27 January 2013

Holocaust Memorial Day 2013

The enormity of man's inhumanity to man is something that it is easy to become numbed to. However, we need to know about it.

68 years on, we still fail to realise that we are all human beings with rights and dreams - with too many people still holding racist views, thinking that there are 'leagues' of humans and applying broad-based stereotypes to peoples with diversity of their own.

It needs to change, or we may one day destroy ourselves.

26 January 2013

Quote of the week

If science-fiction television has taught us anything, it's that in the future, Earth will increasingly come to resemble either Canada or Wales... or possibly a blighted landscape of disused quarries. :p
- MockingbirdGirl at Gallifrey Base, discussing Defiance

20 January 2013

James Bond: Octopussy

Once this got going, it was pretty enjoyable. Unfortunately, it takes about 50 minutes to do so.


The good elements are Moore – who gets a lot of funny lines throughout and nearly all of the action. The pre-titles sequence with the Acrostar jet is excellent and nicely sets us up for the rest of the film, but nearly all the stunts are great. A bit silly, but highly enjoyable nonetheless. In addition, the climax where Bond races against time to stop a nuke going off is very well done – the clown makeup actually works in upping the tension here.


Supporting cast are problematic. Maud Adams is average and so is Louis Jourdan. Steven Berkoff has some very strange line readings that ultimately ruin any menace in the character, while the other Bond girl is flat in her performance.


Trivia fans may note that the railway used for the train scenes is the Nene Valley Railway – which will also play host to GoldenEye.




Excellent stunt work, but let down by some of the actors. I enjoyed myself enough to give this a:



The Lord of Snow and Ice

Watching a second lot of snow fall outside my window and cause more travel inconvenience has reminded me that God is always present, even when it seems that he isn't.

He made the world and its weather patterns - it is just that we sinful humans have messed them up with our excessive consumption and CO2 emissions. Even with 20cm drifts, he is there to care and provide for us through the kindness of strangers.

Stay safe out there and may God keep in this cold weather.

19 January 2013

Violence for the lambs: 'Doctor Who' Season 22 (1985)

A man about to be involved in a War of the Worlds

The show changed timeslot back to Saturdays for its twenty-second run – and also its format. The 13 episodes for this run would be 45 minutes long – they would have been 50, but Nathan-Turner managed to get this reduced after pointing out that 13 50-minute episodes actually required more content (due to fewer title, credit and reprise sequences) than 26 25-minute ones. For foreign sale, the stories were re-edited to 25-minute parts, with the cliff-hangers in appropriate places.

There would be no changes to cast (the Sixth Doctor and Peri handled  or senior crew for this run, which would prove highly controversial for some of the violence depicted – people wondered whether what was going down was really suitable for children.

Season 22 has a very poor reputation among DW fans - there is only one story that is universally agreed to be good, three of the others divide opinion and two firm clunkers.

Unless stated, all stories in Season 22 are two 45-minute parts long.

Attack of the Cybermen

The Doctor tries to fix the dematerialisation circuit of the TARDIS, taking the ship to Totter’s Lane[1] in 1985 London. There he encounters a group of Cybermen who want to crash Halley’s Comet into Earth and thus prevent the destruction of Mondas.

Going out under the pseudonym Paula Moore, there is a dispute over the precise nature of the work done by Eric Saward (who was not allowed to be credited as writer), his  ex-girlfriend Paula Woolsey and Ian Levine. Quite why you’d want to claim credit for this tale is unclear… it contains a gory hand crushing scene for one character, a script that is arguably too dependent on understanding “The Tenth Planet” and the Doctor going around shooting Cybermen.

Vengeance on Varos

The Doctor makes an emergency landing on the former penal colony of Varos, a world where its inhabitants are kept mollified by sadistic reality television with executions and torture aplenty. Dissidents become the stars… as do the Doctor and Peri.

A discussion on violence in the media (a hot topic at the time[2]), this one has attracted controversy for the violence in it - particularly a notorious scene where two guards end up in an acid bath after a fight with the Doctor. Analysis of the footage shows it is an accident, but the Doctor’s quip at the end is very bad taste for him. It also guest stars Jason Connery, son of Sean, who would later become the second version of Robin Hood in HTV/Goldcrest’s Robin of Sherwood[3]

The Mark of the Rani

Arriving in Britain during the Luddite uprisings, the Doctor and Peri encounter an uneasy alliance between the Master and another renegade Time Lord…

The first appearance of Kate O’Mara’s female evil Time Lord known as the Rani[4], a character that the production team liked so much that they would reuse the character in Season 24 (and made plans for Season 23 that were not to be), this story is a reasonable run-around. It also has land mines that turn people into trees.

The Two Doctors (3 45-minute parts)

The Sixth Doctor and Peri have to save the Second Doctor and Jamie[5] from the Sontarans, who are working with a woman who wants to isolate the Time Lord gene that enables them to survive the Vortex.

Another Bob Holmes tale, this story was originally intended to be set (and filmed) in New Orleans, but co-production funding did not materialise, with second choice Venice being ruled out for expense and problems with tourists[7] – in the end Seville in Spain was used, a difficult shoot due to the heat. It’s a controversial allegory on meat-eating, containing some brutal deaths (multiple stabbings), attempts to cook humans and a good deal of blood. The main villain is played by Jacqueline Pearce, also known as Servalan in Blake’s 7.

A Fix with Sontarans (short segment on Jim’ll Fix It)

This short segment, generally considered non-canonical, was broadcast on the same day as the second part of “The Two Doctors” and was the granting of a request to 8-year-old Gareth Jenkins[6] who wanted to travel in the TARDIS. As the show this features on was hosted by Jimmy Savile (who featured at the end), a man who has recently been judged as probably the most prolific sex offender in British history, I suspect most people would not be comfortable watching it. Aside from Janet Fielding replacing Nicola Bryant for this, there is nothing I can really say about something I’ve not seen and probably will not.


The Doctor, Peri and an author named Herbert fight a despotic alien on the planet Karfel, where rebels are thrown into the ‘Timelash’.

“Timelash” has a pretty dire reputation – it came 199th in the Mighty 200. The sets are poor, the guest actors (bar Paul Darrow of Blake’s 7 fame, who hams it big style)  are mostly poor and the TARDIS has ‘seatbelts’. The story has been seen as encapsulating all that is bad about the JNT era – it also gives its name to Gallifrey Base’s special discussion series.

Revelation of the Daleks

The Doctor and Peri go to the planet Necros for a funeral, where they discover that Davros is using a cryogenic storage facility for sinister ends.

Considered the best story of the Sixth Doctor’s TV tenure by fans, this includes a glass Dalek that Terry Nation wanted to have in the first story but couldn’t due to cost grounds. I might need to see this one again.

Despite the controversy, there was no change in the average rating, which remained at 7.1 million.

During transmission, however, things got serious. On 21 February 1985, JNT and Eric Saward both received calls – from a fan and Robert Holmes respectively – seeking confirmation on rumours that Doctor Who had been cancelled…

[1]Where the show started in November 1963.
[2]The big issue had been “video nasties”, mostly low budget US and Italian horror films released direct to video, which were not under regulation at the time. Concerns about graphic and sexual material ending up in the hands of children resulted in the Video Recordings Act 1984 – which imposed tougher cuts on video releases of films than their cinema showings. Many of the films were later passed for release with or without cuts; while not deemed one, The Exorcist became unavailable from 1986 to 1999 as Warner Home Video was told by the then head of the BBFC, James Ferman, it would not be passed if they submitted it. On Ferman’s retirement, the film was submitted and passed as an 18.

Ironically, the whole campaign seems to have started with the producers of Cannibal Holocaust writing anonymously to Mary Whitehouse complaining about their own film as a publicity stunt – it was banned until 2001! Also, some scenes in this (a ‘found footage’ film) were so realistic-looking that the director was charged with murder in Italy – charges that were dropped when he produced the four actors alive and well.
[3]There are two versions of Robin in the legends – HTV killed off the first version and brought in another character to take over as it were. Had it not been cancelled after season 3, the BBC’s recent Robin Hood may well have gone the same way.
[4]From the Hindi for ‘queen’.
[5]The absence of Victoria (off studying graphology) and the mention that the Second Doctor is working for the Time Lords help fuel the Season 6B theory – as Jamie did not meet them until “The War Games”.
[6]Fortunately Mr Jenkins does not appear to have been a Savile victim.
[7]The later “Vampires of Venice” was filmed in Croatia.

11 January 2013

Let's Play Persian Incursion: Turn 8

S-200/SA-5 SAM


With the United States now an ally, Israel now had the opportunity for American airstrikes on Iranian nuclear and oil facilities. Unfortunately for them, none were currently ready.


Each turn you roll for the availability of a US airstrike (up to 3 if you get good rolls). This time I lucked out.


Israel instead passed funds to Iran’s opposition, who organised demos against the regime and reduced the overall support for the government. Then the country did its dirtiest trick of all, blowing up a Saudi SAM site and blaming it on Iran. This game was successful for Israel, increasing their popularity at the UN and most importantly make the GCC countries supporters, opening up the southern route for Israeli operations.


Realising that it needed to take out the S-200 sites covering the southern approach, it was time for the ninjas, who were sent after the site at Isfahan.


The US does not need the Southern route – it can launch from Diego Garcia, local GCC bases or carriers, but Israel needs one of the three routes open. Only the northern route via the Zagros Mountains gives Israel immunity from a possible S-200 or S-75 attack, which means that you either need to supress or destroy the sites. I was going for destroy – I prepared  a strike, then realised I did not have the points to pay for it.


Iran was able to do little in this turn save make a third attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz. This time, their mines and speedboats succeeded, but at the cost of merely annoying the GCC and making them move closer still towards Israel. In addition, 20 more of its aircraft broke down.


Don’t worry, Turn 9 does have an airstrike.


08 January 2013

James Bond: For Your Eyes Only

Roger Moore’s fifth Bond film is an atypical Bond, with a lot smaller scale and a closer to the novels feel about it. It should also have been his final one, as his age is clearly starting to show and he’s now snogging co-stars who were playing with dolls when he was doing The Saint.


Speaking of co-stars, Bouqet isn’t the best in the acting department, but she does have the excuse that she’s used to acting in French. Wielding a crossbow is cool, although I’m now going to be reminded of Revenge when the discussion of digging two graves comes up.


Julian Glover is superb as Aris Kristatos and GoT fans also get a chance to see Charles Dance when he had a full head of hair.


The plot is good and there’s some good action scenes, especially the ski chase, but Bill Conti really should have used the Bond theme more. Bibi Dahl is less annoying than I’d remembered.


This is not the fastest paced Bond film out there, but it’s certainly a very good drama.




Tough choice on the final mark here. A lot of good stuff here and it works well overall. It’s not quite Bond, but it’s a great spy movie and so it’s got to get




This will probably be my highest rated Moore.

01 January 2013

Plans for 2013

I'll begin by saying that all of these are of course subject to change.

Ongoing series

I've got three more posts of the James Bond series to do, which I aim to put out in February, April and June, the last on the 60th anniversary of Casino Royale's publication. I would like to extend a warm thank you to Robert Longtin at Phoenix Roleplaying, who has been proof-reading these rather long posts.

The Doctor Who series will also continue, with the aim to conclude by the 50th anniversary on 23 November.

The Persian Incursion game through will also carry on, pending other activities. Turn 8 is already done and I'll post that at the weekend if I can.

One off specials

I may do something on the Italy campaign, I may not. There are few big anniversaries this year, but I'm sure I'll find something to do.

Reviews and Grand Reviews

The following works are planned to have some form of review.
  • Star Trek 2: Into Darkness
  • Wreck-It Ralph
  • Borgen season 2
  • The Bridge season 2
  • An episode of Revolution
  • An episode of Castle
  • Revenge Season 2. Possibly.
  • All the main episodes of Doctor Who, naturally. The Eleven Faces series will continue; the next planned work is the Sixth Doctor radio play "Slipback".
I'll also be doing a good deal of RP stuff. A new campaign at Planes & Mercs has opened and I intend to create a flight for it.