Five minutes of Silence: Day Three

During Lent this year, instead of giving something up, I’ve decided to add something instead.  So every day (except Sundays, which aren’t counted as part of Lent – a fast from the fast, if you will) I am finding a quiet spot, setting a timer, and spending five minutes alone with my thoughts.

I’m going to dispense with writing my actual thoughts this time (and probably for the rest of Lent, to be honest), because really, this time it was much the same.  A bit quieter again, but still the jumble of thoughts.  They were more concentrated around themes this time, and I found my mind drifting to plans for the weekend, envisioning various scenarios that might play out, and how I’m going to deal with them.  Annoyingly, Ellen still found her way into my thoughts with her annoying, “By Mennen” earworm.

 

Five Minutes of Silence: Day 2

During Lent this year, instead of giving something up, I’ve decided to add something instead.  So every day (except Sundays, which aren’t counted as part of Lent – a fast from the fast, if you will) I am finding a quiet spot, setting a timer, and spending five minutes alone with my thoughts.

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Okay, here we go.  Five minutes of silence.  … already it feels different today.  Less clutter.  Quieter.  Maybe it’s because I’ve closed my eyes?  Nah, that’s silly.  Or maybe not – no visual stimuli.  Okay, calm down, get a grip now.  What is this?  Am I now the Sperm Whale from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?  At least I’m not falling towards an alien world from space… I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.  Oh shut up, Marvin.  Typical.  Nobody ever wants to be near me do they?  I said SHUT UP, MARVIN.  Go figure, my mind would wander to Douglas Adams.  By Mennen!  Yup, there’s Ellen again.  Damn you with that joke, Ellen!  Yes, it is much quieter in my mind today, things are still jumbled, but not nearly as jumbled as they were yesterday.  I wonder how much of this I’m going to remember for my blog?  Does it matter?  At least I got that email written.  I’ll have to go over it a few more times before sending it. 

 

Given the similarities in my thoughts – and, yet again, this is not even close to every thought I had during that 5 minutes.  This second day, though, was interesting, because in the first few seconds, my mind definitely did seem quieter than yesterday.  Perhaps, as this progresses, the “quiet” thoughts will last longer and longer.

Five Minutes of Silence – Day 1.

During Lent this year, instead of giving something up, I’ve decided to add something instead.  So every day (except Sundays, which aren’t counted as part of Lent – a fast from the fast, if you will) I am finding a quiet spot, setting a timer, and spending five minutes alone with my thoughts.

Ash Wednesday
So, five minutes alone in thought.  What will bubble to the surface of my mind this time?

This is a really comfy couch!  I should work over here rather than at my desk.  I wonder if this will last all through lent.  Like coffee.  Oh yeah… giving up coffee.  Lasted four days.  I remember asking that other family last night if they were going to give up coffee and they laughed.  Am I supposed to be remembering stuff or just thinking?  I AM thinking, oh right.  No, there’s no real pattern to this.  What am I going to do about that program?  It certainly is better than it was, but still  needs work.  I’m now on the right track.  And how about —-?  Should I blog about it or not?  Should I email the guy or not?  Will it make a difference?  Do I care if it does?  Should I care?  Oh I forgot I was supposed to —  may you be free from harm; may you be free form compulsion, may you be blessed with love, may you be blessed with peace.  Oh whatever.  At least the Kid is going to be going to that birthday party and I remembered to confirm it.  That’s good.  Man these thoughts are jumbled, aren’t they?  It’s amazing how much is going on here inside my head when I actually stop and listen to it.  Do I think too fast?  Do I think too much?  (By Mennen!)  (LAUGH) Thanks, Ellen!  I should write this down!  maybe someone will find it interesting!  Who knows?  I’ll have to make sure to edit some of the thoughts so I don’t give away stuff that’s private.

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Certainly that’s not even close to everything that went through my mind in five minutes.  I could probably fill three pages if I recorded each and every thought I had, but what I am surprised about is how loud my mind actually is, and how much goes on inside it, how disconnected everything seems to be, but how it does have links from one to another, and if I look back, I can see the links from one thought to the next.  It may make more sense to me in that context, because I’m the guy thinking the thoughts.

It’s possible that, over the next seven weeks that my thoughts will start to slow down as I get used to these five minute breaks.  Or not.  Maybe I’ll get better in remembering what I thought about.  Maybe I’ll get better at controlling what goes through my mind.  Or not.

Time will tell.  This is just Day One, after all.

The Time of the Doctor – Episode Review

This entry started out as a comment on Michael Ray Johnson’s blog, Of Dice and Pen, however proved to be too long for the comment form to accept, so I decided to post it here.

This episode struck me as an “epilogue” to Matt Smith’s storyline, and just as with the last few episodes of Babylon 5’s Season 5, it seemed more like the writer told he needed fill an hour of TV, but not really have any ideas to build a story with.

Epilogues are great, when used effectively. Here, as you say, there was just way too much going on crammed in and stuck together. The town’s name, Christmas, was clearly contrived for use in the Christmas Special. A bit like, “oh, we’re writing a Christmas Special, we’d better make a note of that fact, but we’ve got a Doctor to kill off, a cliff hanger to wrap up, and a new actor to introduce. We’re swamped!” … “Oh wait, let’s call the town Christmas and bake a turkey in the TARDIS!” … “YEAH!”

The story does have parts going for it. Bringing back Amy Pond for a quick “bye bye” was a nice touch, as was removing the bow tie (bow ties are cool), and as Christopher says above – the snap to the new Doctor was brilliant (“do you know how to fly this thing?” was an AWESOME line).

Eventually, the fact that the Doctor was going to run out of lives was going to have to be dealt with. There’s no reason for this needing to be a huge deal, because regeneration as it stands is a huge deal anyway. It just keeps going, and now, fortunately, and given that it took the BBC 50 years to go through the initial 12 regenerations (admittedly through a little bit of a back-door excuse thrown in by Moffat for the fun of it) I think it’s fair to say we don’t need to worry about this again for, oh I don’t know, another 50 years*.

I also don’t agree with the accusations of sexism levelled against Moffat. So, he smacks Amy on the butt? Yeah, it’s inappropriate for a guy to do that to someone in a professional setting, but let’s face it – the Doctor and Amy aren’t in a professional setting. They’re, by that point, very close friends having a lot of fun together and, because of the nature of their adventures, they have a very intimate life together. It’s not a marriage, or sexual, since Amy’s with Rory, but still, when two people spend as much time together as the Doctor and Amy do, and become that comfortable with each other, it’s something that I can see happening.

I could have done without the doctor flashing Clara’s family. It was a moment that was obviously thrown in for a bit of a laugh, but it fell totally flat. There was no need to build in a necessity for nudity as a show of respect to the Papal Mainframe, but since Moffat did put that bit in there, having the Doctor naked on the TARDIS made sense. Projecting clothes into Clara’s mind when preparing to go to see her family? Silly to the extreme – but sexist? No; just dumb.

I think Moffat is getting unfair treatment when it comes to the so-called social issues. So, he downplayed LBGTTQWHATEVEROTHERLETTERSTHEYDECIDETOADDTHISWEEK
characters? There’s not a complete lack of them, like one blogger posted. Canton Everett Delaware III shows up in The Impossible Astronaut and The Day of the Moon, and as well, there’s the rather unusual relationship of Vastra and Jenny, who are, not only both female, but completely different species!

There’s “inclusiveness”, and there’s “tokenism”. Inclusiveness puts a trait, such as homosexuality, into a character, and leaves it alone unless it’s crucial to the plot. Canton Everett is a good example of this – he reveals, at the end of The Day of the Moon that he wants to get married, to another man. It’s just there and stands alone, for itself. It makes for a nice humourous end to that particular character’s storyline without beating the viewer over the head with it. Tokenism, on the other hand, is exactly that – beating the user over the head with it. Tokenism takes a character, puts in a trait, and then makes it blatantly obvious that it’s there deliberately, intentionally, and says to the viewer, LOOK!! RIGHT HERE! WE’VE GOT THE GAY CHARACTER! SEE?! LOOK HOW INCLUSIVE WE ARE! WE’RE GOOD, INCLUSIVE PRODUCERS AREN’T WE? And so on.

Not only is it very annoying to the viewer when this gets done, it’s also insulting to the very community that the producers are trying to include! If it seems forced, it usually is, and produces a very cynical response. As John Barrowman said at Calgary Expo last Spring: “I’m a man who happens to like other men.” He doesn’t define himself by his sexual orientation, and neither should we. He made it very clear that he is comfortable with who he is, and that’s all that matters.

Doctor Who’s showrunners, both Moffat and Davies before him, have done an excellent job of being inclusive without resorting to tokenism.

*Average time spent playing The Doctor = 3.5 years * 13 lives = 45 years:
Doctor Harnell: 4 Years
Doctor Troughton: 3 Years
Doctor Pertwee: 3 Years
Doctor T. Baker: 7 Years
Doctor Davison: 3 Years
Doctor C. Baker: 2 Years
Doctor McCoy: 3 Years (Dammit, Jim, I’m a Time Lord, not a physician!)
Doctor McGann: (Not counted due to one full-length story and one brief appearance)
Doctor Hurt: (Not counted for the same reason)
Doctor Eccleston: 1 Year
Doctor Tennant: 4 Years
Doctor Smith: 3 Years

The Week of the Doctor: Day 7 – The Name of the Doctor

Over seven days I am watching and reflecting on one Doctor Who story every day.

Asylum of the Daleks ・The Angels Take Manhatten
The Snowmen ・The Name of the Doctor
By Steven Moffat

DOCTOR-WHO-Asylum-of-the-Daleks-Season-7-Premiere-3

This seventh season of the revived Doctor Who series departs from the previous two seasons’ idea of an strong underlying storyline, in favour of more stand-alone episodes.  Despite this, there is still a building story which culminates in the cliffhanger ending of the last episode of the season:  The Name of the Doctor, which will be wrapped up in the 50th anniversary special entitled The Day of the Doctor; which I have yet to see.  (I wasn’t able to get tickets to the cinematic simulcast on November 23, instead I was able to get tickets to the wider market release, on November 25th.  Between November 23 (today) and November 25, I will turn off all social media and avoid as much references to Doctor Who as I can – I do NOT want to any spoilers.


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This season also is somewhat unique in that it is very strongly and clearly divided into two distinct segments, both of which have completely different story lines.  The first half wraps up the Amy/Rory story, ending, somewhat tragically, with their departure from the show.

This was a very sad ending to that chapter of Doctor Who for me, since Amy and Rory were two of my favourite characters of all time.

At the start of the season, we were introduced to a new character, the somewhat enigmatic Oswin, a strong character with a feisty personality; who likes soufflés.  Given where she’s trapped, she has lots of time to perfect her technique.

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Halfway through the season, once the tears from the departure of Amy and Rory, the Doctor travels to Victorian England for the Christmas Special, entitled The Snowmen.  This episode features a brand new title sequence and new interior for the TARDIS.  This episode features what is, in my opinion, one of the most amazing camera sequences ever – in one long take, the camera encircles the TARDIS from the outside, and then, without a single cut, follows Clara as she walks in through the door of the TARDIS to the main room.  This scene is so seamless it really does convey the impression that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside.

Doctor Who
However, special effects wizardry aside, the second half of this season in particular, is, I feel, quite weak.  It culminates with a very strong ending in The Name of the Doctor, but this season also features what is, I believe, some of the worst episodes of Doctor Who ever:  Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Rings of Akhaten.  The latter of these two episodes reminds me too much of the weakest points of Classic Doctor Who, only with a larger budget.  The former has one thing going for it – you get exactly what you’re told you’re going to get:  Dinosaurs.  On a spaceship.

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I think Season Seven is definitely weaker than Season Six.  I’m hoping that the Day of the Doctor make up for the shortcomings I felt over the course of the year; and hey, I get to see The Day of the Doctor on the big screen, and in 3D, which is going to be the first time I’ve experienced Doctor Who on the big screen.

I hope it’s good, and I hope that the BBC can revitalize the series (again) when the Doctor regenerates on Christmas Day.

The Week of the Doctor: Day 6 – The Silence Will Fall

Over seven days, I am watching a story from the revived Doctor Who series and writing my thoughts about it.

The Impossible Astronaut ・The Day of the Moon
The Rebel Flesh ・The Almost People
A Good Man Goes to War ・Closing Time
The Wedding of River Song

Silence

A malevolent race of aliens that erase themselves from your memory the moment you look away.  Strange invitations to attend a ceremony of sorts.  The Doctor gets shot twice, the second time during the regeneration sequence, killing him.  Jim the Fish, Adolph Hitler, a strange child, Amy Pond’s daughter, and Richard Nixon.

The sixth season of the revived Doctor Who series expands even further on the idea of a running storyline throughout.  This time, it deals with the identity of River Song, the relationship between Amy, Rory and The Doctor, and the apparent death of The Doctor himself.

Melody season 6

This is an even more difficult reflection to write than yesterday’s, simply due to the sheer number of episodes that cover various elements of this storyline.  Some episodes advance the plot-line more than others, but there is a definite beginning, middle, and end to this story.

It all starts in Utah, where the companions – Amy Pond, her husband, Rory Williams, and the enigmatic River Song, all receive TARDIS-

blue invitations.  They meet at a diner, and come face to face with The Doctor, who takes them to a lake.  An astronaut appears, and the Doctor stands up, saying to his companions, “whatever happens, do not interfere.”

doctor oval office

Then he gets shot.  Twice, and dies.  Then he shows up again, younger this time, and the adventures continue.

Once again, we experience some wonderful interplay between the characters, more between the Doctor and River Song:

The Doctor: I am being extremely clever up here and there’s no one to stand around looking impressed! What’s the point in having you all?

The Doctor: It’s a police box. Can’t you read? I’m your new

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undercover agent. On loan from Scotland Yard. Code named The Doctor. These are my top operatives. The Legs, The Nose and Mrs. Robinson.
River: I hate you.
The Doctor: No you don’t.

The Doctor: Doctor Song, you’ve got that face on again.
River: What face?
The Doctor: The “He’s hot when he’s clever” face.
River: This is my normal face.Lets Kill Hitler The Doctor: Yes it is.
River: Oh, shut up.
The Doctor: Not a chance.

River: What are you doing?
The Doctor: Helping!
River: You’ve got a screwdriver! Go build a cabinet!
The Doctor: That’s really rude!
River: Shut up and drive.

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This season is, in my opinion, even better than the last one.  I was wondering how Doctor Who was going to top the fifth season, and it certainly did, ending on a huge question for the seventh Season.  The question which must never be answered:

Doctor Who?

The Week of the Doctor – Day 5: “I wear a Fez now. Fezzes are Cool”

Over the seven days leading up to the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who (November 23, 2013), I am a selected story from the revived series and reflecting on it.

The Pandorica Opens・The Big Bang
By Steven Moffatt

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Stories from the fifth, sixth and seventh seasons of the revived Doctor Who series are going to be a little bit more difficult to write about, because not only has a new actor (Matt Smith) taken on the role of The Doctor, but Steven Moffatt has expanded on the concept of the recurring theme which permeates each season.  Now, it’s a full storyline.

This season also introduces us to two of my personal favourite companions in Doctor Who history – Rory Williams and Amy Pond.  A boyfriend/girlfriend pair, the interplay between the three is very comedic:

Amy: Hey, look at this. I got my spaceship, I got my boys… my work here is done. [struts into the TARDIS, head held high]
Rory[scoffs] Uh, we are not her “boys.”
The Doctor: Yeah, we are.
Rory: Yeah, we are.

exploding TARDIS

By the end of the season, we’ve been hearing about “when the Pandorica opens” for quite a while, which, of course, leads us to wonder what, exactly, the Pandorica is.  A previous episode gave us a clue in the form of a painting by Vincent van Gogh: the TARDIS exploding.

Rory ends up getting killed, then erased from history, and finally reincarnates as a robotic Roman centurion. (Yes, I’m serious, but go with it, because Rory, like The Doctor’s Bow Tie and Fez, is cool.)

As storylines go, this is a darn good one too.  By the end of the season, in The Pandorica Opens, we find ourselves at Stonehenge surrounded by Romans, and the Doctor must face virtually every enemy he has ever faced all at once.

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Not only are both my wife and I totally satisfied with the storyline at the end of the fifth season, because we both agree the story encompassed all things – intrigue, comedy, suspense, and a blue box that’s bigger on the inside.  Doctor Who has really hit its stride at this point, evolving from a quirky BBC revival of a classic, cheesy, low-budget science fiction series loved by Brit expats, their kids, and quiet, reserved watchers of PBS.  It’s no longer little-known, “alternative” TV viewing, but mainstream.  

The music is pretty damn good too.  The track, I Am The Doctor, composed by Murray Gold is rapidly, I think, becoming as iconic as the TARDIS sound and the Doctor Who theme music.

The final episode ties every weird and mysterious thing that happens this season together, and makes perfect sense as well, bringing a truly joyful season to a successful and satisfying close.

Oh, and Rory marries Amy; and no, that’s not a spoiler.

wedding_08

The Week of the Doctor – Day 4: “Hello, Sweetie!”

Over seven days, I am watching and reflecting on one Doctor Who story from the revived series.

Silence in the Library ・Forest of the Dead
By Steven Moffatt

4x08-Silence-in-the-Library-doctor-who-21245693-1600-900A library that encompasses an entire planet.  It’s deserted.  Millions are saved, but there are no survivors.  A mysterious woman seems to know The Doctor very intimately, yet he has never met her before.  Her name is River Song, and she carries a diary, which she says The Doctor forbade her to ever allow her to look at.  Stay out of the shadows; or you’ll be eaten.

In this, yet another story by Stephen Moffat (it seems Moffat is the writer of most of my favourite episodes so far, doesn’t it?), we are introduced to a new character:  River Song (played by Alex Kingston, of ER fame).  The Doctor knows nothing about her, as he’s never met her before, yet she knows almost everything about him.

As the story progresses, this is a wonderful and entertaining backdrop against the main storyline, which involves a large chunk of the rest of the characters getting eaten by microscopic “piranhas of the air”, the Vashta Nerada, which live in and appear as shadows. 4x08-Silence-in-the-Library-doctor-who-21245125-1600-900

Given that this story has enlisted more disposable characters than  redshirts in an episode of Star Trek , it’s amazing that I enjoy it so much.  Most of the enjoyment comes from the interplay between Donna Noble, the Doctor’s current companion, River Song, and the Doctor himself.  Moments of hilarity come crashing together with moments of sadness when you realize that River Song and the Doctor live in time lines travelling in opposite directions:  The first time the doctor meets River is the last time she’ll ever see him.

For us, who live in the Doctor’s time, it means we could see River Song again, but, thinking about it from her point of view, we realize that she’s about to see what we perceive as an old and dear friend for the very last time in her life. silence-in-the-library-01 In fact, this is the end of her life, because she knows full well that the last time she sees the Doctor, he won’t know her, and she will die.  That all she knows.  The rest are, as the characters say, “spoilers!”

Much fun to come with River, I’m sure…

The Week of the Doctor – Day 3: “Blink and you’re dead.”

Over seven days, I’m watching a selection of stories from the rebooted Doctor Who series, and reviewing them in celebration of the 50th anniversary.

Blink
By Steven Moffat

“Don’t blink.
Blink and you’re dead.
Don’t turn your back.
Don’t look away.
And don’t blink.
Good Luck.”

They are called the Weeping Angels.  But they’re not really weeping, and they’re not really angels.  They’re an ancient life form that feeds off your life’s potential energy.  That is, the energy your life would have expended had you lived it in your own time.

You see, they touch you and send you back in time, to live out your life in the past.  They kill you.  Nicely.  No muss, no fuss, you’re just not there any more.

And they’re “quantum-locked”, which means they can’t move while they’re being seen by anyone or anything else.  But don’t look away.  Resist the urge to blink, because they move faster than you can imagine.

And then they’ve got you.

Blink is considered by many to be one of the most creepy and frightening episodes of the entire Doctor Who universe.  It’s certainly understandable, who wouldn’t be frightened of a bunch of statues which move when you aren’t looking at them and one brush of their finger and you’re zapped back into history?

You blinked

Blink is also the first (and only) episode of Doctor Who within which The Doctor doesn’t take a leading role.  Instead, 90% of The Doctor’s part comes from a pre-recorded video of him played over and over again throughout the story, and also provides us with the wonderful “timey wimey” reference:

“People assume,” says The Doctor, ” that time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey … stuff.”

Best.  Explanation.  Of.  Time.  Ever.

Naturally, in the last few moments of the story, everything gets tied together, The Doctor gets what he needs to help the main character of this story defeat the angels, and everything is reset for the next episode.

And Doctor Who has a brand new and very, VERY scary, villain; which really plays with your psyche.  I have seen the odd statue of an angel around and always make a point of staring at them.  Never once, taking my eyes off the statue, and never, ever, blinking.

Just in case.

The Week of the Doctor: Day Two – You Will Be Upgraded

Over seven days, I’m watching a selection of stories from the rebooted Doctor Who series, and reviewing them in celebration of the 50th anniversary.

Rise of the Cybermen・The Age of Steel
By Tom MacRae

The TARDIS is dead.  The Doctor and his companions discover themselves on a parallel earth, complete with Zeppelins.  Every person wears two bluetooth-style earbuds, through which they get “downloaded” news, weather, lottery numbers, and a joke.  During the download, everybody stops and waits, then starts up again.

And people are disappearing.

Rose finds out her father is alive, and goes to find him, while Mickey runs off to take care of some business of his own.

This story completely reboots the Cybermen.  In the classic series, The Cybermen come from Earth’s sister planet, Mondas, which occupies the same orbit as Earth, but on the opposite side of the Sun.  The Doctor, mainly for continuity purposes mainly, mentions the Cybermen in their “home” universe originated on a planet almost identical to earth.

Over the years, the Cybermen continuously “upgraded” themselves, continually, changing their appearance.  Naturally, this had more to do with BBC costume and makeup artwork, but the changes had to be explained over for story continuity purposes.

This two-part story sets up the finale of the second season, but, in and of itself, is a great standalone story.  The cybermen in this universe are created by a dying man  bent on self-preservation, which, of course, backfires when he removes all emotion from his creation, which then decide that all of mankind is due for “upgrading”, and those who resist or are, “incompatible”, must be “deleted.”

Intermixed with the adventure and terror of “upgrading” the human race, we find some very human moments as well, such as when The Doctor and another character come across a cyberman, and short-circuit it with an electromagnet.  This deactivates the Cyberman’s “de-humanizing” circuitry, and restores the human side of the creature, who turns out to be a woman, a bride actually, on the night before her wedding.

Of course, as always happens with Doctor Who, the Doctor, through sheer ingenuity, wins through, defeating the cybermen, repairs the TARDIS, and manages to return his own world.

This clearly isn’t the end of the Cybermen, but as a story, this one is probably one of the best of the second series.  Better, even, than  the season finale (which I watched a few weeks ago).

By this point, Doctor Who has really hit its stride.

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