This Week in Geek (19-25/10/15)


Always willing to support Cubicle 7 whose Doctor Who RPG I haven't exactly been shy about promoting, and an offer for an inexpensive pdf bundle of their Lord of the Rings RPG, The One Ring, came across my desk this week. Haven't had time to really go through it, but when I do, I'll probably write something about it. The bundle included the core game, the Loremaster's screen (and its Lake-Town setting book), The Darkening of Mirkwood, The Heart of the Wild, Tales from Wilderland, and Rivendell. Some setting, some adventures, a large campaign spanning years, it all looks very interesting.


At the movies: The Martian is a very good advertisement for NASA and the upcoming Mars missions, and I do love a good scientific endeavor movie. Smart people overcoming obstacles to achieve goals, it's great. Usually, it's in the context of a true story, which gives those achievements gravitas. In the case of The Martian, it's fiction and the drama feels necessarily more contrived. Matt Damon in the lead is perhaps a little too witty, all the astronauts perhaps a little too much like cowboys, the people on the ground perhaps a little too obstructive. (Compare to Apollo 13 to see what I mean.) You know what I mean. It's a great entertainment, don't get me wrong, and I think we need movies like this that can inspire a generation of thinkers, in this age of anti-vaxxing and climate change denying. If you're asking me if this is, like, the best film of the year or what, I'm afraid I'm going to tell you I like its message and its craft, and that I hope the science is as accurate as it looks, but I'm perhaps not as enthusiastic as many critics seem to be.

DVDs: Troll Hunter is a Norwegian found footage/fake documentary about a mysterious and jaded man who works for the Troll Security Service managing Norway's important, well, troll population. Cue a variety of unintelligent giants with big schnauzers and legit-sounding explanations for what we know of trolls from the fairy tales (under bridges, smelling the blood of Christians, etc.). It's completely ludicrous, and it's sometimes hard to tell if it was meant as a straight horror flick or a (deadpan, oh so deadpan) comedy. And that's fine. It's an interesting line to tread. I'd like to know just how much of the film was improvised around stuff coincidentally by the side of the road that could have been the work of trolls, because it often feels like that, like an inside joke you keep bringing up to amuse yourself on a road trip. Through gorgeous Norway.

The second volume of Outlander's first season gets even more sexual that the first, rather more graphic than you'd expect even from cable, leaving no doubt that erotica is an important part of the show and of the books that spawned it. The season ends on a crescendo of sex and violence that fills me with mixed feelings, which is probably a good thing. I won't spoil it here. We're also getting our first real inkling that the books are a picaresque, moving Claire from place to place, and frequently leaving important characters behind. How is this going to work on television? That remains to be seen, but it's refreshing to see a show at least attempt this (compare to Game of Thrones that's kept certain characters active in spite of their long absences in the books; this seems the most practical, but obvious method). And if you remember me spilling the beans last time about the author being inspired by seeing 60s companion Jamie McCrimmon on Doctor Who, well, they found a small (non-Scottish) role for Frazer Hines! That's fun. Showrunner Ron Moore is back to doing podcast-commentaries for each episode (as he did on BSG) with various crew members; they are included here, along with a featurette on the manufacture of period textiles for the show (vol.1 had one on costumes, aren't these a little close together?) and a Season 1 gag reel.

Books: Each Outside In collection (two to date, more to come) brings together X number of authors where X = the number of episodes in any given show, each bringing an essay that looks at that episode from an odd angle. (Sorry to make it sound like an equation, but the editor Robert Smith? is a maths professor.) Vol.1 was about Classic Who, vol.2 is about New Who, with 125 pieces that either bring a fresh opinion to it (loving hated episodes, hating loved ones), use an offbeat structure (Your-Own-Adventure, a musical, a series of emails between producers, etc.), or bring a new voice to it (a child's, a Doctor Who fan's spouse's, one of the characters', etc.). It features some noteworthy authors like Lance Parkin and Kate Orman, but also some lowly bloggers like myself. Yes, I have a piece in here, a short one about Attack of the Graske, and if you were wondering if there really were 125 episodes of New Who, it does include essays on a lot of bonus content, like the animated stories, DVD minisodes and more. AND goes right up to the end of Capaldi's first season, including its Christmas episode. Surprisingly up to date and complete, but then it's meant to surprise. That's the whole point. Great fun and frequent insight and I'm not just saying that because I contributed to it.

Games: I played Fiasco with Furn (Lonely Hearts podcast), Shotgun (Hot or Not), and Andréanne (a girl we keep referencing on the 'cast), and I always like to post the results of this story-telling game. Having had recently seen Crimson Peak, and with Halloween approaching, we chose Back to the Old House for our scenario. What sprang from a combination of dice and choices was the tale of a YouTube documentary crew visiting an eerie bed and breakfast to investigate possible supernatural shenanigans. They didn't bargain on a mad Romanian chef and his abused daughter trying to put them on the menu. No ordinary cannibals these, however, for the pantry is a doorway to a dream dimension, a beach on a sea of blood where the monsters are trapped and forced to eat each other after the house burns down in a struggle with the documentarians. I can assure you we were delicious. The daughter still lives, by the way, having been given access to a new larder, an orphanage built on the site of the old house...


Andrew Gilbertson said...

"NASA and the upcoming Mars missions"

My first instinct was to comment on your extreme optimism in this case, but now I am wondering... will the pull of apparent-water discovery be a sufficient counter to the inevitable changeover/plan canceling of the Mars missions that seems to happen with each new presidential term? That will be interesting to see, whether the impelling force of the recent discovery will be sufficient to counter the systematic setbacks.


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