Dragon Con 2019

Dragon Con 2019
Atlanta, GA – August 29 through September 2, 2019

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Dragon Con!

It’s an annual tradition for me, and a family reunion of sorts as I catch up with dear friends from around the world. This year will be my eleventh time attending and my fourth year as an attending professional. If you plan to be there, these are the places where you will be able to find me over Labor Day weekend.

I have fifteen scheduled program events in five days, and I’m sure more will pop up over the course of the con. Come find me and say hi!

The convention app is available now – look for Dragon Con by Core-apps in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store – and contains the current schedule of events. The list of confirmed guests, performers, artists, and attending professionals is available on the official Dragon Con site.

Dragon Con itself takes place in downtown Atlanta spanning five hotels (Sheraton Atlanta, Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and Westin Peachtree Plaza) and the AmericasMart Atlanta exhibition center. The convention draws approximately 70,000 to 80,000 attendees annually and showcases one of the city’s most popular parades on Saturday morning at 10am.

Dragon Con prides itself on contributions to charity and the community. You can find more information about those efforts on their webpage. Each year, the convention partners with a local charity organization and this year’s partner is the Atlanta Affiliate of the American Heart Association. It’s a personal selection for the convention and the donations are in honor of long-time Comics Director Thom Trainor, who lost his battle with heart disease in July of 2018. Dragon Con will match all donations made this year up to $100,000.

If you’re new to the convention, consider stopping by the Dragon Con Newbies group on Facebook. It is run by Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony, and me, and is an in-depth community resource for information about this massive (and sometimes overwhelming) event. Memberships (tickets) for this year’s convention are also still available.

If you want a printable copy of my schedule, I have a convenient PDF.

Note: All Dragon Con schedules are tentative until the convention ends on Monday. Even then, things are a bit suspect. As things change before the convention, I’ll update this post.
Revision History:

    • Rev 0 – 23 Aug 2019: Initial post.

I will be around starting Wednesday. Pretty much the standards of wandering the hotels, picking up my Hard Rock Dragon Con gear, and catching up with some friends.

1:00p-5:00p: Dragon Con Newbies Walking and Rolling Tours (4 hours)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
Want to get a ‘lay of the land’ and find your way around the hotels? Did you know there’s a food court? Meet others new to Dragon Con and get a tour with some veteran con-goers. Groups leave every 30 minutes. Last tours will leave approximately 4pm.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

5:30p-6:30p: Dragon Con Newbies Q&A (1 hour)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share tips and tricks.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

Other Events of Interest
10:00p-12:00a: The ESO Network 2019 DragonCon Meet & Greet (2 hours)
Westin, Bar 210
Hosted by the ESO Network

10:00a: Dragon Con Newbies 101 (1 hour)
Main Programming
Hyatt, Regency V
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share their tip and tricks for making your experience an awesome one.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

2:30p: Captain Marvel: Blast from the Past (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
From her beginnings as a female foil to her own place in the MCU as a pre-eminent powerhouse, we’ll consider just how Carol Danvers and her story work in the MCU and her future as a stand-alone hero and Avenger.
Panelists include: Bethany Kesler, Casi Hamilton, Jenna Johnson, Kelley Harkins

5:30p: New Series Doctor Who (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Crystal Ballroom
With Series 11 over, this panel discusses what Chibnall did in his inaugural series as show-runner & the impact of the Doctor & her companions.
Panelists include: Angela Hartley, Robert Bowen, Allison Lane, JM Tuffley, Robert Lloyd

7:00p: Battlestar Galactica Anniversary Panel: The End…? (1 hour)
Military SciFi Media
Westin, Chastain DE
It’s the 15th anniversary of the start, and the 10th anniversary of the end of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica…are we ready to talk about it? What is the verdict? Where might a future reboot of BSG take us?
Panelists include: Andrew E.C. Gaska, Kevin R. Grazier, Van Allen Plexico

8:30p: Classic Sci-Fi Charity Theater: Mac and Me (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Witness the 1988 kid-meets-alien movie that totally was not an, um, homage to E.T. It’s this year’s movie watch for charity — you have to donate to the Dragon Con charity TO GET OUT.
Panelists include: Darin Bush, Gary Mitchel, Joe Crowe, Chris Cummins

Other Events of Interest
11:30a-12:30p: David Tennant (1 hour)
Marriott, Atrium Ballroom

10:00a: Classic Sci-Fi Roll-a-Panel: Batman’s 80th Anniversary
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We can’t possibly cover all Batman movies & TV shows & cartoons in one panel. So we’re doing TWENTY in one hour, with audience members choosing the Bat-topics on our one-of-a-kind Bat-d20 (we auction it for charity at the end of the panel!)
Panelists include: The All-Star line-up from the American Science Fiction Classics Track

1:00p: Earth Station Who Presents: Deconstructing Doctor Who (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
What are the essential elements of one of the most popular science fiction series for over 50 years? The Earth Station Who crew lead an in-depth discussion on the what, why, and how of Who.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Mary Ogle, Tara Newman

5:30p: Farscape Anniversary Fan Panel (1 hour)
Military SciFi Media
Westin, Chastain DE
Farscape was a monumental show for its weaving together of intricate stories, compelling characters, practical effects in puppetry, and strong visual storytelling. Come aboard Moya as we look back on 20 years of this fan favorite.
Panelists include: Amy J. Murphy, Amanda, James Henson

Other Events of Interest
12:00p: Doctor Who Trio
Epic Photos

2:30p-3:30p: David Tennant (1 hour)
Marriott, Atrium Ballroom

11:30a: Bond, James Bond 007, Anniversary Edition (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
The Bond Film Franchises has a number of anniversaries this year including the 50th Anniversary of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” the 40th of “Moonraker,” the 30th of “License to Kill,” and the 20th of “World is Not Enough.” This panel discusses these films and more.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, John L Flynn, Bob Nygaard, Caro McCully

4:00p: The Amazing Sci-Fi Worlds of Steven Spielberg (1 hour)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Our tribute to the creator who took us from sharks to dinosaurs to flying bikes to the Temple of Doom and back.
Panelists include: Michael D. French, Sue Kisenwether, Jessa Phillips, Jonathan Williams, James Palmer, JC De La Torre

10:00p: UHF: 30-Year Anniversary Sponsored by Spatula City (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
See the epic Weird Al Yankovic movie — OR YOU GET THE FIREHOSE. Bring your own spatulas for a celebration where we don’t need no stinking badgers.
Panelists include: Kevin Eldridge, Shaun Rosado, Kevin Eldridge, Noel Wood, Beth Van Dusen, John Hudgens

Other Events of Interest
5:30p-6:30p: Catherine Tate (1 hour)
Epic, Imperial Ballroom

7:00p-8:00p: RetroBlasting Presents the Vehicles that Drove the 80s (1 hour)
Marriott, M103-M105

11:30a: Classic Sci-Fi Roll-A-Panel: 1979 & 1999
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We have too many movies we want to celebrate and panels we want to have– so we’re doing 20 of them in one hour! It’s a lightning round crowd participation melee of geekiness that’s bigger than the Deep Blue Sea! This year we’re talking about sci-fi movies from 1979, and 10 movies from 1999, from Black Hole to Wild Wild West — Audience members roll a giant customized d20 to choose which movie we discuss, and then at the end of the panel, we auction the d20 off for Dragon Con’s charity.
Panelists include: The All-Star line-up from the American Science Fiction Classics Track

2:30p: Endgame: MCU (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
For the final panel of the con, we’ll look at the final film of this part of the MCU. There was a lot of fan love, and some crazy timey wimey stuff, and the sad loss of some of our favorites.
Panelists include: Bethany Kesler, Lisa Manifold, Alison Sky Richards, Jenna Johnson

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Timestamp #188: The Lazarus Experiment

Doctor Who: The Lazarus Experiment
(1 episode, s03e06, 2007)

 

Tonight’s event: The Last of the Time Lords vs The Immortal Scorpion King.

The Doctor returns Martha to her flat, intent on dropping her off at the end of her journey on the morning after she initially left. The reprieve is shortlived when Martha’s mother calls with news that her sister Tish is on the news. Professor Richard Lazarus has discovered how, with the single push of a button, to change what it means to be human.

The Doctor is obviously intrigued.

Before the demonstration, Professor Lazarus and Lady Thaw discuss their plans, intent on providing Harold Saxon with an intriguing show. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Martha arrive in their finest black-tie, despite the omen that bad things tend to happen when the Time Lord wears that suit, and meet Martha’s family and a platter of “nibbles.” The meeting between the Doctor and Martha’s mother is tense, to say the least, but he is saved by the professor as the demonstration begins. Lazarus steps into the giant chamber at the center of the room and, with a little help from the Doctor as the device nearly overloads, emerges decades younger.

He has created a fountain of youth.

Lazarus makes the rounds later with Lady Thaw, but he’s stopped by a sharp pain. He snags a platter of hors d’oeuvres and wolfs it down to quench what the Doctor recognizes as an energy deficiency, somewhat similar to his own regeneration. Lazarus and the Doctor spar momentarily before the professor departs. The travelers set to work on the mystery, using the DNA Lazarus left as a farewell kiss on Martha’s hand to start their investigation.

The DNA fluctuates during their analysis. Similarly, as Lazarus and Thaw share a drink in his office, the professor transforms into a scorpion-like creature after insulting the woman about her age. Lady Thaw doesn’t survive much longer.

While Martha’s family debate over the Doctor’s presence in Martha’s life, Lazarus returns to the floor in a different suit. He summons Tish with a lecherous leer as the Doctor and Martha discover what’s left of Lady Thaw. Lazarus leeched the life-force out of her.

The Doctor and Martha return to the floor only to receive word that Tish and Lazarus are on the roof. While they rush to the rescue, Francine meets a mysterious stranger who tells her that Martha should choose better friends. Martha and Doctor interrupt Tish and Lazarus as the professor muses over T.S. Eliot. Tish is angry, but that is shortlived as Lazarus reveals himself. Jones, Jones, and the Doctor run as the building goes into lockdown. The Doctor tosses his sonic screwdriver to Martha so she can pick the lock while Lazarus storms the show floor. The Doctor cannot save one of the attendees, but he is able to save Martha’s family by goading Lazarus into a chase through the building.

Martha sees her family to safety as the Doctor climbs through the utility room. She’s able to open the main doors and let everyone out, but she also turns the power back on. To her mother’s chagrin, she rushes to the Doctor’s side. Meanwhile, the Doctor sets a trap with gas and an electrical spark, but the explosion doesn’t stop the monster.

The mysterious man returns and whispers secrets in Francine’s ear about the Doctor. Back on the show floor, the Doctor and Martha seek refuge inside the Lazarus capsule as the professor scorpion switches it on. The Doctor works feverishly to reverse the polarity and reflect the energy into the monster. They find Lazarus back in human form, soon to be taken away by an ambulance.

Francine greets the Doctor with a slap to the face. As the ambulance crashes, the Doctor rushes to find the EMTs drained of energy. Francine is upset that her daughters join the investigation. They follow the scorpion’s energy to the nearby Southwark Cathedral and find a human Lazarus talking about his childhood during the Blitz. The Doctor empathizes as he makes plans, and Martha eventually lures the beast to the top of the belltower. The Doctor uses his sonic in concert with the cathedral organ to stun Lazarus. The scorpion falls the stone floor below and dies on impact, transforming one last time to the old man he once was.

Martha and the Doctor end up back at the TARDIS, and he offers her another trip through time. She doesn’t want to be just a passenger, so he offers her something more. As she rushes into the TARDIS and they dematerialize her phone rings. It’s Francine on the other end with a message from Harold Saxon: The Doctor is dangerous, and Martha is not safe.

 

What could be an otherwise average story does a lot to move the ball forward for the second half of the season. The Doctor/Martha relationship is fairly well established, but now we get the added friction of distrust from Martha’s closest allies courtesy of the mysterious Mr. Saxon. It almost makes up for the CGI scorpion, which is dodgy while still being one step above The Scorpion King‘s big reveal from 2002.

The season’s been pretty good so far. Let’s see if this head of steam keeps the train on the rails.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: 42

 

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 #187: Daleks in Manhattan & Evolution of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Daleks in Manhattan
Doctor Who: Evolution of the Daleks
(2 episodes, s03e04-e05, 2007)

 

It’s the tallest genetic experiment on Earth!

It’s Manhattan in the 1930s. The show’s about to start and showgirl Tallulah is talking to her boyfriend Laszlo, one of the stagehands. They’re making plans to go away together, but after Tallulah goes on stage, Laszlo has an unfortunate encounter with a pig creature.

Later on, the TARDIS materializes at the base of the Statue of Liberty and Martha is excited to finally visit New York City. She spots the (under construction) Empire State Building and finds the date on a newspaper: November 1st, 1930. The mystery of people vanishing from Hooverville piques the Doctor’s interest. So, it’s off to Central Park they go.

As the Doctor explains the history of Hooverville (and similar locations across the United States), the watch as community leader Solomon breaks up a fight over a loaf of bread. The travelers talk to Solomon, who questions why a building like the Empire State can be built while people like him are starving in Manhattan.

At the Empire State Building, a businessman named Mr. Diagoras pressures his foreman to speed up construction on the roof mast. When the foreman refuses, Diagoras introduces him to the masters over the project: The Daleks, specifically from the Cult of Skaro. The foreman is taken by a pair of pig slaves for the “final experiment” while Diagoras gets a new set of orders. Dalek Caan needs more bodies for the experiment.

The Doctor and Martha ask Solomon about the disappearances, but their discussion is interrupted by Diagoras asking for volunteers to work in the sewer. When no one volunteers for the dollar a day wages, the Doctor and Martha step up, joined by Solomon and a young man from Tennessee named Frank. They probe the depths of the sewers and find a pulsing green mass of alien flesh, square under the Empire State Building. The Doctor examines it before shoving it in his pocket.

Meanwhile, Diagoras has workers placing Dalek spheres on the building mast, disregarding the risk of death for the men. After they leave, Dalek Caan joins Diagoras and muses about humanity and how a city like New York can survive while Skaro cannot. Noting how Diagoras thinks like one of them, Dalek Sec orders Dalek Caan to bring the human for the final experiment.

The Doctor and his sewer crew don’t find the collapsed tunnels that Diagoras hired them to clear, but before the Doctor can send the humans back, they encounter a lone pig slave. They are soon surrounded and running for their lives. They escape but Frank is taken after holding off the pig slaves.

The ladder and manhole lead right into the theater, and the Doctor, Martha, and Solomon soon meet Tallulah and her (stage prop) handgun. She asks them about Laszlo, but our heroes don’t have any info to offer. The Doctor uses electronics in the theater to develop a scanner for the alien mass while Solomon returns to Hooverville to defend his community. Martha and Tallulah discuss Laszlo – someone is still leaving her roses every day, but won’t reveal their identity – while Martha hems and haws about her relationship with the Doctor.

The Daleks begin the final experiment, and Diagoras fears that he will be changed into one of the pig slaves. Dalek Thay questions why Daleks need DNA from inferior species and Dalek Sec counters that their xenophobic quest for purity has resulted in their extinction. Dalek Sec opens his shell and grabs Diagoras, merging with the human as the casing seals shut around them.

The Doctor examines the alien flesh blob as Martha watches Tallulah’s show from just offstage. Martha spots a pig slave watching the show from across the stage and navigates through the performance to get a closer look. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds the numbers 467-989 and isolates the point of origin to Skaro. Martha chases the pig slave, which soon captures her, and the Doctor and Tallulah pursue them into the sewers. They soon discover the Daleks in the sewers and the Doctor is immediately put on edge.

On their way back to the theater, they encounter Laszlo, now transformed into a pig slave but able to maintain his intelligence. He is the pig slave that Martha was pursuing, and he was leaving the roses for Tallulah. The Doctor asks Laszlo to take him to Martha.

Martha is added to a lot of future slaves, including Frank. They are soon joined by the Daleks, whom Martha recognizes from the Doctor’s stories. The Daleks assess the slaves by intelligence and divide them into two groups: Future pig slaves and candidates for the final experiment. As they are led away, the Doctor and Laszlo join Martha’s group as Tallulah heads back and gets lost.

They end up in the lab where Dalek Sec is finalizing his evolution. The Doctor prompts Martha to ask about the experiment and the Daleks explain that the Children of Skaro must walk again. The Doctor is beside himself when Dalek Sec’s shell opens to reveal a Dalek-human hybrid.

The Doctor reveals himself as the Daleks prepare to process the slaves. He taunts them – time was that four Daleks could have conquered the world – and confronts Dalek Sec about what he feels. He shows them a radio and muses about its wonders before springing his trap. He uses the sonic screwdriver to produce a high pitched noise from the radio, then runs with the prisoners to Hooverville. The Daleks give chase while Dalek Sec remains behind. Daleks Thay and Caan discuss their doubts about Sec’s plan.

Solomon’s community, now armed with rifles, defend Hooverville against the pig slaves that come to retrieve their prisoners. When the pig slaves have fallen, Daleks Jast and Caan arrive in the air and start bombarding the village while Sec watches from the Empire State Building. Solomon tries to reason with the Daleks, but the Daleks exterminate him in response. That act causes Sec, who was moved by Solomon’s courage, to gasp in sorrow and despair. Martha is horrified and the Doctor is angry. The Doctor demands to be exterminated, but Sec spares the Doctor’s life. The Daleks are apprehensive but follow Sec’s order to bring the Doctor back to the lab. Martha tries to follow, but the Doctor asks her to help the wounded while slipping her the psychic paper.

Sec explains that the deaths were wrong. As the first of his kind confronting the last of the Time Lords, he talks about how he tried to rebuild the Dalek race. Eventually, he landed on a Frankenstein-level experiment to wipe human minds and reformat the brains with Dalek information. They have over a thousand empty shells ready for experimentation and genetic splicing, and all they need is power. Enter the dalekanium plates on the building’s roof and a large solar flare.

Sec’s plan would remove the Dalek mentality from their next evolution, but Jast, Caan, and Thay are unsure. Despite their reservations, Sec says that they will follow his orders. He also suggests that the Doctor could take them to another planet and let their new civilization grow in peace. The Doctor sets to work on the plan.

As Martha, Frank, and Tallulah make their way into the Empire State Building and examine the construction in progress, the Doctor continues his work. He also apologizes to Laszlo because he can’t reverse the stagehand’s physical changes, but he confides that if helping Sec will save the universe, he has to try. Martha finds the revised plans that added the dalekanium to the roof as the experiment goes awry. The Daleks revolt against Sec and change the genetic solution to make the subject pure Dalek. The Doctor and Laszlo make a break for it and meet up with Martha’s group while the Daleks restrain Sec.

The Doctor and his acrophobia climb the mast and start work on the Dalekanium. Meanwhile, the pig slaves assault Martha’s team. Laszlo falls before the fight, and Martha evens the odds with a makeshift lightning rod. The Doctor’s work is halted when he drops his sonic screwdriver, so he improvises by embracing the mast as lightning strikes. The bolt slaughters the pig slaves, but the new Dalek-human hybrids awaken and prepare for war. Dalek Caan takes command as Sec protests.

Martha and Frank find the Doctor and his screwdriver. The Doctor snaps out his shocked state and makes a plan with Martha’s team. They race back to the theater and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to signal the Daleks. They have no choice but to face their ultimate nemesis.

The hybrids burst into the theater and surround the Doctor’s team. Thay and Jast, with Sec in chains, take aim on the Doctor. Sec tries to sway the hybrids and his captors, then sacrifices himself by stepping in front of the bolt meant for the Doctor. The Doctor addresses the hybrids and convinces the Daleks to let them kill him. The hybrids refuse to shoot, questioning their orders. The Doctor’s DNA got mixed into the genetic structure, and that revelation sparks a firefight between the Daleks and the hybrids. Thay and Jast are destroyed, but Caan issues a self-destruct command that kills all of the hybrids.

The Doctor returns to the laboratory and faces Dalek Caan, the last of the Daleks and the last of the Cult of Skaro. In the face of the recent genocide, the Doctor offers to help Caan, but the Dalek uses an emergency temporal shift to escape.

Martha and Tallulah bring Laszlo to the lab. The pig slaves were only meant to live for a few weeks, but the Doctor springs into action with the gene lab to save his life. In the end, Laszlo and Tallulah find a home in Hooverville.

Martha and the Doctor return to the TARDIS. Before they leave, Martha asks if he’ll see Dalek Caan again. The Doctor is sure of it.

 

This two-part story is filled to the brim with action and intrigue, and it’s a good chance to finally introduce the Doctor’s mortal enemies to his new companion. The narrative is true to the Dalek history while adding some interesting (but somewhat silly) twists.

The Doctor/Martha relationship is still solid enough for me, but the will-they-won’t-they aspect is my least favorite part.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Lazarus Experiment

 

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 #186: Gridlock

Doctor Who: Gridlock
(1 episode, s03e03, 2007)

 

Atlanta traffic might be bad, but at least we don’t have killer crabs.

A newscaster delivers a traffic report as an elderly couple in a stalled car wait for the police. They are under attack from an unknown creature, and the creature wins before they can be rescued.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor offers Martha a trip into the future. She wants to visit his home planet, but the Doctor deflects her attention with musings about the architecture and the orange skies of Gallifrey. The way he looks… it’s heartbreaking. He sets a course for New Earth, the same place he took Rose on their first adventure together. The Doctor is excited, but Martha considers it a rebound relationship.

As they arrive, the Face of Boe directs his attendant, Novice Hame, to find the Doctor before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Martha encounters the New Earth version of a drug bazaar. The Doctor watches a young woman buy a dose of Forget after losing her parents on the motorway, and the transaction provides a distraction for a couple to kidnap Martha and drug her with a Sleep patch. With enough people on board, the car now qualifies for the express lane.

The Doctor pursues on advice from the pharmacists – he threatens that he will personally close the street down that night – and Martha meets her abductors. They are Milo and Cheen, and Cheen is pregnant so they’re looking for a better place to live. The upside is that they’re only ten miles away, but the downside is that it will take six years to travel the distance.

The title of the episode is Gridlock for a reason.

The Doctor enters the motorway and, after choking on exhaust, meets a cat person named Thomas Kincaide Brannigan and his human wife Valerie. They also have a litter of kitten kids, colloquially known as Children of the Motorway. The Doctor is astounded by the pace of the motorway, but he has no way off his current car. Brannigan refuses to move to the fast lane due to safety concerns for his kids, but he does connect the Doctor to a radio-based network of drivers who help him track down Martha’s location. Some of the drivers on the motorway have been there for over twenty years.

The Doctor questions if the police even exist in this endless traffic jam. Meanwhile, Martha learns that there are creatures living in the smoke layers beneath them, possibly in the air vents. As they all sit in the eternal traffic, the radio broadcasts a devotional that buoys the spirits of the commuters. Milo and Cheen’s car is finally granted access to the fast lane, but the exits are all closed. In fact, they’re perpetually closed, and the creatures are on the attack as the cars keep making the loop.

The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to jump from car to car, descending on foot. He leaves his coat – it was given to him by Janis Joplin – and muses about how he lied to Martha while he was showboating, then poses as a traffic patrolman as he bounces down the levels and encounters a host of characters.

The Doctor reaches the last level before the fast lane. He clears the smoke for a moment to get a clear view of the monsters below. They are the Macra, and they’re attacking cars in the fast lane. Martha’s car uses a submarine trick and cuts power to rest on the floor of the motorway. Unfortunately, they only have eight minutes.

The Doctor explains that the Macra feed on toxic gas, once building an empire of slaves (in the Second Doctor’s era) to mine gas for them. These Macra are no longer intelligent, but instead non-sentient hungry beasts. His attempts to stop the Macra is interrupted by Novice Hame, who explains that she’s dedicated her life to redemption for her past crimes over the last twenty-four years after she teleports them away. The world died in seven minutes after a drug named Bliss evolved into a lethal virus. Novice Hame has spent the ensuing years taking care of the Face of Boe while New Earth labors under a self-imposed century-long quarantine. The citizens in the motorway were saved from the virus, but are enslaved in their salvation.

The Face of Boe implores the Doctor to save the human race.

Martha and her abductors talk about the Doctor as their air supply dwindles. She places all of her faith in him, and its enough to sway her captors to power back up and drive through the Macra. The Doctor detects their license signature and, with a burst of life energy from the Face of Boe, opens the entire motorway to the world above. Martha’s faith is redeemed as her car emerges into the light of the sun and sets a course for the Doctor and the senate building.

As Martha arrives, the Face of Boe’s containment tank shatters. Martha asks who Boe is, but the Doctor only knows of the legends. The legend also tells that Boe will share a final secret before death, and the last of one race shares fate-changing words with the last of another.

“Know this, Doctor: You are not alone.”

And then he dies.

Martha and the Doctor return to the TARDIS, strolling along the now-defunct Pharmacist’s Row. Martha demands that the Doctor explain the secrets of Gallifrey and his history, and as the city raises their voices in the song of the devotional, the Doctor finally tells her of his home and the Last Great Time War.

 

This story is fairly light on story, but it continues threads set down from the beginnings of the revival era. The character development between the Doctor and Martha is great stuff, especially as Martha settles into her role as companion and helps the Doctor heal.

The Christian themes in the story are strong, from the discussions of faith in the Doctor – a literal deus ex machina, remember – and the salvation found in heading toward the light to the use of two Christian hymns as diegetic music. The travelers on the motorway sing “The Old Rugged Cross,” a 1912 hymn written by American evangelist George Bennard, and the recently freed citizens of the New New York sing “Abide with Me,” an 1847 hymn written by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte.

Finally, we saw the return of a classic enemy, although in a much-reduced state. They are left to waste away in the bowels of the motorway, which is somewhat troubling, but certainly not as much as it would have been had they been fully sentient.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Daleks in Manhattan & Doctor Who: Evolution of the Daleks

 

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 #185: The Shakespeare Code

Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Code
(1 episode, s03e02, 2007)

 

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

A woman named Lillith smiles as she is serenaded by a bard. She offers him a trip upstairs for his efforts where she reveals herself as a witch-like creature. She introduces the rest of her coven, Mothers Doomfinger and Bloodtide, and they consume the young man.

Going out on a limb, I’d say he’s not getting lucky tonight.

As the TARDIS hurtles through the void, Martha asks about how the time capsule works. The Doctor is elusive but is more than happy to introduce her to London 1599. She’s concerned about A Sound of Thunder, the Grandfather Paradox, and slavery, but the Time Lord eases her mind with the spectacle around them and urges her to “walk like she owns the place.” Oh, and they can also check out the freshly-built Globe Theater.

It’s more of tetradecagon instead of a globe, but they get to see William Shakespeare nonetheless. The Bard makes a curtain call after Love’s Labour’s Lost concludes, and the Doctor is bewildered by the man’s vocabulary and his odd behavior. It seems that Shakespeare is under Lillith’s spell and he has just announced a surprise play that the Doctor and Martha have never heard of.

They visit Shakespeare a bit later as he and his actors talk about the upcoming play. The playwright is unaffected by the psychic paper – he sees it as blank, which the Doctor heralds as the mark of a true genius – and looks through the ruse of Sir Doctor of TARDIS and Martha of Freedonia. He even tries to woo Martha, though she’s put off by his racial vernacular. After a brief confrontation with Lynley, the Master of Revels – the witches dispatch him after he threatens to shut down the new play – the trio get to know each other. Shakespeare can see a considerable amount about the travelers as they talk. Shortly thereafter, the Doctor and Martha retire to their guest quarters and chat about magic and witchcraft.

The Doctor also continues to mourn Rose, which puts Martha off a bit as he inadvertently compares the two companions.

Lillith visits Shakespeare and acts as his muse, playing the puppetmaster as he unwittingly writes. Lillith also kills Dolly Bailey, the owner of the house. The next morning, Shakespeare muses about the Globe Theater and how the architect, Peter Streete, often spoke of witches. They rush to the theater and investigate why it is built as a tetradecagal. They then head to Bethlehem Royal Hospital, where Streete was committed after he spoke of witchcraft.

The actors rehearse their lines and summon a spirit, but they agree not to speak of it for fear of being committed. Meanwhile, our travelers meet with Streete and find him catatonic, but the Doctor uses his telepathy to help the architect to unlock his memories.

They’re also upset to find that the hospital’s inhabitants are whipped to entertain the gentry.

Streete reveals that the witches dictated the design of the Globe Theater. When the design was complete, the witches broke him and he ended up in the hospital. The discussion is stopped when Mother Doomfinger arrives and kills Streete with a single touch. The Doctor challenges her, and after he deduces that the fourteen walls of the theater are based on the fourteen stars of the Rexel configuration, he names Doomfinger as a Carrionite. The witch disappears as the Doctor explains that their “magic” is really an ancient science based on the power of words.

Lillith promises to kill the Doctor. Because that’s what she does.

The Carrionites vanished at the dawn of the universe, in the Dark Times, leaving it up to debate whether or not they actually existed. The Doctor deduces that the new play was supplied by the Carrionites, and its recitation will bring about the end of the world as focused by the lens of the Globe Theater. The Bard heads for the theater to stop the play as the Doctor and Martha rush to stop the Carrionites.

Bloodtide and Doomfinger use their power to stop Shakespeare. Meanwhile, the Doctor explains that time travel’s cause-and-effect is kind of like Back to the Future. They enter the house and confront Lillith. The witch names Martha, knocking her out instead of killing her since she’s out of her proper time. She attempts to name the Doctor but doesn’t succeed. She also tries to use Rose’s name, but that only makes the Doctor fight harder to save humanity.

She explains that the Eternals eventually found the word to banish the Carrionites into darkness, but the three “witches” used the power of Shakespeare’s grief over his young son’s death to escape.

She tries seducing him and fails, so she steals a lock of hair to weave into a puppet (or rather, a DNA replication module). Lillith stabs the puppet and the Doctor collapses, relying on Martha to restart the heart that the witch attacked. Lillith flies away to the theater.

As the travelers rush to the theater, the actors speak the words that open a portal and release a violent storm of energy. Shakespeare joins the travelers and the Doctor encourages him to reverse the magic through his wordsmithing. The Bard stumbles over the last word and Martha supplies “expelliarmus” ala JK Rowling.

The Carrionites and all the copies of the play are sucked into oblivion, and with the portal closed, the assembled audience erupts in applause. The Doctor finds the Carrionite globe and the witches trapped within. As morning dawns, Shakespeare flirts once again with Martha as the Doctor plays with props, including a skull that reminds him of the Sycorax. He also fits the playwright with a neck brace that looks historically familiar.

As the Doctor and Martha bid the Bard farewell, he reveals that he knows about their true nature as travelers in time and space. The scene is broken up by the arrival of Queen Elizabeth I. The Doctor is ecstatic to finally meet her, but the queen demands that the Doctor be executed for reasons unknown.

The travelers run, chased by guards, and barely enter the TARDIS before an arrow slams into the door.

And off they go again.

 

This was another fun adventure that capitalized on Martha learning about the new universe around her. It was especially fun for the Doctor to hang a lampshade on that with his remark about having to break in new companions.

The references to the franchise were particularly deep. The Doctor’s mind-reading ability came back into play (The Girl in the Fireplace, Fear Her, and The Sensorites), and the arrow in the TARDIS called back to both An Unearthly Child and Silver Nemesis.

We also get a call-back to the Eternals, first introduced in Enlightenment, and the concept of witches is not a new one in this franchise.

Behind the scenes, we’ll continue to see the witches’ loft as Sarah Jane’s attic, a move that helped to pay for what became one of Doctor Who‘s most costly productions.

It’s hard to find complaints about this story. Even the blossoming relationship between the Doctor and Martha isn’t terribly oppressive. If I had one issue to highlight, the chroma keying process was a bit off in the opening scenes and in the shots as our heroes rush for the Globe Theater.

Otherwise, this was a fun adventure with roots deep in franchise history.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Gridlock

 

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 #184: Smith and Jones

Doctor Who: Smith and Jones
(1 episode, s03e01, 2007)

 

It’s a coincidence, but what a fitting story to chronicle just after Apollo 11’s fiftieth anniversary.

Martha Jones is on her way to work when her mobile rings several times, each caller talking to her about her brother’s twenty-first birthday. In the midst of all these calls, she’s interrupted by a certain Time Lord who demonstrably takes off his tie. Once at the hospital, Martha bumps into a helmet-clad motorcycle rider in black, changes clothes, and tends to her patients as a medical student.

After dealing with a patient experiencing a salt deficiency, she spots two more motorcycle riders before moving on to her second patient: John Smith. The man has two heartbeats and is complaining of abdominal pain. Martha examines him and each of the medical students talks about the rise of static electricity as they move on to the next patient.

Later on, Martha talks to her sister on the phone and discovers that the storm outside is focused directly over the hospital. As John Smith walks by, the rain changes direction – straight up! – and the building rumbles as lightning strikes. Looking outside, Martha discovers that the hospital has been moved to the surface of the moon.

That cause a bit of consternation among the occupants. Okay, more like a riot.

Martha and her co-worker, Julia Swales, take stock of the situation. As Martha remarks that the building isn’t airtight – they should have died from asphyxiation long ago – John Smith congratulates her on her intuition and invites her to join him. They stand on a balcony in the Earth-light, breathe deep, and discuss extraterrestrials on Earth. From Big Ben to the Christmas invasion and the Battle of Canary Wharf (where Martha lost her nearly identical cousin, Adeola), Martha believes in aliens. John Smith introduces himself as the Doctor and apologizes for not saving Martha’s cousin. That event is still fresh in his mind.

Then they meet the Judoon.

Huge cylindrical ships land nearby and an army marches on the hospital. Meanwhile, the lady with the salt deficiency introduces Mr. Stoker, the medical student supervisor, to her friends in the motorcycle helmets. She also uses a bendy straw to start drinking his blood.

The Judoon storm the hospital, revealing themselves as rhinoceros-faced aliens, and use a universal translator to learn English. They catalog everyone they meet as human, complete with an X on each captive’s hands. Meanwhile, the Doctor tells Martha that the Judoon are police-for-hire, and if they find a non-human criminal hiding in the hospital, they will execute everyone inside as an accomplice. One patient tries to stop the Judoon with a vase to the head and he is immediately executed for assault.

Justice is swift.

The Doctor, being non-human, skulks away with Martha and tries to hack the computer system with the sonic screwdriver. He tells Martha that he spotted alien power cores a few days back and checked into the hospital as a patient to look around. Martha decides to ask Stoker for help in finding anyone with unusual symptoms, finds Florence enjoying her blood beverage, and the chase is on.

The Doctor and Martha take refuge in a radiology suite and the Doctor ambushes one of the motorcycle gang with an X-ray machine. He blasts the creature – a Slab, leather through and through – with 5000 times the radiation of a normal X-ray. He absorbs the rest of the roentgen (gamma) radiation and dumps it into his shoe, then ditches the other one to balance himself out. Barefoot on the moon, the Doctor finds that his sonic screwdriver has been destroyed before realizing that Florence can now pose as human thanks to her hemoglobin smoothie.

Sure enough, she’s soon cataloged as human.

The other Slab searches for the Doctor and Martha while she asks the Time Lord about traveling companions. They’re ambushed by Judoon who catalog the Doctor as non-human – Martha is truly surprised – and they run to the floor below. Since the Judoon are methodical, they won’t revisit a floor they’ve already audited. The pair find the exsanguinated Stoker, discover that the oxygen supply is starting to dwindle, and separate as the Judoon (surprisingly) storm the floor. The Doctor kisses Martha before running for the MRI suite where he finds Florence modifying the imager to fry every biologic within 250,000 miles. She’s intent on using the Judoon ships to escape.

The Doctor poses as a human and verbally spars with Florence. He mentions that the Judoon are changing their scans so Florence refreshes her disguise by drinking the Doctor’s blood. The Judoon barge in and scan the Doctor, declaring him deceased. Martha scans Florence, revealing her as non-human. Florence, a plasmavore, sets her MRI plan in motion before being executed (along with the Slab) and the Judoon leave.

Meanwhile, the hospital is about to explode.

Martha returns to the Doctor and performs a modified version of CPR, bringing him back to life. With oxygen levels critically low, the Doctor stops the MRI by pulling the plug and then carries Martha to a window as the Judoon lift off. Before they clear the moon’s gravity, they reverse the teleport process and return the hospital to Earth.

In the chaos that follows later, Martha watches as the Doctor enters the TARDIS and dematerializes. She goes home and gets dressed for her brother’s party, an event where Martha is mocked for her moon story – the public cover story is that everyone was drugged – before her family storms off. She spots the Doctor and follows him to the TARDIS. He offers Martha the chance to join him and she eventually joins him.

The “bigger on the inside” moment completely blows her mind.

The Doctor mentions his former companion, Rose, and tells Martha that she is definitely not replacing her. Martha replies that, despite the earlier kiss, she’s only interested in humans. The Doctor sets a course and the TARDIS hurtles away through the vortex.

 

The thing that impresses me most about this episode is the chemistry between Freema Agyeman and David Tennant. The spark is immediate and coupled with the pacing and the dialogue, this story is just fun. Martha is likable and smart, and she plays well with the Tenth Doctor’s zaniness. The downside, of course, is that the hints of a future romantic relationship are far too strong. We just left that party in Pete’s World.

The whole Saxon thread is back with this story after being teased in The Runaway Bride and Captain Jack Harkness. This season’s “Bad Wolf” gives us the added benefit that the mysterious stranger believes in life among the stars. We also get some callbacks as the Ninth Doctor’s sonic is destroyed – the last time we lost a sonic screwdriver like that was in the Fifth Doctor‘s era, and it was like losing “an old friend” –  and the Tenth Doctor muses about his love of bananas.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Code

 

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.

 

 

Debrief: Atlanta Comic Con 2019

Debrief: Atlanta Comic Con 2019
Atlanta, GA – July 12-14, 2019

 

 

Saturday night’s all right for geeking out! Atlanta Comic Con 2019 has come and gone and this year was a blast. My involvement was limited to the panels in one day, but it was a fun day to be there.

After a trip on MARTA and a short walk, everything started with a visit to DougPool7 who was lounging on a beach chair by the ticket lines. I have seen a lot of Deadpool cosplays over the years, but this one really made me laugh.

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Deadpool on Vacation! #AtlantaComicCon

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You can find some more of his vacation antics on his YouTube channel.

Most of my time and all of my panels for the day involved a Drop of Mikes, which you may remember after the Council of Michaels that we assembled at Dragon Con 2018. The first panel of the day was So You Want to Start a Podcast with Mike Faber and Michael “Howdy” Gordon.

We had a great discussion with the audience as we talked about how to start a podcast, why you’d want to in the first place, and the basics of Podcasting 101. Once again, I promoted Tee Morris and his fantastic reference book Podcasting for Dummies. We also fielded a simple question after mentioning that, in general, no one is going to get rich and famous as a podcaster: “Why bother?”

We were pretty unanimous with the answer: Podcasting is a hobby and a labor of love, and as long as it remains fun, it’s still a worthy pursuit.

All in all, the audience was content with our advice. We fielded a few questions and offered a few more tidbits after the panel was over, and then we joined up with Michael Bailey to walk the con floor for a bit.

The four of us reconvened for The MCU: What Now?, our panel on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We had a wonderful turnout for the panel, even after half a row left when we told them that we would be discussing the most recent Spider-Man film. It’s entirely fair that they left, but we knew that couldn’t have an authentic discussion about the future of Marvel in film without including the twists and turns in Spider-Man: Far From Home.

This panel was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a while. The questions were intelligent and engaging, especially from the kids in a pretty diverse audience. There was also a spirited discussion about whether or not Thanos could wield Mjolnir with was quite enlightening. They actually changed my mind after the panel.

From this point, we bid the Fabers adieu and settled in for the afternoon and evening. Mike Gordon, Michael Bailey, and I grabbed some lunch, caught up on all the events since the last time we had been together, and toured the show floor until it closed at 7pm. After that, we settled on a bench in the lobby area and waited for our 10:30pm panel.

It was fun to watch the cosplayers and chat about all things geek – Bailey’s expertise on all-things comics is helpful in filling the gaps in my knowledge – but we were certainly baffled about scheduling a Batman retrospective panel so late in the night.

Regardless, after the awesomeness that was this Black Adam cosplayer, it was time for Holy Pop Culture: Batman at 80.

The Batman panel was pretty fun. Based on the time, we were worried about having an audience, but fifteen diehard Bat-fans (and one dude who wanted a relatively quiet place to catch some shuteye) joined in the fun. Michael Bailey led the discussion from Batman’s origins in Detective Comics through his evolution and rise over the decades to the character’s unfathomable popularity today.

After that, it was time to head home.

I’d like to thank the staff at Atlanta Comic Con for their hospitality and hard work. I’m definitely looking forward to visiting (and hopefully participating) again in 2020. I also extend a huge thanks to the Michaels – Faber, Gordon, and Bailey – for a great day of camaraderie and geeky fun.