Wednesday 28 October 2015

Advanced Class Origins

People who have read my review of it from last year will know that I am not a big fan of the Advanced Class Guide. It's not a bad book, but it just doesn't have much that I want or need for my games. To date, I have never used anything from the book in any of my games. Similarly, Advanced Class Origins, which provides additional options for the hybrid classes from the Advanced Class Guide and talks about how they fit into the Pathfinder Campaign Setting is rather useless to me as well. When it comes to reviewing such a book, it's tempting to just say, “Yeah, it's useless,” and move on.

But I'm not really the target audience for Advanced Class Origins. If I don't use any of the hybrid classes in my game, then of course I'm not going to get any use out of a book all about them. The target audience is, naturally, people who do use hybrid classes in their games and any review of Advanced Class Origins must take that into account. And so that is what I intend to do with this review. I will put my own dislike for the hybrid classes aside and look at what this book offers (or doesn't offer) people who like and use the classes.

Doctor Who - The Woman Who Lived

Series 9 of Doctor Who has seen a return to more multi-part stories, opening with two two-part stories and following those with... not exactly a two-part story, but two linked episodes. With the second episode of each pair, I've commented on how they compare to one another, whether the second episode has lived up to the expectations of the first, exceeded them (in the case of “The Witch's Familiar” compared to “The Magician's Apprentice”), or fallen short (in the case of “Before the Flood” compared to “Under the Lake”).

The Woman Who Lived” by Catherine Tregenna is technically a new story, not the second part of “The Girl Who Died” (despite the “To Be Continued” slapped on the the end of that one). The two episodes have different writers, different settings, and different plots. Even the atmosphere and tone of the two stories are different. But what links them is they both form segments in the life of the one carry-over character (apart from the Doctor himself, of course), the titular Girl Who Died/Woman Who Lived. Much like the entirety of Doctor Who shows us moments in the life of the Doctor, these two episodes show us the life of Ashildr/Lady Me. As such, it's only natural to compare them as the second builds upon the first.

So, the question is, how does “The Woman Who Lived” compare to “The Girl Who Died”? Does it meet expectations? I have to say it more than meets them. It leaves those expectations far behind in the dust. “The Woman Who Lived” is Doctor Who at its best. It's a calm, character-based tale (mostly) free from world-destroying shenanigans. Epic, world-threatening adventure has an important place in Doctor Who, but it's not the only thing and never should be. There need to be introspective stories that slow things down a bit and show us effects and consequences. “The Woman Who Lived” does this and more. With brilliant performances by its two leads, it mixes a compelling morality tale with emotion and a light dose of comedy (and much more successful humour than that attempted in “The Girl Who Died”).


Sunday 25 October 2015

Monk Unfettered

Disclosure: Henri Hakl, author of Monk Unfettered, is a player in my Serpent's Skull play-by-post game on the Paizo forums, and has recently converted his monk character in that game to a monk from this book. He has also been a player in other play-by-post games that I have run (in which he has also played monks; he likes monks). Naturally, I have done my best to ensure that this fact has not influenced my response to his book. I have endeavoured to review it as objectively as I can (insofar as it is ever possible to objectively review anything).

The monk class has frequently been the subject of some controversy in 3rd Edition D&D and Pathfinder. Namely, there are many people who feel that is underpowered and can't contribute effectively to adventuring parties over the long term. Various reasons, both valid and invalid, are given for this. It is a class that gains great bonuses to mobility (to speed, ability to jump, etc.), but its principal ability, flurry of blows, requires the monk to stay in one spot to use. People often mockingly call that same ability “flurry of misses” in reference to the fact that the attacks seem to miss more frequently than they hit.

To be honest, I rather like the monk. I think Pathfinder made some great improvements over the 3rd Edition version, and I find it an enjoyable class to use for various NPCs in my games. However, I will concede that it is a class that requires a certain level of system mastery to make effective. Without that system mastery, monks can indeed end up being amongst the weakest of characters.

Not surprisingly, the various criticisms of the monk have spurred numerous attempts at reworking or changing the class to improve it in some manner or other. The recent hardcover Pathfinder book, Pathfinder Unchained (review of that book coming in due course) contains an entirely new, optional version of the monk aimed at addressing these concerns. Monk Unfettered is another example of a reworking of the class. As a fan of the monk class, author Henri Hakl has put his own spin on it, producing a class that aims to be both recognisably similar to the core monk but also considerably more versatile, allowing players to more easily create monks inspired by a wide range of sources, and making every monk unique and interesting.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Doctor Who - The Girl Who Died

One of Doctor Who's strengths has always been its ability to cover many different styles. It can be terrifying one episode, hilarious the next, and serious drama the next. Sometimes, it's several of those at once. “The Girl Who Died” by Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat is one of those stories that tries to be several things at once. On the surface, it's a light-hearted romp, very much in the vein of last year's “Robot of Sherwood”. It's set in a historical time period that pays only lip-service to actual history and throws in some comical aliens for the Doctor and friends to fight. However, there is also an underlying more serious edge to the story dealing with the consequences of difficult decisions, while also mixing in themes of the power of storytelling.

Mixing humour and seriousness is something that Doctor Who can do well, but unfortunately, it falls a bit flat here. “The Girl Who Died” is not a bad story. In fact, it's quite fun to watch, and has some wonderful moments, particularly towards the end. But the switches from slapstick goofiness to serious consequences are somewhat jarring, making the overall episode rather uneven. There's some greatness here, but it's struggling to escape from a cage of mediocrity.


Saturday 17 October 2015

Inner Sea Monster Codex

As I stated in my recent review of it, I really can't praise the Pathfinder RPG Monster Codex enough (so true that I'm continuing my praise here!). It's a book that has seen a ton of use in my games. As such, I was quite excited by the release of Inner Sea Monster Codex, a book that serves much the same purpose as the Monster Codex, but specifically for the Pathfinder Campaign Setting. More ready-made monster NPCs can never be a bad thing!

I have to say that it hasn't seen nearly as much use as the Monster Codex. In fact, I haven't used it at all yet, although I'm sure I will at some point. Inner Sea Monster Codex covers 10 more monstrous races, several of which, like charau-ka and gillmen, are unique to Golarion. Most of these races are not quite as common as those covered in the Monster Codex, although some, like centaurs and minotaurs, are classic monsters in the game. Although I haven't used it yet (mainly because none of the monster types within have shown up in my games since its release and it's only been out a few months), I still really like the book and look forward to using it in my games. It doesn't quite reach the accolades I have for the Monster Codex as it is much more limited in space and thus variety, but it does still have a lot to offer GMs to make their games easier.

Friday 16 October 2015

Monster Codex

In 2012, Paizo broke the pattern they had established the previous few years of releasing a new Bestiary each fall. Instead, they released the NPC Codex, a book I raved about at the time (and still do). It quickly became one of the most useful, time-saving devices in my games. Since its release, I've been eagerly hoping for an NPC Codex 2 to cover classes outside the Core Rulebook. In 2013, however, Paizo returned to monsters with Bestiary 4, possibly indicating a new pattern of alternating years between Bestiaries and something else. That seems to have held up with last year's release of the Monster Codex. While not the NPC Codex 2 I originally hoped for, this book has quickly become something even better.

I really cannot praise the Monster Codex enough. In the year since its release, it has become one of the most used resources at my game table. It's like a Bestiary, the NPC Codex, and the Advanced Race Guide all rolled into one! The Monster Codex covers 20 of the most common monster races and provides a selection of NPCs for each, as well as several new rules options, and still more. It gives GMs a chance to take these classic monsters and add huge variety to them.

Thursday 15 October 2015

People of the Stars

One of the most popular Pathfinder books is Distant Worlds. It's also one of my personal favourites (and one I really ought to review sometime—I will add it to my increasingly long list). Distant Worlds moves beyond Golarion to explore the other planets in Golarion's solar system. In doing so, it introduces not just new and exotic locations, but also scores of new creatures and races (most of them only described and not statted out). Not surprisingly, many people have wanted to play these new aliens in Pathfinder games, and many have since had stats published in Bestiaries and other supplements. However, People of the Stars is the first book to take a close look at a science fiction-type races for the purpose of using them as player characters. On top of that, it introduces a number of new options for characters in games involving aliens and space travel.

People of the Stars looks at four races in detail: androids, kasathas, lashunta, and Triaxians. It also has brief coverage of several other alien races. Like most Pathfinder Player Companion volumes, the focus is on mechanical options, with only a small amount of background information. The exact amount varies from one race to another—androids get half a page, for example, while kasathas get barely two paragraphs. In general these days, I tend to wish that there was more background information and fewer mechanical options because the game has enough options already; however, in this particular case, the game doesn't have a lot of options for outer space adventures, so the volume of mechanical options makes sense. And despite all that, there is still quite a bit of good and useful background information scattered throughout the book.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Doctor Who - Before the Flood

Click here to read my review of “Under the Lake”, the first part of this two-part story.

In my review of “The Witch's Familiar”, I commented on how the conclusion of a two-episode story can sometimes exceed and outdo the first, and other times, let you down by not living up to the promise of the first. In the case of “The Witch's Familiar”, it considerably improved on its opening episode. It took the over-ambitious, meandering nature of “The Magician's Apprentice” and gave it focus. Unfortunately, “Before the Flood” is an example of the other kind of concluding episode. It's just not as good as its opening episode. It has a somewhat disappointing villain, fewer great character moments, and a couple of scenes that annoy rather than entertain—one of which is the pre-titles sequence, and that just creates a bad vibe right from the start.

Now, I should make it clear that “Before the Flood” isn't a bad episode. It's actually pretty good. It resolves the storyline in a tight, well-executed manner, the performances from the guest cast continue to be excellent, and while there may be fewer great character moments, there still are some wonderful ones. But despite all the good, it doesn't reach the heights of “Under the Lake” and that's just a little bit disappointing.


Tuesday 13 October 2015

Iron Gods - Fires of Creation

Despite the fact that the science fiction and fantasy genres are often grouped together and share the same fans, many people react quite negatively to mixing the two in any way. The exact lines between the two are somewhat blurred, but there do appear to be a few main points of delineation: guns and any devices that use any technology more advanced than the simplest clockwork. The moment any of these show up, it's no longer fantasy. Of course, even that line is blurred. No one bats an eye at the presence of guns in Pirates of the Caribbean, which is clearly fantasy, but put a gun in a sword-and-sorcery piece (like a Pathfinder game) and suddenly, it's ruining the fantasy.

To be fair, maybe it is. With both science fiction and fantasy, there need to be certain rules that are followed that keep things consistent. Just because there is magic in the world doesn't mean that literally anything can happen. That magic still operates (or should operate) under its own rules, even though those rules are different from the rules of the real world. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far, and will break if there isn't a minimum level of consistency to how things work. So, a gun in a fantasy world may well break its verisimilitude, depending on just what the rules of that fantasy world are (and those rules can be physical laws, magical laws, social, cultural, and so on).

In a Pathfinder game, the game rules themselves (on a meta-level) form a significant part of how the in-world rules work. Characters can manage incredible feats and take punishment well beyond what anyone in the real world can take, but this becomes an accepted and consistent part of the world. The rules of the game do include rules for guns (although not in the Core Rulebook, but added on later) that work alongside the rules for other weapons and combat. The Golarion world is something of a “kitchen sink” setting, meaning it throws in a little bit of just about everything. If you can think of something that has any kind of fantastical connotation, then you can probably find it somewhere on Golarion or the wider Pathfinder Campaign Setting that it is part of. This approach is not without potential peril. Throwing in a little bit of everything can lead to problems with consistency that can break suspension of disbelief. Yet, while there are certainly inconsistencies in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting, for the most part, there is enough consistency to maintain it. Yes, there are guns and androids and spaceships, but the setting was built from the ground up to contain those things and so they do fit pretty well.

Of course, personal preference plays a huge role in all this. Some people just don't like technology in their fantasy games regardless of any other consideration, and that's fine. I, personally, have always enjoyed mixing genres and playing against expectations, so I'm probably easier to convince that androids in a sword-and-sorcery setting work. Heck, I'm a fan of Doctor Who, which frequently throws the whole consistency thing out the window (Rules? Who needs rules?), so who am I to talk, really?

I state all this as a preamble to discussing Fires of Creation, the first part of the Iron Gods Adventure Path, which fully embraces the guns, androids, and spaceships part of the campaign setting. This is not the first appearance of such elements (The Frozen Stars from Reign of Winter takes place on another planet, for example), but it is the first to make them a significant focus. As such, it's not an adventure path that will necessarily appeal to people who don't like to mix science fiction and fantasy. However, for those who do, or for those willing to give it a try, Fires of Creation makes a great starting point. It's a somewhat “sandboxy” adventure that introduces standard fantasy player characters to a wider world of technology and science fiction.


Wednesday 7 October 2015

Doctor Who - Under the Lake

Base under siege: This is a time-honoured style of Doctor Who story, set in an isolated location (generally a scientific and/or military base, although other settings can be and have been used), where a relatively small group of characters are fighting for survival against some invading threat. The format has been used (and sometimes overused) many times in Doctor Who's history. Some of the greatest stories have been base-under-siege stories (“The Tenth Planet”, “The Ice Warriors”, “The Ark in Space”, “The Waters of Mars”), as have some of the worst (“Warriors of the Deep”). While the format does have its limits, resulting in some stories being rather similar to others (the many Patrick Troughton base-under-siege stories started to fall a bit into this rut), it can also be surprisingly versatile, making for some very gripping and original tales. It's no wonder Doctor Who has revisited the format many times over the years.

Under the Lake” by Toby Whithouse is the latest return to this format. For viewers who have picked up on Doctor Who in the last decade, it may at first seem very similar to stories like “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit” or “42”. The nice thing about “Under the Lake”, though, is that it quickly establishes its own identity, becoming what may be one of the most unique base-under-siege stories in all of Doctor Who. It's a gripping, atmospheric tale with just the right amount of creepiness, and superbly paced, building tension gradually up to its shocking climax. There's a definite “old school” feel to this story, which could easily fit in to the Patrick Troughton or early Tom Baker periods, and this works to its benefit (that's not to say that simply because something is “old school”, it's automatically better; just that, in this particular case, it enhances the story). It's not a flawless story, but it is excellent.


Sunday 4 October 2015


This past Thursday, the BBC made a big announcement. Well, first they announced that they were going to make a big announcement about Doctor Who later in the day in order to get fans speculating. Naturally, there was quite a bit of speculation, ranging from the next companion to the find of more missing episodes and more. Then the announcement itself came, and I admit I was amongst many who felt the announcement was not quite as big as it was made out to be.

Coming in 2016 is a new Doctor Who spin-off series: Class. It might seem strange to think that a Doctor Who spin-off would not be a big announcement. But I found myself wondering, Where is the Doctor Who in this Doctor Who spin-off? To quote the announcement:

Class is a YA series set in contemporary London. Incredible dangers are breaking through the walls of time and space, and with darkness coming, London is unprotected. With all the action, heart and adrenalin of the best YA fiction (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games), this is Coal Hill School and Doctor Who like you’ve never seen them before.

The 8-episode series is being developed by YA author Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls), and it involves the students at Coal Hill School, the school where the Doctor's granddaughter, Susan attended and his first two companions, Barbara and Ian taught, the same school where Clara now teaches.

I suspect many fans thought that if there were to ever be another Doctor Who spin-off, it would involve Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. I'm not personally fond of those characters, but a lot of people are and it would make sense for them to helm a new series. Previous spin-offs (The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood) have followed well-loved characters from the show on their own adventures. The only thing this series will have linking it to its parent show is the school. It is conceivably possible that Clara will make an appearance or two in Class, but as the announcement doesn't mention her, it seems that she will not have a major role. Instead, Class will focus on the students of the school. Yet so far, the only student at Coal Hill School that we've gotten to know is Courtney Woods, who played prominent roles in “The Caretaker” and “Kill the Moon” in Series 8 (and appeared briefly a couple other times). The other students have been mostly background characters (except for some in “In the Forest of the Night” who never appear in any other episode). As such, the students of Coal Hill School seem an odd choice to build a spin-off series around as there's not a lot of connection to Doctor Who to bring in the Doctor Who fans. It makes me wonder if this is truly a Doctor Who spin-off or if the BBC is simply appending the brand name of Doctor Who to it in the hopes of luring in a larger audience.

I suppose if they are, it will probably work. There will be people (probably including myself) who will tune in simply because the name Doctor Who has been associated with it. But will they stick around? That depends on whether the show is any good (I've never read any Patrick Ness, so I really have no idea what to expect). I sincerely hope it is.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Doctor Who - The Witch's Familiar

Click here to read my review of “The Magician's Apprentice”, the first part of this two-part story.

It is nice to see a return of multi-part stories, which until “Dark Water”/“Death in Heaven”, we had gone quite some time without. Cliff-hangers are a classic part of Doctor Who. They create anticipation for the next episodes, and the truly good ones can leave you on the edge of your seat for the whole week you have to wait. Of course, they also leave you wondering whether the second episode will live up to the first (assuming you liked the first). Sometimes the conclusion can let you down; it's just not what you hoped it would be. But other times, the conclusion manages to outdo the beginning, taking something that was perhaps mediocre and making it good, or something that was good and making it great.

The Witch's Familiar” is one of these latter cases. I found a lot of good in “The Magician's Apprentice”, yet as much as I enjoyed it, there were a number of things about it that I was less than happy with (see my review linked above). “The Witch's Familiar”, on the other hand, is a much better episode, and it manages to avoid many of the flaws that plagued the first episode. It's better paced and better focused, without the nostalgic diversions of “The Magician's Apprentice”. As such, it's also a much more accessible episode to newer viewers (assuming they aren't put off by the first episode). While it builds on some of Doctor Who's history, it sticks to the history that is relevant to the story without bombarding viewers with a whole pile of other, unrelated history. And while “The Magician's Apprentice” throws a huge cast of characters at viewers, most of whom are only on screen for a short period of time, “The Witch's Familiar” focuses on a small cast, giving viewers the chance to get to know these characters and to become invested in their stories. In short, “The Witch's Familiar” is a damn good episode.


Friday 2 October 2015

The Long Absence Ends

Greetings, everyone! It's been a while, a much longer while than I expected or intended. At the end of October last year (almost a year ago!), I posted a short update on the slower pace of the blog. I was back at school upgrading my education, and that was keeping me exceptionally busy, but even then, I expected to get a few reviews and things written over the passing months, particularly over the December break. Alas, while it was a great program and I loved just about every moment of it, the schedule was exhausting and by the time December break came round, I was too exhausted to do anything other than rest. Then things restarted in January and were even busier.

The program finished a few months ago (I graduated with honours, by the way, and got my B.Ed. and official Ontario teacher certification, yay!), at which time I intended to take a couple weeks to rest and relax and then get back to updating this blog. But then various other things cropped up. A number of personal and family issues have gotten in the way. There have been several occasions where I thought things were all back to normal, but then didn't work out. Indeed, in early August, I responded to a comment on the blog asking if I'd be doing any more reviews, saying that I'd be back the very next day. I honestly meant it at the time! I had my review of the Pathfinder RPG Strategy Guide partially written and fully expected to have it finished and posted the next day. Then life happened, and nearly two more months have gone by.

Well, things have finally stabilised and posting has recommenced—hopefully to continue unabated. I realize that I've certainly lost readers in the long absence—it's not like they had anything to come and read—but with a little luck, maybe some of them will hear of my return and find their way back. I've actually been quite amazed that, even though the daily number of views for the blog have gone down considerably since last year, I've still been getting 100-200 views a day. My older posts still draw interest, it seems!

At any rate, looking to the future, here are my plans:

I had another extended absence in early 2012 (due to my wife's health issues). On that occasion, when I came back, I just skipped over everything I'd missed during that time. For example, I didn't review any Pathfinder books that were released during that gap. This time, I intend to do things differently. This time, I intend to cover everything I've missed, though it could take awhile because I've missed quite a lot.

For Pathfinder and other roleplaying reviews, I'm probably going to jump around a bit. I'll try to cover some recent releases as well as things released during the gap (such as my review posted yesterday of the Strategy Guide, which was released last spring). I'll be covering Adventure Paths in order, though, so those will start off with the first part of Iron Gods, Fires of Creation. I also intend to look at some of the more recent releases for the Doctor Who – Adventures in Time and Space game, recently renamed simply the Doctor Who Roleplaying Game.

Speaking of Doctor Who, I also intend to finish reviews of Series 8. I only got as far as “Time Heist” last year, leaving seven more (and the Christmas special) to complete. As you can see, though, I've already started into Series 9, which is currently airing. My review of “The Magician's Apprentice” is already up and I'll have a review of the second episode, “The Witch's Familiar” up sometime tomorrow (for real!). From here, I'll be reviewing each episode as I normally do, in the days immediately following their airing. At the present time, I don't know exactly when I'll get round the remaining episodes of Series 8. It might not be until after Series 9 has finished. However, since I've received a few requests for it, here are my very brief reactions to the rest of Series 8.

The Caretaker – I really loved this one. It was a great examination of social issues in the context of Doctor Who, and I really like Courtney.

Kill the Moon – Ugh. I didn't like this one much at all. It just didn't grab me. I was also rather annoyed that after building up Courtney in the previous episode, this one tosses her into the sidelines and does nothing to expand on her character. I was also later disappointed that she was pretty much discarded after this episode.

Mummy on the Orient Express – Great episode. Thrilling, well-paced. Loved it.

Flatline – Probably the stand-out episode of the series. It had a great concept, absolutely amazing monsters. Loved it.

In the Forest of the Night – This was basically “Kill the Moon” all over again. It was way too similar to “Kill the Moon” to come so soon afterwards. It also suffered from many of the same problems, including an unsatisfying, difficult-to-believe resolution.

Dark Water/Death in Heaven – I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I would say it's Moffat's best series finale so far. However, as much as I enjoyed it, I have a lot of nitpicks for this one. Individually, they're minor and ignorable, but there are so many of them that they become impossible to ignore. Still, a fun story, and even though it employs another “love saves all” ending, the emotional pay-off actually works this time (although the whole idea that “love is not an emotion; it's a promise” is just nonsense).

Last Christmas – Enjoyable, but nothing particularly special. It also had too many endings.

And so there you have it. Of course, I'll be throwing in a few posts on other things that catch my fancy, as I always have.

It's good to be back!

Addendum: You also may have noticed that the site's address has changed slightly as this blog now has its own domain! You can still reach the site from the old blogspot address as well.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Strategy Guide

One of the biggest criticisms that can be made against the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is that it is difficult to learn. It's a complicated game with a lot of rules and options. At over 550 pages long, the Core Rulebook's sheer size can make the game seem intimidating to new players. Its size aside, however, the Core Rulebook is still not an easily penetrable tome. Its layout is not the most intuitive. Making a character requires jumping around to various parts of the book in order to find appropriate descriptions. For the most part, the layout of the book is based around categories (feats in one section, skills another, spells another, and so on). This works great for players who already know how to play, but much less so for people new to the game. And that is its greatest weakness: it assumes people already know how to play and gives only the barest acknowledgement to learning how. This is due, in part, to the fact that with so many rules, there just isn't room for instruction. It's also due to the fact that Pathfinder is a revision of 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons and its initial target audience was people switching from that game, and thus, already knowing how to play.

But times change. Pathfinder has grown well beyond its roots and is attracting lots of new players to the game. A few years ago, Paizo released the Beginner Box, which presents a streamlined version of the rules aimed at introducing new players—particularly young ones—to the game. The Beginner Box is a wonderful product (see my review linked above) and is easily one of the best introductions to a D&D-style game I have had the pleasure to read. However, the Beginner Box is still a beginner game. It doesn't contain all the rules and options available in the full Pathfinder game, and at some point, people are going to want to make the jump from beginner game to full game.

Going from the Beginner Box to the Core Rulebook is certainly easier than going straight to the Core Rulebook without anything before it. However, it still means going from a rulebook that is easy to understand and beautifully laid out to one that is much more dense and less forgiving of rules ignorance. And what of people who don't want to play a beginner version of the game and just want to go straight to the full game, while still being able to learn the rules? That's where the Strategy Guide comes in.

Doctor Who - The Magician's Apprentice

First, a quick note: Due to various factors, I've been away for quite some time. But I'm back now! Hooray! The extended absence, however, has meant that I have never finished reviewing Series 8 of Doctor Who. I do intend to finish those reviews, although I don't have a schedule for that at this time. However, I also wanted to respond right away to current episodes, so I'm not going to delay Series 9 reviews while waiting to finish the remaining Series 8 ones. Thus, I'm starting my return straight off with a review of “The Magician's Apprentice”!

I will be doing similarly with Pathfinder and other reviews. More details to come soon.

I've been quite excited for the return of Doctor Who this year. I was very happy with Series 8 overall (something that was probably already apparent from the reviews that I did complete and which I will expand more on when I complete the remaining ones), and I've been hoping to be similarly pleased, or even more pleased, with Series 9. With “The Magician's Apprentice”, I'm not disappointed, though perhaps a little concerned. It's a great first part of a series finale! Except it's not the finale. It's the series opener.

One might wonder what difference that makes. If it's great, it's great. How does its position in the series order affect that? The problem comes from its accessibility to casual and new viewers. The episode throws a lot of things at the viewer very fast and expects the viewer to simply know what they are. Long-time fans of Doctor Who, those who are familiar with its entire long history, will have little problem in this regard—they'll likely even be pleased and excited by many of the references. However, newer viewers are likely to find it confusing. If this were the finale, there would have been a whole season to (hopefully) introduce viewers to the concepts in this episode. As a series opener, on the other hand, it needs to provide a starting-off point for new viewers, and “The Magician's Apprentice” really doesn't do that. Instead, I worry that it will turn potential new viewers away, and that's not really a good thing.