Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

5 Reasons I’m Loving… Wizards Vs. Aliens.

Picture from the official Wizards Vs. Aliens website.

Today sees the final episode of this first series of Wizards Vs. Aliens, the BBC Wales produced children’s tv show that currently has me eagerly tuning in to CBBC every week. If you haven’t heard about it here’s how the BBC describe it:

Tom Clarke is a 16 year-old schoolboy with a secret- he and his family are wizards! Tom was happy using the odd spell to finish his homework or score the winning goal- until the Nekross arrived. A race of Magic-eating aliens from the planet Nekron, the Nekross have come to Earth to drain the planet and all of its wizards of every drop of Magic…

The only people who can stop the Nekross are Tom and his best friend Benny. Benny is a scientific genius, and the boys soon form a close friendship as they use a combination of Magic and science to fight the Nekross threat. Tom is also aided by his wizard grandmother Ursula, his dad Michael, and by the Guardian of the family’s Chamber of Mysteries – the irascible hobgoblin Randal Moon! Together they defend the planet from the Nekross’ evil plans.

I thought I’d share the top 5 reasons I’m loving the series in the hope that I might convince you to give it a go.

Tom1. The Wizards. The wizards in this show are really cool, Tom in particular makes you realise how useful it could be to have a little magical ability. I like the way there are limits on magic and strict rules surrounding it – this definitely makes for more interesting viewing. Annette Badland as Tom’s slightly scatty grandmother is wonderful, a nice contrast to her appearance as calculating Slitheen Margaret Blaine in Doctor Who.

Wizards Vs Aliens2. The Aliens. I do love a good villain and the Nekross certainly fit the bill. Their mission is simple yet dastardly, and each week they come up with a new way to try and make it succeed. Lexi is one of my favourite characters played brilliantly by Gwendoline Christie, and Brian Blessed is perfect casting for the voice of the Nekross King.

Benny3. The Unenchanteds. This is the name given to non-wizard humans. Benny in particular proves on more than one occasion than being an unenchanted does not make you useless, he’s a science whiz and has plenty of skills that come in very handy. He’s also a geek and comes out with lines that make me want to applaud. Okay so yes I do applaud them. Benny’s definitely the character that jostles with Lexi for top of my favourites list.

4. The Writers. Wizards vs. Aliens boasts a very strong group of writers, the stories are written by Phil Ford, Joseph Lidster, Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman. Like many I had grown to love their work through the episodes they wrote for Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s been wonderful to watch more from them – the stories are funny, and warm, and explore some moral issues nicely, all wrapped in this cool concept of wizards battling aliens.

5. The Opening Credits. Last but by no means least I have to mention the opening credits for the show. They have a lovely old school feel to them, and make me really happy every episode.

WvALogo

As I said at the beginning of the post today is the final episode of the series but all of the previous episodes are still available on BBC iPlayer so there’s still time to catch up. Why not give it try?

{All pictures and quote taken from the official BBC Wizards Vs. Aliens site}

Music · TV Stuff

My most persistant earworm

Music is a hugely important part of my life, so much so that if you gave me the choice of music or books I really don’t know which I’d choose. I think it’d be an even harder choice than chocolate or cheese. I love tv too, love finding a series that I can get really stuck into, the icing on the cake for me is always if a tv show gets the music right. Lots of shows use music well, but when a show gets it spot on I think it’s a truly wonderful thing.

I’ve spent the last few weeks watching Sons of Anarchy, one episode a night, and I’ve absolutely loved it. It has a great cast playing great roles, and the plots have left me with my heart in my mouth so many times. The thing though that really makes me geek out about the show? Its music. The soundtrack is generally a mix between rock and Southern rock, and brilliant covers. Many episodes have a cover version of a song, each works as a re-imagining of a song that fits the moment in the show perfectly (a lot of them are done specifically for the show including a number that are sung by the show’s Katey Sagal). It’s one of these that has been my most persistent earworm, it’s been with me now for weeks.

The 12th episode of the first season opens and closes with Forever Young, though two different versions both sung by Audra Mae. There is this version with musical accompaniment and some lovely harmonies:

And this virtually acapella version:

It’s an excellent episode already, but the use of this music to sandwich the episode content is a rather beautiful thing. I didn’t know the song at all before this episode, but when I looked the lyrics up I discovered it was originally by Bob Dylan. I’m not the hugest Dylan fan, but I gave his version a listen to understand where the song had come from. His version’s fine but it’s Audra Mae’s cover that I truly love.

I’m not entirely sure what it is that has drawn me so closely to this song, whether it’s the simple way it’s sung, or the beauty of so many of the lyrics. I do know that I’ve fallen asleep with it playing in my brain and I’ve woken up and it’s the first thing I’ve hummed. Most earworms are a bit irritating, and I’m always glad when they’re gone. This one hasn’t left me in over a month and I’m in no particular hurry to see it leave.

Blog News · Geek Stuff · Life · TV Stuff

I’m not really here today…

… instead I’m guest blogging over at Fluttering Butterflies as part of Clover’s excellent Love Month. There have already been some brilliant guest posts and loads of great reviews, and today I got to play. I’m talking about my many tv boyfriends, you can see who made my list here.

TV Stuff

My Five Favourite TV Shows of 2011.

It’s that time of year when everyone’s compiling lists, and I do love a good list so I thought it was a bandwagon I’d happily jump onto. I’m going to do three lists of five items, my favourite TV shows of 2011 on Tuesday, films on Wednesday and books on Thursday.

I watch a lot of tv. This year I’ve loved so many programmes, both ones I’ve been watching for years and ones that I’ve discovered for the first time. In no particular order my favourite shows of this year have been…

Leverage
Oh how I love this show. For starters it has a great cast playing brilliant characters, the team of five are all well developed and interesting and the women are as cool and capable as the men. The relationships between the team members reflect the friendship the actors all have off the screen, they are all so believable and wonderfully entertaining. Then there are the plots, each episode sees the team pulling off a con or heist, acting like modern day Robin Hoods. These are slick and clever, and often leave me very impressed by their inventiveness.

Hawaii Five-0
I decided to give this a go after hearing Dave and Barry of Geek Syndicate discussing it on a number of episodes of their podcast. Within the first couple of episodes I was hooked, the friendship between Steve and Danny is a brilliant snarky bromance that drew me straight into the show. There are some great characters, I’m particularly enjoying seeing both Daniel Dae Kim and Masi Oka in shows that don’t frustrate me at every turn. Hawaii Five-0 is definitely a new favourite for me.

Doctor Who
This year’s series of Doctor Who brought me my favourite guest character yet in Canton Everett Delaware III, a new episode to add to my list of favourites in The Doctor’s Wife, and a fantastic Christmas episode. It also brought the Doctor wearing a Stetson, a small detail but one that made me very happy. Whilst the series arc was a little convoluted, and at times seemed to be forgotten, the individual episodes ranged from entertaining to downright brilliant. The Christmas special has left me really looking forward to next year’s series, even if we do have to wait until the autumn for it.

Merlin
After last year’s Merlin introduced a core group of knights I was really excited to see how the show evolved with these new characters. Whilst it’s always nice to see Arthur and Merlin’s friendly bickering it has been so good this year having a range of characters. I love the sense of fun and camaraderie there is between the knights, and I look forward to seeing much more of them next year. I only wish that Morgause had stayed for longer and that Morgana had had a little more to do during the series.

Friday Night Lights
I know I said this list was in no particular order, but I have saved the best for last. I cannot begin to draw together my thoughts about the series in just a paragraph, I’ve been trying to write a blog post about the series for months and am still struggling to write clearly about it. I watched all five seasons in about 6 weeks, and haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it back in September. I started watching it because I saw people on Twitter talking about it, I never expected to love it anywhere near as much as I did, I think it has probably jumped to the top of my all time favourite tv shows list. I shall definitely make sure I get that blog post finished in January.

What have you been watching and loving in 2011?

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

A Tale of Two Conventions.

In the last few weeks I’ve been to two very different conventions, and had a brilliant time at them both.

Thought Bubble, Leeds.
The Cardiff International Comic Expo back in February was my first ever comic convention. I had such a good day that I knew I wanted to go to more comic conventions and had heard lots of good stuff about Thought Bubble so decided that I would go and see what it was like for myself. Over the months between booking my ticket and it finally being time to make the journey up to Leeds I found out that a few online friends were also going to be there and it would be an opportunity to meet in person some of the people I have known online for some time. I spent much of Saturday with Liz and Mark from My Favourite Books, met up with Budgie for a coffee, and briefly met Bevis and bought the only comics of his that I didn’t already own so that now I have a full set.

It’s been a few weeks now, so I’m not going to be going into much detail about what I did and saw walking around the two halls, instead I shall just say that the vast array of comics on offer was pretty amazing. There were so many talented creators there selling comics that would have covered pretty much anybody’s tastes. I could have spent my money five or six times over, so settled for collecting lots of business cards that pointed towards online shops for future splurges. My comics TBR pile is now looking very healthy again and I’m looking forward to some great reading time once I’ve finished my semester 1 assignments and exam. The atmosphere at Thought Bubble was warm and friendly, and I had a really enjoyable weekend. I shall definitely be going back in future years.

Con-1, Birmingham.
Me and my friend Emma are both huge fans of the tv show Leverage so when she discovered that Starfury were going to be doing a Leverage convention we eagerly booked our tickets. The line up got better and better as we got closer to the weekend, with four out of the five main cast members (Gina Bellman, Beth Riesgraf, Aldis Hodge and Christian Kane) able to attend. In addition we had one of the co-creators and writers of the show, Chris Downey, and arrived to find Mark Sheppard appearing as an unannounced surprise guest. An added bonus for me was that Christian Kane was going to be bringing along bandmates and buddies including Steve Carlson and Riley Smith, and they were going to be playing a gig on the Saturday night. Kane’s The House Rules is one of my most played CDs of 2011, and I’m a fan of Steve Carlson’s solo music too so this all sounded like a wonderful early Christmas present to myself.

Both Saturday and Sunday started with panels (there were photoshoots going on at the same time but we’ve never gone in for them), these always tend to be entertaining though when there is no moderation of the questions being asked there is always the risk that things can get a little silly or even out of hand. By and large the questions asked were good, interesting ones (I’m thinking of taking a couple and putting them together for a recurring blog feature in 2012) and every person on the stage answered what was asked of them really well. At every convention I’ve been to before there has been one guest who has been a little disappointing, or just not so comfortable with being on the stage answering questions but every single person at Con-1 was utterly brilliant. As Sunday progressed I started to feel increasingly sad with each passing panel that we were getting closer to the end of things – I could have listened to each and every one of them for so much longer.

Something that was a little unexpected but that just made the weekend even better for me was how much discussion there was of writing, both from Chris Downey talking about writing Leverage – his Sunday panel began with him walking the audience through how they write Leverage episodes, and from Christian, Steve and Riley talking about writing music. I came away feeling inspired by them all, and buoyed by the realisation that in general terms writing is writing no matter what the desired end product is.

Saturday’s musical evening was every bit as good as I’d hoped, and probably a bit more. We knew that Life of Riley were going to be playing first but another surprise was that Brian Nutter followed them. He is one of Keith Urban’s guitarists, and a really talented musician – I hope there will be more opportunities in the future to hear him perform. The final act was Christian and Steve along with Brian, and the members of Life of Riley, it was so good to hear so many Kane songs that I love performed live.

Con-2 has already been announced for next November, after having such a good weekend at Con-1 we’re definitely going to be there.

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

Resonance Update.

Just a quick post to mention a few updates that I’ve seen in the world of new tv show Resonance. First up their Twitter feed has changed to @willyouhelp so any links I’ve previously posted for their Twitter won’t work any more.

A brand new website has been launched for the Resonance world. This includes tonnes of information about the show and the mythology behind it – the more I read the more excited I continue to get. There’s a page devoted to all of the people and organisations who are already helping with Resonance and a page linking to all the ways anyone else can get involved and keep up to date with news. For me the most exciting bit was seeing the trailer, most of the shots in the car park were filmed on the day I was there so it’s brilliant to see a first finished product with them.

Finally both the Resonance Twitter feed and Facebook page have posted the first code to be cracked:

w.ligZwtcsro.ceoirdilevw

I haven’t yet been able to make head nor tail of it, apparently there answer is on the website but I’m yet to find it. There is apparently a second code once you’ve cracked the first one, I’ve seen a few comments that it is fiendish in comparison so I’m not holding out a lot of hope that I’ll be solving it any time soon!

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

TV Times.

I’m tired today after staying up watching the election results not come in, apparently my constituency declared about half an hour after I called it a night which is utterly typical. I saw this tv based meme on someone else’s blog a little while back and have been saving it for a day just like this.

A show that should never have been cancelled:
I imagine a lot of people answering this are going to be saying Firefly and I’m adding my voice to theirs. I came to the series late, but really wish there had been more.

A show that you wish more people were watching:
Ooh good question. Most shows that I watch have fairly healthy viewerships, I’ll always wish more people were watching Doctor Who though because that would mean there were always yet more people to have geeky conversations with about it.

Your favourite new show (aired this TV season):
It would have to be between Leverage and Castle. I’m not sure I could pick one of them as being a favourite though, and I get the feeling that if I was filling this in a few weeks later I’d be adding Justified to the mix too.

Your favourite show ever:
I always think this is a difficult question because there are so many varied programmes that I love, but it always comes back to Doctor Who.

A show you hate:
I think hate is a very strong word… there are a lot of American comedies that I’m not a fan of, things like Two And A Half Men.

Favourite episode of favourite TV show:
This seems to change on an almost daily basis, today I would have to answer Girl In The Fireplace.

Least favourite episode of your favourite TV show:
After much thinking I can’t answer this one. For each of the weaker episodes that I start to consider I start to remember all of the bits I love about it. Maybe I’ll come back and answer this another time.

A show everyone should watch:
Being Human, the more people are watching it the better the chances are of them continuing to make it, and I love it.

Best scene ever:
Again, so many contenders! I love the poison scene in Doctor Who’s “The Unicorn and The Wasp” and I love the scene from Buffy’s “Hush” in the lecture theatre with the drawings.

A show you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving:
Supernatural. I expected it to be a bit silly and light on plot, but it’s been a wonderful viewing experience that has got better and better with each season. I’ve caught up with the first 4 seasons now and am soon going to move on to season 5.

A show that disappointed you:
True Blood season 1. I had such high hopes for it and by the end of the first episode was feeling completely let down. I’m really glad though that I kept watching because season 2 so far has been excellent.

An episode you’ve watched more than five times:
Oh there are far too many so I’ll go for “In The Dark” from Angel, the first appearance of Spike in LA.

Favourite show from childhood:
Children’s Ward which then became The Ward. From an early age I wanted to be a doctor so a tv show set in a hospital aimed at children was my perfect viewing. Interesting to see Russell T Davies on its list of writers.

Saddest character death:
Without a moment’s thought, Mark Greene in ER. Just the thought of it has been known to move me to tears all these years later.

Days Out · Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

A Day Out At Resonance

In my post about my weekend at the Hub 4 convention I mentioned meeting director Colin Teague and hearing what he had to say about his new project, Resonance. One of the things that he’d talked about was the online side of the project, so once I was home I signed up to the Facebook page and started to follow the Twitter feed. I was thrilled therefore when I received a message on Saturday inviting me to spend yesterday on the set where they were filming the pilot episode.

I’d never been on a tv set before, so to begin with the bustling nature was a little overwhelming. When I first arrived there were plenty of people around, they were all stood in little groups and it was hard to work out what their roles were. The two actors who were on set were rehearsing their scene, as soon as they finished and it was agreed they were going to film it all of the groups of people sprang into action. After watching the first couple of scenes it became clear what role each of the little groups of people was playing (some were easier to work out that others – the two girls carrying bags of make up for instance). I also found that the number of episodes of Doctor Who Confidential, and Torchwood Declassified I’d watched, and issues of Doctor Who Magazine that I’d read came in useful.

The filming was taking place in a multi-storey car park. Over the course of the day everyone moved up and down between the floors a number of times, before the final bits were filmed on the roof. I’d been warned to bring a warm coat as the car park got no sun and had a tendency to be a bit of a wind tunnel, within a couple of hours of being there I was really glad they’d thought to warn me. Spending the later part of the afternoon on the roof in the glorious sunshine was a very welcome change of location!

The atmosphere on the set was really warm and friendly. From talking to a couple of the crew it seems that I was simply the next in a string of visitors to the set but everyone was completely welcoming. Over the course of the day I saw 4 different actors plus a stunt double. It was interesting watching how they all worked, each of them appeared to have a very different approach to what they were doing. I spoke briefly with Aidan Turner and had the opportunity to have a little chat with Nikki Amuka-Bird, both of them were very friendly. Watching the scenes they were filming left me wanting to see more and know more about the story. For the stunts that they did it was fascinating seeing how they went from the initial rehearsal to the final shot they settled on.

The message that I got was that the production is really keen to engage with the viewers and to make the project as interactive as possible. It seems clear that seeing things like the fandom pulling together online to encourage the BBC to commission a full series of Being Human has inspired them to think about how they can draw people in and build an active community around the project. I for one can’t wait to see what comes of it all and look forward to being a part of it!