Review: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Plays Summer Pops Music From The Movies

Review: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Plays Summer Pops Music From The Movies

At Claudelands Arena, Hamilton


It’s funny how music can tip you over the edge.

Conductor Hamish McKeich and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra did it time and again tonight when they performed composer John Williams’s many film scores.

Williams’ theme from Jurassic Park is full of awe and wonder for the massive prehistoric creatures mankind has brought back from extinction in Steven Spielberg’s film. The expert way they played it just had the emotions welling up inside.

Later Williams’ Adventures on Earth from E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, another Spielberg classic, heightened the emotions further as I was flooded with memories of how a misunderstanding led to a harmless alien fleeing men in black on a flying bicycle. I was 10 when that film came out, and it’s as magic now as it was then.

Williams’ theme from Schindler’s List was heart stopping, as vivid images of Nazi inhumanity was contrasted in my mind with the compassion of a man who risked his own life to save others. Is it a true story, my son asked. He found it incredible.

The concert was supposed to end with Music from the Star Wars Saga.

Over 25 minutes we heard the thrills and spills of the Main Title from A New Hope, the revelatory Luke and Leia from Return of the Jedi, the funerary Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back, the impish Yoda’s Theme from the same, and the celebratory Throne Room and End Title.

I couldn’t stop beaming as the soundtrack of my childhood was performed live, just like it was in the movies, on vinyl, cassette, CD and MP3. But better! Not one note was out of place, or moment was out of time. My son couldn’t stop smiling, either, as he aped McKeich with his hands.

A standing ovation saw McKeich return to the stage for an encore with the Mission:  Impossible Theme.

It was a night of movie magic that the NZSO did proud. Little wonder Sir Peter Jackson and the BBC have turned to it over the years.

Other composers and films celebrated included: Bill Conti (Rocky), Vangelis (Chariots of Fire), Max Steiner (Casablanca), J. Strauss (The Blue Danube from 2001: A Space Odyssey), Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future) and Danny Elfman (Spider-Man). Was that Stan Lee in a cameo, disguised as celloist Roger Brown?

The next big thing is the Star Wars Film Concert in Wellington on March 10 and 11 as part of the NZ Festival.

“As an absolute treat for New Zealand fans, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will perform the Oscar-winning music of Star Wars: A New Hope in a live screening of the original film,’ the NZSo says. “Arguably the greatest film score of all time, this performance will whisk you away to another galaxy. A once-in-a lifetime opportunity.”


Star Trek: Discovery Collector’s Edition published


The Official Star TrekDiscovery Collector’s Edition is an in-depth look at the new series written by myself (Chris Gardner), Kristin Baver, Ian Spelling and Karen Stoddard-Haynes.

It includes detailed character profiles, most of which I wrote,  and interviews with key cast members, exclusive photographs, and behind-the-scenes facts on the making of Star Trek’s new voyages.

Also featuring guides to the Klingon Empire, again by me, and the United Federation of Planets, an exclusive look at Star TrekDiscovery’s props, costumes, weapons, and concept art, plus a complete Star Trek timeline.

DVD Review – Doctor Who Series 10 Parts 1 and 2

DW1The 12th Doctor found his voice in Series 10.

It’s not that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor didn’t have a voice in his debut Series 8 and Series 9 that followed, but it was more often spikey in those two series. That, is perhaps, at the request of show runner Stephen Moffat to make Capaldi’s Doctor contrast with Matt Smith’s take on the Doctor across Series 5, 6 and 7.

Something happened behind the scenes on Series 10 that saw Capaldi dial back the spikiness and deliver the cheerleader for humanity that we are used to.

Off screen, I can imagine it was the result of Moffat and Capaldi colluding and giving it their all in their final year on the show. On screen it was everything to do with the Doctor’s thrill of onboarding new companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) to the TARDIS.  Bill approaches her adventures as you and I might, if we had never seen Doctor Who, with questions about the TARDIS and the Time Lords. Bill’s pluck contrasts nicely with the Doctor’s occasional pomposity. The result is the strongest consistent series of Doctor Who since, perhaps, Smith’s last season in the 50th anniversary year of 2013.

There aren’t any clunkers this series, and there are quite a few stand out episodes. These include Thin Ice and Oxygen, which both did something completely different with the Doctor Who format.

The Pyramid at the End of the World is great for the commentary it delivers on the human need to wage war.

Empress of Mars did something new with the Ice Warriors.

The Eaters of Light brought Rona Munro, a writer of the classic Doctor Who series, back to Doctor Who.

World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls paid more than a substantial homage to the original Mondasian Cybermen in Capaldi’s swansong stories. Plus, we’ve never seen two Masters on screen together before, even if one was Missy.

Special Features in these two DVD sets, which between them deliver Series 10 over four discs, are reasonably light. So, if value added material is your thing you might want to wait for the complete series in one package.

Each story is accompanied by an Inside Look of a couple of minutes containing soundbites on the episode from the Doctor Who production team. For the most part its Moffat and Capaldi, with occasional contribution from Mackie.

I’ve already reviewed each episode of Series 10 in depth on this blog, so what follows is the official BBC intro to each of the Series 10 episodes plus succinct quotes from the special features accompanying them.


Episode 1, The Pilot: Two worlds collide when the Doctor meets Bill, and a chance encounter with a girl with a star in her eye leads to a terrifying chase across time and space. Bill’s mind is opened to a universe that is bigger and more exciting than she could possibly have imagined. But who is the Doctor, and what is his secret mission on Earth?

Moffat: “Series 10 sort of begins the show again. The first episode is called mischievously The Pilot. If you’ve never seen Doctor Who at all this could be your jumping on point.”

Episode 2, Smile: The language of the future is emoji! The Doctor takes Bill to a spectacular city on a distant planet – but where are the colonists? A band of ‘cute’ droids hold the deadly answer.

Capaldi: “I think this year’s very interesting because it boils the show down to the basic elements. A mysterious stranger takes the companions to an exotic and dangerous place.”

Episode 3, Thin Ice: London, 1814. The entire city has turned out for the biggest Frost Fair in decades. But beneath the frozen Thames, revellers are disappearing, snatched through the ice. Pulled into the depths where a terrifying monster lurks. Will the Doctor and Bill stop the slaughter before they too are dragged into the icy waters?

Capaldi: “I think this is a very unusual episode based on a real historical event, which happened a number of times which is that the Thames froze. So, the fact that we’re able to recreate this real event is lovely.”

Episode 4, Knock Knock: Why do floorboards creak? When a sinister landlord shows Bill and her friends the perfect houseshare, they have no idea what lies ahead… knock knock, who’s there?

Moffat: “The memory of real primal fear, the Fear Doctor Who extrapolated and rejoices in is born in the nursery when the house was all a bit bigger and darker and noisier and freakier. The house from the point of view of a child, every house is a haunted house.”

Episode 5, Oxygen: “Space – the final frontier. Final because it wants to kill us.” Trapped on a space station with no oxygen, the Doctor, Bill and Nardole are horrified to discover the automated spacesuits keeping them alive are also trying to kill them!

Moffat: “I think Peter always comes in from the drama angle and finds the comedy and I think Matt [Lucas as Nardole] tends to come in for the comedy angle and finds the drama. They are both hugely inventive actors.”

Episode 6, Extremis: “The Veritas. The truth. Truth so true you can’t live with it. Is that looking into hell . . . or seeing the light?” Everyone who has ever read the Veritas has been found dead. In a forbidden library at the heart of the Vatican, the pope urges the Doctor to read the ancient text – but can he handle the truth?

Capaldi: “It was difficult playing a blind doctor mostly because I didn’t know what it looked like, I knew that there was a special effect going to be added. So. I didn’t know how much to do and not to do.”

Episode 7, The Pyramid at the End of the World: An “ancient” pyramid appears overnight. Every clock in the world begins counting down to the Earth’s destruction. Three opposing armies lie ready to annihilate each other. An alien race stands ready to offer humanity a deal that could save them, but also enslave them. It’s a terrifying race against time to save the world. Will the Doctor be forced to accept their help?

Moffat: “I think what [writer] Peter Harness came up with is a scenario in which you realise how close to destruction we can always be and that sadly will never not be topical.”

Episode 8, The Lie of the Land: Earth has been invaded and Bill is living alone, an isolated figure surviving in occupied Britain. The Doctor is imprisoned and appears to be on the side of the enemy, flooding the airwaves with fake news. Bill and Nardole must embark on a deadly mission to rescue the Doctor and lead the resistance against the new regime, whatever the cost.

Capaldi: “Toby [Whithouse] is a wonderful writer. His scripts were always very tight and funny very dark he’s got a great imagination. Thus, was a very interesting take that he had on a dystopian 1984-style future that was dominated by the mysterious and strange monks.

Episode 9, Empress of Mars: “God save the Queen” has been scrawled on the surface of Mars. What are Victorians doing on the home of the Ice Warriors? And what will they find beneath the Martian soil?

Capaldi: “It was delightful to go to Mars again as the Doctor and not only to deal with Ice Warriors but also to deal with Victorians, to finding them on Mars was great fun.”

Episode 10, The Eaters of Light: A hunt for the lost Ninth Roman Legion leads the Doctor, Bill and Nardole into the middle of an ancient battle that could cast humanity into the dark forever. What is inside the cairn? And how far will they have to go defeat the terrifying alien Eaters of Light?

Pearl Mackie: “I spent a lot of the day hiding in the TARDIS because it was the only thing that shielded you from the wind.”

Episode 11, World Enough and Time: A huge spaceship trapped in the gravity well of a black hole, teeming with impossible lifeforms, harbours one of the Doctor’s most feared enemies… Mondasian Cybermen.

Moffat: “I didn’t immediately have a story for the Master, I struggled with that character, right up until the idea of Michelle Gomez. From the moment I cast her I thought wouldn’t it be hilarious if John Simm turned up as well.”

Episode 12, The Doctor Falls: The Doctor makes a final stand against an army of Cybermen to protect a tiny band of humans from destruction.

Moffat: The fact that it’s Peter’s last series matters to the show. The fact that it’s my last series doesn’t matter at all.”

Buy Doctor Who Series 10 at the BBC Shop.

Review – Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours

Review – Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours


By David Mack

(Gallery Books)

Desperate_Hours_coverLieutenants Michael Burnham and Saru compete for Captain Philippa Georgiou’s attention and the role of first officer aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou.

A year before The Battle At The Binary Stars, Burnham finds herself temporarily promoted to the role as the starship investigates the attack of an ancient alien vessel on a human colony world.

Soon the U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, is ordered to join the Shenzhou. Then Burnham is forced to work with Lieutenant Spock, the son of her surrogate Vulcan father, Sarek.

Mack’s unpredictable story rips along at a cracking page, delivering plot twists and turns left, right and centre. At the same time he does a great job of getting inside the minds of Burnham and Saru.

At times he guilds the lily, overemphasising the diversity of the human Starfleet crew by explaining where they are from in throwaway lines. At times it feels like Mack is trying to conform with a more adult approach to Star Trek by using occasional “colourful metaphors” in his writing.

Read this during Discovery’s mid-season break and you’ll come to appreciate Burnham and Saru that much more.

Chris Gardner


Doctor Who Christmas Special Cinema Release


Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker will debut on the big screen in Australasia with some exclusive content.

Twice Upon A Time, the 2017 Doctor Who Christmas Special, featuring 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi’s regeneration into Whittaker, will get a cinematic showing on Boxing Day. Whittaker is the first woman to play the Doctor.

It’s evident, from the last episode of Season 10 The Doctor Falls, that David Bradley will reprise the first Doctor introduced to television audiences in 1963 by William Hartnell. Actor Mark Gatiss, Doctor Who scriptwriter and Sherlock co-creator, will also appear in Twice Upon A Time.

The screening will include bonus pieces celebrating Capaldi’s three seasons as the Doctor, and departing show runner Steven Moffat who took over the show in 2010 with 11th Doctor Matt Smith.

BBC Worldwide Australia and New Zealand and Sharmill Films are behind the cinematic screening.

BBC Worldwide ANZ Live Entertainment Executive Louise Hill said: “Doctor Who fans love watching the show on the big screen and with Peter Capaldi regenerating into the first female Doctor, this promises to be an iconic episode.”

Sharmill Films Marketing Manager Jacinta Palmer said: “There’s nothing quite like the big screen experience, and we’re thrilled to give fans the opportunity to bid farewell to the fantastic Peter Capaldi in cinemas nationally, and to usher in Jodie Whittaker’s hugely anticipated debut as the 13th Doctor”.

As well as this great chance for fans to come together and watch Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time on the big screen, the episode will also be available on ABC iview immediately after the UK broadcast and will air on ABC at 7.30pm December 26th. Straight afterwards fans can join Rove and his guests for a special regeneration episode of WHOVIANS. 

For more information see:

As well as the Doctor Who films of the 1960s, starring Peter Cushing, Doctor Who has enjoyed a handful of cinematic outings. The 50th anniversary special, Day of the Doctor, was shown in November 2013. Capaldi’s debut, Deep Breath, also showed on the big screen as well as the 2016 Christmas Special: Return of Doctor Mysterio.


Review: STM Goods Kings 15 Inch Laptop Backpack

The king of laptop bags

The trusty business laptop needs to travel in safety if it’s to be relied upon in that deal clinching meeting.

One careless impact between your office and your meeting venue could turn the latest and greatest in laptop technology into the most expensive door stop you’ve ever known, and so prevent the presentation of that contract winning presentation.

Slingtech Protection has been incorporated into Australian manufacturer’s STM Goods’ laptop messenger bags and backpacks for a while now. Slingtech ensconces the laptop in a padded sling which suspends the device from the bottom and sides of the bag where it might get damaged from an impact. It’s just the sort of innovation you’d expect from a company whose mission statement is to provide stuff that matters for the doers of the world, a group they refer to as “Generation Do”.

The STM Goods Kings 15 Inch Laptop Backpack is among the latest to be released by the Sydney company with Slingtech Protection.

STM Goods Kings 15 Inch Laptop Backpack

The backpack has two main compartments.

The main compartment is reasonably spacious. As well as having a document pouch, and a small pocket fastedned by Velcro for the likes of medication or an asthma inhaler, I managed to fit a small extendable umbrella, raincoat in a pouch, large lunchbox and a banana in to it, with a little leftover space.

The zippered flap which gives you access to the main compartment opens to reveal a zippered pocket on the inside which is fleece lined for your mouse or other peripherals, STM’s website suggests sunglasses. Another zippered pocket is on the outside for business cards or other items you need quick access to.

The Slingtech solution, for laptops of up to 15 inches, is at the heart of the second compartment. The comparted also includes a couple of quilted pouches for either documents or smaller mobile devices like a tablet or smartphone.

There’s a couple of hidden compartments to the side, big enough for power cables or mobile device chargers. There’s also a series of small holes allowing you to snake your charging cable from one pocket to any compartment to ensure your mobile device is charged when you arrive.

The STM Goods Kings 22 litre laptop bag is available in botanical green, china blue, desert brown or tornado grey. Heathcotes, JB Hi-Fi, OOBE and PB Technologies are among the New Zealand stockists of STM Goods bags.

Star Trek Magazine #63 is out

When the original Star Trek series was threatened with cancellation by NBC, it was Bjo Trimble and her husband John that organized the unprecedented letter-writing campaign that saved the show.

The success of that campaign should never be underestimated, as without it Star Trek would be but a dim-and-distant memory.

In the first part of a two-part interview with me (Chris Gardner) in Issue 63 of Star Trek Magazine, Bjo remembers the highs and lows of campaigning to keep Trek on TV. (Pages 48 to 53)


In the world of entertainment, success breeds sequels, and with Star Trek guaranteeing big audiences in both cinemas and on TV with The Next Generation, it was only a matter of time before commissioners came looking for another Trek TV series.

So, it was that Deep Space Nine stepped into the limelight, and with it a myriad of opportunities for make-up supervisor Michael Westmore to create countess new aliens.

Michael remembers Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise in the conclusion of his two-part interview with me on pages 54 to 61.