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I finished reading Barrayar this evening, and was in tears by the end.  All these re-readings, and I don't think I appreciated until now how much Cordelia sacrificed her own principles for Miles's survival.

I have decided -- and [ profile] silly_cleo agrees with me, and so will [ profile] elyssadc in a moment -- that Big Finish needs to adapt Shards of Honor and probably Barrayar.  The whole Vorkosigan series, really, but it's best to start at the beginning.  I'm going to send them a letter, as soon as I can find a crayon large and purple enough.  It will read:

Dear Big Finish,

You should adapt the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold as full-cast radio plays because they're awesome.  Also because, for a sci-fi action series, they're incredibly dialogue-based.  Lisa Bowerman can play Cordelia; there's no one better.  If you can't afford Edward James Olmos for Aral, I guess David Warner could do it, but seriously, think about EJO.  If you cast Miles Richardson as Vordarian, I'd have to come to the UK and kiss Nick Briggs on the face.

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

That's entirely credible and not scary at all, right?  RIGHT?
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For the last few months, Big Finish has been running a three-part sequel to the Key to Time.  The Fifth Doctor is conscripted as assistant to Amy, a human-shaped Tracer, and they race Amy's "sister"-Tracer, Zara, on a search for the Key to Time.  The stakes: the fate of the universe (for a change).  When I heard this was being planned, I got all huffy in a "And what was wrong with season 16, precisely?  Aside from all those things that were wrong with season 16?"  But then I heard Lalla Ward was in the final story, and somehow my objections melted away.  Yes, I'm cheap for Romana, what of it?

Anyway, "The Chaos Pool" is the story with Romana (among others), and I listened to it yesterday, and here is my squee.  It has spoilers! )
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[ profile] misscam gave me five things she associates with me, and now I get to ramble about them!

Book stores

"It must be lovely working in a bookstore," customers say occasionally, "you get so much time for reading!"

Yes! That's why, whenever you enter a bookstore, you'll find the staff lounging around with books in their hands.

Maybe it works differently in small, independent bookstores where carefully selected new titles share space with high quality secondhand books, and mellow alternative pop music plays, and there's a cat on the counter. (Although from what I've seen of those stores, they have fairly primitive point of sale systems, and fewer employees, so the staff probably work even harder than in a chain store.) But in my experience, we only get to read the books when we're putting them away, and by "read" I mean "the blurb", plus maybe a bit of a skim if it looks interesting.

Having said that, I love bookstores. I just find it difficult to browse in them these days, because I find myself eying up the displays, picking over the new releases, and sniffing at the staff reviews.

Romana rules the world

I'm not really sure Romana does rule the world, or that she should. Her time in the office as president of Gallifrey was marked by some pretty considerable fail, a lot of it her own fault. She would probably tell you it's the fault of the older, more conservative Time Lords who don't know a good idea when they see it. Occasionally I wonder if maybe someone at Big Finish was using the Gallifrey series to parody liberal politicians; also it has some dodgy subtexts re: women in power.

Despite her overwhelming fail as a politician, Romana certainly rules my world, as evidenced by the way I'm currently organising my budget to prioritise the purchasing of the E-Space trilogy boxset when it comes out next month.

I seem to return to the same themes and ideas in my Romana fic: motherhood, loss of identity, loss of background. None of these are particularly inherent to the character c.seasons 16-18, but they sort of fit the post-Time War universe. [ profile] prof_pangaea once suggested that I'm working towards some sort of uber-Romanafic, but I don't know what that is, yet.

Tim Tams

A Tim Tam is an Australian chocolate biscuit consisting of two layers of chocolate-malt biscuit, joined with a layer of chocolate creme, covered with a thin layer of chocolate. Maybe that doesn't sound like much to you, but it's bliss in a biscuit form.

I don't buy them very often, because I tend to eat whole packets in one sitting; also, while the Tim Tam is the better biscuit, I have fond childhood memories of the Mint Slice, which is of comparable price and quality.

If you don't mind a bit of mess, you can indulge in a Tim Tam Slam. This involves bitting off both ends of the biscuit, then using it as a straw to suck up the beverage of your choice. The usual options are tea, coffee and hot chocolate, but some prefer Baileys, and I once had a manager who said the best kind of Tim Tam Slams involved cheap red wine.

Bad summaries

When I think of bad summaries, I think of [ profile] mctabby, who came up with HP Summary Executions. I mostly think of a bad summary as a sign that there's a bad fic to follow, because if you can't construct, spell and punctuate a couple of descriptive sentences, what hope do you have with paragraphs?

Ironically, I have a lot of trouble writing summaries, and usually have to run my ideas past [ profile] cesario or [ profile] prof_pangaea to make sure I'm not embarrassing myself.

Sometimes I find mediocre fic more offensive than outright badfic. As mediocre fic is more common, this means I spend a lot of time being offended, especially if I've been doing the Teaspoon queue. Sometimes I read a mediocre fic, and I think, "You could have made this really extraordinary, and you obviously have the ability to do so, but you clearly couldn't be bothered. You obviously hold your readers in contempt, and I shall treat you with the same disrespect." Then I close the window.

Braxiatel in ur icons

My extra userpics expired last week, and I haven't had the money to buy more, but I was quite lucky to keep my Brax icon. To make it, I had to scan my "Panacea" CD cover in high-res, as it was impossible to find a large-enough picture of the cover online. (People seem to think Romana and Leela are the important aspects of the series. WHUT?)

Because I am lame, I also tried to make a Braxiatel cross-stitch pattern out of the cover for Life During Wartime, but it didn't work out.

For Unexpected Naked Brax, have a close look at the cover for "Mindbomb". He's standing in the background, but he's very small, and again you'd probably need the actual CD, or a high-res scan to see him properly. It's extra sneaky because Brax wasn't listed in the credits, nor was there the usual "Irving Braxiatel created by Justin Richards" note. But there he is, LURKIN IN UR ARTWORKS. Cunning, I know.
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I'm on the verge of being done with my Gallifrey re-listen.  Which makes me a bit sad, because there's a whole world of Big Finish audios out there, but I've already listened to all the ones with Romana and/or Brax.  (Miles Richardson is apparently playing Iris Wildthyme's ex-husband in an upcoming audio, but ... look, there are depths to which I refuse to stoop.  This week, anyway.)

The rest can go behind a cut, since a few people on my flist are starting for the first time. )
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This was a really frustrating audio.  Not because it was bad -- it was exceptionally good, in fact, although I kept wanting to slap Braxiatel for his "Genocide?  That's bad ... I guess ... hey, shiny collectables!" routine.  Which I guess was foreshadowing, at least.

No, it was frustrating because "Brax takes Benny to a posh auction house to evaluate a mysterious artefact; shenanigans ensue" should lead to a zany heist, not SRS BZNS!  And now I'm fanging for a heist fic, and the universe is not obliging. 

If anyone needs me, I'll be sulking.

(Also, for some reason I am inordinately amused by Braxiatel's lemon-yellow personal shuttle.  I don't know.)
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Listened to Gallifrey: Appropriation while I worked on my cross stitch.  I love it because it's the point where Narvin begins to set aside tradition and the blind support of the presidency and take an independent moral stand.  Which is, of course, interpreted as supporting Romana, but I don't think that's quite the case.

Two quotes:

"I do apologise, Narvin, I thought you were an alien coming to kill me."
"I quite understand, sir, we all have days like that."

(re: Narvin) "I don't know if you've noticed, but he seems to have become Romana's man somewhat."

Also, Matthias is a toad, but he's as much a victim of Brax's scheming as Jason Kane or the Mim.  He's the sacrifice, left in charge of Gallifrey so that Brax can save Romana.

Then I watched Secret Diary of a Call Girl, then switched that off to find that "Journey's End" is airing.  And it made me angry, because Billie is so vibrant and clever and charismatic when she's given the right script, and she was just wasted in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End".  Especially the second one.  She only seems to come alive in the beach scene, but even then, her performance totally lacks the maturity of her Secret Diary work.  Le woe.

Also, regarding "Secret Diary": (spoilers) )

Now TNG is on the telly.

Ro: "So this admiral wanted me to betray the Federation..."
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Last night I continued with my Gallifrey catch up by listening to "Imperiatrix" and the "making-of" documentary that follows.  Mostly I was reminded of the extent to which Romana is a fail!President -- her response to a series of terrorist attacks on Gallifrey is to suspend the High Council and the chapters and declare herself dictator.  I suspect that the primary purpose of her presidency is to drive Narvin to drink.

Apparently, the only reason Brax was in the series at all was because Matthew Waterhouse had turned down a cameo in "Zagreus" and they decided to fill the gap with Brax.  Three cheers for Matthew Waterhouse.  May he continue to turn down roles forever.
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(Alternate titles for this post: Braxiatel: The Owner's Manual; The Complete Idiot's Guide to Irving Braxiatel; The Care And Feeding of Your Braxiatel; Braxiatel for Dummies.)

The problem with fangirling an obscure tertiary supporting character is that only a handful of other people know who you're talking about.  Which obviously makes your wee corner of fandom that much more exclusive and fabulous, but you run the risk of boring and oppressing everyone else.  So this is a post to explain the who, what, when and why of Braxiatel, and just why the hell I like him so much.  It comes complete with audio clips!  Which are uploaded to my, so you can just stream them instead of downloading and stuff.  Used, obviously, purely for demonstrating awesomeness and why you should buy Big Finish audios and stuff.


Just Who Is This Braxiatel Person Anyway?

Braxiatel, who claims the human monicker "Irving" for reasons best known to the Virgin writers, is a Time Lord.  Like the Doctor, he is interested in aliens; unlike the Doctor, he's more concerned with saving their cultural artefacts than the actual people.  He turns up in various spin-off media, and is usually portrayed as a shadowy, semi-ambiguous figure with fingers in many pies and agendas of his own.  He has particular ties to the Doctor, Romana, and Bernice Summerfield.

Also, he is like Chuck Norris, in a way.  The rest of his post has spoilers for the Benny Summerfield and Gallifrey series, among others. )

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So, I have finished season 8 of Bernice Summerfield.  And I am feeling a bit torn, because I'm worried that Braxiatel's shades of grey have gotten too dark, even for me.

Time waits for no man. Unless that man is Braxiatel. )
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I am writing the worst fic ever.  It's about Romana and Benny getting really drunk and talking about Brax.  In the interests of truth in advertising, I have titled it "Failing the Bechdel Test", but I feel slightly bad.  Not bad enough to stop writing, though. 

I need to finish season 8 of Benny before I can post it, though, just in case I get jossed.  And then there's season 9, which doesn't have Brax, but I'm starting to be interested in Benny in her own right.  Don't tell anyone, though, because I always swore that spin-off companions were a step too far.  *eyedart*
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Summary: Fifth Axis interrogations stir up things best left quiet in Braxiatel's mind.  Or, The One Where Brax Has A Head!Pandora.
Rated: PG-13
Notes: Set during the period of the Bernice Summerfield series when the Braxiatel Collection is occupied by the Fifth Axis, who are controlled by ... well, the audio in question is called "Death and the Daleks".  TITLE SPOILERS OMG.  Knowledge of Gallifrey canon is more essential Benny's, although passing familiarity with "The Mirror Effect" would help.

We're all mad here. )
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(Actually, this goes well beyond tertiary -- we're looking at, maybe, eighteen degrees of separation between this character and relevance to the overall fictional universe -- but I don't know if there's a word to describe that.)

Anyway.  I'm reading Life During Wartime, the Bernice Summerfield anthology that covers the Fifth Axis occupation of the Braxiatel Collection.  SHUT UP, it has Brax being tortured inconvenienced.  The important thing is that one story namechecks Menlove Stokes, artist, con man and connoisseur of female Time Lord beauty.  He originally appeared in two of Gareth Roberts's Four/Romana (YES, THAT IS AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION) Virgin novels.  Yes, I had squee.  Because I'm lame.

I've realised that I'm well on the way to becoming to Romana/Braxiatel what [ profile] livii is to Ace/Hex.  I cannot bring myself to see this as a bad thing.

Right.  I'm going to finish washing the dishes now.  Honest.
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"The Tub Full of Cats", or, Deadbeat Time Lord Dads And The Clone Daughters Who Love them.  (For the very first time, I wish I had a Jenny icon.)

They say curiosity killed the cat. This is false. Braxiatel killed the cat. )

Anyway, I don't think this series is ever going to top "The Crystal of Cantus" for sheer awesome, but it's still a good way to spend an hour or so.  Although, I'm going to have to ration them for a while, until I get around to buying a new sketchbook.  I draw as I listen, y'see, and I've somehow managed to fill most of a book with chibi sketches of the Gallifrey characters.  Yes, just what the universe needed.
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"The Crystal of Cantus", or, The One Where Brax Is Actually Quite Evil, Thanks For Asking.  Spoilers! )

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He is his own evil twin.

Okay, fine, I decided to skip the last season and a half of Gallifrey and go back to the Benny audios that particularly feature Braxiatel.  [ profile] elyssadc was right: he's a scary mofo.  Bless.  "What's that?  You think I'm a bit shady?  HOLD ON, I NEED TO WIPE YOUR MEMORIES AND BRAINWASH YOU INTO A COMA."

Also, the stories are true: Benny is River Song, only drunker.  WIN.  More than ever, I want to write the fic where River is all, "And then I thought I'd go off in search of the vanished and possibly mythical Braxiatel Collection", and Ten has to facepalm a lot.

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My thoughts on Gallifrey: "Pandora" were best expressed in the form of a Facebook mock-up.  No, really. )
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I am in Brisbane!  It's incredibly warm here; people are walking around in t-shirts, and I went a whole day (and evening) without needing my jacket.  It's like some crazy alternate universe.  Oh, and King George Square bus station has been finished, but the square itself is still blocked off, possibly to hide evidence of a Cyberman invasion, we're not sure.  The Fangirl Formerly Known As [ profile] gunderpants ran into a friend from high school in the lift at the Myer Centre, which was automatically the most Brisbane thing ever to happen.

I listened to about half of Gallifrey 2.2: "Spirit" on the plane down.  It's the one where Romana and Leela go away to an exclusive pleasure planet to talk about their relationship.  Some other stuff happens, too, but that's the driving force behind events.  I'm not even exagerrating.  Leela's talking about leaving Gallifrey, and Romana freaks out and wants her to stay.  Because Romana is into Leela way more than Leela is into her.  Romana's in a position of privilege, and Leela doesn't actually trust her when she claims she's not just slumming it with the single-hearted type.  Gallifrey doesn't quite work as a coherent political drama, but you can easily map the rise and fall of events against the development of the Romana/Leela relationship.  Which is, imho, pretty much dead by the end.

It also has this dialogue, which nearly made me lol (literally) right there on the plane.  Paraphrased:

Alien hostess: "That is the President's companion?"
Gallifreyan guard: "Yes.  She's usurped my position as presidential guard -- they're always together.  I don't know what the President sees in her."
Hostess: "...She is beautiful."

Like I said, I lolled.
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"The Inquiry" was very dull and had no good lines, so I skipped "A Blind Eye" (which I've listened to a few times) and went straight through to "Lies", the first story of the second season.  AKA The One With Mary Tamm, AKA The One Where Braxiatel Is Really Creepy.

See, sometimes I worry that, in my fic and so forth, my version of Braxiatel is too creepy.  Then I listen to "Lies" and realise, no, he's just that disturbing.  Romana finds out that Brax was her tutor at the Academy -- he was, in fact, the closest thing she had to an actual friend-type person -- and that he wiped her memory and planted a post-hypnotic suggestion to prevent her from remembering that time she made a deal with Evil From The Dawn Of Time.  Which is, I guess, logical in its own way, but it's quite striking that he not only wiped that memory, but their whole relationship.  As Romana says, it's a good thing he's on her side.  In fact, she says it twice, which means it's extra-significant.

Of particular amusement value is this conversation between Brax and Narvin:

Narvin: "So you hypnotised her.  Dominated her.  Repressed her mind.  I never realised you could be so ruthless."
Brax: "Needs must."
Narvin: "So what went wrong?"
Brax: "I had no idea that the Doctor would take her away.  Out of my presence.  My ... influence.  My--"
Narvin: "Control?"
Brax: "I was going to say 'guidance'."
Narvin: "Of course you were."

Or, as [ profile] violetisblue put it, "My horrid half-brother stole my hothouse-orchid virgin right out from under my nose."*  Although I keep going to put that in lolspeak, which makes it slightly funnier.

In short, this story is basically the Brax Is Really Creepy Show.  With a side of Everyone Hates Narvin.  Braxiatel, after saving him from spurious murder charges: "Don't mention it.  Really.  Don't say anything.  I couldn't bear the shame."  The Braxiatel And Narvin Comedy Hour: more interesting than the actual plots, most of the time.  [ profile] shinyjenni has reminded me that the audio documentary at the end of season 2 describes Narvin as the series' moral centre, as he's the only character who's not out for himself.  Not that Romana and Leela are totally motivated by selfish reasons, but Narvin has them both beat.  As [ profile] shinyjenni says, "with Leela and Romana it's about their personal beliefs and causes, they'd die for what they believe is right, whereas Narvin would probably die for a cause he didn't believe in if he thought it was his duty. He'd be really irritated about it, but he'd do it."

(He would.  He'd be so. very. put out.)

I made a handy list of the major characters, in ascending order based on selfish motivation:


Points for making Narvin, the most overtly "civilised" traditional Time Lord, the moral centre, as opposed to Leela, the noble savage.

...There's also the Romana and Leela Lesbian Subtext Show, but I'm finding that less interesting on the second go-through.  Maybe because it's so very doomed?  Or maybe because Brax is being creepy, and that hits my weakness for pedagogical eros right there.  One of the reasons I pointedly handwave the "wiped her memory of their tutor-student relationship" bit is that it effectively removes the most interesting aspect of their current relationship.  Not to mention that I simply don't find it plausible; are we to believe she spent the next year just wandering around Prydon Academy, not noticing Braxiatel's looming presence?  Bits of "Last of the Time Lords" make more sense than that.  *grumps*

*  The old thing about Braxiatel being the Doctor's brother = my personal fanon since the day the Doctor said, "I had a brother once".  What day did "Smith and Jones" air?  That's the one.  It helped that "Sound of Drums" clarified that said brother != the Master -- THANK GOD.  Not that it would have stopped fandom, world of Doctor/Jenny and "No, River is totally the Doctor's mother!"

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I decided to skip "Zagreus" all together, and went straight into "Weapon of Choice".  It was actually less awful than I remembered.  I came out with the following observations:

- On meeting Romana for the first time, Arkadian greets her as "Imperiatrix".  Which is both nifty and creepy, but raises the questions of "how?" and "why?"  Unless word of the future timeline from "Neverland" has at some point leaked out, so Romana's eeeeeeeeeeeeevil future is relatively common knowledge.
- Braxiatel and Romana are quite distant.  Even cold, in bits.  He's laying it on too thick with the flattery, and she's ... well, cranky, but that's just a sign she's awake.  Cheer up, Romana, it's all downhill from here.  Anyway, the Romana/Braxiatel relationship doesn't get really interesting (to me) until the second season, when we find out he was her tutor at university, and has been manipulating and controlling her from her youth.  Some people might say it's sociopathy laced with ambition, but to me, that's a spiffing good OTP.
- Romana is really keen to be a martyr for Gallifrey.  She actually sounds disappointed when she realises she's not going to die to save her planet.  This brings me back to Theory A: Romana Is Crazy.
- Setting the tone of the series, Braxiatel and Narvin get the best lines.  To wit:

Narvin: "And [Romana's] mood?"
Brax: "Above apoplexy, but below incandescence."

Romana's crankiness: a universally acknowledged fact, like the existence of the giant squid, or nuclear physics.

And, after she's gone off in search of martyrdom-by-stupidity:

Narvin: "I must call the High Council.  It seems there will be a presidential election, soon."
Brax: "I wouldn't be too hasty, Narvin."
Narvin: "Of course not.  We shall observe a proper period of mourning first.  You think I have no respect?"

Narvin's love for Romana: cunningly concealed beneath a thick layer of hatred.  Really.

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Just offline.  The library is closed on Sundays, and it turns out that every single other wireless hotspot in Melbourne blocks LJ.  Can't justify Monday's absence, except that I got up, had breakfast, watched an episode of Dexter and then went back to bed until it was time to go to work.  What can I say?  Fail ISP has said we'll be reconnected on Wednesday. 

In my absence, I have been re-listening to Big Finish audios again, or at least, those ones with Romana.  Try as I might, I simply cannot find it within myself to give a damn about Charley, Evelyn or any of the other non-Romana companions.  This is, I know, my loss, but I never pretended I wasn't monomaniacal.  Anyway, so far I've gotten through "The Apocalypse Element" and "Neverland", and my spoilery thoughts: let me show you them. )

Now, the real question is, do I skip the first three episodes of "Zagreus" and pick up where Romana comes in?  And I think the answer is yes, because ... well, who has time for that much surrealism?  Not me, especially not when I'm in a rush to get to the Gallifrey series so I can try to make sense of the Pandora thing for once and for all. 


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