About this blog

This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

Where our journey takes us, who knows.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Inactive sims area created

We now have all of our inactive sims down the bottom of the site, visible to all users. If you are interested in re-opening one, please post in the sim proposals thread.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Kvant Sim-Level Award

Robert Longtin is awarded the "Give Them Want They Want" Award for his character Quinn demonstrating precisely how to deal with a grumbling employee.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Doctor Who Season 6 (1968/69): The road to Gallifrey

We're in your city, killing your dudes
The archival situation is a bit better here – of the 44 episodes, 37 are complete and another two have been officially ‘restored’ via animation. In fact, every story bar one is ‘intact’ in the archives, so I’ll stop discussing episode availability unless needed (a couple of Pertwee stories are not complete in colour).

Patrick Troughton had decided to do three years and call it done, but there were other issue behind the scenes. Bryant and Sherwin had to produce the two-part broadcast pilot for a show called S P Air that didn’t go to series (and about which I can find nothing – one assumes it’s been junked). Then Bryant had health problems, putting Sherwin increasingly (and then formally) in charge and making Terrance Dicks script editor.

This season is generally a bit uneven. For every classic, you’ve got a clunker or an average effort.

The Dominators (5 episodes)

Reduced from six episodes to five by Sherwin, which resulted in the two writers, Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, insisting the story went out under the pseudonym Norman Ashby. A tale involving the TARDIS crew having to persuade a group of pacifists to resist some aggressive aliens and their deadly robots (the Quarks, who would make some later comic strip appearances[1]). Generally held as a bit of mess – audience research at the time was not kind to it. I can hardly remember it.

The Mind Robber (5 episodes)

Expanded from four episodes to five at short notice (Sherwin wrote the first and arguably the best episode un-credited), resulting in some rather short episodes, this trippy tale sees the TARDIS crew trapped in “The Land of Fiction”, meeting such public-domain fictional staples as Rapunzel and the Minotaur. It also has Jamie change actor for two episodes via a very good in-story reason as Frazer Hines had come down with chicken pox.

While perhaps primarily remembered for one particular shot of Zoe at the end of Episode One, it’s a real classic.

The Invasion (8 episodes – 1 and 4 are missing, but were recreated with only minor changes by animators Cosgrove Hall for the DVD release, so this story must be called complete)

Another classic story, with the iconic image of the Cybermen near St. Paul’s Cathedral (see above), I personally found it a tad slow for my liking. The Cybermen try to invade Earth (with the help of a couple of memorable human villains [Packer!]) and the Doctor teams up with the newly created UNIT, headed by the newly promoted Brigadier to stop them. Very high production values (and MOD cooperation) mean there is a lot of action here.

This is also Terrance Dicks’ first time as script editor.

Terrance Dicks

Terrance Dicks (1935-) must be considered one of Who’s elder statesmen. Spending almost six seasons as Script Editor (this and the entire Pertwee era), he also novelised a considerable number of the classic stories for the Target Books range, wrote six TV stories himself, contributed a number of original novels during the hiatus years and also did some direct-to-video stuff of which we’ll discuss much later.

While I don’t personally agree with his “all Doctors are essentially the same” approach, his contribution to the show is pretty much unmatched, certainly by anyone still living.

UNIT Dating

OK, people, follow me here a second:
·         “The Abominable Snowmen” takes place in 1935
·         “The Web of Fear” takes place roughly forty years later, so c.1975
·         “The Invasion” takes place four years after that, c.1979
·         Ergo, the Third Doctor and Fourth Doctor UNIT stories must take place in the early 1980s.
·         There is a whole slew of technology in the shows that was not in existence at the time (video phones, BBC3, laser weapons, trips to Mars from a British space programme[2]…) and in-jokes about political events, e.g. a Prime Minister called “Jeremy” a reference to then Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe[3].

However, wait a second…
·         Most of the cars on screen have near-contemporary licence plates.
·         Mao Zedong is still alive as of “The Mind of Evil” - he died in 1976.
·         Sarah Jane Smith says in “The Pyramids of Mars” that she’s from 1980.
·         There is pre-decimal currency in use in “Doctor Who and the Silurians”. The UK went over to decimal currency in 1971.
·         In “Mawdryn Undead”, the Brigadier retired from UNIT in 1977 and was teaching at a public school in 1983!

The production team avoided mentioning on screen dates to avoid potential continuity problems, but what this resulted in is a rather large conundrum that taxes fans to this day and has actually resulted in a few jokes on the subject turning up in various media (including “The Sontaran Stratagem”)

The Krotons (4 episodes)

The first story penned by Robert Holmes, one of the show’s most celebrated writers (of whom we’ll talk more about later), this reasonable story sees Team TARDIS help a slave race overthrow a crystalline alien race. Also features a mind probe [No! Not the Mind Probe!].

The Seeds of Death (6 episodes)

The return of the Ice Warriors, this story (which I really must see the end of) sees the Martians try to take a futuristic Earth using a teleporter network.

The Space Pirates (6 episodes, only Episode 2 survives)

A regular-light story by Robert Holmes, this “space western” (over 30 years before Firefly) involving a conflict between some pirates and law enforcement.

The War Games (10 episodes)

Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks end the era of the Second Doctor in style. The crew arrive in what they think is the Western Front in 1917… in reality, it’s part of a training world for one of the Doctor’s own people, who is out to conquer the universe. Haven’t actually seen all of this, but the last three episodes are some of the most significant in the show’s history.

With the situation getting desperate, the Doctor calls in his own people, the Time Lords (first named here). They deal with the problem, but then take the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to their home planet (as yet unnamed). Jamie and Zoe are sent back home, their memories of all bar their first stories erased. Meanwhile, the Doctor is convicted of illegally leaving his home planet and “meddling”.

His sentence: exile to Earth in the 20th century and a forced regeneration…

Season 6B

There is a narrative gap between the Doctor’s sentence and the start of Season 7, in which the Third Doctor is seen for the first time. A lot of things including the Doctor knowing about Jamie and Zoe’s fates in “The Five Doctors” mean he must have had further adventures after “The War Games” – a number of “expanded universe” works also suggest this. It’s widely believed by fans that the Doctor actually did some work for the Time Lords’ Celestial Intervention Agency before being sent to Earth - the so-called Season 6B.

****
The decision to change the show to an Earth-based one with the Doctor in exile was basically budgetary – the money wasn’t stretching. Unable to match Star Trek (making its first UK airing during the season gap), they decided to have the monsters come to the Doctor in near-contemporary Earth.

The Doctor was going to be getting a job with UNIT…

[1] We’ll be discussing the “expanded universe” of Who (comics, audio dramas, novels and video games etc.) between Season 26 and Season 27 – i.e. between talking about the classic and new eras.
[2] In reality, the United Kingdom has only launched one satellite (Prospero) on its own. All other British space activity has been under the auspices of the European Space Agency and the five British nationals who have gone into orbit went up either in the Space Shuttle or a Russian Soyuz.
[3]The February 1974 general election actually produced a Hung Parliament (no party having a majority), with Labour gaining most seats, but only second place in terms of the popular vote.

Amanda Bond wins sim award on The Elemental

Amanda Bond has been awarded the Ash Leighton Plom SL Award for Joss Whedon Excellence in Firefly GMing after shooting a character who had been on the sim for five years without any warning.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Academy closes

Regretfully, we've had our first Firefly sim close due to lack of activity. The Academy is now inactive. Anyone wishing to revive it, please contact Kevin "Zuzutoo" Diamond first.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

New Sim Level Awards announced

Robert Longtin just won the Ash Leighton Plom SL Award for The Superlative Epicaryest (epic and legendary) Hero Introduction, and Kevin Diamond the Ash Leighton Plom SL Award for Suitably Awed Responses to The Superlative Epicaryest (epic and legendary) Hero Introduction, both on The Triple Zero.

David Anderson is awarded the Ash Leighton Plom SL Award for Actually Being Hugh Jackman, in his roleplay with 'Anzac' in SGB-2, avatared by Hugh Jackman.

Dawn Castell wins the Ash Leighton Plom SL Award for Combining Outright Heroicosity with Believable Vulnerability in a Serviceperson for her characterisation of Avalon McManus in SGB-2 who has always somehow seemed to combine a brave and detached soldier with a wounded abuse victim in one person.

James Mcguire wins the Ash Leighton Plom SL Award for the Most Likeable Yet at the Same Time Manly and Impressive Civie Ever to Serve, in Lucas Fairweather, SGB-2's resident weightlifting geek.

The Ash Leighton Plom SL's Award Recognising Overlooked Loss, Sacrifice, and Constant Heroism is belated granted to Dondi Ratliff for poor Shadra Reu on Accipiter

****
Please remember that any Sim Leader can give out Sim Level awards.

Firefly with Time Travel (Review: 'Doctor Who' 8.15-8.20, "Colony in Space") - Part Two


Gallifrey (we haven’t heard that name yet and won’t until “The Time Warrior”). Three Time Lords discuss the fact that the Master has got his hands on a secret file on “The Doomsday Weapon”. They decide to send the Doctor to sort this out. They don’t inform him of this – they just dematerialise the TARDIS while he’s showing Jo around.

Arriving on the planet Uxarieus in the year 2472, the Doctor and Jo find an agrarian colony led by a man called Ashe – a group that is trying to forge a new life away from an overcrowded and repressive Earth. While they have an uneasy truce with the “primitives” who live on the planet, their crops are failing and a “monster” is attacking their outer settlements. A survivor from an earlier colony arrives, claiming that the monsters and the Uxarieans wiped out the rest of his people.

Soon, a spaceship from the Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) arrives, led by the nastily urbane Captain Dent and are “shocked” to discover there is a colony already there, so calls in an Adjudicator from Earth to resolve the dispute. The Doctor discovers the true identity of the monster, Jo gets kidnapped and then open fighting begins between the two groups of settlers. Then, the Adjudicator arrives…

****
The problem with a lot of the six-parters of classic Doctor Who is that they’re two parts too long. “Colony” is another classic example of a story that would have worked better in four 25-minute parts (i.e. 100 minutes, just a tad longer than a DW two-parter today) – tightening up the dialogue and making the thing less of a run-around that some of 1970s and 1980s Doctor Who ends up being.

Malcolm Hulke, who wrote or re-wrote eight Doctor Who stories and created the Silurians among other creatures, was a strong left-winger, never afraid to add political themes to his stories – this one discussing American colonisation is a particular example of his work. There are a lot of interesting ideas here, but the whole story falls apart in the execution.

The dialogue is very un-naturalistic and ‘stagey’. If this was made today, it would be a lot more free-flowing and snappy – Joss Whedon would have a lot of fun with a story like this. While real speech contains too many pauses to be really acceptable for a television audience, there is going too far and this sounds too polished, especially for a bunch of poor farmers who speak in Received Pronunciation[1].

The pace is plodding and it just feels like a run-around much of the time. That said, the final episode is pretty enjoyable and kicks things up nicely. The effects are well, dated, but they generally are for early 1970s Who.

It’s by no means a bad story – Jon Pertwee is at his charming Edwardian best, Roger Delgado is suitably slimy and Katy Manning demonstrates why she is so popular among fandom. The overall plot is a good one and battle scenes involving slug-throwing weapons always feel more real to me (other Firefly fans as well, I’d say).

All in all, there’s been worse, there’s been better. Wouldn’t recommend this for a first timer to the show, but after a few, who knows.

5/10


[1]Received Pronunciation (RP) or The Queen’s English is the “standard” English pronunciation that most native Anglophone people don’t use in their everyday speech. It’s the sort of accent commonly associated with BBC newsreaders and sci-fi of this era. Tom Baker and the late Lis Sladen both hail from Merseyside, but both utilise RP accents for their roles. RP is declining in use (even the Queen is sounding less RP as the years go by), although it is still around and disconcertingly common among British characters in US drama, even those played by British actors, with few notable exceptions. I personally joke that the LA air does something funny to British actors’ vocal cords.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

2012 EVC Elections result

With 14 votes and one abstention, Robert Longtin has won a second term as Elections and Voting Coordinator.

Elections for General Coordinator and Technical Coordinator are scheduled for next month.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Simming League's classic April Fool's

Forget spaghetti trees, the Simming League came up with one of the best April Fool's gags of 2012 - namely that several sims had been bought out by global corporation World Wide Sims and their sites would be subject to a whole host of restrictive rules.

More details of the gag can be found here.

Charles Star, who came up with the whole thing, is interviewed here.

We would have taken part - unfortunately, the invite email went into our General Coordinator's spam folder. Clearly his email provider lacked a sense of humour...

London - a Fighter Ops short story

This is the second Fighter Ops bit of linked fiction. This is the first one.

 

****

“It’s an electronic cigarette”, Sir Percy Wallington told the MOD civil servant who gave him a very funny look when he pulled the white tube out of his pocket, “That means I can smoke it indoors. Now calm down, there’s a good chap”.

 

He’d almost snapped at the guy, which wouldn’t have been fair. It wasn’t his fault that Sir Percy, Chief of the Air Staff and professional head of the RAF, was feeling like hitting someone. Possibly the PM. Or for the matter, the Chief of the Defence Staff.

 

Something was rotten in the state of Denmark – or more technically in the state of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He’d picked up wind from his sources (and he had many) that this surprise attack on Iran by Israel had been not so much of a surprise to certain people. Namely the Americans, who had turned two carrier groups and a few of their subs about 48 hours beforehand to put them nearer to the Gulf to handle any ‘fallout’ – and not the scattering of radioactive material around Natanz. If the special relationship wasn’t completely dead, then the British had to have been informed of this.

 

Then why wasn’t I told until late on Saturday evening when the strike planes were on their way home? He thought as he took a puff and allowed the nicotine to enter his body. He’d been trying to give up smoking for years and this allowed him the nicotine without the tar. His wife still insisted on him going to the shed to do it, but that was life.

 

As he sat deep in thought, another senior officer came down the stair case. A large, built like a tank man, he was dressed in the uniform of a British Army Major General. As neither was “covered”, they didn’t salute – in fact they were personal friends and members of the same club – the Drake Club in Mayfair.

 

“Penny for them, Walls?” asked Major General Daniel Brooks-Thornton, commander of 3rd (United Kingdom) Division, as he sat down on the bench.

 

Sir Percy smiled.

 

“We’ve been caught on the hop. Again. I don’t like it. Just for once I’d like a conflict we’ve been properly prepared for…”

 

“Never had one, Walls”, Brooks-Thornton said, “We weren’t ready in 1939. We weren’t ready in 1982. We weren’t even ready for Telic and we started that…”

 

“You were in the Falklands weren’t you, Daniel?”

 

Sir Percy didn’t need to ask him that – the South Atlantic Medal on his uniform confirmed the Major General had spent at least one day in theatre – but there were degrees of involvement in any war.

 

“Yep, Welsh Guards. Scared 22 year old with wet boots walking my way across that godforsaken piece of sheep-filled rock… If they hadn’t got Atlantic Conveyor… You weren’t in that, were you?”

 

“Nope – still on the Tornado OCU… My first war was Granby, as I’m sure you remember…”

 

Sir Percy would never forget Operation Granby, the 1991 Gulf War. IX Squadron’s Tornadoes had been tasked with low-level anti-runway attacks against Iraqi airfields – a hairy prospect. He still had nightmares about one particular close shave, although they’d gotten a bit weird over time.

 

“It may sound utterly perverse to say it, but I wish we’d been there for that one – and I wish we’d kicked him out then. Would have saved us a lot of hassle later”.

 

Sir Percy nodded, but before he could continue, his Blackberry pinged with a message. Pulling it out of his pocket, he took a look at the message and wondered what further piece of intelligence was going to ruin his day:

 

Need you at VC – now. C.

****

Forty minutes later, Sir Percy Wallington and his aide-de-camp were standing in the office of the Director-General of the Secret Intelligence Service, known as ‘C’. Another knight of the realm, Sir Percy had met the spymaster on a few formal occasions, but he had the career military man’s distrust of civilian spooks; who had a marked tendency to be able to tell you what was happening, but woefully miss what was going to happen. If anyone had any idea of what was going to go down in Libya in 2011…

 

“Afternoon, Sir Percy”, C said as he entered the office with a large folder, “Going to pass this to JIC, but I really thought you should see these first, so you can pass them on to your boys and girls. Some of this stuff is game-changing and you really need to know it”.

 

He pulled out a satellite photograph of somewhere in central Iran. It showed a large metal structure – with a missile next to it.

 

“We’ve found out what those mysterious structures were that popped up over the last few months. They’re missile gantries”.

 

Percy nodded. He’d suspected that for a while  and had never bought the official Iranian claim they were observation towers. It was clear from the construction of the gantries – all by roads or laybys – that they probably wouldn’t stand up to the strain of a missile launch. Didn’t really matter though – the missile would be away and the 3,000 of these dotted around Iran would give him a lot of targeting headaches – especially those that were in civilian areas.

 

“Thought they might be, but that’s not game-changing, C”.

 

C pulled out a photograph of a blonde-haired woman in US Navy uniform. The shot was a standard head and shoulders one, so he couldn’t make out her rank, but he could see some of her decorations and a name tag that said “MONROE”.

 

“You’ve heard of Detachment 3 of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group of the US Air Force?”

 

“Of course I have”, Sir Percy snapped, “I don’t spend 35 years in this business without hearing about the Americans’ secret MiG unit”.

 

“Det 3” was the successor to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron (the “Red Eagles”), who had flown MiG-17s, MiG-21s and MiG-23s against US pilots in training exercises in the 1980s in a now declassified programme codenamed CONSTANT PEG. While the RAF had never gone against the group (despite Sir Percy trying to arrange this), the data that they and other various exploitations of foreign military technology over the years had accrued regularly crossed his desk – it had certainly helped the electronic warfare exercises that the force ran in the Spadeadam range up in Cumbria.

 

“This woman was involved in Det 3 – one Lieutenant Commander Megan Monroe”.

 

Sir Percy could have sat and listened to this ‘exposition’ all day, but C wasn’t a pretty girl in an US crime drama, so he cut straight through.

 

“There’s a point to this spiel, right?” he said.

 

“Yes, Sir Percy. I’ll give you the briefing package on the way back, but this photograph will sum things up nicely”.

 

He handed the Air Chief Marshal an A4 blow-up of a photograph clearly taken from a covert camera. It showed the same woman dressed in a flight suit, clambering out of a MiG-29. A MiG-29 with Iranian markings.

 

Sir Percy said something very Anglo-Saxon indeed and C nodded.

 

“Hotshot US naval pilot with knowledge of how to fight MiGs properly, presumed murdered by her husband - who conveniently died in a gaol fight - is in fact alive, well and working for Iran. As my nephew likes to say, put that in your pipe and smoke it”.

 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Elections and Voting Coordinator ballot now open

Players should have received their emails for the 2012 EVC election. The choice is between Robert Longtin (the incumbent), No Confidence or Abstaining.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Parting ways - by Mischa Brendel

Parting ways

“Ryan, I know you don’t want me to go, but I’ve made up my mind.” Kimberly was struggling with leaving her little brother behind and Ryan knew it all too well.

“But why can’t you just wait a couple of more years so I can come with you?” he tried.

“I wish you could come with me. But I really need to leave this place, or else I might kill mum and dad.” A smile crept onto her face. Ryan knew exactly what she meant. His parents drove him insane often enough as well. Why he hadn’t stuck to farming, why he had chosen engineering when there was no work for engineers in town, and more pi hua like that. Kimberly had suffered exactly the same preaches and she was fed up with it.

A bit over a month ago, she’d made up her mind and asked around on the ships that were docked whether they could use additional crew, or knew a ship that needed anybody. It hadn’t taken her long to find work: if you were willing to work for very little pay, you could always find work.

Kimberly had found a job aboard some sort of cheap tourist vessel. Why the vessel had docked on this planet Ryan still didn’t know. But Kimberly had found a way to get off the planet and she would not let the opportunity pass. And that was why she was now saying goodbye to her parents and her brother.

Ryan pretended to be angry, although in truth he was just sad. Sad to see his big sister and his best friend go. He turned away. Kimberly sighed and turned her attention to her parents. Mother was crying and father also looked like he could burst out in tears any minute. “Please darling, don’t leave us!” mother wept. “There is plenty of work in this town. Or somewhere else on this planet. Just don’t go out there. It’s far too dangerous!” Father only nodded in agreement. “Mum, dad, we’ve been over this. I need to spread my wings. This planet isn’t for me. There’s a whole Verse out there and I intend to see a great deal of it.” She hugged both her parents. First her father, then her mother who was now crying so loud that her husband looked away in embarrassment.

Kimberly turned to her brother once more. “Ryan?” It just became too much for Ryan. He ran to her and wrapped his arms around his sister. “I know you have to go,” he said, fighting tears. “And I do wish I could come with you… I wish you all the best, I really do.”

“Oh come on.” It was now Kimberly who was struggling to keep in her tears. “I’ll come and visit as often as I can.” Ryan protested: “You know as well as I do that isn’t true.” Kimberly nodded in agreement. “Okay,” she whispered. “But I promise to send a wave every week.” Ryan doubted it, but he wanted it to be true so badly that he didn’t say anything about it. Reluctantly he let go of his sister. Kimberly picked up her suitcases from the ground and walked towards the docks, turning around once more, forcing a smile on her face. Ryan kept looking at her, his vision blurry with tears, until the top of her head disappeared from his vision as she walked down the hill. She was really gone now.

After standing there for a few minutes, Ryan’s mother’s crying calmed somewhat. His father still had his arms around his wife. “Ryan. Are you coming son?” the man said, turning around, heading to town. “No. I’m staying a bit longer. You two go on ahead without me.” His parents didn’t argue. They knew how close Ryan and Kimberly were. Ryan waited a few minutes for his parents to leave. Then he could no longer keep his grief bottled up inside. He fell to his knees and let it all out…

 

 

Monday, 2 April 2012

Sim Strength Information for March 2012

Sims with no SSR ratings are those I do not have player counts for. Any corrections, please let me know.


Congratulations to Greenleaf Skyplex – which was not only our strongest sim, but our most active as well!
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