Continuum Season 1 Review

continuumRecently I watched the ten episodes of Continuum season 1 on DVD. It was a bit of a blind-buy but it was cheap online and I thought it would be a safe bet to take a chance on a show that involved (a) time travel and (b) Rachel Nichols.

The first episode opens in 2077 where the world is being run by corporations. A group of terrorists/freedom fighters (led by Master Bra’tac from Stargate SG1) are about to be executed when a time travel devices transports them back 65 years to 2012. Also zapped back in time is future cop, or “Protector”, Kiera Cameron (played by Rachel Nichols).

Back in 2012 Kiera becomes aware that the escapees are trying to foment a revolution in that time period and becomes determined to stop them, thus preserving the timeline and allowing her the chance to return to 2077 and her husband and son. She manages to inveigle her way into the local police investigations with the help of a young computer genius, Alec Sadler, who picks up her transmissions from her futuristic chip implants and hi-tech police uniform.

So initially at least the show is a fish-out-of-water kind of thing where Kiera has to adapt from be in 65 years in the past and learning to do police type detecting without being plugged into the future computer networks.

But as the season proceeded it became more interesting in exploring time paradoxes. I love my time travel stories and you need a good paradox now and then. One episode was clearly influenced by The Terminator when various factions from the future are targeting each other by threating to kill their parents or grandparents. Indeed the terrorists start acting like serial killers by going after all the women with the same name as Kiera’s grandmother as the T-800 did with Sarah Connor in 1984.

Also as the episodes progressed it became apparent that the presence of the future criminals and Kiera was one of those “it was always supposed to happen” deals. For example we get an early clue that young Alec is actually the same man as played by William B Davis, the iconic Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files. Future Alec has a connection to the criminals and let them escape into the past and made sure that Kiera went along with them. The season ends with young Alec delivering this news to Kiera, aware of how much she wants to get back to her own time.

Rachel makes an appealing heroine and it’s nice to see her get series lead. And I knew that I had seen the actor playing Alec in something else. Eventually it clicked that he played Dale in Jericho.

So I’m happy to say that buying Continuum was money well spent. I believe season 2 may have already started so I will be watching out for that box-set when the time comes.

Gravity trailer

Before yesterday I don’t think I had even heard of this movie called Gravity. I spotted the trailer today and it’s a pretty incredible piece of work, probably unlike anything I have seen before.

In short George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are astronauts on a space shuttle flight that goes disastrously wrong. See for yourself…

Wow.

(I suppose this is technically a space movie set in the past as the space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. Does that count as science fiction or a period drama?)

The Corporal’s Wife by Gerald Seymour review

This is a review of the new novel by Gerald Seymour that I added to www.geraldseymour.co.uk last month. I thought it would do no harm to include it here as well.
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The Corporal’s Wife is the 30th thriller from Gerald Seymour and is due to be published in August 2013. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance reading copy from his publisher Hodder books and I am very pleased to say that after thirty books there is no sign of a drop in quality of Seymour’s writing. Indeed it is one of his strongest books in recent years, even rivalling the exceptional A Deniable Death (2011).

In the new novel Seymour returns to a choice of Iran as an adversary, a country that has featured significantly in a number of his previous books such as A Deniable Death, A Line in the Sand (1999) and Home Run (1989).

Mehrak, the corporal of the title, is a driver for Brigadier Reza Joyberi in the elite al-Qods Brigade. He has been sent by the brigadier to Dubai to take care of some unofficial banking. There he gets embroiled in an SIS honey trap operation and is convinced by the British agents that he needs to cooperate with them or the video footage secretly shot will be made public and his life in Iran will be over. They take him to a safe house in Austria and interrogation is begun by a team led by Petrok Kenning.

The suits high up in SIS, principally Taduez Fenton, are overjoyed at their prize. While he is only a lowly corporal his role as driver to the brigadier meant he had access to much top secret information and facilities. Fenton is concerned that the information Merak is providing should ensure Britain’s place at the “top table” with the cousins and friends – i.e. the CIA and the Mossad – and is quick to share some crumbs.

The corporal is initially cooperative but eventually put his foot down. If the British want his cooperation then they must produce his wife Farideh from inside Iran. By now the spymasters have a lot riding on this defector so they quickly throw together an operation to extract the wife from Tehran with some grudging assistance from the Americans and Israelis. In order for the operation to be deniable they do not use SIS personnel, instead picking some private security contractors and Zack Becket, a recent university graduate who speaks excellent Farsi. The book convincingly portrays the rapid gathering of the team, their insertion into Iran and their journey onward to Tehran and Farideh.

But it becomes apparent that the defector neglected to tell his new masters of the complicated nature of the relationship with his wife, it being an arranged marriage and one she was not happy with. The corporal has a fantasy that being reunited outside Iran will make everything all right. She however is quite happy to never see him again, although the suspicion of the Iranian authorities about her husband’s disappearance will make staying in Iran dangerous.

One of those suspicious of her is the brigadier, but ironically the defection of his driver also reflects badly on him and affects his formerly secure status, despite his loyalty to Iran.
The book features an extended cast of characters, some major and some minor, and it is some of the minor characters who will prove to have an unexpected importance to the story.

And as always the characters are richly drawn, no matter on which side they find themselves on, so the reader can be appalled at the actions of someone making life and death decisions in London on a whim or have a sneaking admiration for a smuggler.

The action moves between London, Austria and Iran, but also cuts away to the Turkey/Iran border near Mount Ararat (of Noah’s ark fame) where two agents are sent to observe the team’s planned escape from Iran. They turn out to have a pivotal role to play at the novel’s climax. And that climax is as suitable tense as you would expect.

This is another strong book from Seymour that delves into his usual themes of those in power in London, or elsewhere, manipulating the “little guy” to get what they want without worrying about the consequence, while the people lower down the food chain see the consequences of the decisions of their higher-ups.

Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine scans

Here are some Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine scans. A while back I scanned The White Queen article from the Radio Times. Those scans proved to be popular so I figured it was worth tacking down Rebecca’s appearance in the June 2013 issue of InStyle UK magazine.

Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine scans Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine scans Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine Rebecca Ferguson InStyle UK magazine

Meanwhile The White Queen, featuring Rebecca as the Queen, continues on BBC1 on Sunday nights.

Doctor Who Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds review

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A little while ago if you had asked me who my favourite Doctor Who actors were I don’t honestly think Jon Pertwee would have been very high on my list. This was not due to any dislike of the actor or the era but I had simply not seen very many of his stories and I had the impression that he always seemed to be a bit stern.

Then I went through a period of catching up on old Who adventures, mainly on cheap VHS copies I bought in a collectibles shop. (Incidentally I was surprised at how good the picture quality was on some of the old tapes, having convinced myself how superior DVD was supposed to be. In fact the only downside was the lack of a working VHS remote control.)

After watching a few Pertwee era stories he quickly shot up my list. I loved the UNIT family and the contemporary Earth (i.e. 1970s England) setting. And I loved Pertwee’s reactions to wrong-headed bureaucrats. In fact if Patrick Troughton was not already my favourite Doctor then I decided it would probably be Pertwee.

In particular I enjoyed the middle three seasons of Pertwee’s five years on the show, partly because they had his most successful companion, Jo Grant, but mainly because they featured the original Master played by the wonderful Roger Delgado. He seemed to pop up as the Doctor’s nemesis in nearly every story and the interplay between Pertwee and Delgado quickly became a highlight of the era for me.

Which leads us onto this work.

Alistair Reynolds has been a favourite science fiction author of mine for the last few years. He and fellow-Brit Stephen Baxter have been turning out solid entries in the hard-SF field. Last year Baxter had his chance at writing a Second Doctor story called Wheel of Ice. This year it is the turn of Reynolds with Harvest of Time. And he does not disappoint.

It is set firmly in the golden-age of Pertwee, i.e. the middle three seasons. Jo Grant is there, so is the Master. So is UNIT. And so is an extra-terrestrial threat from the end of time. The unstoppable Sild have invaded Earth by homing in on a signal that the Master has been trying to send to his future self while incarcerated by the British government. The Sild are particularly nasty little creatures that get around via metal crabs and attach themselves to their victims, taking over their bodies to do their will.

Meanwhile the personnel of UNIT and the authorities have started to forget the Master. Unless they concentrate he slips from their minds as if they had never encountered him. Only the Doctor and Jo seem immune and the Doctor must find out what the Sild want with the Master. The answer lies at the end of time where the Doctor and the Master will be forced into an unlikely alliance to survive.

The book is a very entertaining evocation of early-seventies Who. It feels completely authentic as a story from that era, albeit one withy a slightly higher budget. In particular Reynolds gets the ‘voices’ of the Doctor and the Master exactly right. Many times while reading the book I could hear Delgado saying the Master’s dialog and I can think of no stronger praise than that.

So in short if you have any appreciation for Pertwee-era Who this is a must. And even if you don’t, get it anyway.

One side note. That’s a very rude looking spaceship on the cover. Sorry, just saying…