This Week in Geek (22-28/04/13)

Buys

Ok, so by mistake, I'd ordered the handsome BBC Shakespeare Collection, thinking what a great deal it was with its 37 plays for only 160$ (when the old boxed sets, two of which I already owned, were 100$ for only 5 plays), but neglecting to notice the thing was REGION 2. Oh noes! I didn't really want to switch my computer's Region because I need it to play Region 1s too. My Xbox? It would change the games' region as well, shoot! DVD player hack? None that I could find for my machine. Then I realized I had a crappy 30$ player in my room, looked it up on the Internet and found... it was Region-free right out of the box! All this time, I could have been munching on Region 2-only releases like Blake's 7 and The Hollow Crown! Still, RESULT! Oh, and I also got Luther Season 2 (see below).

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: After the abominable Season 3, I pretty much stopped watching Sliders. Back then (though I've seen an occasional episode), AND when running through the DVDs more recently. The series' move to the Sci-Fi Network, though it trapped the team on the Paramount backlot, was actually quite positive for the show. Now, when the show goes for SF premises instead of alternate worlds stories, it does so within the context of the Sliders universe, either with sliding enemies (the Kromaggs return and feature in the season's arc) or sliding technology's ramifications. Most importantly, the series becomes much more character-driven. We learn more about Maggie in the first handful than we did in all her previous, gratuitously violent and sexy appearances, and consequently, Kari Wuhrer gives a much more likeable performance. The dialog often sparkles, which isn't a Sliders trademark. It could all have gone wrong as the show suffers a major paradigm shift in turning Quinn into Kal-El and letting the Kromaggs invade Earth Prime (that's us!). But the introduction of Quinn's endearing dimension-lost brother, played by Gerry O'Connell's real-life brother Charlie gives the series back its humor and earnestness. And Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt has probably never been so good. He's become the heart of this team. But Season 3 IS still in the show's DNA and in the second half, Season 4 starts to lose its way with some terribly stupid SF ideas getting in the way. Sadly, the production team chickens out on the finale. They could have ended the season's arc, but instead leave it dangling. With the departure of the O'Connell brothers during the hiatus, it means their characters never know closure, and we're unlikely too as well. But that's a story for next week...

Luther Season 2 is still good, but it suffers from having lost Season 1's triumvirate of female characters, two of which do not appear at all. At only 4 episodes, the season's arc about Luthor protecting a young prostitute from very bad people indeed, builds more quickly and furiously than the previous season's Alice story, and provides the required opportunities for Luther's ethical dilemmas. The two cases, each taking up two episodes, are as imaginative and disturbing as those from the previous year, and Luther's new unit features strong characters, both new and old. Not everyone is well-served, however. Saskia Reeves' Rose has disappeared from the story, Alice has some good moments but is largely absent, and Paul McGann's character Mark seems adrift in storylines that are not truly his own. I'm glad for his presence generally, but I'm wondering why he's still in Luther's life and if he shouldn't be used more like Alice was, as an angel/devil on Luther's shoulder. While S2 is a step down from S1's brilliance, Luther remains well above most police dramas in quality.

Twins Effect, or as it is sold in North America, Vampire Effect, is a vampire-hunting romp that in Asia, would have acted as a vehicle for the canto-pop duo The Twins. For our audience, they're just a couple of cute Chinese girls with variable acting skills made to look badass by action choreographer Donnie Yen. With Edison Chen as the heartthrob "goodie" vampire and Jackie Chan in an irrelevant comedy subplot. Throw in early 2000s CGI and you have the makings of a disaster, but surprise! It's a lot of fun! The comedy is actually funny and the action is top notch, inventive and furious. It gets a little mystical at the end and I'm not sure I can fill the plot holes for you, but Twins Effect only wants to entertain you with eye candy, and it does that very well. In fact, my Kung Fu Friday gang left asking if there was a sequel. (There's a Twins Effect II with much of the same cast, but it's a period film with absolutely nothing to do with vampires.)

Audios: Part of the Lost Stories range of Big Finish audios, Anthony Coburn's The Masters of Luxor (adapted here by Nigel Robinson) is a rejected first Doctor story originally slated to take the spot ultimately held by The Daleks. Imagine! It's a similar story, with the TARDIS landing on a seemingly deserted planet, visiting an empty alien city, and getting assailed by robotic monsters. Though Farewell, Great Macedon was also 6 episodes long, Luxor feels much longer. In true Season 1 style, the characters take their time exploring their destination, and without human characters to interact with, it's all rather dull (not that William Russell and Carole Ann Ford don't do a good job with the narration). Things get more interesting once the Perfect One, a human-like robot, shows up, but I'm not entirely sure I buy the resolution. I can certainly imagine why The Daleks was picked by the production instead.

Something of a 50th Anniversary release, the Companion Chronicles' The Time Museum is atypical of the range because it doesn't actually have Ian (William Russell) telling a story of his time with the Doctor. Instead, it's a straight two-actor drama. Ian, in his twilight years, has been taken to a museum where time travelers' memories are examined and consumed by aliens. His memory in tatters, he must outplay the museum's devious curator and escape back to his time, all the while recounting/remembering his adventures from both the television series and the audio ranges, often garbled in a pleasant and geeky way. But it's not all references to the past, there's also a strong emotional core to the story (Barbara being his anchor) and reflection on what his particular group of companions' meant to the Doctor's evolution as a hero. Strong marks to writer James Goss.

I haven't been particularly satisfied with 2nd Doctor Companion Chronicles to date, but The Glorious Revolution by Jonathan Morris (who is turning out to be something of an MVP at Big Finish) breaks the pattern. An older Jamie is visited by a Time Lord CIA agent about a paradox that needs to be ironed out, and restores the young Scot's memories of his time with the Doctor. The point of divergence was caused by Jamie trying to change his country's history to avoid the civil war, but over the course of the story he tells, he realizes how wrong he was and tries to repair the damage he's done. Not being up on my British history, I found this very educational, while still acting as a sometimes thoughtful, sometimes amusing romp through history. The Doctor even gets to dress up as a woman again. And may I just say how INCREDIBLE Frazer Hines' Troughton impression is? You'd think the Mighty Trout was up and about. That alone makes The Glorious Revolution worthy of a listen, but it helps that the script is so good.

RPGs: Still planning Season 2 of my Doctor Who RPG (after a two-year hiatus), and this week tweaked a returning player's companion. Fred has decided that Corey (played by John Leguizamo), a fast-talking trouble magnet from a few centuries in the future and left behind in Renaissance Venice at the end of Season 1, has had five years to acclimate to his new period in history, where he has become an instant hit writing comedia del arte. It'll be a flamboyant and perhaps a little more arrogant Corey that will rejoin the Shepherd on the TARDIS. As a joke, I've put this picture on the character sheet:
A joke because Corey has no Marksman skill whatsoever and besides, is very clumsy. It's a disaster waiting to happen, which is what Corey has always been about. (Remember all those times I said my players built all their characters around faults rather than qualities?)

In only slightly connected news, I've started to build the pdf document for the Unofficial Expanded Universe First Doctor RPG sourcebook. You can open it HERE. I'm adding entries every day, most written by main contributor MisterHarry. As soon as I'm done with the layouts for his stuff (guy's a write-up MACHINE, there are lots), I'll be able to do the ones I assigned myself.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
Act IV, Scene 4 - Hamlet 2000

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from JLA Classified to JSA.

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