Hello fellow space-and-time travellers!
After the Baroque mini-series The Key to Space, it’s now time for a new regular season of Lady Penelope’s Odyssey!
Episode 1: Blackout
Penelope’s TARDIS receives a psychic distress call from Torchwood’s time sensitive Indira Kapoor – but the signal comes from 1940, half-a-century before Indira’s birth and right in the middle of the London Blitz! As Britain is living its darkest hour, the Time Lady braves the blackout and the bombs to rescue the time-displaced young woman from a web of shadows…
Episode 2: Roma Mater
We all know the story of Romulus and Remus, the she-wolf, the fratricide… but how was the City of Rome really founded? Lady Penelope and her new travelling companions, 17th century dilettante scholar John Wycliffe and 21st century time sensitive Indira Kapoor, decide to find out! But the differences between myth and history can sometimes be quite surprising…
Quite unusually, our Time Lady is now travelling with TWO companions – who were both introduced in earlier scenarios: she met John Wycliffe during the aforementioned mini-series and Indira Kapoor, who first appeared quite a few seasons ago, has long been a regular NPC in her dealings with present-day Torchwood.
Blackout was a very tense season opener, set against the dark backdrop of the London Blitz, with some very moving “darkest hour / finest hour” moments – including a scene built around Vera Lynn’s iconic song We’ll Meet Again to great effect. I’ve wanted to do a Blitz story for ages but could never find the right way to bring Penelope to this time and place – it’s not the kind of destination a time traveler is likely to choose and, unlike the Doctor’s blue box, Penelope’s TARDIS is a very reliable machine, so I needed a Really Good Reason to bring her there: to rescue the time-displaced Indira. What was she doing in 1940 London? Well, as you’ve might have guessed it, she had been waylaid by a Weeping Angel!
When Penelope finally brought her safe and sound in the TARDIS, rescued from the clutches of the 1940s Forge, Indira decided that she wanted to join Penelope for a few adventures in space and time before getting back to her day-to-day work as a 21st century Torchwood operative. Penelope also discovered that the young woman’s time sensitive powers had been almost drained dry by her chance (?) encounter with the Weeping Angel – a temporary side-effect, from which she should normally recover in time, thanks to the TARDIS’ connection with the vortex.
Roma Mater was what we could call an “imaginary historical” or, perhaps, a “mythical”: in a similar vein to the lost TV Trojan War story, The Myth Makers, it exploring the “real story” behind a well-known half-historical, half-legendary story – in this specific case the founding of Rome and the tale of Romulus and Remus.
The episode started in 84 AD, with Penelope and her friend spending a nice Roman holiday under the reign of Emperor Domitian (a destination the Time Lady had already visited back in season 13) – no alien invasion to prevent, weird mystery to unravel or sinister menace to counter, just three weeks of temporal tourism in the Eternal City. And then, as they were preparing to leave for a new destination, the scholarly (and insatiably curious) John Wycliffe wondered about the possibilities of witnessing the true events behind the mythical birth of Rome back in 753 BC – and the rest, as they say, is (more or less) History.
Of course, they discovered that the truth was quite different from the well-known tale, with the mythical Romulus & Remus twins being in fact a single individual, young prince Romus, fated with the difficult task of uniting the Latin and Sabine peoples against their common enemy, the mighty Etruscans. It was a very psychological, motive-driven story, with a single (but quite surprising) fantastic element thrown in – something on which I will come back in a future post, for it will (most probably) have some repercussions in one of our next episodes.
Back to the story of Romus. The scenario itself took a very interesting turn in actual play, thanks to Sylvie’s inspired interpretation of her character: right from the start, she decided that Penelope would be very reluctant to meddle with these half-mythical events, as a direct lesson from her harrowing adventure in Atlantis, back in season 14. But once she was involved in the grand wheel of historical fate, she played her cards masterfully, setting Romus on the path of his grand destiny, while ensuring that her own role in the story would never be recorded – an impressive demonstration on how her character has grown as a Time Lady and learned from her past experiences.
The climactic scene, a dramatic (but purely dialogue-based) facedown between Penelope and the Etruscan king who was Romus’ main enemy, gave Sylvie the opportunity to give an inspired, impressive performance of the “Hell hath no fury like that of a pissed off Time Lady” variety – and the wrap-up, aftermath scenes were also highlighted by some great roleplaying, including Penelope’s interactions with a young, eccentric Etruscan prince who embodied the possible future of his people as part of Romus’ dream of a great city…
See you soon for episode 3 and beyond!