The Mark of the Rani

I’ve recently watched the classic Doctor Who story, The Mark of the Rani, which was partly filmed at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. It sees The The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant) arrive amidst the chaos of a riot in the mining village of Killingworth, in19th-century England, where Miners are being mysteriously transformed into ferocious violent thugs and vandals, attacking men and machinery. They meet local landowner, Lord Ravensworth, and The Doctor’s investigations take him to the local washhouse where he encounters renegade Time Lord The Master (Anthony Ainley) and another Renegade Time Traveller called the Rani (the late, great Kate O’Mara), who is extracting Cerebrospinal fluid from the local Miners to use on her home planet of Miasmia Gloria after her previous failed experiments damaged the health of the inhabitants. However this is making the Miners aggressive and violent (I’m not surprised, I wouldn’t be too happy About it either)

However The Master does not Trust the Rani. Meanwhile the Doctor discovers the Rani’s unethical and evil plan to harvest the cerebrospinal fluid and take it back to Miasmia Gloria but, finds himself in mortal peril when he is caught by the Rani. However a timely intervention by engineer George Stephenson, saves him and he later discovers that Stephenson has planned a meeting of all the greatest scientific and Engineering geniuses of the Industrial Age in Killingworth. Elsewhere Stephenson’s young aide Luke Ward encounters the Master who hypnotises him into helping harvest their minds for his own nefarious purposes. The Doctor meanwhile discovers more about the Rani’s evil plans by hiding in her TARDIS next to a Tyrannosaurus Embryo.

Peri then finds herself in mortal peril as she makes for Redfern Dell to collect plants containing a certain chemical, and discoversthat it has been booby trapped by the Rani, as does Luke, who is not so lucky. Later the Doctor and Peri go to confront the Master and The Rani, sadly though they manage to escape, however the Doctor has sabotaged the controls of the Rani’s TARDIS with some interesting and rather alarming results.

Sebastian Faulks CBE

imageBest known for his historical novels set in France, British novelist, journalist, and broadcaster Sebastian Faulks CBE was born 20 April 1953 in Donnington, Berkshire. He was educated at Elstree School, Reading and went on to Wellington College, Berkshire. He read English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, of which he was made an Honorary Fellow in 2007. Whilst at Cambridge he participated in University Challenge, in which Emmanuel College lost in the opening round. Faulks commented that his team were most probably hampered by a trip to the pub before the show, as recommended by the show’s producer. After graduating, Faulks lived in France for a year. When he returned to England he worked as a teacher at a private school in Camden Town, and then as a journalist. Faulks’ first novel, A Trick of the Light, was published in 1984. He continued to work as a journalist, becoming the first literary editor of The Independent in 1986. He became deputy editor of the Independent on Sunday in 1989.

in the same year he published The Girl at the Lion d’Or, the first of three historical novels set in France this was followed by Birdsong and Charlotte Grey. In 1991 he left The Independent, and wrote for various other papers. Following the success of Birdsong (1993), Faulks quit journalism to write full-time.He has since published eight novels. Including Engleby in 2007, this is Set in Cambridge in the 1970s, and is narrated by Cambridge University fresher Mike Engleby. Engleby is a loner, and the reader is led to suspect that he may be unreliable, particularly when a fellow student disappears.

Following Engleby Faulks was commissioned by Ian Fleming’s estate to write a new James Bond Novel, To mark the 2008 centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth. The result, Devil May Care, became an immediate best-seller in the UK, selling 44,093 hardback copies within 4 days of release. Faulks’ then wrote the 2009 novel, A Week in December, which takes place, in the seven days leading up to Christmas in December 2007. It focuses on the lives of a varied cast of characters living in London and was written during the banking crisis and also refers to reality television and Islamic Millitancy. Faulks himself has described the novel as “Dickensian” and cites Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend as influences as well as New York novelists such as Tom Wolfe and Jay McInerney.

Faulks also appears regularly on British TV and radio. He has been a regular team captain on BBC Radio 4’s literary quiz The Write Stuff since 1998.The quiz involves the panellists each week writing a pastiche of the work of a selected author; Faulks has published a collection of his efforts as a book, Pistache (2006). In2011 Faulks presented a four-part Television series called Faulks on Fiction, looking at the British novel and its characters. He also wrote a series tie-in book of the same name.

During his writing career Faulks has memorably skewered the British literary and has won many awards – Charlotte Gray was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and In April 2003 Birdsong came 13th in the BBC’s Big Read initiative which aimed to identify Britain’s best loved novels. Faulks was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1993 and appointed CBE for services to literature in 2010.

Harold Lloyd

imageAmerican film actor and producer Harold Lloyd was Born April 20th 1893. He is best remembered for his silent black and White films which contained a mixture of slapstick comedy combined with many entertaining but dangerous stunts. Among his best known films is “Safety Last!” durng which he dangles precariously from a clock tower whilst trying to escape his pursuers. This film also inspired Jackie Chan who did a similar stunt during the film“Project A” – Which is another entertaining film.

Harold Lloyd ranks alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as one of the most popular and influential film comedians of the silent film era. Lloyd made nearly 200 comedy films, both silent and “talkies”, between 1914 and 1947. He is best known for his “Glasses Character”, a resourceful, success-seeking go-getter who was perfectly in tune with 1920s era America. His films frequently contained “thrill sequences” of extended chase scenes and daredevil physical feats, for which he is best remembered today. Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock high above the street in Safety Last! (1923) is one of the most enduring images in all of cinema.

Lloyd did many of these dangerous stunts himself, despite having injured himself in August, 1919 while doing publicity pictures for the Roach studio. An accident with a bomb mistaken as a prop resulted in the loss of the thumb and index finger of his right hand (the injury was disguised on future films with the use of a special prosthetic glove. Although Lloyd’s individual films were not as commercially successful as Charlie Chaplin’s on average, he was far more prolific (releasing twelve feature films in the 1920s while Chaplin released just three), and made more money overall ($15.7 million to Chaplin’s $10.5 million). Lloyd Sadly passed away March 8 1971 but hs legacy lives on

George Takai(Star Trek), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes, King Kong)

Best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the 60′s television series Star Trek and numerous Star Trek Movies Amercan Actor George Takei was born 20th April in 1937. Takei began his career in Hollywood in the late 1950s, His first role was providing voiceover for several characters in the English dub of Japanese monster films such as Godzilla Raids Again and Rodan, followed by an appearance in the Emmy award winning television series Playhouse 90 and Perry Mason The Case of the Blushing Pearls.He originated the role of George in the musical Fly Blackbird!, but when the show traveled from Los Angeles to Broadway the west coast actors were forced to audition and the role went to William Sugihara instead. Eventually Sugihara had to give up the role and Takei closed out the show’s final months.Takei subsequently appeared alongside such actors as Frank Sinatra in Never So Few (uncredited), Richard Burton in Ice Palace, Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity, Alec Guinness in A Majority of One, James Caan in Red Line 7000 and Cary Grant in Walk, Don’t Run. He featured in a lead role in “The Encounter” (1964), an episode of The Twilight Zone He had an uncredited role in the film PT-109 (1963) and also guest-starred in an episode of Mission: Impossible (1966). He also appeared in two Jerry Lewis comedies, The Big Mouth and Which Way to the Front? In 1969 Takei narrated the award winning documentary The Japanese Sword as the Soul of the Samurai.

In 1965, producer Gene Roddenberry cast him as Hikaru Sulu in the second Star Trek pilot and eventually the Star Trek television series. It was intended that Sulu’s role be expanded in the second season, but Takei’s role as Captain Nim, a South Vietnamese Army officer, alongside John Wayne’s character in The Green Berets meant that he only appeared in half the season, with Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov substituting for him in the other episodes. When Takei returned, the two men had to share a dressing room and a single episode script. Takei also appeared in the first six Star Trek motion pictures, and today he is a regular on the science fiction convention circuit throughout the world. He has also acted and provided voice acting for several science fiction computer games, including Freelancer and numerous Star Trek games. In 1996, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Star Trek, he reprised his role as Captain Hikaru Sulu on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, appearing as a memory of Lt. Tuvok, who served on the USS Excelsior under Sulu, during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He appeared alongside Shatner on the 2006 Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner in which the two mocked each other in good humor and embraced, Takei is also one of six actors (the other actors being Jonathan Frakes, Kate Mulgrew, Michael Dorn, Avery Brooks and Majel Barrett) to lend his voice to Star Trek: Captain’s Chair, reprising his role of Captain Hikaru Sulu when users visit the bridge of the original Enterprise in the computer game. In the summer of 2007, Takei reprised his role of Sulu in the fan-made Internet based series Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II.

Aside from his film and television career with Star Trek,which spans from the 1960’s He also has a lengthy record of public service through his involvement with organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League and the Human Rights Campaign.He is a proponent of gay rights and active in state and local politics as well as continuing his acting career. He has won several awards and accolades in his work on human rights and Japanese American relations, including his work with the Japanese American National Museum. In 2004, the government of Japan conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, which represents the fourth highest of eight classes associated with the award. This decoration was presented in acknowledgment of his contributions to US-Japanese relations. George Takei also has an Asteroid named after him.

I also enjoyed the more recent Star Trek films too starring John Cho as Hikaru Sulu alongside Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana Bendict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg and Karl Urban Who also played Eomer in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which also starred the English Actor, Director and Author Andy Serkis as the villainous Gollum, who was also coincidentally born April 20th in 1964. Serkis is known for his performance capture roles comprising motion capture acting, animation and voice work for such computer-generated characters as: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), King Kong in the eponymous 2005 film, Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin (2011). Serkis’ film work in motion capture has been critically acclaimed, earning him recognition from many associations that do not traditionally recognise motion capture as “real acting”. Serkis has received an Empire Award, a National Board of Review Award, two Saturn Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his motion capture work. Serkis also earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for his portrayal of serial killer Ian Brady in the British television film Longford (2006); and he was nominated for a BAFTA Award for his portrayal of New Wave and punk musician Ian Dury in the biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (2010). Serkis also reprised his role as the villainous Gollum in Peter Jackson’s  latest three part Tolkien film adaptation “The Hobbit” and the first two parts – An unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug have been released on DVD and the final Installment “The Battle of Five Armies” was released 20 April 2015. I’m looking forward to having a Hobbit Day and watching all three.

Bram Stoker

Best known today for his 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula, the Irish novelist and short story writer Abraham “Bram” Stoker was Bram “Abraham” Stoker passed away April 20 Born 8th November 1847 in Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland. Stoker was bedridden until he started school at the age of seven, when he made a complete recovery. He was educated in a private school run by the Rev. William Woods. After his recovery, he grew up without further major health issues, even excelling as an athlete (he was named University Athlete) at Trinity College, Dublin, which he attended from 1864 to 1870. He graduated with honours in mathematics. He was auditor of the College Historical Society (‘the Hist’) and president of the University Philosophical Society, where his first paper was on “Sensationalism in Fiction and Society.

While a student Stoker became interested in the theatre & became the theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, co-owned by the author of Gothic tales Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. After giving a favourable review of Henry Irving’s Hamlet Irving invited him to dinner and the two became friends. Stoker also wrote stories, and in 1872 “The Crystal Cup” was published by the London Society, followed by “The Chain of Destiny” in four parts and “The Shamrock”. while a civil servant in Dublin, Stoker wrote a non-fiction book (The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland. Stoker was also interested in art, and founded the Dublin Sketching Club. In 1874 The Stokers moved to London, where he became acting manager and then business manager of Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre, London, a post he held for 27 years. The collaboration with Irving was important for Stoker and through him he became involved in London’s high society, where he met James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (to whom he was distantly related)




Working for Irving, the most famous actor of his time, and managing one of the most successful theatres in London made Stoker a notable if busy man. He was dedicated to Irving and his memoirs show he idolised him. In London Stoker also met Hall Caine, who became one of his closest friends – he dedicated Dracula to him.In the course of Irving’s tours, Stoker travelled the world, although he never visited Eastern Europe, a setting for his most famous novel, and began writing novels beginning with The Snake’s Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897. Stoker was also part of the literary staff of the London Daily Telegraph and wrote other fiction, including the horror novels The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). Stoker also met Ármin Vámbéry who was a Hungarian writer and traveler and the story may have been inspired by Vámbéry’s dark stories by Carpathian mountains. He also spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires as well as visiting Whitby Abbey, Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire and the crypts of St. Michan’s Church in Dublin and also read the novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.Sadly After suffering a number of strokes, Stoker passed away on 20 April 1912 and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium where his ashes were place in a display urn . To visit his remains at Golders Green, visitors must be escorted to the room the urn is housed in, for fear of vandalism.