Saturday 15 July 2023




Backwards is a funny kind of story. It was written in 2005 before Doctor Who returned to our screens. It was intended to be one of a series of six adventures for the 9th Doctor and Rose (along with The Axis of Fear) Since I knew little about the characters of the new Doctor or Rose, this is less about the characters and more about telling an interesting story in an original way. 
It was inspired by the 2000 thriller movie Memento starring Guy Pearce as a man with no long-term memory whose life resets every few minutes so he has to take photos and leave notes in order to remember things.
I loved the way the director tells the story through flashbacks and you don't really see the whole truth until you've got back to the beginning, so to speak. And it's that kind of story telling that I've tried to emulate with Backwards.
Hopefully, it kept you guessing until the end - the flashback elements (in more muted colours) play fowards while the 'present' sequences play backwards.


This was only the SECOND AFT story featuring Character's 5" figures. The series 2 Rose had yet to be released. At that stage, there was a dearth of supporting characters in the same scale so the inhabitants of Kulkaron are gladiators bought in a 3 pack in a pound shop in Hull. They were originally intended to look a lot more alien.
Can you also believe that while Character had released the TARDIS interior playset (Sept 2006), there still wasn't a Police Box toy so the one used in this story was the money box, which was of a decent enough scale.
Mio's form-swapping device comes from Spy Kids 2 figures and makes numerous return appearances.


The story was shot in late Summer 2006 with some pick-ups in September following the acquisition of the TARDIS interior. 
The paper sets were designed in photoshop.


In order for the reader to distinguish between the past and present strands the colour saturation was taken down somewhat for the 'past' sections making them appear less vibrant. For the original publication, a "vortex" image was placed on the background behind the past sections.
The planet Kulkarron as seen from the air is a composite image of buildings in Greece.
The banners of Mio feature the Fonz actor Henry Winkler since I thought the figure looked a bit like him.
In the original script, after the Doctor has beaten up Karrick, Rose puts the Doctor in a car. He reads the note in the reflection of the window rather than a phone box before driving off. The confrontation with the guards then happens on a high bridge. When it came to shooting, I simply didn't have a car.
The story was original made up of individual jpegs for each panel. When it came to reposting the story in 2023, I re-edited it (25 May 2023) and gave it more comic-like appearance, a new title and a more coherent recap towards the end. The 'past' sections have blue frames.


Backwards was original published in October 2006 with a fantastic cover by Luke Spillaine to whom I'll always be grateful.
At the time the story was quite odd and I worried that readers wouldn't get it. So I posted this reassuring panel on the homepage (below).
After the AFT was temporarily closed in late 2006, Backwards was offline until 11 June 2008.
It was reposted for the third time on 15 July 2023.


As it was written before series 1 aired, I had no clue about the other stories so it doesn't share any continuity with existing episodes.
It's clearly established that the Doctor has been to Kulkarron before and knows Mio personally, but this is presumably in another incarnation and certain before he met Rose.

Saturday 8 July 2023

Indiana Jones and the Army of the Pharoah part four



Though not as much of a fan as I am of say, Doctor Who or Star Trek, I have always loved the Indiana Jones movies, their great spirit of adventure, humour and the mix of mystical and down-to-Earth. And as with most things I'm into, I'd always wanted the figures.
So when Hasbro brought out their fantastic line of Indy figures in 2008, I snapped up plenty of them knowing that it would only be a matter of time before they appeared on the AFT. I didn't realise it would take FOUR YEARS.
First of all, it took me ages to find the right mystery to base the story on. I looked at loads of legends and researched ones that hadn't already been touched on in the movies, comics or TV series. I was inspired by an image from one of the comics: Nazi zombies.
This gave me the idea of a stone that could resurrect a dead army. I just needed to find a long dead - possibly mythical - army. Then it occurred to me - the army of the Pharoah sent to pursue Moses and the Israelites through the Red Sea.


In order of apperance:

Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

Jane Hampton (Custom)

Sao Feng (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Tau Huang (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Elizabeth Swan (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Cairo Henchman

Cairo Swordsman

Henchman (Custom)

Chap Mei Wild Cat

King Kong

Akil Khalfani (Custom)

German Soldiers (Elite Forces)

German Soldier 2 pack (Indiana Jones)

Giant Insect (King Kong)

Deadites (Army of Darkness)

Indiana Jones (with Ark)

Indiana Jones (Temple of Doom)

While I love Short Round as a character and really wanted to use him as the sidekick, the story really called for a new character so I came up with British adventuress and general pain-in-Indy's-ass, Jane Hampton. The legs, head and body are a Miss Coulson figure from The Golden Compass. The jacket is the body warmer from a Hoth Princess Leia. The arms are from a Raiders Marion Ravenwood figure. She's also sporting a Han Solo gun belt. I wanted a female opposite to Indiana Jones, a kind of River Song character if you like. During the original filming sessions, her arms kept falling out of their sockets so I eventually fixed them in with greenstuff.

In the original script, the villain's name was Khai Bomani (meaning "crowned" and "warrior") and I used a Count Dooku figure with the skirt section removed and a shirt/ tie/ jacket created in green stuff. I was never happy with this figure. It was a very sub-par custom and it looked it. Every time I tried to improve it, it just got worse and became a real stumbling block to getting the story made. So in the end I replaced him completely.

The solution came from a James Bond custom I'd been given by a friend - an A Team Face figure with the head of Lord Azrael from The Golden Compass. I didn't want to use the Daniel Craig likeness so scoured my toybox for a replacement. After trying several Star Wars figures, I settled on a Sirius Black head. In view of this recasting the character's name was switched to Akil Khalfani (meaning "intelligent" and "shall rule")

For the henchman, I wanted a man in a mask and bought a Wolverine Origins Deadpool and GI Joe Destro hoping to do a head swap. But the heads proved incompatible so I simply painted Deadpool's head silver.

It became apparent quite quickly that I was using the same two German soldiers for everything so for the scene in the airship, one of their heads is swapped with Star Wars' Kir Kanos.

For the car chase where Indy is jacketless but not yet dishevelled, I used the 'Staff of Raa' figure with his hooded head swapped out for the Temple of Doom hatted one.


The original script came quite quickly in April 2009 and I started filming back to back with a (ultimately abandoned) Star Wars  story that used similar settings, including a forest and the dusty city of Cairo.
Yet, I couldn't help feeling that something was lacking from the script. Sure, I had my McGuffin, I had and ancient legend, I had some traps and obstacles to overcome, even had a villain. But it just didn't feel Indiana Jones-y enough.
With some footage already in the can, it was back to the drawing board to pull out the best bits of the script and bulk them out with more danger, more jeopardy and far less standing around talking.

At this point, I added the train chase, the airship fight, the fight and fire in the Cave of Moses and the henchman, as well as tightening up other areas. The only thing that remained the same from draft to draft was the desert car chase.


Shooting began on the previous draft of the script in June 2009 staring with the desert car chase and the film's final scene.
Filming then moved to the amazon forest where Jane discovers the Egyptian's pact with the Nazis and a later scene where Indy is taken into the forest to be shot by the Germans.
After that came shots inside the corridors of a tomb.
The next scenes to be shot were set in Cairo where Indy and Jane are chased round the streets by the villain's men before being captured and a later scene where Indy meets with Salah to work out the villain's next move.
The final scenes in this block were where Indy and Jane share a bottle of champagne. But the bottle is drugged and Indy wakes to find Jane has scarpered with his artefact.
None of the above scenes apart from the desert chase and ending made it into the final draft of the script so they were all abandoned.
It was a holiday to Italy in 2012 that prompted me to return to the project. Visiting the sites of Pompeii and Herculanium renewed my interest in ancient civilisations and forgotten, buried artefacts. I came up with some ideas for a new Indiana Jones story but remembering how long it took me to write the last one, decided to stick with the script already written and with Doctor Who about to take a back seat on the AFT for a while (can't remember why!) a new project had to come to the fore.
With its script already prepared and the sets already designed, I created a shooting schedule and set about remounting the whole thing.

To ensure that the story DID get filmed, I worked out which sets were the most complicated to build and which required the most images taken and started with those so (in theory) the shoot would get quicker and easier as it went along.
To that end, I began in May 2012 with the Cave of Moses, followed by pick-ups for the desert car chase scenes, including images of the "Gary Oldman" villain that could be inserted over the images alredy taken using "Christopher Lee"
Next was the airship cargo hold/ cockpit, the Chinese train station, the Toltatec Upper Temple (done 25 May 2012) the temple and jungle exteriors, the Cave of Moses exterior/ beach, Khalfani's office, green/ orange screen elements, the Toltatec maze and spike chamber and finally the shots of Indy being buried alive for part three.
One the night of the last shoot day, I posted a spoof image of the 'cast' enjoying their wrap party. (What's the Red Skull doing there??!)


Editing began on 23rd April. It was originally intended that every page would be A4 size so if necessary it could be collected and printed in a book. It soon became apparent that this size would not do the images justice so I doubled the page lengths meaning that it could still be conceivably printed.
The entire story was storyboarded enabling me to edit as I went along and slot in the scenes as and when they were filmed.
Some place-marker names in the script weren't replaced until the lettering was done. These include the Toltatec civilisation which was dubbed Aurabesh (the name of the Star Wars language font) and the Totatec temple of the everlasting which in the script was just the "upper temple" or the utterly misnamed "temple of Raa".

Editing on the web version was completed on 8 Aug 2012.
A printed version was created (a very kind favour from a printer friend) and five copies were given away in a competition in September.
The pages were originally twice as long but I cut them in half and doubled the page count for each ep to give the story a bigger, more epic/ cinematic feel.


The venture was first hinted at publicly when I posted on the AFT's facebook page an image of the upper temple in bits and then constructed.
Then on 5th May 2012, I posted a teaser poster for the story with a transmission date of "August". At this time it was intended that chapter one would be uploaded on 23 July - the August date gave me abit of leeway.
A number of further teaser images and information was leaked out week by week leading up the premiere of part one.


Chapter One original went live on 23 August 2012 with each episode following monthly.
Nine years later, it's been re-presented (17th June/ 24th June/ 1st July/ 8th July) to coincide with the new movie: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. While I'm excited about the new film, I take no responsibility at all if it's a let down.


The year is 1939 which places it just after the first trilogy by a year.
Aside from that, it doesn't take in (or contradict, I hope!) any continuity from the movies. Comics and video games might be another matter...!
Jane mentions the previous time she and Indy have crossed paths but I have no firm idea of when that was or what happened.