The BBC isn’t generally known for springing surprises, but on 9th January, it certainly did that with a genre-busting series called Life on Mars. The series starred John Simm as DCI Sam Tyler (John Simms) who, after being involved in a car crash in 2006, wakes up to find himself in 1973, the era of ‘Sweeney’ type policing, Mark III Cortinas, and flared trousers. Witty and clever, the series gleefully mixed up genre stereotypes in a way that hadn’t been seen on BBC television for a very long time, and it seemed obvious that the BBC’s sudden enthusiasm towards Fantasy shows was a direct result of the success of the revived Doctor Who.
Underworld Evolution opened in cinemas on 20th January, to mixed reviews, although many agreed that it was superior to the original ‘Romeo and Juliet with vampires and werewolves’, with a hard-working cast including Derek Jacobi and Bill Nighy.
February saw some great episodes from the second series of Battlestar Galactica which was fast consolidating its reputation as a top TV drama series to stand alongside The West Wing. (How different from its rather less auspicious forebear!) ‘We’re at the stage of the season where scripts are more introverted and character-driven; last week it was Apollo, this episode it is Starbuck – and what a mess she is! Still grieving for her lover Anders, hitting the bottle, she enters into a battle of wills with fellow pilot and former stimulant junkie Lt Katraine – their target is ‘Scar’, the Cylon raider that has killed so many of their fellows. The ship is Starbuck’s Moby Dick, and this time it’s personal.’
V for Vendetta arrived in the cinemas, somewhat delayed. It was originally scheduled to come out on November the Fifth, tying in with the theme of a modern-day plot to destroy a futuristic Britain’s Fascistic government, but the terrorist attacks in London in July 2005 made this seem a little too close to home for comfort. Alan Moores bleak story was rendered faithfully for the screen – Natalie Portman shaved her head for her scenes as V’s ‘apprentice’ Evey – but there were rather mixed reviews.
Doctor Who blasted back to British TV screens on 15th April, Easter weekend. The build-up was rather low-key compared to the launch for Christopher Eccleston but with the brand firmly established, the BBC only really had to make it known that Doctor Who was back. The opening story, New Earth, wasn’t vintage Who, but served as a fast-paced action/adventure and there were a couple of good scenes among the froth and frantic energy. Reviewers concentrated on debating David Tennant’s sex appeal and his on-screen kiss with Billie Piper.
X-Men 3 – The Last Stand arrived in cinemas, accompanied by a host of appearances on chat-shows from Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. In his review for Starburst Alan Jones pointed out exactly why this third helping of mutant mayhem didn’t really cut the mustard... ‘The confusion starts right from the very beginning. In short order we are whisked 20 years back into the past where Xavier and Magneto (with hilarious CGI botox face-lifts) first meet teen Jean Grey. Ten years later we witness Angel self-mutilating his wings sparking his father’s search for a cure. Then it’s off to the future, segueing into sad Cyclops pining for his supposedly dead love. Spectacular, with major shock deaths, and technically proficient as befits a summer blockbuster, it’s the script that really lets this Marvel comic episode down badly.’
It was no supernatural occurrence that the film of the month, the big-budget remake of the Satanic shocker The Omen, came into cinemas on 6th of June – the sixth month – in the year 2006. Producers had been lying in wait to claim the eerie ‘number of the beast’ as their release date – the number was supposed to signify disaster, and the film’s reviews certainly lived up to that. Liev Schreiber seemed all at sea in the Gregory Peck role, and while there was strong support from Pete Postlethwaite, David Thewlis and Mia Farrow (as a kind of malevolent Mary Poppins) the shocks seemed a bit less shocking.