Sunday 1 December 2013

Glasgow Helicopter Aftermath

There have been reports, many reports, of the uninjured and walking wounded survivors of the Glasgow helicopter crash re-entering the pub to bring the injured out before the emergency services arrived on the scene. This was a stupidly dangerous thing for them to do and could have easily cost them their lives if an aviation-grade fuel fire had broken out. It was also an insanely brave act that probably saved numerous lives and allowed the first responders to triage the injured far faster than would otherwise have been possible.

These are the people I wish we were more often.  

Friday 22 November 2013

Marco Polo found!... ish... maybe

Whilst looking up the time The Day Of The Doctor was going to be broadcast I stumbled across this article on The Mirror's website, a rumour sobizarre it might actually be true.

The basic gist is that in 1964 a guy used a cine film camera to record all seven episodes of Marco Polo, the fourth Doctor Who serial. Yes, “serial”, The Mirror, not “series”, bloody tabloid research. Normally I'd read something like “Marco Polo found!” and drop straight into reliable fan cynicism because it's one of the wish list ones, one of the ones everyone wants to see. It's the first proper historical (no, cavemen do not count), the surviving set photos are lavish and the plot is actually pretty good even if seven episodes seems over long.

I also want to see if there's as much lesbian subtext between Susan and Ping-Cho as the Loose Canon reconstruction leads me to believe. Seriously, every surviving photo of them used in that recon either has them hugging, holding hands, leading towards each other to whisper conspiratorially or lying in bed together! This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Ship that sails itself and I'm surprised there's sop little Susan'Ping-Cho slash fic out in the wild.

Two things make me half believe this rumour.

One: The Enemy Of The World and The Web Of Fear are both pretty high on the wish list and we've got those back, minus one episode.

Two: the bloody odd way these episodes have apparently been restored to the BBC. Not original film cans from some Commonwealth country but some guy who in 1964 decided to record the whole serial using his cine film camera. This is weird enough to believe. Why he wanted three hours of silent Doctor Who is beyond mebut apparently it's good enough quality it can be married up with the surviving audio to make a marketable DVD.

I kind of feel sorry for Moffat, actually. I mean he spends all this time writing and filming an 80-minute special for the fiftieth anniversary and keeps being gazumped by decades old stories surfacing and stealing his thunder.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Random thoughts on Thor: The Dark World

SPOILER WARNING: Since the film has been out for a while (as evidence by my being 20% of the cinema audience) I don't see any reason to restrain myself.

The Mighty Thor in London
I rather like that the “Midgard” bits of the film are set in London. London does seem to attract the godly type of superhero these days what with Wonder Woman moving there a couple of years ago. The Greenwich Meridian seems to be the centre of the universe, which is a bit odd but rather sweet.

The one thing I came out of the first film wanting was to see more of the Nine Realms. We got a lot more Asgard in this film, which makes sense, since the first film was about Thor in Jane's world this time we see her in his. She even meets his mum (who is absolutely hardcore, by the way). Natalie Portman wants out of the series after this point, which I don't blame her for as her character has a lot less to do this time round. Still, it might not be a bad thing to drop Jane here, now she's seen Thor's world there's nowhere else to take her really.

I hope they keep Darcy, though.

How to waste Christopher Ecclestone in one easy step
Christopher Ecclestone is a brilliant actor, I think most people will agree. He has a great deal of charisma, an imposing physical presence and great delivery. However, a lot of his power comes from his voice and so having him speaking elven gibberish for half the film was a mistake, there's no other way to put it.

Hogun the Grinning
They wrote him out because the actor was only available briefly, which I can understand, it was a job to do and it was done as well as could be expected.

Guardians of the Galaxy looks fun
The traditional tease for the next film saw Sif and Volstagg delivering the aether, aka the red Infinity Stone, to the Collector who was Benicio delToro acting bloody odd. He also had a bloody odd bright pink minion lady. The acting choices were jarring but I suppose it'll make sense when we see these characters in context with the film they're actually from.

It also makes sense of Thanos' cameo at the end of Avengers Assemble if the Infinity Gems are on the table for this phase of the films. I wonder if there are any other artefacts beyond the aether and the tesseract that might also be “Infinity Stones”.

Chris Evans' cameo
I loved that bit: Chris Evans playing Loki pretending to be Captain America. “Let's have a bracing conversation about truth!” and “Gee, fella!”. You can see the actor having a ball playing the straight aspects of his character for (louder) laughs than normal.

It's all about Loki
You wouldn't have to follow the comicbook sites to know which character from this film is getting his own comic. With Hogun off the board the other two Warriors Three and Lady Sif got a bit sidelined in favour of Loki. Ray Stevenson got some good lines as Vostagg but it really was all about Loki. Which is no bad thing, Tom Hiddlestone plays a great anti-hero/villain and his imprisonment in the earlier half of the film gave him a chance to really convey the character's psychology in ways his previous two turns didn't.

And that ending was a great tease for the next film whenever it's due to come out. 2016 I assume.

Coming soon...

The trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier looked amazing. They seem to be going to a Captain America vs. SHIELD idea. 47 Ronin seems interesting but I hope there's more reason for Keanu Reeves' headlining role than Hollywood not being able to handle non-white leading men even in a film clearly about an Asian fantasy world (I did actually think it was the second Last Airbender movie when the trailer started). 

Wednesday 20 November 2013

James gained ITEM: SHAVING NEWSPAPER (minus 10 Damage)

One of my little first aid tips for home use. I did not know this until the other day when my boss introduced me to the idea. I cut myself shaving quite often and I'd always been taught to hold some paper towel over the cut until it stopped by itself. As it turned out I was doing it wrong.
What you need for a shaving cut, as my boss revealed to me, is newspaper. Seriously, something about the particular paper stock they use not only stops the bleeding really fast it also seems to help the healing process a little.
Don't use the Daily Mail, though, you might catch something.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

The Rumour Mill presents Games Workshop's 2014 schedule

After two and a bit weeks of frantic house-hunting and then the pain of waiting for references to come back from employer, bank manager and current landlord I now have a flat lined up and can return to discussing the things that really matter:

Toy soldiers.

Faeit 212 (the rumour site where you behave or he slaps you, I love it!) has posted up the rumoured GW release schedule up to October next year. Now a) this is just a rumour and so pinches of salt all round and b) my opinions on this are based on no knowledge whatsoever, they're just my opinion. That said, let's get started.

January: Dwarfs
The rumours actually name check all the 6th edition holdovers: Dwarfs, Wood Elves and Bretonnia. They all share similar problems: rank-and-file units and war machines in expensive resin; no plastic characters; and even the odd unit without models. As far as I recall Dwarf Rangers are made by combining parts from the Warrior and Thunderer kits.

God, we're getting spoiled. I remember when this sort of thing was normal.

Plastic Slayers would be fantastic (Doomseekers upgrade? Please please please, GW?). Hammerers and Ironbreakers could probably be a single kit if Executioners and Black Guard can be released together.

February and March: Imperial Guard
I was cynical that Guard would get a two-month slot a la the Dark Elves but thinking about it there are a lot of gaps in the range. Ogryns, Rough Riders, Storm Troopers and Regimental Advisors all need plastics, there are no Penal Legion models and a plastic Commissar wouldn't be unwelcome. There are also a whole bunch of tanks in the current book that don't exist.

The persistent rumour that Mordian Iron Guard would become plastic for this release help sell the two-month concept to be because that's three kits in itself: Command Squad, Infantry Squad, Heavy Weapons Squad. Inevitable new flyer, as well, I suppose.

April: Wood Elves
Dear God does this need doing. I am a touch surprised they aren't rumoured for a two-month stretch, there's so bloody much to do on the existing range before even considering new stuff.

Of their four characters classes none have plastics and one (the Branchwraith) doesn't even have a generic model. A plastic Forest Dragon seems inevitable to bring them in line with the other elven ranges. The list of Finecast units is huge: Eternal Guard, Wardancers, Warhawk Riders, Wild Riders, Tree Kin, Treemen and Waywatchers (Great Eagles aren't urgent, everyone uses the The Hobbit ones anyway). The Highborn on Great Stag could stand to be redone but I just say that because I hate the model. That's at least seven units and a monster. I can't offhand work out many that would work as dual-pupose kits. Wardancers and Waywatchers, conceivably, and Warhawk Riders with optional riders that can also be Great Eagles.

I am, with my Dark Elves army and High Elves mercenary force becoming a bit of an elf fanboy, it has to be said.

May: Orks
Again, a whole lotta Fincecast units and Ork players have been without decent Deffkoptas since Black Reach went out of production. Though I suspect the loss they feel most keenly from Black Reach is the disappearance of the best Warboss ever.

July: Bretonnia
Let me just say AT. BLOODY. LAST! Bretonnians were my signature army all through university and for a number of years afterwards until Vampire Counts for their seventh edition book. The redoes are actually pretty simple: dual-purpose Questing Knights/Grail Knights box, Mounted Yeomen, Trebuchet and Grail Reliqueae, plastic Lord/BSB, bish bash bosh.

July: Warhammer Fantasy Battles 9th edition
With the three 6th edition holdovers dealt with I'm less cynical about a new edition coming out before GW makes a complete cycle of the Army Books. All that's left at this point are Skaven (who had so much new shit since their last book new ideas must be thin on the ground) and Beastmen (whose players are kind of used to being ignored for long stretches of time. Hello, Matt!). The other thing that convinces me comes in September/October.

August: Space Wolves
Meh. I mean: as far as I'm concerned the current Space Wolves range are the best Space Marine plastic GW has ever done but I'm kind of off 40k right now and even more off the idea of More Bloody Space Marines so, yeah, meh.

September and October: Orcs & Goblins
You know, I initially thought “Like bollocks do Orcs & Goblins need two months!” but then I flicked through the current Army Book and a) realised how far production values have come since this, the first full-colour hardcover and b) there are a lot of gaps. I guess I've got used to how much comes out with an eighth edition army book I forgot that the release strategy was a big less generous at the start of the edition/

There are a couple of character classes that could do with plastic, not least a Warboss on a Wyvern. The generic plastic Warboss is showing its age (not big enough). They actually have a gap in their Core choices, Arrer Boyz, which I assumed was confined to the 6th ed. holdovers. It's mainly Goblin stuff that needs to be redone: the Wolf Chariot, Squig Herds and Hoppers, Snotling Pump Wagon, all the war machines.

And doing this over these two months means that like Dark Elves this year means they get the Games Day showcase treatment and the September release, traditional home of new edition starter kits. This new edition's rumoured starter kit is Empire versus Orcs so that'll be a good crossover hit. 

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Yontoo a loser (or new computer: yay-ish!)

I am not computer literate. I have two computers, a Facebook account, a blog or four over the years and somehow I still view computers with suspicion and trepidation and once one earns my trust I will stay with it in spite of all sanity. For the last two years I have tolerated a computer that crashes continuously, that can take upwards of two minutes to open a web page and recently became allergic to Facebook and my e-mail account.

So, I have a new computer. It was a Christmas present. Yes, last Christmas. It took me ten months to start using it regularly for a number of reasons but the biggest one turned out to be called Yontoo (or Yondoo, can't quite remember). What is Yontoo?

To quote my friend Matt, a digital professional: “It's not quite spyware.” It sits on your computer and every time your web browser opens a new page it flashes up adverts and “related searches”. It also eats mobile broadband credit like you would not believe. An hour online should not take half a gig (or £3.75 to get financial about it).

That's the main thing that's kept me off this computer: the shit computers come pre-installed with these days. I finally got rid of Yontoo a couple of days ago and suddenly my web browsing is more cash-efficient than on the old computer since opening a webpage takes second. It has Microsoft Office but won't let me use it without giving up more cash so it has Open Office just like my laptop.

(I tried to come up with a simile about it being like pushing the prostitute out the door and calling your wife but it just wasn't coming together).

It also has two web browsers for some reason. Internet Explorer uses less data than Chrome seems to but for some reason I can only buy credit using Chrome. Regardless of which I use some bright spark decided to hide all the menu buttons so it took me a week to make a Favourites list for my daily dose of webcomics.

Sandra On The Rocks seems immune to the Favourites menu, for some reason, just won't save to it.

I found the Favourites menu thanks to a female friend who first spent a while showing me how to find the “InPrivate” setting, the thing Microsoft pretends is so you can buy presents for your wife online without her spotting it on the browser history. Not for porn at all, honest guv. She'd been without internet (or her boyfriend) for a few days so I went and got some snacks from the shop whilst she played with it for a bit (the computer, I mean, honest guv) and then she showed me how to make a new favourites list.

Then she asked me if I fancied ordering pizza, can't figure our why. (Honest, guv.)

Monday 4 November 2013

The Comics Ramble. Moving Out Mini-Rambles part 1

Since a) it's going to be some time before the trades I'm now determined to collect outpace the single issues I already own, and; b) I have to start thinking about moving out so it's time to have a clear out. I've spent a little over three years in my current flat collecting all sorts of junk and sending some of it down the charity shop should make the actual act of packing somewhat easier.

So, in no particular order, I'm going to put the contents of my bookshelves under the microscope and see what I can bear to part with and what goes in a box waiting for new shelves in a new flat to call home. Warning: here be spoilers!

Axe Cop
The idea behind this series is insane but brilliant: artist Ethan Nicolle plays a “let's pretend” game with his 5 year old brother Malachai about a character the kid created called Axe Cop and publishes it all in comic strip form. The result is an unpredictable stream of consciousness narrative with the inventiveness only very young children have: completely unburdened by logic or ideas about what “shouldn't” happen in a story. Also, poo jokes. Keep.

Judge Dredd: Origins
I bought this just after seeing Dredd 3D in the cinema and whilst it isn't in any way bad it doesn't feel like a keeper. 2000AD was never a magazine I read so my emotional attachment to Judge Dredd is effectively nil when the idea isn't paired with Karl Urban's natural charisma. Charity shop.

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon
Hands down I think Matt Fraction's Hawkeye is the best series Marvel are publishing right now. What I like the most is that Fraction is clearly writing a 70s cop show that just happens to star a superhero. Bringing the other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, into the mix gives the series all kinds of opportunities for one or other of the characters to be the fish out of water: Kate in Clint's street level world, Clint in Kate's world of high society and wealth. There's also a whole essay to be written about Matt Hollingsworth's use of the colour purple in this series. Keep.

Serenity: Those Left Behind
I honestly think this series is better than the film it was written to lead into. The film focussed on explaining the Reavers, a minor element of the earlier series, and linking them in with the Alliance. That was fine but lacked much emotional connection to the TV series. Those Left Behind resolved the threat of The Men In Blue Gloves, a more significant recurring element of the series who never got a face-to-face confrontation with the crew on screen. Bringing back Agent Dodson also gave it a nice “season finale” feel. Still, hardly essential to my enjoyment of the series: charity shop.

Love as a Foreign Language volume 2
Where's volume 1 gone? Anyway, a very sweet fish out of water comedy / romance series. It's about a Canadian man teaching English in Korea. He hates it, living in constant culture shock but just as he decides to quit he falls for the school's new receptionist. It's really sweet and I hope volume 1 turns up at some point. Keep.

Spider-Girl: Turning Points
I didn't even know I owned this. I've immense nostalgia for the May “Mayday” Parker version of Spider-Girl but this is hardly the most thrilling collection of issues. It's mainly single issue bottle stories and... I don't know, re-reading it there doesn't seem to be the spark I remember the series having. Tastes change, I suppose. Charity shop.

Secret Avengers: Run the Mission, Don't Get Seen, Save the World
Definitely one of my favourite Avengers runs. Warren Ellis takes what could have been six issues of filler between creative teams and writes a series of brilliant one-issue bottle stories, each with a different artist. And what artists! Jamie McKelvie, Kev Walker, David Aja, Michael Lark, Alex Maleev and Stuart Immonen, top bench talent and all favourites of mine. Keep.

Doctor Who: Oblivion
To go into all the details of why this was good would take an essay but here are the cliff notes: the Doctor's companion Izzy is gay, she's also adopted and insecure because of it. To make her confront these issues the writers had her body swapped with a very non-human alien so she had to constantly and consciously define what was “her” and what was merely the body she was in. The ending of the arc, Izzy defining moment of self-acceptance, actually brings a tear to my eye. Keep.

Heavy Metal, Hearts + Flowers: a Scary Go Round story
Keep. I might have the old Bobbins strips this is based on stored on my hard drive but this book is an artefact of nostalgia. Scary Go Round was one of the first webcomics I ever read. Plus, the way John Allison writes dialogue just doesn't stop being funny.

Mouse Guard: Autumn 1152
There are mice, they have a civilisation, they're vulnerable from all sorts of predators and the Mouse Guard are the ones protecting them. David Petersen writes and draws a series that makes a surprisingly good stab at doing medieval fantasy with mice and turning crabs and grass snakes into epic monsters. Keep.

Hawaiian Dick: Byrd of Paradise
I love a good hard boiled detective story but some of the tropes get boring after a while. There's only so many untreated alcoholics in New York you can take before you need a change and, well, 1953 Hawaii is certainly a different setting. It's got a supernatural twist as well as an interesting period setting but it's a detective story so saying anything else would be wrong. Keep.

The Question: Zen and Violence
The series that just says “bollocks” to every moral convention DC Comics usually harps on about. There's a great one-issue story in here about the city descending into chaos after the villains are killed which keeps switching back to an old woman sitting on a bench in the snow waiting for a bus that's never going to come. We keep going back to her again and again between scenes of the Question and the supporting cast dealing with the violence and looting and processing recent events. Then on the final page we switch back to the old woman and realise she froze to death ages ago. O'Neil really knew how to sell the fallible hero, how to have characters commit cold blooded murder and not make you hate them. I really should get the later volumes in this series.

Doctor Who: The Crimson Hand
This collection was a great last hurrah for David Tennant's Doctor: a big comic strip story arc like back in the old dys before the TV show came back. He got a new companion (the wonder alien conwoman Majenta Pryce); a big UNIT story; one last melancholy monologue; a pastiche of Eisner's The Spirit; and even a trip to Stockbridge to meet Max Edison. Keep.

And that was just the first shelf.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Triumph and Treachery mercenary rules

There's a lot to like in the new Triumph And Treachery book. I haven't played a game yet but flicking through the book it seemed to have just enough bells and whistles to be interesting but not so many as to hold up play (I'm looking at you, Warhammer Realms: Lustria). I particularly like the random player order that gets shuffled around every game turn, it should break things up and stop the game becoming predictable. The event cards should throw delightful spanners in the works, as well.

What grabbed me the most, though, were the mercenary rules. You get an allowance of points to hire mercenaries to the tune of 100 points for every 500 points in your main army so a 2,000 points army gets 400 points to spend on mercenaries. You can pick from any Army Book you like with no restrictions other than needing a character to be your Mercenary Captain.

What I like the most is that your mercenaries can change sides. If they flee and pass a rally test you roll a dice, on a 5 or 6 they stay loyal to you but on a 1 to 4 they waver. You and the other players dice off and the winner takes control of the mercenaries.

I just keep coming up with ideas for mercenary warbands to add to my armies or my friends':

My Vampire Counts could march to war besides some Empire Free Company to represent Sylvanian Peasant Militia.

An all Ethereal set of Vampire Counts models to go with an Empire army, representing the “retinue” of my friend Matt's Lore of Death Battle Wizard: a Cairn Wraith, a Tomb Banshee and a unit of Hex Wraiths. If they change sides it represents him losing control and them turning on him.

There's a piece of art in the Tomb Kings book that just offers a fascinating visual: Tomb Kings and High Elves standing side by side. I rather like the idea of some Swordmasters of Hoeth with a Loremaster for their captain marching alongside the undead phalanx.

Bretonnians are a tricky one, it's always been in their background that they don't hire mercenaries for honour reasons but I don't see why a warband of their close neighbours the Wood Elves might not tag along for a battle or two.

As for the Dark Elves I'm working on at the moment, some Chaos Knights with the Mark of Slaanesh or some Hellstriders would fit my Cult Of Pleasure theme rather nicely.

If nothing else this supplement is providing me with a wealth of inspiration. In a week or two Matt, Dave and I will be trying out the rules and we'll see how it works out in practice.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Had this conversation so many times today

CO-WORKER: My God, what happened to your face?

JAMES: Jehovah's Witnesses.

CO-WORKER: What did they do to you?

JAMES: Knocked on the door while I was shaving.

At least these things provide my co-workers with some amusement to lighten up their day. It also inspired my direct superior to share some homespun wisdom with me. It seems that the best thing for treating shaving cuts is newspaper: stops it bleeding far quicker than toilet paper or kitchen roll. 

Starting a Painting Journal

Whilst I'm making some changes to the way I do things it might be time to get organised about the many hobby projects that bang about my painting station. In his latest White Dwarf column Jeremy Vetock wrote about keeping a painting journal.

He started it to see how many models he could paint in a year. If nothing else now that idea's been brought up I'm wondering about it myself: how many models do I paint in a year? Aside from that mild curiosity keeping a journal will be a nice little motivational tool. I do rather like making lists and I think I'll get as much motivation from the thought that I can add another item to the list as the thought of placing a fully painted unit on the tabletop.

Given the upcoming move I won't be buying many models over the next couple of months so I can spend some time catching up on the models I already have: finishing touches on the Darkshards (yes, I missed the first deadline but only because I haven't based them); finish up those Vampire Count characters; chip away at the Tomb Kings and maybe even get around to painting my Dark Vengeance set at last. 

Friday 1 November 2013

A forced relocation to trades

How do you run a comics blog without any comics? I know I post all sorts of old guff here but the idea was always to be a comics blog. I've been mail ordering my comics for a while since there's nowhere to buy them in Reading. It was less than ideal given the time lag and the Post Office's attitude towards “Do Not Bend” notices but it was something. A few weeks ago the comic shop I order from went out of business and so I ended up a comics blogger with no comics to blog about.

I've spent the last couple of weeks shopping around online trying to find another service but the sale of the Post Office has done horrendous things to p+p costs. Also, it's been a long time since I've actually looked at the individual price of a comic. The monthly cost, yes, the individual unitary cost not so much.

Christmas is coming up. Family birthdays are coming up. My landlady has sold my flat and I'll have to move in the new year. We're living in the longest period of wage repression since records began. Time to change. Time to become part of the problem:

I'm switching to trades.

The benefits are obvious: trades cost less than buying individual instalments; they look good on a shelf; they don't fall apart as easily; they survive being lent to your friends somewhat better than floppies.

I will miss floppies, though. Not so much getting stories in regular instalments but because of something more abstract. The weekly fix of comics has been a part of my life each and every week for damn near twenty years ever since my grandmother bought me an issue of X-Factor at random from a newsagent to keep me quiet. From there I was hooked.

There are less obvious benefits to the switch, though. For once thing it will make me think more critically about what I buy. I have a tendency to buy things out of habit, picking up a series for months after I lose interest in it. Trades may be cheaper in comparison but they're a fair price in and of themselves so I'll need to take a long look at what I was buying before and divide them into the not worth buying; the worth pre-ordering; and, finally, the worth getting once it's dirt cheap on Amazon Used & New.

Young Avengers is a sacred cow. Aside from that everything is up for grabs. 

Sunday 13 October 2013

A Tale of Many Gamers: 1000 points army list

The first “monthly unit” deadline for A Tale Of Many Gamers is November 2nd so I should get started. I've built my ten Darkshards, which were a joy to put together, but I haven't started painting them yet. At the moment I think the sea green colour scheme of Karond Kar would suit, though I don't think I'll do the armour entirely in sea green.

Just to give me something to aim for I knocked together an army list. A simple thousand points to start, nothing too fancy until I know how much the second wave miniatures cost:

Master armed with hand weapon and shield, wearing heavy armour and a Sea Dragon cloak. 78 points
Sorceress armed with hand weapon. Level 2 Wizard using the Lore of Dark Magic. 115 points
10 Darkshards with hand weapons and repeater crossbows, full command. 150 points
20 Dreadspears with spears and shields, full command. 210 points
20 Witch Elves with two hand weapons, full command. 250 points
5 Cold One Knights with hand weapons, lances and shields, full command. 180 points

Total: 983 points

A decently equipped general; a basic wizard; a nice spread of Core choices so I can see what works before I start expanding; and some Cold One Knights because I love Cold One Knights. Nice and simple, relatively inexpensive, largely off-the-shelf (the Master I'll have to mail order). I wonder if I can get it done by Christmas.

(No, I can't.)

Saturday 12 October 2013

On the epic Troughton repatriation

In spite of reading it on the BBC's own website, seeing it covered on Philip Sandifer's site and from other third parties, it's still hard for me to credit that we're not being epically trolled. Nine episodes! I can't be certain but I think this might be the biggest haul of missing episodes ever recovered at once.

And what episodes they are: four from The Web Of Fear (so only episode three remains missing) and five of The Enemy Of The World (which is therefore now complete). It sounds like a wishlist because look what we got out of the deal:

The Web Of Fear is absolutely iconic: the story that brought us the phrase (if not, thankfully, the reality) of “a Yeti on the loo in Tooting Bec”. It's got Nicholas Courtney's first appearance as the Brigadier and what fun it'll be to see how he played it as a one-off character (and a red herring villain to boot). The London Underground sets are brilliantly atmospheric. Season Five was the season of endless bases under endless sieges, which has suffered a bit of critical freefall in recent years and there's nothing like rediscovered episodes to start a new reappraisal (just look at Galaxy Four or even The Underwater Menace, which has been reappraised even before the rediscovered episode has seen general released).

Then there's The Enemy Of The World, our newly-completed story. It's David Whitaker's final solo script (yes, it is: The Ambassadors Of Death is five sevenths Malcolm Hulke) and the only Season Five story that doesn't fit the base-under-siege house style. Even better, the story's big claim to fame is that Troughton plays not only the Doctor but the villain Salamander as well. Troughton was a fantastic actor and what makes the destruction of his episodes so galling is that he played the role so physically so to see him play two roles should be a real joy.

Aside from that this nearly doubles the number of surviving episodes featuring Deborah Watling as Victoria, a character who could do with a fair reconsideration in many ways.

And every time this happens we think “This must be it.” because there can't be any more, not after all this time.

Maybe someday I'll be able to see the sight gags in The Myth Makers and The Feast Of Steven; follow the whole weird epic of The Daleks' Master Plan; or work out if the lesbian subtext of Marco Polo is just an artefact of surviving photoes or present in the whole serial.

One can but dream.

Friday 4 October 2013

A Tale of Many Gamers begins (Cult of Slaanesh)

So the local GW is running “A Tale of Many Gamers”. Simple rules: start an army, finish a unit a month, bring it into the shop for photographing for the store's Facebook page. I know my track record on these things is awful but since I was planning to start a new army anyway this'll be a decent enough target to aim for. Might also persuade me to pursue an army in a sensible fashion: one box set at a time (doomed...).

The Army
The new Dark Elves models are out tomorrow and I can't resist. I've wanted to play a Dark Elves army for years but the old Spearmen always put me off. My friend Matt felt the same way so he's starting on Dark Elves as well. He's going for a heavy Khainite theme so I'm going in the other direction and resurrecting the old Cult Of Slaanesh from the Storm Of Chaos campaign.

The Plan
The old list isn't legal or terribly competitive any more but what we have nowaday is Storm Of Magic and the Daemonic Pact scroll of binding. So the plan is to make a 2,400 points Dark Elves army with a 600 points Slaaneshi Daemons Of Chaos allied force.

I'm also consulting with my regular opponents over house rules for updating the Druchii Anointed and using some Warriors Of Chaos models to get the feel of the old list.

The First Move
Pop into the shop Saturday morning, get the new Army Book and a box of Dreadspears to make as a ten-man unit of Darkshard crossbowmen for a nice, slow start to the project.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

It's galling the way it creeps up on you. There I was sitting on the Games Day coach on the way home Sunday having a perfectly civilised, adult and reasonable conversation about films when my interlocutor casually drops into the conversation the following fact:

“I didn't see it in the cinema,” he says of all-time classic Jurassic Park, “It was three years before I was born.”

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Games Day was... a bit odd

This past Sunday was Games Day UK, the first one I've attended in a couple of years. I enjoyed myself immensely, got a lot out of it, but there were some format changes that left a lot of people cold. None of it stopped me from enjoying the day but I met some other people who were very put out.

For my own part I had a fantastic time wandering between the various stalls and talking to games developers, artists and authors. I had a chat with Phil Kelly about Chaos Space Marines (mainly to thank him for making the Lost and the Damned legal and canon once more) and Robin Cruddace about the Empire (my friend Matt asked why Grand Masters couldn't take demigryphs as mounts, turns out it was originally intended but pulled from the book when the budget wouldn't stretch to a model) and how inspiring the new Space Marine book is.

Matt and I had a nice long natter with Brian Nelson in front of the Dark Elves 3-ups display about sculpting (CAD versus by-hand) and the influence that modern dance has had on the design of the new Witch Elves (no, really). There was also a demonstration of 3D CAD (Computer Assisted Design) sculpting which was fascinating, the technology amazes me...

(Okay, all technology amazes the man who for years thought his internet worked better at night because the presence of the Sun caused interference but you know what I mean.)

… as well as a stage-by-stage display of the mock-ups, greens and 3-ups from the new Space Marine models.

I even dropped by the White Dwarf stall and got to wax lyrical about Black Templars with Matt Hutson, which was nice since it was his Templars army that provided the visual hook to get me into 40k, specifically the Dreadnought with the spiky halo off the Chaos vehicle accessory sprue

The basement level hosted Golden Demon and Armies On Parade which were, as always, a curious mix of inspiring and shaming (how is anyone that good?). Hopefully White Dwarf Daily will have pics up soon because the Armies On Parade winner was fantastic: a mostly-Slaaneshi Chaos Daemons army on a board built to represent a cityscape in the middle of an earthquake: there was a Keeper Of Secrets made from Gorgon, a Daemon Prince made from a Maulerfiend and a Carnifex and towers crawling with Screamers Of Tzeentch.

It was all very inspiring and there we come to the problem. One of the main sources of inspiration for me at Games Day has always been the gaming boards and armies made by GW stores across the country. This year there was no participation gaming, due I imagine to lack of space and the corporate decision to end in-store gaming. Games Day this year was more of a showcase, which is no bad thing to be, but it felt lacking.

There was one area that I have to say was much improved since last I went to Games Day: the retail area. There were queues, the last time I went it was a scrum, best elbows got the event-only miniatures. There was a queue for the GW area, a queue for the Forge World area that then fed into the GW area ad copious tills at the end of it. I was in the Forge World queue at its longest and was still at the front in only about twenty minutes and in the meantime I got chatting with a charming young couple from Nottingham.

A Games Day queue is a social experience that should be enjoyed as part of the day. The only cloud was the fact that Forge World were anticipating so many Horus Heresy sales that they weren't very well stocked on the Warhammer Forge products I wanted. Still, didn't stop me spending my money on Death Guard and Renegade Militia to resurrect my Lost and the Damned.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Best. Mobility Scooter. Ever.

It was a kitbash, honest to God, a kitbashed mobility scooter. Back half common-or-garden mobility scooter but instead of the normal Vespa-style driving column arrangement at the front it had the handlebars and front wheel of a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

I wish there had been a polite way for me to get a photo.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

The Rumour Mill presents: Dark Elves

Why do I want this rumour to be true? BECAUSE THIS!
Of course, no sooner do I make a commitment to concentrate on one army than rumours abound of GW getting around to Dark Elves, an army I've wanted for years but where the models always put me off. There aren't any leaked pics yet but a supposedly genuine leaked release list of plastic box sets has been doing the rounds:

New Dark Elf Warriors (making spear, sword and crossbowmen)
Witch Elves
Cold One Chariot/“Scroungerunner” (one assumes a typo of something like “Scourgerunner”)
Executioners/Black Guard
Dark Riders/Warlocks
Cauldron of Blood/Blood Throne

It does look like a wish list but I'm inclined to believe it, not in spite of its unlikeliness but because of it. Let's face it, predicting what GW is going to do is a mug's game nowadays. Not too long ago an Army Book or Codex every month would have been unthinkable let alone some of the madness they've pulled out model-wise. So let's run down the objections to this list and see if we can adjudicate them based on GW's past behaviour (act of madness though that may be):

Yes, the first item in that list is a re-sculpt of a core plastic but since the ultimate GW sacred cow, the Space Marine Tactical Squad, just got a re-sculpt that's hardly a barrier to believability. Core re-sculpts are rare, I think the last Fantasy ones were the Empire State Troops in 7th edition, but they do happen.

Yes, it's seven plastic kits but Warriors of Chaos didn't get much less. Admittedly, that was a two-wave release but since the Chapter House ruling has put GW off the idea of staggered waves they might be in a mood to try a large release.

And let's face it, Dark Elves need a large plastic release. Some of these kits can make new units but all of them at least include options to make existing units, mainly ones that exist now only in prohibitively expensive metal or Finecast. Appropriately enough the Dark Elves are quite similar to the Dark Eldar before their last Codex: a model range in need of a massive, top-to-bottom revamp.

And if you're resigned to the fact that such a huge amount of work has to be done on an army (and I think “has to be” is a good characterisation since all that Finecast can't do much for the army's commercial viability) what better release slot than the one announced the day before Games Day and released the weekend after? GW can showcase the new models at the convention, wheel out the games developers and sculptors to talk design philosophy, flash some glimpses of the new Army Book and get some good buzz going over the internet to help offset the higher-than-normal R-and-D costs of the release.

And then I can finally have the Cult Of Pleasure army I've been considering on-and-off since Storm Of Chaos but could never previously afford.

Monday 16 September 2013

Hobby on Holiday

I've got a week off and nothing to do (except blitzing my flat and having a right old clear out, but that's neither here nor there) and so I want to get on with a little bit of hobby, finish some longstanding projects.

I've been feeling really inspired by my old Vampire Counts army recently. Over the last couple of months I've played a few games and bought a few new models but not got much painting done. As such I have a bunch of models in various states of not finished sitting on my painting table:

1 Wight King
1 Cairn Wraith
1 Tomb Banshee
2 Necromancers (the plastic one and a Finecast Amber Wizard)
5 Black Knights
3 Varghiests

I'm also acid-bathing the Sartosan Vampire I use as my General because the paintjob on him is frankly embarrassing. I was going for “ethereal blue” on his clothes but landed closer to “hospital pajamas”.

I should say I know I'm not going to get all these models done in a week. Maybe if I were doing this number of rank-and-file models it'd be doable but these are mostly character models so I want to do a good job on them. Really I just want to see how far I can get with this list in a week.

And to keep myself honest I've finally had my digital camera fixed so I can use the blog to track my progress and shame myself into knuckling down on this one. My attempts to paint a Tomb Kings army in a month failed miserably so let's see if I can do better with a target I have no reasonable expectation of meeting.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Why I will miss Bunker (and why Titans won't)

And thus Bunker begins his 19 issue
run of awesomeness and hugs.
Never say never in comics but I reckon an exit like that with Bunker walking away framed by a group shot of the remaining team members... yes, I think an exit like that stands for a while.

It certainly isn't just that he was gay, though a large amount of the character's appeal for me was that he was gay in a way not usually seen in superhero comics or many other “adventure” genres. Bunker's sexuality was, at one and the same time, absolutely vital to the character and completely incidental. It actually helped him a lot that his boyfriend was in a coma because it instantly cut off all the obvious, immediate ways to take a gay character: relationships were off limits. Yes, this could just as easily be read as cowardice on DC’s part in having an openly gay character and not writing him to display his gayness too openly and scare the horses (by which I mean groups like The Mothers Of America). However, I want to err on the side of optimism and believe that this was a conscious effort by Scott Lobdell to have a gay character with more to do in-story than have “the gay storylines”.

Instead Bunker's sexuality was used as one of a variety of character traits that inform his decisions. Take his reaction to Superboy's “name”. Bunker is aware, from Superboy's own mouth, that “Kon” is a Kryptonian derogatory for clones and when he hears Wonder Girl use it he expresses his discomfort. Lo and behold in the latest issue Cassie asks Superboy if she can call him Conner, in part one assumes because of Bunker's strong reaction combined with her own softening feelings.

Bunker is, obviously and famously, a construction of classically gay signifers; his costume is in two shades of purple, as are his powers (which may even be a conscious choice of his, there's never been anything to say his “bricks” are inherently that colour); his dress sense is at times very stereotypical as is his product-laden hair; and he is both very physical and demonstrative in his affections (he hugs both Red Robin and Solstice minutes after meeting them); as well as being very open about his feelings, in defiance of the classic male stereotype. If I had to think of other characters whose queerness was such a defining part of their personality yet not their main plot generator it would be a very short list. Ser Loras Tyrell, maybe (the TV version, his sexuality is much less explicit in the books).

Okay, so I said this post wasn't about Bunker as a queer character so I should probably end that lengthy digression and move on to the other reasons I think he was an important addition to the team.

You see, I can't help but feel the issue that gave him such a nice send-off (Teen Titans #23) also demonstrated why he was being written out: his usual plot functions are being subsumed by other characters. This is sad but indicative of one of the New 52's larger themes: returning the DCU to its more iconic formulations. Largely robbed of the Marv Wolfman Titans by editorial fiat Lobdell seems to be moving the team towards the next best formulation: Geoff Johns' mixture of the Young Justice mainstays and a couple of classic Titans.

So we have Bunker losing his innovative but intrusive place in relationships: his role as Superboy's conscience (“Y-You can't just steal money.”) is clearly a disruption now Conner's relationship with Cassie has been reinstated, her being a thief on her own quest towards respectability I admit opens up more (im)moral possibilities. His similar role as the heart of the team (becoming a team being, in fact, Bunker's idea in #3) is similarly redundant given that the classic heart of the Teen Titans, Beast Boy, just joined (though he did leave with Bunker). Red Robin is grooming Raven for team command so Bunker's place as the most trustworthy member of the team is being usurped.

This leaves Bunker what? A hazily defined friendship with Bart, is my best stab at answering that.

Ultimately Bunker was one of the New 52's greatest shots at originality and a shot they hit. With Bunker and Skitter off the team the Titans are now composed entirely of pre-Flashpoint characters (okay, Solstice barely counts but the point remains). Bunker especially gave the other characters new things to do. In his first issue Bunker's fresh and carefree attitude to the costumed life has an instant effect on Red Robin: they enter the actual adventure story of #3 gooning around in complete uncertainty and in open defiance of how Tim has been written for most of the last decade.

In many ways Lobdell achieved with Bunker in Teen Titans what Geoff Johns failed to do by injecting Cyborg into Justice League: a shake-up that updated the whole team by adding a little diversity.

I'll miss the fella.  

Monday 2 September 2013

So, what to make of these new Space Marines?

Better quality images have not saved my opinion of the Centurions. Yes, they are more detailed than they appeared to be in the leaked photos but they still don't really fit in with the general aesthetic of Space Marines (to my view, anyway, your mileage my vary) and the advertising copy in White Dwarf is the most blatant example of power gamer baiting I have ever seen (please buy these models they're really really really really hard!).

All that said GW have done everything I have ever wanted done to the Tactical Squad with their new sculpt: there's at least one full set of MkVI Corvus armour in there; the Sergeant's MVIII Errant breastplate now has room in it for a helmet to fit, there are arms that allow you to pose a Marine iron-sighting his bolter; the missile launcher has been re-sculpted to match the Devastator set; there's even a pair of MkIV Maximus pattern legs! Love those kneepads.

What really surprised me was that the set has only gone up by £2. I know GW can count on shifting immense numbers of units but I was fully expecting a new-sculpt ten-man set to come out at £30.

Which financial musings I suppose bring us to the actual £30 set of the release: the Sternguard and my stupid, stupid decision to panic buy one of the old Finecast sets in case these were bad. They are, in fact, fantastic with all sorts of bells and whistles included like a crested Sergeant's helmet and a really cool component where the Sergeant is resting his hand on the pommel of a sheathed sword.

Slightly less impressive (and slightly less expensive, hmm) are the Vanguard Veterans. They have an awful lot less bling than the Sternguard but they're still a very good set and by the looks of things even after building the squad you'll have spare weapons to equip your Veteran Sergeants from now until the Emperor gets up off the throne.

The Stalker and Hunter tanks... well, I've never liked “meh” as a critical response but I don't have much else to say, really. It's a Rhino variant. Space Marine tanks have never thrilled me overmuch and so, good as the sculpt is, I can find no enthusiasm for it. Looks pretty cool in the Iron Hands' new colour scheme, I suppose.

Which brings us finally to the characters. The decision to sell the plastic Chaplain purely as part of a £55 set with a Razorback tank and a Command Squad is bizarre and, hopefully, temporary. He is, to my view, the weakest of the three character classes though the bare head option does improve him somewhat.

The Captain is plainly and simply a redo of the Captain from the old Assault On Black Reach starter set. This isn't a complaint: he's a vastly superior sculpt and there's certainly mileage in redoing a model that's been several years out of production (we can only hope a re-sculpt of the Black Reach Warboss is on the way the next time Orks get a release).

Finally we have my personal favourite: the Librarian, who has been sculpted to evoke fantasy wizards (look at the skullcap). £18 is a bit steep but I might get him just to paint, he's so encrusted with detail.

Sunday 1 September 2013

The Post Office let me have some comics! Hooray!

So, last week a strong female protagonist got cancelled; two young gay men wandered off into the wild blue yonder (not together); both Kid Flash and Superboy got felt up; Thor had a day off; and my favourite character in the whole history of comics DID NOT come back from the dead for an epic confrontation with his successor.

Kathryn Immonen's Journey Into Mystery ended with #655 and I was sad to see it go. Her run might not have had the anarchic glee of Keiron Gillen's Loki-focussed mega-arc but it had a great deal of charm. To me this run will always be iconic, though mainly because I'd never really seen much of Sif before this, just the Women Of Marvel issue a few years back. “Strong woman” is a cliché in comics but Immonen explored the idea in interesting ways, playing on different ideas of strength in the two brief arcs she had. If you didn't check this out I'd certainly recommend the first arc, Stronger Than Monsters, whenever it comes out in trade paperback.

Teen Titans continued to teeter on the brink of falling off my subscription list by following #22's cliffhanger promising all sorts of revelations about Kid Flash with... filler. Kid Flash gets rescued from the mysterious portal he was being dragged through at the end of #22, we get a little glimpse of the people who were trying to abduct him and then the rest of the issue is spent on random character pieces, most notably Red Robin meditating on what each Titan brings to the team. This isn't uninteresting it's just underwhelming.

As to the character pieces themselves, they vary. Red Robin filling Raven in on who everyone is and what they bring to the table is interesting but something you would think might be left for #24 and new readers coming in off Villain's Month. Wonder Girl and Superboy have a romantic moment after discussing how Cassie recently slept with Red Robin that is... ambiguous, to say the least.

On the one hand Cassie acknowledges (comparing Tim's possession by Trigon to her own situation with the Silent Armour) that both she and Tim acted on legitimate, if suppressed, feelings. She then kisses Superboy. The dialogue makes it ambiguous whether she's moving on from Tim, who won't acknowledge as she does the legitimacy of those emotions, or whether this moment with Kon (now Conner) is a similarly momentary thing. (I want them back as a couple, dammit!). There's also the third possibility, given weight by her seeming disappointment that Superboy doesn't share her lust for Red Robin, that she might just be playing a long game and trying to set up a threesome.

And then there's Bunker. Poor under-appreciated Bunker who has been the heart of the team and Superboy's conscience for so long who now gets his happy ending and rides off into the wide, rainbow yonder to be with his boyfriend Gabriel. I do hope he comes back soon because he was one of the only characters I really liked (alongside Tim and Cassie, as it happens).

Scarlet Spider #21 did not, no matter what the cover said, feature the return of Ben Reilly. I had to hope, of course, and Chris Yost knew all the right buttons to press in bringing Ben “back from the dead”. The gloriously crap sleeveless hoodie, callbacks to Spider-Man: The Lost Years, an unmasking early on in the fight to assure us this wasn't a confidence trick on the audience.

It bloody was, of course. What saves it was that it was well-executed confidence trick and there's something to be admired when someone gets something over on you with skill. The point was never to bring Ben back, that achieves nothing except to make Kaine look like an impostor in his own book, what's elegant is to use the possibility to explore Kaine's shameful past capping off a notional trilogy following his encounters with the Guild Of Assassins in Wrath and with “Peter Parker” in Sibling Rivalry. Ben Reilly is Kaine's original sin: his past as an assassin or a mid-level Spider-Man baddie pales in comparison to the things he did to Ben.

Yes, Yost, you are forgiven.

Thor: God of Thunder #12 was a nice break after the nearly year-long God Butcher saga. Yes, it was one of those standard template filler stories where we see the hero through the eyes of others for a brief moment but it was so well done that its easily forgiveable. This issue also did the leg work of setting up supporting cast for the run, which is a surprising job for a twelfth issue. It was especially nice to see that Doctor Jane Foster still has a place in this series after all the time and space travel Thor has been through.

I certainly hope Jane's new storyline gives her a happy ending but I also know there's value in writing the unhappy ending in these circumstances, having lived through that particular outcome with some of my relatives.

Young Avengers #9 was everything I hoped for from the multiple cliffhangers the last issue left off on. David planting a surprise kiss on Teddy was, thankfully, not the lead in to the predictable love triangle I feared we were going to get (because Keiron Gillen is a good writer) and Loki's face-off with Leah was appropriately tense and impenetrable. The ghost of Kid Loki even got another cameo, which was nice.

All of it was, ultimately, set up for Teddy spinning off into his own storyline separate from the team and I do like that Gillen is shaking up the formula. The Young Avengers as a unit have been so popular in the past that it's nice to see the series isn't settling into a crowd pleasing rut now it's an ongoing again.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Before the New 52, Steve Trevor was a lucky git

Seriously, there was a time this man couldn’t even go down the shops without stumbling on a lost ancient society full of matriarchy-inclined statuesque ladies who instantly recognised him as a fantastic specimen (even if he did have a freakishly large head). These day he just exists to be Wonder Woman's inferior (to Superman) ex-boyfriend.

(Image found on Tumblr so long ago I can't find the original to link to.)

Friday 23 August 2013

Conversations 2: Knowing Your Neighbours

She brings these things on herself, she really does. The other day I walked into work for an opening shift dog tired and my co-worker Camilla asks me if I had a fun night.

“Not really,” I say, rubbing my eyes, “my upstairs neighbours were moving furniture late at night and I couldn't get to sleep.”

“Oh,” she says in her naughty voice, “is that what they call it?”

She brings these things on herself. She asks these things because she thinks it will shock me, she should know better by now.

“Oh, they weren't having sex,” I told her, too tired to stop myself though in all honesty I probably wouldn't have, “that sounds completely different.” I'll admit I put the cherry on it only after seeing her look of horror: “Not enough spanking noises, for a start.”

Well, if she will insist on this combination of naughty but easily shocked...

Thursday 22 August 2013

Why Planet Of The Daleks is actually amazing (so long as you're nine)

The defence of the story I'm about to offer had to be read in the full
knowledge that THIS is a moment of drama and tension in the story.
I never claimed to have taste.
Since I've been in kind of a negative mood recently it's time to cheer up. In that spirit let's talk about a Doctor Who story most fans hate but that I absolutely love: Planet Of The Daleks.

Now there are very good reasons people don't tend to like Planet Of The Daleks and I honestly can't argue with any of them. It is one of Terry Nation's great acts of self-plagiarism, being a very close retread of The Daleks and he clearly hasn't asked anyone in the production office what's changed in the seven years since he last wrote for the series. It is considerably less complex, both philosophically and structurally, than the other stories in Season 10. Worst of all both Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning are visibly bored throughout: Pertwee by the lack of work he has to do and Manning by being saddled with the worst romantic sub-plot of her entire run (and that's against some very stiff competition).

I don't deny any of this, it's all perfectly fair. The simple fact is, though, that when I was nine years old this was the first Doctor Who story I ever saw. Planet Of The Daleks is comfort viewing for me, it gives me a nostalgia buzz less to do with the actual story and more to do with remembering sitting on the floor in my grandmother's living room watching it. It does have some genuine merits, however:

The plot might be simple but Nation knows how to pack action into his scripts. The story rattles along with the minimum of padding (there is some, this is a six-parter). Jo gets to play the hero for the first episode, going out and exploring whilst the Doctor is trapped in the TARDIS. Jo is one of the all-time great companions and this is a fantastic introduction to her. It has invisible friendly aliens who wear purple fur coats which is just fun.

Then there's the moral lessons about courage being about overcoming fear instead of ignoring it and about remembering the cost of war. They might be a bit too on-the-nose compared to the Pertwee era's usual standards but they're not bad lessons for a nine year old to learn.

Of course, this all misses the fantastic image at the heart of the story: an army of thousands of Daleks in the centre of a giant ice volcano. That is a fantastic image and when you're nine it doesn't matter that they're toy Daleks who don't look quite like Daleks are meant to look because it's THOUSANDS OF DALEK AND THEY COULD WAKE UP ANY MINUTE!

That’s not bad for your first “behind the sofa” moment.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

On the eventual necessity of watching K9 And Company

It came up one night recently, I don't remember how, but there is a very limited list of classic Doctor Who that I have not seen. The Tenth Planet, the recently recovered episode of The Underwater Menace, Terror Of The Zygons and Scream Of The Shalka pretty much makes up the list. Of these all but The Underwater Menace will be out on DVD before the end of the year.

So, that's that, with The Underwater Menace (with, one hopes, animated versions of its two still-missing episodes) I'll have reached the point of having seen all of Classic Who it is possible to see. It might not be the most glamorous or worthy ending, I was rather hoping Terror Of The Zygons originally, but it does have the allure of a previously missing episode being the final one I see fresh.

But there's something else I really should watch first, as my friend pointed out the other night. I could take The Tenth Planet or Terror Of The Zygons as my moment of completion, they're classics, and I can accept The Underwater Menace as the delightful bonus it is usurping their place, however...

I cannot allow myself, completist bastard that I am, to cross this finish line with K9 And Company: A Girl's Best Friend still unwatched. I know it isn't “proper” Doctor Who, I know it isn't very good and that Philip Sandifer described it as “a murder mystery without a murder” from an author who later wrote a murder mystery without a mystery for Doctor Who itself whose scripts always pause for a quick lunch. I know all this because I am a fan and so going into these things totally fresh isn't really possible.

It is an odd psychology, I know, but since this is my favourite TV show I do want to “go out” on a high and whilst The Underwater Menace is nowhere near a classic it has a chance of impressing me (Troughton, you see) but I'm very much afraid A Girl's Best Friend does not. I'll probably do it after I wrap up the Season 21 Marathon, if nothing else it can't be a letdown after watching The Twin Dilemma.

Can it?

This has been a curiously moany couple of weeks, I do apologise. I shall try to be more positive tomorrow.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

I hate you, O2, and I hope you know that


My internet service provider has started doing a new thing to annoy me and protect my identity. You see, I have 02 pay-as-you-go internet which on the one level is conveniently contract-free and gives me double data every third time I top-up. On the other hand, over the last year they have been doing their level best to stop me from topping up.

The debit card password I could understand and appreciate, simple enough back-up in case someone is using a stolen card to pay, but their newest idea is just awful.

Okay, so I put in my name, my card number, card type and security number. So far, so standard. Then the new thing comes in: I have to provide my card billing address. At this point I do not simply write my billing address in a convenient field provided, oh no, that's too simple. Instead, I have to write in my house number and post code and then click a button marked “Find Address” and then it gives me a list of all the flats in my building.

Where the fun comes in is that my particular flat number is not one of the seven addresses displayed on the first page but is several pages along. I click to the right page and most times find my address and I can go happily on my way to provide my card password.

Today, however, was one of those other days where, after the first page, the programming completely karks it and throws out addresses in Aberdeenshire, Hay-on-Wye, Glasgow and, most hilariously, a Tattoo Shop in Northampton.

Still, it gives me something to post about on an inspiration-free Tuesday. I suppose.

Monday 19 August 2013

Oh, sod it, make 'em Salamanders

Having spent two days trying to forge the results I rolled on the Deathwatch Chapter Creation Matrix into a narrative I was happy with I realised I was approaching this project all wrong. I was thinking of this as an army when all I want is to paint five models I happen to rather like and move on. I don't need deep background or a storyline I can explore over the course of years, I just need to choose a paint scheme I like.

Circumstances conspire to make me choose the XVIII Legion, the Salamanders. For one thing I recently saw a method for painting green I rather want to try and for another I had a nice chat about the Salamanders with my friend Matt as we sat at Twyford Station the other day.

You see, I rather like the Salamanders but I don't think they get the attention they deserve. Part of this is because their unique selling point is often misidentified. They were originally conceived of as the token black men of 40k in the same way the Tallarns were the token Arabs or the Valhallans were Russian. This is, of course, a crap idea. Their other thing is that they're great artisans with lots of advanced technology at their disposal, which doesn't do much more than make them Iron Hands in green armour.

(They've also got a rather boring name but that's neither here nor there, really.)

The USP that grabs me, though, is that they live a lot closer to the common run of humanity than most Space Marines. They are the leaders of the settlements on their homeworld, mingling with the people rather than holding themselves aloof. A lot of background makes a point of the Space Marines' elevated perspective that can seem callous from the human point of view. Even the more sympathetic chapters like the Ultramarines share this outlook.

What sort of character would emerge from the superhuman longevity and unending warfare of a Space Marine's life combined with a genuine, lived experience of mortal life? That question does rather fascinate me.

And I know what I'm doing: I'm convincing myself to do this project as an army or maybe just as an extended modelling project. I do find myself gravitating back to Space Marines on a regular basis so maybe having a project I can plug away at when I get the urge might be a good idea.