Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Home Cloning Is Killing Music

It has been claimed that Madonna has her dressing room sterilised nightly so that nobody can steal her DNA. Futureproofing against other people cloning her?

(Perhaps she's read this issue of 2000AD.)

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Series Of Skywatch. 10: Science Fiction That Is About Science!

With all the monsters invading, alien tech raining down and ghosts in the machine, the Whoniverse is a decidedly soft SF setting. But every now and then it looks at what’s going on in real-world science. The inventors of the Cybermen went on to create Doomwatch, and Torchwood Three’s first pre-watershed adventure (on the radio) was about something haunting CERN.

I run the odd “we just found or did X!” article here, when I come across a “we found or did X!” bit in the news and forums. Bringing things into the Whoniverse is generally a case of exaggerating a bit.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Alan Turing

Today is the great man’s hundredth birthday. I’ve mentioned him before, as well as featuring him in series one of The Door In Time itself, before a similarly heroic guest appearance in the DWM comics last year. A genius whose work helped immensely in the Second World War and whose ideas cast a long shadow on science and science fiction, and a victim of the politics of the time, he deserves such memorials.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Caroline John has died. My condolences to friends, family and fans. Best known to Whovians as UNIT scientist Liz Shaw, who later lead PROBE in the unofficial spinoff created by Mark Gatiss, a model for Torchwood as a spinoff in some ways.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Voice Of Power

Not one but two podcast interviews with line developer Gar Hanrahan. Thanks to Siskoid and Mark Anthony Quested for the links. The Dirty WHOers one is slightly NSFW and may be from a while back, as he promises to try and get out the update guide PDF that already exists. The Jennisodes one runs three times as long, and includes a good explanation of the game and of Primeval, and the RPGnetism “Viking Hat”.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A Series Of Skywatch. 9: The Monsters Are Coming

... The human race.

Between the black market in alien tech, government jurisdiction territoriality, conspiracies and more, humanity gets a rather worse rap in Torchwood than it does in Doctor Who. Being an Earthbound show, more human nastiness is quite natural. There’s certainly room for an episode where the threat is entirely mundane.

Not much to say about this, of course, except that it can be tricky not to make it feel like a cheat or a letdown when the players are here to hunt monsters. Perhaps some hint of the uncanny can be included - like a serial killer being caught trying to escape because a door inexplicably won’t open for him, perhaps.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Happy birthday Arthur Darvill!

Where Do You Come From?

Father’s Day: Google Doodle provides helpful and cute reminder.

With one of the prototype Big Emotional Episodes named after it, it hints at the importance of where we come from, how much it can define us. Family, friends, educators, everyone and everything that contributes to the ongoing process of making us who we are.

The Doctor has no home to go to, of course, and seemed to have no family (except his granddaughter) long before that. Companions have to be able to run away into time and space, with at best an unreliable promise to have them home in time for tea.

Many player characters in RPGs are orphans (a) because rootless characters can more readily go adventuring and (b) because certain GMs only bring in background details like friends and family to torture players by killing them off.

“Bad news, I’m afraid. Your son is... a player character.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you’ll both be killed by Orcs before he turns eighteen.”
“Well... shucks.”

So choose another way. You could involve a PC’s background regularly whenever they visit their home space-time, those with mysteries in their pasts could have those highlighted, reunions are possible with time travel that could never be otherwise. You don’t have to make the TARDIS totally domestic, and shouldn’t push it on players who aren’t interested, but the ties that bind can still be strong across the gulf of time and space.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Bigger On The Print Side

An exclusive comic variant cover idea GONE MAD!

IDW renumbering Doctor Who comics and one variant cover is a papercraft TARDIS. It’s already been released in big format so you can print your own rather than cutting up your collectible first edition comic book. Hopefully those of us with copies of Doctor Who Weekly with empty transfer sheets will have learned from our mistakes.

And, er, I can’t find out what the story’s actually about anywhere.

(And apparently Brannon Braga is writing a Star Trek: The Next Generation comic, and the Borg are travelling in time and Seven Of Nine is a guest star. Plus ├ža change...)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

UNIT versus Coldplay

An example of Whovian leaking into popular culture:

My Coldplay wristband has a life force of its own.

The writer is obviously thinking of something like Cybus Industries Earpods, or the Adipose, or indeed The Plastic Daffodils Of Death, as he discusses the glowing souvenir wristband reactivating of its own accord nine days after the gig.

“It’s not as if I didn’t think there was a perfectly rational explanation: more that the perfectly rational explanation might involve every person whose Xyloband had lit up marching like dead-eyed supplicants back to the Emirates, whereupon Chris Martin and our new reptile overlords would command us to shed our earthly containers. So, it was with some relief on Monday that I: (a) woke up to a world that seemed unchanged; and (b) happened upon a quote from Clive Banks, co-founder of RB Concepts, which makes Xylobands. “There’s no mind-control or tracking,” he said...” “... they are just for fun.”

“But while all this may help explain the psychology of the rock wristband as artefact, it doesn’t completely assuage the nagging fear that the next time my Xyloband flashes up, everything’s about to go a bit, well... a bit Doctor Who.”

Monday, 11 June 2012

A Series Of Skywatch. 8: Red Tape

Judging by the first two series, it’s time for another Illicit Alien Technology episode, but you didn’t come here to read “see six weeks ago”, so let’s look at a different aspect of the semi-official alien hunting gig. Semi- being the important bit here.

When the Doctor swans into a crime scene, fast talks the guards and waves his psychic paper under their noses, it’s because questions of jurisdiction and other bureaucratic obstacles will tend to slow down an average episode. They can be fun when you get mired in a nightmarish dystopia of procedural excess, but less so when modern British procedures are concerned.

But a group that has to go through at least some of the proper channels may sometimes have to deal with such concerns. UNIT back in the day had to clear things with officials above, Torchwood had to get friendly-ish police on-side and avoid UNIT’s attention. And consider what the poor sods at The Laundry have to deal with.

A group like Skywatch would have an Oversight Committee, some of whom know what’s going on and some of whom have been sent from Parliament due to a cabinet reshuffle and would like to know why the programme is so expensive.

And for that matter, jurisdictional issues can get very messy if other departments start looking for aliens as well. In The Flood the Doctor is pressganged by MI6 (a clear influence on the attitude of Torchwood, among other things, in Army Of Ghosts) so what if another group formed by another branch of government turned up at the site of an alien incident? Or the police’s own paranormal experts? Or UNIT?

Something like this can really throw a spanner into a normal adventure.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Crimson Hand

After some delays caused by the definition of “graphic novel”, the final DWM Tenth Doctor comics collection has arrived. It’s so delayed it has the Eleventh Doctor logo on it, but this is a minor niggle.

After Rose, Martha and very briefly Donna got their turns (but alas not Wilf) the Specials “gap year” brings a return to a comics-only companion for the first time since the Eighth Doctor headed off into the sunset with Destrii.

Majenta Pryce reminds me of Destrii in a few other ways too, the truncated arc she had (discussed in The Flood) partially applying to her, as well as her running from her background, perception filter necklace and sense of style. She’s a less extreme design (a pointy-eared green Amanda Holden) but still stands out when surrounded by humans and next to a Time Lord.

All the stories here (except Storybook reprint Space Vikings! by Jonathan Morris) are written by Dan McDaid, who apparently got his first writing gig with a genuine blind submission, which is... so... very... tempting...

Not having all but the last couple of these, I’m very glad the collection finally came out, and to have it. Now, how about the second Seventh Doctor book...?

It’s essentially a standalone series, designed to “echo the pacing and structure of the typical Doctor Who season” as McDaid notes, so let’s look at it like a series-ful of plots...

The Eternity Clock

The much-heralded new Doctor Who game has arrived, with motion-captured Matt Smith and two-player River Song, and... it’s largely a platform game with some dodging and puzzles and River shooting things.

The following observations drawn from a walkthrough of the Cybermen bit. I shall return to discuss the story once I know how it ends.

So what’s the plot then? Earth has been caught in a time storm and...

Purposely Vague Spoilers!

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Doctor and... Jenna-Louise. He's in costume (apparently blending in with the 19th century) and she... may be?

Monday, 4 June 2012

A Series Of Skywatch. 7: The Sapphire & Steel Episode

The highlights of the first two series of Torchwood included an episode each year by Sapphire & Steel creator PJ Hammond, each of which had its occasionally nightmarish surrealism and sense of doom.

Now, one can overdo the sense of doom bit, but while Doctor Who generally shows that humans are fantastic it does at times suggest there are corners we should let the Doctor poke around rather than looking at ourselves. These would be some of those times.

Slightly distinct from regular horror stories, Hammond-style episodes dwell on the strange and hostile things hiding behind myths, or in gaps in the fabric of Time itself. The threats tend to be haunting or creepy rather than purely monstrous, although they present plenty of danger. Magritte-style off-kilter imagery would suit them. The Torchwood episodes also demonstrated that actually defeating the threat is beyond humanity, and the best we can do is figure out how they work and what rules they follow, stave off direct attacks and save those endangered.