Sunday, May 26, 2019

Season 13, Episode 7

Episode 7: Starvox
Welcome to Simak 9 space station and to the 3988 AD edition of the great interstellar Starvox song contest! As thousands of billions of hyperlinked viewers prepare to sing along, cheer, applaud and vote for their favorite contestant, the Earth Alliance candidate has just pulled out!  Enter the Time Lady - and her travelling companion, Dorian aka Miranda. The rest is (or will be) history. A tale of rivalry, empathy and fame (with some disco songs).

So, Lady Penelope's Odyssey is back for the second part of our thirteenth season!  

I borrowed the setting idea (Eurovision... in space!) from the Big Finish audiobook Bang-bang-a-boom featuring the Seventh Doctor and Mel - but with a completely different plot and cast of characters.

It was quite a tricky episode to run - and proved a joy to play. On one hand, it was deliberately kitsch (Eurovision in space...), with quite a lot of cheesy moments - and on the other hand, it had an extremely emotional ending, with the departure of Penelope's companion Dorian / Miranda (her only real companion in the classic DW sense since her early travels with Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart- those were the days and all that...). So the young nightclubbing guy-girl from 1982 left the TARDIS to become the new Hyperstar of the Earth Alliance, exchanging a life of adventure for interstellar fame - a dream come true, as well as a bittersweet (and very moving) farewell with Penelope. 

A bientôt !

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Season 13, Episode 6 / January Special

Episode 6: Wintertime
January 2019. The UK is caught in an unprecedented wave of cold, with snowfalls, ice storms, frozen rivers and the whole gamut of wintry weather phenomena, leaving experts baffled. Only the Torchwood Cardiff team knows the truth behind this aberrant climate shift: it came through the Rift, from a long, long time ago. Winter is coming - time to call the Time Lady!

So, despite what I announced last time (about “taking a break for a few months”), I couldn’t resist the lure of running my own New Year’s Day special (well, sort of, since this was played on the 5th of January) for Lady Penelope – an episode with some nostalgic echoes from the Russell T. Davies era (Torchwood, Cardiff, the Rift…).

And despite what the above blurb may suggest, most of the action took place in 1895 (but still in Cardiff), during another of Britain’s “great winters” – at a time where the Cardiff Rift already existed… but NOT the all-too convenient Rift Manipulator!

The main antagonist for this story was directly inspired by Kim Newman’s “Time and Relative” Telos novella: primeval, prehistoric Cold as a sentient entity trying to reclaim its lost dominion on our post-Ice Age planet. At first, I had contemplated using the Great Intelligence as my main villain (see HERE) but as I was working with this idea, I kept on ending up with something that felt like a remake of Steven Moffat’s “The Snowmen”, with no real extra element of interest. This episode also gave me a wonderful opportunity to reunite Penelope with her present-day friends at the Cardiff Torchwood Hub, including Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, one of her very first time-travelling companions…

The basic idea behind the whole Cold / Rift thing was as follows: the Cardiff Rift allowed the Cold from Earth’s Ice Age to “travel” (or disseminate itself) to various times in our history (including, for instance, the great winter of 1962-63), with January 1895 acting as its most potent “open window through time”. There, the Cold entity managed to possess and manipulate a naïve, pious Psychic, using her as an entry point and interface with reality. Of course, being blinded by faith, the poor soul thought that the visions and commands sent to her “from beyond” by some seemingly eternal, disembodied “whiteness” could only come from God, heralding His new divine reign on Earth. Through the powers invested in her, she even created the Angel of Frost, a terrifying, immaterial being embodying her “righteous wrath” against unbelievers and sinners… 

In the end, Penelope could only defeat / banish the Cold by calling on the supreme power of the Sun - yes, in our campaign, suns are actually sentient beings, as Penelope discovered a few lives ago, in the reign of pharaoh Akhenaten (back in Season 5)… 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Season 13, Episode 5

Episode 5: Hope Ultima
A long time ago, Lady Penelope and Jack Harkness exchanged farewells on the lonely dunes of Boeshane Peninsula. As they parted, he shared with her the Face of Boe’s secret prediction: the Time Lady and the immortal Captain would meet again, one last time, for one last case of cosmic force majeure, for one last, desperate stand. And now this time has come.  

The farewells on the dunes of Boeshane Peninsula occurred at the end of season five’s seventh episode (The Face of the Future) – or, in other terms, eight seasons and three regenerations ago. And more than five years ago for us in the real world. 

I always knew that this “one last stand” would come but I was waiting for the ideal moment – and for enough game time and real time to pass, so that it would really feel like “a long time ago, in another life”. 

Of course, Captain Jack’s ultimate return has everything to do with the threat of the Dissonance, the current’s season recurring meme / theme / gimmick. As a unique, living Fixed Point in Time, surely he will be of use when the Web of Time comes crashing down…

But for now, we are taking a break. The thirteenth season of Lady Penelope’s Odyssey will resume in a few months, for its second tier. See you then!

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