Monday, 27 January 2014

Game Review: Halo Reach

I received an Xbox 360 last year from my generous, nerdy Bioshock fan friend Naomi and I put it to good use at once, beginning to burn through a backlog of games I'd never completed because I was busy being part of the awe-inspiring PC master race.

Though it wasn't the first title I played, what better place to begin my 360 reviews than the franchise perhaps most associated with Microsoft's Xbox: Halo. The chronology of the Halo universe versus the release order of the games is slightly convoluted, and so whilst awaiting a copy of the remastered anniversary edition of Combat Evolved, the initial title, I decided to play this first person shooter prequel, released by developers Bungie in 2010 and defend the planet Reach alongside Noble Team.

Yes, Halo is set in the future where human starships have meaningless, unwieldy names such as "Pillar of Autumn" and the hostile Covenant species usurp religious titles of old to create a game universe that is a bemusing mishmash of bright Spore-esque colours, the hoorah! marines in 'Aliens' and visiting a orthodox cathedral in France during a summer holiday. Its oddly, but pleasantly ethereal for what is essentially a military shooter series, giving it some unique and rather introvert qualities. In Halo: Reach, you play as Noble Six, a masked 'SPARTAN' superwarrior who barely speaks, like Master Chief, has a face that is never seen beneath a helmet, like Master Chief and is tasked with defending what appear to be some farmers on a remote Scottish isle. Unlike Master Chief.

The planet Reach, colony world for humanity, is explored thoroughly, despite repetitive levels either set in cities, canyons or grass fields with clusters of the same old enemies. That said, gameplay is really where Halo: Reach excels, a vast array of weapons that feel effective in your hands (my favourite being the plasma pistol), unique and easy to operate vehicles as well as a good compromise between regen health and a hunting-for-medpacks-system that would be seen later in titles such as Mass Effect 3. There are also a couple of rather wonderful space-battle sequences and a helicopter-rescue style mission, which are far more than the tacked-on minigames they first appear to be.

Time passes during a nice variety of night time stealth drops and big assaults on enemy towers, culminating in a great mission where Noble Team take over a Covenant ship and use a Big Bombtm to eliminate a supercarrier. However, the story soon takes a turn and becomes an alien invasion epic. You do feel the dread and fear knowing Reach is doomed by a superior and overwhelming force, so any satisfaction we would have had by defeating evil invaders needs to be morphed into a more personal survival plot, and the game plays on this to give us one supposedly emotional scene after another, usually by killing off a member of Noble Team. Sadly, the weakness of the storyline during the first half leaves little time for us to get to know, let alone care about our fellow SPARTAN marines, leaving them as archetypes of cocky badasses and role-enforced attributes which almost reach (heh) the depths of Call of Duty cliches'. In one end-of-mission cut scene, the lone female team mate is sniped by an enemy, as an afterthought, and dies silently with no overt reference to her in later levels or in dialogue. A shock death that has no real shock value because I don't really care. 

Both the final two missions are expertly crafted, however and definitely invest you in the gauntlet ending which is as cinematic and filmic as it is infinitely more playable than the rest of the entire game. The post-credits mission is also very effective, alongside emotional piano music, being impossible to beat, and literally a heroic last stand.

Multiplayer is essentially the focus of Reach and where the game really shines, building on the existing assets with a robust teaming system and some fun game types. Even three years on, Halo: Reach has a lot of replay value and the servers, local or online are full of players, whom I intend to join not long after finishing this review. I've always liked the Halo games, but this is the first time I've taken one to the very end and immersed myself in the lore. I enjoyed it very much, despite it's flaws and am looking forward to Combat Evolved with a renewed interest and a hope that we find out what these giant ring things floating in space are all about.

Halo: Reach is cinematic and sweeping with a diverse array of weapons and vehicles to compliment it's no-nonsense gameplay, but beyond a great story concept, more work has been put into combat and multiplayer, than enriching the Halo-verse, leaving a satisfying, yet often soulless experience.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Star Trek: Unity - "Maze of Munitions"

And the award for most convoluted production of a Star Trek: Unity episode goes to...?

"Maze of Munitions" has been a long time coming. In fact, after it was actually finished and uploaded, I fell into a deep state of lethargy which delayed the behind the scenes video and indeed this blog until now. The real problem is that the episode isn't our best by far, but was instead wedged between a long period of script writing, filming and not a lot of actual editing for the series. Moreover, after writing the script with my friend (and Mitchell Stone actor) Matt McConnell in a day for the purposes of being a minisode, a rough, windy day fraught with problems wasn't helped by a lot of last minute changes, which saw the story expanded into a main episode when I decided that there needed to be more substance to what was otherwise a rather basic and meaningless little adventure. What I do like about this episode is the truly alien planet that I was able to create by colouring the forest blue in post-production. Even in it's finished form, its hardly our deepest commentary on the Human condition, but I'm glad we introduced the new villain Valdran, played by Ollie Smith, who gives the Romulan enemy a bit of motivation and threat. If nothing else, Maze... has the best explosion in Star Trek: Unity history!

Excuses, excuses... I know! We pressed on and finally got it completed during the summer, released over a couple of weeks in two parts. So please enjoy (if you can!).

Guided by a stranded pirate named Cameron, Admiral Lewis and Mitchell Stone must escape "the Maze", a Romulan weapons testing range. But facing cloaked mines and automated drones, can the team think 'outside the xBox'?

With one of the team trapped in a Romulan minefield and no way to escape the weapons testing range on Nelvana V, Admiral Lewis, Chief Mitchell and new friend Cameron the pirate make their way to a confrontation with the enemy commander...

Take a look at the most convoluted production of an episode ever on the series. Battling strong winds, raining locations and script rewrites, the cast and crew still had a lot of fun making a more traditional Unity outing, with the usual bloopers, mistakes and memorable moments!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

I know many people. It is often assumed that I know everyone.

Sometimes, I'm asked:  
Luke, why are you friends with that person? Why do you make an effort with them?

I try to find the best in each person I meet, especially those I carefully choose to call friends. Everyone has flaws, everyone criticizes, everyone makes mistakes. So long as an individual's core is honourable and good, I know we can learn from each other. I'm tolerant and patient - attributes the world needs more of, even in this enlightened age.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Writer's Block

Sometimes I forget how to words.

I pride myself on being reasonably good at a couple of things and one of those is writing. Essays, fiction, scripts or just speaking online to someone in a conversation. I'm pretty good at all that and my Mum vividly recalls the story of how I was incredibly frustrated as a child until I could express myself by reading and writing. I love stories, I love characters and I love using my imagination.

My friend Amy recently asked me what conditions I find best for writing. When it specifically comes to fiction, I like to be slightly tired in the middle of the evening listening to music that fits with the tone of what I'm developing. Soundtracks (especially that sad piano music) do wonders in keeping my creative juices flowing. On an especially good day, dialogue will pop into my brain faster than I can type it out manically on this decrepit keyboard

Yet since Christmas, I've not been very good at it. I'm worrying all of a sudden about what the moral of the story is and how I can incorporate a theme or with what style a character should speak their dialogue realistically: things that have otherwise always come naturally to me when I sit down to work. I've never needed to consider it too much. Being critical and self aware of these elements was necessary for my group's final major university project, a short film entitled 404 on which I worked on improving the script and dialogue, but its like I've suddenly lost those neural pathways in my brain and I don't have the spark anymore. I've lost it. Looking back at the number of articles I've written on my personal blog over the years, you can see the steady decrease as time goes by - a symptom of laziness? Burning out? Some skills stick with you ad infinitum, like riding a bicycle, whilst others need constant attention, lest they stagnate. Perhaps writing comes under this latter heading. Thats very silly of course, because I'm just struggling with getting a few stories right. In a few weeks I'll be fine. The less I dwell, the better. However, I should make more of a conscious effort to stop getting distracted or sidetracked. This can be my 'diet', if you will, from laying in bed watching gratuitous amounts of nineties-era television when I had planned on finishing off a re-write.

I do think maybe I'm burning out, especially when it comes to still writing Star Trek: Unity after eight years. Or perhaps its because I want to get this final season of the fan film series right because I won't be doing it anymore. I feel an urgent need to do justice to the stories I've started and commit every last iota of creativity to making it perfect, which is stressful and tiring. But writer's block is more serious even than I'm making it out to be here. Creativity can be very personal. At times recently, I've felt essentially useless because I can't put a few words together. Its seriously depressing. Its like being cut off from the one thing you feel is good about yourself, and people who do this for a living will speak of the terrifying moment they sit down in front of a blank sheet of paper and their mind deserts them. There is only so much that standing up and doing something else or going for a jog can do to refresh the mind.

This is the longest period of time in which I've felt 'incompetent', but I know I can work through it. I need to be positive. I look at the work I'm proud of from past years' projects and I attempt to focus. I have to try.

That being said, I just wrote this blog entry and its not terrible. Maybe theres yet hope.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Things Totton Locals Don't Say

Amidst the Gangnam Styles, Harlem Shakes and other high quality memes that the internet provides us, there are small gems that last mere days before vanishing into digital dust.  One of these is 'Things [X] People Don't Say", in which X is replaced by a place or institution. These Facebook pages are filled with quotes about the titular subject matter, with the ironic twist being that nobody would ever legitimately say it. I find it hilarious.

Though I typically despise this sort of thing, I took it upon myself to create a page for my hometown of Totton and see how interested users were in sarcastic quips. Before twenty-four hours had passed, my page was followed by over a hundred people, most from the local area who understood exactly what I meant when I posted "The best time to visit ASDA is Saturday morning" (it isn't, its crowded) or "The Duck Pond looks lovely and clean today. See that duck over there?!" (the dark and cloudy pond has few ducks) or even "There just aren't enough McColls near Totton College" (more than two!).

It really is terribly sad.

Check it out:

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Expectations of Others (or 'How I knew a girl who knew me before I knew her')

I know a girl who knew me before I knew her. It sounds like one of my time lord travels, but stay with me. She was waiting with a friend at the same bus stop as I when the bus was late one morning. I don’t like being late and I must have felt rather bold in curtly criticising the bus driver for this crime when I stepped aboard, only to discover they were nervous and new to driving the route. I came across rather poorly to the girl and her friend. I never meant to. I’m not like that… But they were just strangers and strangers forget. Yet she didn’t.

Not long after, we met at the party of a mutual friend and she recognised me – how could she not considering the same green jacket and Battlestar Galactica arm patch? Never mentioning the bus incident, we talked and laughed and went away adding each other on Facebook. Yet the girl only told me this story a few weeks ago, after we’ve grown close and become good friends in many intervening months. Shes very important in my life right now. Its a good story, demonstrating not only that first impressions aren’t fatal, but that the world is too small to presume and place expectations.

I’ve never had a lot of time for socialising and worrying what people think about me. Being a geek at school from day one quickly made me into an outcast, except that I had a label, and more importantly, an expectation placed upon me. I had to be clever. I had to get the best grades, be the best pupil and prove to everyone that… well, what?

Truth be told, I’m clever and savvy but more of an all-rounder in my abilities rather than an A-grade academic student. I’ll easily procrastinate and daydream of far off lands and rather than focus on an essay about convergent media. I learn things better by feeling them through poetic texture and reading the atmosphere of a situation rather than researching technical specifications and dates (unless its Galaxy-class starships). I’ve known this for some years now of course, but it doesn’t stop me feeling like I have something to prove each time I’m handed an assignment. Be it an essay to ace, or the right till buttons to press. And I do want to be good at things. I want people to respect me, think of me as kind and fair and as someone who knows his stuff. The only thing that my parents asked of me was to “try my best”. I still do.

The problem with it is nobody cares. The scruffy lad who wears green jackets is perhaps the label the average pedestrian in my home town places upon me with little thought to my background or disposition. That would worry me in the past when I’d make a youthful faux pas and appear foolish. “I’m not like that…” I’d naively protest. I’m nice really! I’m friendly! I have a moral centre I promise! Personally I couldn’t care less if someone I knew passed or failed their exam: not in the sense that I’d judge them as a person on it, anyway. You’d be surprised how many whispered gossips I’ve heard. Maybe you wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe that’s just Human. Now I’m older I still feel a desire to prove that I’m ‘worthy’, I guess, but the average person matters little to me.

University is ending for me this year, and I approach a crossroads in life. What shall I do next? A career of opportunity and running around with business plans, or a quiet life with a simple job that might not excite, but is safe and happy? Sometimes people evaluate others claiming that “they could have done something more” or “was too clever for just that”. I don’t ever want someone to say that about me, but I won’t let that affect my choices. The people in the street will always have an expectation regardless if I become a famous film director, manage a journalistic career or simply work night shifts wiping a floor in ASDA, but that doesn’t matter. They’ll forget me. I’m the antithesis of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. I believe the things I need to keep up with are simply my own ambitions and dreams. My own expectations of myself.

What amuses me is that the girl who knew me before I knew her… was almost someone I knew before she knew me. She looked familiar, perhaps the sister of one of my old Sociology classmates, I conjectured. But its not the case. The girl is someone completely different than I anticipated. And so much better.

See? Expectation.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Star Trek: Unity - "The Oath"

It was October when I last released a full episode of Star Trek: Unity, and to me thats a long time. But other fan film series sometimes take years to create a single episode. Granted, the length and quality are often higher, but then I've been working to improve the look and tone of my series during the interim, so five months wait hopefully paid off. Nevertheless, at least I didn't leave my faithful viewers on a cliffhanger and a similar amount of time has passed for the crew of the starship Odyssey as we kick off our final season of storylines (and this time I mean final!). "The Oath" is a smaller story than the "Revolutions" epic, though it is almost a 'part five' of that story, showing how Admiral Lewis is settling (or rather not) into his new role.

The title refers to the theme of the story which is duty and responsibility balanced with friendship and common sense... Lewis is The Doctor, but is becoming more of a secluded, out of touch Admiral rather than his previous rebellious, free-spirited self, whilst newcomer Mitchell Stone is struggling to find a balance between taking orders and doing what he thinks is right, whereas the character of Commander Roberts on the derelict space station died following stupid orders to the letter, all tied together by Chov taking the Hippocratic Oath at the beginning, and echoed throughout.

One of Unity's greater themes has always been growing up, as Starfleet's youngest crew must explore the final frontier and battle aliens whilst at the same time discovering themselves and coping with teenage aches and pains. To me, its an interesting dynamic and one that is explored deeper here. As a youngster, most go through a period of finding themselves, challenging the personal expectations and assumptions of youth - I know thats half of what I use this blog for. Its disconcerting though and people panic, find out who their real friends are and adapt to the world, as Admiral Lewis does when he stubbornly tries to carry on, an exhausted wreck, following his argument with Mitchell and Jimb'a, fearing that his friendships and relationships are breaking down - reflected by the cumulative damage of his starship. Only when he makes that connection does he realize something has to change. He is brave and leaves his ready room, back to the bridge, back in command.

Despite all that pseudo-psychological depth, there is also a spooky action scene set on a 60's-style Star Trek location, and there are several references to licensed Star Trek games in this episode - Drozana Station refers to a location in the PC game Star Trek Online, whilst the Ikolis Expanse is from the PC game Star Trek: Armada and even the 1980s board game Starfleet Battles gets a nod as I adapted it's 'Hold Until Relieved' short story - as well as several subtle and obvious clues in this episode to upcoming storylines. An example being the news report on Federation Presidential elections. Why are the Romulans attacking? And who is that woman with glasses we keep seeing at the lower decks party? None of that is really important though - I'm just pleased that I've created a slower, more atmospheric episode with a structure that (unintentionally) reflects the fluctuating moods and false starts of Admiral Lewis. He is a man who just doesn't know what he feels or how to act. A typical period of feeling lost in young people as they work out who they are, and its time for Lewis to work out who he is, both as a person with choices ahead of him and his actual name. Lewis? Lewis who? Have we ever actually heard his full name...?

The starship Odyssey is a falling apart wreck with a demotivated crew and a directionless commanding officer all under repeated attack by the Romulans. Can Admiral Lewis overcome his doubts and work together with the new operations chief Mitchell Stone?
With Admiral Lewis out of his seclusion and back in command, he and Mitchell, with help from Eleanor, board a derelict space station from a lost era. But instead of finding much-needed supplies, the pair must work together to tackle the ghosts of those who held until relieved... "The Oath" might be a slower character-driven episode than a typical Star Trek: Unity adventure, but that doesn't mean the cast and crew didn't have just as much fun making it, with the usual bloopers, mistakes and memorable moments! Enjoy our behind the scenes. Especially Adam Best's seagull impressions...

Friday, 22 March 2013

What Really Grinds YOUR Gears 2013

I've been quiet in the world of blogging and cyberspace for a couple of months for several reasons, and here is one of them: the brand new What Really Grinds YOUR Gears 2013. Once again I take a look at the things viewers at home find annoying, but this time, I have a team of friends helping out!

Grinding Gears didn't get a lot of love during 2012, despite my intention to release this new episode earlier than I have. At the start of this year, though, I made a short special edition to celebrate my friend Matt McConnell's 18th Birthday from November 2012, looking at the good, the bad and the ugly of Birthday message videos.

I'm loathe to waste any decent enough footage that I film. During scripted shoots, there is always leftovers, but I mean whole gags and sketches that are filmed and never see the light of day. Such was the case with a lot of this Gears episode, as I had a large amount of filming a group of us lads had done one summer's day in 2011 for the show, but I got sidetracked with university and other projects. So this 'compliation' episode contains random clips filmed at my old house years ago -
with the last appearance of the iconic Grinding Gears 'wall' - and the new house, whilst in some scenes the visual quality shifts drastically between the three different cameras I used to shoot it. Despite that, I'm pretty pleased how well it holds together. Bits of the immature humour haven't dated well, but there are some moments of gold in there: the ironing how-to guide (with a great vintage BBC-style voiceover from my Dad) and the scene of Michael Hamilton dancing is classic.

With all of the footage finally having found a home, I don't know what the future holds for this webseries - I'm certainly going to focus on Star Trek: Unity's sixth season in the near future, as well as a certain university film that I'm getting increasingly excited about being involved in... but though this format is over, I think that we'll see What Really Grinds YOUR Gears again. Somewhen. Somehow.

Unpredictable and immature since 2007, Luke Sutton presents a one-off compilation episode of the satire parody webseries that investigates what minor, pathetic issues viewers have with the world. Includes unseen rants from previous years and new material involving Tumblr, onions, music-that-sounds-like-a-drill and ironing...

Why send a card when you can record a video?! In this brand new special episode of Luke Sutton's What Really Grinds YOUR Gears, the man in the blue/green jackets celebrates (late) the 18th birthday of friend Matt McConnell by investigating the varying quality of birthday videos by his friends... If you don't know us, you probably won't understand any references or in-jokes and this video is a complete waste of time! Enjoy!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Bouncing Bus Boredom

Last week, I saw buses being
towed by recovery trucks twice.
I sense a conspiracy.

I don’t drive cars and have not yet learned to drive simply because I don’t yet need to. I do envy and respect many of my peers who can now navigate the dangerous roads of South England without sustaining any damage, save that of having their bodywork keyed by spiteful yobs. The freedom must be immense, if expensive for the less well off. Such is my argument: I could probably afford to run a car and learn to drive, but little else. Right now, as a poor youth living off the funds of Christmas jobs and student grants, the sheer need for me to take the wheel is not applicable.

Therefore, I spend a lot of my time getting places on the bus. It isn’t as bad as it seems, for travelling on the bus provides a unique insight into Humans and I love people watching. I’ve spoken before of the unwritten rule of silence on the bus, people suddenly becoming introverted and not quite as sociable as a Conservative MP’s smug superiority towards a Police pleb. Too often even I am guilty of starring out the window at the world going by, typically when I’m due into university first thing in the morning and my IQ isn’t yet high enough for anything more than the grateful grunt at the driver for allowing me on board. Half an hour to town and back on the bus is an opportunity to do a lot of things however, like listening to a small child’s amusing questions to their exasperated parents or watching the polite but disdainful expressions of passengers that have found themselves been spoken to by the one old, slightly unshaven or smelly man who seems oddly social. That’ll be me. But rather than waste time, I endeavour to read a novel or write down some story ideas – just little things. Even if the bus prices here in the south remain rather high, the free Wi-Fi must be very useful for smartphone users.

The bus I travelled on this morning to university had a rather unique quirk though, in that throughout the journey, whilst still at traffic lights or stops, the whole bus kept bouncing around, as if the hydraulics that lowers the front for disabled access and the suspension were a big bouncy castle filled with periodically escaping air. From the outside observer, it must have appeared as if there was mass lovemaking occurring inside the long, blue vehicle. As we waited for the train to pass the level crossing, the driver even kept revving the engine, presumably preparing for a drag race. As it was the morning and my IQ was still developing, I wasn’t sure if I was imagining things, but after driving the same route repeatedly each day for several years, I supposed even the drivers get bored.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A Letter from Paramount Pictures

Even when I was an innocent little (but equally as jaded) child, I loved writing stories. My parents tell me that I was always so frustrated that I couldn’t express myself before I could read and write. And when I discovered Star Trek and became the massive fan of it that I am now, I wrote my own stories set in that universe, with my own characters, Commander Lewis, Lt. Commander Puto, following their silly space adventures before they went on to command Unity Starbase many years later as my stories developed into the fan films I produce to this day.

One of my first Star Trek stories “The Borg Encounter” I wrote into a script at the age of nine, after pouring through professional screenplays my parents got hold of for me to read. As bold and na├»ve as I was, I decided to post it to Paramount Pictures to see what they thought, due to reasons that even now elude me. In any case, after several months, Paramount UK wrote a lovely letter back to me (pictured) in which they thanked me for my story, spoke of how they’d sent it to the US and were gifting me a Star Trek movies VHS box set (worth £100 back then!). Needless to say, as a nine-year-old Trekkie, this was even better than getting a tub of Lego for Christmas.

Whilst sorting through papers recently as my family were packing to move house temporarily, I came across this letter and wanted to share it. I seem to recall that Paramount US did indeed write to me later on (from Star Trek producer Rick Berman’s office, no less), but I’ve yet to dig out that particular document.

Maybe I should count this as Work Experience evidence for my University course… after all, I still own that VHS box set.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Spirits of Christmas

Dressed up as a Little Helper to
my Dad's "Santa" at the Primary School
 Christmas fete.
I don’t tend to get quite as excited about Christmas and New Year as some people in this world, though I don't mind a festive winter wonderland if one should come along! There is something rather magical about winter, even without snow, the idea of trekking through a lovely forest in the ominous twilight of the season only to come home into a warm living room with log fire burning to watch a grainy old Christmas film whilst opening modest presents is something that greatly appeals to me. A romantic image perhaps, but one I’ve experienced as a child and often wish to again. But I won’t be this year.

DWT Christmas meal at Adam's.
No, this particular year my family and I have moved out. Again. Just for three months from the start of January as some modernizing and building work is done to our home. Thus, the boxes were pilled up again, bedrooms stripped of contents and the best piece of festivity we could muster was a small plastic light-up tree.

But as always, it’s the company that you keep which really matters during Christmas, and the day itself was a standard affair of going over my Aunt’s house for lunch (bread) with parents and grandmother. However, I’ve also been to a few box socials such as The Dudes with Thumbs (still going sort of strong) meal at Adam’s with wine and secret Santa, a board gaming night where everyone wanted to buy Muk in Pokemon Monopoly and a typical “Bobby’s” where I ended up in bed with the Queen and Matt didn’t throw up.

Becky and Emma Goodwin with
Matt not being festive behind them.
The exception was my very own Luke Sutton Christmas Special, on December 21st – the day the world was alleged to end according to the Mayan calendar. I’m still here. Yes, amongst the boxes, I found the time and space in my all-but-deserted bedroom to cram a load of people inside, give them glowsticks (which ultimately leaked) and watch what happened. Seeing Becky, Beth and my other friends who were back from university was lovely and though a little cramped when turning off the lights and trying to dance, I think everyone had a good time: something a bit more intimate to say the least. Also, when we went out for a walk as a group in the evening, I gave Emma Long a piggyback. Always wanted to do that.

Kelda on Amy. Matt on me.
Only two of these are lesbian whores.
The New Years celebration was at my close friend Amy’s house this year, in which we essentially drank the house dry whilst playing innuendo-based truth games and bruising each other’s thumbs with plastic lightsabers. Its possible that I’d got Amy drunk at Bobby’s with 38.8% alcohol volume vodka, so she repaid me by forcing 40% scotch whiskey down my throat as our first act of 2013. Terribly dignified, I’m sure you’ll agree, alcohol seems to once again be the lowest common denominator for parties. But it was lovely to be around the new friends I’d made in 2012, Matt’s gang, some of whom now mean as much to me as those who’ve stuck by me for the long haul. Twenty-Twelve was an Olympic year of ups and downs, epitomized by the kind of New Years I experienced: I ended up sleeping awkwardly on a floor next to three other men!

New Years. Also, Lauren Stone's 18th.
Following all of that, I’m now sitting at my desk inside a delightful little cottage we’re renting in the middle of a village called Marchwood, where my friends Rebecca and Emma, amongst others, reside. It isn’t too far from Totton and Southampton (especially with a bus stop about ten meters from the front door), but there is no internet signal unless I wrap up in my coat and take my laptop to the grassy park on the other side of the road. It’s actually pleasantly isolating, like being on holiday without rushing around with commitments and noisy controversy. The cottage is lovely, full of character. There are old heavy wooden doors, a quaint little kitchen, two (count ‘em) toilets, a window in my bedroom perfect for people-watching the village and when Amy visited following an afternoon of us shopping for peroxide, she commented on the rather luxurious bathroom.

If you're reading my blogs over the
 coming weeks, chances are I'm posting
 them from this bench...
So it seems when I return from sitting in the park posting blogs to the world outside this bubble, I’ll step back in the warm walls, with my family, and something to watch on TV. Perhaps I’m having one of those winters after all, where life ends up being a little simpler, slower and somehow so satisfying.

Happy New Year, faithful reader.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Guest Blog: Annie Bailey on university life and coming home

Luke called me butch.
I called him a bitch.
Several months ago, I spoke of my friends leaving to pursue new chapters of their lives at university and work, explaining how this might give me a bittersweet feeling of loss. But what of the souls that actually braved a new frontier and who are only now arriving home for Christmas? Today, because she happens to be back from her very own university adventure in Roehampton, I'm giving this blog I value so much over to my good friend Annie Bailey, who explains why she already wants to go back...

Hi there!
UMMM... I was never worried about going to University, I spent the year travelling so I was quite good at the independent thing, the only thing I was concerned about was the people I would be living with. Some people say that the people you go to uni with are the people you spend the rest of your lives with, but some of my friends that went to uni last year said differently.

I was extremely lucky! My friends and I bonded instantly. And honestly, I feel closer to them than I do to the majority of people back home. There are exceptions obviously... a few of my friends I will always be very close to and we never have that awkward "we don't have anything to talk about anymore" scenarios.

Being as close as I am to my uni friends and becoming so accustomed to living the London life, even starting the new relationships, coming back back home was a horrible ordeal... I knew all the independence I had grown so used to would all be gone and I would be stuck in a house that no longer felt like a home.

I have given myself a long list of things to do while I am at home, mainly to see the people I have missed (yeah thats you Luke) and to do typical New Foresty things (for as much as I love London, I miss the New Forest) then I cannot wait to go back to university, my room custom made to suit me perfectly, my best friends and my life.

I have always had difficulty in finding out the person I really am, because as alot of people know, it's very different to the monotonous style, and at uni, I feel completely comfortable doing what I want to do, being what I want to be and living how I want to live. I am Happy at University and although it is a new life I am still eager for people from home to make numerous guest appearances! :) 


An interesting point of view there from Miss Bailey. But are the friends you make at university friends for life? Have people found they love the new experience or long for the comfort of the familiar? Perhaps Annie is only on a pitstop here now that 'home' is elsewhere, but I doubt she is as dismissive about her origins here as it may come across. With Christmas only a few days away, I look forward to seeing some of my best friends reunited and telling me equally positive tales of new cities and new people. :)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Luke's Christmas Message 2012

Greetings from beyond! I hope all is well with you and your endeavours, faithful reader. I’m writing my Christmas message to the world as boxes are being packed all around me. After a year at our new house in historic Totton, the builders are due to finish the property’s refurbishment, so my parents and I will be temporarily moving out. To somewhere!

In typical Royal address style, I thought I’d provide a few updates from the Sutton estate: A third year of university at Southampton Solent is keeping me out of trouble: my group’s upcoming Television Production final project is a somewhat surreal drama about a man who wants to ‘leave’ the internet when he ends up in a viral video, whilst my sci-fi fan film series Star Trek: Unity is in its eighth year, making it the longest-running in the world! With better equipment, better effects and (I hope!) even better storylines, my sincere thanks go to everyone who have been involved this season. Meanwhile, I’ve had a great year with new friends and fellow filmmaking video gamers at The Dudes with Thumbs, introducing me to discoveries such as the phenomenal Mass Effect games and Birdemic, quite possibly the best worst film ever made. I strongly recommend you sit yourself down for a screening at some point.

But I’ve also been out and about a lot, hosting a few memorable house parties, travelling to London a number of times to see friends, plus a film festival where a short I wrote was featured, not to mention several fan conventions, in whichI helped break a world record, saw John Barrowman’s behind and spoke with several actors and writers I admire

There is also a new member of the family and I became an Uncle (again) as baby Joshua Sutton arrived recently! He is very cute and if I have any say in it, he’ll be growing up wearing green jackets. I think all this has actually expanded my vision of life a bit, and I’ve been looking out with a lot more of a philosophical view: “We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us.” Then again it might be due to the fact I’m 22 and therefore old.

However, outside of my petty affairs, the world has also been busy in 2012. Despite constant financial gloom and political controversy (how much of an anticlimax was the Leveson report?!), this has really been an Olympic year. I’m rarely patriotic, but I’m sure you’ll agree that hosting the greatest show on Earth here was something special. Mr. Bean on the piano and the Queen (in her Diamond Jubilee year) being a Bond girl is only something that would happen here. For some, it has also been the start of a new adventure at university, moving away and meeting new people, which I’m glad to see is going well, even if its left the Waterside a little quieter. And the memes of this year have been up to their usual standard: who can forget Gangnam Style. Oppa. I reckon Klingon Kolothus will be a hit soon ;)
Anyway, I should go. Enjoy the festive season! I hope Santa’s sack is bulging full of gifts for you. I’ll be sitting at home on the 25th with a loaf of bread and the Doctor Who special. Take care of yourself and I wish you clear horizons for 2013.

With regards, your Admiral, your Doctor and your friend,

Luke Sutton.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Destination Star Trek London

Conventions are bizarre things, bringing out the very best and very worst in fans. The United Kingdom hasn't held many large conventions celebrating Star Trek, though there have been a couple of exhibits in past years and I was at the London Hilton Hotel con back in 2007, where I met the Gorn in a lift. In the public consciousness, conventions are events for weird unemployed obsessives who dress up in cheap costumes and have Aspergers. This is largely untrue. In my opinion, these sorts of things are no different to football fans dressing up in team shirts and chatting about their favourite team down the pub, and if the event I just took part in demonstrates anything, its that there is just as big a following for my favourite television show as ever.

My photo with Brent Spiner
 - he was very amusing!
Destination Star Trek London is something of a bizarre thing to have actually happened. With no series on the air since 2005 and the last film over three years old, I thought that Trek fandom was destined to small gatherings in the corner of local town halls, as it was for my stand at the recent "DEF-CON" event in my hometown. When I discovered it earlier this year, I couldn't quite believe that there was enough interest to warrant an event of a scale that it was bringing in all five TV Captains as guests, including Patrick Stewart and William Shatner! It took a couple of days of research and investigation before I decided it wasn't a wind up and I quickly bought tickets with my good friend Ian Pidgley and my parents, all of whom wanted to beam down to the ExCel exhibition center on October 19th.
In the Captain's Chair... we got
 to play on the Enterprise's bridge.

It became clear this was more than about the series leads, with stars from all of the franchise booked to appear. My Mum's long-time favourite Michael Dorn (the Klingon Worf) was gonna be there, as was Mr. Data himself, Brent Spiner. To non-Trek fans, this would be all irrelevant hype over mostly unknown actors, but trust me when I say that DSTL was shaping up to be a very special event for Trekkies and Trekkers.

The Five (six) Captains on stage!
And it was fantastic. Travelling down on the train on Friday morning, we spent a lot of time queuing, first for mediocre goody bags, and then to actually get into the large convention floor, which took up several of the ExCel center's large halls on one side, filled autograph tables, photo areas, a KLINGON ZONE cafe that had statues and Borg Cube wedding cake, plus a prop and costume exhibit and (over-priced) merchandise stands. With over 10,000 people at least on the Saturday alone, the place was very crowded, but full of fans in costume and Starfleet uniform, which was initially a peculiar sight, but by the time we left on Sunday, it was weird not to see anyone wearing a combadge during the train journey home.

One of the talks - this one with some
of Deep Space Nine's cast members.
Our tickets enabled us to attend several of the Q&A talks by the stars, spread across a couple of stages, the center point of which was the Five Captain's Opening Ceremony, which Ian and I went to. For the first time in Europe and only the second time ever, all five Captains were together, chatting to the audience - one lucky fan also had them all sing him a happy birthday! But the ceremony was hosted by John Barrowman, Doctor Who's Captain Jack, making it six Captains. John brought a great deal of fanboy giggling and cheeky comments, especially when Scott Bakula signed his ass after a question about the most awkward autograph. Several fans of Barrowman made clear to me their jealousy at seeing this.

Ever the galactic pimp, I pulled two
Klingons, a pair of Orion Slave Girls
and... Q.
Friday night climaxed with the KLINGON MONSTER PARTY. So epic in it's hype that it requires capital letters. The hall next to the convention floor was turned into a nightclub featuring a bouncy castle, lazer-quest tag, with live music from Klingon actors JG Hertzler and Robert O'Reilly. Tickets were an extra £25, and though it began as a slow evening, once enough people started turning up, a typical deafening-music-with-bright-lights-and-scantly-clan-women-dancing club atmosphere established itself whilst everyone posed for photos with those in impressive costumes.  I was even lucky enough to meet and have pictures taken with Deep Space Nine writer Ira Behr, and the creator of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Ronald D. Moore. 

Patrick Stewart was a real gentleman
 and spoke of how he appeared as
 an apparition to Brian Blessed.
Because hes EPIC.
Day two started at our hotel, the TravelLodge next to the ExCel center, but Ian and myself were soon sitting down for the "Stunt Show" that was included in our ticket and involved an impressive performance of parkour freerunning. Despite their uniforms, it wasn't really Star Trek, but an enjoyable diversion before Scott Bakula's (Captain Archer) talk, in which he described how Archer was supposed to found the Federation over the course of the series. A real highlight of the day was the Patrick Stewart talk. Hes a Shakespearean actor I greatly admire and he hasn't aged in decades. A great speaker providing some interesting anecdotes, especially of how proud he is of The Next Generation and slyly noted that his life is "an ongoing contravention of the health and safety laws". Very entertaining and memorable.
My Dad with his DS9 hero,
Andrew Robinson.
Later it was time to get autographs and photos - meeting some of the actors. My Dad is a big fan of Andrew Robinson who played the Cardassian character of Garak on Deep Space Nine. I also walked up to his table and said Hello. He was a sweet man who shook my hand and genuinely seemed happy as I thanked him for playing one of my favourite Star Trek roles. I admire the novel he wrote about his character called A Stitch In Time, which my Dad has subsequently read. Michael Dorn, the actor who played the Klingon Worf was my Mum's target and she strode up to him to shake his hand and later had a photo with him. Ian was keen on getting his Deep Space Nine poster signed, so got to meet Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko) on Sunday. Very happy for him. As for me, I got an autograph from legendary actor David Warner, a delightful gentleman who told me his son was called Luke and that it was "a good name". My parents also bought me for my upcoming birthday an autograph from Brent Spiner, the man who plays my favourite character, Lt Commander Data and he was also someone I shared a photo shoot with - he even fistbumped me! A very funny guy - he should have been a comedian instead of an actor.

One-thousand and eighty of us
fit into the Main Hall - and it turned into
 a conference of Starfleet officers through
the ages. Plus a Klingon or two.
There was much talk about the Costume World Record on Saturday evening where many cosplayers and fans came together to set a new highest number of people in Star Trek costume in one place. Though I understand the need not to let any old visitor with a Starfleet sticker badge inside, I felt the strictness was taken ludicrously far, initially denying me because I was wearing black Converse shoes with my otherwise officially licensed uniform. The queue staff inspecting us allowed my Mother and Ian through to the main hall, but my Father (dressed in an Odo Bajoran uniform with the hint of blue jeans underneath) and I were asked to leave the queue. My righteousness wasn't exactly going to let that stop me from taking part, so I bypassed the inspectors and simply walked into the hall - handing in the record attempt form, legitimating my participation. The word was no. I therefore went anyway!
With Ian and my Mum at the
costume record attempt!
It all smacked of double standards when we saw several fans in non-costume t-shirts, not least my friend James in the The Tenth Doctor's long coat with a Voyager gold uniform on underneath, and my Dad with his blue jeans was allowed in when it was clear more people were needed to break the record. Still, aside from that the record attempt was fantastic, and created a terrifically positive atmosphere of camaraderie as it was announced that with 1080 attendees, we'd broken the record!

The beautiful Nana Visitor
Sunday was the final stretch, and it began with the talk by Avery Brooks, who came across as a very deep and thoughtful man - definitely living in the stars - but the epitome of Star Trek's exploration of the Human condition. I got the last of my autographs, including Dominic Keating (Lt. Malcolm Reed) who to my amusement had definitely been drinking the glass of champagne next to him, whilst his co-star Anthony Montgomery (Ens. Travis Mayweather) sitting with at the table was a great laugh, even calling my Mum 'beautiful', which was very sweet. Nana Visitor, who played Major Kira in Deep Space Nine signed a photo I had and she kindly posed for a photo with me. A lovely woman with a real sparkle in her eyes.

He is not a merry man!
Its Michael Dorn.
Our final talk of the convention was by Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway). She praised the English for being so graceful and polite - even the worst of us are probably not comparable to some Americans - and proclaimed that a Voyager character she wanted to see admit to being lesbian was Seven of Nine. There was always so much sexual tension between Janeway and Seven... The talk over, I legged it over to the photo booth just in time for a shoot with Michael Dorn, who came across as a reserved but amiable fellow (in contrast to the passionate character of Worf he played!).

I was interviewed by the BBC
about the event and my
favourite Captain (Picard).
Following one final look around, the four of us left the ExCel center, taking away some more goody bags on the way out, and got the train home. We all had a terrific weekend. The event wasn't perfect logistically, but the experience of socializing with fellow fans, meeting some of my favourite actors and writers, plus the activities on offer, were worth the expense and the queuing! Some of you faithful readers might find it difficult to understand the appeal of conventions like this - especially just from a memoir and some videos - but I'm never again going to have the opportunity to enjoy such a special celebration of my favourite television series quite like Destination Star Trek London. It was Fascinating.