Sunday, September 5, 2021

Season 16: Episode 8

Episode 8: Heritage

January 2022. Penelope and Xara are back in Shetland for a short winter vacation, enjoying the hospitality of their friends at Ravenscroft – just in time for the Up Helly Aa fire festival! But the celebration of the past sometimes uncovers questions which can only be answered by time travellers. Or can they?  A tale of identity and uncertainty… with Vikings and Picts!


This was a nice episode – the perfect “back to Earth” story before our mid-season break. It started with a somewhat cosy, familiar atmosphere, re-using the main NPCs and locations introduced in our first Shetland story (season 15, episode 11) – folk music, local color, majestic landscapes and all that… and led quite logically (and, I must say, quite beautifully) to a short temporal expedition to 850 AD, just to witness HOW the first Viking settlers interacted with the local natives – which is actually a hotly debated topic among historians and archaeologists, with two main opposite hypotheses (the “peace school” and the “war school”). The result was a very tense, psychology-oriented episode of the “pure historical” variety (no monsters, aliens or weird occurrences aside from the time travellers' own interventions), leading to a nicely open-ended conclusion… Next stop: Avalon! 

See you in November (or so) for the second half of our sixteenth season!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Season 16: Episode 7

Episode 7: The Fi(ctio)nal Problem

Sensing that Professor X, warden of the Land of Fiction, has not told her everything about Javert’s impossible intrusion into Reality, Penelope decides to investigate further, joining forces with none other than Fiction’s greatest sleuth, Sherlock Holmes himself! But who could be the Evil Mastermind behind this meta-mystery? Well, Professor Moriarty, of course!


This episode concluded our “Trilogy of the Impossible”. Although it started and ended in the Land of Fiction, the main action took place in 1891 London, with Sherlock Holmes and Lady Penelope tracking down Professor Moriarty… who had taken control of the Torchwood Institute by pretending to be a stranded Time Lord eager to put his fantastic technological know-how at Her Majesty’s service!  But of course, all this was just the first step to his Grand Plan of World Domination, starting with the British Empire…

Luckily for History as we (more or less) know it, after some investigation and a dramatic confrontation in the secret basements of the British Museum, Lady Penelope and Sherlock Holmes managed to thwart the so-called Napoleon of Crime’s dark designs and bring him back (cursing and threatening) to the Land of Fiction he should never have left in the first place, with order restored in Reality as in Fiction…

This episode gave me the wonderful opportunity of playing Sherlock Holmes himself and Moriarty, too. As some of you might know, the “reality status” of Holmes in the Whoniverse is a somewhat tangled issue: to cut a long story short, he was supposed to have been a perfectly real character before being transformed into a fictional one… Why and how this unique transition came to be is explored in several "extended canon" and "not-so-canon" stories… but instead of trying to reinvest these in my campaign, I chose to devise my own interpretation and explanation of these unique events – a suitably timey-wimey backstory now only known to the Doctor (since he was heavily involved in the process), involving both Holmes and his nemesis Moriarty... as well as a few other key characters! 

But since Penelope has not yet heard said backstory, I won’t go into further detail here – for now. She will definitely ask the Doctor for the Full Story next time she visits Lungbarrow. For now, suffice it to say that Holmes and Moriarty’s status as “exiles from reality” played an essential role in last evening’s episode, defining both Moriary’s motives and his very special relationship with Reality as we know it.

“The Fi(ctio)nal Problem” was a joy to run and gave us quite a few memorable moments, including a very moving scene (just between the dénouement and the epilogue) where Holmes played the violin in the TARDIS. The game was afoot and Holmes’ famous quote about the Impossible and the Improbable was, of course, put to great effect!   

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Season 16: Episodes 5-6

Two Adventures in 1830 Paris

The following two episodes form the first two tiers of a Trilogy of the Impossible, in which Lady Penelope investigates wildly, well, impossible occurrences, exploring the uncertain territories between Reality, Fiction, Time and Eternity!

Episode 5: L’Homme de l’Ombre

Paris, February 1830. A young Victor Hugo prepares to unleash his romantic drama Hernani on the stage, breaking all the sacrosanct codes and conventions of French classical theatre – a declaration of war, which will take the literary world by storm!  Meanwhile, a mysterious being known as the Shadow Man is lurking at the edge of Reality, threatening History itself!

Episode 6: Mirror, Mirror

Paris, March 1830. Lady Penelope is enjoying her historical holiday, cruising the literary salons and mingling with some of the greatest writers of the age… and then she discovers that the famous Julie Récamier hasn’t aged a bit since they first met in 1799, at the time of the Directoire!  What is the secret of the former merveilleuse’s timeless, everlasting beauty?

Notes on Episode 5

Let’s begin with a linguistic note. In French, “Homme de l’Ombre” literally means “Shadow Man” – and it’s also the commonly used term for people involved in covert operations or secret intrigue, such as spies, undercover cops or secret counselors. In this case, the mysterious, elusive Shadow Man was none other than the merciless and relentless Inspector Javert, escaped from the Land of Fiction (which Penelope first visited in our previous season) and hell-bent on destroying his own creator – Victor Hugo himself – years before he started dreaming about The Misérables. Why?  To escape his ever-repeating torment of failure, doom and suicide – sure, it would condemn the inflexible inspector to eternal Nothingness but it would also be a victory (of sort) – the only possible victory, in fact – against Valjean, Cosette and all the others, who would also be cancelled from Fiction!

Of course, since he was a Fictional character and remained driven by his own black-and-white morality, Javert could not perform the assassination himself but had to use real, alive and breathing felons (including the notorious Lacenaire…) to attempt this crime against literature and history. Fortunately, Lady Penelope was at the right place in the right time and managed to prevent the deed – twice!

But the very nature and identity of the elusive Shadow Man still remained a mystery – even when Penelope and her TARDIS discovered what seemed to be his own private domain, a weird interstitial pocket dimension resembling the streets of Paris as seen through some kind of dark, ghostly lens... and absolutely devoid of any human presence or other form of life…

After meeting the famous (and semi-retired) Vidocq (you know, the convict turned chief of police…), she realized that all the information she had about the (so far unidentified) Shadow Man’s appearance and demeanor were reminiscent of Vidocq himself; this could have been a very interesting Red Herring but proved to be the decisive element of resolution. Since Penelope was convinced that Vidocq, who did not display any of the weird abilities apparently possessed by the semi-real (or wholly “unreal”?) Shadow Man, could not be the culprit, she came to the conclusion that the semi-spectral puppeteer behind the assassination attempts seemed to be some sort of “dark avatar” or “evil twin” of Vidocq… which lead her to the only possible answer – JAVERT himself!    

Of course, she had to check this wild hypothesis – so she made a brief visit to the Land of Fiction, to meet Professor X (the Doctor’s fictional counterpart and current warden of the Land), who discovered that, indeed, Javert was nowhere to be found!  He had obviously used the mysterious Shadow Paris pocket dimension (about which, apparently, Professor X knew nothing before Penelope’s arrival…) as a passage between Fiction and Reality…

With the help of the fictional French detective of the weird Jules de Grandin, they determined that the character’s psychology was the key to the whole situation and that the only way to expel Javert from Reality before he could wreak more havoc on the continuum was to banish him again to the Land of Fiction by confronting him with the very words of his fictional death in Hugo’s yet unwritten novel – something between a ritual exorcism and a reality check…

So Lady Penelope went back to challenge and eventually defeat Javert on his own territory, the “ghost town” of Shadow Paris. Incidentally, I added a nifty, impromptu twist to this scene. Penelope had dutifully copied the required excerpt from the TARDIS’ library copy of "Les Misérables" – just like a fictional hero would copy an all-important magical formula on a piece of paper before battling a demon… but when she faced Javert and tried to read the all-important text, she saw the letter melting away from the paper and heard Javert laugh and state that “these words had not been written yet, at least not Here”… and then Penelope remembered that, at the beginning of the adventure, she had (using her TARDIS’ forge) created a temporary piece of psychic paper, just in case she would need some kind of permit or introduction letter to move in some Parisian social circles… a Story point which had, so far, been spent in vain but now proved to be crucial!  Gathering all her Resolve and Psychic Training, Penelope managed to bring back the memory of Hugo’s words on the psychic paper, forcing Javert to enact/relive his written end (suicide in the Seine), which catapulted him back to the Land of Fiction, where Professor X, Jules de Grandin and a few other fictional sleuths were waiting for his return… Meanwhile, Shadow Paris started to fade away from existence, having been somehow created by Javert himself as a secret dimensional escape tunnel from Fiction to Reality…

At the end of “The Shadow Man”, Penelope decided to stay for a few weeks in 1830 Paris just for the fun of it and, perhaps, to learn a bit more about the aforementioned Bureau and Monsieur Vidocq’s little secrets (ah, did I mention that he had already met the Doctor, in his Second incarnation?). This will also give her traveling companion Xara more time to spend with the decidedly besotted young romantic poet Edmond Courfeyrac, which they met among Victor Hugo’s supporters at the Battle of Hernanni…

But the Time Lady was also determined to go back to the Land of Fiction and get to the bottom of the mystery of Javert’s dimensional escape and Professor X’s decidedly odd reluctance to involve Sherlock Holmes in this meta-fictional investigation…  

Notes on Episode 6

This new Parisian episode, set in the spring of 1830 (a few months before the barricades!), started as something of a literary celebrities festival, with Penelope meeting a host of famous (or, at least, historical) writers and other literary or artistic personages:

- A young Alfred de Musset in "carefree dandy" mode

- Charles Nodier, the “old uncle” of the romantic generation

- Marie Mennessier-Nodier, his brilliant daughter

 - Alphonse de Lamartine, the super-famous romantic poet

 - Félix Arvers, a fairly obscure poet who actually wrote one of the most famous sonnets of the period

- The painter François Gérard

- François-René Chateaubriand, another literary giant in a short cameo

 - Honoré de Balzac (who he?)

- And, last but not least, Fortunée Hamelin and Juliette Récamier, two rival Merveilleuses whom Penelope had already met 30 years before, in episode 15.07 (“Incroyable!”)

The story had a decidedly “dark fairy tale” feel, which, BTW, was completely fitting with some of Charles Nodier’s eclectic interests and writings. It revolved around the use of a “magic mirror” by the famous Madame Récamier – a mysterious artefact which somehow kept her from aging… and also absorbed the very existence of the most beautiful young women who came at her salon, erasing them from reality and history!  This “enchanted” item was (as you’ve probably guessed) a leftover gift from the (now dispersed) Marquis de Carabas (see episode 15.07) to the queen of the Directoire’s Merveilleuses. One should always beware of Eternals bearing gifts – but Vanity often has the last word…

Luckily for Penelope, the mirror’s dark powers only affected the so-called Ephemerals, allowing her to put an end to this terrifying nonsense, saving her companion Xara from one of those Fates Worse Than Death and restoring the mirror’s many victims to Reality in the process. It was an interesting story to run; it had no real villain per se (unless you consider the Mirror itself as an opponent) yet conveyed a real sense of menace. It also worked as a nice ominous reminder of the Marquis’ possible return, somewhere in Penelope’s future…

Like the previous episode, this one mixed light-hearted elements with darker themes, ending with some suitably romantic, melancholic undertones. 

Next stop: the Land of Fiction, where Penelope has decided to investigate the mystery of Inspector Javert’s escape to Reality!

PS: Oh… and I’ve found a title for the season: Times & Places (emphasizing the “in the right place at the right time” trope of DW).

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Season 16: Episode 4

Episode 4: The Trip

London, July 1969. While waiting for Man to walk on the Moon for the first time, Penelope and Xara immerse themselves in the vibrant last summer of the sixties, the time of prog rock, peace protests and psychedelic dreams. Meanwhile, in the shared dimensional mindscape of LSD users, Something is collecting souls so that it can Break on Through to the Other Side…


I cooked up this episode a few hours before running it – to replace another scenario that I had in mind and desperately tried to develop before realizing that it would work so much better in another historical setting. But since the 1969 London destination had been decided at the end of our previous session, I felt somewhat obligated to use it.

 I also felt like that, following the quite epic Gilgamesh episode, it would be a good time for a somewhat intimate story, with lot of interactions with NPCs, emotions and reasonably quiet moments (as opposed to another manic, full-throttle race to save the world) and a slightly bittersweet view of the Hippie Age…

After much brainstorming (and some hair-tearing) I finally managed to create a story around an old idea I had discarded some years ago – that of a psychic predator entrapping LSD users in a captive, psychedelic mindscape, feeding on their psyche while they laid in a catatonic state, experiencing the worst acid trip of their lives inside their allegedly extended consciousness – a “drug monster” so to speak (who appeared as the Wizard, a twisted psychedelic version of a circus ringmaster – à la Eddie Izzard in Across the Universe). 

I also wanted to capture the zeitgeist of the period, so I decided to combine the scary parts of the story with various scenes involving pop music, politics, the Revolution and al, with a somewhat feminist subtext – which was quite easy, since Penelope is currently travelling with a younger female companion. That being said, I was not sure how the “psychic nightmare / pop music summer / moon landing” cocktail would work in actual play…

And it worked wonderfully well, with quite a lot of improvisation and off-the-cuff inspiration! The final confrontation between Penelope and the Wizard was especially moving, with our Time Lady managing to free the captive psyches of the entity’s victims by playing “Paint in Black” on a sitar of her own making – with the help of a shard of consciousness from the recently deceased Brian Jones, who had fallen under the thrall of the Wizard at the moment of his tragic death… The perfect coda for our story!

Next stop: Paris, February 1830, to meet Victor Hugo and the young Romantics on the eve of the famous Battle of Hernani!

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Season 16: Episode 3

Episode 3: Living Legend

Uruk, circa 2700 BC. Lady Penelope meets humanity’s oldest mythical hero: King Gilgamesh himself! With the city being besieged by enemy troops and sinister omens, an epic battle awaits, where Penelope, acting as the goddess Ishtar, will face another divine impostor of tremendous power, Kido the Neanderthal will find his true destiny and a myth shall be born! 


This Sumerian episode was inspired by the Timewyrm: Genesys novel featuring the Seventh Doctor – but with some very heavy changes in terms of plot and NPCs. The role of Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s “wild man” friend was (of course) filled by Kido and I made quite a few changes to the main villain’s profile and backstory. Although her physical envelope has been destroyed, her psychic being somehow managed to teleport away (in the vortex?), Eresh (that’s her name) will certainly be back, since she has a lot of potential as a recurring arch-villaines… Last but not least, the story also made heavy use of the decidedly ubiquitous “telluric power” and its connection with Sumerian ziggurats, increasing its “Penelope-ness”, if I may risk such a bold neologism...

Next stop: London in July 1969, at the time of the Apollo 11 Moon landing! 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Season 16: Episodes 1-2

Hello everybody!  We're back!  It’s time for a new series of adventures in time and space, with the 16th season of Lady Penelope’s Odyssey!  Allons-y!

Episode 1: Making Prehistory

Lady Penelope welcomes a new (if familiar) travelling companion on board of the TARDIS: the young tech wiz, temporal refugee and budding ethnologist Xara Anderson, whose family she brought to Avalon (see season 15). And for her first expedition as a fully-fledged time traveller, Xara has chosen to visit the Pleistocene, when Neanderthal Men walk the Earth…

Episode 2: Ziggurat!

Mesopotamia, March 1930. After a failed reunion with Agatha Christie, who has forgotten everything about their encounter in the Land of Fiction, Penelope goes all archaeological, uncovering the true purpose of the Sumerian ziggurats before preventing fanatical agents of the nefarious Vril Society from usurping their dormant power. Watch and learn, Indy!


Since Xara’s desire to become a real time-traveller had been mentioned several times during the previous season, making her a fully-fledged companion seemed like the perfect way to start this new season… As for the plot of this episode, it was (very loosely) inspired by some elements of the DW novel “Only Human” by Gareth Roberts – without the Osterbergers and the Hy-Bractors (which change pretty much everything). After a memorable encounter with a friendly (if awed) tribe of Neanderthals, Penelope and Xara met a trio of very self-righteous, scientifically-inclined and morally-blinkered aliens known as the Progenitors of Klern, devoted to the One Great Task of accelerating the natural evolutionary process of the sentient species they deemed worthy of becoming fully Advanced Cultures.

In the end, Lady Penelope ended up taking up yet another new passenger on board of the TARDIS: an unnaturally “Advanced” Neanderthal man (shades of Nimrod from “Ghost Light” here) called Kido, who could not be allowed to stay among his people without running the risk of derailing the whole (pre)history of mankind… But as we’ll soon see (spoilers!), Kido will soon find a unique destiny somewhere (else) in time…

While Kido was recovering from his cognitive overload in the peaceful environment of the TARDIS, the second episode saw Lady Penelope seek out Agatha Christie in 1930 Iraq – only to discover that the writer had completely forgotten their first encounter, which took place in the Land of Fiction (see HERE for the whole story) so the scenario quickly took an unexpected turn, with Penelope making some fascinating discoveries about Mesopotamian Ziggurats and telluric energy – the “power of the Earth” which has played an important role in our Penelope-verse since our very first season and to which our Time Lady’s seventh incarnation is particularly attuned, since her last regeneration

Next stop: The Sumerian city of Uruk… in the time of the great hero-king Gilgamesh!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Season 15: Episodes 14-15 (Season Finale!)

Episode 14: The Shadow of Death

Lady Penelope reluctantly travels to Gallifrey to bring the estranged Narvin home and discuss the War Lords situation with the Powers That Be… But what should have been a brief (if begrudging) diplomatic visit soon turns into something far more sinister. The shadow of death is hanging over the Time Lords… and the Rani seems to have taken complete control!

Episode 15: Memento Mori

The shadow of death hangs over Gallifrey… As the recently returned Narvin and the members of the Omega Lodge carry out a coup, Penelope uncovers the hidden power behind the Rani’s political intrigue and morphic manipulations – in the person of the (alternate) Master himself, who has once again managed to cheat death. Can the Time Lady beat him at his own game?


It was a great two-part finale, with quite a few moments of intense emotion…  Its theme obviously highlighted the season title (“Regenerations”), with a Master-controlled Rani having managed to rob the Time Lords’ remaining regenerations, suddenly putting them face to face with the spectre of their own mortality and bringing Gallifreyan society to a state of angst-fueled paralysis.


This season finale also allowed us to tie up several ongoing narrative threads regarding the relationships between the Time Lords of Gallifrey and the Time Lords of Avalon, including Lady Penelope’s outspoken hostility toward Gallifrey, Susan’s ambivalent loyalties and the Doctor’s own status as an eternal renegade…


It ended with a “liberated” Gallifrey, thanks to the efforts of Penelope (who will probably never come back to the place...), a nicely plotted coup by Narvin and the Doctor’s own scientific triumph – yes, he did manage to “reverse the polarity” on the Rani’s infernal device and restore the stolen lives of (most of) his former compatriots, before declining the Council’s offer of rulership and flying back to Avalon with Penelope.

THE END - for now!  See you in a few months for Season 16!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Season 15, Episode 13

Episode 13: A Murder in Fiction

Where could Lady Penelope meet Hercule Poirot – as well as three other, somewhat less famous French-speaking master sleuths Jules Poiret, Inspector Hanaud and Hercule Popeau?  Well, in the Land of Fiction of course!  A meta-whodunnit, also featuring Jeeves, Professor X, Socrates the Bulldog (don’t ask), the Butler (of course)… and Agatha Christie herself!

The Land of Fiction was another Second Doctor setting I've been wanting to explore for quite some time - and oddly enough, this episode came right after the one with the Warlords...

As usual, I used my own take on the setting - but this time reinventing it took me quite some time, which is why I didn't run a Land of Fiction-based episode before. I guess I was waiting for the right combination of plot, characters and background... and it just fell into place a few days ago!  

See HERE (on our beloved Doctor Who RPG forum) for a more detailed analysis of my alternate version of the Land of Fiction. 

Some after-play notes: we had a grand time!  During the first half or so of the scenario, Lady Penelope was (understandably) sure she was trapped into some kind of fiendish mind game created by the Marquis de Carabas (see a few episodes ago...), the Toymaker or some similar twisted "playful" entity... and her insistence on derailing the intended plot made the scenario even more comedic and wackier in actual play and also forced (or allowed ?) me to improvise a lot, using various twists of plot, ellipses and other narrative devices as active forces in the story itself, making the whole "Land of Fiction" theme even more relevant.

For example: the plot (as you might have guessed) revolved around the murder of Hercule Poirot, complete with the usual assortment of usual suspects, cryptic clues, hidden agendas, dissonant alibis and mutual accusations. Initially, Poirot was supposed to be found murdered in the library, where he had spent the best part of the night secretly looking for clues... but right from the start, Penelope stated: "A library?  Great!  Murders always take place in libraries!  I'll stay in the library and see what happens..."  So I had to hastily change the intended march of events so that Poirot's murder could take place outside of her sight and this was just one instance of our Time Lady's deliberate plot-jacking. 

Of course, making things happen-as-planned ANYWAY felt unashamedly forced - and would have been quite unsatisfactory in a standard scenario (I usually try to avoid railroading and give the player as much as influence as possible on the unfolding of the plot - something which is probably easier with a single player than with a group)... but since we WERE in the Land of Fiction, such shows of Arbitrary Narrative Force actually enhanced the whole feel of the story and really gave the feeling that Fiction and Reality definitely operated under different rules (no mean feat since any RPG adventure is actually a form of Fiction but I won't go all meta on you...). 

When the story entered its Resolution stage, Penelope had figured out that the true culprit was none other than Agatha Christie, who was fed up with her character (she actually loathed Poirot, whom she once described in an interview as "a little creep")... and the only thing she could do to resurrect Poirot (who had not yet lived some of his greatest adventures) was to persuade the author herself to do so. I had counted on Sylvie's usual flair for emotional dialogue and I can only say that she surpassed herself here. 

She delivered an amazing speech, which felt like a rehearsed and perfectly delivered scene from a play or movie. She spoke about the "Reichenbach precedent" and Conan Doyle's decision to resurrect Holmes, about Molière's "Don Juan", who surpassed all the previous incarnations of the character and proved that imitation could actually spawn literary chefs d'oeuvre (this was about the legitimacy of Poirot as an original character since, as you may know, he was obviously based on previously existing - and now quite forgotten - fictional detectives: Inspector Hanaud, Jules Poiret and the ludicrously-named Hercule Popeau), about Jorge Luis Borges and his labyrnthine libraries... and most of all, she spoke about Poirot as a character, a very moving defence of the Belgian master sleuth's idiosyncrasies, which hid a somewhat darker obsession for justice... 

Well, I was awed. 

See you next week!


Monday, January 18, 2021

Season 15, Episode 12

 Episode 12: The Forgotten Foe

Following the discovery of Narvin’s fob watch in the previous episode, Penelope and Gale (the neo-Time Lady formerly known as Ace) are sent on a very delicate mission (let’s call it diplomacy in enemy territory) to the forgotten, more or less time-locked home planet of the War Lords, more than 100 years have passed since the War Games… A tale of secrets and lies.

So I finally got to run a "return of the Warlords" story - I've been wanting to do this for years and it was (at last) the right time to do so. Sylvie and I had just re-watched "The War Games" so we were in the perfect mood for this one. So what happened to the Warlords during the last 100 years?

Well, cut from the rest of the universe by the Time Lords' barriers, they quickly turned their conquering tendencies against one and another and a global plantetwide civil war soon erupted, with weapons of mass destruction ravaging and poisoning most of the surface and the last, victorious faction living in a force-field-protected bastion. In addition to a semi-amnesiac Narvin (a deep infiltration mission gone wrong because of the distorsions created by the Time War), Penelope also discovered a fully grown,clone-daughter of the War Chief - an intriguing new character who will obviously have some significant impact on the season finale (three episodes left!) - wait and see.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Temporal Toybox is Back... AGAIN!

 Hello everyone

Just a quick note to let you know that The Temporal Toybox, my collection of unofficial, optional and alternate rules for the Doctor Who RPG has just regenerated into its sixth edition!

You can access the new/updated/regenerated version from the link on the left of this page or directly from here:

See you soon for the blurbs of Lady Penelope's latest episodes!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Season 15, Episode 11

Episode 11: Reunion

Following her harrowing encounter with Amekh the Devourer, Penelope decides to take a short holiday with the two Anderson kids on the main island of Shetland, away from all the troubles of time, space and other dimensions. But the past is about to catch up with her, in the most unexpected manner. A tale of (not so) old memories and (not so) new discoveries…

This was a short episode, entirely based on emotion and interaction (as opposed to action, problem-solving and more adventure-oriented stuff) – the kind of scenario you can only play in one-on-one mode and which give the player a unique opportunity to explore the character’s feelings in play, turn some personal “pages”, etc. We really enjoyed this particular, off-beat episode, which followed a classic three acts sequence.

First act: Tourism.

Penelope and the kids simply enjoy the Shetland setting, hiking around, meeting some locals, etc.  

Second act: Unexpected emotional reunion.

Penelope is contacted by Torchwood Shetland (actually a single individual) because “someone wants to see her”. That someone turned out to be Judith, the little girl from Remembrance of the Daleks and from five episodes (and 55 years) ago – now a woman in her seventies. The reunion scene was very moving, highlighting the differences between time travelers and those who “take the Long Way”. The fact that the two Anderson kids were also “Dalek survivors” added a unique touch to the whole thing.

Third act: Setting things in motion for the next episode.

Contacted by her Torchwood Cardiff friends, Lady Penelope is given a very special artifact which was recently washed away from the dormant Rift – a Time Lord fob watch! Back on Avalon, she takes the ominous item to the Doctor, who confirms that it does indeed contain the memories and regeneration energy from a Time Lord and, thanks to his Matrix backup, later identifies this Time Lord as Narvin*, former right-hand man of President Romana and Celestial Intelligence Agency coordinator, declared “missing in action” during the great Time War. Thanks to his unique psychic abilities, Professor Chronotis managed to access the cache of the stored memories and found the when and where (but not the why) of their extraction – for some reason, Narvin last used his (?) Chameleon Arch some time during the Time War, after arriving on a forgotten, forsaken planet - the War Lords’ home world!  

* A character from the Big Finish Gallifrey audiobook series. 

To be continued…


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Season 15, Episode 10

Episode 10: The Dark Pyramid

4124 AD. Professor Svenka Lewis has just made the greatest archaeological find of her life: an authentic Osirian pyramid, lost on a cold and lonely planetoid. Will her friend Lady Penelope and the Count of Saint-Germain arrive in time to prevent the reawakening of Amekh the Devourer, acolyte of Sutekh and Eater of Eternity?


This was the “Osirian tomb” scenario I’d been wanting to run for quite some time now – but I never seemed to find the right moment to weave it in the ongoing continuity of our series. Basically, it was a “mummy’s curse” story – with a terrifying, life-devouring Osirian as the Monster whose sleep should NOT have been disturbed… 

I was a bit uncertain about how it would actually unfold in actual play… Would the horror movie clichés work in play or would they just feel hollow?  Would I manage to maintain dramatic tension throughout the story, albeit its somewhat über-classic and predictable plotline?  I wanted it to be an ordeal for our heroine – as well as to give her the opportunity to show grace under pressure, save lives and use her own unique assets to defeat the dreadful entity (which she did – but more on this later). 

I had ensured that the emotional / personal side of things would be pretty strong right from the start by involving NPCs with whom Penelope had strong ties or, at least, history: as a connoisseur of all things mystical, the Count of Saint-Germain was the one who absolutely insisted that they explored the Osirian pyramid (a curiosity for which he paid a very heavy prize – see below). As for the archaeological team, it was entirely composed of familiar NPCs: professor Svenka Lewis (whom Penelope first met back in season 7…) and three members of the Anderson family (father, mother, daughter) whom Penelope herself had rescued and brought to New Byzantium in the previous season (see episodes 11-12). This lineup really made the stakes personal for Penelope – not just like rescuing some NPCs you meet for the first time and will never see again afterwards…

So how did it work in actual play?  Well, we had a blast. Right from the start, Penelope’s extreme reluctance to disturb anything Osirian created a very strong tension in the dialogue scenes with Saint-Germain and (once they had go to the accursed planetoid) with professor Lewis. Penelope warned them of the danger in very strong terms but she also understood the necessity to uncover a mystery which could well prove even more dangerous if left uninvestigated… And when all hell broke loose, thanks to her presence of mind, she managed to save all of them from the regenerated Amekh – even the poor Saint-Germain, whose life-energy got heavily drained in the process. The Count eventually regenerated (after only a couple of episodes in his first Time Lord incarnation!), having lost two of his future regenerations in the process. This traumatic experience made him far less adventurous – in fact, he has decided to stop travelling and spend his days in his beloved Braxiatel Collection - “travelling” through books and artefacts exclusively.

Thanks to her resourcefulness and a little help from her TARDIS’ resident ghost-in-the-machine, Penelope defeated the horror (using a cleverly inverted version of the Elixir of Life from the Karn Sisterhood) and trapped its disembodied Ka in her fob watch, before bringing it back to the Doctor, who stored it into yet-another-inescapable dimensional cube.

In the end, our Time Lady (who very wisely refrained from yelling “I told you so!” at the others, even though she had been Right All Along) decided to take the whole Anderson family to the safety of Avalon, where they will live with all the other (but mostly Victorian or Edwardian) temporal refugees. As for professor Svenka Lewis, she brought her back to her native 42nd century, after some pretty harsh words (“I never want to see you again!”), followed by a less hostile farewell (“Who knows?  Perhaps our paths will cross again…”).

I was really happy at the way things turned out. We had a very dark, dramatic episode full of tension, tough choices and danger – but which also highlighted Penelope’s increasing wisdom (a noticeable trademark of her current regeneration…) and gave her the opportunity to make some unexpected, season-affecting decisions – bringing the Andersons to Avalon. Next episode: Lady Penelope takes the two Anderson kids to 21st century Earth, to show them how life was on the old planet before mankind took to the stars…