Thursday 29 June 2017

Doctor Who - The Eaters of Light

Many people have written for Doctor Who over the years. Some have penned only a single script and, for various and sundry reasons, have never written another. Some have written two or three, and still others have written many. Robert Holmes and Terrance Dicks were among the most prolific writers of the classic Doctor Who series. Since the show’s return in 2005, there have also been several writers to write many episodes, including Mark Gatiss, who wrote this year’s “Empress of Mars”. Russell T Davies wrote many episodes during his time as showrunner, and Steven Moffat wrote several episodes during Davies’s time and has written numerous since taking over as showrunner.

However, until now, there has been no writer to have written for both the original and revived series. Rona Munro is the first to fill this role. Munro wrote the final story of the original series’ run, 1989’s “Survival”. This year, she has returned to Doctor Who with the delightful episode, “The Eaters of Light”.

In several of my reviews for this year’s episodes, I have commented on Series 10 being the most consistently good series in some time. To be honest, over the previous two episodes, I was beginning to waver on that opinion. “The Lie of the Land” was frustrating, and “Empress of Mars”, while a decent episode, was not all that great either. “The Eaters of Light”, however, has restored my faith in the series. It returns to delivering what the early episodes of this series delivered: excitement, humour, great characters, an engaging plot, and everything needed for a great Doctor Who episode.


Wednesday 28 June 2017

Inner Sea Races

The Pathfinder Campaign Setting world of Golarion is a diverse world, full of numerous different races, cultures, and ethnicities. This goes beyond just the core races of humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, and halflings. There are tieflings, aasimars, goblins, ratfolk, and more. There are even androids and aliens from other worlds. As the setting has expanded over various books, more and more of these races have received expanded detail, from cultural information to options to play them as player characters. But much of that information is scattered across numerous different books, making it sometimes hard to keep track of it all.

Inner Sea Races brings much of this information into one spot. In doing so, it takes the opportunity to revise and expand on that information, becoming the definitive book on the varied peoples of the Inner Sea region of Golarion. And it’s chock full of tons of useful information that will help bring both PCs and NPCs alike to life.

Inner Sea Races is a 256-page hardcover book. In layout, it’s arranged similarly to the Advanced Race Guide, in that the chapters are broken down based on how common the races are. However, the similarities mostly end there. Whereas Advanced Race Guide is a book of primarily game mechanics options with a bit of generic flavour text for the races it covers, Inner Sea Races focuses almost entirely on flavour text, covering such things as history, society, faith, and relations between races. In fact, there is no mechanical information at all in the first three chapters. The fourth chapter does introduce some new mechanical options, but this is a relatively small portion of the book. People looking for a vast array of new character abilities may well be disappointed with Inner Sea Races, but people, like myself, looking for more flavour text will likely be happier.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Doctor Who - Empress of Mars

The Ice Warriors have an unusual position on Doctor Who. Pretty much any list of iconic Doctor Who monsters will include the Ice Warriors on it, generally around position four (after the Daleks, Cybermen, and Sontarans), yet the Ice Warriors haven’t actually appeared in all that many stories—only four in the original series (the last of which was “The Monster of Peladon” in 1974) and one in the new series (“Cold War” in Series 7). It’s pretty telling that a group that has had so few appearances has made such an impact. And I think it’s with good reason. In my review of “Cold War” a few years ago, I briefly explained why they are one of my favourite Doctor Who monsters, the primary reason being that they have more depth than most of the show’s aliens.

It was pretty much inevitable that the Ice Warriors would eventually return to Doctor Who again, especially since they are also one of the favourite monsters of Mark Gatiss, who has written and continues to write many Doctor Who stories, including “Cold War”. In “Empress of Mars” (again by Gatiss), the Ice Warriors are encountered on their home planet of Mars for the first time (all previous Ice Warrior stories have been on Earth or Peladon), and this time, the humans are the invaders.

Truth be told, “Empress of Mars” is not an incredible episode, but it is a decent one. It has all the elements that go into making a good Doctor Who story, but doesn’t really take any risks that might elevate it to the level of a great Doctor Who story. Nevertheless, it’s fun, entertaining, and an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes.


Doctor Who - The Lie of the Land

There are good Doctor Who episodes and bad ones, great ones and terrible ones. Most are a mixture of these qualities, with the good generally outweighing the bad, but with a few the other way round. Every once in a while, though, an episode comes along with a frustrating mixture of good and bad and everything in between, making it extremely difficult to provide an overall opinion of the episode. Even averaging it all out to “mediocre” doesn’t truly convey the experience of watching the episode.

The Lie of the Land” by Toby Whithouse is one such episode. There is much about the episode that is really good—individual moments that thrill and entertain, a compelling concept and setting, some great performances, and more. Yet there is also so much that just doesn’t hold together—scenes that don’t add much to the overall story, a compelling setting that’s never really explored, and more. As the conclusion of a three-part epic, the episode falls completely flat. The story begun and developed in “Extremis” and “The Pyramid at the End of the World” suddenly seems superfluous and those two episodes kind of pointless, as “The Lie of the Land” doesn’t really do anything to build on them, particularly in developing the Monks, who in this episode become relatively generic villains and lose all that made them work so well in the previous two.