Sci-fi

Minority Report is superficial pap – why on earth stage it?

Minority Report is a plodding bit of sci-fi based on a Steven Spielberg movie made more than two decades ago. The setting is London, 2050, and every citizen has been implanted with an undetectably tiny neuroscanner which informs the cops about crimes before they’ve been committed. However, as the first scene reveals, the undetectably tiny neuroscanner can be removed from the flesh with a corkscrew. The character who gouges out her tag is a computer geek, Julia, who invented the surveillance method in the first place. She stands accused of planning a murder and she goes on the run to clear her name. The actors appear to be trapped inside

A tangle of nonsense from the sloppy Caryl Churchill: A Number, at the Old Vic, reviewed

A Number, by Caryl Churchill, is a sci-fi drama of impenetrable complexity. It’s set in a future society where cloning has become possible for those on modest incomes. A Cockney father reveals to his grown-up son that he’s a replica of his older brother who died, aged four, in a car crash that also killed his mum. The son reacts with anger and bafflement. But Dad soothes him with happy news. The boy’s DNA was stolen by a gang of scientists who created 20 more copycat zombies, and these replicas are now scattered across the globe. Dad plans to cash in by suing the boffins for £5 million. No sooner

Even worse than the book: Amazon Prime’s The Wheel of Time reviewed

A couple of years ago, in that near-forgotten era when we could travel almost freely, I canvassed social media as to what should be my relaxing but involving holiday read during a fortnight in Greece. One suggestion — and this is why you should never trust the literary advice of random strangers — was Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. I started the first book full of bright hope. It would be my new Tolkien-meets-Game of Thrones. Besides the strong personal recommendation and the slew of five-star reviews on Amazon, what persuaded me was the fact that the late author had served two heavily decorated tours of duty as

A blisteringly bonkers first episode: Doctor Who – Flux reviewed

BBC1 continuity excitedly introduced the first in the new series of Doctor Who as ‘bigger and better than ever’ — presumably because the more accurate ‘bigger and better than it’s been for a bit’ doesn’t have quite the same punch. Still, Sunday’s programme was a definite, even exhilarating improvement on those of recent years. Since Chris Chibnall became the showrunner in 2018, thrills have taken a firm second place to solemn lectures on how the most dangerous monster of all is human prejudice. Yet at no stage here did the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) encounter some acknowledged hero of black and/or women’s history — and so allow us a self-satisfied bask

Absorbing and beautifully designed: Jane Eyre reviewed

Blackeyed Theatre is another victim of the virus. Its production of Jane Eyre was midway through a UK tour, and due to visit China for a month, when the pandemic shot its plans to bits. Last month the show was revived on stage and committed to film. Kelsey Short (Jane) leads a team of just five actors who tell the story as Charlotte Brontë wrote it. The costumes, hairstyles and habits of speech seem authentically Victorian. The director, Adrian McDougall, has rejected the fashionable habit of presenting Jane as a rad-fem freedom fighter surrounded by grotesque male oppressors. His version reminds us how sympathetic the novel is towards men. Mr

The genius of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue

I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue has just been voted the greatest radio comedy of all time by Radio Times, ahead of Hancock’s Half Hour and the brilliant Round the Horne. The first two episodes of series 73 (can you believe it?) are also the last Tim Brooke-Taylor recorded before losing his life to coronavirus earlier this year. Brooke-Taylor was part of the original cast of the self-styled ‘antidote to panel games’, which first aired in 1972 with Bill Oddie, Jo Kendall and the show’s deviser Graeme Garden as fellow performers (Barry Cryer joined during the first series and Willie Rushton two years later). When Brooke-Taylor’s voice broke through this

Would be much better without Bill or Ted: Bill & Ted Face the Music reviewed

I think I am supposed to say that Bill & Ted Face the Music, the third in a franchise about two Californian morons who time travel to save the world, is a harmless satire on American teenage good-naturedness and stupidity. I’m not sure about that: I think it is more likely evidence of what American cinema has done to the American mind since Jaws turned the B-list film into the A-list film, and vice-versa. Its heinous. The premise is: creatures of the future decided long ago (in 1989) that Bill and Ted would one day write a song that would heal reality. So Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure saw them

An extraordinary tale: BBC2’s The Countess and the Russian Billionaire reviewed

There can’t be many programmes that bring to mind quotations from both Henry Kissinger and Boney M., but BBC2’s The Countess and the Russian Billionaire was one of them. While Kissinger’s idea that ‘power is the ultimate aphrodisiac’ may be a little out of fashion in the #MeToo age, it was hard not to think it played a part in the eye-popping events that Wednesday’s documentary laid out with some relish. As for Boney M., rarely has ‘Oh, those Russians’ from ‘Rasputin’ felt so penetratingly insightful. The programme began filming in 2015, with the apparent aim of providing a ringside seat at a fight between an excitingly wealthy British-based couple

Too edgy and clever to be wasted on kids: Netflix’s Locke & Key reviewed

One of my perpetual gnawing terrors is that I’ll recommend a series that looks initially promising but turns out to be total rubbish, meaning I’ll for ever have thousands of viewers’ wasted lives and disappointment on my conscience. But my even greater fear is that I’ll peremptorily condemn something after one or two episodes which subsequently reveals itself to be a near-masterpiece. This almost happened with Locke & Key (Netflix). ‘You realise I’m watching this on sufferance. The second you’ve seen enough to review, we’re moving on to something else,’ declared the Fawn. And I could sort of see her point. Not only does it take a while to get