Monday 30 November 2020

Doctor Who battles Daleks New Year's Day

The release date trailer for Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks was shown before Strictly Come Dancing's results show last evening on BBC One.

Chris Chibnall, the series showrunner, said:

"We’ve crammed this year's Doctor Who Festive Special with an explosion of extraordinary acting talent. Where else would you get British acting royalty, a globally renowned US screen star, an (inter)national treasure of stage and screen and one of Britain's hottest young actors — just in the guest cast! Put those together with Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole (and Daleks! Did I mention Daleks!) — and you get a cast to be exterminated for. And things will explode. Promise."

Alongside John Barrowman returning as Captain Jack Harkness, Chris Noth (Sex and the City) reprises his role as a disgraced hotelier, Jack Robertson.

As expected, the holiday special will be shown on BBC One and BBC America on New Year's Day! Let's hope to herald a much more positive 2021 for everyone.

Sunday 29 November 2020

David Prowse, Star Wars' Darth Vader, dies

James Earl Jones was the unmistakable voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars but David Prowse embodied the towering armour-clad dark lord cinemagoers first saw board the battle-damaged Rebel Blockade Runner in A New Hope. Prowse's Bristolian accent wasn't menacing enough for a Sith Lord with a propensity to Force choke anyone who had a lack of faith in ancient religion.

Prowse passed away Saturday, aged 85. The sad news was posted on Twitter by the actor's management.

Mark Hamill, who played Darth Vader's son Luke Skywalker in the original and sequel trilogies, shared a tribute to Prowse on Twitter.

"So sad to hear David Prowse has passed," Hamill wrote. "He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader. Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him."

I met Prowse twice. Firstly when he visited my primary school, where I would suffer a life-changing head injury in October 1977, as the Green Cross Code Man and secondly years later at a special screening of the original Star Wars trilogy in the early nineties. He was warm and genial. Incidentally, the first time I saw Darth Vader, in person, was at my local Debenhams department store (now John Lewis) during the release of Return of the Jedi. Mum kept it a surprise and took me to the toy department where the lift opened to reveal the dark lord himself and Stormtroopers...

Prowse was banned from official Star Wars events in 2010 having allegedly fallen out with Star Wars creator George Lucas. In a newspaper article in 1978, he revealed, to cheering fans in California, Darth Vader was, in fact, Anakin Skywalker, Luke's father, two years before The Empire Strikes Back. This may have been a lucky guess. However, thank goodness social media wasn't a thing.

Discovering Prowse played Darth Vader, in the pages of Marvel's making of Star Wars magazine, is a cherished childhood memory. The actor also appeared in Doctor Who, The Tomorrow People and Space: 1999, which are available to stream on BritBox.

He will be long remembered.

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Captain Jack's back in Doctor Who Christmas special

This month marks the 57th anniversary of Doctor Who and there's plenty for fans (myself included) to celebrate.

From the return of Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), last seen in Series 12, to the introduction of Jo Grant (Katy Manning) in The Collection: Season 10 Blu-ray (affiliate link). The latter features the iconic debut of The Master, played by the late Roger Delgado, in Terror of the Autons, which I first saw at the 20th anniversary celebration at Longleat. Season 10 features some of my favourite Target novelisations from the classic era.

Barrowman, who fronted spin-off series Torchwood, said: “Putting on Jack’s coat and setting foot back on the set of Doctor Who was just like going back home. It’s always thrilling to play Captain Jack.

“He’s a character very close to my heart who changed my life, and to know the fans love him as much as I do makes his return even sweeter.

“I hope everyone enjoys Jack’s heroic adventure with Thirteen.”

Executive producer Chris Chibnall promised “an epic and emotional feature-length episode".

He said: “A Doctor Who festive special means treats galore, and there’s no bigger treat than the return of John Barrowman to Doctor Who for an epic and emotional feature-length episode.

“If anyone can blast away the sheer rubbishness of 2020, it’s Captain Jack. Daleks beware.”

Matt Strevens, executive producer for BBC Studios, added: “After a tantalisingly brief appearance in Fugitive Of The Judoon, it’s a total joy and thrill to welcome back John as Captain Jack.

“One of the most iconic characters in Doctor Who lore, his presence ignites this festive special from the start.”

Revolution of the Daleks will air during the upcoming festive period on BBC One and BBC America.

To cap it all, on a personal level, it was an unexpected pleasure to see my tweet republished in the official Doctor Who Magazine (DWM). This is the third time my prose has appeared. I've been watching Doctor Who for as long as I can remember...

Monday 23 November 2020

PS5 is next-gen magic in a pandemic

So, last Thursday marked the launch of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) in the UK and Europe. Arguably, Sony’s next-gen console is the must-have of this holiday season. More so than Microsoft's Xbox Series X and S if mainstream media coverage is to be believed and, as the lucky owner of a PS5, I can see why first-hand.

You managed to obtain a rarer than hen’s teeth PS5 whilst others couldn’t or had them cancelled (looking at you Currys PC World), I hear you cry? Well, having foregone both next-gen console pre-orders, to bump the spec of an imperative iMac upgrade, and the looming prospect of a COVID Christmas, I took a chance on launch day and ordered from John Lewis via the retailer’s iPad app as the site invariably crashed due to tens of thousands of eager fellow PlayStation enthusiasts.

To my genuine surprise and delight, the gamble paid off and a shiny Sony next-gen console was safely delivered very early the following day. John Lewis’ customer service is among the best and that free 2-year guarantee isn’t too shabby. Other retailers are available and your mileage may vary but praise where it’s due - especially during a pandemic.

Initial thoughts on the disc-based PS5 after a couple of days use. The console is by turns gigantic and Cupertino-designed spaceship sleek compared to previous generations. A far cry from the Atari VCS where my video game odyssey began with a cousin’s unwanted Christmas gift in 1980. My eight-year-old self would have jumped at the chance of owning a console and accessories in Imperial Stormtrooper livery. Rebels! Schmebels!

Initial setup was buggy and a few apps crashed but that comes with day-one territory. Following a quick restart and system software update, the PS5 (mounted horizontally as if levitating a la Dua Lipa) runs whisper quiet and lightning-fast compared to its PlayStation 3 (PS3) and PlayStation 4 (PS4) predecessors. The solid-state drive (SSD) impresses. The Blu-ray disc drive supports 4K UHD, unlike the PS4 Pro.

The look and feel is premium next-gen in spite of a lack of customisation options for the dashboard (post-launch updates will fix that) and the DualSense controller is a joyful revelation: an inspired fusion of PlayStation and Nintendo innovation distilled in Astro’s Playroom (pre-loaded on every PS5). This gaming gem is haptic feedback heaven and here's hoping third-party developers utilise it.

The DualSense is my new favourite controller of all time after years of advocating the excellent Xbox controller over PlayStation’s DualShock (DS), which I've never got on with since the launch of the original PlayStation 25 years ago.

The day-one launch titles are impressive, most impressive (more so in the midst of a lockdown). As a lifelong fan of Marvel’s web-slinger, I had to get Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Edition and will buy Demon's Souls and Sackboy: A Big Adventure on Black Friday.

The PlayStation Plus Collection for PS5 is the icing on the cake for launch week. Days Gone, a first-party action-adventure survival horror video game that launched to mixed reviews in 2019, is way more fun than expected, Detroit: Become Human is stylistically at home on the PS5 and I can’t wait to revisit Horizon Zero Dawn ahead of Horizon Forbidden West.

PS4 backwards compatibility is every bit as superlative as the fine folks at Digital Foundry (DF) enthusiastically suggest. Sony should be shouting from the rooftops for the first time since PS3.

Before I wrap up this PS5 launch review. Jim Ryan, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s CEO and president has warned the console has sold out everywhere before Christmas.

“Everything is sold. Absolutely everything is sold,” Mr Ryan told Russian news agency TASS.

"I’ve spent much of the last year trying to be sure that we can generate enough demand for the product. And now in terms of my executive bandwidth I’m spending a lot more time on trying to increase supply to meet that demand."

Mr Ryan said that the COVID-19 outbreak may have impacted the number of consoles available at launch. “We might have had a few more to sell, but not very many: the guys on the production/manufacturing side have worked miracles,” he said in the interview.

If you missed out on pre-ordering or limited launch day stock, there's some good news this Black Friday. Walmart, Best Buy and GameStop restock this week. So, it may be a happy Thanksgiving for US-based fans after all.

To paraphrase teenage pop music crush Kylie, do I believe in magic? Why yes, I do. And don't we all deserve a fun fillip in these troubling times? As a fan of PlayStation since it was originally announced as a CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), I can't wait to play without limits...

Did you manage to get a PS5 on launch day? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 22 November 2020

Star Wars author challenges Disney empire

Author Alan Dean Foster, who ghost-wrote the original Star Wars novelisation for George Lucas, wrote sequel Splinter of the Mind's Eye (before The Empire Strikes Back) and the original Alien trilogy novelisations, isn't receiving royalties from Disney following the company's acquisition of Lucasfilm and Twentieth Century Fox.

Foster, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, has published an open letter, which he hopes will be wildly shared. As a lifelong fan of Disney, Star Wars and his work, I feel compelled to repost verbatim:

"Dear Mickey,

We have a lot in common, you and I. We share a birthday: November 18. My dad’s nickname was Mickey. There’s more.

When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote. STAR WARS, the novelization of the very first film. SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE, the first sequel novel. You owe me royalties on these books. You stopped paying them.

When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written. The novelizations of ALIEN, ALIENS, and ALIEN 3. You’ve never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them.

All these books are all still very much in print. They still earn money. For you. When one company buys another, they acquire its liabilities as well as its assets. You’re certainly reaping the benefits of the assets. I’d very much like my miniscule (though it’s not small to me) share.

You want me to sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) before even talking. I’ve signed a lot of NDAs in my 50-year career. Never once did anyone ever ask me to sign one prior to negotiations. For the obvious reason that once you sign, you can no longer talk about the matter at hand. Every one of my representatives in this matter, with many, many decades of experience in such business, echo my bewilderment.

You continue to ignore requests from my agents. You continue to ignore queries from SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You continue to ignore my legal representatives. I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do. Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away. Or possibly die. But I’m still here, and I am still entitled to what you owe me. Including not to be ignored, just because I’m only one lone writer. How many other writers and artists out there are you similarly ignoring?

My wife has serious medical issues and in 2016 I was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer. We could use the money. Not charity: just what I’m owed. I’ve always loved Disney. The films, the parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show. I don’t think Unca Walt would approve of how you are currently treating me. Maybe someone in the right position just hasn’t received the word, though after all these months of ignored requests and queries, that’s hard to countenance. Or as a guy named Bob Iger said….

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

I’m not feeling it.

Alan Dean Foster

Prescott, AZ"

What are your thoughts on Foster’s feud with Disney? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 20 November 2020

Wonder Woman 1984 this Christmas on HBO Max

Here's some good news for fellow DC Comics fans. Wonder Woman 1984, starring Gal Gadot, is coming to selected cinemas and exclusively on HBO Max this holiday season.

“At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else,” director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) wrote on Twitter to coincide with the release of the official main trailer. “We love our movie as we love our fans, so we truly hope that our film brings a little bit of joy and reprieve to all of you this holiday season.”

“As we navigate these unprecedented times, we’ve had to be innovative in keeping our businesses moving forward while continuing to super-serve our fans,” said Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, which includes Warner Bros. Pictures. “This is an amazing film that really comes to life on the big screen and, working with our partners in the exhibition community, we will provide that option to consumers in the U.S. where theaters are open. We realize that a lot of consumers can’t go back to the movies due to the pandemic, so we also want to give them the option to see WONDER WOMAN 1984 via our HBO Max platform.”

“We appreciate how patient audiences have been and given the great anticipation around WONDER WOMAN 1984 we are grateful to be able to make this terrifically entertaining movie widely available in these challenging times,” said Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group.

Wall Street mused on the hybrid release strategy. "This is an unprecedented move for a major Hollywood media company, especially for a $200 million film, and a grand experiment that could have long-lasting implications if successful," Credit Suisse analyst Douglas Mitchelson wrote in a report. "Up to now, speculation had been that Wonder Woman 1984 would either be delayed or be released in theaters and then shift over to HBO Max after a short exclusivity period."

There's no news whether Warner Bros. will follow suit outside the US. However, it's very possible the first sequel to Wonder Woman will be available on direct-to-consumer streaming platforms as most cinemas remain closed, around the globe, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Personally, I'd be delighted to unwrap Wonder Woman 1984 so to speak, safely in the comfort of my own home, on Christmas Day. Would you? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 19 November 2020

PlayStation shapes London Underground

The London Underground is being invaded for 48-hours. No, it's not Doctor Who's Cybermen or Yeti this time.

The PlayStation 5 (PS5) finally launches in the UK today and Sony's marketing mavericks have all but taken over the holiday season. Xbox Series what? As a platform-agnostic gamer, I jest of course.

However, many non-gamers (including my dad) are more aware of the next-gen PlayStation than Microsoft's consoles launched last week. Demand for both next-gen consoles is at fever pitch, more so given the pandemic and being back in lockdown with Christmas only weeks away.

Did you manage to get a PS5 on launch day? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

The Mandalorian in Minecraft

The Force is strong with Minecraft.

Mojang, part of Xbox Game Studios, announced on Life Day, a Wookiee Thanksgiving celebration debuting with the Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978, new Star Wars downloadable content (DLC) featuring the original trilogy and The Mandalorian and The Child AKA Baby Yoda. The second season of the Emmy-winning live-action series is currently being shown exclusively on Disney+.

Minecraft is free for Xbox Game Pass subscribers (myself included). So, I'll be downloading the Star Wars-themed DLC from the Minecraft Marketplace for some holiday hijinks.

Who doesn't want to throw snowballs at AT-ATs? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

PS5 limited launch stock this Thursday

The PlayStation 5 (PS5) launches with platform exclusives Demon's Souls, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure outside the US this Thursday.

UK retailers including GAME and John Lewis have promised more stock of Sony's next-gen console will be available on launch day.

Amazon has sent out an email informing customers there will be limited stock on 19th November from 12:00PM. So, avoid scalpers and bookmark (affiliate link).

Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO and president Jim Ryan believes, perhaps unsurprisingly, the price of PS5 titles is fair as the brand appears to pivot towards a premium market more associated with tech titan Apple. £70 for a video game is expensive during a global pandemic and the worst economic recession in decades. It's all about optics.

Day-one ownership is never without risk. Both Xbox Series X and S and PS5 console owners are reporting crashes, data corruption and system breaking bugs. However, these are most likely isolated incidents and above all have fun.

Friends are posting that they're receiving PS5 video games and accessories ahead of the console's launch. Have you and what video games will you be playing first? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 16 November 2020

The Black Hole 'unofficial official trailer' on Disney+

To celebrate the launch of the official Disney+ YouTube channel, The Walt Disney Company has released fun new unofficial official trailers for some of its classic movies now streaming including The Black Hole, which was the House of Mouse's response to Star Wars decades before buying Lucasfilm from George Lucas and The Child AKA Baby Yoda was a twinkle in Jon Favreau's eye.

Here's the official synopsis:

"A beacon draws them to the edge of space and time, but once they arrive at the long-lost ship, the crew of the Palomino discovers a mysterious scientist and that things aren't always as they seem. Explore deep space in this modern trailer for the 1979 Disney sci-fi classic, The Black Hole."

The Black Hole will always occupy a special place in my formative cinemagoing years, with my family, as I underwent intensive rehabilitation for a life-changing head trauma. John Barry's original soundtrack underscored many after school action figure adventures and the official read-a-long book aided in my literacy.

The Black Hole is now streaming on Disney+.

Saturday 14 November 2020

Pirates of the Mandalorian

Spoilers ahoy for The Mandalorian Chapter 11, me hearties!

Chapter 11, with actor and director Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) back at the helm, is a swashbuckling white-knuckle ride that introduces a beloved character from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels to the increasingly mythological live-action Star Wars spin-off on Disney+.

Our interstellar duo cross moon seas ruled by the quarrelling Quarren and Mon Calamari from Return of the Jedi and fall into another trap. Just when it looks like all is lost, a group of mysterious Mandalorians arrive to rescue them. The trio, featuring Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado) and Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides), is lead by Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff).

Fan-favourite Sackhoff, best known as Starbuck from the Battlestar Galactica reboot, reprises her iconic role from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels as Bo-Katan gives Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) an abject lesson in Mandalore history as she continues her search for the fabled Darksaber, which is in the hands of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).

With the promise of aiding Mando in his quest to find the Jedi, Bo-Katan enlists him to aid an Imperial weapons heist on a freighter bound for Moff Gideon's fleet. What follows is a memorable shootout that perfectly captures the energy of the original trilogy. In the words of Star Wars creator George Lucas: "Faster, more intense."

Amidst the galactic fury, Howard includes an homage to her father, Ron Howard (Solo: A Star Wars Story). The battle-damaged Razor Crest entering the moon's atmosphere is a nod to Apollo 13.

True to her word, Bo-Katan tells Mando to seek Ahsoka Tano on the forest moon of Corvus. Oh, boy! There's so much to unpack and the notion of seeing Ahsoka in Chapter 12 is overwhelming...

Did The Child AKA Baby Yoda jump the shark last week in an episode that was filled with Easter eggs galore from sci-fi stablemate the Alien franchise?

The beloved tyke kept eating the last eggs of Frog Lady, an endangered species that had information that would lead Din Djarin to his fellow Mandalorians and the Jedi order. This saw some fans suggesting it was in bad taste. No pun intended. Certainly, it gave me pause. However, this new The Child plush toy (affiliate link) restored balance to the Force with special thanks to Claire from Evolution PR. This is the way.

Friday 13 November 2020

Coca-Cola's Christmas cheer by Taika Waititi

I rarely write about holiday commercials but there are exceptions. Last year it was Elliott (Henry Thomas) reuniting with E.T. in A Holiday Reunion and now it's the turn of Coca-Cola with Oscar winner Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) at the helm.

The world-famous truck, heralding the arrival of the holiday season, won't be touring the country this year due to the pandemic. Waititi, who most recently starred in and directed an episode of The Mandalorian on Disney+, weaves a tale of high adventure more suited to Indiana Jones and Uncharted before bringing heartfelt magic at a time when everyone needs hope.

Thursday 12 November 2020

Doctor Who series shortened due to pandemic

Doctor Who series 13, starring Jodie Whittaker as the titular Time Lord, has officially begun principal photography as a new national lockdown begins. As with the latest season of His Dark Materials, series 13 will be shorter due to the pandemic.

"In this strangest of years, the Doctor Who production team have worked wonders to get the show back into production," series showrunner Chris Chibnall explained.

"Given the complexity of making Doctor Who, and with new and rigorous Covid working protocols, it's going to take us a little longer to film each episode, meaning we expect to end up with eight episodes, rather than the usual eleven.

"But rest assured, the ambition, humour, fun and scares you expect from Doctor Who will all still be firmly in place. For everyone around the world, this is a challenging period — but the Doctor never shirks from a challenge."

BBC America will have a Doctor Who marathon between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, which would suggest the festive special, Revolution of the Daleks, is going to be on New Year’s Day again. However, this is unconfirmed.

HBO Max is exclusively streaming every series of Doctor Who since 2005. UK fans can watch series 1-12 on BBC iPlayer and all available classic serials on BritBox.

Are you excited for Revolution of the Daleks and series 13? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Cyberpunk 2077 won’t be delayed December

As next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft start getting into the hands of lucky gamers this week, a rumour on Twitter suggested CD Projekt's Cyberpunk 2077 would be delayed again.

However, the Witcher 3 developer quickly took to social media to refute the claim and reaffirm the highly-anticipated video game adaptation will be released for PlayStation and Xbox consoles over the holiday season.

Given the impact of coronavirus and the furore surrounding crunch (something not unique to the video game industry), it's not entirely unreasonable to foresee a further delay until 2021. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Next-gen Xbox Series launches without Halo

The next-gen of video game consoles began with the launch of Microsoft's Xbox Series X and S without the brand's flagship, Halo, today. This isn't the first time Master Chief has been missing in action (MIA). Halo 5 wasn't released day-one on Xbox One.

Halo Infinite has been delayed, amid controversy and merciless memes, until 2021 at the earliest. Sony's PlayStation 5 (PS5) launches with Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales in the US this Thursday. However, this hasn't dampened demand for the Xbox Series X and S over the holiday season.

The launch of new PlayStation and Xbox consoles is a welcome respite during the second coronavirus lockdown. So, it's understandable that fellow gamers are eager for something that will bring festive joy in a year that has taken its toll on everyone's mental health.

Retailers GAME and John Lewis had Series X and S stock online this morning but sold out. And friends are reporting, on social media, that Amazon pre-orders have been delayed. Although I originally pre-ordered both next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft, I decided to cancel and bump up the spec of a new iMac (the machine I'm typing this on).

My PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One X have life left in them for the foreseeable future.

I'll be getting Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales for PS4 and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the gift that keeps on giving with EA Play and Destiny 2: Beyond Light from Halo's original developer, Bungie. Also, Apple TV+ is now available.

Have you received your Xbox Series X or S and what video games will you play first? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 9 November 2020

Xbox Game Pass teases The Mandalorian

It's the eve of the release of Microsoft's next-gen consoles Xbox Series X and S.

The official Xbox Game Pass Twitter account has teased a Star Wars-related tie-in.

Could it be The Mandalorian DLC for Star Wars Battlefront II and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order or Disney+ coming to Game Pass Ultimate as a perk? The latter is somewhat of a stretch, but the Redmond-based company has piqued my interest. EA Play will be bundled with Game Pass Ultimate from Tuesday.

In related news. Retailers are promising more Series X and S consoles will be available from 8:00AM Tuesday. Set your alarm and be sure to check (affiliate link).

What do you think it could be? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 7 November 2020

Doctor Who Lockdown brings Christmas cheer

During the first lockdown in March, Doctor Who Magazine's (DWM) Emily Cook galvanised Whovians (myself included) with Doctor Who Lockdown on Twitter.

What initially started as a few tweets quickly gathered momentum worldwide and brought the fandom together in celebration of the beloved BBC sci-fi series during a time of self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a second national lockdown until 2nd December, Doctor Who Lockdown is back beginning with The Husbands of River Song, starring Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) and Alex Kingston (River Song), today at 7:00PM.

The Christmas special is notable for the first appearance of Nardole (Matt Lucas) who would go on to form part of a most memorable Team TARDIS in series 10. So much so, I was inspired to write into DWM and humbled when my email was printed in its hallowed pages - one for the bucket list.

With the holiday season upon us. Cook is looking to record another Doctor Who Singalong! This time Abigail's Song (Silence Is All You Know) from A Christmas Carol. Katherine Jenkins played Abigail Pettigrew, opposite Matt Smith as Doctor Who and Sir Michael Gambon as Kazran, and performed the haunting carol in the episode. A few years ago, I was thrilled when Ms Jenkins responded to my tweet congratulating her on her guest appearance. I wasn't alone in my admiration.

At a time of shared trauma and uncertainty, Doctor Who Lockdown is a unifying force to be celebrated.

Will you be watching The Husbands of River Song? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 6 November 2020

The Child in LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special

Christmas is coming early for Star Wars fans (myself included). On Thursday Lucasfilm released a trailer for the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special and The Mandalorian and The Child AKA Baby Yoda make an appearance on Life Day.

Here's the official synopsis:

"The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special reunites Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids for a joyous feast on Life Day. Rey sets off on a new adventure with BB-8 to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious Jedi Temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history, coming into contact with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan and other iconic heroes and villains from all nine Skywalker saga films. But will she make it back in time for the Life Day feast and learn the true meaning of holiday spirit?"

Set after The Rise of Skywalker, Rey sets out with BB-8 to learn more about the Force and meets friends and foes from the entire Skywalker Saga in a festive timey-wimey tale.

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special arrives on 17th November on Disney+.

Will you be watching this fun homage to the infamous television special from 1978? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

PS5 and next-gen Xbox Series launch with Apple TV+

As rumoured weeks ago, the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X and S will launch with Apple TV+.

In a blog post, Microsft said: “When our all-new Xbox family of consoles launch worldwide on November 10th, you’ll have more than just the entertainment apps you enjoy today on Xbox One. We’re excited to share that the Apple TV app is coming to Xbox One and Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S on November 10th.”

The Cupertino-based company's streaming service lags behind Disney+ and Netflix. So, supporting more third-party devices makes commercial sense if Apple TV+ wants to become a serious contender in an increasingly saturated streaming space.

Aggressively including free 12-month subscriptions (extended due to the pandemic) with iPhones, iPads and Apple TV puts the vertically integrated tech titan in a very strong position in the mid-to-longterm. The launch of Apple One, bundling Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple TV+ and more, will only add further value. I would have subscribed day-one if I wasn't already on a free 12-month Apple TV+ and pre-paid Amazon Music Unlimited subscription.

The Apple TV+ app was recently launched on Sony TVs and will also be available for PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One next week.

My Samsung smart TV missed out on a native Apple TV+ app. Therefore, I'll be downloading the new app onto Xbox One X and resuming Ubisoft's Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet.

Sunday 1 November 2020

Thank the Force for The Mandalorian

Chapter 9, directed with taut economy by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), connects to the franchise's storied history with a fidelity that blurs the margins between television and silver screen. What follows are spoilers for the sophomore season premiere on Disney+.

You have been warned. Look out! Tusken Raiders...

How can series showrunner Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni (Star Wars Rebels) follow the Emmy-winning first series of the franchise's live-action spin-off on Disney+? As it turns out, by leaning further into its storied past and keeping to an elegant format lifted from the pages of classic Marvel Star Wars Weekly with Kenner toys upgraded by Epic Games' Unreal Engine.

The Marshal begins with the titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) taking The Child AKA Baby Yoda to an illegal fighting match between Gamorrean Guards, which foreshadows the episode's direct link to Return of the Jedi. As an amusing aside. This scene reminded me of when I briefly switched from the BBC to ITV in the late seventies, drawn away from Doctor Who by brash US imports' Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Glen A. Larson's sci-fi series were preceded by wrestling matches between Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. Suffice to say this didn't translate into becoming a lifelong wrestling fan.

I digress.

After this brief foray avoiding a trap sprung by Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo), Mando and Baby Yoda head to Tatooine, a planet synonymous with all things Star Wars. There they reunite with Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) and her hapless droids from The Phantom Menace before encountering the Marshal (Timothy Olyphant) adorned in Boba Fett's salvaged armour. At this point, I was in sci-fi heaven and wasn't ready for an ending that would equal the first reveal of Baby Yoda in Chapter 1. Olyphant plays a fantastic foil to Pascal's Mando and here's hoping this isn't the last time we'll see him play Cobb Vanth (a character introduced in Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy).

Before they engage in a western shootout worthy of director Sergio Leone, a Krayt Dragon shows up in Mos Pelgo and the two are forced to work together and unite the town (Vanth had saved them from marauders following the destruction of the second Death Star and collapse of the Empire) with a band of Tusken Raiders. The dragon has to be stopped before more people die on both sides. The simplicity of the storytelling allows breathing room for organic nods to George Lucas' legacy resulting in much punching of the air - not unlike Tusken Raiders triumphantly wielding gaffi sticks - around these parts.

The dragon is dispatched by our band of brothers and Vanth hands Fett's armour to Mando. All well and good. As Mando and Baby Yoda head off across the dune sea on a speeder to continue their Jedi search, the aspect ratio widens as a mysterious figure is shown watching the fan-favourite duo from afar. Turning away, we see it's a battle-scarred Temuera Morrison. Boba Fett lives and he's going to want to reclaim his armour.

Some critics have noted the sparseness of the first-ever Star Wars live-action series, but I welcome its uncluttered aesthetic and focus on fringe characters populating the expanded universe. The cinematography is as expansive as anything on the big screen.

Favreau helped launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and has been heralded as the saviour of Star Wars by some fans. Personally, I loved The Rise of Skywalker. Sorry, not sorry. More Star Wars is always good in my book, especially during these troubling times.

This is the way.