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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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


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.
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