Friday, March 27, 2009

Doctor Stu on Doctor Who

This year is apparently going to be the year of the McGann. As David Tennant is taking the year off and there's hardly any shows on TV Big Finish have ramped up production of the 3rd season of Doctor Who starring Paul McGann.

There are 9 episodes as part of the regular season - Orbis, Hothous, The Beast of Orlok (which sounds interestinh), Wirrn Dawn, The Scapegoat, The Cannibalists, The Eight Truths, Worldwide Web and a Christmas special called Death in Blackpool (which I hope will write Lucie out, not because I hate her but I'd rather she left before the doctor-companion relationship gets stale like with Charley).

As if 9 audio plays is not enough there are two more releases - Company of Friends is a series of audio adventures featuring the 8th doctor and a non-audio companion. The first one features Izzy, the 90s sci-fi geek he hung out with in the comics (which aren't half bad!). The second stars a guy called Fitz from the Eighth Doctor novels that never really concluded because of the new series (though to be fair with over 73 novels in that series they could've wound it up I'm sure). The third features Bernice Summerfield who appeared in other novels I've not read and really can't be botherred to. The last one however team McGann's doctor up with Mary Shelley, a story that has been referenced a lot in the Eighth Doctor audios.

I must admit I am quite meh about Company of Friends. It sounds interesting but in terms of Eighth Doctor continuity it's a cluster-frak. The novels and comics completely contradict the audios and TV show (Ace dies, the 7th Doctor and Sarah-Jane hang out, Rassilon is a good guy, Romana regenerates again and this time becomes evil) and at times are completely bizarre (the Doctor and Izzy meet the actor Tom Baker in one comic). I'm not so sure why they feel the need to do link the disparate continuities - I'd like a series of audios with new companions rather than ones taken from various spinoff sources.

An Earthly Child - this could be interesting. It's the subscriber special and it looks damn tempting. The 8th Doctor returns to Earth to check on his granddaughter Susan. Except she has had a son, played by Jake McGann, Paul McGann's son.


Finally listened to the Eight Doctor audio Orbis. Despite some negative reviews I found this story to be quite fun and yet has the underlying darkness of the Vengeance of Morbius.

Basically after Morbius the Doctor was marooned for 600 years on the planet Orbis which is inhabited by peaceful jellyfish who are under attack by a race of evil oysters.

It does have some really nice bits like the Doctor being more pleased to see his companion is wearing tights than actually seeing her for the first time in centuries. The quote "Tonight we bury our dead, tomorrow we build stilts" is awesome BTW. Also it looks like an arc may be in store for this season which is good as season 2 really suffered from a lack of a coherent storyline.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

xkcd is real!

I have to admit this cartoon struck a chord with me as it literally happened to me the other fortnight. I had this bizarre dream I was in an English exam and was suffering extreme writers cramp as it's been far too long since anyone made me write an essay by hand. Then for some bizarre reason I decided to ask the invigilator if I could use the bathroom (feeling especially ashamed as never once in an exam have I had to bother the invigilators).

Then things got a bit more bizarre...

Rather than going to the bathroom I discovered I was in fact in the little woods near my home in Monifieth, trapped down a steep slope by the riverbanks and struggling to climb back up due to the writer's cramp. Somehow I managed to get back to the exam room and write my essay, which I just knew was really rubbish and didn't answer the question at all.

Then I woke up, remembering I'd graduated. Twice. Not in English.

I'm sure you really needed to know this.

Monday, March 16, 2009

They Bleed Me Dry...

As I noted earlier I'd bought the Centenary Edition of Robert E. Howard's Conan short stories. It's a beautiful black hardback volume. True to form I've discovered there are at least two companions volumes I'd like to get my hands on.

Firstly there is Conan's Brethren - a forthcoming volume collecting Howard's other creations including Solomon Kane and other characters I know nothing of. However I have heard of Kull - another barbarian who used to act as a backup feature in Savage Sword of Conan.

Kull I am reasonably familiar with -- I've plopped the kingly sum of £3 (inc. p&p) to buy the 'awesome' Kull the Conqueror movie on DVD. It stars Kevin Sorbo of Hercules fame stretching his acting range as a barbarian in a mythical world. Originally intended to be the third Conan movie (King Conan or some such) it was turned down by Arnold Schwarzenegger and rewritten to be a Kull movie. It's genuinely held as a bad movie and airs on sci-fi but it certainly isn't Uwe Boll.

Apparently Red Sonja was not a creation of Howard's but rather an addition from the comics in the 70s. This is interesting as the character went on to spawn a dreadful movie starring Briget Neilsen and Arnie (not playing Conan in name due to some bizarre movie rights thing). She nows stars in her own comic series and there is a new movie in the works by Robert Rodriguez with his missus in the titular role.

Second up is this amazingly neat volume collecting some of Lovecraft's best stories. I probably already probably have all these in some scruffy paperbacks back in Scotland but a volume like this is beautiful and apparently comes with a map of Arkham.

It does worry me though that most of my current reading interests are more at home in magazines than books, but hey ho!

Literally Raising the Dead

So, new Red Dwarf in less than a month's time. Not bad since it's been nearly 10 years since the last episode ended on yet another cliffhanger. Given the delay between Red Dwarf VI and VII due to rape trials and so forth I was always surprised Red Dwarf VIII ended on a cliffhanger. This cliffhanger was of course like the last one resolved in a deleted scene which could easily be tagged on to explain it. In case you have no idea what I'm gibbering about here's the cliffhanger and deleted scene...

Not sold on the need to resurrect Red Dwarf. I personally liked Red Dward VII (Stoke Me A Clipper was my favourite ever episode of RD) but when I hear about things like :-

  • No Kochanski - she has apparently died... again

  • Rimmer is a hologram. He died... again.

  • No Holly... again. Apparently Lister left the taps on. In real life Norman Lovett reckons they were too cheap to bring him back

  • Some sort of bizarre Coronation Street crossover.

I don't exactly overflow with confidence. Add to the fact the cast look ancient, as evidence by the following:-


Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Actor We Need Right Now...

You need to have seen Dark Knight and be up on Bale's T4 rant to appreciate this:-

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Rant About Drizzt

In addition to enhancing my literary collection I've recently purchase graphic novels of Dragonlance and 'the Legend of Drizzt' off Amazon. I have to admit that I only bought the first book, the Crystal Shard because it was so unbelievably cheap, but I enjoyed it enough to buy all but the Halfling's Gem in graphic novel form (because it's a bit more expensive).

I'm not a big fan of the novels. I read 'The Crystal Shard' a few years ago when a friend lent it to me (and now I think on it I need to return it). I believe it was R.A. Salvatore's first book and dear god I hope so, it was dreadful. It doesn't help that I loathe Forgotten Realms, viewing it as a rip-off of Greyhawk (where drow, duergar etc. originate from) and Lord of the Rings (meddling pipe smoking wizards anyone) with a smorgasboard of whatever else people were working on for TSR at the time. So I am a tough audience. You may wish to avert your eyes from spoilers....

The part that really sold me on the dreadfulness of the Crystal Shard was the start of a chapter that went something like, "Drizzt readied himself to attack the crystal fortress armed with his scimitars, magical panther and the flour he had stolen off the giants he had just slain and decided on a whim to take as a souvenir."

Can you guess which item Drizzt uses to save the day? Well it is the clearly telegraphed souvenir flour - used to cover a magical solar-powered crystal that receives its energy from the sun and weaken it. Now Drizzt isn't portrayed as a kleptomaniac who insists on stealing something from every fight, nor is he ever shown to be a baking enthusiast, so this smacks of very, very lazy writing. Especially when the drow can magically by will create magical darkness - though having Drizzt's racial abilities save the day is only marginally above John Barrowman's Captain Jack's immortality being the only thing that can stop a massive demon from destroying Cardiff in terms of sheer cringe factorness. But better than inexplicably stealing flour to use later.

Thankfully the graphic novel does not include the awful flour scene, which gives it bonus points in my book. I even had to reread the Crystal Shard in Waterstones to make sure I didn't imagine the flour incident.

Overall though the series still lacks any real characterization. Drizzt and his chums are all invincible at the start of each book and never really seem to develop. Drizzt's development in his prequel trilogy is as follows:-

Book 1 - Drizzt is well hard but unhappy because all the drow are evil.
Book 2 - Drizzt is well hard but unhappy because he's living underground and having to fight monsters and his own people.
Book 3 - Drizzt is well hard but unhappy because everyone on the surface judges him by his dark skin (gee, there's a subtle metaphor).
Book 4 - see Book 3 for details, except now he has some invincible friends.

Bruenor - a gruff but secretly caring dwarf (gee!) who remains gruff for the two books he is in before, in an underground dwarven city lost to a great shadowy evil, he appears to die falling to his death with said shadowy evil. He gets better and comes back to life in later books. I think he is then called Bruenor the White but I could be confusing this with a better book. He also finds some magical armour his dad owned in the Mines of Moria... I mean Mithril Hall.

Wulfgar - a barbarian eventually raised by dwarves he starts off not very hard. Then Bruenor gives him a magical warhammer. This makes him as hard as nails.

Cattie-Brie - raised by dwarfs and inexplicably a hard-as-nails fighter. Her character development is that she finds a magic bow in a dwarven fortress (why dwarves have magic bows I dunno) and kills a human being (which is apparently a lot harder to do than killing evil dwarves and makes me wonder how in D&D terms she could be as hard as nails and yet still).

Anyroads, it's the lack of any depth or character development that make me feel these stories work best as comics rather than as novels in themselves.

By Crom a Good Read!

I recently bought myself the Conan centenary edition as a prezzie. I'm not much of a book reader (preferring audiobooks lately, though my interest in them has waned). I've only ever really read the comics as a kid and of course watching the two Arnie films (which were intended to be but 2 in a long series of movies).

The first two short stories, "The Phoenix on the Sword" and "The Scarlet Citadel" are brilliant, if a little unoriginal (though given they're early pulp fiction they were probably original in 1933, which is pre-Lord of the Rings). The stories in the book are sorted by publication date, which is a little odd as both stories are set when Conan was king, i.e. towards the end of his career. However Howard writes incredibly vivid battle scenes and there seem to be a lot more resplendant mailed knights in Conan's world than I remember in the comics - probably more my unfamiliarity with the King Conan era.