One thing I have really shifted to these past few years, are computer aids for running and playing role playing games, especially ones for Dungeons and Dragons. Funny thing is, that for the last decade or so, Wizards of the coast has been fairly lazy about getting something like a Dungeon Master organization program out there, so amateur developers had to step in. I used to use a program called “Master Plan” to run third edition games, but it sadly died – most likely via cease and desist letter. That’s why I saw the news of an OFFICIAL product like this called D&D Beyond and got excited:
We are excited to announce development of D&D Beyond, an official digital toolset for use with the Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition rules. We have partnered with Curse to take D&D players beyond pen and paper, providing a rules compendium, character builder, digital character sheets, and more—all populated with official D&D content. D&D Beyond aims to make game management easier for both players and Dungeon Masters by providing high-quality tools available on any device, empowering beginners and veterans alike!
“D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” said Nathan Stewart, Senior Director of Dungeons & Dragons. “These tools represent a way forward for D&D, and we’re excited to get them into the hands of players soon!”
Visit dndbeyond.com to sign up for the beta now. Further details about the beta and launch are coming soon!
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It’s another Tuesday, so you know what that means! I have gathered a handful of some of the most noteworthy stories of the week all in one easily digestible nugget of newsiness. Check back later in the week for my coverage of the recent comic / science fiction convention that I attended last week, and perhaps a podcast episode about it. So without further ado, here’s the news!
“Every year thousands of exhibitors, visitors, journalists and industry experts de-camp to the International Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas to see, experience and discuss the hottest new technologies set to make a big impact around the globe.
Luckily for us, Robert Llewelyn, star of cult classic TV show Red Dwarf, ignores the saying ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ by ‘spilling the beans’ in a series of short films on the next generation of Bosch consumer technology products and innovations on show at CES.”
“We’re not bringing him back exactly the same as we left him, at all. I think that was already evident at Christmas,” he explained. “He’s left some of the burden of being the superhero of the universe behind.”
10 years of new Doctor Who: what 2005 reviews made of Rose
“It was either a legend majestically born or an annoying Ritalin romp pitched at Doctor Who’s youngest ever audience; an inspired return to form, or anathema to Who fans of old with nothing in common with the previous incarnation.”
“Authorities in Brighton are asking the public to choose local figures worthy of recognition by having their name on one of a new fleet of 24 Coaster buses. Brighton and Hove Buses have selected 15 names from over 100 nominations but for the remaining nine slots a public voting process will determine the names to be chosen.”
“The poll by RadioTimes.com, which received 280,859 votes, asked fans for their favourite episode of Doctor Who since it was relaunched by Russell T Davies on 26 March 2005, 16 years since the last full series. Blink topped the poll beating 2010’s Vincent and The Doctor to second place and The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End (2008) in third position.”
“Before we get started looking at the past week in Doctor Who, let’s go on a journey to the distant past. No, not prehistoric times, I’m talking about a time before there was an actual Doctor Who to watch. What did people do to entertain themselves without tales of Time Lords and TARDISes? And, actually, what would Doctor Who have been like if it was made in the earliest eras of filmed entertainment?”
Last week was a rough week for science fiction fans as we lost the legendary Leonard Nimoy and ALMOST lost Harrison Ford a few days later. I don’t think I’m the only one that breathed a huge sigh of relief on that one. I don’t have much to say to start out this column that isn’t somewhat off-topic, so I’ll just go for it.
Go See Chappie!
I know the critics hated it, and want the movie to bomb (One wonders if it’s because Neil Blomkamp is going to work on an Alien Sequel and critics are using this film to “prove” he’s a failure and not worthy?), but we (my wife and I) walked out with smiles on our faces. If you were a fan of Blomkamp’s other films (District 9 or Elysium), you’ll enjoy it. The general disdain for the film seems to follow these three rules:
1) “It’s too bloody, I thought it was a kid’s movie” which is an incredibly stupid reason to give a movie a bad review. It reminds me of when Pan’s Labyrinth came out.
2) “Die Antwoord play horrible people” – that’s one of the main points of the movie – Chappie’s parents are horrible, but he overcomes their influence to become a hero.
3) “it has a political message” where did all of these people come from that forgot that sci-fi used to be all about political messages? Do they think everything is going to be Star Wars? Did they forget about things like Day the Earth Stood Still, Twilight Zone etc…I honestly think that some folks were mad because this movie is largely about transhumanism and that’s a no-no for religious types. This happened with Elysium, a movie Fox news even tried to sabotage.
Note these are the same folks that are hailing American Sniper as the greatest film ever made for reasons that definitely are not related to politics or anything….sigh
It wasn’t perfect, but I have to wonder if we saw the same film the critics did. Blomkamp is like the new Ridley Scott – a genius when it comes to ideas and visuals, that the critics all loathe for some reason. If you want me to rant more about people not understanding Neil Blomkamp’s films check out my defense of Elysium.
“For the first time this semester, Anthony Rotolo opened up his ‘Doctor Who’ in the Digital Age class to the public Monday night. Anyone could come out to the Palace Theater and join the class for free.
About 200 people came out and Rotolo estimated about half the crowd consisted of registered students, while the other half was new.”
“Our best-selling Fourth Doctor Scarf keeps the winds at bay. Our Fifth Doctor Jumper will make sure you’re toasty. And now, our new Doctor Who umbrellas will keep you dry whether you’re on Marinus, sheltering from the siege of Trenzalore, or under the Earth’s overcast skies. All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was… Where do you want to start?”
“Red Nose Day comes along every two years and combines two very British things: having a laugh and helping others. Specifically, the event looks to raise money for in need in the U.K. and in Africa. As part of Red Nose Day, a program called Comic Relief begins its marathon broadcast on BBC1 next Friday March 13, starting at 7:00 p.m. GMT. The Doctor Who team has done a sketch or made an appearance on the show since 2009.”
Howdy Folks! It’s time once again for our weekly news round-up! I’ve been fairly absent for a little while, mostly due to some rough germs passed around at Christmas and New Years that kept me in a fairly pitiful state while I was not working. Rather than crank out a bunch of fever-induced terrible content, I rested the site for a bit. I have been collecting a few decent news stories for the past few weeks, so don’t be surprised if this particular edition is a few weeks behind. I originally sis this on Saturday, but feel that Tuesday better fits this premise due to news rarely “breaking” on weekends and that catchy rhyme up there. so without further ado, here’s your top headlines for the week!
If you have a great news tip that you want to share, feel free to contact me through e-mail or on a comments page, I’ll drop credit when I can!
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The Red Dwarf chilli chutney egg sarnie
I’ve seen people recreate dishes from many science fiction properties, but it’s usually reserved for things like Star Wars and Star Trek. I’m not sure if it’s good news or bad news, but it seems somebody has decided to bring one of Red Dwarf’s many gastronomic abominations into the real world.
“That’s how Arnold Rimmer described Dave Lister‘s unholy creation in episode Thanks for the Memory. Lister’s recipe was apparently inspired by a book on biological warfare, but in the absence of the original reference material or indeed a hard-and-fast set of instructions, the show’s fans have since speculated on just how the “state of the art sarnie” might be constructed.”
Den of Geek has done a good job of compiling some recent filming news for the ninth season of Doctor Who. If anything, I’m most happy about this little tidbit:
“We’re not going to do splits [in Season 8],” he said this time last year, “and the same format will repeat exactly [for Season 9] the following year  like that. So it will be the traditional form.”
‘Doctor Who’ fans gather for Los Angeles convention
In the past, news reporting about Doctor Who was about as relevant as the classified ads at the back of the newspaper, but today it’s front page news. The Los Angeles Daily News has tossed together a nice summary of the Gallifrey One convention that happened a few weeks ago.
“In America, however, “Doctor Who” was only known as an obscure BBC science fiction show rebroadcast on PBS — until now. Today, a resurgent “Doctor Who” is the most commercially successful show in BBC history and has appeared on the front cover of magazines and, later this year, will be immortalized in Lego form. It’s also popular enough to sell out Gallifrey One, a fan convention expected to attract 3,700 hard-core “Doctor Who” enthusiasts — also known as “Whovians” — to the Marriott Los Angeles Airport from Feb. 13-15, 2015. Organizers boasts it’s the largest convention of its kind in the country.”
Titan targets Doctor Who fans launching comic featuring the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors
It seems Titan comics is going to be releasing some sort of anthology format Doctor Who comic in the near future featuring tales of more than just one Doctor. If I can get my hands on these, I’ll be sure to do some reviews for you guys for our new weekly comic review!
“Every issue features work from writers and artists including Nick Abadzis (Laika), Elena Casagrande (Angel, Star Trek), Al Ewing (Loki: Agent of Asgard), Rob Williams (Trifecta), Robbie Morrison (The Authority, 2000AD) and Dave Taylor (Batman: Death by Design).”
Doctor Who and Eastenders: a history of soap and space
One of the main reasons I don’t like the very forgettable 30th Anniversary for Doctor Who – Dimensions in Time. Is that it shoe-horned the Cast of Eastenders into the plot helping it make no sense at all. Despite that, this is a decent write-up showing the links between the two BBC properties.
“From the Queen Vic to the TARDIS. As Eastenders prepares to mark its 30th anniversary, we look back at its encounters with Doctor Who…”
Two Doctor Who Showrunners Just Had The Best/Dumbest Argument Ever
“As you may recall, the Doctor has been married to River Song, Queen Elizabeth I, and Marilyn Monroe… that we know of. This delightful nonsense began when someone wrote into the official Doctor Who magazine and asked Moffat if that meant the Doctor was a bigamist. Moffat replied that at least the Doctor’s marriage to Elizabeth could have been annulled, since it was never consummated.”
Why AMC’s ‘Humans’ Is A Safer Bet On British Sci-Fi Than ‘The Prisoner’ Was
“Next year, AMC will air Humans, a sci-fi series whose casting (including William Hurt and Katherine Parkinson) was announced yesterday. Humans (which is to be made by UK producers, and is a co-production with the UK public service broadcaster Channel 4) has the ingredients to be another big hit – even if AMC’s history with transatlantic productions isn’t quite so stellar.”
” Merlin star Morgan will play Leo, a young man on the run, while Utopia’s Neil Maskell, Will Tudor (Game Of Thrones), Emily Berrington (24: Live Another Day) and Rebecca Front (The Thick of It) will all feature in the show.An adaptation of the Swedish TV series Real Humans, Humans will start shooting later this year and is due to be transmitted in 2015.”
Sci-fi book is mission accomplished for author Jonathan
“A LYMPHOMA sufferer has written a science fiction novel as a means of helping him cope with the disease. Jonathan Taylor, 41, from Darlington completed his sci-fi novel, The Forgotten Mission: The Return while undergoing chemotherapy. Written over an 18 month period the 130,000-word book has received five star reviews on Amazon and reached the top 70 in the sci-fi charts.”
Why watching Lynda Bellingham’s Doctor Who appearance is the only thing Whovians should do this evening
“While the late Lynda Bellingham is so often mentioned in the same breath as Loose Women and those brilliant Oxo TV adverts, Doctor Who fans will always remember her performance in the Trial of a Time Lord. She played an Inquisitor, a sort of Gallifreyan Judge Judy who summoned the Doctor to a spaceship and judged him on his time travelling antics – which were largely meddling in the affairs of aliens, and, er, genocide.”
“Children will be learning these increasingly important new skills while being actively entertained,” said Jo Pearce, from BBC Wales’ Interactive. “The idea behind it is simply to use one of our biggest, most popular brands to inspire children to find out more about programming.”
Will sci-fi Under the Skin be the British film to beat at the BAFTAs?
“Very loosely inspired by Michel Faber‘s book of the same name, the film stars Scarlett Johansson as an unnamed alien in human form, prowling the streets of Glasgow in a van searching for hitchhikers. What she does with these unfortunate souls – lured in on the promise of casual sex – almost defies description, as indeed does the film as a whole.”
Daisy Lowe and former Doctor Who star Matt Smith victims of nude photo leak
” Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith and his ex-girlfriend Daisy Lowe appear to have become the latest victims of hackers who have leaked naked photographs of the pair online. They join a long list of stars including Avril Lavigne, Cat Deeley and Rihanna whose pictures were said to have been posted online. ”
Don’t blink, Doctor Who and a bevvy of baddies just landed in Minecraft
” The Doctor Who skin pack for Minecraft on Xbox 360 hit today bringing with it not just the twelfth Doctor and traveling companion Clara but a slew of creepy enemies like the Daleks, Silence and … Weeping Angels. While there’s no date mentioned, the video seems to indicate that the Doctor Who Skins Volume 1 pack is also coming to Xbox One. ”
“Do you know what’s hateful? The snobbery that film fans have to contend with. There’s the ‘it’s only a movie’ snobbery, by which cinema is suitable only for wastrels and dogs. And there’s the ‘if it ain’t Danish and silent, then it ain’t no good’ snobbery. Proponents of both should spend less time blowing conjecture through their Sobranie smoke, and more time watching the Hollywood films of John Ford, Nicholas Ray and William A. Wellman.”
Hey everyone! Yeah, its actually Sunday, so I’m a day late with my news roundup. Work was rough and yadda yadda….all that matters is that it’s up now! We have a Doctor Who heavy edition of Saturday Links, full of reviews and other little tidbits. If you have a news snippet that you think I might be interested in, feel few to pop me a message, I might just use it!
“Following on from his transformation at the end of “The Time of the Doctor,” our resident Time Lord is understandably discombobulated. He is quickly put to bed in Vastra & Jenny’s house, while Clara attempts to process what, exactly has occurred.”
Sourcerer – Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 2 Review: “Into the Dalek”
“Journey is part of the Combined Galactic Resistance, on board a hidden hospital ship, the Aristotle. Her commander and uncle, Morgan Blue (Michael Smiley), shows the Doctor a captured, injured Dalek. The Doctor is disgusted by it, but becomes intrigued when the Dalek says “All Daleks must be destroyed!””
“Showrunner Steven Moffat has made it clear that he’s already making plans for at least some ofDoctor Who‘s episodes in 2015 — but speculation as to who might replace him continues to spread. And one surprising candidate has seemed to fuel the speculation, with a series of confusing tweets.”
‘Doctor Who’ Up In Week 3 On BBC1; Episode Is Latest To Be Edited For Content
“Doctor Who returned for the third episode of Season 8 last night with 5.22M viewers for a 25.4 share from 7:30-8:15 PM UK time on BBC One. That was 20,000 up on last week, according to the overnights. Last Saturday’s episode was down 1.59M on the August 23 S8 debut that introduced Peter Capaldi as the 12th Time Lord. Last night’s episode again had a 15-minute overlap with ITV’s X Factor UK which was also up compared to last week.”
From ‘Doctor Who’ to ‘The Leftovers,’ TV tries to regenerate the hero
“The corrupt cop. The principled drug pusher. The avenging serial killer. The vengeful peacekeeper. The romantic vampire. The heartless doctor. Television has been rotten with ironic or immoral protagonists for most of the new century, though the drama they’ve produced has often been golden.”
‘Doctor Who’ beheading scene edited out following Isis killings
“The BBC has revealed changes were made to the third episode of the new season of Doctor Who “out of respect” for journalists Stephen Sotloff and James Foley. Video footage of their executions was released.”
Actually, society needs dystopian sci-fi more than ever
“But Solana’s accusation that an influx of dystopian science fiction as guilty of somehow exacerbating this fear is troubling. Dystopian fiction mimics what it actually feels like to be in the world, so if it ends up scaring people, well, that’s because the world is scary.”
Echopraxia scores ‘diamond cutter’ on the sci-fi hardness scale
“There’s hard sci-fi and then there’s the likes of Peter Watts’ Echopraxia, a book that should come with its own scientific reference library to aid reading. Usually, being a fan of science-heavy writing and having a smattering of real-world knowledge is enough to unlock a hard sci-fi world – you just kind of lean back and let the science wash over you. You might only understand one in every five concepts, but you glean enough to work out what’s going on in general.”
Described as ‘much more than a ‘making of’ show’, Doctor Who Extra will be comprised of twelve ten-minute programmes. It follows in the footsteps of Doctor Who Confidential, the much-loved and much-missed behind-the-scenes series which aired on BBC Three from 2005 until 2011.
‘Doctor Who’ companion Jenna-Louise Coleman leaving the show at Christmas?
“The conversations about Jenna’s exit have started, and a plan is in place which is being ironed out,” says the source. “By the time she leaves she will be one of the longest-standing companions ever. She has been absolutely brilliant in the role, but everyone agrees it is a part that should change after a period.”
Robin Williams’s final film performance may have to be axed
“Simon Pegg, its star, tells me: “I’m not sure Robin had completed doing his voice in the movie. He was doing the voice of my dog and I hope that he had completed it because it would be a real shame not to have him in it. And of course there will be a degree of sadness there, but the work he did do would have been done with his usual verve and brilliance.””
“The Doctor has regenerated and now Clara has to deal with the fact that her best friend appears to have changed completely…Meanwhile, the newly regenerated Time Lord must face a terrifying monster as the Twelfth Doctor’s era begins in dramatic style!”
Did you miss Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary theatrical run last winter? Well, it looks like you have another chance to watch out favorite time lord on the big screen. BBC and Fathom events just announced another partnership starting on Saturday, August 23. That night, there will be 12 theatrical events in 12 cities at 12 am / midnight to celebrate the launch of the new season.
Apparently a long-run theatrical edition of Capaldi’s first foray into the Tardis, Deep Breath, with bonus footage will be shown. Reports are vague, but I’d imagine it will have featurettes like last time. If you don’t live in one of those 12 bigger cities, the episode rolls out a few days later with two showings at 7:00pm and 9:30pm (local time). The event will be presented in more than 550 select movie theaters around the country through Fathom’s Digital Broadcast Network.
The reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) is quickly becoming a format of choice for the more tech savvy public figures to talk directly to fans. Yesterday Robert Llewellyn, of Red Dwarf fame, sat down in front of his computer and answered some questions relating to just about everything he is involved with.
My first encounter with Robert Llewellyn’s work was not actually Red Dwarf at all, but his popular competition show Scrapheap Challenge. When I was in high school, it aired in America a few years later as Junkyard Wars. This was way back in the days when TLC actually played stuff vaguely educational, and not human freak show affairs. Seeing questions about the show made my day!
A lot of people tried to sneak questions in about Red Dwarf XI, knowing Llewellyn’s tendency to be loose with information on the show. This eventually did get (sort of) answered.
People wanted to know about some failed Red Dwarf side projects like the 2001 movie that never really came to be, and the US TV series.
And then there were controversial questions you knew were never going to get answered!
While I’m excited for a whole slew of new TV programs coming to us this upcoming fall, I’m pretty bummed that no less than THREE shows that I currently enjoy were canceled recently. There may be some hope for NBC’sCommunity or Fox’s Almost Human on digital streaming services, but I can pretty much guarantee that the CW’s The Tomorrow People is as dead as my chances of visiting Mars. I’m usually critical, bordering on overly-critical, on shows that get remade in the US market; but I will say, I quite enjoyed this show and am sad to see it go. The CW has really surprised me as of late with their push for science fiction programming. Even though I have quibbles with how some of their shows get produced (people are all supermodels in their shows) I have become a fan.
If you’re new to the game, here is a quick synopsis of the show shamelessly plagiarized from another article I did a while back: “The Tomorrow People tells the story of the next chapter in human evolution – Homo Superior. These are people born of normal humans, but possessing telekinesis, teleportation, and other psychic abilities that make them far apart from normal society. As a trade-off for such abilities, The Tomorrow People can’t willingly kill others, and have to stay safe using non-lethal weaponry – this is a shame because they seem to be targeted by some very bad people. In a sort of X-Men meets Torchwood amalgamation, we come to learn that The Tomorrow People live in a secret base under the Thames and actively look for others like themselves to help and protect. When someone realizes that they are Homo-Superior they go through a process of great mental strain and bodily stress called “breaking out””
The Tomorrow People was a bit different to the normal US television remake factory, in that it’s pretty different from the somewhat obscure source material and is distanced by nearly forty years. Instead of remaking something from the UK that’s popular now, (I’m amazed someone hasn’t attempted a Downton Abbey remake) I’ll hand it to CW for remaking a children’s show that hasn’t been on for decades. Even the iteration that aired on Nickelodeon was on almost TWENTY years ago.
Many people were confused that TTP was canceled instead of shows doing far worse in ratings and critical reception – take Beauty and the Beastwhich had a rather lackluster fall showing. A recent Entertainment Weeklyarticle lays out what happened: “Pedowitz explained that Beauty and the Beast performed better in terms of international sales and social engagement. “We’ve always said we’re a very different style of broadcast network,” he said. “We have situations where shows like Beauty have created upside potential … it’s a fan favorite. It has a great international [interest]. Primarily, Tomorrow People was a great show — [it] just didn’t have the same level of social engagement or digital side that Beauty and the Beast gets.””
So what went wrong? I will admit that the show had a slow start, a fact that seemed to put a lot of reviewers against it immediately. The show wasn’t critically panned by any means, but many saw it as “average” or sought parallels to other properties – like The X-men. That’s the problem with doing a remake of something so old – once cutting edge and hip has grown commonplace forty years later. As the Entertainment Weekly article pointed out, there was little overseas interest for this show, and one only has to look at a UK-based science fiction forum to sense the apathy.
I will hand it to the CW for at least attempting to inject life into the property. Replacing things like a robot named Jedikiah as a principle villain (see image above), with a more-realistic leader of a militarized scientific operation was a good idea. The characters were older, more rounded and had real issues. Here’s hoping CW keeps Arrow and Flash around and takes some more chances like they did with The Tomorrow People in the future.
Here’s an interesting read I found this week, from the BBC News website, that talks about a comic strip called Charley’s War. “Charley’s War was a comic strip set in World War One that ran for many years in Battle, a British comic published in the 1970s until the late 80s.” One of the more interesting things in this article was reading Mills talking about some of his more controversial story-lines including one where Charley is forced to fight a man clad in thick armor, and how this was based squarely in fact.
“”To me, the First World War was the world’s first science-fiction war. It saw the first use of tanks, which terrified some of the Germans in their trenches when they first saw these machines.” Mills and Colquhoun also featured Zeppelin airship bombing raids on London, aerial dogfights above the trenches and later heavily armed, armoured trains in the stories.”
I used to buy a bunch of these “humble bundles” for PC games until I realized I was basically “hoarding” indy games that I was likely to not get around to playing. I had no idea they did this for books and stuff, so it looks like I got some comic reviews on the Horizon!
As you can see from the title, this post is largely unrelated to the main theme of this site, and happens to be a convention report. Thankfully, as you can see from the image above, there was definitely some UK science fiction fun to be had! Yeah, that ugly mug up there happens to be mine, and standing next to me is none other than Sylvester McCoy aka The seventh Doctor aka Radagast The Brown. Said convention was a Kansas City-based convention called Planet Comicon and it was held in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
The reason I decided to write about this on here, is that personally, I think there is some cross-over appeal from sci-fi fans and those who go to “comic-cons”, because in all honestly they aren’t just about comics anymore. Thankfully I live in the middle of Missouri, and Hollywood has never swooped in on our conventions, so it’s not like it has deviated too far from the main purpose of these types of conventions. There are panels, media guests and comic book writers and artists like anything else, minus all the BS that seems to have been messing up much larger events like San Diego Comic Con.
For years, I have always attended anime conventions because part of me (erroneously) assumed that my local comic conventions were nothing more than small dealer rooms that you paid to get into. When I heard that Planet Comicon was going to be held at Bartle Hall, a huge convention center, I immediately took notice. I think the biggest con I attended was an anime convention in Dallas Texas (Project A-Kon) that had something close to 10.000 people attending, and considering the size of the building plus the sheer amount of people at Planet Comicon that I saw, I’m assuming that this one will be bigger when all the numbers are added up. The paper was suggesting almost 20,000 minimum!
One reason I don’t attend too many of those aforementioned anime conventions is because of my age. I’m 31 now, and most anime convention attendees seem to be somewhere between 12-17. Not to be one of those “get off my lawn” types, but the younger millennial crowd sort of annoys me, and having thousands of them left unsupervised means that I get to witness things like pulled fire alarms, trash all over the place, hormonal kids making out in hallways, and other fun stuff. A Comic Con crowd is skewed much older, and as a result the rude people are heavily outweighed by awesome people that can handle themselves in public.
Aside from that, the MAIN reason I honestly stopped going to many anime conventions was the fact that I really enjoy panels, and at anime convention panels are REALLY hit or miss. Occasionally one stumbles upon something good, like the year I saw the world premiere and Q&A of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. Other times were not as good, like that time I had to sit through two awkward twelve year olds attempting to run a panel on Japanese horror films, and my quest to try to sneak out of the room as politely as possible.
I attended some pretty cool stuff this year, most of which was related to Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was because this convention had basically all principle cast members from TNG including Marina Sirtis, Levar Burton, Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and Brent Spiner. Also in attendance was the Star Trek God himself William Shatner and an unannounced John De Lancie! The convention did advertise a special moderated panel featuring all the the Trek guys, but I could not afford tickets to it. Good news is, most of these guys had smaller panels themselves.
The first panel I attended was a Q&A session with the Canadian-American “scream queen” and occasional Lois Lane herself – Margot Kidder. This was a guided Q&A (Moderated by a member of scifi4me.com) with an interview of sorts at the beginning and audience questions afterwards. Some gems were discussions on how Kidder got started in a tiny Canadian mining settlement mere miles from the arctic circle and her occasional flings with the likes of Warren Beatty and Jeff Bridges. Superman was, of course, a main topic towards the end of the panel, and Kidder suggested that she understood the torn fandom on the latest Superman offering suggesting, that the newest movie was perhaps “too dark”. All in all, pretty cool panel.
Up next for us was a Star Trek related panel featuring Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis in the hot-seats. As Trek fans will know, they played Deanna Troi and Worf on TNG. This was more of a full-on Q&A and started with some lighthearted banter between the two at the beginning. Sirtis cracked me up because I’m VERY used to her calm demeanor as Deanna Troi in TNG, so hearing her coarse, no-nonsense verbal attacks on various topics was pretty fun. On the flip-side, Mr. Dorn was “the straight man” of the affair, and tried to keep everything on topic. The running joke of this panel was that Marina kept bringing up how somebody had told her to be “sensitive to the mid-west view on political issues” which was like a splash of blood in shark infested water for her. She comically veered the discussions into a commentary on health care reform, gay marriage, and marijuana legalization no matter what Dorn tried to do to stop it.
On Saturday, we attended a Wil Wheaton Panel where the former Wesley Crusher himself lead a fun discussion about tabletop gaming, craft beer, and the perils of being a step-father. We ended up WAAAY in the back of the room for this and another panel so the picture that I am about to post will be tiny and awful. The best part of this panel was a “cameo” by Gates McFadden, introduced as “Space Mom”. As Trek fans will know, McFadden played Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: TNG, and was the on-screen mother for Wheaton during his time on the USS Enterprise. Since she didn’t have a panel of her own at this convention, it was cool seeing her appear in some capacity.
Next up was the Brent Spiner and Levar Burton panel, which had an ENORMOUS line waiting for it. We were actually scared that we wouldn’t be able to get in, but thankfully were able to get a few seats towards the back of the room. The panel started with Spiner having to deal with a rowdy “heckler” with a deep southern drawl yelling about how awful he was. Eventually security came in and revealed the “heckler” to be non other than Jonathan Frakes playing an obviously pre-determined joke of Brent. This was pretty great and really got the crowd going. Gates McFadden also made yet another guest appearance, and after that it was all questions!
The hot topic seemed to be LeVar’s other popular role as the host of the popular PBS educational program Reading Rainbow. o many questions were asked about this that Burton had the audience sing the theme song, and announced a Kickstarter campaign was about to materialize to help fund internet video versions of the show for a new audience and a smartphone app. Brent pretended to be irritated by the attention, referring to Burton as “Roots guy” and discussed popular roles on Independence Day and a fictitious sequel to Star Trek Nemesis where Commander Data didn’t die after all.
Perhaps the highlight of this con for me was getting to meet Sylvester McCoy and attending his Panel. The panel itself was simply amazing because he decided to forgo the stuffy rule of “guest sits in chair” and proceeded to walk around talking to the audience, hugging people and other things. I’m pretty sure that the guys from the Traveling The Vortex Podcastwere probably annoyed slightly, because McCoy sort of moderated his own panel, but they were good sports. The panel itself appears to have been recorded as a podcast on their site, so be sure to check that out if you want to listen to the fun we had.
Highlights of McCoy’s panel was an impromptu session of spoon playing on Darth Vader’s head and a kazoo heavy rendition of the Doctor Who theme to close everything out. My wife gets really nervous around celebrities, so she was freaking out a little bit about how close to everyone McCoy was. stories like his near foray into the priesthood as a teenager were delightful, and really made this the best panel I have EVER attended. If you ever get a change to see Sylvester McCoy at a con or something you will have a ball.
Another fun Doctor Who related event was a performance of the “Timey-Wimey Puppet Show” – a one man “Punch and Judy styled puppet show for kids and adults alike. I later got to meet the man behind the show, Mike Horner, and snap a picture with him. do yourself a favor and watch a few of his videos on YouTube up there, it’s pretty funny.
The highlight of the puppet show for me was a segment where cosplayers we asked to come up on stage for a rendition of “Twelve Days of Christmas” featuring regenerations of The Doctor, and there was a little boy, no older than five, dressed as William Hartnell. He was even a master at holding his lapels and looking surly.
This was a crazy weekend here is Kansas City because this convention, Big 12 Basketball, some sort of marathon, and a symphony performance were all scheduled at the same time within a few blocks of each other. Not only did that mean crazy traffic, but it also meant that parking was awful, and way too many people from Kansas and Iowa (due to basketball) were all over the place. If I have only one complaint it was that the city could have staggered these events a bit. Thankfully another convention, Naka-Con (an anime convention) was over the state-line in Kansas or it would have been too much to deal with.
I do have a funny story about the parking situation this weekend. On Saturday, we had TONS of trouble finding a parking space. Many of the bigger garages were at capacity, and many were resorting to shady stuff like parking at Denny’s to avoid high fees. we eventually found a nearly empty garage a few blocks away in “the art district” and jumped at the opportunity to get a place to stop at a cheaper price.
Not only did we discover that a nearly-vacant parking garage is sort of creepy, but the whole thing had “artsy-fartsy” minimalist music piped into it that sounded like a combination of a didgeridoo and someone scraping metal on the ground. To me, this was the soundtrack of hell itself, and I imagined that we’d soon witness Pyramid Head from the Silent Hill franchise walking around a corner at any moment. Had I thought this out, I would have attempted to record this for the site, but I wasn’t sure I’d even discuss this in any way.
I haven’t had this much fun at a convention for a LONG time. For a while I always had something spoil the whole thing for me: whether be someone we came with getting cranky, annoying kids, or poor management. There is basically nothing bad I can say about the con itself, and I’d recommend this experience to ANYONE into comics or other nerdy “pop-culture” things. Planet Comicon has won me over, and they better expect me there for years to come!
If any of the footage from the panels surfaces online (I think it was recorded by the con staff) I will try to post it on here at some point, but otherwise listen to that podcast up there for a taste of what Sylvester McCoy had to offer.
I’ve seen many criticize skin tight uniforms in many science fiction shows as being pure titillation and not much else, but it seems there may be some sound science to back it up. It seems that once again Star Trek has predicted the future!
“Space scientists at King’s College London have fashioned a skin-tight spacesuit that they hope will help prevent astronauts’ spines from expanding while on missions away from Earth. As astronauts float in space, without the force of gravity pushing down on their bodies, their spines begin to lengthen. Some astronauts have been known to grow as much as 7cm (2.76 inches) during spaceflights.”
Some people criticize Steven Moffat for relentlessly “messing” with Doctor Who fans all the time, but this week saw the rise of a new contender in the game. Paul McGann (of Eighth Doctor fame) posted this image of himself, donned in his new costume from NIght of the Doctor, standing in the most-current Tardis interior. While most realize that this was most-likely taken DURING the filming of that mini-episode, others are clinging to hope that we will see Paul making a cameo appearance this year. I wouldn’t bet on it, but I’ve been wrong before!
“Almost five years after a rebrand that abandoned the Sci-Fi moniker and enraged fans, NBCUniversal brass is aware that its attempt to lure a broader audience might have lost it some clout in the increasingly lucrative genre that shares its former name. Now Syfy president DaveHowe is trying to rectify the perception problem with changes in the executive ranks that will translate to new programming more familiar to its core audience.”
I’m all for this personally! I know Syfy got huge press for Sharknado and similar intentionally bad films, but the channel should be going after viewers that have largely flocked to Network channels to get their science fiction fix. When The CW and BBC America have more science fiction than a dedicated “syfy channel” (that spelling still drives me up the wall) something is wrong. And even as much of a pro wrestling fan that I am, I am always baffled by Syfy’s airings of WWE Smackdown! Let’s just hope the rumored Blakes 7 remake is part of this initiative!
Looks like we have a new companion in the wings, and could it be that we’re going to see the return of the dynamic from series 1 WAAAAAAY back in 1963? Two young teachers, one older Doctor, all we need is Susan tocome back! Anyway here’s a snippet of the press release:
Anderson will play Danny Pink, a teacher at Coal Hill School where companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) also teaches. On joining the show Samuel Anderson said: “I was so exited to join Doctor Who I wanted to jump and click my heels, but I was scared I might not come down before filming started!””
I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer… And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people's lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you're able to entertain people, you're doing a good thing. -Stan Lee