Timestamp #TW39: End of the Road

Torchwood: End of the Road
(1 episode, s04e08, 2011)

Timestamp TW39 End of the Road

We finally start unraveling the twisted web.

After the showdown, Olivia takes the Torchwood team to Nevada. Esther remains outside while Jack, Gwen, and Rex are taken to meet Angelo Colasanto, Olivia’s grandfather. Angelo has devoted his entire life in pursuit of immortality but is now aged, infirm, bed-ridden, and connected to an array of life support machines.

The three men who met Jack when he was being butchered in New York represented three different families who are in some way responsible for Miracle Day: Frines, Costerdane, and Ablemarch. They swore to purchase the power of resurrection and collected Jack’s blood from the butcher, and they know of the Blessing. They also are completely off the grid.

Outside of the Colasanto estate, the stock markets are in free-fall, driving world players into bankruptcy. Brian Friedkin arrives and storms the residence with a CIA team to arrest the Torchwood team. Friedkin takes Rex to the other room and threatens his life, but he’s stopped by Rex when the Eye-5s transmit Friedkin’s confession that he is employed by the Three Families. CIA superior Allen Shapiro arrives and arrests Friedkin before getting the story from Rex.

Shapiro antagonizes the team, but Jack finally sways him by allying Torchwood with the CIA. Meanwhile, Friedkin and Olivia are loaded into an SUV to be taken to a safehouse, but the trip is cut short when Friedkin detonates a bomb he was wearing and kills everyone in the vehicle.

Jack takes a personal moment to say a few tender words to Angelo. At the end, he removes Angelo’s oxygen mask and kisses him, but the act kills Angelo. Literally kills him. Upon closer examination, the team discovers a null field generator under Angelo’s bed. The device cancels the morphic fields that caused the Miracle, and since it can disguise weapons of mass destruction, Shapiro tasks Jack with disabling it. It seems that Jack’s hunch about morphic fields was a good instinct.

Since the Torchwood files suggest that Jack operates best when his team is in duress, Shapiro motivates him by deporting Gwen. Meanwhile, Esther calls her sister (who is in psychiatric examination) and finds out that she is volunteering for Category One as a way out of the world.

Oswald Danes has sold out Cowboys Stadium for one of his hellfire-and-brimstone events. His antics are wearing thin with Jilly Kitzinger, especially when he demands that she bring him a prostitute. Jilly is approached by Shawnie Yamaguchi, an intern who is eager to become her assistant. What Jilly doesn’t know is that Shawnie is a CIA operative. Oswald’s prostitute arrives, but she’s frustrated because he wants to treat her like a date instead of a sex worker. When she storms out, she tells Oswald that he’s been classified as Category Zero.

Oswald takes his frustration to Jilly. Category Zero consists of those who violated morality and have thus earned a trip to the ovens. Oswald strikes Jilly and she fights back, forcing him to run with her laptop. Jilly encounters the mysterious PhiCorp man from a previous event. He warns her that she’s being watched, then kills Shawnie. In the end, Jilly is brought under family protection courtesy of a mole in the CIA. That mole is Charlotte Wills.

In the Colasanto estate, Jack manipulates the null field generator to cancel sound. He confers with Esther and Rex, telling them that the technology cannot be allowed to propagate. He needs to leave the manor with the device. Rex and Esther help Jack escape, but Jack is shot in the process. Esther drives the critically wounded Jack away while Rex runs interference.


The Miracle Day story swings back into action as the pieces start to fall into place. We’re driving a little closer to the masterminds behind the crisis and we get a bit more extraterrestrial influence as we see how the Three Families have been pulling the levers all along, but the episode still suffers from pacing issues with a good chunk of padding. As with most of Miracle Day, this episode could have been better told in about 75% of the time.

We did get some good callbacks to the core of Torchwood, from memories of Ianto to the destruction (and subsequent looting) of the Hub, but we can also see the large narrative issue with the Oswald Danes storyline. The story arc started with him as a major genesis event, but his part in all of this has been nothing more than a side story. I don’t like Oswald Danes on principle, but I certainly think he should be more of player in events.

Small perk: We have two Star Trek alumni (Nana Visitor and John de Lancie) in this episode. Sadly, one of those talented actors is wasted in this story.

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


As the Timestamps Project proceeds chronologically through 2011, we start to ping-pong a bit between Torchwood and Doctor Who. When Miracle Day (including the Web of Lies addendum) concludes, the project will pick up the final series of The Sarah Jane Adventures. To start the whole process, the next adventure will return us to Series 6 of Doctor Who with Let’s Kill Hitler.


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Let’s Kill Hitler

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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.

Rabbit Rabbit – August 2021

Rabbit Rabbit
August 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 August.

History

August was originally named Sextilis, derived from Latin because it was the sixth month in the original ten-month Roman calendar under Romulus (with March being the first month of the year). Somewhere around 700 BC, it became the eighth month when January and February were added to the year by King Numa Pompilius. Pompulius also gave the month 29 days, but Julius Caesar added two days when he created the Julian calendar in 46 BC.

In 8 BC, it was renamed in honor of Emperor Augustus, who apparently chose the month because it was the time of several of his great triumphs, including the conquest of Egypt.

Among the aborigines of the Canary Islands, especially among the Guanches of Tenerife, the month was called Beñesmer (or Beñesmen), which was also the harvest festival held in the same month.

Observances

August has a significant number of meteor showers. The Kappa Cygnids vary each year around August. The Alpha Capricornids meteor shower takes place as early as July 10th and ends a month later. The Southern Delta Aquariids take place from mid-July to mid-August, with the peak usually around July 28th or 29th. The Perseids, a major meteor shower, typically takes place between July 17th and August 24th. Finally, the star cluster of Messier 30 is best observed this month.

Internationally, observances include American Adventures Month (which celebrates vacationing in the Americas), Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, Digestive Tract Paralysis (DTP) Month, Get Ready for Kindergarten Month, Happiness Happens Month, Month of Philippine Languages (or Buwan ng Wika), Neurosurgery Outreach Month, Psoriasis Awareness Month, Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month, and What Will Be Your Legacy Month.

In the United States, August is National Black Business Month, National Children’s Vision and Learning Month, National Immunization Awareness Month, National Princess Peach Month, National Water Quality Month, and National Win with Civility Month. The United States also adds food related observances with National Catfish Month, National Dippin’ Dots Month, Family Meals Month, National Goat Cheese Month, National Panini Month, Peach Month, and Sandwich Month.

Trivia

  • August’s birthstones are the peridot (classically believed to drive away fear and open the mind), sardonyx (a red version of the onyx believed to bestow courage), and spinel (which is believed to drive passion).
  • The western zodiac signs of August are Leo (until August 22) and Virgo (August 23 onwards).
  • The month’s birth flowers are the gladiolus and the poppy, symbolizing beauty, strength of character, love, marriage, and family.

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 – Legally Mars, Syndicated Toons, and a Fresh Prince

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Legally Mars, Syndicated Toons, and a Fresh Prince
July 30, 2021

The Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track recently talked about aliens, blonde lawyers, syndicated cartoons, and the Willennium.

On July 8th, Chad Shonk, Lola Lariscy, Jonathan Williams, and Nathan Laws took up arms against alien invaders as they chatted about Independence Day and Mars Attacks!

On July 15th, it was time to attend the twentieth anniversary reunion of one of the best Harvard graduating classes ever. After all, once you’ve judged a tighty-whitey contest for Lambda Kappa Pi, you can handle anything. I joined Sue Kisenwether and ToniAnn Marini to talk all about Legally Blonde and it’s impact on pop culture since 2001.

On July 22nd, the stream was a full house as latchkey kids united over a love of syndicated cartoons. GI Joe! He-Man and the Masters of the Universe! Transformers! Star Blazers! Tranzor Z! Voltron! Disney afternoons! Special guest stars included Chris Cummins, Kevin Cafferty, Jeff Burns, Denise Lhamon, and Nathan Laws.

On July 29th, the month came to a close with a story all about how pop culture got flipped, turned upside down by a West Philadelphia (born and raised) rapper and actor who came to dominate the charts as well as the box office: The Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith! Those who got jiggy wit it were Sherman Burris and Jonathan Williams.


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 month of August will hold a couple of panels before the series takes a hiatus for real life panels at Dragon Con 2021. Join us on the journey and, if you’re so inclined, come see all of us in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend.

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.

Timestamp #TW38: Immortal Sins

Torchwood: Immortal Sins
(1 episode, s04e07, 2011)

Timestamp TW38 Immortal Sins

It’s time for a history lesson.

Ellis Island, New York, in the 1920s: A man posing as Jack Harkness attempts to scam his way through immigration. He’s stopped by the real deal, but Jack visits him in jail anyways. The thief’s name is Angelo Colasanto and he knows that Jack’s visa was forged. Jack tells Angelo that he is a government agent of sorts. After a chat, Jack forges a visa for Angelo and secures the man’s freedom.

In the modern day, Gwen receives her orders to bring Jack to the antagonists. She is told to keep the lenses in because they are watching. At the makeshift Hub, Esther and Rex talk about Vera’s life. Gwen comes in, calls for Jack, and tasers him at the car before hitting the road.

In 1927, Jack and Angelo find a room for rent. Since it’s just the two of them, Angelo tells the landlord that he’ll sleep on the floor. Once alone, Jack mentions the coming troubles – the Great Depression and World War I – in passing before starting into a relationship. They seem happy together even if Angelo doesn’t understand Jack’s futuristic references.

Modern day: Jack wakes up in the back seat of Gwen’s car. She tells him about her situation but refuses to set him free. Jack asks Gwen to look in the mirror so he can address the antagonists. When he’s finished, Gwen demands to know who Jack has angered this time. She also refuses to yield to his negotiations. The figure behind the contacts agrees: “He always lies.”

In 1927, Jack and Angelo sit in a church and watch a wedding. When a pastor walks by, Jack joins him in the confessional. The pastor is their contact and the men are running liquor during the American Prohibition. They are taken before a crime boss and agree to help him in exchange for their lives. Jack and Angelo are to deliver a box from one warehouse to another, but they are not to look at the contents. Jack tries to drive Angelo away in order to save him, but Angelo wants none of it. Jack is inspired by Angelo’s bravery, comparing it to the relationship between the Doctor and his companions.

During the mission, Jack discovers that the cargo is a parasitic alien. The plan is an attempt by the Trickster’s Brigade to destroy the future. Jack destroys the creature, but is shot dead as they attempt to escape. Angelo is arrested and taken away before Jack resurrects in the alley.

In the present, Gwen muses about her life with Torchwood and how much she loved it. She blames it for landing her in this predicament and warns Jack that she will follow through with the plan if it means getting her daughter back. Jack replies that he will fight until his last breath to keep his newfound mortality. Right at the end, Gwen understands Jack more than she ever has before.

In 1928, Angelo is released from Sing Sing Prison and is startled to find Jack waiting for him. Angelo is terrified at Jack’s immortality, killing Jack and taking him before a butcher. Time and time again, Jack is killed and resurrected by a vicious and fearful mob. At one point, Jack awakens before three men who enter a partnership over this novelty.

Gwen and Jack watch as a car approaches near Mesa, California in the hours before sunrise. They share a few words about the fear of death.

In 1928, Angelo apologizes to Jack as he frees the immortal man. Angelo has no idea who the three men were. He and Jack run from the butcher, climbing to the top of a building so Jack can retrieve his trademark gear. Jack explains his immortality to Angelo, revealing that they cannot be together anymore. Angelo protests so Jack jumps off the roof to his apparent death. When Angelo reaches street level, Jack has vanished.

The sun rises over Mesa and the car arrives. A woman emerges with an armed entourage, but they are interrupted by sniper fire. Rex and Esther found out about the Eye-5 hack and came to the rescue, allowing Jack and Gwen to take up arms and turn the tables. Rex and Esther send a signal to Andy Davidson in Wales, prompting a strike team to free Gwen’s family.

Regardless, Jack is convinced to join the mysterious woman. She can take Jack to the one man with the answers.

Angelo is still alive.


First and foremost, this episode was an infodump. The vast majority of the story was a flashback to introduce a previously unknown character. Unfortunately, the present-day narrative suffered and was only advanced by small steps. The story presented here could have been spread across the previous six episodes, relieving some of the slow and meandering spots and streamlining the overall plot.

That’s the inherent downside to the Timestamps Project approach. The story was touching and the interpersonal relationships were warm, which is exactly what I would expect from a talent like Jane Espenson. It was beautiful to see and would be fantastic as a standalone. But it is presented here as part of the overall Miracle Day narrative and takes its place among other expository episodes.

Aside from the Jack-Angelo relationship, there were some really great elements to keep this episode buoyed up. I loved the brutality of a frightened mob trying to excise the demons in Jack by killing him over and over again. The sniper scene was a great way to include Rex and Esther in a story where they did not prominently feature, and it helped to reinforce their working relationship and skills. I also loved the inclusion of an alien and the broader Doctor Who mythos, which (sadly) were firsts for this block of episodes.

The appearance of Nana Visitor, whom I loved in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was a pleasant surprise. I look forward to seeing more of her in the remaining episodes.

All things considered, a beautiful story balances the unfortunate placement in the overall narrative, bringing this to an average episode overall.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: End of the Road

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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 – The New Colossus

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The New Colossus

July 23, 2021

This week, I have Emma Lazarus on my mind.

Emma Lazarus was born on July 22, 1849, in New York City. She studied American and British literature and several languages, including German, French, and Italian. By the age of eleven, she was writing poetry. Over the course of her life her writing won recognition in the United States and Europe.

One of her most famous poems is the sonnet “The New Colossus”, which she wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty (formally known as Liberty Enlightening the World). She was convinced to write the poem by writer Constance Cary Harrison who argued that the statue would be of great significance to immigrants sailing into the harbor.

The sonnet was the first read at the auction of art and literary works in November 1883 and remained associated with the exhibit until it was closed after the pedestal was fully funded in 1885. The sonnet was largely forgotten after this, even at the statue’s formal opening in 1886, until 1901 when Georgina Schuyler stepped in.

Composer and article writer Georgina Schuyler, the great-granddaughter of Alexander and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, was a friend of Emma Lazarus. Lazarus died in November 1887 at the age of 38, most likely from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Schuyler spearheaded the effort to memorialize her friend and the sonnet. The effort succeeded in 1903 when a plaque bearing the sonnet’s text was placed on the inner wall of the statue’s pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Petrarchan sonnet evokes several images related to the statue’s New York Harbor home and prestige:

  • The title and the first two lines refer to the Greek Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and contrasts that symbol of imperial grandeur against the maternal strength of Lady Liberty.
  • The “sunset gates” are the Hudson and East Rivers, and the “imprisoned lightning” is the statue’s lighted torch.
  • The “twin cities” were New York City and Brooklyn, which were separate cities since the boroughs had yet been consolidated. That would happen in 1898.
  • The “huddled masses” were the large numbers of immigrants arriving during the 1880s. Emma Lazarus was also an activist and advocate for Jewish refugees who sought asylum from persecution in Czarist Russia.

The poem changed the face of the statue, shifting her from a monument to the principles of international republicanism to a welcoming mother figure that shined a beacon of hope to outcasts and downtrodden around the world. The symbol has cemented the reputation of the United States as a sanctuary and a golden beacon on the hill.

As poet and Princeton professor Esther Schor, author of the award-winning biography Emma Lazarus, stated: “The irony is that the statue goes on speaking, even when the tide turns against immigration — even against immigrants themselves, as they adjust to their American lives. You can’t think of the statue without hearing the words Emma Lazarus gave her.”


For more information on Emma Lazarus, the American Jewish Historical Society has a detailed presentation on her life and their efforts to memorialize her.

For a general overview of the Statue of Liberty’s history and more, check out this video by Jared Owen.


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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 #TW37: The Middle Men

Torchwood: The Middle Men
(1 episode, s04e06, 2011)

Timestamp TW37 The Middle Men

One truth is out, but more mysteries remain.

At PhiCorp Los Angeles, Stuart Owens and his secretary Janet are working late. On the television, the news is talking about the “45 Club,” a group of people who believe that jumping from greater than 45 stories is enough to permanently lose consciousness. Owens calls Zheng Yibao in Shanghai to discuss a large land purchase.

Yibao investigates the facility, then calls Owens back to report that there is nothing of interest at the facility. After that, he takes a swan dive from a tall building for reasons unknown.

In San Pedro, Rex is still upset about what he has discovered. He believes that the powers that be will simply burn anyone they don’t like. In the admin area, Esther tries to call Vera without success. She then turns her attention to Colin Maloney and Ralph Coltrane after watching them fighting. Colin plans to drop Vera’s car at the local mall. He also tells Esther that Vera completed her inspection and left. Finally, he places the camp on lockdown to keep everyone at the facility.

In Cowbridge, Gwen confronts Dr. Alicia Patel about her father’s classification. Patel tries to tell Gwen about the fine line between categories, but Gwen chastises her for running a concentration camp as a medical professional. She then makes plans with Rhys to break her father out.

In Los Angeles, Jack works his magic on Janet in a bar. He reveals (via Torchwood hacking) that Stuart intends to send Janet away against her wishes. He also knows that she is having an affair with her boss. With Janet’s help, Jack tracks Stuart to a local restaurant where he is having dinner with his wife Elizabeth. After revealing the affair to Elizabeth, Jack settles in for a one-on-one discussion with Stuart.

Stuart suggests that he is merely a middle man. He also states that Phicorp is just a pawn. The pattern started around five years ago based on “Market Share Projections”. Stuart found an Italian document which said, “They have found the Blessing,” but he doesn’t know what it means. Since Jack had staged Janet’s abduction, Elizabeth called the police. When they arrive, Jack quickly vanishes.

In San Pedro, Rex tries to sneak his video evidence out of the camp. Unfortunately, he is caught and taken to Colin by request. Rex tells Colin of his intention to go public and expose the camp. Colin watches the video and has a break down, then decides to silence Rex. He slowly pushes his ballpoint pen into Rex’s heart through his open wound. Rex screams but points out that he cannot die, which overwhelms Colin. Once Rex determines that Colin killed Vera, Colin cries as he shoves the pen back into Rex again. Rex faints from the pain.

Esther finds the generator room where the interrogation is taking place. Colin drops the pen and confronts Esther. Esther tries to bluff him by saying that Dr. Juarez is on the phone for him, but he attacks her instead. Esther holds her own for the majority of the altercation, and she eventually chokes him to death. She rushes to help Rex, but she needs to get the keys from Colin’s pocket. The Miracle resurrects Colin. He tries to choke Esther but he’s stopped by Ralph who fires two bullets into Colin’s side.

In Cowbridge, Rhys steals a truck and meets Gwen. As they get her father moved, Gwen hears that sick people are arriving in Wales by boat. Once Gwen’s father is loaded up, Rhys rams the gate to escape the facility. Gwen uses the Eye-5s to contact Jack in California.

Gwen steals some explosives and sets the camp ablaze with a message that makes Jack laugh triumphantly.

“This is the truth for the whole world to see, we let our governments build concentration camps. They built ovens for people in our names. Now I don’t care if the whole of society bends over and takes this like a dog. I’m saying no.”

In San Pedro, Rex comforts Esther. The mission was a success but they’ve paid a heavy price. Rex tells her that the fight is not over, then starts the car and drives them away. When they meet up with Jack in Venice Beach, they find out that the White House stands by the camps as a state of emergency in time of famine or pestilence. Jack says that they need to look at the bigger picture.

Gwen arrives in Los Angeles and is immediately paged to the courtesy phones. She receives a message: “Lenses.” When she puts in the Eye-5s, she learns that the forces behind all of this have taken her mother, husband, and child.

In exchange, they want Jack Harkness.


The overall plot has entered another housekeeping phase with this episode. The overall goal was pretty simple: Get the news of the camps into the public. Even though that revelation is deflected by officials, the world now knows. More importantly, this team has finally adapted the name of Torchwood.

Of course, that cohesive attitude is about to take a hit since Gwen’s family is in jeopardy.

It was a decent enough episode, but despite the explosions and fights, it didn’t do much to move the ball forward.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Immortal Sins

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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.

Timestamp #TW36: The Categories of Life

Torchwood: The Categories of Life
(1 episode, s04e05, 2011)

Timestamp TW36 The Categories of Life

Miracles breed atrocities.

In Washington, D.C., Vera Juarez is told that the medical panels have ended. A report has been submitted to Congress and the new categories of life have been enacted. People in Categories 1 and 2 are sent to the new overflow camps. Vera is upset about these three categories and the government’s control, so she calls Rex and declares that she is part of his investigation efforts.

Gwen returns to the United Kingdom under the alias of Yvonne Pallister. She reunites with her family and finds her mother tracking her father’s whereabouts. He’s located at the Cowbridge Camp in an abandoned army barracks, and Gwen travels with Rhys and Andy Davidson to the site. The area is flooded with people demanding the release of their loved ones. Gwen is directed to the admin building where she gets roadblocked by military officer in charge. The site is under lockdown while all of the occupants are sorted into categories. Gwen storms out, intent on breaking her father out that night.

Back in Venice Beach, Esther confides her feelings of inadequacy to Jack. Their discussion is interrupted by a text from Rex summoning them back. They meet Vera and get her settled. Soon after, the team converges in the makeshift “hub” to review their data. Jack officially welcomes Vera to Torchwood and then introduces the categories.

Category 1 consists of people who should have died before the Miracle. Category 3 is all of the perfectly healthy people. Category 2 the wide swath of people in the middle. The world governments now have the ability to determine who is alive or “dead”, and PhiCorp is behind it. Esther reveals her research into the PhiCorp camps and the possibility that PhiCorp is doing something horrific to the Category 1s.

Gwen goes undercover at Cowbridge as a nurse. Vera and Esther join the staff at San Pedro and Rex volunteers to be taken away as a patient. The “fragile mortal man” Jack is left behind, so he decides to attend the Oswald Danes rally in Los Angeles.

At the San Pedro camp, Rex is designated as Category 2. Vera and Esther settle into their undercover positions, including a hefty dose of overt sexism from camp supervisor Colin Maloney. As Vera begins her inspection, Esther reclassifies Rex as Category 1 and smuggles a camera to him. Rex is moved to the appropriate module where he discovers it to be a dark and cold space with patients stacked on metal racks. He finds some clothes and leaves the module.

Vera breaks away from the normal tour route to find a building full of patients without insurance. They are living in filth and squalor, and one of the patients has been wrongly categorized. Vera threatens to prosecute Maloney. He retaliates by stealing his military escort’s sidearm and shooting Vera twice. The two men take Vera to a Category 1 module and leave her barely conscious on the floor.

At the Cowbridge camp, Rhys and Gwen begin their quest to find Gwen’s father. Gwen finds her father and tries to extract him, but he collapses just before reaching the truck. When Gwen calls for help, her father ends up being reclassified as Category 1 because he fell unconscious.

At the Miracle Rally, Jack lures Oswald away. When Oswald can’t find Jack, he returns to the staging area before the rally begins. Jilly meets a mysterious stranger who tells her that she’s doing well and getting noticed by important people. Jack eventually confronts Oswald, tempting him to become the hero of the story instead of a PhiCorp mascot. Jack presents Oswald with a new speech that will expose the truth. In exchange, Jack offers Oswald an end to the Miracle and a pathway to death.

Oswald takes the stage and follows his heart instead of the scripts. He declares that those who have survived the Miracle are the first angels on Earth. His revelation, an endorsement of PhiCorp, is greeted by an arena of cheering fans.

Rex notes that the Category 1 area is only three small modules, and therefore is unable to house all of the appropriate patients. While Rex watches, Vera wakes up and Maloney starts a process that seals the building. Each module is a crematorium. Rex watches as Vera is burned alive, reduced to ashes.

Rhys and Gwen make a similar discovery in Wales. Gwen can only look on in horror.


In a brutal upswing from the previous episode, this entry was tense and thrilling. It leveraged each character’s strengths and circumstances to drive further into the heart of the plot. It also uncovered barbaric horrors and was unflinching in its portrayal.

It was disturbing but engaging.

What is particularly interesting is the apparent recycling of circumstances from the previous season. Vera’s fate parallels that of Owen Harper, another medical professional. Both were locked into a state between life and death, though Owen was undead while Vera was undying. Both were suffering from gunshot wounds and both were disintegrated while trying to save innocent people. Both of them also had love interests — Rex and Tosh — each with mortal chest wounds who witnessed their deaths through the lens of electronic devices.

The major differences were that Rex survived the encounter and Tosh wasn’t physically present at Owen’s death.

This recycling aside, which I found to be more fascinating than distracting, this hour of television was good.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Middle Men

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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 – Dads and Princes

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Dads and Princes
July 9, 2021

The Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track recently talked about daddies and Robin Hood.

On June 24th, Kevin Eldridge, Leigh Tyberg, Tom Morris, and Elizabeth Jones celebrated Father’s Day by considering quality jokes, sage advice, and removing limbs while talking about the best dads in science fiction.

On July 1st, it was time to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of yet another retelling of the Robin Hood mythos. That’s right! Three decades ago, we got a film with action, drama, a spectacular sheriff, and a very questionable accent. Join Darin Bush, Nathan Laws, Jeff Burns, and Deanna Toxopeus as they talk about kitchen utensils, relative pain, and the second-highest grossing film of 1991.

 


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.

Down the road a ways, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track has more of these panels in store, including alien attacks, lawyers, cartoons, and reptile martial artists. Join us on the journey.

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.

Timestamp #TW35: Escape to L.A.

Torchwood: Escape to L.A.
(1 episode, s04e04, 2011)

Timestamp TW35 Escape to LA

Assassins and espionage try to cover for a lack of story.

Despite Gwen’s warnings, Esther decides to visit her sister Sarah. The house is boarded up and the door is guarded by a series of locks, but Sarah is at home. Sarah warns Esther that people are looking for her, warning her away from major metropolitan areas like Boston and New York City. Sarah rejects Esther’s comfort and concern about Sarah’s children. Esther promises to return as soon as she can.

When Esther returns to her car, she calls Child Protective Services to help the kids. Esther leaves, unaware of the car following her on orders from their mysterious antagonists.

The Torchwood team travels to Los Angeles, California. Jack gazes upon the Pacific Ocean, musing that he hasn’t seen it for about seventy years. They’re looking for PhiCorp, and despite Gwen’s desire to stay on the sand in the sun, Jack decides to look for a temporary headquarters elsewhere.

Rex finds a flyer for Dead is Dead and calls Vera. The campaign is being spearheaded by Ellis Hartley Monroe on the premise that those who should have died are to be treated as if they are dead, merely waiting for their “pause” in mortality to end. In contrast, Doctor Juarez and the medical panel are looking at an abandoned hospital as an overflow for ICU patients.

Jack secures a hideout and Gwen phones Rhys to check in while Rex wonders if Jack’s goal is to turn everyone he meets gay. Jack quips that it is the plan. The team starts to settle in, tracing the threads on Oswald, Jilly, and PhiCorp.

Elsewhere, Jilly and Oswald continue their public relations campaign. Oswald is enjoying the perks of fancy hotels, but while she remains professional, Jilly can’t stand Oswald’s history. She also brings news that Oswald’s appearance that day has been cancelled in lieu of Ellis Hartley Monroe. Oswald is in danger of being kicked to the curb and into the hands of the waiting mob.

Rex decides to find his father, who is now a thief stealing PhiCorp drugs. The reunion is testy, but in the end Rex ends up with another box of pills.

Later, Esther briefs the team on PhiCorp’s secure server and her plan to exchange it for an empty duplicate. Access is restricted to the biometrics of Nicholas Frumkin. To secure his biodata, Jack and Gwen go undercover Mission: Impossible-style as an annoying American couple.

The new hospital under Vera Juarez’s management is failing miserably. There are no protocols, no electricity, and people just being deposited without permission. Regardless, Monroe stages a Dead is Dead rally outside, which is where Oswald was going to hold a public event. Oswald decides to enter the hospital, drawing media attention as he boldly states that he’s not scared of the people inside. He reinvents himself as the spokesman and advocate — perhaps, even a messiah — for them. Monroe departs in anger, being poisoned on the way by the antagonists.

One of those agents, posing as Torchwood, ambushes Frumkin in a parking garage. The agent secures the biometrics by force, including mutilating him for his eye scan and handprint. Frumkin lives through the torture courtesy of the Miracle.

Gwen goes undercover as Yvonne Pallister, International Sales Representative at PhiCorp. She’s backed up by Esther, posing as Lorraine in Human Resources, and Jack as a delivery worker. The team stages a fire to evacuate the building and uses the biometrics to enter the server room.

As the operation kicks off, Esther discovers that Sarah has been detained for psychological evaluation and her kids are in the system. Rex realizes that someone may have follower Esther during her ill-advised trip and berates her while she works. While Esther balances Rex and Gwen, Gwen is attacked by the bad agent. Jack tries to assist but is knocked out as well. Rex rushes to the rescue, having to climb the stairs all the way with his chest wound, while the assassin monologues to Jack.

The assassin says that the reason Jack is mortal is because of something that happened many years ago. Apparently, Jack caused all this, and the moment has come as they have found “specific geography”. Just as he is about to reveal his employers, Rex comes in guns-a-blazing. The assassin collapses against the wall as Rex demands thanks for saving their lives.

Monroe awakens inside a car that is in a compactor. The poison should have killed her but she was saved by the Miracle. The triangle pattern appears on the car’s screen and a voice apologizes for what is about to happen. They liked her style and acknowledge that they could have been friends, but her methods were exposing their plan. As the voice promises that the “families” will rise, the car is compacted. Monroe’s shattered remains still live in the metal prison.

Back at their base, the Torchwood team discovers the plans for the overflow camps. Unfortunately, Rhys has already schedule Gwen’s father for one of the camps. Rhys is too late to stop the transfer.

Gwen’s father now belongs to PhiCorp.


Torchwood stumbled here with a mediocre story with quite a bit of padding. Getting the team to Los Angeles to pursue PhiCorp was good, as was the spy story to access and swap out the secure server. Adding the assassin to the plot was a great foil and served well to push the antagonists into the spotlight alongside the Oswald Danes story.

It was good to see that Jilly has some semblance of a soul, merely tolerating Oswald to serve her employers. It was also good to see the concentration camp narrative threads continued, as well as seeing Oswald chasing the spotlight to remain relevant.

The points where the story lost pacing were with the family tangents for Esther and Rex. The Esther tangent was tolerable, even though it could have been easily skipped over in exchange for a shorter way for the assassin to track the team, but the Rex tangent was pointless. The parallel between Gwen’s and Esther’s phone usage was important to note, but I think it would have been more powerful if the phone was how Esther was traced instead of by burning precious minutes talking through a barricaded door.

It feels like a lot of missed opportunities were swaddled in unnecessary drama, and the pacing established in the first three episodes was sacrificed in the process.

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Categories of Life

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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 – Independence Day

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Independence Day

July 2, 2021

This week, I’m thinking about a major holiday here in the United States. The Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It was a pronouncement by the Thirteen Colonies that they should be independent states free of British control, a revolution that they were fighting for at the time in the Revolutionary War.

While the nation is not and has never been perfect, it still embodies certain elements that people around the world admire. For me, the American Dream is that we can reach that ideal some day, and that keeps me fighting for the principles expressed in the Declaration. I believe in the core philosophy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Today, two days before the anniversary of ratification (and on the anniversary of the Lee Resolution’s passage), please enjoy this presentation by Kenneth C. Davis on some of the lesser known facts about the Declaration of Independence.

If you’re celebrating the holiday, please be safe and have a good time.

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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.