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31 Monster Toys #26: Doctor Who – The Morbius Monster

October 26th, 2013 No comments

This charming fellow was the featured creature in the 1976 Doctor Who serial “The Brain of Morbius.” The mad doctor in this Frankenstein pastiche was obsessed with building a new body to house the loose think muscle of the executed Time Lord criminal Morbius. He cobbled it together from the leftover bits of those unfortunate enough to crash their spaceships into the planet Karn, which is why it has one human arm, one claw, the lungs of a Birastrop (not pictured), a fishbowl and a pair of flashlights. Surprisingly, the resultant body proved less than reliable.

 

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31 Monster Toys #20: Doctor Who – Reaper

October 20th, 2013 No comments

Arguably one of the stranger monster designs seen in 50 years of  Doctor Who, the Reaper appeared in the first season of the British TV series’ 2005 revival. When the time-travelling Doctor’s friend Rose changed history by saving her father, the resulting tear in fabric of space/time allowed Reapers to pour through into our reality.

This toy by Character Options sports a bendable tail, loads of articulation and a light-up mouth–in its stomach!

Categories: Toys Tags: ,

A Fetish For Gaming

August 20th, 2012 No comments

One of the events I look forward to most each year is Gen Con Indy, when tens of thousands of board-, war-, card- and role-playing gaming enthusiasts descend on Indianapolis for four days of cardboard and plastic nirvana.

The original Gen Con (literally short for “Geneva Convention”) was held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I first attended in the late ’70s, soon after my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons and the cottage industries that game spawned. I went back sporadically over the years, but it wasn’t until the gathering moved to Indianapolis in 2003 that I made it an annual thing.

This year was the first time that I stayed for a second day. Previously, I’d been a Friday-only guest, taking advantage of the (relatively) smaller weekday crowd. The problem with that was that it meant that I rarely stepped outside the cavernous dealers’ hall, and had little opportunity to actually try out some of the new games on display.

I think two days was just about right. I was able to thoroughly cover the dealers’ hall and still have time for some demo games. Three days would’ve been too much; I was fried by Saturday evening.

Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro subsidiary that publishes the Magic: The Gathering card game as well as Dungeons & Dragons, made a good showing with its Drow*-themed booth, the centerpiece of which was a massive, life-sized statue of Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders. They also gave out some adorable papercraft models of Lolth.

There were Doctor Who fans galore this year. Nicholas Briggs, the uberfan-turned-radio drama producer who managed to get himself installed as the official voice of both the Daleks and the Cybermen, was on hand and using a modulating microphone to threaten passersby with extermination.

Cubicle 7 was demonstrating its new Doctor Who card game. It was, as friend Dave Lartigue and I feared, pretty much a numbers contest with a veneer of Who theming. The gal in the TARDIS dress was cute, though.**

When Gen Con Indy began, costumed geeks were thin on the ground. That’s changed. Nowadays, you can’t throw a 20-sided die without hitting an anime character. The parade of short-skirted, be-ribboned maids was challenged only by the ranks of the Steampunks. (“Steampunk” is an aesthetic based on a quasi-Victorian reality of steam-powered technology. Basically, it involves a lot of gears and corsets.***)

It occurred to me that Gen Con is now providing cover for fetishists. For the women, it seemed as if there’d been an open call for the sluttiest slut who ever slutted. Lots of flesh on display is what I’m saying. For the men, it was largely some combination of leather, top hats and creepy mustaches. (With the occasional cross-dressing superheroine.) When I left for dinner in downtown Indy, I passed a Steampunk couple with the man holding the woman on a leash.****

A couple of blocks away, there was a massive gathering of motorcyclists pointlessly roaring up and down Meridian Avenue. I think that they have more in common with the Gen Con crowd than might be assumed. Certainly, both parties demonstrate a love of leather and a need for exhibitionism.

Amongst the grown men dressed as Finn from Adventure Time, there were some impressive, creative costumes. The woman (or was it?) attired as one of Doctor Who‘s Clockwork Robots had its eerie, gliding movements down pat. And, of course, I was absolutely in love with this gal who came as Mothra.

Oh, I hear you saying, wasn’t this supposed to be about games? Sure, and I got to try out several of them. Dungeon Fighter was a highly-enjoyable dice fest in which the players cooperate to take down the usual assortment of subterranean monsters, except that they do it by attempting to bounce their dice into a large target. Some monsters and/or special attacks require one to toss a die underneath a leg or off the tip of one’s nose. Hilarity really did ensue.

X-Wing was basically the aerial combat miniatures game Wings of War with a Lucasfilm overlay, not that this is necessarily a bad thing. I could certainly see myself getting it, especially if I found it for cheap. The problem is that the core set comes with only two TIE Fighters and a single X-Wing. Remember that movie scene where one X-Wing got in a dogfight with a couple of TIE Fighters? Me neither. If you want a second X-Wing, or perhaps even a Y-Wing, be prepared to throw down 15 bucks per ship. That said, the miniatures are high quality, and the forthcoming Millennium Falcon is a thing of beauty.

Relic really is nothing more than a Warhammer 40,000 reskinning of Talisman, which is itself more-or-less D&D Monopoly. I enjoyed it well enough, and may consider it when it hits shelves later this year. I am concerned, however, that it will go the same route as Talisman and its million, billion add-ons. (Though, given that while at Gen Con I bought expansion sets for both Ascension and Quarriors, I can’t really complain too much.)

I got to play a full session of Dungeon World, a rules-lite role-playing game that straddles a line between old-school D&D and freewheeling storytelling games. I participated in DW’s recent Kickstarter, and was eager to play it with an experienced game master. It was a lot of fun, kinda like improvisational theater with just enough rules crunch to keep me satisfied. The GM used a nifty set of geomorphic dice to design the dungeon on the fly, and I wound up buying a set for myself.

In addition to a crapton of dice, I walked away with two painted squads of Sisters of Battle for my Warhammer 40K army. I recently got back into that game, and realized that I didn’t have a hope of being competitive without at least a couple more units of armor-plated nuns. As I was dreaded the possibility of painting up another twenty metal miniatures covered in fiddly details, I was grateful to find these. They need a bit of touch-up work, but in general they’re painted about as well as I would do on my own. I also picked up a bunch of bits and bobs for some Warhammer modeling projects I’ll be working on.

My other big purchase was a copy of Star Trek Catan, a lightly-reskinned version of the ever-popular Settlers of Catan. On one hand, it’s about as pointless as the multitude of themed Monopoly sets. Aside from some character cards which grant players limited special abilities, it really is just Catan with starships instead of roads. On the other hand–and this was the hand that reached for my wallet–it’s Catan with starships instead of roads! And Nichelle “Uhura” Nichols was there to autograph the box! Ka-ching!

All in all, I had a great time at Gen Con Indy, spent more money than I should’ve, and came away feeling satiated. It’s less than a year until Gen Con 2013. Can’t wait!

*The Drow are a race of dark-skinned elves who live underground and are uniformly evil, with the notable exception of a few tortured outsiders who have entirely too many books written about them. Unfortunately, the combination of dark-skinned goth fantasy characters and costumed conventioneers tends to result in public displays of blackface.

**There was also a second girl in a TARDIS dress, accessorized with a blue lamp perched atop her head. And on my way out of the hall on Saturday evening, I briefly spotted one in a bump-covered Dalek dress, complete with tiny dome hat.

***Slap a couple of cogs on your corset. Boom! You’re steampunk!

****Because, I guess, the importation of steam-powered computers into Victorian society loosened England’s long history of cultural repression and turned London into a haven for BDSM enthusiasts? I’m just spitballin’ here. 

Weekend Update

May 15th, 2011 No comments

I’ve got a big week coming up. Tonight I’m doing the on-stage introduction for The Red Green Wit & Wisdom Tour, actor Steve Smith’s live stage show. It’s no big deal–just a few words and a couple of jokes–but it’s my first time before an audience in quite a while.

Tomorrow I’m off to Orlando for the PBS Annual Meeting, which means three days of meetings and networking. It also means I’ll be taking a few extra days to hit the parks. This’ll be my first time at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And the new Star Wars ride opens at Disney Hollywood this Friday! I was at Disneyland in Anaheim for the opening weekend of the original Star Tours back in ’87, so it’ll be great to maintain the tradition!

But first a little sci-fi TV wrap-up. Last week the broadcast networks announced their series pickups for the fall, and V unsurprisingly received the axe. It’s hard to feel very badly about that; it was a show that squandered every opportunity to become compelling TV. They brought back Jane Badler as lizard baddy Diana but kept her in a cell for nine episodes and killed her minutes after her escape. The final installment reintroduced original series star Mark Singer as the leader of a human military alliance, but it was too little and far too late. (Note to TV producers: maybe you don’t want to wait two entire seasons to add some combat action to your alien invasion series.)

Smallville concluded Friday, and it was every bit as frustrating at the end as it had been these past ten years. The evil god Darkseid brought his warworld Apokolips on a collision course with the Earth, and if you think that sounds like an opportunity for some exciting Super-action, well then you haven’t been producing Smallville. Look, I know that the series was more soap than superhero, but really, when there’s a giant flaming planet looming in the sky, it might be time to stop yapping about your personal issues and put on the Superman suit. I swear that about every ten minutes I shouted at the TV, “Put on the fucking suit!” And would it have killed the showrunners to give us one decent shot of Tom Welling wearing the costume? Ten years, folks. Ten years.

Last night’s Doctor Who was a big step up from the previous week’s lightweight pirate episode, “The Curse of the Black Spot.” The latter seemed content to repeat the basic premise of Steven Moffat’s first script for modern Who, “The Empty Child.” An automated alien medical device that tries to repair humans but doesn’t have the instruction manual? Been there, inhaled the nanoprobes.

The new installment, “The Doctor’s Wife,” was written by famous fantasist Neil Gaiman. I’d been both anticipating and dreading this one. I’ve generally enjoyed what I’ve read of Gaiman’s novels, but the setting–a living junkyard planet named House inhabited by people named Auntie and Uncle–sounded rather twee. However, I think it all turned out rather well. It was a bit fan-fictiony, what with the Doctor meeting a human incarnation of his beloved TARDIS, but at least it was good fan-fiction.

That’s all for now. Gotta put on my Possum Lodge costume and get ready for the show. Don’t know how much time I’ll have for blogging this next week, and it’s hard to do on the iPad in any case. Back next week!

Categories: TV Tags: , , ,

A Few Of My Favorite Links

September 1st, 2010 No comments

If you’re a fortysomething like me, or just interested in ’70s sci-fi, I’d encourage you to check out Space:1970, Christopher Mills’ love letter to the era of Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run and Jason of Star Command. It’s the sort of site I’d want to run if I could manage to restrict myself to one topic.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you owe it to yourself to check out WhoFix, another one of those “random image of the day” blogs. It’s an exploration of the weirdest corners of the Whoniverse.

And while I’ve mentioned this one before, I cannot stress how much I appreciate The Wrong Side of the Art. It’s a magnificent treasure trove of high-resolution scans of genre movie posters: horror, sci-fi and all manner of exploitation cinema. Some of it is decidedly Not Safe For Work, but all of it is wonderful. (Most of my recent Windows backgrounds have been cribbed from this site.)

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My Favorite Martians: The Daleks (Last In A Series)

September 4th, 2009 No comments

A friend of mine once told me that the scariest thing about the Daleks is that you can never be certain when they will kill you. It might be the precise instant that you are deemed no longer useful. Or it might be the moment that you piss them off. Or it might be any time, for any reason, or no reason at all. They may will kill you for not being a Dalek. However, if you are a Dalek, they may will kill you for not being Dalek-y enough.

You can be absolutely assured that no matter what you do, you eventually will hear the following two sounds: the high-pitched shriek “EX-TER-MIN-ATE!” followed immediately by the electronic sizzle of a death ray.

The Daleks–introduced in 1963 during the second story arc of the first season of Doctor Who–were a phenomenon created almost entirely by accident. Terry Nation’s script was pushed forward in the production schedule when another planned story was delayed. Nation’s description of the creatures was sketchy, and it was BBC designer Raymond Cusick who gave them their familiar pepper pot shape, their eyestalk and–infamously–their toilet plunger arm.

They were an instant sensation in the U.K. What had been intended as a one-off opponent for the time-travelling Doctor became his nemesis, featuring in numerous sequels and even a couple of spin-off films starring Peter Cushing. There were toys aplenty, and why not? Any kid could imitate a Dalek: just stiffly stick out your arms, shuffle about and scream “EX-TER-MIN-ATE!”

What Daleks Are:

  1. The mutated remains of the Kaleds, a humanoid race from the planet Skaro.
  2. Green, tentacled blobs permanently encased in tank-like “travel machines.”
  3. The creations of the brilliant and therefore mad scientist Davros, himself a mutant confined to a motorized wheelchair.
  4. Fanatical believers in racial purity.

What Daleks Aren’t:

  1. Robots. There’s a living creature in there, crippled and in constant pain.
  2. Emotionless. Even the TV show makes that mistake at times. It’s just that all they feel is anger, fear and hatred. And they hate themselves most of all.
  3. Afraid of stairs. Their presumed inability to navigate a set of steps was a joke frequently repeated by British cartoonists and comedians, long since debunked.

Perhaps in response to public perception of the Daleks as being a bit silly, the revitalized Doctor Who series beefed up their capabilities to insane levels. In the episode “Doomsday,” the Daleks get into a pissing match with fellow galactic conquerers the Cybermen. When the Cybermen taunt that there are millions of them, but only four Daleks, their enemies retort that it will only take one Dalek to wipe out the Cyber army. And the truly scary thing is that they’re probably right.

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I hope that you’ve enjoyed this look back at some of my favorite movie and TV aliens. It was originally meant to be a series of brief posts that I could queue up in advance, but brevity and I are not close friends.

Who’s Who?

January 4th, 2009 No comments

Welp, they’ve gone and done it…for the first time ever they’ve picked a Doctor Who who’s young enough to be my kid. Matt Smith* is 26 years old, or about 877 years younger than the Time Lord he’ll be playing.

Mind you, I’m willing to give new executive producer Steven Moffat (who created Coupling and wrote most of the best episodes of the new Who) the benefit of the doubt. If he says Matt Smith** is the real deal, I believe him.

Besides, it’s not like Smith hasn’t played Doctor Who before. Here, once again, is his first appearance in the role.

*Really? Doctor Who is going to be played by a guy named Matt Smith? Were John Doe and Generic McEveryman unavailable?

**Okay, it’s not like Tom Baker was an exotic name either. But still, I’m imagining what it’ll sound like when they get around to a remake of “The Three Doctors,” starring David Tennant, Christopher Eccleston, and…Matt Smith.

Categories: Doctor Who Tags: ,

Don’t Be Too Proud Of This Technological Terror You’ve Constructed

September 23rd, 2008 No comments

“Doctor, I’m quite certain this isn’t my mum’s flat.”
“Welllll…perhaps she’s gotten herself a new boyfriend.”

Coming in 2011 from Lucasfilm: Indiana Jones and the Star of Death!

“Today Gotham City, tomorrow…Mos Eisley!”

“Smeagol, are you sure this is the path into Mordor?”

Even Better Than "Pyramids Of Mars"

September 12th, 2008 No comments

Take some kids, a video camera, a cardboard Dalek suit, a bunch of willing exterminat-ees and a bit of post-production magic, and what do you get?

Quite possible the best piece of Doctor Who ever committed to video!

“I’m regenatin! Aaaaaaaaaah!”

And don’t stop watching before you reach “Mr. Happy.”

Exterminating The Competition

July 16th, 2008 No comments

With 10.5 million viewers, the season finale of Doctor Who was the most-watched program on British TV for the week, according to the Doctor Who News Page. It came in 1.5 million viewers ahead of the number two show (Wimbledon coverage) and even crushed the perennially popular nighttime soaps. It’s apparently the first time in its 45-year history that it has topped the ratings.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way over here…

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