BBC Radiophonic Workshop - The SoundhouseBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 4 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock

Originally released 1983

CD/vinyl album by Malcolm Clarke, Jonathan Gibbs
Paddy Kingsland, Roger Limb, Dick Mills,
and Elizabeth Parker

Released 7th October 2016, Silva Screen Records

The latest of Silva Screen’s series of reissues of BBC Radiophonic Workshop albums shows the collective in their 80s pomp, having long since abandoned tape loops and slide rules for then state of the art synthesisers. The Soundhouse, from 1983 showcases their love affair with the Fairlight CMI, the first digital sampling synthesiser, over 22 tracks spanning 1979-83. This revolutionary machine opened up doors to a new kind of impressionistic pop music in the hands of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. In the hands of the workshop it’s put to perhaps slightly more conventional melodic use, but the results are still pleasingly weird.

The Soundhouse features tracks by house composers Peter Howell, Jonathan Gibbs, Roger Limb, Elizabeth Parker, Paddy Kingsland, Malcolm Clarke, and veteran effects and ideas man Dick Mills.

The opening Radiophonic Rock is a group effort, with only Kingsland and Clarke sitting it out, whilst the other five go mad in Maida Vale. Everyone gets their own distinct part, and it's quite, quite bonkers. It’s fairly typical of the Workshop’s output of the time, its four minutes are pretty much a CV for the group, and sets the tone for the album pretty well. One minute it evokes Jean-Michel Jarre, the next minute we’re into a jaunty ditty like Gibbs’ Computers in the Real World or Limb’s Rallyman, which is part glacial New Wave Synthpop and part current-affairs programme theme. Dick Mills’ contributions like Seascape and Catch The Wind are all ambient atmosphere, swirling flanged drones that could almost be Brian Eno outtakes, and his anarchic Armagiddean War Games is the sound of a man surrounded by machines having a bit of a party. Liz Parker’s work is under-represented here, but her serene, spacey Planet Earth is a highlight.

Howell and Limb, meanwhile, experiment on a couple of tracks with putting the synths in the background and putting more traditional instruments to the fore, like in Howell’s Lascaux, and Limb’s haunting Ghost in the Water, which is one of the best tracks here.

There’s more of the typical 80s workshop sound courtesy of Kingsland and Howell, all languid pads and familiar plinks and plonks - but the real ‘stars’ of the collection are some very familiar tracks by Kingsland from The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, including the unmistakable strains of the synth-sailor’s hornpipe, The Whale.

The album ends on Malcolm Clarke’s The Milonga, the baroque ball music familiar from its use in Doctor Who, in the ‘pirate ball’ scene from Enlightenment - once heard, never forgotten, even if you’re not the kind of fan who can identify a Who cue from 50 yards.

The Soundhouse doesn’t have the mystique of the trail-blazing days of Delia Derbyshire's oscillators and found sounds, but it’s still crammed with quirky innovation and invention. The sounds that the second generation Workshop sculpted may have come from Synthesisers rather than being coaxed from household objects and coaxed into something unearthly, but they’re just as pioneering in their own way.

 





The Third Doctor - #1 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part One (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 2 October 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Third Doctor #1 (Credit: Titan)

Writer - Paul Cornell
Artist - Christopher Jones
Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letters  - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Alastair Lethbidge Stewart - Created by Mervyn Haisman
+ Henry Lincoln, appearing courtesy of Candy Jar Books)

Senior Editor - Andrew James
Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Amoona Saohin
Senior Designer - Andrew Leung

Published September 14th 2016, TITAN COMICS

Newly released from the exile imposed by his own people - the Time Lords - the brilliant scientist Doctor John Smith is once again needed in order to help his friend Lethbridge Stewart and UNIT. A relentless, self-repairing metal menace has come to make life difficult for the natives of planet Earth, and that may be not be the only threat of consequence before too long.

 

Having had success with other Doctors from time past in the Eighth Doctor miniseries and, more recently, Fourth Doctor miniseries, Titan now unleashes another title. And how welcome that it features the undeniably charismatic Third Doctor, performed onscreen with such conviction by the late Jon Pertwee.

Paul Cornell knows exactly how to mix in the familiar elements which fans have come to know and love, but also add a sprinkling of his own creative skill to make something memorable and engaging. There is one returning foe, several returning secondary UNIT characters - Corporal Bell and Sergeant Osgood - and a key returning character who makes a sizeable impact in the customary end-of-issue cliffhanger.

The decision to set these new stories after The Three Doctors is a sound one, and potentially allows for Jo and the Doctor to go on travels across cosmos and time zones without yet another formulaic 'mission for the Time Lords' justification. It also allows for a properly fleshed out and well-knit 'UNIT family' - i.e. the Doctor and Jo, as well as the Brigadier, Captain Yates, and Sergeant Benton.

The art, from Christopher Jones, is a truly impressive selling point for this maiden issue, and earned the praise of Pertwee Era script-editor Terrance Dicks: "A handsomely-drawn epic". Key to having this miniseries work is a proper rendering of the Third Doctor, and this is certainly the case as we witness the 'James Bond/ Gentleman's Club' variant of our favourite Time Lord, as he goes about his heady business. Although the heavily stylised use of lines can be noticeable in the odd panel, the overall effect is compelling. Further, the use of palette, by the ever-reliable Hi-Fi, evokes with authentic impact the very first period of Doctor Who's history to feature full colour visuals.

 

The story undoubtedly will read well to old and new fans alike, with just the right balance of continuity and innovation. However, a certain clutch of early 1970s stories perhaps should be seen first, by those Who aficionados, who have tried little or none of the Classic era of the show. Not only will it add to the strengths of this particular adventure concocted in 2016, but it will be a reminder that the show was always able to deliver great acting and show initiative in trying markedly new things, both for science fiction and for TV in general.

Working splendidly both as set-up, and a showcase of incident and drama, also, this is a flying start to another promising new title from Titan.

 

EXTRAS :

* 'Behind the Scenes' Pencils and Inks are on display for one of the comic's most interesting panels, with the Doctor standing atop his car, Bessie.

* Three medium and full page-sized alternate covers feature, as well as two variant covers by Boo Cook and Andy Walker respectively.