DS9 Marathon Review

To me, each of the Star Trek series’ have something special about them. TOS was groundbreaking, it’s characters quintessential. TNG brought a modernity and maturity to the universe and its ethical principles. Voyager tried something different and interesting, and brought us some of the strongest characters. I remembered DS9 for its longer, sweeping plot arc and character development, but it wasn’t until my most recent marathon that I really appreciated the depth of it.

It takes several seasons for the basics to be established or perhaps for the writers to find their direction, and in doing so DS9 moves from a standard self-contained episodic format to seasonal plot development. The discovery of the wormhole in the first episode leads inexorably to the discovery of the controlling force within Gamma quadrant (the Dominion) and the Founders as their sinister leaders, through to conflict and eventual full scale war between these two huge, powerful and distant parts of the galaxy.

There's aliens in there

There’s aliens in there

The scale is certainly epic. However, what really impressed me most on a rewatch was the character development. In no other Star Trek series is there such full exploration and evolution in people and their motivations. There are some occasional exceptions, Seven of Nine, Spock, perhaps Picard – but on DS9 the entire crew matures and changes over the course of seven seasons.

Case in point – Miles O’Brien barely left the transporter room in TNG, but on DS9 he became a complex family man. Continually conflicted between his duties as a husband and federation chief (although, truthfully, not very conflicted), Miles developed strongly as a character, and as a friend.

Miles O'Brien

I think he occasionally forgets he’s married

Julian Bashir starts out year one as a bright, ambitious, funny and arrogant doctor – eager to be a hero at the front line. By seasons six and seven he is older, drawn and exhausted. Still retaining his core of enthusiasm and determination, but with his genetically engineered background exposed and his arrogance tested repeatedly, he is a changed man.

Dr Julian Bashir

He’s very deep. And cute

Kira, so recently part of the resistance of the occupation of Bajor and staunchly opposed to Federation presence on DS9, eventually became a loyal supporter of Sisko and Star Fleet, while maintaining her strongly religious motivations and deep patriotism. Jadzia and Worf developed a poignant, and heated relationship in the heat of battle. Odo, the changeling, sacrificed so much for the love of a Solid. Jake Sisko grew from a frightened young boy, into a brave and determined writer. And of course Benjamin Sisko, the confident commander of a far flung space station, eventually came to accept his true role as emissary of the prophets.

Garak and Quark demonstrate that DS9 was particularly adept at developing characters that were not at all simple in their motivations, that were at times hard to like (yet so easy to like).


Not such a simple tailor


Such a likeable little misogynist

Interestingly, while I did love Dukat and his portrayal by Marc Alaimo, I have to confess that I felt that they overreached his development. From leader of the occupation of Bajor, through to occasional ally, father of a Cardassian / Bajoran little girl, lover of Kira Nerys’ mother, legate of Cardassia, responsible for the alliance with the Dominion to his eventual possession by Pah-wraith (twice no less)  – it all seemed a little too much and a little too convenient. But still, he was certainly interesting to watch.

Probably my favourite of all, was a young boy who started out on the station trading self-sealing stem-bolts, playing practical jokes and stealing. Later, he was the first of his species to join Star Fleet, became battle hardened and respected, while still maintaining his true sneaky Ferengi roots in the midst of battle – Lieutenant Junior Grade, Nog.


Let’s not ask why he’s touching his ears here

Seven seasons of DS9 – it was an epic few weeks. Even if you’ve seen it once, then I recommend a full rewatch. How do you feel about DS9?

And now, for me, it’s on to Voyager!


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ESO Preview

If I have any favourite game genre, it’s RPGs. I’ve been fond of the occasional MMO, and I’ve even done my time in WoW, but nothing will compare to the immersiveness of an RPG like Mass Effect, Neverwinter, Dragon Age, or my all time favourite game, Morrowind.

While the art design in Elder Scrolls was a little weird, from the Morrowind landscape through to the strange flat character design in Oblivion, the the history and culture of the world was so extremely massive, uniquely open and complete down to the tiniest details. And later, there was Skyrim where finally the environmental rendering (and my graphics card) seemed to do justice to the original conceptualisation.

Morrowind Silt Strider

Morrowind Silt Strider. See, weird

Oblivion Character Inventory

Oblivion. What a hero

All that said, I wasn’t originally enthusiastic about ESO. I am such a big fan of the series, a little dubious about MMOs and there’s been a lot of media hype about the $200M budget and the recipe for disaster that could end up being. But, as the day of launch draws nearer and my friends and I look for an MMO experience together again, we have taken up the recent ESO beta weekends. By the end of playtime on the second weekend I managed to level my Kitty… er.. Khajit to level 8.

Elder Scrolls Online - Screenshot Dungeon

Me and my Clanfear, Cuddles, exploring

The landscape is alive, the towns feel busy, and the quests are reasonably complex in that Elder Scrolls style. I particularly like the Elder Scrolls gameplay mechanics that they’ve managed to translate into the MMO world, like core skills that level purely as you use them and interesting skill trees that manage to avoid the standard MMO tropes.

Elder Scrolls Online - outside environment

Unexpected sights everywhere

There’s a lot to pull you in, a really complete gameworld to explore, and a lot to look forward to from PvP and crafting.

On the down side, phasing made for an awkward grouping experience. Geek boy and I started playing at slightly different times, and that made it difficult, if not impossible, to group effectively.

Elder Scrolls Online - Screenshot Caravan

Helping out a queen

The availability of an early cheap mount made getting around a little easier, but navigation was a little clunky. A lack of visible quest givers (replaced instead with less intrusive quest markers) was a nice kind nice change though. Floating quest indicators have always been immersion killers.

Elder Scrolls Online - Screenshot Ghostly


I suspect the cost is going to be a major impediment to many. In the era of free to play it does seem potentially unsupportable over the long term. But for me right now, it seems like a good place to become a part of and get lost in.

And the final outcome? Well I’ve purchased the Imperial Edition pre-launch. All in all there’s enough here to make it a potentially compelling experience and do not under estimate how beautifully designed it is.

And really, with all the joy it’s given me over the years, I owe it to myself and Elder Scrolls to try.

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10 Sexiest Characters in Star Trek

I’ve been delayed on my Thief review post due to logistical reasons (it’s a long story) and I’ve decided to hold off on my ESO preview until after the most recent Beta weekend is over (patch downloading as we speak!), so in the interim here’s something a bit fun – my review of some of the sexiest characters in Star Trek.

I started watching The Next Generation of Star Trek when I was in my very early teens. At the time I had only eyes for Wesley Crusher (age appropriately). Upon my recent attempt to rewatch the entire Star Trek canon (recently completing TOS and TNG and now on into DS9) I’ve realised how much sexiness there is to be had in Star Trek. Sure, I always knew that Kirk was a flirtatious cad, and that Riker and his trademark smirk were a reach out to the female sci fi demographic, but there was a lot more going on than I realised as a young ‘un.

So here’s my compiled list of the the sexiest of all Star Trek characters… at least according to me.

10. Sisko (Avery Brooks, DS9)

Sisko is a fantastic space station captain, with a wonderful sternness and sophistication in handling the political and cultural milieu of DS9. Under Sisko’s leadership, DS9 turns into a thriving community and an important port on the cusp of a wormhole. And who can resist him in this little musical interlude? https://t.co/q5iJsoj2Mq

Sisko - Avery Brookes in crushed velvet

Is that crushed velvet he’s wearing?

9. Bashir (Alexander Siddig, DS9)

Julian Bashir was always a breath of fresh air. From his original cameo on The Next Generation in Birthright 1 & 2 through to his major role in DS9, he is energetic, entertaining and humorous in that cuddly British way. However, if that was all you could say about Bashir, he would never have made this list. Julian displays that very Star Trek steel core of courage, a strong code of ethics and a determination to ensure the best care for his patients and people of DS9 – and the willingness to do anything required of him to achieve that.

Julian Bashir - Alexander Siddig
I like ’em a little bit rugged

 Equilibrium Julian Bashir - Alexander Siddig

He’s adorable in uniform as well

8. Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell, DS9)

The Trill are a fascinating race, and while essentially being ugly little parasites, their use of a host body seems to guarantee that they are also the sexiest race of all. Indeed, from Jadzia to her later incarnation Ezri, through to Lenara Khan and Odan in TNG, the Trill are a damn fine looking lot. Additionally, the Trill allowed for an interesting exploration of sexuality (given that the sex of the host appears not to matter to the Trill). In that vein, DS9 broadcast one of the first on-screen same-sex kisses of all time.

Jadzia Dax - Terry Farrell

Oh my

Jadzia herself is mature, but kind and affectionate, and by no means two dimensional. Her past lives result in a deep character full of mystery and personality. And here she is in a swimsuit.

Jadzia Jax - Terry Farrell

Yes those spots go all the way down

7. Kirk (William Shatner, TOS)

I have a particular soft spot for Kirk. An obvious ladies man, and dominating of all the romantic escapades during TOS, Kirk did play his Lothario role with a sense of humour. The classic trouble with Tribbles demonstrates his characteristic sexy calmness in the face of adversity, and in the face of the absolutely hysterical.

6. Uhura (Zoe Saldana, Reboot)

Uhura was one of the first on screen roles offered to a woman of African descent in a non-menial role. And Uhura and Kirk featured in the first example of an on screen interracial kiss. I actually wish she’d had a bit more character development of Uhura in TOS, but in the movie reboots Zoe Saldana takes on the role of Uhura as one of the central characters. And she’s badass.

Zoe Saldana Uhura

Uhura was wonderful in TOS as well, but she’s a little leggier here

5. T’Pol (Jolene Blalock, Enterprise)

Enterprise is not my favourite series in the Star Trek canon, and I even admit to not having seen all episodes (though I do hope to remedy this soon). But T’Pol is a shining light, both in her portrayal but also in the storyline given to her. The most emotional of all Vulcans, T’Pol struggles with the friction between her Vulcan upbringing and her Starfleet career.

And she looks great in a skin tight uniform.

Jolene Blalock T'Pol  Photo: James Sorenson

What is it about Vulcans?

4. Spock (Leonard Nimoy, TOS and Zachary Quinto, Reboot)

There’s nothing overtly physically sexy about TOS Spock, but there’s just something so infuriatingly logical and determined about him. His aloof and mysterious character is compelling. He also has to be one of the most frequently occurring characters from his role in TOS, a cameo in TNG, a crossover episode in which he appears in DS9 (Trouble with Tribbles) and appearance in later films.

Spock - Leonard Nimoy

Love the beard

The reprised version of Spock by Zachary Quinto in the reboot movies is very well executed and Zachary brings a more modern and very definite sex appeal to the role.

Spock Zachery Quinto

Leonard will always be the true Spock, but Zachary is just as sexy

3. Riker (Jonathan Frakes, TNG)

I don’t remember being particularly fond of Riker when I first watched TNG. He was always just so very down the line starfleet. He was a terrible flirt, going from romance to romance, while stealing kisses from Deanna at every opportunity along the way. But these days, when I’m a little closer to the right age group, I can certainly see his appeal. He’s always the first to put himself in danger to defend others, to lead the away team and to stay loyal to his friends and captain.

Oh and that little smirk he has.

Riker Jonathan Frakes - Vengeance smirk

Oh that little smirk

2. 7 of 9 Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01 (Jeri Ryan, Voy)

Seven will always be my favourite Star Trek character. As an amazingly smart and self confident woman, Seven never pandered to anyone. She said it how she saw it, and she was absolutely my role model at the time.

Day of Honor 7 of 9 Jeri Ryan

A quintessential 7 of 9 expression

And while you could object to the strong sexualisation of women in tight spandex starfleet uniforms, Seven was always someone you respected, and were perhaps a little bit afraid of. While being, frankly, sex on legs.

hopeandfear 7 of 9 Jeri Ruan

An action shot

thegift 7 of 9 Jeri Ryan

Still sexy as Borg? um…

1. Picard (Patrick Stewart, TNG)

Ah Picard. Old enough to be my father. As a captain, Picard is amazingly sexy. So very much in command, demanding respect and loyalty with a delightful crankiness. I always imagined that being in a relationship with Picard, however, would probably be as dull as dishwater and primarily involve discussions on Mozart, Shakespeare and obscure archaeological finds. But he tops my list today, purely because of his appearance in tiny tiny little shorts in ‘Captain’s Holiday’.

Picard Patrick Stewart

He’s all captain

Picard Patrick Stewart

Such a tough archeologist

Jean Luc Picard - Patrick Stewart on Risa

Picard. In tiny little shorts.

Picard and Vash Robin Hood

Robin Hood is sexy. Right?

That was a delightful little blog post to write, and a reminder of some of the most wonderful things about Star Trek to me. I have probably left off some of your favourites (perhaps you are thinking where’s Worf – that romantic little devil? or Data the fully functional?).

What do you think? Who do you find the sexiest Star Trek character of all?

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Isaac Asimov – Author Review

I took a while to warm up to Asimov, and that’s the right word, because Asimov isn’t a particularly warm writer. When I was a teenager, there was something archaic and old about his writing style. Sure, the Asimov heyday was in the early 40’s through to the 60’s – way before my time – but I’d been reading Heinlein and Le Guin and others without any problems. It took me until adulthood to recognise his genius.

Writing during the 1940’s (the Golden Age of Science Fiction), Asimov spanned this era, and on into the next (the New Wave) and was hugely influential to both. However, with a bibliography of over 500 fiction and non-fiction books, Asimov can be  a little hard to navigate, so here’s a little journey through that genius.

Mild spoiler warning as always.



Here’s a link to the text

And if you prefer an audio version (skip to 3:30)

Nightfall is a short story in which both science and religion fail to protect mankind from self-destruction. The story is a nice little descent into an other-world scenario, where the fundamental structure of the solar system is very different to ours and results in a different kind of human understanding of the universe. I like these little kinds of social explorations, soft science fiction, a thought experiment showing how people react in different scenarios. Nightfall is one of the quintessential early Asimov texts.

I, Robot


I, Robot - Asaac Azimov

In I, Robot we see the emergence of Asimov’s hard science fiction style and the first reference to the positronic brain of an Android. Here, also, is captured the three laws of robotics for the first time. These are a series of behavioural limitations established for androids to ensure that they can integrate, and service, humanity.  This was the first real imagining of the way that humans could eventually interact with robots, and has paved the way to our imagination and conception of them ever since.


1951-1952 for the core cannon

Foundation - Isaac Asimov

One of the grandest imaginings of an entire and self-contained galactic empire and timescale ever, predicated on the concept of the science of psychohistory. Amazingly this is still a concept that isn’t entirely overdone in Hollywood.

This predictive sociology construct is a little complex and perhaps this is why it took me until adulthood to get into it. Here, Asimov writes like an engineer. While truly visionary, he’s a little a little dry here, but massive in scope and very impressive.

The last question

1956, Available in ‘Nine Tomorrows’

Find the full text here

The message in this short story is that humans are eternally advancing, and as we advance, and it is hard to imagine something outside the parameters of what we already know. It is the exploration of entropy and how we seek to overcome it. While Nightfall is probably the more classic story, I think this one is a neater and a more complete little package.

The Gods Themselves


In The Gods Themselves, very unlikeable human protagonists are involved in a discovery and process of extracting energy out of an alternative dimension. The second chapter focuses on the very alien alternative culture, whom it turns out are exploiting the humans, rather than the reverse. After this becomes obvious, we see that the moral of the novel is that stupidity is one thing that cannot be changed. To be honest it is kind of an infuriating read. This book is a little stodgy, the characters are annoying  and the alien section in the middle is a little out of place. Clearly not my personal favourite, but this is classic Asimov nonetheless.

Black Widowers


I read many of the Black Widowers books in my early teens. It was these books that began my love of reading accounts of maths and science that I couldn’t for the life of me follow, but were fascinating nonetheless. While this is ostensibly tales of a bunch of men sitting around a room talking about puzzles, it is nonetheless science fiction at its finest, full of math and physics and science and mystery.

Bicentennial man

1976 found in ‘The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories’ in the same year, and ‘Robot Visions’ in 1990

Bicentennial man is the story about a too-humanoid robot looking to better himself. Like Data from Star Trek, Andrew is willing to do anything, and even make the ultimate sacrifice to become human.

This also became a not-very-amazing Robin Williams film of the same name, and it is a story of what it truly means to be human. It is, however, not uplifting.

Personally I am looking forward to a film where the androids are happy and enthusiastic about being androids and play well with their human overlords.

Perhaps in 2014 Transcendence will give me that, but it’s really not looking good on that front.

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Be My Valentine – My love affair with games

Throughout my life I’ve had many love affairs. Flings, deep romances, kisses and liaisons and even the occasional romances that have turned dark. For this Valentine’s Day – here are the games that I’ve loved the most.

Leather Goddess of Phobos

Leather Goddesses of Phobos boxart

Lewd mode please

I started playing games in the early 80s. I remember vividly dodging barrels in the original Donkey Kong on a green screen Apple II. But it wasn’t until 1986 or so when my family really got into Infocom adventures that I remember being hooked. Mum drew the maps, Dad did the typing and we all sat and offered up helpful suggestions. Good family fun. There were many games that we played that I loved – Zork, Trinity, Enchanter, Planetfall – but it was the Leather Goddess of Phobos that was my, very secret, love. To start with the pack came with scratch and sniff stickers – and since I was only 10 that really appealed to me. But the really amazing part was that I knew the game was naughty – was a little bit sexy. I also knew that due to parental controls you needed to turn the adult version on. And I knew that word was ‘Lewd’ but I could never figure out how to spell it. So I played, forever teased by what I was missing out on.

At least when Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards came out in the following year I did figure out how to spell prophylactic.

Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge

Wizardry - Bane of the Cosmic Forge

I’ll get you Werdna

The Leather Goddess of Phobos was a fling, but Wizardy was where it got real. I’d played the first Wizardy on the Apple II, but I was probably too young for it back then. In 1990 Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge came along. And this was the game that defined me. I am an RPG girl and always will be. I may explore and enjoy myself out of that genre, but this is where my heart is. Wizardry VI requires the establishment of a party of 6 in a standard 2 fighter, one thief, one priest and two caster configuration – though I played that game through many configurations, populated with faeries and bards and dragonmen. And it was the first game where I shut out the world and did little else.


Morrowind cover art

This represents about 3 months of my life

Of all of them, Morrowind is the ultimate game on this list for me. Since 2002 I’ve sunk over 300 hours into both PC versions and console. I’ve played various races, and completed many complete run throughs. I swear I’ve completed every mission, but the world is so vast it is hard to tell.

There are too many things that make this game great. An amazing story line that’s deep and rich with an entire world of books and objects and dungeons that bring it to life. Every character has an array of conversation options, every city has corridors and shops and differently crafted environments. The locations and geography are beautiful in that weird Elder Scrolls style, and the quests take you artfully through them. Especially for the time, Morrowind is a real achievement in the open, explorable world space.

I hear that there is an Oculus version in development. And if it’s ever released, I’d go running back to it.


Before we go on please play this song in the background while you read

Portal One Box Art

Where’s my cake?

In 2007, the love affair was with GLADOS. The game mechanics were fun, and I’m always excessively fond of games that stretch the definition of gaming and look for new interactions. But GLADOS was interesting, hysterically funny and dark as hell. I wanted my cake, and I was going to get it. It’s one of the best put together games of all time. Many games these days are clearly packaged with hitting the market at the right point that people will pay for it, but this game, I loved it, and you can just tell that Valve loved it as well.

Mass Effect 2

Thane Krios

Sexy sexy lizard man thing

Please let’s forget the time that Mass Effect 3 tore up my heart and poured acid on it and focus on 2, released in 2010. While it’s a great game, it’s not for the gameplay in general that it’s in my Valentine’s list, but rather due to the love affair that I had inside of it. I played a female Shepard obviously, and she was bald and gaunt and tough and lovely. I’d played Mass Effect 1, and the memory of my brief romance with Kaiden Alenko was still weighing on my mind (and my goodness, but I still remember my heart fluttering after our liaison), but in 2 I found myself deeply involved in a passionate romance with an alien lizard assassin – Thane Krios. It was amazingly well done, and was quite affecting.


Borderlands cover art

The ultimate date night

Later in 2010 I played Borderlands, and this game is not on the list because of how much I loved it. It’s a great game, massively fun and action packed with a decent sense of humour. But it is on this list because I’d met Geek Boy a few months before, and I think this experience is when we knew we were meant to be together. We spent full weekends, drinking beer, me weilding shotgun and Geek Boy driving us through the comic style landscape. Amazing time.


If you’re done with GLADOS you could try playing this in the background for the rest of the article.

Skyrim Combat

Eat a loaf of bread, eat a loaf of bread, eat a loaf of bread, eat a cheese wheel

After my experience with Morrowind, I’d been looking forward to the fourth in the series with anticipation. In 2011 Skyrim came into my life. I was head-over-heels, obsessed. I started dreaming about it, thinking about it every hour, every second.

And then it started to turn dark. With it’s influence I started getting involved in things way over my head, the dark brotherhood, cannibalistic cults, murdering orphanage caretakers.

It was fantastic.

Who knows when the next dalliance will be, but I’m due for a good romance. I am hoping Garrett (see my Thief: 2014 reboot preview) will be my Valentine this year, but we’ll see.

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Cheese Making – Kitchen Chemistry

I have a love of science. I read books I don’t understand, I buy New Scientist, I watch documentaries and I love the pseudo-science speak on Star Trek.

But I am not a scientist so I don’t really get a lot of opportunities to create my own science experiments. Today I did. Today, I made cheese.

What I didn’t realise is how remarkably easy it is. With a few gallons of milk and some culture starters, a thermometer and a really big pot, you can essentially mix yourself up a nice Feta, Cheddar, Kase, or Brie.

Very large pots filled with milk

Very large pots

For cheddar, simply heat your milk (today’s materials were provided by a very kind lady cow called Lydia), in the biggest pot you’ve ever seen in your life, to approximately the same temperature as the inside of whatever animal it came from. This process prompted the discussion of the likely temperature and flavour of goat, sheep and alpaca, and a quick discussion of the feasibility of creating our own line of specialty Llama cheese.

From there, add enough culture until your milk precipitates into a solid.

Solids precipitating

Solids precipitating

Re-heat and then stir until it becomes completely stiff.

Draining curds in a sieve

Eating curds, but not whey

Strain it, break it up into little pieces, add some sodium chloride and then and then put it into a large home-made contraption that looks something like this:

A homemade cheese press

Using a little bit of physics as well

We didn’t get to eat our lovely cheddar unfortunately, as it takes several weeks to mature. Luckily our kindly cheese maker had prepared some for us earlier, and which was duly subjected to gastronomical ingestion.

The lab, and some presolidified cheesy matter

The lab, and some presolidified cheesy matter

Cheese making is a simple enough chemistry experiment, butter even easier. The only real impediment being the purchase of complicated laboratory equipment, such as a sieve, a couple of blocks of wood, muslin cloth and perhaps a nice little cheese fridge.

I love science, and I love girly pursuits. I particularly like combining the two through kitchen chemistry.

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Doctor Who – best of the best

I’ll admit the answer to who is the best Doctor isn’t a simple one. I posed a slightly controversial question on my twitter feed, and it was @peijing15 who said it right “I think every doctor is great in their separate way”. That’s mostly true (you’ll see my personal exception below). But we all have our favourites.

Firstly who isn’t in my list?  Well first, there’s doctor number seven, Sylvester Mccoy, because he was awful and ruined my childhood (forgive a little hyperbole). Paul McGann who I admit I have never seen as the Doctor, but was very good in Withnail and I. I haven’t included Jon Pertwee as the third doctor because he was just so damn serious. Also missing are the first and second doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton who were a little before my time and the sixth doctor, Colin Baker because I never really understood him. Lastly, Peter Capaldi isn’t here for obvious reasons, and I am a little nervous about all that.

The fifth Doctor – Peter Davison

The Tenth Doctor to the Fifth: “The hat, the coat the crickety cricket stuff, the stick of celery, yeah, brave choice celery, but fair play to you, not everyone can carry off a decorative vegetable.”

Peter Davison looking for a spot of Cricket

The fifth doctor looking for a spot of Cricket

My mother loved Tristan from All Creatures Great and Small on British television just prior to Peter’s take up of the role from Tom Baker in 1981. So I loved him, and I think he pretty much carried the character through from that series into this role. But he was young and enthusiastic, and looked terribly smart in his cricketer’s outfit, dashing about. Minus the celery. And the strange question marks on his collar.

It was a bit of a thrill to see the doctor’s five and ten together, with the heartwarming tribute to Peter’s doctor by his son in law, seen here in ‘Time Crash’

The War Doctor – John Hurt

The War Doctor on Doctors Ten, Eleven and himself: “Great men are forged in fire, it is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame”

War Doctor - John Hurt

A big decision to make, John

There was something very human about John Hurt’s portrayal of the War Doctor – the Doctor who makes a choice to sacrifice his own people for the greater good. His humanity is something that often appears absent in his compatriots and it was used to make the hardest choice – a choice that in some ways ended up being futile, and in other ways was the bravest and kindest of all acts.

Here’s a nice little clip from John to segue into his successor.

The ninth Doctor – Christopher Eccleston

The Ninth Doctor on himself: “I’m a Time Lord. I’m the last of the Time Lords. They’re all gone. I’m the only survivor. I’m left traveling on my own because there’s no one else.”

The ninth Doctor - Christopher Eccleston

A suave ninth Doctor

With his swish leather jacket and large northern accent and demeanor, Christopher was fantastic.  I must admit he took a little getting used to in the role – he was tough and rough and brash, but he was the recent regeneration of the man who ended the timelords, so perhaps that’s forgivable.

The dynamic character arc between he and Rose Tyler eventually brought out his humanity. And eventually the ninth Doctor found himself unable to give up Rose, and his love for her.

The eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

The War Doctor to the eleventh: “Are you capable of speaking without flapping your hands about?”

Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith

A nice looking bowtie

I simply could not forgive Matt Smith for the longest time for not being David. He was young and energetic and carried on dreadfully. He acquired affectations like that damn fez, and his bow tie which was almost as bad as a stick of celery. Amy Pond, while sweet and awkward as a young girl, was a whiny and demanding as an adult. I sulked.

But eventually he grew on me, massively. Helped along by fantastic series writing, Matt has become one of my most favourite of the Doctors. He is genuine and fresh and has the biggest sonic screwdriver of them all.

The fourth Doctor – Tom Baker

Sarah Jane Smith on (presumably) the fourth Doctor: “Does he still stroke bits of the Tardis?”

Fourth Doctor Tom Baker

What do you mean my scarf looks silly?

To me Tom Baker is the quintessential Doctor. He’s smart, funny and eccentric. His massive scarf is characteristic without being entirely trite and ridiculous, and he comes with free candy. He and his companion, the ever lovely Sarah Jane Smith (I’m sure she ages half the pace as the rest of us), were the stereotypical time travelling duo.

This Doctor was also very clearly a Timelord, a commanding alien being that never truly connects with his human companions, regardless of how much he cares for them. He’s whimsical and funny but also capable of very dark moments.

Here’s a lovely video tribute.

The tenth Doctor – David Tennant

The eleventh Doctor on the tenth: “How very skinny, that is proper skinny. I’ve never seen it from the outside, it’s like a special effect, matchstick man.”

A scruffy and playful pose - the tenth Doctor

A scruffy and playful pose – the tenth Doctor

And so at the end of the list is, for me, the best doctor. David manages to exhibit all of the most interesting and exciting characteristics of the Doctor. He’s crazy, brooding, hysterically funny, and deeply, seriously intent on saving the universe. And he brings that same divine intensity to his love for Rose Tyler, the ultimate companion for the ultimate Doctor.

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WoW – Retrospective

My friends play World of Warcraft.

I remember when one friend first started. We’ll call her K. That was over 3 years ago now, but still it was late in the day to be picking up World of Warcraft – a game that’s been around since 2004. K had never really played online games before and very little games otherwise. She didn’t even play D&D.

I was playing back then as well. It was my third time delving into the world, and Geek Boy and I had decided to roll from level 1 and jump in. We convinced K to do the same, I’m not even sure how.

And oh my god, the learning curve. K wasn’t even familiar with the basic operations of using both the keyboard and the mouse at the same time. We would laugh long and hard over Skype watching her using the arrow keys to turn her toon inches at a time. Watching her run into dangerous situations, die, run her ghost back only to die again. Seeing her get horribly lost in caves and instances and be forced to find fetch her back to somewhere familiar.

Group picture of our party, WoW - Outland

Group picture of party, WoW – Outland

Somewhere along the line several of our other friends joined us. Girls for the most part, but a couple of boys as well. Some were old hands, but they were mostly WoW newbies, and several who had never played any kind of game at all. We joined a guild, we rolled new level one toons to make sure we had a good party construct and could level up the new ones- we taught them all about DPS and healing and downloaded mods and UIs.

Group picture of Boss, WoW - Outland

Picture of Boss, WoW – Outland

And slowly up we climbed to level 80. Eventually we were a pretty tightly oiled machine. We bargained about the various raids we wanted to do, discussed gear, checked our mods for DPS and healing rates and entered the end game. And by then, K was out-healing me.

It was then that Geek Boy and I got tired of WoW. We’d been playing a year or more, and this wasn’t the first time for us. The game had changed, as end games do. There were serious and detailed discussions about gearscore versus skill, about using useful skills and positioning versus DPS output and stats, about coordinating raid nights and not being late. And it became something more about the numbers than the fun, for us.

I played once or twice afterwards, and they were coordinating large scale raids. Years later they’ve formed their own guild, and after D&D on Sunday’s they still need to leave early to be on time for their raids. It hasn’t stopped at WoW, because together we’ve played TSW, Guild Wars 2 and SWOTR and then the whole geekyness lead to D&D later.

So my friends play World of Warcraft and I don’t. But I am responsible and that’s a good thing.

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The Stanley Parable – review

I originally objected to The Stanley Parable because I’d played the demo. That lead me to avoid a game that should speak to me as a genre. It is interactive fiction and that’s where my obsession with games started, way back with Zork and Adventure. It’s also got a massive metacritic score.

Picture from Zork's interface

Text Adventures – Zork

Well, I didn’t hate the demo – but I did hate the narrator and humour. It was trying so terribly hard to be funny and it was no GLADOS parallel.

But then I kept reading in forums I trust, and on sites I enjoy, that it is a truly different and fabulous experience so I decided to give it another go. I was really hoping it was not going to be another Gone Home experience – a game which got a similar kind of hype and was one of the most fantastically dull experiences in game playing ever. I may overstate, but the whole thing annoyed me. Did these writers not play the massively more immersive and interesting text and point-n-click adventures of the 70’s and 80’s?

This is Gone Home:

And so I bought and played The Stanley Parable. I really want to like this game. I want there to be more of these differently told games, with interesting gameplay and ideas that don’t conform to the standard tropes. With the coming day-of-the-Oculus there will be definite demand and excitement about this kind of genre. Imagine interactive storytelling with other NPCs – perhaps with the kind of intensity that you sometimes get with interactions in Mass Effect or Dragon Age, or imagine the type of exploratory atmosphere that Myst had when it first came out, or even Portal 1 and that we will hopefully find in The Witness later this year.

I didn’t find much of this in The Stanley Parable. I liked elements of it, there’s a bit of a darkness and a poignancy sure, which I’m fond of in my story telling. And in some ways it is vaguely amusing. I also understand that there is supposed to be a sense of the unknown and unknowable and a lack of defined plot that it’s intended to be fun. But I don’t like the feeling of exploring corridors and not understanding if I am simply going to be seeing repeated content or new and slightly changed plot lines, milking the thing dry for the last droll line.

The Stanley Parable - Stanley's Office

Stanley’s office – you will see this a lot

I also wish I had bought the thing during a Steam sale. Even if you’re more receptive to the humour than I, the length of play itself just simply isn’t worth the cost. If the humour isn’t your thing and you are in the mood for an interesting version of a corridor-running puzzle and exploration game – you should try Antichamber. But don’t pay full price for that either.

Antichamber screenshot

Antichamber – more fun than The Stanley Parable

What were your thoughts on The Stanley Parable?

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Geek Girl Review Refresh is Live!

Firstly – welcome to the launch of Geek Girl Review! We’re finally live and I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to a new year of blogging on all things girly and geeky. I’ll continue to bring you updates on games, books, technology, and other girly geeky things – and hopefully up the genre a little with some domestic biology and kitchen chemistry.

By the way – this is me:

Geek Girl likes LEDs

Geek Girl likes LEDs

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