Former GeekPlanetOnline Site Editor Dave Probert is a man with an ear to the ground of the geek community. When that ground starts to rumble, our man in East Sussex has something to say...!
As this is the season for awards, votes and best of the year lists I have decided to institute a little award scheme of my own. However, these awards are going to take their cue from Mark Kermode and seek to reward things that may have been overlooked by more mainstream media. As the voting panel consists of just me these are all based on things I have seen/read in the last year. There aren't any physical awards, unless one of the winners actually wants one, in which case they can drop me a line and I'll knock something together in my garage. With this in mind I give you the first GeekPlanetOnline Editor's Choice Awards.
Book of the Year – Ready Player One
Runner up - Moon Over Soho
Ben Aaronvitch gave us an excellent follow up to Rivers of London, continuing the adventures of police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant. A story of jazz vampires, organised crime and vagina dentata, it is well worth a read and I'm looking forward to more in this urban fantasy series. The clear winner though was Ernest Cline's tale of Easter Egg hunting in a fully realised virtual universe, which is a cross between Facebook and World of Warcraft. With great characters, fun storytelling and more 80s geek references than you can shake a stick at, I have yet to hear of anyone not falling in love with this book. Indeed I have lent it to several people who have immediately bought their own copy so that they can read it again. My only disappointment is that the OASIS isn't real, because I want to spend a lot of time there.
Film of the Year – Stake Land
Runner Up – Super
James Gunn's twisted take on superheroes has a wonderfully subversive script and great central performances from Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. It has managed to garner a well-deserved cult following and it's worth a watch if only for the sight of Nathan Fillion in a terrible wig as The Holy Avenger. While Super has gained geek buzz, Jim Mickle's Stake Land has been relatively ignored, which is a great shame as this dystopian vampire road movie deserves a much wider audience. The film is at turns tense, hauntingly beautiful and flat out scary with universally great performances from a cast of mostly unknowns. Jim Mickle is a director to keep an eye on. If you haven't seen this film yet, seek it out.
Comic of the Year – Moon
Runner Up – Bluespear
This was a very close call. Com.X's follow up to 45 has some beautiful artwork by Cosmo White, an interesting central character and it's set in a fresh comics universe that has none of the baggage of DC or Marvel. It is a comic that deserves to be read, but it was edged for me by Beyond the Bunker's Moon. Dan Thompson and Steve Penfold balance comedy and action perfectly with a book that feels uniquely British. It takes huge courage to have the title character be not only mute but have a moon for a head. It's ridiculous and shouldn't work but Moon was the most fun I have had reading a comic last year. Like Stake Land it deserves to be seen by a wider audience.
Best New TV Show – The Fades
Runner Up – Black Mirror
Charlie Brooker's anthology of dark tales examining our relationship with the media was thought provoking stuff. The highlight was 15 Million Merits, which gave us an Orwellian future of drudgery with the only escape being reality TV participation. It also managed to be a sly allegory for Brooker's own relationship with the media. Meanwhile The Fades felt like a spiritual return to the creepy horror shows of the 70s but with an added dose of 21st Century viscera. With great writing by Jack Thorne and some wonderfully atmospheric direction, The Fades deserves a second series. The fact that both of these shows starred the excellent Daniel Kaluuya means that he is the real winner in this category and I hope to see more from him in 2012.
Best Returning TV Show – Merlin
Runner up – Fringe
Fringe has continued to be one of the best and most overlooked shows on US TV. With its multi-dimensional setting it isn't friendly to the casual viewer, but those who have stuck with it have found intelligent storytelling and a powerhouse performance from John Noble, who by now has played about eight different versions of the same character. Merlin has improved each series, and series four was much more consistent. With no comedy farting episodes and major advances in the story, it had the bravery to write out Anthony Head's Uther, but the quality of performances and writing has meant that we didn't miss him. Don't be surprised if Richard Wilson's Gaius leaves next series, as the show has evolved to the point that the younger main cast are able to carry the show in their own right.
That's the more traditional awards covered. Now for a few special awards of my own devising.
The Safe Pair of Hands Award for Consistent Scriptwriting – Howard Overman
This award acknowledges a writer whose name seems to guarantee good writing. Overman successfully shepherded Misfits through changes in cast. In Rudy he gave us a character who achieved what seemed impossible and made us not miss Robert Sheehan's Nathan. While series three of Misfits might not quite have lived up to the previous two, Overman's episodes were still the standouts: especially the fantastic, zombie filled episode seven. Elsewhere he contributed two very good episodes for Merlin and brought Dirk Gently to the screen in a way that, while not a straight adaptation, was faithful to the spirit of Douglas Adams' holistic detective. Overman's name on a script now makes me sit up and take notice. I look forward to the day that Steven Moffat lets him play in the Doctor Who toybox.
The Colin Baker Award for being Colin Baker – Colin Baker
Leaving aside his always excellent work for Big Finish, Colin Baker joined the Twitter collective as @SawbonesHex and has been nothing but charming. He always has time for his fans, shares wonderful exchanges with Nicola Bryant and generally is an all round fantastic man. His awesomeness was confirmed when he won Come Dine with Me - not so much with his cooking but through being pleasant, affable and game for a laugh. He was also voted in as the third honorary president of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. He is genuinely honoured to hold this position and the Doctor Who fan community couldn't ask for a better figurehead.
The Geek in Spirit Award – Community
While officially being a comedy set in a community college, Community has rightly gained a geek following for its pop culture references. The show has gained confidence in what it can do with its format and so we have had a Christmas episode completely rendered in stop motion animation, a episode that takes place across six different time lines and a clip show that's full of clips for episodes that don't exist. That's before mentioning the increasingly epic paintball episodes. It has become a firm favourite of many GeekPlanetOnline contributors and we are all hoping that it escapes cancellation.
So there you have it. About as prestigious as a free toy in a cereal packet but I'm glad to be able to give some recognition where it's deserved. If one person discovers the joys they have to offer from having read this column then I will consider my work done. Are there any unsung heroes from the last year that you feel deserve more recognition? Let me know.