives some good closure to many of the characters, while leaving the door open for returns. The Cybermen are again great here and there's some nice tying together of all the different origin stories, so to speak. Capaldi's Doctor is a bit moany through much of this, but as a way to 'die' – although he hasn't quite gone yet – it's a superb one. Two Masters were pretty good fun, but not as much as it could have been.


Another great ending though; Christmas will be very interesting indeed.




29 June 2017

Doctor Who: World Enough and Time

This review is later than usual as I've been away in Vienna, Austria and was unable to watch the episode until today. I made sure that I avoided spoilers though.


As we heard towards the end of Steven Moffat's time as show runner, this episode frankly knocks it out of the park. As well as great acting all round – it took me a few minutes to spot one key twist – he's added a whole new level of horror to one of the show's most iconic 'monsters'; going to levels that were only hinted at when RTD handled them.


A brilliant episode from start to finish and next week's finale is something not to be missed.




19 June 2017

Finsbury Park

Four attacks in four months; this one by the 'other side' in this hateful conflict. Yet again, someone takes their anger out on a group who have done them wrong by attacking someone completely different.

I sadly fear more attacks.

17 June 2017

Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light

Rona Munro, who wrote the final story of the original run back in 1989 has been away from this show for far too long – her return is a triumph with a great story, a brilliantly realised creature and lots of great gags.


This is also the first story of the 12th Doctor's era to be set in Peter Capaldi's native Scotland and it works really well.




16 June 2017

Grenfell Tower

We are almost certainly looking at a disaster as bad as Hillsborough here. My thoughts and prayers are with the many caught up in this.

It is clear that this fire ended up as awful as it has been due to someone failing to follow fire safety procedures somewhere, almost certainly to a criminal level.

A public inquiry is the right thing to do and in the meantime, these tower blocks need to be made as safe as possible. 

In the future, they need to be replaced by buildings fit for purpose. 

10 June 2017

2017 General Election results

A fuller post on this will follow, pending post-poll studies of the actual demographics that turned out. However, some quick thoughts:

  • The Conservatives remain in power to all intents and purposes. May got the highest vote share for them since Margaret Thatcher, despite leading a highly inept campaign. It is clear, however, she is not suited to the role of PM and should probably step aside for someone more competent at the top job.
  • Labour did much better than expected, but whether this was down to Corbyn or despite him remains to be studied. He has taken Labour a good deal of the way there, but he may not be the person to take them back into power.
  • The Lib Dems are irrelevant now. Nick Clegg's decision to go for full coalition instead of confidence and supply has cost his party dear; he has now paid with his own seat.
  • The SNP are badly battered but still there – the next Scottish Parliament elections will be very interesting.
  • The DUP... well, we're all going to be paying a lot more attention to Northern Ireland now, that's for sure.


Doctor Who: Empress of Mars

Got to say that I didn't enjoy that one at all. Looked great, but the guest characters were all very broad stereotypes, the plot twists were silly (dropping one big one without warning suggested something important got lost in the edit) and the new Ice Warriors weapon seems like an excuse for the effects people to show off..


Also, that was one of the most out of left field reappearances by a character I've ever seen. I didn't even know that voice actor was still alive...




09 June 2017

General Election Result 3: Or maybe not...

The current projection is for the Conservatives to have 318 seats, eight short of a majority. I thought that a Conservative minority government was the worst realistic scenario for them at the election and it looks like coming true.

Labour have done much, much better than a lot of people thought, although they haven't managed to break through the Ulster Firewall and will likely end up as second place in the popular vote. 43-40 sounds a realistic result to me.

Close, but no cigar.

08 June 2017

General Election Result 2: I think the exit poll is off

2 swings to the Tories and one less than expected Labour swing... I think we might get a Tory majority...

UK General Election 2017 Results 1: Exit Poll

Exit poll has Conservatives at 314, 12 short of a majority. However, with the SNP down to 34, then with Labour at 266, that only makes 300. Even with 14 Lib Dems, that's no way to form a majority either.

Of course this poll could be wrong. It was in 2015; it predicted a Tory minority government and the Tories got an overall majority.

Or it could go the other way. At the moment, May is likely to remain PM.

04 June 2017

London Bridge/Borough terrorist attack

I am afraid, yes, but I am not cowed. With the third terrorist attack on the UK in the space of two months and with my current job requiring me to use the busiest railway station in the country on a daily basis, the possibilty of me getting caught up in one of these incidents is not zero.

I find myself thinking about what I would do in such an incident. It would depend on the circumstances and what I could viably do. At any rate, we all have to mentally prepare ourselves for such an eventuality. Learning first aid is a good idea as well - I have done an online CPR course and I may look into getting something more formal in future.

(I have been involved in two situations where I have had to call 999, both at the same railway station, although in those cases, I was the one making the call while others were attending the victim).

In addition, businesses need to add an 'Active Shooter' plan to their list of company policies.

The police killed the three terrorists in eight minutes from the first 999 call, but that was eight minutes in which they managed to kill seven people (so far) and injure 50. If this had been in somewhere like Rugby or Hull, they wouldn't have been there in eight minutes.

It is now time for a serious discusion on routine armament of the police. If not handguns, most certainly Taser. Because these people could strike anywhere with no warning and they need to be stopped quickly.

These people think they are doing God's will when in fact they are doing Satan's. Mr. Horner is a wily old fox and he knows that few people indeed are your classic cat-stroking villains, doing evil for the LOLs. If people believe they are doing something good or righteous, then they are willing to engage in some real atrocities.

Going forward, we will need to get seriously tough on those who radicalise vulnerable men (and it is nearly always men) with long prison sentences and putting them in special wings where they cannot turn others to their cause. We need an off-shore Alcatraz for these people.

We must also address real and valid grievances in the Islamic world - not because it causes terrorism, but because it is the right thing to do and it will eliminate some of the excuses. We must also recognise and make clear that most victims of terrorism, along with most of those doing the fighting are Muslims.

There is no talking with Daesh except to ask them what they would like for dinner as they serve their whole life terms - the death penalty is what these people want. The IRA never wanted the destruction of the United Kingdom, Daesh do.

I hope I don't have to write another post like this. I sadly fear I will.

03 June 2017

Doctor Who: The Lie of the Land

A strong episode, with Capaldi at his cold best... also, a very different episode for Missy... There were certain elements I wasn't overly keen on though, with the resolution being a bit too 'Power of Love' for my taste.


Great central idea, could have been executed (no pun intended) a bit better.






01 June 2017

General Election prediction

I think that the Conservatives will win an overall majority of between 25 and 50 seats with around an eight point popular vote lead, say 44-36. A lot of marginal seats will change hands in both directions and there will be much variation in swing levels. 

May will remain Prime Minister, Corbyn will remain Labour leader but neither will fight the 2022 election. 

I could of course be very wrong on this. 

31 May 2017

US 2016/17 upfronts thoughts

  • CBS did their usual bulk early renewal.
  • Designated Survivor, a superb show, was a natural candidate (no pun intended) for renewal. Agents of SHIELD less so, but it must have its fans in the upper management.
  • Timeless getting axed was sad, but no surprise as it had middling ratings. Getting reprieved three days later was a huge surprise. The show will almost certainly be a summer one and hopefully it will get two or three more runs - it's a fun show, even if a bit silly at times. Hey, so is Doctor Who.
  • The CW's DC based shows continue to do well - Legends of Tomorrow is great and the episodes of the other shows that I've watched relating to crossovers are fun as well.


  • Conviction failed and failed big time. Hayley Atwell will probably be moving back to the UK soon; you don't really get a third chance to crack the US. I think the 10pm slot on Mondays for ABC may become a "cursed one", but we shall see.
  • Powerless didn't even get to conclude its run before being yanked, which is a huge failure for a DC based show.

New shows
  • A major drop in the number of new shows this year; the pilots may have been really bad...
  • Star Trek: Discovery looks visually epic and I definitely plan to watch it, but the proof of the pudding remains in the eating.
  • The Orville, Seth MacFarlane's spoof space drama looks like it could be a lot of silly fun and I definitely plan to do that.
  • Think I'll pass on The Gifted. Amy Acker is a brilliant actor, but she alone does not a series make and I prefer my comic book shows with some good jokes.
  • Also Valor looks too 'angsty' for my taste. 
  • NBC have again geo-blocked their trailers... Sarah Shahi has got her own show with Dennis Haysbert, but it remains to be clear whether it will be a Shaw-fire hit or if it will be time to Palmer off in May... with that awful pun, I'm done.

27 May 2017

Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World

An episode with an epic scope and yet still relatively small-scale, this features one of the best plots we've seen in a good while with a great cliff-hanger. The special effects are also great and it's really good to see an actor with dwarfism playing a human instead of an alien.


Next week looks really interesting, even if a bit of a remake of "The Last of the Time Lords", which was nearly a decade ago now!




26 May 2017

Remember a little thing called margin of error

The opinion polls show Labour closing the gap on the Conservatives.

However, there is a statistical margin of error in any poll of three points either way and any poll is built on assumptions about voting that may be off.

My current prediction is a Tory majority of 50 to 100, but my on the day prediction for 2015 was Labour as largest party in a Hung Parliament...

23 May 2017

Sir Roger Moore 1927-2017

It was a matter of time, with three of them as old as they were, before we lost a Bond actor. The 007 fan community knew this and it is likely that many of the obituaries posted today were written in advance. 

While not my favourite Bond, Sir Roger Moore's seven films in the role contain some of my favourites, most notably 'For Your Eyes Only' - a major influence on 'Covert-81'. His 'Jimmy' Bond could handle terrifying and ridiculous situations alike with aplomb - defusing a nuke dressed as a clown is a hard job to play seriously but he did it - while his raised eyebrow will go down in legend.

Getting a knighthood without being a Shakespearean actor is a huge achievement but he was a man of them.

Rest in Peace, Sir Roger. May many a vodka martini be raised in your honour tonight. 


Only the vilest of people engage in deliberate attacks on children at a pop concert. 

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this outrage. 

21 May 2017

Doctor Who: Extremis

Explaining just what the Doctor has in that vault, this is a very dark episode, literally and metaphorically. The pay-off when it arrives makes the journey worthwhile, but if we're being honest, it's a bit of a slog at times.


There's some good humour (although it's rather limited) and the performances are again stellar, but there have been much better Steven Moffat episodes over the years.


What this does do is set up the next episode and kick things up a gear... what happens next will be very interesting.



18 May 2017

Chris Connell 1964-2017

A tragic loss, especially as he killed himself. "You Know My Name", the theme to Casino Royale, is one of my favourite songs and a superb Bond theme.

Rest in Peace.

17 May 2017

All The President's Men 2: Electric Trumpaloo

With the latest reports from the New York Times, it seems we are getting ever closer to Donald Trump getting impeached. 

I don't know if it will happen but the idea of him doing the perp walk makes me rather happy inside.

14 May 2017

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Land That Time Forgot

This 1974 fantasy movie based on the 1924 novel is not a bad film, but it is definitely cheesy and the imperialist overtones of the original work are pretty clear to see. The most memorable character for me is Dietz, played with relish by Anthony Ainley, who later played the Master in Doctor Who against Doctors Four through Seven.


I have to say that while this episode (which I watched in two parts separated by over a week) was enjoyable, it doesn't stick in the memory like some of the others have. Not bad at all, but certainly not a classic.



13 May 2017

Doctor Who: Oxygen

A strong episode throughout with a strong horror quotient and some very dark humour – especially Velma, the AI voice of the suits. What is basically a lot of corridor action is done very well, although it does get a bit preachy at times.


Great ending though... There's a spoilery joke that I won't make.




08 May 2017

A limited nuclear attack on the UK - how much damage could it do?

Some of the detonations
 Out of curiosity, I have decided to model using NUKEMAP a 'limited' nuclear strike on my home country, aiming at key military facilities (air and naval) and avoiding cities just for the sake of it, but I will hit Central London for command and control purposes.

For ease of calculation, I will be limiting this to Topol/SS-25 ICBMs at 800kt each, going off 1000 metres above their targets - this does more damage, but produces less fallout. This will just cover the initial attack - not fallout, which is very much weather dependent.

The targets are: 

Aldermaston (nuclear bomb construction)

RAF Boulmer (Air Defence control)
RAF Brize Norton
RAF Coningsby

Faslane (Naval base)
RAF Fylingdales (Early warning radar)
RAF Lakenheath (USAF)

London (10 Downing Street to be precise)
RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Marham
RAF Menwith Hill (US/UK intelligence and communications facility) 
Plymouth (Naval base)
Porton Down (Chemical Weapons)
Portsmouth (Naval base)
RAF Waddington

That is 15 ICBMs... Unfortunately, the system keeps resetting itself, but I end up with well over a million dead, mostly those in London, Plymouth and Portsmouth, but other areas will produce thousands of dead. I did not cover army bases, but it is entirely possible that the Russians could eliminate the UK militarily with 30 or so ICBMs.

However, the UK would still have a missile boat out in the North Atlantic with 8 Trident missiles and those could do a lot of damage in return... not to mention all the US boats.

06 May 2017

Doctor Who: Knock Knock

Now that was a nice 'base under siege', or rather 'house under siege' episode with a lot of creepiness throughout and an excellent villain in the form of David Suchet. Bill was again superb.


Not overly sure about the resolution, but you can't have everything.






03 May 2017

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Starcrash

Who wrote this dog's breakfast of a movie? It's like someone decided to let a 7 year old plot a science fiction movie... no a 7 year old could do a better job. Plot elements turn up with no notice whatsoever, the acting is atrocious, the effects are ridiculously cheap. There are better movies with Caroline Munro wearing a bikini for no good reason, that's for sure; namely The Spy Who Loved Me, which was not actually scored by John Barry (Marvin Hamlisch did that one), whose music is pretty much the only good thing about this. Also, who calls a character Stella Star? It's almost as bad as Luke Skywalker...


Bad movies often make for the best riffing and this is no exception. Servo and Crow – it's very odd seeing the latter standing up on his own legs in the theatre – throw some real zingers, as of course does Joel. I laughed a lot at this, although they did miss a couple of obvious riffs... and I have to say that the riffs do sag a bit in the middle of the film.


Also, "Live from New York, it's the torpedo sketch!" is a superb line.



29 April 2017

Doctor Who: Thin Ice

Can't say that this one overly struck me; well it certainly held my attention for the whole episode, it didn't exactly thrill me. Bill Potts is proving to be a superb companion and Twelve has got his character down pat. However, the rest of the episode left me cold (pun intended) – there were no real standout guest performances and the street urchins... well, this show has done them a lot better.

Just how many people of colour were there in London in 1814? That's what I'd like to know.


27 April 2017

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Beast of Hollow Mountain

Much of the movie here is actually a bit boring; the titular beast is not actually seen until the third act. When he does appear, things get massively cheesy. 

The riffing - in which Tom Servo and Crow are now easily distinguishable - starts slowly but is rolling along brilliantly by the end, even going meta.

Another great episode. 


24 April 2017

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Avalanche

Got to say that this one is the best of the new run so far and may well become a fan favourite. 1970s disaster movies are a rare subject for the show (it did two in the KTMA season) and they're very ripe for riffing, especially this 1978 turkey starring Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow.

The film itself is pretty terrible - Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow have no chemistry, the film takes far too long to get to the actual avalanche and much of it is just over the top.

The riffing however is top notch. I actually got hiccups at the end, where the bots and Jonah start giving the destroyed resort TripAdvisor reviews... Also, the skits were great.


22 April 2017

Doctor Who: Smile

Not exactly the most original story in the show's history  - the overall plot is one that has been told before, including one more than one occasion by this show itself.


That said, it's a highly enjoyable episode, helped particularly by Pearl Mackie who manages to steal scenes from Peter Capaldi on a regular basis – she says the really obvious things that a regular person would say... rather than a science fiction writer would have them say. Bill is taken us on an excellent adventure, If you know what I mean...


I'll get me coat...



19 April 2017

Mystery Science Theater 3000 11.3: "The Time Travellers"

The 200th episode of the show is an excellent one. The movie itself is suitably of its time (no people of colour at all!) to be a rich target for jokes and they're very good jokes indeed.


The skits in the breaks were just as good – in particular the bit involving Rocket Number Nine's welcome return...


Near perfect.




Mystery Science Theater 3000 11.2: Cry Wilderness

A very strange movie but (or rather and) the riffing is consistently solid throughout. A lot of laughs to be had.

Not as good as the previous episode (no memorable song) but still great fun.


18 April 2017

General Election called for Thursday 8 June

Well, that was a surprise. Although it is clear from the polls why Theresa May has decided to call one.


I'm probably going to end up voting for the Lib Dems – I live in a safe Tory seat anyway. I can't vote for Labour, not now. I hope that the likely mullering it faces saves the party in the long term as they'll have tried the same thing three times (running on a hard-left platform) and failed every time.


But Hope is a place in Arkansas...


Anyway, it's on like Donkey Kong. Prepare yourself for seven weeks of British election campaigning...


15 April 2017

Doctor Who: The Pilot

I am going to be doing mini-reviews of the current run of this show – as well as the new Star Trek series and Mystery Science Theater 3000 from the second episode on. I will try to do them shortly after I've watched them so impressions are fresh in my minds and I'm not too swayed by others.


Took a little while to get going this – 50 minutes was arguably too long for the episode. However, once it did get going, it was very good. Bill is a different sort of companion in that she asks the obvious questions that others haven't always asked in the past. Also, they're very upfront about her being a lesbian, aren't they?


A lot of good humour and the Doctor-Bill-Nardole team works well. Also, the trailers for next week and onwards look very interesting.




11 April 2017

God's love for us

Jesus didn't have to do what he did. He could have easily come down from the cross and hurled lightning bolts at the entire Sanhedrin. Yet he chose not to. 

At any time, God could wipe us out and start over with a species that actually does what it is told. Yet he chooses not to. 

After all the damage and suffering we have caused, frequently citing his holy name as justification... yet he still loves us and wants us to be in heaven with him. 

I don't understand it. But I am grateful for it.

Happy Easter.

08 April 2017

Syria missile strikes

The American Tomahawk missile strikes against the Shayrat airbase are a justifiable response to an outrageous violation of international norms.

However I feel that they were too early and the US should have waited for an independent report into the Idlib attack on Tuesday to bolster its international case.

I do not think that the US or Russia want to get into a shooting war with each other and any Russian response will be through its Syrian proxies. 

The ball is in their court. If the vile tyrant Assad uses these weapons again, then we should attack him again until he gets the hint.

Not intervening earlier was a serious mistake. This is now the least bad option.

29 March 2017

Triggering Article 50

So, today we're triggering Article 50 and beginning the process of leaving the European Union.

Now I respect the will of the people, but I still think it's a mistake to do this. This is ultimately the result of immigration and pulling up the drawbridge does not deal with the fundamental issues of global inequality. We sit here all snug, pretty and fat in our Western world, while hundreds of millions still struggle to get by.

The sun once never set on the British Empire. Personally, I believe the sun is beginning to set on Britain and the West. We are in decline as other powers rise up... the wheel of power is turning...

22 March 2017

Westminster terrorist attack

At least two people have been killed in a terrorist attack in Westminster in London. Full details remain sketchy and will probably be for some time. It seems the police responded very quickly to this and hopefully the incident is now contained.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those caught up in this horrific situation.

10 March 2017

Old Street station

I thought I'd share some photographs that I took yesterday of the Great Northern platforms at Old Street. This is on the former 'Northern City' line, part of the London Underground and taken over by British Rail in 1976; it was where the Class 313s first appeared and the dual-voltage units remain in use, although will be replaced by new Class 717s in the next couple of years.

The station is very much a throwback to the 1990s; with Network SouthEast tiling still very much in place.

So, here you go:

01 February 2017

Delay in next Berlin post

Due to some other things that I am doing, namely working on my novel and also another article for publication in a magazine, the two remaining Berlin posts are on hold for the time being.

I will get them done, but it may take a while.

30 January 2017

Donald Trump and extreme vetting

Many people have expressed their opinions on this already but here is mine. 

This is a monumentally stupid policy. Banning nationals from seven countries even if it is for 90 days because of the extremely slim possibility that one of them may be a terrorist is dumb. It is punishing the innocent with the guilty. 

It has only served to alienate moderate Muslims. 

Then again, the so-called Land of the Free has long been a massive case of high words, low actions. The Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are created equal was drafted by a slave owner. 

I could go on but it take all day.

28 January 2017

Sir John Hurt 1940-2017

When an actor's death is the top story on the BBC, you know that they were something special.

And John Hurt, who has died aged 77, was definitely something special.

His roles across his long career were legendary. The Elephant Man. Alien. Harry Potter. The dragon in Merlin.

Then most recently, the War Doctor. His appearance in Doctor Who in 2013 and later three Big Finish audio box sets, with a fourth due for release later this year, gave him yet another generation of fans.

His rich voice was truly memorable and I chose to use it as the one for Beeching, the computer on Alycidon.

His death was a surprise - he had beaten pancreatic cancer previously - but I am not that distraught about it. We all have to go at some point and hopefully he is in a better place now, swapping anecdotes in the green room in the sky.

He had a good long life. In fact, a spectacular one.

Rest in Peace, Sir John.

17 January 2017

Planet of the Really Bad Subtext (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.9, "Metamorphosis")

She's just watched "The Alternative Factor"

Stockholm Syndrome hadn't been identified at the time this episode had made... which is a pity, because this would have been a much better episode if it had been. Because frankly, its moral compass is broken.

[This review contains major spoilers]

Kirk, Spock and McCoy (quite why you put your top two officers and your medical guy on this mission, I don't know) are flying the shuttle Galileo - they've got a replacement after the previous one was lost - back to the Enterprise. Aside from those three, they are carrying a diplomat by the name of Assistant Commissioner Hedford, who has attracted a very rare illness and needs urgent medical treatment back on the starship. 

However, they are then taken off course by a mysterious space cloud that looks like Donald Trump's hair and end on an Earth-like asteroid. With a rather unusual inhabitant...

This is a rather 'compact' episode; with action limited to the planet, the shuttle and a couple of scenes on the bridge; Chekov is not present in this one.

None of the regulars really stand out in this story sadly. They do get the chance to do some electric shock dancing, but there is very little of the great character moments here.

Nancy Hedford (her first name is only given in the credits) is a headscarf wearing woman who starts off doing grumpy and ends up engaging in sweaty overacting. Played by Elinor Donahue - who is still alive and turns 80 in April - I couldn't help but be reminded of Alison Brie; who you might cast to play this sort of role - the latter dressed similarly in Mad Men.

The inhabitant on the planet turns out to be none other than Zefram Cochrane; the man who invented the warp drive! He went missing 150 years previously and was presumed dead. He in fact has lived on the planet, been rejuvenated by an alien companion who provides for all his needs to appear 35... and hasn't aged since. This is something he isn't entirely happy about. Played by Glen Corbett, he looks like a rather stereotypical sort of character for this period, a rather cynical space traveller; he also has a rather 'standard' haircut.

Cochrane's companion is a big glowing ball of animation on optical matte and looks very much of the period; many of the shots appear to be the same as in original transmission. Therefore, from the perspective of 50 years on, it doesn't pass muster. This said, its creator, Richard Edlund would later become a founding member of Industrial Light and Magic.

The massive issue that hits this episode in the middle is the revelation that the Companion is in fact female, deeply in love with Cochrane and that their relationship has basically been sexual. Cochrane feels violated by this... and the rest of the crew aren't, seeing his reaction as primitive.

Then the Companion, instead of curing Hedford, merges with her (did she ask?) and makes herself human... but can't leave the asteroid. So Cochrane decides to stay with her, because he's fallen in love with her...

To which my response is:

She imprisoned him and basically got her jollies via mind meld under false pretences for150 years! He's only in love with her because he's well and truly got Stockholm Syndrome! What a stupid, stupid, insulting twist!

Before that, however, the episode starts badly dragging. It's very talky and is arguably at least 10 minutes too long.
When being long and boring is one of the smaller faults in a work, then you have a problem.


What started off as an interesting affair involving unusual alien life began to increasingly drag... then turned very sour for me with the reveal about the creature and its purposes.

I have to judge this episode by modern standards and the morality I subscribe to, so I have to knock this down several notches.

This is the worst episode I've watched to date.