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black panther

Essential tips from industry experts

The Marvel Cinematic Universe gets some royal blood

TOP SCREEN ADAPTATIONS Classic SF and fantasy novels on screen

DESERT ISLAND BOOKS

A galaxy of authors pick their fave reads

An epic celebration of sci-fi and fantasy’s most exciting frontier!

PLUS!

200 years of frankenstein • BLACK LIGHTNING ALTERED CARBON • MUTE • ASH VS EVIL DEAD more!


Red Alert Mar 2018

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While technology has made the effects easier to create these days, Campbell says, “Fake blood still tastes like shit.”

“Up next, a used chainsaw. Going once, going twice…”

STAR EXCLUSIVE

FATHER’S DAY

Season three of Ash Vs Evil Dead reveals Bruce Campbell’s vulnerable side…

In a career that’s spanned more than 35 years, Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams has fought his way to hell and back. But have his soul-torturing experiences prepared him for… fatherhood?! That’s the question posed by season three of Ash Vs Evil Dead, in which the beloved Deadite slayer returns, alongside pals Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), and frenemy Ruby (Lucy Lawless). The team is joined this year by Brandy Barr (newbie Arielle Carver-O’Neill), aka Ash’s long lost-daughter. “Ash might actually have emotions this season,” laughs Campbell. “Once he accepts the fact that he’s a father, he’s like, ‘Holy shit! I have to protect her.’ She’s job one... I have a

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daughter. [Arielle] looks like my daughter. And we had scenes that were actually surprisingly difficult to do. A couple of times I couldn’t get through the scene, because it got kind of real. Evil’s like the mafia – if they can’t get to Ash, they’re gonna get to his family. So she’s in grave danger from the second she appears in the season until the end of the season. “Ash has never done this shit before,” Campbell explains. “It’s all new. That’s what keeps actors interested – keep evolving that character. The show has to grow and evolve. So that’s what we’re hoping to do in season three too – grow it and add new characters.” Campbell adds that Ash will also face an existential crisis this year in regards to his

vocation. “A little more of the Joseph Campbell myth thing is gonna come out. Ash wants to know, ‘Why the hell me? Why is it me?’ We also get to see Ash kind of get to his breaking point. He gets to the point where maybe he can’t do it anymore. So there is good stuff this season.” As far as Campbell’s own breaking point, the actor warns Red Alert, “The actual job of playing Ash gets harder every year. So we should kill him pretty soon.” But lest fans worry Campbell plans to retire from his signature role after this season’s ten episodes, he admits he’s already discussed some ideas for a fourth year; should the Starz network choose to renew it. “If season four comes about, everything will be very different,” he teases. “In every way that you can imagine.” In the meantime, Campbell’s delighted by the horror resurgence experienced in 2017, thanks to critically acclaimed film hits like Get Out and IT, as well as TV’s ongoing sagas. “Horror’s kicking ass. I love it. Those are our brothers. If The Walking Dead does well, I’m not jealous; I’m fucking happy. They brought it out of the darkness. They made it mainstream. We all owe a big debt to The Walking Dead.


Red Alert Mar 2018

SCI-FI Y M

Arielle Carver-O’Neill joins the cast as Ash’s long-lost daughter, Brandy.

aerial assault SCI-FI TV ROUND UP

don’t quote me

“Even though it can be a bit icky (like really bad flu) it has always, always turned out good for Dr Who.” Peter Capaldi reassures a young fan that everything will be okay post-regeneration.

© Getty (2)

Ash Vs Evil Dead returns to Starz in the US on 25 February.

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“At the end of the day, horror’s just another genre. That’s what I think people realise now. When I first started out, horror was one rung above porn. It was looked down upon. You were either starting your career in horror or you were ending it in horror. Now it’s okay to just be in horror. I’m glad it’s not being picked on anymore… It’s just another genre.” JMc

•B

Evil’s like the mafia – if they can’t get to Ash, they’re gonna get to his family

We all knew it already, but HBO has finally confirmed that we will have to wait until 2019 for the final season of Game Of Thrones. In further unsurprising news, The Walking Dead has been renewed for ninth season. In another corner of the George RR Martin-verse (is that a thing?), a series based on his space-set novella Nightflyers has been picked up by Syfy. Boardwalk Empire’s Gretchen Mol leads the cast. Gillian Anderson says that season 11 will be her last on The X-Files. TV series based on Snowpiercer gets the greenlight from TNT in the US. X-Men saga The Gifted, and Netflix shows The Punisher and Dark all awarded second seasons. In slightly interconnected news, the second season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (now on Netflix) will be its last. Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan working on Shining Vale, a horror comedy for Showtime.

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KAYVAN NOVAK

The comedian and Four Lions star reveals his genre favourites FAVOURITE SF/FANTASY FILM My favourite sci-fi movie (apart from Star Wars, Aliens, The Terminator and RoboCop) is probably David Cronenberg’s The Fly. I saw that movie when I was 12, and it disturbed the hell out of me. I definitely never looked at ring doughnuts the same way again… What I love about films like that is the practical effects, make-up and use of miniatures. A radio-controlled ED-209 would make an excellent gift. Santa, you have 15 seconds to comply… FAVOURITE SF/FANTASY COMIC When I was a kid, my uncle would take me to Forbidden Planet. He gave me my first Judge Dredd comic, and from that moment on I was obsessed with 2000 AD. He taught me to always keep the comics in their dust jackets, and I actually did! They remain in their dust jackets to this day. In fact, I might jump on eBay and see if I am sitting on a comic goldmine... FAVOURITE SF/FANTASY TV I’ve always struggled to get into any sci-fi series bar Quantum Leap. I always wanted to get into Doctor Who, but I never could. I also own the entire Battlestar Galactica on Blu-ray unwatched. GUILTY SF/FANTASY PLEASURE After watching Terminator 2, I tried making a stop-motion version, moulding my very own T-1000 out of plasticine and tin foil. Sadly, it was almost impossible to do with my dad’s Hi-8 camcorder, because every time I would cut it, the damn thing would spin the tape back two seconds. SO The Celebrity Voicemail Show – now on BBC Three – imagines what it would be like to listen to the voicemails left for George Lucas while shooting the original Star Wars.

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black panther

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black panther

Black Panther is here – and it may be Marvel’s most radical blockbuster yet. As Nick Setchfield discovers, it’s a jungle out there…

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mute

the Duncan Jones has returned to the universe of Moon for sci-fi noir Mute. Ian Berriman went on set

TREA S

panking paddles. Cat o’ nine tails. Eight-and-a-half inch dildos branded “Rebel Big Dong”. These are not generally items you encounter on a set visit. But right now your SFX correspondent is squeezed into a gap next to such a display, desperately trying not to send any clattering to the ground with an accidental elbow nudge. Awkward. It’s a freezing cold November afternoon on the set of Mute, a sci-fi noir directed by Duncan

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Jones that marks Netflix’s most intriguing challenge to the movie-making hegemony yet. We’re inside Kraftwerk Rummelsburg, a cavernous, disused power station in what was once East Berlin, littered with redundant remnants of its former function. On a gallery above stand banks of old controls with levers and dials like something from Metropolis. Inside this awe-inspiring space, Jones’s art department has built an underground flea market called the Hackers’ Hall. Red uplighters and dry ice conjure a moody atmosphere as we examine the wares.


mute

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winchester: THE HOUSE THAT GHOSTS BUILT

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winchester: THE HOUSE THAT GHOSTS BUILT

THE

ARCHITECTS of

FEAR A sprawling Gothic mansion holds terrible secrets in

Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built. Josh Winning dares to step inside...

I

n San Jose, California, there exists a house that defies explanation. Its maze of 161 rooms includes 40 bedrooms, 47 fireplaces and two ballrooms, while its floating foundation has saved it from destruction-by-earthquake at least twice in the past century. The Winchester Mystery House is a Rubik’s cube of a residence that, during its non-stop construction between 1886 and 1922, was home to just one person: widow Sarah Winchester. After her husband died from tuberculosis in 1881, Winchester spent nearly 40 years expanding her home piece by piece until it resembled an immense theme park attraction. Naturally, it’s now a museum and open to the public 364 days a year. “We had expectations of a really scary house when we first visited,” admits Peter Spierig, one half of the twin directing team known as the Spierig Brothers. “But getting to know the house and the history and stories about Sarah Winchester, we’ve grown very fond of the place. Her house is full of mysterious and surprising oddities, but also designs and patented features that make a lot of sense.” It’s easy to see why he and brother Michael fell under the mansion’s spell and resolved to tell Sarah’s story in Winchester, an old-school

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What’s the collective noun for science fiction and fantasy writers? Whatever it is, we have one here, as we round up loads of the biggest names in the business to tell us what they’re up to, what books they’d take to a desert island, and what’s exciting them in 2018...

PAPERBACK WRITERS

the books issue PAPERBACK WRITERS

CLAIRE NORTH Writer of The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August and The Sudden Appearance Of Hope. Her latest, 84K, is out in May NEXT ON THE SLATE

A book set at the dawn of the 20th century about curses, shamans, spies, war, truth, lies, opium, ghosts, imperialism, stethoscopes and the importance of punctual railways. And a story for Black Mirror [’s upcoming anthology book]. And a holiday. DESERT ISLAND BOOKS

The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny and A Wizard Of Earthsea, by Ursula le Guin. Technically one of these is 10 books, and if I could get away with it I’d ask for the Earthsea Quartet and get four for the price of one, because they’re just so damn good. Both prove that you can have epic worldbuilding, adventure and imagination told through deeply personal and human voices. Both are written with such easy beauty that you’re not reading words on the page – all that exists are stories.

EXCITING IN 2018

More people reading SF because it’s awesome, rather than with an embarrassed “yeah, but I’m not a geek really…” More books that ask bigger and more dangerous questions about the world we live in, while being kick-ass awesome fun. Sure, SF/ fantasy can ask big questions; but it also delights in adventure and possibility, and that is a gift too. More stories being told by diverse writers, because if any genre is going to run up the flag for “human” being a condition we all share, it’s SF.


the books issue PAPERBACK WRITERS

JUSTINA ROBSON Author of Mappa Mundi, the Quantum Gravity series, Glorious Angels and The Switch NEXT ON THE SLATE

I’m writing a fantasy novel, After The War: Salvation’s Fire, for Rebellion. I’m also preparing to write Glorious Angels 2: Hell’s Ditch, which will be available exclusively for Patreon patrons during its creation and shortly afterwards. I also have two short stories on the go. DESERT ISLAND BOOKS

I was introduced to Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons in 1984 by my then art teacher and alternate dad, Tom Guy. He was always passionate about art and books, and while our sixth form class was drawing or whatever he read this book out loud to us. It’s so funny, and so charming – a pastiche of a gothic novel in which a very sensible character debunks and defuses a world of brooding, rural gloom, changing the fortunes of the depressed and deranged into lives of excitement, hope and challenge. It probably leaks into everything I write one way or another. I love every word of it. My other choices are The Hobbit and Alice In Wonderland. I’m not picking these for any particular literary value (sorry) but because they combine three things I’d want to have – happy memories of the past, an evocation of my childhood in which all my later dreams were formed and to which I return to find my sense of wonder when it goes astray, and the stories themselves which contain the right mixture of awe, terror and humour. EXCITING IN 2018

I like what the small presses are doing all over the place, collecting anthologies on kickstartups, showcasing unusual writers, and championing visions that deserve to get out into the world and expand our minds in directions we wouldn’t otherwise be able to go (in particular Newcon Press and Comma Press).

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Movie and TV adaptations have taken SF and fantasy classics to the masses. We ask top authors to tell us their faves – and three more reveal what it’s like to see their work on screen...

under the tome

the books issue adaptations

THE HANDMAID’S TALE (2017-) Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood

Joe Hill

For me, The Handmaid’s Tale is the best first season of television ever. I sat down with it half a year ago and my mind keeps going back to it. Maybe that’s no surprise. I can’t be the only one who has the clammy feeling that in this particular era, the world of Gilead is dangerously close to clawing its way through the membrane that separates make-believe from reality. The Handmaid’s Tale (the adaptation) is a work of grinding suspense, punctuated by shocking outbursts of cruelty. It’s also shot through with bright shafts of hope, like sun piercing the gaps in the planks across a boarded up window. Elisabeth Moss is brilliant (brilliant, brilliant, brilliant) and her performance vaults her into the very highest ranks of American actors. But let’s hear it for Samira Wiley, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella, and OT Fagbenle, doing some of the best

work of their lives, in roles that shine with wit, vulnerability and emotional authenticity. But then they did have good source material to work from. Margaret Atwood’s novel remains every bit as vital as when it was first published in 1985, every bit as harrowing, every bit as ominous, every bit as funny and moving and wonderful and terrible. It ought to be taught to every high school, alongside Orwell’s 1984. The Hulu series is such a triumph largely because it remains intensely faithful to its foundational work. Strange Weather is out now.

Our protagonist is Offred, a woman used for her body.


the books issue adaptations

Jodie Foster’s scientist inspired a generation of young women.

CONTACT (1997)

getty (1)

“What do you mean it isn’t new?” That’s what my father said after watching the miniseries of The Handmaid’s Tale and learning that the Atwood novel it was based on was not a recent work, but a modernisation of a classic. “Well,” he said, “they must have changed a lot.” What’s distressing, of course, is that they didn’t have to. While praise certainly goes to the stellar acting and stunning execution, the true power of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is in the sheer realism, the uncanny way the mini-series is at once incredibly loyal to the original 1980s novel, and entirely at home in its near-future setting. The book was unnerving, but the show is positively chilling, the believability of the setting and feasibility of the plot fusing to create a wholly believable dystopia, especially against the United States’s current social, political, and religious backdrop. Even if The Handmaid’s Tale were a modern concoction, it would be a brilliant show. But the fact that, in an age of constant change, the issues in this book are still so timely, so applicable, is what makes the show a triumph. A Darker Shade Of Magic is out now.

John Gwynne

One fateful summer in 1997, my mom took tweenage me to the movies. I sat rapt, my Coke and Raisinets forgotten, as Dr Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) barrelled through a wormhole. Time behaves like a fever dream, the universe folds in on itself, and nothing calms down until she leaves her rigid safety gear and trusts in zero-g. “No words,” she says, laughing and weeping at the golden galaxy outside. “They should’ve sent a poet.” Contact was an enormous influence on me — both the film adaptation and the novel by Carl Sagan, which is exactly the kind of sci-fi you’d expect him to write: lyrical and profound, a deep dive into science, spirituality, and human nature. The movie changes some details, but those core ideas all shine through. Twenty years later, it’s still a great watch. The pacing never drags, the acting is solid (Jodie Foster, for crying out loud), and its notes of nationalist politics, sexism in STEM, misinformed media, and fundamentalist fear are eerily relevant. But as with all of Sagan’s work, the ultimate message is one of hope. Science and religion can coexist. Countries can do great things together. The universe can be understood. Record Of A Spaceborn Few is out this year.

A Time Of Dread is out now.

Becky Chambers

VE Schwab

Based on the novels by JRR Tolkien

The Lord Of The Rings had a profound effect upon my young mind and heart and to this day it remains my nostalgic “first love” in the world of books. When I try to analyse or break down what makes Jackson’s take on Middle-earth so utterly awesome and captivating, for me it comes down to two things: character and all-round epic-ness. Each and every battle scene in the film feels breathtakingly epic while managing to continually build an increasing sense of scale – from the running fight through the halls of Moria, to the Battle of Helm’s Deep, and then to the culmination of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and the Black Gate, each of these set-pieces stunning and breathtaking, and each of them bigger and bolder than the previous scene. But it is the sense of character that roots the films, and gives those epic scenes their heart. Somehow Jackson perfectly nailed the central characters, and made me truly love and care for them all over again. For goodness’ sake, I cried when Gandalf fell in Moria, which is ridiculous, because I knew he wasn’t dead! Jackson’s wonderful balance between the grand scene and the heartfelt character beats has become my mantra for writing. Epic and intimate.

Based on the novel by Carl Sagan

The Handmaid’s Tale imagines a future where women have lost all of their rights.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS (2001-03)

Frodo and Sam on their quest to destroy the One Ring.

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The original science fiction novel celebrates its bicentennial. Joseph McCabe cries “It’s alive!”

getty (1)

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t’s the urtext of science fiction. The Rosetta stone. The book responsible for the genre’s vocabulary – establishing its themes, announcing its promise. Tales of speculative fiction were told before Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus was first published 200 years ago, on 1 January 1818. It was author Mary Shelley, however, who launched SF as a viable means of mainstream storytelling. Before HG Wells wrote of Martians invading Earth, before Jules Verne made Captain Nemo the scourge of the planet’s oceans, a teenage girl conceived of a man, Victor Frankenstein, who tried to create life, but instead birthed a monster. Shelley’s story began in June of 1816, when she and her husband, the Romantic poet Percy Shelley, challenged each other and their friends Lord Byron and Doctor John Polidori to frighten each other with original ghost stories over the course of three days at Villa Diodati, Byron’s mansion in Switzerland. Shelley’s life had been one plagued by death. Her mother, the feminist pioneer Mary


time machine frankenstein

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Reviews

Get sci-fi news, reviews and features at gamesradar.com/sfx

cinema

THE SHAPE OF WATER A Fin Romance released 16 February

15 | 123 minutes Director Guillermo del Toro Cast Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones

Eleven years ago, a girl met a faun at the bottom of a labyrinth. During a slow waltz of seduction, he revealed that she was a princess and that he could return her to the magical kingdom of her birth. In kind, the intoxicated girl promised to do anything he asked. The Shape Of Water swaps the war-torn 1940s for the early ’60s, and the leafy forests of rural Spain for a slice of urban America, but it could easily be the sequel to Pan’s Labyrinth. It creates a bubble of the otherworldly out of the mundane and conjures romance in the midst of conflict – this time during the Cold War between the Americans and Russians. Our protagonist is Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman working as a cleaner at the Occam Aerospace Research Center in Baltimore. Apart from seeing her reclusive artist neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins) and spunky work friend

Zelda (Octavia Spencer), Elisa spends her time alone. One day a strange amphibious creature is brought to the facility by the cruel Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon). Curious, Elisa begins to visit it in secret... For more than 20 years, director Guillermo del Toro has made films in multiple genres (whether it’s the monster-bashing theatrics of Pacific Rim or the scuttling horror of The Devil’s Backbone). But one thing that brings them together is his love of outcasts. Coming from a childhood spent in the dark embrace of gothic romance films such as Bride Of Frankenstein, The Shape Of Water is del Toro’s tribute and his modern retelling. It’s also his most tender love story. As Elisa and the creature are unable to speak, they create their own language of signs and expressions. It’s beautiful to watch, and more profound than speech could ever be. The performances are also so good they tingle. Without any dialogue, Hawkins could have easily felt blank, but her face is a whirlpool of emotion. She goes from mischievous (signing at Strickland to go fuck himself ) to

Michael Shannon was so annoyed that he missed the picnic.

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The next course was a platter of seaweed wraps. shy (tentatively offering the creature boiled eggs) to agonised. At one point she tells Giles that the creature is the only thing that has ever understood her, and each of her signs is as fierce as a slap. Strickland, meanwhile, is the most repulsive thing you’ll see on screen this year. A softly-spoken sadist, he slithers into every corner of the film, inflicting torture on anything he deems to be different. As expected from del Toro, the film looks sumptuous. The colour green pops up everywhere, in clothing and lighting, in the Day-Glo neon of key lime pie

del Toro subverts the damsel in distress and the bath water that Elisa sinks into each morning. It coats every frame in a dreamlike, aquatic sheen. Then there is the design of the creature himself. Played by del Toro’s frequent muse Doug Jones, the creature is a piece of moving art; with his sinewy masculine


Reviews PLENT Y MORE FISH IN THE SEA

Four more cases of tellurian/amphibian attraction

The Gill-Man & Kay

C  reature From The Black Lagoon (1954) was a big influence on Guillermo del Toro. After seeing the film at age seven, he used to sketch the titular Gill-Man and Kay (the ichthyologist he abducts) over and over: “I had them eating ice cream, on a double bicycle, having dinner…”

Abe Sapien & Nuala

T  his isn’t Doug Jones’s first chance for romance in a del Toro film. In Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Abe Sapien becomes smitten with Elf princess Nuala… who ends up sacrificing herself to save Hellboy’s life, and dying in Abe’s arms. Gulp.

Ichthyander & Gutiere

frame, he could be a statue of a Greek warrior, if it weren’t for the streaked blue skin, webbed claws and inky reptilian eyes that mark him as unnervingly Other. He is, we have to admit, strangely sexy. It’s also a film that doesn’t shy away from daring displays of sexuality. Elisa, though timid with others, isn’t timid about exploring her own body. Each morning, like clockwork, she masturbates before leaving for work, allowing herself a few moments of pleasure before the grey nine-to-five. Appropriately, she touches herself in the bath, foreshadowing the water-based

love to come. Neither is she coy about her attraction to the creature, visiting him like an eager lover and bringing him food and music. It’s still unusual to see sexually confident women in mainstream cinema, and this subversion of the usual damsel in distress lights up the screen. At times the film comes across as a little too idyllic. Elisa lives in a dilapidated but beautiful apartment above an old cinema. Somehow she’s able to afford this on a tiny janitor’s salary, yet kids with trust funds would turn their bank accounts inside out to afford

such an airy palace. Then there are plot strands that aren’t utilised to full effect, such as double-crossing scientist Jacob working with the Russian mob to steal the creature. But that doesn’t stop how breathless you’ll feel while watching the romance between Elisa and her beastly beau unfold. A perfect fairytale for modern times, it crowns del Toro as a master storyteller for anyone who has felt alone and outcast, or too ugly to be loved. Kimberley Ballard The creature’s derrière was made from foam latex, while the markings on his body were inspired by Japanese engravings.

L  ike Abe Sapien, the titular character of 1962’s Amphibian Man (made in the USSR, but set in Mexico) was born a regular human. Then his surgeon father saved his life by replacing his lungs with shark gills. When he saves a girl from drowning, it’s love at first sight.

Marina & Troy Tempest

“ Marina, Aqua Marina,” the Stingray song goes, expressing submarine captain Troy Tempest’s yearning for the mermaid princess, “Why can’t you whisper the words that my heart is longing to hear?” Er, she’s mute, mate.

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zoom i n

IT’S WOSSISNAME! Dermot Crowley plays the priest in 1.03/1.04. In Return Of The Jedi he was Crix Madine, the general in charge of the attack on the shield generator on Endor.

“Right, serious faces, everyone.”

SERIES 1

HARD SUN

DID YOU SPOT? In 1.05, the killer’s car was previously owned by Herbert West – surely a nod to HP Lovecraft’s “Herbert West – Reanimator"?

End Of The World Blues UK Broadcast BBC One, Saturdays; all episodes available now on iPlayer US Broadcast On Hulu from 7 March Episodes Reviewed 1.01-1.06

The “pre-apocalypse” is nothing new. In cinemas, Last Night, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World and These Final Hours all played with a countdown to the end times; on the small screen, You, Me And The Apocalypse did the same. Neither is blending it with police procedural – Ben H Winters’s novel The Last Policeman follows a detective struggling on in the face of an impending comet strike.

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Luther creator Neil Cross’s pitch for Hard Sun has enough originality to make for a fascinating series, though. For one thing, the end of the world is some distance away – five years. For another, its cop partners, Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn), are locked into both mutual antagonism and dependency. Renko’s investigating Hicks for the murder of his previous partner, something he soon sniffs out. But after stumbling on a flash drive full of top-secret government data, the two are bound together by the knowledge that the hands of the

TRIVIA Filming the Thames-side Hicks/Renko fight in 1.01, Agyness Deyn accidentally smacked Jim Sturgess in the nose with a knuckleduster, resulting in a lot of blood!

doomsday clock are whirring inexorably towards midnight. As an engine of the series, that push-and-pull character dynamic is pretty effective. Hicks and Renko are interesting characters, with complicated lives (Hicks is sleeping with the dead man’s widow; Renko was nearly murdered by her mentally ill son, product of a rape). Sturgess lends the morally dubious Hicks a roguish charm, and Deyn excels at showing a chink of human frailty on the rare occasions we see a crack in Renko’s carapace. What’s disappointing is that often this end-of-the-world drama

SPECULATION Neil Cross knows what the series’ final scene will be, and says he “stole it from a British film”. Our money’s on 1961’s The Day The Earth Caught Fire. NITPICKS You’ve got to laugh when, trailing the priest in 1.03, Hicks disguises himself by pulling on a beanie hat. He doesn’t even do up his coat to hide his shirt and tie!

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The annual Theon Greyjoy lookalike competition was underway.

seems to have not much to do with the end of the world. At episode one’s close, Renko lets the cat out of the bag, handing info to a reporter. But then we jump to four weeks later, by which time the dossier’s been dismissed as a hoax by all but a few “truthers”. From hereon in, the apocalypse is principally the catalyst for a series of bogeymen: a divorced “family annihilator”; a religious crackpot preying on Good Samaritans; a hairless neopagan who lobotomises the suicidal. Even then, the idea of Hard Sun as motivation is only lightly touched upon; Richard Coyle’s Biblequoting fanatic doesn’t mention it until the end of his first episode. Anyone with a taste for the Grand Guignol will find these cases gruesomely entertaining, and they’re frequently fistclenchingly tense. But you may feel that there’s a more interesting story to be told. And with the focus firmly on Renko and Hicks’s triangular game of cat and mouse with both one another and ruthless MI5 operative Grace (the chillingly softly spoken Nikki

Cross pulls the rug out from under our feet Amuka-Bird), the duo’s Met colleagues don’t get much of a look in. Owain Arthur’s DS is basically a hanger for naff floral shirts, the promising Varada Sethu is given little to do beyond pull gif-worthy “unimpressed” faces, and anyone who can remember the name of Chook Sibtain’s copper deserves a prize. But then, in the final scene, Cross pulls the rug from under our feet in a way that suddenly makes the future of the series look very promising. If it returns, there’s scope for it to become something far more than a wacko-of-theweek show – to delve deep into the broader societal response to impending doom. So while it does so very late in the day, eventually Hard Sun justifies a second season. Ian Berriman

Times were tough; curtains had to suffice instead of walls.

best in show

The characters who make TV great

BART CURLISH

In Dirk Gently, mass murderers aren’t always what they seem… UK Broadcast Netflix US Broadcast BBC America, finished

At first glance, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’s Bart Curlish is a mass-murderer or a psychopath. When we first meet her, she’s slaughtering people with chilling efficiency, with no regard for who they are or what they’ve done. In fact, her explanation – that she’s a “holistic assassin”, bumping off who the universe tells her to – sounds like one of the worst excuses in history. It’s in the same ballpark as “big kids made me do it”. But spend more time with her, and it soon becomes clear that there may be something to this “holistic” killing thing. Just as Dirk’s apparent bumbling takes him to the next stage of his investigation, Bart does seem to only kill people who’ve done bad things – there’s a reason behind what she does, even if she has no idea what it is. There’s undeniably something otherworldly

about her, too – she’s seemingly immune to bullets, and as she puts it when casually walking in and out of a police cell: “Locks don’t work on me”. No wonder the mysterious Project Blackwing picked her up as an intriguing “anomaly”. While she has a body count to rival the Terminator’s, there’s a surprising sweetness to her, and a wide-eyed naïveté. She has no idea, for example, how cars or electrical devices work, and at one point admits to pink-haired cellmate Panto, “I used to be a lot shorter.” “Well, you were a child,” he replies. The last time we see Bart, she’s back in Project Blackwing, and – because the show has been cancelled – that’s where she’ll stay. But it’s good to remember that a locked door is no barrier to her, because the world’s a better place with Bart in it – even if it’s not necessarily a safer one. Richard Edwards march 2018 | sfx magazine |

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SFX 297 (Sampler)  

You can subscribe to this magazine @ www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk