Top of the Docs: Series 10 (2017)

Peter Capaldi’s final season saw both characterization and story come together to give us one of my favorite seasons of Doctor Who since the classic era, rising Capaldi to one of my all time favorite Doctors.  It’s not perfect, but it scores some pretty high marks and after the last two fairly dreadful seasons, it felt like a colossal win.  We needed this!

series 10

The Pilot

RP: 7 – Bill is immediately brilliant, and it’s also great to have Nardole back as a regular character. A good story, although perhaps a little too soon to be doing dangerous water again. Amazing visuals for the alien planet. Continue reading

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Spice and Wolf (Season One Review)

Spice and WolfMany anime series take place in fantasy worlds that take inspiration from Europe of the Middle Ages, but they tend to go no further than copying the look of the period, and use that as a starting point for creating a magical world. Much of the isekai genre, where ordinary humans are reborn into a fantasy world, works basically in that way, adding swords and sorcery into the mix. Spice and Wolf is unusual in that it is set in a fantasy world, but the use of medieval Europe as a basis for that world is so accurate that it might as well not be a fantasy at all. The attention to detail is stunning, with a particularly impressive representation of how economics worked during the 14th and 15th Centuries. This was a time when guilds, large companies and the church wielded much of the power, and barter economies were increasingly being replaced by an ever-increasing supply of coinage, creating a disparity between the nominal and physical value of money. Basically, it was the birth of modern economics. Continue reading

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Columbo: Dagger of the Mind (Review)

Columbo Peter FalkLt. Columbo is visiting London, the land of “Scotland Yard, Jack the Ripper, and all that,” and he’s very excited. He rushes around like a hyperactive child, photographing the Changing of the Guard, anything that looks remotely like a landmark, and even a policeman directing traffic. Surely he won’t spend his holiday getting involved in investigating a murder, right?

The Motive

Nicholas Frame and his wife Lillian Stanhope are a “ham and a tart” who have managed to get their starring roles in a theatre production funded by Sir Roger Haversham. They have achieved that by having Lillian use her charms on Haversham, stringing him along but suffering from a “headache” when he wanted to take things a step further. Haversham has found out that he has been conned, and he is going to shut down the production. Their big chance could be about to escape them. Continue reading

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Girls’ Last Tour Episode 4 (Review)

Chi the god

Photograph / Temple

The view from Igirisu:

The fourth episode of Girls’ Last Tour feels like the most slice-of-life episode so far, lacking one of those big shocking moments that have characterised the series so far. Having said that, the kettenkrad crashing into a statue is a momentary surprise, and Yuu lost in the dark in the temple is quite scary. But none of that shocks us in quite the same way as Yuu pulling a gun on Chi, burning her book, or both of them nearly falling to their deaths from a derailing lift. Continue reading

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Crusade: The Long Road

crusadeYou know what happens on the long road?  Crashes.  Whenever you’re driving for a while, the risk increases.  The longer the road, the higher the risk.  Alas, we’re only two episodes into Crusade, but The Long Road is a traffic accident.  The police report shows that Babylon 5 was driving at warp 2 when it ran a jump gate and crashed with The A-Team, causing them to plough it into Dungeons and Dragons.  Thankfully no one was hurt.  But that really is what we have here.  I commented on that after watching A Call to Arms and then again with War Zone; this series is of the fantasy genre wearing the mask of a sci-fi show.  We’ve got our fighter hero, a mage, rogue, a ship called Excalibur and now we have a dragon and an inn.  Can’t have a good fantasy without visiting an Inn.  And hey, we even have a second mage in this story!  Continue reading

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voyageLast week I mentioned that Return to Mysterious Island was my second favorite adventure game and it only seems right to share some thoughts on the one that gets top billing in my book.  In 2005, just one year after their last success, Kheops Studio released Voyage.  The game sported fairly unexciting cover art on the box, but it was no leap to see what this story was aiming for.  It captured my imagination immediately and having loved their previous game, it was only logical that I’d pick this one up.  The box claimed to be based on Jules Verne again, but I found more in common with Wells’ The First Men in the Moon.  That did nothing to detract from my enjoyment, however, I was just a bit perplexed by the statement.  The fact is, I’m a bigger fan of Wells than Verne, though both are worth reading.  From the main character, Michel Ardan, who reminded me instantly of the First Doctor with his pants and cravat, to the rocket being shot out of a huge gun, I was lured into this world.  Like its predecessor, it’s a point and click adventure with 360 rotation for looking around but it was the aesthetic that really won me over. Continue reading

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The Outer Limits: The Guests

The Outer Limits The GuestsIt’s funny because when I played Westmark Manor, something about it seemed familiar.  I admit, I thought little of it at the time, figuring the horror setting of an old house and twisting hallways was just a trope.  But when I started watching The Outer Limits episode The Guests, I found myself recognizing so much of the game in the episode.  Surely it was an inspiration!  Long dark hallways seemingly doubling back on one another, columns standing at odd angles and doors leading nowhere with the exception of one that leads to an outside area with a cemetery, and a mysterious power controlling everything.  I’m often amazed at how many genre ideas get repeated.  This story is fascinating but hinges on a premise that I find hard to accept.  In fact, let’s be honest: the story should be fascinating, offering a chance to consider the essence of humanity, but instead, falls short and nearly has me asleep on my couch! Continue reading

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Top of the Docs: Series 9 (2015)

Peter Capaldi’s first season left something to be desired but for me, it was in the characterization that was truly off.  The stories were, by and large, good, but written for a non-Doctor.  For some strange reason, as if to try something else non-Doctor Who-y, the decision came that for season 9, there would be all 2-part episodes.  This didn’t play out exactly for every story, and there were some that felt decidedly different from their first half.  The question really was: how would this impact our enjoyment of the series?

series 9

The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar

RP: 6 – Several fundamental problems with this one: the question of whether the Doctor will allow Davros to die as a child is a rerun of the Genesis dilemma, and we know the answer as soon as the question is asked; Clara has ceased to function as a companion and is now an irritating pseudo-Doctor; Davros is returned to his 80s Dalek pet version, and that robs him of much fear factor. But at last we’re on the right track with the Doctor’s characterisation, and Missy starting to function as a companion is a fascinating development. Continue reading

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Zombie Land Saga (Review)

The school idol phenomenon is fertile ground for anime. If you’re not familiar with the genre, it’s a simple enough idea: some school girls get together to form a group of singers, who overcome various obstacles and hardships to become a famous pop group. I’m just starting to dip my toes into the genre with the fabulous Love Live!, and I like what I see, but ironically the first series I’ve completed (until I can watch the second season) is a parody of the genre, where the girls are all dead.

It’s a quirky idea, and as fun as it sounds. You know you are in for something very different when the first episode starts with a girl who is all excited about life, heading out for school, only to get killed in slow motion by a passing truck. Her subsequent awakening and her horror at encountering zombies and realising she is dead as well is a visual treat, but after that the shocks and scares are all dispensed with, and this becomes an inspirational comedy series. Continue reading

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Columbo: The Most Crucial Game (Review)

Columbo Peter FalkA sport is being played in a big stadium, represented by some grainy stock footage. It’s that game that’s a bit like rugby, but with lots of lines drawn on the grass and players wearing an amusing amount of padding. Private Investigator Carl Brimmer from Death Lends a Hand has somehow got himself out of prison, disguised himself with a very 1970s moustache, and now goes by the name of Paul Hanlon, some kind of important person in the world of the strange sport he is watching. At least, that’s what it looks like, because the magnificent Robert Culp is back for his second starring role in Columbo. Continue reading

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Girls’ Last Tour Episode 3 (Review)

Girls Last Tour Episode 3 Chi and KanazawaEncounter / City / Streetlights

The view from Igirisu:

“Why do you think people live?”

It’s a natural question to ask, for girls in Chi and Yuu’s situation. Their life is all about finding the next lot of food and staying alive, but is it enough merely to exist? Chi looks upon their lives almost as a quest:

“We’re always thinking there might be something, something waiting for us at our destination.” Continue reading

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Crusade: War Zone

crusadeJoin us in the Junkyard as we enter the final few weeks of a major undertaking: the entire Babylon 5 series including the spinoff, Crusade.  We start Crusade with a typical setup episode.  You can’t expect opening episodes to be that strong, what with having to establish all the main players, but War Zone does a fair job.  From the outset, we are reminded of what lead to this series; the events of A Call to Arms.  In that movie, the Drakh released a plague on earth that will take 5 years to adapt to our biology and destroy all life on our world.  Coupled with the deaths of some 7000 military personnel, the Drakh have become public enemy number one.  When a ship goes down on Ceti 4, the newly established crew is sent to recover them.  So on day one, their critical mission is put on hold.  Odd concept.  I do think the series did the right thing opening with a news clip to remind us of the previous events, then immediately sets the stage for our new Captain.  As his crew panics and fighting breaks out on his ship, Captain Gideon keeps calm and proves himself both a capable fighter and a level-headed leader.  Within the first 5 minutes, we have a likable captain. Continue reading

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Return to Mysterious Island

return to mysterious islandI blame my job.  I’ve been in the IT industry for over two decades and that has an impact on you.  If you’re like me, you enjoy doing the job because at the end of the day, you’re helping people.  But IT work affects you on another level; it has a deleterious effect on the ability to take ridiculous nonsense and think it makes sense.  When Myst came out in 1993, it kicked off a huge number of Adventure games.  Typically adventure games are puzzle games wherein you explore a locale looking for clues to get to the end of a story.  Last weeks The Neverhood was of a similar vein but  leaned a bit more on the fun side of storytelling but the sheer volume of actual point-and-click puzzle-driven games was off the charts.  And most of them I really disliked.  Why?  Because they were ridiculous nonsense. Continue reading

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The Outer Limits: The Mutant

Outer Limits 1963 titles logo originalWhen I watched The Outer Limits as a kid, I loved it.  I think it had the right mix of horror and science fiction in a palatable setting.  Coupled with the philosophy of that brilliant Control Voice, and what more could you ask for?  But lately, upon a revisit that took me years to get to, I’m realizing there are a lot of weak moments in this series.  The biggest issue is, without a doubt, the preview of what’s to come.  It’s been a thorn in my side since The Sixth Sense and it never stops bothering me.  Here we are given an episode that might have offered a real shock when Reese Fowler unmasks for the first time.  Instead, not only is his telepathy given away in the first 5 minutes, but so is his bizarre appearance.  And the thing is, his appearance isn’t just bizarre – it’s awesome!  I love the strangeness of his eyes.  But when you spoil the surprise right off the bat, it takes away so much from an episode that didn’t offer a lot to begin with.  And why not, you ask?  The characters were among the worst in the series so far.  Enter the crew of the USS Rotten Misery… Continue reading

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Top of the Docs: Series 8 (2014)

I was in Ireland when the announcement came that The Thick of It star, Peter Capaldi, would be playing the 12th Doctor.  I had just seen him as a WHO doctor in Brad Pitt’s World War Z only to find out he’d be playing a Doctor Who in the near future.  I liked the idea; who doesn’t like Peter Capaldi?  I was excited and with that dreadful final episode of Smith’s run, it could only get better.  Right?  Let’s see what Roger and I thought about season 8…

series 8

Deep Breath

RP: 1 – After seven glorious seasons, here’s where it all starts to go wrong. We start moving away from the idea of Doctor Who as family viewing, with a dinosaur shown burning to death, and astonishingly we are repeating the mistakes of the Sixth Doctor era, with a nasty Doctor we just can’t warm to, who even steals a coat from a poor vagrant. A horrible, horrible misstep. Continue reading

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Oreimo (Review)

Oreimo stands for Ore no Imoto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai, which translates as “my little sister can’t be this cute”. It’s an odd title, because “cute” is the last word I would use to describe Kyosuke’s sister Kirino. In most respects they have a relationship that will be very familiar to anyone with a sibling. She barely even speaks to him, and treats him as beneath contempt, acting aggressively towards him when they interact and very quick to blame him for her own problems. She’s a fairly typical grumpy teenager, very far from being “cute”. Whenever he offends her, she treats him to frequent slaps around the face, which is a common anime trope that I intensely dislike, as it normalises female-on-male violence and uses it for comedic purposes. Continue reading

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Columbo: The Greenhouse Jungle (Review)

Columbo Peter FalkSometimes a television show finds a perfect formula that guarantees the series will be successful as long as it sticks with that formula. The magic fairy dust for Columbo was always the dramatic irony of the reversal of the usual murder mystery formula, with the viewers aware of the details of the crime and the identity of the murderer before the detective arrives. Varying the format that is responsible for the success of the series is always going to be a risk, and risks can reap huge rewards or result in disappointment. Let’s see which of those outcomes is the case here, with Columbo on the scene long before a murder is committed… Continue reading

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Girls’ Last Tour Episode 2 (Review)

Girls Last Tour Episode 2 Yuu and Chi bathBath / Journal / Laundry

The view from Igirisu:

We are going on a journey with Chi and Yuu. Last time we transitioned from the industrial pipework under the city to the outside world. This time the journey is from one season to another: we move from the bleakest of the winter weather to the big thaw.

When the episode starts, Chi and Yuu are in serious danger, trying to find shelter in a blizzard. At one point Yuu falls asleep and Chi is struggling to stay awake as well. Had she fallen asleep too, they wouldn’t just be speculating about already being dead. Although they can’t read the sign, the building they find is a power plant, which doesn’t help them much until clever Chi spots a pipe with hot water running through it. Her intelligence is proving to be a big asset to them. Last week they only managed to escape to the outside world because she figured out that they were close to an exit by the movement of air currents. Continue reading

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Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers

Babylon 5 ArtworkTime definitely changes us.  My first impression after watching Legend of the Rangers was that it really let me down.  I wanted more Babylon 5 and I was hoping to find it when this movie emerged.  But it wasn’t B5: it was a new and different thing, so I disliked it.  But literally 20 years later, re-watching it makes me realize how many things are the same.  The difference is that this comes off like a B-movie one finds on Saturday afternoons of our youth.  That’s not to say it’s bad!  I remember a 1972 movie called Gargoyles which is also a B-movie and I love it.  The Boy Who Cried Werewolf; another B that I loved.  Legend of the Rangers has that same feeling but you can see it actually has a lot in common with its parent series.  The biggest thing might also be one of the saving graces for this pilot: G’Kar.  Now, just because I wanted more B5, doesn’t mean they were on the right track here.  I mean, Crusade was part of the B5 universe, but it was a very different style of story.  Legend does give us a lot of the same stuff we saw with B5 but that’s not automatically a good thing. Continue reading

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The Neverhood

neverhoodWhen I awoke one recent morning, I began debating what should I do this week’s game post: pull something from the modern Steam library or aim for an old classic?  Roger seems to like the older games but I’m not sold on that option as I think so many games have passed beyond the veil, into that forgotten realm, that land of the lost video games.  But then, as I was feeding my cat, I realized the song that was playing in my head held the key to a classic I’ve grossly neglected.  

In 1996, I picked up a game that caught my eye due to the colorful, lighthearted cover image: The Neverhood. The story of The Neverhood focuses on Klaymen, a clay character that you help through the world using simple point-and-click mechanics to solve puzzles. Continue reading

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