Star Wars: Obi-Wan – Original Xbox Game Review

Star Wars games are like Star Trek movies – they’re either really good or monumentally bad. Occasionally, though, you get something like Star Trek: First Contact, an exception among the norm of polarising quality that is good in some ways and terrible in others. For Star Wars, undoubtedly that distinction goes to Star Wars: Obi-Wan. Released in 2001, this game has been brushed under the rug for the most part in the wake of the release of later Star Wars games like Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Star Wars: Battlefront and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy that far outstripped it in terms of quality and fan reception. Nonetheless, there are still aspects of this game that are unique and it is perhaps not entirely deserved of its status as a really bad Star Wars game. But before elaborating on the aspects of this game that are good, the elephant in the room must first be addressed.

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The Controls and Mechanics

This game suffers from terrible controls and mechanics that, if corrected, would increase this game’s fun factor and replay-ability immensely. Some of the major issues include the fact that Obi-Wan himself injures far too easily, health is often hard to come by, many encounters leave the player overwhelmed and out of options, the lightsaber controls are awful (and were thankfully never repeated in any other Star Wars game on consoles), and the camera controls were prehistoric. Of these, one of the most important is the lightsaber controls – the idea of using a thumbstick to swing a lightsaber is interesting, and given more time and better execution the idea could have made the game something truly special. Unfortunately, the mechanic is implemented into this game without any real thought or care, and it often makes encounters far harder as that extra layer of precision needed to effectively block and swing often cause unnecessary damage to the player. Speaking of which, the health system in the game required the implementation of a ‘Force Heal’ ability – many levels are made far too difficult with the lack of flexibility and overly harsh punishment of bad strategy.

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The Level Design

Moving on from the obvious Achilles Heel that this game suffers from, the level design throughout is actually quite good. Aside from a few clunkers around the Naboo sections in which it can be difficult to easily see which is the correct path, often the levels are large and expansive enough that exploration is rewarded, something that is often valued in action-adventure games. The is also some great variation in the location and style of the various levels – one is set on a skyscraper and involves a lot of vertical gameplay, another is an expansive exploration of a sinister swamp, and of course the iconic locations of Naboo, Tatooine and Coruscant make an appearance. There are several instances of the level design showing considerable neglect, however, such as the the missions in the Trade Federation Control Ship that essentially amount to repeating corridors and the dozens of times you are catapulted back to Coruscant to face several functionally identical Jedi Masters in the same bland arena.

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The Story

Interestingly, Star Wars: Obi-Wan tries to expand on the story of The Phantom Menace, to the extent that it is several levels in before we reach the opening of the first Star Wars prequel. The game adds in a few interesting plot developments, such as how the Black Heth and the Jin’ha are in secret cohorts with both each other and the Trade Federation, how Queen Amidala was briefly kidnapped by Tusken Raiders whilst Qui-Gon first encountered Anakin, and how Obi-Wan and the others managed to sneak back into the Naboo city so easily. The game also adds other tantalising mouthfuls of pre-prequel lore in the form of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s conflict with the Black Heth and later the Jin’ha. An odd quirk with this game is the voice acting – Obi-Wan has a Scottish accent and talks like he has a blocked nose for some reason, and many of the game’s NPCs sound as thought they are delivering their lines at gunpoint. Then again, it is that easy to accidentally kill NPCs that maybe they are right to be scared of this poorly-rendered Obi-Wan imposter.

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The Enemies

Star Wars: Obi-Wan has a vast variety of enemies spread across its various levels, from Battle Droids to Tusken Raiders. If this game does anything well, it’s keeping the encounters varied and interesting. The earlier levels see Obi-Wan go up against simple thugs, which later evolves into a conflict with the more advanced Jin’ha soldiers. By the time the player encounters the Trade Federation, they will already be veterans with the game’s unique combat system, and even after the game intersects with the story of The Phantom Menace it finds ways of introducing new enemy varieties – the Tatooine section that pits Obi-Wan against Tusken Raiders is a notable example of the game throwing a curve-ball at the player with its unique variety.

To Conclude

Maybe Star Wars: Obi-Wan isn’t as bad as everyone remembers. Whilst it does definitely suffer from poor mechanics, the game is enjoyable if it’s flaws can be overlooked. Although it is not among the best of the Star Wars games, it is still among the more interesting side of the Star Wars game pantheon.

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Star Wars – The Aftermath of ‘The Last Jedi’

Following the release of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, the Star Wars fanbase fractured as many fans labelled this film the worst that the franchise had ever seen. Whilst there were and are many Star Wars fans who will defend the film and the direction that Disney is taking the franchise, it is now undeniable that Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm will go down as one of the most controversial events in the history of modern science fiction. Since the eradication of the original Legends canon, the new lore that Disney has introduced has seen the entire plot of the post-Return of the Jedi era of Star Wars reworked from a hopeful and steady continuation of the adventures of Luke, Han and Leia to a tragic dissolution of the Jedi Order, the New Republic and the marriage between Han and Leia – a decision that has definitely rubbed many fans the wrong way. Gone are fan favourites like Kyle Katarn, Mara Jade Skywalker, and Jacen and Jaina Solo, and even some characters from the expanded universe that had nothing to do with the post-ROTJ era at all, such as Darth Revan and Bastila Shan from the KOTOR series. The question remains – was all of this loss from the vast and diverse Star Wars canon worth it for what Disney has given us since?

Before we answer that question, it is important to note two things – first, anyone who wishes can still experience Star Wars Legends in all its glory, as the rebranding of the original canon into Legends has been accompanied with re-releases of the novels featuring the ‘Legends’ brand, and Disney have no desire to wipe the original canon of Star Wars from the face of the planet as many of the old comics and games are still available to buy at retailers. Secondly, the new story that Disney has written is just that – a story. Regardless of how one might feel towards The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Star Wars has always inspired children and the new films have continued to do just that, meaning that their existence can never be truly written off as a waste of time and effort despite negative fan reaction to the more recent Disney Star Wars products.

Yet the issue remains – Disney’s Star Wars is controversial among fans, and it cannot be denied that specific aspects of the brand such the Star Wars video games have suffered a decline in quality under Disney’s rule – or rather, EA’s rule, since Disney licensed Star Wars games exclusively to the controversial publisher – with titles like the new Star Wars: Battlefront and it’s sequel being poorly received due to EA’s blatant attempts at money-grabbing. Microtransactions, a system that essentially amounts to luck-based gambling with real money in video games that was introduced to mobile games but has since spread to all corners of the gaming world, were one of the main issues with the new EA Star Wars games – gone are the days of open sandboxes, diverse heroes and characters and dozens of playable maps, now much of the content in EA’s Star Wars games are locked behind paywalls. This obvious drain on the ‘soul’ of Star Wars may seem ironic considering George Lucas has always treated the franchise as a mass-marketable cash-cow, but something about the apparent lack of respect for the franchise, its history, and the great games that came before have had many fans up in arms demanding that EA lose their exclusive rights to make Star Wars games to allow other, more passion-driven developers to take the helm.

Moving back to the cinematic side of the Star Wars franchise, so far Disney have released four Star Wars movies since 2015 – that’s one each year – and for many the Star Wars ‘burnout’ is a pressing problem. Fans of Star Wars are used to waiting for their movies – there were 3 years between each of the movies in the original trilogy, that were released between 1977 and 1983, and a gap of 16 years between the original trilogy and the prequels, which also released 3 years apart from each other. Under Disney’s rule, each main Star Wars film releases two years apart, with the year in between being filled by an ‘anthology’ film (more on those later) meaning that the once sporadic and highly anticipated release of a Star Wars film has been reduced to a yearly event in a transparent attempt by Disney to turn Star Wars into a bloated cinematic universe akin to the Marvel movie franchise. Whilst a cinematic universe suits the vast cast of characters that Marvel has under its belt after 50 years, the ultimate irony is that this marketing strategy would only have worked for Disney had they kept the original expanded universe intact – Revan: A Star Wars Story would only work if the pre-established continuity of Darth Revan still existed, which in the new canon, it doesn’t. Hardcore fans can take solace in the fact that, by eliminating the original canon, Disney have seriously shot themselves in the foot.

Oddly, however, the two ‘anthology’ movies that have been released by Disney have been excellent – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a fantastically made love letter to A New Hope that doesn’t blatantly rip off its plot like The Force Awakens did, and Solo: A Star Wars Story is surprisingly good despite the fact that it’s poor performance at the box office. The unfortunate truth, however, is that the relative quality of the ‘anthology’ movies only serves to frustrate fans who wish that the same care and attention had been put into The Last Jedi, as Rian Johnson’s incongruous attempts to make his mark on the franchise in the middle of a three-act trilogy have made the future of the sequel trilogy uncertain. Fans knew where they stood with J.J. Abram’s new interpretation of Star Wars, but Rian Johnson seemed to go out of his way to subvert viewer’s expectations with The Last Jedi to the extent that the film tries too hard to be not what J.J. Abrams would have done, sabotaging many of J.J.’s open-ended plot threads like Supreme Leader Snoke, Rey’s parentage and Luke’s character arc to such an extent that The Last Jedi is a deflating and thoroughly disappointing follow-up to J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. 

While views on both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi differ across the far-reaching spectrum of the Star Wars fanbase, the most obvious conclusion is that the former is superior to the latter. Whilst The Force Awakens stuck to the basic plot of A New Hope almost beat-for-beat, it was in keeping with the spirit of Star Wars and was generally better received than its sequel, which divided the fanbase on release and has received ratings lower than The Phantom Menace in several rankings. The question remains – what can Disney do to resolve this problem and help re-unify the Star Wars fanbase? Clearly everything hinges on Episode IX – amid rumours that Disney are delaying all other Star Wars projects, it seems that the follow up to The Last Jedi will have a lot to prove. Getting J.J. Abrams back as director was a good choice, but it may be too little too late as many Star Wars fans are considering boycotting Episode IX entirely. Clearly, therefore, Disney should consider the fan-favourite suggestions of a standalone Obi-Wan movie starring Ewan McGregor, set between Episodes III and IV, as Obi-Wan himself represents a well-liked character in the franchise who is more deserving of a spinoff than a significantly more minor character like Boba Fett. Outside of the movies, Disney should consider re-canonising many of the now ‘Legends’ games and stories – characters like Revan who existed thousands of years before the events of the Star Wars saga deserve a comeback in the new canon. EA should pay closer attention to Star Wars games that succeeded in the past, focusing specifically on why fans loved them so much, and how EA can emulate the more fun-loving and less money-grabbing feel of 2000s Star Wars games.

It would seem, therefore, that in the aftermath of Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars and the release of The Last Jedi, the future of the Star Wars franchise is uncertain. However, provided Disney, EA and Lucasfilm learn from their more recent mistakes and aim to improve their handling of the Star Wars franchise in the future, it may yet not be too late to restore the brand to its former glory.

 

Halo – SPV3 – CMT’s Re-Masterpiece

As Halo mods go, you can’t get much better than SPV3. Custom Mapping Team, headed by Masterz1337, have created nothing short of a masterpiece with their fantastic re-imagining of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s campaign. Downloadable for free on PC, SPV3 features many interesting surprises for even the most hardened Halo veteran, thanks to remastered graphics, new assets, new weapons and vehicles, and in some cases totally re-imagined levels with new playspaces to explore. As if all that were not enough, the mod also features new enemy types including Brutes, Skirmishers, Sniper Jackals, Honor Guards three different types of Hunters. With so much in this mod, it can be hard to summarise totally in one article, so this may not be the only time this mod features as a topic in the future. For this introduction, the focus will be the new features of this mod that stand out the most when compared with both Halo: Combat Evolved and it’s Anniversary version.

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The Music

One of the first aspects of this mod that jumps out at you is the music. Whilst Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’s soundtrack mostly stuck to the tunes featured in the original game, SPV3’s soundtrack draws from various other Halo games and many of the remasters are radically different from their original counterparts. Whilst many of the classic musical cues in the levels we remember make a return, the mod adds enough new music to make each level feel like an entirely new experience. Highlights of the soundtrack include Under Cover of Night, Rock Anthem for Saving the World, Halo, Sleeping Grunts, Covenant Dance, Leonidas, Brothers in Arms and In Amber Clad, but each and every track in the game has been painstakingly and quite spectacularly enhanced for this updated Halo campaign.

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The New Levels

The most exciting of the new additions to the campaign in SPV3 is the new levels, as each and every one has had its weapons, objectives, encounters and atmospheres altered or expanded in various ways. The Anti-Gravity sections in The Pillar of Autumn, the Anti-Air Wraith battle in Halo and the Grizzly rampage in Assault on the Control Room are among the most notable stark enhancements to the campaign’s fun factor, and long-time fans of Halo: Combat Evolved who know the game inside out will be met with many wonderful surprises when playing through SPV3’s campaign as the familiar and the unfamiliar collide in a thrilling single player experience. With all ten of the original levels plus an alternate take on The Silent Cartographer featuring in SPV3, there are a vast variety of classic and brand-new enemy encounters to overcome and dozens of tweaks to each and every facet of the original Halo experience.

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The Covenant

In the original version of Halo: Combat Evolved, there were four Covenant races featured – Elites, Grunts, Jackals and Hunters, with some of these having variants such as the Jackal Major, the Stealth Elite and the infamous Zealots. SPV3, on the other hand, has the benefit of hindsight – since Halo: Combat Evolved‘s release, various other Covenant races and variants have been introduced into the franchise such as Jackal Snipers, Elite Honor Guards, Skirmishers and Brutes, and thanks to the power of mods all of these and more are featured in SPV3’s campaign, as well as a vast variety of new Covenant weapons like the Focus Rifle, the Brute Plasma Rifle, the Brute Shot and even Halo 5’s ‘Voi. Also, the CMT have created many of their own totally new Covenant weapons that blend seamlessly into the aesthetic of the game, such as the Shredder (a Brute version of the Needler), the Particle Carbine (like the standard Carbine but battery powered) and the Brute Plasma Pistol (which includes an overcharge that spews fire upon impact). These additions to the Covenant make them more dynamic enemies to fight and the vast variety makes for some challenging encounters with larger groups of enemies that the original Halo: Combat Evolved would have struggled to process.

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The Flood

Another big surprise in SPV3 is just how much the Flood have changed in this mod compared to the original game, as they are now a more dynamic threat than ever before. Each of the five Flood levels have been totally reworked from the ground up – the original identity of levels like The Library, Keyes and The Maw have been retained but the mood and atmosphere have been altered considerably, essentially transforming the latter half of the game into a unique and exhilarating horror experience. Levels that were formerly bogged down by repetitive level design and unimaginative encounters have now been re-imagined into some of the best Halo experiences, and this is made all the more exciting by the wide variety of forms the Flood can take in this mod. In the original game, the Flood came in four basic forms – the tiny Infection Forms, the bloated and explosive Carrier Forms and the two varieties of Combat Form, derived from either Elite or Human host bodies. In SPV3, new additions to the Flood ranks include Jackal Forms that howl and screech as they leap towards the player, Brute Forms that are essentially tankier versions of the standard Combat Forms and, for the first time in a Halo game, ODST Combat Forms that are stronger and more dangerous versions of the standard Human Combat Form. If all this were not enough, CMT went one step further and added Halo 3’s instantaneous infection feature, meaning that any Covenant or Human soldiers that are attacked by an Infection Form will be transformed into a Flood form before your very eyes.

In Conclusion

Those out there who are Halo fans and have not yet given SPV3 a go are strongly advised to download this mod, it has clearly had a lot of time, care and effort put into it to make it fun and fresh for fans of Halo: Combat Evolved and the Halo series in general.

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Doctor Who – Ranking the Masters

Over the years the role of the Doctor’s arch-nemesis has been played by a diverse range of actors and although some have had far more time in the part than others, all have made unique contributions to defining the role of the villainous character. But after nearly ten incarnations of the beloved villain, how to they rank against each other?

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9 – Peter Pratt

Having only played the Master in one televised story, The Deadly Assassin, Peter Pratt is perhaps the least-known of the Master actors, particularly since his face was obscured by the gruesome mask that depicts this incarnation’s decayed appearance. His role in the episode in which he appears is brief, but significant – by engineering a conspiracy on Gallifrey, the Master attempts to steal the Sash of Rassilon and restore his damaged body. During this scheme he encounters the Fourth Doctor several times, and there are some great scenes between Petetr Pratt and Tom Baker. Unfortunately, due to the restrictive nature of the costume, Pratt doesn’t really get a chance to make the role his own – particularly since half the time it is difficult to understand what he is saying. In the end this incarnation resorts to ranting and raving, and whilst that is not unusual for the Master, Pratt never really gets the chance to portray any of the nuance of the character.

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8 – Eric Roberts

Unlike Paul McGann, who returned to Doctor Who following his part in the 1996 TV Movie in the form of Big Finish Audios the same decade, Eric Roberts left it a little longer before returning to reprise his role in the Audios – a pity really, since he did actually show promise during the TV Movie. Whilst there were undoubtedly issues with the direction of the Movie, and certain aspects of the film from the script to the costume design were questionable, Roberts does play a great villain, and it was clear despite his inexperience with the role of the Master that he at least knew how to play a deranged scheming megalomaniac. It would have been nice to see his version of the Master develop in Eighth Doctor Audios, but that role later went to Alex Macqueen. Still, Roberts is finally returning to the role in a new series of the Diary of River Song, of all things, so there is still hope for his incarnation. Speaking of Macqueen, though…

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7 – Alex Macqueen

Technically Eric Roberts’ successor in terms of the Master’s chronological timeline (probably…) Alex Macqueen’s incarnation takes on a far more delighted and almost child-like direction – he seems to always see the funny side to being pure evil, and although he has appeared exclusively in audios so far his version of the Master is clearly distinctive from the classic incarnations of the Master. Clearly inspired by the Simm incarnation, Macqueen does bridge the gap between the Classic and New Series Masters effectively, and he is a great foil for the Eighth Doctor. Interestingly, although this incarnation is best known for his appearances against the Eighth Doctor, this incarnation actually debuted  against the Seventh Doctor, and Alex Macqueen also voiced the decayed incarnation possessing his incarnation’s body against the Sixth Doctor. Both the Macqueen and Beevers incarnations regain their own minds to face off against the Seventh Doctor in The Two Masters, which incidentally is the first multi-Master story in performed Doctor Who, which is a testament to both actor’s skill as they do great impressions of each other’s specific Master personalities.

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6 – John Simm

Being the first Master incarnation to be depicted on screen post-regeneration, Simm’s incarnation initially came off as a bit too wacky and mad to really be the same Master that fans remember from the Classic Series. Whilst the gaps have since been filled by various Audios, fans at the time did concede that this was the Master immediately following the horrors he experienced in the Time War, and it was very possible that he had simply gone totally insane.Whilst Simm does have some character moments with  David Tennant’s Doctor and does a fantastic job of playing a crazed lunatic, unfortunately throughout his two appearances in the Russell T. Davies era his incarnation is never given a chance to slow down, and even when there are moments between the Doctor and this incarnation of the Master, they are always overshadowed by this incarnation’s instability – either through the ‘drumming’ arc or the fact that he is hungry for human flesh. Thankfully, Moffat gave this incarnation a bit more nuance in Series 10, and Simm shows his true talents as he effortlessly carries the role of a more Classic-themed Master perfectly.

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5 – Anthony Ainley

The official ‘replacement’ for Roger Delgado in the 1980s, The only real criticism that can be set against Ainley’s version of the Master is that he is in fact too good at emulating his predecessor. Even so, Ainley does make his own mark on the character, and develops the role over his long tenure that spans the last three Doctors of the televised Classic Series, and he is the definitive version of the Master for many Doctor Who fans. Known for his flamboyant personality, Ainley’s Master seemed to hate the Doctor a fair deal more than Delgado’s incarnation did, and his plans often revolve around achieving his ultimate goal to kill the Doctor. Still, like Delgado’s incarnation, he was not above siding with the Doctor if he felt it necessary – often leading to moments in which his true allegiances are a mystery, as in one of the most memorable scenes of The Five Doctors.

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4 – Derek Jacobi

Despite only playing the Master briefly in Utopia, Derek Jacobi’s performance immediately sold him to audiences as the genuine article, perhaps even more so than John Simm’s incarnation did in the same episode, and it stands as a testament to his incredible ability as an actor that Jacobi could effectively snap from being a lovable, innocent old man to a violent and psychotic killer. Needless to say fans were eager to see this more of this Master, and having been given his own Big Finish series as well as appearing in the U.N.I.T. spinoff series, the Jacobi incarnation definitely deserves a return in the TV show itself.

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3 – Geoffrey Beevers

Initially appearing in just one episode of the Classic Series, The Keeper of Traken, Beevers would later reprise his role as the Master in the Big Finish Audios, and it is in these audios that he truly excels. This particular incarnation of the Master is interesting as he has more on his mind than simply conquest or domination – most of his plans revolve around survival or somehow acquiring more regenerations in order to prolong his life. That being said, his multiple appearances in various Big Finish Audios have allowed for some great character moments between his incarnation and various Doctors, with a particular highlight being the Seventh Doctor audio Master. Beever’s greatest asset to the role is his distinctive voice, which makes his audios all the better, as his line delivery is always spot on.

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2 – Michelle Gomez

The first female incarnation of the Master proved the perfect foil to the Twelfth Doctor thanks to both Michelle Gomez’s dynamic portrayal fueled by her interesting personality and the fascinating direction that Steven Moffat took the character, particularly during his final series as showrunner. Known as Missy, Gomez’s interpretation of the Master pays homage to many previous incarnations, particularly Delgado, and shocked fans after appearing regularly as a mystery plot arc throughout Series 8 only to drop the bombshell that she was actually the Master as the plot twist cliffhanger to the penultimate episode of the series. Following her brief return in the opener of Series 9, Missy went on to be one of the most fascinating elements of the incredible Series 10, and her redemption arc was perhaps one of the best executed in the New Series.

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1 – Roger Delgado

The original, you might say. Although the role Delgado played has been adapted by many talented individuals since his death, there is no doubt that Delgado had a true understanding of the character and his relationship with the Doctor and none since have been able to truly recapture the entirety of that complex understanding. Truly the perfect ploy for the Third Doctor, Roger Delgado’s Master filled the role of mustache-twirling supervillain to counter the Doctor’s role as the dashing secret agent/detective hero, and would often ally himself with various invading alien races in an attempt to conquer the Earth. Charming, manipulative, cunning and pure evil, Delgado’s Master is the archetype of the character and would inspire the character of each and every incarnation to come.

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Doctor Who – Top Ten Classic Who Dalek Stories

As Classic Who’s most iconic and enduring monster, the Daleks appeared many times throughout the 1963-1989 run of Doctor Who following their initial appearance in the show’s second aired episode. Over the many eras of Classic Who, the Daleks usually appeared at least once – and although their creator Terry Nation wrote many of their early episodes eventually other writers stepped in with alternate interpretations of the pepper pots and how they should be used on-screen. This, coupled with the fact that Nation himself toyed with many varying ideas related to the Daleks, means that their episodes vary dramatically in tone, setting and content, and this inevitably leads to varying levels of quality to match.

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Honorable Mention – Destiny of the Daleks

Included here as an honorable mention is Destiny of the Daleks, simply because it cannot hold a candle to any of the other Dalek episodes on this list. Despite being written by Terry Nation and featuring Douglas Adams as the script editor, this episode is an absolute shambles in terms of the show’s lore and the depiction of Davros. The worst moments include scenes in which both the Doctor and Davros refer to the Daleks as robotic creatures, and the Daleks contradicting themselves by first claiming that self-sacrifice is illogical before volunteering themselves for a literal suicide mission. The only real upsides are Romana II, the great dialogue and Tom Baker as the Doctor, but otherwise this episode is hardly worth the time.

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10 – Revelation of the Daleks

As previously discussed in How to Fix – Revelation of the Daleks, the Sixth Doctor’s only televised Dalek episode has its issues, particularly related to acting quality, pacing and story focus – it is still an enjoyable watch in its current state, although it does come across as a missed opportunity. The Doctor and Peri barely feature in this episode – and too much screen time is given to a strange DJ – but by far the highlight of the episode is Davros, and Terry Molloy is great as usual. Davros’ scheme is certainly twisted and insane, but what makes Revelation of the Daleks important to Davros fans is how it links two of the best Davros audios, Davros and The Juggernauts, as in the former we get to hear how Davros lays the foundations for his dreadful plans on Necros and the latter describes what happened to Davros immediately following this story, meaning Revelation forms the middle of a bizarre Sixth Doctor and Davros ‘trilogy’. One of the other highlights of this episode is the Glass Dalek, a monstrous creation by Davros that houses a human who has been mutated into a Dalek in much the same way that the Kaleds were in Genesis of the Daleks, laying the groundwork for Davros’ experimentation on the Dalek physiology that would ultimately culminate in the Imperial Daleks from 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks. Whilst it is undoubtedly an important milestone in 1980s Dalek lore, Revelation does not stand up to many of the other Dalek stories on this list, particularly due to its odd pacing and tone issues that plagued many mid-1980s Doctor Who stories.

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9 – Death to the the Daleks

This episode features one of the best Classic Dalek designs and colour schemes, with the ‘science division’ Daleks featured in this episode sporting a unique silver-and-black finish that is certainly striking, Unfortunately, as far as Classic Dalek episodes go, that’s about the best thing that can be said about this episode – although the idea of using a power drain to force the Daleks and Humans to work together is an interesting one, Death to the Daleks does little more than this, especially considering the fact that the Daleks get alternate weapons before long. Still, the sequences inside the Exxilon City are interesting, and the Exxilons themselves are an interesting species with tribal chants that give this episode a distinct vibe, making Death to the Daleks an iconic episode even if it is not among the best Classic Who Dalek serials. Interestingly, this story is apparently Nicholas Briggs’ favourite Dalek story, and several Big Finish audios pay homage to it including the Fourth Doctor Adventures story The Exxilons and the Dalek Empire story also entitled Death to the Daleks!. One of three Dalek stories in the Third Doctor’s era (ironic, considering Jon Pertwee himself disliked the Daleks as villains) Death to the Daleks ranks as the weakest, although Jon Pertwee and Elizabeth Sladen’s performances in this story are not to be underestimated, and fans of this Doctor-companion pairing will enjoy Death to the Daleks for that reason alone.

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8 – The Daleks

The debut of the Daleks in Classic Doctor Who, The Daleks is definitely worth a watch but does suffer from issues of pacing, particularly since it is seven episodes long. Whilst this can be forgiven due to the fact that it was only the second ever serial of Doctor Who to air, The Daleks is perhaps best watched with the foreknowledge that it is in many ways a ‘prototype’ for future Dalek episodes – although at the time the creators had no idea the Daleks would become such an enduring recurring villain, many elements of this episode are developed in much more detail in subsequent Dalek stories, and The Daleks does dedicate a lot of its run-time to what is clearly filler. The best example of this is the chasm jumping sequence, in which the episode stops dead as we watch all five or six members of the Human-Thal party jumping over a chasm, taking up the majority of its episode’s run time. Ultimately, being the first Dalek episode and a very early episode in the show’s run, The Daleks is worth watching for historical interest but doesn’t contain as much Dalek action as it perhaps could, although there are many extended scenes in the Dalek control rooms that give the audience a good idea of what the Daleks are really like early on, as they scheme and manipulate the humanoids in the story with sinister mercilessness, with a particularly chilling moment being the line in which the Daleks decide to alter the environment of their planet to kill the Thals rather than adapting to the planet’s radioactivity.

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7 – The Power of the Daleks

Although this episode is entirely lost, thankfully a complete animated recreation was released by the BBC in 2013 with all six episodes restored using the original audio and some of the best animation for a Doctor Who DVD release to date. The episode shows the Daleks at their best – manipulative and ruthless – and their scheme to appear docile in order to siphon power from the human colony is devious. As this was the Second Doctor’s first televised story it set the standard for Dalek stories to come, as many fans view The Power of the Daleks as among the very best Dalek stories, but its length and pacing mean it has not aged as well as other much-loved Dalek episodes. Another slight drawback to this episode for many is the lack of original visuals, and although the animated reconstruction is welcome, many have noted the apparent poor quality of some of the recreated scenes – particularly the initial post-regeneration sequence and basically any other scene where it is not immediately obvious what the original actors were doing in the episode. Regardless, the animated Daleks do look spectacular and hopefully The Power of the Daleks will be the first of many fully-animated lost Dalek episodes.

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6 – Day of the Daleks

Having been recently remastered, Day of the Daleks went from being a somewhat mediocre Dalek story to a classic thanks to updated effects, re-dubbed Dalek voices performed by Nicholas Briggs and even whole new scenes filmed using the original camera equipment. In the original story, the final battle used only three Dalek props – the most that were available at the time – so the effect is lessened. With new Daleks added with CGI, the battle scene has been reinvigorated, and for Classic Who this episode is particularly exciting. With a complex time-travel plot that is similar to, but actually predates, the Terminator series, Day of the Daleks is a great action-packed Third Doctor story that incorporates time travel into the story as a core aspect of its main plot rather than simply a means of reaching Point A from Point B, making it unique among Dalek stories. Since its remaster, this episode has jumped up in quality from a mediocre Dalek serial that was bogged down by budget and production issues to a reinvigorated classic that is actually more like a longer episode of New Who than many other Classic Dalek serials. Living up to the action-adventure themes of the Third Doctor’s era, Day of the Daleks is well worth the time now that the much-needed remaster in the Special Edition has been released.

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5 – Resurrection of the Daleks

Resurrection of the Daleks begins the three-part ‘Dalek Civil War’ arc involving Davros, the Daleks and various factions of in-fighting Daleks that also includes Resurrection  and Remembrance, and of the three Resurrection has by far the best depiction of Davros in all his manipulative, scheming glory. Terry Molloy’s debut as the twisted Kaled scientist is a must-watch for Dalek fans, and fans of the Fifth Doctor can rejoice as this episode features many watershed moments for his character, including his deliberation over whether or not to shoot Davros, and the fact that Tegan departs the TARDIS, both situations that test the more human and fallible Fifth Doctor. As far as the Daleks go, however, Resurrection portrays them as being noticeably weaker than previous Dalek stories, with the Movellan War crippling the Dalek Empire and forcing the Daleks to employ humanoid soldiers for assistance in combat situations. This leads to the introduction of Lytton, a fantastic character who appears in this episode and Attack of the Cybermen, and is somewhat of an anti-hero in both episodes.

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4 – The Dalek Invasion of Earth

It was inevitable following the success of The Daleks that the Daleks themselves would return to Doctor Who, and their second appearance, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, has often being said to be their best episode of the Hartnell era, as depicting the Daleks assaulting familiar ground like central London is far more effective and heavy-hitting than having them attack a band of alien hippies in a forest, as in The Daleks. Relying heavily on imagery from the Second World War, an event that was still directly impacting many of the audience at the time, giving this episode a heavy impact at the time that still endures to this day. As if the depressing imagery of a subjugated Earth was not effective enough, The Dalek Invasion of Earth also features the first instance of a companion departure in the show, with Susan staying behind on the war-torn Earth as the TARDIS leaves, with the Doctor promising that one day, he would come back.

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3 – Frontier in Space/Planet of the Daleks

As a pair, Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks link together to form one 12-part story involving the Master, the Ogrons and the Daleks attempting to destabilise the relationship between the Human and Draconian civilisations before awakening an army of Daleks, and either episode experienced on their own pales in comparison to watching the entire serial as one continuous story. Because Frontier in Space is just so excellent, featuring the final appearance of Roger Delgado’s Master, and Planet of the Daleks has some fantastic scenes with both Daleks and Thals, the pair of stories combine into an epic space opera revolving around the beginnings of the Galactic War against the Daleks. The only real criticism of this story is the length – although Frontier in Space makes a competent use of its runtime, Planet of the Daleks could have been shorter, and overall twelve parts for the entire double-serial run is just too long.

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2 – Genesis of the Daleks

Arguably Terry Nation’s best contribution to the lore of his own creations, Genesis of the Daleks depicts the creation of the Daleks, centuries before their appearances in The Daleks and subsequent Dalek episodes, as well as being the debut episode of the mad Kaled scientist Davros. Like all the best six-part Classic Who stories, Genesis effectively utilises its run time to deliver a well-paced story with suitable doses of action, suspense, and exciting sequences in each episode. Unlike Planet of the Daleks, there is not a single individual episode of Genesis that feels as though it could have been cut out, and as the plot marches towards the inevitable creation of the Daleks the tension builds until the climax at the end of Part 6. Genesis has been praised for its great characters and dialogue, and there are some fantastic scenes between the Doctor, Sarah and Harry that show how the TARDIS team has bonded throughout the season. The Kaled characters in this story are also fantastic – Nyder, Ronson and, of course, Davros, who makes his debut here played for the first and only time by the legendary Michael Wisher who does a tremendous job as the maniacal scientist. Overall, Genesis is a classic and well-deserved of its status as one of the greatest episodes of Doctor Who. However, there is one other Dalek episode that takes the top spot, and that is…

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1 – Remembrance of the Daleks

…ironically, the final Dalek episode of the Classic series, Remembrance of the Daleks. The Cartmel Masterplan made its debut in this episode, as script editor Andrew Cartmel decided to include more references to the idea of the question behind the Doctor’s identity, and Remembrance of the Daleks is the first in a series of episode that hint at the Doctor’s dark past and his history with the Time Lords and other powerful races. The depiction of the Imperial-Renegade Dalek Civil War as well as the return of Davros and the introduction of the Special Weapons Dalek make this episode an explosive and fitting finale to the Dalek plot arc in the Classic series, as the episode ends with a much darker and more ruthless Seventh Doctor destroying Skaro and wiping out both the Imperial and Renegade Daleks on Earth. If that were not enough, this episode is considered by fans to be the true 25th Anniversary Special (even thought the inferior Silver Nemesis’s broadcast coincided with the actual anniversary date of the 23rd of November) as this episode is littered with continuity references and is based in 1963, in the same place as the First Doctor and Susan parked the TARDIS in the very first episode of the show.

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Doctor Who – Top Ten New Who Dalek Stories

As one of the most enduring icons of Classic Doctor Who, it was no surprise that the BBC decided to incorporate the Daleks into the modern version of the show as soon as possible, with Series 1 alone featuring them in three episodes including the two-part finale. Since then, the Daleks have appeared in every series of the revival, with varying success – sometimes a Dalek episode is exactly what a series needs to bump up the action and stakes, and other times the Daleks seem to be a drag on episodes that they could otherwise not even featured in. Due to their successes in the 60s, 70s and 80s, showrunners of modern Who assume that the Daleks will always be a big hit, but have the pepperpots enjoyed the same success in the 21st century as they had in the 20th? For this list, the focus will be primarily on how the Daleks themselves are presented in the various episodes in which they appear and how much of a threat they present, but also on other factors in the episodes that contribute (positively or negatively) to the overall quality of the story.

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10 – Asylum of the Daleks

At the very bottom of the list is Asylum of the Daleks, which will come as no surprise to any Dalek fans as Asylum is notorious for being one of the biggest let-downs in the history of the show. To those not in the know, the marketing for this episode was really exciting – fans knew from various ‘leaked’ photos (which were actually released as a deliberate ploy by the BBC) that classic Dalek props from a multitude of different eras of the show were all gathered together, and modified to look damaged and dusty, and the title of the episode suggested that this would be a love letter to the Classic series that delved into Dalek psychology and perhaps filled in some gaps in their timeline from the Classic era. Fans were wildly speculating that the Cult of Skaro, the Dalek Emperor, the Special Weapons Dalek or even Davros could feature in this episode, and it generated a lot of hype. This all turned out to be in vain, however, and what is truly baffling is why the production team went to the trouble of gathering together all these genuine classic Daleks (including the Special Weapons Dalek from 1988) just to have them all sit there and do absolutely nothing. Ultimately, the fantastic setup and exciting premise of this episode were wasted on a pointless and unwarranted divorce subplot involving Amy and Rory that is solved like magic in the last five minutes, and an arguably well-executed but similarly unwarranted debut of Jenna Coleman as ‘Oswin’, which was later revealed to be one of Clara’s splinters, and the combination of these two subplots distracted attention entirely from the thing fans wanted most of all at that point – a decent Dalek episode – and what we are left with is a mess of wasted potential that should have either been a two parter or had a complete rewrite from the ground up.

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9 – The Time of the Doctor

From one myriad of wasted potential to another, The Time of the Doctor serves as the confusing and overstuffed finale to the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure, and it was essentially Steven Moffat trying to bolt together all the answers to all the loose ends that had accumulated throughout Matt Smith’s era into one hour-long special because, apparently, he had originally planned for the Eleventh Doctor to have one more series until Matt Smith announced he was leaving the role. As a result, none of the ideas presented here get any real development and, like Asylum of the Daleks, many great ideas are either watered down to the point where they are forgettable or just go over the audience’s heads. Take Handles’ death for example – the scene is beautifully acted, the score is fantastic, and it is clear that the death of this Cyberman head really does affect the Doctor – but it doesn’t affect the audience, because we only met this character about half an hour beforehand. The Daleks in this episode are actually quite formidable – the episode describes in detail how the Daleks attacked the Church of the Papal Mainframe and slaughtered everyone inside, Humans and Silents alike, but it would have been better if the audience could have actually witnessed this for themselves as it would not only have made the Daleks appear more of a threat but it would also have solidified the idea that the Silents are good guys now (which, the first time I saw this episode, I didn’t even clock onto – that’s how fast-paced and convoluted the plot is). Yet, despite all this, Moffat still found a ten-minute space in the runtime for the Eleventh Doctor to make creepy and perverted sexual advances on Clara by running up to her stark naked and then proceeding to do the same thing to her relatives at Christmas dinner, too. Yes, this was a dark time for Doctor Who.

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8 – The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End

As previously mentioned in How to Fix – The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, this two-part finale of Series 4 has a fantastic setup but a poor conclusion. In fact, were these two separate episodes, The Stolen Earth would rank much higher whereas Journey’s End would definitely be lower, which gives an idea of how inconsistently the Daleks are presented in this two-parter. The Stolen Earth is a great opener – the Doctor and all of his companions from the previous two years, including Sarah Jane Smith, Captain Jack and the Torchwood team all come together to combat a full-on Dalek invasion of Earth, and it is glorious. Throughout this opening episode the audience is constantly reminded of how much of a threat the Daleks are to human society – we see Dalek Saucers bombing Manhatten, we see Daleks destroying houses to draw out human prisoners, we see Daleks slaughtering Human defences like UNIT HQ and the Master’s battleship Valiant, Davros returns for the first time since Remembrance of the Daleks in 1988, and as icing on the cake, a Dalek finally gets to shoot the Doctor dead. All of this is fantastic, but then Journey’s End comes along to spoil everything. As if by magic, suddenly the Daleks are spinning around, out of control, and all the threat and menace that was built up over the opening part melts away and Russell falls back on the most generic, flimsy ‘prophecy’ plotline ever contrived, and the Daleks are beaten. How difficult would it have been for Russell to let the Daleks win? The Doctor should have saved the Earth and stopped the Reality Bomb but at the cost of failing to destroy the New Dalek Empire, allowing Davros to escape with his new army swearing that he will return, and then we wouldn’t have been faced with…

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7 – Victory of the Daleks

In a similar vein to The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, Victory of the Daleks suffers from having a great opening and general premise, but also having a disappointing final act that essentially ruins the episode by leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the audience. This came in the form of the often-derided Paradigm Daleks, which debuted in this episode as a vain attempt by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss to ‘reboot’ the Daleks for their tenure as showrunner and resident weirdo respectively. To make things perfectly clear (and perhaps in contradiction to my earlier assessment of the Paradigm in my various Custom Figure Collection posts), the design of the Paradigm Daleks isn’t actually all that bad – true, there are some odd design choices, such as the hunched back, the flexi-straw neck and the oversized fenders, but if Asylum of the Daleks did one thing right by Dalek fans, it showed that with a new coat of chrome paint and a few modifications the Paradigm props could be made to look intimidating. Unfortunately for Victory of the Daleks, the Paradigm first appeared with matte paint in a disused matchstick factory that had the lighting of a primary school assembly hall that only served to make the new Daleks look more tacky and laughable than they were already. The real tragedy is that, aside from the Paradigm, Victory is actually a decent Dalek story – the Ironsides look awesome, the World War 2 setting complete with Winston Churchill works really well, and there are some great narrative links to Classic Who stories like The Power of the Daleks. It is a true shame that the first Dalek story in Moffat’s era was so disappointing.

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6 – Daleks in Manhatten/Evolution of the Daleks

Yet another episode on this list with its own article on how it can be fixed, Daleks in Manhatten and Evolution of the Daleks are the kind of Doctor Who episodes that take a lot of hate from certain fans of the show, despite essentially being episodes that are not meant to be taken all that seriously. The problem with this idea is that when using a monster like the Daleks, fans tend to take things more seriously than they should, which has led to this Series 3 two-parter being slammed by Whovians of all creeds for brutally cutting short the reign of the Cult of Skaro, creating a ridiculous and overtly phallic Dalek Hybrid creature, and featuring a musical number in a style designed to accompany a 1920s flapper dance routine. Surprisingly, the results are oddly glorious, with this episode slotting in nicely between a great homage to classic sci-fi B-Movies and an odd nod to sci-fi Noir, whilst also featuring some great Dalek scenes, most notably scenes involving Dalek Sec. Other highlights include the rest of the Cult scheming against Sec, the scene in which Solomon and Dalek Caan converse, the relationship between Tallulah and Lazlo and Martha generally just been cool and reliable, as usual. The final battle between the Daleks and the Hybrids is pretty cool as well, and although you don’t have to be Grand Admiral Thrawn to see the obvious flaws in both sides’ strategies (standing still and firing continuously regardless of how many casualties are inflicted on either side), a genuinely poignant moment is when the Doctor laments the eventual death of Dalek Sec, hailing him as ‘the cleverest Dalek ever’, probably due to his mercilessly roasting of the Cyberleader during their previous encounter.

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5 – The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar

Opening the divisive Series 9 is the equally divisive The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, a two-part episode that receives equal measure of love and hate from various factions of the Doctor Who fanbase. On the one hand, this episode does a much better job of showcasing the relationship between the Doctor and Davros than The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End did, to the extent that many have come to regard this episode as less of a Dalek story and more of a Davros story, as the Daleks themselves feature more as a background power at work rather than the main villain of the story. The scenes with Missy and Clara are all fantastic, and there are a handful of great Dalek scenes – most notably the Supreme Dalek’s ‘Maximum Extermination’ scene. On the other hand, the episode does its best to deliberately mess with the audience, in that it seems for the entire story as though the Doctor had done something terrible to Davros in his youth – perhaps even causing the horrendous injuries he is famous for – and yet this rising source of tension in the plot seems to suddenly deflate at the end, and although the moments between Davros and the Doctor are poignant, some fans saw right through the attempt to tug at the viewer’s heartstrings and labelled this episode a failure. Whilst both sides have good points to make, the justification for ranking this episode so highly comes primarily from the scenes with Missy, finally having Classic props in lighting that allows the audience to see them, and some great dialogue between Davros and the Doctor that are reminiscent of the kind of thing Big Finish have done in audios like Davros.

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4 – Doomsday

There are many important factors to consider when revisiting Doomsday now, after over ten years. At the time of airing, this episode shook the nation, and that fact cannot be understated – the hype for this episode was justified, and Rose was given a departure to remember as she is torn away from the Doctor whilst Daleks and Cybermen burn the city of London in an unprecedented all-out war between two of the franchise’s most iconic villains. From the perspective of the Daleks specifically, Doomsday has some fantastic scenes, especially thanks to the introduction of the Cult of Skaro, a group of Daleks with more distinct personalities than the standard drones fans are accustomed to. Stand-outs include the verbal demolition of the Cyberleader conducted by Dalek Sec as war is declared, some short but fast-paced action scenes as they tear up the Cybermen, and a surprisingly deep insight into the mind of a Dalek as the Tenth Doctor breaks down how lonely and painful their existence actually is. Over the years, the impact of Rose’s departure has somewhat lessened, particularly as her status as ‘most important companion’ was slowly transferred to Clara over the course of Moffat’s run, and this is perhaps what has hurt this episode the most – ultimately, Doomsday spends a lot more time focusing on the Doctor and companion than it does the Daleks, which is more justified in this instance than it was in Asylum of the Daleks but no less frustrating in hindsight.

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3 – Into the Dalek

Since this was only the second episode to feature the Twelfth Doctor, it was important at this stage that his character be firmly established lest the audience grow confused over what this new Doctor actually stands for. Whilst complaints of an inconsistent characterisation are often thrown against the Twelfth Doctor, Into the Dalek was the episode that firmly established Capaldi as the Doctor, as all the best things about the Twelfth Doctor really shine in this story. He struggles with his morality, he is merciless and rude but also caring and occasionally tender, and ultimately with help from Clara he realises the correct course of action and helps bring out the best outcome of a situation that was rapidly spiraling out of control. The Daleks in this story are fantastic, and the opening scene in particular does wonders to showcase the vast size of the Dalek Empire compared to the tiny and ill-equipped Human resistance. In fact, this is the first Dalek story in a long time to effectively convey the idea of a wider galactic conflict being waged against the Daleks in the future, a plot point that often featured in the Classic Series and Big Finish audios yet has been unfortunately absent from New Who until this point thanks to Russell’s Time War plotline. Whilst the basic premise of the episode requires some suspension of disbelief to go with, once this episode gets going it is almost perfect in its depiction of Dalek morality and philosophy, and it is a shame in hindsight that Capaldi didn’t get more Dalek episodes.

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2 – Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways

The finale of the Series 1 is perhaps the most exciting depiction of the Daleks waging war in the entire history of televised Doctor Who, as the Dalek Emperor returns from the Time War to enact a 100,000 year plan to destroy the Human race and wage war on the entire Galaxy. The Emperor himself is impressive, and credit must be given to both the artists and designers who worked on the prop and Nicholas Briggs, who provided the Emperor’s fantastic booming voice. The Emperor isn’t the only impressive addition to this episode either, as this is the first time we see a full Dalek Fleet in action on-screen and the scenes of the fleet bombing planet Earth as Lynda watches are particularly horrific. Speaking of Lynda, her untimely death at the hands of the Dalek Attack Squad provided another heavy-hitting moment in this already devastating episode, making this episode undoubtedly one of the darkest and most harrowing of the series, and a great showcase of just how threatening the Daleks are at the height of their power. Interestingly, this episode also takes a unique approach to the Daleks themselves – these are half-Human and have a concept of blasphemy, and view the Emperor as the God of all Daleks – and credit must be given here for a fantastic idea that is well-implemented, as this has a distinct effect on the characterisation of the Emperor himself that turns him from an already menacing Dalek into a full-blown deranged megalomaniac of a villain.

 

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Honorable Mention – The Day of the Doctor

As a brief aside, it is worth mentioning that the Daleks feature in 2013’s The Day of the Doctor, Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary special, and for the most part they are very strong in this episode. For the first time we get to see the final day of the Last Great Time War, and although this scene has been criticised for depicting the once-legendary dimension-rending myth-war as simply a generic sci-fi battle with lasers and explosions, it is somewhat understandable as by this point in the War the Time Lords had expended all of their timey-wimey weapons and were simply trying to hold out against what was now an inevitable wave of utter devastation – that is exactly why the War Doctor chooses to end it all with the Galaxy-Eater. The reappearance of Murray Gold’s soundtrack ‘The Dark and Endless Dalek Night’ works fantastically with this scene as we see the Daleks lay waste to Gallifrey’s second city, slaughtering soldiers and commoners alike in the streets. Immediately after this scene, however, the Daleks are reduced to mere fodder and do not feature as prominently in the 50th as many fans would have liked, with the honor of primary monster going to the… Zygons? Why?

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1 – Dalek

And finally, the number one – Dalek, the initial appearance of the Daleks in NuWho. Whilst the title does spoil the surprise somewhat, Classic Who fans rejoiced at the prospect of the Daleks returning to modern Doctor Who, and this episode certainly lived up to the hype. Robert Shearman, who had previously written for Big Finish audios before penning this episode, largely based the plot of Dalek on his Sixth Doctor audio Jubilee, which dealt with the idea of a single Dalek locked up in a prison only to escape and slaughter its former captors. Dalek has the edge, however, in that it was also written to flatten many previous criticisms of their design – particularly the inclusion of their rotating middle section and the reappearance of their ability to fly which had not been seen on-screen since 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks, which makes their comeback all the stronger. This episode also features plenty of death, again to showcase the true power that even a single Dalek can unleash, but also features a rare example of Dalek character development – this particular Dalek gains human emotions from Rose, and the scenes between the Dalek and Rose, particularly the Dalek’s final scene, is surprisingly poignant. The scene that makes the episode, however, is the Doctor confronting the Dalek in its cell – arguably one of the greatest Dalek scenes in the history of the show. With compelling characters, a fast-paced story and some great action, Dalek is hands down the best Dalek episode in NuWho.

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Halo: The Flood – Book Review

When William C. Dietz was approached by Bungie to write a novelisation of Halo: Combat Evolved, a game that he had never played, he was initially reluctant. However, after going away and playing the game a few times, as well as reading the preliminary novel Halo: The Fall of Reach, he decided to take up the challenge. Following the book’s release, it received mixed reviews from critics – some said that it didn’t deviate enough from the games, some said that Dietz’s presentation of the character of the Chief wasn’t consistent with previous author Eric Nylund’s, and most said that the novel is rather repetitive – often consisting of little more than descriptions of gunfights repeated over and over again. Now that the release of Halo: Combat Evolved is but a distant memory, it is interesting going back and re-reading this novel for two reasons – first, I have not read this book since I was a child, and second, the book isn’t anywhere near as bad as many people have made it out to be.

In fairness, I am a massive fan of Halo, so perhaps the book appeals to me in ways that it would not for a casual reader. Also, there are some issues with the book that gripe me – the presentation of the Covenant, for example, is radically different from how they are presented in Halo 2, but that is hardly the author’s fault. In fact, many of the best parts about this book are actually segments that Dietz fought to have included – initially Bungie didn’t want a Covenant subplot, but Dietz felt (rightly) that it would add more to the narrative. The representation of events going on during Halo: Combat Evolved that the Chief was not present for is also particularly good, and the characters of Major Silva and Lieutenant McKay are particularly well-written. Other highlights of the book include Yayap, who provides some comic relief but is a strong character nonetheless, and the depiction of Captain Keyes and Wallace A. Jenkins’ horrific assimilation by the Flood, the former of which was adapted for one of the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary terminals.

Arguably the most engaging character is Zuka ‘Zamamee, an Elite who makes it his mission to hunt the Master Chief throughout the majority of the book. Interestingly, this subplot places Zuka in many of the locations that the Chief himself visits throughout the campaign of Halo: Combat Evolved but either too early or too late to actually encounter the Chief himself, save for a few encounters that don’t go well for the Elite – all the while, Zuka is being tailed by his unwilling assistant Yayap, who is perhaps the most developed Grunt character in the entire Halo franchise. There are also several one-shot Covenant characters that appear for only a chapter or two, which Dietz essentially uses as fodder against either the UNSC or the Flood, with varying degrees of effectiveness. An example of how this doesn’t quite work appears quite early in the novel – an Ossoona named Isna ‘Nosolee, who boards the Pillar of Autumn during the opening chapters and boards Captain Keyes’ lifeboat as the Autumn is evacuated, only to be shot in the head by Keyes during the descent. Whilst this is an interesting addition to the novel, it seems to set up a plot point that goes absolutely nowhere, as Keyes and his team are later captured anyway. The reason for this is that Bungie only accepted Dietz’s proposal to have a Covenant subplot in the novel on the condition that he kill every Covenant character that he introduces in the book, so that Bungie would not have to include them in any media that would follow.

This highlights one of the weakest elements of this novel, in that the fact that everyone has to die at the end of the novel – in a similar manner to Halo: Reach, the knowledge that eventually all the characters will die except for the Chief somewhat reduces the tension throughout. Still, that is perhaps this books most prominent weakness aside from an over-dependence on military dialogue and constant action sequences, which in all aren’t particularly bad – the book is a novelisation after all, and to complain that a book that retells the same story as the game doesn’t deviate enough from the story of the game is not a fair criticism.

One of the strongest aspects of this book is the depiction of the Flood, particularly through Private Jenkins and Captain Keyes who undergo the horrors of infection but still retain a glimmer of consciousness despite their ravaged bodies being host to the Parasite. Dietz’s depiction of how the Flood picks apart the memories of their victims is truly harrowing to read, particularly since readers of the previous book Halo: The Fall of Reach will have a particular connection to Keyes as a character that we didn’t really get from Halo: Combat Evolved, with many players finding Keyes’ habit of getting himself captured very frustrating. The finale of the book from the perspective of Major Silva and Private Jenkins is poignant and really shows just how close the Flood were to getting off Installation 04, making the tension of the Chief’s final run all the higher since the stakes are raised from the depiction of these events in the game.

Overall, Halo: The Flood is an effective novelisation, but perhaps not as strong of a narrative as Halo: The Fall of Reach and Halo: First Strike. It is an absolute must-read for Halo fans, particularly those who are intimately familiar with Halo: Combat Evolved, but is probably a stretch too far for non-Halo fans, to whom many of the game’s extended descriptions of weapons, vehicles and locations would mean absolutely nothing. Dietz’s strongest plot threads include the side plots involving Zuka ‘Zamamee and the Flood, with the story of Melissa McKay and Major Silva being an interesting inclusion but ultimately futile. The best way to read this book is by listening to the Halo Soundtrack alongside it, playing the songs that feature in the various levels to give atmosphere to their accompanying chapters, as the book does capture the spirit of the game and that is perhaps the biggest contributing factor to its success.

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