Jessica Jones is a new approach to Marvel characters

Warning: This article will deal with the issue of domestic violence and thus has a trigger warning. It will also have some mild spoilers for the TV show Jessica Jones.

Angry, hard-drinking, gets into fights, has dysfunctional relationships, lives in a seedy apartment – these are the characteristics of the archetypical PI. You can usually add male to the list as well, which is one reason why the Netflix/Marvel show Jessica Jones is such a breath of fresh air. Here we have a familiar take on the New-York-based private eye, but this time the PI is a woman – and has super strength. However, what makes Jessica Jones (played by Krysten Ritter) enduring as a character is her personality: she is a savour, living in a dangerous and uncertain world, but she never gives up. Also, she had a habit of breaking doors.

Jessica Jones is part of the wider Marvel shared universe, but one of the strengths of the show is that you do not need to have seen any of the other films or TV shows to follow the plot. The story is entirely stand alone, and it also has a different visual style and narrative to the Marvel cinematic properties. Jessica Jones is a gritty, intimate, ground level view of life as a jobbing person-with-abnormal-abilities. It is nothing like the spectacle rich, epic action-scene-based films of Iron Man or Captain America. Jessica Jones digs deeper into its characters than the films, which is one advantage a thirteen-part TV show has over a two-hour film.

The conflict of the show hinges around Jessica's personal relationships and not big action set pieces. We sees Jessica arguing with her boss, who is going through a messy divorce (ably played by Carrie-Anne Moss). We find out about her childhood and her lifelong best friend Trish (Rachael Taylor), and their friendship is dramatised with all the complexities of relationships we are familiar with from our own lives. Jessica and Trish have a deep bond of friendship, but Jessica's volatile personality leads to frequent falling outs. The show also develops in detail Jessica's relationship with the antagonist, Kilgrave - played by David Tennant on very good and very creepy form.

Kilgrave is another person-with-abnormal-abilities (we need better terminology for these people, anything better than hero or enhanced), although Kilgrave's power is that anyone has to do whatever he tells them. Free will does not exist around Kilgrave. If he wants you to stab your best friend, there is nothing you can do about it. Kilgrave uses this ability to manipulate others and enrich himself. He especially likes to use it make beautiful young women his play thing. One of these women was Jessica and at the start of the show she is still recovering psychologically from the experience of being under Kilgrave's control.

The show uses a sci-fi concept, Kilgrave's mind control, to explore an important issue in our world, the power dynamics of abusive and controlling relationships. Kilgrave's abilities are clearly a metaphor for the power abusers’ hold over their victims/loved ones and for how hard it is to break free from the control of someone who is abusive. Approaching this subject through the prism of science fiction allows the show to explore the dynamics of an abusive relationship with a degree of fantasy that makes the narrative less emotionally traumatic and easier to engage with than a more straightforward approach to the subject.

There are lots of films and TV shows that deal with domestic abuse in a sensitive and nuanced way, and stories based in our world that take a frank look at the nature of abusive relationships. Unfortunately, these films and TV shows do not find a huge audience, because of the depressing nature of their content. Tyrannosaur, directed by Paddy Considine, is one such example. Tyrannosaur is a brilliant film but sadly was not seen by many people because most audiences are not interested in social realist dramas set on a Glasgow council estate. The perception of science fiction as more light-hearted and entertaining allows these difficult to digest insights to slip under the radar and into the minds of the viewer.

Jessica Jones is a very good example of serious issues being smuggled into an accessible show with mass audience appeal. Jessica Jones explores the psychological toll that domestic violence has on its victims. Kilgrave appears as a shadow stalking Jessica, disturbing her sleep, distressing her, and appearing to physically assault her despite not being present. At first, the viewer is uncertain if this is a manifestation of Kilgrave’s powers, but later we find that it is psychological damage left by his hold over Jessica.

I like science fiction which tackles serious issues as much as I like escapist sci-fi, which distracts us from this world and appeals to our imagination. The Marvel shared universe has both, in Jessica Jones and Guardians of the Galaxy. Jessica Jones uses the concepts of the sci-fi genre to reflect our own world back at us in a way that we can easily comprehend. This makes it easier to understand how painful it is when an abuser holds power over their victim, and it also shows how difficult it is to escape from an abusive relationship. The use of a sci-fi concept as a key component of this relationship does not cheapen or belittle the psychological suffering of the victims, it merely makes it easier to understand how Kilgrave controls his victims.

David Tennant plays the role of Kilgrave very well. His usual, charming, likeable persona works well when playing a serial abuser. Often people who abuse others are outwardly charming and likeable. They hide the pain they inflict and force their victims to hide it as well. The character of Kilgrave was also abused himself during his childhood, by his parents’ researching his mind control abilities. This does not excuse his actions, but it does highlight an issue that abusers are often previous victims of abuse. Their own history of abuse colours their relationships with others. Pain and love are intertwined in Kilgrave's mind.

Kilgrave also does not see what is wrong about what he does. He sees himself as the real victim, and believes that Jessica genuinely loves him despite the way he has treated her. He blames his victims for his own actions, believes he acts in their best interest and tries to give up violence but always relapses. Kilgrave is entitled and believes he deserves the love and affection of Jessica, despite causing her so much pain. These are among the characteristics of abusive partners and the show explores how these traits appear in abusers who do not have a supernatural control over their victims. Jessica's best friend Trish has been abused by her mother, who believes she acted in her daughter's best interest, has a strong sense of entitlement and appears outwardly charming. Through the science fiction drama of the struggle to free New York City from the terror which Kilgrave inflicts, the show explores the nuances of abusive relationships.

Personally, I find this variety of science fiction more interesting than the escapist kind, although both suit different movies. It is also possible for science fiction to be escapist and to tackle serious issues, such as Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky. Jessica Jones is an example of a complex issue in our world explored through the prism of sci-fi concepts. I hope that the show is doing some good, that it illuminated some people to the nature of abuse or made[*therefore also present tense: makes] them questions their own assumptions. This is the power of science fiction to be a social good and shows that Marvel can come up with interesting new takes on their well-established characters.

The Man In The High Castle

Orange is the New Black, Master of None and Jessica Jones: all of this year's must-watch TV has been on Netflix. The only TV shows that I followed on broadcast TV this year were Dr Who and Peep Show, i.e. established shows that built a fan base in the days before streaming TV services. Even these two, I watched on BBC iPlayer and All 4.

Amazon are keen for a slice of this rapidly-growing pie and have several high-profile original shows to compete with Netflix. Recently, they released the first of these shows that I was inclined to watch, a high-budget adaption of Philip K. Dick's novel, The Man In The High Castle. This book was a seminal part of my education in science fiction literature when I was teenager and has been close to me since. It is an interesting project for Amazon to put so much money behind, as Dick is not the most accessible of writers and this is not the most accessible of his books.

On paper, the pitch for this TV series is solid gold. A string of popular movies began life as Dick novels, including Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. The premise of this novel is compelling: what would early 1960s America be like if Japan and Germany had won World War 2? However, Dick's writing is esoteric, and is more focused on the characters’ internal conflicts than on the wider drama of life in a totalitarian society.

This Amazon adaptation has preserved many of my favourite aspects of the book, especially the focus on how Japanese and American culture interact in the occupied Pacific coast states. The book and TV show explore in fascinating detail how the Japanese see American history and American popular culture. It also explores how the Americans act under occupation: who desires to fight back, who desires to escape, who desires to keep their head down and who becomes enthralled by the culture of the occupiers.

The TV adaptation dropped some of the book’s more ethereal scenes. For example, the reliance of the Japanese Trade Minister, Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), on the guidance of the I Ching is explored in much more detail in the book. Tagomi’s extended thoughts on the wisdom and divine nature of the I Ching are interesting in literature but would be slow paced on television. There is still enough of these details to get an understanding of Tagomi’s character and of the world he inhabits, but a stronger narrative has been built across this world by the TV show’s writers.

One notable addition to the TV show is a great villain in Obergruppenführer John Smith, the head of the SS in the Nazi-controlled Eastern States. Rufus Sewell plays the part of Obergruppenführer Smith with relish, enjoying being a vision of terror but also bringing humanity to the character. The longer format of a ten-part TV show gives the writers a greater opportunity to explore the characters from the book more detail. Luke Kleintank does morally conflicted very well in the role of Joe Blake (Joe Cinnadella in the novel), a Nazi spy who falls in love with Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), a new recruit to the resistance movement which he is supposed to be infiltrating. The TV show has a clunky love triangle between Joe, Juliana and her current boyfriend Frank Frink (Rupert Evans) which adds little to the plot. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is exceptional as trade minister Tagomi, trying to avert the looming conflict between the Japanese and Nazi empires.

The most interesting aspects of the TV show were those that explored how American society could be co-opted by Nazi occupation. It is striking to see American flags and buildings adorned with Swastikas with the same pride as the starts and stripes. This embrace of Nazism by America is best expressed in the character of Obergruppenführer Smith, and the conservative, authoritarian small-town patriarch looks shockingly at home in an SS uniform. It is entirely plausible that apple pie, baseball and bunting could be combined with TV addresses from the Führer on Victory in America Day.

The TV show's vision of a world which combines the culture of the 3rd Reich and 1960s America is convincing, but does not stand up to more detailed scrutiny. Most likely the two would morph into a third, different culture that was not so consciously American. For example jazz music is used effectively in the TV show to evoke the feel of the early 1960s in the mind of the viewer, but no Nazi-based society would have allowed jazz music to become popular. Their music world have been Wagnger or Beethoven, but having the Ring Cycle playing over the start of an episode does not evoke the period that the show is set in. I can understand the show's producers need to take short cuts to establish the period, but it does not lead to a convincing vision of a world where the Axis Powers won the Second World War.

Overall, the Amazon adaptation of The Man In The High Castle was well made and really entertaining. I was hooked from the first episode, sucked into the show’s world and wanting to find out what happened to its characters. This adaptation is sufficiently faithful to the book to keep me satisfied as a fan, and it added enough to make the story work in a different medium. I am glad that Amazon stuck to Dick’s book, with all its inaccessibility, as much as possible instead of taking the basic premise and making a more accessible story.

Dr Who Series 9

Warning: This article contains spoilers for series 9 of Dr Who. I want you to read this article, so if you have not seen series 9, watch the show and then come back and read this article.

I find it hard to be objective about Dr Who. My love for the show began in 1993 when the BBC rebroadcasted Planet of the Daleks as part of the 30th anniversary of the show's first broadcast. I was 8 at the time and the show captured my imagination. Through VHS and episodes taped off UK Gold, the adventures of an eccentric man in a time traveling phone box became an integral part of my childhood and the foundation of my love of science fiction.

A lot of criticism has been leveled at the tone of the show, the believability of the stories, the reliance on CGI and head writer Steven Moffat, and I do not want to go into that debate here. Here I want to talk about how entertaining and well-made series 9 of the show, - which finished on Saturday the 5th of December - was.

Overall I thought this series was better than the one before it. I enjoyed a lot of episodes from series 8, especially The Caretaker, but this series had several distinct improvements. Primarily more two part stories, which allowed for meatier and better-developed narratives. Writing Dr Who must be a difficult task, each new episodes requires a whole new sci-fi world to be introduced, along with characters, and a story executed in three-quarters of an hour. It is not a writing job I envy. Due to these constraints, there have been unconvincing, cop-out, endings. Kill the Moon from series 8 is a good example of this. Series 9's longer stories were convincing, at no point did I feel cheated by a writer or that a plot needed more development.

The series opened with an overwritten introduction, typical of Moffat’s style. Moffat clearly has talent as a writer - Blink is near perfection – however, his ability to dwell too much on the infamy of the Doctor while writing confusing non- sequiturs that do not advance the plot is style over substance. It was an interesting motif but added nothing to the story. Moffat shows off too much in his writing. He needs to practice the art of writing stories without flair, which follow a linear progression. Then he can be play at being a sci-fi James Joyce. The opening of series 9 was typical Moffat excess.

After that, the story of The Magician's Apprentice kicked in and I forgot my misgivings. It was great to have Missy back and Michelle Gomez is exceptional in the role, definitely the stand out performance from the series. The Daleks were used effectively and not simply rolled out as a suitable end of series villain to add some dramatic weight the sake of it - I am looking at you, Russell T. Davies. From that point on, the standard of writing was high.

Series 9 boasted a great cast at the top of their form. The writers have caught on to how well Capaldi can act and given him more nuanced scenes and longer speeches where he can really show off how good he is in the role. Capaldi ably rises to these challenges and easily proves that he is the best actor to play the Doctor since the show was brought back in 2005.

Maisie Williams was an excellent addition to the cast and stole the show in four well-written episodes. I certainly hope her character can return at some point, as there is plenty of unexplored potential there. Clara is a good companion, she has a character in her own right, and Jenna Louise Coleman plays her well. Despite being a good character, Clara lacks the magnetism of some of past companions, Amy or Donna for example.

Some stand out episodes from this year were Under the Lake and Before the Flood, which had the creepy build up and satisfactory pay off of a strong horror story. Also The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion showed how sci-fi in general, and Dr Who in particular, can be used effectively to hold up a mirror up to the human condition. Here was a well-developed story, based on moral complexity and relatable characters on both sides of a conflict. When Dr Who makes you doubt whether you are rooting for the human, then it is doing its job properly. Heaven Sent reminded us of the great Moffat of the past, the one who wrote Blink and Silence in the Library, someone who can twist a story round on itself and keep you guessing until the last second.

One criticism of this year was that too many end of episode cliffhangers hinged on suggesting that either the Doctor or Clara were dead. This has been done so many times that it has lost its intrigue. Such is the overuse of this trick that it detracted from Clara’s eventual real death. Aside from the overly bombastic opening to The Magician’s Apprentice, I was also underwhelmed by Mark Gatiss' offering this series. Found footage has been done to death and this brought nothing new to the field - although Sleep No More did have a genuinely disgusting villain.

The ending of the series was solid, it did not loom over the rest of the series like Doomsday did in series 2 and did not feel like a bizarre and unnecessary coda like The Wedding of River Song at the end of series 6. The long anticipated return of the Time Lords was handled well by Moffat and Clara's goodbye was probably the best companion departure yet. It was good to have an emotional ending to her time with the Doctor, without her having to suffer greatly. It also addressed the question of what can give your life meaning after the Doctor has gone from it?

I generally feel positive about this series. Dr Who as a whole is not without its flaws. The momentum that the David Tennant and early Matt Smith series had is gone from the show. This is not necessary anyone's fault, nothing can stay that fresh and zeitgeisty for long. However, my enthusiasm for Dr Who is less than it once was. I have not re-watched a complete series since series 5.

I will always have a soft spot for Dr Who, and it is very pleasing to see Capaldi doing well in the role. The improvements over the last series show that this show can still deliver surprisingly good episodes, the Zygon adventure was a case in point. Capaldi appears to be just hitting his stride, whereas Smith and Tennant were already starting to feel a bit tired two series in. I can only hope that this year's Christmas special and series 10 maintain the quality.

Leonard Nimoy obituary

The 1960s were a formative time for popular culture and nowhere is this truer than for science fiction. In 1963, William Hartnell first took a voyage through time and space in the TARDIS; in 1965 Frank Herbert published Dune; in 1968 Stanley Kubrick and Author C. Clarke collaborated on 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, one of the most seminal science fiction beginnings in the 1960s was in 1966, when NBC premiered a TV show that promised to boldly go where no man had gone before. Over the years and series which followed, Star Trek has come to define science fiction, phrases like “redshirts” and "set phasers to stun” are well known to the fans of the genre because of the iconic characters which brought them to life.

Of course, one of these iconic characters were Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy. Spock was a character who on paper is difficult to relate to, cold and logical, he could have been a two-dimensional parody of non-human characters, but Nimoy brought the humanity out in him through his subtle performance. It is because of Nimoy that Spock became the character most geeks, myself included, related to the most. He was the outsider, the one who thought and acted differently to everyone else, but just as much a part of the team as the hot-blooded Kirk or the ever-exasperated Scotty. It was through Spock that most young geeks learned to believe that the future would be better, in the future we would be accepted.

Star Trek encapsulated that spirit of optimism which possessed 60s science fiction. At a time when there was civil disorder, rational strife and it looked like nuclear annihilation was inevitable, people looked to the future for a solace from their fears, and Star Trek showed them a future where humanity had not only survived but flourished in peace and harmony. Today's science fiction has a much more pessimistic outlook, from the unending grimness of Battlestar Galactica to the bloody Imperialism of Ancillary Justice and endless zombie apocalypses, we are now scared of our future. It is important to remember a time when we thought our problems would decrease in the future and not multiply.

Nimoy was born in Boston in 1931 to Ukrainian immigrants of orthodox Jewish background. Nimoy started acting at school and at community college, acting which was not stopped by service as a sergeant in the US army. When he left the army, he moved to New York where Nimoy worked a series of jobs around acting before getting noticed on TV shows like Rawhide and Perry Mason, then came his big break when he was cast in Star Trek.

The show was cancelled after three series due to low ratings, but it had already captured the imaginations of a generation and the characters at its core become some of the most loved in science fiction. It is an extremely difficult job to take a character from a script and bring them to life in a way that is believable; it is even more difficult to bring that character into the hearts and minds of millions of people. Nimoy created in Spock a character people genuinely loved, a character whose very existence made a difference to his fan's lives, this is the highest goal of any actor or writer.

As the popularity of Star Trek grew, Nimoy and co. took their characters to the big screen where they worked on some of the most iconic science fiction films of all time, most notably the sublime Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. Nimoy remained central to the film franchise, going on to direct Star Trek 3 and 4. Some of my earliest memories of enjoying science fiction is watching these films on VHS cassettes recorded off the TV. The ones which really stick in my mind as forming a strong early impression are 1 and 3, I am not sure why. It is partly through watching Nimoy and co. playing these iconic characters in amazing space adventures that I first learned to love a genre which would come to define a lot of my life.

Nimoy and Spock have been parodied over the years. As Star Trek came to define science fiction, its mannerisms were imitated and mocked. Nimoy, I assume, had a sense of humour about this because he participated in a fair few of these parodies of his famous character, most notably in the Simpsons where he appeared several times.

Nimoy also remained attached to the serious side of Star Trek fandom, appearing at conventions and in the two most recent Star Trek films. Even well into his 80s, he was still performing, appearing recently in the music video to Bruno Mars’s The Lazy Song.

The early days of Star Trek were part of science fiction’s formative years, or at least the formation of what we popularly understand to be the genre. Great writers, actors and characters will come in the future but the adoration that has been heaped upon these early luminaries is not something that we will see again. Put simply, once a genre's worth of fans’ hearts have been captured for the first time, nothing will ever be that loved again.

Nimoy was one of the last living connections to that early days of the genre, when we were optimistic that science could solve the world's problems and science fiction could show us how it was done. Now it serves as a warning of the terrible future we are sleepwalking into. That sense of passion, of optimism, that love was something unique and special and Nimoy was not only a part of it but he was central to it. Make no mistake that he is a titan of the science fiction genre who will be greatly missed.

“Live long and prosper.”

Zombies are not dead

I had become tired of zombies. For a while , zombies were my favourite sci-fi B-movie villain. There had been a string of really good zombie movies, most of them British. 28 Days Later (2002) updated zombies to a modern urban environment and made them scary again. Shaun of the Dead (2004) brought zombies to my manor of North East London and managed to be a movie that was in equal parts genuine horror and hilarious character-based comedy.

Then it all went wrong, with a string of formulaic Hollywood zombie films. Finally there was Zombieland (2009); billed as pastiche of the zombie movie, it lacked either humor or charm. What Zombieland proved was that when a genre reaches the point of being mocked it has completely run out of original ideas.

What makes Zombieland boring where Shaun of the Dead was brilliant was that the latter was a completely serious and scary zombie movie with funny characters. Zombieland aimed far lower, at being a straight comedy, and managed to be not even particularly funny – although Bill Murray did have a great cameo.

For a while, I was tired of zombies and thought that nothing could rekindle my interest. Then three great titles came along, and none of them were films.

First was the Playstation 3 game The Last Of Us released in 2013. Set in a world which has collapsed after a zombie uprising, the story follows Joel, who lost his daughter during in the initial zombie uprising and now lives a cynical, survivalist life. He is given the job of transporting Ellie, a teenage girl who might hold the cure to the zombie inflection, across America. The journey is long and dangerous, they have to face zombies, dangerous survivalists, soldiers and cannibals. During the journey Joel and Ellie bond and Joel is eventually able to reconcile the loss of his daughter.

The Last Of Us succeeded where a lot of zombie movies have failed by having engaging characters. Joel and Ellie have a great dynamic and have a real emotional journey. There is more to their story then just surviving zombies, they have to find a way to live in a world that has collapsed. As an audience, we are frightened when they are threatened because we want them to survive. The story and the writing of The Last Us was much stronger than any film I have seen recently.

Last year, In The Flesh (2013) started on the BBC. It began with only three episodes but managed to be easily the best show of 2013. Earlier this year, a second series with a full six episodes was shown and this cemented the show’s reputation as one of the best on TV right now.

In the Flesh is also set after a zombie uprising but, unlike The Last of Us, civilization defeated the zombies and found a partial cure through regular injections of a new drug. Now the former zombies are being returned to society as PDS (partially deceased syndrome) suffers. The show follows Kieren Walker, who is returned to his family in the small Yorkshire village of Roarton. Kieren faces the prejudice and open hostility of a small community coming to terms with a big change.

In the shows zombies or PDS suffers are clearly a metaphor for the social changes which have gone on in Britain since the 1960s. Part allegory on immigration, part analogy for homosexuality, In the Flesh makes a point about how hard it is for people to accept others who are different, even within their own family. Kieren goes on a painful emotional journey, where he has to deal with the circumstances of his death, the hostility of people he used to call friends, the rise of a new anti-PDS political party, and an undead separatist movement.

In the Flesh is gripping because it has an intelligent point to make, but it also has strong characters and an emotionally-engaging story. We long for Kieren eventually to find someway he can live in peace, despite his difference.

Recently I have finished reading M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All The Gifts (published June 2014), which is also set in a world after a zombie uprising. As in The Last Of Us, humanity only survives in a few survivalist camps and the rest of the world has been overrun with zombies, or ‘hungries’ as they called in the book. The novel follows Melanie, a girl in a strange school on an army base. In many ways Melanie has a normal life – she loves school, has a crush on her teacher Miss Justineau, and enjoys stories about the Greek myths – but quickly we learn that there is something very unusual about Melanie.

Melanie and the children in her class are caught somewhere between being human and a violent ‘hungry’. They can learn and talk but also have insatiable desire to eat human flesh. She is a part of program to study the hungries to find a cure. When the school is attacked, Melanie, Miss Justineau, the brutish Sergeant Parks, the callous Dr. Caldwell and the green Private Gallagher are thrown out into the dangerous world of hungries and violent survivalists known as junkers. Surviving in the ruins of London relies on them all working together, but as the novel progresses they find it hard to trust each other.

The Girl With All The Gifts is one of those novels which grabs you on page one and whisks you away with a captivating story. Although Melanie is a strange character to be inside the head of, her sense of wonder at the world outside her classroom is completely captivating. The novel has nail-biting tension, beautiful writing and engaging characters. Carey plays with the reader’s sympathy and it is brilliant how he is able to make you fall in love with characters you hated at the beginning of the novel.

All three of these works leave the wider zombie situation unresolved, and instead focus on the characters and their emotional journey. We can relate to them as people searching for friends, love or home in a hostile world, as it is something we have all experienced to a greater or lesser extent. In these three cases, good writing and engaging characters make a great zombie story, just as they make a great story in any other genre.

It is also interesting that none of these stories focus on the initial zombie uprising but instead deal with how people live in a changed world. Stories about zombie uprisings have been done to death, but there is still life in the zombie genre by finding original ways to approach zombie stories. Zombie films may be dead, but my love of zombies lives on in other media.

Day of the Doctor

Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner for Doctor Who has been a hit and miss. It started out very strongly with the 11th hour and Matt Smith bounding out of the TARDIS to wave his hands around and talk quickly. However the last three years have had their share of turkeys including the unwatchable Let’s Kill Hitler and cringworthy Cold Blood. So when it was announced that Moffat was to pen an extended episode to mark the 50th anniversary of the show expectations where divided to say the last.

The anti was certainly upped for The Day of the Doctor, David Tennant and Billie Piper were brought back, British cinema legend John Hurt was signed up and classic villains the Zygons were resurrected. The plot jumps between the last day of the time war where the Warrior Doctor (John Hurt) is considering using a weapon called The Moment to destroy both Time Lords and Daleks. The Moment itself appears in the form of Rose (Billie Piper) to show the doctor what he will become if he uses The Moment. The plot then moves between Elizabethan England where the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) is attempting to stall a Zygons invasion and present day where Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) are investigating strange events at the National Gallery

Moffat’s has packed a lot of plot into 76 minutes and the episode did benefit from a second viewing, as a result some of the impact was lost on the night due to confusion. However what did come across was the excellent interplay between the principal actors especially the three Doctors. Hurt can out act the other two in his sleep but David Tennant reminded us all why we loved him so much with a few snappy one-liners. Coleman also turns in a strong performance, especially considering her character is underused in this episode. She provides the heart for the main emotional climax to the story and almost steels the scene from Hurt. Smith continues to be a charming as the foppish, dandy Doctor but he cannot manage the seriousness that Tennant had to balance out his own take on the character.

The plot itself does work well when you can follow it. The Zygons have a full story are not just rolled out to add some nostalgia value to the special. Their story has a clever twist resolution that Doctor Who can do so well when it gets it right.

For those who have hated Moffat’s term as showrunner, there is more ammunition here. It is unclear where this story fits into 11’s chronology - he was last scene in his own grave on Trenzalore but is now out and fine. However the most dislikeable part of the Day of the Doctor is the show’s ability to rewrite the rules of its own universe. The plot makes fundamental changes to the world of Doctor in a manner which is unfair on the audience. In a show that is as free as Doctor Who, what rules and events that have been established need to remain written in stone and not be changed whenever the writer feels like throwing on an extra narrative barbule.

Despite this, Day of the Doctor is a welcome addition to the cannon of Doctor Who episodes. Director Nick Hurran bring a grand, cinematic look to this episode which works well to increase the sense that this more than the average Doctor Who special. The plot is tense and well placed with a fitting emotional conclusion. Where this episode really shines is the interplay between the Doctors and the excellent acting from all three performers.

Day of the Doctor is not strong enough to silence all of Moffat critics, but considering how up and down Doctor Who’s important episodes can be (contrast The Parting of the Ways with The End of Time Part 2) this episode certainly falls into the up part of the spectrum. As a long running fan of the show I enjoyed it a lot, especially the little nods to the fans such as Nicholas Courtney’s cameo in a photograph and brief glimpse of the twelfth Doctor. As the history of Doctor Who continues to be written I can say that this important milestone has been properly observed.

Top Ten Spaceships

From the Star-Destroyer flying overhead at the beginning of Star Wars to Klaatu’s flying saucer descending in the original Day The Earth Stood Still, the idea of a spaceship goes hand-in-hand with what we expect from sci-fi. Where would science fiction be without space ships? It would certainly have lost a significant proportion of its iconography. To celebrate this I have chosen ten ships which stand out to me as great icons of the genre. This list is by no means definitive (neither ships mentioned above is included) but these ten vessels are essential to the narratives of their stories, and they’re fiction design classics as well.

10. The Lying Bastard – Ringworld

This one takes some explaining: built by Pierson’s Puppeteers – a cowardly two-headed alien race from Larry Niven’s Known Space series – the Lying Bastard is technically advanced and packs a few nifty tricks.

Though the Puppeteers detest violence, this personal vessel (large enough to carry four in cramped conditions) is filled with tools which could easily be used as weapons – a disintegration ray supposed to be used for digging, a flash-light with a beam so powerful it can cut someone in half. Hence our protagonist, Louis Wu’s affectionate nickname for the ship.

The Lying Bastard is also protected by the Puppeteers’ impervious hull, which comes in handy when the ship collides with the Ringworld and the novel gets interesting.

9. Serenity – Firefly & Serenity

Serenity, a second-hand Firefly-class ship and the setting for Joss Whedon’s short-lived Firefly, has as wonderfully iconic design. To me it’s like a duck, odd-shaped and bulky on the ground but surprisingly graceful in the air.

Serenity may be small compared to the settings of some stories but it has enough secret hidey-holes filled with stolen goods and the occasional fugitive to keep the audience interested. More than anything, the crew of Serenity are a family and no family is complete without a home. Whedon lovingly brings it to life for this cult season of TV and the subsequent film.

8. Red Dwarf – Red Dwarf

In the future, there will still be shit jobs; this unavoidable truth is the essence of Red Dwarf, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor’s sci-fi/comedy show. Huge, lumbering and most of it serving no visible purpose, Red Dwarf is a place where the downtrodden of the future toil away for little money.

It has an AI with an IQ of 6,000 (or the same IQ as 6,000 PE teachers), a surviving crew of four (one human, one hologram, one cat and one android) and is vast enough to contain any number of comedy capers. One piece of advice: make sure you know one of their garbage pods when you see it.

7. Luke’s X-wing – Star Wars

No, not the Millennium Falcon; the real hero among Star Wars’ ships is Luke’s dependable X-wing. The star of sci-fi’s greatest David and Goliath scene, Luke must pilot this fast but well-armed single person star-fighter down the equatorial trench of the Death Star to deliver a photo-torpedo to the enormous battle station’s only weak spot.

The Millennium Falcon plays only a supporting role in this, one of cinema’s most dramatic scenes. It’s Luke in his plucky X-wing we root for, breath held as he presses the fire key and launches those missiles down an unshielded ventilation port. It helps if you have the force on your side at the final hurdle but you need an X-wing to get you there first.

6. Planet Express ship – Futurama

In the year 3000 you wanted some soft toys delivered to the moon, Planet Express would be your first call. Another great example of blue-collar jobs in the far future, the staff of this delivery company frequently ends up in trouble on simple delivery jobs, always relying on their trusty nameless vessel.

The ship has been everywhere with its human, robot and lobster crew, from the University of Mars, to Roswell in 1947. The only thing they won’t deliver is presents for Santa.

5. Nostromo – Alien

Continuing on from Red Dwarf, it seems to me the worst job you could get in the future would be working on the intergalactic mining vessel Nostromo. Made almost entirely out of tiny ducts, pipes and small spaces for nasty things to hide in, the ship is managed by what looks like a computer from the late 1970s.

Its crew is so obsessed with getting their bonuses that they barely have time to investigate a mysterious signal they pick up on their travels. When they do, they discover science fiction’s most vicious predator and spend the rest of their short lives running or being attacked in the ship’s escape pods. All in all, not a great ship on which to be a crew member.

4. The Truck – Galaxy Truckers

Galaxy Truckers is a brilliant board game in which you assemble your space truck out of tiles picturing spare parts and then send it on a run around the stars to get the stuffing knocked out of it. Bits fall off, crew members get spaced, the guns never point in the right direction and usually the whole thing is lopsided. We love this game, because no matter how well you build your ship at the start of each round, it always ends up in port hobbling along on its last engine, with a large hole in the side.

There’s a fine art to building robust space trucks and no human seems to be able to master it.

3. Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints – Surface Detail (Culture Universe)

No list of spaceships would be complete without a mention of the late Iain M. Banks and his amazingly named Culture vessels – runners up for a position on this list included Serious Callers Only, Grey Matter and Funny, It Worked Last Time. However the prize must go to Surface Detail’s Fast Picket Ship Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints, a vessel which is basically a self contained war fleet, capable of breaking into a fleet of smaller, deadly warships. In one scene, the FOTNMC takes out an entire enemy armada in a few seconds, displaying the Culture’s vastly destructive military power which goes along with their utopian lack of laws, leaders and social structure.

The casual cruelty and moments of sudden viciousness of the FOTNMC show the dark side to the never ending sex and drugs free-for-all that is the Culture.

2. The Normandy – Mass Effect

If I were going to fly around a hostile galaxy and fight ancient killer machines, I would want a ship like the Normandy. Piloted by Seth Green’s Joker and crewed by a bizarre rag-tag group of aliens and humans, The Normandy is as versatile as its captain, Commander Shepard.

There is enormous fun to be had exploring each layer of the ship and talking to every crew member, finding out their backstory and getting their opinion on the last mission they went on. Like Serenity, The Normandy is a home and its crew members are a family. Throughout the Mass Effect series you get to know each personally and the Normandy is the perfect setting for this.

1. Discovery One – 2001: A Space Odyssey

Without 2001, there would be no Star Wars and without Star Wars there would be no sci-fi summer blockbusters or triple A games. It all began here in 1968 when Stanley Kubrick teamed up with Arthur C. Clarke to expand one of his short stories into a film. What resulted pioneered a lot of special effects that are now a staple of modern sci-fi.

The most intelligible part of the narrative takes place on Discovery One, a ship sent from Earth to investigate a mysterious black monolith that has appeared in space around Jupiter. The ship has an active crew of 2 and is run by its AI, HAL. Unfortunately, conflicting parameters in HAL’s programming drive him to become murderous. More than the terminator, HAL is logical, cold and unwavering in his killing of the crew of Discovery One, leading to some of science fiction’s most iconic scenes. The mission was a failure but 2001 was a huge success which changed science fiction forever.

Honourable mention: The TARDIS – Doctor Who

Technically not a spaceship, in that she rarely does any flying, but a special mention must go to the Doctor’s mind bending, bigger-on-the-inside space and time travelling device.

It’s huge, unknowable and full of surprises. Its ability to always go somewhere interesting is one of the greatest plot devices in TV fiction. A piece of trivia for anyone keeping track: since Doctor Who was brought back in 2005, all regenerations have taken place in the TARDIS console room, including the Master’s and the Doctor’s fake one during Journey’s End. If only those walls could talk.

Doctor Who Casting

A fan's relationship with a show is a lot like a deep personal friendship. We love spending time with them and get great emotional satisfaction from their company but what separates a casual friendship from an important one is this: our friends let us down sometimes but we stay friends with them anyway. Sometimes being a fan of a huge, high profile show like is a lot like that. Even when they let us down we keep loving them. Peter Capaldi has just been announced as the new Doctor, bringing to an end weeks of speculation. This is about far more than a casting decision; a fan's answer to the question 'Who should play the next Doctor?' is frequently taken as a referendum on their opinion of the entire direction the show has taken recently. Beyond that, your opinion on the direction Dr Who has taken is treated as a reading on your entire socio/political worldview.

I can see how the fact that the new Doctor is another straight white man is emblematic of the fact that in today's supposedly equal society the top positions are still reserved for a straight white man. I know this is a huge issue, but I still love this show and I forgive the things I love when I feel they have wronged my moral compass. Despite this I am very pleased at the casting of Capaldi for the same reason. I love this show, as a fan, and want it to be as good as possible.

I am happy because Capaldi is a brilliant actor, excellent at comedy and drama, he is an Oscar winner, a veteran stage performer and can bring a real sense of gravitas to a role. He will make this show better and be a brilliant Doctor. I am sure of this because he is an actor with the experience required to carry off a role like the Doctor well. There are, of course, many actors who fall into this category and are not straight white men. I would be thrilled if Idris Elba or Olivia Williams had been cast because I can make the exact same claim about them. On the same note, I would have been disappointed if Sue Perkins or Aneurin Barnard had been cast because I honestly cannot say the same things about them.

I want Dr Who to be as good as it can be; a show as expensive as this to make won't last long unless it is good. I am not saying this is where the debate should end. It should and will continue until we have a talented and experienced woman or member of an ethnic minority playing the Doctor. I cannot endorse someone of whatever gender or ethnicity playing the Doctor if they won't make the show a good as it can be. A bad minority actor in a main role will only tarnish the excellent cause of getting more women and ethnic minorities into lead roles on major TV shows.

This is when we move onto the other area of Doctor Who in which your opinion is treated as watermark for your views on the world: the prevalence of computer effects on the new show. A certain contingent of fans want Doctor Who to return to the days of papier mache walls and villains made out of tin foil and coat hangers. A lot of people have warm feelings of nostalgia about this era of Doctor Who, and some of the characters from this time were genuinely scary.

However it needs to be remembered that a lot of the wider audience remember Dr Who as being really bad. Bad in a loveable way, but still really bad. Until Russell T. Davies brought the show back in 2005, it was both a national treasure and a national joke. I want Doctor Who to be as good as it can be and that means realistic looking villains and not characters made out of whatever car parts were found in a skip behind the studio.

Doctor Who cannot solve the world's sociological and political problems, and it cannot restore to its previous position of prominence the art of puppet making, but it can be a great show. It can be entertaining, it can raise important issues and it can remind us what we used to love about TV. It cannot do any of these things if it is a terrible show and it certainly cannot do any of these things if it gets cancelled.

I will always love Doctor Who because it is an important part of my own childhood and I am a die-hard fan. Again, I will forgive this show its mistakes along the way but I stand by my assertion that today is a good day for the show. Capaldi will be a great Doctor. Every fan has a complex relationship with their favourite shows and I am not expecting everyone to subscribe to my view. The debate should continue and there should be a Doctor from a minority background but that doesn't mean Capaldi isn't a great casting decision.

To really get the most out of being a Doctor Who fan, we need to understand what all the different ilks of Whovians want from the show. I want the show to be a good TV show and casting Capaldi as the Doctor is a part of that. Lots of people want a whole range of different things and fans are striving to understand this so we can all get what we want from the show.

The Most Dangerous Game

Richard Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game famously describes people hunting other people for sport. However humans aren’t alone in gunning for our world’s top predator. To celebrate the release of After Earth, set on a planet where everything has evolved to hunt humans, this is my Top Ten Nastiest Creatures With A Taste For Homo-Sapiens.

10. Weeping Angels – Dr Who

Not the Doctor’s best-known enemy but certainly one of the scarier from his more recent adventures, the Weeping Angels are among the oldest creatures in the universe. Why they look like a statue from our recent past is never explained, but it is this every day disguise that I find especially scary. The minute you look away, that innocent statue over there will reveal the quantum monster within, and zap humans into the past to feast off of their potential energy. After watching an Angel episode of Dr Who, you will be convinced that every sculpture you see has moved while your back was turned. So just remember, whatever you do, don’t blink.

9. Velociraptor – Jurassic Park

For years Jurassic Park was my favourite film. A Spielberg on top form filled his audience with equal parts wonder and terror at the sight of living, breathing dinosaurs. Never had good and evil been so clearly defined than in the contrast between the reptiles who eat plants and the reptiles who eat you. The standout dino from this film is undoubtedly the raptor. Yes, T-Rex is a brute but Spielberg’s improved raptors are clever, they hunt in packs, can open doors and display almost human emotions. My favourite moment is the irony of our heroes almost being eaten in a kitchen. All fans of the film should read this Wikipedia article on what science tells us raptors were actually like.

8. Wraith – Stargate Universe

Stargate has many alien villains but none quite as scary as the Wraith. Using advanced technology to harvest humans as a food source and spread fear across the galaxy, this bizarre progeny of humans and a life-sucking spider feeds directly off human life force. What makes the Wraith interesting is the sad inevitability of their story. They need to kill humans to live, and despite their cruelty they are still people trying to survive. The Wraith exploit the tragedy most vampire stories overlook or over simplify, the fact that they simply don’t have a choice.

7. Genestealers – Space Hulk

No one wants to be trapped in a confined space with something dangerous – let along something that is mainly made out of claws and wants to rip you apart. This is the main premise of Space Hulk, a Warhammer 40K spin-off in which humans explore abandoned space ships and try and avoid Genestealer attacks. The Genestealers are perhaps 40K’s most iconic alien menace, and in Space Hulk they came into their own. This game cleverly subverted the open space aspect of the 40k tabletop battlefield with its tight and confined setting. As a game it borrows extensively from films to capture a claustrophobic mood. The Genestealers are alien predators distilled: vicious, tough, fast and driven by murderous urges.

6. Polymorph – Red Dwarf

What do you fear most? Snakes? A bad case of indigestion after a vindaloo? Or perhaps this giant, killer monster? The Polymorph is a well-known Red Dwarf creation capable of turning into whatever its prey fears or hates the most. It is dangerous in itself, as it also sucks emotions out of its victims’ heads, but it is the Polymorph’s ability to transform into other creatures to torment its targets that makes it really special. Red Dwarf makes use of its limited budget to create a villain that is memorable and leads its fans to ask themselves the dreaded question – if I met the Polymorph, what would it turn into?

5. The Thing – The Thing

Another creature capable of changing its shape to infiltrate human circles, The Thing first attacked Kurt Russell in 1982, making him question his closest friends. An alien who crashes near a human research post in Antarctica, The Thing then disguises itself as its victims to pick them off the one by one. This film is John Carpenter at his finest, being genuinely nasty. The sight of characters split apart into unnatural configurations of organs as the Thing changes from its human form into its alien body is so unsettling that it has left a permanent impression on me.

4. Reavers – Firefly

People hunting people will always be scary. From Scream to Duel, the idea of being hunted by another person touches a deep chord of fear within us all. What makes the Reavers even scarier is the mindlessness of their aggression. The primary antagonists of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity, they move quickly and kill without reason. The perfect illustration of how narrow the line between civilisation and savagery can be, the Reavers hunt, torture and kill for no other reason than perverse thrill.

3. Predator – Predator franchise

Anything Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot kill is worthy of a place in this list. The nameless intergalactic skull-collectors first appeared in cinemas in 1987 and have since made the leap to comics and games. Unlike some other creatures on this list, the predators are made to look vaguely human and point of view shots throughout the film put the viewer inside their heads. However, their complete lack of remorse or restraint sets them apart. As space’s ultimate sportsmen, who hunt and kill for fun, they are a reflection of our own viciousness towards each other and other living things.

2. Slake Moth – Perdido Street Station

Giant dream-sucking moths from another dimension? It can only be a China Miéville novel. What I find scariest about the Slake Moths is how entirely unlike any other creature in the Bas-Lag universe they are. In a world populated by so many bizarre beings, it takes something truly aberrant and outlandish for Miéville to describe it as alien. The villains of Perdido Street Station start life as curios caterpillars but soon grow into huge vicious predators with indescribable limbs and hypnotic wings. The Slake Moths stalk the night in the city of New Crobuzon, feeding off the dreams of their prey. They hunt humans as a source of food but unfortunately for us, they have limitless appetites and their feeding drains their victims heads’ of all thought. Another genuinely terrifying aspect of the Slake Moths is the way that they eat your mind, but leave your body untouched.

1. Alien – Alien, Aliens, etc

A strong candidate for any scariest creature in science fiction award, the Alien has terrorised audiences in a number of media since it first exploded out of John Hurt’s chest in 1979. What begins as a routine planetary exploration trip for the crew of the Nostromo ends up with a monster chasing them through their own ship. The aggressive extraterrestrial of unknown origin boasts acid blood and two sets of razor sharp jaws, including one on the tip of its tongue. However, what makes it really scary is how unpredictable the alien is. It is clearly intelligent, but is so different from humans that we cannot communicate; leading to inevitable violence of the most basic and animal kind. Following the initial encounter, the Alien has appeared in a series of sequels, games, books and comics as well as several high profile crossovers with the Predators. The Alien is the original monster, delivering utmost terror with the tagline “in space no one can hear you scream.”