John Simm receives Royal Television Society North West award for his performance in Prey

Great news! And not before time – he’s one of the very best actors of his generation, nice to see him get some ‘official’ recognition.

John Simm Society Blog

Prolific North
17 Nov 2014
David Prior

Full list of winners from the Royal Television Society North West awards


Indies from across the region were recognised on Saturday at the Royal Television Society North West awards.

Red Production Company took home the Judges’ Award and also saw performers in two of its hit dramas of the year – John Simm in ITV’s Prey and Sarah Lancashire in BBC1’s Happy Valley – walk off with the main acting awards.

Blakeway North took home two categories, including the best current affairs programme for E.D.L Girls – Don’t Call Me Racist, while Citizen Khan claimed the comedy prize and Jimmy McGovern’s Common won the drama award.

The ceremony was held at the Hilton Hotel in Manchester on Saturday 15 November and hosted by Citizen Khan star Adil Ray and TV presenter Helen Skelton.

Alex Connock, Chair of the RTS North West Centre and…

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Why we should never give up on our dreams… why crowdfunding works

If someone had told my fifteen-year-old self that I would one day create an appreciation society for a favourite science-fiction show (a club which is still going strong thirty-four years later) or that I would be invited to visit the set, go to sci-fi conventions and meet authors, directors and actors, write a novel, and have the opportunity to help create a new science fiction web series, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. I probably didn’t even know that I wanted to do all those things then. But I’ve always loved science-fiction; looking to the future has always been my thing (although I’ve enjoyed looking back into my family’s past – the Family Tree has been an ongoing project for the past twelve years, and now my son has taken up the mantle).

I created an appreciation society for ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’  in 1980 because I wanted to join one and none existed; I never stopped to wonder if I could do it. I coerced my sister into becoming treasurer (she’s always been good with numbers), bought a supply of A4 paper, Letraset, and paper glue, and set to with a typewriter I borrowed from my Uncle. Some years later, I started going to science-fiction conventions, where I heard behind-the-scenes stories and watched out-takes in the days before DVD Extras (even before most of us could afford a video recorder) – all of which made me realise that I was just as interested in what it took to put my favourite shows together, as I was in watching the finished product on the goggle box.

A considerable number of years later, I began writing fiction – I took several creative writing courses to improve my writing after two already published and successful authors said nice things about what I’d written and suggested it might help make my work better. I attended a writer’s conference in York, met some very interesting people and made a wonderful friend, with whom I will one day collaborate on a project. I self-published a small anthology of my stories on Amazon, and began writing a full-length novel. Now I’m contemplating book covers and talking to a talented young musician about creating a promo video for the novel when it is finally published…

I’m a writer, not a movie-maker, but I’m discovering how crowdfunding can help to bring new projects to life, whether its a digital magazine created by a very talented interviewer who has had to reimagine her career in the wake of the digital revolution, or a science fiction web series.  The opportunities for people with dreams to bring them to life have never been better, even as other avenues may be diminishing.  Self-publishing used to be called ‘vanity press’ and wasn’t taken seriously by the literary establishment. Nowadays, even traditionally published authors self-publish! The advent of the Kindle and other digital readers means that you can follow your dream of being a published author.

I’m so glad that I eventually followed my dream to write stories other people want to read, and I’d urge you to follow yours… you may have a full-time job (so do I – I write early mornings and weekends and any other time I can) but I firmly believe that if you want something badly enough, you’ll get there.  Just look at this:  Third Contact – entirely crowd-funded, and what superb quality!

Now Simon Horrock is looking to create another science-fiction drama, this time a web series called Kosmos. Check this out:

Isn’t it a brilliant idea? To give people the opportunity to be a part of something like ‘Third Contact’ or ‘Kosmos’ (or the also fabulous ‘Minister of Chance’, also a crowd-funded project currently in production) will surely bring more talent to the creative world.  Anyone who dares to dream can do the same.  I’m living my dream, I’m quite sure that Simon is too… what about you?

author Elaine J Jackson

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Take a Deep Breath – We’re going to Heaven!

Doctor Who Series 8 Overview (Warning – here be spoilers)

Wow – what a ride that  was!  But, as always after a Doctor Who series finale has aired, I feel a little flat… nothing to do with what I thought of the series, mind, but rather because Saturday night telly won’t be quite as exciting for a while.

‘New Who’, as it is generally known as amongst Whovians (as opposed to ‘Classic Who’ for anything pre-the reboot by Russell T Davies) has been a ratings winner  for the BBC – better special effects, great writing, great casting, great performances, great directing – and for someone who has watched the show since the early seventies, it is always interesting to see how a new Doctor ranks amongst the cognoscenti and the general viewing public (or the ‘not-we’ as Whovians call them – as will be no secret to anyone following my twitter feed, I am a Whovian, and happy to be known as such.)

So what is my verdict on Doctor number twelve, Peter Capaldi, and his first series?  The ratings have been consistently good (average for the rebooted show) so we know that the general viewing public enjoyed it. As for me – I loved it. Even my husband loved it.  And I say ‘even’ because sci-fi isn’t really his thing – he is more into historical drama, preferring the past to the future.  He is almost certainly a ‘not-we’.  He enjoyed Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, took a while to warm to David Tennant’s (blowing hot and cold depending on the story);  mostly disliked Matt Smith’s – but he loves Peter Capaldi’s version of the “idiot with a box”. He likes the overall darkness of series 8, the general lack of the ‘silliness’ (which I too feel permeated Matt Smith’s era) and loved the humour. About the darkness and the humour, I have to agree with him.

Because, dark as this series often was (more so than any other I can remember – although the revelation by  Eccleston’s Doctor that his previous incarnation had apparently committed genocide was, to be frank, pretty shocking and about as dark as they come), it was also very funny. Or rather, Capadi’s Doctor is funny. Not as touchy-feely as Smith, nor as humanity-friendly as Tennant, or as respectful of others feelings as Eccleston, or as morose and world-weary as Hurt’s War Doctor, and definitely not as sensitively whimsical as McGann’s half-human incarnation, Capaldi’s Doctor had some of the funniest lines ever – ‘look at this face, it’s permanently cross’ ‘these eyebrows, they’re attack eyebrows’… that was just for starters. His casual throw-away insults about Clara’s age, personal hygiene, his opinion of humanity as ‘pudding brained’, his leeriness about Danny Pink as a suitable suitor for Clara… I will need a complete series re-watch to remember them all, there were so many good un’s.  Each incarnation has had varying degrees of ‘alien-ness’, of course, but like Smith before him, Capaldi does seem to have really nailed that part of the Doctor’s personality, along with a general tetchiness and some physical humour; and it is endlessly entertaining. He is, quite simply, a joy to watch.

Each Doctor has his defining companion – Nine (Eccleston) had Rose (by default, since she was his only real companion); Ten (Tennant) had Rose too. because although Martha and Donna had their moments, it is Rose’s tearful goodbye scene that everyone remembers best; Eleven (Smith) had Amy (although again Clara was important, it is ‘fish fingers and custard’ that we remember; Twelve, well we can’t really say until the next incarnation comes along, of course, who his defining companion will be: so Clara holds the title for the time being.  Who knows (and I’m sure he will do) what the next companion will add to the legend?

Returning Monsters and Villains are a must, of course, and we had a smattering of those old favourites this time around:  Daleks, the Cybermen and the Master – classics all of them, but each a slightly new take on an old adversary.  And now we have the potential for more Master, more Gallifrey, and confirmation from the Doctor himself that he might, someday, be a Time Lady instead of a Time Lord. But that’s a topic for another blog, perhaps…

To conclude, and If we’re doing scores, I would have to give Dr Who Series 8 a resounding 10/10. Thank you Stephen Moffat, all the other writers, directors, cast and crew – it’s been great entertainment – what more can we ask for?

Author; Elaine Jackson

Tags:  dr who, the master, daleks, Cybermen, peter Capaldi, david tenant, Christopher eccleston, matt smith, john hurt, russel t davies, Stephen moffat


Matters of Life and Death – ‘Dr Who’ & ‘Intruders’ explore the afterlife – SPOILERS!

Television seems to have something of a fixation with matters of life and/or death at the moment, doesn’t it? Along with all the ‘zombie-fayre’. We now have ‘Intruders’ (from the novel ‘The Intruders’  by Michael Marshall Smith, adapted for television by ‘X-Files’ writer Glen Morgan) and the two-part season finale of ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Dark Matter’/’Death in Heaven’.

‘Intruders’ is properly adult television, pulling no punches and definitely not pandering to those who want tobe spoon-fed answers. It’s a complicated plot in many ways, but at its heart it asks the same question via the lead character, ex-LAPD cop Jack Whelan -ably played by British actor John Simm in his first US outing- as the season finale (and perhaps the whole season, if you look carefully!) of ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘Do we live again? What happens after we die?’  It is a question that mankind has been asking since we were first able to frame the question, and always makes for fascinating –and often creepy- television.

In ‘Intruders’, the answer is ‘Yes – some of us do live again – because in the beginning, there was death.’   The Immortals here ‘get another go’ by cohabiting a body with its original owner – and by pushing them out.  (This isn’t terribly spoilery by the way – my husband got that much in episode 1!)  Part one of the two-part ‘Dr Who finale seems to concur with the second part of ‘Intruders’ own answer to the question; Danny Pink discovers in the ‘afterlife’ that death is not the end of existence; that truly, ‘In the beginning was death.’ It’s a great premise for any drama, isn’t it?

For a Time Lord of course, death is never really the end, providing he/she has another regeneration left. It occurred to me whilst watching ‘Dark Water’ that Time Lords could almost be the original Qui Reverti – their consciousness -albeit slightly altered in terms of personality quirks- reappears in a different body. (No suggestion that they kick out the original owner, though – but who knows, perhaps that might be the theme of another episode one day…?) Indeed I almost expected to hear someone say ‘In the beginning, there was death’…

I was slightly perturbed to see a couple of critics voice the opinion that ‘Dark Matter’ was in “poor taste” because it might upset recently bereaved viewers.  In my humble opinion, this is nonsense. Recently bereaved viewers will be upset by all manner of things – I’ve been there several times, so I know! – a tune the departed once loved,  a programme or film you enjoyed together, a place you visited, a meal you use to share, the sight of a hearse, or the death of a character on TV – nothing can stop that, and nothing should, it is all part of the  grieving and acceptance process.  There will always be recently bereaved viewers, and good art will always reflect life. For any drama (whether it be for children or adult viewers) to skirt around the most fundamental question of all (to recap: What happens when we die? Is there life after death?) is to miss an opportunity not only to entertain, but to get people thinking about their own mortality and –at rock bottom- how very important it is to make the most of your time as a thinking, functional being.  Don’t waste a second of it!

‘Dark Water’ also showed anyone who cared to pay attention just how important it is to be honest with the people you love. Clara hasn’t been honest with Danny (keeping her continuing adventures with the Doctor a secret from him because he didn’t approve and she didn’t want to choose one over the other – she wanted both men in her life), and in the end (I must assume, not having seen the second part yet) it cost Danny his life, because if Clara had not phoned him to tell him the truth when she did, he would not have walked out in front of the car and died. A deeply moving performance from Jenna Coleman – if, as rumours say, she is leaving the show soon, it will be a shame. But the idea of finding out exactly who she really is – because, remember all that business with ‘the impossible girl’? – is definitely a good reason to keep watching! (That and the brilliant Peter Capaldi…)

I’m not going to say anything about that big reveal at the end of ‘Dark Water’ – I’m saving that until I have seen part 2. Let’s just say, for now, WOW! Another case of a much-loved character coming back from the dead…

‘Intruders’ has been criticized by some viewers/reviewers as being ‘too confusing’, ‘too violent’, ‘too dark’ and ‘too slow’. Maybe I had an advantage, because I had already read the book before I saw the show; but my husband hadn’t, and he was riveted. He didn’t know what was going on either, just like Jack Whelan (Simm), and it is Jack who leads us through the story.  The viewer actually gets to know more than Jack does, because we see events that he is not privy to until much later in the story (if at all). It isn’t a drama you can afford to nod off in the middle of (although in my opinion it’s way too intriguing for that).

In the first episode, we have a young woman who appears to have been taken over by an entity who then forces her to kill herself; a mother and son are gunned down in cold blood when the gunman doesn’t find the person he is looking for; a man whose wife has been behaving oddly – not like herself- and who then disappears on a business trip; the husband gets a visit from an old school pal who raises questions about Jack’s wife and her connection to some dodgy goings-on in Seattle, and a young girl is approached by the same gunman, given a sand dollar (a type of clam shell?), and is then taken over by someone who likes to drown cats in the bath. Interestingly, the cat-drowning scene seemed to attract the most criticism, a number of viewers stating that they would not be watching any further because of it. It was upsetting, I agree – the ten-year-old actress playing Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) performed a difficult scene with great ability – but it was, in my opinion, a great way to show just how powerful her ‘intruder’ is. You find out why, and who has intruded on her, as the series progresses. (Interestingly, even the show’s fiercest critics are unanimous in their praise of young Millie – so watch it for her, if nothing else – you won’t be disappointed, she is a real talent in the making)

I like the fact that ‘Intruders’ takes time to tell the story; in the early episodes it gives you time to think – though not a lot! Trust me, it picks up pace from episode three onwards, and you really do have to pay attention! For those complaining about the ‘lack of character development’ in episodes 1 & 2, episode 3 has it in bucketfuls, and each subsequent episode reveals more about each character and how they are connected, the layers peeling back until you can see that they are all going to collide at the end, even if you don’t yet know quite how; and they certainly do collide in a very satisfying way. I feel sorry for those viewers who have bailed out early – they will never know what a piece of intriguing, intelligent television they missed.