Professor Eustacius Jericho, the Scourge of Scoundrels, is not the first Beekeeper I’ve covered that comes from the Doctor Who franchise. That would be Goronwy Jones. But Jericho comes closer than his predecessor to becoming an actual Companion of the titular Doctor.
Jericho was a British soldier in the Second World War, and saw many terrible things. When he returned home, he threw himself wholly into academic life, seeking largely (consciously or otherwise) to be detached from the “real world” because of the darkness he’d seen. By the 1960s, he had some rapport with the people of his village, but avoided close attachments. And, because science often pairs well with the keeping of bees, it was in this era that seems to have taken it up. We don’t know how many hives he had, but we know he liked to use their honey in tea. “Nature’s own shock remedy,” he called it. I suspect he found it useful treating his trauma left from the War.
When supernatural events barged into Jericho’s life, he doubted them at first, but his scientific rationale quickly caught him up. Even in dangerous situations, he hoped to continue researching and learning. And when he wound up stranded in the early 1900s with the Doctor’s Companions, he and they went on a years-long, world-spanning quest to help prevent the end of the world. And when that crisis came to its climax, he allowed himself to be captured by an alien army as part of the plan to bring them down. The plan worked, though Jericho didn’t make it back alive. He was, at least, happy in the end that after his sedentary decades, he got to have a big adventure in his final years.
The only problem is that we never got to see Jericho doing any Beekeeping. We only get that one reference to his bees’ honey. Certainly he couldn’t have been doing it after being stranded in the past and started travelling the world on a mission. That means that the part of Jericho’s life that is full of adventure and the part where he keeps bees are decidedly separate. That’s not the ideal situation I look for here in these reviews, and sadly that brings his rating down from what it otherwise could have been:
Three Honeycombs out of Five.
Time flows so quickly that I was surprised to learn that it has been more than two months since I officially announced I was making a game called Surrounded By Danger. But in those two months, progress has continued and I can say that I think the basic mechanics of the game are nearly complete. There is only a little fine-tuning left to account for balancing issues and the like. Otherwise, this is a completely functional cooperative board game that I have playtested with four other people, not including myself. It genuinely works.
But, unfortunately/extremely fortunately, something has changed since the last time I wrote on the topic. I delved into research on other cooperative board games and learned a lot about what exists in the genre these days. What I learned changed this project entirely: there are board games that now attempt to tell ongoing persistent stories. I got very into the idea, and I very much am now working on a Story Mode for Surrounded by Danger. It’s going well! I’ve even tested it! And while it may not be as developed as the basic mechanic yet, but it’s coming along.
Another bit of progress that has occurred is less good news. I had really, really wanted to release this game with the subtitle “An Urban Beekeeping Simulator” because it would greatly amuse me to do so. But cooler heads have convinced me that this would give potential players an incorrect view of what the game is about. Is it my fault that the populace at large doesn’t know that Beekeepers are all about fighting crime and investigating supernatural threats? No, I’ve done everything in my power to prove this to them. But the more people who come into the game, the more will learn about the greatness of Beekeepers, so I guess I should do this right.
Stinger Apini, played by Sean Bean, is a character from the film Jupiter Ascending. Without getting into the macro-level details of the movie’s sci-fi setting, I can say this much about Stinger: he’s a genetically-engineered space cop who has been demoted and posted on Earth where he lives with his daughter and keeps bees. And it does seem that he’s good at the beekeeping, a trait that may well bred into him at a genetic level. His farm not only has multiple hives, but the home is covered in still more honeycombs, apparently placed wherever the bees felt like it. From what we see, the bees have a lot of leeway on this farm.
It is definitely worth noting that the bees we see on Stinger’s farm have a certain supernatural style. They can sense royalty in a person, for example, and respond to that person’s actions, to the extent that they’ll attack bad guys to help protect the film’s main character. Stinger says, “bees are genetically designed to recognize royalty… bees aren’t like humans, they don’t question or doubt. Bees don’t lie.” But Stinger says this is true of all bees, not just his. If all this is just a fact of bees in this sci-fi world, I can’t give Stinger any credit for it.
What I can give Stinger credit for is that he’s also an excellent fighter with a long history in space battles. He even had wings up until he acted nobly (taking credit for the actions of a soldier under his command) and was punished for it. While this did result in his disgrace, and his anger over it (and his desire to protect his daughter) led to him betraying his allies, he came back around to rejoin the protagonists. He wasn’t so overcome with rage that it became a problem in the long run.
He’s definitely a skilled combatant and a decent beekeeper. Even his name, Stinger Apini, is cool and thematically appropriate. But look, I have to be honest. My own opinion of the very concept of royalty is working against Stinger in this review. The idea that being “royal” is not made-up bullshit but is, in fact, an actual quantifiable physical attribute of a person and makes them “better” than other people and that bees can recognize and defer to it… none of this gets PDR’s approval.
Three Honeycombs out of Five.
Today’s Beekeeper, Ken Oliverti, appeared in a movie called Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare, a horror thriller made back when concerns about killer bees were all the rage. Ken is a member of a family of quite successful Beekeepers, who have been working in the town of Blossom Meadows for generations. They have hives all over the valley with an estimated 25 million bees. Ken doesn’t need to wear a mask or gloves while handling the combs, saying “If you’re comfortable around bees, they’ll be comfortable around you.” The business is so successful that he has to travel the country (including to San Francisco, where he met his fiance Linda) and he’s taken a class about the dangers of killer bees, so you’d think he’d be exactly who you’d want around during a killer bee movie. There’s only one problem: he’s not the protagonist. And any apiarist who isn’t a protagonist is gonna have some problems!
Ken and Linda’s wedding is held outside on the land they own, not very far at all from some of their hives. The music is loud, which disturbs the hives. But, it turns out that several of the hives’ queens have been “Africanized” and the movie tells us that Africanized honey bees gets pissed off way more easily, so of course they immediately attack the wedding. Ken does try to wave get the guests inside, but the real heroic moment at this wedding is when the bride uses her veil as a mask and goes to rescue her soon-to-be step-son Joshua, who has been attacked. That woulda been a real proud moment for a Beekeeper like Ken, if he’d done it. But we’re never told that Linda is a Beekeeper. She’s marrying into the family, sure, but she’s not on the job yet (though I sure hope she got into the family business after the events of the movie).
Still, I could forgive Ken missing a chance to have a cool Beekeeper rescue if he was otherwise impressive. Sure, he’s part of a successful apiarist family, but he failed to even suspect that his own hives were turning on him. And then, when Blossom Meadows was Deadly Invaded by a Killer Bee Nightmare, Ken just took his family out of town. I get it, honestly I do. Josh had been hurt. Getting out of town makes sense. For an ordinary Beekeeper. But not the cool kind Beekeeper we look for around these parts.
Two Honeycombs out of Five. The rating of perfectly ordinary Beekeepers.
Heathcliff is a comic strip about an orange cat who terrifies his neighbourhood. In recent years, the strip has gotten especially strange in a way that makes it worth checking out from time to time.
But recently the weirdness has not been the only thing to draw my attention:
August 31st: “Hey! Heathcliff is in a beekeeping outfit! And hanging out with Beekeepers! I bet I could get a review out of that!”
September 13th: “Wait, Heathcliff is in love with a Beekeeper! Is it one of the Beekeepers from the previous strip?”
October 7th: “Now he’s wearing bees and walking past some different Beekeepers? Is he trying to impress them? Is he in love with one of these two? Is he trying to pick one up after being rejected by one of the others? Or is he just walking through the Beekeeping part of town to get to his friends from the previous strip?”
The fact is, I can’t answer this stuff. I’d have to go through all of the Heathcliff comic strips and comic books and television shows and whatnot to see if there are any clues I’m missing. Often when I am coming across a Beekeeper to review in a piece of media that has existed for some time I can find some corner of the Internet devoted to that media that will catalogue the appearances I need to look out for. The venerable Heathcliff Wiki lists both “Bee” and “Bee Suit” as running gags, but with precious little other information. And, indeed, image searching for “Heathcliff beekeeper” gives a lot of results. Multiple strips where Heathcliff plays music for bees. A strip where Heathcliff avoids the police by being surrounded by a swarm of bees. It goes on like this.
Is Heathcliff himself a Beekeeper? He’s certainly enjoyed some of the perks, but apart from playing music for bees, we’ve never seen him doing the work. And even when he’s doing that we’re shown actual Beekeepers doing the actual job. But those Beekeepers are not characters. They don’t even look the same every time, so I have to assume it’s a host of different ones.
I need more information before I can review anything here, but to maintain my credibility as the world’s foremost reviewer of fictional beekeepers I had to make it know that I’m aware something is going on.