Author: Vinnie Bartilucci

Freelance pontificator - unsubstantiated opinions for a reasonable fee

Supergirl comes to Lego Dimensions…BUT…

LEGO_Dimensions_Supergirl_Playstation_Minifigure_1471253602As part of year two of the popular toys-to-life game Lego Dimensions, the company has announced that Supergirl will be joining her cousin in the DC Comics cast of characters. But that announcement comes with a number of caveats.  The Supergirl minifig will only be made available with new purchases of the starter pack for the game, and only for the PS4 console.

Supergirl will be added to the game for all players as a “Hire a Hero” character, a feature added to the game that allows players to elicit the aid of a virtual version of certain characters at strategic points in the game. This is useful for situations where a character with a particular talent is needed to progress in the game, a character that a particular player may not own.

In addition to her own kryptonian powers and abilities, Supergirl will transform into her Red Lantern form, and gain the abilities of a member of the rage-fueled army from the Green Lantern titles.

Judging from the product shot above, Supergirl has a gold base, a year two feature which will allow the character to play in an “Battle Arena” based on the figure’s adventure world.  So far, only year two figures have been shown to have that feature – this suggests that at least the DC world may have one of these  battle arenas.

UPDATED – WB Games has verified that Supergirl will NOT open up a Battle Arena option:

“only LEGO minifigures included in the wave 6 through 9 expansion packs will unlock a Battle Arena within the Free Play Adventure World of the corresponding entertainment brand.”

Supergirl_RedLantern_Poses_10_1471253510Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has made no information available if there will be a later release of the figure for other players, so for now, if you’ve been playing the game since day one, the physical figure will not be available. Nor will it if you do not own a PS4 system.

This is not the first time such an exclusive offer has been made for this genre of games.  Disney Infinity made a PS4 exclusive version of Boba Fett available at launch of the Star Wars update of the game. However, they made it clear that the figure would become available later in the year for other players. And it was – shortly before the line was cancelled.

The Supergirl-exclusive PS4 starter packs will release in late September, to tie into year two of the Lego Dimensions line, which includes Sonic the Hedgehog.

Did the UK Mirror just post the most ridiculous Doctor Who rumor ever?

Let me tell you about how you generate clickbait. You start off by making the story about either a celebrity, TV show, or popular topic that will attract people’s attention. Then you string together enough facts and quotes vaguely connected to the idea that you can make the article more than three paragraphs long. THEN, (and this one is key) you make the headline a question.  So you’re not saying “This is a fact”, or even the increasingly popular “Sources report this as a fact”, but merely “Could this possibly be a fact?” Because then in the story, you can say that it’s probably just flummery.

To summarize: if a news report, especially one on the electric type Internet, has a question as the headline, the answer to said question is almost certainly…

OfCourseNot

I’m going to get a lot of use of this graphic, I can tell you. (Thanks to Frinkiac)

So when I tell you that the Mirror Online posted an article titled “ Can Matt Smith be the first Doctor Who to regenerate as himself?“, can you guess where I stand on the question?

In the article, they reference several quotes from Matt Smith where he says he’s sometimes sorry he left the show, and hopes to come back to it some day, and one from Moffat where he says he misses his collaborator.

Add in the rumor that Capaldi is touted to leave at the end of the next season (ANOTHER story with no basis in fact, mind) and somehow, that means Matt is coming back.

This is another example of nobody being willing to say “No” to a story, because that ends the buzz.  As soon as someone denies something categorically, that’s the end of them being on everyone’s lips.  So when Joe Thespian gets rumored for a role in a Marvel film, he doesn’t say “that’s not true, there’s been to talks at all”, he says “Well, I can’t say anything more definitive about it, but it’d certainly be nice.”

OK, yes, they dropped the idea in the 50th anniversary episode, with the appearance of “The Curator” that the Doctor might someday “re-visit” his past incarnations in the future.

Yes, we’ve seen past Doctors return to the show, but as “themselves”, not somehow returning to their past forms in the current timeline. And yes, the idea of a regeneration into a past form is a tantalizing idea for a story.

But there is one, VERY important thing to remember.

If there is one thing that is nearly universally named as the show’s perfect idea, it is the idea that Regeneration is the most innovative concept ever. It allows the show to renew itself every few years, more than simply a change in producers or show-runners ever could.  By putting a new lead actor (yes, or actress, let’s not get distracted here) in the title role (look at me, I’m so incensed I’ve even passed up a chance to use the word “titular”) it give the show a chance to become something utterly new. Don’t care for the current guy? No worries, there’ll be another one along in a few years, come back and check him out.

Circling back to a past actor, in any permanent fashion, would be the ultimate admission that the show has run out of ideas. People get upset when the Daleks or Cybermen come back again, imagine the reaction if they rolled the clock back to an old Doctor.

It’s why the Big Finish audio plays are such a hit.  Want more Peter Davison as the Doctor? Here’s dozens of them.  We’ve seen Paul McGann, David Tennant, and even Tom Baker return.  Matt will almost certain do some. There’s your “more Matt” stories.

But on the TV show? In any permanent way? No.

Right?

Please tell me I’m right.

Dammit, you you’ve got me thinking about it…

(Writer’s note – the headline of this article was originally submitted as “UK Mirror floats Doctor Who rumor so stupid I’m not even putting it in the headline, clicks-through or no”)
Is fandom “entitled”? A history of fan-made material

Is fandom “entitled”? A history of fan-made material

Star Wars Meets Star TrekFor those who came in late, a bunch of fans crowdsourced the funds to make a Star Trek fan film, Axanar. The funding campaign was outrageously successful, earning over 1.1 million dollars. That large an amount of money set off Paramount’s sensor array, and they quickly filed suit against said fans for unauthorized use of trademarked items. The folks behind Axanar counter-sued, claiming Paramount didn’t have hold of all the items they claimed.  It was going to get testy (and potentially untenable for Paramount if any of the points made in the counter-suit were deemed valid) until J.J. Abrams stepped in and convinced Paramount to calm down.

In response to said events, this week Paramount released a series of guidelines that fan films must follow in order to stay on the right side of the law, or at least on the right side of Paramount’s battery of white-lipped attorneys. Some of those rules are quite reasonable – the producers of the films can’t make merchandise of their property, and Paramount wrote up a paragraph of verbiage the producers must include in the film’s credits.  Some of the rules are a bit more stringent – the films can’t be more than 15 minutes long, and nobody in the production can have any “professional credits”.  That second one is drawing a number of eyes – some are arguing that it could mean you’re not allowed to use union workers for the production crew, something the unions will likely have something to say about.

Now, the real problem here is that for years there was an unspoken “line” to determine what was considered acceptable by fans’ creations. The exact details were never set in stone, but centered around basic ideas like “don’t make too much money, don’t do anything particularly untoward with the property,” and so on.  While the exact location and cartography of the line may not be known, it’s pretty obvious that Axanar crossed it miles back.  This was no simple pack of fan on cardboard sets and an eight-millimeter camera – the film (and its short prequel) had professional actors, some who had not only appeared on Trek before, but ones like Gary Graham who were actually portraying characters they had played on the actual shows.  The producers of Axanar had stated that in addition to making this film, they were effectively setting up a movie studio, dedicated to making more features in the same vein. So basically, they broke the “don’t make too much money” rule before they even stepped on the set.

These new “guidelines” are far stricter than what was allowed before, and are clearly in response (Retaliation? Perhaps…) to the liberties taken by the Axanar team.  To make an example, an apartment house has a tacit agreement that nobody can play their stereos above six, and even though people were playing them at seven or eight, nobody was complaining. But one guy threw a party and turned his stereo to ten, and the landlord had to step in and put his foot down, so now everyone has to keep their stereo at four.

There have been many conversations about the new rules online – many saw it as a potential death-blow to the staggeringly popular Star Trek Continues series, an acclaimed web series which was likewise inspired by another fan production, Starship Farragut. Another fan production, Renegades, simply announced they planned to excise all Trek references in its new production and become a completely new franchise.

But it was a conversation with an online friend that I found the most interesting.  He described fans who wanted to make amateur films as “entitled”.  That they somehow thought they had the right to make their own versions of other people’s IP and share them with the world. To say that I disagreed with him is an understatement.

First off, let’s look at the history of fandom… starting with the Epic of Gilgamesh.

You heard me.

The classic epic poems could arguably be described as the first fan fiction.  The stories were created by persons (largely) unknown, re-told and embellished by countless other creators.  The versions we know were assembled from various bits and bobs by people who usually ended up getting credit for “writing” them, though you could make a case that “editor” was a better description.

Jumping ahead centuries, Sherlock Holmes had its share of fan fiction. When Arthur Conan Doyle decided to stop writing about Holmes (because apparently he got tired of money) the fans rose to the cause. Doctor Who fans kept the flame alive during The Dark Years with fan productions like PROBE and the audio plays of BBV, which eventually became the official audio plays by Big Finish.  Indeed, many of the people who worked on those fan productions went on to create for the new series.

Entitled?  Hardly.  Dedicated, committed, even? Absolutely.

The big change between the fan films of past decades and those of today is technology.  Thirty years ago, such films were only seen at conventions, often in people’s hotel rooms.  Save for a copy of a copy of a VHS tape, there was no way to obtain one for yourself.  So too for fanzines – stories and art got a hundred or so copies made, which were hawked at conventions, eventually selling through their single print run, never to be heard of again.  Now, literally anyone can film an adventure in 4K quality, with cinema-quality effects, and make it available globally with the click of a button. This makes these fans no more “entitled” than the fans of yore, it just makes them a lot easier to get recognition. Indeed, many times these fan productions catch the eyes of the official producers in a positive way. A fan-made opening for Doctor Who was considered such a good idea, they got a hold of him and used the idea for the series’ new opening titles.

But at the core is that Line. It was virtually impossible to make money on fan material back in the day – it’s almost difficult NOT to now.  But still, for the most part, the desire of the fan is not to make money, but to share their love for the property, and show off their own ideas and jokes.  We’ve seen entire video games created by fans based on their favorite shows and movies.  The sheer breadth of creativity by the fans of the world’s various popular properties likely outstrips the original works by an order of magnitude.

But I don’t know of many fans who think they have a “right” to do so.

When a company steps up and points out a fan project that crosses the line, there is usually a hue and/or cry to some degree.  People will claim the company has “gotten greedy”, and there will be some muted mumblings of boycotts, but in almost all cases, the item in question has simply stepped past that Line, and pretty much deserved to get hit with the ban-hammer.  And in the cases where they weren’t, so far, cooler heads have prevailed.  I’ve talked in the past about the Harry Potter Website scare.  When the HP books (and especially the films) became popular, fan websites proliferated, with various names that used terms and phrases from the series.  And someone in the Warner Brothers legal department thought these sites would cause the downfall of the franchise, and the Cease and Desist orders went out like the exact opposite of Hogwarts acceptance letters. And the news articles began to appear about ten-year-olds getting threatening legal letters, and there was much clicking of tongues, and Warner Brothers quietly waved their hand and the complaints were cancelled.

It’s always been a dance between creator and fandom.  The creators know they owe their fans for the money they’ve paid into the property, and respect their desire to want to play in their garden. The challenge has been in making sure nobody goes too far with their work, and have it potentially become a challenge to the original.  In the age of the electric-type internet, that’s becoming more possible.

We’re starting to see amazing new ways that fans and originators can co-operate.  Cartoon Network just announced a program where they’d work with fan artists to turn their creations into limited run officially licensed items. The fans get both major recognition for their work, and a few dollars to boot, and the creators get to wet their beak, and maintain control of the property.

In a very real way, these rules set forth by Paramount are a GOOD thing.  Strict tho they may be, they set up an actual set of rules that fan creations can follow. The Line is now LITERALLY drawn, which means there’s less chance of stepping over it in error.

Lego Dimensions 2016: Sonic The Hedgehog, New Ghostbusters, Spielberg and more

Any worries that Lego Dimensions might not go big with their second year were unfounded— LEGO Dimensions packs based on 16 new entertainment properties will begin launching on September 27, 2016, including the new Ghostbusters film, both Harry Potter and the new spin-off film Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and a certain fleet footed spiny mammal of the subfamily Erinaceinae.

The new properties come from all forms of media, including many newcomers to the building toy line:

THERE’s one ring Sonic won’t drop!

  • The Goonies
  • Gremlins
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Sonic The Hedgehog
  • Knight Rider
  • The A-Team
  • Mission: Impossible
  • Ghostbusters
  • Beetlejuice
  • Teen Titans Go!
  • The Powerpuff Girls
  • Adventure Time
  • Harry Potter
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Lego also supports its own properties with The LEGO Batman Movie and their own original videogame and kit line LEGO® City Undercover.

The gameplay will be expanding as well. All-new Battle Arenas will offer first-to-LEGO videogames competitive split-screen local gameplay for up to four players. LEGO minifigures included in the wave 6 through 9 expansion packs will come with special, golden Toy Tags which unlock a Battle Arena within the Free Play Adventure World of the corresponding entertainment brand.  Each Battle Arena has four different gameplay modes and comes with its own traps, special powers and interactive environments that make every battle arena unique.

The new Ghostbusters Story Pack, based on the upcoming film, will provide a complete movie-based gameplay experience with six puzzle-packed levels and new LEGO Gateway bricks that allow players to build Zhu’s Chinese Restaurant atop the LEGO Toy Pad.  It will also come with a buildable Abby Yates LEGO minifigure with Proton Blaster, and a 3-in-1 buildable Ecto-1 which can be rebuilt into the Ectozer and The PerfEcto.

The pack unlocks “Rip,” a new Toy Pad mode allowing players to tear open an alternate universe. In this mirror world, players have the ability to solve puzzles and affect objects and other items in the primary universe. And like all gold-tag minifigures purchased, Abby Yates provides access to a new themed Adventure World with its own unique Battle Arena.

The Ghostbusters Story Pack is just the first of this new exciting pack type, with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, based on the highly anticipated theatrical release, still to come later this year.  The LEGO DIMENSIONS packs will be the exclusive construction toy offering this holiday for the exciting expansion of J.K Rowling’s Wizarding World.

Clone Wars, Rebels and more in LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens

lswtfa_boxart3Details about upcoming DLC for the already hotly awaited LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens will make fans of the franchise’s various animated series very happy.  Lego announced that available DLC character packs will include characters from Star Wars: Rebels and Clone Wars, as well as characters from the upcoming series Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, premiering June 20th on Disney XD.

The new Star Wars game takes a page from the LEGO Marvel’s Avengers game by offering a season pass packed tighter than a smuggler’s storage bay, offering extra levels for the main characters of the game, as well as sets of characters from other trilogies and the animated series.

The Season Pass features three brand new Level Packs that extend the LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens adventure with exciting new content not seen in the movie. Each add-on pack will allow players to experience key events from the film in different ways, including Poe Dameron’s journey back to the Resistance base after crash landing on Jakku, the assault on Maz Kanata’s castle through the eyes of Kylo Ren and the collapse of Starkiller Base from the perspective of two Resistance pilots. The Season Pass will also include five (5) Character Packs featuring well-known Star Wars heroes, villains and Droids.

The LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Season Pass will be available for $9.99 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Steam (Windows PC). Players can also purchase each DLC Pack individually for $2.99 each. As an added bonus, Season Pass holders will gain exclusive access to The Jedi Character Pack, which will be available at launch on June 28, 2016.

The level packs are:

Poe’s Quest for Survival Level Pack

  • A whole new adventure following Poe Dameron’s journey back to the Resistance base. After his daring escape from the First Order that left him stranded on Jakku, Poe must search for BB-8 and locate a ship to escape the desert planet in an effort to find his way home.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Naka Lit, Ohn Gos, Poe Dameron (Jakku), Strus Clan Leader, Strus Clan Raider, Strus Clan Speeder (Full-size Vehicle), Strus Clan Speeder (Microfighter Vehicle)

First Order Siege of Takodana Level Pack

  • Experience the thrilling assault on Maz Kanata’s castle in a new way. Storm the shores of Takodana with Kylo Ren and the First Order in a quest to capture Rey and BB-8 to crush the Resistance forever.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Jashco Phurus, Rosser Weno, Strono “Cookie” Tuggs, Thromba, Laparo, Jakku Freighter (Full-size Vehicle), Jakku Freighter (Microfighter Vehicle)

Escape from Starkiller Base Level Pack

  • After crash landing on the surface of Starkiller Base, join the battle from the perspective of two Resistance pilots. With the help of a loyal astromech droid, outmaneuver the First Order to escape the planet before it explodes.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: C’ai Threnalli, Colonel Datoo, Lieutenant Rodinon, Lt Wright, R3-Z3, Assault Walker (Full-size Vehicle), Assault Walker (Microfighter Vehicle)

LSW_SeasonPassKeyArt_1464246435

The season pass will also feature five character packs:

The Jedi Character Pack – Season Pass Exclusive / Available June 28, 2016

  • Features powerful members of the Jedi Order. Available exclusively to Season Pass owners.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Aayla Secura, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Kit Fisto, Luminara Unduli, Mace Windu, Plo Koon, Saesee Tiin, Shaak Ti, Jedi Interceptor (Full-size Vehicle), Jedi Interceptor (Microfighter Vehicle)

The Prequel Trilogy Character Pack

  • Play as select characters from Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Anakin Skywalker (Damaged), Captain Panaka, Darth Maul, Jango Fett, Jar Jar Binks, Padmé Naberrie, Watto, Zam Wesell, Naboo Starfighter (Full-size Vehicle), Naboo Starfighter (Microfighter Vehicle)

The Freemaker Adventures Character Pack

  • Showcases the galaxy’s bravest family of scavengers from the upcoming LEGO animated series, debuting June 20th on Disney XD.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Baash (Iktotchi), Graballa the Hutt, Kordi Freemaker, Naare, Raam (Iktotchi), Roger (Battle Droid), Rowan Freemaker, Zander Freemaker, Star Scavenger (Full-size Vehicle), Star Scavenger (Microfighter Vehicle)

Star Wars: Rebels Character Pack

  • Play as the crew of the Ghost from the popular Disney XD animated series.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Ahsoka Tano, Chopper, Ezra Bridger, Hera Syndulla, Kanan Jarrus, Sabine Wren, Seventh Sister Inquisitor, Zeb Orrelios, Ghost (Full-size Vehicle), Ghost (Microfighter Vehicle)

The Clone Wars Character Pack

  • Exciting characters from the acclaimed animated series.
  • Playable characters and vehicles include: Asajj Ventress, Aurra Sing, Barriss Offee, Cad Bane, Captain Rex, Commander Cody, Hondo Ohnaka, Savage Opress, Republic Gunship (Full-size Vehicle), Republic Gunship (Microfighter Vehicle)

In addition, people who buy the Deluxe edition of the game will receive early access to a sixth character featuring characters from The Empire Strikes Back, better known as “that really old movie on the snow planetwith the walking thingies” by a young super-hero from Queens (who, coincidentally, also got his own free DLC pack for Marvel’s Avengers this week).

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released on June 28, 2016. For the timing and release of all other DLC content, keep an eye on the LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channels for details.

New “Doctor Who” companion to be revealed during Match of the Day

PanicMoonThe BBC have announced that the identity of the newest Companion for the record-breaking science fiction series Doctor Who will be announced Saturday, April 23rd, live on BBC One’s Match of the Day. During half-time of the FA Cup semi-final between Everton and Manchester United, the BBC will announce the name of the new actor to join Peter Capaldi on the TARDIS.

With the return of the series in 2005, each new face to join the series has been met with an increasing sense of occasion.  Peter Capaldi’s announcement, for example, was announced in a global simulcast. Each castmember has been shrouded in secrecy previous to their introduction.  When Karen Gillan was auditioning for her role, she was told to use the code name “Panic Moon”, an anagram of “Companion”. Jenna Coleman had to tell people she was auditioning for “Men on Waves”, an anagram for “Woman Seven”.

Things have changed greatly for Who-lumni in the modern era — typecasting is largely a thing of the past. Like the role of The Doctor, a spot as Companion can have an amazing effect on an actor’s cache. Karen Gillan has landed roles in numerous series on both sides of the proverbial (forgive me) Pond, including Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Jenna Coleman will soon be playing Queen Victoria, and Noel Clarke (Morty Mickey Smith in series one) has become an established director with films like Kidulthood.

With Match of the Day‘s kickoff scheduled for 5:15, half-time is expected at about 6PM. The BBC will also share the news on their various social media sites, followed immediately by a worldwide flurry of Googling and IMDBing the new actor for their resume, to see how long ago they showed up on Eastenders.

Doctor Who will be making only one dramatic appearance this year, the Christmas special, followed by a proper season 10 in 2017, which has already been announced to be showrunner Steven Moffat’s last.  Rumors still abound as to Peter Capaldi’s future with the series after said season.

Sylvia Anderson, Supermarionation co-producer, dies at 88

Sylvia

Sylvia Anderson oversees a design meeting for Stingray.

Sylvia Anderson, co-producer of the iconic Supermarionation series including Thunderbirds, passed away at her home in Berkshire at the age of 88, after a brief illness.

Her daughter Dee Anderson said of her, “Her intelligence was phenomenal but her creativity and tenacity unchallenged. She was a force in every way,”

Sylvia worked with her husband Gerry on all of their puppet shows, becoming a co-producer starting with Stingray.  She voiced numerous characters for the shows, but is best known for portraying International Rescue’s London Operative, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward in the classic series Thunderbirds.

Her ex-husband Gerry passed away in 2012 after a battle with Alzheimer’s.  The production company named after him recently produced three new episodes of Thunderbirds in the classic Supermarionation style, using soundtracks of audio plays released on record during the show’s original run.  Sylvia made a return to the franchise via the new CGI series Thunderbirds Are Go, playing Lady Penelope’s (now voiced by Rosamund Pike) Great Aunt Sylvia.  Sylvia was one of two members of the original cast to return for the series, along with David Graham, reprising his role of Parker.

Moffat leaving Doctor Who after series 10, at end of 2017…wait, what?

tumblr_mqgokqpiCp1qka8b1o1_1280And there was much rejoicing.

In an emotional rollercoaster of announcements, the BBC revealed that showrunner Steven Moffat would be leaving Doctor Who after series 10, which they then announced would not begin until Spring 2017.  The only new episode for 2016 will be the Christmas special.

Steven’s shoes will be filled by Chris Chibnall, far from a stranger to the series. In addition to numerous episodes of the series including the “mini-sode series” Pond Life, he’s written many episodes of Torchwood, and most recently was the creator and showrunner of the mystery series Broadchurch, starring David Tennant and many other Who-lumni.

Chibnall said, “Doctor Who is the ultimate BBC program: bold, unique, vastly entertaining, and adored all around the world. So it’s a privilege and a joy to be the next curator of this funny, scary and emotional family drama. I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was four years old, and I’m relishing the thought of working with the exceptional team at BBC Wales to create new characters, creatures and worlds for the Doctor to explore. Steven’s achieved the impossible by continually expanding Doctor Who’s creative ambition, while growing its global popularity. He’s been a dazzling and daring showrunner, and hearing his plans and stories for 2017, it’s clear he’ll be going out with a bang. Just to make my life difficult.”

Moffat is not without comment either – “Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”

While a year without Doctor Who seems an interminable punishment, one must remember that 2016 will bring us the spin-off series Class.  Written by noted young adult author Patrick Ness, very little is known about the series yet, save for it’s set at Coal Hill School, where the series got it its start, and made quite the return to with Clara Oswald and the late lamented Danny Pink as a teacher. BBC America has announced that they’ll be carrying the series, which begins filming this spring.

Steven Moffat’s run on Doctor Who has been met with…shall we say “mixed” reviews, with wildly varied opinions on his handling of the character and the universe.  While there will likely be cheering from certain circles, one must remember that it was his contributions, both as writer and showrunner, that made the show a truly global phenomenon.

New Doctor Who spin-off, “CLASS”, announced for BBC Three

This scene will likely not happen in the new show.

Doctor Who is going back to school. BBC announced today a new spin-off for the popular series, aimed at young adults, and written by noted YA author Patrick Ness. Titled Class, the show will take place at Coal Hill School, historic location of the series, and feature the students facing threats from across space and time.

Set in contemporary London. Incredible dangers are breaking through the walls of time and space, and with darkness coming, London is unprotected. With all the action, heart and adrenalin of the best YA fiction (Buffy, Hunger Games), this is Coal Hill School and Doctor Who like you’ve never seen it before.

Steven Moffat, who will executive-produce the show, says: “No one has documented the dark and exhilarating world of the teenager like Patrick Ness, and now we’re bringing his brilliant storytelling into Doctor Who. This is growing up in modern Britain – but with monsters!”

Coal-hill-school-650x364Coal Hill School was the site of the first Doctor Who adventure, An Unearthly Child – The Doctor’s granddaughter Susan was attending the school, and endlessly impressed and confused her teachers with both her knowledge and naivete.  Those teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, blundered into the Doctor’s mysterious TARDIS and became his first companions on the show.  In the modern series, Clara Oswald is a teacher there, and the selfsame Ian Chesterton is now chairman of the school’s Governors.  We’ve already met several precocious students at the school who we can only hope and pray will make an appearance in the series, including future president of the Earth Courtney Woods (Kill the Moon), and little Maebh and fellow members of the school’s Gifted program (In the Forest of the Night).

We’ve seen a few spin-offs of the main Doctor Who series.  Elizabeth Sladen starred in the first, the one-shot pilot K-9 and Company, but it wasn’t till decades later that she got that series order, with The Sarah Jane Adventures.  Torchwood, aimed at an older audience, got its name from an anagram hastily contrived to hide the name of the actual show being filmed before the new series first aired, and went on to be a hit in its own right, both in the UK and the US.  For a brief period of time, Who-fen never had to wait for more than a handful of weeks before a Who-related series aired.

Who_is_Patrick_Ness__Meet_the_man_behind_the_new_Doctor_Who_spin_off_ClassPatrick Ness, described by John Green as ‘an insanely beautiful writer’, is author of nine books, including six bestselling and critically acclaimed YA novels. He has written the screenplay for his own novel, A Monster Calls, which has been filmed for release in 2016 and stars Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones.

The new series will film next year, to debut on BBC Three, the digital/online channel later in 2016.  No details have been revealed if the episodes will overlap with the next series of Doctor Who, or which, if any characters from the main show will appear.

REVIEW: “LEGO Dimensions” is Endless Fun, Some Assembly Required

Lego_Dimensions_PS4_Box_Cover[1]The Lego series of video games has been top-notch quality since its first installment, and has gone to strength to strength.  When the announcement came earlier in the year that they were throwing their small plastic hat into the “Toys to Life” ring, competing with games like Disney INfinity and Skylanders, interest was high.  As reports came out as to which of their licenses would be available in the game, that interest sailed even higher. Confounding the old belief that “It can’t be that good”, LEGO Dimensions is a perfect mix of the Lego game franchise, that the company have been doing for years, with the interactivity and variety of the collectible figures and vehicles that the company have been doing for decades.

Of all the unique things the game brings to the table is the play pad itself.  Like Disney and Skylanders, figures are placed on the pad to bring them into the video game, but unlike the other games, its use doesn’t end there.  The pad is an interactive part of the gameplay – the figures can be moved from spot to spot on the pad to give the characters special powers, and on certain levels, to solve puzzles to move forward in the game.  The figures are themselves true Lego toys – minifigures for the playable characters, and their vehicles can be re-built in three unique forms, each with unique powers and abilities. Also, Lego promises that the game pad will never need upgrading, even as more gameplay and functionality is added to the game. So while the initial investment is the highest of the three big Toys to Life – its starter set is $100 – you won’t need to re-purchase it when “version 2.0” is released.

Not only is Doctor Who in the game, ALL the Doctors are in the game, each with their own TARDIS interior.

Not only is Doctor Who in the game, ALL the Doctors are in the game, each with their own TARDIS interior.

The game is at its core another solid addition to the Lego series, following the standard process of keeping the best gameplay mechanics while adding new ones, all over a solid and hilarious storyline. This one features a new bad guy, Lord Vortech (voiced by, would you believe it, Gary Oldman) who is seeking the “Prime Elements”, with which he will, dare I say it, rule the world.  Or should say, the multiverse, as his plan is to merge all the various dimensions of reality.

Those dimensions are, of course, the various licenses Lego has collected over the years, and quite a few more.  Like The Lego Movie, the game is a mad mishmosh of worlds and characters – the main playable characters from the starter set are Batman, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, and WildStyle from The Lego Movie. The main game brings you through all the worlds of the game, including The Simpsons, Doctor Who, Portal, and The Wizard of Oz, as well as Lego’s own franchises Legends of Chima, Ninjago, and the aforementioned film. Each level features the same staggering replay value of any Lego game – certain areas of the game are only available by using the skill of particular characters – the only difference being that while in the regular games, those characters are collected by playing through the game, here they are obtained by purchasing the character figures in either a fun pack, or a Level Pack, which also includes access to a completely separate game level than is included in the base game.  With only a couple exceptions, the various powers are available from characters in various franchises, giving the player great flexibility as to their purchases.

Batman meets Bartman? Done!

Batman meets Bartman? Done!

The voice cast for the game is staggering, with many original actors returning to voice their plastic counterparts.  The cast of Doctor Who voice their characters, Christopher Lloyd is back as Doc Brown in the Back to the Future levels, and Chris Pratt plays two roles – Emmett from The Lego Movie and Owen Grady from Jurassic World. Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson return for the Ghostbusters levels – veteran voice artist Frank Welker steps in for the role of Peter Venkman, as well as Fred Jones and Scooby Doo.

The writing is as spectacular as any Lego game. With tongue firmly in cheek, the characters quip their way through outlandish adventures and difficult (but not impossible) boss battles.  The gameplay will be immediately familiar to the veteran Legoist, and the new twists of the play pad keep you on your toes as you shift the characters about while you play.

There are releases planned for the game well into next year, including more characters for Doctor Who, and a whole world dedicate to Midway video games.  While they have made no official announcements, the developers hope to add new worlds into the game – the sheer number of licenses the company makes as Lego figures could provide new content for literally years. But just what’s out and coming soon makes this a game that will keep the game player busy, and the toy collector happy.