How to Fix – Star Trek: Voyager

In this edition of ‘How to Fix’ the topic covered will be much broader than usual, as this piece will attempt to put forward several ways in which the concept of Star Trek: Voyager could have been better implemented into the show by the writers. On paper, the premise of Voyager is excellent and innovative for Star Trek – the idea how a Federation ship and crew would survive in a hostile part of the Galaxy for years, how the morals and tenants of the Federation would be tested by the situation, and how the Maquis and Federation crewmembers would eventually adapt and change to accept each other and take on the challenges that the Delta Quadrant throws at them is fantastic, but the true potential of this was never fully realised in the series.

To its credit, Star Trek: Voyager was able to implement many of these things and more into its seven season run, with one of the show’s primary themes for the early seasons being survival at all costs and the growing relationships between the crewmembers taking centre stage later on, but overall the final result feels lacklustre and many in the Star Trek fanbase have reacted by ranking Voyager as their least favourite of the Berman-era Star Trek shows. Whilst there is a lot to love about Star Trek Voyager, there is also a lot that could be improved, starting with:

The Setting

voyagerThe ship for which the series is named, the Intrepid-class starship the USS Voyager proves to be a sturdy example of a Federation starship throughout the series, earning it a top spot on some Federation starship rankings, but after seven seasons of being battered by all kinds of Delta Quadrant hostiles from Kaizon to Borg one would think the ship would have shown signs of more wear-and-tear, but oddly, the ship looks pristine throughout. Although this was likely done to reduce budget and continuity concerns, having Voyager look progressively more battered as the series went on would have been a nice touch to effectively convey to the audience the dire situation the ship is in. As previously mentioned, the early seasons did make a convincing deal out of the crew being stranded, such as implementing replicator rations and having the ship have to salvage fuel and repair parts, but later on the crew of the ship seemed to regard their trip as business as usual and not the death-defying voyage of fear and trepidation that it was made out to be in the early seasons. We get a glimpse of what this might have looked like in episodes like Year of Hell, which certainly portray in interesting alternate angle on the Voyager crew’s situation that makes their actual journey through the Delta Quadrant look like a routine scout mission.

The Maquis

maquis.jpgAnother interesting plot element to Voyager that was seemingly abandoned as the series progressed was the idea that a significant portion of the crew are made up of members of the Maquis, a terrorist organisation that opposed the Cardassians and, through treaty, the Federation itself. There are some episodes early on that deal with the difficult dynamic between these two crews, particularly the plight of B’Ellana Torres, who goes from authority-hating upstart to Chief Engineer (albeit over the course of a surprisingly small number of episodes) but overall the Maquis were an underused concept. What didn’t help was that Chakotay, the First Officer of Voyager and leader of the Maquis crewmembers, was as boring as a cardboard cutout and by extension his initial subplot in the first season was too. The show should have kept the Maquis plotlines running for longer, as having Seska turn up as a recurring Maquis antagonist eventually just became one of the many unrealistic things about the show that distracted attention away from the other Maquis crewmembers. If used properly, the idea of having Maquis crew could be an interesting test to the Federation way of life, particularly if a more hot-headed Chakotay had stood up to Janeway’s mad antics a little more.

The Crew

Star-Trek-Voyager-Season-4-Postere-nobyai3awks3woq3z1rcm86gr6wqlk8w24nn5mug3c.jpgChakotay isn’t the only character on Voyager with series issues surrounding writing, as characters like Neelix, Seven of Nine and Harry Kim are written so many contradicting story arcs that all three seem like totally unrealistic characters. The audience is left unsure what to feel about Harry Kim throughout the show, as he sometimes comes across as a lovable buffoon but at other times seems to be clearly incompetent, and is actually replaced by a parallel universe duplicate partway through the series and nobody seems to care. However, by far the character in the main crew that needs the most improvement is Janeway herself – although Kate Mulgrew does an impressive performance and the character has become one of the most famous Star Trek characters of all time, unfortunately she was written to be deliberately obnoxious and, at times, reckless, and whilst this would have been a great direction for the character had it come on through some moralistic dilemma after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant for so long, Janeway seems to be wired this way from the start and it seems odd that she was not put in command of one of Starfleet’s warships.

The Borg

seven.pngTo say that Voyager ruined the Borg is clearly an understatement as they reached a peak in The Next Generation that would never be topped – the villain decay they experienced over the course of Voyager was an inevitable side effect of them becoming a primary villain near the end of the show, and to its credit the series did utilise them fairly effectively at first, only to have their fear factor slowly diminish over the years as they appeared again and again. However, one of the main factors that contributed to the decay of the Borg as villains was the introduction of Seven of Nine, who clearly attempts to imitate the ‘Data’ type of character that has become customary in Star Trek but was also used as a means of artificially injecting some ‘sex appeal’ into the series after falling ratings, and it shows. When Seven of Nine is introduced she practically takes over the show, and potentially interesting character arcs for other characters were sidelined in favour of her, and although her love-hate relationship with the Borg is an interesting plot thread to introduce after she is separated from the collective, this should not have been the main plot of the series from Season 3 onward.

Janeway

janeway.jpgHowever, a pressing issue that spans the entirety of the series is Janeway herself – although clearly a capable Captain, able to get her crew back home from the Delta Quadrant more or less in one piece and negotiate peace treaties with a variety of Delta Quadrant races. However, her actions are often questioned by her crew, and despite her insistence on adherence to protocol, Janeway breaks the Prime Directive several times over the course of the series, as well as committing several other dubiously moral acts such as the execution of Tuvix. Ultimately, Janeway exists as a sort of ‘necessary evil’ in the series – as the one most capable of making tough decisions, Janeway was most qualified to be Captain during Voyager’s stay in the Delta Quadrant. However, it is fitting that Janeway was promoted to the Admiralty before Picard, as Janeway’s character profile far better suits the insane megalomania and habit of ‘making the hard decisions’ that Starfleet Admirals so often display.

Although Voyager lasted for seven seasons, the same length as both TNG and DS9, it is often the lowest rated of the Berman-era Star Trek shows – perhaps unfairly. After all, it was dealing with concepts new to Star Trek, and for a first attempt it does manage to tell a self-contained story and deliver a fair amount of excellent individual episodes. Particular strengths of the series include the character development of the EMH Doctor, and many Star Trek fans are now less harsh on Voyager following the mixed reception of both Enterprise and Discovery. However, its faults are notable, and hopefully by laying them out future Star Trek shows can learn from the mistakes of this underloved but overstuffed show.

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Doctor Who – Top 10 Big Finish Dalek Stories

Big Finish has been producing the Doctor Who Main Range (formerly called the Monthly Range) since 1999 and is therefore fast approaching its 20th anniversary of creating Doctor Who audio dramas. In the 20 years that these audio plays have been in production, Big Finish has expanded their Doctor Who releases further than the Main Range to include many standalone series like the Eighth Doctor Adventures and the Dalek Empire series with a vast array of excellent Dalek stories to listen to. However, there are definitely some that stand out as truly spectacular stories and perhaps even some of the best examples of Doctor Who stories in any format, including the Classic and Modern TV series, and this article ranks the top ten, starting with:

#10 – We Are The Daleks

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Intended as a potential jumping-on point for would-be listeners who felt intimidated by the increasing number of story arcs and continuity related to the Big Finish Main Range, We Are The Daleks aims to tell a self-contained, somewhat familiar and yet entirely new Dalek story, and it achieves all three of these goals and more. Whilst the end result is hardly groundbreaking, and is certainly not as introspective or formula-inverting as some of Big Finish’s other Dalek stories, what fans got with We Are The Daleks was a classic Dalek romp that takes advantage of being set in the 1980s but with the hindsight of knowing what advancements in technology would bring in the 21st century, and the idea of combining Dalek technology with the basic human desire for video games was an ingenious one.

#9 – The Dalek Transaction

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Though it may seem an odd choice to include an audio from the UNIT: The New Series range considering the fact that it is a spinoff, The Dalek Transaction proves that great Dalek stories can be done in any form of Doctor Who media, not just the Doctor-focused ranges. Despite the wider lore surrounding UNIT: The New Series, Big Finish have made it very easy for fans to jump into the series with each box set, and although this audio can only be picked up as part of the UNIT: Encounters box set, you are almost immediately given everything that you need to know to understand the story and the characters. And as far as the story goes, although the idea of a critically damaged Dalek being held prisoner isn’t a new one, this story certainly takes a new and dynamic approach to the concept that pleased many a Dalek fan.

#8 – Blood of the Daleks

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The opening two-parter to the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Sheridan Smith playing new companion Lucie Miller, Blood of the Daleks aims to both introduce the audience to Lucie and the more brooding Eighth Doctor whilst also delivering a fantastic Dalek story. Unsurprisingly this episode has plenty of references to other Doctor Who stories, particularly Dalek stories, as this audio was designed as not only an introduction to new companion Lucie but also to the Eighth Doctor and the idea of Doctor Who audios as a medium, as this was the first episode in a series that Big Finish pushed as a jumping on point for new Doctor Who fans back when the New Series had only just started. As it stands, Blood of the Daleks is a great opener to the Eighth Doctor Adventures and is one of the best audios to use as a means of getting accustomed to the format, for those who have not listened to many before. The relationship between Eight and Lucie is composed perfectly, and there is a great dynamic between them that develops as the plot unfolds.

#7 – Masters of Earth

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This audio peaked the interest of many veteran Dalek fans on its announcement as it features the Sixth Doctor and Peri visiting Earth during the Dalek Occupation, as seen in the famous First Doctor episode The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The idea of the Doctor visiting eras in Dalek history from the Classic show is something that the New Series should definitely work on creating, as it gives some great marketing opportunities as well as setting up innumerable ideas for potential time-travel focused stories. Masters of Earth delivers on this, as whilst its twist is predictable, it does a great job of recreating the feel of Dalek-controlled Earth that fans saw in the 1960s. As this is an audio set later in Peri’s timeline, her character is much more manageable than she appeared in the show, and Peri arguably gets a proper encounter with the Daleks that Revelation of the Daleks tragically denied her.

#6 – Order of the Daleks

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A recent outing for the Sixth Doctor and his new companion Constance Clarke, this audio’s eye-catching cover is fitting considering how this audio stands out among many of its peers. Make no mistake, Big Finish is still just as fantastic as it always has been, but there has been a recent trend of Big Finish Dalek stories being less experimental than perhaps they once were. Enter Order of the Daleks which manages to not only utilise the concept of a Stained Glass Dalek for a great cover design but also as a great peg for an original and wholly unique Dalek story idea, that being: what would the Daleks do if they crashed on a primitive planet, and were forced to use primitive technology to repair themselves? The result is a great story that showcases how great Colin Baker is as the Doctor but also provides new companion Constance Clarke with an opportunity to make a mark on the Doctor Who timeline – and as audio-only companions go, Constance is every bit as great as classics like Charlie and Lucie. The conversations between the Dalek Commander and the Doctor in this story are brilliant and, without spoiling too much, there is some very good development of the Daleks psychology in this story that any Dalek fan should check out.

#5 – The Dalek Contact/The Final Phase

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The Fourth Doctor Adventures are a fantastic range of audios, particularly since they star one of the most popular Doctors in the history of the show, as well as fan-favourites like Leela, Romana and K-9. However, an interesting aspect of this series is that it manages to replicate one of the many odd quirks of the Fourth Doctor’s era, in that there is a disproportionally small number of Dalek stories considering the sheer number of stories that the Fourth Doctor has, both for TV and in his own audio series. The Fourth Doctor Adventures definitely benefits from this, as the few instances in which the Daleks do appear feel like special occasions and, as special occasions go, The Dalek Contact and The Final Phase are both great Dalek stories, making it especially exciting that it features the Fourth Doctor, Romana I and K-9. For fans of this era of the show, this two-parter is definitely one of the best Dalek stories.

#4 – Enemy of the Daleks

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When discussing types of Dalek stories, particularly with people who are fans of the Daleks specifically, often the stories that try a different ‘take’ on the Daleks are ranked as among the best, and with good reason. As the Daleks are so prolific among the various media formats of Doctor Who, with dozens of episodes and audios, and even a significant number of books, dedicated to them, and as a result after over fifty years of the Daleks it is often those few stories that attempt to somehow redefine or reinvent the Daleks that are considered the best. However, every once in a while a Dalek story comes along that, although playing straight to almost every single Dalek story trope that the show has ever seen, actually manages to be just so good regardless that it is automatically considered a classic. Enemy of the Daleks is definitely one of these, as what is (on the surface at least) a generic Dalek action romp also manages to deliver a surprisingly good story and present some characters with great emotional depth. When describing Enemy of the Daleks, the key phrase to bear in mind is ‘never judge a book by its cover’, although that hardly seems fair as this audio has perhaps one of the coolest covers of any Doctor Who product across all its many mediums.

#3 – The Apocalypse Element

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If it wasn’t good enough that the Sixth Doctor got to face the Daleks so early in his audio appearances, it just so happens that he got to star in what is undeniably the best of the early ‘Dalek Empire’ Main Range audios. For those not in the know, early in their career as Doctor Who audio play producers, Big Finish brought the Daleks to their main series with four totally separate yet also thematically linked Dalek stories – The Genocide Machine, The Apocalypse Element, The Mutant Phase and The Time of the Daleks, and this later went on to drive the plot of their standalone Dalek Empire spinoff series. Each main range story is good in their own right, particularly The Mutant Phase, but The Apocalypse Element is by far the greatest of the bunch. Not only does it feature Lalla Ward as Romana II, but it also delivers a cracking Dalek story that seems to present what has later become the ‘first act’ of the Last Great Time War.

#2 – The Juggernauts

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Something that might have become apparent to Dalek fans reading this list is the fact that, until this point, no Davros stories have appeared. There are several reasons for this – arguably the most important being that there is rarely a good Dalek story that also happens to be a good Davros story, usually one is sacrificed for the other. However, there are always exceptions to this rule, and The Juggernauts is probably the best example of this. Featuring the Sixth Doctor and Mel in the best story that they share, this audio approaches the Davros/Dalek dynamic in a very different light, and presents the idea of Davros, finally deciding that the Daleks have failed him, attempting to create something to counter the Daleks on a galactic scale – the ubiquitous ‘Juggernauts’. For those who are fans of the 1980s Davros stories, this audio is essentially everything that those stories were trying to be, had they not been held back by budget constraints.

Honorable Mention – The Dalek Occupation of Winter

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Although some fans will be put off by the more traditional ‘talking book’ style of the audio adventures of earlier Doctors, there are some genuine gems in amongst the catalogues of the first three Doctors. A recent example of one of these is the superb The Dalek Occupation of Winter, an audio that utilises the fact that this is one of the Doctor’s first encounters with the Daleks to great effect, and is definitely work picking up as an introduction to the different format for those who are not familiar with it.

#1 – Jubilee

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An audio made famous by the distinction of being adapted into the 2005 episode ‘Dalek’, the first appearance of the Daleks in the New Series, Jubilee has a lot more going on than what is presented in the episode it was later adapted into. ‘Dalek’ is arguably just an adaptation of one plot point from Jubilee, and listeners will quickly realise that there is a lot more to Jubilee than is to be expected of a Dalek story. One of this story’s greatest assets is the fact that it features the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn, a Doctor-companion pairing that has rarely been topped in any medium of the franchise. Considering Colin Baker’s rough time on the show and the generally negative reception that his Doctor gets as a result, it is fine poetry that his Doctor happens to be the one that has spearheaded the success of the Doctor Who audios through great characterisation, fantastic scripts and great new companions. However, the greatest thing about Jubilee (and the thing that makes it a great Dalek story) is the Dalek itself and the way it is presented. When listening to this audio all preconceived notions about the Daleks have to be thrown out of the window, as this story depicts a Dalek that demonstrates some definite growth as a character, and without spoiling too much, it is clear where the most emotive moments in ‘Dalek’ were derived from, as Jubilee presents an entirely different yet similarly emotive story that makes the audience feel conflicted feelings of pity for the most pitiless race in the universe.

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Star Wars: Jedi Knight II and Jedi Academy

As Star Wars games evolved and adapted throughout the late 20th century it was inevitable that eventually the games would take on a life of their own and become almost totally independent of the film series, and nothing is more telling of this than the success of the Jedi Knight series that focused almost entirely on characters that were never even mentioned in the original trilogy. Yet characters like Kyle Katarn, Jan Ors and Tavion have become just as synonymous with Star Wars for many fans as the likes of Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker are for fans of the movies.

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The Story

Both Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy have fantastic storylines set deep within the now ‘Legends’ canon – both games follow the story of Rebel Agent-turned-Jedi Kyle Katarn and his fight against the Reborn faction, led by Desann and later Tavion. The development of Katarn’s character is one of ‘Legends’ canon’s greatest achievements, and makes these games all the more interesting as we follow the adventures of one of the Galaxy’s most legendary heroes. The main antagonists of both games are the various Dark Jedi associated with the Reborn faction, notably Desann, Tavion and Alora, and games are also filled with various minor antagonists, obstacles and puzzles to overcome as the player explores the world of Star Wars post-Return of the Jedi. An interesting feature in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy allows the player to create their own Jedi, who trains under Kyle Katarn in Luke’s new Jedi Temple on Yavin IV. Whilst Outcast‘s story is more linear, Academy allows players to choose their own missions whilst unravelling the game’s story and decide whether Kyle’s apprentice should stay on the path of the light or embrace the dark side, which gives Academy’s story two very different endings.

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The Multiplayer

By far one of the most memorable aspects of these games was the multiplayer, with maps like Death Star, Nar Shaddaa Streets, Vjun Sentinel, Taspir, Yavin Hilltops, and Coruscant Streets being among the more enduring and iconic maps in the series. Players have been able to use the game’s well-designed lightsaber combat system to create some quite interesting moves and strategies, which was further enhanced by Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy’s improved engine that allowed for double-bladed lightsabers and more advanced gymnastic Force abilities. Every map has a vertical element that can be used in conjunction with the almost limitless freedom that the hilariously overpowered Force Jump provides to take unsuspecting players completely by surprise, which is particularly rewarding in open maps with lots of ledges and platforms. As for the multiplayer setup, there are many different game modes to try, from Free for All to Capture the Flag, as well as modes designed around Star Wars battles in the movies like Power Duel and Siege. Even when playing solo, the game’s bots are challenging enough that it is still great fun.

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The Characters

A notable aspect of the campaign and multiplayer of the Jedi Knight series is the vast array of characters – particularly in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, in which an entire team can be made up of the various types of Stormtrooper in the game – and there are a fair few familiar faces from the Original Trilogy like Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and Mon Mothma. Like all good contributions to the Star Wars lore, however, the Jedi Knight series also has its own large cast of recognisable characters and this, coupled with Jedi Academy‘s character customisation option, means that players are never short of choice in multiplayer when it comes to characters. The voice acting in this game ranges from genuinely good to downright hilarious, particularly in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast that has some funny dialogue but even funnier combat dialogue for the enemies.

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The Combat

It has to be said that one of the greatest assets of the Jedi Knight series is its combat mechanics, and even later Star Wars games like The Force Unleashed were never able to capture the simple-yet-effective approach that the Jedi Knight series took with its combat system. Lightsaber battles flow well and feel authentic – rather than having the player and the AI simply bashing sticks at each other until one of them drops dead, the combatants will lock blades and scoring direct body hits requires skill and precision. This means that each combat encounter feels like a mini-duel in itself, making the Jedi Knight games one of the quintessential Star Wars experiences for lightsaber combat.

There are other forms of combat present in the game too, however, and in some levels weapons other than the lightsaber are useful or even necessary. Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy feature a diverse sandbox of weapons and each has a specific function – a Star Wars equivalent of a shotgun, sniper rifle and rocket launcher are all present to make the games accessible to fans of the first-person shooter genre. Like all good FPS games, gunfights in the Jedi Knight series are dependant on movement and good aim, but many of the guns are useless against lightsaber wielders. The game’s weapon sandbox truly shines in the campaign mode, particularly since players can either mince through legions of Stormtroopers with their lightsaber, use the various Force powers to easily sweep through encounters, or choose to play more fairly and switch to gunplay for a more challenging (but ultimately more rewarding) combat experience.

Many who played the Jedi Knight games regard them as among the best of the Star Wars video games, and for good reason. Whilst it may no longer be part of the Star Wars canon, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy remains an essential Star Wars experience.

 

Doctor Who – Arachnids in the UK – Series 11 Episode 4 Review

Arachnophobes beware, as last Sunday’s Doctor Who definitely lived up to the Halloween season hype with a nail-biting runaround that, for many, brought the fear factor back to Doctor Who. Whilst Arachnids in the UK was far from the scariest episode in the show’s recent history, it certainly provides some welcome scares and genuinely creepy moments that prove the show is still willing to tackle the horror side of sci-fi.

Longtime fans were intrigued by the premise of this episode, as this is not the first time that giant spiders have appeared on the show – in fact, Third Doctor Jon Pertwee actually regenerated following an encounter with some insidious alien arachnids from Metebelis III in 1974’s Planet of the Spiders, so it would make sense if the Doctor to be a little squeamish around them. However, Arachnids in the UK takes a completely different approach to a similar idea as the spiders are common house spiders that have mutated rather than extraterrestrial invaders, which is a nice twist.

Once again, Jodie Whittaker steals the show and her character of the Thirteenth Doctor has been firmly well-established. It is amazing how soon she has found her feet in the role as the Doctor, and she has already solidified many of the details of her character from the Tennant-esque technobabble to the way she flourishes her sonic. Not only that, but the writing has given the Thirteenth Doctor a consistent character throughout her opening episodes, an improvement over the Twelfth Doctor’s introduction in which Peter Capaldi’s masterful grasp of the character was undermined by inconsistent writing.

Another marked improvement in this series over the previous Moffat-era stories is the heart, as whilst Series 10 had some great moments with characters like Missy and Bill, Series 11 has already a more compelling character in Graham than the Moffat era had with a companion like Clara. The simple approach to character development is always the way to go on Doctor Who, and the down-to-earth nature of the new companions is far more relatable than Moffat’s Mary Sues who were ‘born to save the Doctor’. Hopefully the show can learn from its mistakes and maintain the ‘regular’ kind of companion as these are far more effective.

The supporting cast in this episode are also strong, with Chris North’s character filling the role of merciless businessman that has become a staple of many Earth-based Doctor Who episodes, and Yaz’s Mum Najia played by Shobna Gulati proves a good foil for his stubborn and detached personality. The ending of this story is distinctly bleak, but has an uplifting turn at the end with the final scene in the TARDIS showing the team reunited for more adventures.

So although Giant Spiders may be a somewhat of a recycled plot idea for Doctor Who at this point, Arachnids in the UK somehow makes it feel fresh and is another strong instalment of Thirteen’s debut series.

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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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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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