Monday 7 December 2015

Incoherent ramblings concerning Hell Bent

[Oh, SPOILERS like you wouldn't believe (Sweetie). It's two days before I get to have a drink with the only other surviving Whovian in the group and I got to get this stuff out so here we are.]

Good few years since we've had one of these isn't it? A Doctor Who season finale with a happy ending, I mean. No one's dead, everyone gets out with their minds and souls more or less intact (yeah, the Doctor is lying about forgetting Clara, I'm certain).

And what a happy ending! I love that Clara and Lady Me get to swan off in their very own TARDIS to have adventures. This is the first time since Rose (arguably since Romana) that it felt like a companion has “graduated” to become their own sort of hero. Tumblr has already named them The Immortal Space Girlfriends. I expect epic fan fiction within the week and a Big Finish box set announced within a year (please, please, please...).

And speaking of Clara: that moment in the cloisters when she finds out how long the Doctor was trapped in the confession dial. You can see it in her eyes, she's ready to burn Gallifrey to the ground for what the Time Lords did to him.

Yay! Canon acknowledgement that Rassilon is actually the Rassilon and not just some schmuck using the name. (I have this head canon that the Kro'Ka is somewhere on Gallifrey during the Time War and is definitely piloting the shuttle when Rassilon goes into exile here). Oh, and I like this new Rassilon, pity there was no chance to have him meet Lady Me.

Lady Me got a “Winter Is Coming” joke. Cheeky Moff. Whilst we're on the subject, as good as she is in the show I'm starting to think that Maisie Williams is a little bit wasted on Game Of Thrones.

Speaking of the Moff writing cheeky women, that moment when the Sisterhood of Karn just wandering into the High Concil chamber and Ohila very nearly literally says “We heard the Doctor's come back, we brought popcorn and we're going to watch him fuck your shit up” was glorious. For the venomous looks between Ohila and Rassilon alone I almost want to accept that whole Other / Pythia business from the New Adventures since the context makes it all the sweeter. “Hey, Rass, remember when you exiled us for being too superstitious? Well, now we're going to sit back and watch your precious rationalist civilisation burn to ashes!”.

The General's regeneration. It doesn't get more undeniable than this: on screen, right in front of us we see a Time Lord change gender and ethnicity. Not off-screen like the Master or a joking aside like the Corsair, right in front of us. Plus an off-hand mention that that body (the General's tenth or eleventh, a line from The Five Doctors of all things makes it questionable) was their only male one. So, yeah, the sinister Moffat agenda to one day give us a Doctor who is something other than a white male has reached it's logical endgame (since it is very, very unlikely that he will be part of casting the part a third time). Plus, they emerge from their regeneration with eyeliner and without all that post-regenerative fannying about the series insists on for the Doctor. If there's one part of this masterplan I want more than a female Doctor or a Doctor of colour it is DROPPING THAT POST-REGENERATIVE TRAUMA BULLSHIT FOREVERMORE!

Shabogans. I don't care what anyone says, those people are the barn are Outsiders and we still don't actually know what the Shabogans are outside of Terrance Dicks being a bit classist in The Eight Doctors.

Anyone else read that line about the President's daughter to mean Susan and that the Doctor's son/daughter was Lord President?

My reaction to Clara's survival was, I shit ye not, “Well, now Jane Austen doesn't have to mourn her.”. Jane should definitely be at least a semi-regular in the Immortal Space Girlfriends audios. Rigsy, too.

The Cloister Wraiths were such a fantastically creepy thing. I'd love to see (or hear) them make another appearance down the line.

New sonic screwdriver. I'll admit, I never hated the sonic sunglasses but I will always prefer the screwdriver out of sheer, unbridled nostalgia and fannishness.

I love the acknowledgement that some day Clara will return to Trap Street to die and she isn't scared. That was a wonderful note to end things on. Ditto Lady Me's description of the death of stars as both sad and beautiful.

Better yet, the acknowledgement that what was done to Donna Noble was a horrifically immoral act that stripped away her consent and materially killed the person she was? That I have been waiting for ever since it happened. It was one thing with Jamie and Zoe when that was done without their consent by the uncaring technocrat Time Lords but to see the Doctor rob his best friend of her very sense of self was... awful in a way I don't think anyone making it really considered. To have the show express that after so long was a genuinely moving moment for me.

Aside from Christmas specials this is it until 2017 and it is a fantastic note to leave “proper” Doctor Who on. I honestly think this is my favourite Moffat finale and possibly the best of the series as I'm aware my feelings about Rose's departure are still complex and perhaps not entirely tied to the story's actual quality. 

Friday 13 November 2015

100 Model Challenge #2: I Told You Not To Trust Me

#2 of 100: Empire Battle Wizard Lord using the Lore of Shadows

Photography still sucks but sucks a little less with the addition of some directional lighting.

This is Thelius Umbra, a very longstanding character of mine from the earliest days of my hobby. Originally he was a 40k character, the Arch-Heretic of my Lost And The Damned army. These days, and it is a very long story, he is the Patriarch of the Empire's Grey College.

He's a good guy now. In a different universe. He's still the same guy. We'll get to it. Someday.

This was a fun model for me to make: a simple little conversion taking the body of the Wizard from the Empire Luminark / Hurricanum, giving him a head from the Empire Handgunners sprue that makes him look a little like John Hurt (though I imagine him more as a pensionable Roger Delgado) and a staff top from the High Elf Mage set.

He'll be my General (at least for the Altdorf game) but, honestly, I just made this because our group has been playing with the idea of Umbra as this Machiavellian spymaster for over a year now and I just wanted to make a model for him. His first model, really, as 19 year old me just picked up a random Chaos Space Marine Sorcerer and painted it grey to represent him. He's a really fun character for me to write and getting to use him in a game every now and again will be a little bit of a treat. 

Thursday 12 November 2015

Positive Things: Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work

You've got to love the work of a craftsman. I know some people like to maintain a distance between what they love and how those things are made but I grew up a Doctor Who fan in the '90s and so I grew up reading episode guides and Doctor Who Magazine interviews with classic cast and crew.

So when I see something like this it makes me re-evaluate the way I read comics since this set of panels is quite famous nowadays. I wish it were more famous, frankly, since as Wood says there are too many writers who treat their scripts like radio scripts, as if they don't have images to help tell the story.

(I'm not just talking about Chris Claremont, but he is sort of the ur-example here.) 

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Bear Grylls, pornography and Chyna's Hall Of Fame ring

(I was on a certain amount of medication when I wrote this last night but I think there's the ghost of a point here.)

It seems that Bear Grylls has announced his first gay porn role...
Now, personally, I don't believe we should think less of him for this. He's a knowledgeable and talented man, informative and articulate. There are people in this world alive because of his (non-sex industry work). However, there's this terrible and totalising stigma attached to “oh, this person did porn once” or “they posed nude once” or “they're a former sex worker” and it is utterly mad.

Think about it: there are basically two options here concerning sex work. Either the person did it by their own free choice, in which case you and I have no right to judge that. Their body, their choice, that's a really central tenet of how modern society works (or should be). Option two is that the person was in some way exploited, in which case attaching stigma to it is morally revolting victim blaming.

Yeah, she's done some porn. You know what she also did? First (of only two) women to take part in the Royal Rumble; first and only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship; first female bodyguard character in the WWE (WWF as it was then); she was a bodybuilder in the Women's Division during an era when fake tits and blonde hair were basically the uniform, making her just as much a breath of fresh air as Daniel Bryan or Mick Foley; she was part of one of the Attitude Era's best stables in D-Generation X.

And she's not in the Hall Of Fame because she had sex on camera?

Now, I like Mean Gene Okerlund as much as the next man but if an announcer gets into the Hall Of Fame then one of the most transformative figures in women's wrestling deserves her place? 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Positive Things: How to be a spin-off with Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield

(Spoilers for Bernice Summerfield 5.1: The Grel Escape)

Funny thing about the Bernice Summerfield range: for a Doctor Who spin-off it is terrible at being part of the Doctor Who universe. There was this period about the third and fourth seasons of the Benny audios when Big Finish did a lot of stories with her meeting classic Doctor Who monsters: the Ice Warriors, the Rutans, Draconians, Sea Devils, the Daleks...

(As an aside, no attempt to “do it again, but better” has ever been more pleasing to me than giving Benny a second shot at the Daleks in The Lights Of Skaro after blowing it in Death And The Daleks.)

It put me off, I don't mind admitting. I basically dropped the range until the Epoch box set promised me (not entirely honestly) a fresh jumping on point.

Now, this isn't me saying Benny doesn't work in the context of Doctor Who. That's flat out absurd: a Doctor Who companion doesn't get eighteen years and counting of solo adventures if they didn't work in Doctor Who to start with. She even continues to work in Doctor Who with the novel adaptations and The New Adventures Of Bernice Summerfield box sets returning to her old role as companion.

But in her own range it never seemed to work. Certainly the sales exercise aspect of it was part of what put me off but, ultimately, I think that Benny is a strong enough character that cutting and pasting her into a Doctor Who plot will never be as fun as seeing her in a Bernice Summerfield plot. She's just too distinct an individual.

Which brings us to Jacqueline Rayner's The Grel Escape, Benny's fifth season opener, a story that has a very different approach to Benny's status as a Doctor Who spin-off.

The Grel Escape is, top to bottom, a parody of the Doctor Who story The Chase. It features the fact-obsessed Grel, Benny's first solo adventure villains from way back in Oh No It Isn't, who have invented a time machine and are trying to abduct her infant son Peter. They might not be her definitive enemies like the Daleks are to the Doctor but they are her first so that works.

Rayner also pilfers and twists several of The Chase's set pieces: the time travelling group (Benny, ex-husband Jason, Peter and Peter's Grel godmother) interrupt a football match, they end up on top of the Eiffel Tower and the ending is very familiar but in a way that just serves to highlight how different Benny and Jason's fractious relationship is to Ian and Barbara's.

Part of this just continues themes from the days of Benny's creation. The Grel Escape is both funnier and more serious than The Chase, which was one of Terry Nation's lazier scripts. Themes of motherhood, both in Benny and another character who'll go unnamed, crop up and are dealt with seriously. Benny, by her nature, is just a little bit smarter than Doctor Who. She always has been, in many ways that's what she was created to be: a new sort of companion (or, alternatively, a very old sort of companion updated) who could act as a protagonist in her own right and stand up to the Doctor.

So, yes, I picked up the fifth and sixth seasons cheap at a charity shop and I'm glad to see they got smarter after I gave them up (and that I didn't waste £20 here). It also proves something everybody should have learned about the time Frasier became a hit: spin-offs are better using the unique traits of what people are demanding being spun-off rather than just trying to give them a second series of the original show. It worked for Frasier, which is very different from Cheers and outlived the original show by years.

At this point I have to, sadly, admit that the solo Benny series is dead but at least now I have seven seasons worth catching up on. 

Monday 9 November 2015

Army Project: Lamenters

To answer yesterday's burning question (What the hell am I going to do with thirty-eight Horus Heresy Space Marines?), here is my answer: I'm going to start a Lamenters army.
Why Lamenters? First of all, I like the idea of them. They're a Cursed Founding chapter who suffer from horrendous bad luck. On the surface they have an enviable record of service but looking at the bigger picture at their history their heroic actions tend to be spoiled by unintended consequences. In typical double-edged 40k fashion this might be mere coincidence or the result of mutation on the chapter's high psychic potential.

As a result of all this, they have a dour and melancholy character which is a nice change from the usual and rather limited psychology of Space Marine characters.

They're yellow and I've recently started to enjoy painting yellow now there's a white spray that does its bloody job. True, the chapter icon is going to be nightmare but I want to improve my freehand so that's an odd bonus.

Finally, they offer a little extra variety. According to their Index Astartes article in Imperial Armour volume 9 their armour and armament cleaves a lot closer to the standard Space Marine patterns than other Blood Angels successors. They have all the usual Sanguinary bells and whistles but not as profusely as their peers. The way I figure it I can buy a single Blood Angels Tactical Squad and split the parts amongst the models so everything has something Blood Angels-y about them.

Between the box set and the Blood Angels Tactical Squad I have forty Marines in power armour. Between what I have and some old spare parts I think that can form the basis of two Tactical Squads, a Command or Sternguard Squad, two Assault Squads and a Devastator Squad. Frankly, that should be all the standard power armour I'll need for the army aside from the inevitable Death Company Squad.

Voila, instant Space Marine army! 

Sunday 8 November 2015

Countdown to Heresy

I will be perfectly honest. Horus Heresy as a game? Couldn't care less, I really couldn't. It's Space Marines fighting Space Marines forever and ever, amen. I was there for the fourth edition, thank you very much, had enough of that.

But aren't I being positive this month? Yeah, about that: I do like Space Marines and the Space Marines I like best are ones in Mark IV Maximus armour. I love the scorpion-esque helms, they're so delightfully inhuman that they make the armour a weapon of terror in and of itself. So you can imagine my glee at the idea of a box set with thirty sets of Mark IV in it. That's practically enough for an entire army.
Add to that the best Chaplain model ever, a decent enough Terminator Captain, a Contemptor-pattern Dreadnought and... well, I said I was keeping things positive so let's just count the five Cataphractii Terminators and be done with it.

Ah, but what to do with it? As I say, Horus Heresy itself doesn't appeal (and no one I know plays it, either) so this'll be the basis for a 40k army. Given the amount of ancient armour on display it'll either have to be a chapter from one of the earlier foundings or one that has a decent excuse to be so well supplied like the Exorcists or Minotaurs.

Plus there's the issue of boredom. Space Marines have many, many fine qualities but... good grief they're so samey. It's a coin toss between finding a colour scheme I can do quickly and power through the whole lot (like, of, Flesh Tearers or almost any other Sanguinary chapter) or one that will challenge me and look amazing in the end (Novamarines spring to mind).

Something to mull as I spent a rare idle week getting my Empire army in order... 

Saturday 7 November 2015

Positive Things: The Utter Shamelessness of Mantic Games

This is not a Chaos Dwarf Sorcerer-Prophet. It is not mounted on a Lammasu. It is, in fact, an Abyssal Dwarf Iron-Caster on a Great Winged Halfbreed.

Yeah, it's a Chaos Dwarf on a Lammasu. The model comes from Mantic Games and will be released on the 25th of this month, just slightly too late for me to ask for it for my birthday. I discovered this range on a recent trip up to London and a charming gaming store called Dark Sphere in Lambeth.
On the one hand the models, the plastics in particular, are not up to Games Workshop's standards. On the plus side, there are plastics in this range, the character models look amazing and they aren't at ridiculous Forge World prices. I have wanted a Chaos Dwarf army for years, ever since the Hellcannon was released and I found out there was such a thing.
I love how they work as a concept: how the positive aspects of the Dwarf race have been twisted into something sinister and malicious. I like the practically heretical notion of Dwarfs and Greenskins fighting side by side. I like the bizarre war machines. I like the sheer bizarre touch of half-Dwarf half horse centaurs and I really don't want to think about how that happened.

Chaos Dwarfs are a wonderful idea that GW never really supported. The original incarnation of the army had terrible models and a flimsy White Dwarf Presents army book. The Forge World version is prohibitively expensive and prone to all the flaws of Forge World resin. I'm glad that someone saw enough mileage in the concept to create a proper plastic range, albeit one with some serious flaws.

Recently I've been working on Empire, Lizardmen and various Elves, it has been too long since I've had a project based on good, old-fashioned villainy. I do so like being the bad guy. 

Friday 6 November 2015

100 Model Challenge #1: Stop! Hammer Time!

 #1 of 100: Empire Warrior Priest with two hand weapons
Photography woes continue as my phone camera, whilst superior to my camera camera in every way, makes the reds a bit too bright. That said, it makes the skin tones look a hundred times better than they do in real life, so I'll take the trade.

Regardless, the first of my hundred models: an Empire Warrior Priest. Definitely my favourite of the many Warrior Priest models that have come out over the years. A lovely little model to paint, being made mostly out of big blocks of armour and cloth. A nice, easy start both to the challenge itself and my little Empire army.

He's a character, of course, so he needs a name: Father Heinrich Kruger of the Cult of Sigmar, regimental chaplain to the Reikland Silver Blades, my state troop regiment. He'll probably deploy with the Halberdiers. 

Thursday 5 November 2015

Positive Things: Early Christmas Food

I am the first person to bemoan the way that Christmas seems to come around earlier every year, about the way shops have their Christmas stuff out before we've even passed Hallowe'en. It genuinely irritates me when I see huge displays of mince pies with sell by dates saying late November.

Oh, but it also means I can get sandwiches with cranberry sauce in them for lunch every day.

I bloody love cranberry sauce. I love turkey and stuffing. I love these little wraps they've started doing with all Christmas dinner sort of leftovers food. I love the Christmas pasties at Gregg's The Baker.

This is literally delicious hypocrisy on my part but I maintain there is nothing inherently Christmassy about cranberry sauce so I don't feel too bad about it, mainly from being too full to care. 

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Altdorf minus 17 Days

The date is set. On Saturday 21st November my gaming group will be having our annual mega game. 6,000 points a side, 3,000 per player: Matt and Iain holding the city with an alliance of Chaos Warriors, Daemons and Beastmen with Tom and myself laying siege as The Empire.

Which means I have some work to do. Matt is, as ever, fine with half-painted models going down on the table and there's no way I'll finish everything I want to before the 21st. However, it would be nice to get a few things done. Matt wants me to use all my wizard characters as a block with some homebrewed special rules of his own devising to spice things up so they're an absolute priority.

I also want to paint my Demigryph Knights because... well, Demigryph Knights look awesome. Aside from that we'll just see what I can get done between now and then. The rest of my army will be made of models loaned from Matt's impressive Nordland Empire collection.

The Warhammer World lives. It's time for the Emperor to take back his throne...

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Positive Things: Really Good Fan Fiction

Image supplied by the Scottish Tourist Board.
Don't you just love it when a fan author does something fantastically unexpected with a character you love? Not unexpected because it's out of character (though that can be fun) but because you yourself had never really considered it.

Last night I read The Festival Of The Moon by Kathkin on Archive Of Our Own. It's a Second Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie story where the four accidentally gatecrash an alien marriage ceremony and have to get married to each other or die. After that minor moment of jeopardy the story becomes a brilliant little character piece for Polly as she and Jamie they wander the festival bound together at the wrist.

What I like about this story are two things. First, that Kathkin eschews the more traditional romantic pairings (Two/Jamie and Ben/Polly) to concentrate on Polly and Jamie as friends. She's a Swinging Sixties secretary! He's a Jacobite rebel! Together they fight crime!

(No, not really.)

But it is sweet. Doctor Who in Season Four didn't really do character pieces, in fact it's probably the nadir of the series' engagement with writing character. As seen on TV the four leads are a set of tropes in a blue box largely saved by good acting (great acting in Troughton's case). As Polly and Jamie wander the festival and Polly introduces him to concepts like kites and 20 Questions, as they both realise they have no idea how two men can have sex (this being a matrimonial festival of the liberal future) and as they discuss whether they really want to go home one day, it becomes clear what could have been done with these characters with better writing.

And this is genuinely one of the best Doctor Who short stories I have ever read and I would never have seen it if not for the miracle of the internet and how it has opened up the world of self-publishing. Yes, this means there's a lot of drivel out there but there are some genuinely fantastic creative voices to enjoy. 

Monday 2 November 2015

Positive Things: Big Dick Johnson

The Back” is one of the strangest concepts in the already seriously strange wrestling industry. You see, even through the WWE tours and every person has to have been flown in for the event at company expense there are always random and seemingly unexpected people be hanging around backstage. Sometimes the camera will follow someone out of the arena and into the back where they will encounter, amongst other oddities, retired wrestlers trying to sell things, aliens, marauding managers, chicken deliverymen, and...
Big Dick Johnson. Big Dick Johnson was, for several years, World Wrestling Entertainment's on-call male stripper as well as being one of the writers (under his real name of Christopher deJoseph). Whenever they needed a male stripper (and it happened more often than you'd think) out came Big Dick Johnson and a bottle of baby oil. Because of course they needed a slightly overweight male stripper about the place and of course he had his own entrance music, it made perfect sense.

Well, perfect sense for the wrestling industry, anyway.

As you can imagine, we wrestling fans are ridiculously fond of the guy. As evidence, please note this video where Big Dick Johnson (in “costume”) was invited to a wrestling industry event to present an award. His speech is... particularly memorable.

Professional wrestling is it's own particular brand of insane and I love it for that. 

Sunday 1 November 2015

A little less negativity

This month I am determined to stay positive.

It's too easy to be negative on the internet. There are whole forums and communities basically dedicated to bitching and moaning, which is fine and therapeutic in its place but it's also exhausting. It's not like I don't have my reasons for being grouchy recently: my landlord is selling my flat; my favourite game system recently died and took my favourite fantasy world with it; the comicbook and wrestling industries are as bizarrely inconsistently managed as ever; and we still have a Conservative government seemingly dedicated to disposing of the surplus population.

And I'm just tired of being annoyed. It's my birthday this month and I want to spend some time celebrating the things I love, the things that bring me joy.

I love comics, as ill-managed as the industry often is it's going in a direction I largely like. Warhammer may be officially dead but my friends and I are cobbling together our own continuation in The Age Of Rebuilding, which is proving absurdly fun to write. I may not agree with all (or even many) of the WWE's booking decision but they're finally promoting their women's division with some dedication.

If nothing else, a month of writing about what I love instead of what annoys me would be great self-therapy.

So, for the next thirty days I will only say only (well, mostly) positive things on this blog. 

Friday 30 October 2015

Found Objects: Truth in advertising

As a renter for the last ten years I, of course, despise the real estate industry and everyone in it but even I have to admit this is one of the best posters I have ever seen. The tag line might be completely irrelevant but you'll never forget it. 

Thursday 29 October 2015

100 Model Challenge Redux

I tried doing a 100 Model Challenge once and gave up at about twenty. This was because I swore off buying new miniatures and it was just bloody inconvenient.

So let's try this again without the pressure. Starting today I'm going to see how long it takes me to paint 100 models. Rules are simple: one model is one model whether it's a mere infantryman or a massive super heavy tank. I'll post pictures of the models as I finish them and once I've reached 100 I'll post up a massive line-up of the lot, which if nothing else will look gloriously weird considering how many different projects I tend to flit between.

I mean, right now I'm working on Empire, Lizardmen, Space Orks and Mantic Abyssal Dwarfs (who will be Chaos Dwarfs once I'm finished with them). There's various elves and undead on the backburner, not to mention the Space Marines I inevitably drift back to like a fool.

Zero pressure and a chance to show off. What can go wrong?

Lots. Obviously lots of things. 

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Hobby Project: Steam Tank "Von Zeppel"

A simple delivery mistake: I ordered one Empire Steam Tank and was sent two. Simple screw up, easily fixed. Well, if I wanted to fix it. I could return it. I could do it honestly like a nice person or I could claim I ordered two by mistake and claim an undeserved refund as an act of petty revenge for them destroying my favourite fantasy world and replacing it with Norse mythology with the serial numbers filed off.

Or I could make something cool and get even better petty revenge by enjoying the world and game they so casually destroyed. There used to be a bunch of different Steam Tank variants, you see: there was one with a battering ram, one with a mortar, one with a volley gun... but the one that interests me is Von Zeppel. This one had no cannon or steam gun turret but a fighting platform on top with a bunch of engineers standing on it, each armed with a different fun weapon.
Von Zeppel as painted by Tammy Haye.
So, Project: Von Zeppel, what I need:

One: Steam Tank for a basis. This I have.

Two: A flat surface for the fighting platform and some form of fencing to surround it. Fencing I can get from any model railway range, preferably a larger gauge than the typical OO. The platform itself I'm not sure but if all else fails I can cut up an old 20-man movement tray.

Three: Shields to stick to the fencing to make it look Imperial. I have tons spare from my Halberdiers.

Four: Six figures to make the Engineers. Probably use Free Company for this, I have some spare.

Five: The list of weapons: Hochland Long Rifle (the clampack Engineer, me thinks), blunderbus (Free Company sprue), repeater handgun (spare from Pistoliers), a halberd (spare from State Troops set), a ball and chain (probably from Flagellants) and a man-catcher (not sure).

So really, the only sticking point is the fighting platform and the fencing. This is going to be fun, it's been such a long time since I did a really involved conversion. Part of this is the march of technology, there are so few things worth making that don't have models now (well, for the moment...) tat it really has been years since I needed to do something like this. 

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Definitive (and highly speculative) Ranking of Big Finish's "New Series" Offerings

Big Finish have announced a lot of projects since they got their license extended to include modern Doctor Who. Yesterday they announced the long-rumoured Tenth Doctor Adventures, which will be a trilogy of single disc stories out in May 2016. This is all cool but, like a lot of people, I'm not sure I can afford it all right off the bat so here is my ranking of how much I'm looking forward to these projects, from least to most anticipated:

#9 Torchwood
Never got into the series, never really felt it worked outside a few good episodes in the second season so I'm skipping it.

#8 The Churchill Years
On the one hand I'm interested in having Churchill travel in the TARDIS for one story and that one of the others is set during his retirement. On the other hand, without the usual excuse of the relevant Doctors being dead I'm not sure I can be bothered with stories where the Doctors are read in by other actors.

Call me back when you have Ian McNiece and Colin Baker in an adaptation of Terrance Dicks' novel Players.

#7 Jago & Litefoot & Strax
I don't doubt it'll be entertaining, it's Jago & Litefoot, but just slipping in Strax seems a sad halfway house to the Paternoster Gang spin-off fans have been asking for. Still, as a one-off special it'll probably be amusing enough.

#6 UNIT: The New Series
UNIT has always been a problematic property for Big Finish. Hell, not even just them: BBV, Reeltime and even the BBC after, oh, 1975 have never really been able to make it work without the original cast. The Kate Lethbridge-Stewart/Osgood team seems like it'd have a chance and I'm really interested to see how it goes but quietly cautious, as well.

#5 Classic Doctors, Brand New Adventures
Halfway down the list, right between “meh” and genuine anticipation, we have a box with Peter Davison vs. Weeping Angels, Colin Baker vs. Judoon, Sylvester McCoy vs. Sycorax and Paul McGann vs., um, Sontarans. Yeah, in all seriousness no one could figure out a fourth new series monster for McGann to go up against? Also, these stories seem to be companion-free and I've never been fond of that format.

#4 The Diary of River Song
I am very, very curious about this because it will be the first time, aside from that one scene in Closing Time, that River will be written by someone other than Steven Moffat. Not that I don't like Moffat's River, it would be funny to be looking forward to this if I was, but getting other creative perspectives on this character is something I'm really looking forward to. Speaking of which...

#3 River Song in Doom Coalition 2
Mainly, this snaps #3 because I was already looking forward to it. I loved Doom Coalition 1 and I want to see where this goes, especially if the Eleven returns. River's presence is icing on the cake.

#2 The Tenth Doctor Adventures
Whilst Series Four is far from my favourite part of the RTD era, I have to admit the Tennant/Tate team was amazing. There are also only three stories in the first season so I feel confident in the quality control going into this. Big Finish have a tendency to go a bit overboard when they have a big signing and whether it's a conscious decision or the consequence of Tennant's schedule I'm glad that there's some restraint coming into this.

#1 The War Doctor / The Eighth Doctor: The Time War
I'll be perfectly honest here: I think the War Doctor needs a good old-fashioned redeeming. Not in the sense that the character went through a redemption arc in his one television appearance but in the sense that he was built up as this monster the later Doctors denied even being a part of themselves but he was... well, a cuddly grandpa sort played by John Hurt. If Big Finish can do for the War Doctor what they did for Colin Baker then I will be very happy. 

Monday 26 October 2015

The End of The Great Reconsideration

Today, The Underwater Menace comes out on DVD and an era ends for Doctor Who fandom. With this last release the entire extant canon of the classic series has been released: every surviving episode on DVD, every lost episode represented as a narrated soundtrack and fan-made reconstructions.

The episode of The Underwater Menace recovered in 2011 and released today, barring a miracle, is the last time I will see a “new” episode of classic Doctor Who and the last time fandom at large will have reason to reconsider a story.

And it's a Season Four Troughton story, to boot. One more episode of the painfully under-represented Ben and Polly, who have only one full story to their names (The War Machines). One more episode of Troughton, whose performance depends so much on his physicality, lurking on the edges of scenes and scheming from the sidelines. It's even one of those rare stories where he gets a human opponent, not the best one he ever got but seeing him play against someone rather than something is a distinct pleasure.

It's a story from before The Moonbase, which is where Troughton's character really settled into its default mode so it'll be interesting to see how different he is in this one from the character as more usually defined.

I'm not kidding myself here, The Underwater Menace is something of a legendary trainwreck and 25 extra minutes of moving pictures is probably not going to change that but it is an interesting and extra special way to end my (and a good chunk of fandom's) journey through classic Who

Thursday 1 October 2015

October Goals

Hobby Goals

Getting a real start on the Empire, so by the end of the month I want to AT LEAST...

paint my Handgunners unit.
paint my Battle Wizard Lord General.
build my Demigryph Knights and Knightly Orders.
work out conversions for the final three Battle Wizards for the Drinking Society (the Grey, Amber and Jade members).

The big game is scheduled for the last week of November now, so I have more time than I thought to get this army up and running.

Audio Catch-Up

I have a couple of Big Finish box sets sitting on my hard drive, all of them ones I was really looking forward to so I should probably listen to them:

The Early Adventures: The Yes Men
The Companion Chronicles: The First Doctor volume 1
The Third Doctor Adventures volume 1

I really want to see how Tim Treloar works as the Third Doctor. The logical part of my mind knows that re-casting the Third Doctor is no different from re-casting any part when the original actor has passed away but the fan-reptile brain can't help but consider it heresy. Same goes for Elliot Chapman as Ben Jackson in The Yes Men, though I'm told he doesn't have too big a part there because they were still trying the idea out.

DVD/Netflix Catch-Up

Since Jessica Jones goes up on Netflix next month I really need to finish Daredevil, which is amazing but exausting. Same goes for polishing off the first season box set of Arrow.


My old friend Jon is passing through London on Sunday and I am meeting him for a drink. This will be the first time I go to London alone and I am terrified. I know the odds of something going wrong are incredibly small since there are so many other people there for people to mug and murder that my anonymous ass isn't going to stand out from the crowd but, still, it's London and all I'm going to do is sit in a pub outside a railway station for a few hours. 

Sunday 27 September 2015

Missy Hits

In which I'm finally starting to see the Master in Missy...
(Spoilers of the slightest variety for Doctor Who 9.2: The Witch's Familiar)

I've been going back and forth on this for a week. Again, I missed the back half of Series 8 so this was my first exposure to Missy as a character instead of something people on the internet were going bananas about because of... bleh.

You see, I have two conflicting emotions where it comes to the Master as a holistic entity. The first is that I love Roger Delgado's version: he's amazing, he saves more than one of the scripts he appears in, his chemistry with Pertwee is absolutely fantastic since it absolutely forced Pertwee to raise his game.

So maybe the problem I have with Missy (and with the Simm incarnation) is that I prefer the Delgado version?

Well, that brings us to emotion #2: I hate that Anthony Ainley spent so much of his time in the role just being a lame Delgado impersonation. Ainley wasn't the most versatile actor in the series (but by no means the least, either) but on the one or two occasions when he was given something unique to do with the role (by my count Planet of Fire and Survival) he absolutely shone.

My outright stated preference for the Master is for him to be recast whenever the Doctor is. As much as Ainley doesn't work as a Delgado impersonation, he works worse with Colin Baker than he did with Peter Davison and I honestly can't imagine Delgado working opposite Tom Baker. The “dark mirror” aspect of the character means they're probably best being redesigned every time the Doctor is because the dark version of Pertwee is not the dark version of Tom Baker.

What this is coming around to is me saying I'm starting to feel my two views on Michelle Gomez's Missy, that I like Missy but don't see her as the Master, are actually two sides of the same coin.

I like Missy. I enjoy Missy. Gomez has fantastic chemistry with Jenna Coleman and she's fantastic fun. I don't see Delgado or Ainley or Beevers in there but that's actually something I can appreciate now I'm more used to her. I think perhaps my reluctance here where I've never been reluctant to accept a markedly different version of the Doctor is because the Master's presence isn't constant. Since they only turn up every now and again there's perhaps an unreasonable demand for the character to be more consistent than we demand the Doctor be between incarnations.

Just a thought.

And I love the joke about the chair. 

Friday 25 September 2015

Dear culture, some things that are not the same...

Editing and censorship.
Apolitical and conservative.
Problematic and irredeemable.
The beliefs of a writer and the actions of their characters.
Canon and what a general audience can be assumed to remember.
Iconic and just plain old.
What was publishable in the 1950s and now.
Bisexuality and nymphomania.
What was publishable in the 1980s and now.
Sexualisation and objectification.
Death threats and comedy.
Influences behaviour” and “causes behaviour”.
Subjective experience and worthless information.
Fundamentalist Catholicism does not represent the beliefs of every religious person in the world.
Neither does fundamentalist Islam.
Jeremy Corbyn and actual communist dictators.
US Presidential primaries and the US Presidential election.

We all clear now? Because I would really like to stop having to have these conversations. 

Thursday 24 September 2015

What links Batman and WW1 propaganda?

Giant pennies...
the key to victory. 

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Empire Detachments (Reikland army background)

As I've been tinkering away building my little Empire army I've also been tinkering with their background. I do like to have a story behind my armies and this one grew in the telling. What I like about the Empire is that there is such a sense of geography to it: the grand counties and chartered cities have such a sense of character that just deciding where the army is from helps you build its character.

Since the big game I'm building this for will be The Siege Of Altdorf and since Tom and Matt's armies are from Nuln and Nordland respectively, I decided on Reikland just to have some locals in the game. Also, with the advent of a white spray that actually covers a model the colour scheme shouldn't be too hard.

So, here are the detachments that make up my little force and what units they mighty eventually command:

Thelius Umbra and the Altdorf All-College Drinking Society
Battle Wizard Lord, Battle Wizards

The Drinking Society have been characters in my background for a couple of years now but this is the first chance I've had to create them for the tabletop. Thelius Umbra is Patriarch of the Grey College and the Drinking Society are his most trusted off-the-books agents drawn from all eight colleges:

Exiled Bretonnian noblewoman and Bright Wizard Lieutenant the Lady Desfleuves, Sabifa de Martrand; swordswoman and Light College exorcist Erza Drescler; bookish Beasts Wizard Fitz Bernhardt; the mysterious Grey Child Josephine Klein; taciturn Celestial Wizard Dana Mahler; muscular Gold Wizard Guido “The Big Man” Flieshman; gun-toting Jade Wizard Viktor Eisner; and part-time accountant, Amethyst Wizard Andreas Eckermann.

The Society has one further member, the High Elf Loremaster Korando but he's not terribly relevant to matters right now.

The Bogenhafen Longshots
Captain of the Empire, Crossbowmen, Handgunners, Pistoliers, Steam Tank

The main detachment of the army hails from the obscenely wealthy chartered city of Bogenhafen. I love their ridiculously ostentatious cream and purple uniforms. The Longshots, as you can see, are a rifle regiment for no better reason than I love Sharpe. I'll probably have two officers from the Longshots so I can field a General Of The Empire when I don't feel like using Umbra.

The Steam Tank in the Empire Bestiary is actually showing Bogenhafen colours so that's why I've listed the thing here and not with the other war machines.

The Captain is, in fact, a Major and the official commander of the army.

The Reikland Silver Blades
Captain of the Empire with Battle Standard, Warrior Priest, Haberdiers, Spearmen, Swordsmen, Free Company Militia

Basically, all the close combat state troops come from this regiment. As much as the Bogenhafen colour scheme attracts me I do want something rather simpler for the larger state units. With white spray in hand a cream cloth should only take a couple of layers. I've also lumped in the Warrior Priest as the regimental chaplain.

The Free Company are irregulars but they're paid through the Silver Blades.

Markus Wulfhart and his Hunters
Markus Wulfhart, Huntsmen

I have a Markus Wulfhart and ten Huntsmen from when I was planning to do Stirland Outlaws for a Mordheim campaign that never happened. I'm not usually one for special characters but I do rather like Wulfhart and his little band of archers, both in terms of what they do and their background.

The Carroburg Greatswords

Pragmatism, this. The Bogenhafen Captain is the actual army commander but keeping him with one of his own units would be a magnificent waste of time. I don't really see a regiment of riflemen and archers maintaining Greatswords so he'd have to be assigned a bodyguard from another regiment.

And the red cloth and black lacquer armour of the Carroburg regiment has always been my favourite.

The Black Guard of Morr
Grand Master, Witch Hunter, Knightly Orders, Demigryph Knights

Death's own Knightly Order, bane of the undead. I first encountered them in the Tale Of Four Gamers series that ran from White Dwarf #300 and I rather like the purple and black colour scheme. I also have a great idea for giving them albino demgryphs.

Admittedly, the Witch Hunter can't be mounted but I include him in this detachment because it makes sense. He'll be lurking off somewhere else when I field him, possibly with the Huntsmen or in a ranked unit of his own.

The Painted Ladies of Nuln
Master Engineer, Outriders, war machines

Yes, there's an engineering school in Altdorf but I don't like the Altdorf colour scheme (quartered red and blue, ugh). Plus, Tom and I have been talking about linking up his Nuln army and the Society for a while so having a detachment “from” his army will provide that link rather nicely.

They're called The Painted Ladies, incidentally, as a rather crude joke about the soot stains on their faces and, hopefully, because I'll be able to convert a female Master Engineer using one of those Statuesque Heroic Female Heads. 

Tuesday 22 September 2015


I want to say something clever about this whole situation but the simple fact is that our Prime Minister might have had sex with a dead pig for reasons involving Brideshead Revisited. No, I don't understand the link, I've never seen Brideshead Revisited and I don't think I want to now.

Some things go beyond satire. 

Monday 21 September 2015

Davros, Missy and Queerbaiting

In which Davros is useful for the first time since 1985, Michelle Gomez has me double-checking my pronouns, and Clara's sexuality gives me pause...

(Spoilers ahead for Doctor Who's ninth series première The Magician's Apprentice.)

I still haven't finished watching the back half of series eight so this is the first time I've seen Michelle Gomez as Missy. I'm... conflicted. You see, I like Missy just fine, she works well as a villainous presence, but what has me raising an eyebrow is how hard it is to see her as the Master.

This isn't a gender thing. I've wanted to see a woman play the Doctor for years and I'd be willing to bet this is as close as we'll be getting any time soon. There are moments when I see the Master there: when she disintegrates two men to prove she hasn't “turned good” and, of course, the glorious moment towards the end of the episode where she realises where they've ended up and how bad things are. There really is nothing more “Master” than the whole plan collapsing around them. And that little scheme with the planes is as convoluted and pointless as anything Delgado or Ainley's incarnations ever pulled.

So what's the problem? Well, for a start, I want to admit that it is probably my problem and less to do with the writing, it might even be something utterly necessary to selling this character as the Master to a general audience who have never seen Delgado or Ainley.

You see, I just never liked the Simm version of the Master and Missy is very much written to match his zaniness. The Master to me swings between detached cool and homicidal rage, I can't quite buy comedy accents from the character.

Davros, meanwhile, is the best he's been since Revelation Of The Daleks in 1985. What this story has over The Stolen Earth/Journey's End (and Remembrance, for that matter) is that it remembers Davros is a scientist. He has a cool non-Dalek henchman who is clearly one of his genetic experiments and we get another in the long list of chatty confrontations between the Doctor and Davros. “Did you miss our conversations?” Davros asks and, in all honesty, I did. I also like that throughout this episode he's kept separate from the Daleks which is how he's always worked best. These two, polar opposites in morality but united by their profession as scientists act as great foils for one another, arguably better than the Doctor and the Master.

So, effusive praise for a good episode mired only by some personal issues with the series' ongoing use of the Master?

Well, no, there's one other issue. It's an issue that's been hanging over Clara in particular and the Moffat era in general for a while now and one that this episode probably imagines it's helping to solve.

You see, Clara has a line here pretty much confirming her bisexuality. Now, this isn't out of the blue and that's been a problem in some quarters. The first duplicate Clara, Oswin Oswald, was bi (or possibly just forgetful) and whether that was a trait inherited from the original has been an open question since Clara's introduction proper. Here she mentions how good a kisser Jane Austen was and, yes, we have a canon bisexual companion. Yay?


You see, something that has dogged Moffat's Doctor Who is that when he took over from Russell T. Davies there were suddenly a lot fewer queer characters in the series. I'm not personally inclined to interpret malice on Moffat's part since he and Davies have different creative obsessions and, yes, one of Davies' is sexuality. Once the problem was pointed out to Moffat we got Jenny and Vastra and now canon bisexual Clara.

Still, it is only a mention and part of me raises an eyebrow and wonders if I'm being queerbaited here. Now, I'm the last person to look at a bisexual character and say they're imperfect for not sleeping with anything in sight, truth be told that trope bugged me long before I had reason to find it personally offensive. Still, I wonder how much latitude there would be for Clara to be shown in a relationship with a woman. Would the BBC ever allow the series to show her making sloppy kisses with Jane Austen (get those fan fictions beta'd by Friday AO3!)? She kissed Danny Pink plenty of times but the idea of her with a woman has to remain an idea.

Perhaps I'm just being ornery but this tiny mention smacks of fanservice more than character development. When Clara's character is actively informed by her bisexuality then I'll be cheering it on. Not necessarily a relationship or anything sexual, just some evidence that this is more than a bit of sly titillation.