Upate – final thoughts on Dr Who series 4 and an old Dr Who Game from the days of ‘home computing’


After all the incredible hype and excitement surrounding this years finale (rightly so, in the wake of ‘The Stolen Earth‘ probably the best episode so far of the rebooted Dr Who) has died down, I want to poke through the ashes.

The Positives

I thought Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, and thought she was the best assistant of the reboot so far, she brought maturity and honest emotion to the role, and seemed to be more than a match for the Doctor, who seemed to regard her as an equal. Her acting in the finale, ‘Journeys End‘ was brilliant and heartbreaking as she went from Doctor-Donna to Donna the Temp from Chiswick. I will miss her, and I think her performances have proved many people wrong.

The highlight of this series was Bernard Cribbins as Wilfrid Mott. He brought some funny moments (like when trying to swap his paintball gun for the huge Dalek-Buster Rose had) but he also brought a lot of emotion and feeling to the show. I was moved by his humanity when the world was slipping into chaos and self-destruction (the awesome ‘Turn Left‘) and he was given the honour of the final scene of this years series as he took his grand-daughter back, at a terrible price, but did so with dignity. I will really miss him, because you get the feeling he will not be back.

Martha Jones – even though she wasn’t given a great deal to do, when she was around she played her part well. They (the writers, especially Russell T Davies) are keen to show that she is progressing, from Torchwood 3 to UNIT, and at the end of series – who knows? Back to Torchwood? I loved her ‘breaking the fourth wall‘ look to camera when she was helping fly the Tardis back at the end of ‘Journeys End’. It was obvious she was having a lot of fun. That just made the episode even better. I hope she does get used on occasion, in much the same way they use Captain Jack.

Introducing Torchwood staff into the show – they were around for the final couple of episodes, and had little screen time (apart from Captain Jack), but when Gwen and Ianto let loose with those machine guns at the end of ‘The Stolen Earth’;

…that more than justified their inclusion – especially when Gwen started getting really aggressive;

Wow.

The return of Davros was pretty cool, though the Daleks petered out in the ‘Journeys End’ episode, when they looked so awesome in ‘The Stolen Earth’. I am sure they will be back.

Nice to see the Ood back.

I think it is obligatory to state that anything Stephen Moffat writes for Dr Who is fantastic – and so it was, with his two-parter ‘Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead‘ being spooky and emotional and a bit mysterious (all that ‘River Song‘ business).

It was good to see Mickey, but what was the point unless it was setting him up for Torchwood? Let us hope so, otherwise it was a waste.

Fires of Pompeii‘ was great (Donna really coming up with the acting goods), as was ‘Midnight’.

David Tennant remains a brilliant actor and a great Doctor, and he is back for Christmas with the Cybermen, and beyond that for the specials next year.

Captain Jack was as great as ever, and Sarah Jane Smith had a powerful scene with her son Luke when she realises the Daleks are back. K9 saved the world as well!!

The regeneration cliffhanger at the end of ‘The Stolen Earth’ was EPIC.

It beats the likes of ‘Primeval’ into a cocked hat. ‘Robin Hood’, while good, isn’t close – this is the epitome of Saturday night TV entertainment, and it should be cherished – let us hope that a years break makes it come back stronger when the regular series reappears in 2010.

The Negatives

Rose – what was the point? The purpose of her return was, it appears to me, to seal her off for good with her very own Doctor to grow old with. Compared to Martha, who looked like she was having a jolly old time, Rose seemed to just mope around. A waste of time and it tarnished ‘Doomsday’ for me.

Jackie Tyler – much like her daughter, except that this was a complete waste of time, apart from getting one joke out of it (the Doctor getting a bit nervous about her being at the controls of the Tardis).

The Sontarans were wasted on an atypical ‘Invasion Earth’ storyline.

The Doctors Daughter‘ episode was rubbish, with a silly cloning story and no real buzz to the acting or action, and the ‘Partners In Crime‘ episode was plain boring and silly (and not silly in a good way). That did have an early glimpse of Rose though, which was a nice touch.

Harriet Jones getting killed off (presumably). I’ll miss her waving her ID about.

In summary…

3 so-so episodes, 5 good ones, 2 excellent and 3 classics – oh, and a brilliant Christmas episode (‘Voyage of the Damned’), and the 2008 Christmas special that is looking grrreat.

4x – Voyage of the Damned – 8 out of 10
4×01 – Partners in Crime – 5 out of 10
4×02 – The Fires of Pompeii – 8 out of 10
4×03 – Planet of the Ood – 7 out of 10
4×04 – The Sontaran Stratagem – 7 out of 10
4×05 – The Poison Sky – 5 out of 10
4×06 – The Doctors Daughter – 4 out of 10
4×07 – The Unicorn and the Wasp – 6 out of 10
4×08 – Silence in the Library – 9 out of 10
4×09 – Forest of the Dead – 8 out of 10
4×10 – Midnight – 8 out of 10
4×11 – Turn Left – 10 out of 10
4×12 – The Stolen Earth – 10 out of 10
4×13 – Journeys End – 9 out of 10

Also!!!

‘Doctor Who and the Mines of Terror’, which apart from being a great and generic sounding title, was a Commodore 64 game from 1986. It was reviewed in issue 13 of the Newsfield title Zzap!64 (April 1986);

and you can play it RIGHT NOW right here

LINKS!!!

See that there Zzap!64 review in bold colour;

http://www.gamebase64.com/oldsite/gameofweek/13/gotw_doctorwhomines.htm

Some history on the game;

http://www.beebgames.com/games.php?company=2&start=21

More stuff about this game – apparently it was due to go on the Spectrum but never made it;

http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0011666

What were the games bundled with the CPC464??

Britain. 1984. Christmas approaching. I didn’t want a Sinclair Spectrum or a Commodore 64. I wanted the Amstrad cpc464, with its choice of a monochrome green or colour monitor (£199 or £299 respectively in 1985), and it had a tape deck (the vital media device of the day) integrated with the keyboard. It also had a few games (including the dreaded ‘educational’ type) and ‘apps’ thrown in. the big question has to be ‘but what were the games and apps thrown in free with the Computer?’. Well, wait no more! Here they are in no particular order. All were produced under the ‘Amsoft’ banner, but were mostly produced by other developers.



Harrier Attack

One of the best of this freebie bunch, and the first game I saw demoing on an Amstrad. You are the pilot of a Harrier Jumpjet as it goes across a bleak (for bleak, read ‘Falkland Islands’) landscape. Yes, it is meant to evoke the spirit of the war against the Argentines. This game was developed soon after that war had ended. It is a bit like Scramble, but it is no great shakes today. This game does stand up better than any of the other games in this list though.

Roland on the Ropes

‘Roland’ is an anagram of ‘Arnold’, and ‘Arnold’ was the name of the first CPC prototype. Anyway, like Sonic was to Sega, so Roland was to Amstrad. With his ‘…on the ropes’ adventure, he was an Indiana Jones-type. Climbing ropes, shooting ghosts, in a pyramid. It was originally called ‘Fred‘ and was released on both the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, but then got re badged under the ‘Roland’ banner when it went onto the CPC464. That would explain why ‘Roland’ is both an intrepid explorer and an intrepid bug (see ‘Roland in the Caves’). The game, if you are interested, has been emulated here and is free to download. I have played the game on the Amstrad emu WinApe, but it plays terribly. I used to love it when it came with the free bundle, but time has not been kind to it.

Roland in the caves

This was the one that really sold the CPC464 to me. I saw it in Radio Rentals in Tamworth Town Centre, on the Amstrad colour monitor, and looked fantastic.

Trust me – I had an Atari 2600 and had mates who had C64s and Spectrums, but ‘Roland in the caves’ looked so full of colour and detail. Pity they forgot to include any game play with the thing. It was very boring. You play a flea, stuck in a cave on another planet. The objective is to get out of the cave before a pterodactyl gets you. Then do the same again in another cavzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. No. Just. No.

Oh Mummy!

Basic stuff. A bit of dig-dug and pac-man thrown together into an unspectacular game. You are an archaeologist digging around some tombs. You have to pick up some artefacts and avoid mummies.

Bridge-it

There was one very good reason this was bundled in amongst several others – it was cack. Guide men across bridges from one house to another. That’s it.

Animal Vegetable Mineral

Bourne Educational Software. They produced software versions of games you could play with pen and paper. There was no need for them to exist as software. Let us move on.

Easi-Amsword

Didn’t even get it out of its case.

Fruit Machine

Played with this a fair bit – get the vicarious thrills of Fruit Machines without the cash haemorrage! Probably not as good as the Palitoy Pocketeer version.

The Galactic Plague

This was the Space Invader-type shooter. It was, by all accounts, impossible, though I cannot recall it. Someone does though – the excellent CPCGameReviews site

Sultan’s Maze

Up there with the worlds worst cover art. Heavy on the felt tip pens by the looks of it. The game was slow and a throwback to the early ZX81 maze type games. Forgettable (and the artwork is regrettable).


Wordhang

Hangman on a computer. That’s it.


Timeman One

The words ‘Bourne Educational Software’ say it all. Its an educational game. About time – not as in ‘about time they made an educaitonal game’. It is an educational game on the subject of time.

LINKS!!!

The best Amstrad CPC resource out there;

http://www.cpczone.net/

As many Amstrad game covers as you are ever going to want to look at (French Site);

http://www.phenixinformatique.com/notices.php?lettre=A#A

The history of Harrier Attack;

http://www.durellgames.com/harrierattackii/history.shtml

1post1der blogs – those that got left behind

Blogging can be a passion – you can write anything about anything or everything, then when you post it you can go and install a widget so that you can view who is looking at it, and at the end of the day you can use a site like feedburner or sitemeter to tell you how many people passed by your blog on that day.

But……..

…..blogging is not for everyone. Sounds like a great idea at the time, but you get that first post out the way and………………………

……………..nothing………………

Luckily, these blogs are now being celebrated – in a blog, obviously – on a site called http://1post1der.blogspot.com/

It is a very fine site, so show your support and visit it.

Reaction to Walking Dead 50

Generally an upbeat appraisal;

http://uk.comics.ign.com/articles/885/885971p1.html

http://www.brokenfrontier.com/reviews/details.php?id=1924

http://www.comicnerd.com/image-comics/comicnerd-review-the-walking-dead-50/

I keep thinking that epic letters section should have shortened and a few more pages of story would have been a more fitting way to celebrate issue 50. As Kirkman says in the letters section – cry me a river.

Comic Book Review – The Walking Dead #50

Carl steps out of the shadow of his Father

The best that can be said about this issue is that it brings on the progression of one of the major, but hitherto underdeveloped, characters in this title. As Rick Grimes drifts in and out of consciousness, his son Carl is hostage to his emotions, as helplessness, anger, grief (especially in light of what happened in issue #48) and fear take hold. When unexpected visitors turn up at their hideout, Carl has to make some tough decisions. When those decisions are acted upon and resolved, we are left with Carl questioning his relationship with his Father and the dynamics of responsibility and duty of care that bind any parent and child.

There is some great artwork, especially the final panel – which is, for once, something other than a cliffhanger, but actually all the better for it. I read the thing twice, and I got it more the second time around. The recent ‘no-one is safe’ arc was such a relentlessly violent and brutal series of issues that the change in pace in #49 and #50 is a bit of a jolt, and this issue is more thoughtful and relies more on the personality of the character of Carl. It does work. It works well because what we are witnessing is another character taking the centre stage, there is some character progression. When Carl speaks, his monologues just stay the right side of ‘perhaps a young kid would say that’. How many comic book writers can achieve that?

The only criticism I have is that the letters page is about the longest I have ever seen – couldn’t some of that been sacrificed for a few more pages of story for issue 50??

Thank you Robert Kirkman. Thank you for 50 issues of great storytelling. Thank you Charlie Adlard for being able to illustrate this world of post-civilisation with the humanity, grace and brutality it requires.


Review – don’t expect fireworks, but this tale is moving and moves the overall story on. The Walking Dead is still just about the best comic book out there right now. 8.7 out of 10.

SharKade (1972 – 1978)

The film Jaws has a nice little sequence where we see someone playing the arcade game Killer Shark – its one of the early arcade games (produced by Sega) and (obviously-duh) pre-dates the film. For a great clip of this scene, click here

Anyway, great game and all that – I remember playing it at the Drayton Manor Park arcade in the mid 1970s – probably my first arcade experience. I recall that the gun trigger was hard and there was a sort of snapping when you fired off a shot. The wriggling of the shark (and the stream of blood) when you hit it was disturbing and exhilarating – a game where you see your victim in its death throes! There is plenty written about this game – see the links at the end of this post.

There were a few other games out once the film Jaws was released, obviously capitalising on the Shark craze;

Shark Jaws (Horror Games (aka Atari) 1975)

Claimed to be the first video game adaptation (for that article by Ian Bogost here), this was early Atari, capitalising on the success of Jaws, but when Universal nixed their license to make a game of the film, they went ahead and made a game anyway. They even created a dummy company called ‘Horror Games’ just so the Atari brand wouldn’t be associated with any quick n’ dirty cash-in. Best of all was the marquee that sat at the top of the arcade cabinet, with the game advertised as Shark (small letters) JAWS (big letters);

cheeky….

Some guy writing at Everything2.com claims there are only 3 of these complete arcade cabinets left in existence, and only one of them works. Not that it would be worth tracking down, as the game is of its time – simplistic, repetitive, monochrome and graphically basic (the screenshot of the game tells you all you need to know).

Maneater (Project Support Engineering 1975)

The magnificently titled Project Support Engineering (that’s not a company, it’s a department!) produced this wonderful cabinet, and even produced a game to go inside it (though the game is irrelevant in comparison to the grandeur of this);

The game looked like Shark Jaws and Shark (ie BASIC) and the premise and objective were to control a diver who was collecting gold from the sea baed, and get him back to his boat and avoid the sharks (who were maneaters, of course). Here is a screenshot of the game that I found on KLOV;


Shark (US Billiards 1975)

Turning the whole shark craze on its head, this Arcade effort puts you in as the shark, trying to avoid nets and traps as you attempt to get to the swimmer before they reach the shore(!). It’s another one that isn’t available on emulation (like Shark Jaws), and again it is simplistic gameplay with basic graphics (see below) and probably wouldn’t keep the average gamers attention for more than a minute today.

Blue Shark (Bally Midway 1978)

Like the forerunner of these games, Killer Shark, Blue Shark had a gun mounted arcade cabinet and it was another plain and simple shooting game. Get the shark with your gun, but don’t hit the humans who are diving around them. You also get to kill numerous other aquatic life (octopus etc) for no particular reason, which is all well and good when you are hang around arcades as a kid in the Seventies, but you probably couldn’t get away with it now, as it would, I expect, be classed as a game that encourages the destruction of the Environment and sentient beings. Nowadays you get games where you get to kill real looking people or ‘real’ looking zombies or the perennial aliens instead. The game is fairly basic (but less so than the others discussed so far), but with more graphical subtlety and involved gameplay.

There was also Shark Attack, released in 1981 by GPi (Game Plan inc), that had you playing the shark (just like the earlier game by US Billiards, Shark) and you had to eat the arcade sharks favourite snack – the diver. This time though, the diver can strike back as some of them have harpoon guns! Also, this game was in colour! However, on my emulation of Shark Attack, it is dated as 1980, and made by Pacific Novelty. Game Plan must have distributed it. Here is a screenshot of it;

LINKS!!!

Killer Shark

http://bavatuesdays.com/killer-shark-1972/ – the best blog I have come across in a while. Nice entry on Killer Shark.

http://www.yourprops.com/view_item.php?movie_prop=14799 – Killer Shark cabinet photos and screenshot.

http://www.daemonkeep.com/killershark.html – At DaemonKeep games, they have a repro of the game for download;

http://marvin3m.com/arcade/shark.htm – Cabinet shots, flyer info, a look at the innards of the cabinet…

http://www.pingeek.com/killer/killer.htm – If you want the schematics of Killer Shark, this is the place for you.

KLOV has a basic entry for Killer Shark, nothing more.

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Maneater

http://www.i-mockery.com/minimocks/50arcadecabinets/arcade3.php – i-mockery lists the 50 greatest Arcade cabinets, with Maneater listed very near the top.

http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=8611 – KLOV entry

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Shark Jaws

http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=979 – Shark Jaws flyers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark_Jaws Wiki entry for Shark Jaws


http://www.retroland.com/pages/retropedia/arcade/item/1403/
– RetroLand entry for Shark Jaws

http://www.armchairarcade.com/aamain/print.php?article.103 – A History of the early years of Atari has information on Shark Jaws


http://www.arcade-history.com/?n=shark-jaws&page=detail&id=3395
– ArcadeHistory entry for the game.

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Shark

http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=9507
– KLOV entry for Shark

http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=2611 – Shark flyer

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Blue Shark


http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=139
– Blue Shark arcade flyer


http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=139
– International Arcade Museum entry for Blue Shark by Midway

http://www.coinop.org/g.aspx/100549/Blue_Shark.html – Blue Shark entry at coinop.org

http://www.arcade-history.com/?n=blue-shark&page=detail&id=298 – Entry at ArcadeHistory

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Shark Attack

http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=9508 – KLOV entry for Shark Attack

http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=1737 – Arcade flyer for Shark Attack

http://arcadeflyers.com/?page=flyer&db=videodb&id=1762&image=2 – More arcade flyer action for Shark Attack