Sunday, June 17, 2018

Season 12, Episodes 13-15

Episode 13: The Red Queen
Back in Lord Christopher Marlowe’s alternate timeline*, History has twisted yet again with the wedding of King James of Scotland to the mysterious Red Queen – the new guise of Penelope’s shadow nemesis from the Dark Dimension**. As the black clouds of war (literally) gather overhead, the Time Lady has no choice but to walk into her evil double’s deathtrap…

* Last visited in episodes 9.9 (Should Old Acquaintances be Forgot) and 9.10 (The Banquet of Ashes)

** See episode 12.4 (Heir Apparent) for more details

Episode 14: Bad Penny
Her hunt for her Dark Dimension shadow clone leads Penelope to an alternate 1978*, in a timeline where the Doctor’s TARDIS has been destroyed, UNIT and Torchwood have been merged into a single entity (M.I.7), a big space-time Rift has opened in the heart of London and (for some obscure reason) punk rock never happened. Joining forces with an alternate, earthbound Doctor**, the Time Lady prepares for her final duel with her nemesis…

* Last visited during her quest for the Segments of the Key to Time (see episode 11.3, Time Oddity)

** Who looks, of course, like Richard E. Grant in “Curse of the Fatal Death”

Episode 15: Loose Ends
London, 1978, in an alternate reality. Following her final battle with her Dark Dimension shadow double, the Time Lady must now face the consequences of her victory. How long will her disembodied nemesis stay trapped into the deepest recesses of Penelope’s own mind?  And how exactly is she going to heal her companion Dorian, whose soul has been ravaged by her now-captive enemy?  A story of farewells and returns, of closures and new beginnings!

These episodes formed the final trilogy of our twelfth season, which we have called Adventures & Avatars – “Avatars” being a reference to various characters encountered over its course, from Penelope’s Dark Dimension shadow double to alternate versions of the Doctor and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (as a Susan-like teenage companion).

The final episode itself gave me the opportunity to indulge in some “Easter-egging” by including a hint or reference to every setting visited during this season – be they in the form of personal memories, material souvenirs or brief returns by way of TARDIS. It also was a very personal episode for Lady Penelope, focusing on her habitual reluctance to take travelling companions (for fear of putting their lives in danger) and the reasons why she chose to make an exception in the case of Dorian-Miranda, her current companion – who WILL be at her side when we start Season 13 in a few months…

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Return of Docteur Qui

Bonsoir messieurs dames!  Some of you might remember my slightly-silly-and-utterly-pointless exercise in imagination about an alternate French Doctor (yes, this was five years ago, for the 50th Anniversary - how Time flies...)...

Well, here is a follow-up feature (for the 55th Anniversary?), with twelve blurbs for episodes-that-might-have-been – each of them inspired by an actual DW episode… I know, utterly pointless but it was really fun to imagine...

First Docteur: The Time Interloper
1815, a few days before the historic battle of Waterloo… As the armies of Wellington and Napoleon prepare for their final clash, a mysterious time meddler is manipulating events to ensure the victory of the French emperor over his enemies… unless le Docteur manages to save history-as-it-should-be!

Second Docteur: The Chouans
A purely historical episode, set during the French Revolution, among the royalist rebels of Western France known as the Chouans. A tale of civil war, divided loyalties and double-crossing, introducing a new travel companion for the Second Docteur – a young, adventurous Breton lad named Jacques.

Third Docteur: Avernus
As he tries to avert a disaster at a secret scientific base located in volcanic Auvergne, le Docteur finds himself transported to an alternate continuum, where the Vichy government never fell and 1970s France is still ruled by a fascist elite – including a one-eyed (!) version of a certain Brigadier…

Fourth Docteur: The Claws of Al-Ghul
Paris, la Belle Epoque…  A mysterious Arab master of mesmerism, women vanishing from the streets of Paris, rumours of monsters lurking in the sewers, a sinister society of Arabian assassins, an unseen foe from the future… Enter le Docteur!  Featuring professor Piedléger and Henri-Georges Gégaud.

Fifth Docteur: The Queen’s Serpent
Le Docteur takes his companion to 12th century France, at the court of Aliénor d’Aquitaine, a hotbed of culture and intrigue. Posing as travelling troubadours, they soon become embroiled in the affairs of the serpent-fairy Mélusine de Lusignan – in reality a shapeshifting living weapon from another planet.

Sixth Docteur: Tribunal of the Time Lords
A controversial four-story epic using an intense court drama as its framing device. Revolution has come to Gallifrée, the planet of the Time Lords – and le Docteur must now stand trial before the newfangled Comité de Salut Spatio-temporel, with the mysterious Veilleur as his prosecutor…

Seventh Docteur: Battleground
The TARDI brings le Docteur near an archaeological site in the Pyrénées, where the tomb of the legendary Frankish warrior-woman Bradamante has just been discovered. Soon, warriors from another dimension led by a ruthless Sorcerer King invade our reality, in search of the heroin’s mythic sword…

Eighth Docteur: Docteur Qui, le Téléfilm
The only appearance of the Eighth Docteur (who looked a lot like François-René de Chateaubriand), this stand-alone TV movie pits the newly regenerated Seigneur du Temps against his arch-enemy, the egomaniacal, power-obsessed trans-temporal renegade known as l’Empereur. Set in Paris, of course.

Ninth Docteur: Lost Souls / Le Docteur Bows
A two-parter set during WW2. In Nazi-occupied Paris, le Docteur and his new companion Fleur investigate the mysterious appearances of people from France’s past history, caused by an inexplicable space-time rift. Featuring the dashing and flamboyant gendarme temporel Capitaine Jacques Aramis.

Tenth Docteur: Blood and Snow
Russia, 1812. Le Docteur finally gets to meet emperor Napoléon Bonaparte face to face – but an already delicate situation becomes even more complicated when the imperial encampment is attacked by Skoptsy fanatics allied to what seems to be a huge, unstoppable and bloodthirsty were-bear…

Eleventh Docteur: Erik and le Docteur
Paris, 1904. Le Docteur meets misunderstood musical genius Erik Satie. Together with the Time Lord’s companions Amélie and Rémi, they investigate strange ghostly goings-on and a mysterious, haunting phantom music, which can only be heard by the eccentric composer…

Twelfth Docteur: Phantoms in Space
In a luxury space station recreating the décor and unique experience of the Opéra de Paris during the Belle Epoque, le Docteur and his new companion Belle must stop a series of mysterious and ghastly murders perpetrated by the ghostly entity known as the Lady in Black – la Dame en Noir

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Season 12, Episode 12

Episode 12: The Three Choices of Penelope
It’s R&R time for Penelope and Dorian!  The Time Lady takes her new companion to the supremely peaceful and serene world of Atala, among her Ganymedian friends - where she is greeted by dear old friends, some unexpected social developments and the inescapable consequences of her own past choices – as well as the regrets of a previous companion...

An episode of pure roleplaying – with no dice rolls, no Story point expenditures but some very important conversations and decisions, along with the appropriate foreshadowing of the season finale… 

This episode also saw the reunion of Penelope and one of her former companions, the Redhead Ganymedian Jeska (think of a blue-skinned, red-haired Leela), who briefly travelled with the Time Lady at the beginning of season 7, before Penelope’s fateful Constantinople regeneration (in episode 7.05) and her subsequent struggle against Fenric.

Lady Penelope’s Odyssey will return in a month or so, with the final three episodes of our twelfth season. Allons-y!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Season 12, Episode 11

Episode 11: City of Dreams
Hollywood, 1928: talking pictures vs. silent movies, all-night parties, prohibition and all that jazz! But not everything is fine and dandy in the Tinsel Town, as Lady Penelope is about to find out, following the mysterious suicide of a desperate actress. Behind the walls of the Dream Factory, bright light cast long shadows and dreams can easily turn into nightmares.

This episode featured the return of Lady Penelope’s arch-enemies, the Porphyrs of Carcosa, dreadful psychic vampires she had already encountered and battled in quite a few episodes and in all her incarnations so far, so our Sixth Penelope HAD to run into them at some point… In a way, Porphyrs and Lloigor are to Penelope what Daleks and Cybermen are to the Doctor – but while the Doctor’s ever-returning nemeses are clearly robotic / mechanical in their nature, Penelope’s own arch-enemies are firmly rooted in the psychic territory.

As suggested by its title, it could also be considered the final and third part of a very loose “Porphyrs looking for a city to devour” trilogy, composed of City of Chimeras (episode 1.4), City of Sighs (episode 9.1) and City of Dreams (episode 12.11).

After these last showdowns, the peril of Carcosa was supposed to be banished forever into nothingness – but some Porphyrs did manage to escape the final cataclysm and in order to survive, they had to adapt and change… so the creatures Penelope encountered this time were actually “Porphyr hybrids”, humans possessed and remolded (read: psychically as well as physically warped) by some of the (normally ethereal) Porphyr survivors.

Visually, I had based the classic Porphyrs on the Pau’an species from the Star Wars universe – but I naturally wanted something different for this new variation. The four “hybrids” featured on this episode looked like the creepy Gentlemen from the Buffy episode “Hush” – I had considered using the Strangers from “Dark City” but the overall look of the Buffyverse Gentlemen seemed more consistent with the story I had in mind.

Basically, this mysterious “Circle of Four” wanted to turn Hollywood into the New Carcosa, a vampiric city of dreams, decadence and nightmares, using specially-produced films to feed on the emotions of an ever-growing audience…

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Season 12, Episodes 8-10

Episode 8: Peace on Venus
3800 AD. For nearly a millennium, the planet Venus has lived in military peace, economic prosperity and political independence under the gynocratic rule of the Amazon caste. And then someone tried to assassinate the Prima Dona, shattering the serenity of the Pax Veneris. Can the Time Lady alter history? Should she? A tale of power, gender and red herrings.   

Episode 9: The Redemption Option
Continuing Dorian’s mini-grand tour of the universe, Lady Penelope comes back to the vibrant, multicultural Myriad of Aldebaran. There, she meets its new saintly icon, the revered Lady of the Sanctuary, Healer of Millions and Savior of Countless Lives, also known as the Rani. Yes, the Rani. Reformed, redeemed and regenerated. Could it be too good to be true?

Episode 10: The Quantum Phantom
After a brief stop on Avalon, Lady Penelope takes Dorian to her beloved Florence, in the beautiful summer of 1894. In a city full of memories, the Time Lady soon finds herself retracing her own steps, through a strange maze of déjà-vu, forgotten moments and echoes of the past. A tale of regrets and choices, featuring Vernon Lee (and a few of her acquaintances).

A few additional notes for the faithful Lady Penelope's Odyssey fans:

So, yes, following episode 9, the Rani is back - and NOT the short-lived redeemed version but the cold-hearted manipulative scientist we all love to hate. And she's back on Gallifrey, too. Yes, I'm definitely seeding sows for season 13 here...

Episode 10 had a definite "Room With a View" vibe - with quite a few historical celebrities: the extraordinary Vernon Lee (I had wanted to include her in an episode for quite some time - and this was the perfect opportunity) and "a few of her acquaintances" - namely the famous Henry James, Edith Wharton (who hadn't published anything yet) and the Italian artist Telemaco Signorini...

It was a very emotional episode, built as a "narrative backlash" of Episodes 10 and 11 of our Tenth Season (check them out HERE), which involved the character of Reginald Stanhope, a young, melancholic Englishman from the 1820s whose timeline had been manipulated by the (now defunct) Sirens of Time. Unbeknownst to Penelope (that is, until "The Quantum Phantom"), the resolution of this diptych had had some terrible temporal side-effects on the unfortunate young gentleman, turning him into a "Schrödinger ghost" (hence the title), constantly hovering in a state of quantum flux, between existence and non-existence - and becoming less and less real as time marched on, erasing the traces and memories of his former life. 

This new episode allowed Lady Penelope to make things right - she managed to rescue the poor lost soul from oblivion, stabilized his existence in a temporary manner and brought him to Avalon, where the Doctor will (hoperfully) be able to fix his existential problem once and for all...

These last three episodes also allowed us to explore Penelope's relationship with Dorian/Miranda and here me are moving into some new dramatic territory. 

For many years now, Lady Penelope had refused to take new travelling companions - sure, she did welcome quite a few temporary passengers onboard of  her timeship but she seemed to remain adamant that, unlike the Doctor, she now preferred to Travel Alone, that (unlike the Doctor). 

The most obvious reasons for this decision were Penelope's nostalgic attachment to her "best companion ever" (Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, the brig's grandson and now one of Torchwood leaders), whom she tended to see as The One and Only Companion with whom nobody could compare or compete, as well as the somewhat disappointing trial period of her relative Bernice Ashworth as a possible new travelling companion - this was back in season 5. All this to say that, as far as Lady Penelope was concerned, her "companion days" were over - barring, as mentioned above, a few adventures and escapades with temporary passengers. The main reason for this was NOT a desire for solitude (Lady Penelope being rather super-sociable) but her unwillingness to be responsible for someone else's safety and survival or, to put it more bluntly, her fear of putting a friend or close one in mortal danger. So rather than being constantly overprotective, Penelope decided to Travel Mostly Alone...

But since (s)he has joined Penelope for "a few travels", Dorian-Miranda and the Time Lady simply seem to get on like the proverbial house on fire... And of course Penelope tends to be overprotective: the more she gets to know and like her new guest-passenger, the more she fears for Dorian's safety. 

Neither Sylvie nor I know how this new relationship will evolve - but I'm pretty sure we'll have a fairly good idea by the time this twelfth season ends... but for now, the future IS unwritten!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Season 12, Episode 7

Episode 7: The Mysteries of Montmartre
Paris, 1893: it’s all la Belle-Epoque, le Moulin-Rouge and holalas for Lady Penelope and her new travelling companion Miranda/Dorian (née Eric) as they explore a world of ingénues, enfants terribles and true artistes. But behind the joie de vivre of the boulevards and the laissez-faire of the blasé lurks a dark and menacing je-ne-sais-quoi - or is this déjà-vu?

The Mysteries of Montmartre was designed as a sequel-cum-homage to The Talons of Weng-Chiang, one of my favorite DW stories

Its main antagonist was Magnus Greel's own sister, Ursula, (a cruel, cold-hearted ice-queen type villain from the 51st century) and the consequences of her own Zygma beam travel to the late 19th century. To make a long story short, her original plan was to join / rescue / retrieve her brother but her own time cabinet crashed a few years too late and now she was stuck in this primitive century, facing the same genetic decay problems and entertaining the same insane dreams of revenge and power...

I deliberately took some of the essential elements of the story and replaced them with different equivalents, resulting in Something That Felt Completely Different In Play, while still retaining the echoes and déjà-vu effects I was aiming for. Here is a quick list of the substitutions I made:

Talons of Weng-Chiang                                               Mysteries of Montmartre 

Setting: London, lates 1880s / early 1890s                      Paris, 1893

The East End                                                                           Montmartre

Typical Victorian mystery atmosphere                              Parisian bohemian atmosphere 

Main apparent villain: Li H'sen Chang                              Count Kuryakin, a russian noble

Real hidden villain : Magnus Greel                                    Ursula Greel

The Peking Homunculus                                                      A superstrong cyber-golem 

Jago's theatrical world                                                          Parisian cabarets and cafés

Lost time cabinet                                                                   Wrecked time cabinet

Catalytic chamber / life-energy                                          Catalytic chamber / life-energy

The Time Agent never came                                                A Time Agent did arrive

Of course, some Talons elements had no real counterpart - such as, for instance, the involvement of professor Litefoot or the presence of giant rats in the sewers. 

I also added some uniquely Parisian characters to the story, allowing Penelope (and her player) to indulge in memorable encounters with artists Toulouse-Lautrec and Suzanne Valadon, as well as with the composer Erik Satie, who all operated at the periphery of the mystery (but were not involved in its resolution), plus a few cameos by Paul Verlaine, Claude Debussy and Aristide Bruant - historical characters whose very presence gave Mysteries of Montmartre the distinctively Parisian feel I was aiming for. In Lady Penelope's adventures, art and culture often play a very important part - we could even say that our Time Lady is as artistically-inclined as the Doctor is scientifically-minded, so she was really at home here.

As usual, we had a great time playing - and this episode was also highlighted by the first steps of Penelope's new travelling companion, "Miranda / Dorian / Eric", a crossdressing young man from 1980s London she met during the last "Everett Special" we did. Miranda's embarking on the TARDIS was not pre-planned and developed as a logical consequence of what happened in actual play - and, well, Penelope and Miranda just got on as a house on fire. One of these unforeseen, delightful twists which bring instant freshness and unexpected developments to a campaign, after almost 8 years of play and more than 150 episodes...

Next stop: VENUS!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Everett Blake Returns!

Everett Blake Crossover 3: Fade to Grey
Lady Penelope takes Everett Blake seventy years forward to 1982 London to show him how people dress, dance and party in the future – well, at least that was the plan until the Time Lady and the Edwardian psychic investigator met a very special girl and the grey ghost hanging over her. Underneath the decadent Paradise Lost nightclub, something silent and sinister waits for the end of the world, preying on those who would do anything to be the next icon of the new romantic twilight. A tale of false promises, lost souls and stolen voices.

I had posted THIS on the excellent DWAITAS forum before running the episode... 

So how did it go?  

Well, it went very well. It was perhaps a bit short and could probably have benefitted from an extra plot twist- but all this was more than counterbalanced by my two players' stellar roleplaying performance, including the interactions with Miranda, the crossdressing Blitz kid who acted as the main plot hook / endangered NPC of this scenario. In fact, things went so well between them and Miranda that, once all ths trouble with the Gods of Twilight was over, Everett and Miranda had a short & happy affair - started in 1982 and ending (more discreetly) in 1912, after Penelope had taken the psychic investigator back. Yes, Miranda boarded the TARDIS for a short temporal escapade... and then decided to try some more time-travelling in Lady Penelope's company, preferably in "flamboyant spots", just for fun and thrills. So Lady Penelope's next regular episode will feature this new (presumably temporary - but who knows?), unexpected companion - see you at the Moulin-Rouge!