Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ghost in the Case: UHF

"Lesbian Nazi Hookers Abducted by UFOs and Forced Into Weight Loss Programs... all next week on Town Talk."


Ghost here!  Thanks for joining me today for yet another


Everyone is a fan of something or someone.  If you were to ask me who I was a fan of, I would have many answers.  I could easily give names such as Danny DeVito, Dwayne Johnson, Taylor Swift, Doug Walker, and many other people with various levels of fame.  However, if you were to ask me to only pick one celebrity who rises above the rest and has influenced my life in some way, that man would be "Weird Al" Yankovic.

The year was 1999.  A 12 year-old Ghost had only taken baby steps into music.  Sure, I played the piano but as far as listening to popular and new music I just didn't really care up until that point.  It was that same year that Star Wars Episode 1 came out in theaters and I was in full-on Star Wars mania.  As it so happened, I was lounging around my cousin's house watching VH1 when a music video of some guy looking like Obi-Wan Kenobi from the newest movie came on.  It was catchy and pretty funny so I made sure to write down the name of the artist and look him up on my dad's dial-up computer that evening or weekend.  I found the song in question was featured on Weird Al latest "Running with Scissors" album.  I decided to use my allowance to purchase said album and have been hooked on Al ever since.  His comedy has pushed me to be a funnier person in general.  His parodies and polka medleys lead me towards listening to many other musicians.  You can quite easily make new friends once you find out they are a Weird Al fan.  It's similar to finding another Brown Coat or Whovian, once you realize they are a Weird Al fan you don't need to know much more to be their friend.  Lasty, his music has allowed me to "entertain" people even to this day with karaoke and lip sync battles of his songs.  

But enough about how much I love Weird Al.  You're here for the movie review right?  When most people think about Weird Al they generally only think about his songs and music videos.  What people may forget (or not even realize) is that Weird Al has done a great deal more than just his amazing music.  Al has been busy writing children's books, voice acting, directing music videos for other artists, and he even created a tv show and movie.  The movie, UHF, is the focus of today's review.  In 1985, somewhere around the release of Al's second album, his producer believed that Al's type of parody could translate well into a movie similar to the likes of Leslie Nielsen's "Airplane!"  The pair spent the next couple of years bouncing the idea around different studios until Orion finally picked it up.  In 1989 UHF was finally released to the public.

Did Weird Al's venture into the film industry make us all laugh or was it just another "Polka Party"?  Let's take a look.

The Plot

George Newman is a constant daydreamer.  His dreaming always seems to get him and his friend Bob fired from every job they have, including their latest job flipping burgers.  When George's Uncle Harvey wins the deed to a local run-down UHF station in a poker game, George's aunt convinces her husband to allow George to work there as the manager of Channel 62.  George takes the job eagerly and brings his girlfriend to see the place, meeting a beggar along the way for a rather amusing joke (the beggar will be important later.)  George meets his staff who are, in all honesty, a group of misfits like himself including a secretary who wants to be a newscaster, a "little person" camera man, another silent camera man, and the bizarre engineer named Philo.  George attempts to meet the competition, and he introduces himself to R J Fletcher of Channel 8, the town's network station.  R J, a very hateful and detestable man, kicks George out.  On his way out, George meets up with Stanley Spadowski, Channel 8's recently fired janitor, and hires him on to be the Janitor of Channel 62.

George begins to use his imagination to create brand new programs for the station, but despite his efforts the programs are still poor and the station is floundering.  By looking over the books, Bob realizes that the station will go under in less than a week.  Bob and George burn the midnight oil trying to find ways to keep the station afloat, which causes George to accidentally miss his girlfriend's birthday dinner.  She dumps him as this was the last straw in his never-ending stream of shenanigans.  The next day, George, being fed up, begins shouting on the live children's program and walks out mid-program on his way to the local bar.  George tells Stanley that he can take over the show if he wants.  In a bizarre twist, Stanley's weird antics become a smash hit and begin to generate some ratings and revenue for the station.  George comes up with a few similarly bizarre shows to air and together with Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse begin to generate ratings that compete with, and even out-do the network stations.

Unfortunately, Uncle Harvey's gambling habit has caught up with him in a big way as he finds himself suddenly $75,000 in the hole with only two days to pay his bookie.  R J Fletcher, eager to rid himself of Channel 62's interference in his ratings, agrees to pay Harvey the required money in exchange for ownership of Channel 62.  George's aunt learns of this debacle and Harvey agrees to allow George to find a way to come up with the money in those two days before he accepts RJ's offer.  The station then puts on a telethon lead by Stanley, to sell shares of stock in the station to help raise the money.  Meanwhile Philo bugs R J Fletcher's office for fear of R J trying to stop George's efforts.

The telethon is going great but it screeches to a halt when Stanley is kidnapped by a bunch of thugs from Channel 8.  As George and a small group of martial artists infiltrate Channel 8 to rescue Stanley, R J Fletcher begins broadcasting an editorial to slam Channel 62.  Philo interrupts the broadcast and instead plays footage he had recorded of R J insulting the entire town.  With Stanley back at the studio, sales of stock begin to rise but the station is $2,000 short.  Harvey agrees to R J's terms but before the papers can be signed, the beggar from before shows up with $2,000 he has gotten from selling a single rare penny that R J had unknowingly given the beggar to get him to go away.   George hands over the $75K to Harvey's bookie and the station is saved as well as George's relationship with his girlfriend.

What's Good About It?

Let's be perfectly honest here.  You didn't come here for that plot mentioned above.  Nobody came to this movie for that plot.  What you came here for is Weird Al being crazy and doing his parodies and satire.  Thank goodness there is a fair amount of that in this film.  I didn't focus on that aspect in the plot segment as it generally had little to do with the plot.

When I said that George was a daydreamer, I failed to mention that you actually get to see these daydreams (and one actual dream) play out in the film.  In fact, the film opens with a gigantic spoof of the beginning to Raiders of the Lost Ark in which Al goes through all of this trouble to get the golden Oscar off the pedestal and eventually be squashed by the rolling stone.  Later we see him falling asleep while the Beverly Hillbillies is playing resulting in the music video for his song "Beverly Hillbillies/Money for Nothing."  When George goes to rescue Stanley from Channel 8 he fantasizes that he is Rambo going through a group of men and destroying everything in his path while remaining unscathed.  Lastly at the very end of the film he fantasizes being with his girlfriend in a sort of Gone with the Wind style spoof (or at least that's what I think he was parodying.)  The majority of these are done with the general humor and wit that Weird Al's songs of that era tended to have.

What I actually found to be better than the daydream sections were the weird TV shows and commercials that would appear throughout the film.  These commercials were comedy gold... or at least comedy silver.  You have things like local car salesman going insane and states that he will "club a seal for a deal," a funeral parlor with a salad bar, a place that only sells spatulas, a commercial for 'Ghandi II' which sees Mahatma Ghandi being a gun-toting action star, and, of course, Conan the Librarian.  Each of these commercials are really short and absolutely hilarious.  The fake TV shows were really weird and funny too.  Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse has some really weird stuff like a kid finding a marble in a vat of oatmeal then drinking from a fire-hose, or the completely improvised part where Stanley starts to each a watermelon then ditches that to dig in the corn flakes to find the toy inside.  You also have the other weird things like Raul's Wild Kingdom; a show where a latino talks about animals from his apartment but does things like teaching poodles to fly by tossing them out the window.  Of course you can't mention the shows without mentioning Wheel of Fish hosted by a karate instructor, which is where the following scene comes from that you may (or may not) have seen many internet reviewers utilizing

There are still a few of the odd jokes here and there that made me laugh far more than they probably should like George making a mountain of mashed potatoes, dumping a terrier in a punch bowl absentmindedly, and eating the dog treats by mistake.  One of the single funniest random moments outside of dreams and television was when George first met the beggar.  The beggar asks for change so George reaches into his pocket and holds out his hand for the beggar.  The beggar counts up to $1 then places a $1 bill in his hand and walks off.  While there are some good moments like that in the regular plot, most of the comedic gold comes from the exact reason this movie was made to begin with.  Weird Al being crazy and funny with his satire of TV shows and Movies all through the filter of late 80's cheese!

What's Bad About It?

I kind of touched on this in the "good" section but, when the film isn't showing dream sequences, commercials or the later TV shows, it's mediocre to the point of forgettable.  This plot is not that original and it truly shows that they placed it in there as a vehicle to usher you from one funny spoof to the next.  While I understand that you do need that vehicle unless you're truly doing a compilation of short films, the vehicle they have chosen to do this job is an old clunker you see barely doing 30 MPH down the highway  There's nothing spectacular or even that special about the true plot of the film.  The humor is extremely hit or miss when it's not attempting to satire, with miss being the more prominent of the two.  There's honestly no in-between on the comedy.  I found myself either legitimately laughing out loud, or just staring blankly at the screen.

While I hate putting this on the "bad" list, the more I think about it, the more it needs to be addressed.  I enjoy Michael Richard's acting.  I generally think that he is a very funny man and can do some great work.  It's too bad that the more I watch of his Stanly Spadowski character the more I find him really obnoxious.  I know he's supposed to be a simple man.  I know he may very well be portraying a character with some mild form of special needs.  While there are some moments in which I find him endearing like when he's talking about life being like a mop or entertaining the children, there are more moments where he's just being flat out obnoxious.  Practically every moment he's on screen while he's being held by the thugs was overkill on the annoyance.  I'm sure is supposed to be funny, and maybe the point of the scene was to sympathize with the thugs a bit, but he was getting on my nerves just as much as he was getting on theirs.  I don't know, I just found that the longer the film went on I wanted more of anyone else but him.

My last point may or may not be a bad thing for you depending on your tolerance.  This film was released in 1989 and as such has some slightly dated comedy that's just dripping with 80's cheese.  While I tend to find this dated humor charming I can easily see how a more modern audience might not quite grasp or even enjoy some of these references or very on-the-nose jokes.  If you like other 80's spoof movies such as Airplane! and The Naked Gun then you probably won't have a problem here.  If you have never seen these films either, then tread lightly as what you find may not be to your liking.

Conclusion

Obviously, I love Weird Al.  I love his type of comedy whether it be in his music or any other avenue.  As I am such a fan, I can honestly say that I enjoy this film.  However, even my love of Al can't hide the extremely mediocre plot that's woven in between Al's awesome spoofs.  I also can't ignore the fact that some of the jokes fall flat on their face.  It's a sort of mixed bag of equal parts excellent, cheesy, forgettable, and bad.  

This film is for fans of Weird Al Yankovic and lovers of late 80's comedic nonsense.  If you aren't fans of either then there's literally nothing here for you and I would suggest you skip this one.  However if you are a fan of either Al or late 80's comedies then this might be an interesting little diversion for you.  It was created solely for the purpose of Al getting to set his particular brand of parody out there on the big screen.  If this sounds like something that might interest you then you'll probably be fairly entertained.  It's not a masterpiece but it's still a good watch for any and all of us close personal friends of Al!

UHF is rated PG-13 and is available on DVD from Orion Pictures.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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Friday, March 25, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Hartnell Years Season Two

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

I'm going to be examining Doctor Who... every single episode.  I'm going to take you on a journey through the 50+ years worth of this show, showcasing the good and the bad along the way.  For each episode I'm going to give you a very brief rundown of the plot, how good/bad the story is, and anything interesting about the episode.  Basically I'll just talk about whatever comes to mind for each of them.  These will be a more in-depth overview of the series as a whole so you can see which stories or episodes (if any) you want to check out for yourself.  Today I'm going to be talking about

The First Doctor
William Hartnell
Season Two


Season two ran from October 31 1964 to July 24 1965.  It had 39 episodes spread over 9 stories.  During this season all three of the original companions left the show indicating that this show may last longer than originally anticipated.  William Hartnell took their departures hard because he had grown to rely on them so much.  During this time Hartnell, who wasn't in the best of health before hand, was starting to get somewhat worse.  As such, he started fumbling his lines a little more often; that didn't stop him though.  As the true professional he was, the show must go on!  It was also during this season that the pseudo-historical was born; a story set in the past with other alien or sci-fi elements added in the mix.  It was a good change from the pure historicals but it also spelled their eventual demise.

As with Season One, Season Two came out of the fire-based storage system very well.  Only one story this season was missing any episodes and since Doctor Who fans have an insane devotion to the show they found a way to allow us to experience this story.   On the Lost in Time DVDs which has the remnants of our lost episodes, they have both the existing episodes of  The Crusade and audio of the two missing episodes.  While there aren't image stills or animation, it can still get the job done if you use your imagination so I will still be covering it today.

Story 9
Planet of the Giants

The first story of season two is Planet of the Giants and it's three episodes long which is very unusual for Doctor Who.  The TARDIS has shrunken down and somehow shrunken the Doctor and his companions as well.  They are actually on Earth in the 60's but are shrunken down to about an inch in size.  Meanwhile a man is trying to develop a pesticide that is going to wipe out life on the entire planet because of the forumula.  It's up for our miniature heroes to climb their way past the cat and into the laboratory to help save the human race from chemical extinction.

This story is a unique and fairly interesting one, or at least unique for the time.  Remember this was prior to things like Honey I Shrunk the Kids and somewhere around the time that other ideas like this were just taking off (Ant man had only appeared in a comic a couple years prior.)  This story is more interesting for the fact that this was supposed to be the first adventure that Ian, Barbara, and Susan went on with the Doctor instead of the cave people we got last season.  Due to budget and production difficulties they couldn't pull it off then and decided to do it this season.  Also notable is the three episode run time.  It was supposed to be four episodes but they later cut it down to three because they felt the two final episodes were too slow.  Considering the pacing of the rest of the series I'm curious as to why they felt the need to quicken the pace of this one and not any other.

Story 10
The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The second story is The Dalek Invasion of Earth and it's six episodes long.  The TARDIS makes it back to London but in the year 2150.  The place is absolutely quiet and deserted.  Turns out that the Daleks have invaded and have basically already won.  The Doctor and his companions join a group of rebels fighting against the Daleks in hopes of stopping their plan.  What is their plan?  To hollow out the center of the earth and convert it into a mobile war ship for some reason.  This is the episode where Susan leaves the TARDIS.  She falls in love with one of the humans who helped defeat the Daleks so the Doctor locked her out of the TARDIS and left her stranded there as he figured that would make her happy.

This story is a fairly good one.  It's also the first classic Doctor Who story I got the privilege to watch.  It's an interesting ride despite the fact that the Dalek's plan is fairly stupid and it has the first truly terrible creature effects seen in the show with the slyther.  This story also has probably the most famous First Doctor quote which was later used for the Fifth Doctor Anniversary special. "One day I shall come back.  Yes, I shall come back.  Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties.  Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine."  If leading a revolution against the Daleks invading earth sounds fun to you then check it out.

Story 11
The Rescue

The third story is The Rescue and it's two episodes long.  The TARDIS crew meet up with Susan's replacement, a young girl from he future named Vicki.  Vicki is a fairly bright and optimistic young woman who is stuck on the wreckage of a spaceship. She has been taking care of the only other surviving person from the ship.  However, she's being constantly bothered by an alien known as Koquillion.  The Doctor figures out there's more to Koquillion than meets the eye as the planet appears to now be deserted aside from the two of them, though the Doctor had previously been to this planet and knew the people.  The Doctor eventually uncovers the truth about the injured man on the ship.  Vicki joins the TARDIS crew as they head off on another adventure.

I enjoyed this two parter far more than I thought I would.  The design for Koquillion was silly but a good kind of silly.  The revelation of what had actually happened wasn't entirely shocking but it was still a nice twist.  Honestly though aside from Vicki joining as a companion there isn't that much outstanding about these episodes, but you may enjoy them for the charm they have.

Story 12
The Romans

The fourth story is The Romans and it's four episodes long.  The Doctor has decided to take a vacation and the TARDIS crew end up lounging around in Nero's Rome.  The Doctor and Vicki head towards Rome and end up being mistaken for a famous harp player and his assistant who were hired to assassinate the crazy Nero.  Meanwhile, Ian and Barbara are captured and sold into slavery.  Ian becomes a gladiator while Barbara ends up being a house maid for Nero.  While this is happening the Doctor keeps trying to find ingenious ways to dupe the Emperor into allowing him to stay around and figure out exactly what's going on.  Though neither of the two groups see each other, they all manage to escape as Nero finally loses his temper begins the burning of Rome.

Of course with all the slavery, assassination attempts, and Nero burning Rome you would expect this to be a darker story.  Nope, this is a comedy!  Nero spends a good portion of an episode running around the palace chasing Barbara to massively comedic effect.  It's a bizarre and interesting twist on such a dark moment in history that you really should check it out for yourself. 

Story 13
The Web Planet

The fifth story is The Web Planet and it's six episodes long.  The TARDIS is pulled down on the planet Vortis on which live giant sentient insects known as the Menoptera (moth-like creatures), the Zarbi (ants), and the Optera (flightless descendants of the moth creatures.)  It turns out that a supremely powerful being known as the Animus had landed on Vortis and used his psychic powers to control the Zarbi into taking over the planet.  The Menoptera plan an invasion to stop them but the Animus finds out their plans and intends to slaughter them.  It's up to the Doctor and the TARDIS crew to stop this all powerful being.

The Web Planet is good but it's incredibly silly looking.  We spend six episodes worth of people wearing insect costumes when the only human looking characters are the Doctor and his companions.  The budget just wasn't there for any of the costumes to look that great so you end up with some fairly laughable looking scenes.  However, if you are able to use your imagination and look past the necessary evils you can find a pretty good story deep within.  This is also the first time that the Doctor has fought a truly powerful cosmic being and won.  This is one of the hardest to find DVDs if you live in Region 1 so if you want to check this one out prepare to spend a ton of money or be lucky enough to find it online before the BBC removes it.

Story 14
The Crusade

The sixth story is The Crusade and it's four episodes long.  True to the title of the story this adventure takes place during the Third Crusade of Richard the Lionheart.  After the TARDIS lands, Barbara is seized by the followers of Saladin and taken prisoner.  It is up to the Doctor and Ian to convince Richard the Lionheart to allow them to go rescue her.  Politics ensue and eventually the Doctor is sentenced to death only to be rescued by Ian as the four of them make a break for the TARDIS.

This story is the only one from this season which has missing episodes..  We are able to at least listen to all of the story as episodes 1 and 3 have been found and episodes 2 and 4 were presented in audio format only to complete the adventure.  Honestly this story is completely forgettable; it's so forgettable that I honestly had to look this episode up on wikipedia to even say as much as I have even though I have watched it a couple times.  Feel free to skip this one.  The only interesting thing about this is that Julian Glover plays Richard.  He would later on go to star in one of the best Tom Baker episodes, City of Death, and be the villain in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 

Story 15
The Space Museum

The seventh story is the Space Museum.  The TARDIS lands on a museum in space but something isn't quite adding up.  Their footprints aren't showing in the sand, people can't see or hear them, and strangely enough they find the TARDIS and themselves on display.  Slowly time catches up to them and they disappear from the museum.  The Crew try to escape the museum and the internal struggle between the curators and the young people running around, all the while worrying if every action they take will change the future they saw or make it happen.

The Space Museum is one that a lot of people feel can mostly be ignored; I disagree.  While it's not particularly amazing or anything, the dilemma of trying to avoid the steps to getting themselves captured is a brilliant idea.  Also this has some of the funnier scenes to be shown in Classic Doctor Who.  While hiding from the guards, the Doctor climbs inside a disused Dalek case and taunts the guards.  Later when he's caught and interrogated, the Doctor uses the telepathic scanner to his advantage by thinking of ludicrous answers to the questions asked.  It's a neat little story with some humor you don't want to miss.

Story 16
The Chase

The eighth story is The Chase and it's six episodes long.  After leaving the Space Museum we find out that a piece of equipment they had taken as reward for helping was actually planted by the Daleks in order to track them down through space and time.  The TARDIS crew spend most of an episode watching different parts of history on a sort of television and land on a desert planet where the Daleks have found them.  They escape the Daleks and land on the Empire State Building.  The Doctor realizes that the Daleks are tracking them down through the time vortex and they are slowly gaining on them.  The TARDIS demarterializes and lands on the Mary Celeste (google it.)  The Doctor takes off again trying to shake the Daleks and land in what they assume is a Land of Horror.  While there, Vicki gets left behind and stows away on the Dalek ship as they follow the TARDIS to a distant planet.  While on the planet they meet up and find an astronaut named Steven who has been terrorized by robots called Mechanoids.  The Daleks and the Mechanoids begin fighting as the TARDIS crew escapes, losing sight of Steven.  Ian and Barbara decide to utilize the Dalek's time machine and attempt to go home, reaching earth only a couple years after they had originally left it.

The Chase is a story that not a lot of people talk about and I have no idea why.  I absolutely adore this story partly because of the multiple locations seen throughout.  One notable thing about this story is that it involves the Daleks without having "dalek" in the title whatsoever... most dalek stores flat told you they were involved.  While the mechanoids were nothing grand, the portion of the show where they landed in the Land of Horror was absolutely brilliant.  It turns out to just be a haunted house amusement on Earth but the atmosphere of that episode made the whole thing creepy and wonderful!  Knowing how difficult it was for Hartnell to say goodbye to his fellow actors made the scene where Ian and Barbara left even more heart wrenching.  Definitely an underrated story!

Story 17
The Time Meddler

The last story of the season is The Time Meddler and it's four episodes long.  Unknown to the Doctor and Vicki, Steven somehow found his way aboard the TARDIS off screen and is now part of the crew. While the male companions for the First Doctor were there to do all of the physical adventuring due to Hartnell's age and illness, none were more suited for this job than Steven.  Steven was definitely a space action star and had all of the personality traits that go right along with that. The TARDIS lands in 1066 England where they find there has been a strange monk lurking about.  The Doctor goes to investigate and is captured by the monk.  The monk, as it turns out, is actually a time lord who is going around history and correcting things that he thought were wrong.  His plan is to destroy the viking fleet invading England so that the Saxons will end up winning the Battle of Hastings.  Eventually with help from the locals, Steven, and Vicki the Doctor is able to stop him and shrink the inside of his TARDIS trapping him in the 11th Century.

The Time Meddler is one of my favorite Hartnell adventures.  It was the very first psudo-historical as it involved science fiction elements outside of the Doctor, companions and TARDIS.  This is very important as this not only allowed for a greater diversity among the episodes going forward but it also caused the pure historicals to slowly die out.  It was good to see the First Doctor going up against someone who was almost his equal in many aspects.  Definitely give this one a watch!


Conclusion

That concludes season two.  It was more of a mixed bag of randomness than the previous season just due to the different tones they had and the challenging of expectations.  It brought about the game changing pseudo-historical and proved that having the daleks in multiple stories throughout a season wasn't going to hurt the show.  All in all it was a good season.  Even the absolutely forgettable ones I was glad to have watched.  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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You can click here if you wish to see my introduction to Doctor Who
If you want to check out all of my Doctor Who content please click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ghost's Arcade: Slime Rancher

Ghost's Arcade Announcement

I've noticed that a large number of my video game reviews are quite random and extremely lengthy.  This is mostly due to the fact that video games are extremely varied in format and genre.  The way I would review a Pokemon game would not be the same as a Battlefield game.  I also love gaming and can talk for a very long time about subjects I love.  In an effort to make these things shorter and as uniform as I possibly can so that people may want to actually read them and get to the point, I will be tailoring my true video game reviews to be more like my movie reviews.  There will be a section on both plot and gameplay that will be mostly informative with a few jokes here and there.  Then I will have a section for praises and a section for complaining.  If there is anything else of interest I'll include an additional section after that.  Obviously if it's not a standard game review and more of a discussion about gaming or a concept then this wouldn't apply.  This will be the first game review under the new format.  Hope you enjoy.
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"OOO-HOO!!!
Ghost here, thanks for joining!

I have covered many things when talking about video games over the last five years such as role playing games, action adventure games, life simulator games, the stagnation of first person shooters, how to make franchises better, the positives and negatives of online interaction, as well as a few humorous lists.  However, there is one particular aspect of gaming I generally shy away from in both discussion and practice; that aspect would be Early Access gaming.

For those of you not aware of this practice, early access is a funding model in the gaming industry where a consumer will purchase a game (generally at a discounted rate) that is playable but incomplete so that the developer can obtain more funds to continue working on the game utilizing feedback from the customers.  While this may sound good on paper, and I'm certain some game developers wouldn't get their game to market without the availability of this practice, the lazy and devious nature of some game developers have made Early Access a toxic cesspool.  Those of us who follow PC gaming in any aspect, are familiar with Steam, or follow internet reviewers are fully aware of the Early Access dangers.

Many games are put up for early access which should have never been available in the first place due to the numerous bugs or the inability to even play the game at all.  Not to mention that many of these titles turn out to have false promises, are inferior products, and many of the don't even get finished.  In fact, only around 25% of the games placed in Early Access on Steam are ever finished completely.  Even big businesses are starting to follow suit such as Street Fighter V being available for $60 with many of the game's modes not even released yet at the time of release; your opinion may differ on if this is a good or bad thing.  With such overwhelming odds against Early Access, I generally haven't bothered.

That changed on January 15th, 2016 when I saw that Jim Sterling has placed up a new video of a game called Slime Rancher (for those of you unfamiliar with Jim's work I feel I should warn you about the language present).  It seemed to be one of the few competent Early Access games to come out and honestly seemed like something I would enjoy as long as I did a tiny bit of reading on the Slime Rancher wiki instead of bungling it up like Jim accidentally did on his first go through.  He saw a lot of potential in it, and for the first time ever, so did I.  Let's talk about Slime Rancher!

The Plort Plot

Beatrix LeBeau is a young slime rancher who has come to the planet of "Far Far Range" in order to begin her own ranch.  The universe has started a wide trade in plorts which are essentially the excrement of slime creatures after they eat.  Yes there is an entire society based on slime poop.  Beatrix, armed with her trusty vacpack, will go around the world collecting slimes, food, and plorts in order to make a fully functioning and massively profitable ranch. You will set up corrals for the slimes, gardens for the food, and coops for the chickens, while avoiding the evil and nasty Tarr slimes who eat and destroy everything.

That's honestly it as far as plot is concerned.  It's mostly just a backdrop to explain why you are doing what you are doing.  It's kind of weird to have an entire society that uses slime excrement as a viable substance for various uses (all of which can be read about in the internal Slimepedia).  But, I've seen weirder concepts before.  This is more about the gameplay than it is the plot.

The Gameplay

You control Beatrix in the first person view with her Vacpack in clear sight.  The Vacpack can suck up and shoot out items with the left and right mouse buttons respectively.  However it can only hold four different types of items at a single time, and can initially only hold around 20 of each item in question.  This means that you will need to be selective when you go out adventuring into the wild as you can only bring back four particular types of items or slimes per journey out.  Luckily once you have enough money, there are upgrades for your equipment.  These include an extended capacity up to 50 of each item at a time, a super sprint, and a jet pack to fly all around the world.  With these upgrades you can explore every inch of the world possible.

While exploration and bringing items back to your ranch is a central mechanic of the game, the core concern is, of course, your ranch.  To start off with you have one pre-built corral for slimes and seven additional empty locations for you to build additional corrals, gardens, chicken coops etc for you to feed and house your slimes.  All of these are essential as you need a corral for the slimes so they don't run away.  You need food to feed the slimes so they produce plorts, and you need plorts so you can buy your personal upgrades as well as additional corrals, gardens, and other plots of land.  Once you get enough money in-hand you can expand your ranch twice to include a more free-range area for slimes as well as a cave.

Your personal items aren't the only things that can upgrade.  Each and every segment you build can be upgraded multiple times.  The corrals can be twice as high, have nets along the top, play soothing music for the slimes, have a sun resistant barrier for any slimes who don't like sunlight such as the phosphor slimes, auto-feed them, and auto-collect their plorts!  The gardens can have scare slimes to keep hungry free-roaming slimes away as well as enriched soil and automatic watering to increase output..  The coops can enrich your chickens to make them grow faster and keep them within the coop.  You can also build a silo to hold any additional objects you can't keep on you and once fully upgraded, you can have 100 of four separate items stored there.  There are many upgrades that make your life easier if you have the coin.

Why would you put the plorts in the silo?  Well that just depends on how you want to play the game.  To the right of your house is the plort exchange machine which gives you money based on how much the market value of that plort is.  The more of a particular plort you hand over in exchange for cash, the less valuable it will be the next day.  This kind of ensures that early on in the game you can't get rich quick.  Generally in your first few in-game days you will only have three types of plorts and without the variety the prices will be very low.  One way to make sure you get top dollar for your plort is to hoard them in the silo for a few days and eventually the scarcity of that plort will drive the values up and you can make bank!  I didn't do this as I has so many plorts coming out constantly I didn't need high market value personally but it's your own choice how to play the market game.

If you happened to watch Jim Sterling's video that I linked you to, you will notice something very bad happened.  Suddenly Tarr creatures started appearing all over his ranch and completely decimated everything he had done.  If the game informs you of how to avoid this, I personally missed it when I first started the game.  I found this out on the Slime Rancher wiki.  Tarr is a black slime that is extremely aggressive and devours everything in its path including you! You can use the vacpack to attach the Tarr to the end of your nozzle and shoot him off into the horizon to get rid of him.  These creatures don't show up naturally in your ranch,, they have to be made by carelessness.  This game allows for the cross-breeding of slimes.  If a slime of one variety eats the plort of another slime, it mutates into a larger version of both varieties together known as a Largo Slime.  This can create for some amusing combinations such as a honey rock, or an exploding cat.  As long as you only allow these largos to come in contact with the plorts produced by either of it's halves it's fine.  If a largo ingests the plort of a third variety of creature, they turn into a tarr and murder everything.  So, at ALL times make sure no more than two types of slime can be in contact with each other or you're in for a bad day. 

There are a couple of other things here and there such as making sure you feed the Gordo Slimes (VERY large slimes who sit in one place and give prizes once full) which will allow you access to new areas.  Considering that there are still several areas and aspects of the game not yet released as of the writing of this post, this is about all I can say about the gameplay.

What's Good About It?

I absolutely love the art style of this game.  It's a very colorful and fun looking world.  It's kind of reminding me of the sort of a mixture between Legend of Zelda Wind Waker and Team Fortress 2 with its cartoony realism.  It's cute but not in an obnoxious way.  Even the darker and gloomier aspects of what I've seen are still very enjoyable. It's just the kind of look that makes you feel happy.  That's not even talking about the slimes themselves.  While the tarr may be an ugly abomination of hatred, the actual slimes themselves are absolutely adorable and I want to make sure to capture each and every one to fill my ranch up with such adorable creatures.
How could you not love all of these little guys?

Jet packs are awesome!  I seriously don't know anyone who wouldn't love to have a jet pack or at least utilize one in a video game.  There are several places you can go exploring once you get the fully upgraded jet pack and I find myself using it more than I actually just walk around.  It makes for traversing the world and the ranch an absolute joy!  Why don't more games feature jet packs?!  Get the jetpack as soon as you can in this game; you won't regret it.

 One thing I really enjoy about this is the laid back atmosphere that it has (unless you are running away from tarrs.)  While action packed games are great and I certainly love them, sometimes you just want to play something that's low key and laid back.  As long as you don't create tarr or try to grow your ranch too fast you're in for a pleasant and fairly laid back experience that can often be just what you need.  If you want some time to just play something laid back that's still very interesting and allows you to explore, then you would enjoy this too.


Lastly I have to mention the updates.  As this is an Early Access game I was reluctant to purchase it based on the fact that so many games go unfinished.  However the promise I saw in the video was enough to get me to bite as this is a well put together game even though it's unfinished.  I bought this two months ago and since then there have been at least three updates to the game.  While these updates were mostly things like bug fixes and small tweaks here and there, there is still active work being put out.  The developers have also stated that they intend to release more content and have given us the intended release number to go with this planned content.  There is an actual plan going forward.  People who have hacked into the game's coding have already seen some of the upcoming work coded into the game in one manner or another.  So, unless something happens to change the direction, I feel confident that this will continue to provide us with more updates and more content until it is finished.  We know of three entire areas at minimum that haven't been released to us yet.  Who knows what else may be in store!

What's Bad About It?
I'm going to preface this by saying that I do fully realize that a game still in development can easily be altered.  There's a chance that most if not all of this will be modified or addressed in a future update.  While nothing about this game is "bad", there are a few inconveniences and minor annoyances that I either know will be corrected or hope can be tweaked.

Being the pokemon player that I am, I just gotta catch em all.  I like collecting things and being able to show off my collection.  That being said, there doesn't really seem to be an adequate amount of places to not only grow food but store every single variety of slime at the same time.  I currently have every variety in their own little corral, and I have one open spot left and no slimes in the free-range area.  There are three varieties of slime that we know are coming in future updates. I can place one in my open spot and the other two in the free-range area but what if we end up getting more slimes? What if the golden slimes can eventually be captured?  This is a massive nitpick as I feel we are supposed to be creating Largos (2 slimes in 1) to consolidate space but I like having all of my little guys.  Perhaps they can add an additional area behind our house for more spots.  Maybe they could code it to where slimes that we have placed in the free-range area don't eat plorts (highly unlikely).  But something to give us more spots to ranch would be welcome!

While I started off wanting to complain that we could only have 4 types of items in our vacpack, the more I thought about it the more I didn't care.  It would be kinda silly and ruin the point of the game if we walked around with Mary Poppins' TARDIS bag and could hold as much as humanly possible.  My problem, however is when other items not in our vacpack are present.  You walk into an area and see some chickens that you wish to pick up so you can feed your tabby slimes.  Unfortunately in the same area are some pogofruit and carrots.  You have no open spots to utilize either of these foods.  What happens next is absolute annoyance as you begin sucking up the chickens, the pogofruits and carrots come too.  When they reach the end of your vacpack since they have nowhere to go they just pop off the end and fall to the ground.  This not only causes a really annoying sound as they are constantly being sucked back up and popping off the end, but this also briefly stops the airflow and massively extends the time spent trying to simply pick up a certain item.  I realize why this exists so we can move Largos and Tarrs around, but I wish there was a button that we could toggle the vacpack to either work on everything or work only on items present inside the vacpack just as a convenience to the player.  Not sure how that could be coded but it would be a wonderful thing.

Lastly is the one thing that I know is going to change.  There's just not quite enough content currently.  While there is still plenty of content to play around for a few days, I honestly had gotten a TON of money (close to $82,000) and had a self-sustaining ranch after about 4 evenings of playing the game.  Since then it's just been me piddling around and waiting on new content to be given.  Again, at least three new areas and three different types of slimes are coming our way and I look forward to getting those new regions, but until that point there's just not a lot to do once you reach a sustainable point.

Conclusion

Slime Rancher really is a load of semi-laid back fun!  Up until I reached the point where I'm just waiting on new content, I was enjoying every minute of this game between keeping the adorable little slimes happy and production plorts, to exploring all of the little caves, nooks, and crannies.  It's something that sounds really silly on paper, but if you actually see it and play it, it's brilliant!  If the idea of catching, raising, and cross breeding cute little creatures for profit while exploring the world with a jetpack and a modified version of Luigi's Poltergust sounds fun to you then you should seriously give it a try!  It's only $19.99 bought directly from the website (with steam code included) or bought through Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux!  I already feel as though I've gotten most of my money's worth just from what I was able to do, and feel as though the value is only going to rise as this game inches closer to completion.

While I haven't yet seen a big update with new content, it so far seems that the guys at Monomi Park know what they are doing and are utilizing Early Access properly.  This is actually their first game and their website only lists three people working on it!  That's very impressive and unless something massively unforseen happens with them, I look forward to what their next project is!

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Hartnell Years Season One

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

I'm going to be examining Doctor Who... every single episode.  I'm going to take you on a journey through the 50+ years worth of this show, showcasing the good and the bad along the way.  For each episode I'm going to give you a very brief rundown of the plot, how good/bad the story is, and anything interesting about the episode.  Basically I'll just talk about whatever comes to mind for each of them.  These will be a more in-depth overview of the series as a whole so you can see which stories or episodes (if any) you want to check out for yourself.  Today I'm going to be talking about

The First Doctor
William Hartnell
Season One

Season One ran from November 23 1963 to September 12 1964.  It had 42 episodes spread out over 8 stories.  There are a few things noteworthy before we start talking about the individual stories.  For most of the first three seasons, each episode had it's own title rather than just being "Title" Part 1 as later classic who would do, meaning they would have to go back later to pick the best episode title for the story overall from the episodes present.  Secondly the show was originally intended to be semi-educational.  The stories that happen in the past were supposed to teach history and the stories that happen in the future were supposed to teach a scientific principle.  But if you're here for entertainment then you shouldn't worry too much as generally the semi educational angle was ignored or bungled up so badly that you're not really going to learn anything anyway.

Although many of the First and Second Doctor's episodes were lost, Season One was lucky enough to have most of them intact.  Thanks to reconstruction attempts and animation there is a way to at least see a portion of what each story this season had to offer.

Story 1
An Unearthly Child

The first story is An Unearthly Child and it's four episodes long.  The Doctor and his first companion Susan have landed on earth in the 1960's because Susan wanted to experience actual schooling.  Susan is supposedly the Doctor's granddaughter though other works from the novels and even the modern show itself can be sort of vague if she actually is or not.  Susan has two teachers, the history teacher named Barbara, and a science teacher named Ian, who are concerned about Susan because of how strange she is.  They follow her home one evening to a junkyard where they discover the TARDIS.  The Doctor's reaction to his time vessel being discovered is that he kidnaps them and plunges the TARDIS into Earth's ancient history where they spend the next three episodes interacting with and being imprisoned by cave people who are trying to make sacred fire.

The first episode is good... very good even.  It doesn't have much excitement in it but what it does have is atmosphere and mystery.  It's the perfect set up for the show.  Unfortunately the next three episodes aren't that good as it's difficult to do anything interesting with cave people.  Had this been done later on when sci-fi elements began showing up in historical settings it might have been decent but here it's just not.  It's also important to know that at this point the Doctor doesn't know how to pilot the TARDIS and they end up in random places.  So when he kidnaps Barbara and Ian there's absolutely no guarantee that they will ever get back to their own time and place.  As I said in my introduction post, the First Doctor is a bit of a scoundrel.

Story 2
The Daleks

The second story is The Daleks and it's seven episodes long.  While there are many reasons for the show's success throughout the years, the Daleks are one of the biggest reasons as they were and still are a massive hit with the audience.  After escaping from the cave people, the TARDIS lands outside of a city on the planet of Skaro.  The Doctor and his companions explore the city and end up not only getting radiation poisoning but get captured by the Daleks.  With some help from the friendly Thal race, the Doctor and his companions are cured from their poisoning and learn about the war between the Thals and the Dals who became the Daleks.  Together they infiltrate the Dalek city and save the day.

The Daleks is a good solid set of episodes that introduce the true science fiction elements of the show and bring about the most iconic villains in the show's history.  While the scenes in the caves tend to drag just a bit the rest of the story doesn't seem nearly as long as it is.  Check this one out!  The most notable thing about this episode is the whole reason everyone got caught up in the shenanigans on Skaro.  The Doctor wanted to go exploring and lied to his companions about a broken fluid circuit.  Everyone else just wanted to leave as the terrain was creeping them out.

Story 3
The Edge of Destruction

The third story is The Edge of Destruction and it's two episodes long.  The Doctor, Susan, Barbara, and Ian are stuck on the TARDIS and everything has gone wrong.  The TARDIS console starts electrocuting people, the machines are malfunctioning, clocks are melting, Susan begins to stab the furniture, and the Doctor almost tosses Ian and Barbara out the TARDIS doors mid-flight.  However when the power starts to fail, the Doctor realizes they have only minutes to figure out what's gone wrong.  The solution... is incredibly stupid.

Please don't get me wrong.  These two episodes aren't bad at all; I quite enjoy them.  There's a fairly creepy atmosphere to the entire thing and a sense of urgency about figuring out what's wrong.  It's incredibly atmospheric and I love it.  It's just that the problem literally boiled down to a spring on the TARDIS console being stuck.  I don't even have an analogy to explain the disappointment I even have in the resolution.  So I'll just move on.

Story 4
Marco Polo

The fourth story is Marco Polo and it's seven episodes long.  It's the first currently still missing story.  However for the DVD release of the first three stories together, the BBC put together audio, image stills and some existing footage together to add this story as a 45 minute single episode in the special features.  So we get to see a version of it that is a little choppy but has far better pacing than the majority of the Hartnell era combined.  With the TARDIS having been damaged so badly in the previous episode, the Doctor makes an emergency landing where they run across Marco Polo in his journey to Kublai Khan.  Marco Polo decides to give the magic blue caravan to the Khan in exchange for his freedom and drag the TARDIS crew along for the jouney.  Along the way there is sabotage in Polo's camp, and Susan befriending a young woman being forced to marry the 80 year old emperor.  Eventually the Doctor meets with the Khan who lets them go.

I wish this story were still around so that I could see it in it's full glory.  The recreation we do have is a fair representation of what seemed like an excellently written story.  The costumes and production value also appeared to be breathtaking from what I could tell.  If you can track down this shortened version then I would suggest giving it a watch.

Story 5
The Keys of Marinus

The fifth story is The Keys of Marinus and it's six episodes long.  The TARDIS lands on the planet of Marinus where the keeper of a weapon intended to destroy all evil on the planet holds the TARDIS hostage in exchange for the Doctor's help in tracking down the keys of Marinus.  The keys unlock the power of the weapon but if input in a different way it will either explode or wipe out all good on the planet.  Lately the area has been invaded by the evil Voords on a near constant basis so the keeper cannot go himself.  The keys are spread out across the entire planet in different areas including a city of mind control, an overgrown jungle of live plants, a snowy wasteland, and the capitol city where Ian gets framed for murder.

This story is one that most people dislike but I absolutely adore.  The set designs aren't great and the villains of the story, the Voords, are literally just men in wet suits with weird helmets.  However there are several things to like about this story.  The first area where everyone is being mentally controlled is quite good as everyone but Barbara is believing an illusion.  Secondly, while most six episode stories take place in a single location, with this story we get to see many different settings so it doesn't feel like we're just wasting time in the same old place.  Even the court case I found exciting.  You may not enjoy this story but I love it!

Story 6
The Aztecs

The sixth story is The Aztecs and it's four episodes long.  When the TARDIS crew land in an Aztec temple, Barbara gets mistaken for a god in human form.  With her knowledge of all he good things to come from the Aztec people, she takes this opportunity to try and stop their ritualistic sacrifices so that only the good about them can be remembered.  The Doctor tries to explain that this is impossible and the sacrifices are part of a fixed point in time but then gets sidetracked by accidentally being engaged to an Aztec woman.  Ian is meanwhile being trained as a warrior for Barbara's sake and Susan is sent off to school for constantly breaking Aztec law.  To top things off the TARDIS is sealed off behind a wall and the Doctor must find a way to get back to it.

This one is a classic and a must watch.  The fight choreography is a bit laughable but that's honestly the only bad thing I can say about it.  If you enjoy history and the dilemma of wanting to change history but not being able to then you will certainly enjoy this.  It's one of the best.

Story 7
The Sensorites

The seventh story is The Sensorites and it's six episodes long.  When the TARDIS lands on a space ship to find that the people are being telepathically put to sleep on a constant basis, they run across a species of aliens known as the Sensorites.  There has been a conflict between militaristic human astronauts and the usually peaceful psychic Sensorites.  Many Sensorites are dying from a poison and Ian accidentally gets poisoned as well.  It's up to the Doctor to cure the poison and find out the source of all their woes while trying to avoid a rogue evil Sensorite planning to take over the planet and destroy the TARDIS crew.

This story is fairly decent.  It doesn't have anything particularly wrong with it but it also isn't particularly astounding either.  There are three very interesting parts about this story.  It was written by Peter R. Newman, a man who had precious few contributions to the entertainment world and of whom so little was known that for the DVD release they actually included a special feature of trying to track down any information they could about the man.  Secondly, the Sensorites are pretty much the basis for the Ood in the modern series to the point that the Tenth Doctor in Season 4  of New Who mentioned that they originated in the same solar system.  Last, in this story Susan talks about their home planet as having silver trees and the sky was a burnt orange color.  This is quoted almost fully by the Tenth Doctor in Season 3.

Story 8
The Reign of Terror

The last story of the season is the Reign of Terror and it's six episodes long.  The TARDIS lands in what is stated to be the Doctor's favorite part of history, the French Revolution.  As such the story involves a lot of off-screen killings.  Ian, Barbara, and Susan end up in the middle of secrets involving an English spy.  Barbara and Susan end up in jail for most of the episodes, and the Doctor marches around in period appropriate attire pretending to be someone important.  It's up to the TARDIS crew to help out this English spy and assist with the revolution.

This story is just OK.  I'm fairly certain it relies on you to have a greater understanding of the French Revolution than I have so most of this didn't make much sense to me.  Two of the episodes were lost and were animated for the DVD release so we didn't have to just look at still images which is a nice touch!  The best part of this story is the scene where the Doctor gets roped in to doing road work because he has no papers of identification and ends up duping the guy by planting a coin where they were digging and drawing his attention to it.  Check it out if you want to.


Conclusion

That concludes season one.  It was a fairly great start to the show.  Very few episodes were truly bad, but there were a fair amount of stories and episodes that were just ok.  Season one introduced an iconic alien race as well as one of the absolute great classic stories.  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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You can click here if you wish to see my introduction to Doctor Who
If you want to check out all of my Doctor Who content please click here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Whovian Chatter: Introduction to Doctor Who

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

I've decided to expand upon my normal rotation of Video Games, Movies, and Food to do a rather focused series of posts on Doctor Who.  Well, I should actually say I'm re-doing my talks about Doctor Who. When I first had produced blog posts on Doctor who two years ago, I hadn't watched all of the series and I quite frankly bungled it up pretty fiercely.  So here I am making that correction.  Since 2016 is, as of the writing of this, turning out to be a fairly terrible year for Doctor Who, this is my way of coping with the mountain of bad/potentially upsetting.  Steven Moffat is leaving the show, they've delayed series 10 till next year, and it gets even worse for those of us in the United States...but more about that later.  Instead let's focus on this great show that you should probably be watching.

Doctor Who truly is a fantastic show.  As with anything, it has it's superb moments and it's truly horrible moments in its 50+ years of being on the air.  However, if you enjoy science fiction, adventure, history, and light comedy then I can certainly recommend the modern run of the show at the very least.   Depending on your ability to stomach slow pacing, black and white, less than amazing special effects, or hammy acting then there may even be some of the classic series I could recommend to you as well.  I can easily handle all of those things if the topic is good and since the topic of Doctor Who stories are usually pretty good, I have enjoyed both Classic and New Who.  Hopefully I can encourage you to check out a few episodes for yourself.

I'm making the assumption that the majority of people reading this will fall into two categories.  Either you have no real knowledge of Doctor Who, or you are only familiar with the modern run of the series.  This is part of the reason I wanted to go through the entirety of the show as I feel many people won't be familiar at all with the twenty six seasons that came prior to 2005.  I shall eventually be covering every single available episode along the way in separate posts every Friday of this year, and editing in the links to them below.  Please note that several episodes from 60's are lost to us still so I won't be covering anything that I can't view in some way. Today's topic is going to be an even more brief explanation of the series and the Doctors all at once as an introduction.  Since this one is an overview, if there's any post about Doctor Who that you should read it's this one.  So pat yourself on the back for reading it!


As a side note before I get started.  If you don't really want to read all of this and prefer to watch videos (but don't mind swearing) then I can suggest a couple of other avenues for you.  These two reviewers' work is what encouraged me to start this little adventure.
Diamanda Hagan dissects all of the classic series in this set of videos
The Blockbuster Buster talks about his experience with the first 11 Doctors here.

What is the show about?

While there are many heroes out there in fiction there is only one man who specializes in the unimaginable.  One man who dares to take a stand against impossible odds no matter the cost if it will help save at least one person at any point in time on any planet.  That man is the Doctor; his real name is unknown and shrouded in mystery, thus bringing about the question... Doctor Who?  The Doctor is an alien.  He is a Time Lord from the planet of Gallifrey.  The Time Lords have harnessed the ability to travel through all of time but have adopted a policy of non-interference when it comes to the rest of the universe.  They are content with simply observing all that is around them... all except for the Doctor.  The Doctor stole a old time machine and has been running around saving the universe for hundreds of years along with the various companions who traveled the stars with him.

When I say "any point in time on any planet" and "saving the universe," I truly mean that.  The brilliant part about the show is that you can take any concept, any setting, or any type of plot to create an episode with.  The potential is unlimited.  These types of stories include but are certainly not limited to: trying to stop the Aztecs from their ritualistic killings but not being able to as it's a set part of history, being trapped in a land of fiction, an alien trapped in the middle ages stealing smart people from the future to fix his ship, a race across space and time to recover pieces of a powerful artifact, finding out what crashed into earth and killed the dinosaurs, a massive court trial from the past present and future culminating in a battle of wits in a computer, underwater space vampires from the future invading World War II, fighting ghosts with Charles Dickens, a werewolf terrorizing Queen Victoria, the revolution against aliens you forget you've seen the second you look away, and a murder mystery on the Orient Express in space!

There are really only two crucial elements of Doctor Who that you need to know about prior to starting.  The first is his time vehicle in which he has lived for several centuries, the TARDIS.  TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimension in Space.  The TARDIS can travel anywhere in space and time.  It is dimensionally transcendental, which means that the inside and the outside are in different dimensions.  In other words "it's bigger on the inside."  While the outside may be small enough to fit inside your living room, the inside could be as large as a planet.  There's an explanation for that but I won't get into it here.  The other thing about the TARDIS is that is has a chameleon circuit.  Wherever the TARDIS lands, it scans the surrounding area and changes its outside shape to blend in to the surroundings and not draw attention to itself.  If it were to land in ancient Egypt it could look like a pyramid; if it were to land on the moon it could look like a giant rock.  When the TARDIS first landed in London in the 1960's it turned into a police box which was common at the time.  However, the chameleon circuit got stuck and it's maintained that shape ever since.

The second crucial element of Doctor Who is the Doctor's ability to regenerate.  When Time Lords are at death's door they have the ability to cheat death by regenerating every cell in their body into new life.  With this regeneration comes a new physical appearance, new personality quirks, and new tastes.  He's still the same man with his memory, bravery, and intelligence intact, he's just changed practically everything else.  Originally this was just a cheap way to replace the original actor, as his health was failing, with a new one so that they could keep the character and show ongoing, but it has actually become one of the main reasons the show has aired for so long.  Each actor portraying the Doctor does so in his own way giving us different experiences depending on which Doctor you are watching.  To top it off, you didn't need to keep an actor engaged in the project for several years unless they just wanted to be there.  This too has allowed for the show to last over 50 years.

That's pretty much all that is vital to know before jumping into any random episode of the show.  You'll be able to figure things out like the sonic screwdriver and the psychic paper for yourselves.

Any other helpful information?

Only two things really spring to mind.  When I say that the show has been going on for 50+ years, this hasn't been continual.  In the late 80's several higher ups at the BBC didn't think the show was up to the quality they wanted and at several times wanted to can the show.  I find this somewhat ironic because the last two seasons of the classic series were the best that the show had been in years.  This resulted in not only an 18 month production hiatus, but the show's eventual cancellation in 1989.  In 1996, a TV Movie was made which was to be the pilot for a new series but due to poor advertisements and difficulty getting the project going it was never picked up.  Finally in 2005, the show returned properly and has been on the air to this day.

One thing to note is that the classic series and the modern series are handled in a very different way.  The modern show is like most shows that we are used to.  It has between 12 and 17 episodes (including specials) a year with most episodes being single episode stories with some 2 parters and the rare 3-part story.  The classic series however is better described as a set of serials.  Each story was broken into multiple 30-minute episodes.  This means that a classic series' 4-part story is mostly the same as a modern 2-part episode, but then you have some classic stories that are 6, 7, 8, and 10 episodes long.  This type of programming was not only common at the time but it was done to salvage the absolute joke that was the show's budget.  However, doing so has the unfortunate side effect of making some stories seemingly drag on forever.  This tendency towards long stories was especially prevalent in the first three Doctor's runs.  As a general rule the 4 or 5 episode stories have far better pacing and don't drag anywhere near the amount of those in the 6-10 episode range.  That's not to say that all the longer stories are bad or especially slow but the majority of them do drag.

Without further ado let's take a look at each version of the Doctor and my recommendation if you wish to sample a bit of their era!

The Doctors


The First Doctor
Played by William Hartnell
1963 - 1966

Interestingly enough, the man who started this whole adventure off and made any future Doctors possible is the one that people would identify with the least.  The First Doctor was old, abrasive, headstrong, and a bit of a scoundrel.  He shouted often, took a very long time to warm up to his companions, threatened to beat cavemen to death, tried to throw people out of the TARDIS mid-flight... I'm not really selling him to you, am I?  Despite all of these qualities the First Doctor also had a whimsical charm to him.  Now he did mellow out as his seasons went on; he became less of a crotchety old man and more like having dangerous but fun adventures with your wise old grandfather.  You never doubted that he would get you out of a scrape due to his boldness and you never doubted the he would try to protect you.  His trademarks are his cane, a high pitched "hmph", and getting his companion's names wrong.

The First Doctor lasted three seasons (and a couple stories of season 4) and his era introduced the Doctor, the TARDIS, the Daleks, the idea of having fixed points in time, the Cybermen, and the Doctor's regeneration (though it wouldn't be called that till the Pertwee era.)  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures then I suggest the first episode of An Unearthly Child, The Aztecs, or The Time Meddler.

Click Here for The Hartnell Era Season One.
Click Here for The Hartnell Era Season Two.
Click Here for The Hartnell Era Seasons Three and Four.

The Second Doctor
Played by Patrick Troughton
1966 - 1969

The later Doctors owe more to the Second Doctor than they do to the First if I'm being perfectly honest with you.  Patrick Troughton played the character his own way thus paving the way for all future Doctors to do the same.  The Second Doctor was very funny and eccentric not only in voice but also in physicality, annoying people in authority along the way.  He liked to use his non-threatening demeanor and supposed buffoonery to his advantage by making his enemies believe he wasn't a threat.  He would use their lowered defenses to formulate plans and ideas with simple misdirection and cunning behind the scenes.  He preferred to be lighthearted but could instantaneously turn dangerous if necessary.  His trademarks are playing the recorder, his Yeti-skin coat, and his catchphrase "Oh my giddy aunt!"

The Second Doctor lasted three seasons and his era introduced the Great Intelligence, The Ice Warriors, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, UNIT, the sonic screwdriver, the Time Lords as a race, the Time Lord distress beacons, and the first truly antagonistic Time Lord.  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures then I suggest The Mind Robber, The Enemy of the World, and the last episode of The War Games.

Click Here for the Troughton Era Seasons Four and Five.
Click Here for the Troughton Era Season Six.

The Third Doctor
Played by Jon Pertwee
1970 - 1974

The Third Doctor was more like a traditional action hero than he ever has been.  Though he did have a sense of humor he was much more of a no nonsense man.  He drove fast cars, knew martial arts and practiced swordplay all while dressing like a dandy.  He was always the man in charge and commanded authority.  If you happen to catch part of his era after watching any of the previous two, then you'd be in for a shock as the show changed radically.  The Second Doctor was exiled to earth and much of the Third Doctor's life was spent trapped there trying to fix his TARDIS and helping out UNIT with the alien problem of the day.  To top it off, the show was now in color and the cast was changed to a larger set of recurring characters instead of just the Doctor and his companions. Eventually his exile was lifted and we got to see this action hero out among the stars again.

The Third Doctor lasted five seasons and his era introduced the Autons, the Silurians, Bessie,  the Master, Sarah Jane Smith (the most famous companion), the Sontarans, the name of his home planet Gallifrey, and the term regeneration.  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures then I would suggest Inferno, Carnival of Monsters, or the Time Warrior.

Click Here for the Pertwee Era Seasons Seven and Eight.
Click Here for the Pertwee Era Seasons Nine and Ten.
Click Here for the Pertwee Era Season Eleven.

The Fourth Doctor
Played by Tom Baker
1974 - 1981

To quote Diamanda Hagan here... "The Fourth Doctor is weird.  That's the best way to describe him, weird."  It's hard to talk about the Fourth Doctor without mentioning just how bizarre he is.  Part of this comes from Tom Baker's own impossible personality.  Four was the most alien that the character has ever been; he never lets you forget the the Doctor is not a human.  While he certainly cares for his companions and is still the same man, he acts seemingly more erratically than ever before.  One minute he's shouting, then he's cracking a joke, then he seems uninterested, then he's insulting, then he's congratulating.  You never quite know what to expect from him and that's exactly why we all love him.   Though Tennant is the most popular Doctor from the modern show, he's nowhere near the powerhouse that is Tom Baker.  His era changed in storytelling quite a bit; at first it was gothic horror taking influence from famous works, then it became quite silly and almost comical at times, then it went into straight up standard science fiction.  His trademarks are his extra long scarf, his love of jelly babies, and of course asking "Would you like a jelly baby?"

The Fourth Doctor lasted seven seasons and his era introduced Davros, the Cyberman's allergy to gold, the Zygons, Karn and the Sisterhood, and K-9.  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures then I would suggest Pyramids of Mars, The Brain of Morbius, The Deadly Assassin, Horror of Fang Rock, or City of Death.

Click Here for the Tom Baker Era Seasons Twelve and Thirteen.
Click Here for the Tom Baker Era Seasons Fourteen and Fifteen.
Click Here for the Tom Baker Era Seasons Sixteen and Seventeen.
Click Here for the Tom Baker Era Season Eighteen.

The Fifth Doctor
Played by Peter Davison
1982 - 1984

The Fifth Doctor was in many ways the opposite of the Fourth.  Five was a very human acting Doctor; the first one to really be so.  He was young, kind, gentle, noble and generally non-threatening... not in a Second Doctor way where he would lure enemies into a false sense of security though.  He was just generally non-threatening and meek unless pushed to the absolute limit.  He took time out of his adventure to check on the physical, emotional, and psychological welfare of his companions.  The Fifth Doctor hated violence and avoided it at all cost.  More often he would win the day by a combination of ingenuity, his companions actions, and sheer dumb luck.  He was also the first Doctor since Hartnell to have a companion die.  His trademarks were his love of cricket, and the stick of celery on his lapel.

The Fifth Doctor lasted for three seasons and his era destroyed the sonic screwdriver till it returned in he McGann movie, and it had the last pure historical (a story with no science fiction elements outside the Doctor, TARDIS and companions.)  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures then I would suggest Earthshock or The Caves of Androzani.

Click Here for the Peter Davison Era Season Nineteen.
Click Here for the Peter Davison Era Season Twenty.
Click Here for the Peter Davison Era Season Twenty One.

The Sixth Doctor
Played by Colin Baker
1984 - 1986

The Sixth Doctor is one of the more unique Doctors to have come around.  Six was loud, brash, arrogant, theatrical and had an almost insane devotion to doing good across the universe.  He's the kind of person who is going to save the world and he doesn't care what you think about him because he knows he's amazing.  He also bears the ridiculous reputation of being the worst Doctor.  That claim is absolute garbage!  Colin Baker is an excellent actor and an excellent Doctor.  It's just a shame that this unique and great portrayal was forever tarnished by the production of the show.  His era is the most rocky behind the scenes as the writing was just ok in his best stories, really strange production decisions ruled with reckless abandon, the show went on hiatus, and higher ups wanted to cancel the show entirely. That, coupled with his first story, spelled doom for this Doctor and it's a shame, but I'll talk more about that when I talk about each individual story.

The Sixth Doctor lasted for two seasons and his era introduced the idea of an alternate incarnation or representation of the Doctor in the character of the Valeyard... and idea later used in the modern show with the Dream Lord and to some extent the War Doctor.  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures then I would suggest Vengeance on Varos or Attack of the Cybermen.  Be warned however that none of Six's era are great classics; these two are just the best the show has to offer of this era.  Apparently if you want the absolute best stuff from the Sixth Doctor then you should check out the Big Finish Audio Adventures...something I have yet to do.

Click Here for the Colin Baker Era Seasons Twenty One and Twenty Two.
Click Here for the Colin Baker Era Season Twenty Three

The Seventh Doctor
Played by Sylvester McCoy
1987 - 1989, 1996

To quote Diamanda Hagan once again, "The Seventh Doctor started off as a crapper reboot of Two."  He was short, seemingly non-threatening, and goofy.  He wasn't using this to his advantage in situations either he was just a bit of a clown for no exact reason.  In between his first and second season, however, Sylvester McCoy realized that he had gotten the character wrong and between himself and writer Andrew Cartmel re-tooled the Seventh Doctor into something amazing.  He began to be a master manipulator who was planning things non-stop.  He manipulated enemies, played games with would-be gods, and in the process was generally five steps ahead of them.  A few times we discover that he had arranged the victory before the first episode of the story had even begun though only he would have known that at the time.  While he still had his quirky whimsical ways, the Doctor was much more mysterious and threatening person than he had been in several lifetimes.  His trademarks are his hat and his question mark umbrella.

The Seventh Doctor lasted for three seasons.  While his era didn't really introduce anything, the last two seasons were great; the best seasons that the show had produced since Tom Baker.  His era saw the last on screen appearance of Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart in the main show, and the last two stories of his tenure can honestly be seen as templates for the new show.  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures then I would suggest Remembrance of the Daleks, Ghost Light, or The Curse of Fenric.  Though I have to warn you, If you choose Ghost Light prepare to be highly confused as it's still very good but almost completely incomprehensible.

Click Here for the Sylvester McCoy Era Season Twenty Four.
Click Here for the Sylvester McCoy Era Seasons Twenty Five and Twenty Six.

The Eighth Doctor
Played by Paul McGann
1996, 2013

Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989.  As such we didn't receive any new episodes of the show until it's attempted revival with the 1996 movie starring the Eighth Doctor.  Eight is probably one of the hardest to describe as he literally has only been on-screen twice.  That coupled with the fact that a good portion of the movie is spent with the Doctor in his post-regeneration amnesia state.  The best I can describe him, The Eighth Doctor is charming, somewhat befuddled, and full of youthful optimism and joy.  In many respects, He's sort of a "reset" Doctor: the kind of man you would expect if you took all of the essential pieces of the Doctor and made him somewhat generic while still being different from his other selves.  When he returned very briefly in 2013, Eight had far more confidence than we had previously seen but he was still just as charming whimsical and optimistic.  I'm not sure if it's just Paul McGann being an excellent actor or what, but even though we've barely known the Eighth Doctor he's one of my favorites.  If we were lucky enough to have a full season of Eight he would probably be my favorite Doctor.

The Eighth Doctor lasted for one movie and a mini-episode.  His "era" brought the show into a more modern mindset as we see him having a slight romantic relationship with his companion, a first for the Doctor.  If you want to check out his adventures then do yourself a favor and just watch both Doctor Who: The Movie, and Night of the Doctor.  Just a warning though, the movie looks gorgeous but it fairly often makes no sense.  He also has several entries on the Big Finish Audio Adventures if you just need more of Eight.

Click Here for the McGann Movie.

The War Doctor
Played by John Hurt
2013

Although we don't learn about the War Doctor until much later, his rightful place in the Doctor's personal timeline is here so I might as well cover him now.  The in-universe explanation for why the Doctor was gone from 1996-2005 is that he was partaking in the Time War, a war between the Time Lords and the Daleks.  The Eighth Doctor realized he couldn't run from the war anymore and gave up his name of "Doctor" in order to regenerate and become a warrior.  The War Doctor has lived the horror and hardship of a non-stop war and it has affected his personality.  He is a more hardened and serious individual than most of what we have been used to.  In the words of the Tenth Doctor, the War Doctor has a sort of "posh gravity thing."  While he always is looking for a way to end the Time War in a manner that the Doctor would find acceptable, by the time we meet him he has lost all hope and plans to kill the Daleks and the Time Lords, himself included in order to save the world.

The War Doctor lasted for one episode only, the 50th Anniversay special.  Simply check out The Day of the Doctor to see him in action.  However if you want more War Doctor, so far one novel has been created involving his tenure in the Time War and the Big Finish Audio Adventures are currently working on a series of stories featuring him.


The Ninth Doctor
Played by Christopher Eccleston
2005

The Ninth Doctor is the soul survivor of the Time War.  He is the last of the Time Lords and it weighs heavily on his conscience since he caused their genocide to end the Time War (we later found out different information but the Doctor won't know this till late in the Eleventh Doctor's tenure.)  As such, this is the darkest and most brooding incarnation of the Doctor we've seen.  I don't mean dark and brooding in an emo teenager way, it's just that this Doctor is more distant and hurt than we've ever seen him.  He embraces the darkness as he was born from war.  Nine is effectively going through a sort of post-traumatic stress and has to learn to heal himself, allow others to get close to him, and love once again.  When it comes down to it, all this Doctor wants is a happy ending and for everybody to live just this once.  He's looking for a reason to be alive and by the end of his season, he finds it!  His trademarks are his leather jacket and his catchphrase "Fantastic!"

The Ninth Doctor lasted for one season and his era revived Doctor Who as a whole.  It introduced the Time War and standardized the look of regeneration.  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures I would suggest Dalek or The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances two parter.

Click Here for the Eccleston Era Series One.

The Tenth Doctor
Played by David Tennant
2005-2010

The Tenth Doctor was "born" into this world with a new lease on life.  His goal was to help people across the universe avoid the tragedy that he had to endure.  The Tenth Doctor is energetic, fast talking, kind, loving, and constantly makes pop culture references.  He's around to have a good time and help people along the way.  He also absolutely hates violence.  In many respects he's a sort of hyperactive recreation of the Fifth Doctor but with a bit of a twist and an upped coolness factor.  However there is a glimmer of darkness hidden deep within that only shows up on rare occasions, generally when he gets overly emotional or his head gets too big.  He IS the Oncoming Storm after all.  He's the most famous of the modern Doctors and for a good reason.  His trademarks are the spiked hair, pinstripe suit and long coat, and his catchphrase "Allons-y!"

The Tenth Doctor lasted for three seasons plus several specials and his era introduced the yearly Christmas specials, the Ood, the Judoon, and the Weeping Angels.  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures I would suggest The Girl in the Fireplace, Human Nature/The Family of Blood two parter, or Blink.

Click Here for the Tennant Era Series Two.
Click Here for the Tennant Era Series Three.
Click Here for the Tennant Era Series Four
Click Here for the Tennant Era Specials.

The Eleventh Doctor
Played by Matt Smith
2010 - 2013

You never forget your first Doctor, and Eleven was mine.  The Eleventh Doctor is a child trapped in a man's body.  Having decided that it's better to have fun and help people rather than beat yourself up over the mistakes of the past, he has moved on from the horrors of the Time War.  Eleven is the youngest face that the Doctor has been so far and his personality matches.  He's eccentric and funny while occasionally being a bit flirtatious and a show-off.  Eleven just wants to keep on running so that the fun never has to stop; so that nothing has to end.  He gets distracted fairly easily and comes to a situation with a childlike hope that everything is going to be better than it may actually turn out to be.  That being said, just like a child he can throw some wicked temper tantrums and lose his cool if you push the wrong buttons.  He's a Doctor that needs companions because he's most likely to do something reckless if he's not stopped.  His trademarks are his bow tie, the assortment of hats that he occasionally wears, and his catchphrase "Geronimo!"

The Eleventh Doctor lasted for three seasons and two specials.  His era introduced the Silence and gave us closure to the Time War.  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures then I suggest The Eleventh Hour, Vincent and the Doctor, or The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon two parter. 
Click Here for the Smith Era Series Five.
Click Here for the Smith Era Series Six.
Click Here for the Smith Era Series Seven.

The Twelfth Doctor
Played by Peter Capaldi
2014 - Now

The Twelfth Doctor is a harder one for me to describe.  He just sort of is who he is.  In some respects he's a teenager trapped in a man's body as he doesn't really care what anyone else says/does/knows... he's just going to do whatever anyway because he's the Doctor.  He has the bravery, intelligence, and kindness to tackle the situation and save as many people as he can but he doesn't really have much of a concept of people's emotional well being.  They survived because of his help and that should be enough for him to worry about without having to worry about "pudding brain" nonsense.  In other respects he's kind of a nostalgic Doctor bringing back elements from previous Doctors together into a new concoction while bringing up the fact that he remembers these things from his past regenerations.  He started wearing velvet again like the Third Doctor, he never let's you forget he's an alien like the Fourth Doctor, He plans against the universe like the Seventh Doctor etc.  He's not the easiest person to get along with but if you happen to crack that shell he will go through hell for you because there are just some people who are that special.

The Twelfth Doctor has so far lasted two seasons and his era gave us closure as to the location of Gallifrey.  If you want to check out a couple of his adventures then I would suggest Robot of Sherwood, Listen, or Mummy on the Orient Express.

Click Here for the Capaldi Years Series Eight.
Click Here for the Capaldi Years Series Nine.

The Biggest Problem

As with anything there are problems littered throughout the show.  The acting and budget were often times laughable in the classic series.  Much of the 80's wasn't that great for the show.  The movie makes no sense.  The Russel T. Davies era of modern who liked to ignore the fact that the Doctor DID use violence on several occasions, and both of Capaldi's seasons seem to be almost too focused on the companion.  There's bound to be things that pop up throughout a show this long that aren't the best decision but as a general rule the good outweighs the bad... except for one single thing.

For some reason it appears that the BBC holds malice against viewers outside of the UK especially when it comes to Doctor Who.  Doctor Who really didn't take off in the US till around 2010 as they started promoting the show with much more vigor.  So of course more people want to watch the show now more than ever as it had become more advertised and available in nerd shops around the country.  While most people are satisfied with only watching the modern series there are several people really interested in the classic show.  However finding the classic show is next to impossible.

One could go on Netflix and find all of the modern series but when it came to the classics there were about 10-15 stories you could watch.  While some of these stories were absolute classics others were seemingly chose at random.  They didn't even have a single Sixth Doctor story up there.  Thankfully Hulu was there for the rescue as they had every single episode of the classic show up for streaming!  Then February 2016 happened and the BBC decided not to renew their contract with Netflix or Hulu pulling every single episode from the streaming services.  This wouldn't be a problem as you can generally find someone who has the episodes up on a video streaming site but the BBC regularly checks and takes down all videos it can find.

Now you CAN buy the DVDs or buy/watch episodes through Amazon.  However Amazon doesn't carry the full library of episodes for watching either.  It's not as pitiful as Netflix's sample but it still doesn't have everything for you to watch.  What about the DVDs you ask?  Well if you're willing to shell out close to $3,500 for the whole series then you're in luck.  But even at that it's difficult.  The BBC discontinued 19 of the available DVDs for Region 1 because of poor sales throughout the 90's and early 2000's.   Again most viewers in the US weren't really aware of Doctor Who till 2010 so poor sales are to be expected when you don't promote your product.   There are two stories that I still don't have because I can't find them any cheaper than $200 a piece.

Now there are rumors that BBC will be starting their own streaming service for the US and would have these programs and other available to us but as of the writing of this piece, there is practically no way for your average American without a large sum of money to spend on DVDs to watch these programs.  I hope this changes soon because this show is far too good to not be spread across the globe!

Conclusion

Doctor Who really is a fantastic show with a rich history.  There's simply nothing quite like it out there with the amount of versatility and imagination.  I hope that this post has piqued your interest in the show or made you aware of some Who history that you previously didn't know or realize.  One of the greatest pleasures of being a Whovian is bringing someone else into the fan base.  If you were interested, try to track down some of these episodes for yourself so you can experience these amazing characters, planets, and stories for yourself.

This page will be edited heavily as new doctors appear and I write new material.  I plan on covering each and every story/episode that can be watched and placing links to those posts with their appropriate Doctor.

This is Ghost fading into the darkness
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If you want to check out my other Doctor Who content please click here.