The first episode of the BBCs remake of their 30 year old SF series aired last night and – for the first time in a long time – I sat down to watch it. It wasn’t a bad start to the series but nor was it a great one.

There is a tendency these days to respond to any news of a remake to ask why bother. It’s a bit of a kneejerk response to assert that anything that was worth seeing the first time around should just be screened again and to assume that anything being remade was worth seeing the first time around. While it’s true that many remakes are dire, the approach does have value if the remakers have something new to say with the existing story.

The idea of a virus wiping out most of the population is certainly still resonant and it’s a theme that has been returned to many times in TV, film, novels and elsewhere. So I’m not sure why they felt the need to spend so long setting it all up.

The first half hour of this 90 minute episode is spent introducing the characters and explaining the background. The problem is that we already know the background and, with post apocalyptic fiction such as this, it’s the characters’ actions after the event that is interesting, not the constant reminders of their otherwise normality.

That said, once Abby Grant (Julie Graham) wakes up in her nice suburban home to discover that everyone else is dead things do start to pick up quite nicely. We are introduced to the major characters – again – as they encounter each other in the remarkably tidy wasteland in which everyone drove home and parked properly before suddenly dropping dead.

The programmes did manage a few moments of real tension, but on the whole it all felt a bit too glossy. We’re told about how horrific a city full of dead bodies might be, but what we see is a small group of people driving around on completely deserted roads. But the real clanger was a remarkably silly coda that hints at a very hackneyed (sub-)plot revolving around evil government conspiracies and all the attendant stereotypes.

Although this first episode had its moments it did feel a lot more like an extended prologue than anything else. I am intending to catch episode 2 but I really do hope that things improve from here on in.

Tex Avery meets National Geographic

Minuscule is a fusion between the documentary style of National Geographic and the universe of Tex Avery in which animated insects experience their adventures against a background of real-world sets. The films are short, dialogue-free and very, very funny.

Inevitably enough, plenty of these films have turned up online and you can also subscribe to the sites RSS feed and download the much prettier MP4 clips. And dont forget to check out the DVD for over four hours of comedy genius.

Via BoingBoing

William Shatner responds to the new Star Trek trailer

(Found @james_gunn)

Monty Python looks on the bright side of YouTube

Tired of being ripped off over the past three years on YouTube, the Monty Python team has finally taken action by setting up their own channel on YouTube (via Slashdot).

No more of those crap quality videos youve been posting. Were giving you the real thing - HQ videos delivered straight from our vault.

Whats more, were taking our most viewed clips and uploading brand new HQ versions. And whats even more, were letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there!

And in return, all they are asking is that you click on the links and buy the films and TV shows. And you cant say fairer than that.

John Williams is the man

Born February 8, 1932, John Williams is an American composer, conductor and pianist. In a career that spans six decades, Williams has composed many of the most famous film scores in history, including all but one of Steven Spielbergs feature films, Star Wars, Superman, Jaws, E.T., Born on the Fourth of July, Harry Potter, and more. In short, if youve watched any films at all over the past thirty years, then you will have heard a John Williams score. Even if you havent seen the films, the music is so iconic that you will probably recognise it anyway.

Now go and check out this tribute from Moosebutter.

Steer a course for a brave new world

According to the description on Amazon, Chumbawumbas The Boy Bands Have Won is gentle and warm in tone but caustic in intent. After having heard Charlie (via Pharyngula), I can well believe it.

How stuff works: The lightsabre

Have you ever wondered how lightsabres worked? Probably not, but this article (via Slashdot) is worth taking a look at if you want a quick smile at a bit of 2005 era japery.

Alternatively, you can catch up with the YouTube generation and follow the Everyday Dark Lords household uses for a lightsabre.

Now thats what I call a dead parrot

William Berg, an American classics professor, has discovered (via Slashdot) that the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch is 1600 years old. The original version, told by Greek comedy duo Hierocles and Philagrius, concerns a man who complains to his friend that he was sold a slave who dies in his service.

His companion replies: When he was with me, he never did any such thing!

The joke was discovered in a collection of 265 jokes called Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, which dates from the fourth century AD and which has now been published as an ebook.

Everything but the industrial laser

Bahnhof, one of Swedens largest ISPs has just opened a new high-security data centre in an old nuclear bunker deep below the bedrock of Stockholm city and they have really gone to town with the design of the place.

“Since we got hold of this unique nuclear bunker in central Stockholm deep below the rock, we just couldn’t build it like a traditional – more boring – hosting center,” [Bahnhof CEO, Jon Karlung] said. “We wanted to make something different. The place itself needed something far out in design and science fiction was the natural source of inspiration in this case – plus of course some solid experience from having been a hosting provider for more than a decade.”

“I’m personally a big fan of old science fiction movies. Especially ones from the 70s like Logan’s Run, Silent Running, Star Wars (especially The Empire Strikes Back) so these were an influence,“ said Karlung. “James Bond movies have also had an impact on the design. I was actually looking for the same outfit as the villain ‘Blofeld’ in Bond and even considered getting a white cat, but that might have been going a bit far!”

The results, which can be seen at Pingdom (via Slashdot) are spectacular.

Gris Grimlys Pinocchio: The Movie

Heres a story to warm the heart of anyone who likes their animation a bit twisted. While talking to Bloody Disgusting (via Latefilm) Guillermo del Toro mentioned that he is involved in trying to get a full stop-motion version of Gris Grimly’s Pinocchio off the gound. Del Toro is planning to produce while Grimly - whose forst foray into film was the very well received Cannibal Flesh Riot! - is set to occupy the directors chair.

The idea came from Gris, and everybody loves his book about it. The original story is far more perverse and spooky and semi-necrophilia vibe to it in certain aspects. Gris certainly has that vein in him, he wants to do this with that original spookiness in it, we are trying to get it going. The Jim Henson Company is the behind it and we are currently working on the screenplay! Its not coming to a screen near you any time soon, even if it were to begin today it would be about three years in the making, but we are working to make it happen. A full-scale puppet universe takes time.

Its going to be a long time coming, but well worth the wait.

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