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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Doctor Who: The Bells Of St John

Wow, has Doctor Who finally turned a corner? Was the only thing holding back the Steven Moffat era his love of The Ponds (although Amy does get a not-too-subtle namecheck here)?

The Doctor is taking some time out as a 13th Century monk when he gets a call - via the titular Bells Of St John (when you see it you'll be kicking yourself for not realising before) - from Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) who thinks she's calling a computer helpline.

The world's Internet is misbehaving and people are having their "spirits/souls" stolen/uploaded after they use a certain wifi link. It's a cunning plan being run by Miss Kizlet (Celia Imrie) on behalf of her mysterious "client".

In all honesty the plot of the episode - while fast-paced and action-packed - is quite thin, because the main purpose of The Bells Of St John is to reintroduce (again) Clara to The Doctor.

And it works. There's enough jeopardy to keep the audience's attention and the token "monsters" - walking wifi base stations nicknamed "spoonheads" - are a satisfying blend of the Information Points from Moffat's Library duology and the criminally wasted Smilers from The Beast Below, that takes the interesting visual elements of both to create something almost new (Moffat does like to recycle though, doesn't he?)

Judged on its own merits, The Bells Of St John is a pretty decent "first episode" - new companion, new costume for The Doctor, new look for the TARDIS, new mix of the theme tune etc - that deepens the intrigue around Clara and makes us understand The Doctor's obsession with solving her "mystery". I only hope the explanation - when finally uncovered - merits the intrigue and build-up.

There's also an interesting tie-in to The Snowmen that promises us a "Big Bad" for this half-season and possibly even another connection to the Clara conundrum.

As solid as this episode was, I'm still not 100 per cent sold on Moffat's storytelling skills these days. He has fallen such a long way in my estimation since Blink and The Empty Child that it's going to take more than this to win me back round.

Next Time:

Your Recap- Map For Game Of Thrones...

An interactive map of Westeros has been designed by staff at that will update each week as Season Three of Game Of Thrones gets underway.

Editor Roger Kethcart told HeroPress: "We built the map in-house because a few on our staff are fans of the show and we thought it would be an interesting and fun challenge to pull off. It took our team a pretty intense day of work and then about another week of on-and-off coding to polish it up before the final design was done.

"We felt like GoT fans like the family trees and static maps that detail the different kingdoms of Westeros. We wanted something that incorporated both characters and the map, which is how we settled on a recap-map. We wanted to use a technology that GoT fans would appreciate, and that would be a fun, interactive way to refresh your memory about every episode without overwhelming a reader."

Don't forget to revisit the map for regular updates.

Game Of Thrones Refresher...

With Game Of Thrones returning tomorrow (in the States) and on Monday (in the UK), here's a ten-minute catch-up of what has gone before...

Friday, 29 March 2013

The Power Of Tedium...

And so my reflections on the current series of Doctor Who come up to date with the last episodes (before the pretty decent Christmas Special): The Power Of Three and The Angels Take Manhattan.

To be brutally frank, I think I was too kind to both of these stories in my first assessments. In many ways they are the worse examples of the hand-waving logic, nonsensical set-piece, misleading trailer soundbite mentality that has characterised Steven Moffat's stint as showrunner.

In Blink he very exactly established that the Weeping Angels could not move if ANYONE was looking at them (even other Angels - hence the final trap of that episode) - and yet we are supposed to believe that THE STATUE OF LIBERTY can "walk" through The City That Never Sleeps (making a total racket as it does, mind you) and NO ONE looks at it???

And then there's the whole crapola about The Doctor not being able to visit the Ponds again after they're zapped back through time. It isn't explained, it makes no sense in a show about time travel, and when pushed for an explanation, Moffat - in classic school bully style - resorts to: "because I said so".

I don't know whether it's Moffat's own ideas or his BBC paymasters but he seems determined to dumb Doctor Who down to a level suitable for unquestioning Justin Bieber fans and those who think the Twilight saga is the greatest thing since sliced bagels.

It's all flash without substance - it doesn't matter if it doesn't make sense as long as it looks good.

The Snowmen gave me a sliver of hope that maybe what we've seen to date has just been a horrendous blip. The Ponds are gone and now we have Clara - who The Doctor met as a young child (like Amy) and in non-chronological order (like River) and who keeps dying (like Rory). Die-hard fans say it's all part of a masterplan leading up to the 50th Anniversary. Some of us just wonder if he exhausted a very small pool of ideas early on and is now just keeping the show going by relying on past glories?

The Classic series wasn't perfect, but this is a very long run (since Moffat took over) of declining quality and I'm thinking that maybe as the age of the target audience continues to drop I've probably outgrown this show.

My goal is to make it until the 50th Anniversary episode in November and see if the BBC - and Moffat - treat this milestone with the respect it deserves.

(As a side note I find it peculiar that countries like America and Australia have been running monthly, televised profiles of previous Doctors, showcasing old stories etc as part of this celebratory year, but in the UK - the home of Doctor Who - nothing. It wouldn't surprise me to discover, outside of fandom, the awareness of this important year is almost non-existent).

Luckily, I still have my DVDs of my favourite episodes to return to when I need a Who fix, even Moffat can't take them away from me.

In the meantime, there are plenty of far superior TV shows out there that are more deserving of my time and dedication.

The 12th Doctor: One Final Push...

Let's have one final surge of interest in my "who would make a great replacement for Matt Smith in the TARDIS" poll.

Remember, we're not calling for an end to Matt Smith's time as the Doctor, simply speculating who could fill his shoes when he does chose to leave.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Hit-Girl-Centric Trailer for Kick-Ass 2...

April 16 Is D-Day...

This has kinda snuck up on me, but I am so excited by the trailers and featurettes SyFy has released so far. I really hope it doesn't disappoint.

Holmes And The Twilight Factor...

I managed to quite enjoy Twilight by convincing myself that whiny Edward Cullen and his brood weren't actually vampires, but were really "something else" (demons? It didn't matter, they just weren't vampires).

Sadly this didn't work for the sequel, New Moon, which is simply an awful film with no redeeming qualities.

However, this mindset did help me to discover a surprisingly addictive piece of television: Elementary.

I'd tried to watch the first episode of this "modern-day Sherlock Holmes", with Jonny Lee Miller as recovering drug addict Holmes and Lucy Liu as his 'sober companion' Joan Watson, and managed to get about three-quarters of the way through before turning it off. It was dreadful and a pale imitation of the BBC's Sherlock.

And that was that, I didn't think I'd let it bother my psyche again...

Until I started seeing trailers for its return after a mid-season hiatus, with a Moriarty-tinged episode starring Vinnie Jones. So I thought I'd give it a go. And you know what? It's actually rather good if you can watch it with an open mind.

How did I manage to keep my mind open this time? I took the Twilight approach - the characters may call each other Sherlock and Watson, but they're not really Sherlock and Watson. The main thing is they are an eccentric British police consultant with superhuman deductive abilities and his female, American sidekick.

One of the many things I've learned from Star Trek: don't dwell on the technobabble, listen to what they're really saying. Don't let the set dressing get in the way of the story. It certainly works for Elementary. Sure, it's not Sherlock - but it actually stands up on its own merits if you can get passed the character names.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Wolverine: International Trailer...

DVD Of The Week: HP Lovecraft's Necronomicon (1993)

HP Lovecraft's Neconomicon is a wacky portmanteau flick made up of three gruesome shorts - based very loosely on the works of HP Lovecraft.

Framing the central stories is a tale of H.P. Lovecraft himself - portrayed by Jeffrey Combs under a prosthetic face-mask that makes him look like the love-child of Bruce Campbell and Robert Knepper - in full action hero mode.

Lovecraft discovers his local library (which is run by sinister monks, of course) has a copy of the dread mystical tome known as the Necronomicon (in reality he invented this book, but let's not even go there for the sake of this movie).

He manages to steal the key to the secure vault, sneak in and read the book - as he does so he copies out three stories of sanity-blasting horror (which isn't exactly what the Necronomicon is, is it?).

Bizarrely, although the framing narrative takes place in the early 1930s, the stories which unfold before the audience's eyes - as Lovecraft transcribes them - are all contemporary (i.e. 1990s).

I have no problem with updating Lovecraft's stories for cinema or TV, after all he - for the most part - wasn't writing historical fiction but contemporary tales of the macabre for his time. However, I find it odd that scriptwriter Brent Friedman had the featured stories "jump forward" 50 years from the framing segments. It was slightly jarring at first to be thinking "is this still supposed to be the 1930s?"

All three feature, in some part, the Necronomicon - in its more traditional role as a tome of arcane spells and other things man was not supposed to know - and while they are generally Lovecraftian in theme I'm pretty sure old HPL didn't pepper his tales with sexual innuendo, swearing and gratuitous shower scenes.

The first is the tale of a young man (Bruce Payne) who inherits a crumbling clifftop hotel where a relative used the Necronomicon to bring his wife and child back from the dead, the second story is a reworking of Lovecraft's Cool Air - featuring David Warner, so you know it has a certain pedigree - and the third, and by the best, segment sees a lady cop stranded in an urban wasteland, hunting for her partner after they've been involved in a car crash.

While all the stories have their moments of over-the-top gore, it's this final piece where things go totally head-frakking gonzo.

The cops are chasing a mass murderer and find themselves in a derelict warehouse inhabited by a peculiar couple - a middle-aged man and his blind, fat wife - who lead the female officer (Signy Coleman) through a subterranean maze of atmospherically-engraved ancient tunnels in pursuit of 'The Beast'.

While not exactly a true representation of Lovecraftian horror (for that you have to watch In The Mouth Of Madness), HP Lovecraft's Necronomicon is still a solid slice of 1990's monster madness, with some great performances from a slew of famous character actors, quality special effects and buckets of goo and ichor.

If you're not too precious about your Lovecraft, or are just looking for some pre-CGI horror, then you can't really go too wrong with this.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Doctor Who: The Doctor Changes...

Another short prequel setting up Saturday's return.

And Some Good News...

The enthusiasm fired in me by the character generation session for Meredith's Warcraft campaign has seen me scratching around da Interwebz for games and ideas of my own (as I always do when I'm bitten by the gaming bug).

And I think I've got a winner. But this time I'm not going to blurt it out across HeroPress - only weeks/months later to have everything turn to poodoo when I have some pre-game freak-out 'cos I've put too much imaginary pressure on my skinny little shoulders.

What I like about the game I've found is that although thematically akin to everything I look for in a roleplaying game it is a different style of setting to anything I've run before and a different rules system (although not that different, I believe).

So far all this is based on a very positive review and some research around the game (and its setting).

Anyhoo, I'm waiting for my copy of the rules to arrive and will then begin beavering away - in silence - on this while the Tuesday Knights get down to some serious monster-ass kicking when our new campaign launches.

Game Of Thrones - Season Three: Inside The Wildlings...

I'm A Little Bit Country...

Back when Glee started I praised it for being a non-geeky show that I could glom onto - as it has nothing in it that could overlap with my other areas of interest and yet still had strong storylines and dark humour (not to mention some greet tunes) that I really enjoyed.

Sadly, that show appears to have well-and-truly jumped the shark with its current shambles of a season.

However, a new show - also musical - has stolen its crown: Nashville.

Definitely one that needs to be watched from the beginning, it's a salty mix of (country) music industry politics and city politics, and makes for enthralling viewing.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Have You Had Your Say...?

Just a week to go in our fun poll to see who HeroPress readers think would make a good replacement for Matt Smith in the TARDIS.

Not that there is any move to usurp him from the show (Steven Moffat, though, that's another kettle of fish...). In truth, given better material, I'd like to see Matt stay on the show for the long run.

But there's no harm in playing a bit of "what if..." and picking some names from a list of possible candidates for the role of the 12th Doctor.

Voting closes next Sunday (after the first new episode of this season airs on Saturday).

Jack's Guide To Romance...

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John - A Prologue...

School Of Thrones...

Ladies & Gentlemen, Let The Games Begin...

Thanks to a combination of factors, The Tuesday Knights haven't rolled dice together since last October (a character creation session for my still-born fantasy campaign), and I must confess that - barring some random thoughts about Doctor Who: Adventures In Time & Space (and that was more from a Whovian collecting side than the gaming side) - my enthusiasm for my favourite hobby was at an all-time low.

This was certainly reflected in a distinct absence of gaming articles here on HeroPress. Although I haven't stopped collecting roleplaying games those that I have purchased recently have, like the DWAITAS supplements, been primarily as "collectibles" in other geeky areas (particularly the Last Unicorn iteration of the Star Trek RPG) rather than games-for-games-sake.

So, I wasn't sure how our first RPG gathering of 2013 would shape out. Of course, it turned out to be just the shot-in-the-arm that my dormant gaming gene needed and now I'm all fired up again - both for getting into the action of Meredith's Warcraft campaign and kicking around ideas of what I might run next year.

In the meantime, as the first rustling shoots of geekdom start to stretch their fronds into the spring light, out of the muddy mess that is the current state of HeroPress, we've managed to attract a number of enthusiastic new recruits who've signed on for our big adventure.

Please join me in a Venusian lullaby to welcome:

Friday, 22 March 2013

Fleamarket Friday: Twenty Years After Jurassic Park...

... comes Age Of The Dinosaurs, from The Asylum, featuring Treat Williams and Ronny Cox. Due to hit DVD on May 7.
Using breakthrough flesh-regeneration technology, a biotech firm creates a set of living dinosaurs. But when the creatures escape their museum exhibit and terrorize Los Angeles, a former firefighter must rescue his teenage daughter from the chaos brought on by the Age of Dinosaurs.

Fleamarket Friday: All That Jazz...

Bob Murch, ace two-fisted sculptor of some of the best pulp-themed miniatures around, is currently working on this set of jazz musicians - Jinx Johnson's Harlem Jazz Quartet.

They're not available yet, but what Call Of Cthulhu Keeper wouldn't want these in his miniatures collection?

For those who haven't encountered Bob's work yet visit his Pulp Figures site and prepare to open your wallets...

A Wooden Door Won't Stop Cersei Lannister...

The build-up to April 1 is really gathering steam. I've been catching up on my blu-rays of Season Two so I'm primed for the return of Game Of Thrones in just over a week.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Restricted Trailer For Kick-Ass 2...

NSFW - you have been warned.

Will it recapture the insane genius of the original Kick-Ass? On the strength of this trailer, I'm not convinced - it's that last sequence with Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Mortez) on the roof of the van, just looks really "green-screened" and cheesy.

I know the comics were great though so I'm hoping the special effects will have been touched up - and made a bit more "special" - by the time the movie comes out.

On the other hand Jim Carrey is almost unrecognisable as Colonel Stars and Stripes and seems to be enjoying things as much as Nic Cage did in the first film.

Mind-blowing New Trailer For Star Trek Into Darkness...

There's a lot of sci-fi goodness percolating through the Interwebz at the moment, but Star Trek Into Darkness is the real big one for me. I so want to see this it almost hurts.

Oh No, Not Another "Found Footage" Film...

"Found footage" films are so past their sell-by date, but there was something in the trailer for The Bay that caught my attention and made me think it might be a bit different.

Maybe it was the involvement of a "name" director like Barry Levinson - it was his story as well - although I had to resort to IMDB to remember he'd directed Good Morning Vietnam, Wag The Dog, Rain Man etc

The plot revolves around some kind of water-borne outbreak in a small American town during its Fourth Of July celebrations. The film is actually supposed to be a "Wikileaks"-style compilation of suppressed footage from the horrific event being released three years later.

The story starts very slowly, but once people start falling ill the action escalates at a phenomenal speed that - despite jumping around (there is no real protagonist, just a number of people with prominent roles in the events that occur) - really grips your attention.

Unlike a lot of "found footage" movies, The Bay really feels like it has been put together like a documentary and while the cause of problems is ultimately quite science-fiction-y, there's no escaping the anti-pollution message that Levinson is putting across.

This certainly isn't a film for those don't like body horror (or fish), with some delightfully icky moments between the paranoia and panic.

The only real flaw I found in the film was the late-arriving couple who sail into the town pretty much as the bulk of the horror has wound down. They are there to meet their parents, but don't seem to make any effort to find them and give no indication - once they start finding corpses around the place - of why they don't simply just get back on their boat and sail away to somewhere safer.

If you used to enjoy "found footage" when it was a cinematic novelty and haven't watched any for a while I don't think you'll be too disappointed with The Bay. However, if you've had your fill of this particular gimmick, then you're probably best advised to wait until you're in the right mood again to watch this faux documentary.

Speaking The Language Of Defiance...

Continuing our run of Defiance featurettes...

I'm really looking forward to this, not only for its strong cast and the fact that it came from Farscape-creator Rockne S. O'Bannon, but because of touches like inventing languages for the alien races - which proves to me this isn't just disposable sci-fi, but something people are willing to invest time and money into.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Path To Glory!

Following the whole "falling over in the mud" incident at the weekend, Rachel has invested in a plastic pathway - which her father set down in the garden for us today - to allow safe access to Barney's hutch, across our ever-worsening mudslick-that-used-to-be-a-lawn.

We're All Going To War(craft)...

... and I couldn't be more excited.

The Tuesday Knights got together last night for the first time this year to decide what game we would pursue going forward.

In the end the discussion didn't take as long as some of us thought it might as Meredith explained her history course didn't actually start until October and so she was willing to run the Warcraft RPG for us after all (as I understand a tabletop, Dungeons & Dragons-esque version of the popular online game).

This made things very easy for us and meant we could get a head-start on the campaign by deciding what characters we wanted to play.

There was even an introductory film to get us into the right frame of mind - which several of us thought was the best thing since sliced bread:

Winging it without rulebooks (sometimes that's a good thing), we made up characters under Meredith's guidance.

The adventures will kick off in a couple of weeks. After that we are determined to meet once a month, like clockwork, and Meredith seems willing to run this as an open-ended campaign.

We have been told not to research any World Of Warcraft lore as Meredith is an expert on the subject and has chosen a very specific period during the game's history to set her campaign (which, sadly for me, means no pandas).

Our rough and tumble group consists of a gnome rogue (Pete), a dwarf warrior (Simon), a night elf druid (Clare) and a dwarf hunter (Kevin).

I'm Tomalok Starlight, the human paladin.

Tomalok Starlight
Tomalok Starlight:

Born and raised in the capitol city, Stormwind, Tomalok's family has suffered extreme degradation at the hands of the Horde in the past and are now all fanatically driven to wipe the vile monsters from the face of Azeroth.

Already heavily tattooed on his arms and chest, one of Tomalok's prized possessions is his tattoo kit with which he intends to record, on his body, the death of every Horde fiend who falls under this blade.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

DVD Of The Week: Ray Harryhausen - Special Effects Titan (2013)

I've said it before and I'm pretty sure I'll say it again, Ray Harryhausen has been the single biggest influence on my geek life - from my love of fantasy and science-fiction to my early gaming experiences that were fuelled directly from his Sinbad movies.

Ray Harryhausen - Special Effects Titan is an incredible 97-minute documentary that charts Ray's career from his early stop-motion dinosaur experiments after seeing King Kong, through his incredible body of work up to his retirement after Clash Of The Titans and then the formation of The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation to preserve his work and keep stop-motion alive.

As the documentary progresses chronologically through his movies, the narrative is interspersed with original trailers, behind-the-scenes stills and footage and input from many of today's cinema's greats - such as Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Nick Park, Guillermo Del Toro, John Landis and Joe Dante - who explain not just Ray's influence on their own work but also point out homages to him in their movies.

By emphasising the amount of time and care his effects took (the skeleton fight in Jason & The Argonauts, for instance, took four months to animate) it really shows what made his effects "special" - especially when compared to a lot of the cruddy CGI work we are subjected to these days.

If you love fantasy cinema and are particularly fascinated by this golden age that Ray worked in then you have to see this loving celebration of one-man's output that changed the face of cinema.

Inspiration Behind Episode Six Of Spartacus: War Of The Damned...

The Gathering Knights...

The Tuesday Knights are gathering this evening for the first time this year.

Our 2013 schedule was thrown off course before it even began, due to tragic circumstances, and then once I started to get my act together again  people had moved on and plans had changed.

The aim of this evening's conclave then is to agree on what we are going to play next and, perhaps more importantly, who will run the game.

All I ask is, whatever genre we choose for our roleplaying, it has some fantastical element - be it old school D&D, space opera, contemporary X-Files investigations, some period Cthulhu-ness or even a spot of post-apocalyptic shenanigans.

However, an idea I will be pitching - which may well turn out to be impractical - is if we can all agree on a single genre (or system) to go forward with we establish a loose "shared universe" setting that will allow us to share the Gamesmastering.

A "Tuesday-verse", if you will, that Simon could run for a while then hand off to Pete who could then pass the reins to me and so on.

Admittedly, off the top of my head I can't think of a system that we all know - and own the rules for - that we'd all be willing to run for the others. But we'll see what pops up this evening during our pizza-fuelled pow-wow.

Another Epic Trailer For Game Of Thrones: Season Three...

Monday, 18 March 2013

Barney Gets The All Clear!

For those who don't follow me on Facebook, Barney has been through the wars these last few days. First off, on Saturday, during his weekly hutch clean I noticed he was bleeding from his back paw.

I was naturally worried, so Rachel and I rushed him to the vets where we were shown that he had somehow snagged one of his hind claws and effectively pulled the nail off - exposing the quick. The vet snipped it off neatly, and trimmed his other claws, then gave him some pain medication to alleviate any discomfort he was feeling.

However, when we got home and I was in the process of returning him to his hutch, I took a tumble in the Somme-like mudbath that is our garden after weeks of near-constant British rain. When I hit the ground, Barney made a bolt for it and hid under the hutch - his first taste of freedom.

Luckily, there's no real way (that we can see anyway) for him to slip out of the garden from where he was, so we waited for him to snick his inquisitive little bunny nose out. He eventually made for the bushes adjacent to his hutch, at which time I was able to lean in and scoop him up.

I think he was rather traumatised by the day's events as he didn't really touch his food and spent a lot longer than usual simply sitting at the bottom of the stairs down to the lower level of his hutch.

We kept an eye on him over the weekend and we then took him back to the vets today for his follow-up visit. The vet checked him out and declared him "fit and healthy". She was very pleased with the way his wounded paw had healed.

He's now back, safe and sound, in his hutch, having a well-deserved afternoon snooze (Rachel put him back this time as she doesn't trust me, with my dodgy balance, in the mud at the moment).

Our muddy garden (on Saturday)
What this has all resulted in though is the ordering of a "roll-up" path that we will be able to lay across the mud so I can get to the hutch in safety.

Eventually, when the weather changes for the better and Rachel has investigated further, we're probably going to returf the garden with artificial grass so we don't get this sort of quagmire again. As long as it's safe for Barney to play on, of course!

New Earth - New Rules...

Dinosaurs On A Spaceship (Again)...

Continuing my revisitation of the lacklustre episodes that made up the first part of the current season of Doctor Who (thanks to the repeat showings on BBC3 ahead of the resumption of new episodes at Easter), it was time to to subject myself, once more, to Dinosaurs On A Spaceship.

While the central plot of a Silurian arc ship captured by a ruthless pirate is surprisingly solid, it becomes quite evident very quickly that the primary inspiration behind Chris Chibnall's was the soundbite of The Doctor saying: "Dinosaurs... on a spaceship"; that perfect "made-to-the-trailer" moment so beloved of showrunner Steven Moffat.

Even with the benefit of a repeat viewing, there are still a couple of major questions that remain unanswered, namely:

(a) Why would The Doctor - who is vehemently (and even says so in this story) anti-weapons, anti-violence and pro the preservation of all life - befriend someone whose raison d'etre is diametrically opposed  to his own beliefs (ie. a big game hunter).

(b) What purpose did Queen Nefertiti serve in the story, expect as hostage fodder?

Except for giving Amy someone to talk to, and bounce ideas off of, when the enlarged TARDIS crew split into two parties, neither of these characters make any sense in the story and really should have been left at home.

From Dinosaurs On A Spaceship we return to A Town Called Mercy.

Even without my Western-loving rose-tinted spectacles, I still believe that this episode stands up on its own as a solid, if not wholly original, self-contained story.

I remember when A Town Called Mercy was first shown some fans claimed the use of the office of "marshal" was historically inaccurate, however it actually turns out to be correct (well, according to Wikipedia, anyway) and, at least, this episode is devoid - as far as I can tell - of the annoying plot holes that have plagued the previous two episodes.

Even with an antagonist who looks like an extra from Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct, the quibbles that I did have with the episode (Kahler sounding like Kaled and the barmaid who looks like River Song) are trivial compared to the faults of other episodes in this half-season and certainly don't undermine the integrity of the tale.

Tonight On Spartacus (In The UK)...

Musical Monday: Stan Lee Parkour...

Stan Lee decides to skip the car in favour of a bit of Freerunning and Parkour - with the aid of Josh Yadon & Josh Hill, the real Parkour Masters!

The song Stan Lee Parkour Master by Minor Obsession OCD & Duskrider can be downloaded from iTunes for $0.99 (or 79p in the UK)..

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Total War!

Book Of The Month: The Eight Doctors

Picking up after the events of the TV movie, The Eight Doctors has the Eighth Doctor struck with amnesia from a booby trap left in the TARDIS by The Master.

The Time Lord is then guided by an unseen hand - and The TARDIS - to visit each of his previous regenerations, in chronological order, where he regains part of his lost memories.

The adventure is bookended with The Eighth Doctor meeting, in a certain London scrap yard, a tough teenager from Coal Hill School, who eventually becomes his companion in future Eighth Doctor books from the BBC.

It also, rather cleverly, concludes with the establishment of The Master's plot that leads into the TV movie, during The Eighth Doctor's encounters with his Seventh self in the only story that is a direct embellishment of a televised adventure.

Written by Who veteran Terrance Dicks, The Eight Doctors is a pulp sci-fi romp characterised by Dicks' trademark simple, no-nonsense writing style that crackles along with a journalistic brevity.

In many way this is a series of vignettes as the encounters between Doctor Eight and his earlier selves are mostly self-contained and the primary through-narrative is the current Doctor's quest to regain his memories so he can resume his wanderings in the fourth dimension.

Some of these encounters are dealt with quite quickly, while others - particularly with The Third and Sixth Doctors - are tackled in more depth.

While Dicks' style makes his an easy read, The Eight Doctors - although the first of the BBC's Eighth Doctor Adventures books - is quite enmeshed in the show's continuity and relies on the reader having a more than passing knowledge of the series.

It's also worth noting that the book also shows, without meaning to, that there is nothing new in the world: not only does it play the "Smith and Jones" card (The Doctor's new companion is Sam Jones; a couple of regenerations before he meets Martha Jones) but also references (from The Trail Of A Time Lord era) the Earth being moved through space (as we would later see in RTD's The Stolen Earth/Journey's End).

It's A Question Of Perspective...

It's Taken Two Years, But It Was Worth It...

With the arrival this weekend of the latest sign-ups to our superteam (who will be profiled as always next Saturday), HeroPress has finally reached the lofty heights of "sage" on Trey's table of Old School Blogger Advancement.

It's taken just shy of two years to the week to get there, and there have been some rough patches of late, but providing I can pull through I'm sure we've got sunnier adventures ahead of us.

Saturday, 16 March 2013


My humble apologies to those who have already voted in my Doctor WhoWho's Next Poll, but the Blogger voting widget wasn't registering all the votes, so I have created a new poll and embedded it in the article. I hope if you've already voted you won't mind voting again so we can start this poll properly.

Click the text above and it'll take you to the original article. The poll is now embedded at the bottom of that post.

I've been having one of those days - so it's no surprise that the widget decided to screw up! Grrrrrr!!!

The Only Mystery Worth Solving...

The new trailer for new Doctor Who...

[OPINION POLL] Who Gets Your Vote As The 12th Doctor? [UPDATED]

Who's Next?

Over the last few weeks, I've been running a series of profiles of actors that I - and others - reckon would make a worthy successor to Matt Smith in the role of The Doctor. Not there is any indication of Smith vacating the TARDIS any time soon - this is purely some harmless fan speculation.

Now I'm opening this up for visitors to this blog to cast their votes on who they think should be the next Doctor...

The voting booth is at the bottom of this article and is set up to allow you to vote for each of the candidates you believe would make a solid Doctor.

The poll will remain open until Easter Sunday (the day after the first episode of the new batch of Doctor Who airs).

Just to remind you, here's the list of the actors, with their ages (as I believe this is an important factor when considering who should follow the youngest ever Doctor - Matt Smith was 26 when he took the role) that have been featured in my Next Doctor posts:
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

The Making Of Defiance...

Defiance kicks off on the SyFy channel (in the UK) at 9pm on April 16.

Three Minutes Of Grimm Fairy Tales...

The first three minutes of the forthcoming crowdfunded Grimm Fairy Tales animation, based on the Zenescope comics.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Spread The Love!

Author DL Hammons has come up with a brilliantly simple way of spreading the love we all have for each other's blogs - the Blog Blitz.

Visit his blog, Cruising Altitude 2.0, to find out more and discover how you can get in on the action and attract new readers to your own blog..

It was regular HeroPress commentator Jeremy [Retro-Zombie] who drew it to my attention and I signed up straight away.

Prepare to be Blizted!

The Next Doctor: Candidate Eighteen...

Candidate Eighteen: Joseph Gilgun

One of the most outstanding, young character actors in the UK today, Gilgun is probably best known to a geek audience for his portrayal of Rudy in Misfits.

He was also recently seen in the Luc Besson sci-fi thriller Lockout and as a Fagin-style villain in Victorian crime serial Ripper Street.

The 29-year-old had long-running roles in a couple of British soaps, Coronation Street and Emmerdale, as well a central part in the movie This Is England and its two TV spin-off mini-series.

As Misfits has shown, Gilgun can cope with sci-fi, bringing both menace and comedy to the role.

However, I have to wonder if perhaps the major problem with casting him as The Doctor would be extensive tattoo collection. Sure, we saw Jon Pertwee's tattoo in Spearhead From Space but I'm not sure how the Whoniverse would cope with Gilgun's artistically-inscribed arms.

Fleamarket Friday: Doctor Who And The Philatelists...

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who this year, the Royal Mail is issuing a new set of stamps featuring the eleven faces of The Doctor.

They are available in several different formats, from a prestige hardback book (a page of which is shown below; text is by Gary Russell, but I suppose we can't have everything) to strips of the more recent Doctors, not forgetting a sheet of monster stamps as well (featuring daleks, Weeping Angels, ood and cybermen).

The Doctor Who stamps will be released on March 26, but are currently available for pre-order.

Fleamarket Friday: Iron Man - Rise Of Technovore...

Iron Man: Rise Of Technovore is released on DVD in the UK on April 15.

Fleamarket Friday: A Who Book Unlike Any Other...

Coming from Miwk Publishing in May is a "warts-and-all" autobiography of John Nathan-Turner, the controversial producer of Doctor Who in the era up to its original cancellation in 1989.

SFX magazine has a marvellous review of the book on its website that will leave you in no doubt exactly what this book is like.

It's worth noting that the review stresses that Richard Marson has thoroughly researched his subject, from multiple sources, and while some of it may appear salacious it is presented in a balanced fashion and certainly isn't simply a character assassination of JNT.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Doctor...

It is only appropriate that after a few false starts, Cubicle 7's award-winning Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space (DWAITAS) RPG finally seems to be taking off in the TV show's 50th Anniversary year.

Not only have we seen the launch of the 11-book Doctor-by-Doctor sourcebook series, but also (finally) the publication of the UNIT sourcebook and the PDF release of The Time Traveller's Companion (print copy to follow soon, I hope) in recent months.

The game is finally getting the support it needed and deserved.

Of course, the absence of "official" RPG support material for the 50-year-old franchise has not held back the game's active fan community - especially on the DWAITAS Forum.

Out of this forum has grown a mammoth project, spearheaded by the multi-talented friend of HeroPress Michel Albert (aka Siskoid of Siskoid's Blog Of Geekery), to produce a series of supplements - echoing the official line's Doctor-by-Doctor series - cataloguing all the non-TV appearances of The Doctor, planets he has visited, aliens he has encountered, companions he has picked up along the way etc.

These are all The Doctor's adventures that are not covered by Cubicle 7's licence. Forget five decades of episodic TV, we're talking about years and years of novels, comic books and audio plays etc

The stat block pictured above is just an example of the fine work Siskoid and his team of volunteers are doing in corralling every "extracanonical" reference they can find and translating them into DWAITAS terms.

The breadth and depth of their knowledge, both of the Whoniverse and the game system, is stunning and as someone who thrives off the genius of others I cannot wait to see the finished product.

To check in on how things are developing, or even offer your own services, visit the section of the DWAITAS Forum devoted to this ambitious project.

The Next Doctor: Candidate Seventeen...

Candidate Seventeen: Daniel Mays

Another refugee from the sci-fi car crash that was Outcasts, Mays' geek cred includes a memorable appearance in Doctor Who as well as a regular role in Ashes To Ashes.

A fine character actor with a distinctive look, I could easily imagine the 34-year-old stepping out of the TARDIS as a new Doctor - possibly a more measured Fifth Doctor style Time Lord but also quite possibly a wilder more eccentric Fourth or Sixth style.

Renegades Take To The Web...

Star Trek: Renegades, the crowdfunded pilot for a possible online serial from the team that brought us Star Trek: Of Gods And Men, now has its own website.

Although the Kickstarter campaign has closed, the team is seeking to raise another $15,000 to produce more - and better quality - props for their production, so are still inviting investment.

The film already boasts a stellar line-up of beloved Star Trek actors and their peers from the sci-fi community.

The role of Captain Lexxa Singh is being played by Adrienne Wilkinson (Xena: Warrior Princess, Star Wars: The Clone Wars), while  Trek veteran J.G. Hertzler (Martok, DS9; Koval, Of Gods and Men) takes the role of The Renegades’ antagonist, Borrada.

Also in the cast are Walter Koenig (Chekov, Original Series), Tim Russ, Gary Graham (Alien Nation; Soval, Enterprise), Garrett Wang (Harry Kim, Voyager), Robert Picardo (the holodoctor, Voyager), Ethan Phillips (Neelix, Voyager), Manu Intiraymi (Icheb, Voyager), Corin Nemec (Stargate SG-1), actress/stunt performer Tarah Paige (Make It or Break It, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Vic Mignogna (Dragonball Z, Star Trek Continues) and Richard Herd (Admiral Paris, Voyager).

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Doctor Who: The Krotons (1969)

The Second Doctor, Zoe and Jaimie arrive on a desolate planet only to discover its inhabitants, the Gonds, enslaved to unseen creatures known as The Krotons who live in a giant, organic machine that forms the centre of the Gonds' community.

The Krotons provide their slaves with education and in return demand the two brightest pupils from every class to enter the machine and become their "companions"... never to be seen again.

Only The Doctor reveals that the companions are processed out the back of the machine and then vapourised!

A Luddite-like rebellion brews among the Gonds in short order as they start to vent their rage against the machine.

But in the meantime, intrigued by the mystery of the Krotons, The Doctor and Zoe find themselves selected as "companions" and ushered into the giant machine - quickly followed by Jamie.

The first Doctor Who script from Robert Holmes, The Krotons is very straight-forward, with a simple plot about a repressed race throwing off their shackles thanks to the intervention of The Doctor.

It is this simplicity that makes the story an enjoyable watch.

The mechanical Krotons - very much a product of their age - are potentially interesting villains, with an intriguing motivation, as long as they remain semi-concealed. However when you see them full-length, wobbling about with their skirts flapping, they lose a lot of their menace.

For me, the combination of Zoe (inquisitive brains and beauty), Jamie (impetuous brawn) and The Second Doctor's deceptive bumbling is a truly alchemical brew that has rarely been equalled. The Krotons may not be a classic story but it highlights the strengths of the main characters and the actors certainly know this.

Of note among the Gonds is Philip Madoc as Eelek, the deputy leader, who uses the uprising to stage his own coup for his own selfish ends. He would go on to become a recognisably regular supporting player on Who. 

The Next Doctor: Candidate Sixteen...

Suggested By Jason Zavoda

Candidate Number Sixteen: Craig Ferguson

Probably the candidate I know least about, Ferguson is a Scottish comedian and author who has made a name for himself in the States as a talk show host.

I've mainly seen him in YouTube clips when he's interviewing people associated with Doctor Who or just generally bigging up the show - it's quite obvious he's a massive fan!

As well as film and TV appearances, the 50-year-old also does a lot of voice work for animations.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Owl Be Watching You Kickstart Those Tears And Fears...

Anyone who has read this blog for a considerable amount of time should be aware of my passion for the works of HP Lovecraft and the particular pagan sub-genre of horror that embraces movies like The Wicker Man and Blood On Satan's Claw.

Lord Of Tears, an upcoming British movie from Lawrie Brewster, manages to combine the cosmic creepiness of Lovecraft with rural horror - with a nod towards the source of many childhood nightmares: The Owl Service.
"Lord of Tears tells the story of James Findlay, a school teacher tortured by memories of a strange and unsettling entity - a figure dressed like a Victorian gentleman but with the head of an Owl, and elongated limbs with sharp claws.

"It took the boy years to recover from his vision, years of forgetting before he could resume a normal life into adulthood. He might never have remembered had it not been for the death of his mother... the nightmares... the return of that familiar, watching presence.

"As James faces a descent into madness, his only hope to fight his tormentor, to banish the evil that haunts him, is to return to his childhood home. He travels to the lonely mansion in the Scottish Highlands, a place notorious for its tragic and disturbing history. There, he must uncover, once and for all, the chilling truth behind the immortal stalker
The film is already shot and edited, but Lawrie has turned to Kickstarter to raise the funds to help promote the film and get it distributed.

The fundraiser has already reached its initial goal of £6,000 but is now heading towards a stretch goal of £10,000.

On the film's Kickstarter page, he explains:
"With 10K we could really make a difference in marketing Lord of Tears with a focus towards the interest of the real fans of the genre. To produce additional extras, new rewards, and most of all to help us develop a new platform for selling and developing Lord of Tears with less involvement from traditional distributors and more involvement between us and you the audience. Direct communication and artist accessibility is something we're eager to develop and fund with your support. 
"So with 10K we would have an opportunity to carve out our own slice of the film industry - to ensure that we can produce and market the types of horror films the studios no longer deliver."
Check out the Kickstarter page to get an idea of the rewards available for backing this attractive-looking movie.

Inspiration Behind Episode Five Of Spartacus: War Of The Damned...

The Next Doctor: Candidate Fifteen...

Suggested By Jason Zavoda

Candidate Number Fifteen: Sean Pertwee

According to Wikipedia, Sean put his name forward to play the role of the Eleventh Doctor when David Tennant left Doctor Who. The part, of course, went to Matt Smith. Perhaps now is the time for Sean to step  into the role.

The 48-year-old actor - son of The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) - has an incredible back catalogue of geek-fuelled film roles to draw upon - including two of my favourites: Dog Soldiers and Event Horizon.

He's one of our country's finest character actors in my book and his name in the credits is often enough to persuade me to check out a film I might otherwise have been on the fence about.

It's Snowing! In March!

The snow continued to fall all night and is still coming down now. It took Rachel almost two hours to get home from work last night - a journey that usually takes about 25 minutes - as the traffic crawled/slid all the way from her office to our home.

I've checked on Barney, given him some more straw for his bed and a load more food to keep his little bunny belly full. Also defrosted his water supply for him.

The wind is howling, and Rachel is preparing to walk up the road to the railway station to see if there are any trains to take her from Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells...

A few more atmospheric pictures can be found on my Facebook page here.

The Future of Star Wars: The Clone Wars...

Dave Filoni, supervising director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, discusses his time at Lucasfilm Animation, talks about winding down The Clone Wars and shares a preview of what's still to come.

Monday, 11 March 2013

I'm Dreaming Of A White Easter...

Okay, it might be several weeks until it's actually Easter, but after a day of "on-again/off-again" light flurries of snow, it has - rather unexpectedly - started to settle here in Tonbridge.

Whether anything more actually comes of this overnight we shall have to wait and see...

Return To The Asylum Of The Daleks...

As a precursor to the resumption to the current season of Doctor Who at Easter, the BBC has started showing again the initial run of episodes in this season.

Because of my low opinion of these episodes I currently have no plans to invest in the DVDs, and there's no sign of them cropping up on Netflix yet, so this is my only opportunity to see them again and see if my first reactions are still valid.

Or do the episodes hold up better now that we know where they were heading?

Sadly, with Asylum Of The Daleks I still stick by my original comments. In fact, I wonder if I might have been too generous (I'm a sucker for a dalek story).

This episode highlights the fact that Steven Moffat is all about the soundbite, the 'shocking' image that will work well in a trailer and draw viewers in - regardless of whether or not the story holds up ("oh no, The Doctor's carrying Amy's corpse!"; "oh no, the Ponds are getting divorced", "oh no, The Doctor's most resilient enemies are having to turn to him for help" etc etc).

Having watched Asylum Of The Daleks again, I'm still left with a couple of major questions:
  • How come the daleks could so easily capture The Doctor and his companions - and yet they've never done this before? 
  • If the "most technologically advanced warrior race" has access to a weaponised nanobots that can transform living and dead matter into "dalek puppets" why aren't they using it on every other planet in the galaxy? 

The Next Doctor: Candidate Fourteen...

Suggested by David Drage

Candidate Fourteen: Bill Bailey
In his proposal of 49-year-old Bill Bailey as the next Doctor, David said: "To my mind he would be excellent in the role. He has the delivery, the slightly strange mannerisms (just watch Black Books) and, of course, he is an uber-geek!"

The comedian, musician, presenter and actor is well-known for his bombastic comedy tours as well as his eccentric character performances in such geek-friendly shows as Black Books (as already mentioned) and Spaced.

As with many of the candidates on this list he has already appeared in Doctor Who - having popped up in the sadly rather mediocre Christmas special from 2011.

Tonight On Spartacus (In The UK)...

Musical Monday: Star Wars Rock - Interjections...

Star Trek Into Darkness - Second Trailer...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Saga: Curse Of The Shadow...

This is the first trailer for Saga: Curse Of The Shadow, the latest fantasy epic from Arrowstorm Entertainment and funded via Kickstarter.

Bathroom Watch: Day Six...

It was Mothering Sunday today, so Rachel's parents came over and she cooked us all a fantastic coq au vin, followed by a homemade apple, chocolate and breadcrumb bake - which had a fancy name that I have, of course, now forgotten.

After lunch, Rachel's dad put back up the tin plate pictures that have always been in our bathroom (there is a fourth to the left, over the toilet). He has also taken away the roller blind that Rachel bought yesterday so it can be cut to size.

We're still awaiting the arrival of the red bath mat and the retro Victorian station clock (this will go on the right hand wall) and, hopefully soon, we need to pick up a spherical vase for the fern to sit in.

The Fresh Prince Returns To His Kingdom...

This looks a lot like Tom Cruise's Oblivion, doesn't it? But with more CGI beasties...

The Meaning Of Life...

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Game Of Thrones Second Season Recap...

A quarter-of-an-hour recap of Game Of Thrones Season Two before the show returns to Sky Atlantic in the UK on April 1.

Bathroom Watch: Day Five...

The newly decorated bathroom is starting to come together now. Yesterday, Rachel's dad put the new mirrored cabinet up over the sink and we've begun to put our various bathing bits and bobs back.

You'll notice that one of the first objects to stake a claim to the room was my giant duck!

We're waiting on the arrival of new bath mats, along with a new wall clock. My old tree/plant from the corner of the room is to be replaced with a fern and Rachel has to decide where she wants the tin plate pictures to go. Or if we're going to get new ones...

Doctor Who: Regeneration...

A compilation of all The Doctor's (filmed) regeneration sequences from Doctor Who to date, stitched together and annotated by YouTuber Brian Rimmer.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Staircase Watch: Special Edition!

Our main staircase (pictured above) is deceptively steep and in recent weeks I've found my legs have been prone to twitching/giving way on them - particularly when I'm coming down from the first floor to the ground floor.

I haven't had any serious falls; I usually either hang on to the handrail or - on a couple of occasions - manage to throw myself backwards.

Today Rachel's dad installed a second hand-rail in the stairway (see below) to make them that bit safer.


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