Friday 27 May 2011


Movie and TV Mistress is back.

This review as you can tell by the title is about the very short lived TV series from the BBC called Crime Traveller, it was a detective show which used time travel to solve the cases. The show ran for 1 series in 1997, which was 8 episodes long; due to a new Head of Drama at the BBC the show was not renewed as expected by the cast and crew.

The show focus's on Jeff Slade a CID Detective and the science officer Holly Turner, who work together to solve crimes with Holly's Time Machine. They work under Kate Grisham, with officers Morris and Nicky who'll I discuss later.

Holly's father built a Time Machine in the living room of his flat, think TARDIS Console room with out the bigger on the inside joke. Her father became lost in Time when he did not get back to the machine in time. She has continued to work on the machine and his research in her spear time, while working for the police. She is played By Chloe Annett who famously plays Kristine Kochanski in Red Dwarf.

Holly has worked out several rules of Time Travel, which she continuously explains though out the series, they are:
  1. You cannot travel back more then once as you cannot exist in more then two time frames.
  2. You cannot change anything in the past, as anything you do when time travelling has already happened.
  3. You cannot meet yourself it would create a paradox.
  4. You cannot travel to the future, it's not possible to travel to something that hasn't happened.
  5. You must get back to the machine before you originally left or you will be stuck in a loop of Infinity.
  6. Holly cannot control the length of time the machine will take you back.
The creator Anthony Horowitz does a good job of sticking to these rules but does bend a couple of them as the series progresses, which makes me wonder about what the future could have held in a second series.

Jeff Slade or SLADE! As he is constantly called/shouted, is the best cop in the team played by Michael French who was best known as David Wicks in Eastenders at the time but now as Nick Jordan in Holby City. He is manipulative and very smart, but won't give up on changing the past.

Kate Grisham is in charge, but I get the impression her character is like the stereotypical chief's who are their to just shout at the hero's. She was played by Sue Johnston, she was in Brookside but is most famous for playing Barbara in The Royle Family.

Nicky is fresh out of the academy, posh, very smart, a 1997 walking wikipedia played by Richard Dempsey who I knew growing up as Peter in the BBC kids series The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. His character reminds me of Timothy McGee from NCIS but with out a computer or decent mobile phone.

Lastly the CID team has Morris, he is slow and well comes off as being unable to read or do anything, that said he does work out that at times there are two Slade’s running about. He was played by Paul Trussell who has had bit parts in lots of TV shows and a few British films such as Secrets & Lies.

I remember watching the series when it originally aired in 1997, it felt like this might be the show to finally fill the gap left after the BBC cancelled Doctor Who, but with the bad reception of the Doctor Who Movie the previous year I didn't know what to expect. The series quickly established the characters and how the Time machine would fit into the classic detective show in the first episode and I was hooked every Saturday night. Incidentally in the sixth episode there is an appearance of the Doctor Who Police Box, which was a lovely homage.

It is obvious from the opening music and the style of the show that it is a classic British detective series, the theme sounds like that of Poirot, which creator Anthony Horowitz wrote for and the plots are classics which aren't hard to work out it you have watched any detective shows in your life. That said I feel that it was the characters of Holly and Slade that kept me coming back and I wanted to see if Slade would ever be able to change the past.

Each show would usually start showing the murder/crime and then CID would turn up and try to solve it without any real forensic work done; that’s the one thing that I noticed re-watching the series, with shows like CSI and NCIS and even shows of the time like The Bill, you would expect them to finger print places. Finger prints are mentioned once when Holly's print is found on the glass that her aunt drank from, and by Slade in the first episode when he says to wipe their prints from the room. But what about the rest of their prints left at crime scenes before they arrived and Slade’s own blood left, if the show was set today I think they might be arrested as possible serial killers, just a thought.

Sadly the show does looked dated and it's not the clothes or the hair styles, it's the computers in the station the fact they use huge walkie talkies on sting operations which really stand out and that the one time we see a Mobile phone its bright yellow and has a large aerial, at least it wasn't a brick. I do have to admit that it does seem pointless to get annoyed about these minor issues in a show where they use time travel to solve cases.

I admit I have a soft spot for this show as I am a Time Travel fan, but the time travel doesn't change what the series really was, which was a classic detective series in mould of shows like Poirot, Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder and many others. The series is a cult classic now, which I feel belongs with shows like Manimal, Automan, The 1975 Invisible Man and other short lived Sci Fi Detective shows, why do these shows end so quickly while we still have CSI: Miami?

Well till next time...

Monday 2 May 2011


Hi everybody, it's me again. I know it's been a while, but I've been busy moving back to the UK from Canada and sorting out all the government forms I need to do, so I can live in my home country.

Well on with another cult classic movie from my childhood SPACED INVADERS.

SPACED INVADERS came out in 1990 it is one of the many sci fi comedies of the late 80's and early 90's like RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOS, TREMORS and those CRITTERS films. OK CRITTERS was a serious... I can't finish that without laughing.

Anyway back to SPACED INVADERS, the film was written and directed by Patrick Read Johnson, who wrote the DRAGONHEART films and Directed BABY'S DAY OUT, some may say he went up in the world but I think that's debatable. The film stars a young girl who you will recognise from JURASSIC PARK and TREMORS Ariana Richards, she is dressed up as an Alien from ALIEN which makes me wonder if she went for the part of Newt in ALIENS. Her father in the film is the new town sheriff performed by Douglas Barr, Who I grew up watching in the great 80's TV show THE FALL GUY with Lee Majors. But the real stars of the film are the Martians and a little scout robot.

The movie starts with classic space model shots and then we get the opening exposition by a masked alien telling 5 other masked aliens how bad they are and that they are being sent to the asteroid field and are being given an enforcer drone to make sure they follow the instructions. The drone looks just like the shout at the start of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Next we are in Big Bean Illinois and are introduced to a dying small town and a new sheriff being held at gun point by an angry farmer, after another bit of exposition we know that a farmer is going to loose his land. Then it's back to space to see what’s happening with the Martians they are about to collide with a sun and the enforcer drone just wants to fight, there is an explosion and it's back to earth and the introduction of Ariana as the sheriff's daughter who is not happy to be in a small town after LA and is getting ready for Halloween.

And at 10 minutes into the film it's hard to know exactly what to make of the story, but don't worry the inciting incident is about to arrive thanks to a radio station deciding to play Orson Welles audio drama of WAR OF THE WORLDS; which was famous for causing panic in America. Now if you know anything about radio waves and sound you know it takes years for it to travel though space, but this is a movie and well it is instantaneous and a small Martian crew who are trying to find the rest of the Martian fleet mistake the radio transmission for real news like the people over 50 years ago did and so they decide to head to Earth.

So the Martians crash land in the angry farmers barn, reminds me of the start of BACK TO THE FUTURE. The Martians take of their masks and we are introduced animatronic big heads with antennas aliens. The pilot sounds like Jack Nicholson and the weapons officer sounds like Cary Grant and the science officer sounds like Dr Strange Love and Pez who wears a red coat sounds like Howard the duck and thinks he is going to die, their captain walks into a road and is hit by a car.

Ariana is at a Halloween party and feeling like and outsider but makes friends with a boy I will call ducky, because he is dressed like a duck for most of the film. Three of the aliens join the Halloween party because the adults think they are kids in costume. Ariana finds their tiny scout robot and works out their real aliens, meanwhile the captain after being scraped off the front of a truck wakes up and makes the attendant into his slave.
The Parent looking after the trick or treating kids kicks out the Martians, ducky and Ariana, and drives off, sure Ariana says she sees her dads car coming but the lady doesn't even wait to make sure the kids are safe and this is why kids go missing.

There are jokes like a deputy sheriff giving the Martian pilot a speeding ticket for going 3000mile per hour, not having plates, lights and wheels while the farmers dog puts new film in the camera for him. And now 40 minutes in the pilot and drone knows the broadcast was not real as it has ended and the sheriff knows Aliens have landed.

With the second act started the Enforcement drone goes after the crew to kill them for this mistake, the towns people are told about the aliens and the sheriff calls them intelligent which the Jack Nicholson one laughs at cause he's the smartest in their crew. While this is happening the captain and his slave are building a giant robot to attack the town.

The aliens destroy a new off ramp for the town and fire a laser at a farm silo and heating up and creating Pop Corn. While Ariana and the small robot team up, ducky and Jack Martian team up and then the three other aliens find out about the ending to WAR OF THE WORLDS and start to panic about germs. The crew get back together and face off against the towns folk by strapping themselves into the D.O.D (Donut Of Destruction) and like so much about this crew the D.O.D doesn't work.

I have to admit as it enters the third act that when describing this film it does seem to be too busy and complicated story and I could point out continuity issues, but I like this movie too much.

At this point the team want to return to space but their ship is broke so with the help of the two kids and the farmer they try to fix it, while the captains slave finishes the Farmzoid which is like a Godzilla size farm equipment to distract the town while the ship heads back to the farm so that the farmer can use the TNT to help the ship lift off.

But just before they can do this the drone turns up again to kill the crew, however while the crew have been fixing the ship it has been counting down to destruction; Ariana explains that if Earth is destroyed that Mars will fall out of orbit and will be destroyed, so the drone agrees to let them get back into space. However, we get the usual evil genius monologue from the drone and the farmer tricks it into holding a lit stick of TNT, blowing up, they help the Martians get back to space.

But because the ship is still too heavy to make it out of the atmosphere they have to lighten the load and so flush the toilet sprinkling green stuff over the farmers field. The next morning the farmer is about to have his farm taken by the bank but thanks to the Alien manure he has giant pea pods.

As I said before I saw this as a child and that I actually like it, the reason being I love Sci Fi movies and Spoofs and this is an excellent spoof, it has so many classic and Sci fi movie references to mention and it never takes it's self seriously which is why it still makes me laugh. Sure the special effects aren't perfect but at least you can see the stuff was real and done in camera rather then on a computer.

I know that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's PAUL was Influenced by classic 70's and 80's Alien films but I think the character of PAUL has some traits similar to the Jack Nicholson Martian and I could see Hollywood remaking it with motion capture of something for the aliens, but I don't know if this film could be improved upon.

I say if you haven't seen it and you like films like RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOS or HOCUS POCAS check this out it's just silly fun.