Gnomes, Trolls and Elves, Oh My: Enter the World of The Shannara Chronicles

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“This is the ideal place for all of us lunatics who love to live in the world of the imagination.”
John Rhys-Davies

John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) returns to New Zealand and the land of Elves (this time as an Elf himself) on the set of MTV’s new series, The Shannara Chronicles, based on the best-selling books written by fantasy author Terry BrooksJon Favreau (Iron Man) co-produced the series along with Smallville and Into the Badlands creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, in concert with Brooks.

Starring John Rhys-DaviesPoppy Drayton (Downton Abbey), Aaron Jakubenko (Spartacus: War of the Damned’s), Austin Butler (Carrie Diaries, Arrowand Manu Bennett (Arrow, Spartacus), the series follows the adventures of three teens on their own epic quest.

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The locations are lush and beautiful, as one has come to expect from New Zealand productions, and the sets look grand. MTV hopes to cash in on the sword and sorcery/LOTR craze with Shannara, and what little I’ve seen, looks promising.

Here’s a glimpse into the world of The Shannara Chronicles debuting Tuesday, January 5, 2016 on MTV at 10pm EST.

Christopher Lee Remembered

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Christopher Lee

From immortal monster, to Jedi, to powerful wizard. He had worn many faces throughout his long and distinguished career. This week, the world mourned the loss of veteran stage and screen actor, Sir Christopher Lee.

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“Chiller Theatre” opening sequence. This creeped me out so much as a kid.

My introduction to Christopher Lee came one night, well after my bedtime, staying up to watch Chiller Theatre. 

I enjoyed (usually with one eye open) many Hammer Horror films, most of them starring Lee, starting with Horror of Dracula (1958), with Lee in the title role and co-star Peter Cushing (another favorite of mine and fellow Star Wars alum) as his nemesis Van Helsing. As a little girl, hiding under the covers, peeking out just as he was about to strike at some unsuspecting victim, I was both terrified and mesmerized by Lee’s gaze. I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was hooked.

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Lee as Count Dracula in many Hammer Horror films.

I credit my love of gothic horror to those early films. Lee’s Dracula was silent and menacing. He was far from repentant, and no, damn it, he never sparkled – he compelled – as any good (or in this case, bad) vampire should. He’d given me many nightmares, and later in life, he was also a source of inspiration for many of the stories I’d go on to write.

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Lee as Saruman the White in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.

Years later, I was thrilled to see him as Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels and again in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies as Saruman the White. Nearly 80 when he took on those roles, Lee showed no signs of slowing down. He even recorded the Heavy Metal Christmas album in 2012. Still cool, still relevant and still doing things his way at 90, I couldn’t help but admire him.

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Christopher Lee in Vatican City (1944).

Lee cast a long and imposing shadow, standing a full 6 feet 5 inches tall. He was a giant in every way to someone like me. From everything I’d seen, Christopher Lee was a proud man, a powerful man and a serious man.  He had served in the military, was in the RAF during World War II, and had received various honors, including knighthood in 2009. The man certainly seemed the stuff of legend.

Christopher Lee kept acting into his 90s, always sharp and full of purpose, and he left quite a legacy. I thought somehow he’d live forever… He was an original. We’ll likely never see another like him, and he will be sorely missed.

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Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, John Carradine and Peter Cushing

Christopher Lee passed away on June 7, 2015, at the age of 93. He has gone to join his friends and former co-stars, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine (all gone, but not forgotten.. nothing is ever forgotten…) – best known for their horror/sci-fi roles. I’m sure they welcome him with open arms. Oh, the stories they must have to share.

Farewell… and many thanks, Sir Christopher Lee. I owe you more than I ever realized…

-SylverWhisper

Attention Female Sci-Fi Writers: Doctor Who Needs YOU!

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Sandman and Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman

Recently, Sandman and Neverwhere author Neil Gaiman, commented on the lack of female writers in Doctor Who.  He would know, having penned two stories himself (The Doctor’s Wife, Nightmare in Silver) for the current series.

But that can’t be right, can it? I thought long and hard to myself, and truthfully, while I can recall female directors and producers (after all, the series was birthed by the late Verity Lambert and producer Julie Gardner was instrumental in helping Russell T. Davies bring back Doctor Who in 2005), I can’t – off the top of my head – recall female writers for the series. This really gnawed at me.

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Verity Lambert and Russell T. Davies

FROM FANDOM TO CALLING THE SHOTS

Often, I cite Paul Cornell as one of my top writers for the current series. Paul writes compelling science fiction and drama, as evidenced in The 10th Doctor story (originally written for 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoyHuman Nature and Father’s Day (for 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston). Even upon repeated watchings, I am always moved to tears by these episodes.

Back in the day, it was Robert Holmes who wrote some of the best stories for the classic era, including The Deadly Assassin and Talons of Weng-Chiang (for 4th Doctor Tom Baker) and Caves of Androzani (for 5th Doctor Peter Davison). Surely, my favorite sci-fi show of all time had just as many female writers, right? Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I owe Doctor Who for inspiring my love of science fiction and desire for self-expression. I was one of those fanfic and fanzine writers who felt compelled to expand on The Doctor’s universe. Yep, I was one of the ones people snickered at. We found refuge at conventions and dared not share our creations with the uninitiated. They wouldn’t understand… They just wouldn’t get it. 

Times have changed, and some of those same con-geeks and nerds are among some of the most successful writers and producers in film and television today. Fanboys Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Queer as Folk), Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who, Sherlock) and of course, Steven Moffat (Coupling, Doctor Who, Sherlock), all started as fellow nerds and Whovians. But that’s a rather testosteroneladen list.

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Buffy, BSG and Torchwood writer Jane Espenson

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

What about the rest of us? Geek girls, fangirls, nerd girls – whatever label you choose. We’re out here, ready to produce the next Doctor Who, Star Trek or Star Wars, given the opportunity. And yet, my short list is, well, rather… short. This shouldn’t be so hard…

Maybe Buffy and Battlestar Galactica alum Jane Espenson (she also wrote for the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood starring Arrow’s John Barrowman) should have a go as head writer/show runner for Doctor Who? She’s written for just about every sci-fi/fantasy series in recent history (the ones I care about anyway), including Game of Thrones and Firefly.

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“Outlander” author Diana Gabaldon with her two Jamies

Perhaps Outlander author, Diana Gabaldon, should try her hand at writing for our favorite Time Lord? Considering Outlander’s connection to Doctor Who it wouldn’t be a stretch. I wouldn’t mind a return to purely historical Doctor Who stories like The Aztecs, The Crusades and Marco Polo (from the William Hartnell/First Doctor era).

Fellow Whovians, which female writers would you like to see pen a Doctor Who script?

NEXT UP

Series 8 continues… Stay tuned for tonight’s episode of Doctor WhoFlatline.

Airing Saturday, October 18th at 9pm on BBC America.