Monday 31 July 2017

My hobby plan for August

Simple plan, really. This coming month I am going to dedicate my painting time to completing as many half-painted models as I can. My entire Death Guard army, aside from a few unbuilt Poxwalkers, is painted in its main block colours (mostly green); I have twenty Dryads who just need their bases painted; that Legion Praetor I painted as an Angel of Redemption just need his metallics filled in; my Dwarf Rangers just need their weapons painting; and I made that whole post a few months ago about almost finished Fantasy models.

With any luck this will result in more than a few finished projects and a lot of practice for my photography. Also, it might result in me having a presentable Death Guard army to set down on the table sometime before the Konor campaign ends. You never know... 

Sunday 30 July 2017

Korra: Turf Wars: my ship is at least 50% seaworthy

[spoilers ahead for Legend of Korra: Turf Wars part 1]

The new Legend of Korra comic Turf Wars part 1 won't be out in the UK for a couple of weeks. Still, lucky fans in the US have posted various odds and ends, including the following that made my old romantic heart very, very happy:
There is so much to love about this panel and this plot point before we get to my selfish, shippy personal reasons to love it. For a start, there's Kya's age. I'm not sure exactly how old the Kataang kids are but since her brother Bumi is retired I'd lay even odds Kya's at least fifty. In a media landscape where so many sapphic characters are still designed for male consumption here's a wlw with grey hair and crow's feet. Its just nice to have an older woman coming forward to congratulate Korra and Asami (as is the context here), assuring both them and us that they aren't alone in the Avatar world.

Incidentally, another scene that presumably follows this has Kya confirm there was no sexuality-based prejudice among the Air Nomads (which presumably continues with Tenzin's revived Air Nation) and that Avatar Kyoshi was bisexual. As someone who is so heartily sick of the way writers just tend to assume that the past always has to be uniformly awful for LGBTQ+ people, this is truly heartening.

Now, let's get on to my own selfish love for this scene:

I bloody love the Kyalin ship. I know that it is crack shipping at its absolute best. I mean, we're pairing two characters up who never meet on screen. Kya and Lin Beifong share exactly zero minutes and zero seconds of screen time in the whole four seasons of the series and, to my knowledge, that total doesn't get any better in Turf Wars part 1. The best we can say is that the two characters almost certainly know one another, Lin having dated Kya's elder brother for some years.

And yet, the fan fiction for the pairing is amazing. It was one of the first tags I stumbled upon when I first started reading fic on AO3 and the I absolutely fell in love with the dynamic: the cynical police chief and the laid back free spirit. Plus, pairing two middle-aged women together is a refreshing change, at least from my point of view at the time, from the usual pairings of a series' young and beautiful protagonists (not that Korrasami content isn't appreciated, of course, and I understand how much that pairing means to people, believe you me).

Now, I'm certainly not one of those people who feels a need for “their” pairing to be canon but, as I say, there is some joy in knowing the ship is at least halfway seaworthy. 

Saturday 29 July 2017

The curious origin of Atomic Blonde

I have to watch Atomic Blonde, if only to work out what the hell is going on.

You see, I was already interested. It looked like a John Wick movie starring Charlize Theron beating up tons of dudes and then kissing ladies on the mouth. I can absolutely get behind all the concepts in that sentence, especially Charlize Theron as a female John Wick.
Then the reviews hit and I discovered it was an adaptation of The Coldest City written by Antony Johnston with art by Sam Hart. That's one of my favourite graphic novels ever. The graphic novel is a John leCarré-style spy thriller set in the last days of partitioned Berlin. The main character, MI6 operative Lorraine Broughton, is tough in a fight and resourceful but she's no John Wick and as for kissing ladies on the mouth... well, its been a couple of years since I last read it but I don't remember it.

I'm not even being a purist here: the film they seem to have made looks like a fun film and if nothing else I am genuinely curious about how they got from this book to the concept I'm seeing in the trailers. Of course, this is assuming the trailers are representative of the finished product which isn't always the case and if you have even a second of Charlize Theron a) fighting a bunch of dudes and b) kissing a lady on the mouth, then you're going to want to put that front and centre of the advertising. I can't blame anyone for that.

Still, an interesting potential case study and also perhaps a limit case scenario for my previous pious insistence that I don't mind changes to the source material if it makes the story a better fit for the medium its being adapted to. 

Friday 28 July 2017

The Auxiliary Support Detachment and you

The Auxiliary Support Detachment is your one-stop excuse to put whatever you like alongside your regular army. Its a single choice from pretty much any battlefield role, which is generous, but just using the Auxiliary Support Detachment costs you one of your Command Points. Its open to abuse, obviously, but it has potential to create some very interesting combinations. Off the top of my head...

Your Secret Masters

Nice and obvious, your Astra Militarum army is secretly being manipulated by the Alpha Legion and now they have chosen to reveal themselves! Personally, I'd do with a fully tricked out unit of Chosen because if you're going to lose a command point over it you might as well go all out.

Fallen are another possibility. Then, of course, there's Genestealers for when you want to have a proper, full-on Genestealer Cult Regiment instead of the dregs represented by the actual Cults list.

Iron Warriors Basilisk Battery

First of all: yes, I got into playing Chaos under the 3.5 codex and thus remember when Iron Warriors could take Basilisks just because. Also, in spite of being weaker than a Vindicator's demolisher cannon, a Basilisk's earthshaker is always D6 shots and you get to roll two dice and choose the highest, which as far as I'm concerned is much better odds for flattening the servants of the Corpse God.

Xenos Mercenaries

Kroot, Blood Axe Orks and Eldar Corsairs (represented by Guardians, I guess?) all have a history of working with Imperial forces when the money's right and the commissars are conveniently dead. Also, Harlequins have a history of just turning up wherever they bloody please.


I think I spelt that right. Basically, humans who have either defected to or grown up in the T'au Empire. Once upon a time they were a Chapter Approved unit made up of basic Guardsmen with the odd pulse rifle. Now, if you want to lose a command point buying a ten man unit of standard issue grunts or marginally superior veterans... well, to be honest, I've done dumber things in the name of fluff.

Just a few ideas to get you started.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Batman: Bad Blood: the perfect pattern for Bafleck

Last night I watched Batman: Bad Blood, one of the straight-to-DVD DC animated features, and it is absolutely what DC-Warner should be planning to do with Ben Affleck as Batman (if Affleck still is Batman for the forseeable future).

To explain: the DCEU's angle on Batman is that he's an older gentleman who's been around for a while. The benefits of this are obvious: he has some experience; they don't have to run through his origin story again; and, if they don't want to waste time on an origin for the villain they don't have to, as with Joker and Harley in Suicide Squad. Mainly its just a way of getting around the fact that the audience can be relied upon to know the basics of Batman and his world by this point.

Bad Blood also has an older Batman and uses it as a driving force for the story.

In the first few minutes of the movie, Batman gets blown up and remains missing for about half the film. This means that the writers get to play with the idwa of Batman as a legacy. Now, obviously, this film is very much pitched at existing fans but seeing as how many Batman movies there have been its not out of line to expect audiences to be able to get behind this. Affleck is the sixth big screen Batman and, like James Bond, you have a pretty good idea of the character because of it.

So, we have a group of various bat-family characters filling the void. Alfred drags Nightwing back to Gotham so Dick can wear the Batman costume and keep the legend alive. Batwoman, who witnessed Batman getting blown up, represents the Batman legacy as inspiration (even if I do think this version of her original meetign with Batman casts her a bit too passively compared to the original comic telling). Damian represents the legacy of inheritance, which has deeper meaning later on in the plot. Then finally there's Luke Fox as Batwing, another son inheriting a role from his father but taking it in an entirely new direction. Even the villain of the piece is trying to exceed the achievements of their predecessor. Kate, too, has a plot revolving around her relationship to her family, in particular her father Jacob. There's a lot of history being explored here, perfect territory for a version of Batman mythos meant to contain a lot of unseen previous adventures.

There are issues. The main villain has a pre-existing relationship to Batman that isn't very well explained, at least not for a general audience. Similarly, the relationship between Bruce and Damian doesn't get much exposition beyond the simple fact that they're father and son.

Then there's Kate. I imagine most of the issues I have with this portrayal is the creators hitting up against the film's PG-13 age rating. The scene where she “flirts” with Montoya is punishing to watch, though it isn't as if the rest of the film shies away from the fact that Kate is a lesbian the dialogue just doesn't work at all. Surprisingly (or not) Dick fairs somewhat better in the flirt stakes, having a phone conversation with Starfire (during a fight with Blockbuster, no less) that repeatedly comes within one cut-off word of being literal phone sex.

I'm also none too clear on why Damian starts the film in a monastery but I think from some other dialogue that there's another film that precedes this one in continuity.

Nevertheless, as far as I'm concerned this is the standard Affleck's solo debut has to beat now. After Wonder Woman I am more hopeful than I was that it has a chance but this sets a high bar, at least as far as central concept goes. 

Wednesday 26 July 2017

BBV's Only Human: a bit extreme for what it is

[Content Warning: I'm going to discuss in pretty horrible and potentially triggering detail a fictional portrayal of child sexual abuse and its psychological aftermath. Please read the following post with care.]

Audio Adventures In Time And Space was a range of unathorised Doctor Who spin-offs produced by BBV in the late-90s and early-2000s. Long out of print they're mostly forgotten except as the range where the Faction Paradox audios began and being the reason Big Finish didn't use the Sontarans or Zygons for about half a decade due to a gentlefan's agreement between the two companies not to pursue the same third party monster rights. Plus, they were a mail order thing before internet purchase was reliable or entirely trustworthy so they were hard to get hold of and not many secondhand copies circulate.
I stumbled across a few at a local charity shop and last night I slipped Only Human into the player... and...

good grief, I was not expecting what I got.

Let's be clear about one thing before we start: Sophie Aldred is playing Ace, the character she played in Doctor Who from 1987 to 1989 and reprises to this day for Big Finish. “The Time Travellers” were originally billed as “The Professor & Ace” until the BBC got a bit cross about it. After that, BBV rebranded the Professor as the Dominie (a terrible name almost never used in the audios) and revealed Ace's birth name as Alice.

So, once again, Alice is 100% absolutely meant to be Ace McShane. That is something the listener is meant to actively assume.

Ace, every version of Ace, has significant issues surrounding her family. Usually, these issues revolve around her mother and is portrayed as a sort of generalised neglect. In some versions they reconcile, in others they don't but usually Ace finds a way to deal with those feelings with or without a confrontation with the woman herself (both of which are, of course, perfectly valid approaches).

Only Human decides to go in a rather different direction. Through a complicated set of events involving a telepathic shapeshifter, Ace is confronted by a perfect replica of her stepfather who, it turns out, repeatedly sexually abused her starting when she was seven years old. He accuses her off enjoying it, tells her that her mother knew it was happening, continues to call her pet names even as she screams at him.

It is absolutely chilling and I can't fault the actors for how they play it, the impact of the scene is undeniable. It has immense power.

And no resolution. Its not the point of the story, neither thematically nor in terms of the story. The story surrounding it isn;t bad, either, in fact its one of the most interesting and varied stories the Audio Adventures told. The two sides of it just never marry up and it leads me to wonder if this powerful, disturbing scene is just there for shock value.

Also, whilst it doesn't come out of nowhere (there's a precursor scene close to the beginning of the audio that pretty well signposts where its all going) it is a shocking place for an unlicensed audio based on a 1980s kids show to go. I don't know if that's a good thing.

I strongly believe these are issues that need to be discussed both in fact and in fiction. The last couple of years have proven very powerfully that these things have to be brought into the light. My only question is whether or not this does that or if it just offers a sly opportunity to trigger people who were just expecting a run-of-the-mill Doctor Who by any other name audio drama, which seems to me the most textbook definition of escapism.

Sometimes, I think, it is possible to challenge your audience too much. 

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Side-Project: Six Flavours of Primaris

So, the other day I was going to buy the Easy Build Plague Marines and, of course, it occurred to me that it'd be useful to also pick up the Easy Build Poxwalkers, as well. After all, thought I, they are a unit that gains models through combat so it would help to have a couple extra bodies knocking around.

Of course, when you start thinking like that its a slippery slope and you think “What's five pounds more for the big set?” After all, it gets me a little cardboard scenery and a mini-rulebook. I do like a mini-rulebook or, rather, my arms and back like a mini-rulebook when I'm lugging my army down to the local store.

And I get six Primaris Marines, after all that other stuff effectively for free (shut up, I'm rationalising).

Frankly, its the perfect opportunity to do some colour tests to see whether a different palette makes me more interested in the Primaris designs. Its not that I hate them, they just don't quite inspire me yet. So, a few ideas I want to test:

Intercessor #1: Fire Hawks

Unlike most chapters on this list the Fire Hawks aren't here because I particularly like their background. In all honesty, I barely remember any of it. I remember that they're a Cursed Founding chapter and that's about it. I assume they have a thing for flamer weapons but that's a wild stab in the dark. Rather, they're on here purely for how pretty they look. They have orange-brown armour with freehand yellow flames painted on them. That's cool.

I've always suspected that Space Marines might look good in orange and not only does this work as a test case but I get to practice some simple freehand, which is an area I have been meaning to improve on for a long time now.

Intercessor #2: Angels Revenant

One of those great colour schemes that Forge World periodically creates for chapters that just die out in the first few pages of an Imperial Armour story but I reckon the Ultima Founding will have resurrected a few chapters using archived gene-seed so here we are. Also, resurrecting a dead chapter saves on having to come up with new names, colur schemes and such and the Imperium is nothing if not ultimately a really lazy bureaucracy.

Anyway, royal purple armour with bone elements, I love the contrast and I think deep purple is one of those colours that will really sell the idea of Primaris Marines as glorious agents of the Emperor. I feel these models, free from much of the crusty ostentation of normal Space Marines, might benefit from a really clean and artificial colour scheme.

Intercessor #3: Celestial Lions

Speaking of the congenitally screwed: the Celestial Lions. I have some Custodes that I've been meaning to get to for a while so a chance to test out gold armour methods would be welcome. Also, the bright blue on the shoulder armour is something I want to test myself against as getting a good, solid bright blue is a colour I've struggled with a lot. I'm thinking of adapting a method the Dark Imperium building guide recommends for plasma coils.

On the subject of potential futures, there's a history of the Lions working with the Black Templars so they could appear as an allied detachment to my beloved Black Templars.

Reiver #1: Raptors

I love the Raptors for their very direct and very non-Codex attitude of “whatever works”. Take command of local Imperial Guard regiments? If it helps! Repaint your armour for camoflague? Not a bad idea!

In painting terms, this is the least ambitious on the list. They wear camoflague green armour and I could be lazy and just use the same all-purpose green method I use on my Orks and Death Guard but there's a rather good WarhammerTV video for an olive green Raptors armour I want to try because I need more green methods so that everything in my Death Guard doesn't look identical.

This will definitely be the Reiver with the bare head because I want to experiment with a pale flesh method to represent the pallid Raven Guard fleshtone.

Reiver #2: Exorcists

First of bloody all, they're not blanks! I feel oddly strongly about this and I don't know why, I read the Forge World background first where they have a psyker brotherhood called the Orison of the Broken Tower, of which their Badab special character is a member. Okay, rant over, moving on...

If you're detecting a little bias towards the chapters of the Badab War you are not wrong. Those two books are my favourite Imperial Armour books in terms of story and of all the chapters in that book the Exorcists are the ones who grabbed my imagination the most. I love the idea of having a chapter who are daemon hunting specialists but still perform all the general functions of a Space Marine chapter. I actually, briefly, had an Exorcists army but it was before I could paint even as middlingly well as I do now.

Painting opportunities here are to try a brighter red than I use on my Flesh Tearers as well as perhaps trying to achieve a very, very dark grey for the trim (I originally painted it black but looking at the illustrations it is actually a grey).

Reiver #3: Carcharadons (aka Space Sharks)

Oh, I love the Carcharadons. For one thing they're an ultra-aggressive crusading chapter who patrol the outer darkness of the galaxy fighting vaguely defined supernatural menaces. They have mutated shark skin, basically, as a result of corrupted Raven Guard gene-seed. Also, they have what basically amounts to a monochromatic colour scheme going from dark grey to light grey to off-white which looks amazingly cool. Also, their armour has these markings based on Polynesian tattoos which should be fun / frustrating to attempt. 

Monday 24 July 2017

Frank Miller's Superman: Year One?

I'm not going to say it won't be interesting. One thing that can be said for Frank Miller is that his work is never uninteresting.

Don't get me wrong, my first instinct was to wonder which prominent supporting female character will end up as a prostitute. I doubt DC would let him do that to Lois Lane, so I guess that Cat Grant will be the one on the game. Maybe Kara if DC really let him off the leash because, well, any chance to be creepy about dubiously legal women, right?

Miller has always insisted that he does like Superman and the impression that he doesn't is because of he's only written Superman from Batman's perspective and his man crush on Bruce Wayne got in the way. I'll be honest, most modern Miller project are more interesting as thought experiments than an actual stories. Plus, there is the fact this might be heavily co-authored like Dark Knight III was.

Maybe Jimmy Olsen will have taken up whoring. 

Sunday 23 July 2017

In Defense of Victoria Waterfield

Earlier this week, the news broke that veteran Doctor Who actress Deborah Watling had passed away following a brief illness.

Watling played Victoria Waterfield in seven serials from 1967 to 1968, including the majority of Season Five which is widely considered one of the most classic seasons of the classic run, the (in)famous Monster Season. Now, whilst the early generations of fandom considered that year's stories to be absolute classics and the cast to be one of the definitive TARDIS teams, neither the season nor Victoria has done well that well when put under the microscope by the fans of later years.

Or, to put it another way, by fans who can go back and review the stories.

You see, even once home video became a thing there was the problem that huge swathes of Watling's appearances no longer existed in the archive. Until 2013 her only complete story was The Tomb of the Cybermen with four out of six episodes of The Ice Warriors and single episodes The Evil of the Daleks, The Abominable Snowmen, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear representing the rest of her time with the series. It didn't help that the vast majority of these stories were practically interchangeable “classic base under siege” stories, a formula the series didn't deviate much from in Season Five because of severe budgetary and time management issues. Bases under siege needed only a small number of sets and, to be frank, not so much imagination as to require a lot of editing time.

And then, of course, there's the fact that character just wasn't something that era of the show did. Between the formulaic storytelling and the time constraints any sort of character work was basically abandoned in favour of treating characters purely as plot function.

Watling's plot function was damsel in distress. Not unsurprisingly, this fact aged badly. You can't really watch any of her stories without getting a masterclass in the Male Gaze: she's cute, she's in danger all the time and the camera can't keep away from close-ups of her terrified yet photogenic face.

Here's the thing, though: the scripts were pretty bad, the series was somehow formulaic in spite of having the whole of time and space to play with; and the characters had no character. Yet this is one of the most fondly remembered eras of the show. Received wisdom has it that this is because of the “classic base under siege” format and, naturally, the monsters.

I'm not entirely convinced. Not that the monsters are that bad or even that the formula is all that bad, even if it repetitive as hell.

I think it was the cast. Troughton was a fantastic actor, an absolute genius at wrestling the material he was given into something with depth. Whilst Watling wasn't quite that good what she had in spades was charisma and that was her way of polishing her part in the script until it shone. Victoria might not have had many character traits beyond “prim” and “marginally smarter than Jamie” but she was extremely likable and that's an important quality in an adventure serial lead.

That's what I get from the Season Five TARDIS crew: three fantastically likable actors having the time of their lives, both in and out of character. Watching them together, now more possible than ever with the recovery of The Enemy of the World and the lion's share of The Web of Fear, you can see why this era is so fondly remembered by the fans who were there at the time...

and it wasn't the monsters.

Rest in peace, Deborah Watling, you were amazing. 

Saturday 22 July 2017

Reading Tea Leaves: the new Young Justice line-up

I put my hands up, I did rather sleep on the original two seasons of Young Justice. In my defence I don't know if there was any way for me to actually support it since it never seems to have come out on DVD out here. I've seen a couple of episodes on Youtube and it seems interesting enough and definitely something that someday, eventually I'd get around to watching.

Well, someday is right now because DC just announced the team line-up for season three and it is glorious:
I mean, its a line-up of some of my very favourite of DC's teen superheroes (plus Arsenal and Beast Boy). Its got Tim (I presume that's Tim in Red Robin mode, I guess it could be Damian but looks too old), Bart, Cass and Arrowette. That's four of the six foundational members of Peter David's Young Justice. I mean, I doubted Secret would ever turn up, though I am curious about Superboy's absence.

That having been said, whoever thought we'd see Arrowette on television? She's hardly a famous face, long eclipsed by Mia Dearden as Speedy.

(I miss Mia. Come on, DC, rebirth that girl...)

Then there's Jaime standing next to a character that the write-ups inform me is called Thirteen. I can only hope that means Traci 13, who was an amazing character in the original Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle ongoing and I am constantly annoyed by her demotion to walk-in cameos in Superwoman.

Static is always nice to see in these things, especially after how shortchanged the character got in the comics last time he was prominent. I think his title was one of the first cancellations of the New 52 and I don't think he's been seen since. I like the redesign, I've always prefered the versions of Static that lean more towards street clothes than a traditional costume.

And Spoiler! Oh, if there's one DC pairing I ship more than Jaime and Traci its Tim and Steph. And her new design is so damn cool. I can't wait for a wider audience to experience this character. This character has meant so much so deeply to a certain generation of comics fans (of which I am, unshamedly, a part) and having her break into the big time here warms the heart.

And Arsenal and Beast Boy are... there, I guess. Still, I shan't complain, as an Outsiders live-up this is pretty much perfect as far as I'm concerned.

Now, to find halfway decent copies of the first two seasons ro be caught up before this debuts...

Friday 21 July 2017

I am so tired of pissbaby men right now

I say this as someone who is only 50/50 on the idea of the new Doctor Who. Not Jodie Whittaker, to be clear, I still haven't seen her in anything. My ambivalence is purely down to being rather so-so on Chibnall's Doctor Who work to date.

Its not because I believe “no one wants a TARDIS full of bras”. Yes, that is an actual thing an actual person put in a comment on one of the announcement news stories.

And its not like this is some sort of isolated case, either. There was that whole bollocks with guys going mad over the Alamo Drafthouse cinemas in the US doing ladies' only viewings of Wonder Woman. There was even one guy who went out of his way to acquire a ticket to one of those women only viewings.

Why? I mean, what is the damn point? What this guy did was go out of his way to buy a ticket just so he could sit in a dark room watching a movie whilst surrounded by women who didn't want him there just to prove that he could. I mean, I'm just guessing here but I imagine the only novel experience for him in this scenario is the darkened room and the movie.

I am so fucking tired of this. I am so fucking tired of the loud idiots whose masculinity can be threatened by Ghostbusters of all damn things getting an average remake starring female comedians. I am tired of this being what men are in the public consciousness: fragile babies incapable of empathising with any character who is not like them.

I just don't get it. I mean, there but for the grace of God go I, I know that. I was raised mostly by women. My father had to travel for work a lot because he was an engineer in a recession started by the government-sponsored destruction of primary industry in this country so, for the most part, I was raised by my mother and two grandmothers. A lot of my friends growing up were girls and for most of my professional life the majority of my co-workers have been women.

So I just don't get this idea that I, as a man, cannot invest in female characters. The Doctor is a woman now, the Ghostbusters are women now, the lead Jedi character in Star Wars is a woman. Okay. I'm aware that there are people who think it odd that I don't feel threatened by this and that is pathetic.

It is pathetic that anyone could have their fragile damn masculinity threatened by a series moving from a male to a female protagonist. It is pathetically sad that this can turn someone off from the series, that all other content of the series is less important than the gender of the main character. It is pathetic that the existence of a remake can so threaten someone's enjoyment of the original that they will go out of their way to protest its existence. It is pathetic that there are people so invested in the critical reception of DC movies that they couldn't stand the idea that Patty Jenkins might get more praise than Zack Snyder and went through mental gymnastics to try and prove tat Snyder was the one “really “ responsible for Wonder Woman's success.

It is pathetic that this the mainstream understanding of my gender. It is pathetic that this is how we're seen and that even women who know me, who know my past and my politics will assume I'm one of these pathetic pissbabies just because I also happen to be a man.

And I am so tired of being lumped in with these losers. 

Thursday 20 July 2017

Thoughts and Feelings on Game Of Thrones 7.1: Dragonstone

This is a SPOILER post since there are a lot of things I want to talk about both from the episode and how it relates back to the novels. If you haven't seen Dragonstone yet, proceed no further than this image of Tormund Giantsbane giving Brienne of Tarth the eye.
Let's start with Sam in Oldtown because in A Feast For Crows that is the most benighted, boring, time-wasting plot. Sam spends most of the novel on his way to Oldtown and when he gets there he meets an old maester who has a mysteriously burning glass candle. The candle-owning maester than sods off to Essos, leaving Sam behind, never to be heard of again.

The whole glass candle plot has been jettisoned in favour of giving us some background on the Citadel (courtesy a fabulously cast Jim Broadbent) and Sam actually using his skills to find out information relevant to the plot. The production team also discover a whole new way of disgusting the audience on HBO's dime in this plot, which is an achievement of its own on this show.

Then there's Arya, rescued from the second most benighted, boring, time-wasting plot of the novels to finally pursue her revenge across Westeros and what a fantastic revenge it is! David Bradley gives a fantastic performance as Walder Frey who is secretly Arya which forms a great showcase to cap off his involvement with the show.

Lyanna Mormont is still the best person in the North.

Nikolai Coster-Waldau puts in some great work continuing Jamie's face turn with a performance that makes it more and more clear the unspoken realisation that he is probably going to have to kill his sister.

(By the way, am I the only one who found Tommen's suicide hilarious last season? Just me? Okay.)

Said sister has gone full-on power mad, by the way, as she tries to form an alliance with the last possible ally she has left: Euron Greyjoy. Its a great way to impress just how bad a position the Lannisters are in even before the entire Frey bloodline goes down with a terminal case of Maisie Williams. They're broke; the North is in rebellion; the Sand Snakes declared war against them on behalf of Dorne; their own bloodline is effectively over with the death of all Cersei's children; and Cersei definitively broke all ties with the Tyrells who currently own all the food; and, of course, winter is coming and she's Seven damned pissed off!

Lena Headey does something fantastic with Cersei, something that isn't new but that I imagine will become central to the character in these last two seasons: she puts on a good front where Cersei's confidence never wavers whilst also making it very clear to the audience that Cersei isn't as good at this as she thinks she is. Jamie, meanwhile, is finally getting a clue and tries his best to get her to climb down from her position of insanity literally walking across a map of Westeros like she's cosplaying God (such a good scene...).

Up in the North, Sansa is finally back to being the character who was beginning to emerge after the death of Lysa Arryn before that unfortunate and incredibly tasteless version of the Ramsay Bolton storyline. I don't doubt there's some sort of reckoning coming between her and Littlefinger but now I have hope that she'll come out on top, a hope that I felt not a glimmer of when Ramsay was alive and she was being written as a cringing doormat again.

And, finally, a tiny snatch of a scene that proves my ship is still sailing: an almost wordless exchange between Tormund and Brienne as Pod watches on uncomfortably.

Don't judge me, this is probably the most psychologically healthy pairing this show has ever hinted at. 

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Well, I'm an idiot (Easy Build Death Guard and basic maths)

It really should have occurred to me why this box exists. I mean, you get seven Plague Marines in Dark Imperium and the Index entry allows you to take them in fives so, of course, this box exists to allow you to bulk out the DI unit to two five-man squads.

Also an easy way to bulk out to get two of the three compulsory Troops choices for the new standard force org which is about 50% of the reason I'll be picking up a set (that and they really are nice sculpts I want to paint).

Oh, and I want that blight launcher: Assault 2, Strength 6 for -2 AP and D3 Damage re-rolling ones to wound? Yes, please.

I'm still not sure what the three model Intercessor and Reiver boxes are for since you get ten of the first in Dark Imperium and a ten model box of the latter is being released imminently but that realisation will probably strike about fifteen seconds after I press “publish” on this post. 

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Trevor Baxter, 18 November 1932 - 16 July 2017

Trevor Baxter was one of those actors I only knew through Doctor Who. He was, of course, one half of the definitive Robert Holmes double act as Professor George Litefoot in (the sadly rather racist) The Talons of Weng-Chiang and its (markedly less racist) later aiduo spin-off Jago & Litefoot.
Jago & Litefoot is, without a doubt, my favourite series Big Finish makes and, naturally, Baxter was a big part of that. He and Christopher Benjamin (as music hall impresario Henry Gordon Jago) shared such a natural chemistry both on screen in the 70s and in studio for the audios. It seemed effortless. I know it wasn't, good acting never is, but the two men played off each other so wellit really is no wonder that a spin-off was on most fan's wish lists from the day the two appeared together in Talons.

I even recall there being mention once in a DWM article that there were plans for a Jago & Litefoot series back in the 70s, though I can't find any mention of it on the internet to confirm.

The Jao & Litefoot audios are comfort food to me, a warm and comfortable series to listen to after a stressful day and Trevor Baxter was a huge part of that formula.

Its a small tribute but, I think, a proper one to give for an actor whose work made more than one evening extremely pleasant. 

Monday 17 July 2017

Jodie Whittaker IS the Doctor!

I have to admit, I don't know her work. I'm told she was in Broadchurch and that's yet more motivation to check out that show and see what Chibnall is like as a showrunner. Also, casting a reliable star the showrunner knows from a previous way worked with RTD and Ecclestone (for a bit, at least).

I'm really going to have to remember there are two Ts in her name. You watch as much Classic Who as I do you get used to spelling it “Whitaker”, usually with the word “genius” somewhere close to it.

Anyway, the Doctor is going to be a woman and the internet is losing its mind in all directions. On my side of things its party time! The relentless groundwork of the Corsair, the General, River, Clara and Missy has finally paid off. Incidentally, I don't blame Moffat at all for not casting a woman himself for the simple reason that this is the sort of thing where the BBC was always going to need a lot of proof of concept spadework aka all those characters I just mentioned. Also, it seems pretty clear going back through old DWMs from Smith's casting that Capaldi is very much the sort of Doctor Moffat imagined before Smith walked through the door and blew his mind.

On the other side, of course, things are hilariously bitter. Its the death of Doctor Who for like the hundredth time! The SJWs are ruining everything! First they came for our Ghostbusters and now this! No one wants a TARDIS full of bras!

(That last one straight from a Dail Mail Online comment section, as if you couldn't guess).

Some rag has already found pictures from a role where Whittaker did a nude scene, of course, because for some reason visible evidence that a woman has breasts is always the best way to discredit their work. Fandom at large has, of course, responded with Seventies Porn Colin:
Hey, I had to see that so you do, too.

So, am I excited? A bit. Reservedly. I really need to watch Broadchurch because as much as I like that this has finally happened I still don't know much about Chibnall as a showrunner. I mean, he basically ran the second season of Torchwood aka the only one I liked but that was a decade ago. His Doctor Who episodes run the gamut from great fun (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship) to meh (42) stopping at all stations in between.

So, cautious optimism has been restored, roll on Christmas. 

Sunday 16 July 2017

It won't be Tennant... it just won't

This is going to be every time now, isn't it?

Its the last day, the final frantic hours of speculation before we find out who the Thirteenth Doctor is going to be and I thought I was going to get through it without seeing that rumour come up again. You know the one: the “David Tennant is coming back” rumour. Its not such a mainstream thing as it was when Smith was leaving but there do seem to be convinced that not only is the only thing that can “save” the show being the return of Tennant but that it is actually going to happen.

It... won't.

And I don't mean that in some way that involves a complicated in-universe explanation about regeneration. The process of regeneration is pure plot fairy dust, it works however the production team want it to work. Hell, it wasn't even until the third time it happened that the series even decided it was a thing Time Lords naturally did.

It has nothing to do with that.

It has everything to do with the fact that David Tennant is an actual guy with an actual career and he isn't going to take the massive backwards step (and massive pay cut) of returning to a role he left eight years ago. Generally speaking that's something actors only do when they've got nothing else on, with apologies to the cast of Girl Meets World. Yes, he's reprised the role for Big Finish but a) that's ultimately a week or so's work at a time and, b) probably not something the BBC would have signed off on if he were going to be the “current” Doctor again.

And think what it would mean for Chibnall to come in to the showrunner role and his first announcement is that no one he could cast would be as good as just bringing back the series' former star. He'd basically be declaring that his own vision of the show is to be nothing more than a tribute act to a previous version of the show. No showrunner in their right mind would do that.

But I bet we'll be doing this same thing in three or four years when Thirteen is on his (or her, fingers crossed) time comes.

Saturday 15 July 2017

Who would I cast as the Doctor?

Tomorrow is the day we find out who the Thirteenth Doctor will be and so that means today is the last chance to get in some frivolous and self-indulgent fantasy casting done.

So, who would my pick be? Well, I think its time we had a bit of an upgrade, as Missy would say, and go from Time Lord...
to queen. Yes, in my fantasy cast, Lena Headey IS the Doctor.

Why? Well, if there's one thing we know Headey can do its play a queen. She plays a queen in everything. She plays a queen in things where queens should not exist like Dredd. She has an aura of effortless authority that I imagine would be well-deployed with a properly Doctor-y speech. Just imagine her standing in the middle of Stone Henge delivering Matt Smith's “no plan, no back up, no weapons worth a damn” speech from The Pandorica Opens.

As to personality: I imagine her playing a rather more outwardly serious version of the Doctor akin to Capaldi's first season or later McCoy. Its all an act, of course, and once she's comfortable around someone that huge, wide open smile comes out.

I consciously chose a picture of Headey in a suit because... do I need a reason to appreciate Lena Headey in a suit? Anyway, I imagine the Doctor pretty much continuing with their previous fashion sense and coming to experiment with more feminine fashion over time, starting with some undercover business when they have to be inconspicuous at a fashionable party or such (and failing, obviously). On a practical level, keeping with “men's” fashion allows more of a visual through-line to their previous incarnations whilst on a self-indulgent level Lena Headey looks absolutely gorgeous in a suit (as the vast majority of women do, let's be honest).

It'll be another white guy, I just know it, but for one last moment I can imagine it. I can imagine Lena Headey in a suit dancing around the TARDIS console offering some young woman the choice of where to do (the companion should continue to be female even with a female Doctor, I just feel that should be said): the Roman Empire, the first Jovian colony; the Boston Tea Party; the Rolling Stones' first tour.

I imagine, for some reason, the Thirteenth Doctor being really into their classic rock and pop. I rather like that throwaway mention that the Tenth Doctor is a bit of a punk in Tooth and Claw and I'd like to revisit that idea.

But its going to be another white guy and we'll find that out after Wimbledon tomorrow.

Friday 14 July 2017

Expectations vs. Supergirl

I follow the Arrowverse shows on DVD. As far as I know they're not on any of the free channels here and even with three of us in the house we don't watch enough television to justify shelling out for a larger package. What this means is that through spoilers, people grumbling or celebrating online and just plain cultural osmosis, I tend to know a fair bit about these shows before I see them.

That's not usually much of a problem for me but it does mean that I tend to have a lot of expectations going into a new season.

So, anyway, my favourite Arrowverse show is Supergirl. I loved the first season and I dread the second without having seen any of it yet.

Its Mon-El, okay? I've heard too much about Mon-El. Its not that I particularly ship Kara and James Olsen, though it does baffle me that after all that build-up in season one they're just going to let that drop, but every single word I have seen written about Mon-El makes him seem like exactly the sort of toxic, controlling masculinist dickhead that season one spent so much damn time calling out.

Also, I know there's going to be a severe shortage of Callista Flockheart.

All hope lies in me liking Maggie Sawyer, I think.

Obviously, this is all speculation and maybe Mon-El isn't as bad as I've been told, maybe (impossibly) I won't miss Cat and her undeniable sexual tension/mentorship with Kara and all will be well? If nothing else it'll be interesting to see how impressions I've had so long to form match up to the reality.

Eh, there's the crossover to look forward to, at least.

I'm really certain I'm going to hate Mon-El.

Thursday 13 July 2017

Building A Better Seth pt.2: The Build

I am glad that the body I originally bought to make Gabriel Seth (the power armoured Legion Praetor) turned out not to fit the chainsword I was using because my second choice for the body has worked out so much better:
The twist in the body, on the original model meant to facilitate a pose where the Captain is drawing his sword from a scabbard, gives a real sense of motion that matches the way the chainsword is held and how the cape hangs. The title in the torso also meant I had to pose the head looking upwards, which works as I imagine I'll be charging Seth in towards the biggest, scariest thing on the battlefield.

It also retains the sense I wanted to convey of a more controlled and commanding Seth but with more dynamism than the Praetor body would have got me. I still don't know what I'm going to do with the Praetor but this has come out better than I imagined, the cape component even fit perfectly to the back without any remodelling to either component.

So, down to parts:

The main body (torso and legs are one component) come from the Forge World MkIII Command set via eBay; the Eviscerator chainsword and arms from the Space Marines Assault Squad, the head from the plastic Horus Heresy MkIV Maximus Armour set; the Flesh Tearers shoulder pad from the Deathwatch Kill Team kit (its why its on the “wrong” shoulder); the other shoulder pad a spare from the Sternguard Veterans kit; and, finally, the backpack and cape from the original Gabriel Seth model leftover from one of the several irretrievably damaged Seths that drove me to make this conversion in the first place.

I'm not usually one for special characters but Seth really inspires me as a character. I like that his attitude towards the inevitable tragedy of the Blood Angels geneseed is to pick up his sword and declare that by the time insanity and genetic degradation destroy his chapter there will be nothing left alive to challenge the Emperor's dominion. 

Wednesday 12 July 2017

An impressive torso going spare

I had a plan. I was going to convert my own version of Gabriel Seth using the Forge World Legion Praetor body and the two-handed chainsword from the Space Marine Assault Squad kit. It was a good plan that would have looked awesome if only the two components of said plan actually fit together.

You see, when I came to dryfit them together they didn't fit. The Praetor's torso is not designed like every other Space Marine ever with perfectly flat, perfectly parallel surfaces on either side for flat arm connections to fit on. Instead, I end up with a situation where gluing one arm has the other hanging wildly away and forward of the other shoulder.

Luckily, the random eBay purchase that netted me this torso also got me the Captain's body from the MkIII Legion Command set whose body does fit the arms. He'll be a little smaller but on reflection the twist in his body combined with the chainsword does give me a more dynamic pose as if Seth is bracing to received a blow.

This leaves me with the impressive, finely sculpted and suddenly useless Praetor body on hand. So here I dither, wondering what project to slot it into.

The knightly appearance of MkIII suits itself to making a Black Templars Marshall, of course. There's also the unit of Fallen I'm currently converting to accompany my Death Guard using Iron armour and a Dark Angels Veteran Squad who could develop a sudden Fallen Lord. The Death Guard themselves are already overflowing with characters and I don't want to do any heavy conversion work to the body itself, so that's out.

Then there's the project the MkIII Command body was meant for in the first place: an Alpha Legion officer to lead the Headhunters squad that will accompany (and be the only Astartes unit in) my resurrected Lost and the Damned army. That said, the Praetor body is a little too glorious to be Alpha Legion. I am not a fan of the Armillus Dynat concept, if you were wondering.

I definitely don't want to use it for another Flesh Tearers character, I don't want a random Captain going around looking more glorious than the Chapter Master.

So right now the options are Black Templars or Fallen, either way another excuse to fail to learn how to highlight black. Just depends on which character I can come up with the best design for. 

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Sasha Banks/Alexa Bliss for Hell In A Cell 2017!

[SPOILERS ahead for the Raw Women's Championship match at... *groans* Great Balls Of Fire. Do not proceed further if you haven't seen it)
I know their storyline will probably resolve at Summerslam because that's the next biggie but hear me out. Given the count out resolution to their match at Great Balls Of Fire the rematch will definitely be no DQs. So why not put a pin in it for a while, let Alexa get a few more screwy finishes and then, sometime early October, Sasha comes out on Raw with a mic and declares that the Boss will not let this shit stand!
No more champion's advantage! No more running away! No more retaining by count out and disqualification! In two weeks, Alexa: you and me!

Hell... in a Cell!”

Why? Well, for one, I want the women's Hell in a Cell match (and Money In The Bank and Survivor Series matches, for that matter) to continue and not be one off things. Second, the Sasha/Charlotte Hell In A Cell was apparently re-booked at the last minute with Sasha originally booked to win. It was a belter, regardless, even if the finish was a little sudden but I do think Sasha should have broken Charlotte's streak there and then.

My bitching aside, I do think this current feud (and Alexa's chickenshit heel storyline in general) is getting to a point where Hell In A Cell is the only appropriate resolution.

It should either be used to prove that Alexa can hold the title against a top flight opponent on her own account or prove that she can't, drop the title to Sasha (please please please) and then start a storyline where Alexa resolves to improve her skills until she can hold her own, maybe as a lead in to a Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania match against another top flight opponent.

Just a thought. 

Monday 10 July 2017

Death Guard and...?

Don't worry, this isn't me second guessing my army selection for Konor. Since starting to paint the Death Guard I've found them to be both user friendly and rather interesting to work with. Rather, this is about expanding the army beyond the contents of Dark Imperium and the odds and ends I had lying around (like the Helbrute).

For one thing, of course, there's the new tank that's been doing the rounds on the rumours sites, the Plagueburst Crawler.
courtesy Mini Wars
To the look of it, its essentially a Bombard with what looks like the same guns as the Feotid Bloat-Drone as sponson weapons. It fits very well with the idea of the Death Guard as footslogging attrition specialists in a way I don't feel the Predator does. And I don't just say this because I hate the Predator and the way its sponsons snap off if you so much as brush your hand against them reaching for a dice.  

Of course, we live in the world of Keywords now so there are so many posibilities for expansion in the future, probably after Konor since I already have more than a 75 power army on hand in various states of half-painted. So, the candidates:

Daemons of Nurgle

I have never used Daemons. I don't particularly like them as their own army and my previous Chaos armies have been focussed more on mortal characters.

The big benefit of having them as a small addition to the larger army is I can get pretty much everything I want for them out of the Start Collecting set. The set includes a Herald, ten Plaguebearers, three bases of Nurglings (so cute...) and three Plague Drones. That 19 power levels, which is more than enough to be getting on with though I might get another little box of Nurglings because a) adorable af, and b) I used to have a massive ten base unit of “Gibbering Hordes” aka Nurglings in my Lost and the Damned back in the day and nostalgia is a powerful motivator.

Green Vanilla Chaos Marines

As it happens, I already have one unit from the Heretic Astartes list as Death Guard don't have the option for Terminators at this time. That'll probably change when their Codex comes out but until then that's where we are. There are also numerous Daemon Engines I like the look of, which are horrible and mutated enough that it won't matter that they're not strictly Death Guard.

There are other units in the Heretic Astartes, though, that don't fit the Death Guard theme as well as Terminators. Things like Raptors, who just aren't something they ever had, the Death Guard Legion not maintaining dedicated assault squads. I also have a Terminator Lord because I got the Lord and Terminators box set before I knew the Lord of Contagion existed.

My solution, should I go this route, would be to paint the more vanilla Chaos Marine units as The Purge. The Purge have a colour scheme that is both similar enough to the Death Guard to not clash and different enough that they'll be easily distinguishable. I also like the idea of having some random, post-Heresy Space Marine hanging around who absolutely worship the Death Guard as Nurgle's chosen whilst the Death Guard themselves think of them as cannon fodder, unworthy of particular attention.

The Lost and the Damned

My beloved Renegades & Heretics list is dead, sadly, but if I didn't have infinite hope for the future I wouldn't still be a Lost and the Damned player, would I? Regardless, the Astra Militarum list remains as a dependable back-up. I likely won't be painting them as Nurglesques, simply because I have a longstanding LatD force I've been meaning to revisit for a long time. Happily, their colour scheme is black fatigues with flak armour drybrushed to look like polished bone, which is more than morbid enough to fit the theme.
I painted a few test models a while back using the Forge World Chaos Renegades upgrade torsos and they came out rather well.

Not something I could use in store but for friendly games at home amongst the group they'll be fine. We've already come to the agreement that I (and Matt, who also has a Traitor Guard force) will simply count all Imperium keywords and Chaos keywords. On the plus side, when I can use them they give me tons of boots on the ground as well as a choice of tanks that both look better than Rhino variants and don't have crappy, snappy sponsons.


Those are my thoughts for the moment and hopefully the next time I talk about the Death Guard I will have some finished models to show off.