Review: Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock Bluetooth Speakers by Fametek

Set phasers on fun!

For that’s exactly the feeling this pair of Bluetooth speakers from Fametek evoke.

It feels like the American manufacturer have gone for a Pop! Vinyl sort of feel with this pair of speakers inspired by William Shatner’s portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series. Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock is at Kirk’s side, as if he’s always been there and always will.

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Kirk carries a drawn Starfleet Type 2 Phaser with a Type 1 Phaser correctly inserted in his right hand and a tribble in his left hand.

Spock gives the Vulcan salute with his right hand while holding his left hand, fist clenched, behind his back. A Tricorder hangs around his neck and across his chest.

The speakers include a built in Lithium-Ion 500 mh rechargeable battery. They are charged by plugging the supplied micro-USB charging cable into the back of the speaker and into a computer USB port or 1A/5V charging block. The speaker’s red LED glows while it is charging, tuning off when it is charged.

A three-way switch on the rear of each speaker allows you to switch from off to Auxiliary Mode, allowing you to plug in any audio device via its headphone socket and the supplied auxiliary 3.5mm line-in cable. I tested this function with Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast from my iPhone 5S and it was delivered clearly and crisply on the 1.5”/38mm Massive Audio driver. They sounded just as good in Bluetooth mode.

Bluetooth Mode is a flick of the switch to the left. On Kirk you get Shatner: “This is Captain James Kirk of the USS Enterprise”. On Spock it’s: “Live long and prosper”. Phaser fire accompanies Kirk’s pairing with your device and “Full ahead, Warp Factor One” when you disconnect. For Spock it’s the whir of a Tricorder and “Captain, I suggest the Vulcan mind probe”. There’s nine sound effects for each of the speakers, in all, which play in different scenarios. Or you can play them directly by pressing the SFX button for two seconds.

I made a call with the speakers, when connected to my smartphone. I could hear the recipient fine, but my voice was too quiet. Not a deal breaker.

Captain Kirk (Model FT-KRK) and Mr. Spock (Model FT_SPK) are available at a recommended retail price of US$49.95.

 

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Review – Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

Review – Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series

(BBC, PG)

Matt Smith’s final season as the Doctor arrived on DVD in late 2013.

It seems hard to believe that we were first introduced to the 11th and 12th Doctor’s companion Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) in the first episode of the series which aired in 2012.

We wondered, back then, what the heck show runner Steven Moffat was playing at when he introduced the Doctor’s new companion within a Dalek travel machine and then killed her at the episode’s conclusion.

The episode was called Asylum of the Daleks and aired on the BBC on September 1, 2012.

It was as epic as the movie style poster created to advertise it, showing the Doctor carrying an unconscious Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) through the flames of a Dalek mad house.

Not everyone liked Amy, for her over impulsiveness, but I loved her relationship with the Doctor and husband Rory (Arthur Darvill) and was genuinely upset when they departed the show half way through the season.

The Angels Take Manhattan was a fitting swan song for the Ponds and, once again, Moffat showed what an excellent writer he was as he tugged on the heart strings again and again throughout this episode.

There’s so many great moments in it. The idea that the Statue of Liberty was a massive Weeping Angel was genius and obvious at the same time. The closing scenes are throat lump inducing.

In the middle of that first half of the season we finally met Rory’s dad, Brian, who has a wonderful workman moment in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. He is glimpsed with his feet hanging out of the front door of the TARDIS, packed lunch and flask of tea in hand, admiring the wonders of the universe as she flies through space. Modern Doctor Who is made of great, crazy, moments as these. I dearly wished we had seen more of his character, who shines brightly in The Power of Three.

Clara, of course, returned in 2012’s Christmas special The Snowmen and died in that before returning in The Bells of Saint John which aired on March 30. It was a long time to wait for new Who so thank the Time Lords for the BBC’s release of classic Who on DVD and Big Finish Productions’ new audio plays in the meantime.

The second half of Season 7 was more of a mixed bag than the first with some true classics like Wellington writer Neil Cross’s musical extravaganza Rings of Akhaten (Murray Gold’s brilliant score is now available on CD) and ghost (or is that love?) story Hide. There’s also a few clunkers, which is a shame, but you can’t win them all.

Because of its premise, about the adventures of an alien adventurer who travels through time and space in a police box which is bigger on the inside, Doctor Who can be set anywhere and tell any genre of story. So some are bound to work better than others and some will not appeal if they are made in genres you are not a fan of.

I found some of my favourites were loathed by others, and vice versa, but we were all agreed that the best episode of the season was the finale The Name of the Doctor which came packed with surprises. It explained how Clara could appear in so many past stories, including with all 10 of Smith’s predecessors, and was a real love letter to fans. And boy, what a cliff hanger, introducing John Hurt as the Doctor. But where, oh where, does he fit in. Spoilers.

But there’s more reasons to buy this boxed set than just having the whole season in one five disc set and that’s the extras.

There’s more than three hours, some of which are little prequel webisodes which feed into key episodes. Yes, some of them are already online, but here they are in one place in this set, and they do help set up some of the stories.

There are also three good documentaries on the Doctor’s companions, the science of the show and how the series is viewed in the US.

Toruk – The First Flight (Cirque du Soleil) at the Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand

Toruk – The First Flight (Cirque du Soleil) at the Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand

Cirque du Soleil set itself an ambitious target when it decided to attempt a show based on James Cameron’s science fiction epic Avatar. But Toruk – The First Flight took off in so many ways.

The show tells the story of the first blue skinned na’vi of the planet Pandora to ride a killer Toruk bird, an event probably as momentous as the invention of the wheel in our own history.

Before the climactic flight Toruk’s rider, and his friends, must go on a quest as they collect artefacts from five tribes living in five quite different environments on the almost untamed planet.

One of the many highlights of the performance is the evolving of the laser projected sets as they change from one environment to the other. During one transition cliffs appear, water cascades down them and pool on the ground where rocky outcrops remain dry as the characters on the quest traverse the landscape. It was close to photo real, and amazing to behold.

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Avatar – The First Flight is the classic hero’s journey identified by mythologist Joseph Campbell, more comparable to the 1978 Doctor Who story The Key to Time than The Lord of the Rings or the original Star Wars trilogy.

But the hero’s journey in Toruk – The First Flight will change the world as much as Luke Skywalker’s or Frodo Baggins’s quest to topple the Empire and defeat Sauron. All that said, The First Flight is a simple story told through a little narration in English as every word uttered on stage by the performers is in the Na’vi tongue.

Because this is also a Cirque du Soleil show the journey is infused with death defying feats including breath taking aerial rope work, well choreographed native dance and a plethora of other indescribable na’vi antics.

The story is at the forefront at times, particularly at the beginning of the show during the set up, but most of the time it is about the physical feats of the performers.

But they are mostly worked into the story in such a way that they feel natural to the na’vi.

Complaints of the show being too much about Avatar are, frankly, bonkers. This is an Avatar prequel, true and blue, which happens to be put on by Cirque du Soleil. And James Cameron is, evidently, proud.

DVD Review – The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years (Koch Media)

DVD Review – The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years (Koch Media)

The recent death of Deborah Watling, who played companion Victoria Waterfield alongside the late Pat Troughton’s Second Doctor, gives this DVD release an extra poignancy.

Watling died on July 21, aged 69, as I worked my way through the six documentaries in this excellent two disk set comprising a new introduction and six previously released Myth Makers documentaries. Sadly, Watling’s death means half of the actors featuring in this set are no longer with us.

Troughton died in 1987 and Michael Craze, who played companion Ben Jackson, in 1998. This DVD set features them in their own documentaries on Disc 1 alongside Anneke Wills, who played companion Polly. Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury, who played companions Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot, feature in their own documentaries on Disc 2 alongside Watling.

The set is rounded off with a new introduction from interviewer Nicholas Briggs and Producer Keith Barnfather.


Briggs and Barnfather, which sounds like an august legal firm, are absolutely delightful as they introduce this set filmed in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of these features were filmed before Doctor Who sadly left British screens in 1989, or before it returned bigger and better in 2005. It’s obvious from watching and listening to what they have to say that these are two very good friends united in their love for Doctor Who many moons ago.

“Patrick, unfortunately, we never interviewed for Myth Makers,” Barnfather reveals.

Briggs, probably better known for his work with Big Finish Productions and as the voice of the Daleks and other nasties in new era Doctor Who, fesses up to loving Troughton’s Doctor the most.

“He was the one who established, sort of, the character of the Doctor we know today,” Briggs opines. “Patrick Troughton was the prototype for every other Doctor that’s come since him.”

As well as being the name of the missing second story in the third series of original Doctor Who, Myth Makers was a series of documentaries celebrating the first seven Doctors and their companions. Each documentary featured Briggs interviewing one of the cast about their time on the show, and their career before and after it.

The Troughton documentary in this set, then, is the original Myth Makers documentary grabbed from footage of an interview conducted in Brighton in 1985 at a Doctor Who Appreciation Society convention. But this documentary is far more sophisticated than pointing the camera at the stage for 50 minutes focussed on the actor. The piece is balanced with interviews from other Doctor Who cast and crew, starting with former head of BBC TV Drama Shaun Sutton who had known Troughton before World War II.

“Even in those days Patrick had those same deep lines on his face, he had the look of a thousand-year-old leprechaun,” Sutton offers.

“He was just a great fun person,” informs Hines. “Everything could be turned into a joke.”

Anneke Wills’ Myth Makers opens to a Mark Knopfleresque guitar solo set against an idyllic Norfolk countryside, where Wills admits to being her happiest. It’s 1993 and Wills has returned to England after years overseas, including time in a spiritual community in India. She tells Briggs her story from the comfort of a living room, the ruins of a church left behind after its parish was devastated by the Black Death, from the sand dunes on the beach at Cromer, and from the flower garden.
It’s an intimate interview, and Wills is warm and wistful.

Craze is interviewed in 1985, at the Otter Bar in the Norfolk hotel he managed, and again in the Myth Makers studio surrounded by a Dalek, Cyberman and war machine, in 1996.

“We didn’t really quite know how they were going to do it,” Crave reveals of the first regeneration from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton. “All I remember is it took a long time and in those old-fashioned days they literally superimposed the two heads on black backgrounds . . . It took a long time.”

Briggs does a Through The Keyhole intro to the Hines documentary, filmed at Hines’ home/horse stud in Yorkshire in 1994. This is probably the most relaxed of the Myth Makers interviews in this set, so it’s no surprise to learn in the introduction that Hines and Briggs are now great friends, and it’s nice to see a little of Hines’ horse stud in operation.

But the highlight is some behind the scenes footage of The Abominable Snowmen shot on location, in colour, at Snowdonia National Park.

Briggs turns to This Is Your Life for the inspiration for the opening of Watling’s Myth Makers interviews. They were conducted at Monster Con in Liverpool in 1986 on concrete pavers, with additional material shot in 1995.

“I didn’t want her to be soppy and silly and wimpy,” Watling says as she reveals she played against the script.” Of course, the girls in those days, they did tend to be like that . . . Purely because Jamie and the Doctor had to come and rescue them.”

Padbury is treading the boards with the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee at the New Theatre, Cardiff, in Superted And The Comet Of The Spoons in 1986, when Briggs catches up with her for Myth Makers. The interview is augmented with a more recent studio chat in which Padbury confirms her favourite story is The Mind Robber.

“I don’t think there was anything superficial about Pat and Frazer and I,” she says of the dream TARDIS team. “The friendship grew and working together became easier.”

The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years is, in the best possible way, like two DVDs full of top quality extras. Except there’s so many of them that there’s no room for the main feature. It’s the first time that I had seen any of this material, and it made me feel nostalgic for an era of Doctor Who that aired before I was born in 1972.

Review – Bold Worlds – New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at Claudelands Events Centre, Hamilton, conducted by James Macmillan

Bold WorldsBold Worlds was not your usual NZ Symphony Orchestra concert. In fact, it was so unusual that it included a piece featuring an aluphone, a tubular bells-like instrument only invented six years ago.

Artist in Association at London’s Southbank Centre Colin Currie proved to be a master of the unusual instrument in the second piece in the Bold Worlds concert, at the heart of Scottish conductor James Macmillan’s Percussion Concerto No. 2.

At times Macmillan’s Concerto felt a wee bit like a musical joke in the best of traditions, and it seemed second violins section principal Andrew Thomson thought so too, smiling his way through the Concerto as he played along. It was so good to see as well as hear. Either that or Andrew was just thoroughly enjoying himself. And quite right too.

It was hard to say where Macmillan’s 26-minute -piece belongs. Close your eyes, and drift away to the music and at times it felt like incidental music from Doctor Who of the 1980s. Coming from me that’s a compliment. But there were times when it was more like Murray Gold’s music from new Who, feeling even a little experimental in place. It sure kept the listener interested.

The opening piece, Polaris composed by Thomas Ades, was a disparate work, each section of the orchestra telling its own story in a collision of sound which unified for a short time before going their separate ways again.

Commissioned by the New World Symphony in 2011, Polaris is both dark and edgy, at times reminiscent of part of the incomparable John Williams’ score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If ever there was a short orchestral piece that sounded like incidental music for movie, this 14-minute piece was it.

After the break, it was much more business as usual, with the four movements of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 4 in F minor. Allegro , Andante moderato, Scherzo: Allegro molto and Finale con epilogo fugato: Allegro molto all conjured images of the British landscape, mostly because Macmillan explained that was what his music was usually about beforehand. A reading of the programme notes, however, still leaves experts divided. Regardless, it was exquisite.

A nice touch was associate principal trumpet Cheryl Hollinder introducing the programme before the orchestra struck up.

Bold Worlds plays in Auckland on Friday, July 7 and Wellington on Saturday, July 8. The NZSO is on tour with Alexander Shelley July 22-29 and the NZSO National Youth Orchestra July 14 and 15 in Wellington and Auckland with the Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra.

Review – Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls

Review – Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls

Falls2

What would you die for?

That’s the question the 12th Doctor confronts rival Time Lord the Master and Missy with as he goes up against an army of Cybermen in the hope that he might save a settlement of insignificant humans.

It would have been a beautiful moment had any of the previous Doctors issued the challenge, but it was made all the more wonderful coming from the lips of Doctor Number 12.

When Peter Capaldi was handed the role by Matt Smith in 2013’s Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor, we got a grumpier, pricklier version of the character who described his companion. Clara, as his carer. “She cares, so I don’t have to.” Show runner Steven Moffat was emphasising the alienness of our hero, showing how hard it is for him to sometimes empathise with lower humans.

But in tonight’s Series 10 finale, The Doctor Falls, we saw the 12th Doctor continue his softening as he announced he was willing to die doing the right thing, being kind, as he put it. Oh what a journey Capaldi’s Doctor has been on these last few years. Was this part of Moffatt’s master plan, or is Capaldi finishing his time as the Doctor in this way by pure coincidence?

Moffat’s penultimate script (assuming he is on writing duty for the next Christmas special) might just be the best series finale in a long, long time.

This action packed story picked up after last week’s The World Enough and Time, in which companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) was converted into a Cyberman. It was laden with danger, horror and tragedy, not to mention the Master/Missy double bill, a marriage made in hell which ended, somewhat, predictably although you can guarantee we haven’t seen the last of the character(s).

Capaldi really shone as the Doctor, perhaps delivering his most powerful performance yet. This meant that the rest of the cast brought their A game to the table, particularly Mackie and Matt Lucas who, as Nardole, had some wonderful moments. You can’t help wondering if his story is at an end.

The Doctor Falls surely evoked tears, but the beauty of Doctor Who means that anything is possible. Where there are tears there is hope.

Review – Doctor Who – The World Enough and Time

DW11.1In The World Enough and Time, clever, old, Steven Moffat has delivered both a sequel and a prequel to the first ever Cyberman story, The Tenth Planet.

At the end of that first Cyberman story, which aired in October, 1966, first Doctor William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton. The World Enough and Time is a prequel, because it shows the genesis of the Cybermen, while being a sequel, because the 12th Doctor is there to witness it.

Who, except for clever old show runner Steven Moffat who wrote this episode, could ever have imagined that the 12th Doctor, and his companions, could ever have played such an integral part in their creation? It’s 1975’s Genesis of the Daleks, ala Tom Baker, all over again!

We’ve known Series 10 would be Capaldi’s last for a long time, so including what appears to be his regeneration ahead of the title sequence this week only serves to remind us of this Doctor’s walk to the gallows. Now it’s coming, every moment with 12 seems bittersweet. One wonders whether we’ll see the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) regenerated at the end of this story, or whether we’ll have to wait until the 2017 Christmas Special.

Moffat’s script, under the skilful direction of Rachel Talalay, hooked the viewer from its opening moments, exploring the narrative like a TARDIS that has jumped a time track.

The TARDIS crew, and Missy (Michelle Gomez), arrive on a mysterious generational spaceship stuck on the event horizon of a black hole. Bill (Peal Mackie) is seemingly killed on the top deck of the ship, before we flash back further to a conversation between her and the Doctor in which he cannot guarantee her safety.

It was lovely to hear reimagined strains of composer Murray Gold’s This is Gallifrey strike up as the Doctor describes the Master/Missy as the person most like him in the universe. After all, they were young Time Lords together. Here, we learn, the Doctor wishes to discover if Missy is truly reformed by sending her on a mission of his choosing with Bill and Nardole (Matt Lucas).

Back to the generational ship, and Bill has been taken below decks by mysteriously bandaged humanoids serving a battle axe of a nurse and a skittish, yet familiar, little man. They’ve repaired Bill, and revived her, after inserting a mechanical heart, but she must stay within the confines of the hospital if she is to survive.

It’s pretty clear, at this point, that there’s more to the skittish man than meets the eye, and all will soon be revealed. Bill, as predicted, is well on her way to becoming a Mondassian cyberman or woman.

The penultimate episode of Doctor Who: Series 10 is an instant classic and next week’s episode looks set to be heart breaking.