The Weekend's Television: Skellig, Sun, Sky1
Red Dwarf: Back To Earth, Fri, Dave

"You've got to picture it in your mind's eye, son," said Michael's Dad as he showed him round their new house, a wreck of a place whose ambience is not improved by the Stannah stairlift in the hallway and the flush toilet plumbed into the corner of the living room. The invitation to see what isn't there is good advice for first-time home-owners seeking a bargain, and, as it happens, for readers of books. But it also reminded you of the peculiar difficulty of filming a novel like Skellig, David Almond's award-winning story about a young boy who finds someone very odd living in his garden shed. All of a sudden you don't have to picture it in your mind's eye at all, and that means that details that were helpfully opaque and unspecific on the page get focused very precisely on the screen. Particularly precisely here, where Sky's desire to have a big high-definition drama to boost sales of its HD service means there's a premium on fine-grained close-up.

As if to show-off the technology, Annabel Jankel's film began with a mesmerising swirl of starlings across a twilight sky, every bird pixel-sharp, and our early glimpses of Skellig (played by Tim Roth) himself, presented him in unequivocal clarity. A nictitating membrane shuttered eerily across his eyes and his skin had the pouchy texture of a bird's wattle. (The woodpecker, incidentally, closes its nictitating membrane a millisecond before it strikes the treetrunk, in order to prevent its eyeballs from flying out of its head, a fact that has no bearing at all on Skellig's merits as television drama, but seemed too good not to pass on).

David Almond is deliberately reserved about the exact nature of the bird-man hybrid at the centre of the story. Is he a derelict angel, reduced to scavenging Chinese takeaway leftovers from the bins? Or is he some kind of revolutionary throwback, a living fossil who still has the wings that in us have shrivelled down to our shoulder-blades, as Michael theorises at one point? There are hints and nudges in both directions but no conclusive proof, and no firm indications as to whether Michael has summoned his experience out of his need to escape his mundane anxieties, about being shoved from his privileged place in the nest by a new baby sister. The film version – with the form's inherent weakness for the spectacular – couldn't afford to be quite so unspecific and had taken a few liberties with the original. Nobody, I take it, will have problems with the textually sanctioned moment when Michael, Skellig and his friend Mina lifted into the air in a moment of mystical togetherness, though it seems odd that Skellig had to instruct them to "remember this night". How the hell would you forget exactly? And purists might share my uncertainty about the moment that Skellig took to the sky with Michael in a swooping joy-ride reminiscent of the animated version of The Snowman.

Skellig was filmed in the washed-out, bluey tones that are familiar from upmarket police thrillers, and Jankel's finest touches came not with the CGI add-ons, which only stirred unhelpful thoughts about the airworthiness of Skellig's threadbare, battery-hen wings, but with little touches that recovered the did-I-see-it-or-didn't-I quality of Mikey's first encounters with his grounded angel. At one point, he had a flashback memory of the old lady he befriends at the hospital, when his baby sister is on life support. She's walking away down a long corridor and her dressing gown parts at the back to show a flare of white nighty, like a ladybird cracking open its shell to unfold its wings. Not in the book, if my memory serves me right, but a far truer nod to the magical ambiguity of Almond's book than the full-on aerial joyride.

Science-fiction fans won't have known quite where to look over the weekend. Dr Who was back, trailing a couple more guest celebrities in its comet tail. The Sci-Fi channel was running a tribute to Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation techniques and – the one that's had the fan-site servers running overtime – Red Dwarf: Back to Earth returned for a three-part special. Watching the first episode I thought there was something a little strange and airless about it, an odd hesitancy in the performances that suggested the comic muscles had stiffened during nine years of suspended animation. Then I realised that the laugh track was missing. I don't know whether one was added before transmission, but it had an odd effect on my viewing at first, as if the performers were leaving room for a reaction that was to be pasted in later. I did add some of my own sound effects though, first of all when Rimmer sentimentally sat down by Kochanski's headstone to read aloud to her departed spirit. "I pray God there's some car chases in this one," he said, splitting open a copy of Sense and Sensibility. And I was provoked to a question. How come Chris Barrie just crawls around on big machines these days, when he's such a good comic actor?

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas