Thursday, 17 January 2019

Funhouse


Funhouse is a whole lot of fun, with prizes to be won. It's a real crazy show where anything'll go.

The same is true of the Doctor Who story of the same name. The Doctor will have to use his body and his brain if he wants to play the game and escape from the monster that takes the shape of a mysterious house and wants to nom the TARDIS's energy.


The TARDIS is pulled off course, which the Doctor describes as
"Curious. Very curious."
even though it happens to him a lot. When he and Frobisher leave the TARDIS to investigate the house, they look out the window and see different things outside - Frobisher a tropical paradise, the Doctor a "horrible" wasteland - so the Doctor concludes it is "an illusion of some kind."

As they continue to investigate, one panel per page is given over to the thoughts of the housemonster as it sends its tentacles out to the TARDIS, and it needs to keep them inside itself long enough to have its noms, so it fills the house full of weird goings-on to keep the Doctor intrigued.


One of these takes the shape of Peri, making this her first appearance in the comics... sort of. When the Doctor rescues her she turns into a dragon for no reason and then disappears, all of which is enough to persuade the Doctor and Frobisher that they should leave, having had enough of the house's shit.

But the housemonster confuses them with illogical geography and illusionary mannys, including a sideways room and then a room with only one door.


This is all good fun stuff - it's a quiz, it's a race, it's a real wacky place, even if it does somewhat resemble the scenes set in the Matrix in The Deadly Assassin or Trial of a Time Lord (the latter of which hadn't yet been made when this story was written).

The Doctor can feel the TARDIS is under attack, and then Frobisher drops the title when he says
"Y'know, I've been thinking. This place is like some kind of crazy fairground funhouse, leadin' us by the nose since we arrived."
Clang!

Neither of them find a way to overcome the housemonster's illusions, which only cease to bother them when it gains control over the TARDIS and so doesn't need to distract our heroes any longer. They run back to the TARDIS only to hear the "Vworp! Vworp!" of it taking off, but instead of leaving them behind, the Doctor exclaims,
"It's not the TARDIS that's taken off, it's the whole house. And us along with it!

This is the halfway point in the story. Part 2 picks up with the Doctor and Frobisher getting inside the TARDIS and trying to begin their fight back. The Doctor's first plan is to attack it with an axe. This fails when the monster simply takes the axe off of him with its tentacles.

The Doctor thinks about what the house really is and what it wants, and he concludes:
"My guess is that it's a living entity, feeding on fear, emotion as raw energy. The more we feed it, the stronger it becomes."
They try to take a look at it using the scanner.


The mention of tentacles had already piqued his interest, but now Cthulhu is convinced that the housemonster is one of his Great Old Friends.

The Doctor comes up with another plan - one a bit more cerebral than his "hit it with an axe" plan from earlier: he rigs up a bit of string to the console - and he and Frobisher spend a couple of pages on setting it up before he tells Frobisher (and us by proxy, of course) what the plan is.
"We'll be protected from the worst of the temporal regression in here. When I pull this string, it'll disengage the circuit that protects the TARDIS passengers from the changing time field outside. You follow?"
"Er, well... no!"
I'm sure Frobisher speaks for us all there, mew.
"It's simple. Everything outside this room will regress in time at the same speed as the TARDIS -- including the house. It should "forget" what it's doing because it will have moved back to before it encountered us."

I don't know, that sounds a bit made up to me. But then the whole premise of Funhouse is that it's wacky, crazy and outrageous, so I suppose we have to let them off with that.


It turns out this plan is an excuse for some gratuitous past-Doctor cameos, as, when he runs back to the control room to dematerialise the TARDIS and free them from the house, the Doctor is regressed back through his previous five incarnations (and their costumes), and Frobisher is regressed to being a tiny baby Whifferdill - d'aww, so cute!

The plan works, and the house is
"Trapped in the time vortex. And since it has no materialisation circuits of its own, it'll stay there. Forever."
This appears to be confirmed by a four-panel "Epilogue" that shows the house patiently waiting for more noms to come to it.


Funhouse is not a bad little story, although a lot of its ideas have been done better elsewhere. It is saved from mediocrity by the unusual (although not unprecedented) decision to repeatedly show us the thoughts and point of view of the housemonster.

It reminded me of two other Doctor Who monsters - the first being Voorvolika from The Armageddon Chrysalis, a more malevolent monster than the house, but also one whose point of view part of the story was told from. The other was the monster called "House" from the TV episode The Doctor's Wife, who also wanted to nom the TARDIS. Given that, and its name, plus the illusions it could create, it could possibly even be the housemonster itself, come back for a sequel.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

War-Game


War-Game (not to be confused with The War Games TV story) begins with the Doctor and Frobisher playing a game, which I can only presume will continue the time-honoured narrative device of games standing as a symbolic representation, or metaphor, for the events of the story itself.

In this case it is a game of the Doctor's own devising. As he puts it:
"I adapted it from an Earth game called Chess. Gave it an added dimension, you might say..."
I suspect this probably means the Doctor is making the rules of the game up as he goes along in order to win against Frobisher.


Derp!

Frobisher looks very surprised when the Doctor declares "checkmate" against him, although it later transpires that the Doctor has done this 23 times so maybe he shouldn't be.

The TARDIS arrives on a primitive planet but the scanner detects "traces of sophisticated electronic activity" which makes the Doctor want to investigate and so gets the plot underway.


Frobisher remembers he can shapeshift for a change and disguises himself as Conan the Barbarian, although even in comic format they don't expect they can afford to get Arnold Schwarzenegger in to play him.

They spend a couple of pages wandering around a settlement that seems to be based on a 1960s telefantasy version of the Middle East, like something straight out of Danger Man or Mission: Impossible, until they get captured and sold as slaves.

The manny that buys them is Achmar, who works for "Kaon, lord of the seven provinces" and he takes them to his lord while hinting that Kaon knows about the TARDIS, or "the blue box in which you arrived" as Achmar calls it.

When they get to Kaon's castle, it turns out that Kaon is a Draconian.


This is presented as a big deal, deserving a whole page for just the one picture, and it is the cliffhanger ending to the first part of War-Game. Kaon isn't actually referred to as a Draconian yet, but the little text at the bottom of the page says
Next: Draconian measures!
which is an attempt at a funny play on the word "Draconian" meaning both "excessively harsh and severe" and "a Doctor Who alien not seen in the TV series since 1973." However this is just the comic having a little joke with us, as the next story is actually War-Game part 2.


Kaon tells the Doctor and Frobisher his backstory in a page where his face is surrounded by flashbacks where the action spills out of the panels - a stylish way of dumping a lot of exposition on us.
In brief, his spaceship crashed on this planet many years ago and he persuaded some of the locals to make him their chief by being better at fighting than them. The only other Draconian on the planet is his daughter Kara, who has been captured by Vegar, a rival chief. He wants the Doctor to help him rescue Kara using the TARDIS, which the Doctor agrees to since it will mean less violence than if Kaon sends his henchmannys to attack Vegar's mannys.

Kaon sends Achmar to lead a diversionary attack to distract Vegar away from their rescue attempt, which Frobisher compares to the Chess game from the start of the story. The Doctor, however, is not happy that those mannys are being sacrificed like Chess pawns.
"That was Chess, this is real..."
he says.


When some guards catch them, Frobisher tries becoming giant but only gets stabbed in the leg for his troubles. Maybe this is why he doesn't shapeshift into useful things to solve the plot all the time - he's a bit rubbish at it really!

Eventually they fight their way to the room where Kara is being held captive. Kaon fights Vegar while the Doctor and Frobisher free Kara. Vegar and Kaon kill each other, and Kara decides to stay on the planet to be chief in the place of her father.


War-Game is a strange story to find following directly after Once Upon a Time-Lord... (which made maximum usage of the comicbook medium) because it is so very much like the TV series of that era: the Doctor and Companion taking ages to get to the plot, a returning old monster/alien, the Doctor being sidelined in his own series, and violent scenes leading to almost all the guest characters ending up ded.

I wouldn't have been at all surprised to see the credits read "Written by Eric Saward, Produced by John Nathan-Turner." In fact it was written by Alan McKenzie, who here is to Eric Saward what Eric Saward was to Robert Holmes.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Happy new year 2019

Here is the winner of our 2018 Calendar Doggy of the Year competition to wish you all a happy new year for 2019.


And a happy new year to you from all of us cats, doggys and Monkeys With Badges as well!

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Survival Part One


Survival is the final story of Doctor Who's 26th season. It is also the very last story of the original TV series of Doctor Who, with the show then being off the air for four years.

As I have looked back over the Sylvester McCoy era for my reviews it has increasingly puzzled me why the BBC decided to stop making the series after Survival - the stories have not been bad (far from it, even if they did not manage to get Paul Darrow to guest star in any of them) and the viewing figures for season 26 showed an increasing trend, from 3,100,000 for part one of Battlefield at the start of the season to 5,000,000 for this story at the end. Of course those figures are only for mannys, the number of cats watching remains unknown.

Survival stars Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace, and it was written by Rona Munro. I have not watched Survival before, so let's pounce on it to see what it is like, and find out if the solution to the riddle of why Doctor Who was cancelled lies within...


It's a cat! What a great way to start! The cat chases a manny and he gets disappeared. This is an unexpected level of gritty realism to begin the story with, of the sort we have not seen in Doctor Who for a while - probably not since Caves of Androzani.

The TARDIS appears in the same street. Ace starts moaning about how it is a Sunday and there is nothing good on the TV. While nowadays this could appear as a self-reflexive meta-commentary based on the fact that Doctor Who is itself being shown on Sunday evenings, lol, at the time it was made (and set) this was biting social commentary - the Thatcher government had passed a law making it illegal to show any good TV programmes on Sundays, so that the best thing about Sunday television in the late 1980s was the theme tunes.

The Doctor asks Ace "what's so terrible about Perivale" and Ace's answer is that "nothing ever happens here." If this is true then we could be in for a very boring story, but I doubt it since we have already seen a cat! In fact the next scene also features a cat. There is a bad manny who shoos the cat out of her garden. Boo!

For a moment I thought she might be the baddy but in the next scene we see a cat watching some other mannys. It is in contact with the Master who has glowing eyes (a bit like a cat's!) and he is in shadow with his voice disguised so I don't think we are supposed to know it's him yet, but it is definitely Anthony Ainley, last seen as the Master in Colin Baker's final story Trial of a Time Lord.


Subtle.

The Doctor and Ace go to "the youth club" looking for Ace's old friends (who may include Keiller from Gold among them, I don't know), but instead in the youth club are some mannys in a self-defence class, including "Sarge" who is their leader and who goes on about "survival of the fittest." Clang!

Ace asks Sarge where her friends are and he recognises her as a Perivale local. Ace gets a clue from Sarge that mannys have been going missing. The Doctor sees the Master's cat and that means the Master can see the Doctor.


The Doctor is more intrigued by the cat (naturally enough!) than the missing mannys and he goes into a shop where he meets Hale and Pace filming a sketch. They are also talking about the "law of the jungle" and "survival of the fittest" so the title is getting dropped left, right and centre here.

The Doctor wants to buy cat noms (proving once again that he is the greatest hero in the universe!) and Hale (or is it Pace?) tells a story about a lion - it isn't very funny, but it does foreshadow an upcoming plot development by reminding us that mannys are also cat noms.

Things get very serious when it turns out that something has nomed Hale and Pace's pet Tiger. Oh noes! Cats are not noms! Shit just got real.

Ace meets a manny she knows and can get some more exposition from in exchange for 10p. The Doctor says
"When is a cat not a cat? When it builds its own cat flap."
I don't know whether or not to classify this as the Doctor getting a saying wrong for the first time since season 24, since this is so radically different from the original door/ajar/a jar saying. Also cats build their own cat flaps all the time, it's just that they get mannys to do the actual W-word.

The Master and his cat disappear another manny. We don't know why they are doing this yet, I have to presume for the moment that it is for the lols.

The Doctor puts some of the cat noms out in the street but the wrong cat comes to nom it (silly Doctor). Meanwhile Ace finds the right cat by mistaik, although she doesn't know it is the Master's cat because it only makes a sinister face for the benefit of the viewers at home.


The cat runs away and a catmanny on a horsey appears in front of Ace and chases her.

A doggy has come to nom the cat noms the Doctor put out (silly doggy) but before the Doctor can shoo it away he hears Ace shouting for him. Ace cleverly hides inside a climbing frame where the horsey can't get at her, although she then tries to run away which is not so clever and she gets chased and disappeared, so that when the Doctor arrives she is already gone.

Ace appears on an alien planet, which we can tell because the sky is pink. She sees some cats noming the manny from the start of the episode, thus paying off the foreshadowing from Hale and Pace's scene. Then the catmanny on the horsey starts chasing Ace again.

The Doctor finally gets the right cat to nom the noms, but before he can pounce on it, Sarge pounces on him. Despite Sarge having been built up as a dangerous manny earlier, the Doctor swiftly turns the tables on him and gets away to chase the cat.

The catmanny is about to pounce upon Ace when it suddenly decides to chase after the second disappeared manny from earlier instead. Lol, cats are like that - we pay attention to you when we want to, not when you want us to!

The catmanny takes the manny away on its horsey, then Ace sees one of her missing friends Shreela. Shreela takes her to where Midge and Derek are hiding from cats, as though they are mouses.

The Doctor is about to catch the cat again when it disappears an makes him and Sarge disappear too. They appear on the planet and see a catmanny. In fact there is a whole clowder of catmannys, and they surround the Doctor and Sarge.

They herd the Doctor to a tent. He goes in and sees the Master who says
"Why Doctor, what an unexpected pleasure."
and I think this is supposed to be a surprise reveal for the cliffhanger, but it is not. His eyes glow like a cat's, and the Doctor makes a confused face because he knows the Master is not a cat - this mystery is the real cliffhanger.


This is the most amazing episode of Doctor Who evar - it is full of cats!

In fact it is so good I that am going to go on and review part two right now.

Part Two



Sarge tries to run away but the catmannys all pounce on him and play with him while the Master and the Doctor talk. The Doctor steals a horsey and he and Sarge ride away on it.

Ace finds out things from her friends about the catmannys so that she can fight them. I was forgetting for a moment that Ace is supposed to be a goody (albeit a psychopathic pyromaniac goody) so in theory we should be on her side not the catmannys'. Ace sets a trap for a catmanny but it spots the trap and breaks it with its cat claws.


Ace is confused about her trap not working. Like many mannys have done before her, she has underestimated their cat intelligence, lol.

The Doctor tells Sarge that they are "on the planet of the Cheetah People."

Back on Earth a cat sees a milkmanny delivering milk and looks at him as if he is noms (or possibly just the milk he is delivering?) and, while we don't see him get disappeared, we know by now that this is definitely going to happen.

Ace sets another trap but this time catches the Doctor and Sarge in it instead of a Cheetah People. The Doctor tells them he thinks the planet is going to blow up soon, and then he takes them through the middle of the Cheetah People, who don't pounce on them to nom them because they are sleepy and have already had noms. This is well-observed authentic cat behaviour from the scriptwriter, I am enjoying the heightened level of realism we're seeing in this story.

The milkmanny from earlier appears (having clearly been teleported to the planet by a cat off-screen since we last saw him) and starts running around and shouting, waking up the Cheetah People and making them grumpy. This kicks off a big fight between the mannys and the Cheetah People - the Doctor tries to say there will be no battle here but nobody pays any attention to him this time. Everybody gets separated in the confusion, and some of the Cheetah People start pouncing on each other to make things even more fun.

The Doctor and the Master confront each other again and the Doctor starts to get some exposition:
"This planet's alive. The animals are part of the planet. When they fight each other, they trigger explosions. They hasten the planet's destruction."
The Master needs the Doctor's help - cats can bring mannys here but cannot send them back, so the Master needs the Doctor's help to escape. This 'only going one way' business makes good scientific sense according to the Second Cat Law of Thermodynamics, which states that socks can become cats but cats don't become socks.


The Master says that if they stay there too long
"We shall become animals."
and he shows off his cat eyes and teeth. This sounds great! Except that the planet will also blow up which is, I admit, a bit of a downside. The cats start singing and the Master joins in. The Doctor leaves the Master with a sad look, as though disappointed he is not becoming a cat yet.

Ace makes friends with a Cheetah who likes her badges. The Doctor finds them and he warns Ace that her new friend is still dangerous and might nom her...
"Or worse."
"What's worse?"
"Let's just say they are dangerously attractive."
So even the Doctor admits that cats are handsome, lol.

Sarge tries to take charge of the other mannys and he drops the story title again. (It really is most unusual for it to feature in on-screen dialogue so frequently, I'd almost say it is a deliberate subversion of the tendency to slip the title into the script exactly once.) But when the Doctor and Ace find them they are fighting among themselves.

Midge has begun turning into a cat. He runs away and the Master captures him and uses him to teleport back to Earth. The Doctor sees this and realises that he has figured out that once the mannys begin to change they can do this (the reverse of what the Cheetah People can do) and so escape. This means that the Doctor and the mannys still on the planet will be able to escape too, but only when one of them starts to turn into a cat as well.

Sarge starts to argue about who this will be, but then we see that it is Ace who has cat eyes now.


Part one ended with the Master showing his cat eyes, and now Ace has them, so the Doctor is the only main character not to have begun changing into a cat. But I think I can see where this plot is going (because I too have cat eyes. Actually I know where this is going because I saw the Doctor with cat eyes on the DVD box - so much for hiding spoilers!) and there is only one episode left.

I can't wait until another time to watch part three, I'm going to carry on my review... now!

Part Three



Ace goes running off to play with her new friend who calls her "sister." This involves them running in slow motion, which they both seem to enjoy, and it does look like great fun. The Doctor follows them at normal speed, so should have no difficulty in catching them up.

The Master is back on Earth and tries to turn himself back into a manny... er, I mean a Time Lord possessing the body of a Trakenite.

Ace's cat friend is called Karra. Disappointingly she claims she is not a cat, although she does look a lot like one so it is an understandable mistaik to maik. But now she knows Karra is not a cat, Ace's loyalty is torn between her and the Doctor, although not enough to stop her from going on a horsey ride with Karra to look for a ded manny to nom.


The Doctor arrives and says
"Ace, come back. Come home."
and Ace's cat eyes go away. This is a great scene, and Sophie Aldred is good at conveying Ace's inner conflict with her facial expressions alone.


The Doctor is worried that if Ace takes them back to Earth she may "become like the Cheetah people forever." This sounds like a win-win situation to me, but Ace is not sure. Of course I am already a cat, so turning into a cat forever holds no scares for me. Maybe that is how the Maker of Cats turns socks into cats?

Ace takes them all back home to Earth, arriving just outside the TARDIS. Shreela and Derek are happy to be home in Perivale and grateful to the Doctor and Ace, but Sarge has learned nothing from his experiences on the planet and is still just as much of a dick as he was back in his first scene.

Ace thinks they can now leave in the TARDIS but the Doctor is still worried about the Master. And well he might be, as the Master has killed a cat! Oh noes!
The Doctor thinks the Master is motivated by "malice" and "survival" (clang!). Ace's cat eyes come back and Squeak (who is a little manny and not a mouse, despite the name) says she is a
"Bad cat man."


Midge has gone all cool looking, which I presume is the next stage of his transformation into a cat, and he goes into the youth club's self-defence class who have been leaderless without Sarge. Midge takes over the class by dropping the story title like Sarge used to. Sarge comes in and when the Doctor and Ace arrive in the next scene they find him going

The Master says Midge is his "hunting dog." Oh it's ON now! It's one thing to turn mannys into cats, but quite another to turn them into doggys.

With the self-defence class as his henchmannys, the Master sets a trap for the Doctor. Ace goes to fight them but the Doctor knows that her fighting would make her change "forever" so he goes in Ace's place. He and Midge ride motorbikes directly at each other and then they explode.


For some reason seeing this makes me think "However, he has chosen a very obvious piece of cover."

The Doctor disappears and the Master sets his henchmannys on Ace. Karra appears to help her, but also to tempt Ace to fight and become a cat. She chases the henchmannys away. The Master tries to hypno-eyes Karra, to which she ripostes
"Do you bleed?"
Karra may say she is not a cat but I think she is really great anyway. But then the Master stabs her and runs away loling.


Ace runs to Karra and finds she has turned into a manny. Oh noes! This explains why she said she wasn't a cat, and also it means she doesn't have nine lives so she dies. Ace is sad, and so am I, mew.

The Doctor catches the Master trying to break into his TARDIS and confronts him. The Master claims he can control the power of the Cheetah People's planet, and he pounces on the Doctor and teleports them both to the planet, which has nearly blown up like the Genesis planet at the end of Star Trek 3 Search for Spock.


They fight, and as the Doctor is about to win we see that he, finally, has cat eyes. This is what we've all been waiting for, the payoff of the whole story - the Doctor turning into a cat!

But the Doctor stops fighting, and allows the Master to win, while pleading with him
"If we fight like animals, we'll die like animals!"
The Master tries to hit the Doctor with a big bone (which is a dog's weapon if you ask me) and there is a flash and the Doctor is back on Earth again where his melodramatic speech sounds out of place - a commentary on how the Doctor will never be at home in the everyday land of Suburbia.

A manny comes and complains about cats at him, which reminds us that not all baddys can be defeated by not fighting them.

The Doctor comes and takes his hat and umbrella back from Ace, who had thought he was ded, thus trolling her one last time. Ace has turned back into a manny, but says she will always remember how great it was to be a cat. The Doctor says
"Where to now, Ace?"
"Home."
"Home?"
"The TARDIS."

So Ace has fully accepted that the TARDIS, not Perivale, is her true home, which confirms what we saw earlier when she unconsciously teleported them all to the TARDIS. This completes Ace's story arc and emotional journey as she finds and accepts a place she belongs.

The Doctor and Ace walk off together, and the Doctor gives a final speech...
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the seas asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice. Somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do!"


So now we have solved the mystery of why the BBC stopped making Doctor Who after Survival. The answer is that they had made the greatest story of all time, and so had to stop now in the knowledge that they would never better it.

It is not simply the presence of cats that makes Survival so purrfect - we saw when they brought the series back in 2005 that Russell "The" Davies tried to improve his rubbish stories New Earth and Gridlock by including catmannys - you need a great story to begin with.

And Survival is a great story. The reason it gets away with dropping the title as often as it does is because it underlines the strong theme of the story, which is that "survival of the fittest" means the best survive, and cats survive, therefore cats are best. All cats know this already, naturally, but it is nice to have a three-part story made to remind mannys of the fact.

Plus Survival reintroduces the Master for the first time in the Sylvester McCoy era of Doctor Who, and he fits the story perfectly - of all Doctor Who's many baddys, only the Master is clever enough to be a worthy adversary for the Doctor in his final story, but stupid enough to get himself stuck on the planet of the Cheetah People in the first place.

But let's be honest here - the main reason Survival is so great is because it is the nearest we'll ever come to having a cat as the Doctor. That one scene where the Doctor gets cat eyes makes it all worthwhile. Of course it'll never happen again - imagine the backlash on the internets from mannys if it did! I suppose we are lucky the internets weren't around in 1989, so all they could do then was write angry letters to Doctor Who Magazine - not that the magazine printed any of them, there was a cover-up.

Speaking of DWM...


Back in Doctor Who Magazine #250, the Doctor's speech in the final scene of Survival was nominated as the second best moment evar in a list of "10 more moments when you know you're watching the greatest television series ever made..." and, this time, I think they got it right.

It is great to see the Sylvester McCoy era of Doctor Who go out on an all-time high (I know he came back for Dimensions in Time and the TV Movie, but they aren't part of the original series so I'm allowed to not count them, mew). Although it had some shaky moments, such as Richard Briers overacting at the end of Paradise Towers, or the missed opportunities of Silver Nemesis, this era is one of the best of all of Doctor Who, with only one really bad story letting the side down. On the other paw we have seen classics such as the fabulous Time and the Rani, the thought-provoking and politically controversial Happiness Patrol, and the triumphant final send off for Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT that was Battlefield, and these terrific hits more than make up for the few misses.

Survival completes the so-called "Cartmel Masterplan" story arc which began back in Dragonfire when Ace was introduced as the Companion, and where the thematic direction for the McCoy era was chosen from out of the alternatives presented by season 24. This bold new direction saw the Doctor become a darker, more devious character, which we can see evidence of in Survival when, even at the very end there, he was testing Ace to see if she had any cat left in her by saying "we've got W-word to do."

Although it is maybe worth remembering that, back in part one, he couldn't even get a cat to nom cat noms. So much for the "Cosmic Manipulator."

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Doctor Who Night 2018: Minotaurs


Here we see a manny who loves his job. It's the Master, as played by Roger Delgado in his penultimate appearance in Doctor Who.

It would be hard to argue that The Time Monster is one of the best stories of Jon Pertwee's era, but it is easily one of the most fun. From the Doctor speeding up the film to make his car go faster, to the delightful scenes of the Doctor and the Master confronting and one-upping each other from their respective TARDISes. From the Doctor's trippy dream sequence in the very first scene, to the 'this-SFX-isn't-very-good-but-let's-use-it-anyway' approach to the manifestations of Kronos.


There's also a curiously smutty undercurrent to this story. From the Master's evident enjoyment at saying
"Come, Kronos, come!" 
(on more than one occasion), to the Doctor's "time sensor" gadget looking a bit rude, to the ending where Sgt Benton is in the nude, lol.


And there's also a cat! What a great story.

Our loose theme for this year's Doctor Who Night was "minotaurs." The other story we watched was The Horns of Nimon, a lesser story from season 17 that is mainly notable for the Co-Pilot saying
"Weakling scum!"
four times over the course of two episodes before he gets killed off...

Not really of course. It is mainly notable for the character of Soldeed, as played by Graham Crowden. Following a story where Roger Delgado played the baddy was never going to be easy, but he rises to the challenge and gives one of the most over-the-top performances in all of Doctor Who.

Crowden took on Tom Baker in his own show and was determined to out-ham him... or die trying. Judge for yourselves how well that turned out.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

A Cat Sits on the Eternal Throne


I have been playing a great new game with the (sadly rather generic) name Eternal. It is a lot like Magic: the Gathering except it is made to play on computers from the very beginning, and so if you are playing on a computer - which you have to be, since Eternal is a computer game - it plays much better than Magic.

When I first started I expected I would be mostly playing the single-player story mode and puzzles (which are great fun by the way - some of them are easy but some of them are so hard that I had to get Professor Cat to help me), because I had bad experiences playing Magic Duels against trolls who would do their best to abuse the timer rules to make games not fun for me. But the mannys who play Eternal on the internets seem to be, for the most part, friendly and happy to say "hello" and "thanks for the game" and sometimes even "nice play!" So you will often find me playing in the Casual mode where playing a fun, friendly game is more important than winning.

Sadly Eternal is not purrfect yet - there are not enough cat cards in the game to make a cat army deck (like I did in Magic: the Gathering) so instead my best deck is full of dinosaurs! Magic has been around a long time though, while Eternal is still a young game and growing. My biggest hope for the game in the future is that they put in more cats.

Here is my current Dinosaurs! deck list, which is a lot of fun (especially when Adaptive Predator shows up) although it probably needs some more refinement:

4 Initiate of the Sands
2 Savage Skybrood
4 Seek Power
2 Equivocate
4 Second Sight
4 Static Bolt
2 Twinning Ritual
3 Auralian Merchant
4 Pteriax Hatchling
2 Ancient Lore
4 Avisaur Patriarch
2 Clutchmate
4 Nesting Avisaur
3 Twinbrood Sauropod
1 Adaptive Predator
3 Predatory Carnosaur
6 Time Sigil
3 Amber Monument
4 Primal Sigil
2 Clan Standard
3 Cobalt Waystone
1 Crest of Wisdom
4 Elysian Banner
4 Seat of Wisdom
And in the market:
1 Twilight Hunt
1 Dispel
1 Xenan Obelisk
1 Twinbrood Sauropod
1 Predatory Carnosaur

Monday, 5 November 2018

Columbo: Candidate for Crime


As good as The Mind of Mr. J. G. Reeder was, there is one TV Detective series that was even better. It is of course Columbo, the TV Detective we all need, and one of the greatest American TV series of all time.

Candidate For Crime is an episode from the third season in 1973, so 45 years ago, but relevant right now since it is set on the eve of an election, and here the murderer is a candidate for the US Senate - although it seems to me that the days are now long gone when a would-be Senator had to keep his affair a secret for fear of its public exposure finishing his career.

1973 saw the American Vice President resign due to corruption charges, and the President investigated over Watergategate, so they were no strangers to the concept of a criminal politician, but I bet nobody living in those long gone, innocent times could even begin to imagine the sorts of things that those seeking election to high office get away with nowadays!

Jackie "Perry White" Cooper plays an almost archetypal Columbo murderer who does a highly enjoyable turn as he gets increasingly exasperated by the trolling from Columbo, most particularly when he changes his expression in a moment, switching from the mask he wears in public - and when being forced to tolerate Columbo's presence - to show what he is really feeling as soon as he's alone.

As always for the murderers who consider themselves superior to the police lieutenant, he underestimates Columbo until it is too late and this, combined with his unsympathetic two-faced demeanour, makes his eventual comeuppance all the more satisfying for us watching.