Saturday, 1 October 2016

Alan Moore Obscurities: Top Ten: The Forty-Niners (OGN)

"Captain, we only did our job" - Leni Muller

OK, I think I can let Moore out of the Sin Bin now.  But first sign of rape and back in he goes.  Now, for me, the last great period Moore had as a writer was in the very late 90's and early 00's when he was writing several ongoings for America's Best Comics, which was later subsumed into the DC Vertigo imprint.  This included Tom Strong, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea and my personal favourite, Top Ten,his twelve issue series took place in the mid 1980's and told the story of the police force of the city of Neopolis with art by Zander cannon and Gene Ha.  This city was somewhat different from your average one as everyone there had either superpowers, super skills or was a robot or an alien or some kind of paranormal creature.  The series took a gritty, Hill Street Blues style take on the everyday life of the Top Ten police precinct, although the series was actually an affecionate tribute to the positive aspects of the superhero rather than being dark for the sake of darkness.  Being a huge fan of police proceedurals I was impressed at how skillfully Moore blended that genre's trops with those of the superhero.  A "season two" was teased at the end of the twelve issues after the major plotline investigations had been solved, however all that ended up following it was a humorous sword n'sorcery fantasy miniseries called SMAX done with Zander Cannon and this original graphic novel done with Gene Ha (it's split into four chapters but was always one book rather than a collected trade), which is a prequel set in the years after world war 2 with the founding of Neopolis explored as well as giving us some more background on the police chief who ended up in charge of the Top Ten precinct, here a boy in his mid teens.  So without further ado, lets take a trip to post-war Neopolis.
Stephen and Leni travelling to Neopolis.
The story begins on a train to the newly built city on Neopolis.  Two "normal" folk are sitting with the sixteen year old Stephen "Jetlad" Traynor an ace pilot from World War 2 (when he was ten!).  A sinister looking man his face all covered up comes and sits next to them.  One of the normies asks him if he is a vampire, the masked man pauses then says "I'm a Hungarian American with an inherited medical condition".  He then insults them and so the get up and leave.

Next to sit down with Stephen and the vampire is the chirpy and friendly Private Iron, a robot.  He is roundly ignored by them.  It's been well established in this universe that robots are the targets of extreme prejudice with the slur "clicker" being as offensive there as nigger is to us.  A woman also comes to sit down, her name is Leni Muller, a German "skywitch" who faced Stephen in battle before she switched sides in 1943.
Welcome to Neopolis.
Both of them have been relocated to "South Green" in Neopolis, they arrive and the vampire says if Stephen needs anything, he should come see "Greg Irenescu", then leaves with his family.  Leni mutters that "if Hitler did one good thing it was sending them to the camps". As they leave the station, Stephen spots a carriage full of "ghosts and those new animal things".  Leni notes it's not just science heroes (Moores name for superheroes in this universe) that are being relocated and the make their way to City Hall.

They wonder what jobs they can do.  Leni thinks maybe she could be a nightclub singer, Stephen thinks his aviation experience won't be helpful.  As they walk through the city, they comment:

Stephen: "Th-this is nuts. Everybody's a science hero. I mean this will never work.  The government.  This whole relocation thing, it's just - "

Leni: "The war's over mein junge and now nobody wants us to live next door to them."

They catch a cab to City Hall.  When they get there people are being told to stand aside for a Professon Gromolko, he's an ex-Nazi scientist, given a pardon because he has vital skills the US want to use even though he built something called a "Blitzwheel" that destroyed Amsterdam.

Inside, Leni and Stephen are told to go down the hall.  The room is crowded and a man gets up to speak, he is "Jonny Genovese.  The Mayor of Neopolis".  Genovese then proceeds to give a rambling, drunken speech telling them they aren't special anymore and there will be no vigilantism, only the police force will be enforcing the law and catching criminals.

Genovese: "You wanna fight crime, you go down the precinct on Pike Street and you get a badge."

Later Leni and Stephen arrive at the boarding house they have been assigned.  Once they have settled in they go and explore the neighbourhood.  Leni asks where Stephen's plane is, he says the air force still has her.  They enter a bar, so Leni can see if there are any jobs going.  Sitting at a table are a bunch of uniformed men "the Sky Sharks".
The Sky Sharks.
 John Sharkey, their leader, invites her and Stephen to come sit down.  They all chat for a bit and Wulf says that Stephen could have a job with them, maintaining their aeroplanes. Leni asks what she can do and is told, "jobs for women here, the choice is limited."

Then two sinister looking men come into the bar and threatens the bar owner with a protection racket, which the bar owner rejects.  The Sky Sharks tell them to back off, but the men, who are obviously vampires, threatens to kill Stephen.  Then the police arrive.  The are "Rocket Ryan", the entirely metal encased "Steel Gauntlet" and "The Maid", a Joan of Arc type.  The vampire tries to blame the Sky Sharks for causing trouble, but The Maid is able to sense the truth, "you are of the dark and not clean.  Best you begone from here."

The Maid sees off the vampire mafia.
The vampires, who are with the Irenescu gang leave, as do the cops.  Impressed Leni asks The Maid if there are many women in the police force.  The Maid says none save herself but more would be welcome and Leni should come down to the precinct and join.  Left alone Stephen and Leni return to the boarding house and the chapter ends with Stephen sitting thoughtfully on his bed.

The next chapter begins with Stephen working as a mechanic for the Sky Sharks.  After praising Wulf for his flying they go to the canteen to get some lunch.  They go and sit with John Sharkey who says he can get Stephen's old plane transported there.  John they holds up a paper saying that policing the city is too much for the police force and should be turned over to the military.  Stephen says Leni is starting work with the police force soon.

Wulf asks how Stephen's "girlfriend" is doing.  Stephen admits she isn't actually his girlfriend.  We then cut to Leni at the precinct on her first day.   Steel Gauntlet, aka Frank Chambers greets her as she comes across him and another cop abusing the friendly robot from the train.  Frank tells Leni, "clickers are nothing but trouble."
Leni's first day, Frank welcomes her.
Frank takes her to meet the Chief, Zaran Orval aka "Doctor Omega", and he welcomes her to the job.  Leni's broomstick is still being transported there so for now she is to ride with Ramon, the "Black Rider". They leave and Leni comments he seems nice, Frank says he is an alien whose sun collapsed.   He asks about the broomstick and Leni clarifies that it is a flying craft that superficially resembles a broom stick.

Frank takes her to Ramon and then takes his leave.  Leni says to Ramon that Frank seems nice, but what's his story?  Ramon says Frank had an accident that ruined his body and now wears steel armour all the time to cover himself up.  Ramon unveils his vehicle, a flying motorbike and he and Leni ride out.  They quickly get embroiled in a fight between to science heroes and arrest them for vigilante actions and child endangerment because of the young sidekick.

Leni and Ramon go back on patrol and Ramon says the child endangerment laws have been bought in because people are uncomfortable with men running around with kids, "ask me, they are all queers" says Ramon.  They are then called to the building where the nazi scientists are working.  They find the armoured body of Panzer, one of the scientific advisors.  They open it up and there is nothing inside but acrid smoke.  Leni takes statemets as Ramon goes to call it in.
There's been a Murder.
Then we cut to an old wartime newsreel which Wulf has got a hold of and is watching with Stephen. It shows the Sky Sharks in action then "Jetlad, the Allies eleven year-old air ace."  Stephen muses at how young he looks, Wulf says women whistled at him in the theatre, "men too."  This gives Stephen pause.  They go back outside and Stephen starts working on a plane while Wulf is in a philosophical mood.

Wulf: "You know in some ways back in the war it was better... everything was black and white.  In that fight we had no time to think.  But now all the noise has stopped, and it is quiet.  Now we can hear our hearts again.  What now?"

Back with Leni and Ramon, they haven't managed to get anything out of the Nazis.  Leni says it is shameful that they are here in the USA as they leave.  Ramon drops her off at the bar, "Scowling Joes" and inside are Wulf and Stephen.  Stephen frantically greets her and gives her a big, overcompensating kiss.  After a drink Leni and Stephen go back to the boarding house.
Sex fail.
We then get a montage showing Stephen attempting to have sex with Leni and the vampire gang invading and killing the proprietor of Scowling Joes then drinking his blood.  Stephen can't "perform" though and gets out of bed mumbling he shouldn't have done this.  As he sits on the boarding house steps and reflects on what happened, he sees ambulances and police outside Scowling Joes.

After a somewhat frosty breakfast sometime later, Leni goes out to join her fellow cops in a raid on a vampire brothel.  They bash their way in and start securing the place.  Leni ventures into a room armed with a revolver but a huge, brutish vampire knocks it out ofher hand.   It runs at Frank and knocks him off the balcony and faces down The Maid.  Who cuts his head off.  But it's body keeps going until Leni stakes it through the heart with a broken banister.
Leni takes out the head vampire who is minus his head.
Leni vomits after this first kill.  Frank is alright despite taking a bad fall.  The Maid takes the vampire sex workers away and leaves the customers in Frank and Leni's hands.  Unfortunately one of the customers is Alberto Genovese, the nephew of the mayor...

Back with Stephen and his old plane has been delivered to the Sky Shark's base.  Stephen then goes on with his maintenance work, and Wulf comes up and asks him how he is and how is Leni. Stephen tells him his woes, that he tried to have sex with Leni and has now ruined their friendship.  He apologises for making  scene in front of Wulf and Wulf gently says he knows things are hard for Stephen, but Wulf has something to say to him:

Wulf: "I have no time for boys games, verstehen sie? For pretending to be what I am not. I am queer Steve.  You know this... and I think that you are very beautiful."

He tells Stephen that if he is attached, Wulf will look elsewhere, but "if not, I am here". And he leaves Stephen to think things over.

At the police station they discuss the events at the vampire brothel.  Leni then gets called to see a woman from the science institute. She and Ramon go to the woman's - Frau Bern's - quarters and a sorry story emerges.  She and her brother were part of a Nazi forced breeding experiment (with each other, Eww) to create more superheroes.  Bern was involved with Panzer who thought that Gromolko was up to something bad.  He is making a time machine and Panzer was killed for opposing this.
Time travel shenanigans.
Leni realises they need to shut this down fast and she and Ramon race to the Science Institute. Inside they find a "time door" and Gromolko has already gone through. Leni rushes in after him.  Ramon questions Werner, the man left behind who says Gromolko is going to tell 1949 secrets to a 1943 Hitler and change the outcome of the war.  The time door also shows the future and we see a newspaper with the words "Nazis run USA" on it.

In 1943 though, Leni punches Gromolko and starts to drag him back to the time door.  She also sees the newspaper and Gromolko says in this new timeline she'll be shot for betraying the Reich. Leni says she'll return and fight it if she must and grapples Gromolko back through the door.  They arrive back in the present and Leni is disorientated, Werner punches Ramon and he and Gromolko make a run for it.  It is then the full newspaper headline is revealed, "Reformed Nazis on the run. Enemies of USA".
The Sky Witch can take to the skies now.
Back at the precinct, the Captain congratulates them and gives them raises and has a nice surprise for Leni.  Her broomstick has arrived, she is overjoyed and says she can provide air-cover now.  The Captain leaves them and overhears some of the men talking about how series the vampire situation is, especially as they killed Miroslav Popov one of the higher ups in the "Morgia".  A replacement for him will be arriving soon and bringing reinforcements.

Frank and the Captain go to Neopolis station and think the tip-off they received about the new vampires is maybe the Morgia baiting a trap. The Captain says, undermanned as they are they'll be waiting for them and gives Frank the "honour" of running the operation and taking all the risks.  Frank is happy but unsure why he gets to take all the risks.  The Captain meaningfully says he knows why.

Back at the Sky Sharks base, Stephen asks Wulf if he wants to go anyplace this evening.  Wulf says his apartment maybe? "Your apartment sounds good" says Stephen and they leave.  The chapter ends with John Sharkey drawing lines on a map of Neopolis with targets on "Little Budapest" and "Tin Town".

After having his ear bent by the mayor over the imprisonment of his nephew by his sister, the police captain tells Frank that a lot is at stake over dealing with the incoming vampires, if they don't do the job right, Neopolis could be under martial law in 48 hours.

Leni has done an aerial sweep and found nothing wrong.  The police collect outside the station and Ramon says he is glad The Maid is with them. But she admits she has to be out of town tonight, which leaves the others aghast as she is the only one the vampires fear.  But she takes her leave of them nonetheless.
Leni and Frank getting closer.
As Ramon sits morosely on the station steps, Frank asks Leni if she is OK, he's noticed that she's been distracted lately. She tells him about the clumsy pass Stephen made at her and now things are difficult between them, but they have more important things to worry about.  Frank says he was relying on The Maid to cover him tonight:

Leni: "Do not worry Frank.  I will watch out for you... if you will watch out for me."

We then cut to the vampires, gloating that The Maid will not be there tonight and that they'll easily kill all the cops now.

Outside the station, Stephen approaches Leni and apologises to her for what happened between them.  He says he was trying to prove he wasn't queer.  But he is, and it's scary and he could use a friend right now.  But she walks off saying it's all too much for her right now.

Later, the Captain and Frank are at the train station, the Captain points out Lazlo Janek, Miroslav's replacement.  The Captain thinks his arrest will be good publicity and has alerted the news to whats going on. Outside a newsman.. dog.. dogman reports on what's occuring as suddenly the skies are filled with bats.

The bats start turning human, and with most of the Neopolis police force inside the station things look grim. Stephen hears the broadcast and goes to find Wulf at the hangers. Wulf is lying on the floor bleeding, he's been shot, though not fatally. Sharkey and Lars have taken their planes and plan to bomb the robot ghetto, then the station, then North Hockney, "it is a military coup I think".  He tells Stephen to stop them, "you are a young god, you are Jetlad."  And Stephen runs to his plane.
Jetlad takes to the skies.
The vampires are attacking the station in full force.  The Captain tells Frank to go out and take the brunt of the attack.  He then orders everyone to man the fire hydrants because The Maid is out on the reservoir, blessing it.  And they hose the vampires down with the now Holy Water.

The vampires are quickly defeated and Leni goes to Frank whose faceplate has been ripped off and it reveals that he is in fact a robot.  He tells her to go up on her broomstick and check the area, as she leaves she sees the first bombs being dropped on the robot ghetto.  Up in the air, Stephen is dog fighting with the two planes.  He takes out Lars, but gets hit by Sharkey.

Before Sharkey can finish him off, Leni comes riding up and fires a mini bazooka at his plane and takes it down.  Gratified Stephen says over the radio, "I- I thought you didn't like me anymore."  She says it's payback for the time he shot her down during the war, and she'll race him back.
Leni saves Stephen.
Later she's in the robot ghetto with Frank surveying the damage.  Frank thinks she'll tell everyone he's a clicker.  But she says no, "I want to be your friend.  I want to understand".  So he tells her that he isn't Frank Chambers, that man died alone after creating him, the first true artificial mind. But he hid his real nature because people fear robots more that disfigured humans.  Leni holds his hand and says:

Leni: "I am not frightened.  You have a good heart whatever it is made of. And this city, it is so strange.  I think we must take our friends where we can find them".

We bring this tale to a close with Stephen visiting a recovering Wulf in hospital.  He tells Wulf the whole "military Neopolis" idea has been dropped and Wulf is pleased.  They wonder what they'll do now that the Sky Sharks are no more.  Stephen thinks they can survive as flight instructors or aviation engineers.
I love a happy ending.
He snatches some poetry Wulf has written out of Wulf's hands and says it's beautiful. Then he says "Wulf. Stay with me forever".  Wulf says not to tease him, he'll just be remembered as Stephen's first lover, and the city is a mad place to live and won't last either, he gives both things "six months".

But it's a heartwarming ending because the 1980's set Top Ten series showed that only was Neopolis thriving with a well respected police force captained by Stephen but also that he and Wulf were still very happily together after thirty-plus years.

And sadly this is the last Top Ten related post I can write.  Here we get a wonderful blend of superheroes, vampire mafiosa, prejudice, friendship, duty, time travel and sweet, understated love.  It's really only Moore at his absolute best that can bring so many disparate elements together and make it work so confidently, and that's one of the reasons for me Top Ten will always be one of his greatest series and one I would like to see continued now he's got his boring looking epic prose novel out of his system.  If you're interested in Top Ten, the twelve issue main series has now been collected in one omnibus but you're probably going to have to do what I did and hang around Amazon waiting for this one and SMAX to drop to reasonable prices.  The artwork by Gene Ha is gorgeous, the decison to paint in brown and blue watercolour gives the whole piece a nostalgic period feel and like the main series, a lot of fun must have been had coming up with designs for all the science heroes pictured.  If there is one thing Moore is brilliant at, it is world building in a way that doesn't patronise. He forces you to dive right in and quickly understand about the organised crime, the racist prejudice, the stress of settling into a new city and the politics it has.  With this, and Top Ten proper, Neopolis is a vibrant setting for any kind of story and I wish more had been told in it.  And no rape either!


  1. wow the artwork is gorgeous! they should have put this and smax in the same omnibus as the main series.

  2. Yeah, I really don't understand why they didn't bring this and SMAX back into print with the omnibus either. Ah well.

  3. I *love* that artwork. Reminds me of some of the Moebius stuff. That story is pretty intriguing too. I like the alternative history elements but particularly the characters and setting. I'm a big fan of that old school Dan Dare futurism thing. Like how people in the 40s imagined the future would be.

    That's really the future (present?) I want to live in.

    With maybe fewer Nazi vampires.

  4. "Dan Dare" THANKYOU! It was bugging me so hard what else I was being reminded of as I read it, my comic knowledge failed me there. I am ashame.

    As for the organised criminal Nazi vampires, in the 1980's set main series they appear to have been wiped and Neopolis is even more retro-fabulous with a train station that will take you to any parallel world you wish to visit (which allows for the sword-n-sorcery malarky of SMAX to take place in the same fictional universe). I can only imagine what a 2016 Neopolis would be like! Go on Alan, tell us, pleeeeease.

  5. Well alright, I imagine 2016 Neopolis would...Oh, you mean Alan Moore. What's he got that I haven't? It's the beard isn't it?

    I love the old Dan Dare strips. Some of the artwork on those is amazing. And the design makes me drool. There was a short series "Ministry of Space" that caught the flavour very well; but also has a nice subtle take on the politics.

    As for futurism Kim Newman wrote a nice little short story called Tomorrow Town. It's set in the early 70s. You have a Jason King style investigator and his beautiful hyper competent assistant investigating a murder in a prototype 2000AD community. Really well done and full of little meta references a la Alan Moore.

  6. Oops a confusion of Alans. I'm doing well today, I blame my cat waking me up at 0500. Although I admit I can't think of anything more spectacularly futuristic than a railway station serving parallel worlds. The Top Ten 1980's looks way more fun than the real 1980's.

    I must admit, apart from reading the 80's revival of Eagle for a short while I haven't experienced much Dan Dare. I know my favourite writer Garth Ennis did a very well received miniseries a few years back that is on my list of books to get a hold of sometime soon. So unless it suddenly costs a zwillion quid (and you never know these days) I shall put it on my schedule for sometime early next year.

  7. I quite like that as a collective noun for us.

    Did you know that the original intention for Dan Dare was that he'd be a sort of space padre?

    There was a good modern take on Dare in that comic that had Tank Girl in it (memory's not what it was). He was up against a sort of Maggie Thatcher called Gloria Monday. It had a really great line in it when it transpired she'd been in league with the Mekon and Dare had just been an (unwitting, or was he?) pawn.

    "Oh come on Colonel Dare, let's not pretend you didn't know"

  8. I quite like that as a collective noun for us.

    Did you know that the original intention for Dan Dare was that he'd be a sort of space padre?

    There was a good modern take on Dare in that comic that had Tank Girl in it (memory's not what it was). He was up against a sort of Maggie Thatcher called Gloria Monday. It had a really great line in it when it transpired she'd been in league with the Mekon and Dare had just been an (unwitting, or was he?) pawn.

    "Oh come on Colonel Dare, let's not pretend you didn't know"

  9. Dane Dare and Tank Girl?! That sounds AWESOME! I noticed a bunch of thick Tank Girl cllections in Forbidden PLanet the other week. Wil have to check them for said story now :)

  10. A quick Google reminds me that it was a comic called Deadline. That was another of the 2000AD alumni spin offs. Mix of traditional comic stuff plus articles on youth culture generally.

  11. Ah yes Deadline, for somere reason I never read that one despite buying the early Tank Girl trades. Maybe because it wasn't a "proper" comic. IDK, also it came out just before the glut of mature rated comics of the late 80's and early 90's which might also have swallowed up my pocket money.

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  13. Hmm, for some reason my whenever I check your blog on my phone it likes to repost the last thing.

    Anyway, yeah Deadline was ok. A few good stories. It also lead to that whole music/comics crossover trend like Gorillaz.

    One thing that does stick in my mind is I remember one story had a Russian election poster. Weird to think that that was considered enough just to illustrate the story was set in the (hypothetical fantasy) future.

  14. No one thought the Soviet Union would fall, until it did. The USA having a black president is also a trope I've seen in sci-fi as not happening for decades or even hundreds of years as well. It's always fun to look back and see what predictions came true and what were way of. Tv Tropes has some good lists of those.

  15. Someone did a thing of that scene in Deep Impact where Morgan Freeman does the press conference explaining about the asteroid and then turns to that reporter to give her the first question:

    "Why won't you release your birth certificate?"

    But it is fun with those predictions. Dr Who was really good at that. Note that even in the very first episode one of the 'unearthly' things about Susan is she thinks Britain uses decimal currency. Then she goes "Oh that's right, you haven't changed yet"

    Also in the UNIT stories the Brigadier calls the Prime Minister "Ma'am"

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  17. Of course Doctor Who fell prey to what TV Tropes calls "The Great Politics Mess-Up" which is the term for speculative fiction failing to predict the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet Union by having Soviet soldiers in an episode broadcast mere months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. That said I've always liked the Fanon that the Brig was speaking to Shirley Williams not Thatcher, which depends on where you fall on the whole "UNIT story dating" question (blood gets shed on that topic).

    As for a black presidental prediction, I was impressed with a 2003 episode of the reboot of "The Outer Limits" having one in power by 2013. It's weird because Obama wasn't even a State Senator until 2004 but the president in question feels like it's been patterned on him. Of course he is assassinated by a VERY confused accidental time traveller from the Civil War, but at least that didn't happen IRL!

  18. I think when Sarah Jane said she was 'from 1980', she was just stretching things a bit to appear cooler. Like how people say they're from Belsize Park when they really mean Kilburn. So it's the 70s. You got a problem with that? Right, outside.

    *proceeds to get elbowed in face multiple times*

    I'm well impressed, although not surprised, you know the Shirley Williams thing. Isn't there something about Jeremy Thorpe too?

    In all fairness the CIA didn't predict the breakup of the Soviet Union either; and that sort of thing was pretty much their job. So I'd probably have a dig at them before Philip Hinchcliffe. Although I do blame him for not spotting 9/11.

  19. I'm a great believer in the "UNIT stories set at time of broadcast" as well, but that's because Davison is my Doctor and I really like "Enlightenment" with the Brig from two timezones in it being retired in 1977. Mind you even Lance Parkin gave up and his "Ahistory" book has two versions of the 1970's (gah wasn't one enough?!) a UNIT one and a non UNIT one. Although my copy is a bit out-of-date now.

    I think off the top of my head the theory goes that Shirley Williams ascends after a weak Jeremy Thorpe Premiership is ravaged by all the scandals during the Third Doctor era and she takes over after a couple of close elections a la Wilson and Heath in our world.

    Actually it was Ben Aaronovitch who had Soviet soldiers running around in 1997. Now he's a proper author and all, I wonder how he feels about the couple of Who scripts he penned. I'm more tickled about Robert Holmes giving us "The Matrix" in "The Deadly Assassin", that's my favourite thing that Classic Who predicted.

  20. "Chap with the wings, five rounds rapid!"

    Ah the Brigadier. Not ashamed to say I snuffled when the Doctor found out he'd popped his clogs. Glad he had a final bow in SJA though (I really enjoyed SJA. It was even more classic Who than the new series)

    One of my many abandoned writing attempts was an effort to do a history of UNIT in the style of a Steven Ambrose military history. As if it was all real with interview quotes from the characters.

    My position is that *every* Doctor Who actor is the best one, just in different ways. I have a special place for Tom Baker though as he wasn't acting; he just is the Doctor.

    'Enlightenment' still contains my favourite ever scene in the series. That reveal of the ships in space. It's just perfect. The music, the lighting, the atmosphere, and just the general sense of wonder. I don't think it'll ever be bettered.

    And now I've reminded you of the plot of Enlightenment you're no doubt kicking yourself and saying "Bugger, I meant Battlefield" :-)

  21. It's OK I erred, but I meant "Mawdryn Undead" with the retired Brig in two time zones. But I'm with you on the reveal of the ships in space in "Enlightenment" even on a black and white telly it looks amazing. I have the Black Guardian trilogy on dvd and they did a two-disc one for "Enlightenment" with whizzy updated effects and they made it even more glorious.

    I actually stopped watching Doctor Who after the Nixon-was=jolly-nice two parter because Steven Moffat's writing makes me have rage embolisms. Which makes me sad, because Capaldi would usually be my ideal Doctor, but I still frequent Gallifrey Base and everything I hear back makes me feel justified to keep not watching while Moffat is showrunner. I actually said he'd be a horrible showrunner in 2006 at least as far as I was concerned, and feel I've been vindicated in my personal boycott. I'm glad the show is doing well and all, because it means one day it'll swing back to a show I can watch again, but ATM it is Not For Me.

  22. Doh, now I feel daft.

    I get what you say about Moffat. I don't subscribe to the "Moffat ruined my childhood" theory; that was polio (not really) but I do think his talent is as a writer of one off stories rather than show runner. Even though I watched most of his tenure on DVD (Dont have a telly) I still found it hard to follow what was going on.

    The Capaldi episodes are worth watching though, just for him. He's superb, and I'm a fan of the grumpy old alien Doctor style which he conveys brilliantly. Glad they've, hopefully, got rid of Clara though. Liked her initially but wore a bit thin, especially when it pretty much became the Clara show. Companions are important but they shouldn't be the star. Unless it's K-9 or Leela. Phwoar!

  23. The phwoar was for Leela not K-9.

  24. The phwoar was for Leela not K-9.

  25. Also, Davison was MY doctor, but I have a lot of love for Colin Baker's unloved run and not just because of Nicola Bryant in skimpy beach wear. I started reading Doctor Who Magazine when he got the job and the comic strip Sixth Doctor is one of my faves and it helped me transition to 2000AD a couple of years later. Some great stories that still hold up now, the best one would be "The World Shapers" by a young Mr.Grant Morrison. I get the feeling he's dying to do some TV Who but because he hasn't written for TV previously he can't be considered. /sad face.

  26. Hmm, I don't think Moffat ruined my childhood, I don't have time for that view. The classic series dvd's on my shelf aren't going anywhere. Maybe one day I'll be feeling under the weather and marathon all of the Capaldi episodes and feel more well disposed. We shall see.

    You know the one benefit of being a lesbian Doctor Who fan is really appreciating the companions being cast with a mind to "keeping the dads watching". Of course most end up to be pretty terrific actors as well, Louise Jameson had to deal with Tom Baker at his most horrific and put in an amazing performance. The leather outfit was just a nice bonus (honest!).

  27. I think Colin was very under-rated; I loved his take on the character. That thing on the funeral planet is one of my favourite stories.

    Did you ever read the original Beep the Meep story in the magazine? It was fantastic. I suppose the idea of hideous aliens being the good guys and cute alien being the baddie has been overdone now, but Beep was great. He was such a twat (in the northern rather than misogynist sense of the word)

    It's a shame they don't let more comic writers loose on TV. It worked pretty well with Gaiman.

    "Biting is like kissing, only there's a winner" is such a great line.

    ("I'm a doctor, although probably not the one you were expecting" is my all time favourite though. I hadn't realised people actually went 'squee' until then)

  28. Oh did she wear a leather bikini? I hadn't noticed. I just watched for the Pygmalion references.

    But Louise Jameson was amazing (RADA trained I believe) actress, and she's still my favourite companion (who's not on castors and made out of tin). So annoying Tom tried to ruin it for her.

  29. I think Beep the Meep might have just been before my time. Actually I think Gaiman only juuuuust qualified because he scripted the adaptation of "Neverwhere" back in the early 90's. To be honest I'm not sure a TV budget could contain Morrison, but I'd love to see him have a go.

    If you ever get any of the dvd's the commentary on "The Horror Of Fang Rock" in which she takes part and Baker doesn't is hilariously candid. I knew he'd got pretty ghastly by the second half of his run, but it there are some pretty jaw dropping anecdotes about what a pain he was to work with by then.

    My favourite companion is Tegan. Her whole run is the sad story of a woman dealing with being in love with the one man in the universe who can't love her back. True story.

  30. "You're a very attractive woman, probably"

    A sad tale indeed, and one never again repeated in the annals of Doctor Who. Personally I just liked her because she was a gobby Australian. I'm guessing you've got the publicity poster of Tegan in the leather bustier?

    Heh, remember that episode where Nyssa for some reason suddenly decides she'll be better off without her skirt on? Considering how many gay men were involved in the production of the programme they weren't half pervs a lot of the time.

    Still, more power to their elbows I say.

    (Although probably not, thinking about it)

  31. Hmm, to perhaps detract from the ambience for a moment by being semi serious, if we consider that it was shoving the Jewish woman and the gay Pakistani bloke into a TV ghetto that gave us this wonderful programme and similarly sticking the only girl on the Radiophonic Workshop team to do the music, it's an interesting illustration of triumph over prejudice or something.

    Not sure exactly what, but that's your field of expertise.

  32. Well after six years working backstage at Buxton Opera House there is a certain type of flamboyant gay man who wants to see everyone looking glamourous and I think that was what good old JNT was like. I never went for Nyssa even when I look back, I think because she was introduced as a child and Tegan had a job and was an adult (and she's the one who gets boozed up during "Black Orchid" while Nyssa and Adric stay sober).

    Now, it's been twenty years since I finished my BA which was in the then sparkly and new subject of Media Studies. I did quite a bit of reading around how there were so many women and minorities kicking around the Beeb in the early sixties and basically, boiling it down it went "the radio is the prestigious medium. TV will never catch on with the right sort of people. Therefore us, the straight white men will keep making radio programmes safe in the knowledge we have the ear of the country." I've massively over simplified and of course by the late sixties the straight white men marched in and tookover when it was obvious TV was going to be sticking around, which was a shame for diversity and it took until I think the 80's for things to get back to those early sixties levels, at the BBC at least. So I don't think it was anyone thinking "Diversity, gotta have diversity" more "where can we put these people where they won't have too much influence". She said cynically.


  33. Well they were right about radio vs TV

    *sips Earl Gray and checks test match scores*

    Your experience in the opera house brings back memories. In my roadie days we did production for those Lipizzana horses. The production manager was s rather fabulous American chap.

    We walked into one venue and he just piped up:

    "We should deck this entire arena in lilac. These horses *deserve* it!"

  34. Heh. I don't have any TV service whatsoever. I'm legitimately allowed to not pay my licence fee because of this. They send someone round to check every now and then, just to be sure of course. I just have a lot of dvds.

    Who was/were the most famous people you ever met? Mind was when Led Zeppelin reformed at the Alexis Korner Memorial Concert in 95 I think. I didn't see much of Jimmy Page once he signed in (I did stage door mostly) but Robert Plant kept trying to chat me up while I scowled behind a book and tried to deal with the fact I was 12 hours into what turned into a 17 hour shift and that I wasn't being paid enough for this shit. The famousest person I actually enjoyed meeting was Colin Baker, a very nice and gracious person who was playing the cross dressing gay man in "Privates On Parade" one year and was in "Death and the Maiden" another year. Dude had a range we sadly didn't get to see as the Doctor. What could have been....

  35. Well those horses were pretty famous (there's a film about them)

    But you of all people will appreciate that it's just a job and behind the scenes demonstrates how unglamorous it all really is.

    I've regaled on Mammoth about Prince and Vera Lynn. Madonna was cool, and really nice. She used to roadie herself so she was like one of the gang. We did one thing where she was to appear on top of a raised platform. We told her it wasn't ready yet as we were waiting for some steps. She asked how we'd been getting up and we told her we were just climbing up a stack of flight cases.

    "Phh, I can do that. In heels."

    And she could too.

    One semi cool incident was at the Brits when Jarvis Cocker was trying to annoy Michael Jackson and knocked that kid off stage. The production manager came rushing into the crew room.

    "Alan. Jarvis has been arrested!"


    "You're a lawyer"

    "I'm a second year law student"

    In light of that fact plus I reeked of hash I declined to intervene with the police but I did arrange for a solicitor friend to meet him at the police station.

    My weirdest encounter was at some posh private gig at oxo tower. Pat Cash the tennis player was doing his band (he's actually pretty good)

    I was just lurking reading a law book when some girl approached and asked if I was as bored with it all as she was. We got chatting and had a really nice night together. She was really interesting and she was telling me about her academic goals in the future after she finished 'a job she was doing in the interim'. It wasn't until afterwards my mates told me she was some supermodel.(she was really pretty in a quirky way, but ironically it was her no make up hair in a pony tail look that I liked). She had tried to give me her number but I explained I was going out with a crazy artist lass whom I was madly in love with. She was cool about that so a chaste kiss and good luck for our respective academic careers.

    That story makes me seem a lot cooler than I actually am.

  36. You were there at the Jarvis Cocker Brits protest? Amazingly cool. I was in my final year at uni and a huge Pulp fan, I thought it was a hoot. Madonna sounds a right laugh.

    Actually my favourite times working were when people came to film the backstage for various period dramas because the TV people picked up the wages tab and I got double-time on a sunday which I didn't usually get (exploited I was!). I'm a big fan of the Beeb's Miss Marple dramas so when I watch "The Mirror Crack'd" I'm always amused at the shot of Joan Hickson (a supremely lovely person) peering into a dressing room knowing that behind the camera was piles of old newspapers, dirty tea mugs, a manky old sink and tatty fridge because it was the crew room.

    Mind you if I never sit through another panto it'll be too soon as I usually did holiday cover as well. Generally everyone involved with the pantos were fun people but the sound got piped backstage and after the millionth time hearing "There's a Worm at the Bottom of my Garden" you start to go a bit mad.

  37. Yeah, Jacko's people had been winding up everyone all day so it wasn't surprising that it kicked off.

    We were at Earls Court that year. Jacko's lot had hired out EC2 next door for rehearsals. They were doing that number with all the kids so the first thing was to select kids from local stage schools etc. It was brutal. They *literally* used colour swatches to get the skin tones they wanted. Once they'd culled all the kids who didn't make the cut they auditioned them for singing.

    "Oh for the wings, the wings of a..."


    Then they rehearsed the number. It was pretty impressive. The choreographer showed it to them once then they just had to do it (presumably their stage mums had made them watch the video a billion times at home), so that was the final cull.

    Thing is, it was just so cruel. No 'you were great, just not what we're looking for right now'. It was "You. Off". Much crying ensued.

    We'd all snuck through to watch and we just couldn't believe it. Colin, the production manager, even had a word with them about it. That turned into a big row and they kicked us all out.

    That apparently was what motivated Jarvis and the rest is history.

    Also, worm is a great song. Philistine.

  38. Interesting to finally know the full story. Ah stage mums... we used to host the yearly "Association of American Dance" gala and about 100 girls and women took part. It was bad enough dealing with all those performers in the tiny backstage area, but the stage mums were always trying to muscle or sneak past me. I had to be hyper alert those days I couldn't just chill out and read. Shudder, I hope most of the girls grew up to gleefully disappoint their terrible mums!

  39. Yeah, hope they all went into civil engineering or something. I used to walk past Italia Conte a lot. All the kids stretching and doing scales outside (and sneakily smoking)

    My rather precocious god daughter fancied stage school for a bit. Then she decided she'd just marry a footballer. (In the end she got a history of art degree.)

    It's funny how many friends from bar school went into acting, but they do say the law is show biz for ugly people (my friends are all pretty hot though, that's probably why they're now the real actors)

  40. God yes, my little stage door office corridor was the only place people could smoke backstage and when we had the ballet in it would be a fug of smoke from all the ballarinas furiously puffing away. Also the male dancers had no inhibitions, I used to deliver flower bouquets from adoring fans to their dressing rooms and they'd all be wandering about completely starkers.

  41. Yeah, smoking seems to be a big thing with ballerinas.

    Glad to see the hunky boys didn't tempt you from the, er, straight and narrow(?). I like to imagine you getting some sort of medal from a very proud Sandi Toksvig.

    (Now she'd be a very good Dr Who)