Timestamp #TW33: Rendition

Torchwood: Rendition
(1 episode, s04e02, 2011)

Timestamp TW33 Rendition

Airborne chemistry and conspiracies abound!

The Torchwood team is escorted to Heathrow. Rex takes the vortex manipulator and dismisses Rhys and Anwen before forcefully loading the team on a waiting plane. The CIA is involved as well since both the United States and Britain are asking a lot of questions about the rendition. Rex takes a trip to the lavatory where he considers his near-death experience while swallowing an aspirin.

Gwen and Jack catch up on their lives since the 456 incident. Rex asks Jack about the vortex manipulator while being hostile toward the team. Jack asks about morphic fields, explaining the basics of it to Rex. He also makes fun of Rex by telling him that the vortex manipulator is reporting low sodium levels. Rex calls Dr. Vera Juarez, who verifies the diagnosis, and then snacks on a bag of pretzels.

At the CIA, Esther gets word that Torchwood is being brought to the United States and she asks supervisor Brian Friedkin about working on the case. Esther returns to the floor while Friedkin consults with agent Lyn Peterfield on the plane via text message. Through a mysterious box, he consults someone about the morphic fields. The response: “Remove”.

Oswald Danes prepares himself for a television interview by raiding the craft services table. He muses about his future and how he’s more of a prisoner now that he’s free. During the interview, Danes dodges the interviewer’s questions, but is stunned when confronted by a photograph of his 12-year-old victim. In a sobbing fit, he says that he’s sorry for what he did and apologizes for the person that he is. The production assistant apologizes for her rude behavior as Danes leaves. He also meets Jilly Kitzinger, a supposed talent spotter who congratulates him on his acting performance. She offers her services as a public relations representative. He turns her down when he gets an offer to appear on Oprah.

Peterfield prepares drinks for the prisoners and slips poison into Jack’s cola. When the effects take hold, he rushes to the lavatory and vomits while musing that his immune system is also critically vulnerable. Gwen puts the data points together and prompts Rex to search Lyn. Lyn is quickly apprehended and Jack identifies the poison as arsenic based on a Slovenian boyfriend who took it for skincare. Rex is confused since that was in the 1800s.

Esther happens across strange events at the CIA, including mysterious agents prowling through her account and Rex’s office. She’s also in receipt of an odd sum of money from China, framing her as a double agent. She swipes her co-worker’s badge and makes her escape. Come to find out, the agents are under orders from Friedkin.

Dr. Juarez attends an impromptu medical conference about the Miracle. She learns that people are still aging and can be critically injured, but skin cells will still divide and die like normal. In fact, the Miracle is limited to humans. Microorganisms will become resistant to medicine as they have an eternity to feed on bodies and grow stronger. Vera also learns food and medical supplies will drop rapidly and the ever-growing population could become a big problem.

Rex calls Vera for help with Jack’s condition. The conference attendees guide Gwen and Rex in how to mix an antidote, but Lyn interferes. Gwen dispatches Lyn with a punch to the face and then injects Jack with the antidote. It’s painful, but it does the trick. Rex calls Friedkin and arranges for a security team to meet them upon landing.

Jilly Kitzinger makes the rounds, now trying to woo Vera. Vera figures out that Jilly works for a pharmaceutical company and initially rejects the offer, but changes her mind when Jilly gives her a tip about how to navigate Congress.

The plane lands and everyone is escorted to the terminal. Esther calls Rex to warn him as the security team frees Lyn. Rex has also received a sum of money from China. As Esther races to the airport, Rex bluffs his way through freeing Jack and Gwen. In the ensuing fight, Rex snaps Lyn’s neck, but under the current circumstances, she’s still alive.

Jack gets his vortex manipulator back as Esther and Vera arrive at the airport. Rex gets a bag of painkillers from the doctor and he piles into Esther’s Mini with Gwen and Jack. Their escape is briefly stalled by Lyn who bobbles around before collapsing. Esther drives on, wondering what the hell is happening.

Gwen answers her with a smirk: “Welcome to Torchwood.”


For what is mostly a bottle episode, this one pushes the plot along quite well. Someone wants Torchwood gone for good, presumably to prevent them from stopping the Miracle, and those battle lines are drawn here. The team is certainly not cohesive, but we have a good understanding of who’s who.

We also see a lot of ground covered with respect to the Miracle’s effects on humanity and the planet. The medical industry is panicking as they realize that the rules of the game have substantially shifted. I loved that writer Doris Egan (who also worked on SmallvilleTru Calling, and House, M.D.) worked the Greek myth of Tithonus into the discussion of eternal life without eternal youth. Al bacio!

The frantic quest for an antidote for Jack was very humorous, especially as Gwen got more stressed, and reminded me of the Doctor/Donna blitz in The Unicorn and the Wasp.

Overall, a good continuation of the plot with substantial world building.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Dead of Night

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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 – Juneteenth

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Juneteenth

June 18, 2021

This week, I have Juneteenth on my mind.

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. It is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. It was established in 1865, when over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally informed of their freedom.

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. It was formally issued on January 1, 1863, declaring that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were to be freed.

Planters and other slaveholders had migrated to the more geographically isolated Texas from eastern states to avoid the fighting, many of them bringing enslaved people with them. This increased the enslaved population of Texas by thousands, and by 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in the state.

News of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, which happened on April 9, 1865, reached Texas later in the month. The western Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2nd, and by June 18th, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government.

The following day, while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, General Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Even though the event is popularly thought of as “the end of slavery”, the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to those enslaved in Union-held territory. Those slaves would not be freed until a proclamation several months later after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.

The freedom of formerly enslaved people in Texas was given legal status in a series of Texas Supreme Court decisions between 1868 and 1874.

June 19th is still officially celebrated as Juneteenth in Texas. Every state in the Union except South Dakota and Hawaii recognizes the event.


There are several places to find more information about Juneteenth and its impact on the Black community. I have highlighted four of them below. I hope that they offer a chance to learn about the importance of Juneteenth and spark further interest in finding out more about it.

“Why all Americans should honor Juneteenth” from Vox:

Vox also has a discussion and other resources at their website.

NextGen America presents a history of the event and how it has shaped the experience of Black people in the United States:

The Washington Post explores what Juneteenth tells us about the value of Black lives in America:

Finally, Dr. Shennette Garrett-Scott made a detailed presentation of the holiday’s history back in 2013:


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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 #TW32: The New World

Torchwood: The New World
(1 episode, s04e01, 2011)

Timestamp TW32 The New World

Who are they? Torchwood.

Early in the morning, absolutely despicable child rapist/killer Oswald Danes is scheduled for execution by lethal injection. He refuses to make a final statement and the injections begin. Danes convulses violently.

At the CIA, Esther Drummond is seeing several references to Torchwood as she talks with Rex Matheson on the phone. The institute’s name has been sent all over the UK, but as Drummond starts digging into it the entire system crashes. On the other end of the line, Matheson gets into a car accident and ends up taking a piece of rebar to the chest. He is taken to the emergency room.

Meanwhile, Gwen Cooper wakes up from a nightmare about Torchwood. Gwen, Rhys, and their daughter Anwen are living in middle-of-nowhere Wales. Gwen tells Anwen a story about aliens while feeding her. Helicopters have been flying overhead so tensions are high. There’s also a knock at the door – Gwen and Rhys pull out an arsenal of weapons just in case – but it’s just two lost hikers.

Or at least they seem to be until the hikers exchange knowing glances as they leave.

Matheson survives his surgery in a modern-day miracle. Turns out that no one has died in the hospital over the last twenty-four hours, and it’s not limited to this location. It’s worldwide. It also means that Oswald Danes survived, and he’s gearing up for a Fifth and Eighth Amendment defense so he can be set free. Matheson has a hard time wrapping his head around this Miracle Day.

Gwen and Rhys are busy painting the walls when a mobile phone rings. Andy Davidson bears the bad news that Gwen’s father is in the hospital. Gwen apologizes to Rhys because this means that they have to go back.

Further investigation into Torchwood reveals that every reference has been scrubbed under the 456 Regulations. Drummond crawls through the archives to find any physical reference to Torchwood. She finds the 456 files and photos of the Torchwood Three team, and then she meets Captain Jack Harkness. Jack asks her to accompany him but Drummond runs. She finds that the man in charge of the archives has been murdered and Jack saves her from being shot as well. To avoid being killed by suicide vest, Jack and Esther take a dive through a window into a fountain in the courtyard.

Jack tells her about the history of the Torchwood Institute while he mulls over the fact that he was injured. His intent is to keep Torchwood buried to maintain Gwen’s safety. He wiped the traces of Torchwood using malware. He secretly gives Esther a dose of Retcon and then poses as FBI agent “Owen Harper” to witness the suicide bomber’s autopsy.

Rex is able to watch the proceedings through the hospital’s security cameras. The bomber is an exploded mass of burned tissue and bone, but he’s still conscious and alive. Jack suggests severing the head to put the man out of his misery, but that doesn’t work.

Gwen and Rhys return to Cardiff with Anwen and meet up with Andy. Gwen is perplexed by the mass of people paying honor to the Miracle. They go inside and reunite with Gwen’s father despite her mother’s protests. Gwen later gets a briefing on the Miracle Day from Andy – Jack simultaneously hunkers down in an abandoned building and reads while he eats – and they discover that the human race has four months to live if no one else dies. Rhys is understandably angry about Gwen getting involved and she relents.

Esther wakes up in her apartment. The only evidence of the previous night’s adventure is a large bruise, but she doesn’t remember a thing. Jack has a bruise as well, so his healing factor has apparently stalled. When Esther goes to work, she finds the last remaining physical Torchwood file but she dismisses it due to the Retcon. Rex calls her and they discuss Torchwood and the Miracle, discovering that Torchwood resurfacing coordinates with the last time that a human died on Earth. Rex checks himself out of the hospital and takes a taxi to the airport. He’s headed to the United Kingdom despite the severe amount of pain that he’s in.

When Rex arrives, he gets a handgun from UK officials and drives to Wales while Esther gathers intel about Gwen. He eventually arrives at Gwen’s doorstep and collapses at gunpoint. When he wakes up, he’s tied to a radiator as Gwen and Rhys try to escape. Rex escapes easily, but the group of them are interrupted by a rocket that passes through the entire house and explodes in the hillside behind.

Gwen kills the shooter with a pistol – Anwen, babe in arms, smiles as her mother goes to work – and Jack arrives in a Land Rover to take everyone down the beach at high speed. Gwen finds a rocket launcher in the backseat and destroys the helicopter. When Rex asks who Gwen and Jack are, she defiantly replies, “Torchwood.”

The team regroups in Cardiff at Roald Dahl Plass. Gwen instructs Rhys to take Anwen to Gwen’s mother’s house. Gwen still has the Eye-5 lenses, but the rest of Torchwood’s technology was lost in the Hub’s destruction. Jack reveals that he can no longer heal himself and is a mortal man. Rex greets an arriving cavalcade of police cars with open eyes.

Rex has ordered a rendition. Torchwood is being handed over to the United States.


Torchwood covers new ground with this series. This was the first episode of Torchwood to be principally filmed in the United States (and the third episode of the Doctor Who universe after The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon) and the first episode in the larger franchise to film in California. It was also broadcast in the United States (and Canada and Australia) before the UK, which was another first.

The big narrative ground that Torchwood ventures into is swapping roles for Jack and the rest of the world. By removing his powers of resurrection and giving them to everyone else, Jack is placed in a position of extreme vulnerability and weakness. It’s a great starting point for the heroes as they set out to figure out what’s going on.

I appreciate how this episode also explored concepts like the force majeure (unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract, such as an “Act of God”), the Fifth Amendment (no “person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”), and the Eighth Amendment (“cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted”).

I love how downright creepy and despicable Bill Pullman is as Oswald Danes. I mean, come on, this is the magnetic lead from Independence Day and Spaceballs, and here we find him just oozing with malice and soullessness.

More than that, I enjoy how this episode placed our team in the post-Torchwood world and forced them back together in rather explosive circumstances. As much as they don’t want to get the team back together, they absolutely have to in order to save the world from certain destruction.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Rendition

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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 – Pershing’s Own and Queen

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Pershing’s Own and Queen

June 11, 2021

This week, I’m reaching back to May 2020 and the United States Army Band. The U.S. Army Voices and Downrange joined forces to present a medley of hits by Queen.

You can find more about Pershing’s Own and the Army Band’s ensembles at their official website.

These musical versions of Culture on My Mind are short and sweet. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again very soon. Take care.

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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 #225: A Good Man Goes to War

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War
(1 episode, s06e07, 2011)

Timestamp 225 A Good Man Goes to War

Demons run when a good man goes to war.

Prequel: Brain Trafficking

Dorium Maldovar meets with three cloaked figures. He tells them that his agents have procured the exact security software they have requested, extracted from memory – the literal brain – of a Judoon trooper. He exchanges it for a bag of sentient money.

Dorium doesn’t understand why they are doing all this to imprison one child, and he’s astonished at the child’s identity and relationship to the Doctor. He warns them: “God help us if you’ve made him angry”.

A Good Man Goes to Wars

On the Demons Run base, Amy consoles her new daughter, Melody Pond. She promises that help is on the way and is distraught that she has been unable to care for Melody since she was born.

Elsewhere in the cosmos, Rory and the Doctor have been hunting for Amy. They lay waste to an entire Cyberman fleet, news of which reaches the troops on Demons Run. Soldiers “The Fat One” and “The Thin One” – together, the Thin-Fat Gay-Married Anglican Marines – converse briefly with Cleric Lorna Bucket, a woman who has once met the Doctor in the Gamma Forests. Lorna sews to pass the time and was the only Cleric to show empathy for Amy’s plight. While The Thin One and Lorna discuss the Doctor, The Fat One is led away by the Headless Monks, the cloaked figures who met with Maldovar, and asked to make a donation into an appropriately head-sized box.

In London, circa 1888 AD, a Silurian named Vastra returns home after dispatching Jack the Ripper by her blade. Her maid Jenny informs her that the TARDIS has appeared in the drawing room, and Vastra knows that it is time to repay an old debt.

At the Battle of Zaruthstra in 4037 AD, Command Harcourt and Madame President Eleanor are ready to leave an infirm child as they retreat, but the child is saved by an unlikely nurse. A Sontaran named Strax tends to the child, then leaves as the TARDIS arrives.

At Stormcage, as River is breaking back into her cell, she meets Rory in his Centurion garb. She’s just returned from a birthday celebration with the Doctor in 1814 and Rory is summoning her to Demons Run. River explains that the Battle of Demons Run is when the Doctor will finally know who she is and that she cannot be there until the very end. During this event, the Doctor will rise higher than ever before, but will fall so much further.

At the Maldovarium, the Eyepatch Lady confronts Maldovar. She is known as Madame Kovarian, and Maldovar explains that the Doctor is raising an army. He also explains the origin of her base’s name: “Demons run when a good man goes to war.” When Kovarian leaves, the TARDIS arrives for Maldovar.

Back on Demons Run, while Colonel Manton rallies his troops, Lorna tries to present Amy with a prayer leaf. It’s a fabric token embroidered with Melody’s name in Lorna’s native language. They discuss the Doctor’s status as a legend and how each of them met the Time Lord. Amy accepts the gift and the apology.

Lorna returns to the colonel’s rally just in time for Manton to reveal the true face of the Headless Monks. Of course, the Doctor is masquerading as one of the monks, and as everyone in the crowd draws arms against him, the lights go out and the Doctor vanishes. The Clerics and the monks start shooting each other until Manton reestablishes control over the assembly by having all of the Clerics disarm themselves. Meanwhile, Vastra and Jenny have taken the control room in order to monitor the situation.

The assembled troops are suddenly surrounded as an army of Silurians and Judoon materialize. Commander Strax holds Manton at gunpoint. Manton claims that his fleet will come to help if Demons Run falls, but the Doctor counters: The fleet won’t know to come if Demons Run can’t call for help. The Doctor uses the Dalek-upgraded Spitfires, courtesy of Winston Churchill, to disable the communications tower.

Madame Kovarian readies her ship with young Melody in tow, but she’s thwarted by Rory with help from Henry and Toby Avery. Kovarian and Manton are brought before a barely restrained Doctor. He wants Manton to order his troops to “run away” so that he’ll be remembered by it for all time. Kovarian eventually yields and orders Manton to give the word.

Rory, with help from a sonic screwdriver, frees Amy from her cell. They both weep over their baby and the reunion. The Doctor soon joins them and their reunion is complete with a bout of humor. The Doctor speaks baby after all, and Melody has a lot to say.

Madame Vastra reports that the Clerics are leaving without any bloodshed. When she gloats that the Doctor has never risen higher, Rory remembers River’s warning.

The group gathers in the hangar. The Doctor doesn’t want to leave until he figures out why the base was used in the first place. The Doctor also produces his baby cot so Melody can settle down for a nap. Vastra calls the Doctor away, but before he goes he explains how Amy was split between the Ganger avatar and Demons Run. As the Doctor leaves, Strax brings in Lorna as a prisoner.

In the control room, the Doctor finds out that Melody has a mixture of human and Time Lord DNA. Presumably, it happened as a result of conception while exposed to the Untempered Schism, just like how the Time Lords began. Vastra is concerned that their victory was too easy.

In the hangar, Lorna claims that she’s a friend who only wanted to meet the Doctor. She also claims that he’s a great warrior, hence his name. Unfortunately, they soon fall under siege from the Headless Monks. While Vastra and Maldovar return to the hangar, Kovarian contacts the Doctor as he thinks back to the child in the astronaut suit from 1969. Kovarian explains that the child represents hope in their endless, bitter war against the Doctor.

A force field snaps into existence around the TARDIS and the hangar is sealed. The Headless Monks advance with their attack prayer and Amy retreats to safety while everyone else prepares for battle. Maldovar tries to reason with the monks, but he is cut down.

As the battle is met, the Doctor connects the dots. Kovarian has replaced Melody with a Ganger. The child is still lost. The Doctor arrives moments too late. The monks have been defeated, but Lorna and Strax have paid the price. The Doctor and Jenny try to comfort Amy. He also speaks briefly with Lorna before she dies, promising that he remembers her just like he remembers everyone he meets.

The Doctor is ready to give up on his quest against the Silence, but channels his anger toward the newly-arrived River Song. He wants to know where she was, but River says that she could not have turned the tide of the battle. She warns him that his name, which means healer across the universe, could become just like the people of the Gamma Forests know him: Mighty Warrior.

Demons run when a good man goes to war
Night will fall and drown the sun
When a good man goes to war

Friendship dies and true love lies
Night will fall and the dark will rise
When a good man goes to war

Demons run, but count the cost
The battle’s won, but the child is lost

The Doctor demands to know who she is and she leads him to the baby cot. The answer is inscribed on the cot in Gallifreyan and the Doctor’s mood shifts dramatically. He rushes to the TARDIS, asking River to get everyone home safely, before flying away to find Melody.

Amy demands to know where he’s gone and who she is. River shows her the prayer leaf and explains that Melody Pond in the language of the Gamma Forests translates to River Song. “The only water in the forest is the river.”

River Song is Amy and Rory’s daughter.

The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later

Strax awakens two days after the Battle of Demons Run, having been healed by alien technology. Vastra and Jenny tell him that they are the last to leave and invite him to join them in London. After all, Jenny has been ostracized from her family for her sexual orientation, Vastra is presumably the last of her kind, and Strax is all alone. There could be a future for them all together.

Strax refuses at first, but once he learns that London will involve crime-solving and plenty of adventure, he agrees to accompany them.


This story serves multiple purposes and it serves them well. Primarily, it ties off the thread of Amy’s abduction and opens the story of a war against the Doctor with Melody at its core. Second, it presents a cliffhanger to close out the first half of the season and tease the direction of the second half. Third, it offers a springboard for the team of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax.

That team is an intriguing combination of a Silurian, a human servant, and the unlikely Sontaran nurse. All three are outcasts of some sort, and that characteristic provides the glue to bind them. Strax provides a wonderful parallel to Rory through their mutual professions and Vastra offers a connection to the Doctor, the man who saved her at some point in his on-again-off-again guardianship of her species.

We get a beautiful inadvertent tie back to The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang with the Cybermen. In that Timestamp, I mused about the status of the Cybus and Mondasian Cybermen at this point in the franchise. The Cybermen in that story were Cybus models, survivors of the Battle of Canary Wharf, and had either built or assimilated into a fleet. The Mondasian Cybermen, last seen in Silver Nemesis, still had to exist but I had wondered if the two could co-exist.

Obviously, they can to some degree, as the Cybermen seen in this story were obviously Mondasian – they didn’t have the Cybus C on their chests – but have evolved (or assimilated into) the more bulky Cybus body time. I’m excited to see their return.

The other blink-and-you’ll-miss-it note surrounds River Song. On the surface, it seems like the River that Rory visits in Stormcage is the same River that arrives after the Battle of Demons Run, but the context clues point in a different direction. River at Stormcage had to consult her diary, which means that Demons Run has already happened for her. The River at Stormcage was from a later point in her timeline and she knows what happens to the Doctor. A minor addition is a reminder that River once remarked how the Doctor could make whole armies turn and run.

In a smaller callback, we see the Church again, previously met in The Time of Angels.

All told, this was a great story, a wonderful springboard, and a terrific cliffhanger.

Since the Timestamps Project is proceeding (for the most part) in airdate order, the next stop on this journey is a return to Torchwood. At some point, the streams will cross for a brief period as Doctor Who continues Series Six.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The New World

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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 – Good Puppers and Dreams Given Form

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Good Puppers and Dreams Given Form
June 4, 2021

The Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track keep on rolling out genre goodies. This time around, it’s time to look at the bestest bois and Babylon 5.

On May 20th, a group of dog lovers joined forces to analyze the best canines in science fiction. Guests this go-round included Linda M. Young from Lassie Web, Kristen Kerouac and Kevin Eldridge from The Flopcast, and Lola Lariscy. These fine folks also brought their favorite rescue and pet adoption centers to the game:

On May 27th, the American Sci-Fi Classics Track joined with the fine folks of Military Sci-Fi Media Track to form a League of Non-Aligned Tracks and discuss that shining beacon in space, all alone in the night: Babylon 5. This panel included Karen Henson, Sherman Burris, John Hudgens, and Nathan Laws and discussed the show’s history, its impact, and if it still holds up nearly 30 years later.

 


We’re all caught up for now. Fun times lay ahead, and if you want to play along at home, get thee hence to the YouTube channel and 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.

Rumor says that future discussions may include a little MST3K, some thoughts on the best dads of science fiction, and more classic movie musings.

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.

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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.

Rabbit Rabbit – June 2021

Rabbit Rabbit
June 2021

Rabbit, rabbit!

Since at least 1909, a superstition has lived in North American and the United Kingdom that if a person says or repeats the word “rabbit” upon waking up on the first day of the month, good luck will follow for the remainder of that month.

Elements of the tradition exist in the United Kingdom, New England, and even in various First Nation cultures.

While I’m not necessarily endorsing the superstition, it provides a way to look in depth at each month of the year, from history and observances to miscellaneous trivia. The topic this month is June.

History

June, known as Junius in Latin, originates from multiple places. One of Ovid’s origins is an ode to the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage and the wife of the supreme deity Jupiter. The second is the Latin word iuniores, meaning “younger ones”, which contrasts with maiores (“elders”), a potential origin for May. The third is Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic and ancestor of the Roman family gens Junia.

In ancient Rome, mid-May through mid-June was considered unlucky and unpromising for marriage. Ovid relates a consultation with Flaminica Dialis (the high priestess of Jupiter) about setting a date for his daughter’s wedding during which he was advised to wait till after June 15. On the other hand, Plutarch implies that the entire month of June was more favorable for weddings than May.

On the ancient Roman calendar, the festival of Ludi Fabarici spanned May 29 to June 1, Kalendae Fabariae took place on June 1, the Festival to Bellona took place on June 3, Ludi Piscatorii took place on June 7, and Vestalia took place between June 7 and June 15. A Rosalia was held on June 20, and the Secular Games were held roughly every 100 years in either May or June. These dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.

June also contains certain meteor showers, including the Arietids (May 22 to July 2 with a peak on June 7), the Beta Taurids (June 5 to July 18), and the June Bootids (June 26 to July 2).

Observances

Further observances in June include African-American Music Appreciation Month, Pride Month, Caribbean American Heritage Month, Great Outdoors Month, National Oceans Month, and PTSD Awareness Month.

Canada adds in ALS Awareness Month. Barbados includes Crop Over (through the first Monday in August) and the Season of Emancipation (spanning April 14 to August 23). The United Kingdom celebrates National Smile Month in June.

In the Catholic tradition, June is the Month of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

June also contains Juneteenth, a celebration of the emancipation of slaves in the United States. It is commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement by Union Army general Gordon Granger. That announcement proclaimed freedom from slavery in Texas, the last state in the Union to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.

Finally, June contains the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere – the day with the most daylight hours – and the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere – the day with the fewest daylight hours – although the polar regions are exempted.

Trivia

  • June’s birthstones are the pearl, alexandrite, and moonstone. Pearls are emblematic of perfection, incorruptibility, long life, and fertility. Green alexandrite represents growth, peace, hope, calm and fertility, whereas red alexandrite represents conflicting characteristics such as energy, power, passion and aggression. Moonstone represents hope, sensitivity, and abundance.
  • The western zodiac signs of June are Gemini (until June 20) and Cancer (June 21 onwards).
  • The month’s birth flowers are the rose and honeysuckle.

Rabbit Rabbit is a project designed to look at each month of the year with respect to history, observances, and more.

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

Culture on My Mind – Gingertail’s Mandalorian

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Gingertail’s Mandalorian

May 28, 2021

This week, I have music from The Mandalorian on my mind.

Specifically, this cover by YouTuber Alina Gingertail.

These musical versions of Culture on My Mind are short and sweet. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again very soon.

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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 #224: The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People

Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh
Doctor Who: The Almost People
(2 episodes, s06e05-06, 2011)

Timestamp 224 The Rebel Flesh The Almost People

Send in the clones.

The Rebel Flesh

In a dark and creepy island fortress, workers Jennifer, Buzzer, and Jimmy enter a room with a large vat. While wearing protective suits, they analyze the acid within. Buzzer teases Jennifer who knocks him into the vat. They seem nonplussed as Buzzer melts away, but moments later they encounter him in the corridor.

Buzzer claims that he could file for worker’s compensation for the accident. After all, these bodies cost money.

On the TARDIS, Amy and Rory play darts while the Doctor obsesses over Amy’s ambiguous scan. The Doctor offers to drop the duo for fish and chips, but they refuse to go without him. The TARDIS takes a hit from a solar tsunami, and while they think they’re about to crash, the time capsule lands with a soft thud. They’ve arrived at the mysterious island, which turns out to be a 13th-century monastery. However, it’s in a more modern era since the tones of Dusty Springfield are echoing through the complex.

They spot some mysterious piping and some old acid on the handrails. The Doctor sets off an intruder alarm and the trio runs into a chamber where they meet the security team. Duplicates of the same team are resting in harnesses on the wall. The Doctor convinces the foreman, Miranda Cleaves, that he’s a meteorological supervisor and requests to see their most critical system.

Enter the Flesh. It’s a fully programmable matter that can replicate any living organism. The workers’ duplicates are called Gangers, and they are controlled by the minds in the harnesses. The Doctor analyzes the vat of Flesh, noting that it’s scanning him. Meanwhile, Miranda orders Jennifer into the empty harness as a new Ganger is to be made of her. Within moments, a fully functioning clone is made. All the while, another powerful solar storm is bearing down on the island.

Since the facility runs on solar power, the storm will potentially overload and destroy the island. The Doctor attempts to protect everyone but is knocked unconscious along with everyone on the island. The TARDIS is trapped in the wash from a broken acid pipe and sinks into the ground.

As everyone recovers, Rory finds Jennifer in a state of shock and comforts her. Miranda claims that the Gangers should have disincorporated when the power went out, but the group soon discovers that the storm has given them independence and self-sustaining power. The team is shocked, but the Doctor suggests that they’ve given birth to a new form of life.

During the discussion, Jennifer falls ill and rushes to the restroom. Rory joins her, but they both soon discover that Jennifer is a Ganger. The Doctor also discovers that Miranda is a Ganger when she handles a hot bowl but isn’t burned. These Gangers are in flux, not quite Flesh and not quite formed.

As Miranda runs from the room, the Doctor, Amy, and Dicken run out to find Rory. The Doctor looks at Amy before insisting that the Gangers aren’t violent, but rather scared and angry, and he needs to talk to them. Many of the paths through the monastery are blocked by leaking acid puddles. The Doctor goes to retrieve the TARDIS, Amy goes off alone to find Rory, and Jimmy returns to the dining hall before sending Buzzer and Dicken off to retrieve the acid suits. Unfortunately, the Gangers have gotten to them first.

Rory and Jennifer share a moment as she claims to be just as real as the human who created her, phasing into human form as she emphatically states it. Rory comforts her and gains her trust.

The Doctor finds the TARDIS mostly submerged in the acid-soaked ground, losing his boots in the process. He also scans the vat of Flesh, and when he leaves a mouth forms that says, “Trust me…”

Amy finds herself in a dead-end corridor filled with gas. She sees the Eye-Patch Lady again, then runs into Rory and Jennifer. Rory declares that no one will touch Jennifer. Elsewhere, the Doctor finds the Gangers and the acid suits, and he tries to convince them that they should work with the humans. The discussion is watched from afar by the real Miranda.

Everyone comes together in an attempt to heal the rift, but Miranda has other plans. She crashes the discussion and the Buzzer Ganger ends up dead. The Gangers return to the acid room and both sides declare war. The Doctor suggests that the humans take refuge in the chapel with the Flesh vat since it is highly defensible. Meanwhile, the real Jennifer is trying to find everyone but is attacked. Rory follows her screams as the chapel is sealed.

As the Gangers advance on the chapel, Amy and the Doctor meets someone they did not expect: The Doctor’s Ganger.

The Almost People

The Doctor’s Ganger starts trying to adapt to the Time Lord’s previous regenerations. It shifts through various voices of previous incarnations before settling down as the humans try to barricade the door against the Gangers. The twin Doctors spring into action as Amy notes that the real Doctor has replacement boots from the human workers. The Doctors remind Amy (once again) to breathe before finding an escape route just as the Gangers melt the door.

The Doctors’ team moves through the tunnels but are soon assaulted by a “chokey gas” produced by the interaction of the acid and the monastery’s stone construction. Miranda leads everyone to an evacuation tunnel to escape the gas, eventually reaching the top of the evac tower.

The Gangers muse about their existence and revolution while the Ganger Miranda nurses a growing headache. Reluctantly, Ganger Miranda signs on to Ganger Jennifer’s idea that will finish off the humans.

In the evac tower, Amy questions which Doctor is real, but they both claim to be. Amy definitely sides with the non-Ganger Doctor and the Ganger Doctor wonders if he should be called “John Smith” instead. The Doctors restore power to the evac transmitter and Miranda tries to make contact with the mainland. The Gangers overhear the message, including the request that the Gangers are destroyed when the rescue craft arrive. The Doctors are not pleased by this request.

The Doctor books a phone call for the morning but doesn’t explain why. Meanwhile, Amy spots the Eyepatch Lady again but doesn’t understand why. She finally tells the Doctor about her visions, but the Doctor dismisses it. The Ganger Doctor leaves the room and Amy follows with an apology for questioning his existence. She admits to seeing the Doctor’s death, and the Ganger Doctor snaps, assaulting Amy in the process, because he can hear the single question that Gangers ask when they die: “Why?”

The now-calmed Ganger tries to apologize to Amy but she wants no part of it. The Ganger Doctor explains that the Flesh is growing and wants revenge for all the Gangers that have been decommissioned. The Doctor also heard this, but less faintly than his doppelgänger. Miranda asks the Ganger Doctor to sit down away from Amy.

Rory encounters two Jennifers and tries to distinguish between them. The two women fight and one falls into acid, melting away. Rory presumes that the human Jennifer won the battle because she’s limping and has an acid burn. The pair are spotted on the security cameras and the Doctor sends the Ganger Doctor (with Buzzer) to retrieve them, asking Amy to trust them. Meanwhile, Jennifer uses Rory to turn off the acid cooling systems – something she couldn’t do because it wouldn’t recognize her as human – which will destroy the tower when the acid erupts.

As Jennifer shows Rory a pile of discarded, melted, but still living Gangers, the Ganger Doctor is ambushed by his escort when they find Jennifer’s corpse. Buzzer then finds the Jennifer who was accompanying Rory, herself a Ganger who kills Buzzer.

The human Miranda suffers the same headache as her Ganger, which is likely a blood clot that will slowly kill her. As the humans try to find a way out, the Gangers intercept a message from the rescue team and redirect them, correctly guessing the code word. The humans find Rory and follow him to what he believes is an evacuation route. When Jennifer traps the humans in the acid vat room, the Gangers (including the Ganger Doctor) take a furious Rory away with them.

And then the phone rings.

The Doctor has booked a holo-call with Jimmy’s son. It’s the boy’s birthday, and the Doctor wants Jimmy to experience humanity. When Jimmy runs from the room, overwhelmed by emotion, the other Gangers begin to have a change of heart as well. Jimmy races to save the humans, but he’s too late to save the real Jimmy from being killed by the acid. As Jimmy dies, he asks his Ganger to become him and go home.

Everyone returns to the dining hall where Ganger Jimmy talks to his new son. The Doctor promises that Jimmy is coming home today, then puts a plan in motion to get everyone out. They are pursued by the Ganger Jennifer as she takes a monstrous form, and Dicken sacrifices himself to lock the Ganger out.

The Doctor accurately guessed where the TARDIS will fall through the soil. The survivors pile into the ship, and the Doctor reveals that he and his Ganger swapped shoes to prove that the two were not so different. Amy is shocked and ashamed, and she tells the Doctor that she didn’t think he could be twice the man she thought he was. He replies with a whispered message to Amy, telling her to push, but “only when she tells you to”.

The Doctor gives his Ganger the sonic screwdriver, a device that will destabilize the Flesh. The Gangers Miranda and Doctor open the door and defeat Jennifer at the cost of their own lives.

The survivors board the TARDIS. Exposure to the engines stabilizes the remaining Gangers so they’ll remain true human beings. The Doctor also gives Miranda a cure for her blood clot. Jimmy returns home to his son, and the other survivors are taken to the company’s headquarters to lobby for rights for the Flesh.

The Doctor tells Amy to breathe.

Amy goes into labor. Rory is obviously confused since Amy’s not pregnant.

Back inside the TARDIS, the Doctor orders Rory to stand away from Amy. He does so, and the Doctor explains that the trip to the monastery was not unintentional. He needed to see how the Flesh worked so he could stop the signal…

…to Amy.

He promises her that they will find her. Then he uses the sonic screwdriver to disincorporate her. Amy was Flesh all along.

The real Amy wakes up in a medical capsule, obviously pregnant and dressed in a white hospital gown. A panel slides away above her to reveal the Eyepatch Lady, who tells her to push. Amy screams as her contractions begin.


The return to the creature feature style of Doctor Who is welcome, particularly when it takes on elements of The Thing. I mean, how do you fight a bad guy when the bad guy can look like any of the good guys? More importantly, what distinguishes the bad guys from the good guys when they’re fighting what is essentially a war over race? I absolutely love the allegories, some of which are painfully relevant today, especially when Amy is set back on her heels for problematic viewpoints by the Doctor’s trickery. It’s also important to note the details: Someone you care about can have problematic views, and it is a conscious decision to help them overcome them and forgive them for not seeing the bigger picture beyond their privileges.

The key here is that they have to want to change. The humans wanted to grow and evolve when confronted with their wrongheadedness.

The whole thing is both subtle and beautiful.

The other beautifully played element here is how the Doctor orchestrated the entire trip. He offers to leave the companions behind, gently lands the TARDIS during a brutal storm, analyzes the Flesh as the Gangers are conceived, and repeatedly tells Amy to breathe. Amy’s status as a Ganger was a surprise, but everything leading up to that revelation was telegraphed in minute details. In contrast to other stories where the Doctor has the solution but the story has offered none of it to the viewer, this is a well-crafted tale that provides threads and weaves them along the way without pointing at them with a giant neon sign.

The Doctor has displayed an uncanny knowledge of when his companions aren’t quite right in the past, particularly Rose in New Earth and Martha in The Poison Sky.

The callbacks to franchise mythology were nice touches, from the use of John Smith and a discussion on Cybermats to the Ganger Doctor channeling previous regenerations to stabilize himself. We got bits from An Unearthly ChildThe Sea DevilsThe Robots of Death, and The Girl in the Fireplace before the Ganger short-circuited a bit and spat out “Reverse the jelly baby of the neutron flow” and “Would you like a Doctor?”.

All told, this was a wonderful monster/base defense story with some notable twists. It was also a lot of fun.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War

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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 – Spooky Golden Radical Marvels

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Spooky Golden Radical Marvels
May 21, 2021

Over the last three weeks, the fine folks at the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track have been playing with the late ’80s and early ’90s.

On April 29th, the track celebrated the 30th anniversary of The Addams Family. Stormy O’Dell, Toni-Ann Marini, Keith DeCandido, and Shaun Rosado stopped by to talk about this 1991 adaptation of the classic 1964 television series. Created in 1938 by cartoonist Charles Addams, the property acts as a satirical interpretation of the stereotypical 20th-century nuclear family. To that end, it’s pretty much an evergreen story.

On May 6th, Stormy O’Dell and I joined the track to discuss the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. I talked about some of my history with this medieval and mythologically-inspired adventure series a couple of weeks ago, and we barely scratched the surface of this cornerstone Nintendo series. 

Finally, Michael Bailey and Keith DeCandido sat down with Gary and Joe to answer a question: What if the Marvel Cinematic Universe happened starting in 1988 instead of in 2008?

Radical.

 


We’re all caught up for now. Fun times lay ahead, and if you want to play along at home, get thee hence to the YouTube channel and 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 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.

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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.