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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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