CONSPIRACY THEORY Director: Richard Donner Starring: Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart (15)

There is a sequence about 30 minutes into this initially promising thriller which suggests that there may be something more to what we're seeing than meets the eye. As a paranoid New York cabbie and the brains behind a conspiracy theory newsletter, Mel Gibson seems at first like your usual opinionated, motor-mouthed taxi-driver. The film opens with him detailing various conspiracy theories to hapless passengers who simply stare in amazement at his ability to talk - and talk drivel - without taking a breath.

Accused man attacked in the dock

A man accused of murdering 18-year-old Eliza Ward in the Belfast restaurant where they both worked was attacked in the dock at a magistrates' court yesterday. Gerard Patrick Stewart, 20, of Iris Drive, Belfast, had just been remanded in custody when a man raced from his seat and forced his way into the dock. He grabbed Stewart by the neck and started to punch him around the head and face, then appeared to try to gouge his eyes.

Letter: Casting for a white Othello

Sir: David Lister's article ("Can it be wrong to `black up' for Othello?", 7 August) about casting Othello attributes the reluctance of theatre companies to cast white actors in the role in part to political correctness.

Going boldly can be a good thing

POPULAR CULTURE

Events: The Christmas Sci-Fi Special

The Christmas Sci-Fi Special takes place at Wembley Arena, London (0181-900 1234) today and tomorrow, from 1pm-9pm. pounds 25-35

True confessions of a warped youth

The Critics: TELEVISION

Trekkies declared human

British Psychological Society: Scientists cast doubt on attempts to cut fraud and reveal sci-fi cult fans' secrets

how to be a Trekkie

One doesn't have to be a Trekkie to confidently finish off Mark Sullivan's opening gambit. "The Science Museum's mission is..." Yes, we all know: to boldly go where no museum has gone before. "No. To promote public understanding of science."

BRITAIN: Star Trekkies land in London

Quark, the Ferenge barman, arrives a preview party to launch the opening of Star Trek - The Exhibition at the Science Museum in London.

Out of the closet, into the universe

"2,4,6,8. How do we know that Kirk is straight?" is the battle- cry for a new breed of SF fans, the Gaylaxians, who in America have unsuccesfully lobbied Star Trek's producers over recent years for gay characters to be introduced to the series.

EDUCATING ALBERT

Patrick Deuchar wants to turn Prince Albert's temple to the Arts and Sciences into `Britain's Village Hall', the hot venue for rock shows, charity bashes and cult conventions. Most of all, he wants to attract big business. ROSIE MILLARD reports. Photogra

OUTSIDE EDGE:

Why Lt Uhura didn't jump (star)ship

Klingon to your dreams

Star Trek: Generations Dir: David Carson (PG) Solitaire for 2 Dir: Gary Sinyor (15) Dallas Doll Dir: Ann Turner (18)

Klinging on to immortality

Captain Kirk's been killed off, but since when has death been terminal in Star Trek? Max Walker wonders if the Final Frontier will ever be reached

The American Association for the Advancement of Science: Star Trek boldly goes across new sci-fi frontiers

AN ANALYSIS of a quarter century of the television programme Star Trek has revealed how the shows have become more scientifically sophisticated but less optimistic than in the Sixties.
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'