Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Alex Rider: "Secret Weapon" Review

Some eighteen and a half years since he first burst into the world of young adult novels, and eight years and three books after author Anthony Horowitz categorically declared he was done with the series and there definitely wouldn't be any more, teenage superspy Alex Rider is still going strong, with Secret Weapon the twelfth and latest instalment in the series. What we have here is a slightly different proposition to the norm - a collection of short stories, some of which have been previously published in newspapers or online, and some of which are completely new for this anthology. This release is more significant than it first appears - it was working on this collection that convinced Horowitz he might have been too hasty in ending the series with Scorpia Rising in 2011 and resulted in its revival two years ago with Never Say Die, with at least two more full-length novels to come before the series really is over for good (the first of which, Nightshade, will be out early next year). But how do the seven bite-sized instalments contained in Secret Weapon measure up?

Sunday, 14 April 2019

The Demon Headphones

Q: Who was the first actor to play the Demon Headmaster for the BBC?

You may not be particularly surprised to learn that the A to that particular Q is not Terrence Hardiman. Some 6 years before the CBBC series, the first two books were adapted for Radio 5 Live by Jim Eldridge in October 1990, in a format perhaps coincidentally very similar to how the first TV series would later handle them: a 4x25 series, with the eponymous first book covered in the first two episodes and The Prime Minister's Brain in the second. The only difference is that the TV series gave each book an extra episode; perhaps as a consequence, the characters of Ingrid, Lloyd and Mandy are all merged into Ingrid in the radio version. Anyway, the cast for the radio version was Edward de Souza as the Headmaster and Lucy Speed as Dinah.

To tie in with the TV series, the radio series was released on cassette on 1998, bearing the TV series' logo and font. It doesn't appear to have ever been released on CD, which I find slightly surprising given the series' enduring popularity. If you'd like to hear it, though, you can find it on the Internet Archive. (One wonders if they were ever tempted to realise The Revenge of the Demon Headmaster as a radio play, given it was skipped for the TV series on the grounds of being absolutely unfilmable. Probably not. For yet another little-known adaptation you may not have heard of, there was also a stage musical in 1999, for which Terrence Hardiman reprised his role.)

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Edit Wars #10

Nearly every Robot Wars fight ever filmed was edited down in some way. (I have covered some of the more glaring examples in the past.) No fight that lasted the whole 5 minutes made it to air in its entirety, with some lasting less than 2 minutes once the editor had got their hands on it; I believe the record for least cut full-length battle is the Series 6 Grand Final, which only had about 20 seconds trimmed from it. Usually, however, the edit was done well enough that it wasn't too obvious. Apart from this one.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Broken Gamebooks #13: Night Dragon

There are three mistakes worth noting here, and for some reason I find the biggest one really, really funny, which is mostly why it's getting covered.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

A Table Indicating How Many Episodes of Each Series Recurring Characters Appear in in Peep Show

For the record: I defined "recurring character" as someone appearing in at least two different series - disqualifying a large number of one-series characters who appear in multiple episodes, including Elena (who appears in all 6 episodes of Series 6), Zahra (all but one episode of Series 7) and Megan (all but one episode of Series 9).

* Credited, but does not appear, on one episode (not counted on this table)
** Paul Clayton recorded a scene for "Kid Farm" which was cut from the broadcast programme (it can be seen on the deleted scenes on the DVD)

Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Scoop Scoop Song

"Tonight on BBC One, Ian Hislop and Paul Merton return in 'Have I Ripped Off the News Quiz for You'..."
-- Graeme Garden, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue

You are more likely than not aware that Have I Got News for You is a television adaptation of Radio 4's own long-running news quiz, The News Quiz. It is far from unique in this regard, although it has had notably more success than other panel games that made the leap from sound to screen.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

The Missing Mysteries

I thought I'd send you off to another part of the Internet I find amusing today. Except the particular website no longer exists, having gone offline a few years ago.

But fear not! With the help of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, I can still send you there. (There might be the occasional broken image, and the original pages had sound which it seems the Archive can't reproduce, but everything should still work fine and the games should be perfectly playable.) So we can all still enjoy the Stickville Murder Mysteries, a quite amusing series of browser-based detective games set in an occasionally quite surreal world of limited art, whilst also hopefully learning an important lesson about the importance of keeping archives of the internet.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Where Do Unpublished Gamebooks Go?

26 October, 1995: Curse of the Mummy, the fifty-ninth entry in the Fighting Fantasy series, is published by Puffin. It is also to be the last FF book Puffin will ever release, although nobody knew that at the time.