Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ghost's Kitchen: Simple Pork Tenderloin

What's Cooking Today?
Simple Pork Tenderloin with Red Potatoes and Petite Carrots


Hello everyone and welcome to another segment of...

I love cooking for people.  I love being able to take simple ingredients and making something that people ask for or make them smile.  It's one of my joys in life which is why I started writing food stuff on here.  If my food can make someone's day happy then I consider that a win.  However, just like anything else, there are days when I'm just sick of cooking.  Everyone has days like this.  There are going to be days where you don't want to exert much or any effort in something you would normally have no issue with.  When those days come, and they will, you need to have a plan; something that gets the job done with as minimal effort possible.  This could easily be done by just running out to a restaurant or ordering a pizza, but today's recipe offers another solution.

While yes, this would still mean you are cooking but this is cooking something with almost no effort aside from cutting up a few potatoes.  How is this achieved?  By utilizing one of life's treasures... pre-seasoned meat!  As a general rule I like to come up with my own flavor combinations that will work well with a dish as a whole, but sometimes you just have to say "screw it, we're doing this!"  That's what I end up doing when it comes to pork tenderloin.

SIDE NOTE: This week I am showing the use of my Pampered Chef Stone Baker.  This thing is fantastic for cooking whole chicken, roasts, or tenderloins.  You can generally find these on craigslist or ebay because, unfortunately, Pampered Chef no longer makes these great things.  You probably won't have access to this wonderful piece of stone, so simply using a dutch oven or a 9X13 pan covered with aluminum foil should give you the same result.

Gather Your Ingredients
  • 1 pre-seasoned pork tenderloin
    • These usually come in a sort of bag in the meat aisle or are prepared by the butcher
    • If there is an Italian Seasoned one go for that, but apple-wood bacon is also a good choice
  • Approx 1/2 pound red potatoes
  • 1 package petite carrots
  • olive oil
  • 1 package Italian dressing seasoning mix
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • small bowl (for oil)
  • basting brush
  • 1 oven-safe cooking container
    • Your options are as follows
      • Stoneware Baker
      • Dutch Oven
      • 9X13 glass pan + Aluminum Foil

1. Preheat oven to 350°F

2. Place Tenderloin in baker
Since I have a stoneware baker I will continue to name it in the steps.  Just mentally replace "baker" with whatever you happen to have.

3. Place petite carrots on one side of tenderloin
If you don't use all of them that's fine.  Just put as many as will fit.

4. Cut potatoes and place on other side of tenderloin.
Rinse your red potatoes and cut them into at least 1/4th segments.  Place as many as will fit in the baker.  The red potatoes I purchase come in a 1 lb bag and I end up using slightly over half of the bag.

5. Brush potatoes and carrots with olive oil
Place some olive oil in a small bowl and use the basting brush to cover the carrots and potatoes in the oil.  You don't want a ton but you want to make sure the majority of the potatoes and carrots have touched olive oil.

6. Pour dressing mix over vegetables (and maybe the tenderloin as well)
Make sure the vegetables are covered.  If you got an Italian seasoned tenderloin then adding a bit more on top won't be a bad thing.  If you ended up getting some other seasoning of tenderloin then use your best judgment if adding Italian dressing seasoning would be a good choice or not.

7. Cover and bake for *approx* 1 hour
The time it takes will depend on the size tenderloin.  A good general rule is 30 minutes per pound.  The tenderloins I normally get are around 1.7 lbs a piece so I bake it for the full hour.  Just see how big your tenderloin is and adjust the time accordingly.  When in doubt, round up not down.

8. Cut, Serve, and Enjoy!





That's all there is to do here.  It's perfect for days in which you don't really want to cook because you aren't really doing that much.  You don't have to think about flavoring the meat and since everything is done in one container there is minimal cleanup time as well.  Next time you're walking down the meat aisle and you see those seasoned tenderloins maybe you should give it a try.  I'm glad I did!


This is Ghost fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Tennant Years Series Four

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 Tenth Doctor
David Tennant
Series Four

Series four ran from April 5, 2008 to July 5 2008 and contained thirteen episodes.  With Martha having chosen to leave the TARDIS, the Companion role was vacant.  However, it doesn't take us long to pick up the new companion in Donna Noble from the 2006 Christmas Special The Runaway Bride.  Donna is a fantastic companion for the Doctor to have and if it wasn't for Amy and Rory, she would most likely be my favorite companion (to date) of the modern show.  This season would also branch out a tiny bit.  Series two gave us the idea for a Doctor-lite episode.  This season would also feature a Companion-Lite episode meaning that the "main cast" could film two entirely separate episodes at the same time since neither were much needed for the other episode.  This would also be the last full season for David Tennant.  When filming The Five Doctors in 1983, the Second Doctor Patrick Troughton gave the Fifth Doctor Peter Davison the advice of doing the job for three seasons then moving on.  Davison did so and gave that advice to his son-in-law, David Tennant.  So those of you who are upset we didn't get more of the Tenth Doctor now know who to ultimately blame.

Series Four also has a sort of hidden theme recurring.  This one was so subtle that I honestly didn't see it coming the first time around.  A few times Donna mentioned the bees were dying out on Earth but that was about all I could see.  Upon a second watch, most episodes mention a lost planet or moon somewhere in the storyline...and that's what the season's story is ultimately about; planets and moons are going missing from time and space.  Also there's the return of a certain special someone.

2007 Children In Need Special
Time Crash

Immediately following Martha's departure, the Doctor starts to mess about with the control panel and alarms go off.  Somehow his TARDIS and a previous TARDIS have merged causing him to come face to face with fifth incarnation (though looking older because of the time differential.)  The two argue back and forth a tiny bit before another alarm goes off and the Tenth Doctor does some bizarre functions with the TARDIS to separate them because he remembered seeing himself do it when he was the Fifth Doctor.  The Tenth Doctor speaks warmly to the Fifth and bids him farewell as he fades back to his own TARDIS.  The Fifth Doctor then reminds the Tenth to turn back on the shields in his final moment.  Unfortunately at that time, the TARDIS is struck by something and the Doctor lifts up a life preserver that says "Titanic."

While this short does have that one throwaway line which partially explains why the bow of the Titanic would suddenly appear this short is less important as it just is cool.  It's always fun to see Doctors meeting each other and this was a nice way to celebrate the Fifth Doctor.  It's too bad they haven't done anything for the Sixth or Seventh Doctors.

2007 Christmas Special
Voyage of the Damned

This story recaps the fact that the Titanic's bow has crashed into the side of the TARDIS.  The Doctor separates and repairs the TARDIS before landing on the ship only to find out that it's not the actual Titanic.  In reality, it is a space ship taking aliens to Earth so they can observer "primitive cultures" (specifically Christmas) and as such made the ship look like the planet's most famous ship for novelty.  On board are the Heavenly Host, robotic angels who are programmed to answer any questions asked of them...however they are starting to malfunction at an alarming rate.  The Doctor befriends a waitress named Astrid and takes her with him on an excursion to London along with others on the ship including an overweight couple, a very alien looking cyborg, and Mr. Copper, a man who claims to have a degree in Earth but keeps getting everything wrong to comedic effect.  While on excursion, the Doctor notices London is deserted and asks the only man there, Wilfred Mott, what has happened.  He explained that he and the Queen are about the only people left in London because of the previous two Christmas attacks (The Christmas Invasion and The Runaway Bride).  While the Doctor is on the Planet, the Captain of the Titanic sends his crew away but one young man stays with him per protocol.  The Doctor and company return to the ship only to find that the Captain has shot the young man, magnetized the hull and large meteors are hurling towards the Titanic.  As the meteors hit, the Heavenly Host begin killing people at will on board.  The Doctor tries to save people with the TARDIS but notices the blast has sent it into space and it has locked on to Earth for a landing.  Together with all the named characters of the story they try to repair the ship's engines only to have most of them die in the process.  Eventually the Doctor tricks the Heavenly Host to take him to their leader and they bring him to the bottom of the ship where he meets Max Capricorn, the ex-head of the cruise liner company who plans to ruin the people who outed him from the company by crashing the ship.  Astrid sees this and tosses Max into the engines, herself included.  The Heavenly Host then turn to the Doctor as the next authority figure and he has them take him to the bridge where he stops the Titanic from crashing on Buckingham Palace and brings Mr. Copper to Earth where he can live freely.

It was neat to see Doctor Who's take on the classic shipwreck trope...however that's about where the good from this episode ends.  It's nothing absolutely horrid, it just fairly frequently makes no sense at all.  1. How would the Titanic breach the TARDIS that badly when the interior of the TARDIS is in a different dimension?  2. Meteors are generally rock ...how exactly would magnetizing the hull of the ship cause the rock to rush towards the ship?  3. How come the Heavenly Host sometimes remember they can kill people with their halos and other times just walk?  4. Max Capricorn said he could control the engines from where he was entirely...why was any of the previous necessary when he could have just killed them off where he sat?  5. Why was Max even on board?  If the other stuff worked fine without his intervention then why was he even there?  6. Astrid uses a forklift to dump max into the engines and kill him.  There was a moment where she could have easily jumped out of the side before it fell and she didn't. Why?  UGH.  Again it's not Love and Monsters bad but this is easily my least favorite or possibly second least favorite Christmas episode.  That being said Mr. Copper is fantastic!  He's easily someone I would have loved to have been a companion even if it was only for half a season.

Episode 1
Partners in Crime

It had been two years since her encounter with the Doctor and Donna Noble is fed up with her dull life and her decision not to travel with the Doctor, though she only confides this with her grandfather Wilfred Mott (From Voyage of the Damned.)  Donna begins to investigate conspiracy theories in the hopes of meeting the Doctor once again.  At the same time, the Doctor and Donna begin investigating Adipose Industries who has created a diet pill where "the fat just walks away".... literally.  The pill creates a small alien creature from the fat of the person taking the pill and it walks away towards Adipose Industries.  Eventually the pair learn of this plot and just so happen to meet on opposite sides of the director's office.  The director explains she was tasked by the Adipose Royal Family to create babies for them as they lost their breeding planet.  Since this is against intergalactic law, the Doctor tries and eventually succeeds to stop her.  The Royal Family has returned to pick up their children and kill the director in the process to cover their tracks.  The Doctor then asks Donna to join him again and she agrees.  He drops her car keys off for her mother to collect later and briefly runs into a blonde woman before heading to the TARDIS.  The blonde is none other than Rose Tyler who disappears as Donna gets further away and leaves with the Doctor.

This episode is mostly harmless.  It's got an interesting mystery going on and a fair bit of comedy from both Catherine Tate and David Tennant.  The Adipose babies were pretty adorable too.  The real shocker moment was the very brief return of Billie Piper as Rose Tyler... but we won't figure out why till much later.  Either way this one is just sort of here and helps set up the rest of the season.

Episode 2
The Fires of Pompeii

The Doctor attempts to take Donna to Rome but accidentally lands in Pompeii on the day Mt. Vesuvius is to erupt.  They return to the TARDIS only to find that it has been sold away by a local merchant to sculptor Lobus Caecilius.  As the Doctor and Donna head to get the TARDIS back, they are watched over by a soothsayer who reports their arrival to her sisterhood.  The sisterhood fear the prophesied man with the blue box.  The Doctor and Donna confront Caecilius but his daughter who has remarkable ESP starts stating details about their lives.  This is interrupted by another man, Lucius Dextrus, who also has some ESP abilities and has ordered a sculpture from Caecilius which resembles circuitry.  Intrigued by this, The Doctor and Caecilius' son go to investigate Dextrus house and find many stone circuits that the Doctor recognizes to be part of an energy converter.  However, Dextrus discovers them and calls upon a stone creature to kill them.  The pair return to the Caecilius home where the large stone creature attacks but is promptly killed as Caecilius' son pours water on the creature.  During the confusion, the sisterhood captures Caecilius' daughter.  The Doctor and Donna track down the daughter to find that they are being controlled by creatures known as Pyroviles as their home planet of Pyrovilia was lost.  They are using Mt. Vesuvius as a base for them to slowly convert humans into their own kind and take over the Earth.  The Doctor notes that their energy converter won't actually allow Mt. Vesuvius to erupt and since the destruction of Pompeii is a fixed point in time... it must be the Doctor's intervention that causes it.  Both he and Donna enter an escape pod and overload the energy converter causing the mountain to erupt.  The Doctor and Donna leave in the TARDIS but Donna begs him to save just one person.  He goes back to the Caecilius house and saves their family before leaving Pompeii.

If you, like me, have a generalized interest in the destruction of Pompeii then you will probably find this story fairly interesting.  If not then...there's... well there's not much here for you.  It's interesting to see the Doctor having no choice but to cause a disaster because it just simply has to happen... it's a fixed point in time.  This is also the episode that cemented Donna as one of my favorite companions.  Not only has she brought up the question of the TARDIS translation matrix and what would happen if she chose to speak the same language as them while the TARDIS is translating...but also she is NOT about to have any of the Doctor's crap.  Oh so we're just going to let every single person die in this whole town because this disaster is supposed to happen?  Yeah we're NOT doing that.  She's just a fantastic addition for David Tennant's Doctor.  Also of interest is that two future stars of the show feature here.  Lobus Caecilius was played by Peter Capaldi who would become the Twelfth Doctor while the soothsayer following the Doctor and Donna was played by Karen Gillan who would later play companion Amy Pond.

Episode 3
Planet of the Ood

The Doctor and Donna land on a snowy planet where they are attacked by a dying Ood in the snow whose eyes turn red.  Concerned by this, the pair head to Ood Control on the planet who is responsible for the distribution and sale of Ood across he galaxy.  In the past few weeks, Ood have been exhibiting the "red eye syndrome" and have been killing people by using their translation orb to electrocute people.  The Doctor and Donna search the complex and discover Ood that have not been processed yet.  These natural Ood actually have a secondary brain that comes out of their mouth which they must hold and maintains their individuality.  Angry that Ood Control has been lobotomizing Ood to become slaves, the Doctor plans to confront the guy in charge, Klineman Halpen.  However at the same time there is a mass Ood revolt.  Amidst the chaos, the Ood see the Doctor and Donna as a friend and allow them to go freely after Halpen who just entered a building.  Inside they find a large disembodied brain who is the collective consciousness of the Ood.  This third brain has been controlled by the company to subdue the Ood even more, but a secret operative has found his way into the corporation and has been lowering the mechanisms surrounding the brain and allowing the Ood to "go crazy."  As Halpen goes to destroy the brain he suddenly transforms into an Ood himself; his own personal slave had been slowly poisoning him to do so over the last few years.  The Doctor frees the third brain and the Ood are allowed to return to their home world in peace.  However, the lead Ood informs the Doctor that his song is almost over.

This is a pretty decent episode.  Nothing grand or spectacular but it gets the job done.  I'm not sure what it is about Ood and being possessed or acting crazy that the show loves so much.  Yes it is always interesting to see something completely subservient losing it's cool, but out of the five times we see Ood, three of them cause the Ood to go crazy.  The reveal of the natural Ood was nice and the transformation of Halpen was kind of chilling.  It's also interesting to note that they mention the planet Oodsphere is near the planet Sensphere.  This is a call back to the William Hartnell adventure The Sensorites and tries to cover up the fact that the Ood are basically re-worked Sensorites.  We also get the first hint that the 10th Doctor's demise is coming up soon.  This would happen far too often in the specials to come but for now it was a neat little hint.  All in all not bad.

Episodes 4 and 5
The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky

Martha, the Doctor's previous companion, calls the Doctor and asks him to come back to Earth and help.  She is now working with UNIT who are investigating ATMOS, a company producing a GPS and emissions containment addition to cars across the world.  The day before, 30 some people were killed simultaneously around the world, all of which had ATMOS in their car.  To top things off, the tech used in ATMOS is not normal tech and is most likely alien.  The Doctor travels to the private school of ATMOS inventor Luke Rattigan and discovers that the tech was actually created by the alien warrior race known as the Sontarans.  The Sontarans however are not invading Earth per normal protocol.  They have decided to take control using ATMOS, mind control and human clones.  They send two mind controlled humans to capture and clone Martha to provide a mole in UNIT.  Meanwhile, Donna has gone to tell her grandfather, Wilfred, about the Doctor on Martha's suggestion.  The Doctor meets up with her and analyzes the ATMOS attached to Donna's car and discovers that ATMOS has a second function, the emission of poisonous gas.  Wilfred attempts to take the car off the road but becomes trapped inside when the Sontarans activate all of ATMOS across the world to emit it's poisonous gas. 
Donna's mom frees Wilfred from the car by smashing the window and the Doctor orders them inside their house while calling UNIT to not engage directly with the Sontarans.  The Doctor then sends Donna to the TARDIS for safety but once she is on board, it is teleported by the Sontarans to their ship.  The Doctor speaks with the Sontaran commander and learns that the Sontaran's war with the Rutans is not going well and they plan to turn Earth into a Sontaran breeding planet.  With the TARDIS missing, the Doctor sends Donna cryptic messages while talking with the Sontarans allowing her to reactivate the teleportation pods on the Sontaran ship to bring herself and the TARDIS back with her.  The Doctor then discovers the real Martha and frees her from the cloning device.  The trio head to Rattigan's school where he is devastated at the horror he helped cause.  The Doctor then creates an atmospheric converter from the tech at Rattigan's and harmlessly burns off the poison gas saving earth.  The Doctor then teleports to the Sontaran ship offering them a chance to withdraw but they will not.  Rattigan then uses the teleporter to change places with the Doctor and blow up the ship, himself along with them.  The Doctor and Donna say goodbye to Martha in the TARDIS but suddenly the doors slam shut and the three are off to an unknown destination.

I feel as though I'm repeating myself a lot here by saying that this was a decent and solid episode.  There was a good threat and a good mystery going on.  That's just sort of the thing with this season.  The production team had hit a sort of stride with this season where most of the episodes were just good and solid.  There aren't really that many things bad but there are only a couple of outstanding ones at the same time.  Same is true of this two parter.  It's good, but it's not a standout either.  They did up the humor a little bit here with the Doctor thinking that Donna is leaving him and giving a big old speech when she's just popping down to see her family and coming back.  There is also a particularly humorous scene where the Doctor is wearing a gas mask because of the poison and asks a soldier nearby "are you my mommy?"  It was neat to see Martha back, though her return would have probably been more surprising if she had come back in another season or two since we only lost her last season...however she does well here once again.  All in all just a set of pretty good episodes.

Episode 6
The Doctor's Daughter

The TARDIS deposits the Doctor, Donna, and Martha on the planet Messaline where they are immediately met by a group of human soldiers who force the Doctor's hand into a progenation machine.  This machine uses the Doctor's DNA to produce a female soldier based on his genetic structure.  For all intents and purposes she is the Doctor's daughter.  Soon after, the soldiers are attacked by the other race on the planet, the fish-like Hath.  The female soldier causes an explosion that barricades the corridor they are in, however Martha is trapped on the Hath side.  Martha attends to a wounded Hath and gains their trust while the Doctor and Donna go to meet with the human commander, General Cobb.  Along the way, Donna names the female soldier Jenny as she is a GENeticic anomolY.  While with General Cobb, the Doctor learns that the two races were meant to inhabit the planet together but at some point a disagreement over "the source" happened and their races have been at war for generations, using the progenation machine to create more and more troops almost hourly.  Simultaneously, the Doctor and Martha discover the location of the source on a map and the two races prepare for war over the source.  The Doctor, Donna, and Jenny are imprisoned for refusing to fight but they break free due to Jenny's charm and find a faster route to the source.  Donna asks if Jenny will come with them on the TARDIS but the Doctor is reluctant as she reminds him too much of the family and friends he lost in the Time War.  Eventually he warms up to her through their adventure in the corridors to find the source and sees that she truly is his daughter and a good example of a Time Lord.  Meanwhile, Martha and a lone Hath begin traveling the faster route on the planet's surface, however the Hath sacrifices himself to save Martha from quicksand.  She then finds her way alone to the building that the source is located in where she meets with the others.  While there they learn that the source is actually a terraforming machine to make the planet hospitable, and the disagreement was the death of the commanding officer.  They also learn that it had been only seven days since this had occurred but their constant use of the machines gave too many generations to remember their recent history.  Eventually both sides meet at the source, but the Doctor calls the war over as he breaks open the terraforming machine to do it's job and provide them with a place to life.  General Cobb however doesn't like this and attempts to shoot the Doctor.  Jenny jumps in the way and is killed.  Grieving, the Doctor picks up Cobb's gun but refuses to shoot him and informs the humans and Hath that they should live in a world of peace.  The Doctor and Donna return Martha home as the soldiers prepare to give Jenny a proper burial.  However she does have just enough Time Lord in her to revive.  Jenny commandeers a ship and goes off on her own adventures.

Ok let's start this off on a positive.  Georgia Moffet's performance as Jenny was absolutely brilliant.  She brought life to this role and was an excellent addition to the episode.  I truly wish she would make a return or had joined the TARDIS crew for at least one more episode.  Sadly we most likely will never get that and that's ok..she left behind a memorable and wonderful performance.  It's also neat that she is actually the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison's actual daughter.  So the Doctor's daughter is actually playing the Doctor's Daughter!  That being said...the rest of this episode is an ungodly mess.  There is WAY too much information being shoved in to actually grip on to most of it.  We don't really care about the humans or the Hath because we don't really get time to invest in their struggle.  I know science fiction can do a lot of strange things.  I can buy a show where a time traveling alien saves people using only his wits most of the time...however even I can't buy that it only took 7 days and this machine to make them forget all about the source.  It's just a little too soon.  Maybe if they'd said a month? 
However my biggest issue with this episode is the single line  "I never would."  The Doctor is hurting over the death of his daughter and points the gun at the man's head then says "I never would."  Now I realize the message they were going for and certainly you don't want your "moral authority" to just outright kill a man in that particular situation...but saying he never would is an outright lie.  This is the man who almost bludgeoned a caveman to death (Hartnell), gunned down Ogrons who weren't even shooting at him at the time (Pertwee), intentionally killed a man with cyanide and pickpocketed dynamite into a mentally disturbed man's pocket (Tom Baker), used a gun to kill Cybermen (Colin Baker), organized the genocide of two races in the same season (McCoy), tortured a Dalek that couldn't fight back then attempted to kill said Dalek even after he was subdued (Eccleston), and sentenced the Family of Blood to eternal life in torment (Tennant.)  Yeaaaaah he's certainly the "man who never would."  Watch this for Jenny, but don't expect much else.

Episode 7
The Unicorn and the Wasp

The Doctor and Donna arrive at a dinner party in 1926 and discover one of the guests there is Agatha Christie.  The Doctor then realizes that this is the day where she inexplicably disappears for ten days.  When one of the guests is killed, the Doctor, Agatha, and Donna begin to investigate.  The Doctor discovers some strange fluid that turns out to be morphic residue.  The killer is an alien in disguise.  The Doctor and Agatha begin questioning the guests as Donna searches the rooms and is attacked by a giant wasp who disappears quickly afterwards and then kills the housekeeper before returning to human form.  When the three regroup, the Doctor is poisoned by cyanide but is able to detox his body with the help of Donna.  This gives him an idea to add pepper to the evening's dinner to use as an insecticide.  It works but the lights go out and the alien escapes once again.  When the lights return, the lady of the house's necklace is missing and her son has been murdered.  The three assemble the guests together to talk over what they have discovered/theorized and Agatha unveils one of the guests to be "The Unicorn" a thief who stole the lady's necklace.  Then the Doctor deduces that when the lady of the house had shut herself away for malaria some years ago it was actually due to a pregnancy and she had become pregnant from another alien in human form who had given her the necklace.  He then reveals one of the guests to be her son and the necklace worked as a psychic link between mother and child.  The son having only recently learned of his power, had absorbed the knowledge of Agatha Christie's books from his mother reading them while wearing the necklace.  This is what caused him to kill in the way he did.  He then transforms into the giant wasp and attempt to kill everyone but Agatha takes the necklace and makes a run for it.  Eventually they end up near a lake and the wasp has created a psychic link with Agatha.  Donna tosses the necklace into the lake causing the wasp to go after it and drown.  The sudden psychic link and termination of that link knocks out Agatha and is what gave her the reported amnesia after her disappearance.  While she regains consciousness and the Doctor drops her off at her eventual destination 10 days in the future.

For me this one is absolutely fantastic.  However it almost seems like it was an episode designed for me.  If you don't like it near as much as I do, I completely understand.  I grew up watching Poirot mysteries on PBS with my mother.  These sort of murder mysteries of Agatha Christie's I am very familiar with so seeing this episode play on those themes was just a real treat!  Also the part where the Doctor has been poisoned and is trying to get Donna to understand what he needs is absolutely hilarious!  All in all a superb episode worth watching, especially if you like murder mysteries.

Episodes 8 and 9
Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead

The Doctor and Donna land on a book repository planet simply known as The Library because the Doctor received a summons on his psychic paper.  However the planet appears deserted though the computer claims there to be millions of lifeforms on the planet.  The pair are then warned by an information robot with a human face to beware the shadows.  Just then the lights start flickering as shadows start to move towards them.  They run and find a floating security camera which reacts with pain when the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver on it.  The Doctor is then told by another information robot that the library had sealed itself but that it has now been breached.  Next, a team of explorers lead by archeologist River Song appear.  Among those with the group is Strackman Lux whose grandfather build the Library.  The expedition is there to find out why the Library sealed itself 100 years prior and why it keeps saying 4000 some people saved but no survivors.  River recognizes the Doctor and has a TARDIS shaped journal with her, though the Doctor has no idea who she is.  When she realizes he hasn't met her yet she refuses to reveal more information about herself, only that she had sent the summons and that she had a more advanced version of his sonic screwdriver.  The Doctor tries to gain more information from the library's computer system but it appears to be connected to the mind of a young girl living in 21st century Britain.  The Doctor's probing causes the child to become distressed and books begin flying off shelves as the events of the library are shown on the girl's TV.  The girl's doctor, Doctor Moon appears to console her and let her know her imagination is real and those people need to be saved.  In the Library, the Doctor realizes that the shadows are full of Vashta Nerada, microscopic piranhas of the air who can strip meat from bone instantaneously if you step into their shadows.  One of the crew, Miss Evangelista, becomes distracted by an opening door and is eaten by the Vashta Nerada, her voice still calling out from a communication device that holds on to the person's consciousness for a few minutes.  The Doctor then uses the Library's teleporter to send Donna back to the TARDIS for safety but something goes wrong and she completely disappears.  Suddenly another of the crew notices they have two shadows, the Vashta Nerada have taken ahold of him and eventually eat him as well.  They then swarm inside the space suit and begin chasing the others down.  As they run, the Doctor is horrified to see Donna's face on an information robot proclaiming that Donna Noble has left the Library... Donna Noble has been saved.
The Doctor, River, and other members of the team are on the run but more fall prey to the Vashta Nerada and become skeletons in swarming space suits as well.  Eventually Lux reveals that the Library was originally created to house the consciousness of his aunt who had a terminal illness as a child.  It was built to house her mind with all the books of humanity for eternity so she could live on.  The Doctor then realizes that the girl, CAL, had seen the Vashta Nerada and saved all these people by uploading them into the hard drive and has been slowly going crazy and uncontrollable due to the amount of minds floating around.  Meanwhile within the hard drive, Donna Noble wakes up and resumes a normal life, completely forgetting her adventures with the Doctor due to the effects of the simulation.  However, a modified version of Miss Evangelista's consciousness with a grotesque face brings her back to reality causing the simulation to begin self-destructing.  Eventually, the Doctor, River, and Lux descend to the core of the planet where the Doctor speaks with the Vashta Nerada who have learned to use the space suit communicators.  They explain that their forests were cut down to make the books for the Library and they hatched from these books.  They allow the Doctor one day to release the people from the hard drive and leave their planet.  The Doctor realizes the only way to stop the computer from malfunctioning is to route the extra minds through his own body, killing him in the process but saving all those people from their digital simulation.  River knocks out the Doctor and handcuffs him to a pole.  She insists to die instead as his death now would mean they would have never met.  She links up to the computer and sacrifices her life allowing everyone to emerge on the planet from their digital simulation.  Lux begins sending people to rescue ships via the teleporter as the Doctor and Donna place River's journal and sonic screwdriver in the library.  However the Doctor is still confused by the screwdriver and upon examining it, he finds a secondary communicator that still housed her consciousness.  The Doctor rushes to CAL and uploads her mind into the mainframe.  While inside, River is greeted by CAL and Doctor Moon who explain that the computer is a safe and good place, and that the people who died during the adventure were uploaded as well for company.

This is honestly the crowning jewel of Series Four.  While some may disagree and say the next episode is better.... I'll get to that when I get to that episode.  This two parter hit a home run and hit it hard.  The Vastha Nerada were terrifying, the two shadows and the skeleton space suits were an excellently creepy visual.  The story was great, the idea that a child's mind would go through so much pain and anguish to help save thousands of people is just brilliant.  Also, though she means more after seeing later seasons, we are introduced to one of the more complex and wonderful recurring characters in Doctor Who.  The mystery of who this woman actually is doesn't get answered here but it makes for a good episode to have someone know the Doctor very well but he doesn't know her yet.  If I had to say anything negative here it's that the portions where Donna is inside the simulation really feel like filler.  The episodes just give off the impression that there was enough material here for 1 1/2 episodes worth of stuff.  It was too much for a single episode but not enough for two so they just tossed in some filler.  However aside from the filler, everything else was fantastic.  It's a must-watch!

Episode 10
Midnight

The Doctor and Donna have decided to take a vacation the planet Midnight.  The Doctor decides to go on an excursion tour with a group of strangers to see a waterfall on the planet while Donna stays by the pool.  After ruining the "entertainment" on board the flight, the Doctor gets time to speak with each of the members on board and everyone is having a good time until a crystal landslide takes them out of their normal path and then the ship just stops completely though the engines are fine.  The Driver sends out a distress call and looks out the window to see something moving...however the planet is completely uninhabited so what could possibly be moving?  Soon something begins knocking on the ship's hull and then begins to respond when passengers knock as well.  One of the passengers, Sky, begins cowering and screaming as the lights fail and the cockpit is torn from the shuttle.  Sky then begins to behave oddly as she starts to repeat everything that everyone says non-stop.  As the passengers discuss what is happening, Sky's repetitions become shorter until she is speaking at the exact same time as the other people no matter what they say.  The Doctor tries to take control of the situation but the passengers become suspicious of him when Sky being to only copy his words.  Eventually she begins to take over the conversation and the Doctor begins to sit awkwardly and repeat what Sky is saying, unable to say anything else.  The Doctor's repetition begins to slow down and the passengers intend to throw him out.  However when Sky says something out of character that the Doctor had said earlier, the stewardess grabs sky and pulls her out into the vaccuum of the planet killing them both and releasing the Doctor from whatever had a hold on him.  A rescue ship comes though the Doctor never quite figures out what that creature was.

Most people absolutely adore this story and state it as one of the greatest episodes in the show's history.  I don't see it.  I honestly really dislike this episode.  While the atmosphere is creepy I just personally can't stand scenes where people continually talk over each other with nonstop disjointed noise...and this has a solid 20 minutes of just that.  I know what they were going for but hearing voices over top of voices with delayed voices all at the same time is just far too irritating for me to enjoy.  You may like this one but I certainly don't.  However, it was good to see David Troughton again in Doctor Who!  David Troughton is, of course, the son of Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, and had appeared as extras in two Second Doctor stories as well as King Peladon in the Third Doctor story, The Curse of Peladon.  It's also noteworthy to point out that at one point on the ship, Rose Tyler appears on the TV screen shouting "Doctor!" before vanishing.  This will sort of be explained later.

Episode 11
Turn Left

While the Doctor and Donna are visiting a planet, a fortune teller convinces Donna to come in for a reading.  She asks Donna to think of the moment that lead her to meeting the Doctor.  This moment was when she and her mother were arguing over which way to turn the car; left would lead her to the temp job at H C Clement which she chose, and right would lead her to work for a friend of her mother's.  The fortune teller then convinces her to think about what would happen if she turned right.  Donna turns right and an insect attaches itself to her back creating an alternate reality around this new decision where she never met the Doctor.  As such, the Doctor dies during the events of The Runaway Bride causing him to not be there to save Earth from various disasters.  Sarah Jane Smith and Martha Jones die during the events of Smith and Jones, London is destroyed by the Titanic smashing into it and turning England into a third-world country, sixty million Americans die from breeding the Adipose in Partners in Crime, and the Torthwood team is killed defeating the Sontaran invasion from The Poison Sky.  Donna and her family escape the Titanic tragedy thanks to the appearance of Rose Tyler who convinces Donna to take a Christmas vacation.  As such Londoners are displaced throughout the country in cramped living conditions and under martial law.  Rose appears to her once again to ask for Donna's help but when she says Donna will die by helping, she refuses.  Three weeks later, Donna and her grandfather are stargazing when they notice the stars are going out.  This convinces Donna to help as Rose appears a third time and takes her to UNIT and a dying TARDIS that they have modified into a time device to use.  Rose tells her that she has been able to enter this alternate reality because the walls of reality are falling and the only one who can save them is the Doctor.  Donna needs to travel back to the day she turned right and force her to turn left like she originally had.  Donna travels back in time but is too far away to confront herself directly, so she chooses to fall in front of a moving truck to cause a traffic jam.  This forces her past self to turn left.  Rose appears to her and whispers something as that reality ends.  The bug on her back dies from this sudden fixing of reality and the Doctor finds Donna.  She remembers Rose's last words... Bad Wolf.  The Doctor realizes who she met and rushes off to the TARDIS proclaiming that the universe is at stake.

Yet another Doctor-lite episode and yet another triumph!  I personally love alternate reality stories where everything has gone wrong because of something small or because of someone.  It was a perfectly grim story that really hit home when it needed to.  The portion where the Italians were being sent off to "labor camps" with Wilfred understanding what that actually meant was particularly powerful.  It was great to see Billie Piper back for more than just a brief cameo.  This episode perfectly leads us directly into this season's finale.

Episodes 12 and 13
The Stolen Earth / Journey's End

The Doctor and Donna travel to Earth after Rose's warning about reality falling apart to find that it has been completely removed from where it should be moments after they land.  The Doctor travels to the Shadow Proclamation, the universal police, to investigate.  There they discover that Earth and the other twenty six missing worlds throughout time automatically reorganize into a particular pattern when placed near each other for some reason.  Without a clue where these planets are, Donna mentions that the bees had gone missing from Earth.  Using this knowledge, the Doctor searches for a signal that bees can easily detect and find the signal coming from an inter-universal rift but the planets still aren't there.  On Earth, a group of Daleks led by their creator Davros and the Supreme Dalek begin attacking and defeating humanity's forces.  Davros, who was thought destroyed in the Time War was actually saved by Dalek Caan's emergency temporal shift at the end of Evolution of the Daleks.  The Doctor's former colleagues on earth hide in various places and are figuring out what to do.  Captain Jack Harkness takes refuge in Torchwood, Martha Jones uses a teleporting device to escape UNIT New York HQ with the "Osterhagen Key," a device designed to destroy planet Earth if the suffering of mankind is too great.  Sarah Jane Smith is staying at home with her son and super computer Mr. Smith.  Meanwhile, Rose Tyler has managed to cross realities into the right one and tracks down Donna's mother and grandfather.  The group are contacted by former prime minister Harriet Jones (The Christmas Invasion) on a special secret network developed by Mr. Copper (Voyage of the Damned) for the Doctor's companions and colleagues in case of an emergency.  Together they use the network routed through Harriet Jones house along with Mr. Smith and Torchwood's use of the rift to send out a signal to the Doctor.  The Doctor and the Daleks receive the message.  The Daleks are sent to kill Harriet Jones, but not before the Doctor is able to pinpoint the origin as a pocket universe created around the planets that is de-synched from time.  The Doctor speaks to his companions but Davros hijacks the transmission and taunts the Doctor about his victory.  The Doctor then lands the TARDIS on the same street as Rose.  As the pair run to meet each other, a Dalek shoots the Doctor.  Jack Harkness appears via teleporter and destroys the Dalek before helping Rose drag the Doctor into the TARDIS where he begins to regenerate.
The Doctor uses his regeneration energy to heal his body but then siphons off the excess energy that would have caused him to change into the severed hand he obtained from Jack during the events of Utopia.  The TARDIS is then teleported to the Dalek ship where the Doctor, Rose, and Jack exit.  Jack is "killed" on sight (though the Daleks do not know he can't die.) Donna is somehow trapped on board the TARDIS as it is sent to be destroyed.  As the TARDIS begins to fail, she touches the canister containing the Doctor's hand, and it uses her DNA imprint to create a second Tenth Doctor who saves the TARDIS from destruction.  On earth, Sarah Jane Smith is saved from the Daleks by the appearance of Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler from the alternate universe.  The three "surrender" and are taken to the mothership where they sneak away and meet with Jack.  Meanwhile, Martha heads to Nuremberg to activate the Osterhagen Key.  The Doctor and Rose are taken to Davros where he explains that the planets create a compression field that can cause atoms across every reality to be destroyed thus removing all reality from existence.  However, he is interrupted by Jack and Sarah Jane threatening to blow up the Dalek ship from the engine room.  He is further interrupted by Martha planning to blow up Earth to stop his plan.  Unfortunately the Supreme Dalek teleports all of them to Davros.  As Davros starts up the "reality bomb," the TARDIS appears with the other Doctor and Donna who attempt to stop Davros.  Davros shoots them with electricity which trigger's Donna's part of the DNA conversion and filling her brain with Time Lord knowledge.  Together, the original Doctor, the duplicate Doctor, and the Time Lord Donna stop the reality bomb and send all the planets back to their place of origin.  However the console is damaged before Earth can be sent back.  The duplicate Doctor then turns the Dalek's machines on themselves and cause their mass genocide.  With help from K-9, Mr. Smith, and Torchwood, the TARDIS crew are able to tow Earth back to it's original spot.  Sarah Jane leaves to be with her son, Martha and Mickey leave to be with Jack, and the Doctor takes Rose and Jackie back to their alternate universe leaving the second Doctor there with them as he is part human and can grow old with Rose.  It is then that Donna's head begins to hurt as the Time Lord knowledge is killing her and is too much for her human brain.  In order to save her, he wipes her mind clean of ever knowing him and returns her to her mother and grandfather.  Wilfred swears that he will always remember the Doctor for his granddaughter's sake as the Time Lord flies off alone.

NOW THIS is how you end a season!   Actually this is how you end an entire series.  Honestly if this was the end of Doctor Who I wouldn't be disappointed.  It was kind of the finale to the whole Russel T. Davies era as this was his last official full season.  We still have a years worth of specials from Mr. Davies but this is kind the end of his era and it went out with a bang.  I honestly can't say a single thing bad about this ending.  It had nostalgia, it had action, it tugged at your heart in all the right places.  Well done!!  I would have said this was the crowning jewel of the season but... you could watch Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead by itself and it still be great.  You kind of need to have seen multiple episodes to fully appreciate what is going on here. It's an excellent watch and a fantastic way to end this season and Era of Doctor Who

Conclusion

I kind of said this before in the Sontaran Strategem section.  Russel T. Davies and the rest of the crew had really hit a stride.  Everything was of a pretty standard quality level of being pretty good if not great.  Even the parts I criticized may not actually bother the majority of people.  It's just a really solid season.  It's also helped by the fact that Donna is, in my opinion, the best of Tennant's companions.  Her added humor and dynamic with the Doctor was a change up to the romance-laden seasons before and really felt like the kind of companions the Doctor used to have in the classic show.  All in all a great season with a great closer.  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Unfinished Reviews: Super Paper Mario (with KoD)

Hey everyone, I've honestly lost my passion for writing reviews and talking about stuff on this blog.  It's no longer something that brings me happiness... it's just a burden to come up with ideas or even finish writing the ideas that I have.  As such I've decided to cut this year short and put all the stuff I have already written (Doctor Who and Recipes) out there every week until they run out which will probably be sometime in October maybe?  However I also have three unfinished reviews sitting out here that I was doing with other people.  However apparently the passion to help me with these things has also died off as for one reason or another my co-writers have just decided not to finish.  Rather than let words go to waste, I'm going to still publish them in their unfinished form so you could see what all I've been wanting to do.

This particular review was started late 2015 as a sort of thank you for KoD getting me a Lucina Amiibo.  Well that didn't exactly happen and since KoD's amiibo hunter failed in that regard I guess the necessity to help me finish this failed with it.  He was just never quite in the mood to talk about one of his absolute favorite games so... here it is with what all we had done up until it just died.  
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This is your standard spoiler warning.  If you do not wish to have Super Paper Mario spoiled then I suggest you hop over into another dimension!  Since this is a review with KoD, I better slap a length warning up there as well.

This is Ghost, thanks for joining.

When I started to create weekly content on my blog, it became important that I would need to diversify my video games, movies, television, and food.  Nobody wants to read the same old stuff.  Therefore, I would like to do something that I wouldn't normally do; perhaps something that I wouldn't normally play for today's review.

If you're looking for something different to play I have a suggestion.

Oh, Hey KoD.  You know, I'm actually glad you're here.  You tend to come up with some unique ideas from time to time.  What's your suggestion?

You could always play one of my favorite games, Super Paper Mario.

A Paper Mario game?  That sounds amazing!  I've played Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door and loved it.  I'll gladly play a turn based RPG Mario game any day over the classic platforming nonsense.  My local Gamestop has one used that I saw the other day. Hang on and I'll go get it!  Then we can review it together since it's one of your favorite games!  BRB

Umm... Well Ghost it's not exactly uh... hello? Well that was easy!  I didn't have to bribe him with an amiibo this time.  I just hope he's not too upset that it's not a turn based RPG...

OH YOU MOT...

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Being the Nintendo fan that I am, it pains a certain part of me to admit that I often dislike Mario games as I explained in my post Mario Needs to Let Go of the Past. If you want to know my full feelings on the series as a whole, then read that post.  But then, out of a sea of absolute mediocrity, there is the Paper Mario series.  Suddenly Luigi, Peach, and Bowser had a great deal of character development.  The series picked up a lot of tongue-in-cheek writing and was quite enjoyably humorous.  Also, the Paper Mario series ditched the traditional Mario platforming in favor of a turn-based RPG style with multiple characters to utilize.  Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door were two breaths of fresh air in a sea of staleness which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Then Super Paper Mario came around and made some changes to the series; changes that were fairly baffling in all honesty.  What baffling changes were made?  Well let's jump right in to the review and see.

The Plot

As with most Paper Mario games, we start off the plot with a little bit of backstory.  We are told the story of the Dark Prognosticus, a dark prophetic book which holds the secrets of the future within its pages.  The entirety of the game is basically the story of the book's last user in which we are playing out the events; it's a tale of love.  We start the game properly with Mario and Luigi being given news that Peach's castle has been raided and the princess has been captured

AGAIN?! Are you kidding me with this?

The Mario Bros assume that Bowser has once again made off with Peach and head for his castle.  To everyone's surprise, Peach was not captured by Bowser.  Her kidnapper is none other than Count Bleck, the chosen executioner of the Dark Prognosticus.  Refusing to relinquish the Princess, Bleck knocks out Mario and creates a black hole void which sucks in Luigi, Bowser, and his minions to another dimension.  When Peach awakens, she finds herself at a wedding alter with Bowser.  Bleck's plan involves forcibly marrying the pair in order to create the Chaos Heart and destroy all worlds.  Bowser agrees to marry Peach but she refuses forcing Bleck's assistant, Nastasia, to use her mind control powers to force Peach into agreement.  As the ceremony concluded, the Chaos Heart was born and began it's duty of consuming all of the worlds as Bleck had ordered  it to.

Mario, however, meets up with Tippi, a butterfly-like pixl who takes him to see a man named Merlon.  There, Mario learns of Count Bleck's plans and is told that only the eight pure hearts can save the worlds from destruction.  Merlon hands over the pure heart in his possession.  Mario places the first pure heart into it's pillar and the doorway to a new heart opens.

Chapter 1: Lineland
Mario appears in Lineland and tracks down a man named Bestovius who teaches Mario how to flip into the 3rd Person in this 2 Dimensional world in order to progress through it.  After obtaining this power, Mario climbs Mount Lineland and ends up in Yold Town where they find another pixl named Thoreau.  Thoreau helps Mario to grab items and toss them with ease.  He helps Mario and Tippi cross the Yold Desert where they fight and defeat O'Chunks before entering the Yold Ruins.  The second pure heart is guarded by a robotic dragon named Fracktail because nothing says "Ye Olde Ruins" quite like cybernetic dragon.  Fracktail recognizes Mario as fitting the description of the hero and intends on handing over the heart to him.  Unfortunately, Dimentio appears and corrupts the dragons memory forcing Mario to defeat him in order to obtain the heart.

Back at Castle Bleck, O'Chunks reports of his defeat and Count Bleck sends Mimi after Mario.  Nastasia begins to sweep the castle for any of Bowser's minions still not under their control.  Elsewhere in the castle, Princess Peach awakens and is accompanied by two koopas in search for escape.  However, Nastasia finds them and hypnotizes the koopas.  As they round on Peach she suddenly vanishes.   Back at Flipside, Mario brings the pure heart to Merlon but word hears them of a girl who has fallen from the sky; it's Peach!  Mario revives her and Peach decides to accompany him on his journey to stop the Void.

Chapter 2: Gloam Valley
Mario and Peach travel across Gloam Valley in order to reach Merlee's Mansion where the third pure heart resides.  Along the way they meet an explosive pixl named Boomer who assists on their journey.  Mimi has disguised herself as one of Merlee's maids and once our heroes enter the building she sets up a trap for them to break a vase and forces them to work off the bogus debt in the mansion's power plant in order to delay their meeting with Merlee.  With help from another pixl, Slim, the pair are able to quickly pay off the bogus debt and reach the basement where a vision of Merlee warns them.  Mimi then transforms into her true spider form and chases them around the basement until they discover Merlee who was hiding... *cough* sorry I have to do this.  They discover Merlee who was hiding
IN THE BATHROOM!!!!!!!!
Mimi disguises herself as Merlee and after an amusing game show segment, Mimi attacks once more and is defeated.  Merlee hands over the next pure heart to Mario and Peach.

Back at Castle Bleck, Mimi reports that she has been defeated so Count Bleck sends Dimentio after the group.  Nastasia once again resumes her previous activity of sweeping the castle.  Elsewhere in the castle, Luigi wakes up and is accompanied by two goombas.  As the three are searching for an exit, Nastasia appears and hypnotizes one of the goombas; the other joins her on his own.  The two goombas hold down Luigi as Nastasia comes in to hypnotize him as well.  Mario and Peach return to Flipside where they place the pure heart in its pillar.

Chapter 3: The Bitlands
Mario and Peach land in a bizarre area made of nothing more than pixels called the Bitlands.  Within seconds, Tippi is kidnapped by an overly nerdy chameleon named Francis who takes her back to his nerd lair.  A pixl named Barry saw the whole thing and sets our heroes on the right path to Fort Francis.  As they go through this retro world, they run across Bowser and his minions who have built a new castle in this land.  Mario takes down his arch-enemy which leads to the brute joining the party.  The trio come to the Tile Pool and with the help of a pixl named Thudley, defeat a giant Blooper and make their way towards a massive tree.  At the top of the tree, Dimentio is waiting for them.  In order to make the fight more favorable in his odds, Dimentio transports the heroes to Dimension D.
Dimentio is defeated there and as he disappears we are treated to a scene where Dimentio is plotting for the heroes to defeat Bleck.  Finally our trio arrives Fort Francis.  After searching around the nerd lair filled with robotic cats, and all sorts of nerdy collectibles, they find a pixl named Carrie who assists them with finding the door to Francis where Princess Peach marches right in.  After an admittedly hilarious dating simulator portion, the trio defeat Francis and rescue Tippi.  Tippi is so overcome with happiness that her joy produces that world's pure heart!

Back at Castle Bleck, Dimentio explains his defeat at the hands of the heroes.  Bleck decides to have his new minion face off against Mario next.  After O'Chunks, Mimi, and Dimentio leave, Nastasia speaks with Count Bleck; she tells him that it's still not too late to change his mind and stop the prophesy from happening.  Bleck states that he has come too far to quit now and that Nastasia is free to leave with his blessing, but Nastasia states her loyalty to Bleck.  Meanwhile Dimentio is seen eavesdropping on the conversation.  Mario, Peach, and Bowser return to Flipside where they place the pure heart in the next pillar and open the way to a new heart.

Chapter 4: Outer Space
When our heroes jump into the next door they find themselves in space and cannot breathe due to the lack of oxygen.  They hastily return to Flipside in search for a space helmet and eventually find one in the form of *sigh* a fish bowl.  With their new "space helmet" they return to space and meet with an alien named Squirps who agrees to guide them to the pure heart.  The group makes a pit stop on the planet Blobule so that Squirps can use the bathroom.  Unfortunately the bathroom is occupied by someone in desperate need of toilet paper.  Mario then explores the entire planet to find something suitable for that purpose and gives it to the individual in need, which turns out to be the pixl Fleep.  Using Fleep's ability the group is able to reach the Outer Limits of space, a maze-like area with several warp points.  There in the Outer Limits they meet up with Count Bleck's newest minion, the mysterious Mr. L!
SPOILERS, IT'S LUIGI
The trio and L duke it out for awhile, but when Mr. L realizes that things aren't going his way, he summons a giant mech suit called the Brobot.  At this point the game turns into a sort of Gradius shoot-em-up in space between the Brobot and the heroes utilizing Squirps.  Ultimately the Brobot is scrapped and L is sent running.  Squirps then takes the heroes to a statue of his late mother where the pure heart is stored.

Back at Castle Bleck, Nastasia introduces Mr. L to the rest of the teams.  Bleck refers to L as the "man in green" who is destined to bring forth the destruction of all.  Bleck then sends O'Chunks off to face against the heroes once more, sending away his other minions.  Nastasia once again pleads with Bleck.  She believes that the minions will not be able to defeat Mario and that he will be coming for Bleck.  She muses that if she were "that" girl then things would be different.  Bleck refuses to stop his plans and remarks "that girl" could not be replaced.  The heroes land in Flipside but cannot find another pillar there for the latest pure heart.  Instead, they discover the hidden secret about Flipside as they stumble upon the 3D passage to Flopside.  Flopside is a mirror counterpart to Flipside with a mirror counter part to Merlon, Nolrem.  Here they find the proper pillar for the pure heart which opens up another pathway.


Chapter 5: Land of the Cragnons
Mario, Peach, and Bowser are dropped into the Downtown of Crag, a caveman village.  Here they are given the task of helping the local Cragnons by rescuing their people who have been kidnapped by the Floro Sapiens.  After traversing the land and dealing with some extreme annoyance which I shall be covering later, our heroes meet up with a hammer pixl named Cudge who helps them gain access to the Floro Sapiens Caves.  Within the caves they run into a Cragnon journalist, Flint Cragley and his production team.  There they discover that the Floro Sapeins have been using flower sprouts to control the minds of the Cragnons in order to make them slaves.  With the help of another pixl, Dottie, they fight and defeat O'Chunks once more and make their way to the leader of the Floro Sapiens.  They battle and defeat the king only to find out that it was the pollution caused by the Cragnons which turned the king crazy in the first place.  Flint Cragley vowed to inform his people of their destructive pollution as Mario grabbed the pure heart in the King's possession.

Back at Castle Bleck, Nastasia punishes O'Chunks for his repeated failures.  Dimentio appears before Mimi and Mr. L to encourage them to take on Mario's party together.  They agree and sneak out of the castle.  Mario, Peach, and Bowser use their new pixl friends to find the 6th pure heart pillar and open the doorway to another area.

Chapter 6: Sammer's Kingdom
Upon entering the door, Mario and friends find themselves in the Sammer's Kingdom which, by looking at the citizens, is apparently part of Canada.
The Void that Count Bleck created has grown significantly in this area.  As our heroes move into a sort of arena and defeat one Sammer Guy, the King appears and informs them that they must defeat the other 99 Sammer Guys in order to obtain the pure heart.  Unfortunately, around the tenth area, Count Bleck appears before the heroes.  He lets them know that the Void will soon engulf the world they are in and, in the course of his talk reveals that no one besides someone named Timpani ever mattered to him in the slightest.  Our heroes hurry on win the pure heart but in the next section they find King Sammer who just gives them the pure heart.  However this heart is a fake as Mario discovers Mimi has been impersonating King Sammer.  Mimi fights with Mario to delay them further from their goal.  In the end, Sammer Kingdom is consumed by the Void but somehow Mario and the others make it safely to Flipside.  At this time, Tippi starts to regain a part of her lost memory and believes she once knew Count Bleck.  Mario goes back into the door to find a white space of nothingness.  They find the pure heart, but is has become dormant as stone and Mr. L with his mech, the Brobot, are guarding it.  Once more Mario defeats Mr. L and takes the dead pure heart with him.

Meanwhile in Castle Bleck, Mr. L mulls over why he can't beat the heroes when Dimentio shows up.  In an attempt to protect himself from being discovered by Count Bleck, Dimentio puts an end to Mr. L in a powerful explosion.  Mario returns to Merlon to find a way to restore the pure heart when Dimentio shows up and tells them it is impossible then seemingly kills our heroes.  Mario, however, was sent to the Underwhere, the land of "ended games" but Bowser and Peach were not sent there with him.  While in the Underwhere, Mario meets Queen Jaydes who holds on to the pure heart while Mario retrieves Jaydes' daughter, Luvbi.  While searching for Luvbi, Mario reunites with Luigi who was stranded in the Underwhere.  Together, the brothers find Luvbi and return her to Jaydes.  Jaydes uses her power to restore the pure heart to life and sends the brothers back to Flipside.  There, they place the pure heart in it's pillar and another door opens.

Chapter 7: The Underwhere
Much to their surprise, the door leads Mario and Luigi right back to the Underwhere!  While they are there, Queen Jaydes tasks the brothers with taking Luvbi to The Overthere, where her father Grambi lives.  Mario and Luigi travel the Underwhere Road where they find Bowser who joins back up with them.  Trio climb out of the Underwhere and arrive at the stairway to The Overthere.  Along this incredibly lengthy climb they find Princess Peach who is in a deep sleep from having eaten a forbidden apple.  Mario revives her and she joins the team as they continue climbing the clouds and eventually reach The Overthere.  Once they arrive, they find that The Overthere is overrun with skeletons and their leader, Bonechill, has frozen Grambi solid in order to take over the area.  Bonechill reveals that the final pure heart is actually Luvbi; Grambi had given the pure heart a form and life of its own.  The four heroes defeat Bonechill and after a long argument with Grambi and Queen Jaydes, Luvbi returns to her pure heart form and is taken to Flipside by Mario.

Back at Castle Bleck, Dimentio informs the others that all four heroes are alive and coming their way.  Everyone begins to scramble and prepare for the fight they are about to have in the castle when Dimentio asks Count Bleck if the name Blumiere rings any bells.  Nastasia begs Count Bleck to call off the void and calls him Blumiere in the process.  Count Bleck refuses to back down and renounces his old name and identity.  Mario's group place the final pure heart in its place and the final door appears.

Chapter 8: Castle Bleck
At long last, the heroes have made it to Castle Bleck.  With the void growing ever larger, Mario and the rest begin tackling the Castle as quickly as possible.  Along the way, they run into O'Chunks.  Bowser has had enough and takes on O'Chunks solo and defeats him, but the ceiling begins to fall.  O'Chunks holds up the ceiling for the heroes, but Bowser joins him allowing Mario, Luigi, and Peach to progress further.  The trio continue through the castle until they run across Mimi.  Similar to Bowser, Peach has had enough of Mimi and defeats her solo.  Unfortunately, as Peach defeats Mimi, the castle quakes and both of them fall into a chasm; now only Mario and Luigi remain.  The brothers continue until they run across Dimentio.  After an exhausting game of tag, Dimentio reveals that he was responsible for sending Mario to the Underwhere to restore the pure heart.  He was also responsible for saving peach from being brainwashed, and uniting the brothers.  Luigi chooses to fight Dimentio alone allowing Mario to continue.  After Luigi defeats Dimentio, the jester causes both of them to disappear.  As Mario finally reaches Bleck, it is revealed that Tippi and Count Bleck were once lovers.  Tippi is the Timpani that Bleck was mentioning before.  Mario takes on Count Bleck but cannot even touch the villain.  Suddenly, Bowser, Peach, and Luigi reappear and with the power of the pure hearts they obtained, shatter Bleck's shield allowing him to be defeated.

It is then that Dimentio reveals his big plan.  He decided to use the heroes to defeat Bleck so that he could obtain the Chaos Heart for himself; he intends to destroy all worlds and make "perfect" new ones.  Using one of the floro sapien sprouts on Luigi, Dimentio uses Luigi's power and the Chaos Heart to become the invincible Super Dimentio.  After a touching scene between Tippi, Bleck, and Bleck's other minions, the power of the Pure Hearts are activated and destroy Dimentio's invulnerability.  The heroes proceed to lay waste to Super Dimentio.  However, using the very last of his power, Dimentio caused the Void to grow even more.  Out of options, Bleck's team and Mario's team go through a door where they find an alter.  Bleck and Tippi (now again referring to themselves as Blumiere and Timpani) renew their love and finally get married.  Their love caused the Void to disappear however it also caused both of the lovers to disappear from the world... OR DO THEY?

Gameplay

One of the main reasons I enjoyed Paper Mario and Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door was because of the gameplay changes from your standard Mario titles as I am terrible with platforming games.  The turn-based RPG style of those games was a far better fit for me personally.  I can't begin to tell you how shocking and honestly upsetting it was for me to hear that they had jettisoned the turn based RPG style to return to a more classic Mario platforming style game.  If it wasn't for KoD ensuring me of the games good qualities I would never have played it.  Since turn-based RPG is out...what do we actually have in exchange?
Super Paper Mario is effectively a platforming game with RPG elements to it.  If I'm being perfectly honest here it's the best type of platforming game for me personally.  True to its platforming nature, there is a very large emphasis on traversing the landscape through means of accurate running and jumping while avoiding and attacking enemies, with the help of the pixls to solve some of the puzzles within.  However, what has made this game much more enjoyable is the RPG elements that were kept in.  Rather than have a 2-3 hit death situation like all standard Mario titles, we actually have a health bar where falling prey to an enemy attack or touching them only takes off a small amount of damage.  You also have both attacking and recovery items to help you on your journey.  While there is still some of your standard platforming annoyance, the lack of a timer, use of inventory, health bar, and leveling up of the characters made me mostly ignore the fact that I was playing a platformer.

[In this section, KoD was going to talk about how each of the four main characters play completely differently.  Mario can go into 3D space, Peach can be immune to damage at the cost of mobility, Bowser is slow but does double damage, and Luigi can jump incredibly high.  He was also going to mention that the dialogue in the game will change somewhat depending on which character you are controlling.]

One of the more interesting additions to this game is the use of the 12 pixls.  Pixls are small beings that not only have their own personality but also assist Mario with the one function they were born to do.  The world of Super Paper Mario is filled with puzzles and tricks; these pixls help him to solve them. Rather than just have a list of complicated button combinations that allow Mario to pull off these actions, all you have to do is select which pixel you wish to use from the menu and utilize a single button.  Each pixel has its own unique property.  Tippi gives you information about where you point her.  Thoreau lets you throw heavy objects.  Boomer causes explosions.  Slim turns you so thin that you are practically invisible.  Thudley allows you to slam down hard on objects.  Carrie transports you over chasms.  Fleep causes weak areas in the dimension to flip over so that items can be found.  Cudge can be used as a hammer.  Dottie causes you to shrink.  Barry creates a barrier around you.  Dashell gives you super speed.  Lastly, Piccolo causes various musical effects to show and cures you from curses.  While I wish this game had included the ability to have more than one pixl available at a time, the fact that the game pauses entirely as you swap pixls makes it a non-issue.  The only real downfall that these pixls have is that they replace the partners you had in previous games.  At first this may not seem like a big deal but you sort of lose that extra bit of personality and interaction that you would have gotten with the partner characters.  The only personality these guys get are in the brief couple of moments when you recruit them to the party.  Despite that downfall, these are still a really cool addition to the game and I enjoyed using them. 

[In this section, KoD was going to talk about the very large amount of side quests and post-game material that you can honestly spend hours enjoying]

What's Good About It?

[KoD was going to have this whole section as this is one of his favorite games.  I will try to explain the points he was going to make.

The Original Characters in this game are very memorable and unique from the dim-witted O'Chunks, to the insanity of Dimentio, to the various "sage-like" characters you meet.  You will come away from this having enjoyed these characters.

The game has some brief sections of different gameplay.  During one section you basically play a dating simulator, during another the whole level turns into a Gradius style shooter, and whine in the Underwhere you engage in a classic turn-based RPG battle.  These little changes to gameplay keep things fresh even though they are brief.

This game has a much darker tone than most Mario titles are allowed to have.

The Underwhere and Overthere are obviously the Paper Mario equivalent of Hell and Heaven and honestly everything involving these levels (except for the vertical portion of the Overthere) is excellent]

What's Bad About It?

One of the key additions to Super Paper Mario was Mario's ability to flip over into the 3rd person aspect in order to navigate the world, solve puzzles, or avoid obstacles.  This is an excellent idea and is full of potentially fun and interesting ideas.  The problem?  You can only be in the 3D space for ten seconds at a time before you start to take damage.  Why?  Hell if I know.  It seems as though they've just arbitrarily slapped that in there.  It makes little to no sense in the context of the game; the game retained many of its RPG elements and one key part of playing an RPG is taking your time and exploring the area.  It's a bit difficult to explore the entire area in 3D when you can only do it for ten seconds at a time then sit around with your paper thumb up your butt waiting for the meter to fill back up so you can hastily bustle around for another ten seconds... well if you don't want to take arbitrary damage in the process.  This same time limit doesn't apply with pixls that change your dimensions or body like Dottie or Slim so why is it done here?  There's no point to this time limit and it should never have been implemented.

{KoD interrupts with information that you can infinitely 3D if you defeat the Flopside Pit of 100 Trials twice}

....I actually didn't know that.  But honestly who has time for that crap??  If I'm able to defeat a Pit of 100 Trials twice, I'm not about to go around in Chapter 1-1 and see if I missed anything.  Anything missed at that point would be something inferior to the available items at my disposal now.  It just...*sigh*  Why Nintendo??

This point has more to do with platforming in general than it does with Super Paper Mario specifically, but it has annoyed me enough to include it here.  I will never hide the fact that I am not a fan of platforming games.  Despite KoD's insistence upon me playing them and my begrudging enjoyment of a couple here and there, I still dislike them.  One of the main reasons I dislike platforming games is the requirement on absolute precision and perfection when going around the terrain.  There is no type of level more aptly fit to showcase the shortcomings of platforming than vertical levels. Even people who greatly enjoy platforming games hate vertical levels because one simple mistake will have you starting the entire level all over again.  Sadly, we have a few vertical levels in this game and they are just as bad as you can expect them to be.  The worst example is the stairway to the Overthere (chapter 7-3) which has multiple areas that cause you to plummet all the way to the bottom of the level.  Not to mention that you need Luigi's super jump to reach places and have no idea where you're going to land.  You just have to take jumps of faith and hope you land on something and not an enemies spiked head... on top of having to track down various apples.  I spent more time trying to climb those stupid clouds than I did two of the previous whole chapters!  Vertical levels are always a bad thing.

Within this game Flipside (and Flopside) serve as your world hub where you can gather items and prepare yourself for the challenges within the actual chapters ahead.  Under the normal course of play, you are expected to complete all four segments of each chapter at once without returning to the hub world.  However, if you are finding a chapter particularly difficult, you are given a return pipe to return to Flipside at any point.  That's pretty neat huh?  Well... not exactly.  If you haven't defeated the final boss of the chapter and gotten the pure heart, when you use the return pipe you will always have to re-start at the first area of the entire chapter and make your way all the way back.  So, if you were deep in to chapter 4-4 and decided to re-stock on items before the final boss, you would have to start back at chapter 4-1 with all the enemies having re-spawned and make your way back to that same spot in 4-4.  There is some light at the end of this dark tunnel as thankfully any puzzles you have solved will remain solved so at least you don't have to re-do THAT.  It's still a major annoyance when it could have just easily saved where you used the pipe and slap you back down where you originally left.  Sure the argument could be made that doing such would make the game optionally too easy but it's still better than walking through three whole chapters of landscape!

Chapter 5 is annoying garbage in my personal opinion.  You only have to look at the setting, cave people, to realize that this isn't going to be the fun joyride you were hoping for after the insane outer space shenanigans of the previous chapter.  Adding cavemen to your story is generally something that you do only when you aren't sure what you want out of your product or you've completely run out of genuinely good ideas and directions, unless your name is Chrono Trigger.  Cave people are about two steps away from the "screw it, do it yourself" type of game...which considering what the Mario franchise would do in 2015 it seems my original impression wasn't far off.  Chapter 5-1 is probably the most annoying of all because there is a particular block puzzle where you have to hit the blocks in a certain order to progress.  In order to get the pass-code you have to physically type out the word please some 20 times to a caveman using the wiimote for it to be some ridiculous 30 movement code that you'll either have to write down or forget entirely.  And the rock puns... don't even get me started on the rock puns!  Lastly, the reason for the flower king's insanity makes no sense.  Pollution is what caused the problem?  I mean I could understand if it were plants VS factory workers, but cave people don't even have any pollution to start with.  It makes no sense.  The whole chapter is just full of annoyance and nonsense.  It's what I look forward to the absolute least when contemplating a re-play of this game.


Lastly, Level 8-3 can die in a fire.  I generally enjoyed all of Castle Bleck with its complications, weirdness, and mood.  However, at the ends of 8-1 and 8-2 you lose Bowser and Princess Peach.  Now I don't know about your play style but if Bowser or Peach were available to me, I would always choose them.  Mario and Luigi never saw the light of day unless I didn't have the other two or needed them for specific powers only available to them.  Bowser with his double damage and fire breath combined with Peach's floatiness and invincibility made them a perfect tag team for this whole game.  I never had to complain about much difficulty because these two had my back!  Then 8-3 comes along and I'm stripped of both of them.  Not only do I no longer have access to the best characters, I'm hit in the face with a difficulty spike from the depths of hell.  Between the projectile koopas which can flip into both dimensions and Dimentio blasting things out of mirrors and knocking off extremely tiny platforms, I raged so hard at this level.  I've run across difficulty spikes in the past but this one was one of the worst and almost ruined my entire experience because of the extreme difficulty.

Abounding in Strangeness

[In this section we were going to take turns just pointing out some funny moments in the game such as...
A character mentioning his anime girlfriend
Bowser's flailing arms
a "little guy in my pocket"
Peach eating cursed apples and the various effects it has on her when you are trying to heal her
The fact that they use a fish bowl as a space helmet

there are many other individually hilarious moments in the game that can be brought up.  Seriously this game as A-class humor]


The Ignored One

[During this section, KoD was going to explain how, for some reason, this game gets overlooked in the grand scheme of Mario (and Paper Mario) games.  He was going to mention how this was supposed to be a Gamecube Game but delays pushed it onto the Wii.  He was going to mention how Paper Mario and Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door get praised, and how Sticker Star gets trashed but this game gets absolutley nothing.  It shouldn't be just a forgotten game because it may be different than it's previous two games, it's still a pretty fine game in it's own right.]

Conclusion

Super Paper Mario is an interesting and surprising title.  I came into this game with a lot of trepidation.  I heard what they had done to my wonderful RPG elements and was honestly not excited about playing this title whatsoever.  If it wasn't for KoD's persistence on it's quality, this would have been a game that completely passed me by.  Levels 5-1, 7-3, and 8-3 aside, I was actually surprised at the quality and ease this game had to offer.  It was a platforming game that made me often forget that I was playing a platforming game which is honestly kind of a miracle for me.  If you are a platforming veteran, then you should thoroughly enjoy this.  However, if you, like me, are a fan of the Paper Mario series but aren't that good at platforming you might actually be surprised at the quality this game has to offer.  It's definitely of that Paper Mario story and characterization quality while making the platforming bits easier to stomach with the health bar and other borrowed RPG elements.  Give it a try; I doubt you'll regret it.

[KoD would have concluded here stating how much he adores this game and would want everyone to try it out.]

This is Ghost Fading into the Darkness.
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