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.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Where's Your Head At (Review: 'Doctor Who' 2015 Christmas Special, "The Husbands of River Song")

Yes, I did get the TARDIS LEGO set for Christmas. It took me nearly 5 hours to assemble it and bar some minor niggles, looks very nice. I built my own TARDIS console room out of LEGO as a kid, so it's nice to have the real thing.

****

While having a sulk on a human colony in the far future, the Doctor is unintentionally roped into a caper with his missus, River Song. Unfortunately, she doesn't recognise him due to the fact that they meet out of order (and she's not met this version), with hilarious consequences.

This review contains spoilers.

The Doctor quotes Hamlet, or something close to it and does end up getting very hammy at points in this episode. All the Doctors have eaten scenery at one point or another, including Capaldi, who is a good enough actor that he can overact effectively - most notably the scene where he does the whole "bigger on the inside" speech. He does a good job here, having gotten the 'old grump act' down to a fine art, but he really needs a proper companion to fully ground him. He makes a rather Bond-esque quip at the demise of one character, which is definitely off and his comment at a crash site that there's no-one worth saving also seems very cold.

Alex Kingston's River Song, like Flynn Carsen from The Librarians (of course played by Kingston's ER co-star Noah Wyle), is best in small doses. While her flirty, lightning quick personality is enjoyable in this episode, once she gets all slushy towards the end, I was rapidly getting bored. Unlike Root from Person of Interest or for that matter the Doctor himself, she lacks the level of development and overall charisma to sustain a regular role. (Goes to check if there is Doctor Who/Person of Interest fan fic with Root in it)

River isn't alone in her operation, in which she is attempting to retrieve a very valuable gem from inside the head of a genocidal dictator, being joined by Nardole (Matt Lucas) and Ramone (Phillip Rhys, who is best known to me for being a terrorist suspect in Season 2 of 24), the latter who is married to River. These are two reasonably well done male companions, although I must admit I've never really watched Little Britain. Both of them end up losing their heads - literally.

They lose their heads (which remain alive, something of a Moffat trademark over the years) at the hands of King Hydroflax, a dying tyrant who likes to eat his enemies after battle, whether they are alive or dead, and is still worshipped by those on his planet. Doctor Who has done wonders over the years of conjuring up entire worlds and campaigns in dialogue, with images being created in the dialogue that the writers of The Blacklist or Game of Thrones wouldn't put onto screen. Hydroflax's head is played by Greg Davies, a stand-up comic who at 2.03m (6 foot 8) is the second tallest actor to appear in the show this year - being beaten by the tallest man in Europe, one Neil Fingleton, who played the body of the Fisher King- at 30 centimetres higher, he has also played a giant in Game of Thrones and did the motion capture for Ultron in the most recent The Avengers movie. He (Davies) does a very good job with only his head sticking out of a red metal suit, which is separately voiced by Nonso Anozie, who demonstrates a ruthless efficiency to the point where to survive he will happily disintegrate his own head.

(Answer re Root - one is here - S4 spoilers)

Effects Speaking of disintegrating heads, I'm not sure that reducing one to a pile of ash is entirely suitable for 6pm on a Christmas Day; we also get an alien opening up his own head to retrieve a metal ball from inside it. Anyway, the days of 'wobbly sets' are long gone (indeed, they were never as big a feature as popular myth has it - some of the set design was superb considering the budget and space available, most notably the TARDIS) and as a result, the CGI is looking very good, especially the stuff nearer the end on Darillium.

As mention earlier, this is a very zany plot; something that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of The Blacklist (no crossovers there sadly). This said, once we're done with the caper, the romantic scenes at the end, which are setting up the 'end' for River in her timeline (i.e. "Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead" from Season 30) weren't holding my interest and I really didn't like the "happily ever after" caption at the end.

Conclusion

While there is a brilliant madcap energy in the first half of so this episode, it starts to lose the pace badly and by the end, I'd kind of had enough. Sixty minutes is too long a time for a Doctor Who episode in general unless it's really good and this isn't.

6/10

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Club Magicana, drinks aren't free (Review: 'The Librarians' 2.7, "And the Image of Image")

Since I reviewed the first episodes of this TNT series last year, The Librarians, the follow-up to the TV movie trilogy starring Noah Wyle (ER, Falling Skies) has become one of my favourite shows. It's very fun to watch, doesn't take itself too seriously and has great stories, with well thought out updates on ancient stories.

The second season has if anything improved further; everyone knows what they're doing and there's something enjoyable every week.

This review contains spoilers.

****
The overall plot of the second season deals with the Librarians (plural - Flynn Carsen is now joined by the three others from the first episode, promoted to junior Librarians in their own right) having to face the threat of Prospero, the magician from The Tempest made real by the sheer number of tellings of said play and out to take over the world, with the aid of Moriarty, who seems to have a thing for Colonel Baird. You really don't need to be aware of this to enjoy this episode at all, which finds Cassandra and Jacob in London (more on that later) after a day of research heading for a drink... when a woman is hit by an 'invisible car' just outside a trendy nightclub. They soon discover that other accidents have occurred connected with it; people with no history of drug use having overdoses for example... and their magical 'clippings books' that alert them to stuff like this haven't logged it.

Thus Colonel Baird and her team of geniuses must enter a new and deadly arena of battle... they're going clubbing. At a club it turns out is owned by one Dorian Gray...

****

Flynn isn't in this episode at all, which is no loss - he's best in small doses, I've found.

Eve Baird, the Guardian (who it has been established is more there to prevent the Librarian from going power-mad than to protect his/her life; Flynn Carsen's 11 years so far in post is very long by the Library's standards, with it being mentioned here that they once went through three in eight months) continues to combine tactical skills with earthly grounding and an intense degree of snark. As well as, in this episode, a low cut corset and tight leather trousers. Rebecca Romijn was a former Victoria's Secret model (a reflection - this Victoria woman is useless at keeping secrets) but is far more than that. She's genuinely very funny in this episode, as the out of her comfort zone Eve and makes some good comments on how she's been perceived as just a sex object in the past. Also, "Worst. Plan. Ever!"

If Cassandra Cillian was in Doctor Who, the Daily Mail would be running (heavily illustrated) articles about her outfits - she wears shorter skirts than Amy Pond. Anyway... Lindy Booth is a lot more than a woman with a high Charisma stat (seriously, someone needs to make a RPG book of this), she's a superb actor and hilarious in this episode, in which Cassandra, through no fault of her own I should add, ends up very drunk, then very hungover - including some corkers when she does her hand-wavy math thing, akin to those bits in the Minority Report movie only in the air and a purple rhino turns up. Seriously, I don't know which of those Cassandra bits was funnier, drunk or hungover - an honourable mention goes to the slo-mo power walk in which Cassie ends up stacking it in heels.

Jacob Stone also has some great scenes, including an argument with a bouncer over the comparative literary talent of the US and UK, as well as having to make an ad hoc defibrillator to use on an unconscious woman. He also makes a brilliant point about selfies and historical portraits.

Eziekel Jones, resident thief and hacker (his clipping book is electronic) also gets some superb material. We learn that his way of dealing with retina scanners - hack the company that makes them so his own eyes are already logged (Hardison from Leverage is kicking himself for not thinking of that one) and that he continues to be a vain narcissist, but still on the side of the goodies.

Jenkins, the immortal caretaker of the Library, who is in fact Galahad, one of the Knights of the Round Table, whose job is to provide the team with information and guidance, as well as slightly disturbing stories about his routines and chorus scenes... Right, that's my Python reference done. He too is excellent here, played superbly by the multi-Emmy winner John Larroquette.

Humour is something that runs deep through this series; with many a comic line or moment. Things I've not mentioned are "Ezekiel. Be a comb", Cassandra's fascination with Eve's face (the show is dropping major hints that she is bisexual) and a line about Jenkins having gotten grey.

The villain is Dorian Gray, who is not in fact fictional here, but an immortal whose power is now based on selfies and the power of the Cloud to divert his sins onto others - this show is a genius at updating these stories to the present day. The way he is defeated is also clever.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner... but I do tend to pay special attention to works set there made by foreign networks. There are some howlers here - the use of some American English terms not used in British English ("blocks", "cellphones") and some of the accents are more than a bit off - the only real Brit was the bouncer.

Conclusion

Minor niggles aside, this is a superb bit of television and it's a shame we only got 10 episodes a year... but we will be getting a third season of this, something confirmed on Tuesday. This makes me very happy.

9/10

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

57 fanfic writers just punched the air (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.12, "Hell Bent")

This contains major spoilers.

The third and final part of this season finale sees the Doctor back on his home planet of Gallifrey, where he is very, very cross at what has happened to Clara. So he intends to do something about this. Unfortunately, this is going to cause problems for the universe, because he her death is a fixed point in time.

This is very much an episode where we see the Doctor really lose it. He basically 'kills' someone without provocation (OK, he's a Time Lord and he's going to regenerate, but still), banishes Rassilon despite the fact there's not really anywhere in the universe for him to go and is fully prepared to destroy the web of time to save Clara. This is all superbly played by Capaldi, who convincingly portrays someone who really doesn't like having you interrupting his tomato soup, especially after you've trapped him in a castle for 4.5 billion years. It's also a nice change to have the Time Lord lose his memories of travelling with someone.

Clara appears in this more than I'd expected - in fact, she's very much the focal point of this, plucked out of a time a moment before she gets a raven in her chest. She demonstrates why the 'Impossible Girl' is one of my favourite companions; she's witty, intelligent and willing to sacrifice herself, knowing when the Doctor has gone too far, as he most certainly has here. She realises that she needs to go back at some point to Trap Street and 'face the raven', but there's not exactly a rush. The next companion will have a lot to live up... I'd say big shoes to fill, but Jenna Coleman is only 5'2; at any rate, I look forward to seeing her play Queen Victoria.

Me/Ashildr return in this episode and she has become a lot calmer after living for several billion years. Her scenes with Capaldi are great and while this is effectively the end of her time on the show, it's made me look forward to the next season of Game of Thrones more.

Each season of Doctor Who has a central mystery, and in this one it revolved around the identity of 'The Hybrid', a creature that is supposedly the combination of two warrior races. Moffat has some excellent fun teasing the reveal and stringing the fans along over the whole 'half-human Doctor' thing (cf the 1996 TV movie). His actual reveal is quite genius, drawing up a nice link between Clara's first episode and her last. The showrunner has a knack for setting things in motion that take years to play out; we also get a return of his own contribution to the Monster A-List, the Weeping Angels, which remain very frightening creatures. Seriously, the only people I know with more warped minds than this on television are in the writers' room of The Blacklist.

As mentioned this occurs mostly on Gallifrey, being rather heavy on the Time Lord lore - indeed, the Sisterhood of Karn turn up again. Rassilon (Donald Sumpter in his fourth appearance in the franchise) is a bit of a busted flush who seems to have lost most of his power - it would have nicer to have Timothy Dalton back, but the other Time Lords are very good, most notably the General that the Doctor shoots - leading to our first on-screen sex change regeneration. I've become a lot more accepting recently of the idea of a female Doctor in fact, with the great job done with the Master/Missy. The planet is back, but out of the way enough that it won't impact things too much.

The ending is a triumph. Clara and Me get to go off and have their own adventures in a TARDIS stuck as an American diner (the same one from "The Impossible Astronaut" in fact, with the console room a replica of the original, complete with some features that were only in the first episode in 1963 then dropped for budget reasons) - there will be fanfic. Meanwhile, the Doctor returns to his own TARDIS, where to the triumphant strains of "A Good Man", Twelve's own leitmotif, he gets a new sonic screwdriver and heads for new adventures. The former is going to inspire a lot of fan fiction, while the latter allows the BBC to sell yet another toy - I've got two sonic screwdrivers myself; namely the RTD era version (which was a present from the Anglican Chaplaincy at my university when I turned 21) and the version now lying on Skaro.

I will say one further thing about the music here; we get a return for "The Doctor's Theme" (as known as the "Bad Wolf" theme) that dates back to the RTD era as well and it's very nice to hear it in some scenes.

Drawbacks? The episode does drag a bit and some aspects, namely Clara's actions, are a bit predictable; also, as mentioned, Rassilon isn't very good.

Conclusion

While a bit dragging at points, this is an episode that managed to have its cake and eat it. Clara both survives and dies; the Doctor goes off the rails and returns to them before totally destroying himself, while we also get the return of Gallifrey without it being a problem.

9/10

Monday, 30 November 2015

Doctor Who meets Groundhog Day (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.11, "Heaven Sent")

This review contains some spoilers.

And now we come to the most unusual episode in this show's history - 55 minutes with pretty much entirely Peter Capaldi and just Peter Capaldi. There are certain actors I could watch doing their thing all day, for example Amy Acker (and not for perverted reasons) or Liam Cunningham. Capaldi would join that list but only with decent material... unfortunately, some of this isn't that decent.

So, the Doctor ends up in a bizarre castle being stalked by one of those ever popular creatures that will kill you if they can catch you... but they move slower than I walk. Of course, the thing with these creatures is that they don't (or can't) get exhausted whereas humans or Time Lords can. Or they just run out of corridor.

One thing that actors playing the Time Lord have to become good at is talking to themselves - or rather to camera - in a fourth-wall bending manner. This is particularly required when doing Big Finish, but that's something rather different. Capaldi is excellent here; his Doctor is definitely in a dark place and not the one belonging to Garth Marenghi for that matter (oddly enough that's set in Romford). The Doctor has some mathematical calculations that would make Sherlock Holmes envious in this - this guy doesn't just jump out the window for the sake of it, he knows what he's doing. There's also a wonderful effects job with a skull that it would spoil to reveal.

The Maze, where nearly all of the rooms reset themselves when you leave them, is the stuff of nightmares. Seriously, you could make a good computer game with something like this. In fact, someone probably already has. One question that was raised on Gallifrey Base after this was about what would happen to all the excrement generated... something probably best not to think about it.

The Veil, with its attendant flies - and those don't tend to appear very often - is a chilling manifestation of death with some truly nasty hands; we don't tend to see the sort of injuries in Doctor Who (something that the Moff noted was an advantage of the 8pm timeslot - you can show blood) and when it's with one particular character, it's more distressing.

That said, this episode really, really drags. It raises some interesting philosophical questions... but could have done with being a good ten minutes shorter. That said, the ending, in which the Doctor reaches somewhere he's been trying to get to for ages (literally and metaphorically) is superb... with that final line even more so.

"Hell Bent" looks to be a very interesting episode indeed.

Conclusion

This was a very dragging episode. If it wasn't for that ending, I would be marking it a good deal lower. However, that's one very interesting ending, so:

6/10

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Ashildr, no! We will not let you go (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.10, "Face The Raven")

This review contains major spoilers.
****
So, Clara is dead, in essence stabbed in the back by a Quantum Shade. I entered this episode pretty much knowing that she was going to die in this one; the Moff dropped a comment at the Doctor Who Festival saying that there would be a 'shocker' in this moment and then the BBC essentially revealed it on the morning that the episode was to air in the UK.
So, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories about spoilers. It's a fact that the ratings for this season have been notably down - the average is a 1.2m viewers reduction an episode not counting iPlayer. So, the BBC would want to drum up media interest and therefore the ratings by dropping some big hints that 'Tonight Someone Dies'. This has been an ongoing practise for many years in many countries; the trick is to do it well. The good example I can think of is the Season 2 finale of NCIS, which put all the regulars in mortal peril, made you think that everyone was safe... then had one of them shot in the head. Of course, nearly all media productions leak and people do because there's little chance of them actually getting caught; I can't think of a recent example myself outside of putting entire episodes onto the Internet, but I'm going to ask at Gallifrey Base.

In any rate, we knew Jenna Coleman was leaving because it did leak and so the BBC had little benefit in trying to hide it... but the purist in me wishes we could have had another Adric-style sudden exit. One of the best moments of the last few years was John Hurt's reveal as The War Doctor; I knew he was in the 50th Anniversary Special, but not who he was playing.

****
The Twelfth Doctor's 'formal' costume hasn't been seen very much in this current run, by which I mean the white shirt version with the red-lined jacket. It's appropriate for this episode that he wears something more 'in fitting' with what is a death episode. There's definitely some strong humour here ("Did you make this human?") but we get to see a very angry Doctor in this... at one point threatening to unleash the Daleks and Cybermen on 'Trap Street', which of course would be abandoning his name even more than the War Doctor ever did. It puts his speech in "The Zygon Inversion" into context... it's easy to preach forgiveness and reconciliation in most cases, but a sight harder when you're the one that's been directly wronged.

Clara makes a very Doctor-y move... which ultimately doesn't work. She takes Ashildr at her word... and fails to realise that people can't always keep said word. Some stuff about why she can't pass the 'chronolock' onto anyone else appears to have been cut from the episode for pacing reasons... but she faces her death with dignity. Although I'm not the first to admit that tight sweater was pretty distracting.

Riggsy returns from last season's "Flatline" (My review of that is here) and does a decent job; I didn't remember the character that much from the original episode, but it's clear that he is somewhat of a reformed character... who really didn't deserve the stuff he's been put through in this episode.
Me or Ashildr... definitely a woman who has bitten off far more than she can chew. Her control of Trap Street is ruthless by modern standards, but you do have to remember that she was born in a time when executing thieves was commonplace - in a society where a bad harvest could endanger an entire community and a theft could lead to starvation. That said, she's definitely shed any claim to 'good' status with that... although arguably she'd lost it previously as she's murdered people in the past.
Trap Street is a very interesting idea with links back to the Zygon two-parter; the fact that aliens cannot live openly on Earth is a reflection of older struggles in the LGBT community. Also, it does look very atmospheric. We get to see some of the vast array of creatures that have appeared in the show's history - I noted a credit for RTD as he'd created the Ood.

The Raven... I believe they've got a link with death. Very well done in terms of effects and getting struck by one is definitely a horrible way to go.

Conclusion
For all the 'spoilering' done, this was still a superb episode and sets things up very nicely for the rest of the finale. It's frankly a better exit than any companion in the post-2005 era... and one of the best in the show's 52 year history.
9/10

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Knights of Blood and Steel launches on Phoenix Roleplaying

A new military-based sim has been set up on Phoenix Roleplaying.

Knights of Blood and Steel is a WW2 sim where the players will take on the roles of both axis and allied tank crews, seeing the world through the viewport or a commanders hatch of an armored fighting vehicle. Experiencing the chaos from the ground up close, the players will build their legends as true knights of the 20th century.

Or die trying.

The sim can be found here: 

http://www.phoenix-rp.com/forum/114/newknights-of-blood-and-steel/

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Blair Bait-And-Switch project (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.9, "Sleep No More")

I attended the Doctor Who Festival at the ExCeL Centre today; highly enjoyable and very interesting, with some real insights into the production of one of my favourite TV shows. Also, some superb cosplay examples out (wouldn't do that myself, not my cup of tea).

Anyway, onto tonight's episode, penned by man of two hats Mark Gatiss. This 'found footage' episode is definitely the most unusual story in the show's history; no title sequence (just a sort of title card) and in fact a narrated story put together by a scientist. I've got to say that it's definitely going to be one I remember for many years to come... so I guess it did its job.

Capaldi plays it very seriously in this episode; while there are jokes, he's not in a larking about mood, getting to the point and making several key realisations that something is quite, quite dodgy. The current lead actor in this show can turn quickly from hilarious to scary... a skill that not all of the Doctors have possessed over the years - Tennant, Smith and Capaldi can do all do it, but with the greatest respect to the other Doctors, some of them can't.

Jenna Coleman, whose arc is heading towards its conclusion and by 6 December will be an ex-companion if not sooner, also plays it more restrained than normal - there's no jokes about kissing Jane Austen (although kudos for the writers for making her seemingly bisexual without it being the key part of her character) or Year 7s here.

Rassmussen, the operator of the station, is played by Reece Shearsmith. I've not been overly keen on his work - while he was good as Patrick Troughton in An Adventure in Time and Space, I wasn't a fan of Missing and found the one episode I watched of Inside No.9 not my cup of Tetley's. However, in this case, he definitely does the job, being suitably creepy in his addresses to camera and proving very much to be an unreliable narrator; indeed Gatiss knows the potential problems of the sub-genre of found footage, which he neatly resolves here.

The Sandmen (one of which turned up at the last panel at the Festival, albeit obscured by the blue lighting) are very well realised - one of many superb works from Millennium FX since the show came back. The whole idea of them is a very interesting one; perhaps slightly illogical, but hey, this is Doctor Who, a show with a spaceship bigger on the inside than out.

The soldiers were definitely one of the most interesting parts of an episode that very much focuses on them; this episode not only has the first openly trans actor in the show's history, but I believe is also the second episode (after "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS") where Caucasians do not make up the majority of the cast that aren't wearing a monster suit. The Indo-Japan idea was very interesting and better executed than Firefly (which for all its merits, had no regulars of Asian background).

Also, the final twist... quite superb.

Conclusion

A very unusual episode of Doctor Who and highly, highly atmospheric. Not a true great by any stretch of the imagination, but still very good and superbly written.

8/10

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

You ain't nothing but a Rufus Hounddog (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.6, "The Woman Who Lived")

There is a well known 'thing' in media analysis called the Bechdel Test. Developed by Alison Bechdel as somewhat of a joke for a comic strip whose name might trip some filter or content things on Blogger way in 1985, it basically measures female representation in media. To pass the test, a film must have two named female characters, who have a conversation with each other... about something other than a man. It is somewhat of a flawed test - indeed, Sex and the City actually fails it - but still an interesting one. It should also be pointed out that many classics fail it - including Star Wars - and you can still have a good story without it.

It is therefore interesting to note that the first female written Doctor Who episode since 2008 (Helen Raynor's Sontaran two parter) - indeed Catherine Tregenna is only the fifth such writer in the show's history[1] - passes this test... but barely. Lucie Fanshawe is not seen in the rest of the episode after the titles, I believe.

****

The Doctor is on fine form again in this episode - demonstrating his ability to blunder into situations and be very, very grumpy. He gets some great lines, especially his entire first exchange with 'The Knightmare' and also gets some really emotional exchanges with Ashildr.

Clara is only in the final scene of this episode - she's teaching Year 7s Taekwondo - and isn't honestly missed that much. The scene she does get is entirely fine, don't get me wrong. I get the strong feeling this was the 'companion-lite' episode; the show typically has at least one 'companion-lite' and one 'Doctor-lite' episode a season to get all the filming into the timeslot.

Ashildr, or Me... what a tragic character. A more well thought out depiction of the problems of immortality I have not really seen. The Doctor is a Time Lord and so living to 2,000+ years is entirely normal for his people, but it's not for humanity - we get to see a woman who has has lost everyone she's ever held dear and has no end in sight... as well as only the memory capacity of a standard human. It's clear that she's gone rather mad as a result and arguably crosses the line - but does get some redemption at the end. A return for her is definitely welcome; all of her scenes are great and Maisie Williams holds your attention.

Sam Swift the Quick... well, Rufus Hound is arguably not everyone's cup of tea. His cocky swagger reminds me of Lord Flasheart, played of course by the late Rik Mayall, but Mayall did it much better. His pun-laden speech at the Tyburn gallows (which was in fact outside the City of London as it was then, although not next to a castle) sets a new record for penis jokes in an episode of Doctor Who at two, although this episode doesn't quite reach the heights of dirtiest jokes told in the show's history - tied between RTD and Moffat in fact.

Me's ally is a well done 'cat' creature... and I was actually reminded somewhat of the Kilrathi from Wing Commander in the Tyburn climax. Indeed, all of the special effects were good here - something that remains a strong point of the show.

Speaking of the climax, which involved insanely overpowered fireballs (see Irregular Webcomic! for more of those) and some really rather magical stuff, I wasn't overly keen on it. The show's starting to get a bit overly casual with cheating death and super technology; I'd personally reign it back in.

Conclusion

Not having Clara in this actually helped - it allowed for a lot tighter focus for the story and much more screen-time for the frankly superb Maisie Williams. Got to say next week looks very interesting as well.

8/10

Please note that there will be no review of the next two-parter as I'm just too busy at the moment.

[1]Barbara Clegg, writer of 1983's "Enlightenment" (the first classic story I ever saw, not counting the TV Movie) is the first - while Lesley Scott was credited for "The Ark", it appears she actually didn't contribute anything to the script at all.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

An a-Maisie-ing woman (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.5, "The Girl Who Died")

I'm going to have to start with the elephant in the room... not that you could ever compare the adorable Maisie Williams to an pachyderm. Arya Stark is one of the best things about Game of Thrones; it's become abundantly clear that her actor is definitely a name to watch and after that show (I personally hope that Arya's not going to end up having a death scene of her own... but you know what Games of Thrones is like), I'm sure she's going to do great things. She's only 18 and has already gotten more plaudits than actors twice her age.

As the Viking girl Ashildr in this episode, she is highly engaging in every single scene; especially a two-hander with Capaldi in which she demonstrates an almost Time Lord sense of her place in the universe. The reveal of her actual status is well done - and it's combined with an explanation of why the Twelfth Doctor has this current face.

Peter Capaldi gets a chance to portray the multiple facets of his Doctor - at times larking about, downright rude and distinctly brooding. It's very, very interesting to see that what was originally meant to be a gag about the Doctor speaking 'baby' (which I would point out is a 'language' common to infant Homo sapiens the world over) becomes the source of some key emotional scenes. I would however have to say that the use of "A Good Man" for key moments is a bit too noticeable.

I'll miss Jenna Coleman once she's gone from the TARDIS; she's proven to be one of the best companions of the last 10 years and in this episode, she definitely has some great scenes. In particular, the one on the Mire spaceship, where she gets pretty close to defusing the entire situation without any further fighting... only for Ashildr's big mouth to wreck it all. Sometimes sentient beings let their pride get in the way of their common sense.

The Vikings were generally pretty well done; while horns on the helmets is of course an anachronism (and a deliberate one), they're sympathetic people. Training a batch of hapless villagers to defend themselves is a rather old plotline, but it's done well here - I have to admit that 'Noggin the Nog' was my favourite Doctor-bestowed nickname. And managing to start a fire before the enemy even arrives... classic.

The Mire - good one shot villains whose reliance on technology ends up being their downfall; both the external suit and creature inside are very good SFX jobs. Their defeat did seem a bit tonally odd - "Benny Hill" music and all, but it was soon brought by a key discovery that shaped the final part of the episode.

The ending sees the Doctor make a well-intentioned decision that could have significant consequences... and one several people may come to regret.

Conclusion

An enjoyable episode with some funny moments and a great performance by its key guest star. Not one of the greats, but definitely a pleasant 45 minutes. The next time trailer also looks very interesting.

8/10

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Less Fisher King and More Fisher Price (Review : 'Doctor Who' 35.4, "Before the Flood")

Doctor Who can be a very unpredictable beast at times. Just because one episode is a barn-stormer, doesn't mean that the next one will be - "The Caves of Androzani" was notably followed by "The Twin Dilemma"; BTW, I'm currently listening to the The Sixth Doctor - The Last Adventure from Big Finish and the Sixth Doctor is very well done there.

So, we start off with the Doctor discussing Beethoven and bootstrap paradoxes - both of which have turned up in the Whoniverse before. His liking for Beethoven was mentioned in the expanded universe in 2000 and the latter at at least three times in Steven Moffat stories; well... in fact you've kind of got it all the back to 2005. Then he plays electric guitar - Peter Capaldi's misspent youth coming up again. The fourth-wall breaking speech at the beginning was one of the highlights of the episode.

Clara continues to act as the Doctor's restraining influence; without her 'human touch', it's possible that the Doctor would have indeed actually gotten himself killed. She's definitely firmly ensconced herself in the role of the companion... which is going to make it even more of a pity once she goes from the show.

The base crew were good - I did feel sorry for O'Donnell when she died and the scene with Cass was very tense. Mind you, if you're going to murder someone, it's not a good idea to drag your axe on the floor, regardless of whether your target is deaf or not.

The Fisher King, while very well done in the special effects department, was otherwise uninspiring. He just seemed generic and not a massive threat in any way. He was disposed of rather easily I found and he is definitely not the sort of character that I'd want to return. I also was not keen on Prentiss, who I found annoying - as I believe I did the previous member of his race in "The God Complex" (I believe it was that one).

The effects in general were also very good - the flooding of the valley of course featured in the trailers, but kudos to the designers for the military training ground decked out to look like a Soviet town - these sort of facilities, suitably updated to reflect 'current' areas of operation i.e. the Middle East, still exist for the British Army.

The conclusion and the resolution to the mystery is a good one, although one does start to wonder if the sonic sunglasses are being overused. This said, I'm glad this story is over as it did feel a bit too long; not the best two-parter by a long chalk.

Conclusion

I did find this one dragging quite considerably; while the overall pay-off was good, much of this could have been a lot better than it was. This said, full credit for some good use of time travel.

6/10

Maisie Williams is in the next episode; I hope this will be a stark improvement... get it, Stark improvement? I'll get me coat...

Friday, 9 October 2015

Monday, 5 October 2015

Not Quite The Ace of Base [Under Siege] (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.3, "Under The Lake")

This is an episode where I have varying and mixed impressions; so I'll go through them in some form of order and hope that this all makes sense to you... at least more than this episode made to me at times.
  • Starting on 21st November 2119 and then jumping forward three days; it should have been two days of course.
  • Well, they certainly lit the underwater facility much better than the one from "Warriors of the Deep".
  • The Twelfth Doctor is on decent enough form; definitely acting true to his character of someone who is too busy saving the world to care about social niceties - or reading the cue cards. I'm also liking the sonic sunglasses which add levels of functionality that the screwdriver didn't have.
  • Clara was good, but not overly so. I think I preferred her in the previous two episodes. I'm probably going to argue that this may down to the writer, Toby Whithouse, having not written for Clara before - or for that matter for the Twelfth Doctor (his last story was "A Town Called Mercy" before he worked on the single season 1970s spy show The Game).
  • The black man dies first; it's been a good few years since we had that happen in the show, I would say.
  • The 'ghosts' - well, we've had stuff like this before, but it was well done and certainly atmospheric.
  • Very interesting idea to have a deaf member of the base crew; although from my own personal experience, not all deaf people are completely mute.
  • The rest of the base crew were certainly well-played, but it wasn't explained why they seemed somewhat under-dressed. Scottish lakes are not known for being that warm.
  • Apparently flooding a nuclear reactor is a "common" crash procedure to absorb all the neutrons; it was done at Fukushima. But don't you have control rods to try first?
  • The ending was certainly an interesting one and it's nice to see some amount of time travel form the key part of the episode.
Conclusion

Entertaining enough, but nothing overly impressive. Hopefully part two will be better.

7/10

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Four sims closing

After discussions with Sim Leaders, the following games are closing down:

  • Elder Scrolls: Giants of Shadows Past
  • Forgotten Realms 
  • Hunger Games: JabberJay
  • CANIS Pacifica
This means that the current Phoenix sim count is 28, although a number of other sims are expected to close in the near future due to lack of activity.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

In which Missy beats Root (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.2, "The Witch's Familiar")

As I suspected, all the stuff that seemed to have happened in the cliffhanger turned out to be at rather misleading... well, I kind of didn't expect [spoiler] to go that early anyway.

This was a much more talky episode - not to say that there wasn't some action. We got many scenes between the Doctor and an arch enemy, the actor playing the latter having to rely on voice acting as he was under heavy prosthetics. It did seem a bit odd that he was suddenly being all introspective and remorseful... but the fact that it was unconvincing was probably meant to be the point.

One does wonder if the Doctor having to use that isn't going to cause problems for him later; that did seem a lot of stuff to use. Capaldi had another strong episode; a bit less manic in this one, but still very much nailing his version of the Doctor. I also rather liked the flashback scene near the beginning. It seems that 'vampire monkeys' are a real mythological thing.

Clara spent much of her episode encased in a Dalek - there is a reason for this and it kind of helps that Jenna Coleman is only 5'2"; it makes it easier for her to fit insider the casing of the 'current' Daleks, which were designed around Billie Piper's eye-line. Anyway, she has another good episode, especially her many scenes with another character.

Namely, Michelle Gomez's Missy. I described the character of Root from Person of Interest, played by Amy Acker, in an earlier post as the "most deliciously crazy and unpredictable one I've seen in my life". With apologies to Mrs. Acker, I'd have to say that Missy is arguably much more crazier in this episode - using a rather unconventional method of measuring the depth of a hole for one thing. That said, Missy definitely reveals that she is on the side of the baddies towards the end of this. As such, if I had to pick between her and the computer hacker from Texas to go in my adventuring party, the latter wins hands down every time as she probably wouldn't try to kill me.

The Daleks get some very interesting additions to their back-story - it's worth noting that Moffat has officially denied a long-standing rumour about them being contractually obliged to appear in every season - and in particular, some further levels of horror added to their story.

The conclusion sees a spot of classic timey-wimey on the part of Moffat and a considerable amount of classic era invoked; one does wonder if this was perhaps over doing it.

Finally, sonic sunglasses? Well, it gives another lot of merchandise to sell, that's for sure.

Conclusion

Not quite as good as the previous part of the story, but still a well told story that reaffirms the central creed of the Doctor.

8/10

Monday, 21 September 2015

50 minutes of pure joy (Review: 'Doctor Who' 35.1, "The Magician's Apprentice")

I didn't really know what to expect from this. What I did not expect was for Steven Moffat to hit it not just out of the park but out of the city.

Firstly, the opening was superb. The hand mines were brilliantly realised and that reveal of the boy's name was something I did not see coming.

Having never watched The Thick of It, I had no idea just how funny Peter Capaldi could be. That scene with the guitar had me laughing out loud. However, this is not all a funny episode - Capaldi gets to show a wide range and has firmly nailed the Twelfth Doctor in a tale with links going back to the Fourth Doctor.

Clara Oswald is on fine sassy form in this episode; demonstrating the firm confidence of an experienced time traveller and also some very funny lines.

Missy returns here - no spoiler - and after the show doesn't even bother to explain how she survived last time  (indeed makes a point of not doing so) manages to be even crazier than before. Michelle Gomez is adept at combining comic material with real menace; this version of the Master will kill just on a whim.

UNIT turn up again and there's some good material for them including a great gag about the mythical lost city of Atlantis for the fans - there are a lot of these in the episode.

The Daleks are also back - we get a smorgasbord of models going back to the very start. To say more would be spoilery, but I was impressed and I find the Daleks over used myself.

Lastly that cliffhanger is one of the best in the show's history. The solution may seem obvious but this is not a show that always goes for that. We shall see.

****Conclusion****

I don't tend to give top marks to professional works unless they are pretty much perfect.

This was.

10/10

Monday, 31 August 2015

New banner vote

Phoenix is currently having a poll on a new banner design; there are three proposed options and also a choice to retain the existing banner.

The poll is here.

Voting closes on 9 September. Vote now and decide the future look of our site!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Weekend long live chat RP

This weekend, to mark our 5th anniversary, we will holding a live RP lasting all weekend long!

Come celebrate Phoenix's birthday -- as your favourite Phoenix character - in a decorated ballroom. Buffet is catered and the GM is nonexistent!

The chatroom link is here 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Sim Development Officer appointed

Dondi (dratliff) has been appointed by General Coordinator Misty Diamond as the new Sim Development Officer.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Five years of Phoenix Roleplaying

Today marks the 5th anniversary of Phoenix Roleplaying. It's been a great five years - and here's looking for many more to come!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

SoapyMac becomes Deputy General Coordinator

Newly re-elected General Coordinator Misty Diamond has appointed Dale, known on the forums as SoapyMac, as her deputy.

Further appointments are likely to follow in the next few days.

Mach Idol closed

Mach Idol has been archived at the request of its sim leader.

Friday, 24 July 2015

General Coordinator & Technical Coordinator 2015 - Elections Results

Voting officially closed at midnight on Thursday [16 July]. Final results: General Coordinator, 14 votes for Misty Diamond, two abstaining. Technical Coordinator, 16 votes for Euan Reid, none abstaining. Total 8 sixteen voters. 9 in the first 24 hours. Thank you everyone for participating in your club governance, even with as limited of options as we have had in the last two elections.

Congratulations to our Khalessi and Euan!

- Kevin 'Zuzutoo' Diamond, Elections and Voting Coordinator

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Wing Commander: Gemini Sector launched

Our second Wing Commander sim has launched - Gemini Sector, a port to the forums of a former MUSH game. Iceblade, the sim's creator, has already posted a considerable amount of great background material and the sim has just started IC posting; it will have some rules for combat resolution.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Sunday, 5 July 2015

General Coordinator & Technical Coordinator Elections

With both Misty Diamond and Euan Reid being the only candidates who accepted their nominations (ksabers declined his), the upcoming elections will be a straightforward approval vote on the incumbents as GC and TC respectively

The voting booth will open on Thursday once Misty and new husband Kevin return from ComicCon.

The election discussion thread, where you can ask candidates questions, can be found here.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Unsettled issues with the Wiki

Phoenix member Elrood has pointed out that there are still some unsettled issues related to Rise of the Phoenix, the Wiki page of Phoenix Roleplaying. Among those issues are the migration from the Wiki to Phoenix’ own host at wiki.phoenix-rp.com and the management of the Wiki account. Management of the Wiki page was appointed to Jason Andersen, but with his departure some of the pages were inaccessible to any other member. With his return this particular issue can be settled, but the underlying issue remains. As Elrood stated it: ‘How should Phoenix handle access to the admin account for the Wiki?’
There are also some members who question the usefulness of the Wiki altogether, arguing that a few sticky threads would achieve the same result. (mb)

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Progress on Phoenix-AJJE Merger

The merger between Phoenix Roleplaying and AJJE is progressing and GC Misty Wilson has finished the FAQ regarding this merger. 

As expected, the FAQ handles the most obvious questions people might have about the merger of the Phoenix Roleplaying system and PARS (Post And Reply System) from AJJE. Members of both RPG environments need not worry that their posting system will disappear: Phoenix Roleplaying will keep its current posting system and PARS will be implemented as a separate section. All AJJE sims will be installed in the PARS section, but players from both systems, Phoenix and PARS, are welcome to try the other system; playing one or several sims in both systems is certainly possible. When the implementation of PARS into Phoenix Roleplaying is complete, is unknown at this time. (mb)

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Firefly: the break-down

Mischa Brendel tries to pinpoint which factors contributed to Firefly’s popularity.

Like many people in our Phoenix RPG community, I am a Firefly fan, a Browncoat. And like many Browncoats, I have often wondered what it is that makes the show so great. Unlike many however, I am a Browncoat that saw the movie Serenity before I even knew of the show’s existence. Needless to say that I liked the movie enough to dive into the universe that Joss Whedon had created and I decided to buy the dvd set of Firefly (no small feat at that time in the Netherlands: I live in a fairly small city and in those days I was a student on a tight budget and without a credit card. On top of that, there had never been an official Dutch release of Firefly here at that time).

I mentioned that I liked the movie enough to want to learn more about the Firefly universe, but this didn’t happen overnight. When Serenity came out in theatres (unlike the tv show, the movie actually did make it to an official Dutch release), I took notice of it, but didn’t actually go to see it. Instead, I rented it on dvd a couple of months later. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I did like the characters on the show and the fact that important characters actually died. Not that I hated those characters so much that I wanted to see them dead, but it gave me the ‘anything goes’ feeling: no matter if a character is important, he or she may still die. Which makes for a much thrilling experience, in my opinion.

Anyway, it wasn’t until a couple of months after renting the movie that I saw it in a bargain bin at a shop and decided to buy it. Again I thought the movie was okay and entertaining, but I didn’t love it. But this bought dvd had something else, namely an introduction by Joss Whedon stating that ‘we’ve done the impossible and that makes us mighty.’ So there was a tv show to which this movie was a sequel. My curiosity was piqued and after some internet searching, I was convinced that I wanted to see this show. As mentioned, it took some time to actually find the dvd box but I eventually managed to get my hands on one and like most Browncoats, I was instantly hooked. So much so, that before long, I had joined an RPG gaming site which hosted sims set in this awesome universe.

But what is it that makes Firefly so great? I already mentioned the characters: not only are they very well written – they aren’t good or evil; they simply are trying to deal with the situation given to them and handle it in the way they think is best, either for themselves or for their crewmates – but the chemistry between the cast is undeniable. Without that chemistry, the show still would have been very good, but it would not have reached the heights that it actually did. Circumstances have put the characters together on a ship and there they not only have to act like a crew, but also as a family. And they actually feel like a family.

Another strength of the show is the setting. Although it is a science fiction show (and in my opinion the movie feels more like science fiction than the tv show) it is more so a western. Generally speaking I am not a fan of the western genre, but in this show it fits. And more importantly: the western setting comes second to the story. It isn’t a western story, but a story set in a western environment. And the western setting makes sense: because there is something very nomadic about it, which is exactly the kind of universe Firefly is set in. The western talk of course helps to add to this feeling.

The lack of technobabble is something else that makes this show stand out from other scifi shows and in my opinion in a positive way. I love Star Trek, but I was sometimes actually annoyed that there was always a way out by realigning the deflector dish, filling the Bussard collectors with some gaseous anomaly. In Firefly however, sometimes something that is broken simply can’t be fixed and when engineer Kaylee explains a defect in the engine to captain Mal, he doesn’t hide the fact that he understands very little about all the technical details.

Instead of this technobabble, Firefly hosts another language, namely Mandarin. And that makes a lot of sense from the historic point of view in the Firefly universe. Given that the US and China were the biggest national powers out there when the colonizing started, it would make sense that people talk both English and Mandarin. One might expect more Mandarin, perhaps even a mix of Mandarin and English, but the fact that this isn’t the case might be a simple matter of the show being American.

The way in which the show is shot, sudden zooming, camera flares, was pretty unique at that time and it has in fact been copied many times since, perhaps even too often. But it did fit that show: the Firefly universe isn’t perfect and many are getting by with the broken equipment that they have. It feels like the camera man is doing the same and it adds to the reality of the show.

Another thing that adds to the reality of the show is something that virtually every other scifi show or movie lacks. Or rather doesn’t lack, whereas Firefly did lack it: sound in space. There is no sound in space, so why pretend that there is? Granted, the Star Wars movies would have been pretty boring without any sound in space, but with Firefly it never gets annoying and again it adds realism. Another, quite similar matter that adds to the realism in space is that when spaceships meet up, they aren’t perfectly aligned to one another. There is no up and down in space; make use of that fact! Luckily, Whedon did.

There are other point which can be made in favour of what made Firefly great, but the last important one that I feel there is, is also the most controversial one: it was great, because it got cancelled. Don’t get me wrong: I would have loved to see more episodes of Firefly. But look at the facts and look at Whedon’s modus operandi with his other successful shows, like Buffy and Angel. One could say a lot of positive things about both shows (and rightfully so) but Whedon does have a tendency to overcomplicate things the longer his shows keep going. In my opinion examples of this are the sudden appearance of Buffy’s little sister (which in itself was a brilliant idea), or Angel’s son and him and his crew taking over the law firm Wolfram & Hart. And then there’s the love interests, where all protagonists tend to try out every other protagonist (excuse my lack of subtilety, but after a while it does start to feel that way). Certainly not something only Whedon does, but it is never a strong point in a show.

Firefly didn’t suffer this condition and let’s face it: the tension between Inara and Mal and between Kaylee and Simon worked really well and from an emotional point of view we all wanted those pending relationships to become a reality, but then what? What would have happened if Inara and Mal had gotten together? There might have been a few episodes struggling the issue, especially considering Inara’s profession, but it wouldn’t have worked as a long term condition in the show itself. I do not mean that their relationship wouldn’t have held; I mean that it wouldn’t have made for interesting storytelling in the long run.

The same goes for Kaylee and the doc: I can see them getting and even staying together (and we were all rooting for them), but part of what made the dynamics among the characters so much fun was Kaylee pining for Simon and the doctor really liking Kaylee but not daring to act upon it or doing exactly the wrong thing.

And the stories themselves also seemed to benefit from the fact that the show didn’t last long, at least in large part. Granted, learning more about the Hands of Blue or the Reavers would have been awesome (although the storyline about the latter largely got completed in Serenity) but because the show ran that short and was on the verge of being cancelled virtually every episode even during recording, every story stood: no big ‘to be continued’s, no ‘do you remember that in last season’s, and no bigger, dragging all-encompassing storyline. Without those, we were left with a show which had a crew who tried to survive from day to day and that is how the episodes themselves felt.

And finally, the constant threat of cancellation probably also gave cast and crew a common cause, namely to fight for survival. Again the parallel with the characters on the show is obvious, but I can imagine that this is how it must have felt to them.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sim proposal status 29 June 2015

Rainbow Six: the proposal now has four interested players so it will be greenlit as soon as the details are thoroughly discussed.

Space Pirates: the proposal could become an independent sim or be merged into a reactivated Umbra. Discussion is currently up.

An Elegy of Iron and Blood: the proposal will become a new sim very soon.

Wing Commander Gemini Sector 2.0: roll call in progress. I hope it will be approved because it sounds really interesting.

Soldiers of the End A(nother) Mass Effect Sim: currently no interested players (a pity)

Steampunk sim (still unnamed): Roll call in progress.
Info from ksabers

Friday, 26 June 2015

Issue #24 of the Burning Question released

These have been and still are hectic times for several Phoenix members; both on the forums as in real life. At times like that it is important to remember that we are a community, which Misty Wilson points out in her GC’s comments, and which is also one of the themes that made Firefly such a great show, I argue in this month’s background story.

So let us unite in reading the latest issue of The Burning Question, which you can find here.

-Mischa, editor-in-chief of The Burning Question

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Game of Thrones sim proposed

Those already missing the hit TV series may have something to interest them at Phoenix Roleplaying. New player Tarzan has dusted off a proposal set in the world of Westeros that he originally raised in 2008, when it was still just a book series; he has already got four interested players, but the bigger the crowd for your feast, the better!

The proposal thread can be found here:

http://www.phoenix-rp.com/topic/2748/you-know-nothin-jon-snow/

Thursday, 11 June 2015

World of Darkness placed inactive, Covert-81 opened

The horror sim World of Darkness has been closed due to inactivity; there had been no posts since 25 February.

However, 1980s set spy sim Covert-81 has been opened, or rather re-opened; the sim having originally run on the PARS service from 2009 to 2010. It is currently looking for players and anticipates starting play in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Elections and Voting Coordinator 2015 election

Phoenix Roleplaying is holding elections for the post of Elections and Voting Coordinator. As there is only one candidate this year, incumbent Kevin "Zuzutoo" Diamond, the vote will consist of a straightforward confidence vote. Voting starts tomorrow (Monday 25 May) and will conclude on Monday 1 June.

Questions can be posed to the current EVC here

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Burning Question #23 released

Aaah, real life. That annoying interruption to you fleeing a Balrog, assaulting a space station, making a pass at a spunky elf or discussing terms for setting down your space ship.

What can you do? I don’t know about all of you, but I for starters could make some more work of getting the newsletter team which I have been talking about set up and that is exactly what I plan to do, so that real life can try all it wants but the newsletter will (hardly) be affected by it.

I think the current date on which the newsletter has been published and the fact that it is a two-monthly issue makes it painfully clear that this is at the moment far from being the actual case and truth be told the newsletter team will probably still be a work in progress when it is time for the next newsletter. But we’ll get there eventually.

I would also like to thank Silent Hunter, who always has been and continues to be a major contributor to the newsletter. If it weren’t for him, then most of the time The Burning Question wouldn’t have a background story to publish.

So all that it left to me for now is to tell you to enjoy reading the latest issue of The Burning Question:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/e8n6955ucyotkfw/Phoenix_newsletter_03_2015.pdf?dl=0

- Mischa Brendel, Editor

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Acquistion of AJJE and Ownership Policy passes

Voting has been completed. Thank you everyone for your participation with these important propositions. It should be noted that we had a 57% turn out for eligible members in this vote. That amounted to 25 out of 44. The last general election we held had only 16 participants. Your input is invaluable as we strive to keep this democratically run site meaningful and responsive to our membership. On to the results....

  • Shall Phoenix Roleplaying acquire AJJE Games as proposed? Yes 72%, No 28%. The measure is passed.
  • Shall Member Policy X: Sim Ownership be added to the official rules? Yes 96%, No 2%. The measure is passed.

I will now hand these proposals off to Misty for proper implementation. Thank you again everyone.

-Kevin Diamond, Election and Voting Coordinator.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Acquisitions and Ownership Vote

Ballots have now been sent out for the latest referendum on the PARS/AJJE acquisition and sim ownership.

Please contact Zuzutoo if you have not received yours.

Friday, 3 April 2015

New sims, revived and new sim ideas

It's been a busy few weeks for the sims of Phoenix Roleplaying. Here are some of the highlights:
Sadly, Alien: Planet of Cerberus  has been closed at the SL's request, but there is a hope it can be revived with a new GM.

In addition, if the PARS proposal passes, Silent Hunter has plans to revive an old AJJE sim - more details if/when it happens.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Phoenix 2014 Award winners

It was a fantastic Awards Ceremony on Saturday. Thank you all for attending and making it so much fun.

The winners were:

GM of the year - Giorgio
SL of the year - Mischa
Character of the Year - Françoise by Giorgio
Player of the Year  - Misty
Sim of the Year -  Dreamcatchers
GC Special Award - Euan Reid


Congratulations again to all the winners!

Deborah Leighton Plom, Head of Awards Committee.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Daughter of International Conspiracy (Review: 'The Blacklist' 2.9/2.10, "Luther Braxton")

Ah Silent, a pleasure to meet you at last. I understand that you're a fan of my little escapades with Agent Keen. I recently had a rather thrilling adventure in the Bering Sea with her and would really like to know what you think. Now be nice... but also be honest. Your life may depend on it.

It is said that demons run when a good man goes to war. They also run when Raymond Reddington is in town.

****
For those of you not familiar with the show (which this two-parter allows for) let me give the general gist of it:

For over 20 years, one of the FBI's most wanted men is one former US naval officer by the name of Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader). Known as the "Concierge of Crime", he is a master criminal with a fine line in fedoras, snappy suits and dark humour. One day, for some unknown reason, he suddenly walks into FBI headquarters and surrenders himself. He then proposes the immunity deal to end all immunity deals: he will give them information on a 'blacklist' of criminals that they don't even know about and help bring them to justice. There's one condition: he will only talk to rookie profiler Elizabeth "Liz" Keen (Megan Boone), who he seems to have some mysterious connection with. A special task force is set up to work with Reddington, who as each of the Blacklisters rears their (in some cases seriously messed-up e.g. The Stewmaker) head in some form, assists them in stopping them; a move that more often than not results in said crook ending up dead. As Liz Keen heads into the darkness (and gains several levels in combat skills in the process), other questions emerge:

  • Is Raymond her dad?
  • What is going on with her husband?
  • What's Raymond's real agenda?
  • Whose idea was that, now mercifully consigned to whichever foetid hole it came from, wig?
****
In this two-parter, the first part of which aired after this year's Super Bowl, Reddington is suddenly captured in Hong Kong, which allows for a brief info-dump via news reports of this for those just tuning in after the Patriots won 28-24. He is then taken to a CIA black site in the Bering Sea known as The Factory, where detainees trained to resist torture are 'broken'. Now, Reddington doesn't do things for no reason - and the reason he's allowed this to happen is because the facility holds one Luther Braxton, a master thief who has crossed elegant swords with Red before... and is after something else the facility prevents. He breaks out of his cell and takes control of the facility, just before Liz and two of her colleagues arrive. Things are about to get very shooty-shooty.

****

It's entirely fair to say that this show wouldn't be anywhere as good as it is without James Spader, a man with three Emmy wins and three Golden Globe nominations (two of the latter for this show). He imbues Red with a considerable charm - and also a considerable ruthlessness; in one case in this episode, he casually shoots a guy dead without compunction because of his cartel's actions against him. And that's not even the most dark thing he does, oh no. Do not hold him up unnecessarily - he does not like that at all.

Liz Keen is, if we're being honest here, your fairly standard Action Girl (she's kicked more backside than she's done profiling by a long chalk) with a Mysterious Past. She's not a bad lead (Boone is very much a Marmite actor among the fandom - I'm on the 'like' side) and serves as audience surrogate well here. In the second half, Boone gets a chance to show off her range a bit more via some water-boarding and hypnotherapy to attempt to recover some massive key piece of information that is possibly buried in her subconscious. This type to Bad Convulsive Fits results in some more answers about said Mysterious Past (but also far more questions) and some general trippy stuff. Must say that Keen rocks the black leather jacket well too.

The FBI Task Force of course consists of other people, most notably fellow Fed Donald Ressler and Mossad operative Samir Navabi, who with the departure of Ziva David from NCIS, along with the cancellation of Covert Affairs, takes the title of "Best Current Israeli Character on US Television" quite easily. Ressler's job is general suspect intimidation, but we get a rather jarring moment when he reveals knowledge of dipole antennae. Samir spends much of the first episode literally hanging around and doesn't do much of note in the second.

Luther Braxton is played by Ron Perlman, best known for his role in Sons of Anarchy, which I've never actually seen. He does a decent enough job as the titular villain in this two parter, but as Blacklist members go, there have been considerably better. I wouldn't want a return for him anyway.

We do get some good support - the members of an international sinister group do well, but best guest performance goes to Janel Maloney (aka Donna Moss from The West Wing) as a rather callous government official willing to let people die in the name of plausible deniability; not to mention kill a few as well.

The action is largely confined to the first half of the two-parter and if we're being honest, is by far the best thing of a rather dull episode. Reddington is very much a silenced pistol kind of bloke and Liz spends most of episode two tied to something, so we don't get much action out of those two.

One final note - obvious CGI in the cliffhanger. Seriously, with few exceptions, model making for television is a lost art...

****
Conclusion
A rather dull opener is made up for by a well played second half that moves along the overall arc nicely. Hopefully the rest of the run is a bit better, but this is still a good show - it has been renewed for a third season and the Syndication Gods Rule (every US network TV show at 66 or more episodes at close of its third season has gotten a fourth) means we'll be seeing a good deal more.

7/10

Bravo, Mr. Hunter. Bravo. For that, I won't kill you. I'll have to take a rain check on the Pop Tarts though, they smell delicious.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Very important discussion taking place in Management forum

If you haven't seen it already, a key decision on the future of Phoenix will be made soon. Please look at the IMPORTANT Proposition for Phoenix thread in the Management forum (this is restricted to forum members only).

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Pacific Rim de-activated

By the decision of its GM, Pacific Rim: The Shatterdome will be closed down due to lack of player interest.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Come visit North Haven!

Phoenix has recently acquired some new members from another club and they've brought with them a rather different sort of sim.

North Haven is a 1980s-set soap opera with dark secrets, twists and dramatic reveals aplenty; with clear passion already from its players, it should make for an interesting and enjoyable tale.

Friday, 6 February 2015

X-COM: Skyranger Four launched

Silent Hunter's alien hunting sim based on the classic game series has launched - he is looking for a few good men and women to fight (and probably die) to save the Earth.

The forum can be found here.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

'Umbra' mothballed

Due to the departure from site of its Sim Leader Jason Andersen, the pirate-themed Firefly sim Umbra has been placed on the inactive list.

Monday, 26 January 2015

SoapyMac proposes political 'Dragon Age' sim

Contender SoapyMac has had an idea for a new sim at Phoenix, based in the world of Dragon Age: Inquisition. In a change from the normal sort of sims at Phoenix, this will focus around political manoeuvring in a fantasy world, with players taking on one character or even an entire family, promising to contain much backstabbing.

The full description can be found below:

It is the age of "Glory", the time of rebuilding following the Second Blight. The Chantry is still in it's fledgling development, but is growing fast. The Tevinter Imperium has withdrawn from much of Thedas, and harmony has settled back on the Anderfels. 

However, the Orlesian Empire is failing, leaving power vaccums throughout, where many seek to assert themselves as counts, arls, even kings. Val Royeaux is the hub of almost all these clashes, the beating heart of the withering Empire. Welcome to the Great Game. Who will rise? Who will fall? 

If interested, please check out the proposal thread.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Giorgo Borgo appointed Deputy General Coordinator

Newly confirmed General Coordinator Misty Wilson has appointed Giorgo Borgo, aka ksabers, as her Deputy General Coordinator.

This is the second American-European combo in Phoenix's history; British Silent Hunter appointed American Kevin Diamond as his deputy, partly to ensure better coverage of time-sensitive issues.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Misty Wilson wins General Coordinator Election

The General Coordinator election has now been completed, with acting Coordinator Misty Wilson winning with 53% of the vote; Dale "SoapyMac" Brennan narrowly beating Giorgio "ksabers" Borgo to second place (24% to 22%) and thus gaining the title of Contender. 15 out of a possible 32 eligible members cast their vote in this unplanned election caused by the AWOL of Jason Andersen.

The same ballot also saw votes on creating the position of Phoenix Treasurer and also changing the wording of Member Policy 2 regarding canon characters appearing in a sim. These both comfortably passed with over 80% of the vote each.

A good book featuring a good man (Book Review: 'Doctor Who: Ghosts of India')

http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080326073504/tardis/images/4/47/Ghosts-of-india.jpg

And thus my series of Doctor Who reviews concludes with a novel featuring what is still my favourite Doctor.

Where we're at

Set during Season 30/Series 4, this features the Tenth Doctor and Donna.

The plot

The Doctor and Donna head for Calcutta in 1937... and end up arriving ten years later, at a turbulent time in India's history (i.e. just before independence). People are going missing and strange white 'half-made' men are appearing. Teaming up with Gandhi, the time travellers investigate.

What works
  • Gandhi is a bit of an unusual choice for a 'celebrity historical', but it works here. I get the impression of what was a very good man, whose untimely death arguably made things worse for South Asia in the longer term. His goodness actually plays a key role in the plot.
  • The two regulars are portrayed very well; the Tenth Doctor in particular.
  • Some good gadgets feature in this and the sonic screwdriver also gets some nice usage here, although some stuff about how it works is contradicted by later TV episodes.

What doesn't
  • The big twist is good... but looking at other reviews, I'm inclined to agree it's a bit humdrum and it would have been better with a double twist.
  • I'd have personally liked to come out of this book with a bit further knowledge of the real events that took place around Indian and Pakistani independence.

Conclusion

A good novel, but not one of my personal favourites.

8/10
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...