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, 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.


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:


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.

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.

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: 


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.


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.


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