Thursday 28 September 2023

RIP Michael Gambon

News has sadly broken of the death of Irish-British actor Michael Gambon at the age of 82. Gambon had a long and distinguished career, and is best-known for his work with Dennis Potter on The Singing Detective and in the Harry Potter film series.

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1940, Gambon moved to London when he was five years old, later moving to Kent with his family. His father ensured he became a British citizen, but Gambon had an unhappy time at school, quitting at 15 to become an apprentice toolmaker. He was an avid cinema-goer but had little interest in pursuing acting until his early 20s. Lacking any experience, he wrote a fake resume and managed to blag his way into a series of acting roles on stage in Dublin. Success there led to several roles on the London stage, where he met Laurence Olivier. Olivier gave Gambon some excellent advice, leading to Gambon picking up leading roles on stage through the late 1960s. Olivier also cast Gambon in his 1965 film version of Othello, giving Gambon his first screen break.

In 1970, rather improbably, Gambon was asked to audition for the role of James Bond to replace George Lazenby. Gambon did not consider himself a good fit for the role and declined. Further film and television roles followed through the rest of the decade, but Gambon's first love remained the theatre.

Gambon gained his first slice of widespread fame by playing the role of Gavin Ker in 26 episodes of historical drama The Borderers, from 1968 to 1970. He kept up a steady stream of roles on screen and on stage, but his next big break came in 1986 when he joined forces with renowned, legendary British screenwriter Dennis Potter for his TV drama The Singing Detective. Gambon's portrayal of a writer crippled by illness and escaping into a fantasy world to avoid his pain was met with critical acclaim. The drama was hugely praised by American screenwriter Steven Bochco, and inspired the name of the British band Elbow.

Gambon's star correspondingly rose and he picked up higher-profile roles on both television and film, such as The Rachel Papers and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover

In 2004 Gambon finally got the role that would secure his fame with a new generation, when he was cast in the third Harry Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkaban. Gambon played Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School, replacing his friend Richard Harris who had passed away after making the second film in the series. Gambon played the role in six films in total. He also picked up additional high-profile roles in Paddington and its sequel, The King's Speech and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Gambon was also an enthusiastic driver and classic car collector. During a 2002 appearance on Top Gear in the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" feature, he took a corner at the Top Gear test track on two wheels, impressing the presenters so much they named the corner for him in perpetuity.

Gambon effectively retired from stage acting in 2015 after deciding his hearing had become too poor to pick up cues well. He continued acting on screen for a little longer, but effectively retired from that as well in 2018.

Gambon won four BAFTAs and three Oliviers, and was nominated for a Tony and two Emmys. He was a hugely respected actor for his work, with an intense, authoritative presence that could become surprisingly vulnerable on the spin of a dime.

Tuesday 26 September 2023

RIP David McCallum

News has sadly broken that veteran Scottish actor David McCallum has passed away at the age of 90. McCallum was well-known for his roles in series such as The Man from UNCLESapphire & Steel, and the NCIS franchise.

Born in 1933 in Glasgow, McCallum was raised in both London and (during WWII) by Loch Lomond. He initially pursued interests in music, learning the oboe and singing. However, he developed an interest in acting as a teenager and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in the 1950s, alongside classmate Joan Collins. McCallum had acquired his equity card at the age of 13 and began making regular TV and film appearances in the late 1950s, including a minor role in Titanic movie A Night to Remember (1958).

He achieved a major career breakthrough playing Lt. Commander Ashley-Pitt in The Great Escape (1963), followed by playing Judas in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). American TV guest shots on The Outer Limits and Perry Mason followed.

In 1964 McCallum was cast opposite Robert Vaughan in The Man from UNCLE. McCallum played Illya Kuryakin, an agent who is assigned by the Soviet Union to a joint USA - USSR intelligence organisation designed to tackle international terrorism and other potential threats to both powers. The show is ambiguous on Kuryakin's origins, but several episodes allude to a childhood in Kyiv, suggesting he is Ukrainian rather than the commonly-assumed Russian (Soviet = Russian being a common shorthand in British and American film and television at the time).

The show lasted for four seasons and 105 episodes. It was originally designed as a vehicle for Robert Vaughan with Kuryakin playing a secondary role, but McCallum's good looks and intense performance won him a horde of fans (MGM received more fan male for McCallum than for any other television actor in their history up to that time). He was promoted to co-lead. The show was cancelled during its fourth season, mainly due to a ratings drop blamed on a shift in tone towards gadgets, more humour and self-parody (possibly in response to the success of the Batman TV series). McCallum returned to the franchise with Vaughan in a 1983 TV movie, as well as parodying the show on a 1986 episode of The A-Team.

At the height of "UNCLEmania" McCallum released four albums of his original music. His best-known track from this period is "The Edge," a moody instrumental memorably sampled by Dr. Dre for his 2000 hit "The Next Episode."

McCallum divided his time between the United States and UK, playing in British series such as Colditz (1972-74) and American shows like The Invisible Man (1975). He got arguably his second-most-iconic role in 1979 playing Steel in Sapphire & Steel, opposite Joanna Lumley. Sapphire and Steel are interdimensional agents who are assigned to guard the flow of time against corrupting elements. Relatively little of their background is revealed, although it is suggested they are immortal and, outside of their jobs, are little interested in human affairs. 34 episodes divided into six serials were aired in between 1979 and 1982.

In subsequent years, McCallum enjoyed regular work as a guest artist. He appeared in shows including The A-Team, Matlock, Murder, She Wrote, Father Dowling Mysteries, seaQuest DSV, VR5, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Law & Order, Sex and the City, Jeremiah and JAG. During this period he chalked up a memorable guest role in the Babylon 5 episode Infection, playing a corrupt archaeologist. Writer-producer J. Michael Straczynski would later disavow the episode as one of the worst in the series, but more due to his script rather than McCallum's reliably solid performance.

The two-part episode of JAG (2003) he appeared in was actually a backdoor pilot for a spin-off show called NCIS; when the spin-off was picked up, he was cast in the role of Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard, a chief medical examiner. He was a regular actor on the first fifteen seasons of the show (2003-2018). He retired from the role full-time in 2018 but continued to make guest appearances in every subsequent season. His last appearance was in the Season 20 finale which aired in May 2023; due to the writer's strike, no further episodes of the show had been written or produced, so this will also be his character's swansong on the series. He also played the character in two guest shots on spin-off show NCIS: New Orleans.

McCallum also picked up a small number of voice roles over the years, including Batman: The Brave and the Bold and video games Privateer 2: The Darkening and Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls.

Saturday 23 September 2023

RUMOUR: Netflix interested in developing a BALDUR'S GATE adaptation

File under "highly tenuous" for now, but a couple of outlets are reporting rumours that Netflix has expressed an interest in developing a live-action Baldur's Gate TV series, based on the hot video game property.

Baldur's Gate III launched on PC at the start of August and reportedly sold five million copies in its first few weeks on sale (before it even launched on console), making it a remarkable success for something of an old-fashioned, party-based roleplaying game with turn-based combat. The game's critical acclaim was also off the charts, with the game becoming PC Gamer's highest-rated title in two decades. The game's voice cast have become almost immediate, breakout stars, and the memes have been constantly flowing since the game's launch.

The Baldur's Gate series comprises three games and three expansions in the core series and three games in the spin-off Dark Alliance series, as well as associated comics and roleplaying products. The series revolves around the titular city of Baldur's Gate, a great port on the River Chionthar and a hugely important trading post for the Sword Coast region of the continent of Faerûn. The city keeps getting into various scrapes, but of course handy adventurers keep showing up to help save it.

The series is set within the much wider Forgotten Realms fantasy universe, created by Canadian writer Ed Greenwood in the 1960s as a setting for short stories and worldbuilding as a hobby. He sold the setting to TSR, Inc., the company behind Dungeons & Dragons, to be turned in an official D&D setting in 1987. Continuously in print since, the setting has sold millions of roleplaying products, tens of millions of novels and has been the setting for almost three hundred books and over fifty video games. Ed invented the city of Baldur's Gate in 1968 for a short story called "The Box That Crept on Talons," whilst it got its first mention in print in Dragon Magazine #81 (January 1984), as the home of a wizard who is an expert on basilisks.

The video game Baldur's Gate was released in December 1998, having been developed by Canadian video game studio BioWare and published by Interplay. A smash-hit success, Baldur's Gate told the story of the Bhaalspawn, a number of progeny of the slain God of Murder, Bhaal, and the various attempts to resurrect Bhaal, a prospect welcomed by some of these progeny but fiercely resisted by others. Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn followed in 2000, and both games had expansions: Tales of the Sword Coast (1999) and Throne of Bhaal (2001). Remasters of the two games, known as Enhanced Editions, were released in 2012 and 2013 respectively. An interquel expansion set between the two games, Siege of Dragonspear, was released in 2016. Baldur's Gate III was developed by Larian Studios in Belgium.

The prospects of a Netflix-produced series are dubious for the time being. Hasbro's TV and film division, eOne, currently has the TV and film rights to all D&D and Forgotten Realms related products. They recently produced the film Honor Among Thieves set in the same world, and are developing a number of further projects, including potentially an adaptation of R.A. Salvatore's mega-selling Legend of Drizzt book series, as well as a possible project based on the popular Dragonlance world of Krynn. eOne is developing these projects with Paramount, for potential airing on their Paramount+ streaming service. If a Baldur's Gate TV project was to be developed, Paramount+ might be a better bet than Netflix at this time.

However, Hasbro have also been entertaining offers to divest eOne (either spinning it off as an independent company or selling it outright, possibly to Paramount), in which case it is unclear what would happen to the D&D rights. It is possible they might entertain an alliance with Netflix at that stage.

Given the massive popularity of Baldur's Gate III, I wouldn't be surprised to see such a project go into development, but given the game is around 100 hours long with a massive cast and a story that can vary immensely from player to play based on the cumulative weight of hundreds of choices, it will certainly be a formidable challenge to bring the story to the screen.

New DOCTOR WHO 60th anniversary specials trailer unveiled

The BBC has unveiled a new trailer for their upcoming trilogy of special episodes which will celebrate Doctor Who's 60th anniversary.

The trailer sees the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) - who for unclear reasons has the exact same face and personality as his tenth incarnation - arriving on contemporary Earth to find the planet in danger (as per usual). A key to the puzzle lies with his former companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), but the last time they met, the Doctor had to wipe her memory of him to save her life. Should she remember who he is, the results could be fatal.

The trailer confirms the return of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), the head of UNIT, and also the arrival on Earth of the mysterious Beep the Meep (voiced by Miriam Margoyles) and their alien pursuers. Also appearing in this trilogy is a mysterious toyshop owner (Neil Patrick Harris), who appears to be an old acquaintance of the Doctor.

The Fourteenth Doctor has to save the planet, stop his companion's head exploding and pave the way for the arrival of his fifteenth incarnation (to be played by Ncuti Gatwa), all in just three episodes.

Doctor Who returns to the BBC and, internationally, Disney+, around the time of the anniversary on 23 November, although precise airdates have yet to be confirmed. As well as the three new episodes, there will be a Christmas special around 25 December before an eight-episode full season airs in the spring.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

RUMOUR: Bethesda were planning OBLIVION and FALLOUT 3 remasters back in 2020, along with a possible DISHONORED 3

A leaked schedule for Bethesda video games from 2020 suggests that the company was at least planning remasters for two of their older titles, as well as a new game in one of their biggest franchises.

The leak appears to have been an accidental release of information as part of Microsoft's ongoing battle to clear international legal hurdles preventing its acquisition of Activision-Blizzard. The schedule has known projects on which did eventually release (such as Redfall and Starfield), as well as unannounced games including Dishonored 3. The leak also suggests that Microsoft envisages just a three-year wait for The Elder Scrolls VI, the follow-up to the much-acclaimed 2011 title The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Even though the list is official, we should take it with a grain of salt as it is very clearly outdated. The list is pre-COVID, and the COVID pandemic caused massive delays and multiple project cancellations in many companies. It's not clear which of the projects on the list remain extant (beyond the already-confirmed Elder Scrolls VI).

The list also indicates that both The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) and Fallout 3 (2008) are to be remastered, not remade. This would likely be a moderate graphical overhaul and some minor technical and UI improvements (similar to the recent, somewhat underwhelming Red Dead Redemption remaster) but otherwise leaving the games alone.

This is notable as a group of fans have been remaking Oblivion for the past decade with considerably more advanced graphics and a full UI overhaul drawing on later Bethesda games like Fallout 4 (2015, itself already confirmed as getting a next-gen remaster and re-release next year). This project, known as Skyblivion, is currently due for release in 2025 and has Bethesda's support (as well as persistent rumours that Bethesda may make it an official release if the quality is high enough). An Oblivion remaster may be redundant in that case, but it's worth noting that back in 2020 there was widespread scepticism over any of these fan remasters actually being finished. Three years later and with more in-depth coverage of the project's development, Skyblivion does indeed appear very close to completion.

Dishonored 3 is a welcome idea. Dishonored (2012) and Dishonored 2 (2016) are two of the greatest video games of the last decade and cemented Arkane Studios' reputation for great game design and fantastic worldbuilding. Deathloop (2021) - set in the same world albeit in a different game genre - also did well. However, the underwhelming commercial performance of Prey (2017) and Redfall (2023) has somewhat damaged Arkane's reputation, alongside the departure of much of the OG team at the company behind its earlier games. There will be likely scepticism that the remnants can deliver a worthwhile successor, especially as stand-alone expansion Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (2017) delivered a pretty final ending to the story of the series. Deathloop takes place in the same world and does open up some more narrative possibilities for that setting, so a further game in the series might have some legs to it.

Finally, the list suggest that The Elder Scrolls VI will follow three years after the release of Starfield. Given Starfield's two-year delay from the list, that suggests they may be envisaging a 2026 release date for Elder Scrolls VI. With Bethesda only recently spooling up full-time work on the game, that feels very optimistic. Many fans have been projecting a release date of 2028 on the low end to 2030 on the higher.

The leak is interesting, but as yet none of the projects mentioned on it beyond Elder Scrolls VI and the Fallout 4 remaster have been formally confirmed.


Piranha Games have announced that MechWarrior 5: Clans is in development, targeting a 2024 release date. The game is a stand-alone companion title to MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries (2019).

Unlike the open-world Mercenaries, Clans is a linear game featuring sequential missions. Set several years after the end of Mercenaries' last expansion, Rise of Rasalhague, the new title sees the Inner Sphere invaded by the Clans, a number of small but powerful factions who fled the Inner Sphere centuries ago. The Clans field more sophisticated technology and weaponry than the Inner Sphere and believe they have a destiny to reconstruct the Star League, the mighty interstellar empire whose collapse led to the current era.

The player is a MechWarrior belonging to Clan Smoke Jaguar who climbs the ranks during the Clan Invasion of the Inner Sphere, particularly Smoke Jaguar's invasion of the Draconis Combine. Intriguingly, previous BattleTech lore had established the Smoke Jaguars as villains, or at least somewhat villainous, suggesting this new game will have you playing the bad guys, or it might attempt to fill in more detail and colour to the faction. The game will see you commanding a five-Mech unit as the war grinds on. If you want to catch up on a guide to the franchise's lore, I have you covered here.

The game does not require MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries to play or run. Mercenaries fans do have some more content incoming, though, as Piranha will release The Dragon's Gambit later on this month, a 15-mission DLC which sees the player's mercenary company allying with the Draconis Combine during the Fourth Succession War.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Steam turns 20 years old

PC video game distribution platform Steam turns twenty years old today. Normally that wouldn't be a major milestone outside of technical interest, but Steam's achievements and position in the industry remain unique, despite some criticisms.

PC games company Valve Corporation launched Steam on 12 September 2003. The first - and for a while only - thing you could do on Steam was use it to patch up your existing Steam games, particularly Counter-Strike. The service did not even have a store front on release. Valve had identified the enthusiasm for online multiplayer early, but also identified that many gamers experienced frustration when new patches were released, as these tended to be released ad hoc and it sometimes took days for them to be disseminated over the entire playerbase. Valve proposed developing a universal updating service with several other companies, including Microsoft, but were shot down. They began development of their own service in 2002. This idea wasn't totally new, as Blizzard had released their Battle.Net service at the end of 1996, but Steam was working on a different scale.

Valve quickly realised the same system could be used to sell and download games in their entirety. Valve ran videos and interviews demonstrating how this would work with the video game Impossible Creatures by Relic Entertainment, with the entire game being downloaded over broadband in just a few hours. Ironically, Impossible Creatures would not be actually released on Steam until 2015.

Valve also sold the benefits of the service for combating piracy, which was widely believed at the time to be killing the PC gaming market. This led to consternation from gamers, already wary of DRM (Digital Rights Management) software trying to restrict when and where they could play games. To assuage concerns, Valve also demonstrated that the system could be used as a mass distribution system for free mods by releasing the popular Half-Life mod Day of Defeat on the service.

After a successful launch, Valve shut down all of their other online matchmaking and updating websites and systems, effectively forcing gamers to migrate to Steam over the course of 2004, to some controversy.

On 16 November 2004, Valve released Half-Life 2. One of the most eagerly-awaited games of all time up to that point, preceded by months of hype, Half-Life 2 was sold at retail and as a Steam download, but all copies of the game had to be activated and authenticated on Steam, even if the game was to be played solely offline in single-player mode. This led to vast criticism and anger from both critics and the gaming community, as broadband internet was still in its relative infancy. However, Valve stuck to their guns and the game's overwhelmingly positive reviews saw a million copies sold worldwide within a relatively short timeframe. Shortly after release Valve demonstrated the versatility and convenience of Steam by releasing an extra bonus level, Half-Life 2: The Lost Coast via the service.

In 2005 Valve signed its first distribution agreement with third-party vendors. The first third-party game was Rag Doll King Fu, followed quickly by the more acclaimed Darwinia. Over the next few years numerous other publishers and developers jumped on board, attracted by the company's generous royalty cut (far superior to boxed retail). Critics continued to complain loudly about the service being a form of intrusive DRM, but fans began to see the convenience of having all their games, multiplayer services and achievements in one place.

It is possible that Steam would have remained a relatively minor success, especially as Valve proved reluctant to release more high-profile original games, but the PC gaming market underwent serious contraction after the release of the Xbox 360 console in 2005 and the PlayStation 3 the following year. Both consoles had comparable power to gaming PCs of the time and pushed the development of HD graphics at a much more affordable price. The result was something of a stampede of gamers to the new consoles, including PC gamers who previously would have not considered switching to console but were lured over by the likes of the Halo series on Xbox. Previously PC-centric developers like Bethesda were also focusing heavily on the console versions of their next-generation games, like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) and Fallout 3 (2008). For several years the future of PC gaming appeared to be in doubt.

The result was an explosion in the indie game sector starting in the late 2000s, alongside Valve using numerous inducements to try to get PC publishers and developers to rally around Steam as a centralised, global launch platform for their games. Valve also initiated aggressively-priced "Steam Sales," sometimes selling games just a year or two old for heavy discounts. This approach proved successful, if again controversial, and PC games began to see an uptick in sales again towards the end of the decade. A good sign of Steam's success was the appearance of competitor products: Ubisoft launched the Ubisoft Games Launcher (aka Ubisoft Connect, later UPlay) in November 2009 and Electronic Arts launched Origin in June 2011.

An earlier competitor was Polish company CD Projekt. The company had enjoyed success by launching its first original game, The Witcher on Steam (as well as physical release) in 2007. In 2008 they launched Good Old Games, a variation on Steam which focused on older, out-of-print games and employing patches and community knowledge in making them compatible with modern systems. CDPR won early victories by recruiting Interplay and Ubisoft to their cause. In 2010, rebranded as GoG, they carried out a successful relaunch spearheaded by the re-release of classic CRPG Baldur's Gate. Valve noted CDPR's success and began launching older games themselves, although generally without the care and attention GoG spent on compatibility.

By the early 2010s, Steam had established itself as the de facto global PC games storefront, to the point that many bricks-and-mortar video game stores dramatically reduced or even removed physical PC games from sale. Most games sold physically still needed to be activated on Steam anyway. Steam users became numerous and passionate, calling for boycotts of other launchers from companies who refused to release on Steam as well, citing the inconvenience of managing multiple launchers and software. The success of Steam also encouraged the further development of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony's inhouse storefronts for their consoles (several attempts to create console versions of Steam came to nothing).

By 2020, most rivals had admitted defeat, with both Electronic Arts and Ubisoft agreeing to release their games via Steam once again. In 2022 EA discontinued Origin in favour of the EA App, which allows former Origin players to continue accessing their games.

In late 2018, Epic Games, flush with cash from their game Fortnite, launched a service designed to directly take the fight to Steam. The Epic Game Store used aggressive pricing, a more generous royalty scheme and the promise of completely free AAA games to aggressively expand. However, the service was hugely criticised during its launch phase for lacking basic functions like a shopping basket and user reviews, whilst Epic's attempt to lock in some games to exclusivity periods with them in return for buckets of cash was criticised as anti-consumer. It took several years to implement basic features and remains controversial, despite the number of Epic exclusives tailing off as developers discovered that the bad will engendered from not launching on Steam often outstripped the short-term financial benefits of accepting Epic's pricing terms.

Steam enjoyed a further shot in the arm thanks to the COVID pandemic, with the number of people using the service seeing a sharp increase as they were stuck at home with, in some cases, not much to do other than play video games.

In 2023, Steam is the overwhelmingly dominant games delivery service for the PC format. The service continues to set new records for concurrent players - the latest high of over 33 million was reached earlier this year - and now every major publisher and almost all publishers full stop use Steam as their main launch system. Rivals continue to hang in there - GoG has continued goodwill from its attempts to track down and release older games and Epic Games is continuing to try to make inroads through exclusives and free games - but many have thrown in the towel and admitted defeat.

Criticisms of Steam and its monopoly-like position in the marketplace continue, with criticism of the service sometimes pushing shovelware games released without much attention to quality (or sometimes copyright). The service has sometimes been used for cheating, toxic behaviour and even fraudulent activities, which Valve has sometimes acted decisively to stamp out and, at other times, less decisively. However, Steam has also been praised for almost single-handedly saving PC gaming as a viable format during the 2005-10 period when its future might otherwise have been in doubt, and for prioritising convenience and ease of use for customers.

Probably the biggest and most viable criticism of Steam has been its impact on Valve, its creators. Valve used to create vibrant, exciting and original video games. Steam has given them an astonishing annual income (comfortably in the billions of dollars) which frees them from having to rush games or, indeed, do much work on original games at all. Although Valve continued to publish popular titles in the first few years after Steam launched - Portal (2007), Team Fortress 2 (2007), Left 4 Dead (2008), Portal 2 (2011), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012) and Dota 2 (2013) - it is also unquestionable that their financial security has meant they are not under any pressure to actually make new games. The Half-Life franchise was left on a massive cliffhanger with the release of Half-Life 2: Episode Two in 2007 and the company has so far failed to follow up on it, although VR prequel Half-Life: Alyx (2021) hints at how the series might continue.

My main abiding memory of the first time I used Steam was strewing network cables across my house, to my landlady's consternation, as I tried to get Half-Life 2 to work on its release day. I now have 484 games on the service with some 5,769 hours spent on them (which isn't as bad as I'd feared, spread over nineteen years). My most-played games on the service are Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, Fallout 4, Cyberpunk 2077, The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimBattleTech, XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within, Death Stranding, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, Grand Theft Auto IV/Episodes from Liberty City and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. Many of the criticisms and wariness about the service remain valid, but I think without Steam, it's questionable if PC gaming would have survived, let alone thrived as it has.

Monday 11 September 2023

RUMOUR: THE EXPANSE's Shohreh Aghdashloo cast in THE WHEEL OF TIME

Thanks to good detective work by Wheel of Time fan channel WoT Up!, there are well-supported indications that The Expanse actress Shohreh Aghdashloo has been cast in the third season of the show.

Aghdashloo is best-known for her role on all six seasons of The Expanse, playing Chrisjen Avasarala. Her performance on that show was highly acclaimed, and led to her being cast in numerous geek-friendly projects. However, her acting career goes right back to the late 1970s, when she debuted in films in her native Iran. She moved to the UK and then the United States after the 1979 Revolution and began acting in projects there, achieving a breakthrough for her role in House of Sand and Fog (2003). Her TV roles included ER, Grey's Anatomy, 24, House of Saddam, The Punisher and Grimm. In video games, she also voiced Admiral Shala'Raan of the Quarian Fleet in Mass Effect 2 and 3, Lakhshmi-2 in Destiny and Destiny 2, and Roshan in the Assassin's Creed franchise. She reprised her role as Avasarala in this year's The Expanse: A Telltale Series.

Aghdashloo was fan-cast by Wheel of Time fans for the role of Cadsuane, a powerful Aes Sedai who cannot stand the strictures of the Tower so prefers to operate independently of its hierarchy, something that has gotten her in trouble with the sisterhood. In the books, Cadsuane is initially a difficult-to-read figure who may be an ally but also an enemy of Rand al'Thor. Aghdashloo subsequently responded positively to fans on Twitter suggesting she audition for the role, leading to an exchange with showrunner Rafe Judkins. She was subsequently spotted on location when filming for Season 3 began in Prague.

According to WoT Up!, Aghdashloo is actually playing the role of Elaida, a different Aes Sedai. Elaida is the Aes Sedai advisor to Queen Morgase of Andor, thanks to her gift of the Foretelling, comes to believe that the royal house of Andor is pivotal in events to come. She relocates to Tar Valon, where Morgase's daughter Elayne is studying to be Aes Sedai, to better guide her education.

Although I think Aghdashloo would be a better Cadsuane than Elaida, she would still be excellent in that role. It may be that Cadsuane's role in the show will be reduced compared to the books, in which case casting a lower-profile actress for that role might make more sense (Cadsuane has been mentioned several times in the series, so will probably appear in some form), whilst Elaida will be a more important figure who debuts earlier and plays a bigger role in events.

We await full confirmation from Amazon as to Aghdashloo's casting and what role she will be playing, but overall this is excellent casting news.

Saturday 9 September 2023

Blogging Roundup: 1 May to 31 August 2023

The Wertzone


Video Game: Grounded


Atlas of Ice and Fire