An evil corporation on Pluto has a stranglehold on the economy and freedoms of mankind. But The Doctor, Leela and K-9 foment rebellion! Surprise, the creep in charge is an alien!
This is a less gonzo episode than the past few and that’s welcome. It’s perfectly serviceable and apart from K-9’s errant laser beam there’s not much groanworthy special effects. The characters are standard but fun, especially the smug tax collector who reminds me of a greedy pompous Fred Willard who really loves his job. Apparently the writer of this episode really had a grudge with taxation.
You’d think an episode called the Sun Makers would have more focus on the artificial suns around Pluto. But really it seems just a way to justify the typical English grey skies when the characters are outdoors.
Some unethical scientists do some kind of sciencey-scan on an unusual, possibly alien, skull. This ‘activates’ the skull which slowly transforms the lady scientist into a gold, gorgon-like woman and summons beasties reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond…I think so that it can manifest into it’s previous gestalt form and do some bad things to the universe. Luckily, old local Mrs. Tyler is a disciple of the ‘old religion’ AKA witchcraft and knows some tricks, and she teams up with our heroes.
This is one that probably could have been done in 2 episodes, especially considering The Doctor and Leela don’t do much until the climax. As usual it’s a mix of occult and space/time gobbledygook. The most mad of the mad doctors has a bad accent but the other doctors are less hammy. Overall, another germ of an interesting concept, left out so long that it becomes stale, and tentatively kicked down the hall a bit.
I saw Ghostbusters: Afterlife. I liked most of it, but as a critic and as a Ghostbusters fan there was some stuff that rubbed me the wrong way, and so I’ve come to the internet to write it down.
You want spoilers? Cuz I got spoilers!
A lot of things in this film are both a strength and a weakness. Almost every relationship in the film seems surface level. Nobody connects in any real way except the young girl Phoebe and Egon’s ghost, which they do without any words. The mother is physically there, but not emotionally. She is both disinterested and uninteresting. She is blasé, takes no interest in her kids, and takes every opportunity to tell them (and everyone else) what a terrible parent Egon was. Which is weird for fans of the Ghostbusters and also seems like bad parenting maybe?
The ghost plot is a rehash of the first film, so not much original here and an overabundance of member-berries for old nerds like me. So if that is something you’re looking for, they got you covered – everything from Slimer 2.0 to Stay Puft 2.0 to “who you gonna call” and “are you a god?” I did like the Evo Shandor stuff and mossssst of it worked. I really liked that J.K. Simmons only got one line but the Evo in a box thing was a bit confusing, and I don’t understand why the terror dogs were just sitting around on the sidelines while Gozer was getting smoked by particle throwers.
The sudden deus ex machina of the original Ghostbusters was another strength and weakness. I mean, we all want to see those characters again and what they are up to, but showing up so suddenly to take agency away from the other characters legitimately took me out of the story. It kind of ruined the movie to be perfectly honest? That said, I thought their characters were on point and well-scripted. And I still have mixed feelings about CG-resurrection of Harold Ramis, which I thought they milked about 40% too much in the final scenes. But there were tears, so yeah, they got me.
Also, why, OH WHY did Egon lead Phoebe to release Vinz Clortho from the ghost trap? Didn’t that put them all in terribly deadly danger? I guess maybe it was part of his master plan but jeez, if you can move chess pieces and lamps, how about a pencil on a piece of paper?
The Elmer Bernstein music cues, identical to the original, brought back many memories, what with the original Ghostbusters being one of my most-watched films of all time, and I liked the design of Slimer, er, I mean MUNCHER and how well the animators pulled off its facial features.
Perhaps the thing Ghostbusters: Afterlife was most successful at was getting me to want to watch the original again, as well as The Real Ghostbusters cartoon…especially the “Egon’s Ghost” episode, which is excellent.
What other Real Ghostbusters episodes are excellent, since I have you here? Sounds like a great time to make a top 6 list!
Collect Call of Cathulhu, not just because they fight Cthulhu, but a well-crafted story by Michael Reaves.
Mr. Sandman, Dream Me A Dream One of the entities that causes people to fall asleep and dream goes rogue and tries to put the whole world to sleep so there will be no more wars or conflict. Dreams come to life and IT’S WHACKED!
Ragnarok and Roll – a jilted lover tries to bring about the end of the world, written by J. Michael Straczynski
When Hallowe-en Was Forever: Samhain, the spirit of Hallowe’en, stops the clocks so that Hallowe’en will last forever. Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Slimer, is That You? Egon and Slimer have their brains swapped, with hilarious results.
and of course Egon’s Ghost, in which an accident ends up sending Egon to the netherworld. The guys have to go in and rescue him. Includes a terror dog!
Honorable mentions: Knock Knock; The Boogieman Cometh; Night Game; The Thing in Mrs. Faversham’s Attic; Citizen Ghost; and Take Two – the crew is called to California to help make the Ghostbusters Movie
Here’s a weird one – a virus that transmits through eye lightning gives people a silver fuzz on their face and hands and they become mind-controlled by the viral “nucleus” which looks like a prawn. Even the Doctor becomes infected but Leela is immune because she’s all instinct, whereas the virus needs intelligence. Seems like a backhanded compliment to me.
At a space hospital, we are introduced to K-9 the robot dog and the Doctor and Leela are cloned, and their clones shrink down Fantastic Voyage style to take care of the prawn monster inside the original Doctor. But the prawn uses the same size-changing technology to embiggen itself and now the invisible enemy is very very visible. And makes bad decisions. The professor is a fun character. The story starts out strong but kind of fizzles out. Clever use of some cool-looking visors to hide infection and the Doctor’s ridiculously long scarf is used as a tether in this episode.
Partway through the season, the Doctor regenerates for the very first time, and we enter the Patrick Troughton era. This is an exemplary Who episode, even though the original films were lost and this story was reconstructed in 2016 using the original audio and animation (re-finessed in 2020, which is actually the year that the story is set).
An Earth colony on the planet Vulcan is terrorized by Daleks after an overzealous scientist reanimates them from an inert space capsule. The scientist sounds like a muppet performed by Terry Jones. The new Doctor seems a bit queer (not gay but acting erratically) and emotionally distant from his companions, and the story gets intensely dark by episode 6.
The animation is quite limited, you can hear a lot of action happening in the audio, especially during the climax, but it is not reflected in the animation. This limitation of the human characters is actually offset by doing away with the limits of the daleks on a practical set. Instead of having the few dalek models moving about with cardboard cutout of a dalek crowd behind them, it’s like these guys were designed to be made into 3-D models and replicated in this environment. So that at least works better than the original!
In which I learned about the Schermuly pistol rocket apparatus (see below).
Horror At Fang Rock is probably the Who episode I’ve seen the most times, and therefor have the most memories of, with the possible exception of “Unearthly Child.” It’s also one of the most suited to a Call of Cthulhu RPG adventure – a few people in a lighthouse are victimized by an alien blob that is trying to call its fleet of spaceships to decimate the planet.
Interesting and well portrayed cast of characters, but don’t get too attached to anyone. e. Includes the folksy old-timer who believes in sea monsters, who, to the actors credit, becomes the monster, after a fashion. Castaways include sleazy stock broker reminiscent of Carter Burke in Aliens, and the high-strung secretary who provides more than enough screaming and fainting spells until her inevitable demise.
Leela does some fine companioning in this episode, unlike previous eps her ideas and actions are not pooh-poohed by the Doctor and all the men. She’s in control and in her element, fighting monsters. This is also the episode where her eyes change colour, because actor Louise Jameson was tired of wearing brown contact lenses for the character, so they wrote a bit into the script where she was blinded, but when she recovered her eyes became blue. Why they would care what colour her eyes were when the character was introduced is beyond me.
All in all a fun, spooky bottle episode that could serve as a great introduction to Doctor Who for folks who like period horror.
So I’ve never actually seen Phantom of the Opera but I expect if you threw in a dash of Jack the Ripper, ‘Oriental’ racism, and an enemy from another time this would fit the bill.
This is a six-part serial that could have been compressed to 4. Briefly, real British actor John Bennet puts on yellowface to portray evil “Chinee” (to quote the local copper) actor Li H’san Chang, a hypnotist with an animated ventriloquist dummy (that we later learn is part pig). They both serve a Chinese god Weng-Chiang who of course isn’t actually a Chinese god but a despot from the future. The Doctor refers to him as the Butcher of Brisbane so I guess he’s a (white) Australian?
Anyway this is a series of Leela having good ideas and actions that either end with her inconceivably failing to stab someone in the back after successfully sneaking up on them, or simply being told by men to not get involved because it’s too dangerous for a woman (even the Doctor, who knows she’s a capable warrior).
There are several actual Asian actors, though they all play opium-addicted thugs. Racism aside, the intrigue and characters are mostly enjoyable, although the time despot chews almost as much scenery as Jeremy Irons in the Dungeons and Dragons movie.
The writing includes lines like “In my country we have saying: Man who goes too quickly may step in bear trap” and “On my oath, you wouldn’t want that served with onions. Never seen anything like it in all my puff. Oh, make an ‘orse sick, that would.”
While voice acting is not necessary to be a good DM (or player), I think we can all agree it adds a lot to keep characters lively and memorable. But I’ve heard a lot of people say that they just can’t do voices. And to that I say – you can! And I’m here to help!
Let me tell you my secret: If you’re like me, you’ve got a notebook that you bring with you to your gaming sessions. In my own notebook – on the last page (the back inside cover, in fact) – I have a list of character voices that I am comfortable with (I’ve included it below). Every time I need a new non-player character to interact with the players, I flip to that page and pick a voice that’s suitable, and when I’m not in the thick of roleplay, I’ll remember to make a note beside that voice as to which character it belongs to, so that if the players come across that NPC again, I can refer to the list and keep things consistent. Some of the voices are impressions of celebrities or existing film & TV characters, while others use broad accents or my own repertoire of character voices.
“But Toren,” you say, “I’m not a professional voice actor. I can’t do impressions or accents!”
There are a lot of ways to provide vocal character without doing accents or impressions. Let’s say you’ve got an English noble character, but you can’t do a British accent to save your life! Well, you can try to simply use refined, proper diction. It helps if you literally look down your nose at your players while doing so. Conversely, for a lowlife dock monkey, slurring your words and talking in slang, with every second word a profanity can absolutely get a great character across (for added fun, they don’t have to be offensive or modern curse words)
You can change your cadence – maybe someone speaks super quickly with run-on-sentences, with eyes darting and face twitching. Or, they speak robotically with the same emphasis of every syllable. Or portray the always bored and/or “too cool for school” cynic – who speaks in slowly and monotone, like Daria or the teacher from Ferric Bueller’s Day Off (“Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…”). Perhaps an old shell-shocked veteran speaks softly while staring into the middle distance. Another character speaks only in whispers, but they do so with wild enthusiasm. You can whisper, can’t you? Meanwhile there’s that guy who doesn’t have an ‘inside voice,’ always talking to you as if you’re on the other side of the street. And how about the character who is chronically constipated, with the strain coming through in their voice?
An old voice actors trick is to actually change your voice by physically interacting with your face, whether it be holding your nose, pulling your cheek out with a finger, or whathaveyou.
Don’t overstay your welcome.
For throwaway NPCs a strident or grating voice can be amusing and memorable, but for main NPCs that the players will see over and over, I recommend not going over the top. Nobody wants to hear your Gilbert Gottfried or Elmo impression for 3 hours.
It needs to be said: avoid offensive caricatures. My rule is if a player of a minority was at my table (let’s say a South Asian) and I did a stereotypical caricature of that minority (Apu, for example), would I feel weird? If the answer is yes – don’t do it. This goes for sexual preference and those with any kind of disability as well. Your mileage may vary.
And as always, be mindful of others within earshot of your game. After overusing ‘shouty guy’ in your friends living room you may find you no longer have a place to play.
This is the list that I use. I hope that it will inspire you to try something new next session!
Stereotypical Brooklyn guy Stereotypical Canadian guy, eh? (McKenzie Brothers) Stereotypical Scandinavian Stereotypical Russian Stereotypical Australian/Steve Irwin/Bruce Stereotypical Italian/Mario Yarrrr stereotypical pirate voice Edward G Robinson James Mason Alec Guinness Wolfman Jack Sir Ian McKellan David Attenborough Dracula (Bela Lugosi) Tim Curry Tom Waits/Nick Nolte Jason Statham/Ray Winstone Christopher Lloyd Tracy Morgan Billy Connolly Inigo Montoya Charlton Heston Lennie from Mice and Men (“I will call him George”) AKA Patrick Star Bane Emperor Palpatine Dustin Hoffman Ricardo Montalban Christopher Walken Christoff Walz Kennedy/Mayor Quimby Morgan Freeman Jay Baruschel Brando Beavis/Butthead Montgomery Burns Transatlantic accent Elvis Watto (Star Wars) Ed Wynn (Mad Hatter/Mayor McCheese) Brian Blessed/John Rhys-Davies Jesse Ventura Bob Dylan Kermit the Frog Hagrid (Harry Potter) Chris Rock Wallace Shawn Jack Nicholson Clint Eastwood Sean Bean Korg (Taika Waititi) Harvey Fierstein Drunken Dudley Moore Thurston Howell the 3rd Samuel L Jackson Cobra Commander William Shatner/Zap Brannigan Gomer Pyle Grimlock (Transformers) Jimmy Stewart Maude Flanders/Fargo Alice Glick/Maude Frickert/Old Lady Monty Python old British lady Teen with Cracking Voice Fat Albert Hank Hill Boomhauer (King of the Hill) Al Pacino Owen Wilson Jack Sparrow Michael Caine Aku/Mako Robin Leach Hippie surfer dude Caesar with lisp (Life of Brian) Ozzy Osbourne Comic Book Guy (Simpsons) Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel (Simpsons) Doctor Girlfriend (Venture Bros) Red Skull Agent Smith/Hugo Weaving Alan Rickman Ahnold Raphael (Sarcastic clerk from The Simpsons) Humphrey Bogart James Cagney Peter Lorre Jack Palance Marvin the Martian Lumpy Space Princess (Adventure Time) Southern Belle/Tree Trunks (Adventure Time) Mayor of Townsville (Powerpuff Girls)