The 2016 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2016 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar 2016

It’s day two of the look back at our holiday season tradition with advent calendars. We typically like the annual LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, though we have been branching out a bit over the last couple of years.

We’ve been doing these since 2015 and I have been chronicling the daily builds on Instagram. The 2019 and 2020 sets have been previously featured on this site, and to count down to this year’s builds, I’m taking a look back at the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 sets.

These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. Among my favorites over the years are the winter Chewbacca, the rebel pilot snowman, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers. The 2016 box focused on the original Star Wars trilogy with a heavy lean toward The Empire Strikes Back and a nod toward the prequel trilogy.

The 2021 day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. That adventure (and December itself) begins in three days.

cc-break

This post’s cover photo is a remix of a photograph by Matthias Kabel. The original represents Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The 2015 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2015 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar 2015

One of the holiday season traditions in my household is advent calendars. We typically like the annual LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, though we have been branching out a bit over the last couple of years.

We’ve been doing these since 2015 and I have been chronicling the daily builds on Instagram. The 2019 and 2020 sets have been previously featured on this site, and to count down to this year’s builds, I’m taking a look back at the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 sets.

These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. Among my favorites over the years are the winter Chewbacca, the rebel pilot snowman, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers. The 2015 box focused on the original Star Wars trilogy with a hoiday twist.

The 2021 day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. That adventure (and December itself) begins in four days.

cc-break

This post’s cover photo is a remix of a photograph by Matthias Kabel. The original represents Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Timestamp: Series Six Summary

Doctor Who Series Six Summary

Timestamp Logo Eleventh

Matt Smith’s sophomore series was about the same as the previous round.

The Moffat formula remains intact here, approaching a season-spanning threat while maintaining an adventure-of-the-week format. This version made the threat more personal by focusing on the Doctor’s impending death, the pursuit of Amy and Rory’s child, and revelations about Steven Moffat’s perennial favorite River Song.

One thing I really liked about this season’s approach was how it didn’t constantly remind us of the overarching threat. Series Five kept showing us the crack at various points, almost to the point of defenestrating each adventure. The reminders in Series Six were frequent, but they were also a bit more diffuse, allowing each story to thrive without constantly glancing at the sword dangling above.

I’m still up in the air about the conclusion. The end goal was the death of the Doctor – a fixed point in time – and The Wedding of River Song was pretty clear about what would happen if the Doctor was spared. Yet, he was spared because a machine that looks like the Doctor was shot and destroyed.

So, what happens when the Silence finds out that the Doctor survived? Alternatively, it is possible to subvert other “fixed points” through shenanigans and/or tomfoolery?

Anyway, to the numbers!

Series Six earned a 4.2 average. That leave this group at eighth place overall, tied coincidentally with the classic era’s Eleventh Series. Ahead of it in this ranking are Series One, Series Three, and Series Five (all tied for fifth), David Tennant’s specials, the TV Movie, Series Four, and the classic era’s Ninth Series.

A Christmas Carol – 5
The Impossible Astronaut & Day of the Moon – 4
The Curse of the Black Spot – 3
The Doctor’s Wife – 5
The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People – 5
A Good Man Goes to War – 5
Let’s Kill Hitler – 5
Night Terrors – 2
The Girl Who Waited – 5
The God Complex – 5
Closing Time – 3
The Wedding of River Song
– 4
Space/Time & Night and the Doctor – 3

Torchwood Series Four Average Rating: 4.2/5


The Timestamps Project is still proceeding in mostly chronological order. Up next is the final series of The Sarah Jane Adventures. After that, we embark on a straight shot through the seventh, eighth, and ninth series of Doctor Who.

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Sky
cc-break

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Rogue Squadron Grounded

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Rogue Squadron Grounded

November 22, 2021

I’ve seen various reports about the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron movie to be directed by Wonder Woman alum Patty Jenkins. The more reputable sites are saying that movie is merely delayed while others are reporting that the film is shelved indefinitely due to “creative differences” and friction with Lucasfilm.

Either way, this makes the third (at least) film project in the galaxy far, far away that is delayed, following trilogies by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and the David Benioff/D.B. Weiss duo (Game of Thrones).

The film by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) is still on the books.

Honestly, considering the immense popularity of starfighter titles in Star Wars history and the success of television for the franchise, this might be for the best.

In 1993, LucasArts released a space flight simulator game called Star Wars: X-Wing. It placed the player in the cockpit dogfighting against the Empire. It was followed by TIE FighterX-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, and X-Wing Alliance, along with several expansion packs. These titles advanced the stories of the galactic jet jocks and their missions.

Between 1996 and 2012, authors Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston crafted a ten-book series about the adventures of Rogue and Wraith Squadrons. This series still stands as a major milestone and fan favorite in the former Expanded Universe, divorcing readers from the Skywalkers and the Force and exploring the world of aviators. Michael Stackpole also had explored this territory a year earlier with the 35-issue comic book series Star Wars: X-Wing – Rogue Squadron. That series also included the 2005 prequel X-Wing – Rogue Squadron, which tells the story of Luke Skywalker’s departure from the fighter team.

The Prequel Era also got involved with 2001’s Star Wars: Starfighter and 2002’s Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter.

Rogue_Squadron_Movie_Logo

The tales of Star Wars fighter squadrons are immensely popular. It’s evident thanks to nineteen years of books, comics, and video games that the stories are easily serialized. I think that Lucasfilm would be better served by putting Rogue Squadron on television, treating an eight to ten-episode stretch as a novel length presentation in a continuing series of missions against the Empire, Imperial Remnant, or First Order. The stories of these pilot heroes are better served by long-form serialization instead of one-shot film treatments.

The room exists in the Star Wars legend and has potential for many years on Disney+ as the pilot roster can naturally shift. It’s also a great chance to explore the galaxy without lightsabers, Jedi, and the Force.

cc-break

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Your DNA is Everywhere

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Your DNA is Everywhere

November 12, 2021

This week, I have Veritasium on my mind again. I’m fascinated by DNA testing and forensic applications. This video, years in the making, was catnip to me.

If one of your third cousins runs a DNA test, your DNA is essentially on file. No consent required.

The implications are both fascinating and frightening.

Happy Friday. See you again soon.

cc-break

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #232: Space/Time & Night and the Doctor

Doctor Who: Space/Time
Doctor Who: Night and the Doctor
(7 episodes, Comic Relief and Home Video Specials, 2011)

Timestamp 232 Night and the Doctor

Wrapping up some loose ends with the time travelers’ dating game run amok!

Space

Set between The Big Bang and The Impossible Astronaut, we begin with our travelers fixing the TARDIS in something called “conceptual space”. Amy unsuccessfully tries to get the Doctor’s attention, but is distracted by Rory installing thermocouples. Banter flies about Amy’s failed driving test and the fact that she was wearing a skirt. In fact, it’s the same skirt that she’s currently wearing, which distracts Rory and forces the TARDIS to execute an emergency landing.

When the Doctor restores power, the team is shocked to find the TARDIS materialized inside the console room. The Doctor presumes that it was the safest place to land, but when he investigates he finds that it is the same TARDIS as the one they are currently occupying.

More than a time loop, it is a space loop. No one can leave the TARDIS again.

That is, until another Amy walks through the doors. This, apparently, is where it gets complicated.

Time

The new Amy is from the future since the exterior shell is running slightly ahead of the console room. After the Doctor makes sure that the timeline stays exactly as it should – and after present Pond flirts with future Pond, much to Rory’s amusement – Amy enters the TARDIS.

Directly after, both Amy and Rory enter the console room. The Doctor sets up a controlled temporal implosion to reset the TARDIS, but since he doesn’t know which lever to pull, the entire TARDIS could explode. He doesn’t know which lever to pull, but a future version of the Doctor rushes in to tell him to use the “wibbly lever”. The Doctor thanks himself, pulls the lever, and enters the TARDIS before it dematerializes.

Everything’s back to normal and there’s no longer any danger of the localized time field imploding. But, just in case, he asks Amy to put on some trousers before they get back to work.

Bad Night

The console room is dark and the phone is ringing. Amy answers the phone, obviously having just been asleep. The voice on the other end, a Prince of Wales, asks for the Doctor as Amy swats a fly. The Doctor rushes in, clad in top hat and tails, and hands Amy a goldfish and bowl while he deals with the nighttime caller.

He assures the prince that his “mother is fine” while chastising Amy for answering the phone. It turns out that the Queen has been transformed into a goldfish at a party, and the warrior chief who did so is trapped in the TARDIS until he reverses it. Unfortunately, that warrior chief was the fly that Amy killed.

Oh, and River Song was at the party as well.

As the Doctor rushes off to solve the problem, Amy asks for his help. She can’t sleep because something is on her mind. Convinced that she’s “having an emotion,” the Doctor calls for Rory to handle it. It seems that they take turns dealing with her emotional needs.

Finally, the Doctor realizes that he has the wrong fish. He also only has three hours to get the right one before the pet shops open and the Commonwealth is potentially destroyed.

Good Night

The Doctor returns from another night with River Song, this time carrying a euphonium. This time, Amy’s waiting up for him, wondering if he does this kind of thing every night. While the Doctor explains his adventures in saving people – he helped a possessed orchestra on the moonbase, prevented two supernovas, wrote the history of the universe in jokes, and worked as physician in Brixton – Amy wonders if the companions’ lives are just brief flickers in his overall life.

She also explains why she can’t sleep. Her life doesn’t make sense because, as a result of The Big Bang, she can remember two versions of her life, one without her parents and one with them. The Doctor comforts her, in the process reminding her of the saddest moment of her life. It was at a fair when she dropped an ice cream, and she suddenly remembers a woman with red hair, dressed in a nightgown, who came to give her a new ice cream. When she finishes the story, the Doctor is by the doors, ready to go with her to the fair.

Time and space will never make sense, including this causality loop, but at least the Doctor gets ice cream and a trip to the fair.

First Night

River Song is in her cell at Stormcage when the Doctor arrives in a white dinner suit. The Ponds are asleep, so he is taking her to Calderon Beta. It’s a boring planet aside from a four hundred foot tall tree growing out of a cliff-top in the middle of the sea, which is where the Doctor wants to show River the starriest night sky in the entire history of the universe.

Which happens to be on September 21, 2360.

This is apparently right after he gave her the TARDIS diary so they can keep their timelines straight. He’s also chosen a dress for her, but there are more in the wardrobe down the corridor if she wants something different. While she runs off to rifle through the racks, the TARDIS lands. Curious about the sound of gunfire outside, he opens the door and finds a different River Song.

This one collapses into his arms, calling him a nostalgic idiot for coming back to this spot.

Last Night

This new River wasn’t injured, but rather holding her breath for dramatic effect. She flirts with the Doctor while explaining that she’s running from some Sontarans. She spots the dress and gets jealous, storming through the TARDIS to find the presumed mistress.

Of course, future River remembers the encounter – it’s the same night! – but not the details, so chaos ensues between the Doctor and the two Rivers. It gets worse when a third River enters the TARDIS, this one actually wearing the gold dress that the Doctor had picked out. This River was expecting to meet the Doctor here, but she questions why the same dress is hanging by the console. The Doctor asks her to step outside to check if the light on top of the TARDIS is working, which she does.

The second River rushes back into the console room and the Doctor sends her back to Stormcage by tweaking her vortex manipulator with his sonic screwdriver. The third River returns to the TARDIS, followed by an older version of the Doctor who tells her that she’s in the wrong blue box. His, after all, is parked around back.

River muses about two Doctors at once, then rushes out, excited about a trip to the Singing Towers of Darillium. The two Doctors are saddened because River visited that site before she died, but the older Doctor refuses to reveal any spoilers before leaving.

The first River returns, catching a glimpse of the future Doctor and developing a liking for the word “spoilers” before joining her Doctor on their night out together. She jokes that him and his secrets will be the death of her.

Up All Night

In a prequel to Closing Time, we find Craig Owens in his home, eating baby food as he protests to his wife Sophie that he can’t be left alone with their baby. He’s terrified that he’ll break Alfie, but Sophie disagrees, puts Alfie in his arms, and tells him he’s amazing. Craig bounces a little as Sophie notices another disappearance in the newspaper.

Craig questions whether or not she should leave the both of them alone all weekend, but Sophie is sure. She says that it is bath time, which Craig protests because it happened just yesterday, but Sophie suggests that it’s not the end of the world.

The kitchen lights flicker as they walk out.


Overall, this collection of shorts was entertaining enough. Space/Time were part of the 2011 Comic Relief special, the first multi-part charity story since the 30th anniversary special Dimensions in Time (“Which is totally canon, right?” he asked with a grin). It’s also the fifth televised story in the forty-eight year (to this point) history of the franchise to be set entirely on the TARDIS.

Meanwhile, the Night and the Doctor collection was a special feature for the Series Six home video release.

With that context, the source of Space/Time‘s humor is understandable since it caters to a lower denominator to drive pledges. It’s also irritating since it reduces a competent companion and woman to an upskirt gag to propel the story. Space/Time is definitely my least favorite part of this set.

Night and the Doctor plays with downtime on the TARDIS, addressing both Amy’s dual timeline crisis that stems from The Big Bang and going slapstick with the divergent linearity of the River/Doctor relationship. The Amy thread does quite well with the Eleventh Doctor’s aloof and detached nature when it comes to relationships, and it is by far my favorite subset of the collection. The dating game falls in the middle of the set by having fun with a lot of confusion.

Up All Night just… exists. That’s about it.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”


UP NEXT – Series 6 Summary

cc-break

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Disney+ Day 2021

Culture on My Mind
Disney+ Day 2021
November 15, 2020

You get a bonus edition of Culture on My Mind because I’m thinking Disney.

Disney+ Day marks the anniversary of the Mouse House’s streaming service, and the second anniversary was on November 12th. The event served as a teaser for new content and features as well as a premiere day for new titles.

New Arrivals

To celebrate the second anniversary of Disney+, several new titles were added to the service, including:

  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Home Sweet Home Alone
  • Marvel Assembled: The Making of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Marvel Studios’ 2021 Disney Plus Special
  • Under the Helmet: The Legacy of Boba Fett
  • The Making of Happier than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles
  • Entrelazados
  • Enchanted (2007)
  • Spin
  • The World According to Jeff Goldblum: Season Two
  • Fancy Nancy: Season Three
  • Olaf Presents (a series of animated shorts)
  • Ciao Alberto (a Luca short)
  • The Simpsons in Plusaversary

The list also included an assorted collection of Walt Disney Animation Studios shorts.

IMAX Enhanced Films

Select Marvel films have been upgraded on the service to include their IMAX presentations. A typical theater presentation is in either the 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which means that for every inch tall, a movie is either 1.85 inches or 2.35 inches wide. IMAX uses a 1.90:1 ratio, which offers up to 26 percent more screen space.

The films included in this lauch are:

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Black Widow (2021)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

The IMAX presentations on Disney+ do not include the IMAX Enhanced DTS sound, but there is a possibility of adding it down the road.

Star Wars Teases

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022) – A teaser is available on Disney+.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Logo

Marvel Teases

  • X-Men ’97, a revival of the beloved 1997 Fox animated series (2023)

feaakozucaq6ztb

  • Moon Knight, based on the Marvel Comics series. For more information and a peek at the First Look footage, check out the New Rockstars video.
  • She Hulk, based on the 1980s Marvel Comics series created by Stan Lee and John Buscema. For more information and a peek at the First Look footage, check out the New Rockstars video.
  • Ms. Marvel, based on the Marvel Comics series. For more information and a peek at the First Look footage, check out the New Rockstars video.

FEALLttVcAMaGyK[1]

  • Spider-Man: Freshman Year (an animated series)
  • I Am Groot (an animated series)
  • Ironheart, an original series based on the Marvel Comics character.

fealye8uyaka48r

  • Agatha: House of Harkness, a spinoff from WandaVision

fealbojuuawxs5d

  • Marvel Zombies, an animated series based on the Marvel Comics series
  • Secret Invasion, an original series based on the Marvel Comics series and presuambly playing off all of the Skrulls that we keep seeing in the MCU. Once again with the breakdown, I present New Rockstars.

New Rockstars also recorded a discussion on all of the titles from the presentation today.

Pixar Teases

  • Cars on the Road (an original series based on the films, coming 2022)
  • Win or Lose (an animated series about baseball in Fall 2023)
  • Behind the scenes feature-length documentaries are also coming in 2022 for Turning Red and Lightyear.

Disney Teases

  • Zootopia+, a short form series based on Zootopia (coming in 2022)
  • Tiana, a new long-form musical series continuing 2009’s The Princess and the Frog (2022)
  • The Ice Age Advenures of Buck Wild (a spinoff of Ice Age, coming January 28, 2022)
  • Baymax! (an original series based on Big Hero Six, coming Summer 2022)
  • Cheaper By the Dozen (a movie presumably based off the 1950 and 2003 films, premiering in March 2022)
  • Disenchanted, the sequel to 2007’s Enchanted (Fall 2022)

disenchanted

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (which is getting yet another revision) (December 3, 2021)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
  • The Beatles: Get Back (November 25, 2021)
  • Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (Spring 2022)

fd__jlmwyaibqjx

  • Better Nate Than Ever (Spring 2022)
  • Hocus Pocus 2 (Fall 2022)

  • Pinocchio (the next live action reimagining, coming Fall 2022 with Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis)
  • Limitless with Chris Hemsworth (from National Geographic, coming 2022)
  • Welcome to Earth (a National Geographic series with Will Smith, coming December 8, 2021)
  • America the Beautiful (from National Geographic, coming 2022)
  • Sneakerella (an original movie, coming February 18, 2021)
  • The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder (February 2022)
  • High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: Season Three (2022)
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles (a new live-action series)
  • Willow, a series following the 1988 film (2022)

We’ll probably get more information at the Disney Investor’s Call, but it’s good to see what’s in the hopper for many of our favorite franchises and properties. Also remember what came from last year’s investor call. All of those things are still on the horizon, including more Marvel and Star Wars content.


cc-break

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Amok! Amok! Amok!

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Amok! Amok! Amok!
November 12, 2021

It’s been 28 years and the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track is celebrating! 

In 1993, Walt Disney Pictures delivered a tale of a curious youngster who moves to Salem, Massachusetts. You know, home of the famous witch trials. He struggles to fit in with his peers and then awakens a trio of diabolical witches that were executed in the 17th century.

The film showcases the over-the-top performances of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters and was a fun and touching tale. It has a lasting legacy and, as of this year, has a sequel in development.

On November 4th, the panel of ToniAnn Marini, Denise Lhamon, Alison Richards, and Elizabeth Jones braved the spooky house to pet Binx, light the Black Flame Candle, and generally run amok on an odd anniversary of a beautifully bizarre experience. After all, Halloween may have already passed, but the Classics Track honors spooky season all year round.

 


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be held once every two weeks. If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the webs to the YouTube channel and/or the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

The future holds an inquisitive birthday tradition, a potluck dinner, and a feast of franchises. You can find this and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp – A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast.

cc-break

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #231: The Wedding of River Song

Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song
(1 episode, s06e13, 2011)

Timestamp 231 The Wedding of River Song

A wedding, two funerals, and a question.

Prequel

A digital clock flickers on a computer screen, bouncing between 05:02:57 PM and 05:02:58 PM. Two soldiers patrol the corridors in Area 52, looking into supposedly empty tanks on their rounds. The tanks are not empty, however, but instead each contain a Silent. Behind a barricaded wooden door in a room containing an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, a familiar woman stands in a black suit. She is River Song, wearing an eyepatch over her right eye. She smiles as the ominous nursery rhyme ushers out the scene.

Tick tock, goes the clock,
Tick tock, goes the clock,
Tick tock, goes the clock…
Doctor, brave and good.
He turned away from violence.
When he understood
The falling of the Silence.

The Wedding of River Song

It’s a weird timeline. Cars are flying on hot air balloons, the War of the Roses enters its second year as London picnickers are warned not to feed the pterodactyls, and Charles Dickens is interviewed on television about his new Christmas ghost special. Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill returns to Buckingham Senate on his personal mammoth.

Uh, what?

The Emperor is not pleased about his conference with Cleopatra and he asks his Silurian physician, Malokeh, for the time. It’s 5:02pm on April 22, 2011. Emperor Churchill is troubled by this news, despite the fact that it has always been the same date, so he summons his soothsayer from the Tower. He demands an explanation about what has happened to time. The Doctor raises his head and replies, “A woman.”

Some time before, the Doctor addresses a video receptor in a dark and damaged room.

“Imagine you were dying. Imagine you were afraid and a long way from home and in terrible pain. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you looked up and saw the face of the devil himself… Hello, Dalek.”

The Dalek Supreme is damaged beyond repair, so the Doctor takes it apart and scans its memory banks for any information regarding the Silence.

At a different time, now on the docks of Calisto B, the Doctor arrives at a bar and asks for Father Gideon Vandaleur. He offers the eyestalk from the Dalek Supreme as a calling card. Once he meets Father Vandaleur, once an envoy of the Silence, he uses his sonic screwdriver to reveal the Teselecta. The Father has been dead for six months, and he wants to speak to the shapeshifting ship’s captain. He wants to know about the Silence’s weakest link.

Using that information, he tracks down Gantok and challenges him to a game of live chess. The next move will kill Gantok, but the Doctor is willing to trade the victory for information. He wants to know why he has to die, and apparently Dorium Maldovar has the answer. Dorium was beheaded at Demon’s Run, but the Headless Monks have stored the leftovers in the Seventh Transept.

Dorium’s head is kept in a box, a luxury for the richest victims of the Monks. Gantok tries to kill the Doctor but instead falls into a trap with ravenous skulls. After the Doctor seals the trap, he addresses Dorium. The beheaded head explains that it was easier to create a fixed point in time to ensure that the Doctor would die without fail. If the Doctor lives, then…

“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must be never, ever be answered.”

The Silence must fall when the question is asked. It is the first question, hidden in plain sight, but the Doctor doesn’t know it. Dorium asks if he wants to, and the Doctor nervously agrees. After he hears it, the Doctor takes Dorium’s head to the TARDIS and sets a course.

All of this is the tale that the Doctor tells Emperor Churchill. He talks to the emperor about it as they stroll through the Roman Senate. The emperor produces a revolver, claiming that the Soothsayer is dangerous company. The Doctor, noting a mark on his arm, agrees.

Back to the story, the Doctor continues his farewell tour. However, once he finds out that the Brigadier has died, he finally accepts that his time has come. He produces the invitations in the blue envelopes and asks the Teselecta to deliver them. He’d do it himself, except that it would mean crossing his own timestream.

He goes to Lake Silencio. He meets Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song. They drink a bottle of wine that Napoleon threw at him. The impossible astronaut rises from the lake. He goes to meet it after ordering his companions to stay back. This time we see that River Song is in the suit, unable to fight the plan in motion.

He explains that she won’t remember murdering him, but she will serve time for this crime that she can’t remember and committed against her will. He forgives her unconditionally and closes his eyes as his destiny arrives.

Except that it doesn’t. Instead of three blasts, there are five as River drains the suit’s power. The fixed point in time is subverted, resulting in the time track being derailed. In the future(?), Emperor Churchill and Doctor Soothsayer appear to be defending themselves with the revolver and a spear. While they can’t remember the Silence, they are surrounded by them.

They are saved by Amelia Pond, now wearing an eyepatch and in command of a platoon of soldiers. She shoots the Doctor point-blank. Luckily, it was only a stun bolt, and when the Doctor awakens on a train, he finds that Amy is only playing along. She returns the Doctor’s suit to him and start to plan.

Thanks to the crack in time, Amy has memories of alternate timelines but cannot recall that Captain Williams is really her husband.  Amy wonders if things can stay like they are, but the Doctor tells her that this mess, currently confined to Earth, will spread into the universe until all of reality disintegrates. Through it all, the Doctor continues to age because he is the focal point.

The train arrives at Area 52, housed within the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Doctor is given an eyepatch – an Eye Drive to remember the Silence when spotted – and walk past tanks of Silents that are uncharacteristically fixated on the Doctor. They arrive in the King’s Chamber and meet River Song and a captive Madame Kovarian.

After a bit of taunting, the Doctor grabs River’s arm, forcing time to start moving forward again. They appear back on the shores of Lake Silencio, but it all vanishes again when River pulls away and orders the Doctor to be restrained.

This is the moment when the Silents spring their trap. They’ve been waiting for the Doctor to arrive so they could break free and kill him. Kovarian reveals that the Eye Drives are designed to kill their users, though the Silence turns on her as well. Rory stays to hold off the Silents while River, Amy, and the Doctor ascend the pyramid to see what River has built as a contingency plan. The Silents descend on Rory, taunting him until Amy remembers who he is and destroys the Silents with a machine gun.

Amy then reveals that she remembers what Kovarian did to her and her daughter Melody. She ensures that Kovarian’s Eye Drive is properly affixed, then leaves her to die.

At the top of the pyramid, River reveals a distress beacon that she built with her knowledge as a child of the TARDIS. The message – “The Doctor is dying. Please help.” – is being broadcast to the universe in the past, present, and the future. The universe has been replying, despite the Doctor’s desire to close himself off from all of it, offering to help because he has helped them so many times.

River wants the Doctor to survive more than anything else in the universe. The Doctor, realizing that there is only one way to pacify River, uses his bow tie to marry her in a rushed ceremony. He whispers a secret into his bride’s ear and tells her she must never tell anyone what he has just told her.

As she looks at him in wonder, the Doctor asks for her help. They kiss and time is reset. River shoots the Doctor three times on the shore of Lake Silencio, preventing his regeneration, and the alternate timeline vanishes.

Later, River joins Amy for a bottle of wine. River has just come from the Byzantium mission and Amy is in the relative present. Amy is wracked with guilt and would love to talk to the Doctor about it, but she cannot. River, however, reveals the Doctor’s final secret, which they also tell Rory when he arrives home. They dance with joy until Amy realizes one fundamental truth: She is now the Doctor’s mother-in-law.

In the Seventh Transept, a monk returns Dorium’s head (and box) to its proper pedestal. The monk reveals himself as the Doctor, having hidden himself in the Teselecta. That was the secret he told River. The Doctor realizes that he’s become too big and noisy, so it’s time to step back into the shadows. While River serves her days in Stormcage, the Doctor admits that her nights are between him and her.

Dorium will keep the Doctor’s secrets, but warns that Trenzalore still awaits him. As does the question.

The first question.

The question that must never be answered.

The question that the Doctor has been running from his entire life.

“Doctor who?”


So, it is possible to bypass a fixed point in time because they did it twice here.

I will say, though, that the idea was a clever way to tie all the various pieces together and, like Father’s Day, an avenue to explore the fragility of time. The solution is a literal deus ex machina and a bit of a cheat, exchanging one fixed point subversion for another. The second one is okay though, I guess, because it’s in the screenplay. Or the way things were supposed to roll out?

The very nature of this story demands callbacks, many of which have already been mentioned above. As if those weren’t enough, the alternate Amy’s drawings served as a moment of rapid-fire nods from her temporal travels to date. They included the Krafayis, the Weeping Angels, the Saturnyns, the Daleks, the Minotaur, the Cybermen, the Smilers, and a self-portrait of her time in pirate garb. The major callback, of course, Amy’s partial protection from temporal fluctuations based on her long-term exposure to the crack from last season.

The Question is a running gag in the franchise, recently highlighted in Silver Nemesis and The Girl in the Fireplace, and has been in play since An Unearthly Child. I feel like the big gag here defuses a bit of the victory by sticking its tongue out at the audience. Here we are, basking in the glow of a major win that sidestepped the Doctor’s death and the destruction of the universe, and our closing thought is a corny meta joke.

As we’ve seen before, the question works as the occasional gag, but making it a major fixture of the franchise’s mythology feels like a bit of shark-jumping. It’s easily fixed, too. The point is the Doctor’s real name, so instead of “Doctor who?”, how about “Who is the Last of the Time Lords?” or something similar?

One last note on the first funeral of two: The Doctor’s new hair takes some getting used to.

Finally, I really loved the farewell for Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and the actor who brought him to life, Nicholas Courtney, who died eight months before this tale originally aired. Part of the episode was set in Cairo, the city of Courtney’s birth. Eyepatches were prevalent all around, referring to a favorite anecdote of his from Inferno. The Doctor was told that the Brigadier died peacefully in his sleep, which was directly from the Seventh Doctor’s prophecy in Battlefield.

That last one was a tearjerker, particularly with the news that the Brig waited patiently for the Doctor’s return with a spare glass of brandy at the ready. They may have sparred quite a bit since the day that they met, but both characters had a deep respect for each other.

Goodbye, Brigadier.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Night and the Doctor

cc-break

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – The Spoopy Pages

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Spoopy Pages
November 5, 2021

Halloween may be over, but the fine folks at the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track have one more treat to offer. 

On October 21st, the erudite panel of Michael Williams, Toni Ann Marini, and Keith DeCandido joined Joe Crowe to read from their favorite scary movie novelizations. Michael Williams brought a selection from Cabin in the Woods, Toni Ann Marini chose the classic gem Plan 9 from Outer Space, and Keith selected from his own library with Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Oh, and Joe Crowe? He picked Fangface: A Time Machine Trip on a Pirate Ship, a real novelization of a real episode of Fangface. That was a Scooby-Doo-esque Saturday morning cartoon show produced by Ruby-Spears Productions for ABC. I’m a bit surprised that they made novelizations from a Saturday morning cartoon, but there are also novelizations of James Bond Junior.

 


As I mentioned last go round, these Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be held once every two weeks. If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the webs to the YouTube channel and/or the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

The future holds a 28th anniversary special about a movie run amok, an inquisitive birthday tradition, a potluck dinner, and a feast of franchises. You can find this and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp – A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast.

cc-break

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.