Doctor Who – Where to Start with Big Finish’s Eighth Doctor Audio Dramas

New to Big Finish Doctor Who Audios? If you want to get into the Eighth Doctor’s era but don’t know where to start, this guide to Big Finish 8th Doctor Audios can help!

One of Big Finish’s most popular and most successful ranges among their Doctor Who back-catalogue is their extensive selection of Eighth Doctor audio dramas, and for good reason.

As he has historically been the Doctor with the fewest on-screen appearances, it is great that the Eighth Doctor was picked up by Big Finish – Paul McGann continues to add to the role he never got to play on TV, the writers have free reign to tell whatever stories they want as they are not constrained by a preexisting narrative for the Eighth Doctor, and fans have been treated to some truly amazing stories within the Eighth Doctor range, all told through the medium of audio,

However, as Big Finish have been producing Eighth Doctor audios since 2001, it can be difficult at this point to know where to begin with his series. With literally hundreds of audio plays to his name, the Eighth Doctor can seem a daunting Doctor to tackle for fans, particularly those that are just getting into Big Finish and the audio drama format as a whole.

This guide is designed to assist those who want to listen to the Eighth Doctor’s Big Finish audio dramas but are unsure of how to approach them. To begin, let’s simplify the Eighth Doctor’s era by dividing it into the distinct ‘phases’ that are generally accepted by fans to be the main pillars of Eighth Doctor audio content.

Phase 1 -Charley Pollard and The Early Years

The Eighth Doctor’s early adventures are bold, nostalgic, and stand the test of time – not only do they draw a lot from the best of Classic Who and therefore don’t feel out of place among the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors in the Monthly Adventures, they do an excellent job of firmly establishing the character of the Eighth Doctor post-TV Movie, as well as introducing us to the marvellous Charley Pollard, the Eighth Doctor’s companion for the majority of his Monthly Range appearances.

Rather like the first few Fourth Doctor TV episodes, the early Eighth Doctor stories depict the Doctor exploring the universe seemingly without a care, but hinting at an overarching plot beneath. This means that you can listen to each episode individually without a problem, but it is beneficial to listen to them in order. The saga begins with 2001’s Storm Warning, which introduces Charley, and highlights of this era include Embrace the Darkness, Neverland, Zagreus, Scherzo, The Natural History of Fear, and The Girl Who Never Was.

Although it is not necessary to listen to every single audio in this era, there are very few that could be considered downright bad. As this was an early era for Big Finish, a lot of experimentation was taking place, so this era of Doctor Who audio dramas can be forgiven for its occasional slip-ups as for every dud audio play Big Finish produced, there were three more that were truly excellent. The only audio that should probably be avoided is Minuet in Hell, although it has to be said that Zagreus is not for the faint-hearted.

Phase 2 – Lucie Bleedin’ Miller and the New Beginning

Since the first set of Eighth Doctor audios were part of the Monthly Adventures, they use the Classic Who format of 4 25-30 minute parts that make up a roughly 2 hour story. However, when the Eighth Doctor was given his own standalone series in 2007, Big Finish changed the format of his stories to single 45 minute episodes, some of which having two parts, to match the format that the televised Doctor Who used post-2005. This change makes the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Lucie Miller far more accessible to newer fans.

Not only that, but this series contains a huge amount of excellent content. Although not as experimental as the previous phase of Eighth Doctor audios, the Eighth Doctor Adventures are far more consistent in terms of overall quality. The tone and plots of the audios in this phase feel very much aligned to the New Series, specifically the Tenth Doctor era. Lucie Miller makes an excellent companion – almost like a cross between Rose and Donna, with just a dash of Ace thrown in for luck. Her strong personality and excellent portrayal by Sheridan Smith make Lucie an instantly memorable companion.

The villains of this era are also equally memorable. The notorious Headhunter is an excellent counter to the Doctor and Lucie’s positive outlook on their adventures, and as her character develops she becomes a fascinating anti-hero of sorts as well as recurring villain. There are also strong appearances for both the Daleks and the Cybermen in this era, and there are many returning Classic villains that make this phase feel like a love letter to fans of Classic and New Who alike. Highlights from this era include Blood of the Daleks, Human Resources, Brave New Town, The Zygon Who Fell To Earth, Hothouse, Wirrn Dawn and To The Death, although there are very few stories in this phase that fail to be either enjoyable romps or excellent sci-fi stories.

Phase 3 – Molly O’Sullivan, the Girl with the Dark Eyes

This phase of Eighth Doctor audios marks a significant transition into the format of 4 episode to a box set and 4 box sets to a series. The episodes are usually self-contained stories that connect together to form a 16-part story – think The Trial of a Time Lord but with less Brian Blessed and even more technobabble. This era sees a far more reserved and brooding Doctor team up with new companion Molly O’Sullivan – a World War I Medical Volunteer who possesses the ‘Dark Eyes’ that give the series its name.

Overall, this phase of the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is perhaps the least accessible to most fans, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has its own distinct identity, almost its own universe, and it creates its own galactic conflict to use as the stage for its space-opera-style story structure. Dark Eyes is certainly an immersive experience, though arguably its greatest weakness is that it relies too heavily on the combined story structure, meaning there are few episodes that stand out as individual stories in their own right.

One of the greatest strengths of Dark Eyes, however, is the Master – played excellently by the delightfully charismatic Alex Macqueen. This version of the Master is a treat, and his appearance in this series helps make it truly memorable. Highlights from this phase include The Great War, The Traitor, Eyes of the Master, A Life in the Day and Master of the Daleks.

Phase 4 – Battling Doom Coalition and Ravenous with Liv and Helen

After the intense and plot-heavy Dark Eyes, the Eighth Doctor’s life takes a sudden turn with the Doom Coalition and Ravenous storylines. The format relaxes the overarching plot meaning that the individual stories feel more unique and distinct from each other, meaning that it would theoretically be possible for a newcomer to listen to a random story from this series and enjoy it. However, as previously mentioned, at this point in the Eighth Doctor’s life there is a lot of internal lore and backstory within his stories, meaning characters, events and plot threads from previous phases play more of a part in these stories. There are even some elements of the New Series that are brought into play here, such as Missy, River Song, and the Weeping Angels.

And yet, arguably the best thing about this era is that the Doctor has a wonderful pair of companions in this phase – Liv and Helen, who come from completely different time zones, one from the 1960s, one from the far-future, and yet have perfect chemistry. Although not as dynamic as Charley or distinctive as Lucie, Liv and Helen fit the companion role excellently for this era of the Eighth Doctor’s life. Highlights from this era include The Red Lady, Scenes from Her Life, Absent Friends, The Side of the Angels, Their Finest Hour Seizure and Companion Piece.

This phase also features a character that is arguably the best villain in the Eighth Doctor’s entire era, and is perhaps one of the greatest villains in Doctor Who history – The Eleven. This insane Time Lord suffers from a condition called Regenerative Dissonance, meaning that his previous incarnations live on as multiple personalities inside his head. This leads to terrifying situations in which multiple psychopathic consciousnesses fight to control a single body and argue over the best way to murder their victim, with the primary Eleven personality vying for control.

Phase 5 – Bliss and the Time War

It was inevitable that the Eighth Doctor would have to face the Time War eventually, and Big Finish began producing the Eighth Doctor Time War stories before Doom Coalition had even finished – this represents a fresh start for the Doctor, and he has a new companion and even a new theme (borrowed from the late John Hurt’s War Doctor audios). These stories are often a lot bleaker than many of the previous Eighth Doctor audios, although this is to be expected with the Time War raging.

There are some interesting surprises in this era, as several aspects of the Doctor’s life come back to haunt him during the horrors of the Time War. This series also serves a secondary purpose – setting up the War Doctor audios which chronologically take place after this era from the point of view of the Doctor.

New companion Bliss makes an excellent impression in this series, establishing herself as a character who is just as affected by the Time War as the Doctor is, meaning she understands the nature of the conflict and aligns with the Doctor’s view of wanting to help but not actively fight. Highlights of this phase include The Starship of Theseus, One Life, Planet of the Ogrons, In the Garden of Death and The War Valeyard. Although the last phase in the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is quite disconnected from its predecessors, one must take into account the fact that Big Finish has not finished filling in the gaps as of yet. Still, those who enjoyed the legendary War Doctor audios will also enjoy the Eighth Doctor: Time War stories.

Extra Eighth Doctor Content

But wait, there’s more! The five phases might be the main eras of the Eighth Doctor’s audio tenure, but there are other stories that feature him that do not fit into any of these categories. Overall, the Eighth Doctor’s era is vast and daunting to the uninitiated, but hopefully this guide has helped to break down this enigmatic and elusive Doctor’s era into more manageable phases for those who want to take the plunge and experience the excellent audio adventures of the Eighth Doctor.

Travels with Mary Shelley

There are some audios that were released as part of the Monthly Adventures in 2009 and 2010 that depicted the Eighth Doctor at an earlier point in his life, before he even met Charley, in which he had several travels with Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. This era takes on a distinctly Gothic feel, and every one is worth a listen. The Silver Turk is arguably the best, and features the Mondasian Cybermen in 19th-century Vienna.

The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller

Acting as a pseudo-spinoff series for Lucie that is set between the first and second series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, this box set tells various stories that primarily involve Lucie, although the Eighth Doctor is obviously present. So far only the first box set of this series has been released, but already the Further Adventures of Lucie Miller have given us a hilarious Dalek story in the debut story, The Dalek Trap.

Rage of the Master

The Eighth Doctor also appears in the third box set in the War Master series, which depicts the antics of Derek Jacobi’s incarnation of the Master during the Time War. The Eighth Doctor and the War Master bounce off each other well in their scenes together, and overall the story is highly enjoyable – but to say any more would give away some fantastic plot twists.

Read More

Doctor Who – Who Created the Cybermen?

The Cybermen are one of the Doctor’s oldest and deadliest enemies, and since their introduction in The Tenth Planet, Doctor Who’s first regeneration story, the Cybermen have menaced almost every incarnation of the Doctor. As they are due to appear in Series 12 in 2020, fan interest in the Cybermen has peaked recently. However, a question that often comes up when discussing them is, how were they first created?

Unlike the Daleks, who get their own origin story in Genesis of the Daleks, the Cybermen were strangely neglected when it came to their origins in the Classic Series. The closest we came to an getting an explanation of their origins is the brief summary of how they came to be that we get in their first episode, as the Cybermen explain that their world, Mondas, was dying and that they needed to adapt in order to survive.

The Many Cyber-Origin Stories

Interestingly, although Classic Who didn’t divulge much about the origins of the Cybermen, the 21st century incarnations of Doctor Who have attempted to explain more about their origins.

Spare Parts, Big Finish Main Range, 2002

Spare Parts, a Fifth Doctor Big Finish Audio from the Main Range, depicts the Doctor and Nyssa arriving on Mondas just as the Cybermen are starting to take over, and although Nyssa is determined to try and save the planet, the Doctor is torn between helping the innocent and keeping history on track. Things are further complicated by the fact that this story is set not long after the death of Adric at the hands of the Cybermen.

This story shows that the Cybermen were created on Mondas as a means of allowing the citizens to survive in the increasingly hostile environment of a frozen, dead world. The Mondasian surgeons believe that they are saving the population, but the monstrous Committee, a unification of minds that acts as a precursor to the Cyber-Planner, sees the population as little more than resources to be harvested.

Rise of the Cybermen, Series 2, 2006

Another alternate race of Cybermen were created on a parallel version of Earth, as seen in 2005’s Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel. Like Spare Parts, this story depicts a scientist attempting to prolong human life by inventing the Cybermen. In this case, Doctor John Lumic created the Cybermen as a means of achieving immortality, due to the fact that he was suffering from a debilitating, incurable disease. Ultimately, he manages to convert a sizeable population of parallel London into Cybermen, and is eventually converted into a Cyber-Controller.

Although the Doctor eventually stops Lumic and destroys his Cybermen, the parallel Earth would continue to see Cyber-incursions for many years afterwards, and some Cybermen from that universe would eventually find their way into our universe and assimilate into the ranks of the Mondasian Cybermen, according to some sources.

World Enough and Time, Series 10, 2017

Another origin story for a race of Cybermen is seen in 2017’s World Enough and Time. This episode shows that, at some point, a colony ship had departed from Mondas with a crew of 50, only to be trapped in the event horizon of a black hole. Due to the time dilation effect of the black hole, the crew lived out their entire lives on the ship and bred, eventually leading to a sprawling city being built on one of the habitation decks. Eventually, however, this city would be corrupted by the interference of the Master.

As the city became more polluted, eventually the Mondasians on board began to convert themselves into primitive Cybermen that would slowly evolve over time into the modern Cybermen. After infesting most of the ship, many of these Cybermen were destroyed by the Doctor, though it is likely that many more survived.

Other Potential Cyber-Origins

These are not the only potential origin stories for the Cybermen. We know that they have sprung up on many planets due to parallel evolution, including Telos, Marinus and Planet 14 as well as Mondas and Earth. Over time the many Cyber-races would coalesce into one, known as the Cyberiad, which would fight many centuries-long wars, known collectively as the Cyber-Wars, against Humanity and their allies. These included, among others, the Orion War and the Tiberian Galaxy War.

So, unlike the Daleks, the Cybermen were not created by one specific person, nor indeed do they have one comprehensive backstory. Although the finer details of how the Cybermen as a ‘race’ came to be are hazy in Doctor Who lore, we can assume that many different versions of Cybermen came together and combined technology as a form of adapting, which explains why in the show there are some Cybermen that look very primitive and others that are highly advanced, and also why some seem to possess physiological differences.

The Real-World Origin of the Cybermen

Interestingly, the real-world Cyberman origin story shares several distinct similarities to their fictional origins. The idea for the Cybermen first came about in the 1960s when Dr. Christopher ‘Kit’ Pedler, the unofficial scientific advisor for Doctor Who, became fascinated with the idea of ‘spare part’ surgery that was becoming increasingly more sophisticated in the 1960s.

Dr. Pedler foresaw a time in which all human beings incorporated cybernetic implants and adaptations into their bodies, and this inspired him to create the ‘Cyber-Men’. Working alongside writer Gerry Davis, Dr. Pedler contributed to the writing of The Tenth Planet, the 1966 debut of the Cybermen, and this explains why in that story the Cybermen look a lot more recognisably humanoid than they would in later stories.

Whilst Dr. Pedler’s predictions about the future have (so far) proved to be incorrect, his vision of the future has lost none of its potency. In fact, with the leaps and bounds that medical science has undertaken since the 1960s, we are closer than ever to having real-life Cybermen, though it will be a long time before we have the capability to create them.

However, the essence of Dr. Pedler’s prediction endures to this day – Humankind must always be wary of the potential for excessive cybernetic enhancements, as whilst so far they are used for purely medical purposes, there is always potential for the good nature of these technologies to be corrupted. Human vanity, greed and lust for power mean that the Cybermen will always endure as villains – as a constant reminder of what we, the human race, could so easily become.

Read More

Halo – is Halo 5: Guardians as Bad as people remember?

Halo 5: Guardians is a controversial installment in the Halo franchise for a variety of reasons. The games marketing didn’t accurate represent the actual content of the game in the eyes of many players, the decision to have over twice as many Locke levels as Chief levels in the campaign was unpopular with fans and the addition of microtransactions in the form of REQ packs is an issue still debated to this very day. But looking back at Halo 5: Guardians in hindsight, now that the multiplayer is fixed, the initial shock of Cortana being the villain has worn off, and Halo: Infinite will soon release its first trailer, is the game as bad as people remember?

Campaign

A lot of people complained that Halo 5’s campaign felt too short, despite the fact that it has five more levels than Halo 4. In truth, three of Halo 5’s levels are confined to one area and feature no action, so there are less combat-heavy levels than one would initially think. The new fast-paced movement and fluid verticality allows for players to move across the map much faster, meaning that even though the actual sandboxes themselves seem a lot bigger, the time taken to traverse them are the same, relatively speaking, to previous Halo games.

The return of the Arbiter was praised by fans

In a similar fashion to the quantity over quality, the game features far more dialogue and expanded lore than past games, as the new squad mechanics means that the player is never alone and there are now hundreds of fully-voiced audio logs scattered throughout every level. However, the idle chatter between squadmates irritated some players, particularly since some of the dialogue seems forced out of nowhere. As many other critics have already pointed out, Halo 5 leaned too heavily on wider expanded lore to tell its story, rather than building the characters and plot in the game itself as the levels progressed.

To give credit where its due, the dedication to Halo’s vast expanded universe in Halo 5: Guardians is admirable. Many fans believe that if the main focus of the game had been improved with equal focus on Chief as on Locke and more levels to span out the story, the audio logs would have been a fantastic icing on the cake. The requirement of having to read and look up on so much wider lore to understand Halo 5’s story, however, is less appetizing.

Multiplayer

There is no doubt now that Halo 5’s multiplayer is fun and diverse, but that wasn’t necessarily always the case. One of the biggest issues with Halo 5 on release was the lack of multiplayer content – 343 industries and Microsoft promised a year or more’s worth of free content updates, but this was later revealed to simply be a ploy to save them time, and the updates were simply adding content into the game that really should have been there at launch. As previously said, the fact that the updates have now all been released means that Halo 5 has a great multiplayer, but modes like Infection, Firefight and Oddball really should have been in the game from the beginning.

The newest mode in Halo 5 that drew a lot of attention to the game on release of the Warzone mode, which is a fun PvPvE mode involving two teams that compete to defeat A.I. bosses and complete objectives whilst battling each other and a plethora of Covenant and Forerunner soldiers. This mode is heavily tied to the new REQ system, and the basic formula works like this – if you have all the REQs, this game is hilarious and fun. If you don’t have any REQs, the game will be a frustrating grind. However, one thing that can be said about the REQ system is that if you choose to forego buying a single REQ pack with money and instead stick simply to the in-game currency purchasing method, it makes for a rewarding challenge to unlock them all.

Forge and Firefight

A more recent Warzone mode is Warzone Firefight, which removes the PvP aspect of Warzone and focuses it completely on PvE. This mode features 5 rounds of 5 minutes each in which a team must eliminate A.I. bosses or bots to complete each objective. As each round progresses, the targets will become more difficult until eventually Legendary and Mythic bosses will appear. The REQs can be used in this mode, and some say that this mode is actually the most fun way to play Halo 5 – it has a ‘party mode’ feel to it, and is ideal for kicking back and having a bit of fun. However, another feature in the game vies for that top spot, and that is the Forge mode. Available on both Xbox and PC, Halo 5’s Forge is something above and beyond what previous Forge modes have offered.

In Halo 5’s Forge, you can create almost anything – thanks to a completely revamped system involving custom objects, light scripting, a plethora of new Forge-able materials and the new engine, the mode has allowed the community to create some truly amazing things. Each and every single past Halo map has now been remade in Halo 5, and thanks to the Custom Games Browser you can actually play these maps online. The inclusion of all the REQ weapons and vehicles in Forge allows for some really fun and diverse maps – imagine a version of Big Team Battle but with every weapon and vehicle being the maximum-level REQ version, with Carbines that shoot Needle Rifle bullets, Anti-Air Wraiths, Hannibal Scorpions and Nornfang Sniper Rifles. Anything is possible.

So, What Went Wrong?

It might seem odd to some that Halo 5 was poorly received, as it is still a great game in its own right. The general consensus on this game is that if it had been a standalone title with no expectations to live up to, it would be looked back on far more fondly by gamers. Unfortunately, as it is the fifth installment in a hugely popular and successful series, it is stuck in a limbo – it isn’t quite good enough to impress Halo fans, and yet it is so drenched in the deluge of Halo’s lore and identity that it is fairly inaccessible to non-fans.

Hopefully 343 industries have learned from their mistakes with Halo 5, as it already seems like Halo: Infinite will take a more back-to-basics approach that the franchise sorely needs. Still, it is important that we do not let Halo 5’s successes fall under the radar, and as a community the Halo fanbase needs to make 343 aware of the things that they did right in Halo 5 – such as the returning classic characters, diverse weapons sandbox, interesting audio logs, and above all the incredible Forge mode, to ensure that these great ideas are carried over into future Halo games.

Read More

Doctor Who – Speculation About the Return of the Cybermen in Series 12

If recent information from the Daily Mirror is to be believed, there will be Cybermen in Series 12 of Doctor Who. This doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise, after all, the Cybermen are among the show’s most popular villains, and fans are always happy to see them back – but given that rumours and ‘leaked’ information about upcoming series has often been misleading or downright incorrect in the past, many fans are wisely taking this news with a pinch of salt.

Similarly, there is another issue that has some fans worried – according to the same story that declared the Cybermen’s return, Mary Shelley will also be featured in this story, with her encounter with the Cybermen allegedly becoming the basis for her novel Frankenstein. If that sounds familiar to you, then chances are you’ve listened to (or at the very least heard of) the Big Finish Audio The Silver Turk, as this story has almost the exact same storyline.

So what does this mean for Big Finish? Hopefully, if these rumours are true, the writers will acknowledge the discrepency, as the worlds of New Who and Big Finish have been gradually drawing closer of late, coming to a head with the huge crossover The Legacy of Time that was released to celebrate Big Finish’s 20th anniversary of producing Doctor Who audios. However, many fans have already accepted that this will not be the case.

Where Doctor Who is concerned, it is always better to live in hope – even if it means accepting certain compromises. On the bright side, the premise to this story sounds delightfully spooky and borderling horror-inspired, so Chris Chibnall and the other writers of Series 12 might attempt to steer the Cybermen closer towards their original status as horrifying nightmare-fuel rather than heavily-armoured soldiers. The fact that The Silver Turk featured the Mondasian Cybermen made it a particularly effective horror story, but if the same idea was attempted with the modern Cybus or Cyberiad Cybermen then the end result would be far weaker.

However, what if the rumours of Mary Shelley are false, but the rumours about the Cybermen are true? What other ways could Chibnall and the writers use to bring the Cybermen into this new era of the show? Given how they took a back-to-basics approach with the Dalek in Resolution, could this same logic apply to a potential Cyberman story? Will the Mondasian Cybermen return, or will it be the modern incarnation? Perhaps, like World Enough and Time, we will get an alternate origin for a new sub-race of Cybermen. Or maybe Chibnall will throw in an unexpected curveball, and bring back the 1980s Cybermen that have been tragically neglected in New Who?

Endless speculation is fun, but ultimately unproductive. One thing that is clear, however, is that the Cybermen may be seen in a new light during Whittaker’s era. After all, the Cybermen were responsible for the Twelfth Doctor’s regeneration, and although the Doctor isn’t known to hold grudges, it would make for an interesting dynamic that could elevate the Cybermen to a new threat level, perhaps even surpassing the Daleks. One of the things we have been promised from this new series is a darker storyline for the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan – could the Cybermen end up responsible for the death – or worse – conversion of one of the Thirteenth Doctor’s beloved companions? Time will tell…

Read More

Halo Infinite – Where will the Story Start?

Since the first tidbits of Halo: Infinite’s story were teased in the Discover Hope trailer, fans have been scrambling to find as many details about the game’s plot as possible. In the typical Halo trailer style, hints were dropped about the nature of the game’s plot but we are given very little tangible clues as to where the story of Halo is up to in the lead up to the sixth main instalment in the series.

However, there is a lot that we do know post-trailer, as there were several hints, some obvious and some not, as to where we are with this new Halo game following the cliffhanger ending to Halo 5. The fact that the trailer is set on an adrift Pelican, with Chief floating around in space near a critically damaged Halo ring, would seem to suggest that some form of conflict has just occurred, further implied by the Marine’s quote that humanity “Lost Everything”, which suggests that a significant battle took place on the ring at some point that did not go well for the UNSC. Not only that, but the conflict seems to have torn a hole right through the surface of Zeta Halo.

Stalwart fans of the series know all too well that Halo rings are particularly difficult to destroy, at least not without great sacrifice – at the climax of Halo: Combat Evolved, Chief destroys Alpha Halo by overloading the fusion reactors aboard the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, sacrificing the cruiser to annihilate the Halo. Fans have pointed out that, although the damage seen to Zeta Halo is distinctly different from the cataclysm that destroyed Installation 04, it is still very possible that the Humans decided to damage the ring to prevent anyone – particularly Cortana – from using it.

It is known that the UNSC had at least one base on Zeta Halo, so it is possible that the Humans there sacrificed themselves to destroy the base and, in turn, destroy the ring. However, there is a much more likely possibility that has some fans worried – what if the ring was destroyed by the UNSC Infinity? Now, it is unclear how much actual firepower would be needed to do this, and we saw in the first cutscene of Halo 4’s Spartan Ops that the UNSC Infinity was more than capable of ramming through enemy targets with little-to-no damage, but it seems there is only one clear conclusion that fits all the evidence that we have so far. The UNSC Infinity destroyed itself in order to deny Cortana access to Installation 07.

What does this mean for the future of the series? The Infinity was, in many ways, 343 industries’ poster-boy for the post-war UNSC, in that it was an obscenely powerful one-ship fleet that is very, very big. But some fans have complained in the past that this depiction of the post-war UNSC is not realistic, and contrasts with the guerrilla-style warfare that Humans had to adopt in previous Halo titles. It could be, therefore, that 343 are replicating the same feeling of backs-to-the-wall combat that the original trilogy was known for.

So the question remains – where will the story start? If Halo 5: Guardians’ trailer was anything to go by, it could be that we have already seen the opening cutscene to Halo: Infinite, in that the launch trailer is what will kick off the campaign. Provided we get sufficient context as to what happened between the end of Halo 5 and the start of Halo: Infinite, many Halo fans would be more than happy with this – a break from the lore-heavy, ensemble-cast Halo 5 would be seen as a welcome change – and it would place players firmly into the shoes of the Master Chief for some good old-fashioned Lone Wolf Halo action.

Read More

Doctor Who – Top 5 Monsters That Should Make a Return in Series 12

Chris Chibnall definitely delivered on his promise of featuring no returning monsters in Series 11, which was perhaps not the wisest choice for the debut series of a new Doctor and new showrunner. Usually, when a new Doctor is introduced, their first series will retain many recurring elements from the show’s history, to reassure viewers that it is indeed the same show. This is usually done by having the new Doctor face off against classic villains such as the Daleks, and is part of the reason why fans will always yearn for the show’s recurring villains to make continuous comebacks – as the show evolves, the essential aspects of the show’s identity must evolve with it, and there is no reason why new showrunners can’t introduce their own recurring villains, such as the Ood, the Weeping Angels or the Stenza.

Having said that, Series 11 featured a distinct lack of classic villains, and although Resolution turned out to be quite a good Dalek story, it ‘s status as a New Years Special means that it was not included as part of the eleventh series. This makes Jodie Whittaker’s debut series seem quite odd and out of place compared to previous Doctor debut series – and as a result of the lack of truly great villains in the series to stand in for the lack of classic monsters, the Thirteenth Doctor’s character came across as somewhat flimsy and vague compared to recent Doctors like Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. Perhaps in response to feedback from fans, Chibnall seems to have lifted his ‘ban’ on including classic monsters in the series, as he has stated in several interviews recently that he intends to do more with the show’s iconic monsters – after all, there is no better way to define yourself as a showrunner than to present fans with your spin on the show diverse array of key elements – the Doctor themselves, the TARDIS, the Sonic Screwdriver, but also the classic monsters. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Top 5 Monsters That Should Make a Return in Series 11.

macra

#5 – The Macra

Though they may seem a strange choice for a returning monster, the Macra are actually quite a topical choice given the recent release of the animated version of The Macra Terror. This fantastic recreation of a lost classic using the original audio manages to capture the essence of the Second Doctor’s era and finally does the concept of the Macra justice, as their previous appearances in the original version of the episode and then in 2007’s Gridlock never managed to truly present the idea to its truest potential due to the sheer lack of budget. One of the things that Series 11 showed fans is that Doctor Who now has CGI to rival that of other modern sci-fi shows, and so now with Series 12 the writers might finally have a chance to write a new Macra story with the CGI budget to justify it.

two-masters.jpg

#4 – The Master

Audio producers Big Finish have been doing some very ambitious projects involving the Master recently – the first canon multi-Master story, The Two Masters, starring Geoffrey Beevers and Alex MacQueen, the War Master box sets starring Derek Jacobi, the introduction of the Master’s first incarnation played by James Dreyfus in the The First Doctor Adventures box sets, and more recently the return of Eric Roberts’ Movie incarnation and Michelle Gomez’ Missy, the latter getting her own audio series. With so many incarnations of the Master ‘active’ in fan’s minds at the moment, and with the Master also being a time-traveller like the Doctor, there is no reason why Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor couldn’t come up against one, or even several existing incarnations of the Master. Particularly good choices for Masters to go up against Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor on-screen include Geoffrey Beevers, who could be featured in heavy makeup or even as the voice of a CGI version of the rotting corpse Master, and Alex MacQueen, who has never had a TV appearance before but would be a fantastic choice to portray the charismatic yet sadistic killer to contrast Whittaker’s good natured Doctor.

time of the cybermen

#3 – The Cybermen

Having been primarily responsible for the death of her previous incarnation, it would make sense that the Thirteenth Doctor would have a bone to pick with the Cybermen. Not only that, but her diverse cast of companions perhaps best portrays the Doctor’s love of individuality and diversity – something that the Cybermen seek to destroy. Given that so far we have only been given one insight into Chris Chibnall’s take on the Cybermen, and that was Torchwood’s Cyberwoman, it would be nice to see Chibnall’s take on the standard Cybermen in the main show. Whilst Cyberwoman did have some really creepy and unique concepts dealing with Cyber-conversion in it, the unfortunate error with the costume design trying to emphasise the show’s adult nature derailed the episode. Now that he runs Doctor Who, however, Chibnall now has a chance to portray a fresh new take on the iconic metal men.

sontaran

#2 – The Sontarans

Having been practically transformed into a comedic joke during Steven Moffat’s era through Strax, the Sontarans stand in a sort of limbo-state at the moment, as all of their appearances – even ones that were not down to Strax – have been for comedic effect since Series 7, and at the moment it remains unlikely that they will ever make a return that can scare or intimidate viewers anymore. Interestingly, there were rumours during the run-up to the release of Series 11 that it would feature an episode that delved into the origin story of the Sontarans, how a ‘clone race’ was actually created, and how their warrior ethos came to be. Although it turned it to be false, the story idea remains a good one – and certainly one that Chris Chibnall could harness given the popularity of the concept.

dalek fleet

Honourable Mention – The Dalek Fleet

Included here as an honourable mention are the Daleks, or rather their Fleet, who should not make an appearance in Series 12 per-say, except maybe have them hinted at as a recurring arc for foreshadowing, as it and, of course, the pepperpots themselves should definitely reappear in the next New Years Special. The Recon Dalek in Resolution was prevented from sending a full transmission to the Dalek Fleet, but given that it was using every single transmitter on Earth at once, it is more than likely that something got through to them, and having Daleks on New Year is definitely something that many fans would happily adopt as an annual tradition.

stenza

#1 –  The Stenza

To give credit where it was certainly due, the Stenza were an interesting race introduced by Chris Chibnall, and as the only recurring enemy in the series, they are effectively Chibnall’s ‘poster’ villain at the moment. All the more reason for them to make a reappearance in Series 12, particularly considering the fact that we only saw an individual member of the race in the series and not, say, their homeworld. An episode called ‘Planet of the Stenza’ would certainly be an interesting concept, particularly as each warrior would have a unique appearance given the fact that each one hunts on a different planet – and so each one would have wholly unique teeth implanted into its face, presumably. How Chibnall manages the Stenza, his flagship race at present, will give us some excellent insight into how he will fare as showrunner in the future. Also, having the Thirteenth Doctor once again come face-to-face with the responsibilities of her prior actions at the hands of the Stenza might become a recurring opportunity to see some development in her character in Series 12, something that the show definitely needs at the moment. So, to sum up, the Stenza might not be the most accepted or appreciated aspect of Doctor Who at the moment, but they certainly have potential – so in a way, they are representative of Chibnall’s Who as a whole, which is all the more reason for them to make a return in Series 12.

UPDATE – Judoon in Series 12

As of May 2019, it has been confirmed that at least one returning villain will appear in Series 12 – the Judoon. Although they originally didn’t appear on this list, the Judoon are an interesting race that have been explored somewhat in spinoffs like The Sarah Jane Adventures and several Big Finish audios, and their ruthless and single-minded nature will certainly contrast with the Thirteenth Doctor’s personality. The on-set photos from Gloucester show some interesting tidbits about the Judoon, such as their new two-handed rifles and the interesting haircut of their commander.

Read More

Doctor Who Feature – The Twelfth Doctor Era: Is Peter Capaldi the Definitive Doctor?

Doctor Who has its ups and downs, as anything that runs for over 50 years does. After all this time, the show perhaps as well known for its dud season arcs, madcap plots and failed experiments as it is for its creativity, memorable characters and iconic villains. For every modern classic like Series 4, there is a legendary failure like Series 7 – and nothing illustrates this point more than the Peter Capaldi era. This three series long chunk of the New Series that lasted from 2014 to 2017 presented audiences with some of the best Doctor Who content of the decade – and also some of the worst. But can the flaws of the Capaldi era truly dampen its successes? Do fans look back on the era fondly or harshly? Is Peter Capaldi actually the definitive Doctor? We aim to find out.

series-8-capaldi.jpg

The Grumpy Doctor

Upon his initial casting, Peter Capaldi proved to be somewhat of a controversial choice to play the Doctor, despite having all the necessary traits required to play the Doctor. Due to the fact that the previous two Doctors, who had a combined tenure of nearly ten years, were both young and handsome incarnations, the show had got used to that idea being a staple of the series – in fact, it could be argued that Clara’s entire relationship with the Eleventh Doctor in Series 7 was based around the fact that he was young and handsome. As such, the fact that the Twelfth Doctor was cast as an old man was a sudden and jarring change to the series, one that many viewers felt shook the foundations of the show a little too much.

But there was more to this shakeup than just the casting. Moffat’s decision to write the Twelfth Doctor as a grumpy and at times even cold character in his first series was a bold one, and it certainly shook the series up even more for Series 8. The reaction of a sizeable portion of the fanbase at the time when this was all first announced was then reflected in Clara’s reaction to the Eleventh Doctor’s regeneration – the look on her face perfectly visualises what many fans were feeling at the time. In many ways, the situation was somewhat comparable to the reaction to the casting of the Thirteenth Doctor, albeit for very different reasons. In the run-up to Series 8, fans were wondering whether the show could pull off such a radical change to its comfortable tried-and-tested formula.

Overall, Series 8 is somewhat of a mixed bag. There are definitely some genuine gems in this series, episodes like Mummy On The Orient Express, Flatline and Time Heist are enduring classics that most fans agree are the standouts of the series. Following these are the episodes that some fans love, but other fans despite – episodes like Robots of Sherwood, Listen and the too-often overlook Into the Dalek. The series does play host to some really terrible episodes, however, such as In the Forest of the Night and the truly abominable Kill the Moon, an episode that is only worth watching for Clara’s final confrontation with the Doctor due to Jenna Coleman’s astounding acting – other than that, the episode may as well have never existed. The two episodes of note that are particularly divisive are the first episode, Deep Breath, and the two-part finale, Dark Water/Death in Heaven. The former is a strange episode to put at as the opener to a series, as it requires too much prior lore knowledge to be accessible to newcomers. The latter is a finale that, although making fantastic use of the Cybermen and Missy, was notoriously dark and was responsible for genuinely upsetting some fans in a way that didn’t sit right with many people.

series 9 capaldi

The Hybrid

For Series 9, Moffat introduced a gradual change to the Twelfth Doctor’s character that would be truly actualised in Series 10. Grappling with the choices necessary to truly define himself as a good man, Series 9 sees the Twelfth Doctor tested in several ways, with each story presented a piece of the best and worst of the character. This is mirrored in the format of the series and the accompanying titles of each episode – most of the stories in this series are two-parters, with titles that oppose one another. This presentation of the character was certainly an improvement over the Series 8 version of the Doctor in the eyes of most fans, but still retained enough of the abrasive Series 8 Doctor that those who had grown attached to Capaldi’s Doctor were not disappointed.

Series 9 of Doctor Who, however, suffers from an entirely different issue, which ironically has almost nothing to do with the Doctor himself. The hamfisted attempt to insert an arc into this series with the lacklustre ‘Hybrid’ buzzword failed to click with many fans and the end result, revealed in the controversial finale Hell Bent, left many fans confused. However, Capaldi’s performance as the Twelfth Doctor was exemplary and, although the scripts themselves left something to be desired, the combination of Capaldi and Coleman’s fantastic acting was able to carry Series 9 despite its flaws – and this was enhanced thanks to guest appearances from Maisie Williams, Donald Sumpter and Julian Bleach that made Series 9 feel like the blockbuster run that it was designed to be.

Ultimately, the highlights of the series have to be those that are the most steeped in lore – the opening two-parter The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar make a fantastic opening to the series, and the penultimate episode Heaven Sent has to rank as one of the best episodes of Doctor Who of all time. There is a definite pattern to the quality of episodes in Series 9 – the best ones are the ones in which Capaldi himself stands out. From his emotive anti-war speech in The Zygon Inversion to his one-man-band performance in Heaven Sent, the Twelfth Doctor is by far the best thing about Series 9. Whilst the series itself it usually met with mixed reviews from fans, none can deny that it is Capaldi who makes the series – with almost any other Doctor at the helm, Series 9 may not have been the success that it was.

Although the ‘Hybrid’ arc seemed tacked on and rushed, the theme actually relates a lot to the Doctor himself and where his character was at this point. Series 9 presents us with a true Hybrid Doctor – a fusion of his Series 8 and Series 10 personalities that occasionally clash but more often than not showcase the gradual development of the character, particularly with hindsight. Critics of the Twelfth Doctor argue that his character was poorly written as each series seems to portray a completely different interpretation of the Doctor, and they are correct – but this is hardly a criticism. Capaldi plays perhaps one of the most dynamic Doctors of them all, changing from a brusque and occasionally mean character to a warm and merciful Doctor who understands his own moralistic limitations and does his best to do the right thing. The most interesting Doctors are the ones who grow and change over the course of their tenure – the Seventh Doctor and the Ninth Doctor both experienced this kind of development, but none have had such a structured three-stage character arc over as many seasons. Those who stopped watching the show after Capaldi’s first season due to the negative reception his character received were not privy to the incredible change that was apparent by Series 10, meaning they never got to understand why his character had to be that way in Series 8. But what was so special about this arc that it warranted having the Doctor act so un-Doctorish for a season?

series9.5 capaldi

Never be Cruel, Never be Cowardly

To answer that question we have to go back to the beginning. In its early days, Doctor Who was not fully established, either in its popularity and fanbase or in its own personal identity. Fans of newer versions of the show, even as early as 80s Who, may be shocked if they choose to watch some earlier episodes by just how un-Doctorish the Doctor himself acts. William Hartnell himself actually contributed a lot to the development of the Doctor as a man of strict ethical principles after disagreeing with how the character was handled in the first ever season of the show, in which the Doctor regularly tricks and manipulates his companions, influences events to suit himself, and even on one or two occasions attempts murder. As the character traits of the Doctor became established, these character-breaking moments were seemingly brushed under the rug.

In the modern day, the New Series has reinforced the idea of the Doctor as principled and ethically conscious, but many fans have taken the idea of the Doctor as a ‘man who never would’ as gospel – particularly during the Tennant era – to the point where the idea of the Doctor shooting someone becomes completely unjustifiable. This is a nice sentiment, and ‘the man who never would’ is certainly how the Doctor himself wants to be seen the majority of the time, but those who buy into this have forgotten the ‘rule one’ of travelling with the Doctor – he lies. A lot. In fact, we already know that when the Tenth Doctor utters the line “I never would” in regards to using guns, we already know he is lying. The Doctor has shot and killed people many times throughout the show, a famous example being in Day of the Daleks when the Third Doctor steals a laser and blasts an Ogron. Following the Time War, the battle-scarred and guilt-ridden Doctor invents a persona for himself that exaggerates and hyperbolises all of his pre-Time War traits of honesty, mercy, pacifism etc to alleviate his guilt, but it is not a true reflection of his character. We know that the Doctor is prone to rage, and occasionally makes bad choices. Unfortunately, one particular bad choice has sullied the Twelfth Doctor with a bad reputation that is not entirely justified.

be cruel

The choice in question of course refers to the scene in Hell Bent in which the Doctor shoots the General. Fans have grappled over this scene and its implications, with some citing the fact that the Doctor had been driven mad with grief in that episode as justification, and others even going so far as to say it is proof that the show itself has lost its way. However, looking back on this entire situation, it seems fans on both sides of the argument need to re-assess the scene with the benefit of hindsight and the context of the episode. For those not in the know, the Doctor shoots and ‘kills’ The General after the latter refuses to allow Clara to escape from Gallifrey. Prior to this, the Doctor had spent 4.5 billion years living the same day over and over again, dying each time, and had now finally escaped and found a way of bringing his friend back – the thing that had kept him going the whole time. Considering all of these factors, and then adding to that the fact that the General is able to regenerate and that he had previously helped keep the Doctor imprisoned, adds a lot more to this situation than simply ‘The Doctor killed someone.’ In fact, this seems far more reasonable than the Third Doctor shooting an Ogron.

And yet, this scene does achieve something tangible – it is an important turning point in the second major change to the Doctor’s character. This scene represents the culmination of the ‘Clara arc’, a pseudo-unofficial story arc that essentially starts with Asylum of the Daleks that is supposed to showcase the best and worst parts of a close friendship. Clara and the Doctor are good friends, and they both help each other through serious tragedies in their respective lives. They are both flawed characters, and their flaws overlap – each one is too dependant on the other, and the fact that their friendship was set up by Missy goes to show how destructive it has the potential to be. The notion of the Doctor and Clara being the Hybrid may seem ridiculous, but it is Moffat attempting (in a somewhat ham-fisted way) to illustrate the point that Clara and the Doctor are in many ways two sides of the same coin – their personalities, their motives, their tendency for lies and showing off are all similar – yet ultimately they must be separated otherwise the Doctor runs the risk of sacrificing everything for her. The Doctor shooting the General acts as a wake-up call, both for Clara and the Doctor himself, that their friendship is no longer healthy and that they need to separate. If you look at the Series 9 finale in this light, it is actually a mature and introspective story that showcases how far the Twelfth Doctor had developed by this point – the seemingly unfeeling angry Doctor from Series 8 is gone, replaced with a far more compassionate man who is willing to go to any lengths to save his best friend – even if it kills him.

series -10 capaldi

The Grandfather Doc

The version of the Twelfth Doctor that we saw at the end of Series 9 sets up the plot of Series 10 perfectly – with Clara gone, the Doctor strikes up relationships with friends new and old in a way that the Series 8 Doctor would not have been able to do. With this newfound persona he is able to make peace with River Song, befriend Bill and even teach Missy how to be good, showing that even without Clara the Twelfth Doctor is just as much a paragon of virtue as the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors tried to be. But perhaps the most important facet of the Twelfth Doctor’s character development that takes place in Series 10 is his relationship with Bill and how that evolves. Initially taking on Bill as a student, their teacher-student dynamic gradually develops as the Doctor becomes a more paternal figure in her life, and this is a fantastic parallel of the very first Doctor-companion dynamic in the show – that of Grandfather and Grandchild. This is further implied in Bill’s first episode, in which the Doctor looks to Susan’s portrait when trying to decide whether to involve Bill with the dangers of TARDIS travel.

This is perhaps one of Moffat’s greatest achievements with the Twelfth Doctor, and many fans say that Series 10 has the best ‘feel’ of the three Capaldi seasons, as the friendship between the Doctor, Bill and Nardole seemed to resonate more with viewers than the Doctor and Clara’s had. It would be hard to imagine the Series 8 version of the Twelfth Doctor working in Series 10, as his pricklier personality and demeanour would clash more with Bill’s fun-loving attitude, but after two seasons of gradual character development the Twelfth Doctor proves himself to be everything that the Doctor should be, and more – Series 10 doesn’t just present the Doctor as a hero who saves planets, but also as a form of therapist, even counsellor. For fifty years he is able to provide Missy with a stable environment in which she can work towards casting off her evil ways and embracing the good in life, and with just a few months of tuition the Doctor is able to raise Bill’s grades and inspire her with new confidence, all before she even sets foot in the TARDIS.

The Twelfth Doctor in Series 10 is in many ways the ideal Doctor – perhaps even the definitive Doctor. Some may think it a shame that the Doctor didn’t simply start out with this personality from the beginning, and whilst it may have been lighter on viewers at the time if the Doctor had emerged fresh from regeneration as a kindhearted old man, but there is an argument that Moffat did the right thing from the start. The Twelfth Doctor was referred to earlier in this article as one of the most dynamic Doctors of them all, and this is due to his three-season long character development. Without the Series 8 version of the Doctor and his brusque attitude, the emotional weight behind Series 9 and 10 loses some of its impact, as part of what makes his character so interesting and likeable is his painstaking transition from a grumpy old man to a truly definitive Doctor.

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017

The Definitive Doctor

There will of course be those who disagree, but overall Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor represents all the best aspects of the character. He is a righteous character, yet aware of his own moral hypocrisy. He is a kind and caring figure, yet he is also among the angriest and most utilitarian of the Doctors. His speech to the Master and Missy at the climax of The Doctor Falls perfectly summarises this – he admits that, although he doesn’t always get it right, he tries as hard as he can to be kind. Throughout his entire tenure the Twelfth Doctor grapples with the question of ‘Am I a Good Man?’, and it is in this scene that we, the audience, finally receive a definitive answer. The Doctor lays down his life for innocent people he doesn’t even know, and his final regeneration speech outlining what it means to be a Doctor proves that Capaldi himself has a deep understanding of the character.

If you are a former fan of the show who lost interest midway through the 2010s, or perhaps even earlier, then hopefully this article has made some points that will make you reconsider your stance on Capaldi’s Doctor. With hindsight, and the wider knowledge of the show that newer fans may have gained thanks to the rising popularity of the Classic Series, it is clear that many of the criticisms that were levied against Capaldi were either grossly exaggerated, such as claims of him being ‘too old’, or simply unfair, such as blaming him for the occasional bad episode like Sleep No More or Kill the Moon. Each and every Doctor is faced with criticism like this – Matt Smith was ‘too young’ for the role according to many in 2010, and nobody needs reminding of the frenzy of baseless criticism levied against Jodie Whittaker before Series 11 even aired.

Ultimately, the Twelfth Doctor era speaks for itself. Even amid the aforementioned terrible episodes it hosted, as well as others like In the Forest of the Night, the era also gave us some of the best instant classics of the modern era of Doctor Who. Episodes like Heaven Sent, Flatline, Mummy on the Orient Express, Oxygen, World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls will be remembered for years to come and proves that, even after more than 10 years, the New Series still has plenty of excellent stories to tell. Moving forward there is certainly a lot that the show can learn from the mistakes of the Capaldi era, but after the lacklustre Series 11, there is definitely a lot that Chibnall can learn from the Capaldi era’s resounding successes. Without a character-driven story Doctor Who can appear to lack substance, and this was an issue that plagued the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut season despite the writer’s best efforts to make her quirky and likeable. The irony is that Capaldi’s grumpy first-series persona is a far more interesting character than the typical do-gooder Doctor, and Moffat was able to blend the best elements of both worlds by having a brusque Doctor early on, that evolves into the definitive Doctor over time.

be-kind.jpg

So, to answer the question that sparked this lengthy feature-style blog post: Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is the Definitive Doctor. Though it takes him time to get to that point, when he gets there, fans have to agree that it is worth the wait. It is a classic case of not truly knowing what it is you had until it suddenly disappears. Obviously there are some that may not agree – that is the nature of the fanbase. For some fans in 2014, the hardest part of being a fan after Series 8 was accepting Capaldi as the Doctor. But now, after a brief but legendary tenure, the hardest part for many is letting him go.

Read More

 

 

Star Wars – Battlefront II Conversion Pack v2.3 Review

Following up on last week’s article comparing EA’s Battlefront II with the original Star Wars: Battlefront II from 2005, this review will cover something slightly different but still related to the original Battlefront II. One of the major selling points for the original Battlefront II is the mods, and one that many consider essential is the Battlefront II Conversion Pack v2.3, a mod that adds dozens of new features to the game including new maps, new units, new heroes, new weapons and new vehicles. What makes this mod important is that it also adds many of the maps and features of the original Star Wars: Battlefront to the game,including the beloved Bespin: Platforms.

convbf1.jpg

What’s Old

Many of the original Battlefront’s maps were fans favourites, including Geonosis: Spire, Kashyyyk: Docks and Rhen Vhar: Harbor, and the look and feel of the original Battlefront is replicated in this mod through the use of the ‘Classic Conquest’ mode, which aims to faithfully re-create the original Battlefront, even down to removing the sprint feature. Lots of the old maps are also playable in normal Conquest mode with the new units and vehicles, but the mod also ensures to retain the original Star Wars: Battlefront II as well – playing on Conquest mode on the original maps from the game gives you the classic Battlefront II experience with no significant additions – and many of the original maps have added modes that include the new units and vehicles.

convkotor.jpg

What’s Even Older

kotor.pngProbably one of this mod’s biggest selling points is the addition of a whole new era – the KOTOR era, set four thousand years before the events of A New Hope, based on the legendary Knights of the Old Republic games. This era is included on almost every map, and even sports its own Space map, and features many units from the KOTOR era including Dark Jedi Acolytes, T3-Units, Sith Heavy Troopers and the surprisingly effective Jedi Gunman. One slight drawback with this era is the total exclusion of all vehicles on ground maps, something that makes maps like Bespin: Platforms and Hoth somewhat redundant. However, the Heroes in this mode are varied and exciting, and there is even a Hero Assault option enabled on most viable maps for the KOTOR era, meaning you can pit all the KOTOR Heroes against each other in a similar fashion to Hero Assault with Galactic Civil War. Speaking of which…

convcom.jpg

What’s New

Torrent.jpgThis mod adds a huge range of content to both the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War eras including new units, new classes, new vehicles, new weapons, new Heroes, new modes and overall a generally improved gameplay experience compared to the standard game. Every new map now features several new classes, and as points are earned the player is ‘promoted’ until eventually unlocking the Commander class, which is a boon-focused unit with a powerful blaster and an orbital strike droid. Before that, however, the player unlocks a Commando class, and for the Clone Wars era the Clone Commando is used for the Republic faction from the game Star Wars: Republic Commando, which is a fantastic detail in itself, but the Commando class itself is perhaps the best part of the game – it completed changes the gameplay, as you get stronger and more versatile weapons to the point that it feels like you’re playing as a Hero.

convgc

What’s Even Newer

The fun doesn’t stop there, however, as there has been a patch and even a content update for this mod – the latter of which adds the ability to play Galactic Conquest in the KOTOR era, even adding the KOTOR era ships and fully integrated with the standard Galactic Conquest system of unit and bonus purchases coupled with the strategic fleet movement.
This mod also features countless other brand new features that add even more to an already bountiful mod. Hunt mode is now expanded to feature the KOTOR era and more maps, including Felucia, Polis Massa, the Death Star and even the maps from the original Battlefront. A new Order 66 mode pits Jedi against Clones on a variety of maps, and there is even a mode that pits random creature Jedi against various bounty hunters, and playing as a Jawa Jedi is hilarious.

drallig.pngNot only that, but there are several new versions of classic modes that are spread across the various maps. Trying out different combinations of modes and eras can lead to some unexpected and sometimes hilarious results, such as pitting KOTOR-era Sith against Ewoks, Mandalorians against Sith Assassins on Kamino, Clones against Acklay on Felucia or even Jedi vs Sith in the Death Star.

The best thing about the Conversion Pack mod is how much it makes the 2005 Star Wars: Battlefront II feel like a totally new game, whilst at the same time preserving everything that fans loved about the original. Not only that, but it also incorporates elements from some of the most popular Star Wars games out there, from adding the maps of the 2003 Battlefront, to the addition of the KOTOR era, to even something as simple as adding in the Commando class, clearly this mod was created by true Star Wars fans who understand what players want from a Star Wars Battlefront game.

EA should be taking notes.

Read More

 

 

Star Wars: Clone Wars – Making the Best of the Worst of Star Wars

“Like fire across the Galaxy, the Clone Wars spread…”

In the wake of the announcement that Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be getting another season before the decade is out, it seems only fitting to look back at the progenitor of all ‘Clone Wars’ TV media – the original Star Wars: Clone Wars show which aired on Cartoon Network in 2003 and was directed, produced and co-written by Genndy Tartakovsky. This series is well-known among the fanbase for famously bridging the gap between Episodes II and III before Episode III itself had even been released. It’s distinctive style and impressive scope makes this series a must-watch for any Star Wars fan, particularly those interested in the prequel era.

clone-wars-battles.jpg

The Battles

Firstly and most obviously, this series is renowned for its depiction of some of the most epic and large-scale battles of the Clone Wars. The battles on Muunilinst, Dantooine, Hypori, Yavin, Mon Calamari and numerous others were brilliantly depicted in this series, with some battles taking up entire episodes and others spanning several episodes in a sequence of mini-arcs spanning the first series. Each of these depicts a totally unique Star Wars battle in enviroments that were not explored in the main films, such as the mass-fighter space battle above Muunilinst in the first few episodes or the uniquely fought battle of the dust fields featuring Mace ‘Keyhole’ Windu and his impressive jumping and punching techniques.

A particular highlight of the series is the Battle of Mon Calamari, a plot thread that takes up only one episode yet depicts several unique scenarios in Star Wars lore – notably, the appearance of a lightsaber working underwater, how factions in Star Wars battle underwater in the first place, and more insight into how the Mon Calamari and Quarren races fight in their native habitat. The inclusion of Kit Fisto as the star of his own individual episode was a nice touch too, seeing as how he is brutally murdered in the next movie.

clone-wars-clones.jpg

The Clones

Oddly enough, one of this series’ major strengths is how it uses dialogue-less sequences with the Clones to depict plot development. A perfect example of this is the entire ARC troopers sequence, which spans several episodes, many of which are totally dialogue-free as the ARC troopers wordlessly delegate commands to each other through the visual hierarchy of the Red Sergeant and his Blue and White subordinates, all of whom work together to form a deadly and efficient squad who recur throughout the series, taking on a threats ranging from a giant cannon to General Grievous himself. Aside from the ARC troopers, the depiction of regular Clones in the Republic Army is effective in demonstrating both their tactical importance and their disposibility.

Whilst the series emphasises the true nature of the Clone Wars, the lack of respect for its Clone characters compared to its successor, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is a major disadvantage to the series. However, whilst the Clones are not used for emotional impact, they are effective in their role as the show’s cannon fodder – in fact, the Clone death toll in this series is probably higher than any other piece of Star Wars TV media.

star-wars-clone-wars-obi-wan.jpg

The Characters

Star Wars: Clone Wars introduced several interesting characters to the Star Wars on-screen canon, particularly fan-favourites like Durge and Asajj Ventress. Both of these new characters get special focus throughout the show, but what is perhaps more important is how Star Wars: Clone Wars depicts its returning characters – and the answer is, it is spot-on. Characters like Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Palpatine, Amidala and Mace Windu seem by all accounts to be accurate depictions of their appearances in the movies, and although this show focuses primarily on combat and less on dialogue, there are still some great character moments, particularly the scenes involving Anakin and Obi-Wan.

Like the later Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the 2003 series does a great job of showing the friendship that existed between Anakin and Obi-Wan before the tragic events of Revenge of the Sith – but unlike its successor, Star Wars: Clone Wars actually shows the evolution of the rivalry between Master and Apprentice that was apparent in Attack of the Clones to a genuine friendship over the course of the series.

clone-wars-grievous.jpg

The Villains

Of course, it wouldn’t be Star Wars without the villains, and Star Wars: Clone Wars features the return of many iconic villains from the prequels as well as the debut of even more fan-favourite villains from the prequel era like Asajj Ventress, Durge and General Grievous. An interesting trend in the Star Wars prequel-era TV shows is that they use their villains a lot better than the prequel movies themselves did, and the same is definitely true of this show. A perfect example of this is General Grievous – he makes his debut in this series in one of the most epic lightsaber duels in the show, makes mincemeat of half a dozen Jedi, and then comes back for more later in the series leading up to its cliffhanger – yet his appearance in Episode III makes him seem as though in the meantime he had half of his brain removed. The show even acknowledges this by having Mace Windu crush Grievous’ chest in the finale, causing his signature cough. The character of Durge, a fascinating antagonist to Obi-Wan’s first story arc, is another example of a really interesting villain idea – without giving too much away, he finds some interesting ways to fight toe-to-toe with a Jedi despite not owning a lightsaber, and his terrifying physiology makes him a memorable character in the series.

clone-wars-duels.jpg

The Duels

Needless to say, there are some epic duels in this series. From the more literal interpretation of a Star Wars ‘duel’ involving lightsabers, such as Grievous vs Ki-Adi Mundi or Ventress vs Anakin, to the less conventional such as Durge vs Obi-Wan or Ventress vs Dooku, each and every duel in this series is truly fantastic. This is particularly evident thanks to the wide variety of locations in this series, and the duel between Anakin and Asajj Ventress that involves a lot of jumping between trees in the jungles of Yavin, for example, become immediately memorable. The previously mentioned duel between Grievous and the Jedi on Hypori is a rare example of a Star Wars duel that involves multiple combatants fighting one immensely powerful duelist, and Grievous doesn’t even make use of his four arms and yet he is still able to wipe the floor with many of the Jedi in various brutal ways. Of all the factors that contribute to what makes this series so good, the quality of the lightsaber duels is definitely one of the stand outs.

Overall, even after all this time, Star Wars: Clone Wars is still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of Star Wars media and, whilst it is certainly no Empire Strikes Back, it works wonders to redeem many of the elements of the first two prequels and paved the way for the fantastic pseudo-sequel Star Wars: The Clone Wars years later.

Read More:

 

Sacred Icon – What’s New for 2019

Here’s a few hints of what to expect from this site in 2019:

big finish

Big Finish Reviews

With more and more Big Finish audios being announced every week, it can be hard to keep up – and reviewers try their best to cover as much as possible on a regular basis without bankrupting themselves in the process. Nonetheless, Big Finish’s extensive back-catalogue of Doctor Who audios that were released monthly from late 1999, there’s plenty that can be picked up cheap on the Big Finish website.

This means plenty to review, and the Best of Big Finish series will continue in 2019 with more audio reviews, some branching out into the spinoff series like I, Davros and New Series sets like Classic Doctors, New Monsters.

resolution.jpg

Doctor Who Reviews

Starting with a review of the New Year’s Special, for now titled Resolution (hopefully short for Resolution of the Daleks) we will be delving back into reviews of Series 11, starting with an overview of the series discussing what it did right and how the production team could build on it to make Series 12 even better.

We will be ranking the episodes in Series 11 and also ruminating on what changes we could see in Series 12 and the future of Doctor Who in general. Although there will be no Doctor Who series in 2019, expect a variety of Doctor Who content surrounding the show, including a review of the newly animated The Macra Terror, a Second Doctor story that has been missing for decades.

asylum-of-the-daleks.jpg

Asylum of the Daleks Diorama

In celebration of the 55th Anniversary of the second serial of Doctor Who and the first episode of the show to feature the Daleks, a serial aptly titled The Daleks, Sacred Icon will be showcasing a diorama of custom-made Dalek Asylum inmates. As a melting pot of all different Daleks throughout their history, the Asylum brings together Dalek designs from all different eras of Doctor Who and is a perfect celebration of the iconic monsters.

The first episode of The Daleks, titled ‘The Dead Planet’, involves the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and her teachers Ian and Barbara landing on Skaro and encountering the show’s first alien menace – the Daleks. The first episode ends with the infamous cliffhanger involving and unknown threat menacing Barbara and she wanders around the empty city, and ends with her chilling scream and the thing reaches out to her. As such, the actual Daleks themselves are not shown until the next episode, ‘The Survivors’, which aired on the 28th of December 1963.

installation 09.png

More Halo Content

Although we do not yet know the release date for Halo: Infinite, it seems certain that the game will release in late 2019 or early 2020. 343 Industries will be releasing teaser material soon and so expect discussion posts about these, as well as reviews of any trailers or preview material.

Also coming in 2019 on Sacred Icon will be more pieces to do with the Master Chief Collection, including reviews of the new updates and how the multiplayer has changed by 2019.

deep space nine

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Review

As a follow up to Star Trek – First Impressions of Deep Space 9, we will be reviewing the highlights of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine up until and including Season 5, as well as more Star Trek related content. Expect reviews relating to Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, as well as a possible review of a ‘classic’ Star Trek game called Star Trek: Shattered Universe.

And finally…

picard.jpg

The Picard TV Show?

Another potential release for 2019 is the Picard TV show, set to star Patrick Stewart and continue the story of Jean-Luc Picard in the Prime Star Trek timeline, following the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Nemesis. Star Trek fans hope that the iconic captain will be back on our screens in 2019.

If the show does release next year, then expect an episode-by-episode review from Sacred Icon. For more content, check out more from Sacred Icon:

Read More

%d bloggers like this: