It’s A Rap!

The world’s leading specialist image agency Science Photo Library has released rap video ‘A Better View’, together with Associate Lecturer and musician Jonathan Chase, in a bid to boost school children’s interest in science – a subject often seen as dull.

‘A Better View’ is available at no extra cost as part of Science Photo Library’s ‘Schools Subscription’ package, which allows teachers to use SPL’s image and video content in classrooms. For the first time, Science Photo Library gives schools unlimited access to its collection for a minimal licensing fee.

Science Photo Library’s Managing Director Giancarlo Zuccotto says: “Being aware of the pressures many teachers face today with limited resources, we are delighted to offer schools a highly cost-effective way to access our vast and up-to-date imagery, which covers most of the areas in the UK curriculum”.

In ‘A Better View’ Science Photo Library uses some of its stunning video clips to show how moving images can aid understanding in science and make the complicated seem simple. The company teamed up with musician Jonathan Chase, who has previously worked with NASA, The Royal Society and The Science Museum in London.

Jonathan Chase says: “I started my career as a Science Rapper mainly by coincidence. When I was growing up I used to DJ, but when I started studying science, my lyrics just naturally evolved around the topic. One day I showed my professor a verse I’d done, and he thought it was good and informed a lady from NASA. She asked me to do a rap for their Astrobiology magazine, and now I continue to search out similar opportunities.”

Science Photo Library’s Motion Content Editor Alison Somerville says: “We were excited to work with Jonathan, and are always on the lookout for new ways to popularise science and show our footage in a relevant and engaging way. We wanted to give educators something a bit different that captures pupils’ attention and shows how the science they learn is related to the world around us.”


Vincent and The Doctor

As a child I remember feeling more than a little frustrated by the historical stories in Doctor Who. Stories like Marco Polo, The Aztecs, The Reign of Terror and The Crusade whilst compelling always seemed to lack that certain something. In other words there weren’t any aliens and monsters in them. This was probably a good thing since it did develop an interest in history within me, but at the time…  I remember Marco Polo seemed particularly frustrating since the TARDIS was in need of repair and in the possession of Marco Polo, while its crew were stuck in the middle of the political intrigues of the time. As an adult I now find it a delightful story and it has become, retrospectively, one of my all time favourites. A pity then that it was one of the early stories that was wiped by the BBC and is now missing from the archives.

Perhaps there is a problem with historical stories in that they don’t appeal to youngsters? They’re liable to seem too much like a history lesson. The new series makers have obviously decided to deal with this problem by combining history with monsters. Up until this story I had considered this policy annoying at best and sacrilegious at worst. Vincent and the Doctor however managed to create a convincing story featuring Van Gogh despite the inclusion of a monster. The kids had their alien and, possibly without realising it, learnt something about one of the most important artists 19th century at the same time.

Tony Curran’s portrayal of  Vincent Van Gogh was so well done that, frankly, it didn’t matter if there was a monster in the story or not.

Not only was the history (explanations, casting, acting and locations) done to a high standard, but the issue of depression was handled sensitively and movingly. I know of at least two fans of the series who suffer from depression and both felt the episode did their condition justice. Something of a special story I think.

Written by Peter Grehan


Doctor Who: Cold Blood

It would have been nice to have the Silurians as allies against all those alien threats that humanity constantly faces in Doctor Who, but think of the continuity problems! The production team have enough on their hands trying to cover the cracks (pun intended) by all those time paradoxes caused by removing people from time. When you think about it’s like the plot from It’s a Wonderful Life multiplied many times over. Look at the way the lives of so many people changed when George Bailey was suddenly removed from time. This week it was Rory’s turn to be erased, which is rather annoying because he balanced the character mix inside the TARDIS nicely. I have the feeling that his inclusion in the series, and then the TARDIS, was only done to allow for the punch line of Amy losing all her memories of him. The pain of grief is a price worth paying to keep someone we care about alive in our memories and she was denied that gift?

I enjoyed the episode, even with the slightly clichéd military commander trying to start a war (in real life the military who have experience of war are often the most cautious about starting one). It was nice to see Stephen Moore as the Silurian Eldane (though he will always be Marvin, the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Universe to me). The plot was very reminiscent, in terms of humanity learning to cooperate with another species, with that of The Frontier in Space. The alien species in question here were the Draconians and as Tim Farr of Cardiff Timeless pointed out the design and makeup of the new Silurians would have been so much better if used for the Draconians. Now the Silurians look very similar to Draconians and it begs the question, what will Draconians look like when they eventually make their re-appearance?

Written by Peter Grehan


Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth

Hoorah! I guessed right this week, it was the Silurians, though like the Cybermen, Sontarans, Macra and Daleks they have been given a makeover. I wasn’t looking forward to this episode because the Welsh mining location and underground scenario reminded me rather of The Green Death a Third Doctor story that I didn’t particularly enjoy. However, as I watched this episode I found myself being reminded of another Third Doctor story called Inferno, one that I did very much enjoy.

It’s difficult for any story from the new series of Doctor Who to compete with the complexities of a good classic story developed over several episodes (In Inferno there are  a parallel universe, a form of scientific werewolfism, Britain under a fascist dictatorship and the end of the world) even when that story is in two parts. Given those constraints The Hungry Earth is developing nicely. The plot is flowing nicely and there haven’t been any time wasting chasing and screaming bits. I’m hoping part two continues the same way.

It has always disappointed me that given the Silurians (I believe the politically correct name for them now is Homo Reptilians) live in the Earth and are more technologically advanced than humans, they have never made an appearance when the Earth is being invaded by some malevolent alien species to pitch in against them. But that’s the fan in me; other factors in the production of a TV series are more influential than what I think would make a really cool story. I do remember some US comic book in which invading aliens easily defeat all that the human race can throw against them only to have their collective arse kicked by various Earth elementals that then make an appearance.

I have high hopes for episode two, Cold Blood.

Written by the inimitable Peter Grehan


Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice

This was one of those episodes, where any long established fan of Doctor Who would have had fun trying to guess who the Dream Lord really was. I had my fingers crossed that it might be The Celestial Toymaker from the First Doctor story of the same name. My second choice was that it might have been something to do with a Second Doctor story entitled The Mind Robber, where a dimension outside of reality is controlled by a character known as The Master (of fiction not to be confused with the evil nutter Time Lord). Both stories had a surreal quality with individuals who had the powers and intellect to challenge the Doctor and his companions to their limits. As a child I found The Celestial Toymaker a particularly disturbing story set in a dimension without any understandable or consistent rules. Children need boundaries they say and the Doctor’s advisory was constantly changing theirs within the game and the Toymaker’s created dimension. The story was essentially a series of games played as challenges against the Toymaker’s champions. It didn’t help my peace of mind that these adversaries invariably cheated. Perhaps the highlight was Cyril the Schoolboy who bore an uncanny resemblance to one Billy Bunter.

All this speculation was fun while it lasted because it turned out the Dream Lord was in fact a physical incarnation of the Doctor’s darker side created by some psychic pollen that had found its way into the TARDIS. So technically that would be The Valeyard then? He was first seen The Trial of a Time Lord a Sixth Doctor story. I’m guessing that no one dared speak his name in the script for proprietary reasons, something that has plagued the reappearance of Doctor Who monsters and characters because of the peculiar way the copyright of those things were decided by the BBC in the days of the classic series. In other words they probably needed permission to use that character.

I think Amy’s Choice would have worked really well in the old classic format of several short episodes. As it was there seemed little enough time to create the mystery and tension, do all the flipping back and forth between dreams, and begin to resolve the plot. This was especially true as there was the compulsory running around and screaming while being chased by those creepy OAPs (and they were creepy even before they started regurgitating alien eyes!) For a small village there seemed an awful lot of pensioners. In fact this Earth Dream threat did seem very contrived and I would have liked to have seen something a little more imaginative appear here. But then, I suppose, the argument could be that it was something younger viewers could relate to. Good job then the makers of The Celestial Toymaker and The Mind Robber hadn’t thought about doing that for two of the most innovative and iconic stories of early Doctor Who.

Written by Peter Grehan


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