Thursday, 22 October 2015

Doctor Who: The Best Atlantis Destructions

Doctor Who is a television show that has over fifty years of continuity. What is remarkable is that (according to fans) this continuity meshes together perfectly into a singular narrative that proves dedication, foresight and planning.

With that in mind, let's look at the best destructions of Atlantis in Doctor Who!

The Underwater Menace
1967's The Underwater Menace sees the second Doctor arrive in Atlantis in the year 1970. Atlantis sunk beneath the waves hundreds of years ago, but the folk there had a lot of warning and so were able to prepare, and now eke out an underwater existence having waterproofed their city from the pressures of the sea.

The Atlanteans employ Professor Zaroff to raise Atlantis once more. Unfortunately Zaroff is completely insane and wants to blow up the entire world. His scenes are stopped, but the city of Atlantis is flooded. Also there are fish people.

This destruction of Atlantis is good becuase you get double the bang for your buck. We see that Atlantis was sunk in the past but also get to watch it flood in the present day, a must for all Atlantis fans (or would be if the BBC hadn't lost the final episode where it floods).


The Dæmons 
In 1971s 'The Dæmons', the Master summons the dæmon Azal, an ancient and powerful being whose form is so terrifying and unknown that it can only be comprehended by us mere mortals as looking like actor Stephen Thorne in a chest wig.

Azal has been secretly manipulating Earth for millennia, viewing the planet as an experiment. He threatens destruction upon all, pointing out what he did to his last failed experiment - Atlantis! We don't know if he used some sort of laser ray or just turned up and started kicking down buildings with his giant cloven hooves, but yes, it turns out that Satan was behind it all along!

It is unclear if there were any fish people.

The Time Monster
Producer Barry Letts knew what fans wanted! Not content with already writing a story where Atlantis was destroyed, he penned 'The Time Monster' just a year later in 1972.

The Doctor battles the Master through time, ending up in Atlantis in 1500 BC where the Master releases the chronovore Kronos. Atlantis is destroyed, not by flood or hairy Stephen Thorne, but by a man covered in foam padding with a lampshade on his head, flapping about on wires and squawking.
There were no fish people. Though there was a half-naked David Prowse with a bull's head.



Sadly, Atlantis hasn't yet reappeared in Doctor Who for another go at being destroyed. This is just another of lazy Stephen Moffat's crimes, as he is too selfish to blow up Atlantis and instead wants to write 'new' and 'original' things. My hope is that Atlantis will rise again once more (only to quickly sink again, of course).

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

[Fiction] Return to Jurassic Park


Billy stared eagerly out of the window of the car, wincing as the harsh afternoon sun stabbed at his eyes. He focussed his attention on keeping them open despite the pain, keen to be the first to spot their destination. Mum had always claimed that looking at the sun would make you blind, but she also claimed that the tooth fairy was real, drinking milk made you grow up handsome, and the man that sometimes comes round the house when dad was out was just a 'mattress engineer'.

He squealed in delight as he finally saw the sign. That huge red, black and yellow sheet of metal with the familiar logo on, that had haunted his dreams ever since he had seen the picture in his dad's newspaper.

JURASSIC PARK

"We're here! We're here!" he cried, bouncing uncontrollably in his seat to tuts of dismay from his parents in the front. "Do you think there'll be Stegosaurs? Or Anklyosaurs? What about Kentosaurs??" He kept witting on with that odd childhood skill which enables one to effortlessly reel off list after list of obscure dinosaurs, a skill which by the onset of puberty is reduced to "that one with three horns, and the one that looks like Godzilla, I dunno".

As the car slowly parked itself in the frighteningly expensive car park, Billy tugged impatiently on the child-locked door before giving up and throwing himself out of the window. "This is gonna be the best day ever!" he squealed as he landed face-first on the gravelled car park.

Without a word, his father got out of the car and pulled Billy to his feet by the scruff of his neck. "I'm sure it will be, son," he smiled down grimly, ruffling his son's hair. Life had been tough for little Billy after his best friend Miranda had mistook a packet of Angel Delight for milkshake mix. She had been found too late, having swallowed a pint of frothy flavoured milk that all too quickly solidified into a delicious custard-based dessert in her throat. What made it worse was that the paramedics left the scene carrying spoons and rubbing their tummies in a self-satisfied manner.

Billy's mum paid no attention to the father-son bonding going on. She was more concerned with checking the messages on her phone to ensure that the mattress engineer had been booked for next Wednesday.

"Dinosaurs! Dinosaurs!" Billy ran as fast as he could towards the impressively large park entrance, waving his arms about and screaming in unrestrained joy, his little heart thumping hard, mouth frothing with anticipation. He then was forced to wait an agonizing five minutes as his parents very slowly sauntered over to him as if they didn't care about the amazing land of dinosaurs that lay within.

"Calm down, Billy!" His dad stood by the ticket booth, pulling out his mighty wallet. "Don't worry, only the best for my son!" He peered closer at the prices. "One family bronze pass, please."

The second the ticket was pressed into his hand, Billy raced forwards into the park. He closed his eyes to heighten the sensation of the smells as he breathed in deeply. "Dinosaurs!" he choked out happily. He staggered to a halt and opened his eyes in case he accidently fell into a raptor pit. Jurassic Park spread out in front of him, trees and dense foliage stretching as far as his eyes could see; every single shade of green and then some, with various paths stretching enticingly into the forest.

There was only one thing missing though: no cages. Billy frowned in alarm - could the dinosaurs be loose? He ran over to his dad, hugging his leg for protection, in case a herd of T-Rex descended on them. "Careful, dad!" he squeaked. "Watch out for the dinosaurs! They're loose!"

His dad looked down and laughed merrily. "Don't worry, Billy, the guide will protect us!" He motioned towards a fat looking man squeezed into a grubby safari suit. Milling about them were a mixture of bored looking parents with excited kids, and confused elderly folk.

As the trickle of tourists from the ticket booth dried up, the guide cracked his fingers and gave a wide grin. "Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Jurassic Park!"

They moved into the forest at a stride, Billy racing to keep up with the guide, head dashing from side to side in case of any ambush, giddy with breathless anticipation.

"And here we have genuine Jurassic ferns," the guide continued as Billy raced around his legs. "Exactly the same type as those that bloomed millions of years ago!"

"Very good!" One of the old men raised his glasses to peer at a fern. "And the trees?"

"All genuine too!" The guide smiled. "This is, after all, Jurassic Park! We aim for authenticity!"

Billy trampled over some authentically sourced Jurassic weeds. Behind him stretched a forest. In front of him stretched a forest. There was a distinct lack of any dinosaurs. In fact, it looked suspiciously like another 'fun family walk' of the type he was forced to trudge on a weekly basis. "Is... is it all forest?" he asked in concern, tugging on the guide's trousers.

The guide looked down in surprise. "Why, of course! Jurassic Park is a carefully controlled and developed forest that accurately contains the plants which would have been in a real Jurassic park! It’s a Jurassic park! Hence the name!”

"Quite so!" The elderly man piped up again. "A real botanical achievement!"

Billy sunk to his knees, a sick feeling rising in his stomach. "But... but..." he squeaked, looking up in betrayal at the guide.  "What about bringing stuff back to life with a fossilised mosquito trapped in amber?" His bottom lip started to wobble.

"Oh, that!" The guide's eyes sparkled. "Well, yes, obviously we're doing all that cloning stuff too. We keep them in that building over there." He pointed towards a non-descript hut nestled in between a clump of trees. "Would you like a look?"

"YES!" Billy wept in joy, racing over to the hut. He tugged at the door, failing to wait impatiently as the rest of the group caught up. His little hands found a grip against the wooden bar of the door, slowly pushing it open. "What dinosaurs did you clone off the mosquitos?"

The guide looked surprised at the question. "Dinosaurs?"

Billy pushed open the door with a cry of triumph that soon turned into one of terror, as a big black cloud of authentic Jurassic-era mosquitos swarmed out to meet him.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

[Fiction] The Unmade Transformers: Mosaic Comics

I've previously posted all of the one-page comics I wrote for the Transformers: Mosaic project. However there were quite a few that just never found artists for whatever reason (or did find artists who then vanished never to be seen again. It's possible that any of the below ended up being finished but trapped on someone's computer).

For the first time, here are all the scripts I wrote that never made it to a final comic (or at least the ones I could find). Some are a bit rough (they were mostly written around 2007-09 ish) but... if anyone ever gets the urge to make one into a comic, go for it!


Goliath
This was actually one of the very first scripts I wrote, solely because I had the toys of Hubcap and Hotrider on my shelf. It's a nice little one-shot, but I could never get the end to be 'punchy' enough.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy!
The Triggerbots hang out at the Cosmic Carnival from the Marvel comics and watch some sweet bike stunts. I liked this one, it was fun. No-one really wanted to draw 'fun' at the time though.

Kissplay!
This was a spoof of the Japanese 'Kissplay' line that had just come out which seriously featured girls kissing Transformers to power them up. Yes, it's a joke beaten into the ground now but was cutting edge back then, let me promise you!

One Second
This was co-written with Tony Lee. Tony went on to work for IDW as their chief Doctor Who writer. I... didn't. I thought this was a great script and was always confused why I couldn't get anyone to draw it. Probably because no-one wants to draw Ultra Pretender Skyhammer (but really, it's their loss!)

Plastic Birds Don't Fly
A silly piece about where all the terrible Beast Wars toys go. It's probably a bit too long for a one-page piece, but I have a soft spot for it.

The Thin Red Line
This was a Masterforce comic. Honestly I don't think it works, it's basically just a "Hey, Masterforce was great, also somehow fit this all onto one page please." Well, we can't all be winners!

Six
An attempt to make Quickswitch exciting. There are six panels, each panel being symbolically focused around one of his transformations. I'm not sure that's particularly clear, but Quickswitch was one of those characters who I thought more should have been done with.

Zero Point One
I wanted to write a Shockwave vs Xaaron story based on the Marvel UK comics. I'm not sure this one ever reached it's full potential actually. It's just sort of 'there' rather than making any sort of statement.

The Dweller on the Threshold
The Optimus Prime entry into my Armada series, this was an attempt to retell the end of Armada in the style of Twin Peaks. It found an artist who was apparently halfway through and told me it was looking amazing, and then he vanished D: Potentially he vanished into the Black Lodge!)


I hope you've enjoyed looking at what could (and should!) have been! As I said, if this inspires you to make someone, please be my guest (as long as you let me know!)

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Worst villain plans in Doctor Who

 
For a television show that has stretched decades and featured all sorts of villains, monsters and weird plots, Doctor Who has had its fair share of...strange villain plans. For some villains, trying to take over the Earth is enough. For others, their plan often involves a gaping hole and the question "...just what were you hoping to achieve?"

What are the most ridiculous villain plans in the history of the show though? There are certainly a lot, though to be fair on the other villains I'm going to restrict the amount of times I refer to an episode with the Master, as all of his plans are completely rubbish.


Trial of a Time Lord
Villain: The Valeyard
Plan: Have the Doctor killed and cover up the existence of Ravalox

The High Council of the Time Lords have put the Doctor on trial for the sole reason of having him discredited and killed. In a previous adventure, the Doctor had stumbled across the planet Ravalox, which was a future Earth devastated by the Time Lords. The Doctor didn't even realise this at the time though; just the fact that he might work it out was enough to sign his death warrant.

So it's very, very important to the Time Lords that no-one else find out about Ravalox. To this end, the employ the Valeyard, an evil future Doctor, and promise him the Doctor's remaining regenerations if he gets himself killed. That's not the rubbish plan, we assume the Time Lords have this power because hey, they're Time Lords.

The trial is clearly a matter of public record. If it was just the corrupt High Council in on it, they could have just shived the Doctor the moment the courtroom doors were closed. The high ranking Time Lords at the trial are thus not complicit in the High Council's actions, and it is their presence that legitimises the trial. The trial whose entire point is to cover up the Ravalox affair and ensure the Doctor dies so no-one finds out about it.

So with all of time and space to choose from, the Valeyard's first evidence is "What the Doctor did on the planet Ravalox." Again, the Doctor didn't even discover the truth about Ravalox, and would have happily gone on his way and never found out about it if it were not for the trial. It was his mere precence there that risked discovery. Why then does the High Council's prosecutor decide to beam a live-action replay of the events to the courtroom and presumably across all of Gallifrey?

What's the Valeyard's next move? He shows an adventure where the Doctor is clearly mind-controlled, and ends with the High Council of Time Lords interfering in the natural development of a planet by ordering the assassination of Crozier and Peri.

The Valeyard precided over the worst cover-up in history. Of course, there are some readings where he is secretly heroic and is using the trial to draw attention to the High Council's douchebaggery. But given that the entire purpose of the trial was to ensure this information didn't get out, using it as exhibit A was hardly the best move.


Lake Astronaut (Series 6)
Villain: The Silence
Plan: Kill the Doctor

The entire goal of the Silence was to kill the Doctor. It was vital that they needed him dead - but how? Poison perhaps? Maybe an assassin? They could travel in time and had amazing hypnotic and stealth powers, giving them a range of deadly ways to murder him before he even knew about it?

Of course, there was only one way to do it - the good old 'Lake Astronaut' routine! Why go for an over-complex plan that could fail when you can fall back on that tried and trusted method of hiding someone in a spacesuit under a lake, jump out going "tee hee hee" and then shooting your quarry. It's a classic!

Series 6 of Doctor Who set up an entire mystery plot asking "Why is there an astronaut hiding in a lake that wants to kill the Doctor," the answer being "because there is an astronaut hiding in a lake that wants to kill the Doctor." At no point is it ever explained why this is the sanest plan on the table.
Fans have scrambled about for an explanation after the fact - the best one being that the 'Lake Astronaut who kills the Doctor' was some sort of established event/myth that the Silence made come true for them, having to do it that way due to predeterminism. This is a nice idea, but it's never stated on screen. All that's stated on screen is that the Silence are barking mad.

It gets better though - they spend all this time and effort getting River and then raising her as a 'perfect assassin' before putting her in a remote controlled suit that she can't stop. They could have put anyone in it. Or no-one. Again, fans have claimed that perhaps River's unique genetic makeup causes it to be a 'fixed point' but again, that's total fanon.

But where to get a space suit? Can the mighty, high-tech time-travelling Silence grab one from the shops? No, it's probably simpler to manipulate humanity for millennia for the sole goal of developing the Apollo spacesuit. Which IS something stated in the show.
Sigh.


The King's Demons
Villain: The Master
Plan: Destroy Western democracy

The dastardly Master travels back in time to 1215 with a shapeshifting robot, Kamelion. He disguises Kamelion as King John, and himself as 'Sir Giles Estram' in an unconvincing wig for little reason than he likes to dress up too. His plan is to have Kamelion behave as a total cad whilst disguised as the King, to topple King John and thereby stopping the Magna Carta being signed, which, uh...

I mean, upsetting the political relationship between the King and his barons would have been a bit mean, but would have hardly undermined the cornerstone of Western democracy. The Magna Carta was more powerful as a mythic idea rather than any good it actually did, and this myth had been pretty much debunked by the 19th century. But maybe the Master just hadn't read up on his history books? He did have time to teach Kamelion the lute though!

That said, attempting to overthrow the evil King John puts the Master firmly on the side of Robin Hood. Added to that is he didn't even bother to capture the real King John, so there are two running about, rendering his plan null and void to anyone with eyes.


Resurrection of the Daleks

Villains: The Daleks
Plan: Cure a virus; Conquer the Earth; Assassinate the High Council of Gallifrey; Use a time tunnel as a waste bin

The Daleks have a time corridor set up linking a space station in the future to the present day. Having been beaten in the Movellan war by a virus, they are dumping canisters of the virus (which only effects Daleks) on 20th century Earth. Meanwhile they are rescuing Davros in the future so he can find a cure for the virus.

The Daleks are also cloning people, so are dumping clones of politicians through the time corridor to take control of Earth. They're also cloning various futuristic people. To round things off, the Daleks then decide to clone the Doctor to kill the High Council of Time Lords on Gallifrey.

The Daleks are juggling half a dozen plans concurrently, making Resurrection of the Daleks feel less like a coherent story, and more like 'The Doctor stumbles into an average Tuesday at the Dalek office'. Clearly there's lots of projects on the go.

Why do the Daleks bother joining up 20th century Earth with the future via a time corridor? What do they achieve by throwing all of the deadly virus down the corridor, leaving it lying in a pile and unprotected? Why haven't they bothered to test their clones for stability before they start mass producing them to take over the world? Why do they want to take over 1983 if they have all of time and space to choose from? Why isn't the Doctor particularly concerned that the Daleks have apparently killed all of Earth's politicians and replaced them with clones who are about to go crazy? When Davros needs a virus sample, they take it from the pile on Earth, did they really dump their entire supply into the time corridor?

"Ho hum," says the Dalek Supreme, sipping his coffee. "Throw enough mud at the wall, some will stick. What else is on the agenda? I know, let's invade Gallifrey!"

The scamps.


The Android Invasion
Villains: The Kraals
Plan: Murder Earth with a deadly virus

The alien Kraals have got a foolproof plan to invade Earth. They have created androids that are identical to humans in a particular English village. They plan to rocket these androids to Earth hidden in gigantic inconspicuous meteors and then use them to replace the villagers. These villagers, indistinguishable from humans, will then spread the virus across the Earth. To aid them they have the help of a human astronaut and secured his loyalty by telling him he died in space travel and they were able to put his body back together apart from one eye.

Of course this is a lie, and the Kraal plan is undone when Guy Crayford actually bothers to look under his eyepatch to discover he has two eyes and thus the Kraals are liars. Did they expect him never to look? Perhaps Crayford was really squeamish? (Personally I like the idea that the eyepatch was a 'control' for hypnotic conditioning, and the fact that he checks under it is the indicator that the conditioning has broken... only that's not an idea ever depicted on screen).

The Kraals have gone to great expense to create a perfect replica Earth village on their homeworld for their androids to practice being human. The androids are pretty rubbish at being human though. Also the fact that the plan relies on the androids then leaving for all corners of the globe to spread plague doesn't necessitate either being particularly human or knowing how to live in a village. Thankfully the Kraals havn't heard of 'aerosol dispersion' relying instead on the good old 'manual android dispersion'. At least they're guaranteed to get Madagascar.

In the proud tradition of deadly Doctor Who viruses, when it does get released, only the villainous Styggron dies, and that's because he falls face-first onto the virus capsule. Perhaps they did need all the androids after all, to go around and smulch the viruses into the face of the entire population of Earth one by one.


Four to Doomsday
Villain: Monarch
Plan: Murder Earth with a deadly virus; Meet God.

Monarch is the ruler of the planet Urbanka and happens to look like a giant space frog. One would imagine he would spend his time ruling his planet, but instead he has spent the last several thousand years flying back and forth between his homeworld of Urbanka and Earth, collecting humans every time he visits. He has Mayans and ancient Greeks and ancient Aboriginals amongst others.

Unfortunately Urbanka is under threat from solar flares, and so Monarch's next visit to Earth will be his last. He has miniaturised the inhabitants of Urbanka onto slides and when he arrives on Earth he will unleash a deadly virus to kill everyone and replace them with his people, the cad!

But Monarch has a second plan - he believes that if he can move his ship faster than light, he can pilot it back to the beginning of time and meet God.

Now, with the best will in the world, and the most generous measure of physics, if Monarch has been bouncing between Earth and Urbanka quick enough to meet Mayans and Greeks on successive trips, he's already going faster than light.

Monarch is clearly deluded. Worse though is when the Doctor throws the deadliest deadly toxin at Monarch. This toxin was supposed to be able to wipe out Earth easily, but Monarch is the only one it affects. Everyone else stands about gormlessly having been exposed to this deadliest of deadly plagues, and are fine. Also the toxin shrinks people. Perhaps Monarch was going to 'Do a Kraal' and get his androids to manually smear the virus onto every person on Earth.

Doctor Who villains are rubbish at making contagious viruses.


The Stones of Blood
Villain: Cessair of Diplos
Plan: To hide from the space police

Cessair of Diplos was an evil murderous space criminal, who managed to escape from the hyperspace ship holding her and hide out on Earth. The ship was disabled, but the Megara, the justice machines who would have tried and executed her, were only locked up.

With this in mind, you'd expect that in order to escape justice, Cessair would have got as far away from the ship as possible, and keep a low profile. Instead, she takes up residence in a house just a few hundred metres from the hyperspace portal where the ship is parked and lives there for hundreds of years, dressing up as a crow and pretending to be a god.

Even when the Megara get out, they're absolutely rubbish, stumbling about and unable to recognise her. If Cessair had moved even to the next town she'd have been fine. She could have sent the ship into the sun, or legged it off-world or... anything, really. But no, she set up shop next to the only thing that could defeat her.


The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Villains: The Daleks
Plan: Pimp their ride

The Daleks have enslaved the Earth in a grim totalitarian regime. Using germ warfare to crush the will of humanity and cyborg slaves to enforce their will, they are the undisputed masters of Earth. What could be worth such bloodshed?

The Daleks plan to hollow out the Earth so they can install engines and drive it about the galaxy. You see, one day the Dalek Supreme woke up and decided he hadn't done anything particularly insane for a good week. Why do they want to pimp out the Earth as their cool new ride? Who knows!

Fandom has become obsessed with this, working on various realistic goals that required a flying planet Earth. In the new series, Russell T Davies wrote a story where it turns out that the Daleks wanted to move the Earth to use its planetary mass as part of a doomsday weapon. In the Big Finish audios, the Daleks wanted to fly the Earth about to use it as a plague planet (though no-one told them that a flying plague planet would probably be rubbish at spreading plague to other worlds, as if it got close enough to spread plague it would have already crashed into its target).

The truth of the matter is that there's no reason. The Daleks are just being gigantic assholes as usual.
Oh, and how do they plan on hollowing it out? With a giant bomb. Sigh.


Terror of the Zygons
Villains: The Zygons
Plan: Conquer the Earth

The Zygons have lived for centuries underneath Loch Ness. They are shapeshifting creatures who survive by suckling on the milk of the mighty Skarasen.

They plan nothing less than the total domination of Earth! To do this, their clever plan has several steps:

1 - Destroy surrounding oil rigs (to uh, alert everyone to their presence)
2 - Install hidden security cameras to spy on the local pub
3 - Their leader disguises himself as the Duke of Forgill to get access to an energy conference in London which the Prime Minister is attending (this part is good)
4 - Sail the Skarasen down the river Thames and assassinate Margaret Thatcher.
5 - ???
6 - Profit!

Apart from the whole part where the Zygons repeatedly put the Skarasen in danger (they require its milk for their very survival), it's unclear how making the Loch Ness Monster eat the Prime Minister will help them take over the world in any way, shape or form. The Zygons aren't stupid. This isn't some plan by an obvious madman like the similar scheme in 'Ghost Light'. Or maybe it is. Maybe Broton genuinely believes that if he has the Loch Ness Monster swallow Margaret Thatcher, he will become the new Prime Minister by right of conquest?


Death in Heaven
Villain: The Master
Plan: Give the Doctor a birthday present

At some point during the broadcast of series 8, giddy fans were proclaiming that even if the series finale was just forty-five minutes of static and Steven Moffat rubbing his naked body with money, it would still be the best series ever. Well, Moffat sure put that to the test!

The Master has used Time Lord technology to create a fake heaven where the minds of the dead are uploaded. These minds are then convinced to delete their emotions, and are then downloaded into Cybermen bodies made from the bodies of the dead. These Cybermen then rise up and start flying about and attacking people. The Master then murders lots of the Doctor's friends and says "Surprise, happy birthday" and gives him the army so he can do good with it.

I don't want to be that critical of the plan itself. The Master is clearly bonkers (though that's a terrible motivation in itself) though has enough mental faculties to undertake this insane plan.

Why does the Master need the fake heaven? Cybermen certainly haven't needed anyone's permission to delete their emotions before. Are we to expect that literally everyone in all of human history chose to delete their emotions with the exception of Danny Pink? But then they sent him back anyway, becoming a rubbish Cyberman. How many more rubbish Cybermen were there, just staggering about and crying?

If the Cybermen can use their nanovirus to create magic Cyberman rain that can magically turn every single corpse into Cybermen, why do they need to go through the entire plot of Dark Water where the Master creates a big corporation as a front to encourage people to give her their dead? Those Cybermen are little more than glorified nanobot missiles; could a... nanobot missile not have sufficed?

Why does the Master then have the Cybermen attack UNIT and try and kill the Doctor, if her intention is to give the Doctor control of the Cybermen? What was her plan if the Doctor had just fallen out of the plane and splatted onto the ground?

The thing is, you could probably have a good go at making up convincing answers for all of the above. But no-one does. It's just stuff that happens. Yes, the Master is back and she's insane with incoherent plans. Oh well.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

[Comic] G100

G100 was conceived as a pastiche of Frank Miller’s excellent 300 but using Transformers. Albeit slightly truncated into 32 pages. We see Thunder-Clash and a small band of Autobots fighting to stop the advancing hordes of Skyquake during the ancient days of Cybertron.

It was produced for Auto Assembly 2010 and printed as b/w on glossy pages with all profits going to the charity 'Mary's Meals' If you enjoyed this comic, please consider making even a small donation to the charity.

Written by myself and art and letters by Andy Turnbull

Download the entire comic here!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The 'Best' of Transformers Comic-Magazin

A few years back I discovered the existence of German Transformers comics. The covers were strange... but even better, I found that they had original text stories! I promptly bought a load from ebay.de and had them translated for the good of all!

The 'Best' of Transformers Comic-Magazin was a fanzine distributed free at Auto Assembly 2011, now uploaded in PDF form for everyone to enjoy. Just click the link at the bottom of this page to view it.

This fanzine is a collection of translated prose stories from the official German Transformers 'Comic-Magazin' published in the late 80s and early 90s. These form an exciting if bizarre 'forgotton' canon and are at the very least entertaining reading.

Where do the Classic Pretenders really come from?
What is Shockwave's Galactic Secret?
Why does Goldbug want to desperately speak to Bumblebee?
How did Optimus Prime build (and curse!) the pyramids?

All these and more will be answered!

To supplement the stories there are dozens of fan illustrations by the following artists:

Andy Kiernan
Andrew Sorohan
Ed Pirrie
Matt Dallas
Ben Pirrie
Martin McVay

Translations by "Creature" S.-H. Hueske, Matt Marshall and Torsten Abel

Thanks to everyone involved for their hard work

Download the entire collection here!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

[Comic] The Last Enemy


The Transformers: Mosaic project is a fan-based project to get artists and writers working together to create fancomics.

This was a script I absolutely loved, though probably pushed the 'how much plot can I get into one page' to it's limit. Enemy was the most obscure Transformer ever, a cassette who had been released as an accessory to a radio back in the 80's. Since this was made in 2011 he actually got a proper toy release, so I guess I'm a total trailblazer!

Art was done by Ed Pirrie. I provided the colours too, though regret that they look a little muted (at least to my eyes). In my defense, red is the hardest colour to make look good on a screen!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

[Fiction] The five wizards from Lord of the Rings still walk the Earth to this day...


"The hour is late, and Gandalf the Grey has come at last!" Sauruman boomed in his evil wizard voice. With one hand he raised his magical staff, and in the other he pointed to the door. "Do you at least remember the magic words, Gandalf?"

"Yes, yes," Gandalf grumbled. "It's 'Do you want fries with that?'" He put on his bright red McDonalds hat and joined Saruman behind the counter. "I have been doing this for two millennia you know."

Sauruman pointed proudly at his managers badge, which displayed many stars of different colours. "Yet you have been tardy, Gandalf! Tardy! I have spied you in the back alley smoking pipeweed with those youths!"

"It's not pipeweed!" Gandalf snapped back. "It's a new magical substance. Crack cocaine or something." He took out his pipe and huffed it experimentally.

The customers started to pile in to the Isengard McDonalds. Soon the two wizards were inundated with orders. "Radaghast! Radaghast!" Saruman cried. "Where are you? This is our hour of need!" He started to swat away the fat hands of customers with his staff.

"Here I am!" Radaghast ran out of the toilets as fast as he could, his mop in one hand, face completely covered in poo. "I'm here, don't worry!" With that he slipped and fell in a deluge of sewage that skittered all across the once-clean restaurant floor.

Gandalf shook his head in disgust, looking towards the back kitchen where the two blue wizards laboured away, unseen. "Four Happy Meals!" he cried. His words were rewarded by a bundle of burgers and small cartons shoved into his hands.

Gandalf studied the cartons. Inside were carrot sticks. "No! No!" he shouted. "FRIES, YOU FOOLS!"

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Is 'The Twin Dilemma' really the worst episode of Doctor Who?

'The Twin Dilemma' is the byword for irredeemable rubbish in the Doctor Who fandom. It is infamous for being awful and regularly 'wins' worst story in the Doctor Who Magazine poll. It's blamed by many for being the catalyst that killed Doctor Who in the 80s, just shortly after the show had massive success and public support during its 20th anniversary. It's seen as completely squandering any potential and goodwill, making the sixth Doctor an unlikable monster and killing Jesus.

So yes. It's not really liked that much. 'The Twin Dilemma' was the final story of season 21, and the first story for Colin Baker's Doctor. Coming straight after the much lauded classic 'The Caves of Androzani', 'The Twin Dilemma' was always going to struggle, but a catalogue of... interesting decisions coupled with an end of season "Oh god the budget's run out" spectacular left a bad taste in the mouth.

The story saw the newly regenerated Doctor go insane and try to strangle his companion, Peri. He then puts on a clown costume and spends the rest of the story alternating between violent and cowardly mood-swings. Meanwhile a man in a slug costume has kidnapped the badly lisping twins Womulus and Wemus and plans to use their mathematical genius to cover the universe in slug eggs, because that's just how he rolls. The Doctor's master plan to murder the giant slug with acid fails, and the day is saved by one of his Time Lord friends who had to sacrifice himself. The Doctor decides to keep wearing his clown costume and never apologises for trying to kill his companion.

It's not... good. Not by any means. Is it really the worst story though? Not by a long shot. 'The Dominators' exists for a start. Fandom is a funny thing, and once it has decided a story is terrible, it's pretty hard to move it from that spot (now that everyone can see 'The Gunfighters', for example, it still struggles in polls despite the fact it's brilliant). Rather than talk about why other stories are worse though, I want to talk about why it's not completely terrible.

There's a lot in 'The Twin Dilemma' that is pointed to as being bad ideas, but they are not bad ideas in of themselves. A while back a friend new to Classic Who watched it against my advice, and ended up really liking it. Of course, he didn't have the context of the cancellation.

So what is good about it? And what isn't a bad point?


Fans didn't hate it at the time
They didn't like it either, but 'The Twin Dilemma' received mostly middling reviews. It wasn't seen as diabolical while airing. Context is king though. Just a year later, halfway through season 22, the BBC announced Doctor Who was to be cancelled (later rescinded to an 18 month hiatus). A few years after that in 1989, the show was cancelled for good. Fans looked about for a scapegoat and found 'The Twin Dilemma', pointing at it as the straw that broke the camels back, that it made the public hate the Doctor and turn him into an unlikable laughing stock. The show was never coming back, and it was 'The Twin Dilemma' that poisoned the well.

Only, that's not true. If 'The Twin Dilemma' really chased away the audience, why did 9 million people tune into the season 22 opener 'Attack of the Cybermen', more than three million more than watched the end of 'The Twin Dilemma' that closed out season 21. Yes, it was broadcast on a different day but if 'The Twin Dilemma' really was a mortal blow, having the audience increased by 50% for the next story is an interesting definition of 'mortal blow'.

If the show had never had the blow of the hiatus, 'The Twin Dilemma' would probably have a low-but-not-terrible reputation akin to that of 'Robot', Tom Baker's first story which was similarly a bit rubbish but nowhere near terrible.

The Doctor Who Magazine review at the time was muted, but not scathing. Here's a look at the summing up (by Gary Russell, no less!):



That Coat!
'The Twin Dilemma' heralded the appearance of the sixth Doctor's horrible coat. Yes, it is horrible. I defy anyone to like it on first sight. It has its fans, but these are people who have grown to love it as a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. The in-universe explanation of "Well, the Doctor is an alien so has alien tastes so it makes perfect sense" falls down once you remember you're watching a television show aimed at actual human beings, and the writers can justify anything they want but it doesn't mean it's a good idea. It would be equally valid to have the Doctor dress up as a ballarina and claim it is a Time Lord custom, but don't expect anyone to like it.

That said, this is the one story where the coat actually works. The entire story is about the Doctor being unstable, and what better way to show that than wearing a crazy clown coat? The mistake was keeping the coat around for the rest of Colin Baker's tenure. The coat should have been discarded at the end of the story to show that the Doctor was recovered and properly the Doctor again, or at least vanished between seasons. By keeping it, it gave the impression that the sixth Doctor was still this psychotic madman who randomly attacked his companions.

If the coat had just been in this one story, I can guarantee people would love it, and point to it as one of the story's highlights. There would probably be a subset of fandom who would grumble that the coat hadn't been worn throughout the sixth Doctor's tenure. But all this isn't The Twin Dilemma's fault, it's the fault of the stories that came afterwards.

As an aside, the coat also works well in 'Time and the Rani', the seventh Doctor's first story. There, he does actually discard it once he's stopped being crazy and started being the Doctor.

Mental Health Positivity (sort of)
"But it's horrible and crass!" I hear you cry. No, wait! Yes, it is pretty badly done, but the very fact they went the route of a genuinely unstable Doctor is a positive. The scene where the Doctor strangles Peri is pretty horrible to watch, but that's part of the point. The usually reliable Phil Sandifer attempts to argue on his blog that his attack is male-on-female abuse, and that Peri's forgiving of him is equivilant to "a battered woman idolizing her abuser" and criticises the show for making the Doctor the hero.

That is a reading that can only really be reached by completely ignoring what's actually happening in the story. The eighties were not a time for subtlety - the story is clearly about the Doctor having mental health issues. That's not just the subtext, it's the text. He's ill. It's stated again and again. That's a very different dynamic than 'abusive partner' and not every act of male-on-female violence is directly a feminist issue and claiming it is is unhelpful. This issue is a mental health one.

There's still a massive stigma around mental health in today's society, but it was even worse in the eighties. Admitting you had problems would result in you being labelled a 'nutcase' or 'lunatic' or 'psychopath' and deemed as someone to be avoided and unfit to take part in society. If you'd spent time in an institution for treatment then even if you were completely recovered that stigma would be with you forever and you'd be lucky to ever find work again.

I feel in many ways it is genuinely a positive move to have a much beloved character fall prey to an episode of mental illness - and not a television friendly one, but one that includes actual harm to others - and then show him recover and that he can still be a hero. That sort of public consciousness raising is the sort of thing Doctor Who should be doing. Yes, it was slightly fumbled, but at the end of the day, the entire audience for 'The Twin Dilemma' (plus three million more) still came back for the next story. It's perhaps slightly damning though that the sixth Doctor does indeed continue to carry around the stigma of being unstable and violent, despite none of the subsequent stories really showing him doing anything out of the norm. Again, I blame the coat.

Mestor
Mestor is a man wearing a slightly goofy slug costume, but to condemn him on the grounds that he looks rubbish is to pretty much declare all of Doctor Who null and void. Doctor Who was always more about the ideas, with what we see on screen visual placeholders with which to explore those ideas. At least, that's always been my excuse.

People like to laugh about "giant slugs" but a giant evil slug is actually a good idea. Everyone knows what a slug is, and we're all absolutely repulsed by them. One of my earliest memories is having nightmares thanks to a text story in a Ghostbusters comic about a malevolant giant slug with glowing red eyes, creeping out of the darkness. Slugs are strange and feel horrifically alien. Mestor himself is so horrific that he is even able to subjugate Time Lords. He has scary unknowable mental powers that echo how scary and unknowable slugs are. His voice acting is great.

If there's a problem it's with the uninspired direction. The director is not afraid to shoot Mestor straight on, fully lit in all his dorky wobbly glory. This is the same season with the Gravis, who was a man in a woodlouse costume with boggly eyes and hilariously flappy hands, but the director of 'Frontios' chose to shoot him in closeup as much as possible to disguise this fact and as a result a lot of people point to the Gravis as an effective monster. 'Caves of Androzani' had two awful monsters in the Magma Beast and the Queen Bat. The director solved this by pumping in as much smoke as possible and turning all the lights off. Most fans don't even realise there was a queen bat costume. Yes, there was. Yes, it looked horrible.

There was sadly lots of better ways they could have done Mestor. He could have been a massive creature which we only saw part of, like the Malus from the same season's 'The Awakening'. He could have been some gunge-covered shapeless mass that quivered in his throne (the lack of gunge on Mestor was especially odd as the Doctor Who production team loved gunge at the time). Even with the 'man in a fancy dress slug costume' they went with, a sympathetic director could have made it work.

Again though, it's important to stress that Doctor Who has never been about the spectacle of its effects, but about the ideas that they represent. Mestor is for the most part an effective villain. His power of taking over minds and burning them out is scary, he can destroy space fleets with his mind and he can humble Time Lords. The dynamic is also well-done, with Mestor skulking in his throne room for most of the story as a terrifying presence that the Doctor must confront, rather than wobbling about in any sort of ill-advised chase scenes. Until the very end, Mestor is in total, confident control of events.

Hugo Lang
Hugo's great! It helps that he's played by Kevin McNally who would later be Captain Jack's buddy in the Pirates of the Carribean movies. Yes, Hugo comes across as a bit of a jerk, but that's his character. Script editor Eric Saward (who ended up writing most of this story) had great fun lampooning Hugo in his novelisation. Really, it's a crime that Hugo wasn't kept on as a regular. The sixth Doctor era badly needed a more energetic and confident 'action' character to play off against the Doctor, and it's no coincidence that pretty much each episode of season 22 includes a companion substitute character who fulfils that role. It could have been Hugo!

Azmael
It's always nice to see Time Lords pop up, and Azmael is a particularly interesting one. He's not a moustache-twirling villain; instead he is one of the Doctor's oldest friends, forced into the role of villain. It not only helps to raise the stakes but shows the audience into more of the Doctor's character. The moment at the end between the Doctor and a dying Azmael are genuinely touching, and it's a shame that it was the Doctor's earlier madness, not this, that people took away from the story.

The Doctor
Lest we not forget Colin Baker in this story. He's absolutely brilliant in it. Perhaps that is part of the reason fans had a negative reaction, as he plays the sections where he has psychotic episodes with such menace and gusto that it leaves such an impression. There's a great energy to the rest of his performance though as he lounges on bits of the set that he's clearly not meant to, leaps about and gestures, a far cry from the much more restrained fifth Doctor. He's fun to watch - when he's not trying to kill Peri, that is!

Experiments Are Good!
I would rather a failed experiment than a successful attempt at playing it safe. Doctor Who has often been accused of playing it safe with various bases under siege, so it feels rather rude to then criticise it when it tries something genuinely new and fails. Yes, in this case it didn't entirely work, but there is value in a failed experiment. There are other stories, just as risky, which were experiments and lauded as some of the best ever made, such as 'The Mind Robber' and 'Warrior's Gate'. Should these stories not have been made so the production team could play it safe?

It's easy in hindsight to judge what does and does not work, but it's impossible to judge the success of a story just on the script alone. If that was the case, Paradise Towers would be a classic! A television production is a combination of script, set, design, costume, actors and direction. It just happened in this case, 'The Twin Dilemma' got a poor pick. I am sure there is a parallel universe somewhere where this story got the same care and attention in every aspect of its production as 'The Caves of Androzani' did.

This isn't to say there aren't problems with 'The Twin Dilemma'. Far from it. But there's not as massive and insurmountable as fandom would have you believe. It's not nearly the worst story, and as a bonus it was actually trying hard to do something different for once. Surely that's worth something.

If you want a good version of 'The Twin Dilemma', the novelisation is worth checking out. It's completely different, which is a bonus as well. An audiobook version was released in 2012 read by Colin Baker. There's also a nice fan-script rewrite that's been making the rounds here.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

[Comic] Monkey Puzzles

The Transformers: Mosaic project is a fan-based project to get artists and writers working together to create fancomics.

This was a piece I'd originally written quite early, in about 2008, but found until 2011 to actually get an artist (the really talented Vernon Moore). I did the colours and am pretty pleased how they turned out. It's about the Decepticon Powermasters who are pretty awesome characters. I love that whole era really.