Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Unhelpful Dr Who Radio Times Listing Game

Oh good, it's been long enough since I last wrote an article where I just plugged something into the BBC Genome search to see what I could find that I can do another one -- erm, by which I mean, here's a special New Year's Eve treat. Some of the Radio Times descriptors for episodes of the BBC's popular science fiction serial Doctor Who have tended to be very unhelpful or vague when divorced from the context of the rest of the listing, so I've compiled a list of some and now challenge you, the reader, to tell which episode they're from. All the descriptions are reproduced in their entirety, with answers at the bottom of the post.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Lisa the Pre-Empted

This started out as a Twitter thread, but I reckon I can summarise it better over here...

For the ninth season of The Simpsons, a few episodes were held over from the previous production line, as is the standard practice. For some reason, however, one of the holdovers - "Lisa the Simpson" - seems to have been delayed for an unusually long time.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Just Ask For South By South East... Again

Earlier this month, I went looking for an obscure television series. In fact, it was so obscure, I wasn't absolutely certain it existed. Thanks to the excellent Steve Williams, who dug out his old Radio Times, we now at the very least have definitive proof that it did:

Steve also uploaded the mag's brief interview with Anna Massey and the original listing, which makes him even more excellent than previously described.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Doctor Who: "Twice Upon a Time" Review

Much like the episode that preceded it six months ago, "Twice Upon a Time" is a deeply mixed bag, and in that sense representative of the era it marks an end of. When it's on form, it belongs in the same category as the portrayal of Vincent van Gogh's battle with mental illness. When it isn't, it ranks alongside the revelation that Davros had eyes all along.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Merry Christmas / Long Reads #2

Merry Christmas, one and all! All being well, my review of the Doctor Who Christmas special should be up at some point between broadcast and New Year's Eve. Until then, it's been a few months since I last rounded up all the blog's long (or long-ish) reads, so now seems a good time to do so with the new articles written since then. Take the two posts together for a sort of review of the year, if you like.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Broken Gamebooks #7: Creature of Havoc

There's only one error to discuss here. But it is quite possibly the most celebrated error in the history of interactive fiction in print, and it would be remiss of me to run a series on such errors without including it.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Life is Rough When You Lose Your License

Between 1992 and 2001, the American video game developers Humongous Entertainment cornered the market in point-and-click 'edutainment' computer games aimed at small children. They gave the world Freddi Fish, Spy Fox, Putt-Putt and Pajama Sam, selling over 15 million copies of the games. The games released in the company's heyday have proved so enduring that they're still finding a new audience today, having been re-released on Steam.

In 2001, Humongous' owner ended up in financial straits, and over 40% of its staff were laid off, and the company was sold. The new owners tried their hand at releasing one more game, Pajama Sam 4: Life is Rough When You Lose Your Stuff, which came out in 2003, around two years after the previous Humongous game was released. It does not have a very good reputation.

(Sidenote: There was another game released post-takeover as well which also went down badly, but Life is Rough... came to be seen as emblematic of what went wrong with the takeover, which is why it's better-known in Humongous fan circles. No more point-and-click games were released afterwards, but the company did continue with its Backyard Sports series of sports-simulator games.)

Some of the reasons for why it's so badly remembered are the natural and unavoidable results of the gap in production and change in staff: Sam's new voice actor didn't go down well, for example. They try, actually quite valiantly, to retain the way the previous games looked, but it seems some new graphics engine was being used that stops that from being entirely successful. However, there are other factors at play... ones that definitely were under the makers' control.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Celebratory Niche

Exactly one year ago today (to the minute), the first ever article was posted on Ludicrously Niche (which was then known as Something Witty, since retitled to better reflect the blog's contents). To celebrate, here's the story so far.

The very first article arose out of a discussion with Red Dwarf script editor Andrew Ellard on Twitter about an adventure gamebook he was trying to identify. You can find that discussion here, here and here. I was thus inspired to write about those gamebooks, and needed somewhere on the Internet to discuss it; the blog was thus born with this article. Then I got the idea for something else - reviewing more gamebooks off the back of the first article actually being quite interesting, and then other stuff, such as a game taking the piss out of supporters of Jeremy Corbyn I'd first had the idea for several months previously, and now it finally had a home to go to. I have since managed to keep it updated at least once a week with whatever I've thought of and then subsequently thought "hm, I could get something out of that", mostly to distract myself from the horror of the news. The blog has had over 7,000 pageviews, and only 6,987 of those were me. It's a success!

So, then, just a quick piece to mark the occasion. Much thanks to all the readers, and everyone who's linked to it elsewhere and ensured that I can be sure that at least some of those pageviews are actually real people. Here's to many more posts about broken adventure gamebooks.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Just Ask For South By South East

The year is 1986, and some fourteen years before he invents Alex Rider, one of Anthony Horowitz's first major successes is the first book in the Diamond Brothers series, The Falcon's Malteser. It's successful enough to get a movie adaptation, retitled Just Ask for Diamond, in 1988 (retitled Diamond's Edge in the US).

Horowitz went on to write two more Diamond Brothers books: 1987's Public Enemy Number Two, and 1991's South by South East. (He revisited the series over a decade later for four novellas: 2003's The French Confection, The Blurred Man and I Know What You Did Last Wednesday, and 2007's The Greek Who Stole Christmas. A grand finale to the series, The Radius of the Lost Shark, has been promised since 2003 but has yet to be published, although a short story was published in the Guardian in 2011.)

In 1991, South by South East was adapted as a television serial for ITV (I do not know whether or not it was for CITV specifically) under the title The Diamond Brothers, lasting for six half-hour episodes (they may have skipped Public Enemy Number Two because of concerns over content, and/or because it features several sequences that would be nigh impossible to film). The Diamond Brothers were played by the same actors who played them in the film, Dursley McLinden (also known as Sergeant Mike in the 1988 Doctor Who classic Remembrance of the Daleks) and Colin Dale. And that's virtually all we know about it.