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, 25 November 2012

Let's Play Persian Incursion: Turn 4

Iranian F-4s during the Iran-Iraq War (from Wikipedia)


Turn 3


Both sides get new lots of points at the beginning of each game day – Israel has slightly more Military Points at the moment but in terms of Political and Intelligence Points the two sides are equal.


A new day started and with it came the angry Palestinian reaction – with violent protests erupting in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli public were not hugely happy about this, partly blaming the government. Iran stoked this, managing to make the Jordanians cool on any support they might have had for Israel.


Iran managed to repair 77 of their aircraft, implanting a wide-spread stand down in the process. Generally, only one squadron was ready per base, these tending to be the units that had most working planes and/or had the best aircraft.


Iran rolled a strategic event – Intifada Erupts. Spending 3 of its military points, it managed to influence the Israeli opinion track down to +3. Separately, playing Palestinian Unrest moved Jordan to 0 (Turkey remained unmoved). Each day, Iran can alter readiness states for its fighter squadrons and rebase three.


Israel’s diplomats reminded the US, the GCC and Iran that a nuclear Iran was not in their best interests – they also arranged for a US destroyer to park itself off the Israeli coast as a further missile defence.


Iranian supported terrorists set off a bomb in Tel Aviv, but completely failed to scare a populace used to this things.


Civil/Economic attacks have a high chance of backfiring.


Another 21 of Iran’s ready aircraft broke down, leaving only 54 aircraft available in the whole country to go after any incoming raid. At the moment  though, none was likely.


Although things might well change.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

James Bond: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

There is one massive problem with this movie – its star, George Lazenby. He just can’t act. He can handle the fight scenes, but he’s completely unconvincing in nearly everything else in this film – the lack of chemistry with Diana Rigg is clear to see. The script, clearly written for Connery (who would have done far better) does not help.


The action scenes drag on, the plot is badly paced and Telly Savalas isn’t as good as Donald Pleasance. The best thing about this tale is Diana Rigg, who steals every scene that she’s in and who has a very moving death.


There are much better Bond films out there.



Friday, 23 November 2012

49 Years of Doctor Who

A happy birthday to one of the finest shows ever made.

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors (1983)

Every November since 1980, the BBC has run a telethon called Children in Need, which raises large sums of money for children’s charities in the United Kingdom. This annual event features musical acts from pop stars and musicals, as well as sketches featuring popular programmes, including those from the ‘other side’ (ITV), with frequent in-character appearances and crazy cross-overs[1]. Pretty much everyone involved waives their fees for taking part. This is interspersed with videos talking about CiN’s work and regional features on the various fundraising activities (e.g. non-uniform days, sitting in a bath of baked beans, bake sales).


Personally, I find it best watched the following morning with liberal use of the fast forward button.


Doctor Who has made annual CiN appearances since 2005, with a Christmas special trailer or excerpt at the very least, sometimes with a special (canonical) scene added. We are now going to talk about the first such involvement on the telethon…

A 20th anniversary special had been planned by JNT since at least June 1981 – this had been the reasoning behind his attempt to return the show to an autumn time slot. However, an agreement was made to put aside two episodes worth of money from Season 20 aside for the special, with the hope of getting additional funding from the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Enterprises, who had made a lot of money from the show over the years. Enterprises didn’t put up any money, but ABC in Australia did – not even asking for a credit for the AUS$60,000 that they put towards the costs.


It was now May 1982 – with funding in place, Nathan-Turner went to find a cast. This is how things went:

·         With William Hartnell having died in 1975, Richard Hurndall was recruited to take his place as the First Doctor. Hurndall would die a few months after transmission – it’s unclear if he lived to get paid.

o   A clip of Hartnell from the end of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” was added to the beginning in postproduction.

·         After concerns over scheduling were cleared up, Patrick Troughton would reprise his role.

·         Pertwee agreed to take part.

·         Tom Baker initially wanted to take part, but then pulled out. Footage from “Shada” would be used instead, with an in-story explanation for his absence.

·         Davison and the other two regulars were easily signed up.

·         Lis Sladen would appear alongside Pertwee, with Carole Ann Ford (Susan) appearing alongside Hurndall.

·         Frazer Hines was not able to do more than a cameo due to commitments to Yorkshire Television soap Emmerdale Farm[2], precluding tying him with Troughton; Nick Courtney’s Brigadier was assigned with him instead, thus giving birth to the Season 6B theory.

·         Ian Marter was unable to play Harry Sullivan due to commitments in New Zealand.

·         Any possibility of using Lalla Ward in the story was ended with her divorce from Tom Baker.

·         Caroline John (Liz Shaw), Richard Franklin (Yates) and Wendy Padbury (Zoe) agreed to make cameos, as did Deborah Watling (Victoria), but the last had to pull out.

·         Louise Jameson offered her services at a late stage, but it was too late to write her in.

·         Only one of the four guest stars from “Arc of Infinity” proved available.


Robert Holmes was approached to write the story and got quite a way through the storyline, but struggled with it (not being too happy using past characters) and had to pull out – Saward instead gave him a four-parter for Season 21. Terrance Dicks took over and did a new story from scratch, that had appearances from a whole host of past monsters – after some reluctance, he added K9.


The production in North Wales also proved somewhat problematic – a Yeti costume was found to be flea-ridden, a hang glider scene was dropped due to prop problems and Mark Strickson had to cut short a holiday to do a remount after footage was damaged.

The plan had been to put it out on the anniversary date itself – 23 November 1983, but with Children in Need on the coming Friday (the 26th), the special was put back and broadcast as part of that event. Thus, WTTW in Chicago became the first network to broadcast the story; the first time a Doctor Who episode had been aired first outside the UK. Also, much to JNT’s annoyance, the Target novelisation came out two weeks before transmission.

The Five Doctors (1 90-minute special)


The five incarnations of the Doctor are taken out of time by a banned Time Scoop. Four of them end up in the Death Zone of Gallifrey. They must make their way to the Dark Tower, the tomb of Time Lord founder Rassilon…


This was one of the first stories I saw and it’s a great anniversary piece, although it should not be analysed too closely.

7.7 million watched this special, making it one of the highest rated episodes of 1983 and a strong success.


A major convention at Longleat also formed part of the celebrations; it seemed that the show’s future was assured and things were going well. Within 18 months, those beliefs would be sorely tested.

[1]For example, 2012’s event featured Lord Alan Sugar (of The Apprentice) on the set of Eastenders holding conversations with the characters regarding CVs…

[2]Now known simply as Emmerdale.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Let's Play Persian Incursion: Turn 3

Shahab-3 missile


The night was a quiet one for Israel as its government worked its contacts and prepared new ways to exert leverage. The only real event of note was a second Iranian missile launch. Of the four missiles fired, only one actually worked and was blown out of the sky easily.


Natural 12 on the launch roll.


43 more Iranian aircraft had maintenance gripes. It was clear that a major stand-down was needed to fix the problems in the fleet – it wasn’t as if Israel was ready to attack at the moment.


More activity in the coming turns, but with the Israeli defence as it is, Iran’s moves are limited… as we’ll see in the next turn.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Let's Play Persian Incursion: Turn 2

The Opinion Tracks as they stood at the end of Turn 2


Turn 2: Day 1 Afternoon


A small correction from yesterday – Iran actually had 59 jets break down. Also, that terror attack is not happening until Turn 4.


With Israeli’s negotiators tied up doing other things, a special forces unit was tasked with destroying one of the remaining facilities at Natanz. These would take 24 hours to reach their target – what with tight security and all that.


Although I might well delay this until Turn 6 as night time ops have a better chance of success.


One of the two battalions of Shahab-3 missiles moved their missile launchers to their dispersed sites and fired off four missiles. Of these, only three flew properly with a fourth crashing nearby. As the missiles arced, they were quickly spotted by the American cruiser off Kuwait, which shot them all down with its SM-3 missiles. The Israeli Arrow and PAC-3 units weren’t even needed.


Iran promptly decided to have another go with its other battalion the following night.


The SM-3s are superb missiles in this game and any Iranian attack (up to 8 with the Shahabs, 16 if you buy the Sejil-2s) must go through them if Israel has it. Attacks against Turkey and the GCC countries aren’t featured in this game. If the missile actually gets through, then it still stands a big chance of just plain missing.


As the next Iranian move was a card retrieval, I won’t discuss it.


More dire news came from the IRIAF – only 95 of their 192 fighters were now working. It was clear that some stand-downs were needed to fix the problems.


The price of being a pariah state. There’s another lot of breakdown rolls in Turn 3, then I’ll get probably over 100 repair rolls. Something that needs simplifying. Putting aircraft in stand down prevents breakdowns, but also stops them responding to Israeli strikes. As these aren’t likely at the moment, Iran can take the risk.


Turn 3 will be short – only a couple of moves and those breakdown rolls to make.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Let's Play Persian Incursion: Turn 1

Image from the Persian Incursion VASSAL module


I’m going to do this as a narrative, providing commentary in italics.


Turn 1 – Monday Morning


On a warm April day in early 2013, the Israeli Cabinet met to talk about grave things. It was clear that Iran was heading towards a nuclear bomb and it was now time to attack. A large Israeli strike force was on the tarmac at Ramon airbase, ready to strike the main base of the nuclear development – Natanz. With recent major concessions, unpopular domestically on the Palestinian issue, Turkey was willing to allow them to use their air space for a one-time flight through to the facility.


The goal of PI for the Israelis isn’t to blow the Iranian nuclear programme into next week – but to force Iranian domestic opinion to change in order that it gives said programme up. Blowing it up is a means to that end, but only one – the key is to alter the opinions of other international actors to provide you with assistance in doing that.


There are various starting options – I chose the one called the Palestinian Option, which boosts Israel’s position among the Gulf States at the cost of some domestic unpopularity and allows for a free flight through Turkey. Any others will require persuasion and/or dirty tricks.


Each major power takes a certain position at the beginning of each game day (this is Day 1), the two sides get Political, Intelligence and Military Points based on these positions – if a state ends up a full ally, other assistance becomes available. If the Americans (who start as supporters) go to full Ally, woe betide Iran, as B-2s with big bunker busters become available.


Israel had prepared well for this, with improved missile defences, buying AIM-120Ds from the USA and obtaining fighter decoys for the flight in. However, they did not have enough working bunker busters working to take out the underground halls at Natanz, so instead focussed on destroying the above ground facilities.


Basically, I messed up the strike planning. Each side can buy upgrades at game beginning and sometimes with the right cards in game.


Iran had been doing some preparing, but the arms embargo was hurting them. A pair of Pantsyr batteries from Syria and some improved air-to-air missiles from China should surely help here – although Natanz itself was still only covered by the local stuff, including a Tor-M1 battery. Laser decoys were in place to make things harder for the strikers. In addition, for the planned retaliation against the West, they’d gotten contact mines to strew into the Straits of Hormuz.


Most Iranian missiles and all their AAA does not really stand a chance against Israeli planes, provided enough prep is done.


24 F-15Is and 48 F-16Is took off for the long flight through Turkey, with 3 supporting aircraft and 8 tankers assisting them. As they approached, Israeli hackers launched a network attack through the planes against the Iranian air defence system, taking down the I-Hawk SAMs around Natanz.


As the jets crossed the Iranian border, they dropped into the radar cover of the Zagros Mountains, stopping the Iranians from detecting or engaging them. 12 of the F-16s broke off to attack the nearby airfields, putting holes in their taxiways, while twelve more started jamming the HQ-2 and Kub SAM systems that would threaten them. Iran was unable to stop this flight coming in.


This is really the largest attack Israel can conduct in the game – as you can see, it’s a pretty potent force to employ. You can suppress the SAM sites or launch dedicated destruction missions – data is provided for this choice.


As they reached the facility, one Tor-M1 launcher lit them up with his radar, hoping the others would be able to fire through the data link. For his trouble, he got a HARM anti-radar missile in his face. Nobody else was able to fire or stop the precision guided munitions as the GPS guidance allowed the F-15s to toss the bombs from outside their ranges.


This is realistic – Israel’s 1981 attack on Osirak wasn’t spotted at all and Iraqi forces didn’t even open fire until they were leaving. Saddam Hussein was not impressed and executed most of the local commanders for it.


Lob-toss, formerly a method relegated to nuke delivery (as this is the kind of thing where accuracy is not an issue and it gives you time to get out of Dodge before Dodge turns into a mushroom cloud), is now a highly viable option for conventional weapon attacks with improved guidance.


The bombs rained down on the site, wrecking most of the surface buildings and doing minor damage to the halls – but the site was going to need another go to finish the job. The Israeli strike force began to work its way out, the SAMs still suppressed.


Iran did manage to scramble 4 F-5s, these approaching the force in a death or glory charge. Unfortunately for them, none of them got glory and one of them got death as two F-16s pulled off. The AIM-120Ds fireballed three of the jets from over 50 miles away and sent the fourth limping back to base.


Most of their jets are no good either – especially during a daylight raid. Israel is passing through two sectors of the Iranian system and both get a chance to launch something, but only one did due to the efficiency of Israeli fighter suppression.


That nuisance dealt with, the Israelis returned home without losses, but 7 of their aircraft needed extra work to get them ready for another raid.


This strike is still deemed in flight until Turn 2 and these planes will not be available until Turn 4 as the pilots need their beauty sleep. Seriously, pilots should not fly tired and rest breaks get mandated for combat pilots.


The political game now began. The Turkish public was annoyed at the use of their air space, but understanding – although they were not going to allow for a further strike at the moment. Iran’s response was rapid, with its missile boats and other craft inflicting a partial closure on the Straits – but the whole operation had no political effect at present.


However, there was another move the Israelis could make – the Americans deployed a Bunker Hill-class cruiser off Kuwait, ready to intercept an Iranian missile response, which Tehran was rapidly ordering.


While these missiles were being readied, the Iranians involved themselves in a bit of black propaganda – releasing photographs of the Turkish Defence Minister in bed with what was purportedly two Israeli prostitutes. Unfortunately, Israel exposed that these women were in fact Iranian and the whole thing backfired on Iran – Turkey’s position remained unchanged, but the Saudis were furious and the Chinese withdrew their support.


‘Incriminating Photographs’ is a card both sides have in their decks and they can also expose these dirty tricks as well. Iran needs support from the Russians or the Chinese to get improved weapons such as the S-300 advanced SAM.


The Israelis had a spot of indecision over who they should focus their attention on to get the airspace open. In the meantime, a group of Mossad ‘ninjas’ blew up an Iranian secret police headquarters – which resulted in some quiet cheering in the houses of Bam.


And a two point move to Israel in Iranian domestic opinion. Ziva David, or rather her equally attractive buddies in fiction’s sexiest spy agency, earned their paycheque.


Israeli negotiators started talking to the Saudis to let them use their airspace for the next strike. It was going to take a while. Iran repositioned its Pantsyrs to cover the undamaged nuclear sites of Arak and Isfahan, while discovering that 54 of its fighter jets had broken down.


Iran has to roll for aircraft break down each turn – Israel only after each strike. Each side can repair their planes once per game day – i.e. every three turns. This will involve a lot of dice rolling – in fact, I did a lot before I double-checked the rules.


As morning turned to afternoon, both sides were making further political and military moves… Iran had a terrorist and missile surprise for Israel…


Iran’s goal is to inflict enough political embarrassment on Israel that its leadership gets a no-confidence vote from the Knesset. They can do this by various means – shooting down Israeli planes, calling in Hezbollah or going ballistic… Will they succeed?

AW75: A planned mercenary air combat sim for Phoenix

Osprey is developing a new original universe sim and is looking for interest. Take a look at the details that I've received - hopefully you'll be interested:
The once strong island nation of Shinsekishima has fallen under hard times as pirates have placed a choke-hold on it's once vibrant economy. It was further hobbled by a series of natural disasters that the pirates have taken advantage of to gain resources from the larger nations that surround it and it's waters. The criminal cartels on the island back the pirate activity, since they get a cut of the profits and get to sell what is stolen/captured at a overinflated rate and collect all ransoms demanded by the pirates. Using what little the defense budget the nation had, they hired a group of mercenaries from the various nations for a last stand against the forces that wish to destroy it.

This game is a cinematic combat game, taking place on a original world not based on our world or history. It will be freeform, keeping track only of weapons fired and when flares/chaff are used. During roleplay outside of combat the potential of getting "drama points" can come into play, where the player can spend the point to do a dramatic edit in their favor.
The pilots will be expected to be able to both operate from land and from their only Carrier, the SNC-1 Kibo (Hope). Unfortunately the pirates just scored their own carrier. The whereabouts are currently unknown. The aircraft used will be 4th Generation, and fictional jet fighter aircraft that later on will "unlock" as the campaign progresses (I will be using aircraft from the "Ace Combat" series for inspiration for this). The players may choose a aircraft from the 4th Generation list linked, with its model name changed to the player's liking. The more fluff that the player creates for their aircraft the better. Including past campaigns the pilot had been in.
More info can be found on the forum.
Full details and discussion can be found here.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Persian Incursion

I've just bought this game. As it has some particular relevance to the Fighter Ops, I’m going to go through a play through and post each turn here – hopefully things will be interesting.


I’ve yet to finish the first turn – once I do, I’ll post it here.



Friday, 9 November 2012

James Bond: You Only Live Twice

A Bond film set nearly entirely in the Far East, You Only Live Twice is an interesting postcard of a Japan that has arguably gone into history. I associate the Land of the Rising Sun with anime, the Toshiba laptop I am this one and maid cafes. I would love to go to the country at some point in my life (first or second).


Sean Connery does quite well for a largely phoned in role, but a lot of the early action sequences aren’t that exciting. The plot (an improvement on the novel by a great amount) goes along nicely, with a strong Cold War element – I am surprised that two of the early films have Red China clearly behind the evil plot.


The climax is great, the production design superb and Donald Pleasance is a great Blofeld. Mind you, his cat clearly wasn’t enjoying the battle – you can see him or her squirming when the control is attacked.


One of the better Connery films and one of the best of the lot.



Tuesday, 6 November 2012

We've even got a stripper ('Doctor Who' Season 20: 1983)

One reason why the Doctor left Gallifrey


The inter-season break saw Britain get its fourth television channel (Channel 4) and the development start on a show that would cause severe problems for Doctor Who when it came to ratings in the Colin Baker era – The A-Team[1].


At the BBC, Season 20’s plan underwent a number of changes. Initially JNT planned for a 28-episode run in late 1982, with the 21st season intended to cover the show’s looming 20th birthday in November 1983. However, it became clear that Davison’s additional commitment to Sink or Swim meant that he could not handle the recording schedules for both and Alan Hart, BBC1 Controller, had to sort the dispute out, ‘awarding’ him to the sitcom. Thus, Season 20 would go in the same late winter slot as Season 19. Still desiring something for the anniversary, Hart advised JNT to put the budget for two episodes aside for a special, thus making this run 26 episodes… or that was the plan. Until union trouble reared its ugly head again.


Season 20 was planned to close on a four-part Dalek story called “The Return”, but an electricians union dispute forced a delay in the production of “Enlightenment” and the studio days had to go to a story that was needed to tie up some key plots. Thus the run would be 22 episodes and “The Return” would emerge under a different title in Season 21.

This run saw the departure of Nyssa and the arrival of a new male companion, Vislor Turlough, who would be the last male companion of the classic era. Tegan’s return to the show after her apparent departure in “Time-Flight” was always planned.


Speaking of women, both Nyssa and Tegan’s wardrobe got ‘sexed up’ for this particular run (the actors being allowed to change their outfits between stories), to the point that Janet Fielding suffered wardrobe malfunctions during the filming of two stories here.


By a happy chance, in this ‘anniversary’ season, every story features some element from a previous season.


Arc of Infinity (4 parts)


Omega (“The Three Doctors”) plots to cross into the universe of matter by bonding with the Doctor. Fearing the destruction of the universe, the Time Lords summon him to Gallifrey – with the intention to execute him. Meanwhile, Tegan goes to Amsterdam to look for his missing cousin and finds Omega’s base…


Containing extensive location work in the Dutch capital[2], this mediocre tale (for a start, Omega looks very different from his previous appearance) contains a lot of good elements, including Davison getting to play the villain, that are felt not to ultimately gel. Perhaps the most notable bit is the appearance of Davison’s successor as the Doctor, Colin Baker – playing a guard who gets to shoot him[3]!


Snakedance (4 parts)


The Mara (“Kinda”) possesses Tegan again, getting her to take the TARDIS to Manussa, where it plans to use the Great Crystal to return to power…


A sequel to the Season 19 story, this one is much-loved by Steven Moffat, although most fans don’t deem it quite as good as the first one – it finished in the lower half of the Mighty 200 poll. The guest cast includes an early role for the very well-known actor Martin Clunes (Doc Martin, Men Behaving Badly) – clips from it still get wheeled out when he’s interviewed.


A clip from the serial can be seen here.


The next three stories form what is usually referred to as “The Guardian Trilogy”, a trio of stories all involving the Black Guardian’s attempt to get revenge on the Doctor for denying him the Key to Time (Season 16), by getting an exiled alien to kill him…


Mawdryn Undead (4 parts)


Tegan and Nyssa are separated from the Doctor in time. They end up at a private school six years apart, where the Brigadier[4] is now a teacher, a pupil is actually from another planet and a group of scientists need the Doctor’s remaining generations to die.


A very ambitious and complex story that did nasty things to the UNIT dating debate[5], introduces something called the “Blinovitch Limitation Effect” and features a group of aliens who don’t want to destroy the world for a change, this is a rather good tale that was actually a late replacement for the planned story involving a space whale.


Vislor Turlough – Red for Warning


It’s an unusual approach when a companion in his first episode is about to brain the Doctor with a rock, but Turlough (he is generally known by his surname) is not your usual companion. He’s male for a start, but was also prone to lying, had a strong self-preservation instinct that could be termed cowardice by the uncharitable and started off working for the Black Guardian to try to get back to his home world[6] – his past was mysterious until his final story. He’s one of the better companions of the JNT era – we have worse to come, that’s for sure.


Mark Strickson (1959-present) took on the role, having previously been in a few episodes of BBC medical soap Angels. He was required to dye his hair red for the role as his natural blond hair was felt to be too close to Davison’s in long shots – his dark clothing choice was for the same reason. Post DW, he did a bit more acting, then became a wildlife documentary producer. One of his more noteworthy roles was in video mockumentary Lust in Space, playing the prosecutor in a ‘trial’ of Doctor Who for sexism.


Terminus (4 parts)


Turlough sabotages the TARDIS and the time machine lands on a liner, heading for a space station where those with a terrible disease go to die…


An interesting story with a lot of production problems (the strike impacting studio time and ultimately requiring remounts), this one is perhaps best remembered for Nyssa, suffering from high temperature, taking her skirt off suddenly and spending the rest of what is her final story in pretty much just a slip, including having an action scene while in this limited outfit. Sutton was apparently not happy about it.


Enlightenment (4 parts)


The TARDIS arrives on what appears to be an Edwardian racing yacht, but is in reality a disguised spaceship engaging in an interplanetary race. Meanwhile, Turlough has a choice to make.


The first Doctor Who serial penned by a woman (Barbara Clegg), also with a female director, this highly enjoyable tale was also the 1963-89 serial that I ever watched.

Turlough now safely on the side of good, it was time to finish the season with the introduction of another ‘companion’, who did not work as planned.


The King’s Demons (2 parts)


The travellers arrive in England in 125 where they meet King John – but the Doctor quickly realises this John is an imposter as the real one is about to sign Magna Carta!


An inconsequential tale, but at least the Doctor gets a sword fight. It’s also notable for the introduction of a companion destined to only appear in two tales.


Kamelion – the unfulfilled robot


After a freelance effects designer approached him with a working robot prop, JNT decided to incorporate it into the show – becoming shape-changing android Kamelion, voiced by veteran actor Gerald Flood, whose previous credits included a show called Pathfinders in Space, produced by Sydney Newman.


Unfortunately for this interesting idea, one of the designers (Mike Power) died in a boating accident with the knowledge of how to make the software work properly. His partner in all this, Chris Padmore, could not perfect the walking mechanism and the prop proved far more problematic than feared, breaking down constantly as well as being unable to mime along with Flood’s pre-recorded dialogue. With the logical alternative of getting a human actor probably a non-starter on cost grounds, JNT dropped him as a regular and decided that he would get only one more appearance in Season 21.

The ratings fell sharply, down to only 7 million on average. This was a level not since Season 18 and before that Season 7. Rot was setting in, but it was not yet clear – it was time for a celebration.

[1]I pity the fool who doesn’t know about this show!

[2]While the city is the capital of the Netherlands, the seat of government for that kingdom is located in The Hague.

[3]Baker still jokes that’s how he got the job – while it certainly brought him to the attention of JNT, this was not what sealed the deal.

[4]The original plan was to get William Russell in playing Ian Chesterton, but his schedule wouldn’t permit it.

[5]JNT ignoring Ian Levine’s warning on this matter as he liked setting the first bit in the Silver Jubilee year of 1977.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

James Bond: Thunderball

This is the highest-grossing (adjusted for inflation) Bond film of them all – and it’s hard to see why. The mark I give this could easily have been one lower.


Quite simply put, this film drags. The underwater fight scenes are long and confusing (as everyone is wearing masks), much of the middle is quite poor and knowing a thing or two about the awesome Avro Vulcan, I’m having suspension of disbelief issues. This film also reflects some old attitudes to sexual harassment, Health & Safety and animal welfare (shoot the shark to keep the other sharks distracted).


The four regulars here do enough to keep things reasonably entertaining, while there are some good moments too. That said, I can only give this:



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The X-305 from Stargate SG-1 was created by Grzegorz Wereszko and can be found here:


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Big Nasty Bees to Honey (Book Review: 'Doctor Who - The Missing Adventures: Dancing The Code', by Paul Leonard)


April 1995 saw the release of the ninth “Missing Adventures” novel by Virgin – the second of three in this particular run penned by Paul Leonard, whose first novel Venusian Lullaby was highly acclaimed. As the title and the premise intrigued me, it becomes the second Third Doctor work covered in my “Eleven Faces of Doctor Who story”.


As discussed earlier, this book is a lot darker and more adult than the TV series – language and violence in particular.


Where we’re at


This is a UNIT story, located near the end of Jo Grant’s time on the show – explicitly set between “Planet of the Daleks” and her final story “The Green Death”. This means that we also have the Brigadier, Benton and Yates. While the TARDIS is functional, it has only limited use in an entirely Earth-bound story.


The plot


The Doctor (for some reason) builds a machine that can project the future – with its projection showing the Brigadier shooting him and Jo in cold blood. Determined to prevent this, Jo is sent on a secret mission to the war-torn African country of Kebiria, where a UNIT soldier has been killed, his blooding oozing a honey like substance. His last words to a reporter were “dancing the code”.


The Doctor, Jo and UNIT find themselves having to stop the Xarax, a race of hive-minded giant insects with the ability to copy human beings – and their technology.


What works

·         The three regulars all get good parts in this – Jo in particular, having a rather unpleasant time of it. The supporting characters are also generally well written.

·         A scene where a rebel camp is strafed by government jets, resulting in many civilian deaths, stands out as the most moving and horrific of the book, with a strong contemporary resonance considering recent events in Libya and Syria.

·         There is a suitably epic scale to this, with big battles, missiles flying about and a UNIT HQ shootout that would have not featured on the show as it would blow the budget.

·         The Xarax human copies are a great idea and well done.

·         The final twists are very good and there is a strong air of partial failure in the ultimate consequences of the Xarax activities.


What doesn’t

·         The precise meaning of the title isn’t satisfactorily explained in the book.

·         Some of the prose is a bit clunky and on occasion this book is hard to follow.

·         The explanation of the projection is telegraphed well in advance.




An enjoyable page-turner with an interesting variant on an alien invasion and big set-pieces. Not perfect, but certainly well up to standard.



Friday, 2 November 2012

An Baile Ur starts operations

It's taken a while, but Robert Longtin's Irish traditionalist-themed Firefly sim, An Baile Ur has finally gotten going.

Please check the new sim out!
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