Monday, 30 April 2007

Brain Train

Ever find yourself with a few minutes to fill, and want to train your brain to strain against the drain?

Head on over to the Stuff Crosswords and Puzzles page, and play Sudoku (which you can cheat on!), Code Cracker (which nicely fills in words for you) and of course lots of crosswords.

And cheaper than certain other alternatives.

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Sunday, 29 April 2007

Smackdown, Moses style!

What up? What up? Come check out this cool new trailer for the hippiest, hoppiest movie to evah come out of Hollyweird! Ten Things I Hate About Commandments!

(Thanks Pharyngula!)

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Saturday, 28 April 2007

SNS: All Fall Down

Audio episode 1.3: All Fall Down by David Bishop

SAPPHIRE: Shall we walk back together?
STEEL: If you want.

Ah, now this is more like it. Lots of myterious happenings, not much idea of what's going on, and not entirely derivative. Of course, David Bishop picks on the one nursery rhyme known to every single fan from Assignment 1! (Which neither Sapphire nor Steel comment on... in fact, in some ways it was a pity Mary wasn't called Helen...)

That aside, this is pretty good. We've got a nice 'base under siege' story going on, we've got little attacks and tricks, and we've go no angst or domestic breakdowns! See, it is possible! But there are also a few moments where you are just wondering how something happened (the fire tunnel for instance) and just what exactly some plot deviceds were supposed to do (I'm sure there's something about the plague pit journal that wasn't explained properly). But at least David Bishop knew the series and was going for something new...

All this and one other treat: the return of Silver! However, don't be expecting any metions of Cafes, or abandoment. Or much Sapphire/Silver banter, either. There is some but, like with David Warner, David Collins (no recasting needed here) is old enough to be Susannah Harker's father, so a fine line needs to be tread.

But is is good to hear Silver again, but he seems to have acquired many of Sapphire's abilities as well as being able to rewire everyday objects into devices capable of breaking several laws of physics...but hey, these are the Elements after all... (not that this will be the last of Silver that we hear...)

David Warner plays a very grouchy Steel here. In some ways this is, to a degree, justified by the story, but you almost get the impression David was wishing he was recording something else. (And just what is the deal with Steel succeumbing like that, anyway?)

Susannah Harker gets a larger role, being the lead for nearly half the story, albeit with David Collins hanging around to provide the male lead. Still, Susannah shows that Sapphire is still more than capable of handling the situation on her own if need be, as well as finally getting to play with her Time manipulation abilities.

I liked Kate Dyson as Professor Fleming, Kate making her into an interesting character and not just a generic human victim for the story to use and dispose of. I wasn't quite sure about Suzanne Proctor's accent as Mary, and she's a bit too ineffectual as 'slightly misunderstood good girl' to be completely likeable. (Two David's, and now Suzanne/Susannah. I bet director Nigel Fairs had fun!) Michael Chance gets to fill in a few roles (complete with dodgy German accent), but doesn't really make an impression with Doctor Webber.

All Fall Down is the third (and last!) double CD story of Season 1, supposedly clocking in at 120 minutes, but more like 105. And there's no 'behind the scenes' segment here. But I'm not how well the two single CDs will work when it took Big Finish this long to get the formula right.

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Friday, 27 April 2007

Dark side of the Sunshine

I saw the movie Sunshine yesterday. I'm not revealing spoilers here, but if you want to be conservative, skip the rest of this entry.

Everything that goes wrong, from the first Icarus mission going wrong (which happens before the movie begins), through to all sorts of bad things happening to the second mission (without which, there wouldn't be a movie), is due to one fact.

That one guy got religion. From that, everything must be destroyed.

I'm sure that this isn't what the writers intented to be the message, but sigh, will religion just stop causing evil in the world?!

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Thursday, 26 April 2007

Because I'm Channelling Bandwagon Boy

Nearly half of my blog roll have mentioned this, so let me join the crowd.

Astronomers have found a planet.

Now, some of you may say, this isn't news! Indeed, this isn't the first planet that have ever been found. Plenty of gas giants about the place, so we know the natural physical laws of planet formation are working around the universe. But let me repeat.

The first possibly Earthlike extrasolar planet has been found!

To be honest, don't bother reading more of my entry, just head on over to the linked Bad Astronomy post and read the rest of the deal there, as he explains it more and better than I can.

But I do note that he talks about the possibility of water on the planet. This is not an actual find of water (despite the impression formed by just reading the bolded line), but the right conditions for water to form. And with water comes the possibility of life.

Most of us know that there is a huge likelihood of life on other planets (those of us not biblical literalists at least), so the news doesn't get much bigger than this. And what's more interesting is that, pretty much unlike every science fiction consideration, this will be life as none of us know it. We imagine humanoidal creatures all over the place, but there is no reason to think that that will arise again. That it happened here is more a matter of contingent processes than anything else.

Still, we are a long way away from finding any such life, but we are now one huge step closer.

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Wednesday, 25 April 2007


My post today will be about death. Not because it's ANZAC Day, but because of two articles I read about in the news yesterday.

The first is about two girls over in Perth who decided to kill their friend. Why? So they could experience what it was like to murder someone. ...wha? Now, I can freely admit that there are any people who tick me off enough that I want to kill them (although being passive aggressive, that's not likely to happen soon), but these two just woke up on Sunday morning and decided that they'd like to kill their friend. Moreover, they did it quickly because "As our friend, we did not really want her to suffer." They later turned themselves in.

Several neurons are failing to fire here. What goes wrong in the brain chemisty that leads not just one, but two people to suddenly do this. Even expert are baffled. There is so much we don't understand (although there is a lot we do understand. I refuse to take the "we don't know anything" approach some would force us to), and this just shows we have so much to discover about ourselves.

Closer to home, there was the incident in South Auckland just a few days ago, when a kid was beaten to death after soiling his pants. From the articles, it looks like the home was pretty screwed up anyway, and this wasn't the first abuse the kid suffered. And the adults also look like they loved the kid. "The woman's counsel, John Rowan QC, said in a brief opening address that she did not intend to kill her son or to cause any serious injury which she knew was likely to result in death."

People talk about dogs that stay with their masters though the masters beat them. But how much are we not talking about children who stay with abusive parents? This is another case of brain chemisty going into weird areas, leading to a very strange view of the world:

"She said it was clear that the boy needed medical help after being beaten on January 31, but that the couple did not do so because they feared they would be in trouble for inflicting the injuries and they could have their other children taken from them."

There is so much yet to learn. The simpliest question, and the toughest to answer, is: Why?

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Tuesday, 24 April 2007

DW: Episode 3.4

An exercise in futility thanks to a certain magazine.

Hey, look - Daleks! In Manhatten! Well, you can't say we didn't get what they told us they were giving us. Lots of impressive CGI shots of Manhatten (as opposed to the last time they visited America) and four Daleks to... bicker amoungst themselves and proclaim how wonderful the humans are. Eh? They make a big deal out of being the last of the Daleks, and see humanity as such a wonderful thing. I'm thinking someone is forgetting these are Daleks here!

(Although, interestingly, this could be where the human-based Daleks of Series 1 came from. We'll have to see who survives next week, of course, but this could be the birth of the Dalek Emperor Rose ass-kicks!)

Everyone loved the space pig of Aliens of London, didn't they? Well, I guess they did, because we get a whole episode of pigs. Erm, I'm thinking the "pig slaves" could have more economically have been created as something else. Robomen would be an obvious choice, but surely making the people think they were pigs would have been more efficient than actually making them into pigs.

At least we got a really bad dance number in this episode. Complete with a blond so stupid she couldn't work out what the audience realised half-an-hour earlier! ("Oh, no, she couldn't admit the truth to herself, and had to get Lazlo to confess so that she could finally accept it..." but not before earning extreme irritation points as the viewers scream out "it's obvious you stupid bint!")

Isn't it wonderful how everyone gets along in Hooverville. And so clean, just like the sewers. Gee, I don't in any way see them being used as an army against the Daleks. (With the fortunate side-effect of no-one caring, thus explaining why no-one complained about Daleks in 1930.)

And of course there's a big reveal of the hulek... the damen... the cyclops thing everyone's already seen thanks to the Radio Times!!! They really don't have a clue over there, do they? There are spoilers, and then there are promotions, and then there's giving away the fricking ending of the episode!! What's more... it just does look like a goofy make-up job!

This episode was all about set it. Problem is, they could just have played last week's trailer again, shown the Radio Times front cover, then skip straight to part two.

Next week: I think everyone saw that coming.

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Monday, 23 April 2007

SNS: Daisy Chain

The second Big Finish Sapphire and Steel audio: Daisy Chain by Joseph Lidster.

SAPPHIRE: Steel, do you love me?
STEEL: <splutter> Of course I love you. You're pretty.

I'm not spoiling anything when I reveal that the author dies in this play, and it doesn't happen soon enough to please me. The liner notes (which also vindicate a certain much-maligned prop) reveal that Joseph Lidster (for it is him) doesn't really know how to write Sapphire and Steel, and it shows in the audio. (So why exactly was he hired then?)

The story is, in a word, domestic. It's standard supernatural fare, and the only thing that makes it slightly SnS is the occasional mention of Time. I managed to work out who the "villian" was in the first episode, so spent a lot of time waiting for the revelation to come, which obviously didn't surprise me at all (although there were a few points I didn't guess).

Although I didn't have to wait a long time. The episodes are actually rather short, and I think these double disc set could have easily been editted down onto a single disc, with a far tighter and better story resulting.

Harker and Warner sound to be fully settled into their roles, although Warner's enunciation at times could be better. Kim Hartman is fine and believable as the mother Gabrielle, but I'm not sure what age Lena Rae is supposed to be playing as Jennifer. I think it's around 13, but she sounds 20. Stuart Piper as James also sounds older than around 18. This might be a rare case of miscasting by Big Finish (although some people think that's already happened in The Passenger). Saul Jaffe and Emma Kilbey also provide "Voices" and Joeph Lidster himself also gets a role...

The production is usual Big Finish's high quality, but they have taken the opportunity of the audio to do something different with the opening teaser segments and the closing theme. It's all right as a one off deal, so hopefully they won't be inspired to practice this inventiveness often.

One extra feature (possibly to justify the double disc) is a "behind the scenes" feature (the first of appearantly many), this one focussing on the incidental music. Nigel Fairs and Steve Foxon take us through the creation of the music, about the themes they've created, and other details whwich I'm sure are interesting to someone. We also get to hear Nigel's attempt at a new opening theme. We are all glad that wasn't needed.

The end result of all this is a story that comes across as both brief and over padded. While not at all derivative of other SnS stories, this story doesn't really fit that well into SnS either. I haven't mentioned the ending, but that comes across as ill-fitting as the rest of the story (it was obviously the ending Joseph had in mind, but trying to justify it doesn't really work).

Two audios down, and nothing overly spectacular yet. We can only hope for improvement (but from the snips I've now heard from the other stories...).

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Sunday, 22 April 2007

Lodging in the Dork Tower

Yep, another new link added to the ever changing right-hand side. This time to another RPG based comic by the name of Dork Tower. Unlike the others I link to, this one is more about the genre than any particular system (although they do have a preponderance for Warhamster).

And it's not just RPGing, but gaming geekiness of all kinds: figures, goths (look out for Gilly Goth - *squee*), LARPings... not to mention talking about Lord of the Rings movies, Star Wars, and Iron Chef.

And definitely check out their store. Collected comics, yay!

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Saturday, 21 April 2007

It was an Inside Job!

Have you "heard" the story? Have you "seen" the evidence? But has something nagged at you that it's all a little too convenient?

The time has come to question the authorities on that most disasterious of all events. The destruction of the Death Star affected the entire Empire, but just what was the read cause? A bunch of rebels? Pah! Not possible!

No. Finally, the truth is starting to come out. Strange correlations can be seen that throws the accepted "story" into doubt. Facts have been uncovered that, if true, will rock the foundations of our entire trust.

Ask those uncomfortable questions!

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Friday, 20 April 2007


Note: I'm going to discuss the Torchwood books and the series here, so consider this spoiler warning. But, really, aside from one running plot theme, I'm not giving anything substantial away, so I'm not going to use white text.

If there is one thing that is immediately appearant after reading the books, it's that the writers had the first few scripts of the series, with at least two of the books dropping in references to Cyberwoman which hadn't happened yet. (Which, incidentally, gives the Torchwood universe a lot more cohesion than the series had at that point.) And the lack of references to Ghost Machine make me wonder if they had that script, was it just not worth referring to, or was GM a late drop in as episode three? [I vaguely recall them maybe discussing this in the Torchwood Declassified episode, but may be imagining it. Anyone remember?]

The main lack of reference, and something that cropped up from Cyberwoman onwards, of course, is to Gwen and Owen's budding... romance isn't the right word, more "working colleagues with benefits" as they might say. I do wonder just what the writers might have done with that concept had they known about it (especially as it would have created even more tension in Border Princes). There doesn't appear to be a second set of Torchwood novels coming out, so we'll likely never know (unless someone interviews the writers and asks them about it).

The other thing that comes across is how well the main characters are consistent with the whole series. Eitehr those initial scripts were very comprehensive, or maybe the writers got decent character breakdowns... or it could be that the characters are so generic really that it's hard to screw them up. (And I'm pretty sure Another Life and Slow Decay give two different reasons for why Owen became a doctor.)

Hopefully the second series of Torchwood will also have accompanying novels, and if the DW books are anything to go by then there'll be two authors in common (hopefully not Dan "Not a Torchwood Book!" Abnett), and then we'll get a chance to really see how these authors handle the series now they've seen more of it.

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Thursday, 19 April 2007

At the Speed of Fen

I've noticed something over the past few years when it comes to discussing the new episodes of Doctor Who on the NZDWFC board after they've just been screened in the UK. And I've noticed this because I'm always just outside that period.

When the new episode has aired, there is a flurry of posts of people discussing it, but then the flurry dies down. After that, there may be one or two more people chipping in their thoughts as they get to see it, but there isn't any real discussion.

In 2005, that period was about three days. I was getting the episodes on Wednesday, so noted that by the time I could participate the talking was pretty much over. Now it's around 24 hours (and I watch the episodes on Monday nights). (There seems to be few people in that initial discussion now, but there is still the same 'spurt and fade'.)

This effect might be due to people being able to access the episodes more quickly, even over a 2 year period access has advanced a lot, but it does generate a feeling in me of "speak now during our period, 'cos afterwards no-one is interested. It's all old news by the time you see it." This, I admit, is not the intended read, but the impression is there nonetheless.

I don't read those threads immediately because I want to wait for the episode(*), and I can post my own thoughts on my blog, but it's an interesting observation on the phenomena of fen and how quickly things happen.

(*)I'm tempted, for the 2008 series, to completely give in and be as spoilered as possible, just to see what that's like.

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Wednesday, 18 April 2007

DW Review: Slow Decay

The last of the current Torchwood books, Slow Decay.

The point about this book is summarised on the last page, as Toshiko considers the secondary plot thread which is completely irrelevant to the main plot thread, "In the end, she thought, the slow decay of the body didn't matter. We all continue on, renewing outselves, through our offspring." Just as well Andy Lane tells us that as that idea is completely missing from the main plot thread.

And the main plot thread is about how people want to lose weight quickly through any means. Including swallowing a drug that has unforseen consequences (well, to them anyway). Meaning ravenous hunger that makes them eat anything and anyone. This, by the way, is a major spoiler. Oops. But, hey, it's pretty obvious.

What is even more obvious is the solution, but no-one is allowed to realise it for a long time. In fact, the main crew aren't even allowed to fully realise the problem until over half-way through the book, and then they spend far too much time dithering around when the answer is already given to them. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what's known as BAD WRITING. It's also known as severe padding.

Andy Lane has given us some decent Doctor Who novels in the past, but here he is just dragging things out, probably because he knows it's a paper thin plot but he can't make it any better. The hey? He's better than that. He doesn't have a grip on the Torchwood concept, but then he's not the only one.

The characters are well enough done, which shows how robust they are to writing, but its the plot that struggles.

At least the front cover is nice, if not immediately justified by the work.

Book Order: Again between Day One and Cyberwoman. I'm going to have to blog about that...

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Tuesday, 17 April 2007

DW: Episode 3.3

Very very slow build...

Great finish to the episode, it has to be said. But a very disappointing start. And middle. The whole 'gridlock' concept seemed to me to be yearning to express something more than just 'being stuck in traffic', but if there was a deeper meaning, I couldn't see it. (*Sigh*. And insert your own comments about "alien planet" here.)

But that finish, with the sun, was fantastic. Pity I was flashing back to a certain moment in a certain movie sequel that some people refuse to acknowledge or I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more. Nicely done, nonetheless.

Okay, can the Rose arc be over now? Everyone, including the characters, has admitted it's going on, so can we not go on about it??

Oh, Dougal as a cat person! That is, of course, how everyone will be referring to that character as there is just no way to disguise that voice. Oh, right then, Doctor.

And Macra! Yes, I recognised them before the Doctor said their name. Is that sad? I suspect so. But I don't care! :)

As for the big secret. Ooohhh... not exactly surprising, but still they are admitting that certain plot doors are open. Depending on the writer, this could be very good or very bad. I must quote now: Only time will tell. It usually does...

Next week: Oh, they're back...

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Monday, 16 April 2007

Shooting Zeus' Bolt

Zeus Plug was a 'pub-zine', a small A6 sized fanzine o' Doctor Who that was distributed at local pub meets here around New Zealand. It featured "opinions" rather than reviews (although the difference is sometimes hard to tell) and focussed purely on the TV serieses (serii?). Due to costing the two editors money (not a humongous amount, but some) and the zine being free, ZP folded after about eight issues.

But that doesn't mean it is dead. Zeus Plug did have a web presence in the form of a blog, and now Zeus Blog rises from ZP's (metaphorical) ashes like the metaphorical (although actually similerially in this case) phoenix.

This is hardly surprising given that this means that the content is a lot easier to produce, no money need be spent (other than possible hosting related costs) and that more people than just pub goers can partake in the joy.

This also means that the associated title 'Zeus' becomes ever more derived and disassociated from the source. The Doctor mentions zeus plugs in The Hand of Fear and The Girl in the Fireplace. Now the stretch will be 'The Doctor was called Zeus in The Mythmakers', although not many people will know that so people will just think the editors are being wanky and naming themselves after a god. (I will forbear from commenting on how much of that might actually be true...)

Anyway, Zeus Blog is launching itself as Betterer... Strongerer... Fasterer..., so check it out! And you might just find a few things by yours truly crop up from time to time...

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Sunday, 15 April 2007

"You're weird."

Hello, my name is Jamas and I listen to audio recordings of D&D RPG sessions.

(Hi Jamas!)

A while ago I was thinking of getting back into D&Ding, thanks to interest sparked by friends, and it occured to me that, given the wide web, there would be sites out there that are recording and posting recordings of sessions. Perhaps as podcast shows, perhaps some other way, but there'll be something nonetheless.

This brought me to They play D&D 3rd ed (aka the d20 system), record their sessions as they work through modules, and you can download and listen to them. They also play other games, and be sure to check out their Christmas episodes for hilarious fun!

But that isn't the problem. The problem arises when I tell other people I do this. I get strange looks, questions of "why would you want to do that?" and, basically, the reaction summarised in the title.

Why do people go see movies? Why do people read books? Why do people listen to audio plays? Heck, these are all scripted entertainment, but people occupy their time with these things and enjoy them! And there are improv theatre entertainments, and people enjoy that!

These records are enjoyable, yes, but are more unscripted than a play, yet more scripted than theatre sports, and all as much fun. Could anyone have predicted the end to the Banewarrens? Or the ice sculpture attack in My Life with Santa? And could anyone have known how they would get through the World's Largest Dungeon?

It might sound weird, but it's just as fun and entertaining as most other stuff out there. Check it out, and maybe you might become weird too...

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Saturday, 14 April 2007

Slow reader?

Some of you may have noticed that it was just over a week between my review of the first and second Torchwood books. Considering that I posted those reviews as soon as I had finished the books, what the heck is up with that? Am I just that slow?

Allow me (and, to be honest, you can't stop me :P ) to discuss my reading, and relevant other, habits.

When at home, I have so much media of podcasts, DVDs, other audio files, TV shows that I *ahem* acquired, that I don't have time to read when there's so much other stuff to get through! And, when I go to bed at night, I have a second book I read from before putting the light out (currently "the magic numbers of the professor").

At work, I'm, well, working. During lunch I might get a chance to read, but I don't take a lot of time for lunch as I'm more about getting away early on Friday (and by 'early' I mean 2pm!) so that means working a lot during the other days.

This leaves travelling time. That's when I really read, while sitting on the bus. However, I also listen to my podcasts (currently working my way through the World's Largest Dungeon) and might be too distracted by that to read.

(And to say nothing of the time I want to spend writing, as well as working on con activities [See the new timetable!], etc...)

Am I slow? Possibly, but not because I take my time with the page...

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Friday, 13 April 2007

The Temple of Death: Part Four

City of Plot:
In Madgen, the party remains innocuous as Morf immediately draws looks of suspicion. The party finds an inn (the Magden Arms) with nearby blacksmith and horse stabler. The blacksmith says it will take over a day to fit Lotus' new armour so the party has time to kick back.

With the Bard entertaining the crowd at the inn (and scoring free food and board!), the rest poke around at the local shrine and see a series of panels depicting a Holy Man (the Holy Men are the rulers of Hule) called Hosadus kicking ass and chewing gum. He looks like a nasty piece of work, but lived over 400 years ago, so obviously couldn't still be around.

After passing a completely uneventful night (uneventful, I say!), the party (sans Morf) hits the local market. The Bard has an idea that the party might be able to pass themselves off as a group of Prophets (who travel around, serving as judges), who are known to travel with a small child (Morf???) carrying a lantern and a dog. The order of the day is to get a dog, which they do, a small terrier now known as Emergency Food. (There is talk of turning him into a Zombie Dog but reason barely wins.)

While Habenath entertains a local thief (which did manage to yoink Lotus' money bag), the Bard, Kogaun and Lotus get a slab of plot from a travelling puppeteer. He had put on a favourite play about the Raiser of Greatrealm defeating a Storm Giant and earning the Storm Giant's service at his Temple of Death. The Raiser is also known as the Master, and may also be Hosadus (although possibly just related – that was 400 years ago after all...). The party also gets good directions (aka a map of Hule) to the Temple.

Escape to Danger:
That evening, a rainstorm breaks. As the blacksmith isn't quite finished yet, the party is once again at the inn, where a grizzled old guy strikes up conversation about where the party have been and what their plans are. Eventually the players... er, characters realise he is likely working for the Diviners (Hule's Gestapo Thought Police) and evade questioning. After he leaves, the party decide that running away is the better part of valour and plan to leave that night.

While Lotus is picking up his armour and the horses are being readied, the grizzled old Cleric Diviner returns with a group of Diviner fighters. Oops! However, Sleep and Hold Person are really useful spells, so the party only have to kill three of them (including the cleric), and earn themselves some Diviner cloaks and masks. Could be useful.

After leaving the remaining fighters in compromising positions, and taking the blacksmith with them, the party takes off into the dark and stormy night, knowing that they are now wanted criminals.

To Be Continued (Hopefully!)...

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Thursday, 12 April 2007

DW Review: Border Princes

The second "Torchwood" novel is Border Princes. The reason for the "scare quotes" is in white below.

I have to ask: has Dan Abnett ever seen Torchwood? I am asking because I'm wondering why this book counts as a Torchwood novel. Most of it is a series of seperate events, with only the characters in common. And main threats aren't even dealt with by Torchwood! Would they have survived if not presented with the deus ex machina of James and co.

And speaking of James, how obvious was that? Fine, I have seen that particular Stargate SG-1 episode, but it's still obvious. James isn't a member of Torchwood and the connect of events makes it clear from the get go, so are we even for a moment supposed to accept otherwise. Does Dan Abnett underestimate his audience that much? (Although if they had been able to change the "cast" photo... :) )

So the plot isn't much, as I said a series of different Torchwood encounters, and the main concept is simple, so I hated this book. Actually, no, I didn't hate it. I was disappointed in it. Okay, it would have been interesting to see how Torchwood dealt with the different events, but they didn't! The whole book could easily have been transplated in any other fictional setting (including SG-1).

At least the cast is well written. There's a major conceit we have to swallow in regards to Gwen, but the book presents them well. Shame the focus is on James.

It... I... aargh! This book isn't a Torchwood novel, godsdammit!

ORDER: Although this may fit more around episode 5 and 6, I'd rather place it before Cyberwoman.

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Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The Temple of Death: Part Three

Rocky IX:
Since encountering people is so much fun, the party is overjoyed to hear a voice in the darkness ordering them to drop their weapons. Thaddeus immediately disappears, and Argorn rampages into the darkness. The rest of the brave party are captured by Geonids (aka rock like creatures), but decide that their hosts aren’t all good after the leader involves the "Kill them all" clause of hospitality.

After a brief battle aided by the fact that the Geonids only relieved the party of their main weapons and a timely use of a Confusion spell, the party scored their own pet rock. Upon espousing a truly atrocious range of rock-based puns, the captive gives in and the party find out a number of titbits of information, including a neat password to the gate out of here. Rock on!

The party finally escape the caves for a while to come across a nicely tended valley of grass and some centaurs. Fortunately the horsemen are open to bribes and so the party has a place to rest for the night.

Cloud Overhead:
Continuing on, at the other end of the valley there are two caves, one of beckoning hands, the other of a snake mouth. Strewn about are a number of statues, without bases, and of strange art pieces as "horrified", "terrified" and "filling pants". The party bravely sends the two fighters on ahead (into the snake mouth, no way is anyone trusting the obviously evil friendly hands entrance), and they handily dispatch two medusa while the rest of the party sit around enjoying the sun.

Next up the party came across a portcullis between them and the end of the Gauntlet. Eventually remembering the password, they passed on through to the other side, where they met Foucet and his friend the Cloud Giant. Foucet didn't believe their story ("We're... traders. That it, traders. Right?"), forcing the party to kill not only him (it was his own fault, no-one to blame but him) but also the Giant, who, in turn, was blinded then deafened before finally deadened. There was more loot to be had, included a nice set of armour that Lotus snagged, although it needed some repairing before it could be used.

Continuing on, the party finally met the promised contact, one Elven Princess Rahasia of the Glade of the Siswa. Habenath managed to control his drooling long enough to find out the Master's army was gathering more quickly than expected, and the party should lie low for a while in the city of Magden. She also reminds them to find her sister, Marialena.

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Tuesday, 10 April 2007

DW: Episode 3.2

Second verse, not as good as the first...

That teaser really was pants. I've given up believing that people spoke that flowery all the time back then, so that opening speech just irritated me. And just who was the witch speaking to at the end there?

So, it really was the Unquiet Dead, but the former did have going for it that it got into the action a lot quicker. Yeah, it had blabble in the middle before getting back to the action, but this story was blabble at the beginning and the middle!

No fault on the acting side. I'm really liking Martha Jones as the companion, but it's just the rest of it letting this story down. The plot is a retread, all those "I'll have that bit" with regard to Shakespeare quotes was far too cutesy, and, it has to be said, the witch outfits were not the best effect.

I was nearly liking it, but then... Expelliarmus!

Next week: The new series proves that, to be honest, it can't do science fiction.

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Monday, 9 April 2007

Key to TSV 45

Yep, monthly TSV posting, this time for TSV 45. (Nothing by me again.)

But tons of stuff by other people! Including reviews of all episodes of the Key to Time.

There is also a big piece by Kate Orman on Set Piece. In which I learn that it really is 'tenterhooks'. Whodathunkit?

But this is also the Telos issue (Telos being another NZ DW fanzine that survived 15 issues), in which not only are two issues reviews (not archived) but Telos bookmarks were included. I know because I still have mine!

(You can also see what Alden said.)

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Sunday, 8 April 2007

The Temple of Death: Part Two

The Guardian at the Cave:
Climbing up the Blackmoor mountain, the party makes their way to the cave entrance into the underground tunnels. However, they are not the first there as a large dragon (and a smaller baby one) sticks it head out to scare the adventurers off (and succeeds with three of them). Habenath notes that the dragon produces steam, but no chlorine gas. Suspicious much?

One fireball later shows that the dragon is nothing more than a mechanical creation (which is still quite impressive considering the technology of the time), and the fight is joined against a group of fighters and a mage, who bravely stays at the back.

The party brings the smackdown, and not even a Wall o' Fire (which nicely roasts three of the enemies own fighers!) can stop them. The loot proves to be quite nice, and the thief bravely volunteers to carry any extra items.

Inside the cave, the party follow the (railway) tracks, but are soon set upon by a couple of trolls. The party set upon the trolls back, and they are soon put down. But, being trolls, they are back up and then put down again. Fire proves to be a good idea.

While later resting in a long tunnel, the party can hear a tap-tap-tapping of rock on rock. Clearly the mountain settling and nothing to worry about at all.

Fun-guys and gals:
Ahead is a cave. A nice cave. Full of wondering and interesting fungus, and an interestingly large palace like structure that should certainly be investigated. And just to prove what a wonderful place it is, here come some friendly cave people who just want to give a warm embracing hug.

Some insane members of the party see the cave as filled with hideous evil mould, black running water and a crumbling ruin, but they also see the cave people as zombies and obviously can't be trusted.

The cave people get touchy-feely, but the party sees this as Bad Touch and soon show the cave people (no, not ZOMBIES!) the errors of their ways and they have a long lie down to think things over.

Adventuring on, the party avoids the clearly bad ruin, but does encounter some more friendly cave people. Excrutia manages to fall down a large pit, but, hey, yellow spore never hurt anyone, right?

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Saturday, 7 April 2007

The Temple of Death: Part One

The Party:
Excrutia, an 8th level Fighter. Favourite attack: double handed battle axe.
Argorn, a 7th level Fighter. Favourite attack: double handed sword.
Habenath, a 7th level Elf. Favourite attack: Elven mojo.
Thaddeus, a 9th level Thief. Favourite attack: running away.
Alrick, a 7th level Cleric. Favourite attack: clericy goodness.
Lotus, a 7th level Cleric. Favourite attack: Mace of Missing.
Kogurn, a 6th level Magic User. Favourite attack: invisibility and other majic.
Morf, a 7th level Gnome (Engineer variant of Dwarf). Favourite attack: War hammer.
The Bard, a 7th level Skald (mash-up of Bard systems). Favourite attack: Singing.

Call to Adventure:
Hawkspur, leader of the remaining forces of Mondas, gathers together a group of adventurers for a non-suicide mission. He has heard that the Master is amassing another army force, but plans to send the adventurers into the territory of Hule to find the Master and deal with him (using "expeditious force") before the army can be organised. As it happens, Hule is on the other side of the Black Range mountains, and to get to it the party will need to get through the Great Pass, aka the Gauntlet. After that, they are to make contact with someone who can equip them with horses for their adventure and update them on the situation. Oh, and a spy (Marialena, sister to Princess Rahasia of the Elven nation) has gone missing, so if you could find her too, that would be good.

Before taking off that night, the party readies themselves and the Bard takes the opportunity to wander around the camp, talking to people, hearing information, and earning himself a page of exposition on Hule later.

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Friday, 6 April 2007

Open to the past

Last night on 20/20 there was a segment on Past Lives, hypnotic regression that takes people back to past lives where they suffered some trauma that leads to a phobia with no ready cause in the future. Eg., fear of birds and feathers, a hear of holes, etc...

The ad...I mean reportive segment focused on one hypnotherapist (who's name I can't remember and wouldn't repeat if I could because I refuse to give her more recognition), who regressed people and uncovered traumatic moments (although not lives, just glimpses) that led them to being completely cured! Wow!

There was the token skeptic, one Vicki Hyde, Chair-entity of the New Zealand Skeptics, who was, of course, skeptical. However, the reporting advert didn't let that get in the way, and gave the last word to the therapist. After all, if it works, what is the problem?


A) Slippery Slope Number One. "Hey, you've got a past life? Give me $1,000, and I'll research it for you... oh, I'll need another $1,000... another $5,000 would be useful... hey, $100,000 and I'll write a biography and put it in the library for you!"

B) Slippery Slope Number Two. "Had a past life? Then this $2 crystal, which I will gladly sell you for $200, will protect you against harmful influences from back then. And this homeopathic water, for a mere $500, can cure you of any ills in this life. And don't forget to realign your chakras and atune your body to the vibrations of the universe, and give me lots and lots of money."

C) Real Life Past? Hello? What if these people really are living past lives? What does that say about our reality? Don't you want to know if this is real? Don't you want to think about the scientific possibilities???? Amazing advances in our knowledge all around! ("...if...")

D) Brain Power. Somehow the brain is creative strange phobias for reasons we don't know. That in and of itself is incrediably interesting and worth investigating. But under hypnosis, the brain comes up with a scenario about how this fear could have arisen, and, once faced with a "rational" explanation, can move past the fear. Isn't that an incrediably interesting area of investigation as well? It could teach us so much about how the brain works. And enable us to be able to refine even more treatments to help people far more effectively.

If the hypnosis is effective, then there is interesting science going on. If it isn't, then you are contributing to the delusion of humanity. Hell, yeah, there's an issue if it's real or not.

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Thursday, 5 April 2007

The Temple of Death: Part Zero

Real Life:
D&Ding is fun! We all know this, and thus a group of us got together to play the Basic D&D adventure module: The Temple of Death! Join us as we travel through the Gauntlet towards potentially certain doom! (Yes, Basic D&D, before any of those Advanced ideas or even the d20 open source system. Back when men were men, demi-human races was the same as a particular class and hit rolls meant THAC0!) If you are likely to play this module yourself, note severe spoilers ahead (I'm going to use white font). If you have played this module, you might notice a number of encounters missing. We were playing for speed through the module, not for encountering everything, so some things were skipped for time.

Deep Background:
Many years ago, a group of adventures known as the Pentad (consisting of Kogaun, Thaddeus, Habenath, Alrick and Bolim) were in the area of Galifrei. During one particular adventure they encounted a nasty piece of work who called himself the Rahib (the "Teacher"). They defeated him, with his final death fall into a river far below, where he certainly perished, because no-one could ever survive that. Right?

Shallow Background:
The human forces of Mondas clashed in a fierce battle with forces Y, whom were lead by someone who called themselves the Master. The forces of Mondas were sounded thrashed within an inch of their lives and the remnants are now bravely gathering at an outpost known as Mt Erl to advance in a less than forwards direction. During this battle, one particular fighter (Excrutia) managed to hold her ground and keep her group together for one of the small pockets of victories, and obviously is someone who can be relied upon.

Into this came a touring group of adventurers, made up of some members of the Pentad and other adventurers (Argorn, Lotus, the Bard, Morf) that had joined together to help a Dwarven King return to his throne, although not with a few troubles of their own. But this is not that story.

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Wednesday, 4 April 2007

DW Review: Another Life

This is a review of the first Torchwood novel: Another Life. You can tell it's adult as it uses 'vomit' nine times over five pages! (Chapter Two)

The theme of the novel is about people who live lives in other realities. There's a take on Second Life... I mean, Second Reality, and the killers perspective is presented in second person. This means that there isn't a mystery behind the story and we wait for the characters to work it out.

And Peter is in no hurry for that to happen. Pages fly by where he describes Owen's Second Reality adventures and his hitting on an old girlfriend. Because, apperantly, we care. I guess. We must do. Otherwise, why would Peter waste so much time detailing every single point?!

But Peter does spend time with the characters (although Toshiko doesn't get a lot of page count) and recreates them well. No answers are given about Jack (just like the series then), and despite the amount of attention Owen isn't any more likeable, but they are all well handled.

The plot doesn't really kick in until the second half, as the first is spent on set-up and very slow buildup. But even the final section is fairly sedate. (It says a lot that I can't even use 'climax' or even 'action'!)

Aside from the sea/water effect, this could easily have been an actual episode. I shall refrain from comment as to whether or not that is a good thing.

This takes place between Day One and Cyberwoman. I would place it before Ghost Machine, but there's no real evidence (aside from a lack of evidence of references to GM) to decide.

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Tuesday, 3 April 2007

DW: Episode 3.1

So there it is. This is just some thoughts by me after watching it once. I usually watch these twice before writing a review, and thus nothing I write here might be repeated on a repeat viewing. White text ahoy!

Ooh, RTD loves his domestic, doesn't he? Please don't say we are going to be visiting that family every other episode as even the short exposure we got did my head in. We did all that with Rose more than enough, so let's not need to "ground" the series every five minutes!

I knew about the hospital setting because of Made of Steel, but that was all that Terrence revealed (RTD also uses the "cousin" explanation for Doomsday, I wonder whom nicked from who?). Martha gets a good set-up, and I hope the series makes use of her own doctoring abilities. Yeah, I already like her more than Rose. But out of the whole hospital, only one person was thinking sensibly?

I thought the Judoon showed up in a later episode. Maybe they still do? But once again we find RTD's concept of evolution to be a tad off-kilter as no race would evolve with all those wasteful body parts like that.

On the moon? I hope Paul Cornell is talking to his lawyer right now! Not to mention sucking out insides through a straw, hello Red Dwarf! And how exactly does Martha thumping his chest replace all the blood that was sucked out of him?

In all, about three plot lines stuck together to make one opening story. But I liked it!

Next week: Egads, it's The Unquiet Dead on a larger scale!

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Monday, 2 April 2007

28 sequels later...

(But you just know the kid will survive...)

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Sunday, 1 April 2007

SNS: The Passenger

The Passenger was the first of the Sapphire and Steel audios released by Big Finish. I reviewed it, sent it to an SNS list, but will also be putting it here, as well as the other SNS audios. Again, white text will be used.


STEEL: I've been waiting.
SAPPHIRE: Hello, Steel. It's been a long time.

And with these words we start a brand new Sapphire and Steel adventure! (Well, okay, ignoring the opening teaser, that is.) But to finally hear a new story, to finally have our favourite agents brought back to life, how often does that happen? (We've had some wonderful fan fiction in the mean time, but you never get the opening theme tune to that. And that's the sound we love.)

But it's not the same, though, is it. They're back..and it's not them. No Joanna. No David. Well, not that David. Don't get me wrong, David Warner and Susannah Harker are great casting, but there is always going to be something missing. At least, and call me ageist if you will, I hope there is, because the idea of the same type of relationship Lumley and McCallum had being re-expressed by these two is just wrong...

Anyway, so what have we got? The story is pretty simple, really. There is a passenger on a train, and twelve people are set to see he doesn't make it to his final stop) or are set to see he reaches his Final Stop, however you desire to state it). This idea might seem a little familiar, but that's because Steve Lyons has decided to skip originality and rewrite a classic book (which is never named but is incredibly obvious).

We are also introduced to a new Element, namely Gold, whose powers are just as vaguely defined as the rest of them. I think Gold ends up with too much of a pivotal role, but it is given that a major plot point of this story is that Time is already aware of Sapphire and Steel and has taken them into account. This really undercuts the roles of our heroes, and from the trailer for the next epsiode, this looks to be a recurring idea, and not a good one.

David Warner sounds old. There, I said it. Steel shouldn't be old, but here he is. This is just wrong. This is no fault of David Warner's, and certainly an actor of his caliber is great for the role, but this just isn't going to work easily. (I was simply going to say 'this isn't going to work', but hey, there were moments when I did manage to relax and accept, so it isn't going to be all bad. It's just going to take a while.) However, one of the worst moments (and this speaks to the lack of ability of the writer) is when Steel is holding the doors shut. First, this is hard to believe David Warner doing, and secondly we have to have one of the characters tell us this is what happening in extremely unbelievable dialogue because this idea can't be easily presented in an audio format.

As for Susannah Harker...she does come across a little weak as Sapphire, a little too ready to back down, but (and yes, I am male) I think it is safe to say that many of us will fall in love with this Sapphire as we did with the first one.

Credit also to Mark Gatiss for a wonderful performance as Gold. No light comic role here, but he does bring in nicely dark comedic touches. Of the rest of the cast, the two worth mentioning are Hugo Myatt as Philip Burgess, and Jackie Skarvellis as Sheila Warburton, but for the latter let me just say 'shut up, woman!' and leave it at that. (That said, I will say she gets the best line of the story: "I hear the sound of Steel under pressure.")

Hugo Myatt's performance put me in mind of Adventure 2's Tully, very much a little man caught up in the machinations of something far larger. A decent performance, but I kept seeing allusions to previous Adventures in most of what Steve Lyons does and so this doesn't quite capture originality for me.

Which basically sums up the entire story. It might be my over familiarity with the series, but this story, whilst new in some ways, reminds me of so many plot ideas of what has gone before, I can only hope the next stories fair better.

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