Blog business

Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep (1968) [DVD/Blu-ray]

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Contains some spoilers.

The coronavirus pandemic has obviously had far-reaching repercussions for pretty much every aspect of life, not least the world of arts and entertainments. The next full season of Doctor Who for example almost certainly won’t now make it to our screens until 2022 because of the delay in the start of filming. But it’s not all bad news, and indeed this year has actually been rather a good one for fans of the original classic series.

For example, we’ve had the release of the 1976/7 Season 14 on Blu-ray which included some of the best-loved Tom Baker serials including The Deadly Assassin, The Face of Evil, The Robots of Death and The Talons of Weng-Chiang. It sold out so absurdly fast (totally unavailable to order a full two months before release!) that it had to be re-released a second time shortly thereafter – and that sold out almost as quickly. Let it not be said that there isn’t a market for this sort of thing.

There’s also been the unprecedented release of not one two animated reconstructions of ‘lost’ serials in quick succession. This arises from the BBC’s policy at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s to wipe master tapes of old productions that were thought to have no conceivable rebroadcast value in the days before home media. Over a hundred episodes of Doctor Who were destroyed – a disproportionate number of them starring Patrick Troughton – and while a few have been unearthed and recovered, there’s still 97 of the original 253 episodes missing from the archives with no realistic chance of copies turning up. Read the rest of this entry »

… and a very Happy New Year 2020

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Hello again!

It’s been over six months since my last confession, excuse me, since my last update to this site. I can only apologise for my indolence and beg forgiveness for leaving you in the lurch. There’s no good excuses for my absence other than the usual observation that time flashes by so quickly when one is not paying attention.

But a New Year is as a good time to resolve to make amends to do better as any. And it’s also the time of year when we have new seasons of Doctor Who and Father Brown arriving on our screens in the UK, both of which have long been staples of the content of Taking The Short View. That made it seem like the ideal moment to leap back into the fray with some new content here, for anyone who has been missing all of our carefully crafted words since June.

Since there’s a lot to catch up on, and in an effort to ensure that our momentum doesn’t stall again in 2020, I’m going to keep the posts short – just a paragraph or two in the main – in the hopes that this will forestall any more abrupt and unannounced periods of hiatus this year. We’ll just have to wait and see how these best of intentions turn out…

As I was just saying . . .

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Whoops, what happened there, then?

After the last Taking The Short View post some four months (!) ago, I decided to take a couple of weeks off after completing all that time-intensive coverage of the most recent series of Doctor Who. That break then dovetailed into the traditional month-long August hiatus for the blog (when there isn’t much around to write about anyway), and then September arrived. And then October, and November…

As time ticked on, various real life commitments popped up and deterred me from getting back to work here. In addition there was simply wasn’t much around inspiring me to write reviews, and so those initial couple of weeks ended up stretching to a few months almost without my noticing.

But with Christmas looming it’s time to get back in the saddle and resume normal service, with apologies for the break in transmission for anyone who was inadvertently left wondering where I’d gone in the meantime. Let’s just hope I can come up with something that proves worth the wait…

500 not out

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My website dashboard tells me that this is the 500th entry on Taking The Short View since the very first post entitled “Coming soon” made its appearance here on February 8, 2011.

500I’m quite amazed that the site still going, four and a half years later; and that I’ve had enough material to justify so many posts in the meantime. It’s certainly one of my longest commitments in terms of online personal projects, and is surely a sufficiently significant landmark to be worth a small mention and a brief moment of pause, reflection and even perhaps a little celebration.

When I first embarked on Taking The Short View all that time ago, it was motivated by two thoughts. One was the belief that I watch enough TV, films and DVD, read enough books and see enough shows that a reviews-based blog would probably be the one thing that I would never want for material, inspiration and ideas. And the other was that I thought Taking The Short View was a nice, quirky and catchy title for the whole endeavour.

As we reach the 500th post, both of those convictions seem to have been borne out. The list of things to review keeps on piling up (the trouble is finding the time to get around to them all!) and has been pleasingly diverse, ranging from the latest TV shows and films all the way back to classics of the 1920s. While Doctor Who and Nordic Noir has arguably been the backbone of the site’s output over the years I think there’s been plenty else to tuck into as well.

How many things have we actually reviewed over the years? Not all of those 500 posts have been reviews – there have been bits of blog business like this, and feature pieces, and wide-ranging collaborations. But at the same time these have surely been more than made up for by multi-review posts like our recent Fall TV seven-up review, or reviews of up to ten episodes of 1970s suspense anthology series Thriller in one go, and of course the two special “bumper’ posts on James Bond and Harry Potter which between them manage to give reviews of 33 major motion pictures. Okay, quite short reviews – but then, that makes them arguably truer to the original spirit I had in mind for the blog than many of my more protracted offerings over the years.

So what’s in store for the site for the future? Honestly, I have no better idea now than I did when the site started. Who knows what will be covered tomorrow, or next week, or next month? Part of the fun of this for me is the not knowing, of being surprised but never disappointed by what’s coming up. So I guess I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and hope what some of you out there enjoy reading the results of that labour.

So how long will it continue: another 500 posts? Another four and a half years? Who knows. It seems far-fetched to think in such terms but then I didn’t expect it to last more than a few months in the first place. And the makers of Doctor Who figured they’d be lucky to last 13 weeks and are now passing their 52nd birthday, so anything’s possible. Although to reach that sort of landmark, I would definitely need more than a couple of regenerations to keep me ticking over long enough to make it!

Taking The Short View continues on all days of the week and is available on your local Internet Service Provider.

Summer break – August 2015

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I have to admit that I’ve been genuinely surprised by how fertile the ground in the month of July has proved to be for quality subjects for Taking The Short View to cover, at what is a time of year when the onset of summer usually means I’m left scrabbling around for material.

It would be asking far too much to see that run of form continue into August, and looking ahead I’m really not seeing anything noteworthy coming up for the next few weeks. Hence I’m going to do us all a favour a declare a summer recess for the blog for the next month. That way, I won’t have to fret about failing to deliver any new material, and you won’t have to peel yourself off the sun lounger to check for new TTSV posts every five minutes. As I know you do. Obviously. Read the rest of this entry »

All-star review line-up

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In all the reviews I’ve posted here over the years on Taking The Short View, I very rarely give or even allude to a final ‘star rating’ or marks out of five. That’s been kind of intentional, since if you give such a brief summary of the review then the chances are that the average reader will simply look at that and not go through all the additional nuanced detail contained in the main body of the review itself. I know I’m as guilty as anyone on this matter.

However, the database where I keep my records of DVD and Blu-ray reviews has a field for stars-out-of-five and I dutifully add a value every time I add a new entry, so I decided that I’d share all those values from the titles that I’ve watched over the course of the last year in case it’s of any use to anyone who might have felt that the original reviews were lacking in this information. Read the rest of this entry »

A short intermission …

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Apologies for the lack of updates to the blog this month. I’ve not lost interest and given up: to put it simply, I seem to have temporarily run out of things to write reviews about!

There’s a couple more pieces coming up for March, and then I hope normal service will resume once there are a few more things out there to cover – provided that they are allied to time to watch/read/listen to them and to write the review, of course!

What I’ve been watching (May 3-9)

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Sometimes I’m asked how I decide what to review on this blog, and the answer’s pretty simple – it’s whatever I happen to have watched, read, seen or listened to that week. I never choose to watch something purely to review it, which at least means that everything I review here is something that I actually wanted to see and why a negative post is usually a function of genuine disappointment rather than because it’s not my sort of thing in the first place.

But I don’t review everything I see/hear/watch in a week – I do have a life, strange as that seems to me as well I’m sure as to you. I cherry-pick the things I have something (new) to say rather than just churning out the same comments on an ongoing series for the sake of it. However, I thought as a one-off experiment, what I’d do here in this Very Special Post is run through the disturbingly long list of things that I have watched on the screen in the last seven days just to put a little context around the posts that did make it to the big time so far in May … Read the rest of this entry »

A quick top ten of 2011

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Everyone else is doing one of these Top Ten “best of” things, so why shouldn’t I? In fact the blog feels positively underdressed without one.

So here goes, the best of 2011 as seen in the pages of Taking The Short View:

10. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

A real treat for lovers of classic old silent movies, this new Blu-ray release contains four different versions of the quite brilliant Lon Chaney masterpiece that inspired the current musical production in several ways. (Fans of this period of cinema might also like to take a read of my Hallowe’en review of the original Nosferatu German expressionist film from 1922.)

9. The Shadow Line

In the end, this thriller mini-series couldn’t quite sustain the quality all the way through to the end, but it had some magic moments including a bravura seven-minute opening sequence beginning with an abstract overhead vantage point as two policemen with flash lights investigate a corpse shot dead in a car in the middle of nowhere. Stephen Rea’s character of Gatehouse was compelling and Rafe Spall stole a whole bunch of scenes with his giggling, Joker-eseque menace.

8. Watercolours

In terms of shows that I’ve seen at the Tate this year, this was probably the most successful. A very well put together exhibition which really demonstrated the history of watercolours down the ages, and the wide variety of techniques that have led to a huge diversity of results with the medium.

7. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

An excellent re-imagining of the classic espionage story that was soaked in 70s atmosphere and even managed to escape the long shadow cast by the superb BBC adaptation starring Alec Guinness. Gary Oldman was flawless as Smiley, and among an all-star cast it also proved how stand-out Benedict Cumberbatch is these days, as he had one of the most gripping sequences in the entire film.

6. Super 8

If you’re the right age and happened to be growing up in the 70s just as the best Steven Spielberg movies were being released, then this wonderful movie will transport you right back to your childhood. Intelligent writing that puts the emotions and experiences of the young lead characters ahead of flashy monster FX (but equally doesn’t stint on those when the time comes either) this was a throwback to the very highest quality film making.

5. Doctor Who – The Doctor’s Wife

I’ve had my doubts and reservations about this latest series of Doctor Who even as I’ve faithfully reviewed every one of the year’s episodes. But when it came to this Neil Gaiman-scripted episode and also “The Girl Who Waited” I have nothing but praise: wonderful stuff, some of the best work in the series’ long and illustrious history.

4. The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall

I’d dismissed this as a bit of an shallow money-making stunt when I heard about it, but one viewing of the Blu-ray left me in awe of the quality of the production and what they were able to achieve staging this in a less-than-ideal venue for such an ambitious theatrical production. The performances are exceptional, and for any Phantom fan wanting a recording of the stage production this is the best there is.

3. The Shadow Over Innsmouth

A gripping and highly atmospheric audio adaptation of the HP Lovecraft story that was at times genuinely unnerving despite being “just” a one-man reading of the text and not a full-cast adaptation. It even managed to surpass the same production team’s excellent version of “At The Mountains of Madness” from 2010. Don’t overlook the same team’s “Tales of Max Carrados” about the turn of the century blind detective, either.

2. Senna

This brilliantly put-together documentary about the life and career and tragic death of the F1 racing legend had me struggling to maintain my composure when I left the cinema and not burst into tears. An extraordinary achievement in film making.

1. Forbrydelsen/The Killing

Without doubt the highlight of the year, and one that I very nearly talked myself of watching at the very start. Absolutely stellar quality, and a lead character and performance of the very highest quality together with engrossing storylines that grab you by the throat and won’t let go until after the final credits roll. Reviewed in this blog several times, especially episodes 17-18 of series 1 and episodes 9-10 of season 2.

That’s it – just time to thank everyone who has been to visit Taking the Short View in 2011 and wish you all a very Happy New Year indeed for 2012