sir_guinglain: (Zen)
( Sep. 3rd, 2018 06:01 pm)
Farewell to an extraordinary actor. Maximum power, always.
The death of Richard, sixth Earl Grey, on 10 September was marked by an obituary in the Telegraph which seemed too respectable. There was much about his activity in parliament as a prominent Liberal peer, his advocacy for small businesses and dutiful observing of elections in Zimbabwe, but surely there was another aspect to his career which they had forgotten..?

Trust a Murdoch paper to recall that there was. The Times (yes, I have paid the Murdoch shilling) have just obituarised the sixth Earl Grey, with details of his work with pornographer David Sullivan and his arrest in 1983 by the Obscene Publications Squad following the seizure of "350,000 sex magazines, books and videos" and his subsequent charge of living from immoral earnings, though the Director of Public Prosecutions chose not to pursue the case. What larks.
It's hardly an original subject for a post, and the sentiments which I will express aren't particularly new either. As I was told tonight, when I described Armstrong's death as 'sad news' it was for a given value of sad. Neil Armstrong lived a full and remarkable life. For those of us who grew up in the shadow of that walk on the moon[1], though, the end of Armstrong's life seems like the end of a promise. I recalled the articles in children's magazines of the 1970s which envisaged that by now there would be commercial, routine journeys by astronauts who would train in an environment which would make the Apollo astronauts' experiences look prehistoric. This optimism seems far-fetched now, though I am out of the loop as far as space exploration is concerned, and commercial spaceflight is at least becoming a reality. I hope, for the sake of those now distant times, that human beings walk on other worlds later this century.

[1]...and only a shadow; I can only remember the afterword of the Apollo programme, Apollo-Soyuz.
A mystery: a woman with long hair, leaning against the third Doctor on Bessie. The letter of the answer: the brisk, efficient, perceptive scientist in Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion, the self-possessed woman who knew the measure of human frailty in Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters. Finally, the spirit and the substance of the answer: that amused smile, gently authoritative voice, precise body language, expression that was always questing, always determined, whatever terrors arose from beneath the Earth or descended from outer space. The vocal control which showed that even in another universe where a moral compass had been thoroughly brutalised, a conscience remained true.

Much later: an autograph queue, BAFTA. I'd ducked in to see what was happening and buy a book, and found a signing session in full swing. I'd not been at one since a towering actor had placed his hat on my head and wrote that I looked good in it on the short title page of my copy of Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin. Old hands made their way up and down the queue, it was so long and there were so few tables: "Watling? Anyone for Watling?" called a smoke-aged voice like some wine-marinated sergeant-major. A jolly blonde woman remembered people she'd met before, and introduced them to her seemingly more introverted male colleague. I reached the table; a stuntman appraised me sceptically, a practical man gazing on a starstruck fantasist. Then, an even more talkative woman, not falling back on the "Isn't this fantastic!" line it's easy to resort to in these situations, but questioning, wondering how I discovered Doctor Who, and why I stayed with it. I can't remember my reply. I asked her to sign my Television Companion, which she did, under the listing for Inferno which unfortunately detailed her removal from the series. I moved on, and she found something else as specific and new to say to the next person. Good casting, I thought. Thank you, Carry.
Richard Carpenter, creator of Robin of Sherwood, died at the weekend. I first encountered him on BBC schools television as the host and writer of the Look and Read serial Cloudburst; aimed at slow-reading eight-year-olds this series was essential viewing for the literate pre-schooler in the 1970s. His credits as a writer of family television series for ITV were long - Catweazle, The Ghosts of Motley Hall, Dick Turpin and of course Robin of Sherwood. He also wrote the first series of The Scarlet Pimpernel for the BBC in the late 1990s, but while he started work on the second, the transmitted series was credited to other hands. I remember Mark Ryan, Nasir in Robin, praising 'Kip''s imagination when he visited the Oxford Arthurian Society in 1995. A few years later I went to a National Film Theatre retrospective of Carpenter's work. He deserves more attention than he receives.
sir_guinglain: (RadioTimesRichardDimbleby)
( Feb. 4th, 2012 03:26 pm)
The composer, scriptwriter and artist Ted Dicks died last weekend. He was a principal collaborator with Hazel Adair and Peter Ling on Compact for the BBC and then Crossroads for ATV in the 1960s, but seems best remembered for his music, including several chart hits for Bernard Cribbins and one for Ronnie Hilton. Here's Bernard Cribbins with 'Right Said Fred', and then the first part of the first episode of Catweazle (London Weekend, 1970), music by Ted Dicks.
The brief news reports are celebrating Only Fools and Horses; but I was always more of a Citizen Smith man, or rather boy. As a child I took Citizen Smith largely straight, attracted by the idea of a bedroom revolutionary (not surprising, really); though part of the success of the series is that the audience is gradually drawn into Wolfie Smith's world, to the extent that by the time he, Ken and Speed (and Tucker too?) storm the House of Commons with a stolen tank only to find an empty chamber (a CSO slide, of course) it's still difficult not to feel utterly disappointed for them. The post-prison series disappointed me when it was first broadcast - when I was nine or so - but I think I'd warm to it now, as Wolfie matures and finds more realistic targets and is forced to go on the run when he actually makes steps to making Tooting a better place to live (though being found in the bedroom of the local gangster's wife also had something to do with it).

Just Good Friends wasn't all that bad either, though the sexual dynamic has badly dated at least in the first two series; I've not seen the third, but remember it as more self-consciously fantastical, with a subplot involving Paul Nicholas's Vince (who under the Nicholas performance is not very far removed from David Jason's Del Trotter in Only Fools...) illegally selling arms to African dictators.
sir_guinglain: (Pertwee_TVAction)
( Apr. 20th, 2011 05:29 pm)
Further to the news of Elisabeth Sladen's death yesterday, I've been dipping in and out of the latest Doctor Who DVD, Planet of the Spiders, which was released this week. There's a fifteen-minute interview with John Kane, who played Tommy in the serial, where (among other insights) he observes that Elisabeth Sladen had the same powers of being able to immerse herself in a role and perform with immediacy as Helen Mirren, and that he was very surprised that her career never took off to the heights he expected. As Russell T Davies said on the BBC News channel last night, acting is a hard business and it is easy to be forgotten.
I don't know what to say, really. My sister remarks that her first memory is of Sarah watching as Eldrad's hand regenerates and reanimates at the end of part one of The Hand of Fear. Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith was the perfect Doctor Who assistant and a touchstone of reliability and dedication in the face of otherworldly adversity for more than one generation. This is a great shock; to say she will be widely missed is an understatement. Her husband Brian Miller and daughter Sadie will be in everyone's thoughts.


sir_guinglain: (Default)


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