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ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Edit: I didn't know when I posted this earlier, but today would have been Roger Delgado's 97th birthday: #HappyBirthdayRogerDelgado.

I’m not a costumier. My skills stretch to sewing on the occasional button so, when attending Gallifrey One in Los Angeles, Roger Delgado’s Master was an easy choice for me. Although he does occasionally appear in extra-terrestrial garb, he’s mostly associated with smart dark suits, and as I mentioned last time, I’ve always fancied having something with a Nehru collar. The creative bit for me was constructing the Tissue Compression Eliminator, and [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem helped me by applying black and white hair dyes from Manic Panic. Apart from that, everything was purchased.

I tend towards dressing in black anyway, so enjoyed putting together an ensemble that unashamedly emphasised it. The suit was by Alvin Amario, and ordered from eBay. Although the Nehru collar went through a bit of a revival in the UK fifteen or twenty years ago, it’s a bit tricky to find on the High Street these days, particularly when your High Street is in St. Andrews or Dundee. The suit’s light and comfortable, and although I had to settle for an oversize waist on the trousers, they were OK with a belt. Underneath, I wore a matching shirt from Bargear in case it showed (but I don’t think it did). I should probably have worn a shirt with long sleeves, but I’m not a long sleeve person – I’m just not comfortable with them.

For footwear, I wore my usual brogues, but with black jacquard spats from Gentleman’s Emporium which I’ve had for a while. Spats are disappointingly hard to get hold of, but they’re an ace item of clothing. They look smart, they can be unobtrusive (I’ve worn dark spats in public and at work without comment, although the day I don the silver ones I expect people will notice) and they’re remarkably comfortable, snuggled cosily around your ankles.

I covered my hands with military dress gloves from Southcombe in black cotton. Delgado’s gloves seem to be leather and I could probably have worn the leather gloves I already have, but I thought cotton would be less bulky and warm, while still looking smart.

Was it successful? Judge for yourself:

You? The Master? I'll be The Judge! )
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Or, Reinventing The Torch.

In Doctor Who, the Master’s signature weapon is the Tissue Compression Eliminator, which kills by shrinking the target to the size of a doll (the scale of the doll is, for some reason, never specified). It’s mostly used by the Master as played by Anthony Ainley in the 1980s, and in those stories takes the form of a thick rod with a bulb at the end that opens, crocus-like, to fire a red beam.

However, it made its first appearance in the Master’s very first story, Terror of the Autons, in which Roger Delgado’s Master wielded a rather more stylish version resembling a cigar, and fired by pressing with the thumb:

The Ainley period Tissue Compression EliminatorThe Delgado period Tissue Compression Eliminator

Knowing I was going to be attending a Doctor Who convention and would be expected to dress accordingly, it occurred to me – before last season’s revelation about the Master – that a) I had the beard for the part and b) had always fancied a jacket with a Nehru collar. A bit of hair colouring would convert my largely white beard to the original Master’s two-tone badger-style goatee. Couldn’t do much about the hairline.

What I couldn’t easily accept, adapt or get hold of, however, was the Master’s TCE, so I thought about building one.

The Core

My first thought was to buy aluminium tubing and telescope short sections of it together, but it proved difficult to find sizes guaranteed to telescope and although the prices were reasonable for the amount I wanted, minimum order amounts were – less so. I headed out to the nearest hardware store and inspiration, of a sort, struck. Toilet roll holders – the sprung, plastic sort – would do the job for a few quid.

I bought a handful of black ones on the spot to experiment with, and ordered some silver ones from eBay. The black ones were noticeably better quality, but using a silver one as my base would give me a much better finish for the sliding section than I could possibly have achieved using paint. I also found I could fix some if its issues by opening up a big enough hole in the larger end to work the weedy spring out and replace it with a stronger spring from one of the black ones.

The Circuitry

Having found something that could form a good base to work on, the next thing to consider was what to put inside it if I wanted it to appear to work. Well, electrically that’s not hard. What I would need would be a power source, and something that would light up when a switch was closed. It’s a torch!

Circuit diagram for the Tissue Compression Eliminator

With appropriate circuit board to mount them on, I could fit seven LEDs (arranged hexagonally, with one in the middle) within the diameter of the toilet roll holder. A bit of browsing at Proto-Pic turned up what I wanted; a 1" circular protoboard. I did have to trim it down a bit to fit, but it gave me a good starting point. I also got some Super Bright Red LEDs. I already had resistors to hand, and a small selection of switches which happened to include a suitable one.

The circuit couldn’t get much simpler and was easy to throw together on a solderless breadboard just to check everything worked. Then the tricky bit was to work out how to wire it up in practice, cram it all inside a toilet roll holder without breaking anything, and provide a way of activating the switch.

Building The Shell

It was obvious the LEDs would have to be mounted inside and at the front somehow. However, a single toilet roll holder was neither long enough to represent the TCE, nor would it be possible to mount the LEDs inside its broader half – there would be nowhere to attach them, and that space also contained the spring. Even if that hadn’t been the case, it would have been very tight and might have necessitated cutting down on LEDs. This is where the black toilet roll holders came into play.

By cutting the bigger part of a black toilet roll holder to a suitable length, and then sawing a slit along it, it was possible to prise it open and fit it as a sleeve around the silver one. This again gave the right colour without the need for painting, and it made it possible to extend the length of the TCE with a double skin – an inner, un-slit tube simply stacked on the front of the silver one, and a slit sleeve embracing them both. The slit tubes would require filling later to cover the gap, but again a good structural foundation was in place.

With the idea for the extension of the muzzle established, the problem of where to mount the LEDs was solved, as they would go inside that rather than the body of the main holder.

Planning The Interior

With that settled, the next most obvious decision was that power would have to go at the other end, so that it could be easily inserted and replaced. To power the LEDs, I wanted a 6V power supply. Within the space available, that meant I’d need to go with with several watch batteries, but I managed to get an AAA battery holder that fit nicely inside the thinner half of the toilet roll holder, and found that LR44 watch batteries would fit nicely within that. Taping four 1.5V LR44s into one slightly bigger 6V battery with insulation tape and adding a longer spring to the battery holder to hold them in place solved the power supply problem.

With both power and light source at least notionally sorted out, the tricky bit was how to connect them up successfully, with a switch in between that would be activated by the narrow end of the toilet-roll holder being pushed in.

How To Press The Switch

I had a small press-to-close switch that would fit inside the narrow end, and was about the same width as the battery holder. I could mount it (and the resistor) at the positive end of the battery holder, and hopefully attach some sort of plunger to the far end of the toilet-roll holder that would come down and press the switch closed when the smaller tube was pushed into the larger one.

I considered other alternatives, the main one being conductive paint on the outside of the small tube being brought into contact with more on the larger tube, but whenever I thought about reliability, I came back to the plunger option. Paint would have been very prone to wear and tear, and (as the conductive paint is black) painting over it to restore the silver look would reintroduce connectivity problems and spoil the look.

However, a plunger presented problems too. It had to be long enough to press the switch, but not so long that it would cause mechanical problems by pressing too hard – a tricky measurement to make confidently inside a tube and out of sight. It had to be broad enough to be sure of hitting the switch, and to prevent it being easily knocked out of alignment, but narrow enough to avoid catching on the lip of the narrower tube, and getting caught up in the spring. Finally, it had to share the confined space with the wires connecting the power end of the assembly to the LEDs, without fouling or putting strain on them – or doing the same to itself.

The solution I came up with was to build a plunger that was fixed at one end, but had the other end sprung.

Building The Plunger

In order to accommodate a spring with the least hassle possible, I started with an old modelling paintbrush for the shaft of the plunger. It was roughly equivalent to a piece of narrow dowel, but with the advantage of being already hipped. I measured things out and cut it so that I could just slide a small spring on, and the broad part of the paintbrush would hold it in place. Then I built up each end with Sugru and a circle of plastic card to fix things, provide flat surfaces at either end, and make the plunger robust.

Making one end of the plunger sprung provided a couple of benefits. It allowed for a soft press on the switch, so that it didn’t matter so much if I didn’t get my measurements quite right; and it prevented catching on the lip of the narrower tube from being a problem – if it did occur, the sprung tip would flex slightly until it just slipped in, rather than getting stuck.

The most worrisome part was getting the wiring to share the same space. Ultimately, I just drilled holes through the ends of the plunger for each wire, with enough space to let it move fairly freely, and hoped.


Parts before assembly - click through for full sizeHaving – more or less – worked  out all the parts necessary, it was time to try to bring everything together. I’ve not done a lot of soldering in the last 25 years, so creating a circular array of 7 LEDs wired in parallel kept me busy for a while, and worried about short circuits, as there wasn’t a lot of space to work with the wire I had. Connecting up switch and resistor on a little piece of protoboard and connecting it to both the battery holder and the wire that would connect to the LEDs was challenging within the space available too. Both of these went well, though, and I used more Sugru to fix the switch assembly firmly in place (and provide a bit of additional insulation) at the positive end of the battery holder.

Where I messed up – though I didn’t discover it until later – was the simplest part of the soldering. While connecting a wire to the negative terminal of the battery holder, I overheated the plastic and managed to break the connection between the metal terminal and the spring holding the battery in place. I tried to keep testing everything was still working at every stage, but I missed this and had some worrying debugging of connections later on with a multi-meter when stuff just didn’t work! When eventually discovered, a combination of conductive thread and paint remedied the issue.

I fed the wires through the plunger, with excess that could be cut back once I knew how much slack would be required to attach the LED assembly but allow the battery holder to be pulled out for inserting or removing batteries, and I drilled some extra holes through the stationary end of the plunger to allow me to fix it in place more firmly with thread or wire. I tried thread first, but it was too fiddly and difficult to get right, so I fell back on aluminium modelling wire – and another layer of Sugru to fix the LED assembly in place and avoid short-circuits!

TCE nearly complete

Finishing The Exterior

As already described, the exterior of the barrel was to be built up with parts of the black toilet roll holders. With a bit of specialist super glue for awkward plastics, these went on firmly and the large lengthwise gaps left by slitting them and the smaller circumferential one between the two sections were filled with black Sugru, which I then rolled on greaseproof paper to try to get a reasonably smooth surface. The result wasn’t perfect, but good enough if you weren’t inspecting it closely. The interior of the barrel was painted silver.

The butt end, where the battery holder was inserted, was covered up with a cylindrical rubber ferrule (sold for the foot of a chair), which was just right for the job of a battery cap.

Finally, I added a a bit of copper trim – two strips of plastic card covered with Bare-Metal Foil and attached with the plastics super glue. One covered the join between the two sections of black tubing nicely.

The End Result

The completed TCEThe completed TCEThe completed TCE, lit upThe original, on-screen TCE

The final picture shows the original, for comparison.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Earlier this month, I came across a model maker I wasn’t aware of before, selling his work through eBay. Nathan Yeoman works in a selection of scales, and across a variety of subjects. The common element seems to be quirkiness, in the best sense. If you wish something was available in your scale, but no-one else is making it, then maybe Nathan is.

So if you need (or just want) for example: a V1 rocket and launch ramp in 1:100 scale (or a V2); a Horten Ho 229 in 1:144; assorted GWR buildings; Nissen huts or a brilliant selection of call-boxes, including AA and RAC, then take a look at Yeoman Models. The blog in particular seems worth keeping an eye on.

Despite being tempted by some of those things, what I went for was a selection of Victorian street furniture – three post boxes, a water pump, a snowman, and a selection of manhole covers:

Yeoman Models Victorian street furniture

They’re all sitting on a tile of Wills Granite Sets, a nice, cheap way of getting a set of cobbles just about the right size for basing a 28mm horse-drawn vehicle, and accompanied by a 28mm figure for an idea of size. As usual, you can click through for a full-size photo.

Apart from the snowman’s arms, which are metal, these are all resin and include some fantastic detail. The cast lettering on the pillar boxes and drain covers is crisp and legible - my photos don’t do the moulding justice, even at full size, but you can read the words “Post Office” on the Penfold pillar box (the middle one). For reference, here’s a photo of a real one in the village:

Penfold pillar box, Kingsbarns

For fans of The Talons of Weng-Chiang and associated audio spin-offs, one of the manhole covers bears the legend “Jago & Litefoot Ltd, Limehouse”, while another was apparently created by Yeoman & Sons!

Yeoman Models Victorian street furniture

The pillar boxes were painted in a red acrylic from Inscribe, with details picked out in black, white and gold. They were finished off by an application of Rotring Artist Color red ink which helped deepen the shadows a bit and provided a reasonably subtle gloss; applying a gloss varnish would probably have been too much. Apparently Rotring inks aren’t available any more, but there are probably alternatives.

The manhole covers were painted a rust colour (Revell Aqua Color 83), then given a Raw Umber wash. The flash makes them look a bit paler than they actually are, but natural light was not an option today. Looks like I’ve overdone it with the black on the one pierced manhole cover – I may have to revisit that.

I rather wish I’d placed the pump at an angle so that you can see it more clearly. It’s another nice and atmospheric piece. The base colour is Revell Bronze Green (65), with the cast features picked out using Inscribe’s Honey Dew. I used rust again for the grating, and Revell Tank Grey for the base. It’s the same colour I used as the base colour for the cobbles, but left “as-is” without the further shading the cobbles received.

The snowman is painted white, but with a thin wash of Inscribe’s Blue Mist to give a little bit of depth to the shadows – pretty much washed out by the flash, of course. The scarf is based on one given to me by [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem. You may be able to guess which other scarf inspired that one!

A few days after placing my order, I got an e-mail from Nathan inviting any suggestions for other things to make. Rather excitingly, a couple of my suggestions seemed to be of interest, with a possibility that one may become available sometime in the year ahead. Something to look forward to…

ggreig: (Western gentleman)
Must-watch official prequel to The Day of the Doctor, the 50th anniversary episode:


Aug. 14th, 2013 07:13 am
ggreig: (Western gentleman)
Cool thing on Google Maps. Follow this link and click on the double chevron.
ggreig: (Astronaut)

I was at first puzzled, then interested, when Spain’s entry appeared. Introduced by Graham Norton as ESDM, they and their sound were kind of familiar, and they started with the sound of Asturian bagpipes. Then the lead singer looked familiar, although I didn’t know her from Oxford where apparently she lived for a time. It didn’t take long for the penny to drop – ESDM were El Sueño de Morfeo, a group I recommended a couple of years ago. Their song, Contigo hasta el final, didn’t grab me as immediately as some of their other work, but seemed OK. They came 25th out of 26, just ahead of Ireland whose entry also seemed a bit better than the voting reflected.

In other news, the entry from Belarus arrived in a Sontaran spaceship:

The Belarus entry in Eurovision 2013 A Sontaran emerging from his spaceship
A Sontaran emerging from his spaceship The Belarus entry in Eurovision 2013
ggreig: (Default)

Apparently the sonic screwdriver has been developed right here in Dundee! (Usual hyperbole applies, but it’s still an interesting development.)

ggreig: (Default)

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem for the scarf, and [livejournal.com profile] qidane for pressing the video button when I was posing for a still!

ggreig: (Default)

Didn't see that one coming, and was shocked when I read the news yesterday. 63 is no age really, such a shame. Nothing to add that hasn’t been said everywhere else.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

Nicholas Courtney, who played the character of Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart on television for 40 years (1968-2008) in Doctor Who has died at the age of 81. The Brigadier was played honestly but with humour, despite an occasionally regrettable penchant for shooting things, and that warmth seemed to be a reflection of the actor. He will be missed.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)
Dr Who End Of Time Part 2 – Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

Also: Part 1 & Part 3 and (must watch this one): Learn how to draw a Dalek

Ever wondered why the Master never mentioned that knocking in his head before? Watch Part 2 to find out.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

On Sunday, I went to see Doctor Who Live: The Monsters Are Coming! at the SECC in Glasgow with [livejournal.com profile] qidane, who drove and selected a lunch location.

I wasn’t sure how it would stand up with an unrelated selection of monsters, and with the Doctor only appearing on screen, but I really enjoyed it.

The underlying story idea will be instantly recognisable to anyone who’s seen the Third Doctor story Carnival of Monsters, and the name of the showman played by Nigel Planer, Vorgenson, is no coincidence. But it’s not the same story, so there are still surprises to be seen. In fact, it’s a sequel, although there’s no need to have seen the original.

One concern was that it would be a pedestrian parade of monsters with not much to recommend it, and at times it was impossible to be unaware that we were seeing the next monster on the list; but the “galactic showman” setup helped to alleviate this and there was a proper storyline developed over the couple of hours of performance. It could have been edited down for TV, but on TV you can use a cut to get directly from one scene to another in a way that just ain’t possible in real life, so that’s not really a criticism. The most filler-y bit was shortly after the interval, when we had a series of clips of Amy Pond on the screen, followed by Liz Ten running around the auditorium shooting at Smilers, but the rest of the time it was more immersive – very immersive, at times.

The Doctor on the screen worked surprisingly well, with live actors interacting pretty seamlessly with the pre-recorded Doctor; and they were clever enough to have him step out of the  2D screen towards the end, though I won’t reveal how that was done in case it spoils the surprise.

Although Nigel Planer headlined, for me the star was actually – Nick Briggs! The only actor from the TV show appearing in person, he managed to pull off a decent Winston Churchill, as well as voices, live, for five different-sounding Daleks, the Cybermen, and others.

A good bit of fun; recommended.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

I played the first instalment of the Doctor Who interactive episode/game yesterday evening, and I did finish it, although it took pretty much the whole evening.

As a game, it’s very linear, as you’re led from one situation to another, but as an interactive episode this is not really a problem. With both titles and scrolling credits at the end, the feel was very much of being immersed in an episode.

The gameplay consists of exploring, sneaking past dangerous situations and solving puzzles. Some manual dexterity is required. The puzzles won’t keep you up at night trying to solve them, but they may be frustrating for the very young. The BBC recommend the game for those of 8 or above.

Both the Doctor and Amy can die, at which point game over, but the save points are frequent and you won’t lose any significant progress.

As I’m not a game whiz, if I can get through it in a (long) evening, it’s not too challenging; but it was certainly enough to keep me interested and engaged.

If you’ve downloaded it early, it might be worth re-downloading after Saturday’s rush is over, as the version available now is apparently a few tweaks short of being Saturday’s official release.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

You wait ages for a Doctor Who post, then two come along at once!

City of the Daleks, the first of four Doctor Who computer games that are also being promoted as being episodes in the current series, is now downloadable free from the BBC web site.

Windows folk, you can go get it now. If you’re afflicted with a Mac, you will have to wait until June the 15th (officially; but then officially this download was meant to be available on the 5th, so it might be worth checking a little early).

The premise of this game is that you (the Doctor) arrive in 1963 to find Earth under the heel  tentacle bonded polycarbide shell of the Daleks. What are you going to do about it? I won’t have time to get it installed before I head off to work, so you’ll have to find out for yourself…

Each game is projected to be around the size of this one, which is 330MB.

ggreig: (Astronaut)

For the past couple of weeks, the Silurians have been appearing in their first new televised story since 1984, but I’ve been rather dissatisfied, and I’ve worked out what it is that bothers me most.

It’s not the story, which I thought was OK if not stellar. It’s not the acting, which was fine. No, it’s that they’ve changed from bipedal reptile-men into Star Trek actors with knobbly foreheads.

An old school Silurian A Sea Devil A new Silurian

Let me just say again, it’s not the acting that bothers me. Nor is it the quality of the prosthetic makeup, which is clearly pretty good. I don’t mind them looking different from the ones we’ve seen before; the difference between old school Silurians and Sea Devils doesn’t phase me, and I can accept the 1980s costumes even if I think the 1970s ones were actually better.

One of the things I’ve always valued about Doctor Who, though, is its courage in showing us protagonists who are different, even when the budget or technology may not have been there to entirely carry it off. True, that has given us the cliché of the man in the rubber suit, and other supposedly laughable creations such as the ball of frozen Swarfega that is the Rutan in Horror of Fang Rock. But I’m fond of them, and not just patronisingly because they’re amusing or camp. I like them because they’re imaginative, and I excuse their limitations because I value their imaginativeness more highly.

I understand why the decision was made to show more of the actors’ faces; because it’s easier for the actor to convey emotion, because this type of prosthetic is well understood and generally pretty successful, and because the audience will therefore more easily accept the character as real. It’s also more attractive to actors whose face will be visible, both because it’s nice to be seen and because  of the scope for facially expressed emotion. If you want to attract a good actor, why make it hard for yourself?

I still think it was a mistake, and I think it was a mistake particularly in the case of the Silurians. The Silurians are unique in that they’re not aliens from another planet. They’re another intelligent race sleeping under our feet, and they were here first. Because of that, part of their very strength is not how like us they are – but how different. The more they look like scaly humans, the less effective they are in shocking us out of our preconceptions about life on earth.

I understand the fear the producers must have of choosing a rubber-suit monster and having it go wrong; but I remember the first time I saw a werewolf in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “Good grief, why are we so apologetic about Doctor Who?”, I thought. It did Buffy no harm. It’s great when effects or costumes really work, but more than half the battle is giving the audience something they want to believe. Let’s have a bit of imagination.

ggreig: (Robot Maria)

To make up for the previous post on November 5th, about British sci-fi and fantasy TV that could only be watched online if you were inside the UK, here’s some that you can only watch if you’re outside the UK (including Edge of Destruction, which I’ve never seen − <gnash, grumble>). They’re on the BBC Worldwide YouTube channel. Unfortunately I can’t explore it effectively because I’m in the UK, but it definitely has:


Because it’s viewable outside the UK, it’s advertising-supported; I don’t know how intrusive that will be.

ggreig: (Robot Maria)

MSN are putting classic British sci-fi/fantasy TV online to watch free in the UK (edit, sorry if your hopes were falsely raised). Currently there’s Day of the Triffids, Neverwhere, The Quatermass Experiment (the 2005 live remake) and Doctor Who’s The Web Planet (1st Doctor).

On the Doctor Who page, it says “come back to see new episodes every Tuesday and Friday from November 10th”, so The Web Planet isn’t all you’ll get.

ggreig: (Robot Maria)

Lifted from [livejournal.com profile] huskyteer, the 15 Books meme. List "15 books you've read that will always stick with you"; not necessarily the best, just the ones that stick with you, and you only have 15 minutes. There doesn't seem to be a requirement for an explanation, but I've given one anyway. (I wrote my list first, then the explanations, so not breaking the time stipulation!)

Don't break the spine! Open carefully... )

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