Sunday, November 06, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading: George R.R. Martin's Tales of Dunk and Egg

A whileback when HBO's Game of Thrones was on TV I whizzed through the novel like the devil was on my tail. When the time came to get into Book 2 I started reading and while I have to admit I enjoyed it I did stall round about the one-third mark and started reading (of all things) Ravenloft fiction instead.

What brought me back to Martin's epics (I'm now just finished A Storm of Swords:Steel and Snow) was when I sat down to read his three short stories, The Tales of Dunk and Egg. These are 3 novellas that feature in different fantasy anthologies George R.R. Martin has written. They are all set in Westeros and set 100 years or so before Game of Thrones. As novellas they weight in at around the 100-200 page mark, which is as punchy as Martin gets, suffering from as he describes it "diarrheoa of the wordprocessor".

As a prequel they've often been described as analagous to the Hobbit, but really they are three episodic tales featuring Ser Duncan the Tall, a hedge-knight (wandering knight in the ronin tradition) and his unique squire, Egg. Typically Martin has indicated there will be several more stories, as many as nine to twelve, covering much of the life stories of the two protagonists. There are only three written, with a fourth on its way. Additionally mention is made of unseen adventures that take place between the novellas, including mention of a meeting with a minor character seen in Game of Thrones.

It is more high-adventure than Song of Ice and Fire. While dragons are no more the Targaryen dynasty are still in charge, albeit having to fight a rival branch of the family who are trying to usurp their rulership, and in true Martin tradition killing each other. Also, given Martin's page count is restricted the stories tend to be quite well pace.

The first story, Hedge Knight, takes place as Dunk encounters his new squire whilst vying for a minor victory in a grand tournament. This being Westeros he encounters a prominent member of the nobility being not very nice to the peasantry and being true to his knightly ideals ends up insulting said douche. Needless to say this ends up with our hero in a joust for his life against some of the most prominent warriors in the realm. The resultant fight is brutal in typical Martin tradition. One major revelation in the story stretches the credulity of this series given how dark and dangerous Westeros is, but other than that it is a good read.

The Sworn Sword sees Dunk and his squire swear loyalty to a really poor lord and get involved in a land dispute with the lord's neighbour. This starts off a little Seven Samurai but ends off going of in its own direction. The harsh life of the peasantry and the effects of a drought are typically gritty Martin story elements but the ending of the story is remarkably upbeat for a George R.R. Martin fantasy story. Ultimately this is probably the weakest of the three stories so far as the main characters' development is non-existent and an adventure that is mentioned having taken place between Hedge Knight and the Sworn Sword sounds just as interesting.

Mystery Knight takes place at a tourney again, with Dunk abandoning all reason and tactics we saw in the first story. It features some really nasty grey characters and this tournament is somewhat more unique than its predecessor. There's some nice character moments and development, particularly of Egg.

This is where the series ends, though Martin has a fourth one in the works called "She-Wolves of Winterfell", which is being published in a book called "Dangerous Women" - a fantasy book about warrior women one presumes. There's also vague mentions of the stories one day being reprinted together in a single volume (currently they're a pain to get in three different books), which will presumably feature "exclusive" short stories. This is of course if Martin writes them since he is supposed to be writing Books 6 and 7 of a Song of Ice and Fire. Currently I expect all these to be released in 2020.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Noblesse Oblige

This is an account of a game of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay I ran on 9/7/2011. The scenario won the Black Industries scenario competition and all artwork was included with the original scenario by Charles Morrison.

Axelbrand Riese awoke on the cold hard floor of a Talabheim gaol. His only company was the snoring dwarf who was face down in a puddle of urine until the jailer came to wake them. Axelbrand discovered he had been arrested for drunkenly singing lewd songs about Herr von Sachs, one of the city fathers, and the dwarf had taken exception to their attempts to silence the bard, injuring three guardsmen in his drunken brawl. The gaoler explained to them that with the city under threat of skaven attacks and with the Emperor making demands of the Elector Counts' men they were offering Axelbrand and his friend a pardon if they were to escort the Sigmarite priest Erasmus Heger and his ward, the lady Rosalin Faulkenheim to a meeting with two noble families that had been engaged in a 'private war' for years. Preferring not to rot the two agreed, and being introduced to Erasmus - a cold zealot - and receiving payment of 10 gold crowns in advance they assented.

Their equipment returned to them, Axelbrand and the dwarf, Thrumbor Grimigson joined the noble and priest outside the Temple of Sigmar and travelled north towards Hochland and the peace talks.

For the first night the companions stayed in a coaching inn - their only company the innkeeper, his barmaid, a drunken roadwarden and an imperial arbelester with whom Erasmus played cards. During the course of their meal the lecherous roadwarden made a pass at the barmaid, ripping her dress to reveal a monstrous green hand shaped growth on her left shoulder. The girl was a mutant.

Ignoring her pleas for mercy Erasmus insisted the girl be burned at the stake. Thrumbor readily assented, while Axelbrand felt some pangs of remorse but ultimately obeyed the priest's order to build a stake and gather wood. The arbelester, disgusted by the incident, gifted Axelbrand black powder to place round the girl's neck and kill her quickly. Axelbrand thanked the man and granted the girl a swift death. Rosalin fainted with the excitement, and after the burning discovered her room was downwind from the stake. Erasmus, in an uncharacteristic show of chivalry, swapped rooms with her.

The next day was uneventful and ended as the companions camped by the roadside. On the next morrow the company caught up with the carriage of the two noble houses, the Creutzfeldt and the Durrenbach. Erasmus left the group to join the Sigmarite initiates who dwelt within a third carriage, while Rosalin found herself talking with the Creutzfeldt captain, Arent Stretstorpe before joining the two commoners in conversation with some minstrels in the employ of the Durrenbach at the rear of the train.

The group learned that Jakob Creutzfeldt had been ordered by Elector Count Ludenhof to marry Darathee Durrenbac, herself a novitiate in the Church of Shallya, the Goddess of Mercy and Healing.

As the group talked Axelbrand noted a mutant approaching the train, a strange creature with eyes on each of his fingers. The creature rasped, begging for gold and received a thrown dagger from Axelbrand in the chest. A thick scaly carapace caused the otherwise expertly thrown dagger to clatter, and the mutant pocketed the dagger. Alexbrand was hit by the certainty there were more in the forest beyond the road Rosalin dropped gold at Axelbrand's feet. The many-eyed mutant cautiously approached and grasped for the gold, offering to return the thrown dagger in return for coin. While the creature returned the dagger to Axelbrand Rosalin grabbed a sword and swung at the mutant's head, severely injuring but not killing it. The creature's neck was scaled, and the scales acted as a gorget as they turned Axelbrand's blade.

More mutants crashed from the bushes to protect their injured comrade, startling the company, and they were joined by guards and mercenaries from both houses. However the many-eyed mutant was able to grab the gold and get to safety while the others backed into the scrub. For her trouble Rosalin was narrowly missed by a crossbow quarrel that embedded itself in the Durrenbac caravan. Axelbrand threw a knife at the mutants, but missed as the forest scrub provided them cover as they scurried to safety.

As the company took stock and Rosalin tried to persuade the guards to hunt down the mutants and retrieve her coin the cry from the Sigmarite caravan came that during the confusion Erasmus had been murdered. The company found three acolytes bearing the dead priest's large corpse out of the caravan. Axelbrand noted a faint piercing mark on Erasmus's corpse and concluded murder. This observation prompted recriminations from both families, and the party were introduced to Brigit Durrenbac and Jakob Creutzfeldt, the respective heads of the two families. Eventually it was decided by Reymer, the senior most acolyte of Sigmar, that Lady Falkenheim and Axelbrand would be best suited to investigate on his behalf, while Thrumbor would augment the guards. Each noble person would be guarded by one soldier from both houses companies.

Returning to the minstrels at the back of the train the two investigators learned Jakob Creutzfeldt was ordered to force Darathee Durrenbach as part of the peace accord by the elector count. They said Darathee Durrenbach was a Priestess of Shallya who had taken the habit since the death of her young husband Helge. Jakob Creutzfeldt's father (also named Jakob) was ill with the pox and had not been in his right mind for several years. He was of course on the Creutzfeldt family estates.

Old man Durrenbach was said to have suspected his son Ruprecht wished him dead in order to gain control of the family and so had chosen Brigita to succeed
him. Ruprecht Durrenbach obviously still resented his sister because she was
chosen to lead their family instead of him. There were however rumours that Brigita was nymphomaniac, and her perversions marked her a follower of Slaanesh, the Chaos God of Pleasure, Passion, and Decadence.

They also mentioned the younger Creutzfeldt brother was in the company, along with his consort Grethe Rozenow, said to be a fortune teller.

The pair first went to Brigita, a stunningly beautiful woman clad in fine clothing sporting a small tiara, mark of female Durrenbach leaders. She had been in the coach with her brother, Ruprecht when the attack took place. She knew little, but suspected Friedrich as the pair had embarked on an affair six month previous, ending with her catching him in bed with her chamber maids. His hatred of her family knew no bounds and he spread foul rumours as to her virtue.

Next they spoke to Ruprecht outside the coaches, who also knew little but kept watching the baggage within the family coach. He did however pay lip service to the rumours regarding Brigita's inclinations, stating it was his duty as brother to protect her as best he could despite herself.

Then they spoke to the priestess, Darathee. She claimed to have seen a child in the woods during the beastman attack and had been slowly following him alone. Axelbrand noted she smiled when they mentioned the rumour of the forced marriage to Jakob, suggesting the marriage - and the end to her time in the clergy as an initiate of Shallya - pleased her.

The pair overhead Brigita questioning Jakob about mutant movements on his lands. Jakob listened to her concerns impassively but dismissed them, saying he had doubled the groundsmen on his lands to deal with the problem.

Speaking with Jakob the pair learned he and his brother had been within the family coach. Jakob also mentioned he had already proposed to Darathee and was to announce their engagement, stating they saw eye-to-eye on many matters.

His brother Friedrich was unwilling to be interviewed by Axelbrand and Falkenheim until they played him at cards. Friedrich, despite claiming this was a new hobby, took several silvers from the lady but graciously furnished the investigators with wine. He laughed at notions that his consort Grethe was a fortune teller, saying she simply practiced card tricks for his amusement. He also went over his relationship with Brigit, stating he had ended it because he grew bored of her, and intimating he had seen certain sigils and suchlike in her boudoir that lent credence to the rumours she may be a worshipper of Slaanesh.

The pair also spoke to the two captains of the guards - noting the Durrenbac had hired a mercenary captain, Everd Setzingen as their own house guard were garrisoned on their lands due to fear of the increased number of mutants on their lands. They learned Captain Arent had served in the Imperial Guard with Everd but his career had ended abruptly. An incident had occurred while their compsany was in Talabheim where Everd witnessed him attacking a priest of Sigmar, a priest of Sigmar named Erasamus Heger!

Realising there were many grudges between both houses the pair returned to the Durrenbac coach. They spoke to Brigita about Darathee and Rosalind persuaded her ot let them search Ruprecht's belongings. There they found a chest containing 500 gold crowns. During the excitement Axelbrand noted a piece of parchment in the folds of Brigita's dress. He clumsily removed the note and the outraged noble woman forced him and Rosalin from the coach. The note read:-


Ever since you were accepted into our Sinful Order, we have eagerly awaited your passage from Ignorance to Chaos by way of the Ritual of Initiation. That Time has now arrived. Please meet with your Superior at the Appointed Place when Morrsleib next waxes full.

Praise be to Slaanesh!

Having found something of note the pair hastily alerted Captain Arent and went to Reymer. Before long Brigita was accused of being a Chaos worshipper before the camp by the youthful initiate and was restrained within her coach, tied by silken ropes.

Returning to the coach, the two investigators searched her belongings and Ruprecht's clothing. In a secret compartment they found several drafts of the letter they had accused Brigita with. Realising they had been duped they showed her this evidence and attempted an apology. The proud noblewoman did not accept, particularly when they insisted she remain bound to keep Ruprecht thinking his plan had worked. They also queried her about Helge's death by poisoning and Brigita confessed, her emotions near breaking point, that Darathee had poisoned her husband and that Brigita had paid the imperial officials to find her innocent.

With this information the pair of investigators left the coach and eliminated Brigita from their list of suspects - but it seemed no-one was what they seemed, and that nobleman and commoner alike had secrets within this company.

To Be Continued... Actually Not To Be Continued As Big Meet ADHD Prevented a 2nd Session

Monday, May 02, 2011

Masque of the Red Death Thoughts

I've been flicking through the 3.5 version of Ravenloft: The Masque of Red Death. This setting detailed Gothic Earth, a world much like the 1890s of our world with added weirdness due to an entity known as the Red Death. Players tended to play 1890s characters such as aristocrats, Holmesian detectives or the like. You could be excused for thinking it is a Cthulhu clone, but there is more emphasis on D&D supernatural elements rather than the alien science-fiction explanation of H.P. Lovecraft's universe.

Sadly the mechanics the original Red Death used belonged to AD&D 2nd Edition - a rather odd system that did not have any skills system and was relatively cumbersome. A D20 conversion was cobbled together for the RPGA Living Death campaign - which I would think on the surface would be a better system as it actually has a skills system.

Shockingly the RPGA conversion was carried over into the professional Masque books. The class system therefore a bit rubbish. While some classes are almost 1:1 retreads of their D&D 3.5 counterparts (for example a Soldier is pretty much a D&D fighter, a criminal is a D&D rogue in the old thievery sense). On the other hand some classes are a bit crap - for example a parson (i.e. priest of a real world faith). While you would expect the parson to be equivalent to a cleric, the parson gets no spells, and at 8th level can turn undead as a mystic of 4 levels lower.
Obviously it would be a bit odd if every rabbi/priest/whatever goes around casting cure light wounds. Which makes one wonder why you don't play a mystic, but whatever...

Also don't get me started on the dandy (d4 hit points, some skills, same starting money as a tradesman, physician or performer). This poor guy gets some vague influence power and nothing after level 2 except some bonuses to a new skill called Appraise).

I've a vague idea to run Masque of Red Death mixed with an Innsmouth/Broughty Ferry setting (seriously some of the inhabitants you see during working hours in the real Arbroath look like Deep Ones). But I'd rewrite a lot of the classes to be worth taking.

Random Musings on Horror in Broughty Ferry

As a child I used to hate trips to Broughty Ferry as I viewed it as a dull, empty place. As an adult I think with its increasingly ramshackle shore front that Broughty Ferry makes an excellent Scottish version of H.P. Lovecraft's Innsmouth. I've been dabbling with a short story set in Broughty Ferry in the vein of Ashton Smith/Lovecraft. I might post what I've done here oneday. Anyroads, a little search for historical information on the Ferry revealed in the mid 1800s it was linked to the city by a bus service...

"At this point regular communication with Dundee was maintained by coach service which ran between the Dundee P.O. and the Eagle Inn in Broughty Ferry which ran three times a day."

Sounds like the Joe Sargent Innsmouth bus to me.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thoughts on Twitrelief and Celebrities

Today Twitrelief launched - a series of ebay auctions whereby you can 'win' a celebrity as a twitter follower for 90 days, and they are obliged to tweet to you once. Naturally these auctions are going to be bid on regularly and will probably make a lot of money for charity, which is laudible. Reading the news on Google you'd think we were all shiny happy people.

However a lot of the Twitter community have reacted negatively, yours included, stating that this is a grandstanding event, where it's celebs vs plebs and this has prompted some equally vitriotic responses from the celebrities and their supporters with a level of righteous indignation and melodrama on the level of Commodus's "Am I not merciful?" speech in Gladiator.

Ah, you say, surely having a celebrity who has better things to do than read your 140 character length drivel as he/she commands a fee that can be measured in pounds per minute, drag their mouse pointer over the follow button next to your name has some monetary value (though why they have to 'waste' such time unfollowing you after 90 days is beyond me -- are non-celebrity tweets really that offensive?).

Do we live in different worlds? Depends on your metric - but some seem to measure it by success. As an academic, and a reasonably well paid one I could argue that my time is worth more than yours or better spent talking to my 'fellow intellectuals', and you could make the same point in reverse I'm sure. I personally wish we lived in a world where fireman, medical doctors and nurses were the highly celebrities as their jobs have real merit. Imagine a world where David Beckham (or rather his equivalent, if I'm stretching credulity) was a world class surgeon who was Britain's best surgeon, rather than someone who kicks a ball pretty well.

I've spent time in a queue at the post office or whatever calculating the monetary worth of the time I've wasted. Sometimes that seems relatively ass-holish thoughts - I'm no better than thee or Fred Bloggs at the end of the day, and thankfully I have people around me who'd keep me grounded if I started getting delusions of grandhood.

Celebs on the other hand don't get this kind of reality check. Some of them end up like Lohan or Sheen. Others do douchebaggery - for instance charging for access to their exclusive blog when or running their own fan-club for profit. is hawking Star Trek props, when quite frankly Shatner could probably buy every Star Trek fan in the world a plastic phaser by this point. It goes to their heads.

As for some of these celebs - c'mon! Would they get involved if there was no exposure? No good PR? Take John Prescott - his achievements are (IMHO - I'm an equal opportunity politican hater now) being part of a government that has bankrupted the country, and himself is a champagne-socialist hypocrit who has managed a transformation that is practically taken out of the final pages of Animal Farm when he joined the House of Lords. Given he has fed his Dickensian frame on the tax payer, why is having him join twitter worth any money? Yes it is for charity, but if 1 person pays £310.00 to go out with him for pies (subsidised by the taxpayer in the Parliament bar) is it better than a well-thought out scheme that gets 31 people to donate £10. (Incidentally these charity auctions where things go for masses of cash seem less effective than something where lots of people donate small amounts of cash).

Interestingly the cult of the celebrity has even gotten to 'internet celebrities'. There are vitriotic blogs about the gang at about how they indulge in e-begging and ego trips. For example one guy charges for autographed pictures for him, not for charity but for his own pocket and all these guys do is give amusing pub-level commentary on films and games.

Tangentially a twitter-ego rating can be obtained by dividing the number of followers of a person by the number of people they're following. I come across a mildly humble. Stephen Fry's ego in this metric is massive.

As I've said these auctions will go for lots of money. There will be a lot more losers than winners though - surely a system where 320 people donate £1 and get a thank you is better than one person donating £310 and winning a brief chat with a celeb? I've often looked at ridiculously expensive charity auctions for things like movie memorobilia or walkon roles in movies and shaken my head. Who has thousands of pounds to spend on such things? Certainly no-one I've met. Why not do a raffle? £1 an entry. Winner gets celeb X to follow them. £1 is pushing for something that really has no value, and prevents (the admittedly extreme case of) some eejit getting themselves into debt by charging £3000 to get Celeb Y to follow them to a credit card they shouldn't be allowed.

So Twitrelief is endemic of a larger ego-problem. Just because it's for charity doesn't make it automatically brill, and the reactions from some of the celebs makes it even worse. And it makes money for charity. Which is brill. But so could robbing banks, shooting the teller at gunpoint and donating the proceeds to charity. Nothing wrong with critiquing that methodology.

It's all relative. (As an aside Twitrelief is more like kicking the low-income in the gut for charity, not shooting an autoteller).

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Rare Politics Post

No2AV Video

* Comments disabled
* Looks very professional
* Comes from a very professional shiny site.
* Nice shiny people, doing jobs like "Retail", "Finance", "Technology" and giving us some lovely soundbytes that are a little vague.
* Doesn't explain where this £250 million bill is coming from (surely all you do with AV is print a slightly different ballot system).

Yes2AV Video

* Comments enabled
* Looks alright, with sound issues.
* Comes from a blog.
* Looks like it was shot live.

Hmmm... I know which one seems more convincing to me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Demon Quest: Not So Good

Over the Christmas Break I listened to the remaining audios in the Demon's Quest series, a fourth doctor audio series the BBC brought out. I'd listened to part 1, but had tried to listen to part 2 several times and either fell asleep, lost concentration or just didn't care.

Sadly the latest five offerings slowly began to wear me down and it took a long drive back to Scotland to get me to listen to them. First a little background...

Two years ago Tom Baker surprised everyone by getting out the right side of bed and deciding he wanted to play the Doctor before. This was after years of refusing Big Finish's offers to lure him back, including one alleged incident where he may have made disparaging remarks about the scripts belonging in the bin. Incidentally the scripts he is supposed to have been offered were reworked for other doctors and were in my opinion universally good. They are the Holy Terror (now a 6th Doctor audio), the Stones of Venice (which became an 8th Doctor audio - one I'm relatively cool on to be honest) and the Spectre of Lanyon Moor (a 6th Doctor and Brigadier adventure).

Unlike the other Doctors, the audios featuring Tom Baker were to be made by the BBC, not by Big Finish. Given Big Finish have to pay the BBC for the license to make classic Doctor Who audios I'd be a bit miffed if I were them. (I also live in fear the BBC will decide Doctor Who is so successful they will overprice the license or refuse them the license).

One of the reasons Tom said he wanted to do audios as the Doctor was he wanted to work with Nicholas Courtney - the Brigadier. Sadly before recording Nick had a stroke and was unable to do the audios. The audios were rewritten to feature Captain Yates - a companion who betrayed the 3rd Doctor and thus was last featured in Pertwee's swansong. This was less than ideal as he'd never met the 4th Doctor, though it was said early in the first Hornet's Nest he'd met the 4th Doctor at one of the Brig's UNIT Christmas parties.

The Hornet's Nest featured Yates meeting a pre-Romana Doctor in a cottage in 2010 Surrey he owns - called Nest Cottage. He also runs into the mysterious housekeeper, Mrs. Wibbsey. The baton of narration passes to the Doctor narrates four stories to Yates relating to his current predicament relating to a race of interstellar hornets, with the odd additional cast members interacting with Tom. In the fifth CD the Doctor, Wibbsey and Yates go off and finally deal with the Hornets.

It worked on some levels, but failed on others. I thought the acting was at time wooden (occasionally from Yates), and the idea of the Doctor telling us what he's thinking does away with the whole Who part of Doctor Who.

Tom Baker sounds in both series of audios like he is playing an old man. He portrays sherry and brandy swilling 4th Doctor sat by the fireside in a cottage, walking the dog and complaining about his old bones. Personally I always saw Tom Baker's doctor as an energetic (mostly) tea-totaller.

Anyroads here is a review of the latest series of audios.

Here Be Spoilers!
Turn back if ye be not wishing to be spoiled

The Relics of Time: The Doctor loses 4 bits of his TARDIS thanks to Mrs. Wibbsey and traces one to Roman Britain via some artifacts a stranger swapped Wibbsey for the TARDIS parts. He encounters a figure from history who has the missing TARDIS piece and narrowly avoids being taken off in his dematerialisation chamber. This is sadly starts a theme of a character being the titular demon in disguise, the Doctor narrowly avoiding being taken in his dematerialisation chamber and a TARDIS piece being found at the end of the first 4 audios.


The Demon of Paris: This is where my attention really nodded off. This is a 19th century mystery featuring the Doctor and Wibbsey around the Moulin Rouge. They meet the artist Toulouse-Lautrec, an absinthe-swilling artist who may be committing atrocious murders under the influence of absinthe and who painted the famous bohemian art piece that the 4th Doctor's look is said to be derived from. Given the remaining cast consists of his cemetery trudging concierge, La Charlotte - a slattern both of whom seem to appear and disappear whenever the plot requires it I worked out they were the baddies and were trying to get the Doctor into a dispersion chamber. It failed to grab me or be as charming as say City of Death.

1/5 (Jeez!)

The Shard of Ice: Probably the best part of the series this features the Doctor and Yates (who they've recruited as he decided to come to Nest Cottage for no apparent reason and features in the 3rd artifact). They are in the mountains of Germany with Albert Tiermann, a literally cold-hearted story teller who has sold his heart to a demon in order to gain the inspiration to write stories. The majority of the story is Albie trying to steal the Doctor's book of his future-stories that lured them to the area.

This turns out to be a red-herring, as it's part of the Demon's plan to lure the Doctor into his lair and dematerialisation chamber. He escapes, finding another bit of the TARDIS and releasing Tiermann from the demon's influence.


Starfall: Wibbsey, Doc and Yates turn up in New York, lured by a comic cover featuring them and a girl getting changed into a superheroine by a meteor. This happens, with the girl becoming Miss Starfall and flying around New York, while the Doc and Yates get arrested for murders the demon is committing when they find some bodies. Wibbsey hangs around with Starfall's employer, an actress called Mimsy.

The whole superheroine plotline turns out to be a rather daft red-herring, as it's part of the Demon's plan (who is Mimsy) to lure the Doctor into its rooms and the dematerialisation chamber. There's also a cult of people dressed like 4th Doctor doing a ritual that can somehow weaken the Doctor, like Kryptonite. This again doesn't really lead anywhere. We also learn the Demon is from a place called Sepulchre and that this is probably where the Demon keeps trying to take the Doctor. It does capture Wibbsey though.

The story is narrated by Ms. Starfall's Stan Lee-esque boyfriend, who has to preface a lot of his narration with "I did not see this part, but the Doctor then..."

1/5 (3/5 until the whole creation of the superheroine was revealed to be the Demon's plan to lure the Doctor into its clutches, considering she uses her powers to save him).

Sepulchre: The Doc and Yates go to rescue Wibbsey on Sepulchre. This kind of makes the whole collecting TARDIS bits a little redundant since this was where the Demon wanted to take the Doctor for the last 4 CDs.

Unable to escape as the TARDIS disappears (d'oh) the Doctor is captured and hooked up to a machine to make a star atlas. The Demon turns up to be working for... a single surviving hornet from the previous CD series. Also GASP! Wibbsey was possessed by the hornet which is why she gave away parts of the TARDIS. The Doctor outwits the hornet, the Demon escapes and everyone else escaped back to Nest Cottage, for another Christmas. But then Wibbsey is captured, meaning there'll be a 3rd series of these...


Overall Arc: 2/5 (sorry - it makes no sense).

As a whole the arc between the 5 CDs is like a dreadful RTD arc. Large portions of the individual stories are red-herrings (namely the appearance of Emperor Claudius in CD 1, the paintings of Latrec, the fairy-tales and demon's persona Snow Queen in CD 3 and the superheroine in CD 4).

The whole story arc could have been 1 CD long - in that Hornet-possessed Wibbsey could have hit the Doctor on the head in his cottage or put a reefer in his tea/scotch thus knocking him out, called the demon, taken him to Sepulchre and he would've had to escape. Or it could've made an army of superheroines that were actually loyal to itself. Or any one of a number of things.

Yates's involvement was pointless - seemingly included just because he was in the previous series of stories. I wish they'd brought the Brig back, but at 81 I suspect he should take it easy.

Big Finish are still rumoured to be making finally 4th Doctor audios starring Tom Baker. His reservations about the scripts seem ironic given the problems with these scripts. Unlike Hornet's Nest and Demon's Quest these will most likely be full cast audio without linking narration. I suspect they will replace the seasons of Eighth Doctor adventures that are sadly coming to an end, though we'll likely not see them until 2012. Big Finish have a habit of announcing products a year before they come out to court subscriptions to fund productions. Given we've heard nothing official I suspect there'll be a wait.

I don't want you to think I'm down on narration in audios. One of my favourite 8th Doctor audios - Season of Fear - features Paul McGann giving linking narration in the vein of his monologues in the TV Movie. Given this was a 4 part story set across over 4 time zones (ancient Rome, the time of Edward the Confessor, the 19th century and 1930s Singapore) one can forgive them for cutting the story down to ~100 mins with narration, most of which gets the Doctor back to the TARDIS and on with the quest.

If they do a third series of BBC audios (which apparently will not affect Big Finish's ability to produce their own 4th Doctor audios) I, in my armchair quarterback capacity, would suggest they avoid hornets and remove the "talking book" parts of the scripts. I love the Wibbsey character, but ditch Yates. They should also ditch the arcs and try some one-offs, perhaps also throwing in some traditional Doctor Who elements. I'm loathe to suggest Daleks or Cybermen but something like that might revitalize the series. Also - rather than having 1 script writer, Paul Magrs (who has written some good stuff in the past, but seems a bit stretched to write 5 1 CD adventures) perhaps they might want to try some other writers.

Sadly this is my least favourite Dr. Who audio series in a while. They were only £6 a CD I suppose, so I got what I paid for.