Tag: Sci-fi

Escape Back to the Planet of the Apes: Tim Burton’s Missing Link

Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes 2001

Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes 2001

The second part of Jokerside’s trip back to The Planet of the Apes shifts even further sideways. After five films, a television series and an animated television series the Plane of the Apes saga looked to have burnt itself out on the big and small screens by the mid-1970s. But you can’t keep good dystopia down. And plans for a reboot that began in the late 1980s came to fruition at the start of the 21st century…

Less a reboot, more a reimagining, in hindsight Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes served to add even more texture to a science fiction sprawl across multiple parallel realities. It may stand alone, but 14 years on, does it stand tall? *If you care about spoiling this or any other Apes film you may not want to read on just yet.*

EVERY SO OFTEN A CREATIVE PROPERTY FINDS ITSELF STAMPED WITH A FAMILIAR LABEL, ONE THAT MAKE’S SELECT FILM FANS SLAP THEIR HEADS WITH BLUNT SCISSORS: A TIM BURTON DREAM PROJECT. It’s a surprisingly broad label, or ‘dream label’, that says more about the creator than the subject. Perhaps it’s something quirky, eccentric, gothic, long forgotten or that urgently needs a ‘Hollywood update’. It may well have a Grimmish quality of child-like amazement and horror. Easily accommodating Johnny Depp helps, and of course, it can’t have been picked up by Terry Gilliam already. It’s a regular sentence in Hollywood notices, but one that broadly ignores the fact that Burton’s best work comes from properties that are either very well known (Sleepy Hollow, Batman) or fresh and twisted takes from multiple sources (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands). Other times, it all goes a little wrong.  Whether it’s the work of Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl or yes, Pierre Boulles… A decade on from his brilliant Batman two-parter Apes proved once again that big budget studio ambition isn’t always the best partner to Tim Burton dream projects.

The first part of this retrospective took a look at the original auteurs of everything Ape. There was Pierre’s Boulle’s erudite novel from 1963, making ingenious commentary and putting enough ideas on paper to last well over the eight films it’s so far spawned. Five years later came the iconic adaptation under the expert eye of director Franklin J. Schaffner, with the marvellously unpredictable Charlton Heston frying every synapse as the last man; thrown forward in time to get the final proof that his contempt for his own species was spot on. And there was no redemption to be found on screen, especially when the second film continued that storyline to a very finite conclusion: the detonation of the doomsday bomb and the destruction of the world. The franchise would spin on of course, and a look at the conclusion of that cycle, along with the recent highly successful reboot will come next time…

Continue reading “Escape Back to the Planet of the Apes: Tim Burton’s Missing Link”

Escape Back to the Planet of the Apes: Page to Screen

Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes Part One

Last year Dawn of the Planet of the Apes navigated its change of cast and director to match the critical acclaim and exceed the box office of its predecessor. Already raking in more than the original five film cycle, Fox’s key apocalyptic franchise is clearly back to stay. And Hollywood is richer for it.

In the first of four simian long reads, Jokerside looks to the far future of Pierre Boulle’s original novel and the two Charlton Heston starring adaptations that kicked off one of Hollywood’s major franchises by ending the world…

THE APES ARE BACK. IN SO MANY WAYS THE ARCHETYPAL ACTION FRANCHISE, PLANET OF THE APES IS ALSO ONE OF THE STRANGEST. It’s the first two scenes of 2001 all wrapped up, when it wants to be. It’s humanoids versus humanoids, but not one of them is an invader from outer space. These aren’t machines from the future, but ambassadors from hummanity’s past. Man’s destruction may lie in his own hands, but the winners aren’t built by them; it’s anti-robot to the point of schadenfreude. Not only are apes waiting for man at the end of time, but against all odds, technology in the thrall of the cosmic joker, serves up a man of our contemporary to witness it. It’s one thing that man is destined to destroy himself, but quite another that he’s forced into subjugation, robbed of almost everything, even language, only for a cynical, desperate forefather visit the future to witness it. That just rubs salt in the wounds of our mute, enslaved, distant ancestors. There’s no simple extinction to offer man an easy way out of this universe. The apes are coming and it’s a good thing that Creationists will have stopped reading by now…

Post-apocalyptic action-fiction has never waned since its inception – around about the publication of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man in 1826. And she was no one hit wonder. 189 years later, this year has seen George Miller’s Mad Max bring the genre resoundingly back to the cinema. But a few years ago, Fox’s greatest franchise found a less bombastic way to drag its own brand of dystopian horror back to the big screen. That’s proved a great success. In creating two superb, intelligent and brilliantly produced films during this ‘reboot’ Fox has somehow managed to gross over a billion dollars. It elevates a franchise that burned so brightly through the late 1960s and early 1970s before floundering for three decades – and just about disguising the fact that the Apes films were never riddled with quality as much as they were ambition. Still, on their celluloid attack, the real strength still comes from dipping into the marvellously broad canvas painted by a trinket of a book published in 1963.

Continue reading “Escape Back to the Planet of the Apes: Page to Screen”

Doctor Who: The Master in the 1980s – “Somewhat Reduced Circumstances”

The Master in the 1980s - the Doctor Who Marchster takeover

The Master in the 1980s - the Doctor Who Marchster takeover

You will continue to obey me! The Marchster takeover reaches its mid-point. The Master had burned brightly before fading to a surely inevitable end during the 1970s. The 1980s brought a new Doctor and Jon Nathan-Turner, a producer who wanted to fill out the TARDIS crew and saw the strength in this youngest ever Doctor having a nemesis of note. A decade of survival beckoned, as the Master’s fiendish plots became increasingly self-absorbed. The Second Marchster… A select journey from Geoffrey Beever’s skulking well-spoken loon to Anthony Ainley’s smarmy psychopath…

THE MASTER HAD ENJOYED, AND SUFFERED, A PRODUCTIVE 10 YEARS ON DOCTOR WHO, FROM HIS GLORIOUS ARRIVAL ON EARTH TO SCRAPING A LIVING AS A WRAITH-LIKE ASSASSIN. He couldn’t stay crispy for long however, though the effects of his misadventures would be felt for a good time yet.

Having so far met his nemesis only once during his long-lived fourth incarnation, it was timely that the Master’s rebirth should come as the scarf and frock coat were locked back in the TARDIS costume room. It was certainly a rebirth, though not a comfortable one – as the Master carved his longest on-screen life yet from the tattered familial tragedy of others.

The Keeper of Traken (Season 18, 1981)

Envious Eyes

Having escaped E-space and lost two companions in the form of K9 and Romana, the Doctor’s trip to explain how he could mislay a Time Lady to the Time Lords on Gallifrey is interrupted. Fittingly, after the pomp legend of The Deadly Assassin, there is an admirable dream-like quality to The Keeper of Traken. Although the serial’s name doesn’t so much concern the incumbent Keeper, gate-crashing the TARDIS in his reality-warping chair like Metroid of Jack Kirby’s New Gods, but the position itself – and the envious eyes that covet it.

New Beginnings

The final premonitory days of the Fourth Doctor

On the way, we’re in the final premonitory days of the Fourth Doctor. It’s unfair to say that Tom Baker was sleep-walking by this point. The science of script editor Christopher H. Bidmead acted as sterner control than the occasional frippery of Douglas Adams a year previously. Though, in a season that carried a loose arc of entropy, the Doctor was subconsciously building a new family for his future incarnation. From E-Space came the first – Adric, the precocious maths genius teen who doesn’t make the best foil for the Fourth Doctor, but who was soon to make friends in N-Space.

While on Traken, the Keeper has detected evil in the family union of the benign Tremas, his soon to be wife Kassia and his daughter Nyssa, as he relates through an extended flash-back sequence much like a fairy tale. And if the idea of a galactic empire held together by universal harmony sounds too good to be true, it most certainly is.

Calcified Evil

A fairly blunt metaphor for the Master himself

The concept of the Melkur is a fascinating one, retaining a considerable amount of mystery thanks to its Henry Moore-like design and the fact that we never really learn much about it. Everything is carried along on superstition and good will, although it’s also a fairly blunt metaphor for the Master himself, twisted into his current form through his pure evil. On a planet where time is a concept not worth tracking, it appears the Melkur is embedded in the gardens outside the main chamber for many years, giving Kassia time to truly become “married to the statue she tends”. Continue reading “Doctor Who: The Master in the 1980s – “Somewhat Reduced Circumstances””

Doctor Who: The Master in the 1970s – Arrival of the “Unimaginative Plodder”

The Original Master - Doctor Who Marchester takeover

The Original Master - Doctor Who Marchester takeover

You will obey me! Whovember has ended, and that’s not gone unnoticed. Welcome to the Marchester takeover. When creating a Moriarty to match the Doctor’s Holmes, the Who team had to wheel out a figure with staying power, little did they know how successful they’d be. He arrived, a stylish and sinister figure, capturing a popularity when the show was already nearing a decade old. Things would never be the same again… To start this three-part takeover… A select journey from imperious Delgado to bug-eyed husk…

WHOVEMBER #4 PROCLAIMED SEASON 12 TO BE NOT ONLY THE GREATEST SEASON IN WHO HISTORY, BUT THE FIRST ARC. THAT’S TRUE, BUT THERE WERE CONTENDERS BEFORE, LOOSE ARCS WHERE THE SERIAL FORMAT JUST COULDN’T CONTAIN A COMMON ELEMENT. Jon Pertwee’s second season sits pretty as the closest contender. There, as always, the serials sat distinct from each other. But while the Doctor’s exile had brought the show its greatest stability, with consistent sets and cast, Season Eight added an extra component. And of course that dapper silhouette belonged to The Master. The season’s shared villain, linking every story, popping up and winding like a snake through tales of Doomsday Weapons, Axons, Daemons and Autons. While Season Seven had brought colour, Season Eight brought fun. And it all started at the circus…

The Terror of the Autons (Season Eight, 1971)

Perhaps the start of the end

Doctor Who had undergone its most significant reboot with the arrival of Jon Pertwee. Forget changing support cast, switching leading man and even altering the TARDIS set. Now we not only had colour but a fixed-Earth setting and a large and stable cast. The new production team headed by producer Barry Letts and Script Editor Terrance Dicks needed a writer they could rely on to set out the stall in the season premiere, so for what became Spearhead from Space they turned fast-rising star writer Robert Holmes. Not only reliable and steady hands, but one of the greatest British television writers of the 1960s and 1970s. Holmes name would become indelibly linked to Doctor Who, and that’s not through quantity as much as sheer quality. Sontarans, Autons, Gallifrey, the brain numbing monotony of Time Lord society – those and many more emerged from the mind and pen of Holmes. Onto Gallifrey later, but things must begin at the beginning, or in this case perhaps the start of the end. Because one year on from introducing the third Doctor, Holmes was tasked with creating his implacable Moriarty.

Enter the Master

“I am usually referred to as the Master”

It’s a great arrival. A TARDIS unmistakably appears, but one with a working Chameleon circuit. And with precision timing the Master emerges from the horsebox to make an immediate and indelible impression.

In just a few lines, in his first scene (appearing before the Doctor), Robert Holmes and Roger Delgado define a cool, impeccable, menacing and powerful nemesis. As the Master, Delgado cut a smooth and sartorial figure, with his dark suit, Nehru collar, slick hair and crucially piebald goatee. Delgado’s superior sneer and almost always unruffled delivery gifted much comedy to the character without sacrificing any of the threat.

The Doctor has never worn facial hair, except when in disguise or imprisoned for years in a dwarf star alloy cube, apart from the odd sweeping sideburn that the 1970s couldn’t control. The Master… Had a beard, a goatee that may as well have had a “twiddle this tache menacingly” label hanging from it. The Master had a fine taste in suits, the Doctor had a frilly shirt, multiple coloured velvet jackets and a cape! The Master was a force for evil, with hypnotic control cowardice. The Doctor was noble, occasionally grumpy but compassionate. The Master had a working chameleon circuit in a TARDIS with an occasionally black interior, occasionally reversed. They both dished out the same faint praise to each other, but then again they are both Time Lords.

Yes, the Master was designed in every way to be the perfect foil to the Doctor, and Delgado’s ability to elevate a potentially horribly one dimensional character to the charismatic third dimension ensured that the Master would have incredibly staying power – as it turned out, well beyond regeneration… Continue reading “Doctor Who: The Master in the 1970s – Arrival of the “Unimaginative Plodder””

%d bloggers like this: