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Movies! TV! Books! Comics! Games! People! Jar Jar!

reasons sci-fi conquered the world (in sfx’s lifetime)

sense8 On set for the

last ever episode

deadpool 2 Exclusive creator interview plus! neil gaiman • superman turns 80 • humans the expanse • COLONY • FAHRENHEIT 451 • more!

Red Alert June 2018


Mary Stewart also wrote The Crystal Cave, which was serialised by the BBC in 1991 as Merlin Of The Crystal Cave.


Mary meets many colourful characters on her travels.


We’re spirited away to a magical school in Mary And The Witch’s Flower – and an anime Shropshire! In the last few years, we’ve seen British fantasies go east and animated. The little-people classic The Borrowers was turned into an anime film called Arrietty, which transported the story to the Japanese countryside. It was followed by the quasi-ghost story When Marnie Was There; in the Marnie anime, the book’s Norfolk setting was swapped out for Hokkaido. Now Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who directed both of those films, has adapted a third British book. In Mary And The Witch’s Flower, an insecure young girl finds a magic broomstick which whisks her to a fabulous land in the clouds. This time round, Yonebayashi kept the setting British, to showcase the woods and fields and morning mists of Shropshire. Yonebayashi paid them a visit to check the rural vibe. “I paid the most attention to the natural landscape,” he says. “That was very carefully portrayed in the original book, The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, and so we wanted to portray the life of England and an old manor house. It’s very different from Japanese housing and architecture. We had the opportunity to see people actually living in those old houses.” Later on in the film, when Mary soars above the clouds, she finds a magic school that’s older than Hogwarts. The source book was written in 1971, long before Harry Potter was on the scene, and Yonebayashi says he only ever watched the first Potter film.

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Rather, the director was drawn to Stewart’s story because it gave him the chance to present magic, and especially magic transformations, in the glorious hand-drawn style that Japan still upholds even now, when much of the world has gone over to CG. Yonebayashi’s earlier films were made at Studio Ghibli, where he cut his teeth as an animator on Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Mary And The Witch’s Flower was made by a

new studio, Ponoc, though many Ghibli artists moved over to it. The animation style isn’t the only way that Mary feels old-school. None of the film’s characters watch TV, for example, or use computers or smartphones. This is in contrast to a tech-saturated anime film like Your Name. “The modern world is full of information,” says Yonebayashi, “on social networks, social media. People are really baffled by rumours, gossip,

Red Alert June 2018

brands… People are so controlled or influenced by this information. “I wanted to create a story in which the protagonist uses her own power and strength to move forward,” he declares. “That would be the ‘magic’ in the modern world.” In the film’s English-dubbed version, the magic characters are voiced by Kate Winslet (as a fruity headmistress), Jim Broadbent (as a mad science teacher) and a hairy Ewen “Spud” Bremner. Mary is energetically voiced by the Cheshire-born Ruby Barnhill, the giantfriending Sophie in The BFG. Mary is naturally lively, but she has comical complexes about her clumsy mishaps and flaming hair. “Mary is really fed up that she is not able to do anything,” says Yonebayashi. “Initially she’s portrayed as a girl who is always concerned about her appearance, looking at herself in the mirror. But eventually, through lots of adventures, she becomes more interested in helping other people. It’s a story portraying children growing up.” AO

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aerial assault SCI-FI TV ROUND UP

Mary And The Witch’s Flower is in cinemas from 4 May.

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Mary becomes friends with a boy called Peter.

Mary is a spunky but shy redhead.

Neil Gaiman and Fringe vet Akiva Goldsman to produce new TV adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. BBC’s new Victorian-set adaptation of HG Wells’s The War Of The Worlds starts shooting. FX orders pilot for Brian K Vaughan’s postapocalyptic graphic novel Y: The Last Man. American Gods’ Michael Green on board as co-showrunner. The CW orders new seasons of Arrow (season seven), The Flash (five), Supergirl (four), Legends Of Tomorrow (four), Black Lightning (two) and Supernatural (a remarkable 14). Inhumans’ Anson Mount to play Captain Pike in Star Trek: Discovery. Kathy Bates to return for American Horror Story’s eighth season. Creator Ryan Murphy says he’s also “throwing in” Joan Collins. Jay Ali joins the Daredevil cast as FBI agent Rahul “Ray” Nadeem.

LIVE FOREVER? Lost’s Henry Ian Cusick finds his morals tested in SF thriller Chimera

How far would you go to save the life of someone you love? Henry Ian Cusick, Lost’s Desmond, plays Dr Peter Quint in Chimera, a new science fiction thriller from first-time director Maurice Haemms. Quint is determined to cure his children of the disease that has already claimed his wife. To do so, he begins experimenting with fetal stem cells – a practice outlawed in the United States... “I got this rather unusual script,” says the Lost star. “It was very compelling and I didn’t know what to make of it.” He signed on and spent five weeks making the film in an abandoned warehouse in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. “It was a real find – freezing and uncomfortable, but it looks great.” The film also reunited him with Kathleen Quinlan, who co-starred in Cusick’s first-ever US film, Perfect Romance. To get what he needs, Quint begins to make some gruesome experiments. But despite the splashings of gore, Cusick says he never thought of Chimera as a horror film. “I always think of it as something along the lines of Upstream Colour,” referring to Shane Carruth’s beautiful, baffling modern SF classic. “There’s a lot of love in the film. To me it’s the story of a man trying to save his children and losing sight of his moral compass along the way.” WS Chimera opens Sci-Fi-London on 1 May.

The claws aren’t a good look.

don’t quote me

“I decided to give myself 40 additional challenges, like a Welsh accent – which even Welsh people say is hard.” Robert Downey Jr is taking The Voyage Of Doctor Dolittle very seriously.

Always time for a cyber romance.

JUNE 2018 | sfx magazine |


Red Alert June 2018


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The original 1966 Fahrenheit 451 adaptation was French auteur François Truffaut’s only English language movie.


Michael Shannon and Michael B Jordan are future firefighters.


Ray Bradbury’s spookily prescient novel gets a 21st century update Even in 1953, Ray Bradbury knew what was up. That was the year his now seminal dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, was published positing a future America where firemen burn books to keep the populace mindless and easily controlled. Sixty-five years later, Fahrenheit 451 might as well have been a road map to where we are today with humanity’s global obsession with smartphones that reduce much of life into likes, selfies and swipes. Starring Black Panther’s Michael B Jordan as fireman Montag, and Michael Shannon as Captain Beatty, HBO’s film adaptation brings the story into the technological age. Set in a near-future Ohio, Yuxie Systems (think Alexa on steroids) run everything in your home; books and digital books are forbidden; and the internet is a headline only wasteland. “I wanted to stay true to Bradbury’s cinematic vision and his philosophical ideas, and whenever possible, to the characters and structure he had created,” director/co-writer Ramin Bahrani tells Red Alert. “But I also

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wanted to adapt and change things, either to match some of my own sensibilities, but also the reality of technology, and the internet, like the fact that you could burn a physical book, and go home and read millions of them on the internet. Having to deal with that opened up enormous possibilities and just by the nature of that, you have to change things.” Bahrani’s personal research into technology led him to weave Harvard professor George Church’s work on mass data storage and DNA into this adaptation. “In Bradbury’s book, he has the ‘book people’, who have memorised books. They are in the film too.” However, the director’s twist is that scientists have discovered a way to graft all book and human knowledge into DNA, raising the stakes for Montag’s personal evolution in the film. Embodying that journey is Jordan, who also executive produces the film. “We just really connected in an immediate and great way,” the director explains. “He brought so much to the role, and then once I got to know him, I started to rewrite the character for him.”

With Shannon, meanwhile, Fahrenheit 451 was an opportunity for the two to continue their collaboration from 99 Homes. “It was the first time I wrote something specifically for an actor from draft one,” Bahrani explains. “I wanted Beatty to be like Beatty in the book, which is extremely smart. He’s constantly quoting weird passages from books in very complex ways. I wanted that to work without coming across as being forced in any way. And I knew with Mike Shannon, whatever words you give him, he just makes them work.” Bahrani hopes audiences come away from this adaptation as shaken as readers were in the ’50s, ready to reassess their own choices. “To Bradbury’s credit, he kind of predicted a lot of this stuff. He had people getting lost in entertainment. All those things he talked about, we now have them for real, and in ways that may very well be more than he had imagined, at that time. I think he was pretty prophetic about all of it.” TB Fahrenheit 451 airs on 19 May on HBO in the US.

Red Alert June 2018


While books like Avengers relaunch with new issue #1s, they also keep their old continuity numbers.



HIGH-SPEED FACTS Fox pushes back release of next X-Men movies until 2019: we’ll see Dark Phoenix in February, with New Mutants due in August. Guillermo del Toro signs new development deal with The Shape Of Water studio Fox Searchlight, including new horror, sci-fi and fantasy label. Sci-fi and fantasy shows pick up nominations at the Bafta TV Awards... Black Mirror episode “Hang The DJ” is up for Best Single Drama, while star Joe Cole is up for Best Actor and “USS Callister”s Jimmi Simpson is up for Best Supporting Actor. Elsewhere, The Handmaid’s Tale is nominated for Best International Drama, ITV2’s Timewasters for Best Scripted Comedy, and the Thirteenth Doctor’s reveal is up for Must-See Moment. Black Panther overtakes Avengers Assemble to become biggest ever superhero movie in US. Michelle Ryan to reprise Lady Christina role in Big Finish Doctor Who spin-off.

begin again The Marvel Universe is set for a Fresh Start – but its Legacy still matters

Described by Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort as “simply a promotional line to sort of wrap a ribbon around all of these new launches that we have coming out,” next month’s Fresh Start is not so much a radical reboot but more a continuation of last year’s Marvel Legacy. Indeed, new Avengers scribe Jason Aaron will be picking up on many of the plot threads that he left dangling in the Marvel Legacy one-shot. “Many of the seeds that we planted during Marvel Legacy, such as the Avengers of 1,000,000 BC, will bear fruit during

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don’t quote me

“It’s very hard to keep doing what you’re doing when you feel like it’s the antithesis of your purpose on this planet.” Looks like Shia LaBeouf wasn’t totally into the Transformers movies…

this timeframe,” explains Brevoort, noting that Avengers will take the place of Marvel’s annual summer crossover. “Think of Avengers as the event series of this launch window, except that, rather than doing this story in Secret Empire or Original Sin, we’re instead doing it in the pages of Avengers. It’s going to be an event series every issue with the biggest stories, the wildest ideas and the most classic heroes.” Indeed, Messrs Rogers, Stark and Odinson will all be returning to the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. “It’s been several years now since we’ve been able to field an Avengers roster that included the classic iterations of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, so that was our starting point,” reasons Brevoort. “From there, it was a question of which characters also existed in that rarified air of being quintessential Marvel characters worthy of inclusion.” From Dan Slott and Valerio Schiti’s Tony Stark: Iron Man to Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s Amazing Spider-Man and Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu’s Captain America, many flagship titles will be taken over by new creative teams. “The idea is to really drill down to the bedrock of what makes the Marvel characters and the Marvel Universe special,” says Brevoort. “To keep in touch with our roots while charting new courses, and continuing to keep our characters and stories vibrant, surprising and relatable.” SJ

Avengers #1 is published by Marvel Comics on 2 May. june 2018 | sfx magazine |



The writers of Solo tell Richard Edwards why it’s more than just another Star Wars “origin story”

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june 2018 | sfx magazine |


deadpool 2

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deadpool 2

erc M e h T the h t i w back s i h Mout d he’s - an Cable ing g n i r b ino m o D and him. with ool p De ad r Rob o creat d gets l Liefe about lippy quel e the s ephen St with well Je

june 2018 | sfx magazine |


how to talk to girls at parties

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how to talk to girls at parties

roydon. The south London suburb is famous for being the birthplace of Kate Moss and… that’s about it. “Well, Neil Gaiman is from there,” counters John Cameron Mitchell, the director of Hedwig And The Angry Inch and Rabbit Hole. Now he and Gaiman are about to elevate Croydon to the world stage with How To Talk To Girls At Parties, a blissed-out, highfashion adventure about punk, aliens, revolution and rebellion. Based on Gaiman’s 2006 short story of the same name, HTTTGAP is set in 1977, when the Sex Pistols dominated the

headlines and punk music rattled the establishment. It’d even reached the ’burbs, despite Croydon feeling like another galaxy from the King’s Road hotspot where safety-pin wearing punks gathered. It’s here where the story’s teen hero Enn (Alex Sharp) meets Zan (Elle Fanning), who just so happens to be out of this world. Gaiman’s story finishes as Enn and his friend Vic beat a hasty retreat from the party where they encounter some luminously beautiful aliens, who are on a mind-expanding research trip to Earth. Mitchell and his co-writer Philippa Goslett take the story further, as the

extraterrestrial Zan gets a two-day dispensation from her alien crew (including a PVC-wearing Ruth Wilson) to accompany Enn and explore his universe – well, bedroom – and learn about humans. Mitchell calls the original story “the DNA” for the film. “Elle’s character wasn’t in it. There were no punks in it. Philippa started with that, and added a bit of Neil, because he was a punk in Croydon. He was in a band that was asked to be signed, and his dad said no because he thought it was a bad deal!” Then he and Goslett expanded the story to follow the blossoming adolescent love

adaptation an im Ga n. il . do Ne ns oy ie Cr Al Punks. Partie s might just How To Talk To Gi rl s At e year, as James th t es lm fi ng of ra st e th be Mottr am discovers

june 2018 | sfx magazine |



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Don’t be fooled by the ordinary exterior. Richard Edwards visits the London set of HUMANS and discovers an unlikely rise of the machines… f all the TV sets SFX has visited, today’s is the most… well, ordinary. That’s not a criticism. This house in Ealing, West London, is stylishly done out – it’s unlikely to give you any change from a million quid, we reckon – and even better from SFX’s point of view are the tasty homemade biscuits being handed around set by young Humans star Pixie Davies. But with no gleaming spaceship consoles, futuristic vehicles or monstrous claw marks on the wall, this pleasant suburbia is a lot more normal than we’re used to. Even the in-house robot looks like an everyday guy – the orange eyes that will give him an otherworldly feel on TV will be added via CG magic later on. Existing in an ordinary world, however, is one of the selling points of hit Channel 4 drama Humans, a show set in a modern Britain that mirrors our own in all but one – admittedly major – way. Humanity is assisted by an army of ultra-sophisticated androids known as “Synths”, designed to do the jobs that we don’t want to – imagine what it’d be like if Amazon’s Alexa possessed human avatars, in a (mostly) non-threatening way. june 2018 | sfx magazine |


all images Š DC Comics

time machine superman

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time machine superman

As the Man of Steel celebrates his 80th birthday, Stephen Jewell goes back to the birth of an icon ith his trademark “S” emblazoned across his chest, Superman is surely the most recognisable superhero in the history of comic books. With DC set to mark his 80th anniversary this month not only with the landmark Action Comics #1000 by a host of top writers and artists but also the publication of Superman: 80 Years Of Action Comics – a hardcover collection of classic reprints – the Man of Steel has been a runaway success ever since the inaugural issue of Action Comics first arrived on American newsstands on 18 April, 1938. But while publishers Detective Comics – as DC was then known – were initially caught unawares by the Big Blue’s sudden popularity, it came as no surprise to his creators, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. “Jerry and Joe were pretty convinced that Superman would, in fact, be around long after they were gone,” says former DC president Paul Levitz, who for many years was Siegel and Shuster’s main contact at DC. “They knew that it would be a smash hit. Creative people need to believe in their ideas, but Jerry and Joe were even more passionate than the average person.”

origin story Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Jerry Siegel was only 13 years old when his short story “The Reign of the Superman” – illustrated by his old Glenville High schoolmate Joe Shuster – appeared in fanzine Science Fiction: The Advance Guard Of Future Civilisation’s third issue in January 1933. Centring around a vagrant who is transformed into a powerful supervillain with psychic powers, it didn’t share much – beyond the name – with the Superman we know today. “The first generation of comic book creators in America were young kids,” Levitz tells SFX. “Most of them came out of first-generation

th e st or y be hi nd th fa ntas y of ye st ere sf an d ye ar

19 3 8 families that didn’t have a lot of money, so they weren’t going to get a college education. It’s certainly amazing that Jerry and Joe were able to create something of such lasting cultural value, but when creators have that sort of world-shattering idea it often happens when they are relatively young.” Over the next few years, Siegel gradually developed the character, first turning him into a more heroic but otherwise average-powered individual. As a forerunner to his now established origin on the doomed planet of Krypton, he had him sent back in time to the year 1935 from a future Earth that was destroyed in a devastating cataclysm. “There was a steady accretion of work that Jerry did over time with so many other characters being added along the way,” says Levitz. “It’s kind of wonderful when you watch the mythology just growing of its own accord.” While Superman’s stance and manner were apparently inspired by Douglas Fairbanks’s performance in films like The Mark Of Zorro and Robin Hood, Siegel was not an avid movie fan and instead drew more significant influence from the pulp novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. june 2018 | sfx magazine |


300 reasons sci-fi conquered the world!

doctor who “rose” Russell T Davies talks to Ian Berriman

about reviving a series that, 13 years later, is still going strong


ack in spring 2003, Doctor Who, as TV drama, was dead as a dodo. Over 13 years had passed since the final episode of the original series; nearly seven since a Paul McGann TV movie. Fans had lost hope. Then the miraculous happened… Despite being a lifelong fan, Russell T Davies was tentative about taking on the commission. “I tend to give interviews saying, ‘I leapt at the opportunity!’,” he admits, “But it meant going to work for the BBC in-house, which is something you just don’t do, as a freelance writer – career-wise, it’s the wrong move.” With Davies initially busy on ITV drama Mine All Mine, it was months before a meeting to discuss the shape of the series took place. “I spent those months worrying, thinking, ‘This is never going to work!’” Davies remembers. “Then I went in to see [BBC

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Head Of Drama] Jane Tranter, expecting a long list of conditions. She just said, ‘What do you want to do?’” He was given almost complete carte blanche. “The one thing they did impose was 45-minute episodes,” Davies recalls, “And they said, ‘Bear in mind it’s going out at seven o’clock on a Saturday.’ Lois & Clark is the thing they talked about most. They had strong memories of how colourful, sexy and funny that was. Which I loved, because I’d watched that, and completely agreed.” When “Rose” eventually aired on 26 March 2005, one thing that seemed radical was how central the companion role was – something the title underlines. “It’s a funny title, isn’t it?” Davies muses. “You’d think it’d be called ‘Rise Of The Autons’ or something. I look back and think, ‘That’s a bit of a dull title, actually!’ You couldn’t write

a woman who was just a support anymore. I didn’t even have to have that debate in my head, because that’s not what I do with any lead character.” Embedded in a council estate milieu, “Rose” also made previous Who look very middle-class. “I suppose so, yeah,” Davies says, “Though there’s nothing wrong with being middle class – that’s the majority of the country. That’s a 2005 thing. I think television’s a bit posher now. Stuff like Sherlock shows actually you can sit around and be very sophisticated, and that’ll get a huge audience. It’d be interesting whether you’d need to do that now.” Davies reckons the biggest shift was a much greater degree of emotional insight into the Doctor and his companion. “The profoundest change is to say that the two lead characters are the lead characters in the drama,” he explains. “I know that sounds

300 reasons sci-fi conquered the world!

june 2018 | sfx magazine |


300 reasons sci-fi conquered the world!

lost “No one could have predicted how big it would be…”


oth loved and loathed, Lost remains one of the most fascinating shows of SFX’s lifetime. The saga of the survivors of doomed airliner Oceanic 815, who find themselves trapped on a mysterious, purgatorial Island, launched in a blaze of hype, made instant stars of its cast and then ended with a finale that was… divisive, to say the least. Actor Henry Ian Cusick was there for five of the six seasons, playing the mysterious Desmond Hume. First introduced in season two’s opener, “Man Of Science, Man Of Faith”, Des was revealed to be the inhabitant of the Island’s mysterious underground hatch, an unwilling participant of the Dharma Initiative.

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“I was supposed to do three episodes and there was no talk of my character coming back,” says Cusick when SFX catches up with him. “I assumed I’d be killed off, but they didn’t kill me off and that left the door open for me to come back. I enjoyed making those episodes immensely and I loved Hawaii and I thought, ‘Wow! wouldn’t it be great to live there!’” Cusick became a series regular with season three as Desmond joined the survivors in fighting the malevolent “Others” and uncovering the mysterious properties of the Island. As the series continued, it became ever more ambitious. Season four added time travel to the mix, leading to “The Constant”, the episode that many fans consider Lost’s high point. Desmond finds

himself warping between the Island in the (then) present day and London of 1996. “I was very lucky,” he says. “I wasn’t in the show as much as some of the other actors, but I got a lot of great episodes and I got to work with Sonya Walger (as Penny) and Alan Dale (as villainous Charles Widmore) – who was very intense! When I saw ‘The Constant’ cut together, it really worked. Not just the acting – but terrific direction, writing, editing and, of course, the great Michael Giacchino’s score. And it works as a standalone episode; it’s a really good love story.” Lost may be over, but it clearly left a mark on Cusick. He mentions still being in touch with co-stars Nestor Carbonell, Jorge Garcia, Daniel Dae Kim and Sonya Walger and, after the show finished, he decided to make Hawaii his permanent home. “Just moving to Hawaii from England without being on a hit show is a whirlwind. Being on a show like that… It was almost an out of body experience at times. No one could have predicted how big Lost would be.” Will Salmon

300 reasons sci-fi conquered the world!



Thor: Ragnarok’s iconoclastic director is also behind vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows. His movies are witty, warm and unmistakably his own.



Comic heroes are increasingly being gender-flipped or – in the case of Thor – handing over their mantle to female counterparts.

RINGU Pre-Ringu, if you asked someone in the street about Japanese cinema, they’d look blank or mumble something about samurai. Now they’re just as likely to mention a lank-haired woman crawling from a TV set. And thanks to remakes of Ringu, Ju-On and Dark Water, the “vengeful spirit” trope has spread to Hollywood too.


Just your average walk home after a heavy night out.

For many, Danny Boyle’s Infected thriller isn’t even a “proper” zombie film. So it’s ironic that its unexpected Stateside success was responsible for reviving George Romero’s career, and starting a trend which reached its apotheosis with the mindboggling advent of an undead blockbuster starring Brad bleedin’ Pitt.



If Resident Evil marked the birth of the modern horror game, Silent Hill was the moment the genre reached terrifying maturation.





From the John Barry stylings of The Incredibles to the sheer call to adventure of Star Trek, Giacchino is the soundtrack king of SFX’s lifetime.

Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s cyberpunk comic is part comedy, part thriller and all worryingly plausible. Patrick Stewart is a fan. WARHAMMER BOOKS




This supernatural series from future Harry Potter And The Cursed Child writer Jack Thorne burned briefly but brightly. We still want season two.


Grounded in a plausible 17th century milieu, Robert Eggers’ dark fairytale made witchcraft scary again – and turned a goat into an unlikely horror icon.


The gothic SF and fantasy worlds of Games Workshop have conquered the printed page in a vast range of ultra-violent spin-off novels.



Link awakes from 100 years of sleep in this enchanting revival of Nintendo’s fantasy classic. CHINA Miéville


The leading light in the turn-of-themillennium British new wave takes creative risks with every book. A Major Writer.



Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel led to an acclaimed (and equally dour) film adaptation. The apocalypse has rarely looked so grim. VERTIGO


Adult comics came of age with DC’s Vertigo line – home of Sandman, Preacher, The Invisibles, Hellblazer and countless others. They ruled the ’90s. THE RETURNED


Sometimes they come back… Haunting French fantasy series Les Revenants gave the dead a chance to resume their lives.



Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch created this cult hit for Wildstorm Comics about a team of superheroes who get the job done – whatever the cost. STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC


Thirty years ago, the chances of seeing a genre show from France or Denmark were practically zero. Now services like Channel 4’s Walter Presents (as well as Netflix and Shudder) are ensuring international drama is just a click away – and the lack of a specific charge means people are willing to take a chance.

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Set centuries before the films, KOTOR allowed players to forge their own paths to the light or dark side of the Force.


june 2018 | sfx magazine |


300 reasons sci-fi conquered the world!

Buffy The Vampire Slayer just over 20 years since the Hellmouth first opened its jaws, Anthony Head talks to Kimberley Ballard about demons, doubts and dusting vamps

buffy ended in 2003. What is it like looking back on the show all these years later?

It’s a massive part of my life, and very much part of who I am. Not so much the role of Giles, as the playing of it, and the people who I met and worked with. It was a real family and a lovely set. Alyson [Hannigan] and Sarah

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[Michelle Gellar] and later Emma [Caulfield] became like big sisters to my daughters, and Nicky [Brendon] like a big brother. Even though at the time you know you were doing something very special, the fact that Buffy has lasted to the degree that it has and is just as relevant to the current generation is amazing. What Joss had to say was so cutting edge, so sharp and observant, just fighting out of a corner, it was just brilliant. I remember when we were shooting the pilot saying to Joss, “Is this going to be successful?” [Laughs] Because I’d just done the first series for a show called VR5 for Fox, which I thought was definitely going to go. It was a great premise and again way ahead of its time. And it didn’t go. And I said to Joss, “I’m not very good at reading this. Is this going to be successful?” And he said, “Oh yeah, definitely!” He said, “None of the suits will get it, neither the studio nor the

network will get it, but the fans will, and they will pass it word of mouth, and it will grow and grow.” And I don’t think he’s psychic but that’s exactly what happened. Buffy is still a huge cultural phenomenon. did you have any idea how popular it would be?

When I read the script – I had the first two episodes, I think – I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I’d been in LA for a while, where I’d been virtually offered something quite similar which had a guaranteed two seasons. It was a similar theme, all about the occult and spiritual themes, but it was too dark and left a nasty taste in my mouth. With Buffy, I remember being mesmerised reading the script, laughing out loud in a Tex-Mex restaurant in Santa Monica. At the same time, I couldn’t wait to turn the page to find out what happened. Nobody really thinks about it now but that

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rom 1997 to 2003, Anthony Head played TV’s most astonishing academic: librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles. The man who insisted on wearing tweed despite the California heat and who mentored one of pop culture’s greatest heroines, Buffy Summers, through endless battles, and even an apocalypse or two. He was wise and gentle, dangerous and wry. Head now looks back at the time he spent on Buffy and shares what made it so special.

300 reasons sci-fi conquered the world!

june 2018 | sfx magazine |



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READY PLAYER ONE Virtual Insanity released OUT NOW!

12 | 140 minutes Director Steven Spielberg Cast Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Lena Waithe

Plenty of directors can do drama, but there aren’t many who can get you on the edge of your seat with ripples in a glass of water. So for all the critical acclaim that has accompanied Steven Spielberg’s more “serious” movies, it sometimes feels like a waste of cinema’s greatest entertainer when he steps away from the blockbuster arena. The Beard’s latest, Ready Player One, is unlikely to trouble Oscar conversations next year, but it does see Spielberg truly back in popcorn territory – and it’s his most unashamed crowd-pleaser since Jurassic Park. In other words, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Considering this had the potential to be the cinematic equivalent of an ageing rock band on a desperate greatest hits tour, that’s an impressive feat. Ernest Cline’s original novel is such a blatant love letter to all things Amblin that this

could have felt more homage than story. Instead, Spielberg keeps the trips to his own back catalogue to a minimum – one literally massive cameo is totally worth it – to make a blockbuster that’s loaded with nostalgia and pop culture references, but never feels weighed down by them. It’s difficult to imagine a more lucrative payday for intellectual property lawyers. Ready Player One is essentially a two-hour-plus Easter egg, working its way through so many movie and TV icons of the last 40 years that it makes Stranger Things seem forward-looking. Where else would you see RoboCop, Hello Kitty and Halo’s Master Chief rubbing shoulders with Serenity and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch – to a cracking Now That’s What I Call ’80s soundtrack? While giving you a nostalgic glow is clearly the order of the day, there is a point to it all. Spielberg introduces the over-populated, post-Bandwidth Riots America of 2045 ingeniously, via a brilliant tracking shot following Wade Watts (the ordinary guy who becomes VR hero Parzival) as he walks through “the Stacks”, the

You can’t get these cut at Timpson.

124 | sfx magazine | june 2018

He was gutted he didn’t get to see Liam Gallagher in the OASIS. makeshift town of mobile homes where he lives. Through windows you see people retreating into their own private universes in the OASIS, the virtual reality platform that’s transformed the world, and whose late founder, James Halliday, left behind a devilish treasure hunt with a massive prize – control of the whole lot. The OASIS is magnificent, a spectacularly visual world so detailed it’ll take numerous rewatches to uncover all its secrets. By not even trying to be photoreal, it pushes the boundaries of possibility, and

Spielberg has massive fun bending the laws of physics Spielberg has massive fun with action sequences that bend and stretch the laws of physics. An early car chase that pits a Back To The Future DeLorean against King Kong and faceless goons from IOI


Five UK sci-fi icons who could have enhanced the OASIS


In Ready Player One’s opening sequence, a lucky punter gets to scale Everest with Batman, but for the ideal Himalayan experience surely you’ve got to take a trip with Scotland’s top geriatric superhero?


T  here must be a deleted scene somewhere where OASIS creator James Halliday explains how watching Metal Mickey as a child inspired his entire worldview, encouraging him to work with computers so he could create his own robotic chum?


T  he movie’s arcade game task could have been rendered nigh-on impossible by pitting players against the tricky-as-hell Manic Miner sequel. Cue most being crushed beneath a giant foot.


– the evil corporation with designs on the OASIS – is a giddy mix of Wacky Races, Mad Max and videogame Burnout. It’s a really smart adaptation that keeps the book’s essence (Cline co-wrote the screenplay with Zak Penn), while making changes that make it more cinematic – enough to keep even the most avid fans of the novel on their toes. Extraneous plot points are jettisoned to keep the pace up, others simplified, while much of the quest is radically different, including the introduction of a fantastic sequence that has loads

of fun riffing off a very famous horror movie. Indeed, aside from some key character reveals and rug pulls, the second half of the story feels refreshingly unfamiliar. If the story loses something in translation it’s the thrill of solving puzzles – you never get the sense that Parzival and his fellow “Gunters” cracking the code is quite the feat it should be. The film also glosses over some of the darker edges of the “real” world (like the “Loyalty Centres” where you’re forced to work to pay off debts to your internet service provider), and rushes Parzival’s

inevitable romance with fellow gamer Art3mis – though Olivia Cooke’s performance, in a role that could have slipped into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory, is the most rounded in the film, a link to reality in a story built on facade. Even if Ready Player One isn’t a classic, it’s spectacular evidence of a master who still has few peers when it comes to putting a massive grin on your face. Welcome back to the blockbuster, Mr Spielberg. Richard Edwards Many of the scenes in the broken “real” world Columbus, Ohio, were actually filmed in Digbeth, in central Birmingham.

A  mong all the iconic spaceships, there’s no sign of the Millennium Dustbin from Saturday morning TV’s Get Fresh. Escaping puppet presenter Gilbert’s tendrils of snot could have presented a serious challenge.


N  ow this really is a missed opportunity: pitting Parzival and friends against Ron Gad’s backwards speech, before subjecting them to the terrifying BBC Micro power of The Vortex!

june 2018 | sfx magazine |



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