The Boy (2016)

I had little interest in watching yet another movie about a creepy doll. I can safely say that having watched Dead of Night and Magic, I’ve seen enough creepy doll movies to last a lifetime. But The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan is reason enough for me to watch any movie. And it’s not just that she looks like a million dollars. As she proved with that zombie-bashing saga, Cohan has the acting chops to make any grief-stricken scene plausible. 


So I decided to give her movie the benefit of the doubt, and was slowly drawn into the tale of Greta Evans, an American nanny sent to a gothic English house to look after Brahms, the eight-year-old son of an elderly couple who are ’going away’ for a bit. 
Of course Brahms turns out to be a creepy doll, and like Gremlins, there’s a strict set of instructions to adhere to. 


Naturally the glam nanny thinks this is all a bit of a joke to start with, but as she spends longer with the unusual youngster, she grows attached to him. 

For two thirds of the film it’s easy to be attracted to this gothic yarn. The mystery of Brahms’s motives eventually becomes clear in the preposterous third act, a finale which will have you reaching for the off switch before the closing credits. 

Do yourself a favour. Wait until the mirror smashes and do just that. What follows that seven years of bad luck is seven minutes of horrendous nonsense that does Cohan or costar Rupert (Hellboy) Evans few favours. 


4/10

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Movie Review

For about 10 minutes at the start of the latest collaboration between JK Rowling and director David Yates, I thought I would finally be allowed into the world of Harry Potter without having to endure the boy wizard and his cronies. 
I was too old to enjoy the Potter phenomenon, but with an older protagonist in the form of Eddie Redmayne’s Newt, and period New York as the backdrop, it felt more me. 


Sadly, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them soon settled into one of the most tedious films of 2016. 

It’s well cast, the effects are great and it promises much. The problem is Rowling’s screenplay is so boring. She thinks dialogue should be more important than visuals, so we have achingly long scenes of boring exposition where nothing happens. Little wonder I started nodding off after an hour and had trouble staying awake for the rest of it. 


When it felt like the finale had arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief. But then it carried on… for about 45 minutes. 

I fought against leaden eyelids, but a dozen times I closed my eyes hoping for some action scenes to wake me up. 

Finally the explosive finale arrived, and then we endured another endless farewell to secondary characters I cared little about. 

Problem is Rowling needs a script editor to trim the fat, but when you have that much power, who dares say that she should tighten up the flabby second act, trim the assorted endings and just get on with it? Mentally I was yelling: “Just finish the movie!” But like some endless torture it just carried on. 

Redmayne and Katherine Waterston are terrific, but I cared little about anyone else and the villain just seemed to be a tortured soul who turns into a whirling dervish of bad energy. 

As you may have gathered I won’t be counting the days until the sequel. 

Passengers (2016) – Film Review

The hook of new sci-fi film Passengers hangs on one simple moral dilemma: you’re the only person on a star ship and destined to die alone. Do you wake up one of 5,000 passengers, knowing you are sentencing them to death? 
That’s the bit the adverts gloss over, instead choosing to centre on the natural chemistry between stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. 


He’s likeable as James Preston, the blue collar tech guy who awakens from hyper sleep on a starship ferrying 5,000 passengers and 2,000 crew from Earth to an idyllic planet. It’s a 120-year journey and thanks to a meteor strike, the sleek ship is damaged 30 years into its trip. With 90 years left to go, Preston can’t return to sleep, and has only a robot bartender (Michael Sheen) for company. 

Like sitcom The Last Man on Earth, Preston grows a big bushy beard and samples the best facilities before loneliness and desperation gets the better of him. 


He happens upon Aurora (Lawrence), a beautiful blonde writer who’s a higher grade than him and looks like a dream companion. 

So he defrosts her, they fall in love and the rest is as formulaic as you can imagine. 

A bombshell is dropped; a disaster occurs; burnt bridges are rebuilt and the third act is edge-of-the-seat peril reminiscent of finales in Gravity and 2010. 

Pratt and Lawrence are a dream team. He’s as likeable as ever (less of a one-note character than Jurassic World thankfully); she’s sexy, smart, fun and still the most compelling actress of her generation. Few thesps react to shock more naturally, or manage to ground the most lightweight fantasy with greater skill. 


The movie looks terrific, though the sets look like countless Halo or Mass Effect games; all pristine, multi-level vistas with Red Dwarf-style cleaning droids attending to the humans’ whims. 

Yes, we’ve seen it all before, though the zero gravity bubble of water that threatens to drown Aurora is a fresh touch. 

There is a creepiness to half the film that is difficult to avoid. While Preston’s decision to wake Aurora is tantamount to murder, inevitably there’s a chance to redeem himself. In short it’s a classic ’boy meets girl; boy loses girl, boy attempts to save girl’ scenario. 

When Laurence Fishburne turns up half way through, alarm bells start ringing, echoes of Event Horizon and Predators remind me that ’Fishburne plus spaceships equals disaster’. And the fact Andy Garcia gets a screen credit after five seconds of screen time is remarkable. 

Passengers isn’t a perfect movie by any means. It does remind me of countless better films, including the aforementioned Gravity, but I follow it with the stunningly tedious, overblown fantasy epic Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the perfect cure for insomnia). 

Pratt and Lawrence’s flawed vehicle is light years ahead of that JK Rowling yawnfest. 

30 Movies of 2016

The year got off to a terrific start with a wealth of affecting films vying for Oscar glory, settled into one of the worst summers for generic tent poles, and ended with one of the boldest entries in the Star Wars saga. 
Yes, it’s that time of year again when movies of the past 12 months are assessed, listed in order of merit then contested by you, dear reader, who wonders why certain films weren’t included. The simple answer is: I didn’t see them all. 

Here’s a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of 2016. 

30 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Zack Snyder took the most anticipated franchise team-up in decades and turned it into an overlong video game cut scene. Mind bogglingly stupid, with Grand Canyon-sized plot holes; a third act twist which made no sense, and Wonder Woman watching trailers for upcoming DC movies on her laptop. And to top it all, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor winning my award for most annoying villain in any superhero movie franchise. Ever. 


29 Suicide Squad

Margot Robbie stole the show as Harley Quinn in David Ayer’s super villain ensemble. Despite a stunning trailer, the movie turned out to be a huge let down with Jared Leto’s horrible Joker on screen for a thankfully short running time, and the finale feeling like a woeful Ghostbusters remake. 

28 The Nice Guys

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling were like oil and water in this mismatched buddy crime comedy. Shane Black’s witty script ran out of steam at the end. 

27 Warcraft: The Beginning. 

Duncan Jones’s ambitious big screen version of the mmorpg was bold but frustrating. A flop in the West, but did well in China so a sequel not entirely off the cards. 

26 The Girl on the Train
Emily Blunt could make an adaptation of the phone book work, but this adaptation suffered from a slow second act and proved far less compelling than the source novel. 

25 Ghostbusters 

Internet trolls ripped the movie apart the minute the trailer was released, so expectations were low. However, the movie was often very funny, with Kate McKinnon a standout as the obligatory zany scientist and Chris Hemsworth a hoot as the team’s gloriously stupid PA.   


24 High Rise 

The union of star Tom Hiddleston and director Ben Wheatley sounded like a movie made in Heaven. Alas, despite solid turns from Tom and Luke Evans, this was an unpleasant retro mess. Wrong on so many levels. 


23  X-Men Apocalypse

Bryan Singer’s CG-heavy fantasy saga rolled on with more top turns from James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. Cinematic candy floss with a couple of memorable scenes. 

22 Hail, Caesar!
The Coen brothers essentially made a pilot for a TV series, with two stand out moments: Ralph Fiennes’ “Would that it were so simple” scene (with future Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich), and Channing Tatum’s musical number were terrific. But the open ended finale was just annoying. 

21 A Streetcat Named Bob

Trainspotting with a feline saviour. Flawed but touching. 


20 Midnight Special

A snail-paced thriller with a good shock (as I was nodding off) and a finale that made it worthwhile. I never need to see it again, but it was bearable. Just. 

19 Star Trek Beyond

After JJ Abrams’ powerhouse rebooted Trek offerings, things slowed to impulse power as Kirk, Spock and company tackled another alien warlord who wrecked the Enterprise (again). It wasn’t bad. Sofia Boutella was a standout as the kick-ass heroine, but it failed to reach orbit. Better than The Final Frontier and Nemesis, but could have been something a lot more special. Wherever Beyond is, it fell way short. 

18 Jason Bourne 

Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon returned to the franchise with a lean, mean crowd pleaser that added little to the saga. There was an inevitable loss, a gruff Hollywood legend to rail against and some hard edged fight scenes and chases. Well crafted but formulaic. 

17 Jack Reacher – Never Go Back

Lee Child’s literary hero got a second chance at screen stardom as Tom Cruise helped clear the name of an endangered military type. Cobie Smulders was terrific, there was lots of running and some good fight scenes. That’s about it.

16 Sing Street

One of the best feelgood musical comedies of the year with great songs (Drive It Like You Stole It a standout) and some touching scenes. 


15. Captain America: Civil War

Franchise fatigue was starting to set in at the Marvel camp, with their beautifully crafted series of set-ups for The Avengers: Infinity War movies leaving some fans wishing they’d just get in with it. After the humdrum Winter Soldier, this sequel was essentially The Avengers 2.5 as Cap’s team of skilled heroes took on Iron Man’s opposition. A great airport battle was the standout, while Ant-Man and Spider-Man stole the show between them. 


14.  Doctor Strange 

Benedict Cumberbatch was a perfect fit as the arrogant New York surgeon who sought spiritual enlightenment and took on inter dimensional forces of evil. A fun Marvel diversion. 

13. Deadpool

Ryan Reynolds’ second turn as the resurrected mercenary (after X-Men Origins: Wolverine) was a foul-mouthed delight and one of the biggest surprise hits of the year.  

12. The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino channelled Agatha Christie in a wintry Western shot in glorious 70mm. Cineworld didn’t show it, so it forced me to go elsewhere for what is essentially a stage play, but it was worth the diversion. A twisty turny masterpiece. 

11. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Tim Burton’s gloriously bizarre fantasy with a scene stealing Eva Green. An instant cult classic. 


10. 10 Cloverfield Lane

Mary Elizabeth Winstead wakes trapped in a room, and as the tale unfolds it turns out John Goodman’s unhinged character has either kidnapped her or is protecting her from something shocking. A three hander with a kicker of an ending helped make this a knockout sleeper hit from the JJ Abrams stable, with superb turns from Winstead and the ever reliable Goodman. And thankfully it had little in common with the shaky cam yawn fest, Cloverfield. 

9. Joy

And it was. After Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and director David O Russell struck gold again with this tale of a woman selling a mop on QVC. On paper it sounds like commercial suicide, but Lawrence remains the most compelling actress of her generation and made this soar. 


8. The Revenant

Leo being savaged by a bear was not the greatest five minutes of film I’ve seen this year, but the epic tale of betrayal and revenge looked amazing, boasted a great cast and though overrated, was still a fine piece of work even if Tom Hardy took incoherence to new levels of Bane-like confusion. 


7. Zootroplis

Arguably the best mainstream ’toon of the year was a clever fable/mystery with interesting characters, terrific art direction and a solid story. Little wonder it sold a squillion tickets. 

6. The Finest Hours

An old fashioned tale of heroism at sea with Chris Pine on good form as the shy sailor who undertakes a death defying mission to rescue stranded crewmen on a stricken tanker.  


5. Anomalisa

A surreal stop motion spin on Being John Malkovich, and plenty of other Charlie Kaufman moments. If featured one of the most touching love scenes of recent years… with puppets. I can only imagine how long it took to make, but the end result was remarkable. 

4. Hell or High Water

Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and the writer of Sicario joined forces to make this splendid contemporary Western set in Texas (which aptly was where I saw it). 

3. Eddie the Eagle
Dexter Fletcher’s feelgood biopic of Eddie Edwards, the British downhill skier who overcame the odds to compete for Olympic gold. Sweet, touching and top turns from Tarin Egerton and Hugh Jackman helped make this soar. 

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Star Wars Episode 3.5 boasted a great cast, terrific effects and the best third act of the year. It was also the boldest movie of the franchise which added the weight of a star destroyer to a series which has thankfully recovered after those woeful prequels. 


1. Arrival

’What if Independence Day was an art house film?’ That’s perhaps the best pitch for this haunting tale of communication with one of the most affecting finales of the year. I was speechless by the twist. Top turns from Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, while the Johan Johansson score was wonderful. Can’t wait to see how director Denis Villeneuve handles Blade Runner 2049. 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Spoiler Free Review

The latest chapter in the Star Wars saga, episode 3.5 if you like, is a remarkable achievement.
Like last year’s The Force Awakens, this mixes classic touches from the best films – dogfights in space, rebels vs stormtrooper shootouts, attempts to bring down energy shields and the like – and ups the ante.


Felicity Jones is spot on as Jyn Erso, the daughter of a scientist (Mads Mikkelsen) forced to work on the infamous Death Star.

Together with a rag tag band of rebels, they set off to steal the plans which expose a weakness in its design. Obviously that’s no spoiler as the original Star Wars filled in all the blanks 39 years ago.


British director Gareth Edwards does a terrific job of orchestrating the emotional scenes, set pieces and effects. There may have been talk of reshoots, but Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy’s script was splendid, and whatever tinkering went on was for the good of the movie.

Okay, there’s too many alien names for my liking, but a few more watches should iron out those problems.

 Ben Mendelsohn is splendid as Director Krennic, the villain in white (there’s only one villain allowed a black cape in this movie), while the return of some familiar faces will leave old school fans beaming.

I developed a huge grin half way through, and by the stunning finale I was ready to see another few hours.

It’s so snappily paced and acted, with great effects, the look is a good enough selling point, but this packs such an emotional wallop, you’d think Darth Vader himself had force gripped your heart.


If you’re a fan of the saga, you’ll love it. There are bold moves here, and not what you might expect. Michael Giacchino does a fine job of channelling John Williams’ classic scores, and although longer than most entries in the saga, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

It’s the early hours of December 15 and for one lifelong Star Wars fan, Christmas just came early.

The Woman Conquering Space: On Set with Britain’s Brightest New Film Producer

Across the Pond, Gale Anne Hurd and Kathleen Kennedy have become two of the most powerful women in Hollywood after years of hard graft on respective projects such as Aliens, The Walking Dead and the rebooted Star Wars saga.
Now a new British film producer is following in their inspiring footsteps, creating the sort of high end sci-fi adventure that could leave cash tills ringing around the world.

It’s a freezing morning in the final hours of November 2016 as I arrive at GSP Studios near York. After the success of their acclaimed features such as The Knife That Killed Me, and Awaiting, they are boldly going into the world of intergalactic adventure.
Producer Charlette Kilby is wisely wrapped up warm after the coldest night of the year. She’s overseeing filming on Solis, a visually stunning, emotionally gripping sci-fi movie starring Steven Ogg.


Steven Ogg as Troy Holloway in Solis. 

If you don’t know his name, ask any gamer their favourite CG psychopath of recent years and chances are they’ll say Trevor Phillips, the gloriously unhinged anti-hero who helped make GTA5 one of the fastest selling, highest grossing games of all time.

Since then the motion capture superstar has gone on to shine in The Walking Dead and Westworld, but Solis is the feature which will make him a star.

Ogg was lured from the heat of LA to the chilly East Riding of Yorkshire by the fact Solis is not your typical sci-fi offering. He connected with the emotional complexity of his character, Troy Holloway, a man whose plight should grab viewers in the opening minutes and not let go until the gripping finale.

When I first see the Canadian actor on screen, he’s floating through a frozen corridor. I go next door onto the set and see him in the flesh through a veil of smoke. I suspect he’s stood up, bent over. Then I realise he actually is floating; there’s no wires above him. It’s a trick any stage sorceror would be proud of.

For Charlette, getting magic like this on film is the culmination of years of planning, pitching, cold calling and getting enough money to make the dream a reality.

And in case you think she’s one of the countless graduates stepping from college to a movie studio think again.

“Myself and Carl (Strathie), the writer and director of Solis, have been trying to make a feature film for the longest time,” she explains. “We’ve been making shorts; we are completely self-taught. We didn’t go to film school.

“Carl left school when he was 16 and has always wanted to be a film director, ever since he was little.”

Charlette and Carl met at school when they were 11 years old. That friendship eventually blossomed into something more personal.

“I love films. I’m such a geek and watching films and going to the cinema was always a passion of mine, but I never thought you could make a career of it,” she explains. “So Carl said ‘I’m making this little film, do you want to come and help me?’

Charlette agreed, and they set to work.

It was originally planned as a feature. Though that never got completed, it is one of their many projects planned for the future.

“I guess the rest as they say is history. I just fell in love with it, explains Charlette. “It was literally me and Carl. Carl was on the camera directing and writing and I was pretty much doing everything else I was first A.D., doing sound and making the lunch.”

 

Solis Producer Charlette Kilby

“So from then on we were making short films, with a bunch of people who are here now. Our short film was their first film, and they’ve gone on to do some big stuff.”

The photogenic producer is proof that you don’t need to spend years being taught by academics to make it in the film industry. Just have a good idea and turn it into a reality. (For the sake of balance, the director is also a good looking bloke in case you’re wondering).

“It’s been years and years and years of trying to break into the industry, she explains. “Because we are self taught and we didn’t go to film school, we didn’t have that networking power. When you leave film school you have contacts and you can slip into plenty of avenues.

“We come from a small town in the coastal area of Essex. There is nothing in the way of ’film anything’ there so we literally pushed and pushed and pushed.

“Carl wrote an armada of scripts, so at this moment in time there are 10 features ready to go.”

 The director was so impressed with Ogg’s motion captured performance on GTA5, he wrote the sci-fi project for him.

“We approached his agent, three years ago now, and within days his agent got back, ’Steven’s read it, he loves it. He wants to chat to you. When can you meet in LA?’

“We are like, ’We don’t come from LA at all. We’re from an obscure town in England,” laughs Charlette.


Roger Crow and Steven Ogg. December 2016

The project started to take shape when they got acclaimed production designer Tony Noble on board, the man who had helped make Duncan Jones’ debut feature Moon such an international success.

I’m like a kid on Christmas morning when I see Tony and his colleagues hard at work, creating Carl and Charlette’s world.

Of course the best designer in the world, and Tony is one of them, can’t paper over the cracks if there’s no story. The beating heart of Solis is that emotional bond between the audience and the troubled protagonist. And thankfully, although the hardware is impressive, it’s quite rightly just a backdrop to the human drama unfolding.

“The idea of this is that it’s a man trapped inside an escape pod, but he’s also trapped inside his own grief,” explains Charlette.
“Certain times in your life you make mistakes and you have regret. And he’s just trapped in that circle of regret. He’s a man on a ledge essentially. He’s ready to jump. ‘I’ve messed up. I’m ready to pack it all in’.”

However, help is at hand.

“Roberts, who is in the rescue ship coming to save him, is like the cop hanging out the window saying ‘Don’t jump! You’ve got so much to live for, and do you know what? Your life is actually better than mine. I’ve gone through worse than what you’ve gone through’, and she is really the heroine in the fact that she pulls him back from the brink. 

“She makes him see what life is all about, and for a character like Holloway, I think a lot of people can connect with him because you get to that point where you think ‘Nothing has ever gone right for me. Is it just me or is it the universe working against me? Why did this happen to me? It’s all my fault’. And I think a lot of people can connect with that.”

Charlette explains that it’s far more than just a binary plot of “the good guy and the bad guy”.

“You got this intimate relationship with these two people trying to help each other. And at first they are against each other; they are in this stressful situation, but they managed to see past all that and… yeah, life is worth living. There is that emotional aspect to it. Not just ‘shoot the bad guy and live happily ever after’.”

It might be early days on the Solis shoot but Carl and Charlette are equally excited about their follow up, described as a cross between The Shining and Beetlejuice. THAT I can’t wait to see, but obviously all eyes are on the present, or rather the future.

As I leave the Solis team, Steven Ogg is taking a well earned rest in the studio lobby. I’m six foot and he towers over me, but it’s more than just physical height that is impressive. He dominates the screen, like a cross between Billy Bob Thornton and Usain Bolt. His teeth alone deserve an Oscar. They are dental perfection.

Film-making can be a precarious business, even on multi-million dollar sci-fi epics, but I love little movies that punch above their weight.

Given Ogg’s impressive performance on day one and the skills of Charlette’s crew, I get the feeling that Solis is one movie that won’t get lost in space. 

My Time with Peter Davison

We all have our earliest memories of Dr Who. Mine is watching Jo Grant menaced by maggots in The Green Death; the four year old me berating her for going back into a cave when any logical person would have run a mile. 

I’ve spend most of my working life reviewing and dissecting TV shows and films, and obviously watching every episode of Who like many of you. 

At one point I even made my own fan film involving the gallivanting Gallifreyan and Barnes Wallis called Dam and Blast. 

(The actor playing said genius inventor is now supporting The Sisters of Mercy on tour while the unfinished film is doing a good job of collecting dust). 
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 44 years since I first saw Jo’s maggot-related peril, it’s this: life is time travel. A one-way journey, which speeds by like a trip in a certain police phone box. 

Okay, not the freshest analogy in the world, but truth is we’re all hurtling through space, and occasionally some of our timelines overlap with greatness, such as one autumnal 2016 night near York when I met Peter Davison.  
For the sake of this time travelling tale, my journey begins in 1978: a 10 year old building a Battlestar Galactica Viper model one Saturday night while watching All Creatures Great and Small on the BBC. 

Those were the days when the sight of Christopher Timothy performing a ventriloquist act with the rear end of a cow was as interesting as British TV got. 
In the pre-internet era of three TV channels, a young Davison won the hearts of millions as mischievous vet Tristan Farnon. 

The show was a huge hit and he got snapped up for countless projects, from sitcoms to period dramas.

I watched just about all of them, and though some got lost in space (Holding the Fort, and Sink or Swim among them), A Very Peculiar Practice and BAFTA/Emmy nominated At Home With the Braithwaites became favourites. 

In case you’ve never seen them, the former is a glorious campus comedy with David Troughton (son of Patrick and later to feature in a favourite Tennant episode, Midnight); the latter sees PD on top form as an adulterous spouse usually one step away from a nervous breakdown. 
Fast forward to the noughties, and Davison is grinning. I’ve just seen him for the first time in the flesh at a Birmingham (UK) memorabilia fair, signing autographs and taking his own money (unlike many other celebs who need an assistant to do that sort of thing). 

When I see him again an hour later he’s striding around the hall, still beaming. 

(Another Who star is at the same venue and looks like a wet weekend on Skaro). 
Skip to now-ish. 


End of  Term. Photo: Tim Hall

It’s the tail end of 2016, and a year after Davison helped me plug one of those touring Murray Gold Who gigs via email, I’m on the set of End of Term, the new film from award-winning director Mark Murphy. 
It’s my third visit in a couple of weeks, and as much as I love chatting to rising stars Ben Lamb (Divergent) and Josh Taylor (Netflix drama The Crown), as you might imagine, Davison is the actor I’ve most looked forward to meeting. 
To me he is still the fresh-faced Doctor from 1982, getting used to his new skin after the legendary Tom Baker years. 
It was a weird era for Whovians. For some Davison’s incarnation was just a bit too vanilla, and not eccentric enough, despite that stick of celery in his lapel. In a ’crowded’ Tardis with three assistants, at times the Time Lord looked like a co-star in his own show. 
In my ’82 diary I wrote the title of every episode as it aired. (Odd having the eps on a weekday instead of the traditional Saturday night, I thought, but it was still appointment TV in those pre-VCR/on demand days). 
Back to the autumn of 2016, and cast and crew are in Yorkshire, 10 miles from my front door. They’re shooting scenes at an ’art college’, racing from one set-up to the next as a blood red Alfa Romeo speeds off one minute or Davison and Lamb race into the premises the next. (I could tell you what the college really is, but why spoil the magic?).
Having read the page-turner of a script by Hear My Song veteran John Paul Chapple and Murphy, I’m not surprised Peter signed up to play the enigmatic Leigh. It’s a compelling tale filled with classic tropes that should pump new blood into the often anaemic genre. 

The fact Davison was signing autographs at a US convention a week or so earlier is proof that he’s still much in demand around the world. It should sell in Birmingham UK or Birmingham, Alabama. 
Eventually there’s a break between scenes and as the crew pause for sandwiches, they gather around my article on the film’s production. 
Peter finishes reading the piece and strides over to say hello. He looks serious, very much in business mode. ’This could be hard work,’ I think as we make our way to his character’s office. It feels like being summoned to the boss’s. 
Minutes later we’re having the one-to-one chat I’d waited 34 years for, and the serious facade melts away. That personable guy I’d spent decades watching was every bit as amiable as I’d hoped. 

He doesn’t make many movies these days, let alone blood-soaked chillers, so I was keen to see if I had missed any big screen frightfests tucked away in his CV. 
“I don’t think I’ve ever done a horror so this is a departure for me,” he explains. 
The tale of lethal goings on at an art college begs the obvious question: is Leigh a good guy or bad? 

Okay, I know the answer but won’t tell. (I’m still wary about revealing the key spoiler in The Force Awakens, so I’m not about to spill the beans on a movie that won’t open for another year). 
“I’ve found with this you have to be completely innocent until you’re proven guilty… I don’t want to give anything away,” he smiles. 

“I remember having to do that once in a Miss Marple where I did play the murderer and I thought I’m going to go along to the rehearsals and play him as a slightly dark character, and the director said ’No no no, none of that. Just play him as nice.’”
Earlier that day I’d read part of Davison’s recently released memoirs, featuring a witty intro from son-in-law David Tennant. (He didn’t like All Creatures because it clashed with The Muppet Show on the other side). 
It begs the question: was it cathartic to write his autobiography? 
“In the end I think it was, because I’m glad I did it, Peter explains. “I didn’t think I had any great story to impart but there are two things. One was just putting my memories in order. 

“Actors take themselves a bit seriously sometimes. There is a notion that we are great people are doing a serious job but virtually everyone on a film set works harder than the actors. But we are ’entertaining’ people.” He stresses the word, giving it the gravitas of someone who may be a master of their craft but clearly doesn’t go to absurd lengths to get into character. 
“That’s all we’re doing really,” he continues. “And that’s a good thing to be doing. 

“Don’t get me wrong. That’s very important in a cultural way, but it always makes me laugh when actors take themselves too seriously. They think they’ve achieved something amazing.” 

He deliberately repeats himself. 

“We are ’entertaining’ people.”
Obviously the 50th Who anniversary celebrations a few years ago attracted a lot of interest from fans, and it was a treat to see David Tennant, John Hurt and Matt Smith vying for most screen time in Day of the Doctor. Even Peter Capaldi’s eyes became one of the most talked scenes, next to Tom Baker’s cameo. 

While I happily watched DOTD on TV (and at the cinema a day later), Davison’s far less official or serious pet project The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot proved just as rewarding for a fraction of the budget. He wrote, directed and starred in it. Rumour has it he may have also made the tea. 

I was curious how it came about. 
“I had an idea for a five minute piece, and it grew to a 10 minute piece,” he explains. “And the more people we approached to be in it and said ’yes’, and it grew longer and longer. 

“It was fantastic, and there were moments when I thought ’Am I ever going to get this done?’ And then it all came together and all worked very well, and I think the fans seem to like it.” 
Obviously it helps when you’re the director/star and your son-in-law is one of the most popular to ever wield a sonic screwdriver, not to mention the fact that even your daughter, Georgia, played a Time Lord. Of sorts. 

(I’m probably not the only one confused by the fact the early Eighties Doctor’s real daughter got together with the Noughties Doctor in an episode called… Well, you know the rest).

With so much good feedback, it would be nice to see more. 
“Yes, yes, I know. People keep asking me when I go to these events and am ’I going to do another one?’ If I can think of a another good idea I would like to do it, but I’m not going to do it if it’s not so good.” 
And what of his tenure in the Tardis – does he have happy memories of working on Doctor Who?

“Yeah, we were always up against the clock, which was frustrating,“ he explains, before dropping a bombshell that might leave some readers doing a double take. 

“Of my all time favourite series that I’ve done, I don’t think Doctor Who would come in the top three really. It was a great honour to do it, and it’s an iconic series, but if you compare it to All Creatures, At Home with the Braithwaites and the series I did called A Very Peculiar Practice, I thought they were the pinnacle of what you call ’great scripts’ to put in front of you.”
However, before you rush to bin that shelf full of Davison Who DVDs, the sixty something thespian is quick to diffuse his incendiary remark. 

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing Doctor Who. It was a great honour to be involved and a great privilege to be asked to do it.”
Sadly, as is often the way with film shoots, the star is needed back on set sooner than expected. 

Manoeuvring through the army of technicians, I set up camp at the video village as Davison and Ben Lamb enact a scene in a corridor. Each hit their mark perfectly, while avoiding the usual pitfalls facing every thesp. A boom in the frame, or the tricky door handle that won’t co-operate. 

Having shot the scene a few times, Peter is keen to see how it looks on film. It’s partly the director side of him kicking in, but more likely he wants to ensure he gave a good performance. 
It’s the last week of filming and thanks to a back that feels like I’ve been trampled by a couple of Judoon, I decide to call it a night. Before I go, I grab a photo op with the man himself and head off into the night. 

For the selfie generation who have never seen Peter Davison in anything, End of Term should be a compelling watch. There’s little actor baggage to get in the way of the bloodshed, though Who purists will spot Ronald Pickup, who as you may know made his debut in 1964 ep The Tyrant of France. 

When End of Term opens at the end of 2017 it may even remind many who’d forgotten what national treasures they both are. 

I just wish I could skip to that point now, but all good things to those who wait. 
:: With thanks to the cast and crew of End of Term for their help with this article, and of course Peter Davison. 
His autobiography, Is There Life Outside the Box?: An Actor Despairs, is out now. End of Term will be released in 2017.