Wednesday

Moffat Toffees ("spoilers")

This has been simmering for a while, but I've really got a bone to pick with Steven Moffat. This started with what went atrociously wrong with the last series of Dr Who, but extends into similar things that have crept into Sherlock. The two series are so similar I regularly call them the wrong way round, and finished a series in the last year with the main character faking their death to their companions.



I jumped onto the Dr Who revival only when Moffat took over with Matt Smith as The Doctor. I hadn't taken to Tennent or the other one, but something about this incarnation got me going, and despite its hit-and-missity, I really enjoy it. Mostly the concurrent plot line with River Song and her tragi-romantic relationship with The Doctor. However, the last series really disappointed with the revelations, and I'd have let this slide if Moffat and his team weren't making the same mistakes with Sherlock.



Series 6 of The Who promised so much and fell so flat. It had a great set-up, that The Doctor is seen being killed by someone in a space suit who just walked out of a lake: the eponymous 'impossible astronaut'. Over the first couple of episodes we establish that the occupant of the space suit is a little girl timelord - what could be more exciting? Rubbish episodes (like the stupid piratey one, the not-scary-at-all-for-the-most-part child's bedroom one, and the didn't-need-to-be-a-double flesh one) aside, the mid-season-should-have-been-a-double-episode cliffhanger - River is Amy's daughter, bred and conditioned to kill The Doctor, meaning that he *is* the one she is in prison for killing, but is now lost in time - was tremendous. And it was very nearly ruined by the follow-up Let's Kill Hitler, which commited the unbelivable crime of 'making up a new character who everyone is supposed to have known for years but never mentioned'. This was shamefully done, on a par with Curb your Enthusiasm, except that that is a lean, episodic sitcom, and this is a drama with every opportunity to put some mention of the character Mel in at some previous point. They had a series and a half to introduce some reference to her, but her appearance was a total shock. Also, naming her Melody is a causal paradox and The Who is supposed to avoid those.



So Mel, still reeling from her childhood brainwashing, kisses the dr with a deadly poison. She is identied as is killer by a third party. Then she dies and regenerates as River Song.



The reason that i'm going over all this garbage in so much detail is because, at the end, it doesn't add up. She's already tried to kill him. Then she over-rides her programming and saves him by using up all her regenerations (with absolutely no foreshadowing that this was possible). Then, later in her life, she gets kidnapped by the whoever and put inside a space suit again, against her will, and apparently the space suit is in control? So she's not even particpating in the killing of The Doctor? Which renders her whole part in it pointless.



This isn't the way it was meant to be. We've already seen the little girl (who we now know is River) in the spacesuit. We know that River kills the doctor. What needed to happen was that it would be the young River Song who killed him, who then went on to meet him and grow to love him, knowing all along that one day (in her past) she will kill him. What a fantastic tragedy it would be, only possible in a time-travelling sci-fi.



And then there's the fact that leading up to the season finale, we had two perfect get out clauses built for the doctor: The flesh and the perfect impersonating robot. Both of these things fill the same function in the plot, a thing that can look like anyone. Why would Moffat need a choice of body doubles? It's the most superfluous mcguffin in existence; and it's made even worse by the fact that he's probably plaid the same trick again in Sherlock since, for all intents and purposes, Watson saw Holmes throw himself off a roof and got a good look at his bloody body on the floor? It's going to be a body double, again, isn't it? And again, we've got a superfuidity of options because a) we know that Holmes can make convincing corpse dopplegangers, Since he got one supposed to be Adler past Mycroft in 'scandle' and b) we know that Moriarty had a sherlock mask or something because the girl screamed when she saw him. Same escapement, same problem of not knowing which mcguffin was used.



Without going into theories of how Shelock avoided his death, I wanted to talk broaderer about the similar failings in the two shows. And succsesses; They're both superbly acted and engaging. But Sherlock can be a complete ramble. Take the Irene Adler episode; There wasn't even a crime that had been comitted, just some photos with no ransom note. Adler had no apparent agenda, motives, or demands. This might make for a gripping character study in literature, but at 9 o'clock on bbc 1 on a sunday night, I want a body, dammit, I want an apparently unsolvable mystery, and at most I want a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. Anything else is just noise. There were times in 'Scandle', when I wasn't even sure who was meant to be in the room. And even with all that, it was a great watch.



The same with The Who; it's become too much revelation and not enough story. Too many plots are constructed entirely out of ideas and feel paper-thin. I like philosophy, I like allegorical sci-fi, but sometimes The Who strays *too far* into timey-wimey hand-wavey stuff, to the point of their being no actual action or anything happening, just a monster made of tears that only exists in their minds or something. The main problem here was put to me (and the world) on twitter by Rob Florence, along the lines of: 'my daughter doesn't get Dr Who anymore, it's over for us.' He also said "When you can barely explain the story of Doctor Who to your daughter, it's time to find something else until it straightens out." but I'm sure that wasn't the original quote.



Convoluted is the word. It feels in Dr WHO that they're sometimes building episode plot lines around revelation and nothing else. In the golden age of the X Files, I remember episodes that seemed completely stand-alone until the last ten minutes when you spotted someone or somehow it related back to another episode and you went 'ah!' In sherlock, with shorter serieses, it's a different but related problem; playing mind games with the Ultimate Villian seem to take up about a third of the series.

I just want my prime-time family friendly dramas to be... I don't know. what am i trying to say again?

Oh yeah and moffat also has wierd views on women. But that's another story.

Tuesday

a quick tought

should the amount of people you're emailing affect the number of Xs? do they get divvied up between the recipients, or is the amount you put in an average of what you would normally send to the recipients?

Friday

songs of 2011


So I did the above mix, and then realised I'd left out a track off the portal 2 soundtrack. I don't know how that happened, but I began to realise there was a whole bunch of stuff that I hadn't put on from this year.

So what's the story of my music this year?

First off, we've got the usual characters popping up as always: Euros Childs, Half Man Half Biscuit, 65DaysofStatic; you can pretty much take those as read. Network-related artists always turn up: Girls Girls Girls, Marmaduke Dando (my next door neighbour knows him), Muddy Suzuki (FOAF via two routes), Blue Bambinos (Justin from work's band, who sadly left at xmas), Aaron, and a whopping 3 tracks from myself: two from the forthcoming album and a not-entirely-successful demo for something I want to do after that. I'd include Cats In Paris in that list, but I don't think they were around long enough to become an utterly predictable choice for me to include (didn't stop me [putting them on almost every mix in the last 4 years)

What's new is, I think, a shift towards black metal (as oppose to math metal or spazz) and synthesisers. In fact some of the tracklisting started out as a synth-based mix tape that got subsumed by the 2011 goblin. Profanum represent the bottom of the black metal barrel I think, a sign of how bad things have got when you're listening to nothing more than drums, screaming, and simple MIDI orchestration. Anaal Nathrakh represent a deeper, more intense barrel bottom. I first heard 'hyperblast' on their website around 2005, but that mp3 was utterly distorted. Sounded brilliant, but I've waited until now to mix it since it came up on a UK black metal compilation I got for xmas.

I finally bought Orbital's 'Insides', after a wait of about 13 years. It's really good, and the 12 minute cut of 'the box' is superb. There's some real John Carpenter vibes around my head atm. Also the track sounds massively like radiohead's 'where bluebirds fly'. I've found myself listening to more and more ludicrous music like Igorrr on Ad Noiseam, whose label samplers are always a joy.

Anyway, time to move on and see what 2012 brings. Have fun with these.

Sunday

UFOEU

So, as an addition to the last post, I've been playing a bit of UFO:EU again to compare with my recent recursion to Syndicate Wars.

This in itself is not unusual, I frequently get the old UFO bug again and fall back into it every few years, like the Silmarillion. But in light of some of my recent comments about it, and about save games, I've developed some more thoughts.

Firstly, I tried playing the game, from the start, without saving and loading. It was impossible. Even playing 'perfectly' - saving time units for aimed shot, meaning walking forwards at a snails pace - does not guarantee your troops survival. A shot from a hiding alien can come out of literally no-where, from your first step in a mission, and your defenceless grunt falls over nine times out of ten. First mission: 5/8 made it back. The fallen were replaced, but second mission, all were dead in a few turns. So I started trying to judiciously save before each mission, and loading only if it all went wrong, but before long, I was saving every time I made a good move, and loading every time a troop was iced. It's just the only way I can get through the game, especially early night-time terror missions. It's like having infinite free re-rolls, and to be honest, breaks the game, because it becomes a dream walk-through.

This changes considerably after you research the heavy plasma gun. I clearly remember the first play through with my brother, or atleast the first one after we'd got the hang of it. The game starts with only primitive, 20th century tech available. We dilligently worked our way through all the research topics that were presented to us, through all the iterations of laser weapons before looking into the items recovered from excursions. By the end of the game, we had everyone equipped with the heavy plasma gun, met mere weeks into the game. Now, I know better; skip everything, head straight for that weapon. It's now 2 months in, and already my squad are unstoppable. the time cost is lower and the power and accuracy way up, meaning you can stroll forwad while carrying it and still have time for an aimed shot, which now almost certainly hits and kills. my lot, with barely four missions experience, are picking off sectoids ss soon as they see them. I know it'll get harder again, but still.

But stiller, UFO is not a game you can win in the battles. You can try, but eventually you will be overrun. The whole thing is about winning the battles but losing the war; each mission won merely puts off the inevitable defeat of earth for another day. I preferred playing it when I didn't know what to do. It's a great game to dick around in, to be directionless in, because even when you've got no idea of how to progress, there's still the day to day running of your organisation to do.

The story is completely simplistic, but I think that's an inevitable consequence of having such a free-form, replayable, game structure. Not that it's inevitable for a computer game to have a simple story; for instance, an RPG like Torment's replay value comes from the fact that any one play through will only show about a quarter of the story. But a linear plotted game like, say, a classic Lucasarts graphic adventure, has less replay value, because a playthrough shows you pretty much everything there is.

SO how can you improve this game? I can't think of another game that gives you so much control and freedom. There really are not many ways of improving the game, but the only thing I can think of is making the enemy less lethal. Some rudimentary armour, available from the beginning, just to keep your people from dying so quickly, would make it... fairer. Towards the end of the game now, with all my troops in flying power suits, they usually don't feel being hit, or get away with a few wounds. It's quite surprising there's not a flack jacket or something amongst the random things you get given at the start - like hi-explosive, flares, and rocket launchers. But the only way to play the game from the start is by breaking it through saving and loading, which sets a dodgy precedent for the rest of the game.

And as I have nearly finished the game, again, with nothing left to research, and the last mission is in sight, I must wonder why I have wasted so much time on it, when I've got so much other stuff to do. Because it seems to fit into those little five minute slots I have, when I don't have time to sit down for a few hours and work on music. Even if those little slots turn into hours. It's a 'brainy' game, but I still don't really have to think while I'm playing. Not compared to doing the things that I really enjoy doing. And then I go and write a bloody boring blog post about it, because it's taken over such a huge part of my brain. I'm quite embarrassed by this, but it feeds into something I think I'll save for a future post regarding the lack of conversation on the internet these days. So... mu. bollocks to it. I'm posting this complete waste of time because it's better than deleting it. I apologise.