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sontar-ha!

Sunday 27th April 2008

... and RIP Humph

I read in a magazine this week that Christopher Ryan (as in Mike The Cool Person, not as in SAS novelist guy) is now 65 years old, which scared the pants off me as it seems like about eighteen months ago he was playing a guy living in a student house... Of course it isn't eighteen months at all; it's now over TWENTY-FIVE YEARS since the first series of The Young Ones; Christopher Ryan, while patently older than the rest of the cast (being a late replacement for Pete Richardson, if I recall correctly) will only have been about a year or so older than I am now in series one, and since the rest of that gang are all fifty-ish I suppose he must be retirement age by now. Bloody hell.

He's in the news this week as he's currently appearing in Doctor Who as General Staal of the Sontarans, and a damn fine job he's making of it. Indeed, a damn fine job is being done on the Sontarans in general; not only are they back down to about 5'2" tall (probably a major factor in casting Chris Ryan) but their gleeful militarism is once again to the fore.

One thing New Who has consistently gotten right thus far is returning to the quintessence of each specific Big Bad... towards the end of the original run the Big Guest Star Aliens seemed to become completely interchangeable; they were just that week's Bad Thing to be defeated. You could take the Sontarans out of, say, The Two Doctors and replace them with the Cybermen and it wouldn't make any difference (mind you, you could replace them with the bloody Chuckle Brothers and it wouldn't make The Two Doctors any worse).

This new series has been pretty dilligent thus far in preserving what made these characters so compelling in the first place... Daleks are NOT emotionless, they have plenty of emotions, it's just they're all negative emotions. They're ranting fascists, seething little tanks of hate. Cybermen ARE emotionless, they do what they do dispassionately and when they say "You will be like us" they genuinely believe it's for your own good. And Sontarans live and breathe WAR. If you're a Sontaran, you're cloned in a vat, you come out, they give you a gun and you're in the army. They were always my favourites (I especially loved the central gag of the hemispherical helmet coming off to reveal a hemispherical head) and it's good to see them done justice.

Oh, and I can't post an entry without paying a brief tribute to Humphrey Lyttleton. While his passing is a sad occasion I can't help feeling it's sadder for those he leaves behind than for Humph; we should all be so lucky as to live to a ripe old age (although I'm sure Humph would have felt he had a few more years left in him), doing something we love and bringing joy to millions in the process, and staying busy (and compos mentis) right up until the end. Nice one Humph.

Apparently wreaths are being laid at Mornington Crescent tube station. That's the kind of thing makes you proud to be British.

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