30 March 2012
Clearly some in Labour got complacement - there is still a significant group for whom this guy walks on water - but I see no reason to panic as yet. Let's see how we do in May and October first. Also Bradford is an unusual place politics-wise.
The Tories can't crow about this - they did even worse - while Calamity Clegg is a liability to the Lib Dems.
As for Mr Galloway, let's see how he actually does as an MP instead of a cat...
28 March 2012
This 43-episode fourth run could be called “The Lost Season” of Doctor Who – not a single story is complete and three are pretty much entirely missing in video form. The basic reason for this is that the show’s overseas popularity dropped after the end of Dalekmania and so there were less copies of stories from this time made for foreign sales.
A further note on missing stories – a few of the early stories marked as complete are actually missing small bits due to the recovered prints having been partly censored for content purposes by foreign broadcasters, particularly the Australians.
While Innes Lloyd would stay on as producer, Peter Bryant would take over as script editor towards the end of the season. Both companions at the start of the run would go, but the biggest change of all was something that the audience never saw coming in.
The Smugglers (4 episodes, all lost)
Ben, Polly and the Doctor arrive in 17th century Cornwall in this pure historical revolving around a search for the treasure of Captain Henry Avery and a smuggling ring. When the Doctor learns of a riddle revealing the treasure’s location, he gets kidnapped…
The Tenth Planet (4 episodes, Episodes 1-3 survive with only small bits, especially of the regeneration sequence, surviving from Episode 4)
Arriving at the South Pole in the then-future of 1986, the crew discover that a tenth planet has been discovered in the solar system and its inhabitants are heading this way, with the intention of saving their planet through destroying their own. Those inhabitants are the Cybermen, who look and sound a bit different to how they do today.
This story is best remembered for its ending, where the Doctor, who has been feeling distinctly off throughout the story, collapses on the TARDIS floor and transforms into a completely different man. In a world where we get our new Time Lord announced almost a year before he first appears on screen and the Internet allows for spoilers to go around the world faster than you can boil an egg, try to imagine the shock that an audience would get when it’s dropped on them without any warning.
Created by Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler (the show’s scientific adviser), the Cybermen were a result of Pedler’s fears about developments in medicine – a race that had achieved immortality at the cost of individuality. The original human-ish faces and sing-song voices of “The Tenth Planet” wouldn’t last, but the cyborgs were an instant hit and would appear three more times under the next Doctor. They are rightly considered number two in the show’s panoply of monsters and of course still turn up today.
The Power of the Daleks (6 episodes, all missing)
Naturally, all this concerns Ben and Polly, especially as this guy’s clothes have also changed with this appearance. However, this new younger man soon convinces them that he is still the Doctor and the crew arrive on the planet Vulcan, where a crashed spaceship contains two of the most terrible creatures in the universe. Creatures that are going to reproduce…
I’ve heard the audio of this story, the first not written by Terry Nation in some form and from what I remember, it’s pretty good.
Patrick Troughton – the Second Doctor
Patrick Troughton (1920-1987) was an actor with extensive experience in a variety of roles ranging from Robin Hood to Father Brennan in The Omen. A shy publicity avoiding man with a complicated private life, Troughton’s casting was welcomed by Hartnell.
Troughton wanted to differentiate his portrayal from his predecessor and his eventual choice (after some initial ideas that were less than good) of style was a “cosmic hobo”, with a far more Chaplinesque costume than Hartnell – a man who hid a keen mind and a strong sense of cunning under shambolic attire. It was the right call and his Doctor would become one of the most-loved in the show’s history (many poor stories are saved through his performance alone), with his influence carrying through to this day.
The Highlanders (4 episodes, nothing survives except for some clips from Episode 1 cut by Australian censors)
The penultimate pure historical in the show’s history (the last being “Black Orchid” in Season 19), this sees Team TARDIS arriving in Scotland in 1746 after the Battle of Culloden, where they help a group of Highlanders fleeing the aftermath of the battle, in an adventure that involves the Doctor in drag and also pretending to be German.
Key in this story is the first appearance of James “Jamie” McCrimmon, who would join the TARDIS crew, stay until the end of the Second Doctor’s era and become one of the show’s most popular companions.
The Underwater Menace (4 episodes, 2 and 3 survive)
Involving the lost city of Atlantis, Fish People and a mad scientist trying to destroy the world (while chewing the scenery), “The Underwater Menace” has a reputation for being a very poor story – I can’t really comment as I’ve not experienced.
The Moonbase (4 episodes, 2 and 4 complete)
In which the Cybermen try to take over a weather control station on the Moon in 2070.
“Base Under Siege”
“The Moonbase” is an early example of a classic type of DW story known as “base under siege”. Take a small isolated facility (preferably with corridors), add a motley cast of stock characters who are suspicious of our time travellers, place a deadly monster inside and watch the terror rise as the guest cast start dying one at a time. It’s cheap and cheerful (although not for the characters), perfect for when the budget doesn’t stretch to something more ambitious. This stock plot is common in the show (one even turns up in Season 32) and a veritable Troughton era cliché.
This is not to say that these stories can’t be good – some of the show’s best stories (e.g. “The Horror of Fang Rock” from Season 15 and “The Waters of Mars” from Season 30) are of this type.
The Macra Terror (4 episodes, none available)
An idyllic holiday camp hides an alien secret. Listened to this on audio and I quite liked it, IIRC.
A new title sequence debuted in this story, this one featuring the Doctor’s face (as would all title sequences until 1989)
The Faceless Ones (6 episodes, only 1 and 3 complete)
A contemporary story involving aliens kidnapping people to steal their identities, this story also sees the departure of Ben and Polly
The Evil of the Daleks (7 episodes, only Episode 2 survives)
Initially meant to be the final Dalek story to allow Terry Nation to try and get his Dalek series sold to the States, this seven-part epic set mostly in 1867 sees the Daleks trying to distil the “Human Factor” and become invincible. It sounds very good on audio, although it has been argued that the actual on-screen action wouldn’t have been as good.
A new companion joins Team TARDIS here, one Victoria Waterfield, daughter of one of the characters here. If one companion lives up to the stereotype of Who companions as screamers, it’s her, although she was quite capable of handling herself and eventually embraced the miniskirt. Alas, with only one story of hers complete (“The Tomb of the Cybermen”), she’s a bit forgotten.
Him from “The Curse of the Black Spot”.
There are now officially eight, of course.
In what some might incorrectly term “ironic”, he suffered a fatal heart attack in his hotel room while attending a fan convention in Florida.
The final defeat of the Jacobite uprising, an attempt to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne, led by James II’s grandson, Charles Edward Stuart, aka “Bonnie Prince Charlie”.
Naturally, it wasn’t and one Dalek was left alive at the end to allow for a return, although it would be Season 9 before they appeared again.
26 March 2012
You may or may not be aware that I am trying to get a sim going at Phoenix set in the Honorverse of David Weber’s novels starring Honor Harrington. As such, it seemed appropriate for me to review one of the books – in this case, the sixth novel, which I have just finished reading.
I would like to start by praising the London Libraries Consortium. This particular service allows for a library user registered in one borough of Greater London to order a book on reservation from another for a very small fee and this is how I have managed to read a good number of the books in this series.
So, as Honor likes to say, let’s be about it.
The Honor Harrington series
Often described as “Horatio Hornblower in space”, David Weber’s series is set two thousand years in the future, when humanity has spread out among the stars. While faster than light travel is possible, communication in real-time between the stars is not and so things are rather “Age of Sail” like where it might take weeks for information on a battle to reach home and starship Captains have to make a lot of decisions without consulting higher authority due to lack of time. The diaspora of mankind has formed into a number of Star Nations, such as the Star Kingdom of Manticore (think Britain) and the People’s Republic of Haven (think a cross between Revolutionary France and the USSR), who are as of Honor Among Enemies, fighting a war with each other.
The star of this series is Honor Harrington, an officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy (RMN), a hard charging, very intelligent officer with a propensity for ending up where the fire is hottest and succeeding against huge odds (she’s been criticised for being a “Mary Sue”, which is partly justified, but only partly, because she can be ruthless at times). In the first novel, On Basilisk Station, then Commander Harrington’s aging cruiser stopped a pre-war Havenite attempt to take a key Manticoran system via subterfuge in what is still the best space battle I’ve ever read, setting her on the path to fame, fortune and ennoblement. It hasn’t been an exactly smooth path.
Where we’re at
As this novel starts, Captain Harrington is still in half-pay “exile” (a result of her actions in Field of Dishonor) in the Star Kingdom’s allied state of Grayson, where she is a national hero, high-ranking noble and second highest ranking admiral in their growing navy. She wants to go home and one of her political opponents, trillionaire Klaus Hauptman, arranges for her to do exactly that. Manticore has been suffering increased losses of merchant shipping in the fairly lawless Silesian Confederacy and they arrange for her to be placed in command of a squadron of Q-ships (disguised merchants) to tackle the problem, figuring that either she’ll get rid of the pirates – or vice versa.
Manpower shortages mean that Honor has to take along the best of the newbies and the dregs of the rest of the RMN, as she heads west for the Confederacy…
Weber’s vision of space combat is one of the more plausible (on relative standards) I’ve seen. Unlike the “fighter jets in space” style combat prevalent in much of sci-fi (*cough* Star Wars *cough*), this is a universe involving relative motion and engagements at multi-light-second ranges, with some interesting tech features that make the space combat interesting and provide nasty surprises for both sides. It’s also a brutal, deadly business – hits here will generally kill at least some of the hundreds of crew and the chance of going up with all hands is pretty high, with a good number of the supporting characters not making it to the end of the book. The final battle is worth the price of admission alone as Honor faces the possibility of real and total defeat in a vicious, desperate action to save a civilian liner.
The Silesian Confederacy and the Andermani Empire haven’t been really explored in the five books previously and the nuances of each are interesting to learn here – such as one Andermani Emperor who got herself legally declared male to take the throne and also the endemic corruption in Silesia.
The villains in this piece are well done. The pirates, led by a power-mad former dictator who thinks nothing of using nukes as a negotiation strategy (the final confrontation being a highlight of the novel), are a reminder of why old-school pirates were considered “enemies of all mankind”. In contrast, the regular ‘villains’ of the series, the Havenites, come off with great credit as a number of officers ignore their orders to act against these pirates, even to their own cost.
We also get an illuminating perspective into the lives of the enlisted RMN personnel through a subplot where a shipboard bully and thug is finally brought to heel via the actions of two of the new recruits – the choices of one Aubrey Wanderman aren’t ones I would have made, but one can understand them.
Finally, my printing of the book contains a “flip-book” style animation of an exploding spaceship – a good bonus.
At times, this feels like the edited highlights of a soccer match, with frequent time jumps and a general lack of flow between chapters. There are also some rather large coincidences here and there. The Wanderman sub-plot is interesting (as mentioned), but ultimately extraneous to the whole story. One feature of the climax is a bit clichéd as well.
While this is arguably the weakest of the six novels I’ve read so far, it is still a highly entertaining read and I would recommend it.
25 March 2012
0940 to 0949
This time period started off with a large-scale artillery exchange that each side focussed on the units on the front lines (especially those around Objective D) – on the whole I came off worse as a good amount of my artillery missed. A T80U tried and failed to hit one of my MG units at 1900 metres with DU and machine gun fire, which punctuated the continuous explosions.
A close range fire fight at 0942 eliminated my easternmost infantry squad in grid square 1100 and so I lost further battlefield perspective. I still hadn’t noticed the main enemy advance in the north and wouldn’t.
Speaking of Objective D, most of the REDFOR units there were now on foot – they wouldn’t be able to reach the goal line. If I’d fully realised/appreciated this, I might have looked elsewhere. Oh, well, now I know. I can also see that the units west of it in 0603 were far too closely bunched together – in fact, I really knew that at the time and couldn’t do much about it.
0945 and 0946 saw several units eliminated around D as the OPFOR supporting attack (as I know now it was) took heavy casualties, although it ultimately achieved my opponent’s desired effect. Coyote moved his main attack in the north south 1.5 km as he thought correctly that I didn’t have observation of the low ground there. That main attack now came under intense ATGM fire from my main line and also was attacked by a M1 unit I’d parked in front of it – said platoon was eliminated in the space of a turn from Red’s own missiles. To cover, I was now diverting every vehicular unit I could in a desperate attempt to slow down the enemy – reacting to his moves rather than making him react to mine, which is the behaviour of someone who is heading for defeat. The move wasn’t working as he had the distinct firepower advantage.
As 0950 came around, Red had gotten a good couple of companies through my line and had a good regiment or so coming up to follow them… In retrospect, there was more chance of Wayne Rooney kicking a football through my window than me winning this now.
23 March 2012
For those of you not familiar with it, Screwtape is a bunch of letters from a senior devil (Screwtape) to his junior devil nephew (Wormwood) advising the latter on how to keep people away from "The Enemy" - God, taking place around the early part of the Second World War.
As a Christian (like Lewis was), I'm finding this novel really thought provoking and illuminating about the behaviour of others and myself. Would recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it before - even if they're not a Christian.
21 March 2012
Many will be paying less tax - because they'll be earning less...
18 March 2012
I clicked the “Change PO mode” button by mistake, which may have had the effect of resetting some force tactical stances and eroding fortifications, but something certainly has gone wrong:
A decent penetration down south has ended and the UN forces now have a gap in my lines that I can’t easily block. I’m down to only a marginal victory at the moment and I’ve started to pull back some of my forces to a more defendable line – not all of them have made it through. It’s worth noting that I am playing this Communist-style – throwing my forces into attacks they can’t win, purely to slow the enemy down. I might change my force disposition to “Ignore Losses”, but only if the border is crossed.
Even the fortified troops have been dislodged – let’s hope that I can stop them before they get too far north.
17 March 2012
0930 to 0939
My artillery started with a fairly effective strike on the northern forces – taking out another armoured vehicle at 0930 and another at 0931. However, an airstrike on a pesky 120mm mortar unit failed when my aircraft was shot down by Iglas.
Also in the north, Red’s advance ran into some of my M1s and an exchange of gunfire took out both the Abrams and a BRDM unit. He was also popping down a lot of smoke – in fact this was to obscure my visibility of his forces. Something to remember for future. I lost another M1 unit at 0934 and REDFOR now had a pretty much open path to the goal line. I wasn’t going to be able to stop him in time.
Much of this battle involved long-range firing of some sort. The tank gun and missile fire proved deadly to both sides, but the small arms fire, not so much. I’ve never fired a machine gun in my life, but I am imagine they are not all that accurate at over a kilometre.
Artillery continued to tear up the battlefield, as my ICM shells cracked upon a couple of BMP2s and forced their passengers to have to walk. Coyote went after one of my Javelin units and inflicted some casualties as well. Those Javelins were going to pose a danger to his vehicles and I understand why he wanted rid.
It was even clearer at 0938 as the Red forces in the centre of the battlefield got into range of said Javelin units and took a heavy pounding – most of those units would advance much further. I knocked out a T80U unit at 0939, but there were still a lot of enemy on the battlefield:
16 March 2012
10 March 2012
- The construction of ballistic missiles that are useless for anything bar attacking cities and employing WMDs
- Enriching uranium far beyond the levels needed for a civilian nuclear programme.
- Building underground nuclear facilities
- Generally unpleasant rhetoric towards a state that is in no position to attack it directly and has never done so.
- Support of terrorism against said state
- Refusal of a perfectly decent offer for enrichment outside the country.
That said, a unilateral Israeli strike could cause serious consequences of their own.
As you may or may not be aware, I am currently running an RP revolving around the consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran. While I have made some slight tweaks to the scenario for gaming purposes and allowing for the 2015 setting, the scenario is based on real and projected capabilities of both sides.
So here are some of my thoughts on what might happen:
- An Israeli strike might not destroy all the facilities, but hitting the right ones could slow the regime down considerably.
- There is extremely little Iran can do to stop an Israeli strike from succeeding with its air defences.
- A strike may well eliminate any support for the reform movement in Iran, but that movement seems, sadly, to have largely stalled. I may be wrong on this and I'm sure Jams can help here.
- Any attempt by Iran to mine the Straits of Hormuz not only gets the US involved, it gets Oman, the UAE and the GCC involved.
- Iran cannot close the Straits long-term - any attempt to do so will result in the loss of the bulk of its naval and air forces.
- The best Iran can hope for is a few symbolic losses of Western assets, say a destroyer or two.
- Iran's ballistic missiles at the moment will not do serious long-term damage to a nation used to rocket attack. Witness the lack of impact that the V2s had on Britain - and Iran has less missiles.
- In fact, Iran poses no threat to the continued existence of Israel without nukes.
- While a war may drive Iran to develop a nuclear weapon - it will never be allowed to actually develop one by the United States and other Western powers. A full-scale invasion might well follow.
- The economic damage of Iranian strikes against the GCC would be considerable, particularly in terms of oil prices.
- Israel will need to present very strong evidence of an Iranian nuclear programme to win over a global public opinion that is hostile to it.
Otherwise, either way, a lot of people are going to die.
09 March 2012
While the resolution to the cliffhanger was as expected as the result of a Russian presidential election, this was a highly enjoyable episode. Not exactly typical of the show, but still just as good for it.
By the way, Mr Moffat, if you could get just one of the stars of this show guest starring in Doctor Who, I would be very happy.
07 March 2012
Leverage, a show that can essentially be described as an American version of Hustle albeit with more safe-cracking and hacking, is one of my pizza shows. The plots aren't too demanding and the characters are vibrant with a hint of spice, even if Parker's brain works in mysterious ways.
In this episode, the team have to bring down a corrupt corporate executive who is trying to launch a new drug that is an exact copy of a...
[Edited to remove spoilers - Ed.]
All in all, this is an enjoyable episode. The characterisation continues to be great, the plot is clever and the twists are enjoyable. Wasn't too keen on the end, where [Spoiler]. Also, some of the stuff mentioned, if true, is ever so slightly alarming.
Glad that FX are now showing this - I've been waiting ages for Season 3.
PS Won't be reviewing the Castle season opener on tonight - will be doing an episode later in the season though.
04 March 2012
0920 to 0929
Red split his forces into two at this point – to disguise the primary northern thrust.
The southern force was now running into my armour and an infantry squad bit the dust as a result. At 0922, a BTR unit drove next to an infantry squad and suffered death by LAAW. There was little fighting during the first few minutes.
At 0925, one of my tank units got taken out by AT-7 Saxhorn ATGMs – I’m sure M1s are better than that. I know Challenger IIs certainly are (one got pounded by RPGs during Operation Iraqi Freedom and survived intact, with the only injury one broken wrist). The advance tank and infantry units certainly did some damage to Coyote’s forces, although probably not enough.
During this time, I was also trying to kill the northern force, but lack of a firm location on the units meant my artillery mostly missed or just suppressed a vehicle. HE ammo isn’t very good at handling armour at all.
At 0929, a 122mm howitzer and ZSU-23-4 arrived with the southern force. The latter of those would become a pain in the neck.
This short work is set in the universe of my sim Fighter Ops. For those of you not familiar with the RP, it revolves around the consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran. This and other stories will attempt to capture some of the background of the war, focussing on elements that might not be immediately obvious.
Ibrahim was going to make a killing, his brother thought as he watched some of the produce that the guy had probably sold earlier this morning start to burn. From his office in El-Mogamma, an Egyptian government complex looking out onto Tahrir Square – that one – he regularly had a ringside seat for the regular protests that occurred there. He himself had been in one himself, back in the heady days of February 2011, where he had faced off against the security forces representing the government. El-Mogamma, a building given by the Soviet Union and built in classic imposing Communist style, had been a symbol of the hated Mubarak regime and also bureaucracy in general.
For his contributions to the revolution, he’d found himself Director of the Passport Office, where he was responsible for renewing visas of tourists, issuing passports and so on, which meant he was working in this place. Speaking of tourists… he hoped that this latest protest wouldn’t harm the country’s tourist industry more than some of the decisions of this government had already.
After the military had handed over power, the Muslim Brotherhood had formed a government – and then immediately started fighting among themselves. Two distinct factions had emerged – what might be called the moderates and the hardliners. The moderates wanted to maintain the links with America and the peace treaty with Israel, while the hardliners didn’t – some of the hotheads actually advocating open war against the Jewish state. The ministerial carve-up had kept the hardliners out of defence and also security – but given them the justice ministry. Where they’d started to implement sharia law in a rather haphazard way that in his mind was wrecking the tourist trade.
The attacks on Coptic Christian organisations that Social Solidarity and Justice were widely accused of turning a blind eye to were raising hackles in Washington. The ban on alcohol sales entirely was starting a growing bootlegging industry and Egypt already had a suspected “Nucky Thompson”. The imposition of spot fines on tourists wearing overly revealing clothing, even on beaches, was in danger of turning the country into a laughing stock.
What was happening now was probably something minor that would be largely forgotten in a week, but it wasn’t going to help. Following the Israeli attack on Iran last night, a large group of protestors had gathered in Tahrir Square, where they were burning American and Israeli flags. These were one of the things that Ibrahim sold and he knew that they would be heavily discounted today..
As the man watched, his intercom buzzed. He turned and pressed the button.
“What is it?” he asked. Another male voice replied, sounding annoyed.
“We’ve got one of the new guys. He’s refusing to process an Israeli man”.
The Director shook his head. There were always people like this who took exception to Israelis, particularly those with Palestinian ancestry. You usually just dealt with them by moving them to another queue or giving them a verbal slapping.
“I’m on my way”, he said.
The Director left his office, closing the door behind him and walking slowly, but surely towards the main processing area, briefly stopping to use the lavatory. He heard a faint pop, which sounded like a firecracker. When he heard five more, he sprinted towards the processing area, just as another shot rang out.
The area was one of panic as people either fled for their lives or cowered in terror. Four bodies lay on the floor bleeding, one of which had a pistol by his side. Another woman was screaming in Egyptian, blood running down her arm. A security guard had his weapon still drawn, staring in horror at what had just happened – and what he had ultimately had to do.
“What happened?!” the Director yelled, “What happened?”
“He just pulled out a pistol and started shooting”, the guard said as he lowered his weapon, “Yelling something about death to apostates…”
The Director saw who one of the dead bodies was – the same guy he’d come out to see. If he’d been just a few seconds earlier – he might also be dead. As other police officers arrived on the scene, the Director had a strong suspicion of who was behind this attack. He cursed Israel – and Iran. He suspected that this was only the first of these attacks. He looked down at the body of the gunman and wished him an unpleasant time in hell.
He took a seat and pulled out his mobile phone to tell Ibrahim he was OK.
If you take a look at any news site or paper, you will see countless examples of man's inhumanity to man. In fact, it's surprising that God doesn't just decide to wipe us all out and start over.
It's even more surprising that he sent his Son down to us and allowed him to be killed by us - then use said act to allow everyone who sincerely wishes it to forgiven of their sins, regardless of how heinous they are.
That, my friends, is true love.
01 March 2012
The Dalek Invasion of Earth (6 episodes, all available)