Category Archives: Reviews

Nostaglic TV Theme Tunes That Survived The 80s!

There is nothing, literally nothing, like a good TV theme. There was a time when TV shows prided themselves on the production of a catchy “lyric” or “jingle” to announce with pride that this was another installment of your favorite weekly programme.

Of course, that was before corporate greed set in €“ you’re now lucky if you get the credits of the production team involved before the first ad break has arrived. This was a golden age, when families gathered around the television on a weekly basis, long before iPlayers and Netflix made it virtually impossible to miss your favorite television.

You had one chance, maybe two if you were very lucky, to catch the stories and the events of the week before they were simply over and done with until the same time, same channel, next week.

In this list we pay tribute to a series of TV themes which, quite literally, rocked our world and are now just distant memories. They stood for the announcement that it was time to see another episode of your favorite show and, years later, still play in our head upon command. They’re the kind of tune you can bring up on YouTube, play at full volume and just feel all magical about, remembering a simple time when everyone sat around and watched that favorite programme on an evening and nobody just put their headphones in and used a laptop instead. Let’s see what’s on…

Going For Gold (1987)

Yet to be recognized by the IOC as an official participatory event, many of us old enough to remember classic daytime television will no doubt be delighted by the addition of this, a true programme of Olympic magnitude to the list.

With a theme composed by Hans Zimmer (bet you didn’t know that) ‘Going for Gold’ was originally aired by the BBC between 1987 and 1996. It’s premise of 7 English speaking contestants, each representing their respective regions, allowed for a battle of both nationalistic pride and fierce loyalty. Since you could only have someone totally neutral present such a programme, the host was none other than Irishman Henry Kelly, who (for my money) was the finest Irishman to present on BBC programming since the late Terry Wogan. But that’s just my nationalistic pride showing.

The theme itself is a very simple and completely dated retro ‘pop’ song which doesn’t do much except describe the situation. But it’s catchy, it’s 80’s and it’s got a quality about it that makes you want to define nostalgia. I defy you to take a listen and not find it the catchiest thing you’ve listed too all day – before you’ve heard what else we have coming up, of course!

Blockbusters (1983)

Are you surprised? Seriously? If you’re looking at this and DON’T know the Blockbuster’s theme tune then I’m sorry to say it’s been a deprived life you’ve led. However, I am extremely pleased to be the person with the honor of introducing you to one of the finest theme tunes you’re ever likely to hear.

I’m really not sure whether the UK video chain Blockbusters named their franchise after this show (the first Blockbuster LLC stores opened in Texas in 1985 so that’s probably not very likely) but regardless this was an insanely popular show that quite literally brought families together. Hosted by veteran actor the late Bob Holness (the first man to play James Bond, don’t you know) this show usually pitted two individuals against a single opponent in a quiz show €“ not unlike tic tac toe €“ where the objective was for players to cross the board with right answers.


But you don’t really care about the rules, not with such classic moments as “I’d like a P please Bob” and the fact that the BBC Proms once played this theme tune live on television at the Royal Albert Hall! Blockbusters was relaunched by Challenge after somewhat of a hiatus, with Simon Mayo as presenter, although it failed (at time of writing) to have more than a single season. I’m only mentioning it because you might like to know I auditioned personally to be on the programme, thus attempting to fulfill a lifetime ambition, but was sorely unsuccessful in gaining a spot. I’m not saying that’s why the programme didn’t catch on, but let’s face it, can’t have helped them.

Baywatch (1989)

 OK guys, and curious girls, this is obviously a big deal. Who couldn’t have been swayed by the sight of Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth, Donna D’ Errico, Traci Bingham, Nancy Valen and Gena Lee Nolin running across that beach to save the injured? You have to imagine that David Hasselhoff, quite literally, got the best job in the world the day he was cast in Baywatch. But all of that pales in comparison to the theme.

Baywatch only officially picked “I’ll Be Ready” as their official theme from the start of the third season, despite the popular belief it was the only theme tune the show ever had, sung by none other than Jimi “Eye of the Tiger” Jamison from the band Survivor.

The studio version of Jimi’s song features on the 1999 album Empires, though sadly that wasn’t as well received, I’ve always found the most magical part of the song is the keyboard solo €“ and if you believe this is just a classic case of the Americans doing it bigger and better than anywhere else, you’d probably be right.

The lyrics are inspiring and evoke a sense of just wanting to go out and save someone €“ to be honest I think US army recruitment officers should just play this track outside their offices and throughout their barracks and that would be the only inspiration you’d ever need. Then I guess David was upset that they never asked to use ‘Freedom’ either….

Brookside (1982)

 The Liverpudlian soap Brookside first appeared on our screens in 1982, bringing us the trials and tribulations of the long suffering residents of Brookside Close, a typical middle class cul-de-sac filled with rather foul mouthed and obnoxious people eager to kick off at the slightest agitation.

Launched before Eastenders (which itself first aired in 1985) to create a more “working class” answer to Coronation Street, it was an atypical 80s soap and it’s theme (obviously very synthesized and written by composers Steve Wright and Dave Roylance) reflected the nature of it’s beginnings. Even when it changed in 1991 to reflect a more ‘modern’ sound it still held that classic tone and hadn’t axed anything the fans knew or loved about it.

While Brookside gained a massive following throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s (with that infamous pre-lesbian watershed kiss in 1994, the incestuous relationship of 96 and the idea of a man selling drugs to children) it was thought the soap would be a main contender against the likes of it’s more big budgeted rivals. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and the show was axed in 2003. However it retains a cult following and several episodes of the show are still available (so I’m informed) on More 4 for your viewing pleasure. If you’d like to blame anyone, I’ve got just one word for you; Hollyoaks.

The Bill (1984)

 When the Bill finished it’s final story in 2010, many felt disheartened, with the show having stood for everything and everyone. The antics of Sun Hill police had been legendary for almost three decades and it was as much a staple of UK television as that bowl of cereal you had for Breakfast in the morning.

And, as good as the show was, nothing could replace the classic (late 80s) version of the show’s theme tune €“ accompanied onscreen by the closing titles and the shot of both a male and female police officer “walking the beat” upon the cobbles. And, yes, while this list is about the opening theme tunes of programmes €“ the Bill’s closing tune was almost identical to it’s opener €“ so I’m going to let it slide. The 88′ theme was composed by Andy Pask and Charlie Morgan, scrapped in 1998 for something that felt a bit more “jazzy” and current, though if you ask me – and many often do – the strengths of a long standing show remain in the familiar nature audiences share with it’s theme tune.

It seem’s there’s just no account for taste, although the fact I can remember playing this stupid game with my younger brother involving hiding from the television because we’d “forgotten to pay the Bill” (being Irish, we didn’t understand the meaning of the word in a Police sense) is clearly indicative of the effects the show had on both ourselves and our long suffering parents.

Funhouse (1989)

Based on the US TV show of the same name, the UK version of Funhouse aired for 10 years on CITV and was presented by Pat Sharpe. There was once a rumor, started on Wikipedia, that Jeremy Kyle presented a week of the programme in 1993 when Pat was on holiday. I’ve never been able to verify whether this is true or not but, if it is, could somebody PLEASE send me that tape?

The tune was actually co-created by Bob Heatlie (should you know him? You certainly should – be created the theme for Animaniacs!) and David Pringle and served as a reminder to children that the school day was over and it was time for some bloody good fun! If you’ve ever been curious as to who the announcer for Funhouse UK was, look no further than Garry King, who currently presents a lunchtime show on Smooth Radio every Sunday.


Gary also did the voice over for the last season of Dale’s Supermarket Sweep, although not (I’m told) any of the other seasons. Children’s television in this period frankly provided some of the best theme tunes going, other notable mentions at this point should include Knightmare and Finder’s Keepers – it’s just a real shame that the quality has dipped so much in recent years. Some of these programmes, although visually dated, still seem fresh and informative when you watch them today. I wonder if you can say the same for the Tweenies and In The Night Garden in 2025. 

MacGyver (1985)

 Armed with an American passport and Scottish heritage (his first name was Angus) there was nothing that Richard Dean Anderson couldn’t do in order to foil the latest terrorist plot.

Many jokes have been made in episodes of Family Guy and the Simpsons among them, about how how MacGyver could conjure out of nothing €“ but asides from the important science he was teaching families – there was a more addictive reason for watching this show; that theme tune.

Yes, in seven glorious seasons the magnificent music that begun every show hardly altered, that instrumental being synonymous with the one man who could “do so much with so few tools” €“ and, if you cared to dance, this was the music to make you get up and dance around too. It defined action, it defined adventure and it also defined Anderson’s mullet €“ which, frankly, I’m a bit disappointed he shaved for Stargate truth be told.

MacGyver returned to US television for a special Mastercard commercial, although this is just implied as opposed to it being officially announced it’s him, and this sparked rumors that Anderson would be reprising the role for an 8th season. Unfortunately, unlike the title of the 5th season episode ‘I Will Always Return’, at time of writing this is most certainly not the case.


Quantum Leap (1989)

 Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr Sam Beckett stepped forward into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished…he awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing a mirror image that was not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better.

And so began, in my own personal opinion, the best introduction to a show in the history of television. Following the adventures of a misguided scientist and his best friend Al (who appeared in the form of a hologram that only Sam could see and hear) Quantum Leap mixed the incredible combination of drama, intrigue and history into an hourly show. And no two shows, even about the same issue, were ever the same.

The introductory speech given invoked a feeling of sympathy for Sam, who was trapped in his impediment, but also made it clear that he was doing good work and (at the heart of things) he enjoyed it all. The saxophone bridge and orchestral instrumental was inclined to give us the feeling that Sam was our classic hero, always facing obstacles but enjoying things immensely and the fact that he himself never got home is an absolute tragedy. Despite running for 5 seasons (in the last of which the theme was “rocked up” with a guitar hook to insert a more “modern” vibe perhaps) the show was abruptly cancelled and rumors of a film adaptation have been floating around ever since.

There’s even a quite excellent, although unofficial, fan episode involving a story around Princess Diana that was created a few years ago to celebrate the shows 20th anniversary. I hope someone reading this realizes that Sam needs to get home!

Thor; Ragnarock (2017)

Once upon a time,  in the year 2000, it was perhaps possible to make a superhero film without the involvement of every A list actor in the world.  At that time, when James Cameron had been discussing his vision of Spiderman with Leonardo DiCaprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger, there were little more than rumors of what would later become Marvel’s expanded universe.

And it’s a universe which grew to include motion picture actors making cameos in films for fees that would themselves finance independent movies. No, not Stan Lee’s cameo in Fantastic Four, instead we’re talking about the moment when Robert Downey Jnr walked into a bar at the end of The Incredible Hulk to announce they were creators the Avengers. That day was a collective one of sadness for cinema ushers worldwide as they realized two things; people were now going to start peeing in their cups to avoid a bathroom break that might destroy a crucial plot point and “after credit scenes” were going to make their jobs ten times harder on Friday night’s.

Thor Ragnarock has an outstanding cast, with lead performances from Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Cate Blanchett alongside pivotal support from Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban and Mark Ruffalo. That’s to say nothing of the ‘cameo’ performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Sam Neill (playing the Actor Odin) who prove that like Star Wars, James Bond and Harry Potter before it there’s nothing an actor likes more than to appear in a favored franchise.

What can happen with such a huge cast, however, is that both the story and the screen time are so constantly diluted with famous names – even, albeit nostalgically famous – that we’re more concerned with the sound of their voice and reminding ourselves of the fond actors they used to be then the role they’re playing in this movie.  Thankfully, that’s not the case here, as Thor Ragnarock provides a mildly entertaining backdrop as to why all these characters have to save ‘the world’ (but not as we know it) from destruction.

Returning to Asgard after a perilous mission, Thor finds a masquerade on the throne, Loki having placed his father Odin in a retirement home. Shady Acres (the name of the Mental Hospital in Ace Ventura Pet Detective too btw) is being demolished, and Loki has lost him. Dr Strange appears because Loki is on the galactic equivalent of a no fly list and has entered New York without going through customs.  Donald Trump would be proud the Dr is doing his patriotic duty.

But even this twist is only a prelude for the backdrop of the backdrop that makes up the real stories crux, Thor believed dead in a planet which literally collects waste and refuge and sold to the Grand Master (Jeff Goldblum) in order to fight like a Gladiator for his freedom against the Ultimate Champion. That champion turning out to be one of Thor’s long lost friends, certainly lost in the Marvel verse, leads to an interesting chance for further character dissection on a hero who hasn’t had his own solo movie in a while.

There’s a lot going on. Thor and Loki ultimately team to save the world and are helped by a number of Asgaurdians and like minded revolutionaries while every fifteen minutes or so there’s a few jokes thrown in for good measure. The film definitely has a look and feel of comedy to it, not slapstick but there are enough laughs while watching alone to make you feel its been made for the cinema crowd of a family event where it raises some chuckles.

That’s not a bad thing, the jokes help relieve any tension in a family friendly movie and make it light, funny and fun, but what is a bad thing is that the movie subsequently fails to follow through on so much. 

Now I know that it has a limited run time and there’s only so much that can be on screen, but hints and tips are scattered throughout the script about who characters are and where they came from. Bruce Banner is a perfect example, as he struggles with the Hulk, realizing for the first time that there is a distinct split personality in which Hulk may reign supreme and have full control. Its a revealing moment and it could have gotten much darker than it’s pushed, but in the end, the movie doesn’t answer that question at all and we’re left wondering whether Hulk has mentally grown as an independent creature. That fight is definitely for another day.

The Grand Master is also another interesting character, described as the creator of the world and the first person to come here. Nothing more is discussed of his origins and it could have been ultimately a fascinating opportunity to examine how and why. There’s a little laugh about the serious subject of slavery, with his insistence the slaves be called ‘those people with forced jobs’, yet no real discussion as to why the Grand Master created a game so resembling Roman Gladiatorial Combat.

At the end of the day though, this is a Thor movie and it’s his show. It’s not as close minded as Ant Man, it’s obvious from Spiderman Homecoming that Marvel is not able to take a single chance or even have a single storyline for a main character, so they’re squeezing as much into this flick as possible. You do learn a lot about the god of thunder and he learns more about himself, but you still can’t help feeling he brought too many people along for the ride. 

Alien: Covenant (2017)

“You can serve in heaven…or reign in hell”

There’s an ecumenical undertone running through Ridley Scott’s latest installment to the Alien franchise. The idea is the Alien, or Xenomorph as we once knew, is a creature of perfect creation. It has been brought together in order to possibly answer the greatest question of all time – at least to a human being – who created the Universe.

When Walter (Michael Fassbender) is originally created by Mr Weyland (Guy Pearce), he asks this very question, and then ultimately declares he must – by his very creation – have now surpassed his creator by being immortal. Ten years after the events of Prometheus, Covenant focuses on a colonist ship travelling to a new planet with over 2,000 souls.

The first thing that you’re reminded of when you watch this film is just how different Ridley Scott’s Alien is to James Cameron’s Aliens, or even David Fincher’s nihilist (and often overlooked) Alien3. You simply can’t expect the same level of action adventure driven punishment you’d find in a typical Cameron script. Scott plays very much on the idea of human frailty and this ship’s crew suffer the loss of their Captain almost immediately, leading to a mourning Daniels (Katherine Waterston) and reluctantly promoted Oram (Billy Crudup). 

A distress signal is received by Tennessee (Danny McBride) and there’s a clash between whether to help or ignore as per the conflict of the original Alien. However, unlike the threats of forfeiting company bonuses in favor of contractual obligation, the clash here comes from whether the planet is worth risking as a possible colonization site or simply returning to hyper sleep and waking up in seven long years. The Captain orders his crew down and a rather large party of virtually nameless individuals descend upon the planet. The trailer for this film gave me the impression we would see the crew happy, or at least celebrating their spaceflight, yet in the film the pacing cuts mean that you get virtually no time to know who anybody actually is and instead a random photograph is the only cutback to any sort of familial bonds.

Perhaps I’m not being fair, because from dialogue we do pick up several pieces of information, such that Captain Oram is a man of faith – something he felt he was penalized for in not being named Captain before the start of the mission. We also learn that several members of the ships crew are married, thus creating some sense of loss when these characters are killed or separated, but not really enough to make me care all that much. James Cameron added that Ripley was a mother in Aliens, for example, something she doesn’t mention once in the original film – it seems Scott might be employing a tactic to help the audience engage more with a characters profound sense of loss and grief. That said, none of the characters display this very convincingly, and there are ultimately too many members of the crew to begin with to get to know individually anyway.

The main storyline arc in Covenant focuses on David, who has been living a somewhat mysterious existence on this heretofore undiscovered planet since the Prometheus crashed a decade prior. His “brother” is another synth….artificial person, named Walter, who is also played by Fassbender but admits to having several modifications David does not. David believes these are flaws, created to make Walter more like a machine, less ‘frightening’ to humans. It is heavily implied that David has created all the planets Neomorph specimens, harvesting the biology of their creation to create a more fundamentally perfect organism.

At the same time the group is coming to terms with the death of several crew, some of whom were killed when an infected Ledward caused Faris to destroy the dropship. It’s an interesting scene in which Ledward succumbs to an infection but the characters themselves seem almost encouraging it to happen in their inaction. Both Karine and Faris are guilty of overacting and emotionally distraught behavior which causes a situation to go from bad to worse. It is clear, in some respects, that the crew are Scientists and not Marines or even the crew of the Nostromo – but their inexperience and missteps doom everyone from that point on.

To that end I was also disappointed by Daniels, who emerges as the films supposed heroine, yet her acts of bravery are always accompanied with tears and quivering lips. It seems even after several encounters with the beasts the character is still shaken to her core to tackle the films villain. Oram does provide a moment of clarity, where he takes a gun and points it at David’s head, demanding to know exactly what’s going on here. Unfortunately, this act results in his downfall, by being stupid enough to follow blindly the instructions of someone he neither trusts or understands the motives of.

Alien Covenant surprised me with the complete lack of strong characters, both male and female, as well as the presence of human frailty at all times. I firmly believe Science Fiction needs to remove frailty to a large extent, or certainly have a character learn from previous experience enough to not react in a similar way to how the audience would at home. Newt, in Aliens, is an example of a frail and sympathetic character but she is resourceful and a survivor – otherwise she’d be nowhere seen in this film.
 
I hear a lot in the media about strong female characters. I’m yet to actually see an abundance of strong, well written, female characters in modern cinema. I see a lot of films dealing with issues or scenarios from a female perspective, but surely that’s not the same thing. It is important, granted, but characters like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor were written as strong female roles. I don’t think they were men masqueraded as women.
 

My point is that Covenant always seemed to remind me of the dangers of the element. Nobody seemed to learn anything or grow from the experience, it was a “follow me blindly no questions asked” approach until the end. And that’s to their detriment, because ironically, Alien was one of the few films that originally broke the convention in 1979 when Ridley Scott first cast Sigourney Weaver as the lead character.

The final act of the film sees a climax in which a plot point is subtly borrowed from a recent Aliens comic story line, which I will give full credit to because you really have to be paying attention to catch it, and it was also delightful to see the return of the Facehugger in its glory. The film also provides some insightful looks at the philosophy of the Xenomorph “creator” and Fassenbenders own appearance is leading me to believe the character could easily, with age, be a dead ringer for Alien’s Ian Holm in future installments.

Ultimately this film will remind you exactly why Ridley Scott created Alien, but it will also remind you how different that vision could have been if the second film was never created in the series. I wouldn’t have condemned an additional 35 minutes to its running time and would welcome this in the Blu Ray release at a later date. For now, a superb modern addition to the franchise.

Die Hard (1988)

Attending a screening of Die Hard at Newcastle’s historic Tyneside Cinema has become somewhat of an annual tradition. Monday’s visit provided me with the third attempt since 2015 to relive all the action and splendor of this rather unexpected Hollywood hit on the big screen. And despite originally being released in July 1988 the film has gained a remarkable amount of traction in the intervening years as a Christmas Classic.

Of course, Die Hard strains from the traditional narratives of most action films of its period, and with good reason. The story (if you’re completely unaware) is about New York Policeman John McClane (Bruce Willis). McClane is travelling to Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife Holly, played by Bonnie Bedelia. Arriving on Christmas Eve he finds a work party interrupted by the arrival of terrorists, led by German Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and quickly decides to tackle the groups intentions and fight back alone.

The casting of the film in itself was an interesting choice, as the studio had little faith in Bruce Willis ability to command the role. Early promotion of the film featured attention towards the action in the plot rather than the star and even Willis has admitted to only truly deciding key facets of McClane’s character mid way through shooting. On the reverse, Holly’s character has a much more prominent involvement than you might expect from the traditional “damsel in distress” and Gruber’s own calm, collected exterior is essentially the narrative of the story.  Without his plan to extort money from the Nakatomi corporation the film has little to no basis. McClane’s estrangement from his wife could be settled in a few minutes as a will he or won’t he.

Credit must also be given to the films use of notable film actors from the era. Paul Gleason,  William Atherton and Robert Davi all perform small but pivotal supporting roles that – added to their performances in Ghostbusters, The Goonies and The Breakfast Club (for example) – make it seem almost like extensions of those characters. The film also strays from the traditional in other areas too, for example, a scene in which McClane and Gruber meet on the roof of the building. It’s unconventional as neither the two should meet until the climax, but was the result of a realization on set that Rickman could do a convincing American accent and so was hastily included.

Seeing the film on the big screen after 30 years also helps us realize mistakes, especially if we’ve watched it a few times before. In one scene where McClane descends a stairwell as sprinklers fight a blaze, a Christmas tree is seen to fall from behind him. Monetarily he checks, unaware as to whether there is a terrorist lurking behind, and you can just make out the silhouetted shadow of the stage hand who pushed it over. Other scenes, such as Ellis’ “negotiation” with Gruber allows us to revisit the traditional – with a deliberate pause on audio as someone pours a can of Coca Cola. How little things change.

The film displays all the qualities of a Hollywood Summer blockbuster but the decision to set it during Christmas (a decision which predated the script, based on the original concept, the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever) actually places it in a rather unusual demographic. Appealing to those who love the holiday, and those who don’t, it uses Christmas to it’s full advantage in some of the most memorable scenes – including when McClane hides a gun on his back with wrapping tape and when he uses a Santa hat and a yuletide message on a deceased terrorist. But the amount of violence and action resolves to make the message that even those offended by Christmas cheer will have something to enjoy in this one.

The only enigma in the film is that of Sgt Al Powell. The character, who provides John McClane with support and assistance throughout the film, received fourth billing in both this and the films sequel (despite only making a brief cameo in the latter) and the actor who portrayed him appeared in both this, Ghostbusters (as a correctional officer) and Crocodile Dundee – arguably three of the most iconic films of the decade – yet sadly Reginald Vel Johnson never managed the successes of Bruce Willis or Alan Rickman.

At it’s core, Die Hard is the ultimate action film – it contains no end of action and suspense while also fulfilling in dialogue, story, condition and humor. And all you need to do in exchange is survive the mummers in the audience as an attendee recites the classic quote you’re just about to hear just before you hear it. Michael Kamen’s score leads to welcome us to a use of ‘Ode to Joy’ and we’re inclined to agree. Not one to be missed.

Die Hard plays at Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle, on Saturday December 23rd 2017

https://www.tynesidecinema.co.uk/film-and-events/view/die-hard

5 Delightfully Obscure Easter Eggs You Missed In Portal 2

Valve’s 2007 first person puzzle game Portal was a surprise hit for everyone. The game acted and felt like a first person shooter but you just didn’t go around killing anyone. Instead you solved puzzles based on some simple – and some not so simple – physics problems. Introducing us to GLaDOS – one of the most maniacal robots in Science Fiction since the IG 88 assassin droid – and Chell, a “silent partner” whom the player took control of and completed a series of puzzles without any real indication as to how or why, Portal was a revolution in gaming.

Portal 2 exposed Portal as the prototype it was always meant to be, however, introducing new characters and completely expanding, redesigning and reintroducing us to the story. Despite being set thousands of years after the first game it might as well have been the next day for character Chell, as she made her way through the very history of Aperture Science and you were given a history lesson nobody was likely to forget. But just what did we learn throughout the game’s mysterious second act?

As Chell advances deeper through the history of the company – from the profitable 50’s to the bankrupt 80’s – there’s hardly any time travel at all. Instead we’re given clues and hints to the past and forced – mostly due to the silence of our character – to figure a lot out for ourselves and consistently break down that fourth wall. This is just one of the most enjoyable reasons that you should play this game because Valve have created a way to keep you thinking about this game hours after you’ve completed playing it.

You’ll go back and attempt missions just to check hidden corners and cracks for that secret plaque – not because you have too – but because you’ll want too. Of course you’re also welcome to review this list and have a tiny bit of help getting you started in the right direction. Naturally, there will be spoilers!

5. One of the most entertaining parts of Portal 2 is undoubtedly the voice of ‘Cave Johnson’ (played by the legendary J.K. Simmons) as he directs you through the ruins of Aperture Science’s testing areas. Although you neither travel through space or time there’s an adventure through three decades of Aperture history as Johnson’s narration gives a lot of the insight into the particular companies history during these periods and pieces together a lot of cryptic answers to questions that allow the gamer to ‘break the fourth wall’ and better understand why certain things are in certain places.

When you first encounter GLaDOS (short for Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) she isn’t happy – probably because your character is responsible for her death in the first Portal game – or probably because you are then responsible for her disconnection and resurrection as a potato-battery. In chapter 7, hidden between the first and second orange gel test spheres, is an office with a portrait hanging on the wall. Its a portrait of Johnson, and we’ve seen lots of photos of the man but this is the only one in which he’s joined by his assistant Caroline.

Upon encountering this photo GLaDOS exclaims that these people look so familiar and if you’ve managed to put the pieces together by this point you notice you’re looking at something far more significant, GLaDOS as a human, before she was uploaded into a robot. There are a lot of theories pointing to Chell’s parents being Cave and Caroline and this portrait is a solid piece of photographic evidence showing a distinctive likeness between the trio.

4. Did anyone else think it was just slightly odd that there was a ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’ included in Portal 2? The remnants of this rather bizarre event include what appears to be a Science fair featuring a number of alternative ways to harness power. As we progress through the room we’re shocked at the discovery of a potato which has seemingly been allowed to grow over the millions of years since it was first placed there and subsequently has large roots going into the ceiling. But if you take a look at the board next to this item you’ll see something quite shocking right in the corner. The project appears to have been designed by a girl named Chell.

Consider for a moment that this project is indeed the work of a young Chell. It meets with the requirements that her parents worked for Aperture (as hinted by GLaDOS) and is even more shocking when you think that their names apparently also began with the letter “C” – I’m not going to put this all together for you but if you’ve even been paying the slightest attention to what I’ve been writing then you should see the significance straight away. What’s even more unusual is that this suggests Chell is responsible for the design which essentially saves GLaDOS programme from deletion for a large portion of the game. It’s all a bit creepy isn’t it?

3. Valve created Half Life and later created Portal 2. In a statement early on the developers made clear that Portal 2 would definitely have some reference and insider knowledge for fans of Half Life. And they didn’t disappoint. Aperture Science proudly displays that on three occasions (in 1949, 1952 and 1954) they received the runner up award in a contractor of the year competition.

When we first encounter the earliest examples of Aperture they’re talking about the invitations extended to Scientist’s and Astronaut’s who have come to test with the program. In the next area Aperture has aged about 15 years, with Johnson mentioning they may be known to the homeless people who have volunteered to test because of the 1968 senate hearings into missing astronauts, hinting at the fact that this is part of the reason the company has run into difficulty. There’s also a photo of Johnson, looking significantly older than in his photo with Caroline, hanging in the lobby of the foyer in this area. Whats perhaps more significant is that while observing this Johnson makes a direct reference to ‘Black Mesa’ saying they can “kiss my bankrupt…” before being cut off by his assistant, Caroline. He alludes that his disgust is due to companies who have managed to steal ideas that he created. Black Mesa using Aperture technology? You never know…

2. Despite being an all powerful super computer GLaDOS obviously weakness appears to be Ornithophobia. There are many unanswered questions about the appearance of this solitary bird in Portal 2 such as how it got that deep into Aperture labs, how it survived, whether this proves the existence of intelligent life above ground and why the only living creature (asides from Chell) to be featured in Portal 2 is this solitary bird. At one point in the game it appears that the bird is looking over a nest although whether he – or she – is protecting eggs was left completely unexplained until the DLC at which point GLaDOS interacts with some baby birds in Art Therapy.

This in itself poses a more fundamentally important question as to where the birds’ mate is? The Caroline portrait and the possibilities of it’s meaning come back to us at this point. It also leads to a different theory which is perhaps even more fascinating: the many, many connections between Portal 2 and the Greek legend of Prometheus, who was “punished by the gods for giving the gift of knowledge to man…cast to the bowels of the earth and pecked by birds.” Many cultures have different superstitions regarding birds in the house. In traditional Irish culture, for example, if a bird flew into the house, it was a portent of death. Interesting that GLaDOS is being pecked by birds as Chell awakes from her fall into the bowels of Aperture science. Maybe you’re both already dead by this point? In fact, perhaps the whole game is a mythology based around death, which just sees Chell on a journey to the afterlife.

1. This reference takes the top spot on this list because of it’s ability to cross the boundaries between games and reality. Anybody whose ever picked up a personal turret from the likes of Forbidden Planet (or any other good alternative retailer) can attest to that. In the game you see turret’s being assembled and packed for shipment which almost seems pointless given the collapse of civilization (or so you’d assume) in the years previous. You might even wonder where the finished turrets actually go and if there are nothing but warehouses and warehouses of finished and packed turret’s ready to be shipped?

You see the turret box at various points throughout the game, but the side of the packaging with the most surprising information is only visible in the room where Wheatley tries to kill you with a circle of faulty turrets. According to this illustration sentry turrets were designed – or at least marketed – with the intention of nursery protectors. That might explain their soft voices and gentle tones. I also want to give full credit to the makers of the official ‘Turret Sentry’ action figure which features the same – identical – artwork upon it’s side. Full credit for detail. Personally I’m only disappointed you can’t get a real life sized turret to guard your nursery.

Life sized turrets have been made by fans and are available through certain custom outlets, but without those soft tones and the ability to attack intruders its just not the same.