What (you ask) has this magazine cover to do with the Science Fiction movie "Moon"?

Well, it’s one that I just happen to have in my collection, a copy of which I spotted in the film….

Here’s my review:


Feature Film
Directed by Duncan Jones
Screenplay by Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker
97 minutes
United Kingdom

Zowie! Let’s get that out of the way. Yes, Duncan Jones, co-writer and director of the British Science Fiction movie “Moon” is David Bowie’s son and if you want to think of the film’s plot as revealing the ultimate fate of Major Tom, go right ahead I won’t stop you.

Budgeted at five million dollars, “Moon” cost a lot less than a NASA lunar mission, or indeed a NASA moon shot toothbrush but, as with the slightly more pricey genre hit, “District 9”, provides an astonishingly big bang for its paltry space-credits.

Well, perhaps not so much literal pyrotechnics, as this is more cerebral Science Fiction, rather than space war, super hero slugfest or giant robot rampage. (Which is not to say that they can’t be brainbusters as well.) Rather, “Moon” is set on the title satellite within futuristic spitting distance of today. We’re mining dear old Selene naked (Down lads! Naught to do with the star of "Underworld"!) essentially raking through the moon dust for Helium 3, celebrity isotope of the century because of its potential use in nuclear fusion reactors. Here splendidly realised (in a tidy montage at least) and providing 70 percent of Earth’s energy needs. Korean based Lunar Industries Ltd. is a big mining concern that maintains a semi-automated one-man station on the moon station. Why they don’t shift over to total mechanisation given the high level of sophisticated robotics otherwise on display is one of the film’s few sticking points. Never mind, perhaps there’s a property rights derived legal necessity that requires the base have an actual human living and working on site. If so, you’d think that Occupational Health And Safety wouldn’t let them get away with a lone operator! With good reason too, as solo Astronaut Sam Bell, very near the end of a gruelling three year contractual tour of duty, is looking and acting increasingly seedy. Taking his character on what turns out to be an existential quest to find himself is actor Sam Rockwell, who’s shaping up into a rather noteworthy genre star.

Rockwell was Crewman Number Six from “Galaxy Quest”, Zaphod Beeblebrox in the “Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” movie, and even played Batman in the short film “Robin’s BIg Date”. He’s also rogue industrialist Justin Hammer in “Iron Man 2”. The “Moon” role is an actor’s challenge that results in one small step for Sam, one giant leap for Samkind. Rockwell quirkily paints a ‘Dorian Gray’ portrait of an off world working stiff coming messily unglued at the space suit seams. As who wouldn’t, with nothing to do but service dust harvesters, build intricate scale model buildings and watch reruns of “Bewitched” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. Even his technical reading mater is dustily dated, I spotted a copy of the old weekly aviation encyclopaedia “Take Off” on his space bunk. What sad ubergeek would still have that? It’s issue # 15 and came out in 1988. Very interesting article on carpet bombing Germany with B-17s, as well as a spiffing reference guide to business jets, including (Tee hee) the “Rockwell” Sabreliner Series. (Sometimes, I even let Arnold J. Rimmer borrow my copy.)

There aren’t many other faces to take the focus off Rockwell’s cleverly star-crossed performance, though I did notice that Matthew Berry has a minor, as opposed to a miner, role. Berry is well known to surreal genre buffs for being in “The IT Crowd”, “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace” and “The Mighty Boosh”. Blink, and you’ll miss him here!

Poor Garth is well upstaged by the voice of Kevin Spacey, whose genre credits include: “Superman Returns”, “Seven”, “Outbreak”, “K-Pax”, “Austin Powers In Goldmember”, “Fred Claus” and the upcoming “The Men Who Stare At Goats”. It’s just as well he’s a voice actor too, (in “A Bug’s Life” at least) because he’s the calmly spoken GERTY, the base’s built-in HAL -9000 like computer/robot assistant. Actually Kubrick’s “2001” and its implacable Right Stuffy Space Rangers has a little less to do with the gritty tone of “Moon” than films like “Silent Running”, “Outland”, “Dark Star” and, at an existential stretch, “Solaris”. So, regarding rogue robots, you won’t find too many echoes of Duncan Jones’ bachelor degree in philosophy thesis: “How to Kill Your Computer Friend: An Investigation of the Mind/Body Problem and How It Relates to the Hypothetical Creation of a Thinking Machine.”

No, it’s not robot revolution that’s at the heart of Lunar Station Sarang’s (the Korean word for ‘love’) increasingly over pressurised troubles. Still, that entirely unflappable, too reasonable voice is one more reason to go over the edge and stay there. The film’s effectively evoked atmosphere is a low budget marvel and everything in the production design, from the womb like padded space suits to the cramped lunar rovers and the unyielding confines of the base itself, serve to bottle up the long suffering main character’s angst; as the human condition turns in on itself backed by a constant, air conditioned hum. (Craftsmanship like this doesn’t just happen, take a bow Production Designer Tony Noble, Costume Designer Jane Petrie and all your clever artisan Selenites!)

As an occassional propmaker myself I couldn’t help but keep an eye out for the usual recycled flotsam and jetsam being used in the sets, but for a film this low budget I was quite surprised that even I had trouble identifying the usual junk, apart from a few repainted plastic cutlery draw liners and packaging discards. I also suspect extensive reliance upon real miniatures and models tweaked with computer jiggerypokery also helped keep costs down. Oh, and Luna’s 1/6th Earth gravity is generally well depicted outside on the surface, with ‘moon hopping’ being the preferred (presumably wire rigged) mode of walking and roostertails of dust taking a long, stately time to fall. INSIDE the base, however, the filmmakers either worked around or ignored the issue. Given the questionably high level of biotechnology on display perhaps ‘The Company’ also makes artificial gravity generators?

I’m not sure if the main idea has enough juice to warrant an additional two planned sequels without serious tinkering but for the most part “Moon” is a deliberately slow paced, reflectively sturdy Science Fiction film, though veteran buffs will probably twig to what’s going on quickly enough. No real matter, the ending still feels organic to the plot, even if the ‘grand gesture’ finale doesn’t quite deliver on the measured build up. In a year that also yielded up the splendid “District 9”, “Moon” is a most impressive debut feature. You’ve really made the grade Mr Jones, protein pills all round!

Rob Jan

Here’s the podcast:

Posted by zero g on 2009-10-17 07:53:15





Here’s a picture of the Doc, well actually, a pair-’o-Docs. And a Silurian. Riding a dinosaur! On a spaceship!

Participants include a "Jurassic Park" ‘tricey’, which you can see has a little pre-scored chunk of flesh that can be popped out to reveal juicy internal organs…what a jolly kiddy toy that one was! I’ve got the 3rd and 11th Doctor from the big "11 Doctor Who" action figure set. Oh, yes and a Silurian lassy. Throw in a couple of velociraptors. A TARDIS telephone ringer. And one of the Galoob toy "Star Trek Next Generation" shuttlecrafts. All snapped against the traditional black velvet backdrop. Fun, eh? Though I don’t mind telling you that it was a regular pain to set up, as the dino’s got a broad back and everyone had to ride side saddle, and kept dismounting, and then the whole thing tended to slide off the smooth-hulled shuttlecraft but I had to persevere because it’s not Dinosaurs OFF a spaceship, after all.


The Australian broadcast of Doctor Who’s "Dinosaurs On A Spaceship" (September 16th, 2012) felt like it had been quirkily fortified with an injection of DNA (That is to say, Douglas N. Adams, who apart from the obvious “H2G2” connection was also a former story editor and writer for “Doctor Who”), perhaps most obviously manifest in the rusty tantrum throwing robots, fussily voiced by comedy duo, Mitchell and Webb. (David Mitchell has some interesting links to Doctor Who criticism and satire. Oh, go google it yourself!) You’ve got to love them or hate them but then again they’re not in your face for all that long and besides, I have a sneaking suspicion that they must just be ‘taking off’ the Ponds, on a bad day!

Writer Chris Chibnall’s script cheerfully flaunts its gimmick in the breathless title (Did you catch the saurian scales in the actual title card in the opening credits?) but he’s far too accomplished a wordsmith to fail to properly flesh out what could’ve been a one note concept. I loved the way all the wee details introduced came back as little grace notes later on. Joss Whedon would approve! Chibnall has lashings of experience with the pivotal though off-stage Silurians as well as heavy duty Whovian and genre credits. His C.V is another one to google for. (I’ll wait.)

Doctor 3.0, Jon Pertwee, and companion Sarah Jane Smith, Elisabeth Sladen, along with the stalwart squaddies from U.N.I.T famously struggled with some sadly wobbly looking saurians in the 1974 serial, “Invasion Of The Dinosaurs.” (Dinosaurs! Time travelling! In Chroma Key!) Even for back then they looked a bit rubbish; hardly an issue here with the splendid CGI critters and some well sculpted physical props on display. No, I shan’t be smug about it, or indeed, ‘Smaug’, following the reptilian line. How do you think today’s special effects wizards GOT so good anyway…by standing on the shoulders of the teshnicians before them.

The usual breakneck, one story per episode, pace worked mostly to the story’s advantage, though in this case it did mean we were shortchanged with the ad-hoc companions, who inevitably ended up as slightly sketchy tertiary characters once the main ‘gang’ slots were filled with the Ponds and Rory’s dad. Although it helps if you just think of them as similar background level characters to, say, the personable security guards, Stubbs and Cotton, in Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s 3rd Doctor era serial, "The Mutants". (By the way, "The Mutants" is set in the 24th Century, same as "Dinos"! Where was there spacefleet?) The single episode format of "Dinos" prevents them from rising to, for example, the same delightful level as Jago and Litefoot from the 4th Doctor story "The Talons of Weng-Chiang."

I still enjoyed meeting Queen Nefertiti and Mr Riddell, with the former having fun with the saucily haughty historical stereotype and the latter channeling fictional adventurer Allan Quatermain. (Moore please!) Rupert Graves was a suitably ‘pukka’ hero with an appropriate measure of cool professional enthusiasm so long as he can bag a dino tooth. Best moments for Neffers was when she got flirty with Riddell and later kicked Solomon…right in the crutch!

Although the historical proximity of Lestrade..sorry..Riddell, Nefertiti, Jago, Litefoot, and the Silurian Samurai Vastra and her sidekick, Jenny, along with other Victorian/Edwardian Doctor Who characters does make me think that there could be a rather spiffing period team-up story along the lines of "The League Of Extraordinary Companions". Which is only fair, since Alan Moore’s perfect pastiche tips its hat to both Silurians and Sea-Devils as well as several Doctors.

WHERE did the Doctor pick up an Edwardian big game hunter as a friend, anyway? Perhaps some ripping yarn in which an alien hunter ironically stalks human prey barricaded in an isolated hunting lodge…? It seems as if it would be out of character for the Doctor to hunt for sport, but try telling that to the astonishingly assorted bag of beasties that’s he topped over the years, purely in self defence or to look after others. Bemusingly enough, when he drops Nefi and Riddell back off in the early 20th Century, they still seem to have the high tech stun guns with them, which hopefully will make Riddell’s hunting a bit less lethal. Well, safari, so good. Bring ‘Em Back Alive Riddell? Maybe he’ll hook up with Carl Denham, in a few decades!?

The Ponds were as fun as ever and I’m going to miss them to pieces when they finally depart the series, especially with the tragic foreshadowing that’s clearly in play.

The Doctor: "No. Come on, Pond. You’ll be there ’til the end of me."
Amy: "Or vice versa."

When the Doc glanced sadly at Amy, heralding the future death of the companion, it scored a palpable hit. Nice bit of character direction to, by Scottish director Saul Metzstein (2nd ADI on the new “Dredd” film), who generally handled the slippery slope of a New Who ep. quite well, although the opening whirl is still very much “Don’t blink! ‘Cos you’ll miss way too much exposition.”

For now, it’s a treat to watch the talented Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill do their by now accomplished turns as on-again-off-again companions.

Cue Amy’s charmingly feisty attitude!

Nefi: "Are you a Queen too?"
Amy: "Yes. Yes I am."

Rory’s very long suffering history as the heroine’s ‘manbag’ was underscored by his perfect comic timing and often overlooked but always useful practical medical skills, here topped off with his slightly embarrassed, but stoutly protective reaction to his father’s unexpected inclusion in the adventure.

Rory’s Dad, Brian, was a nicely judged bit of random too, and another Douglas Adams style addition to the cast. Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley from "Harry Potter", and one of the meta-crew of the good ship "Red Dwarf") was a perfect fit for the slightly Arthur Dentish but game man-who-knows-where-his-trowel-is.

He also got to reference other S.F when in/on the space ark’s beach-like wave powered engineering room. (Classic Douglas Adams’ whimsical space drive!)

Brian: "We’re outside we’re on a beach."
The Doctor: "Teleports! Oh, I hate teleports! Must have activated on my voice."
Brian: "Ah. Yes. Well. Thank you, Arthur C. Clarke. Teleport. Obviously. I mean, we’re on a spaceship with dinosaurs. Why wouldn’t there be a teleport. In fact, why don’t we just teleport now!"

(Later on, Solomon’s Siriusly Cybernetic Corpses expired singing the "Daisy" bicycle song peddled so well in “2001”. )

Best of all, Brian gets to play fetch with a dinosaur! (All together now, follow the bouncing golf ball: On a spaceship!)

[Triceratops nudges Brian’s leg.] The Doctor: "You don’t have any vegetable matter in your trousers, do you, Brian?"
Brian: "Only my balls."
The Doctor: "I’m sorry?"
Brian: "Golf balls… Grassy residue."
Rory: "What are you carrying those around for?"
[Triceratops licks Brian’s face] The Doctor: "Oh, bless."

Ooer! A bit of the old innuendo in this episode, not to mention a very nasty straight out threat of rape by the main villain, Solomon, as he drools over the thought of adding Nefertiti to his collection. (Ick!) Not quite as adulty as Torchwood but it’s a good thing I don’t have offspring so I don’t have to agonize about allowing them to watch this.

I’ve grown used to Matt Smith’s Doctor, and am now more amused than bemused that the actor’s decidedly unhinged interpretation of the character neatly expands upon the previous occupants Tennancy while a natural consequence of the madcap pacing of the "New Who" series in general.

He doesn’t half get some great lines though!

The Doctor: "The ship does all the engineering. The controls are straightforward. Even a monkey could use them. Oh look, they’re going to. [Rory and Brian don’t get it.] Guys, come on. Comedy gold. Where’s a Silurian audience when you need one?"

The Doctor: "Steer away from the Earth. Try not to bump into the moon otherwise the races that live there will be livid."

Regarding the Judgement Of Solomon, the genocidal pirate was actually going to die anyway before the Doctor arrived, and the Doc did give him his customary warning to get out while he could.

The Doctor: "What did you do to the Silurians?"
Solomon: "We ejected them. The robots woke them from cryo-sleep a handful at a time and jettisoned them from the airlocks. We must have left a trail of dust and bone."
The Doctor: "Because you wanted the dinosaurs.
Solomon: Their ship crossed my path. I sent out a distress signal, they let me board. But when I saw the cargo, things became more complex."
The Doctor: "Piracy, then genocide."
Solomon: "Very emotive words, Doctor."
The Doctor: "Oh, I’m a very emotive man."

Of course, there’s precedent for the Doctor dealing in ‘rough justice’ before now. He has, after all, killed the odd PLANET or two. I’m not particularly startled that he assists in lethally sorting out an unrepentantly genocidal villain here, with a little help from the Indian Space Agency. It does, however, sit slightly askew with the lighter side of the story, which is understandably and unashamedly giddy with the notion of "DINOSAURS ON A SPACESHIP!" No, wait, Solomon had the cute golf ball chasing triceratops blasted to death…target a few more missiles up his scruffy arse for good measure, there’s a good chap!

Actor David Bradley (Another “Harry Potter” staple, and “Doctor Who” audio adventure vocalist, but I know him best as Cohen, The Barbarian from “The Colour Of Magic”!) deserves a Big Ghoul’s Blouse for his Dickensian portrayal of Solomon.

Oh, and Jon Pertwee’s Doctor was a lot more uptight about nicknaming dinosaurs with contractions of their Latin names. Talk about your Jurassic Doc!

To close on a Douglas Adams note. The Silurian who appears on the computer screen, Bleytal, was played by Richard Hope, whom we know from the “Doctor Who” episodes “The Hungry Earth”/ “Cold Blood”/and “The Wedding Of River Song”, where he had the role of Malonkeh, Chief Scientist of the underWales Silurian colony and, in an alternative timeline, Chief Physician to the Holy Roman Emperor, Winston Churchill! On stage though, he has played Ford Prefect, in a production of “The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”.

It was all good fun really, a lighter hearted romp (well, apart from the space pirate lizard genocide!) that made a neat little one off interlude but which nevertheless had some nuggety inclusions that gave us a taste of the story arc to come.

See, now, I got through that whole review without mentioning Kamikaze Adric and killing off the dinosaurs. Which he did. Just sayin’. ‘Cos there’s a REASON why the Silurians built a space ark, don’tchaknow. Well, alright then, obviously I mentioned it just NOW! I was making a point. Get off my back, I’m no dino!

Anyway, look, Dinosaurs on a spaceship!


Here’s the radio-on-demand for the review as broadcast on Zero-G: Science Fiction, Fantasy & Historical Radio:

Or y’all can ride the podcast, here:

Posted by zero g on 2012-09-21 01:04:23