Space Hoppers Live Too!

The Space Hoppers Live tour has been continuing in August with events in Dorset, Poole, Bournemouth, Liverpool, Blackburn, Darwen, Ilkeston, Chesterfield, Salisbury, Birmingham, Swansea, and Bridgend.  Mark and Jon have now played to over 2000 children this summer, throughout England, Scotland, and Wales.  Invites from Ireland are greatly welcomed!

Our thanks to Toby at Bridgend who has contributed these great pictures from the Space Hoppers shows in Blaengarw and Bridgend central library, where Jon also picked up an excellent Curry Goat caribbean lunch!  For more details about The Summer Reading Challenge, you can visit The Reading Agency here


Space Hoppers Live!

For most of July, Mark and his rap science colleague, Jon Chase, have been touring the libraries and theatres of the UK promoting science and reading. The tour is part of The Summer Reading Challenge, in association with the BBC,  The Reading Agency and MacMillan, the publishers of Mark’s Space Hoppers book.

Events in theatres and libraries are planned throughout July and August, and Mark and Jon have already made appearances at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield, The Mitchell Library Theatre in Glasgow, Brunton Hall in Musselburgh, and other venues inDuloch, Dalgety Bay, Ystradgynlais, Matlock, Buxton, and Port Talbot, as well as promoting the tour and Challenge on The Roy Noble Show, on BBC Radio Wales, and MacAulay and Co, on BBC Radio Scotland.

Any enquiries about the tour and The Summer Reading Challenge are warmly welcomed and can be directed through our Contact page.


Doctor Who: Big Bang

The second part of Steven Moffat’s series finale left many of the big questions unanswered, like who or what was responsible for destroying the TARDIS, who was the owner of the voice declaring that, “silence will fall” and what is so special about Amy?  Instead Moffat has simply kicked these into touch for use as the next series’ story arc.

From The Pandorica Opens where the entire Universe seems to be gunning for the Doctor we suddenly find that the story taking place in an ever shrinking bottle. Like some djinni trapped inside a lantern the characters are rushing around a confined space, literally. The fez that the Doctor wears for part of the story may, in fact, be a signifier to elements of Aladdin that Moffat seems to draw on. If the TARDIS is the magic lantern (it’s bigger on the inside then it is on the outside and a magical character, the Doctor, lives inside it) then the Vortex Manipulator is the magic ring with which the Doctor defeats the forces marshalled against him.  Aladdin uses the magic ring in the faerie story to transport himself to Maghreb. There he recovers his wife and the lamp and defeats the evil sorcerer. The Doctor also uses the Vortex Manipulator to travel ancient Stonehenge and the heart of the exploding TARDIS to recover his female companions, Amy and River Song and it enables him to defeat the forces working against him.

To Moffat the art of telling the story is more important than the story itself as once again his love of faerie stories comes to the fore. For this reason, perhaps, we feel inclined to forgive some of the ridiculous plotting. Like, for example, the plan to dispose of the Doctor by locking him inside the Pandorica. If the committee of aliens who formed that plan had then gone on to design a horse they’d have ended up with a Camel (but I can hear Zaphod Beeblebrox saying, “Hey, don’t knock it. It worked didn’t it?)

Under Moffat Doctor Who has increasingly become a tale of folklore. The role of the Doctor alternates from that of mystic and magician to Trickster (not to be confused with the character from the The Sarah Jane Adventures) who entices the young hero and heroine onto their road to adventure. This role of the Trickster is shared with River Song especially when the Doctor himself is induced onto an adventure. All of this is a refreshing change to the Skiffy that was the usual fare from Russell T. Davies, particularly the animal heads on human bodies aliens and the re-presenting of mainstream blockbuster hits and Buffy the Vampire Slayer dressed up to look like science fiction (with absolutely no regard to any actual science).

Perhaps the biggest irritation that has carried on from RTD’s time is the obsession with trying to raise the stakes for the season finale. The sequence goes something like this, End of the World, End of the Universe, End of Time (and therefore the Universe) and finally the Not Even  Beginning of the Universe Time –Space continuum thing. Where do we go from here?

Couldn’t we just have a cracking good story (whoops, no pun intended) where the end of the universe is metaphorical rather than needing to be literal? This perception that that’s what’s needed to create tension for the simpleton audience is making the vast, mysterious, mind-blowing entity that is the Universe seem awfully parochial.

Written by Peter Grehan


Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens


Now I have to admit that I had a sneaky suspicion that the Pandorica was built to contain the Doctor about halfway through this episode. After all, to a large number of alien species, he must be the epitome of evil. Frankly though it’s pretty difficult to keep a half formed suspicion in your head when there are sooh many twist and turns going on and a veritable trawler net full of red herrings flapping about. It could be argued that all these villainous aliens where trying to do the right thing and save the universe/space/time. Morality is so often down to a species own point of view after all.

There were elements of Indiana Jones in the cave under Stonehenge and a homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), when the Cyberman’s head seemed to grow tentacles with which to move and attempt to assimilate Amy. The highlight for me was the appearance of so many enemies of the Doctor appearing in the same underground chamber thingy at the same time. I do suspect though that apart from the Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans the other aliens we saw were a bit on the cheap side. The ‘extras’ of the Who universe as it were. You can’t include the Autons in this since they were a very useful plot device enabling the twist of humans who weren’t humans. They were plastic Roman soldiers like the ones I used to collect as a boy, only bigger. I remember the Draconians (a very honorable race and eventual allies of humanity as well as friends of the Doctor) being mentioned in River Song’s roll call of alien visitors to 102 AD Earth, but not a sign of them did I see. I would be so impressed if they had turned up to help the Doctor and weren’t part of the conspiracy against him.

But there are wheels within wheels within Steven Moffat’s plotting and I am certain that things are not what they seem.  Amy Pond has been something of an enigma from the start of this series. It was the reason that the Doctor took her along with him in the TARDIS after all. Is she even human? Was Rory ever human? And why not just shoot the Doctor rather than going to all that trouble to build a box to lock him in? Questions, questions and all of them promising a splendid series finale in The Big Bang next Saturday. I’m reasonably confident that Steven Moffat won’t disappoint.

Written by Peter Grehan


Doctor Who: The Lodger

I believe that the revived series of Doctor Who does have a tendency to want to cash in on whatever or whoever happens to be trendy at the moment. I can’t seem to turn the telly on these days without seeing James Corden. If you’re the flavour of the moment then every drama seems to wants you. For example, sometimes I don’t know which TV programme with Caroline Quentin in it I’m watching!

As there’s this thing called the World Cup going on at the moment there are fewer opportunities to see any actors anyway. So was that why we had the Doctor play an apparently pointless game of football? Why exactly was the Doctor fart-arsing around in the park when a lot of very nice helpful people were being done away with? If it had been nasty, selfish, horrible people it might not have been so bad. We can afford to lose some of them and anyway I thought that was supposed to be the convention? You start off randomly killing the unlikeable characters, then build up the tension by making the victims more and more likeable. There was a veritable conveyer belt of serial killings going on while he was faffing about kicking a ball, creating a whirly non-technology-technology detector (couldn’t he have just said ‘passive’ detector rather than all that guff?), cooking an omelette and working in a call centre.

Ah, but that’s missing the point isn’t it? This was the sit-com episode. The ‘thing’ at the top of the stairs was just there to make it “fit” into the Doctor Who canon. It was mostly about the Doctor being alien in the style of Mork and Mindy, ALF and My Favourite Martian amongst the mundane of everyday life. It did for Matt Smith’s Doctor what Human Nature and The Family of Blood did (more stylishly) for David Tennant’s Doctor. It contrasts him with ordinary human beings so that he is revealed more clearly to be alien and extra-ordinary. And it all meshed rather well. James Corden was (am I really saying this?) well cast. The chemistry between him and Matt Smith’s Doctor actually worked. Matt Smith seems to have a reached a point where he is confidently defining his Doctor. And it made a pleasant change for ‘her indoors’ (that’s Amy I’m talking about) to be stuck inside the TARDIS for most of an episode. The overall effect was very enjoyable with the humour actually complementing the story rather than jarring with it as in some episodes.

The creepy upstairs lodger was nicely presented with those, almost iconic, top of the stairs moments reminiscent of Psycho. Like the first floor flat the plot’s internal logic of the spacecraft needing a human to pilot it required something of its own perception filter, but you could put that down to alien internal logic perhaps. The ship, when finally revealed, was nicely designed with its spider-like legs giving it a parasitic insect look. It was also reminiscent of the Jagaroth spacecraft in City of Death that had also come to grief on Earth and whose sole survivor was attempting to save it and its crew at all costs (to humanity that is). Maybe this was an episode with so many errors they cancelled each other out to produce something that was very entertaining? Or maybe it was just well done?

Written by Peter Grehan


Designed by Forte Web Solutions