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What’s next for Doctor Who? | Opinion | TV

Doctor WhoWith series 8 of Doctor Who all wrapped up, where can (and should) the relentless time traveller go next? The past? The future? Gallifrey? Despite the rapid wrap-up we got in Death in Heaven The Doctor has left us with many unanswered questions.

Meet the new guy

Capaldi wrote fan scripts and letters to the show as a child, and his passion and love for the show shines through
Capaldi wrote fan scripts and letters to the show as a child, and his passion and love for the show shines through

Peter Capaldi’s new Doctor has proved himself a triumph, as we mulled over towards the beginning of the series, but it hasn’t yet felt like he’s had a chance to get his teeth into anything.

Grand promises were made in Deep Breath, such as doing something about all those mistakes, and yet here we are without many of them fulfilled. The question of whether The Doctor is a good man was sort of answered with a loud and excitable ‘no’, but where’s Gallifrey? Where’s Missy now (since she clearly didn’t die, what do you take us for)?

The quest for Gallifrey has to feature in series 9, it was such a fundamental part of the 50th Anniversary Special and we’ve barely heard a whisper about it since. Can we expect to see Timelords return in force next series? Perhaps there would be some crimes to answer for? There have certainly been some interesting Timelord storylines in the classic series at least, and only a flutter of them so far in new Who.

Imagine the costume possibilities at the very least. The elaborate headdresses and colour were the inspiration for the Timelord language as it appears in new Who, so it would be nice to see some of that in context.

To seek out new life and new civilisations

New monsters were fairly few and far between in series 8, we want more
New monsters were fairly few and far between in series 8, we want more

There’s no doubt The Master will return in some form. The portrayal this series was short and sweet, and left us wanting more. The story of an unseen evil has recurred in the modern series a few times, as far back as the 2005 series, so perhaps it’s time to be a bit more overt with it all. We’ve been flirting with Missy for series 8, let her take us on a merry dance through series 9.

What other monsters could The Doctor encounter though? A few of the old favourites have had one too many outings recently (Cybermen in the finale were hardly necessary, at least they were part of the story in Dark Water), so perhaps there are other classic monsters they could bring back, but really we want something new, something you couldn’t do 50 years ago, something exciting and most of all – not terrible CGI. Seriously, The Mill, you’re good, but you can do better with some of these things, there’s a pretty lifelike penguin in the John Lewis ad for goodness sake!

Anywhere, anywhen, anyhow…

The ever decreasing Tardis was a great idea to shake things up
The ever decreasing Tardis was a great idea to shake things up

As for time periods, the Victorian era has been getting a bit worn lately as well, there’s plenty of other exciting times and places in history we could explore. What about going right back to primitive Earth? Could be interesting, if not done cringeworthingly badly, so perhaps the Tudors would be more fun? Or revolutionary France? Just because Assassin’s Creed has been there doesn’t mean it’s off limits.

The future is always endless and expansive of course, perhaps visiting some more planets is a bit optimistic – even on Doctor Who‘s budget – but we’d settle for some more alien locations than just ‘London with a few trees in it’, and don’t think you can get away with another industrial-type space station or ship either, we’re wise to that now. Space itself is interesting enough in reality, surely there’s some things out there which we could draw in, a comet is a bit obvious, and Kill The Moon sort of went there, but perhaps an asteroid field or something could work, so long as you can avoid Millenium Falcon-killing creatures of course.

Not all fun and games

Capaldi's spoon vs sword fight from Robots of Sherwood was a particular highlight of series 8
Capaldi’s spoon vs sword fight from Robots of Sherwood was a particular highlight of series 8

The biggest journey really is The Doctor himself. It sort of felt like he was in the passenger seat at times this series, and fair enough you could say it’s his first season. But Tennant was there fighting with a sword in his first episode, no one could suggest he didn’t take charge of that particular situation, but Capaldi’s Doctor seems to have stumbled to his feet in the presence of an increasingly demanding companion who in many ways seems to have outgrown him, and others just wishes for the good old days of Smith’s Doctor.

Tonally, the show had a bit of a reset with this series, and it could do with some of the fun of the Tenth (and even Eleventh) Doctor to spice things up a bit. Even grumpy old Nine had his moments (“Just this once Rose, everybody lives!”) This is not a criticism of Capaldi though, who has worn the role on his sleeve and convincingly, he just needs to be given more meaty drama to get to grips with, in a situation not where he is swooping in and saving the day perhaps, since we know The Doctor doesn’t think of himself that way, now less so than ever, but making those difficult decisions, selflessly, when no one else could.

In all the show is as strong now as it has been at any point through the Moffat era, and really whether you are enjoying things depends on whether you like his style or not. If you gave series 7 a miss because it was all getting a bit silly and unnecessarily complicated, then reconsider for 8. The standalone episodes made a big difference to how watchable the show is, particularly out of order or in chunks, and there’s a lot to like about Capaldi even if Clara rubs you up the wrong way. The future for Doctor Who now depends on whether the show can continue to innovate and reinvent itself as readily as its titular hero, and from past experience we can at least say it’s possible.

James Michael Parry

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Five reasons to get back into Doctor Who | Opinion | Television

Doctor Who series 8You’ll have heard that Doctor Who is back, that there’s a new guy holding the sonic screwdriver and scampering about in the TARDIS, but perhaps you haven’t managed to watch any of the new episodes just yet. “He’s a bit old,” you might say. “I liked David Tennant for a while but then the stories got all angsty and romantically awkward…”

As a big fan myself, I can admit that the series has its ups and downs, just like anything on TV (except some of the top quality shows on Netflix which are near flawless), but whether you enjoy Doctor Who or not comes down to one thing – suspension of disbelief.

Letting yourself be absorbed into that world is crucial to enjoying it, as you have to remember that this is a children’s show after all, aimed first and foremost at 10-12 year old boys (though probably any youngsters are in the cross-hairs these days).

So, without further ado, This Is Entertainment presents five reasons you should boot up BBC iPlayer (or, in fact, most of your favourite on-demand streaming services) and begin your time travel adventure once again.

The companion isn’t just a damsel in distress

Jenna Coleman has really brought her companion's character forward this series
Jenna Coleman has really brought her companion’s character forward this series

Ever since Doctor Who came back in 2005, the companions have been the audience’s window to the Whoniverse more than ever before, meaning, more often than not if you don’t like the companion, you don’t like the show.

Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald, who is the current hanger-on, has managed to really add depth to her character this series. Gone is the slightly painful and teenagery love angle and Clara is finally a force to be reckoned with, standing up for herself, getting out of trouble without the Doctor needing to swoop in and even telling the Doctor off when he gets a bit over-excited, like a hyperactive dog getting a tap on the nose with a copy of The Sunday Times.

There’s still a lot more developing which can be done, and the seeds of a new romantic entanglement have already been sewn, but the early signs look good, and at least a little more believable than they were before. Plus the fact that her everywoman identity isn’t central to the plot this series helps take some of the pressure off as well.

The Daleks are scarier than ever

Outstanding retro poster from designer Stuart Manning (Radio Times)
Outstanding retro poster from designer Stuart Manning (Radio Times)

OK OK, so some people find Daleks scary, others don’t, and certainly this series isn’t out to change your mind if you’re dead set against it, but Episode 2 story Into The Dalek is a really interesting take on ‘a Dalek episiode’ which effectively calls back to the end of 2005 series 1 – the fact that the Doctor would make a good Dalek.

For all our relating to the companion in the show, we really all aspire to be the Doctor himself, meaning any suggestion that he might not be a good man makes us feel uneasy. It’s times like that that the show uses its emotional resonance to its fullest effect however, making us question the morality of our hero.

Already this series the Doctor has dealt some hefty emotional blows to Clara and even abandoned her in a helpless situation – this is not something you’d expect from a hero.

In meeting broken Dalek ‘Rusty’, the Doctor’s tendency to want to fix and control everything around him gets the better of him and, inevitably, it costs lives. The Dalek voice, provided by show veteran Nicolas Briggs, is definitely silly, but nonetheless still menacing, particularly when the things he says really hammer home how dark the Doctor really is.

Someone remembered that fun is fun

The TARDIS takes an arrow in Robot of Sherwood
The TARDIS takes an arrow in Robot of Sherwood

Heavy storylines are all well and good, but some of the most memorable moments in the past few years have been comedy-based rather than drama, such as Matt Smith and David Tennant’s screwdriver standoff (complete with Doctor inspecting glasses) or Smith attempting to fend off the Daleks with a jammy doger.

This series might have been described as more dark, which it probably is, but there also seems to be an injection of much needed fun into proceedings after some heavy storylines at the end of Matt Smith’s run.

Robot of Sherwood portrays this most outwardly, but each episode so far has built in a strong element of comedy, much of which comes from Capaldi himself – swordfighting with a spoon is probably my favourite idea so far.

Of course it isn’t all about comedy, but when you’re sitting down with the family on a Saturday night for some entertainment you want something which is fun and you don’t necessarily wangt to have to pay attention to every tiny detail to get it, which leads neatly on to…

You don’t need to watch every episode to ‘get it’

The new titles are a bit different but they grow on you
The new titles are a bit different but they grow on you

In series 6 and 7 things got a bit complicated, let’s be honest. Series 5’s cracks in the wall (which admittedly reappeared later) were a fairly consistent thread running through that series, and another great example of Steven Moffat taking something everyday from his children’s childhood (i.e. a crack on the wall) and making it something to be really afraid of, a formula Moffat returns to for Listen.

The reason 6 and particularly 7 with its ill-advised mid-series break struggled is because there were too many long-running plot threads and the audience couldn’t quite keep their head around what was going on. The beginning of 7 part 2 is the biggest example of that in that it’s a struggle to remember why our heroes are on the run, let alone why they are in random different parts of America.

The stories for this series are far more self-contained, and so it makes the show far easier to dip in and out of. Obviously you should already be religiously tuning in to every episode, but if you’ve made it this far down then you either are already and are just enjoying my ramblings, or you like the show enough to be engaged with it but it can occasionally have problems holding your attention.

Already in the series we have had an introduction, a dark episode and a light episode, plus there’s been the customary introduction of a figure from history – although this time around it is the (possibly) fictional Robin Hood. There’s plenty of scope to delve deeper into the characters as the series goes on, but so far the balance between action and reflection has been spot on.

Peter Capaldi is just fantastic

Capaldi wrote fan scripts and letters to the show as a child, and his passion and love for the show shines through
Capaldi wrote fan scripts and letters to the show as a child, and his passion and love for the show shines through

For series 8, a new doctor provides a clean slate. Personally I have a lot of love for Matt Smith (as if you needed to ask) but Peter Capaldi brings the gravitas which not only comes with age – a fact which is played on nicely in the show – but also just his manner in the part. Capaldi’s long-term love affair with the show itself is well documented, and the passion he has for the role is already showing through strongly after only a couple of episodes.

The first episode is always a rag-tag of different emotions and feelings as the Doctor as a character finds his feed after changing every cell in his body by regenerating (sounds painful…). The initial quips – “Who invented this room?! It doesn’t make any sense; it’s only got a bed in it!” – give way to a realisation that The Doctor isn’t sure who he is, setting the tone of self-discovery for this series and leading to a line of comparisons between The Doctor and other characters.

Capaldi sells this instantly, unashamedly calling out things as silly or ridiculous, just as the audience might when faces with the sort of fantastical which is bread and butter for The Doctor. Due to his love of the show, Capaldi fits into both the stylish costume and mannerisms of his doctor quickly, making the character equal parts likeable, mad and dangerous.

There’s always the next story to look to with Doctor Who, but the series has made a strong start (not least for wisely self-containing the introduction in a near feature-length opener) and stands to get better and better as it continues. Here’s hoping the payoff at the end matches our collective anticipation.

James Michael Parry

Ten most anticipated titles of 2014 – Part 2 | Opinion | Entertainment

2014 ones to watch pt2That’s right, we ran out of space to fit in ten before – there’s just so much to talk about. In case you missed it, have a read of the first five things we are excited about this year, then take a look at another five below. After that you may go, or if you’re feeling really interactive you can leave a comment with what yours are.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – 22 May

X-Men: Days of Future PastIs more always better? We aren’t so sure. It definitely made Spider-Man 3 messy and is history is threatening to repeat itself with the second remake (see part one). That said, it’s difficult to bet against the pedigree of the cast involved with X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Promising new-ish talent in the form of Evan Peters as Quicksilver and rising star Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, while old guard like Hugh Jackman (born to be Wolverine) bring some gravitas to proceedings and knights of the realm Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart bringing up the rear.

Of course this time roles are doubled up, as both Michael Fassbender and McKellen take on the iconic role of Magneto and make uneasy alliance with James McAvoy and Stewart’s Professor X.

To say that this is an anticipated title would be an understatement. Original film series helmsman Bryan Singer is back and there’s some fantastic writers on board as well, with so many great characters, special effects and action sequences to come – what can go wrong? If the trailer is anything to go by we are in for a treat.

House of Cards: Series 2 – 14 February

The first of two multimedia TV choices on this list, both significant for different reasons. Last year House of Cards was Netflix’s first real foray into the world of original programming, and thanks to its success a handful of shows, both established and brand new, have followed suit. Now they have to do it again to prove that it’s not just a one-trick pony or a fluke – a second series is serious business.

The show isn’t strictly original, since it’s a remake of a UK show, but I think given the differences between attitudes and political systems in the two countries it can stand alone with its head held high. Kevin Spacey nails the part of Frank Underwood expertly, so much so that he gained a number of award nominations, but, alas, only a (well-deserved) Golden Globe win for Spacey’s co-star Robin Wright. Netflix will want to improve on that this time around, to prove that they ‘count’ in the big leagues.

Since the scrabble up the political ladder was vicious and frantic at times in series one, viewers won’t want Frank’s journey to get too easy this time around. All the episodes drop in at once on Valentine’s Day, will they make enough impact to tear people away from their loved ones?

The Halo TV Series – TBA

HaloThe Xbox One announcement was undoubtedly a multimedia entertainment affair, rather than a reveal of ‘a games console’. Microsoft had their sights set on something greater, and still do. Filming a TV series though, takes time, and with collaborator Steven Spielberg working on other TV projects as producer his time is sure to be in high demand.

The potential of this show is what makes it such an exciting prospect though. The Halo 4: Forward  Unto Dawn web series demonstrated fantastic production values and, crucially, a compelling story which wasn’t over-reliant on the games – a very difficult balance to get right.

The expectation from series fans is high, and as one of Microsoft’s key exclusives, they will definitely want to take the time they need to get it right first time. Particularly considering all the flack they got in 2013 for various PR mis-steps.

The potential of the concept is huge though, and there’s a lot to play for. A massive captive audience and exclusive delivery platform just waiting to get going, while the interplay between the show and the game series itself, which is also keeping its audience hungry. MS have an opportunity to make a bold statement about what they can achieve in multimedia. It might not come this year in the end, but there is sure to be more revealed by the end of the year.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – March 28

Captain America: The Winter SoldierPoor Cap. Thanks to merely his name, his origin story wasn’t as well received in the UK as it was in his homeland. Luckily he has another chance with The Winter Soldier, and early forecasts are looking extremely promising.

The character established in the first film had a surprisingly deep arc compared to his fellow Avengers, and as such was short-changed by critics. In this instalment the trailer paints a very compelling picture.

Cap is still working with SHIELD, including Nick Fury and Black Widow, and is beginning to question the motives and methods of this highly destructive organisation. Not a gritty superhero story like The Dark Knight trilogy, but a very personal story which explores his character – albeit with some explosions thrown in for good measure.

Directing are little-known pair Anthony and Joe Russo, who are sure to bring their own spin to proceedings, while the rest of the crew are equally unknown to the Marvel film universe, meaning the film has that mixture of excitement and fear you often find with an unknown quantity.

The next Google Nexus tablet – TBA

Google Nexus 10 2 concept imageGoogle have been making strides over the past few months, buying up companies left and right and making progress with both software and concept hardware such as Google Glass, but since the release of the Google Nexus 7, things have been quiet in the tablet division.

The advertising for Google Play as the place to get your music, films and TV shows has seen a marked increase, giving the softest of indications that the next logical step on their tablet journey may be coming.

Another patent deal with Samsung done and dusted in the smartphones division means there’s a few more patents to play with and since there has been a lot of expectation for a more specced iPad or wearable tech. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), product launches from Google were conspicuous by their absence and after Apple’s shares took a tumble on the back of less-than-overwhelming sales performance – now is the time to strike.

The technology needed isn’t a million miles ahead of the excellent Google Nexus 10, produced by Samsung, with its screen in particular going down well and generally performance stacking up to the equivalent offering from Apple. To really turn heads though, they will need to go further. Does that mean a Nexus 11? Time, as ever, will tell, but there’s potential there for the taking.

The ones to watch: Watch Dogs, Titanfall, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Division, The Fray – Helios, Rancid’s new album, Robocop, 300: Rise of an Empire, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, Steam Machines, Oculus Rift, Hannibal and Game of Thrones.
James Michael Parry

The future of online gaming | Feature | Gaming

DestinyOnline gaming today has more players and costs more money than ever before, so what happens next?

OK, so we can’t predict the future, and we don’t pretend to know any more than you, so don’t read on expecting undeniable facts.

What you can expect (read right to the end, we’re watching you), is our thoughts on where the online side of gaming is going, and what experiences we can expect to encounter.

A digital future

Players of GTA Online have been given half a million in-game dollars to apologise for the shaky start.
Players of GTA Online have been given half a million in-game dollars to apologise for the shaky start.

The two next-gen consoles stand primed to clash in the greatest technological showdown of our generation, but what about the games?

One thing is clear – offline-only games are going to be few and far between. The rise of online-only games was felt more this year than ever before, in both successes and catastrophes.

The latest Sim City gave players cause for concern when it’s online requirement backfired spectacularly, but the highest profile casualty has to be Grand Theft Auto Online.

While the game is, if nothing else, incredibly ambitious, Rockstar fell under pressure quickly when there were countless problems with the game – a free addition for players of Grand Theft Auto V.

Weeks after launch, and after several title update patches to try to iron out the issues, GTA Online still feels creaky and glitchy. Not to mention the race to level up has left many players behind, particularly in races where no amount of money can buy car upgrades which they haven’t unlocked yet.

With so much seemingly against online games then, why do publishers and developers keep pushing for more?

It’s not about the money, money, money

Defiance always had a mountain to climb in setting up its infrastructure from scratch.
Defiance always had a mountain to climb in setting up its infrastructure from scratch.

Building an online platform, especially from scratch, is a massive undertaking which requires a lot of initial investment and on-going maintenance.

For big publishers like EA and Activision, these sorts of technologies are already on hand and so often can be adapted or acquired more easily, but for many games there isn’t so much backing on tap.

The title which really stands out in this regard is Defiance, whose developer Trion Worlds reportedly invested $70million to get the game up and running for multiplatform release earlier this year.

Despite a shaky start, the game performed well and lived up to nay-sayers who suspected it would never work. Unfortunately it has struggled more recently as the player numbers have began to fall.

Thinking inside the box

Stars of the TV series were available in the game ahead of the events of the TV show and the player got an extra insight into how they got to where they are at the beginning of the show.
Stars of the TV series were available in the game ahead of the events of the TV show and the player got an extra insight into how they got to where they are at the beginning of the show.

Where Defiance has an opportunity to remain relevant is the fact that first and foremost it is a multimedia enterprise, married up with TV network SyFy who have created the companion TV series alongside it.

Could multimedia hold the key to a sustainable future for online gaming?

Microsoft is very well placed for a multimedia revolution and the likes of Netflix (available on all consoles bar the Nintendo ones…) are announcing exclusives and special shows on an increasingly regular basis. Will we see games which tie-in to these net-based shows?

Then there’s the game spin-off TV shows themselves. Halo is working with the well-respected director Steven Spielberg and there is also a live action Need for Speed film in the works starring Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad fame.

Of course tie-ins of the latter sort are nothing new, indeed there have been plenty of embarrassing crossovers in the past, but with the opportunities of distribution through this new round of the consoles all the more smooth can we expect more?

It’s in the game

Created by coders formerly of Infinity Ward, Titanfall is one of the hottest games due next year.
Created by coders formerly of Infinity Ward, Titanfall is one of the hottest games due next year.

The way we play has also affected the games themselves, not just driving titles to being always-online (to get those coveted ‘living, breathing worlds’), but in terms of how they are structured and how they play.

Hotly anticipated next gen title Titanfall foregoes a traditional singleplayer campaign, opting instead for a skirmish-based cooperative campaign. The cooperative part is key, since the game wants you to play with others and grow with your characters and your team.

The risk here is that without a singleplayer campaign, players won’t get sucked into the story elements or the lore of the title and end up merely taking it at face value.

Bungie has high hopes for its new IP, Destiny
Bungie has high hopes for its new IP, Destiny

In a similar boat is Bungie’s Destiny. Responsible for establishing the Xbox with the original Halo, the company clearly know what they are doing when it comes to gaming.

Bungie simply describes Destiny as an ‘action’ game, suggesting that players will enjoy “a compelling storyline, competitive multiplayer, cooperative gameplay choices, wide open public combat destinations, and third-person community spaces where you can repair and rearm before going out on your next adventure.”

Once again, despite also offering player vs player modes, the main focus is cooperative, one of exploration and creation. It remains to be seen whether players will lose themselves in Bungie’s new world, or if they will just spend their time grinding for new items to use in team deathmatch.

Stormy weather

Forza developer Turn 10 claimed the time saved in development from having the cloud ready to deal with online multiplayer meant higher-quality visuals.
Forza developer Turn 10 claimed the time saved in development from having the cloud ready to deal with online multiplayer meant higher-quality visuals.

The power needed to keep all of these games afloat is potentially limitless, as countless players around the world all interact, much as they have for years, except with bigger, richer and more dense worlds to explore.

That computing power has to come from somewhere, and it’s likely that cloud-based processing power will become increasingly important, especially as the games grow and change to adapt to their developing environment.

It’s unclear how effective or how close gaming will realistically get to the potential of the technology. The biggest stumbling block, and criticism, particularly in the UK is that internet speeds simply aren’t quick enough yet.

The cloud can take over processing power for things which might be able to be sent back through the web without the player seeing a lag, but for things like fighting games where split-second timing is key it’s unlikely the cloud would ever be able to ‘take over’.

The end game

Companion apps and integration are undoubtedly going to be a big part of online gaming in the future.
Companion apps and integration are undoubtedly going to be a big part of online gaming in the future.

The opportunities and possibilities of the continuing trend of converging media have the potential to make gaming more mainstream than ever before.

Ubisoft’s The Division sees players fighting in teams over a sprawling, dystopian world map. This game will use multimedia to link into players real-world lives and draw them back in by sending messages straight to their phone or allowing players using tablets to interact directly with players on the console through a meta-game function generally known as ‘commander mode’.

What is key to the success of these sorts of big ideas though, is whether players actually make use of them, and that gaming companies actually make money out of them.

Micro-transactions, DLC and in-game advertising are a whole other side to the funding debate entirely, but what will be the proof of the sorts of innovations above is if they substantially lengthens the lifespan of the game.

What to expect from next gen online gaming then? In a nutshell more of some of the things we know already and plenty more coming besides that. Better warm up the router now…it’s not going to get a lot of rest soon.

James Michael Parry

What is Defiance? – Gaming and television combined | Feature | Entertainment

DefianceThe ‘movie tie-in’ game is one of the most disrespected of genres in the computer games industry, and yet SyFy and Trion Worlds have come together to create an experience which straddles both television and gaming media. The question is will does succeed?

In short, the cop-out answer is that really it’s too early to tell. Series one of the TV show is still only just underway (as of April 2013) and the games following is swelling slowly.

On the silver screen

The action kicks of pretty quickly with Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) making it clear she's not to be trifled with
The action kicks of pretty quickly with Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) making it clear she’s not to be trifled with

As pilot episodes go, the first episode of Defiance sets itself up well, but you can’t help but shake the feeling that is trying hard to be ‘the new Firefly’. Of course it will want to avoid the destructive fate of Joss Wheedon’s famously cancelled series, but the setup is undeniably strongly influenced.

You have a slightly gruff, reluctant hero and war-veteran with the heart of gold – Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) – accompanied by his young female companion who may well have one or two screws loose – Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas).

The similarities don’t end with the characters either. There’s a definite post-apocolypse Western feel to Defiance, with a real feeling that people just want to get by and go their own way.

What is different to the world of Serenity though, is that this is Earth, a place called Defiance to be precise, the city which used to be called St. Louis before the trouble began, which now stands in the midst of mini wars taking places throughout the wastelands which surround it. The landscape has been partially terraformed by the arrival of the Voltan, a race of alien refugees who’s own planet has been destroyed, and the splintering of humanity following their inevitable clash with the Voltan has left a number of different factions, all out for themselves.

Being part of the story

The gritty, brown environments actually have more variety than first glance might suggest.
The gritty, brown environments actually have more variety than first glance might suggest.

The TV show serves to set up the story for the game in many ways. Despite being in different locations (the game takes place in San Francisco), the lore of this world puts it’s own twist on the issues of politics, race and deception, much as Star Trek once did.

In the game you take the role of an Arc Hunter, a scavenger who travels the wastelands searching for the best salvage and ‘scrip’, the universe’s currency.

As the game is Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO), your journey through the world is accompanied by others from across the globe, who jump in and out of missions at leisure.

Though based around social interaction, the gameplay doesn’t push it on you. There is area chat, which can be switched off, and you can make a group or go it alone as you please.

There are some areas specifically designed for multiplayer, such as specific cooperative missions and some player vs player modes, including the savage Shadow War, a 64 player battle to control an area in the vein of Battlefield’s Conquest mode.

Bringing it all together

The mo-cap on the TV show actors is reasonably good, but the visuals in general are standard rather than jaw-dropping.Where the two feed together is the unique selling point of both the game and the TV show though, with grand promises that down the line the characters from the game (even top-ranking players) could find themselves appearing on the show and vice versa.

The latter has already been teased with a handful of episode missions set ahead of the TV show, which show its protagonists in search of a crystal which then appears in the pilot.

It’s a delicate balance to keep both a game and TV audience happy when they aren’t necessarily bought into both perspectives.

Undoubtedly the two combined are greater than the sum of their parts, and seeing familiar elements recur is a genuine thrill, but with a project with such a long-term focus, is it better to wait until things are a bit more built up?

Patch yourself up

The 'EGO' rating denotes your power or level in the game, and can be topped up by entering Arkfall codes found outside the game. Good thing, as the game has a mandatory 10GB install and you need something to do to pass the time (you COULD watch the TV show, if you had another TV).
The ‘EGO’ rating denotes your power or level in the game, and can be topped up by entering Arkfall codes found outside the game. Good thing, as the game has a mandatory 10GB install and you need something to do to pass the time (you COULD watch the TV show, if you had another TV).

The first in-game update has already fixed a long list of bugs and issues with the game, though some reviewers’ concerns such as the lacklustre visuals and limited weapon options remain.

To topple the giant that is World of Warcraft, the world’s most popular MMORPG, would take some serious doing, but the team here have made an MMO, something altogether more straightforward to engage with.

Character customisation is basic, think Mass Effect levels of detail customisation, and equally the weapons take some time and a lot of luck to get interesting. Weapon modding is perhaps the most complex sub-system, with certain weapons having ‘synergy’ mods, which work together for an overall more combined effect.

The game does warm up quickly though, granting a vehicle to zip around the surprisingly diverse landscape, filled with mini-encounters and secondary missions to keep things interesting. The whole thing has a strong Red Faction Guerilla feel, which is no bad thing.

Early days

Defiance
The badlands have a number of different enemy factions in which tend to want to shoot, hurt or run you over.

The reason that this isn’t a review is because this is a game/TV series which is an investment of time as much as it is an entertainment experience in its own right. The ultimate decider as to whether the joint venture has worked will be whether they both last more then two seasons.

The potential for expansion is exciting though, and there are some good ideas and characters here begging to be developed further. Imagine teaming up with an army for a battle which spanned both the game and the TV show and your actions contributed to the outcome of both worlds. To see some real interaction and commitment to the vision both teams have set out towards could yet make the game one of the defining moments of this generation – a real trend-setter.

Hopefully these sorts of mutually beneficial collaborations are something which will become more and more common, with the one-sided affairs of old, which only sought to squeeze a few extra pounds out of a franchise, confined to the history books.

James Michael Parry

Doctor Who returns in: The Bells of St John | Review | TV

You have to love the film style posters.Jarring series naming conventions aside (Series 7 part 2 hardly rolls off the tongue), the resurgence of Matt Smith as Doctor Who on the box is always a time of excitement, but will this short injection of episodes prove its worth.

The ball began rolling with ‘The Bells of Saint John’, one of Steven Moffat’s more quirkily-named episodes. The story itself begins back in the 1200s as the Doctor ponders the meaning of Clara Oswin Oswald, “the woman twice dead”.

Oswald, played by young newcomer and guaranteed ‘tween’ pin-up Jenna-Louise Coleman, is the latest conundrum the Doctor can’t quite work out. Like River Song before her, the Doctor is left with more questions after every meeting, having run into her first in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ and then again in last year’s Christmas special, but as two different people from two different time periods and locations – and yet they have a lot of common similarities.

The phrase ‘Run you clever boy’ seems to be the recurring theme for this half of the series, along with discovering Oswald’s identity. Luckily this is an exciting prospect as Coleman creates such a likeable character instantly.

The story uses another clever reflection on modern society in focusing on wi-fi, on of the most prolific technologies across the globe.The most ironic way to watch the episode is through BBC iPlayer at a particularly busy time of day, forcing the video to buffer now and again when you least expect it, somehow it really adds to the unnerving side of the experience.

This plus using The Shard as a setting gives the story a really topical feel. In an attempt to remain spoiler-free we won’t go into the details, but needless to say when the Doctor is around it means trouble.

Tearing it up on The ShardThe episode has the right ingredients but doesn’t quite match the drama of previous opener, ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, not least because of the strength of the villain. The point Moffat is trying to make with this particular yarn is a strong one, but it is unfortunate that the visual style of the ‘monster’ of the episode borrows heavily from another Moffat story, ‘Silence in the Library’.

That said, there is plenty of fun to be had, with some excellent one-liners from the Doctor and bags of character from Coleman at every turn. As usual the sense of foreboding is there, with the audience constantly wondering what tiny detail will carry through this series, and equally one eye on the show’s past with self-references to make even relatively new fans smile. Also the Doctor has a new coat, its purple, and despite the look of the Shard poster (see above) it doesn’t really give him the Willy Wonka look some feared.

In all a strong start, and a memorable one, but not the strongest opener the series has seen. Certainly a step up from Christmas though (which ironically had the better monster but the worse story), and a solid base to grow the series from. Just a shame there’s so few episodes to look forward to.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

Entertainment | Five reasons we love Nathan Fillion | This Is Entertainment

courtesy gdefon.comSome actors stick with you. Whether they start off in bits and pieces before landing a lead role and suddenly have you thinking “Where on EARTH have I seen them before?!”, or they just pop up out of the blue and instantly impress.

Canadian heart-throb Nathan Fillion is such a person. Now a veteran star, Fillion made his first notable (yet fleeting) appearance in Saving Private Ryan – unfortunately he wasn’t the Private Ryan Tom Hanks was looking for.

Fillion has gone from strength to strength ever since, so we decided to celebrate his modest achievements by celebrating the five very best things about him.

  1. He always looks the part

courtesy ecleader.orgMuch credit should go to the costume designers, but there’s no doubt Fillion’s costumes suit him down to the ground. The ruffian Mal Reynolds (Firefly) avoids the obvious Han Solo parrallels not only with Fillion’s well-worn and loose costume, but also the way he carries himself in it – naturally, far from the 70’s swagger of Harrison Ford. Likewise Fillion’s turn as the charismatic writer Richard Castle (Castle) is accompanied by an attire to reflect the character – smart but playful. It’s touches like this which give his performances such effortless-ness.

  1. His voice suits every occasion

courtesy Halo.wikia.comDespite the danger of geographical stereotyping from his upbringing, Fillion’s voice is diverse and effective in all situations. Whether it’s making a emotional stand on Haven in Serenity as it is accompanied by the panicked look of backwater cop Bill Pardy (Slither) as he runs from alien slugs, Fillion commits, and as a bonus he has a particularly good handle on sarcasm. Of particular note is his role as squad leader Buck in Xbox 360 game Halo 3: ODST, which re-united him with some of his fellow cast members from Firefly.

  1. His has a rebellious attitude

courtesy allenpinney.blogspot.comSome could argue it’s Mal rather than Fillion who has the lions share of attitude, but enough can be seen through Fillions repertoire for it to be more than just coincidence. Fillion is a joker and a rebel in real life as much as he is on screen. He once played April fools jokes on his fans through Twitter (@NathanFillion) by saying his cat Spartacus has been killed by coyotes. In one interview Fillion admits to ordering a kit from Amazon to deal with a stray bit of skin on one of the Castle crew’s arm just because he felt like it – talk about devil may care.

  1. He’s always the underdog

courtesy entertainmentmentally.comDespite his obvious talent, Fillion hasn’t had enduring success until he began Castle in 2009 – reaching a landmark fourth series with the mystery-solving writer. Fillion might have had to fight and be patient, but that didn’t stop people noticing him along the way. Firefly was famously cancelled after one season, and it was so popular on DVD that it returned on the big screen in the form of Serenity. Luckily, the whole cast returned, but it’s difficult to imagine the film flying without Fillion in particular. Fillion seems happy enough flying below the radar though, even poking fun at himself by dressing up as Mal for halloween in Castle.

  1. He’s just a genuine, funny guy

courtesy legendsofgotham.blogspot.comAll of which leads us to an inevitable conclusion – Fillion is just as fun and interesting a person as the characters he plays. He manages to make a strong first impression on his first appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Live (see below), quickly building rapport and coming across honestly, with quips abound. Some of his strongest comedic work is also his latest, since the cheeky personality of Richard Castle, which at times seems little more than a thin veil for his own trickster sensibilities, allows him to have plenty of fun with co-star Stana Katic (Detective Kate Beckett).

For those who haven’t had the fun of watching Fillion on screen, there is plenty to discover, but for the rest of us, we look forward earnestly to his next adventure. Keep up the good work Nathan.

Nathan Fillion on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

Nathan Fillion PSA:


Pictures: locustsandhoney.blogspot.com, halo.wikia.com, allenpinney.blogspot.com, entertainmentmentally.com, legendsofgotham.blogspot.com, gdefon.com,