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My Bucharest

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 1.02.20 AMMy Bucharest; or, How Bucky Barnes Made My Life That Much Better

By Hannah J. Rothman

In 2014, two things happened. That spring, Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out and I, a life-long Marvel movie fan with a prior affinity for Thor and his roster, shifted character focus from conniving complex villain Loki to best-friend-turned-brainwashed-enemy-agent James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes. That fall, I landed my first full-time job at a publishing company in Westchester.

2015 was a very different year. I was employed the whole time. I wasn’t quite as depressed. I rode out the wave of my previous year’s rediscovery of Pokémon. Doctor Who had my favorite new season in years. I moved out of my parents’ house to be closer to work. Marvel fell by the wayside.

In April 2016, I was laid off from my job. One month later, Captain America: Civil War came out. I’d been following the news and the trailers and I was, of course, eager to know what was going to happen to Bucky next, especially after learning that he was featured in the post-credits scene of Ant-Man. Civil War’s timing couldn’t have been better. Doctor Who was in the off-season and while Hamilton dominated my earbuds, there’s only so much you can get out of a single Broadway soundtrack. I needed something to fill the void. On Tuesday, May 10th, it was like Cap and Bucky popped back up, grabbed me by the shoulders, said “get back in here, kid,” and dragged me down to Marvel hell once more. It was good to be back.

But something was different this time.

My previous height of engagement with the Marvel world was circa 2012, at the peak of Avengers hype and Loki-mania. But for that time I was solely a fandom consumer. I reblogged reams of fanart and gifs and memes about the characters and actors on Tumblr, although I never produced any myself. I spent days watching their several recent animated series, and months playing the online games, albeit deliberately avoiding the original comics for fear that That Way Lies Madness.

This time, I wanted to write fanfiction. Not just any kind of fanfic, Bucky-recovery fic in particular. This was a character that I wanted to engage with on another level. I wanted to add more to his story. I wanted to explore his process of growth and healing. I’d done plenty of musing before about Loki and his mythology and his archetype, but I never actually wrote any of it down and I certainly never built anything from it. I thought about this. I’d had an interest in Bucky since I saw The Winter Soldier, but why was I latching onto him this hard now and not then?

I think one part of it may have been catharsis. The Winter Soldier was the initiator of my interest in this character, since his role in Captain America: The First Avenger was primarily as the supporting-best-friend-who-allegedy-dies-to-fuel-the-protagonist’s-angst. But The Winter Soldier, especially the ending, opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Where was Bucky Barnes going from here? How would he get the rest of his memories back? When would Steve finally find him again? Two years of speculation later, we got our payoff. We found out where Bucky had gone, how he was living, what kind of progress he’d made on trying to put himself back together, and of course he was finally reunited with his best friend. All that, and we were still given plenty more room to speculate on what more had happened to him between the two movies and what would happen next.

But for me, I think it went beyond that: Bucky Barnes came back into my life at a moment when I needed him most.

In the final months at my job, I was slipping into a bad place. I would get up, go to work (not always arriving on time), drone away at a computer for eight hours, come home, and then have no energy left to do anything else. When I got laid off, it got worse. I performed the rudimentary tasks needed to stay alive and functional, and I couldn’t always do that either. I successfully applied for unemployment benefits and did what needed to be done to get my check every week, but I could go for days without showering or brushing my teeth and I regularly neglected to take my medication. Following the infamous reveal at the beginning of that god-forsaken month when we thought that Marvel was actually making HydraCap the new status quo, I suffered severe appetite loss and barely ate for 48 hours. I had plenty of time to write or draw or otherwise be productive, but I took advantage of practically none of it. I was lost, mostly alone, not sure where I was going from here, and had few aspirations beyond making it to the next day.

And then along came Civil War Bucky: a lost soul holed up in an apartment in Bucharest who was still trying to figure himself out, living day-to-day, recovering from years of having no control over his life, and doing it all alone…and I looked at him and thought “I want to help you.”

A few weeks later, I started outlining my first fanfic about him and made an announcement post about the set-up on Tumblr before going to bed that night. I woke up the next morning to find it had been reblogged by a Cap/Bucky blog (with the caption “I fuckin’ need it in my life”), resulting in my having half a dozen new followers and the post escalating to about fifty notes (over 150 as of this writing), many of which were subsequent reblogs with enthusiastic captions and tags like “that fanfic sounds like the best thing ever” and “please I need this.” With the additional drive of the promise of a built-in audience, I got straight to work. About a week later, I completed the fic. “Re-establishing Contact” was ostensibly a story about Bucky and Steve Rogers engaged in a romantic relationship (because you bet I was getting onboard the Stucky bandwagon right away), but its main focus was about Bucky and the healing process, centered around the theme of touch. In it, he deals with how to accept comfort after nightmares, mistakes a neck rub for a chokehold, has an existential bubble bath, has a session of exploratory touch with Steve, and suffers a bit in sensitive places in a scene I’ve affectionately nicknamed “Disasturbation.” As of this writing, I’m about halfway through another fic called “To Have a Home”: a story based on a series of prompts that build on the theme of home, such as acquiring new possessions, having company over, taking in strays, and having a place to come back to. Appropriate, then, that I should start writing “To Have a Home” in the final weeks before I had to leave my shared apartment in Westchester.

The morning of moving day (incidentally also the glorious day that HydraCap was revealed to be the result of brain-scrambling after all), I lay on my bed in that room for the last time, feet so sore from eight straight hours of packing that I couldn’t walk properly anymore, and I had a revelation: Bucky wasn’t just a favorite character of mine. I was using him as a coping mechanism.

Here I was, lost and confused and directionless and kinda miserable, and there he was, lost and confused and directionless and alone, and I didn’t just go “I want to help you.” I went “I want to give you a better life, because I don’t know if I can give myself one right now. I don’t feel like I can help me, but I know I can help you.” I was productive. I was writing again. I felt like I had something to strive for. It was something small, inconsequential even, but if the happiness of a fictional character helped me get out of bed every day and made me produce content again, that was great.

Of course, I also had to wonder if I was spending what little energy I had improving Bucky’s life instead of improving my own. But I think I’m approaching a point where I can do both, and spending time writing again certainly counts as an improvement (even if it’s just one improvement). I spent those last three months in Westchester inching along and wallowing in my anguish alone. Maybe that was my Bucharest. But now I’m back with my parents and I’m closer to friends. I have a support system again. I know I can do both.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to me next, and I don’t know what’s in store for Bucky in the movies once he gets out of cryo in Wakanda, but somehow I feel like we can make it through together. In the meantime, I’m just so happy to have such a great muse again.

Thank you, Bucky (and by extension, Sebastian Stan, who plays him so damn well).

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Folks, have I got a sad story for you.

Fortunately this has nothing to do with the progress of Twitter Who 4, but it is a Who-related misfortune that befell me last week.

Back in January, I sent a fan package to Twelfth Doctor and Generally All-Around Excellent Human Being Peter Capaldi. In it, I included a letter, some fan art, a self-addressed envelope (common courtesy if you’re hoping for a reply, so I’m told) and a copy of Twitter Who volume 1. The good news is, it looks like that all reached him just fine because I discovered to my ecstatic delight that my SAE was in my mailbox Thursday afternoon.

But it looks like I may have been robbed. Upon sprinting back up to my apartment, I flipped the envelope around to open it…only to discover to my horror that it had already been opened and the contents removed. All that was inside was a cardboard backing slip. The envelope was one of those yellow envelopes with the folding metal pins. Upon closer inspection, it looks like pins had been folded back (which is why I suspect the contents were stolen and didn’t simply fall out) and no adhesive had been added to properly seal it.

I filed a report with the USPS, but upon bringing the fateful envelope to the local post office, they said there wasn’t really anything they could do, since this was the contents of a letter and not something like a package that they could track. I’ve also, at the recommendation of a few people, emailed the agency about this. No replies yet.

Since I’m meeting Peter Capaldi (and Jenna Coleman) at Awesome Con in June, I’m not terribly concerned about a lost autograph. However, it seems to be common practice for PCap to include personal letters in his fanmail replies, and that’s what I’m particularly devastated about. Did he write back thanking me for the book? Did he like the fan art? Who knows? I’ll probably never know. But to be honest, I’m glad I got the empty envelope instead of no envelope at all, because that at least proves that he did take the time to reply to me, a lowly Tweeter who considers him a personal hero. I only wish something hadn’t gotten in the way there.

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“Doctor Who will only have a Christmas special this year and no Season 10 until next spring? Oh no, what will we do??“

– *sidles up* Hello friend! Can I interest you in some…

~*~*~*~Big Finish Audio Dramas?~*~*~*~

“But Hannah, what are Big Finish audio dramas?”

– I’m glad you asked! Big Finish is a company that specializes in audiobooks and full-cast audio plays. They make stories for all kinds of stuff like Dark Shadows, Blake’s 7, Pathfinder, The Avengers (UK), and more, but they’re best known for Doctor Who! They’ve been keeping the Classic Series alive in its own way by reuniting the old casts for brand new adventures through time and space!

“That sounds cool! But where do I start?”

– Another excellent question! Big Finish’s epic Whoniverse catalog is a bit of a mixed blessing. On one hand, the sheer quantity of stories is bound to be a bit daunting to newcomers. But on the other hand, there’s so much to choose from that there’s something for everyone! Also, the earliest Main Range stories are on a permanent price reduction, so you can get dozens of great stories for the low low price of just 2.99 each! So, what are you in the mood for?

“I want to check out an underrated Doctor!”

– Great! Here, start with Storm Warning and go on some adventures with Paul McGann in his triumphant return as the Eighth Doctor!

“I want to know more about the Doctor’s old friends!”

– Then it sounds like the Companion Chronicles are just for you!

“I want to meet some new companions!”

– Looks like you’re on the right path with Storm Warning and the excellent Charley Pollard, but also take a look at The Marian Conspiracy and the inimitable Evelyn Smythe, or even The Eye of the Scorpion and the fantastic Erimem if you like historical AND diverse characters!

“I want to cry my eyes out!”

You have come to the right place, friend. The Holy Terror will do you good to start, as will Spare Parts, Project: Lazarus, Arrangements for War, Jubilee

“I want a good old-fashioned comedy!”

– Well, if you like self-parody, The One Doctor is where it’s at! And there’s also Bang-Bang-a-Boom! for all you Star Trek and Eurovision fans.

“I like Could Have Been’s!”

– That could go one of two ways. If you’re looking for TV stories that could have been made but weren’t, there’s The Lost Stories! If you’re looking for What If’s, you’ll want to check out Unbound!

“I want a long-running spin-off starring the supporting duo of an old Fourth Doctor serial!”

Jago and Litefoot. There is so much Jago and Litefoot.

“I want to explore the universe beyond the Doctor! Preferably with some cool female characters!”

– Ah, then I’ll bet you’d enjoy adventuring with Bernice Summerfield or Iris Wildthyme or hanging out with Romana and Leela in Gallifrey!

“I’m a New Who fan and I don’t know anything about the Classic series, and I’ve never listened to audio plays before. Help?”

– Friend, your timing couldn’t be better. As it happens, some very exciting developments are happening over at Big Finish at the moment, since they recently got the license to work with New Who material and that means if your wallet wasn’t suffering already it will be now a boatload of cool new stuff! There’s a bunch of things yet to be released, like the amazing Tenth Doctor Box Set (YES FRIEND YOU HEARD ME RIGHT DAVID TENNANT AND CATHERINE TATE ARE REPRISING THEIR ROLES AS TEN AND DONNA AND THAT IS AMAZING) and Classic Doctors New Monsters, but right now you can dive right in with The Diary of River Song or The War Doctor or UNIT: Extinction (with Kate Stewart and Osgood!) or even Torchwood!

“Wow, thanks! At this rate, I’ll survive this hiatus like nothing!”

– My pleasure!

“Wait, where did all my money go?”

– Exactly.

~*~*~*~Happy Listening, Whovians!~*~*~*~

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Review: The Fifth Doctor Box Set

fifthdoctorboxsetIt may be an exaggeration to refer to anyone as a “miracle worker,” but I have few qualms about applying that phrase to Big Finish. They’ve kept Classic Who going with quality stories for over 15 years, gradually coaxed some reluctant participants out of the shadows, and reunited many old teams (I suspect that Paul McGann’s birthday in 2013 was a day that hell froze over, because Big Finish announced that the infamously estranged Tom Baker and Lalla Ward would be doing a season of Fourth Doctor Adventures together, news that was probably overshadowed quite a bit by a certain 50th anniversary short called Night of the Doctor). Finally, after a good five years or so of my being an Adric fan, Big Finish made yet another incredible thing happen and reunited my favorite Classic Who TARDIS team of all time: the Season 19 crew of the Fifth Doctor, Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan. Unfortunately, the actual release of the Fifth Doctor Box Set in the summer of 2014 was a time when my commute entertainment was changing from listening to Big Finish audios while playing iPhone games to playing Pokémon on my newfangled Nintendo 3DS. Fortunately, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned New Year’s home office cleaning to get you in the mood for some audio plays. And so it happened that at the beginning of 2016, I finally made it on two brand new journeys with my favorite time-and-space-traveling quartet. It was worth the wait.

Psychodrome by Jonathan Morris
I love the Season 19 crew, and I love the “mysterious place where you have to face manifestations of the depths of your psyche” trope, but in 2010 there was no such Doctor Who story that married the two, so I decided to take a crack at writing one myself. “The Safe House” was a multi-chapter fanfic that I sadly never finished, but it looks like Big Finish did the work for me, and much better. Set almost immediately after the end of Castrovalva, Psychodrome admittedly takes a little while to get off the ground, spending nearly all of Part 1 introducing new sets of characters every few minutes once the TARDIS lands. However, once it’s revealed exactly why the supporting cast is so large, things get much more interesting. The order of the day in this story is “the most intense Getting to Know You field trip ever,” as the team is forced to confront things they might not want to know about both themselves and each other. It’s very much a character piece first and foremost, using its setting purely to enable particular interactions between people. But more importantly, this is the Fifth Doctor story I’ve always wanted to see, and now it finally exists.

Performance-wise, this story is most notable for the return of Matthew Waterhouse as Adric. While Matthew has performed for Big Finish in the past, but not as Adric, and while Adric has returned to Big Finish in the past, but not played by Matthew, the stars (as they say) have finally aligned again. While I loved his performance as a troubled WWI-soldier-turned-museum-curator-with-PTSD in Dark Shadows’ “The Creeping Fog” a few years back, I’m sorry to say that Matthew’s previously expressed concerns about being too old to revisit teenaged Adric are not entirely unfounded. That’s not to say that there aren’t other Big Finish stories where you can hear at least some of the additional years on their actors, but for the youthful Adric it stands out more than usual. Fortunately, once the story kicks into full gear, it’s easier to ignore or forget about as you get wrapped up in the character drama. It also helps that the character is served well in the story, and even gets a couple more intense and frantic scenes that give Matthew a chance to act much harder than he usually had to do in the show. And yes, this does involve some heavy Earthshock foreshadowing.

Iterations of I by John Dorney
While Psychodrome has the general premise of “The Safe House,” Iterations of I has its setting. Jumping ahead to after the events of Black Orchid, Adric and Nyssa have a go at flying the TARDIS themselves and land the crew on a cliffside near Ireland in the early 1980s, on an uninhabited island sporting nothing but a smashed boat and a mysterious old house. Upon investigating and running into a few fellow investigators from the mainland, they find that the house may be haunted…but not by ghosts. Iterations of I is a very, for lack of a better description, mathematical horror story. I’m glad I made attempts to pay attention in high school algebra class, or even more of the numerical theory behind this story would’ve gone over my head. The fact that some of the supporting casts’ backstory involves a math cult should have been an early tip-off. While that set-up may make it sound like this is the most Adric-centric story you could possibly write, it’s actually the Doctor doing most of the work. Although, our mathematical marshboy does get to see a rare bit of action near the end.

There are some technology jokes employed here that might not have worked as well in televised story back in Season 19, mostly involving the Doctor bemoaning the state (and size) of 1980s computers, that got a chuckle out of me. The thing that struck me the most about this story by the end, however, was the fact that this is one of those stories that benefits considerably from being audio-only. Occasionally Big Finish will do an audio drama that features a sentient concept of some sort (the sound creature from Scherzo comes to mind) and, outside of outright personification, that can be difficult to pull off visually. I really have no idea how the monster of Iterations of I would have worked on screen, although I sense it might have looked something like the jittery gap between universes from The Three Doctors at worst. Stick around for the extra features on this one, because hearing the majority of the cast admitting that math was not their strong suit at school (Sarah Sutton’s anecdote is particularly hilarious) is pretty great.

Overall, the Fifth Doctor Box Set is certainly recommended for fans of the early Davison era, and for those who like character exploration with their drama. A solid entry in the Big Finish canon.

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Twitter Who 3 is live on all channels!

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 12.14.51 AMHappy New Year, all! Well, after much wrestling with details and and putting the finishing touches on ebooks, Twitter Who Volume 3: The Third Doctor is now available pretty much anywhere online in paperback and ebook! Check the Books page for further details and links to purchase.

Also! I’ve implemented a permanent price reduction on ebooks for the whole series: all three volumes are now just $2.99 each!

Here’s to a great 2016, Volume 4 is currently in progress…

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Twitter Who volume 3 and November convention schedule

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 12.14.51 AMTwitter Who 3 is almost here! Final edits are being made and there will be an official announcement here when it goes live.

Also! I will be attending LI Who 3 this weekend and will be on the panel for Outside In 2, another Doctor Who collection I appeared in this year edited by the great Robert Smith?. Additionally, I will be at Chicago TARDIS this Thanksgiving weekend and should have print copies of Twitter Who 3 available by then.

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The Best of Pokemon: Symphonic Evolutions

I don’t go to a lot of music shows, but being a child of the 90s, this one was a bit special. Debuting at the Pokemon World Championships in Washington DC in 2014, Symphonic Evolutions is in the middle of a nationwide tour of the US (and then some), and it’s amazing. As an (allegedly) full-grown adult, I admit to going three times in three different cities. The show features music from all six generations of Pokemon games (plus a couple surprises at the end), with full orchestras synced to visuals from the games. Featured is a wide variety of tones and moods, from heart-pounding battle themes to calming credits music to roads paved with adventure to jaw-dropping story moments.

Each generation’s movement gets three to four pieces, each of which can be a single track from the game or a medley with a common theme. Most movements feature a common theme as well, with Gen 2 being all about the legends and notable locations of the Johto region, Gen 5 following the core story with N and Team Plasma from start to finish, and so on. There’s a total of twenty-three pieces, counting the overture, intermission, and encore, so instead of doing a Top Ten I’m doing a Top Seven (about a third of the show). For folks yet to go to the show and wondering what to expect, here’s my personal list of the best of Pokemon: Symphonic Evolutions.

7. The Lake Guardians (Gen 4)
This wins the award for Biggest Surprise of the Show for me. I’m not a huge fan of the music in Sinnoh, but I think the battle music for the Lake Spirits is fairly solid. This piece was par for the course at Symphonic Evolutions, as the theme of the night seemed to be “take the thing and give it more oomph.” But this was not one of the pieces I expected to get oomphed. With a tense tone and fast but light percussion, this made Uxie, Mesprit, and Azelf seem a lot more menacing than they actually are. And I love it.

6. The Day I Became King (Gen 5: Coronation Day, Black/White Opening, Unova Pokemon League, Route 10)
Pretty much the entire Gen 5 movement is just N-feels: The Musical, and this was one hell of a way to kick it off. If you’ve played Pokemon Black and White versions, you may remember how Coronation Day was a fairly ominous and somber piece. Now it’s been upgraded to full-on “brace yourselves, we’re just getting started.” When I first heard the title, I thought it was just going to be an extended version of Coronation Day (N being the aforementioned king and all that) but the inclusion of the Pokemon League theme and Route 10 seemed to be intertwining the idea of “becoming king” with the player becoming the Champion. At first I thought this was a bit of an odd combination of songs to be throwing together for the same piece, but they really make it work. Also, the Black/White opening is a perfect adaptation of what was already a great title theme.

5. Professor Sycamore (Gen 6)
I’ll admit I’m a bit biased on this one because Professor Sycamore is one of my favorite characters in all of Pokemon, but this really is a fantastic bit of music. Sycamore’s theme in the games is delightfully character-fitting: relaxed, smooth, and very French. But running with the trend of “add more oomph,” this piece amps it up to something almost Pirates of the Carribean-esque. Complete with castanets, this nautical-themed reimagining turns the good professor into an adventurer on the high seas, complete with one of my favorite mid-song key changes in a long time. If you’ve ever wanted to know what Sycamore would sound like as a swashbuckler, look no further.

4. Routes of Sinnoh (Gen 4: Routes 201, 206, and 209)
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Diamond and Pearl Soundtrack. Yeah, I say I don’t like the Sinnoh music that much and then I go and put two Gen 4 pieces on this list. That’s the magic of symphony, I guess. Something that I’ve come to notice about the route music in most Pokemon games is how it grows and changes along with you. The first couple routes are always happy and innocent, then evolving into more exciting and adventurous themes later on, before slowing down to something equally triumphant and mournful as you reach Victory Road. Routes of Sinnoh condenses this trend down perfectly, managing to encompass The Journey through the music of the roads you travel. There are actually two pieces on this list that I feel musically encompass Pokemon as a journey in two very different ways…

3. Born to Be a Champion (Gen 1: Trainer Battle, Gym Leader Battle, Champion Battle)
…and this is the other one. If Routes of Sinnoh was a perfect kernel of The Pokemon Journey through its connective tissue, then Born to Be a Champion is The Pokemon Journey as musically told through the meat of the games: the battles. The Gen 1 Trainer Battle theme has been a favorite of mine for well over a decade, and the orchestral version serves it well. I’ll admit I wasn’t that pleased with the Gym Leader Battle music when I first heard it as just a demo clip, but hearing it in context with its lead-in makes it work a lot better. The piece builds to a solid climax with the Champion Battle music, followed by a brief reprise of the Trainer Battle theme, before settling down with a few brief strains of Welcome to the Hall of Fame. And yes, it’s quite a nostalgia-bomb.

2. N-counter (Gen 5: N’s Castle, N’s Battle Theme)
The castle bursting out of the ground at the end of Black and White is still hands-down my favorite plot twist in any Pokemon game, and having an amped-up version of the castle’s interior music synced to that scene is absolutely heart-pounding. If you like the version of this song from the new Super Smash Bros., you’ll probably love this one. N’s Battle Theme is one of the few pieces that adds electronic percussion, but it doesn’t detract from it at all. All in all a fantastic tribute to, in my opinion, the greatest climax in any Pokemon game.

1. “…” (Gen 2: Dragon’s Den, Vs. Champion Lance/Vs. Red)
What would I even call this piece out loud? “Dot Dot Dot?” “Ellipses?” “Red’s Silence?” Either way, I think the folks releasing the demos on YouTube were right to save this for last because if you weren’t already pumped as hell before you heard it, you definitely were after. I listened to the demo on loop more time than I can count, and the piece in its entirety is a thing of absolute beauty and awesome. This is a piece that centers on lead-ins to heavy drops, with a chilling string crescendo at the very beginning and one of the most gloriously heart-pounding buildups I’ve ever heard linking the Dragon’s Den segment to the Vs. Red segment. Gen 2 has a very special place in my heart, and the chance to do a literal “climb a mountain and fight yourself” sidequest against the player character from the first games (I actually thought it was Ash when I was a kid, because he leads with Pikachu) was one of the things that made it so awesome to me. To have that experience come alive again through this music was an absolute thrill.

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Twitter Who Volume 2: The Second Doctor now available in ebook and print!

Twitter Who Volume 2: The Second Doctor is now available in ebook and print!

Also, for a limited time (now through July 31st), Twitter Who 1 and 2 are available at a 50% discounted price of $2.50 exclusively from the Smashwords ebook shop. Just remember to use the code SSW50 at checkout.

Who 2 draft

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It’s Time to Let the Kids Play With Your Toys

An essay I wrote on The Lego Movie was recently featured as the winning entry of the Analytical Couch Potato’s annual writing contest. You can read it here!

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Back From the Dead: The Sara Kingdom Companion Chronicles

With Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles range ending its seven-year run in June, and with a big sale on their first four seasons on Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d take this opportunity to catch up on some of these fascinating nuggets from the Expanded Whoniverse. In this venture, I finally explored the continuing escapades of someone who is, for me anyway, a bit of a controversial character: Sara Kingdom. My personal beef with her is twofold: does she count as a companion since she was only in one story, and was she an Action Girl who got “de-fanged” after a certain point and stopped being interesting? Well, if nothing else, Simon Guerrier’s trilogy of Companion Chronicles digs deep into the cracks of The Daleks’ Master Plan and establishes Sara as one of the hidden gems of Classic Who: at once smart and capable and also mysterious and complex.

Home Truths is both an existential horror story and a murder mystery, featuring the First Doctor, Steven, and Sara investigating strange deaths at a house in Ely in the flashback story, and a traveler named Robert hearing about it from Sara later on. This opening chapter excellently sets the lonely tone of the trilogy and goes on to establish arguably the oddest post-TARDIS future of any companion. Let’s just say Clarke’s Law is here in spades. Also, you’d better warm up to cliffhangers. The Drowned World comes across as the weakest of the trilogy. Although this is primarily because SarGuardian-of-the-Sola1CF9FCa’s flashback story is little more than “we went from Point A to Point B and tried not to get killed” and feels more like padding to the considerably more interesting story taking place in the present between Sara and a returning Robert. Easily the strongest installment is The Guardian of the Solar System which, while it gets a little heavy-handed with its fate-as-clockwork metaphor, is the story that gives Sara the most depth. She goes from the “de-fanged action girl” of later Master Plan episodes to a complex human caught between duty and truth and trying to come to terms with the crimes of her past. Jean Marsh brings warmth and pathos to a once icy character and Niall MacGregor compliments her nicely as Robert, a man who begins as a curious outsider and ends as an almost enlightened figure.

For anyone interested in the more exploratory side of Big Finish, this trilogy is highly recommended listening: the fascinating return of a character once thought lost in 1966.

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