‘Wartime’ review: 1987’s ‘Doctor Who’ spin-off arrives on DVD

Wartime was the first independently released spin-off from Doctor Who and it kicked off a plethora of fan-made, direct to video productions which helped keep the spirit of the show alive during the years it was not being made by the BBC.

While the character of the Doctor belongs to the BBC, writers in the classic series often retained rights over their own creations, so producers Reeltime Productions were able to approach UNIT’s creator, former script editor producer Derrick Sherwin, and obtain permission to use the character and concepts.

Scripted by Andy Lane and Helen Stirling, 1987’s Wartime runs to some thirty minutes and tells a story about UNIT’s RSM Benton (John Levene) – a stalwart figure of the Pertwee era – who encounters ghosts from his family’s past while on a routine assignment and has to put them to rest in order to get back to his mission.

With Michael Wisher (Davros) playing Benton’s father and a bombastic score from Mark Ayres, who would go on to provide the music for three McCoy stories, Wartime is an intriguing tale which makes the most of its limited budget. Presented here in its remastered 1997 version, the story also boasts a voice only cameo from the legendary Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney).

This release is a two-disc set and as enjoyable as the main feature is, a wealth of supplementary content almost steals the show. As well as a wonderfully rambling introduction from producer/director Keith Barnfather and Pertwee-era companion Katy Manning, the main attraction is footage of a panel from the Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s 1986 PanopitCon event, in which Jon Pertwee, John Levene, Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates) and stuntman Terry Walsh took questions from an audience of fans.

Presented unedited, we hear memories of working on ‘The Three Doctors’, the start …

‘Doctor Who’ spoiler-free preview: ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ is ideal holiday fare

It’s been a long old year since we left the Doctor at the Singing Towers of Darillium with River Song, and he’s remained unseen on our television screens – save only for a brief appearance in the opener of BBC Three’s Doctor Who spin-off Class.

CultBox was lucky enough to be invited to the premiere of this year’s Christmas special, ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ at the BFI Southbank. In truth, it was actually the second premiere of the day, the first having been to two hundred eleven year olds in the afternoon.

The special is aptly titled, as Steven Moffat’s script addresses the Doctor’s absence, as well as the return of Nardole. It does not dwell though, instead focussing on providing a tale suffused with joy; this is a love letter to the optimistic tone of the Christopher Reeve era Superman movies. While it has some fun at the expense of superhero tropes, there is always a deep affection for the genre on display.

Despite the production never leaving Wales, the whole piece is firmly placed within the rooftops and skyscrapers of comic book New York and offers some great comic moments, a nicely unsettling new villain with an icky modus operandi and some perfectly pitched performances from the main guest cast.

This is ideal holiday fare and should keep the less ardent members of the family entertained too, as well as whetting fannish appetites for Series 10 with the customary series teaser, including some more glimpse of Pearl Mackie’s Bill.

‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ airs at 5.45pm on Sunday 25 December on BBC One.

Pre-order ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ on DVD on Amazon here.

Are you looking forward to the Christmas special? Let us know below…

Poll: Which group of ‘Doctor Who’ characters is the best Team TARDIS of all time? Vote here!

“I thought we might need a gang,” says the Doctor in ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’. “Never really had a gang before. It’s new.”

He’s totally lying, of course. The Time Lord has been fond of having a gang around him right since the very first episode back in November 1963 and, while he seems to favour just having one companion in general, he’s put together a number of collectives over the years.

But who makes the ultimate Team TARDIS?…

‘The Libertine’ play review: Dominic Cooper is a perfect fit as John Wilmot

John Wilmot, the Second Earl of Rochester, was, to use a modern phrase, a bit of a lad.

Drinking in excess, staying out all hours with his ‘merry gang’ and sleeping with anyone he wished to have his wicked way with.

Dominic Cooper’s ridiculous good looks and swagger make him almost perfect for a role that explores his immoral behaviour and eventual self-destruction. You could almost hear chants of “down it! Ladsladslads” as you entered the auditorium…

The dialogue from Stephen Jeffreys is a feast of language, with far too many quotable phrases from nearly all of the cast to pick even a top five. The cast itself were superb, my personal favourite being Nina Toussant-White as Jane, the Earl’s preferred prostitute. With a raft of television credits to her name, Toussant-White stole each scene in which she appeared and deserves to have more high profile roles.

Another highlight was Ophelia Lovibond as actress Elizabeth Barry who the Earl takes a shine to, falls in love with and impregnates – her self-assured Barry proved the perfect foil to Cooper’s lothario. The female cast members were the highlight of the second act, opening with a song about dildos that surely left many an attendee choking on their interval ice creams.

The merry gang themselves were a joy to watch in every seen – Mark Hadfield as George Etherege and Richard Teverson as Charles Sackville were particularly brilliantly pompous, with Will Merrick as Billy Downs lowering the average age of the group. Will Barton as the aptly named Tom Alcock, the Earl’s servant, brought a much needed dry wit and matter of fact tone to proceedings which arguably balanced the tone of the play.

Cooper opened the play with a short monologue on how we should resist all urges to like him …

‘SS-GB’ episode guide: What happens next?

SS-GB is a new thriller set against a Nazi occupied London.

Adapted from Len Deighton’s 1978 alternate history novel, the five-part drama series is penned by James Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (SpectreSkyfallCasino Royale).

Buy the original novel on Amazon here.

Detective Douglas Archer is played by Sam Riley, Barbara Barga by Kate Bosworth, DS Harry Woods by James Cosmo, Sylvia Manning by Maeve Dermody, PC Jimmy Dunn by Aneurin Barnard, Fritz Kellermann by Rainer Bock, SS Standartenfuehrer Dr Oskar Huth by Lars Eidinger, Mrs Sheenan by Christina Cole, Douggie Archer by Louis Serkis, Bob Sheenan by Kit Connor and John Spode by James Northcote.

Forced to work under the brutal SS in occupied London, Archer is determined to continue to do his job in the service of his country, but against impossible odds.

Episode 1

Read our spoiler-free review here.

We first meet Archer in 1941, with the vast majority of England and Wales are under Nazi occupation after losing the Battle of Britain. Pockets of resistance continue to show their defiance against the occupying German forces, but after a German pilot is murdered by a British Resistance fighter, tensions in London could not be higher.

When investigating what appears to be a simple black market murder, Archer is dragged into a much darker and more treacherous world where the stakes are as high as the ultimate outcome of the war. The elusive American journalist Barbara Barga may hold the key – but can he trust her? And when his lover Sylvia endangers her life by bravely making a stand against the oppressive regime, Archer is forced to confront a deeper dilemma.

Can he carry out his duty to defend law and order when he is working for the wrong side? …

‘Fortitude’ Season 2 episode guide: What happens next?

Sky Atlantic’s heart-stopping thriller Fortitude is back for a second season.

As we rejoin the island, the residents have overcome the parasites that tore their peaceful community apart. But their respite from chaos is set to be short lived, with the mainland cutting off funding and supplies, and Dan and Eric absent from a threadbare police force, just as Fortitude is rocked by another mysterious death.

Buy Season 1 on DVD on Amazon here.

Creator and writer Simon Donald has teased: “Rather than a fresh start, where everybody’s all washed and scrubbed ready for a new adventure, we were looking for the right place to come into a story that still had a lot of consequences in play from the world we’d just left. We wanted there to be mysteries that had grown out of the first season that had to be addressed. The turmoil that the parasites created has died down, but the reverberations are still consuming various characters.”

Episode 1

Thursday 26 January 2017, 9pm

Read our review here.

In 1942, a monstrous figure wreaks havoc just 60 miles north of Fortitude as a blood aurora burns in the sky. This same phenomenon flickers above present day Fortitude as the remote Arctic town struggles to find a sense of normality. As Eric desperately searches for Dan, he and his strained police force attempt to keep law and order, while Governor Odegard grapples with an intrusive government figure.

Down by the harbour, fisherman Michael Lennox receives some information that could change his fortunes and provide a glimmer of hope for his wife. Meanwhile, Natalie and Vincent destroy all traces of the horror that once plagued the town and finally embrace their feelings for each other. But this fragile community will never be the same again, and what at first …

Poll: Which group of ‘Doctor Who’ characters is the best Team TARDIS of all time? Vote here!

“I thought we might need a gang,” says the Doctor in ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’. “Never really had a gang before. It’s new.”

He’s totally lying, of course. The Time Lord has been fond of having a gang around him right since the very first episode back in November 1963 and, while he seems to favour just having one companion in general, he’s put together a number of collectives over the years.

But who makes the ultimate Team TARDIS?…

6 of the best Scouse sitcoms

With its unique brand of humour, Liverpool is a renowned bedrock of comedy.

Consequently, it has been the setting for some memorable sitcoms, some more successful in capturing the Scouse spirit than others…

The Wackers (1975)

Produced by London based Thames Television and written by Mancunian Vince Powell, The Wackers set out to be the ultimate scouse comedy. It turned out the ultimate stereotype.

Billy and Mary Clarkson (Ken Jones and Sheila Fay) are a couple of Merseyside mixed marriage. Not only half catholic and half protestant, but half Everton supporters and half Liverpool.

Having come out of a stretch in prison, Billy has to adjust to a changed family. His eldest son Tony (David Casey) speaks in an Oxbridge acquired accent his father detests. Daughter Bernadette (Alison Steadman) is a flirtatious, self-styled “Sex symbol of Scouse land” who – in one controversial scene – is eyed up by her own grandad (Joe Gladwin).

The Clarksons live in an outside lavvie terrace where Billy struggles to stay out of prison, while his Mary Ellen wife is rarely out of hair curlers. Mounting complaints about the show’s exaggerated portrayal of Liverpudlians led to it being pulled just short of its final episode and never seen again.

Or perhaps the problem lay with the conceit. A Liverpool family half catholic, half protestant? Well, maybe. But half Everton, half Liverpool supporters? Oh, go ‘ed!

Help! (1986-88)

Three unemployed 19 year olds are willing to help anyone who offers work. Tex (Stephen McGann), forever optimist, Lenny (David Albany) philosopher and poet with his Grade 4 CSE English Literature, and Davva (Jake Abraham) rumoured to be Merseyside’s first brain-transplant donor.

Each episode opened with the trio meeting in a park shelter to make plans for the day, then closed at the same location with the …

5 of the best YA books of 2016

2016 has been another stellar year for Young Adult literature!

As the year comes to a close, we’ve picked out five of our favourite new YA books for your Christmas list…

‘The Diabolic’ by S. J. Kincaid

S.J. Kincaid burst on to the YA scene in 2012 when her debut novel, Insignia, was shortlisted for the Waterstones prize. Following its hit sequels, Vortex and Catalyst, she now returns with a brand new adventure, The Diabolic.

What’s it about?

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity inside her that is true and pure. Amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life – and the empire.

What did the critics say?

‘Epic and electrifying’ – Maximum Pop!

Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games’ – The Bookseller

‘Nemesis is my kind of strong female character…But is she human?’ – Sally Green, author of Half Bad

Buy the book on Amazon here.

Who’s it by?

Following the hit Mortal Instruments series, Brooklyn-based author Cassandra Clare is back with the first novel …