Monday, December 10, 2018

Season 13, Episode 4

Episode 4: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out
Dorian takes Penelope on a trip to 1967 San Francisco, right in the middle of the Summer of Love. As her companion indulges in the ambient zeitgeist of peace, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, the Time Lady finds herself transported to another reality, where JFK’s Camelot never fell and psychics are hunted down by the FBI. Welcome to the Altered States of America!

Obviously, this episode had a very strong Philip K. Dick vibe, with elements borrowed from The Man in the High Castle (well, without the Nazis, obviously) and various other PKD novels and stories involving alternate realities, twisted perceptions, psycho-active drugs and hidden conspiracies (and then some). 

Other sources of inspiration included the DW episode Inferno and Steven Moffat’s Silence, who were re-imagined here as the Unseen, the results of a secret US government experiment on psychic powers gone terribly wrong… 

This scenario also allowed me to reveal a bit more about the Dissonance (a.k.a. the Multiplicity), the temporal phenomenon which will be this season’s main continuity gimmick /meme.

Last but not least, this episode included cameos by JFK, Jackie Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and Philip K. Dick himself.

And now for something completely different...

I've updated the TOYBOX, my PDF compilation of house rules for Doctor Who, now in its fourth incarnation. No new stuff this time but some tweaks and fine-tuning of existing articles, including an even simpler and quicker variant combat system and some (decidedly inescapable) clarifications on Story points... 

The new, streamlined TOYBOX can be found HERE

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Season 13, Episodes 1-3

Hello everyone and welcome back to Lady Penelope's Odyssey!

Our one-on-one campaign has just entered its thirteenth season, starting with a triad of Roman Mysteries. The Time Lady has decided to continue her new companion’s time-travelling education by taking Dorian to Rome in 82 AD for some holidays in ancient history. It’s been so long (three incarnations and eight seasons to be precise) since she has visited the Eternal City… What could possibly go wrong this time?

Episode 1: Tempus Rerum Imperator (Time, Master of All Things)
Since she is in the right place at the right time, the Doctor has asked Penelope to bring his greetings to the Caecilius family, who escaped the Fires of Pompeii three years ago and went on to live happily ever after in Rome, leaving behind them the nightmare of the Pyrovile. But as the Time Lady will soon discover, even aborted empires can cast long, burning shadows…

Episode 2: Acta Est Fabula (The Play is Over)
Drawn into a web of intrigue and conspiracy at the heart of Emperor Domitian’s entourage, Penelope soon finds herself caught between the plans of various historical personages and the repercussions of her own actions. Now she must find a way to escape the deadly games of the imperial court, while preserving the future of the Empire – and of the Caecilius family…

Episode 3: Terra Incognita (Unknown Territory)
Britannia, 82 AD. As Roman general Julius Agricola prepares for another campaign against the savage barbarians of Caledonia, Penelope arrives just in time to foil his assassination and save History-as-we-know-it. But even History-as-we-know-it has some unwritten pages, where unsung heroes, time travellers and the Dark Powers of the Earth come into play…

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!