Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
DOCTOR WHO: THE FORTRESS CHILDREN
By Andrew Hawnt
By Andrew Hawnt
A terrified young couple, Tabitha and Mark, are being held captive as specimens on an alien craft full of avid collectors of sentient beings, a group of rich aliens nicknamed the Completists. The Doctor and Donna have stowed away on the ship after the Doctor intercepted a mobile phone transmission from Tabitha, and rescue the pair from the greedy Completists. Tabitha and Mark have experienced an incredible adventure, and as the Doctor returns them home to their council estate, they ask Donna all about her time with the Doctor, and the group become friends.
Upon arrival on their estate, the group discover its residents being kidnapped and teleported by hooded, robed figures. The Doctor locks on to their destination and bundles Donna, Tabitha and Mark back into the TARDIS. They give chase through the vortex, and materialize on board a gargantuan fortress station, which is hiding just outside our solar system. The Doctor leads the way, and the group of the skulk through the shadowy structure in search of the missing people. They come face to face with a squad of the hooded figures, who imprison them in a shimmering cell called forth from the walls of the craft. Donna and the young couple are terrified and angry in equal measure, and the Doctor reveals who these creatures are.
They are the children of the ship; Clones of the original inhabitants who have been creating generation after generation of themselves in order to keep their race alive. The Doctor demands to know why they are taking people. Surprisingly, they are happy to answer, but not so keen on letting these stowaways loose. They are recruiting new members of their family, organic members with bodies that won’t degenerate so quickly. They are offering the people a choice- if they want to stay, they may be trained and taught the ways of the ship in order to protect the masses of knowledge they have gathered on their travels in space. If the candidates do not wish to stay, they are returned home via a teleportation mechanism.
The Doctor and his friends are imprisoned for the time being as they gatecrashed as opposed to being selected. The Doctor and Mark are separated from Donna and Tabitha. Donna and Tabitha agree they should try and be enlisted to find out what’s going on and see if they can free the Doctor and Mark so that everyone else may be rescued. They make it known they wish to be seen for consideration as new candidates, and are taken away.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Mark have already escaped and are trying to get to the bottom of things. While examining the teleporter, the Doctor discovers it doesn’t send people home- it stores them elsewhere in the fortress. Pursued by the ship’s offspring and their robotic guards, the two of them find a massive repository of stored and frozen humanoids. Further investigation reveals these frozen people are being used as vessels to continue the lives of the ailing clones. Their minds are to be erased and their bodies used as vehicles for generations to come, in order for the ship and its children to wage war on the worlds that shunned them. The Doctor is furious. Just as he and Mark are trapped by the guards, he finds out that the willing disciples are not so willing. They are being brainwashed into joining. Either way, the kidnapped people never go home. The Doctor and Mark are taken away to be dealt with by the leaders of the ship, and their new recruits- the brainwashed Donna and Tabitha…
The Doctor and Mark are judged worthy of education, and thus entered into the program, and the brainwashing commences. As it gets underway, the Doctor manages to sabotage the machine and Mark escapes. The leaders discover the Doctor’s alien physiology and deem him essential to their continued survival- they will set about cloning him straight away. He is strapped into a sampling machine and his screams of agony ring out through the fortress as the process begins.
Mark finds Donna and Tabitha and confronts them. The guards grab him, and as they do, the girls wink at him. In the confusion they were able to distract the guards at the consoles and the process didn’t take. They’re okay…
As Mark is taken away and the Doctor is tortured, Donna and Tabitha manage to reverse the brainwashing on the council estate residents by following what the Doctor did to the machine. The people are freed, and an uprising begins, led by Mark, Donna and Tabitha after they rescue Mark from the guards. They arrive just in time to save the Doctor from any permanent damage, and free him from the machinery. Once he has come to his senses again he leads them to the cavernous storage chamber so he can get to work on the ship’s technology. As the guards battle with the makeshift human army, the ship awakens hundreds of its frozen prisoners as zombified soldiers against the Doctor and his friends. As all seems lost, the Doctor reverses the effects of the brainwashing and sets the teleporters to full strength, returning all of the prisoners to their respective homes all over the galaxy, and leaving the ailing clones powerless.
The Doctor rewires the ship’s technology, enabling the Clones to treat themselves for their weak bodies, meaning they can live real lives. Mark and Tabitha consider staying to help. After all they’ve seen, they want to see more. Donna reminds them how important home and family are, and they join her and the Doctor in the TARDIS. They return to their estate to discover a huge celebration underway. A street party for the rescued and the rescuers. As Tabitha and Mark are welcomed home as heroes, the Doctor and Donna leave quietly, off for the next adventure.
Monday, 9 June 2008
Genre: Hard Rock/Power Metal
Timo Tolkki hasn’t had a very easy few years, all in all. After the breakup and subsequent reformation of Stratovarius, a lacklustre comeback album and troubled tours, he has laid the ghost of his old band to rest and is looking to the future in style with a brand new act. The debut from this new band is exactly what you would expect to a certain extent, and also something that fans have been crying out for. It sees a return to Tolkki’s roots and offers up a great selection of hard rock, power metal and classic rock. The progressive side to his work is kept on the backburner here; this is an album to rock out to, first and foremost. Featuring lead vocal performances from Edguy/Avantasia’s Tobias Sammet, former Helloween screamer Michael Kiske and Thunderstone's Pasi, the album is stuffed with superb music, let down only by some dubious lyrics.
Opening track ‘Heroes’ features Tobias Sammet and is very reminiscent of classic ‘Marching out’ era Yngwie in structure. From there the album shows off more of a classic rock direction that simply more double bass-laden power metal, and Tolkki presents himself as the rock guitar genius that he is with magnificent results. As I said, the only drawback to the album is the lyrics. The songs themselves are first rate, but the awkward lyrics detract a little from the listeners’ enjoyment. It can’t be easy writing in a language other than one’s own, and it is an admirable effort nonetheless.
‘Eden is Burning’ is nothing short of epic, with some of the biggest riffs I’ve heard Tolkki play in years, and an anthemic quality that comes across as a Power Metal incarnation of Whitesnake. It will be exciting to check out the band now it has a complete and stable lineup, but for now this debut album is a great showcase for the name and a great return to form for one of melodic metal’s finest musical forces. Welcome back, Timo!
Saturday, 7 June 2008
Check it out...
THE FOREVER GUARDIAN: EPISODE ONE
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
It is a great sign of an audience starting to take over their preferred genre. Science Fiction and Fantasy has always been fan oriented, and thus it is the perfect playground for new creators to learn their craft. Granted, there's a ton of junk out there too, but there is a huge amount of good stuff too. The fact that the publishing and music industries are becoming intereactive simply because of what book and music lovers are doing themselves is a great sign that audiences know what they want, and if we can't find it, we'll make it ourselves and fill the gap.
Following an aborted attempt to release his novel Earthcore, Scott podcasted it and the story ended up garnering something in the region of 10,000 listeners. Small press releases of his subsequent books were accompanied by further podcast series, which continued to make his fanbase grow. This, accompanied by other books, podcasts and him embracing the social networking side of new media on places such as Myspace, Facebook and the like, built an audience that grew enough for him to get noticed by a publishing house. The hardback of Infected was released this year to much fan and industry acclaim and is the first major work by a podcast author to make it into the mainstream. Further projects are underway, and the buzz for them is building steadily thanks to the author basically being in constant touch with his audience. This can only be a good thing for writers and fans as it means there is an incredible amount of contact between them, which in the end will mean that fans get more of what they want.
Another big name in the podcast novel scene is Mur Lafferty, known from her Geek Fu and I Should Be Writing podcasts, as well as work on various RPG books and fiction. Her novels, such as Playing For Keeps and the Heaven series have been podcasted and, like the work of Scott Sigler, have been gaining masses of listeners and getting the word out about her work. Swarm Press recent;y picked up the Playing For Keeps novel for publication, proving once again that getting your content out there and into the heads of potential fans is a fantastic way of getting published, or at least getting your material noticed.
Mur has gained a sizeable following for the Heaven series, which has spawned sequels in the shape of Hell, and, naturally, Earth. A regular panellist at various SF and fantasy conventions, Mur is very much tapped into the New Media phenomenon, with presences on her website, Livejournal, Myspace, Twitter and more. After so much work has been put into her online presence, she is finally beginning to see the results, with the release of Playing For Keeps coming up and many more projects either underway or in the pipeline.
There are a number of other writers who have been making a great deal of headway via podcasting their work, including writers such as Matt Wallace or JC Hutchins (author of the 7th Son trilogy, one of the most popular podcast novels around), and there are many others that are also making their literary (and literal) voices heard.
Audiences are thus discovering authors and stories they would otherwise have missed, and not only that but through the medium of the internet, these writers are able to get instant feedback about their work and improve on past mistakes. This is a very positive thing, as it means that their work is always improving, and their audience continues to grow. Its like word of mouth on a global and instant scale. It I also a remarkably good thing for genre fiction in general- there may be much more material out there to choose from but it is also improving in quality all the time, as writers are aiming their material more towards an audience instead of just themselves, making for more entertainment more insight and more creativity.
This whole method is also very good for maintaining an audience once it has been gathered. This is still the early days of Podcasters and self publishers getting recognition, but with such experienced names leading the fray, and an ever growing army of writers, podcasters, listeners, readers and fans, it looks as though the geeks are indeed about to take over in a way we couldn't really have predicted. We're here, we're geeks, and we've come for your planet.
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Movie Trailers- Why Give Away So Much?
By Andrew Hawnt
There are two kinds of movie trailers. I don't mean teasers and theatrical trailers; I mean those that show a little and those that show too much. Those that tease are much more exciting, as while I want to see all the set pieces a film has to offer, I don't really want to see the whole film condensed into two minutes. Far too much is being packed into blockbuster trailers right now, each one vying for superiority over one another with their elaborate special effects, one liners and heroic poses, but where is the mystery? In past decades, trailers were much more ambiguous, offering up the merest glimpses of eye candy in order to get people to come and see the movies themselves upon their release. This was hugely effective, with audiences feeling much more satisfied by the films they were seeing instead of already having seen much of the film already in the previews.
One that really stuck in my mind for giving away everything was the theatrical trailer for Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem. Now, the film was terrible anyway, but everyone could have saved themselves a couple of hours and some cash by just watching the trailer again! That trailer contained pretty much every effects shot bar the climax, leaving the film feeling like little more than a padded trailer.
This treatment of trailers as miniature versions of the films they advertise is contributing towards the decay of attention spans in the cinemagoing public. People are spending much of these films waiting to join the dots and pick out where each shot from the trailer goes in the film. What happened to suspense? If you spend millions on effects, don't you want people to come and see the film instead of just watching the trailer a couple of times on Youtube? Fair enough, show off some of the goods in the trailers, but don't reveal everything. Format them as lengthy teasers instead of trying to cram everything into such a short space. Check out some classic trailers for inspiration. Make your potential audience seek out your film to see what the hell is going on- don't blow it all at once.
Another example is the trailer for the Peter Jackson version of King Kong. There was a film where people wanted to go and see Kong himself, and that film's performance was damaged substantially by the trailer showing off exactly what King looked like and got up to. Tease the audience. I can't stress that enough. Tease them, make them want more. Give them a morsel or two instead of a massive platter dripping with grease, and they'll be more likely to eat the full meal once it is prepared. Okay, enough analogies. Go and cut a trailer that won't cheapen your movies.
Andrew writes for the pop culture/memorabilia site starstore.com and its blogs, covering the latest and greatest in film, TV, music and comics merchandise and collectibles.
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