Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Doctor Who The BBC Radio Episodes pt3


Over the years, the BBC have produced a number of their own Doctor Who audio adventures.Audio Go have just released them in a box set, and we’ll be reviewing the stories included in the collection individually.

Next up is Slipback


While the series on the television was being ill served by the then powers-that-be at the BBC and forced into a year and a half long hiatus, the Sixth Doctor and Peri turned up on the radio in this adventure.
As with The Ghosts of N-Space, I can remember this one being on the radio, but didn’t catch any of it at the time.
What we have here are six short episodes, which isn’t a problem in itself, but the arrangement of the Who theme during this era was particularly bad, and having to listen to it so many times in such a short time did not do wonders for my ears!
But on to the adventure itself. It is a bit of a mixed bag, truth be told. There are some good ideas in there, but they never seem to gel together into one whole story. Some of the stranger plot ideas- like the captain who produces exotic diseases through his skin to threaten his crew- don’t actually make much sense.
The ending too, is one I’m not too sure about. Partly because it only seems to be there because it is a cool idea, and partly because it flatly contradicts something that happened in an earlier Who story. Sorry for that piece of continuity Nazism… sometimes I can’t help myself!
As always though, Baker is great. Even with the poorest of material on the screen, he gave it his absolute all, and the same is true here.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Loss of Separation review




I used to read a lot of what would be called horror novels as a youngster, but when I started reading Loss of Separation from Solaris books, I realised that- apart from Stephen King and Clive Barker- I had not read what you would call a ‘classic’ horror novel for ages.
For that reason, the opening chapters of this book felt like a visit from an old friend.
What I mean by that is that this to me felt like an old fashioned British ghost story. Conrad Williams manages to built a wonderful atmosphere through this book. I’ve been trying to think of who it reminds me of, and my mind kept coming back to Ramsey Campbell as I was reading- not, I hasten to add in the style, Williams is his own man- but in the all pervading aura of unsettling-ness that is evident (and yes, from now on, unsettling-nees is a word). But then as I started to type that last sentence I also thought of Phil Rickman and his awesomely atmospheric Merrily Watkins books.
But onto the book itself. It concerns itself with the story of Paul Roan, an airline pilot who has had a rather bad run of luck of late. He leaves the job after a near miss, gets hit by a car and wakes up from a six month coma to find that his girlfriend has gone missing.
This unfolds at a pleasingly sedate pace, reflecting the speed of life in that small English fishing village it takes place in. The cast of characters is small, but well written and Williams has a very good ear for dialogue.
That’s not to say I did not have problems with the book. One of these is not of the author’s doing, but is one that appears in a lot of fiction (mine own included). Here we have a lead character who is enormously resourceful and has as much money as he ever needs at his disposal. This is, of course, so that things like buying a train ticket don’t get in the way of story telling, but (and as I said, I have committed this act too) it does add a sheen of unrealism to the proceedings.
The other thing is some of the language that the lead character uses. He’s an intelligent man, that I can accept, but I don’t think many people would describe stones as 'pareidol', and living in the Highlands, I have never heard a Highland Cow referred to as a ‘kyloe’.
On the plus side though- I was quite worried while reading this that I knew where it was going at the end, and was hoping that I was wrong. I am happy to report that I was. And while, upon first reading, the ending appeared to be somewhat unsatisfying to me, on further reflection I think the ending is in fact superb. I loved the sense of ambiguity that I was left with as a reader, which is, I suspect, the thing that reminds me of the aforementioned Phil Rickman’s work.
Read this to revel in the sense of unease, and the creepy atmosphere that pervades the book







Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen RIP



It is quite difficult to summon up the words to write this.
I'm currently in the middle of reviewing the BBC audio adventures that Liz has done, and it's an odd feeling to realise that the three stars of some of them, Liz, Jon and Nick Courtney, have all passed away.
With Liz it is a particularly shocking blow- she was still what we could consider quite young- merely 63 (although she looked much younger).
As with a lot of you reading this, Liz was my first companion- my first guide through the universe of Doctor Who. She was probably my first crush, too...
It was also wonderful to see her and her character get something of a renaissance in recent years as she was rewarded with her own series.
Can't say much more, other than this is terribly, terribly sad and she will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Socks return to Inverness

HiEx guest and all round wonderful guy and ball of limitless energy Kev F Sutherland will be making a return to Eden Court in Inverness with his incredible Scottish Falsetto Sock Theatre on Friday 22nd April!

Anyone who was lucky enough to catch their performance at the last HiEx, or has seen them live previously, will know just how funny they are- so don't miss your chance to see them this time!

We should mention that the show is not for the very young- Kev recommends it for over 12s. If you want a taster of what to expect, have a peek at the clips below, and we'll see you at the show!








HiEx 2012 dates announced!



We are delighted to at last be able to announce the dates for HiEx: The Highland International Comic Expo in Inverness for 2012!
The event will again be held in the magnificent setting of Eden Court Theatre on the banks of the Ness river, and will feature some of the most exciting guests and events you could wish for!
So… you’ll be wanting to know the dates then, will you?
Well, okay- we’ll be opening the doors on the morning of (thanks Ian!) Saturday the 31st March and the Expo will run through until the evening of April 1st!
We’ll be announcing more details as we get closer to the time (and believe us, it’s closer than you think!).
So keep watching the blog for news and we’ll see you next March!


Monday, 18 April 2011

Doctor Who The BBC Radio Episodes pt2





Over the years, the BBC have produced a number of their own Doctor Who audio adventures.Audio Go 
have just released them in a box set, and we’ll be reviewing the stories included in the collection individually.





Next up is The Ghosts of N-Space.



As with Paradise of Death, this adventure was originally broadcast on Radio 4. I remember this going out, and I’m sure that I listened to it at the time, but for the life of me I could not remember any of it as I listened again on this release.
The more cruel part of my may suggest that I have blocked it from my memory, because there was a lot in here that was ‘wrong’.
The balance of the story seems way off. There are comedy foreign accents and sterotypes alongside real life swear words and scenes of torture and murder, for example. There is also the return of the annoying sidekick they gave Sarah Jane in Paradise of Death, but in fairness, he is slightly less annoying here.
It also has a bizarre running gag with one of the characters who talks in a ‘funny’ Elvis Presley voice which sits uncomfortably alongside some real human tragedy in the narrative. And one of the characters behaves in a wildly inconsistent way when it is required by the plot.
Like I say- it’s unbalanced.
There is also the central idea of the plot- N-Space itself. I don’t want to go into it here, as I think to describe it too much would count as a spoiler, but I feel that the concept of N-Space and who the writer here deals with death and more specifically, life after death, flies in the face of one of the central tenants of the Who Universe. That being that there are no such thing as ghosts.
But it is not all complaints!
The cast are great- Sladen is good as always and Nic Courtney as the Brigadier is clearly enjoying himself. There is also the added delight of hearing Harry Towb doing a cod-Italian accent in his Larne brogue.
I’m also happy to report that, in this adventure, Pertwee is on terrific form. He sounds like he’s having the time of his life, and this was made all the more poignant when I read on the liner notes that this was his last performance as the Doctor- I’m glad he went out on a good one.



Thor: Hammer of The Gods.

Thor stands in the Asgardian battlefield awaiting the attack of his foremost enemies, the mighty Frost Giants. Take control of Thor, aiming and launching his fearful hammer Mjolnir at the attackers in order to defeat the onslaught as quickly as possible. Compete against your friends on Facebook and unlock trophies and character cards in this exciting, multi-level webgame of skill and competition.


Play it HERE.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Largo Winch Vol 8: Shadow review



I’d never read any of this series previous to this volume, so I did not know what to expect from this. Well, I did expect, going by the covers, to read some sort of rip roaring adventure series or something, which isn’t quite what it turned out to be.
Largo Winch is an international playboy millionaire character who gets into scrapes. And if this book is anything to go by, there scrapes are pretty dark and serious affairs and a million miles away from the romp I thought I was getting.
This volume starts with a pretty dense page of catch-up which I had to read a couple of times and then refer back to once or twice while reading the volume.
The story picks up with Winch is jail for the rape of an underage prostitute (you see- I told you it was serious stuff!) as another (I’m assuming here) major character has gone missing- presumed kidnapped.
I don’t want to get into the plot because I don’t do spoilers, but it is a complex and dense story that needs the reader to pay attention to it. My main problem was the character of Winch himself. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, he is a millionaire playboy, and as such, I did find it hard to empathise with him (hard to believe, I know!) or even particularly care about his woes. 
There is an air of smugness about him and his pals that is rather grating- but this may be deliberate, and there is always his prim and proper secretary to bring him down a peg or two.
And if that all sounds a bit negative, I would counter it by saying that the books is excellently written, as you would expect from XIII creator Jen Van Hamme. 
Philippe Francq's art is sublime. The action scenes are fiercely kinetic- there is a car chase in there that is mind blowing in execution and panels are loaded with glorious detail.
I did enjoy this book (despite what it sounded like earlier in the review!), but I suspect my preconceived notions of what I was going to read set me off on the wrong foot somewhat.
The story here seems to be the end of an arc, so I'll be interested to see where the story is going in the subsequent volumes.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Doctor Who The BBC Radio Episodes pt1

Over the years, the BBC have produced a number of their own Doctor Who audio adventures. Audio Go have just released them in a box set, and we’ll be reviewing the stories included in the collection individually.


We start with:


The Paradise of Death

Getting the dream team of Pertwee, Courtney and Sladen together must have seemed like a dream come true to Who fans in the dark old days of the 1980s.
And while the three leads work well- no not just well, they work brilliantly- together, this adventure is very much a mixed bag.
The storyline is, especially for a story of this length, a slight one. There is a lot of obvious padding going on with many scenes of characters chatting that do not forward the plot in any way. Practically speaking, and with my editors hat on, I would suggest that this would have been a much better story if they had dropped two episodes. "But they didn't", you may rightly answer, "so what do you know, eh?"

My other problem with this was, surprisingly, Jon Pertwee. For most of the story he sounded rather bored with the proceedings, which is all the more surprising when I read that this was his idea.
And while I’m here- the decision to give Sarah Jane a comedy sidekick is not a good one. The character of Jeremy Fitzoliver is just plain irritating and adds nothing to the proceedings.
There are good things about it though!
The plot itself is a good one, and pretty original too. It is anchored nicely in continuity early on in the first episode and also has a couple of delightful in jokes for the attentive fan/nerd. It is rooted in a strong sci-fi idea and also delivers a powerful message along with the adventuring.
And there is a lot of adventuring going on too. One of the great thing about the audios is that they can have widescreen action scenes that defy television budgets, and this story is no different.
The best thing about this though, and something that is almost with the price in itself, is the performance from Elizabeth Sladen. She is a hell of an actor, and the range she gets to show here impressive.



New from Commando

The latest releases from Eagle Award nominated comic Commando have been announced.

There is also some good news concerning the recently launched iPhone and iPad app. Editor Calum Laird said, "The app has been updated and improved thanks to the feedback we’ve received from the first to adopt it. It now works better than ever and we have doubled the numbers of digi-subscribers in the last month. Don’t worry, though, there’s still plenty of room for more...check the details on www.commandocomics.com. There must be something in the air because our paper subscription numbers have gone up 30% this year. More details of the offers we have for that service can be found at www.commandocomics.com"



Among the latest releases, which include the titles Fire and War, Dressed to Kill and International Squadron is Deserter. We signal this one out because it is the debut Commando title from 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine writer Matt Badham.

Thor: The Interactive Guide to the Universe of Thor!

You know, this is a lot of fun!





From the deserts of New Mexico to the furthest reaches of the nine worlds of Yggdrasil, welcome to THE UNIVERSE OF THOR.  

This embeddable interactive guide invites you to explore the worlds and meet the characters of THOR, discovering extensive brand new footage and stills from the film in the process.

See if you can unlock 100% of the contents, then post it to Facebook, Twitter or another social network and invite your friends to do the same.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Clash of Heroes launch trailer

Today seems to be the day for these things!
Here's the trailer for Ubisoft's new online version of Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes


Section 8: Prejudice trailer

Section 8 looks like it's going to be a lot of fun- and a bit of a bargain price into the, well, the bargain!
Check out the newly released launch trailer:





And here's the press release for some further details:



Section 8®: Prejudice Release Date on Xbox LIVE Arcade Set for April 20
The Year’s Biggest $15 Shooter also awards unlocks for loyal Section 8 fans

Sugar Land, TX - (April 4, 2011) TimeGate Studios announced release dates and loyalty rewards for Section 8: Prejudice, the year’s most robust $15 downloadable shooter. The game rolls out to Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft on April 20, 2011; comes to Windows PC via online distributors, including Steam and Games for Windows Marketplace, on May 4, 2011; and hits the PlayStation®Network in Summer 2011.

Section 8: Prejudice features:
-        Mobilize by Drop Spawning from 15,000 feet, use Jet Packs to evade enemies, and ram opponents in Overdrive
-        Campaign mode: 5-hour story-driven single-player campaign
-        Conquest mode: Large-scale multiplayer for up 32 players
-        Swarm mode: Four player co-op mode where shooter gameplay meets tower defense
-        Offline bot support for all game modes
-        Highly customizable weapon and equipment loadouts; deep level progression and unlockable content systems
-        Dynamic Combat Missions: ensure no two multiplayer games ever play the same
-        Dedicated Servers for all platforms, robust Stats Portal and Clan Management tools
-        All of this for only $15 / 1200 Microsoft points – straight to your hard drive!

TimeGate also unveiled a loyalty rewards program for its dedicated Section 8 fans.  TimeGate will unlock Section 8: Prejudiceequipment upgrades for players of the original Section 8, based on the Level they attained as of April 20th, 2011.  Anyone who played the original Section 8 will instantly unlock Aegis Armor and the Reactive Plating upgrade, while those who reached Level 25 will additionally unlock the Ablative Plating upgrade.  The very dedicated players who attained Level 50 will also get the Explosives Amplifier upgrade. Provided players have not changed their Microsoft Gamertag or PlayStation®Network ID, the upgrades will be unlocked automatically.

“As the release of Prejudice quickly approaches, we’re really excited to unveil loyalty rewards for players of the original Section 8. We think the very attractive $15 price point of Prejudice will introduce the franchise to a ton of new fans,” said Adel Chaveleh, President and CEO of TimeGate Studios. “Xbox LIVE Arcade is the perfect platform on which to debut our large-scale launch.  With a little extra time on the PC and PlayStation®Network launches, we will be able to ensure that gamers get the best possible experience and a solid launch on each and every platform.”

For more information visit www.warisprejudice.com , and follow the game on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Section8Game and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/Section8Game.


Sunday, 10 April 2011

Doctor Who Companion Chronicles: The Forbidden Time review





I must make a confession here and admit that I’m not altogether familiar with the companions Polly and Ben. I think I’ve only seen one Who adventure with them in (although for all I know, that may be the only one left!). So, with that in mind, I cannot judge Anneke Wills’s performance by comparing it to her previous work, but I can say that it’s rather wonderful. In fact I did the rare thing (for me) of listening to this one again immediately after listening to it for the first time.

Wills does a great job at Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, too. Yes, her voice sounds nothing like his at all… but at the same time, because she has the inflections and phrasing accurate, it works well.

As for the tale itself, it’s a nice meaty one. It is a proper sci-fi adventure with a solid sci-fi concept at the heart of it. The aliens have a great USP too, and one that I don’t recall seeing in a Who tale before, although (as with most good ideas) one that seems obvious for stories of this sort.
The framing device used is quite ingenious- having the older Polly addressing a room full of delegates after a world-wide crisis. It does, however, negate some of the tension in the tale itself, as she has already told us who lives and who dies (or doesn’t).
But, for me at least, the biggest treat was the return of Frazer Hines. Jamie is possibly my favourite Who companion (well, Martha Jones is great too, but for different reasons) so it was an absolute delight to hear him here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Bellybuttons Vol3 review



Now, ordinarily this would be the very last type of book I’d think of reading.
In fact, the review copy from Cinebook sat on the table for a few weeks before I picked up the courage to read it- already framing the polite ‘it’s nice but it’s not for me’ type review I was going to write for it.
I was quite wrong.
While it is true that this book does display all the tropes that I imagine exist in comics for girls of a certain age- talk of clothes and boyfriends and such- there are many other things going on too.
So, the series revolves around three friends, Vicky, Karine and Jenny. They are the clich├ęd trio of the sensible one, the selfish one and the stupid (and selfish) one. There is also a nice cast of secondary characters, my favourite among them being John John, the stud boyfriend Vicky and Jenny constantly fight over. John’s USP is that he never takes his motorcycle helmet off- something I found very funny until it became a plot point, and ends up being not funny at all, but something that is actually quite moving it an odd way.
The story is basically told in single page stories that come together into an over arching narrative- so the story of John John’s helmet or Karine’s trip to Africa grow as the book progresses.
And it is all very frothy and genuinely funny and the reader is happy in the warm glow of the light comedy when all of a sudden there is a moment of pitch blackness right in the middle of it. A moment that is made all the more surprising and powerful by the character’s reaction- or lack of reaction- to it.
So, all in all, this book was quite a surprise to me- and a very nice one at that.


Saturday, 2 April 2011

New Green Lantern Trailer!

A second trailer for the forthcoming Green Lantern movie has been released after being premiered at Wondercon.
This looks much better than it did in the previous trailer. There is none of the comedy shenanigans this time round.

Doctor Who Industrial Evolution review





This is the third in the recent series of Thomas Brewster tales, and sees the Doctor and his companions in 19th Century England in the middle of the Industrial Revolution.
I’d be very surprised if the Doctor hasn’t visited this era before, but I cannot think of any examples off the top of my head. It is a wonderful time in history and absolutely ripe for just the kind of sci-fi adventure that the Doctor loves.
And boy do they go for it here. This was one of those rare times when I listened to a Big Finish Who and wished it was on the screen. I fear, however, that the SFX budget required to recreate the incredible steampunk monsters here would be beyond James Cameron, never mind BBC Wales!
Plot wise, this cracks along at a lovely pace. There is, or seems to be, an enormous amount of action going on in this adventure, but it is never at the expense of storytelling. And the story is a good one, and provides another interesting addition to what could probably be called ‘The Chronicles of Thomas Brewster’. What I liked most though, was that the ending I had assumed from the first episode was not anywhere near the one we got.
I really like Brewster- he’s a great character, and the relationship he has with the Doctor is excellently portrayed by the actors in question.
As usual, the acting is excellent and while I’d usually at this point in the proceedings point out who great Colin Baker is (and he is), I would have to highlight Paul Chahidi in the role of Townsend as a particular standout here. Also- the sound design in this story is some of the best I have ever heard in a Big Finish audio.
So, another good one from Big Finish.