Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Star Wars: How the Rebels might have won the Battle of Hoth

Of all the events in the Star Wars saga, the Battle of Hoth is simultaneously one of the most perplexing and mesmerizing things ever created. On the one hand, its sheer scale, technical displays and the conflict in question are things to be held in awe. On the other though, it was a massive tactical blunder by both sides. This would need a whole article unto itself to fully explore, but the short version is that the Rebellion put all its eggs in one basket, while the Empire managed to do little to really ensure the capture of their leaders.

However, there's a question I have heard many, many times recently which is quite interesting: Could the Rebels have won the Battle of Hoth? In short - No. There were too many Imperial forces on and surrounding the planet to truly defend it. Yet, in looking back, there is far more they could have done to ensure that the Empire paid a much higher price for its victory.

As such, the following document is an in-universe look into the tactics and ideas I personally think could have been used to save them, or at least rob the Empire of its true victory on that world.


Situational Analysis

Echo Base will fall within the day. Despite its defences the Rebellion has neither the
manpower or facilities to prevent a full scale ground invasion by an Imperial assault force, or
prevent the Empire attaining orbital supremacy. Our only solution is to evacuate at full
speed, using our more direct assets to escalate area denial and slow their assault.

We can expect a primarily ground based assault. While the sub-zero temperatures prevent
us from deploying X-Wings in extensive atmospheric engagements, this same issue hinders
the deployment of the Empire’s TIEs. Though limited in number, this will leave atmospheric
dominance uncontested by our T-47 airspeeders. As a result of this, all remaining starfighter
assets will be dedicated to defending the GR-75 transports as they break atmosphere and
make the jump to hyperspace.

Due to the abrupt arrival of the enemy task force within sensor range, we have been given a
short time to prepare for the enemy attack and to further reinforce our defences.

Primary Objectives:
● Defend Echo Base until its personnel have been completely evacuated and all GR-75
transports can be launched.
● Defend the Shield Generator from enemy forces, prevent it being destroyed or
rendered inoperable.
Secondary Objectives:
● Defend the Ion Cannon from enemy forces, prevent it being destroyed or rendered
● Defeat or destroy the Imperial task force.

Battlefield Map

Enemy Task Force Strength (Approximate)

While no exact numbers can be attained on the enemy strength, from the size of the enemy
fleet and typical Imperial responses to our bases we have judged the size and disposition of
the attacking force as follows:
● 5 All Terrain-Armoured Transports
● 12 All Terrain-Scout Transports
● 2 HAVw A6 Juggernaut
● 5,000 Imperial Stormtroopers

We predict that the Stormtroopers deployed will belong to the 501st legion thanks to the
presence of a Super Star Destroyer among the enemy fleet. The presence of AT-AT walkers
will be their greatest asset above all else, as we have little to no conventional weapons
which can directly harm them. Most of the primary armour along the head and main body of
these machines is impervious to blaster fire from both ground and airborne assets, and the
T-47s direct weapons will likely lack the firepower needed to truly harm these vehicles.

By remaining in close proximity to the AT-ATs, the enemy task force will be able to benefit
from an advancing wedge of impervious armour and considerable firepower. While they will
likely remain within close proximity to these machines, the AT-ST and Juggernaut assault
vehicles may advance forwards, to help bring down our forwards lines and deploy troops into
our trenches. This would in turn provide the 501st a means to more rapidly advance directly
into the main hangers and Echo Base itself, using the network to bypass the majority of our

The speed in which this force can advance cannot be underestimated. Despite their
lumbering nature, AT-ATs can maintain a constant momentum and weather firepower which
would fell lesser vehicles, and they can outrun most of our troops on foot.

As a final note, intelligence estimates from the landing pattern of the shuttles and their
positions on our sensors they will likely attack from across Zone 12. The regions either side
of Echo Base are too exposed and too potentially unstable. Even with their all-terrain
capabilities, the walkers would be at risk of stumbling thanks to sustained fire against the
ground surrounding them.

Echo Base Defensive Forces

● Corona Squadron in 9 T-47 airspeeders
● Rogue Squadron in 9 T-47 airspeeders
● 20 DF.9 Turrets
● 14 1.4 FD P-Tower laser cannons
● 2,700 Troopers

In terms of equipment, armour and conventional firepower we are outmatched. Even without
the supporting vehicles, the AT-ATs alone would tear through trench after trench with little
opposition, and the 501st are combat veterans without equal. A number of their soldiers fought in the Clone Wars itself, and their nickname of Vader’s Fist is well deserved.
However, despite this we do have several benefits the Imperials lack: Air dominance, time to
prepare and Echo Base itself.

Without TIE variants to accompany this task force, and without devoted anti-air units, our
T-47s will remain uncontested in the skies. This will allow them to pick off ground targets at
their leisure, and more rapidly respond to breakthroughs in our lines; an aspect which will be
especially beneficial to exploiting the limited maneuverability of the Imperial vehicles.

As for Echo Base’s defenses, while they lack the ability to truly damage heavy armour they
have been expertly planned out. The distance between defensive lines along with their
construction on elevated terrain will allow for each trench to support one another. All four will
be capable of firing on enemy targets as they arrive, and use targeting data from our
foremost lines to home in on enemy targets. Their placement also allows our troops to more
readily fall back and regroup as the Stormtroopers maintain their assault, dragging out and
weakening their relentless advance one line at a time.

Echo Base’s store rooms provide us with a number of assets and munitions which will
greatly assist our troops in defending this territory. Given the rushed nature of the
evacuation, we cannot hope to store everything on the escaping ships, and what little time
we have before the battle will be devoted to adapting and using anything we have on hand
for this conflict. We can predict where the Imperials will strike from, and prepare a number of
traps to hinder their effectiveness. While all involvement of our starfighters will be limited to
covering escaping vessels, their ammunition supplies would be of great use to our troops.
We may not be able to deploy Y-Wing or X-Wing squadrons against the Imperials, but their
proton torpedoes and bombs can still be of use to us.

Pre-Combat Preparations

Given the size and nature of the invasion force, Corona Squadron is to perform a series of
brief recon flights over the nearby areas surrounding Echo Base. While the primary invasion
force has been sighted, and a single massive strike would benefit the Empire, we will not risk
losing this conflict by overlooking a smaller force accessing a secondary entrance. As such,
all rear and secondary access tunnels are to be sealed or rigged for detonation by all
available soldiers. The use of HX2 antipersonnel explosives, LX-1 laser-flechette explosives,
I.M. mines, and similarly small scale anti-infantry weapons have been permitted to block
choke points.

Mines are also to be deployed along the areas surrounding the outermost trench, with
several high explosive yield variants to be hidden surrounding Echo Station Beta. A number
of LX-4 proton mines (repurposed from starfighter munitions) have been reserved for this
defensive effort, along with several additional proton torpedo warheads from the X-Wing
ammo stocks. Several are to be placed within Echo Station Beta itself, with the others
distributed towards the northern and eastern areas of Zone 12. Echo Station Beta itself is to
be evacuated, and its remaining troops are to be distributed along the secondary trench to
help repel the attack, along with all turrets previously stationed at Beta.

A skeleton force of two hundred troopers is to maintain a presence towards the forwards
primary trench. These will be reinforced by six of our DF.9 Turrets, each positioned at the
following locations:

Their task will be to slow the initial infantry advance and encourage the Stormtroopers to
remain within close proximity to the walkers rather than advancing forwards. The area of the
trenches highlighted towards the east will also be weakened in preparation for the assault
and left unmanned. Proximity mines left in the walls will be used to detonate and collapse
the area the moment enemy troops attempt to take it. This will allow for a smaller area to
defend, and permit a faster withdrawal to our secondary line of defenses; at the same time it
will ensure that the Stormtroopers will remain far more cautions than usual when it comes to
storming our positions.

The other turrets will be positioned along the following locations, red for DF.9 Turrets and
green for 1.4 FD P-Tower laser cannons:

Telemetry and targeting data from each trench is to be transmitted back to the units behind
them, allowing associated squads on elevated terrain to concentrate their fire on single
targets. The massive concentration of turrets towards the middle of the second trench will,
we hope, slow the Imperial advance along the adjoining passageway. Turrets 7, 8 and 9 in
particular are in a perfect position to bottleneck enemy forces attempting to use that area for
cover; and to save both explosives and prevent our troops being cut off via and accidental
detonation, we will not be mining it. Furthermore, it should force the Imperials to focus their
efforts upon the middle of these lines should they wish to break the strength of our forces.

The remaining distribution of our forces will consist of nine hundred troopers in the second
trench, one thousand one hundred once they are reinforced by those from the first. Seven
hundred and fifty will be given to both the third and fourth defensive lines and one hundred
troopers will remain in reserve within the hanger. This will help defend against possible
secondary incursions into the base from other vectors and reinforce our lines where needed.
As the more exposed Stations far away from the main battle, Echo Station 2-4 and 3-4 will
position and stockpile a number of makeshift Tow-Cable bombs for the T-47s. Constructed
from repurposed proton bombs from our Y-Wings, Captain Bren Derlin informs me that these
were proven to be effective against AT-AT walkers during the Defense of Ralltiir. While that
was against individually deployed targets rather than a massed assault force, the additional
firepower may be enough to even the odds.

The remaining T-47s are to be prepared for immediate launch readiness, while the GR-75
transport Dutyfree undergoes a last minute refitting and is loaded with explosives. As both
will be key to our overall victory, their flight readiness is to be a priority among our
engineering crews.

Finally, the v-150 Planet Defender Ion Cannon’s gunnery crew will continuously drill and
prepare for combat until the first transport is ready to launch. Given the sheer scale of the
enemy fleet and the fact we are limited to a single turret, our only method of escaping the
planet will be to force them back for a time. By having the Ion Cannon repeatedly target and
fire upon the inbound Star Destroyers, we can at least maintain a narrow window of
opportunity to dissuade the fleet from entering orbital bombardment ranges.

Primary Plan

Phase 1

The first phase of this plan will begin the moment the enemy advances into Zone 12.
Assuming that neither the walkers nor the ground troops they support trigger a proximity
sensor, the moment the enemy task force is fully within the area, all explosives will be
detonated via a radio signal from Echo Station 5-2. This will ultimately destroy Echo Station
Beta along with most of the surrounding area. The blast itself will likely kill a number of
enemy Stormtroopers and a number of their secondary vehicles as well. More importantly
however, it will slow their initial advance. The task force will likely adopt anti-mine field
tactics, either using the larger vehicles to press through without further casualties, or their
walkers themselves will be stalled thanks to the now unstable ground around them.

Following the detonation, both Rogue and Corona Squadron will be launched, with mission
separate mission parameters. Regrouping with any airspeeders which might be maintaining
close patrol about the base, Corona Squadron will begin launching a series of strafing runs
on the smaller Imperial vehicles. Their priority will be to disable and damage the task force’s
escorts before they can reach our lines, as this will limit the Imperials’ anti-air response and
their ability to rapidly storm the first trench. Rogue Squadron will begin their own attack soon
afterwards, after using their tow-cables to collect bombs from Echo Station 2-4 and 3-4 they will concentrate their own attacks on the AT-ATs. By targeting the vehicle’s leg joints or
cockpits, their assault will be directed to either disable or outright destroy a number of
AT-ATs towards the head of the task force.

As both squadrons focus their attacks upon the enemy vehicles, the first trench line will
begin firing upon the enemy from the moment they are within range. They are to concentrate
their efforts upon thinning out the number of attacking squads in the first wave as they
emerge through the shield. The second trench will provide ranged supporting fire, both to
hinder the enemy’s advance and provide supporting fire once the Stormtroopers get within
three hundred meters of the first trench. At this point, all remaining Alliance troopers will
begin retreating along the main adjoining trench between the two defensive lines. This same
trench will then be used to bottleneck advancing Stormtroopers, with the turrets limiting their
ability to advance over the open ground while the adjoining trench will become a killing zone
should they attempt to press forwards through there.

Should the Juggernauts manage to penetrate the shield, all 1.4 FD P-Tower laser cannons
will be directed to concentrate their fire upon the their primary wheels and drive system.
Rogue and Corona Squadron will join them in this effort, and are permitted to use any
means available to them in order to prevent either Juggernaut breaching the second trench.

Phase 2

Should the measures used up to this point be unable to halt the continued attacks by the
task force, and should the AT-ATs begin advancing within the shield, Alliance forces will pull
back to the third trench. The T-47s and turrets will provide cover during this action, focusing
their efforts upon the pursuing troops. Once the majority of the enemy forces in close pursuit
have been eliminated, any unit armed with a blaster cannon is to open fire on the cockpits of
the AT-ATs. This will likely not damage the vehicle in any way, but it has the opportunity of
disrupting their vision, sensors or at the very least preventing them concentrating upon a
single target. This will continue until the AT-ATs reach the central point between the first and
second trenches:

As they close in upon this location, the Dutyfree will be launched and both airborne
squadrons will retreat from the battlefield. Before doing so, they will broadcast targeting and
location based data to the Dutyfree, displaying the positions of each AT-AT. All ground
forces are to take cover and brace themselves for an orbit to surface bombardment grade

The transport will begin its ascent following a pre-programmed flight pattern rigged into its
computer, matching that of the previous transports. However, upon attaining optimal speed it
will begin turning towards the trenches. The ship will enter a steep dive onto the highlighted
target displayed above, and use the data broadcast by our forces to target the middle of the
enemy formation. Between the multiple warheads stored within its hold and the main reactor,
we estimate the explosion upon impact will be large enough to destroy most if not all of the
AT-AT walkers and any forces close by. Even the AT-ATs which endure the blast will be
heavily damaged, and likely vulnerable to concentrated fire from our forces.

Our T-47 squadrons will then be recalled to help press a counter-attack, passing over the
impact site in search of survivors. They will then coordinate their efforts to pin down and
annihilate any remaining troops at long range. Should any AT-ATs remain standing, then
further use of the tow-cable bombs will be used to destroy or disable them, while any
AT-STs or Stormtroopers will be the priority of the remaining turrets.

A force of two thousand troopers will then advance forwards to cut down any Stormtroopers
moving out of the blast crater, and further investigate for any signs of survivors. Should
nothing arise, Rogue Squadron will then make a brief sweep of the surrounding area to
confirm that no other Imperial forces were deployed during the battle to attack Echo Base
from another direction.

If, after one hour, there is no sign of Imperial reinforcements, the ground forces will begin
retreating eight hundred soldiers at a time. The T-47 squadrons will join the first wave, falling
back to their own vehicles before escorting the remaining GR-75 transports past the
blockade. Between the transports which have already departed and emergency drills, we
estimate that Echo Base can be fully evacuated within three hours.

The final measure used before our departure will be to rig the hanger with further mines and
destroy any resources which cannot be taken with us. The last of the troops have been
instructed to wipe all remaining records of Alliance operations and flight plans from the base
computers, and destroy the command center before we depart Hoth for good.


Several key factors and areas could fail while following this plan. Outlined below are a
number of contingencies and secondary plans to help ensure that the Rebellion survives,
even in the face of total disaster.

Phase 1 Contingencies

● Should the Imperial forces arrive before we have fully deployed our forces admit the
trenches, ground troops will be required to only man the second, third and fourth
trenches. Co-ordinating their ranged firepower with strafing runs by Corona
Squadron, they will focus their efforts upon first disabling the Juggernauts, and then
the AT-ST’s to limit the task force’s overall firepower. This will once again leave them
reliant to the AT-ATs for support and working in close proximity to them.

● Should the tow-cable bombs prove to be utterly ineffective at slowing or disabling the
AT-ATs, all T-47 squadrons are to concentrate their efforts upon destroying the
smaller vehicles. The bombs should still be effective against smaller and more lightly
armoured transports, or even troop formations should they be dropped among them.

● Should the 1.4 FD P-Tower laser cannons prove to be completely ineffective against
armoured attack vehicles, they are to focus upon the Stormtroopers instead. Once
again the T-47s will be required to take their place via the use of tow-cable bombs.

● Should the T-47s take exceptionally heavy casualties during initial attack runs, they
will be required to fall back and regroup for a time. Instead, the ground forces in the
trenches will cover the bulk of their work, while any and all damage against the
AT-AT walkers will be left to the Dutyfree’s attack.

● If we lack the explosives to seal off the secondary entrances and exits leading into
Echo Base, an additional two hundred troopers will be diverted to secure these
locations. These will be removed from the fourth and final line of defense, meaning
we will be reliant upon the first three to stop the enemy assault.

● Should the explosives towards the east of the first trench fail to detonate, one of the
forwards turrets will first attempt to do so with repeated cannon blasts. If nothing can
be done, then the troopers will retreat back from that position earlier than planned,
and the trenches will be levelled via a tow-cable bomb.

● Should the explosives surrounding Echo Station Beta and Zone 12 fail to detonate,
each of our squadrons has been supplied with targeting information for the bombs.
They will be launched ahead of time and instructed to target two key areas near
Beta, where the defensive structure’s armour has been specifically weakened. This
will detonate the warheads within, and begin a chain reaction which should trigger
the majority of the weapons.

● Should the Imperials arrive well ahead of time, the initial stages of this plan will be
abandoned. Our troops will instead use the second trench to hinder the initial strikes
from Stormtroopers, and concentrated fire from the turrets will be used to gradually
destroy the first trench, preventing its use as cover for enemy units.

Phase 2 Contingencies

● If the Dutyfree cannot be launched or is somehow destroyed before it can reach its
target, all forces are instead directed to concentrate their efforts upon slowing the
AT-ATs. Any and all units are permitted to use any tactics they deem necessary,
from using the T-47’s tow-cables to entangle the enemy AT-AT’s legs to boarding
actions by infantry units. They are to be halted at all costs.

● If the Dutyfree malfunctions and crashes into our own defenses, all surviving units
are then permitted to withdraw within Echo Base. Transports will then be launched in
groups of three at a time, with Corona and Rogue Squadrons transferring their pilots
to space capable fighters to provide escort. The main entrance is to then be closed
and reinforced by any means necessary, from rubble to damaged ships, turning it
into a choke-point to limit the effectiveness of the 501st’s sheer numbers.

● Should neither the Dutyfree or other forces manage to halt the AT-ATs or inflict any
considerable damage upon other vehicles, the Ion Cannon will then be directed to
fire upon the enemy targets. This will take several minutes to readjust the Cannon for
land based targets and it will leave the escaping transports extremely vulnerable to
spaceborne attacks. As such, it is to be considered a second to last resort when all
other options have been exhausted.

● If the Dutyfree cannot be launched in time due to either engine failures or crew
delays, all forwards ground forces are to withdraw back to the third trench. They are
to hold the enemy there for as long as possible, until the transport can be launched
and its internal guidance system redirected to strike the area between the second
and third trench. If it cannot be readied in time at all, the ground forces are to instead
begin a gradual fighting retreat back inside the hanger, targeting the faster moving
units. Departure of transports is to be doubled, launching multiple vessels at once,
and secondary resources are to be abandoned in favour of loading primary assets
and personnel. The explosives aboard the Dutyfree will be primed to explode and set
to a timer. This will be used to both to destroy the initial wave of Stormtroopers
advancing inside the base, and any records which might allow them to track down
the Rebel fleets.


Images In Listed Order:

Situational Analysis (walkers vs snowspeeders) -

Battlefield Map (Star Wars Trilogy Sourcebook, Special Edition (1997)) -

Enemy Task force Strength (Thundering Herd) -

Echo Base Defensive Forces (Battlefront Promotional Art) -

Pre-Combat Preperations (Star Wars: The Card Game – The Search for Skywalker (Card:
Echo Base)) -

Primary Plan - Phase 1 (Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back) -

Primary Plan - Phase 2 (Star Wars: Behind the Magic) -

Contingencies (hoth_34.jpg) -

Sources -

"Battle Of Hoth/Legends". Wookieepedia. N.p., 2005. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.

"Defense Of Ralltiir". Wookieepedia. N.p., 2012. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.

"GR-75 Medium Transport/Legends". Wookieepedia. N.p., 2005. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.

Star Wars Trilogy Sourcebook, Special Edition. 1st ed. Honesdale, Pennsylvania: West End
Games, 1997. Print.

"Tow-Cable Bomb". Wookieepedia. N.p., 2012. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.

"LX-4 Proton Mine/Legends". Wookieepedia. N.p., 2007. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Acaratus (Video Game Review)

You have a steam powered mech and you use it to hit people on your way to freedom. If that got your attention then this might be a game worth looking into, as its thematic qualities are Acaratus’ greatest strength.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Search/Destroy: Strontium Dog (Fan Film Review)

Ask anyone about 2000AD and often you'll get the answer of "Oh, the Judge Dredd comic, right?" Well, that's at least partially correct, Dredd is in it, but that's only one of a multitude of classics across several universes. Many characters have risen and fallen, sagas began and some ended, but in that time there are only three which I personally consider to be a holy trinity of sorts: Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and Strontium DogThe last of these is the subject for today where at long last the tale of Johnny Alpha has been adapted to film. 

For those not in the know, Strontium Dog was effectively the dark British take on the X-Men, in the same way Blake's 7 seemed to oppose Star Trek. Mutants emerged throughout the human population during a freak accident and have been slowly becoming more prominent over time, which led to a brief but bloody civil war. While the mutants "won" and achieved their rights, many laws marginalized opportunities for them, forcing many former freedom fighters to become bounty hunters to make a living. It's a hard, bitter and dangerous life, and one which is becoming all the worse each day. Johnny Alpha and Wulf Sternhammer accept a job to look into several recent SD Agent murders in the Merstasis System, and stumble upon a far bigger plot at work...

While it might not have the budget of Dredd or the effects to match the Avengers, this is a by-fans-for-fans creation which nevertheless manages to get damn near everything right.

The Good:

As a story with a limited budget and scope, Search/Destroy is visibly going the full mile to fit anything which will please fans into its short run time without becoming dangerously over ambitious. As a result, what you have is a relatively simple start to a story, with a decent twist, lots of gunplay and plenty of opportunities to show off the dark if somewhat zany parts of the setting. While the mission itself is certainly unusual, like the aforementioned Dredd it aims largely for a day in the life look into how these agents operate. We're given a look into how they're treated, how they choose their missions, how they claim rewards and the many wonderful toys Alpha in particular brings into battle.

While barely twenty minutes long, Search/Destroy manages to fit this in via some very tight editing, well executed montages and fleeting scenes. The creators knew that fans were in this to see some gunplay at work, but that didn't stop them from taking their time to set up a few pleasing moments, from Alpha and Wulf gathering info to a glimpse into the Doghouse itself. This builds up towards the action over diving headlong into it, while at the same time streamlining enough of the Easter Eggs and nods to the comic to prevent them from becoming intrusive. After all, Middenface McNulty is someone who would only be recognised by ardent fans, but by including him in a characteristically mouthy fan-pleasing cameo of hunters listening for bounties is welcome but it doesn't overshadow the plot. Why is this important exactly? Because it shows that the film was willing to bank on fans getting a kick out of these moments, but it didn't simply slave itself to them. This could have easily become just a series of shout outs to the bigger stories, but there was enough restraint on hand to keep it focused upon the here and now.

The actual aesthetic and tone of the film was remarkably well handled as well, especially given the steep divide between the more humourous older arcs and the modern comics. While it does veer towards the grimier side of things, the aesthetic works in its favour, and it makes the designs first penned by Carlos Ezquerra stand out all the more. Especially the grim joke which is the Smiling Chuckwalla, which was a welcome use of a classically disturbing monster. Alpha's distinctive helmet, the jet bikes used and even the costumes present with the side characters are all utterly spot on, and while the odd prop can seem off - notably Wulf's non-metallic hammer - execution, cinematography and editing overcome this. 

Equally, the tight nature of the story allows for only a few character driven moments, but the few it gets are brilliantly worked into the tale. There's at least one major memorable scene for every character involved, from Alpha's debriefing as he hands over what's left of his bounty, to Wulf's merry one-liners later on, and effectively everything involving the major villain. There's enough of a balance here between solid writing and acting to make it leave an impact, and to do their characters justice. Alpha, for example, is taciturn, blunt and tactically pragmatic, but for all his ruthlessness there's enough here to reflect upon his personal code and surprising morality. 

Still, many of you are probably wondering about the action. This is a fan film so the budget is always going to be stretched tight, and Strontium Dog was always renowned for taking a high tech approach to combat. Well, you'll be happy to know that it gets this aspect absolutely right. The tone is set early on when a criminal uses a waist-mounded spring-loaded cannon to shoot a man in the chest while holding his hands up, and it only gets crazier from there. The film finds any opportunity it can to call upon any of the famous weapons and powers from the comics, with Alpha's sight, the electro-nux, time bombs (no, not that kind) and the happy stick all showing up at several points. The film gives brief moments for each to shine, and it's enough for them to offer up copious amounts of satisfying carnage before moving onto the next big weapon.

The scale of the action itself is remarkable for a production of this budget, with a multi-man brawl, Western style showdown and even a bunker assault all taking place one after the next. Each offers a different aspect of the fights from the comics, and just when you think things might be starting to calm down they will find a way to add a new threat to keep things fresh. This sort of approach ensures that Search/Destroy might be extremely short, but it is an absolute Marvel to any fan who ever hungered to see a live action adaptation of these tales.

Still, not everything here is perfect, and it would be amiss not to bring up a few failings.

The Bad:

As with their previous work on Judge Minty, the effects are a somewhat mixed bag. While the practical creations, landscapes and even a few of the creatures hold up well, some of the CGI looks unfortunately dated in several key places. This is to be expected with any fan film, and we have seen much worse over the years, but a few points such as the bizarrely low resolution electro effects of energy weapons stand out like a sore thumb against the infinitely better elements. This is only worth mentioning as the film does little to really hide of work around a few of the more problematic qualities, and even draws attention to them at a few points. As a result, you might be hooked for several minutes, only to have your sense of immersion severely hampered by what is effectively only a small part of a much bigger scene.

The editing also proves to be sadly troubling during a few moments of melee combat, as it suffers from more than a few extremely obvious cuts away from blows. While there are plenty of money shots to make up for this as the fight pans out, it's not hard to remember just why so many fan productions tend to avoid close combat while watching this. It's difficult to execute on a tight budget, and the most entertaining moments largely stem from the finishing blows or use of the setting's more original weapons.

Finally, certain parts in establishing the relationship between Wulf and Alpha seem forced. True, one is a former freedom fighter outcast from society due to his genetic differences while the other is a time displaced Viking raider (yes, really), but it seems that more could have been done to set up their comradery. The montage we get of them waiting on a passenger ship has quite a few fun moments and it does reflect the surprising monotony of waiting between missions, but aside from a very brief conversation there's little here which really works in its favour. Call it a pointless criticism if you want as this was meant for fans, but after Judge Minty established such an effective character arc, this is surprisingly lacking.

The Verdict:

Even taking into account the film's few failings, Search/Destroy is nevertheless a stunning success and a testament to the skills of all involved. Even if you're not an established fan of 2000AD's creations, this is still worth watching for the sheer entertainment factor and to see just how colourful, creative and grim yet bizarre the Strontium Dog setting can be. Plus, hey. name another twenty minute film where you get to see a fascist leader eaten alive, several henchmen kicked into orbit and a Viking punching a grenade down an alien's throat.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Injustice 2 (Video Game Review)

Following any smash hit is always a risk. Even if you have every creative force from the original to back it, even if you have a plan in motion to capitalise on the last tale, you can still screw things up. Each sequel needs to be loyal to the original while improving upon it in almost every way, and Injustice 2 largely succeeds in this regard. It’s flashier, bigger and definitely punchier, with an infinitely more interesting roster of characters.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Doctor Who: Oxygen (Episode Review)

So, here we go then, from one horror trend to the next. It seems that this new series is bouncing back and forth between eras, giving it a bit more balance than the prior outings. We've had a pilot which went everywhere, a jump to the future, a past story, a modern day story, and now it's the future once again. This can help to give the series a little more variety, but given how soon this current story follows on from one with very similar horror elements, it seems ill placed.

Rather than old secrets this time, it's technology which is slowly killing the denizens of the far future, albeit of a very different sort than Smile. As the Doctor, Bill and Nardole arrive on a distant space mining station, they soon find it filled with the bodies of the dead. There are only a small handful of survivors left, as the rest have been killed by the very equipment intended to keep them alive.

The Good

This is another teaser which gives the game away, but it proves to be much more akin to last week's Knock Knock over Smile. Rather than completely giving away the twist, it leaves you questioning just how in the hell certain things are taking place, and introduces the audience to the big threat of the story.  While sadly drawn out, it is at least good enough to keep you hooked and build up a sense of dread as the Doctor and co. walk into a situation where they are under threat from the moment they exit the TARDIS.

There's a clear sense of dread as they poke about the station, uncovering a few of the corpses and trying to put the pieces together as to what has gone so horribly wrong. It's very classic Who in that sense, and while it only lasts just long enough to get a few points across, it's succinct and direct. There's little dead air or blather present here, and the episode leaves little room to really seem as if it is dragging its feet or trying to avoid the action. The moment one idea ends it moves quickly onto the next, meaning you're never left overexposed even to foes which are effectively technological zombies. The fact there's even a visible ticking clock, or something which is almost as good as one, also helps you to stay focused upon the fact the heroes are living on borrowed time, and the slightest thing going wrong could easily harm them.

The story is also another one helping to introduce Bill to the Doctor's life, or at least parts of it. After three episodes she has a solid idea of what time travel will entail and even the issues of heading into the distant past, but this is a chance to once again show something entirely new. Future trends, changes and even a few oddities are always a fun contrast to see with modern day companions, and Bill's reaction to seeing an alien for the first time is one of the episode's more humourous highlights. Normally this initial episode would try to show the wonders of the far future or even suggest a brighter hope for what is to come, but by instead showing a grimier and darker era it manages to retain a sense of freshness to events. We already know just how brilliant time travel can be, something which Thin Ice established quite nicely, so delving into the more horrifying qualities of discovering dark secrets is a nice contrast. In fact, combined with Knock Knock it even helps to establish the idea that everywhere has its secrets and nowhere is truly safe from the Doctor's foes.

It has to also be said that the character moments present, while fleeting, were solid on the whole. Nardole has sadly been given little to work with since his re-introduction, and while he is an excellent foil for the Doctor, his presence can seem understandably superfluous. Here though, it's clear he's present to do a few of the things Bill can't. His greater experience means that he can constantly try to hold back the Doctor and remind him of his duties, or work the more advanced sci-fi equipment, along with offering someone else for the two to converse with. Something which, even in characters who were often regulated to background roles, has always helped substantially in keeping the plot moving. It's a good touch, and the final couple of scenes do help to fully cement this fact, even if some of his efforts are put down to comedy more than drama.

Still, I imagine some of you are wondering more about the strength of the story and the scares over long running series themes. Well, the story certainly has its moments. There are some flaws, some big flaws, here and they do stand out, but the script has a few clever moments despite this. Zombies - because that's effectively what they are - have become incredibly overdone, and even throwing them into space isn't that big of a gimmick these days. If you bring that up, people just think of Dead Space. However, the enemy here is creepy because it has something of a unique edge. It's a dead body on auto-pilot, hijacked by the very thing which was supposed to keep them alive. There's something insanely grim about the concept, and time and time again we see processes and procedures which were supposedly meant to safeguard the workers turning upon them.

The story even avoids a few of the more typical zombie tropes. There's purpose to their actions, a kind of singular group approach to every failing and problem put before them rather than merely milling about. So, while they might indeed be limited to a few lines of thought, the intelligence of their procedures still makes them capable of overcoming many unexpected problems; forcing the crew to often approach them via unexpected blind spots. This keeps the story going and makes sure that there is some new threat which arises just as soon as the old one starts to disappear, ensuring that the tale never drags and you're rarely left waiting for something exciting to pop up. Plus, someone on the creative team must have been working overtime, as the moment things start to seem overly dull or unremarkable something pulls you back in. It could be a line, a shot or even a musical cue, but it's enough to keep you focused upon the tale, and a personal favourite is the reveal of the "zombies" on the ship's exterior.

Unfortunately, there are some problems here. Big ones, which holds back the tale from being the first true classic of what has been a solid but somewhat unremarkable season so far.

The Bad

So, what's the great failing above all? The message. Capitalism is bad? Yes, thank you Oxygen, I think we all know it has its problems. There's a very puerile approach the story takes to the subject, and it's unwilling to give any middle-ground, showing capitalism as a whole as some Sauron-esque entity. While a few ideas certainly work like oxygen being paid for in breaths rather than time and some of the unsafe procedures, it just keeps going until it becomes farcical. It keeps undermining the story at a few points, and when the Doctor says "It's us against the suits!" it's difficult to know whether to laugh or facepalm. 

The fact that its themes and ideas are so openly broadcast to the viewer means that the twist ending is obvious from the start. Oh it's smart, and the visuals which gives the tech a HAL 9000 look would have been a brilliant way to distract someone from the possible reveal, but there's practically no hiding the truth here. The writer all but placed a big sign saying "THIS IS WHY EVERYTHING IS GOING WRONG!" over the closing scenes, destroying what should have been a fantastic final moment.

Perhaps most of all though, Oxygen never manages to actually capitalize on any of its themes or ideas. Space is dangerous, very dangerous, and a fantastic opening speech by Capaldi describing the effects of explosive decompression is chilling. Yet, this only comes into play for a single scene, before its forgotten. Equally, while the whole "counting breaths" idea on how much oxygen they're allowed is solid, it's just a background element. It never serves as the proper ticking clock the episode needed, nor does it actually come into play as a serious danger outside of a couple of brief mentions that they're running out of time.

Perhaps most pressingly of all however is the ending. There's a big shock twist which is supposed to serve as a hook, or to keep people interested for what follows, but it only works if you ignore a few things. Without giving too much away, the Doctor is hurt. Badly. He's practically disabled in his current state and vulnerable to attacks, and there's no clear way to fix it with what they have on hand. The problem? Time Lords can regenerate at will, and if the excess energy of that can re-grow a hand, then it seems unlikely that his wound would even slow him down. Atop of this, the TARDIS can go to any time and place, and we have seen miracle surgeons practically resurrecting people over and over again.

It's a well executed final scene to keep people hooked, but it only lasts until you actually start to think about how easily it can be overcome.
The Verdict

Oxygen is ultimately very hit and miss. There's plenty of great stuff which goes throughout the entire tale, and some very fun scares, but for every step it makes forwards, it almost immediately takes one back. It's worth watching a couple of times, and it is definitely one of the best thus far this series, but there's no hiding its critical flaws. Give it a look if you're at all interested, but be ready to wince at a few moments of abject stupidity.