Adventures in Space, Time, and Sound

I live in the middle of nowhere. If I ever want to go to the city, it takes a minimum of 3 hours to get there. So whenever I head over to urban areas I like to listen to audiobooks or radio dramas. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Doctor Who audio dramas, so for the show’s 60th Anniversary, I figured I’d drop a big list of some of my favorite Classic Doctor Who audios, with one drama per Doctor and all tied together by the central theme of meddling with time. So enjoy.

1 – “The Massacre”

When it comes to selecting appropriate audio adventures from the 1st and 2nd Doctor’s tenure, the only proper options are the missing episodes. For those unfamiliar, these are episodes that were broadcast back when the BBC had a junking policy towards its master tapes, given its limited storage capacity and the nonexistence of home media at the time. Many of these episodes have been recovered, but several remain lost to time, with only the audio tracks surviving for people to experience.

Fortunately for many Whovians, most of the missing episodes from Hartnell’s tenure on the show are from his worst season, Season 3. During this time, Hartnell’s declining health and backstage backstabbing producer politics caused the show to suffer, and if not for a change in producers and Doctors, the show might have ended much earlier than it did.

Unfortunately for me, this means that my sample of episodes to choose from is not among Hartnell’s best. One serial in particular, “Galaxy 4”, is such a by-the-numbers Star Trek social satire (What if the ugly aliens are actually good!?), that the actors infamously rebelled against it, resulting in the insulted producer firing Maureen O’Brien for the slight. Another serial, “The Celestial Toymaker”, gave us a character that’s returning for the anniversary. But anything good this story does “The Mind Robber” does a thousand times better, to say nothing of the weird implications of Michael Gough playing a Chinese villain. And yet another serial, “The Dalek Masterplan”, is the longest and perhaps the most epic Classic Who serial of all time, at a whopping 5 and a half hours long. However, only about half of that is any good.

Cheer up Vicki. At least you don’t have to be in “The Dominators”. Now that really isn’t “flipping” Shakespeare.

Tentacular Terribleness

Warning: This review contains mild spoilers and discusses rape and sexual assault. And also tentacles. Seriously, you have been warned.

Japan has a (somewhat unfair) association with rapacious tentacle monsters in the Western popular consciousness. I say somewhat unfair because while tentacle hentai is certainly a thing, to associate it with Japan as a whole is rather like associating America with Dinosaur erotica, given the sheer plethora of it published on Amazon. Even if Chuck Tingle is popular enough to achieve recognition outside of literotic circles, the fantasy of fucking (or being fucked by) a dinosaur is still a pretty niche one in America. And yet, this image of tentacle porn being mainstream and distinctly Japanese persists, which raises the question of “Why?”.

Part of the answer is simply that if you associate an entire country, culture, or race with something “weird” or “unnatural”, it’s easier to other them. But as for the question of why Japan and tentacles specifically, the explanation lies with a single piece of adult anime, that being Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend.

This work was simply scandalous. Getting an NC-17 rating in the US and making the Video Nasty list in the UK, parents were utterly baffled, because how could this movie possibly be adult-oriented when it was animated? Everyone knows that animation is only for children! But Urotsukidoji defied everything your no-fun parents told you about cartoons, which made watching it an act of rebellion. As such, the anime quickly spread like the penis tentacles of its titular Overfiend, to wreak havoc on the peace of mind of parents throughout the 90s.

I myself was too young to experience this wave of popularity. I do remember at least being old enough to hear its name in hushed whispers as part of the scary, horny anime you could find at Blockbuster, but I was far too young (and honestly too disinterested) to try and watch it myself. And yet, as someone who considers himself a kinky anime nerd, I rather owe it to myself to give Urotsukidoji a watch. So, does this anime deserve its title of classic, or has it aged as poorly as most overly edgy media from the 90s?

Summin’ Spoopy fer Smelloween

Earlier this year, I replayed Persona 4, a personal favorite of mine. Since this was around the same time I started my big Eva retrospective, I started to wonder if a suitable successive retrospective would be one on the Persona games, or perhaps even the book that started it all.

Digital Devil Story is the book whose IP would eventually be transmogrified into the Shin Megami Tensei games, and the subsequent Persona spinoffs. And to my great surprise there was an English audiobook of this novel available on Youtube. With this, I thought, I could easily begin my journey into the SMT rabbit hole, and perhaps enjoy stories just as wonderful as Evangelion. So, for Halloween, I’m gonna give to you all my review of this book, nay this tome, nay this legend of literature. I hope all the Megami Tensei fans are reading.

Palate Cleanser

Some days, you just get a hankering for a tawdry, tattered paperback. You know the type. The kind of book that’s at least 500 pages long, yet is still small enough to clasp easily in one palm. The kind that’s grown worn and well-thumbed from countless hands flipping through its pages over the years. The kind whose plot is the equivalent of jingling keys in front of a toddler, all bright lights and bombastic fights and maybe a drawn-out sex scene or three (the medium allowing the author to get as x-rated as they want). In short, trash, but entertaining trash that you can glide through on a slow day at work when you’re sitting bored at your desk with nothing else to do.

When a friend of mine recommended Babylon Steel, the sheer zaniness of the premise, combined with the fact that a used copy of the mass-market paperback was going for 9 USD on my country’s Amazon (that’s with shipping), I had the damnedest feeling that this book would scratch my itch for entertaining trash. So did it?

The Commedia of Evangelion

Oh. Sorry. Did you think we were done? No, no, no. Thrice Upon a Time may have been the perfect capstone for this Evangelion retrospective, but we’ve still got a coda before we conclude this completely. See, one of the things that has allowed Eva to become the phenomenon it is is its fanbase. And from that fanbase has sprung forth a fountain of fanfiction, various Eva geeks all putting their own spins on the characters and world we all love so much. So, if the Rebuilds were the Avengers: Endgame of this series, let’s end this with a Far From Home.


RE-TAKE is an Evangelion doujinshi by Studio Kimigabuchi. It was originally a hentai work, before having its sex scenes excised for a SFW edition (which is what I read). And it is also one of the best pieces of Eva media I have ever encountered. It’s been a while since I’ve found something so compelling I stayed up late to read it, but there was something about this work that made it truly fascinating to me.

RE-TAKE is truly something special, but I have difficulty in describing just what about it compels me without relying on shorthand from other geek media. Like, the immediate way I think to describe it is “It’s like TNG’s ‘Tapestry’, mixed with Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and a dash of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion Saga.” But to anyone not familiar with those three works, such a description is probably nonsensical. And yet, I can’t think of a more apt description! Though, if I may try…

RE-TAKE is set after the events of EoE. Shinji is lying on the red sea beach, feeling miserable and disgusted with himself, and desperately wishing he could fix all the mistakes he made. Then, suddenly, he wakes up and it’s Episode 16 again. Shinji is in the hospital after getting out of Leliel, and, now convinced the events he witnessed were simply a possible bad future the Angel showed him, Shinji resolves to get things right this time.

It doesn’t quite work like he hoped though. Because Shinji now knows what Rei is, he ends up drawing away from her, which causes her to eventually attempt suicide. And while his initial strategy is to keep his synchro rate down so that Asuka doesn’t lose her confidence like she did originally, when she finds out about the deception she’s even more furious than she was before. Also, Shinji’s synchro rate is even higher than it ever was. Unusually high. Some might even say… unnaturally high. And then to top it all off, a ghostly image of Asuka on the red sea that only Shinji can see pops up every now and then to taunt him, while Rei mentions off-handedly to Misato that Shinji is no longer in this world.

Eventually, Shinji and Asuka work things out and start a romance. But no matter how Shinji tries to do things differently, the outcomes of his decisions only become different, not better. Even as, just like Gendo, Shinji grows to do increasingly amoral things in his desperate quest to remake the future and resurrect a lost love, events never work out like he wants or expects them to. And all the while, Ghost-Asuka continues to taunt him with his actions in EoE.

There’s an expertly-done feeling of creeping dread that permeates every corner of RE-TAKE. We know something is wrong, and that more things will go wrong, but we don’t know just how it will all get worse, or if Shinji will pull through, realize he’s making the same mistakes as his father, and course-correct. And all the while, there are hints that there’s just something off about this world, and about Shinji.

To explain just what those things are would delve into the realm of spoilers. But without discussing the plot twists too much, two things that stand out to me about RE-TAKE are its message and its portrayal of Shinji. Despite predating that film by several years, the plot of RE-TAKE is essentially telling Shinji that he cannot redo his mistakes from the past. But he can learn from them, and maybe do some good in the present. Also, if Shinji isn’t really Shinji, but something that was made manifest from his despair and given his shape, is it still Shinji? What is it that makes Shinji Shinji? This is a question that RE-TAKE occupies itself with, and while it has echoes of the Eternal Champion in its answer, I don’t think Moorcock ever tried what RE-TAKE does.

One last warning for potential readers, the last of the three volumes of SFW RE-TAKE may seem to drag on a bit near the end. But the reason for this is that they stitched the distant epilogue to this edition of the story, despite it taking up as much space as a regular NSFW volume did. This isn’t to say the ending is bad, just that the “proper” ending is at the midway point of Vol. 3, while the rest is simply an additional story.

So for now, I think that’s the end of this retrospective. There’s still a lot more Eva for me to cover. I never reviewed any of the games, after all, and there’s still all the manga I couldn’t get my hands on. Plus, there’s who-knows-how-many documentaries and nonfiction works on the production process of Evangelion. I haven’t even interviewed Nathan Collins yet!

The point is, I’m not fully finished with Eva just yet. But as for this sustained, singularly-focused series of reviews, I think we’ve reached a point where things can comfortably end. If I return to the Evangelion well sooner or later, it’ll more likely be later. I’m sure both my loyal readers are eager to see me cover more than just Eva. And if I did nothing but Eva reviews, I think my enthusiasm for the franchise might start to wane. So I’m leaving the rest of my Eva articles for another day. In the meantime, feel free to recommend me Eva fanfics, which I’ll happily gobble up as long as I can.

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