The 2019 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2019 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

 

One of the holiday season traditions in my household is the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar. These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. Among my favorites over the years are the winter Chewbacca, the rebel pilot snowman, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers.

This year’s box spanned the Skywalker Saga through The Last Jedi. A couple of my favorites were the X-Wing build and the mynock, the latter being a unique approach to the advent calendar.

As you can see, the day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition.

I hope this holiday season finds you and yours well. Stay warm, stay safe, and see you next year.

 

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Day 19: Mynock #LEGO #StarWars #AdventCalendar

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Timestamp #TW17: Meat

Torchwood: Meat
(1 episode, s02e04, 2008)

 

Relationships are tough, but in Torchwood they are tougher.

Rhys is driving down the road, singing along to an advertising jingle, when his phone rings. Responding to news of a car accident, he finds that one of his company lorries has overturned and the driver has died. As he talks with the police officer, he watches as the Torchwood SUV pulls up and Gwen gets out.

He had no idea who she actually worked for.

The delivery truck was carrying meat, all of which Torchwood Three confiscates and takes back to the Hub for analysis. Gwen recognizes the lorry as one from Rhys’s company, and as they depart, Rhys tries to follow the SUV but is blocked by the police.

Owen analyzes the meat and discovers that the stamp that marks the product as fit for human consumption is a fake. Tosh calls Rhys’s company, posing as the police, and finds that the meat comes from Harries & Harries. Owen figures that the meat is alien and has been on the market for some time, and the team discusses the case over pizza (from which they remove the meat toppings).

Owen asks to see Gwen and she heads home. He tries to get the truth out of her, but she doesn’t break. When she returns to work, Rhys follows and watches her meet with Jack near the Roald Dahl Plass entrance to the Hub. When Gwen and Jack head to the meat factory, Rhys follows and is subsequently discovered. Jack and Gwen notice Rhys being taken and assume that he’s involved.

Rhys is taken inside the factory and questioned. He poses as a friendly face, suggesting that he could pick up where the former driver left off. While he’s inside, he discovers the source of the meat: An alien being that regenerates whenever someone slices a piece off of it.

It’s endless torture for the creature.

Rhys leaves the factory and returns home. Gwen’s not far behind him and they have a falling out over the whole affair. Gwen finally admits that she works for Torchwood, but Rhys doesn’t believe the scope of her career. So she shows him.

She takes him to the Hub and he sees everything from the invisible lift to Myfanwy the pterodactyl. He meets Jack, Owen, Tosh, and Ianto and learns what Torchwood does. He tells them what he saw in the warehouse, and after some conflict with Jack, reveals that he has applied to be the new delivery boy.

Jack calls for a team meeting, including Rhys.

Rhys provides the lay of the land, but Gwen is adamant that he doesn’t get involved. The plan ends involving stun guns, saving the alien, and sending it home through the Rift. Owen works on a model of what the creature looks like while Tosh brings him a sandwich. She hints at possibly starting a relationship with someone, but Owen is oblivious to her advances.

Rhys and Jack pick up the truck for the infiltration. While they drive, Jack explains why he picked Gwen for Torchwood. The team loads up in the back of the van and Rhys takes them to the warehouse. When Rhys tries to stage a distraction so the team can exit the van, he finds out that they’ve already gone.

Inside the warehouse, Jack, Gwen, and Tosh find the “cash cow” and discover that it is sentient, but their cover is soon blown and Ianto and Rhys are captured. They are taken by gunpoint to the creature, forcing Gwen to reveal herself. Tosh and Jack are also discovered, and Jack explains what the workers have on their hands. Ianto unties himself as Rhys is shot, and the ensuing fight prompts the creature to strain at its bindings.

Owen develops a sedative while the team dodges the out of control beast. Ianto apprehends the remaining workers as Owen realizes that sedatives won’t work, so he euthanizes the creature instead. Jack mourns for the loss as Owen tends to Rhys’s wounds.

Back at the Hub, Owen patches Rhys as Jack informs him that the workers have been given Retcon. The creature has been incinerated. Jack privately tells Gwen that Rhys will need to forget his adventure, and she requests to be the one to give him the Retcon.

She decides that she can’t do it. She gives Jack an impassioned speech and he relents, unwilling to fire her and lose her from the team.

He gives her the rest of the day off. Torchwood Three has a new team member.

 

Starting with the unnamed creature, the torture is heartbreaking. The howls and screams built instant sympathy, and the need to euthanize it was tragic. The actors completely sold all of it.

Noting, of course, that the creature wasn’t the point of the episode, it was great to see the team dealing with the repercussions of exposing their secret identity and not pushing the reset button less than an hour later. The Retconning of Rhys in Combat was troubling since it betrayed everything about a trusting relationship. This story builds an authentic yet complicated relationship for Rhys and Gwen, which makes them better characters overall.

On a final note, Jack’s flirtation has certainly amplified this season. This is the Jack that we all know and love.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Adam

 

 

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 #TW16: To the Last Man

Torchwood: To the Last Man
(1 episode, s02e03, 2008)

 

A story of love and loss across time.

Cardiff, 1918: At the climax of World War I, Gerald Kneale and Harriet Derbyshire of the Torchwood Institute are investigating reports of ghost activity at St. Teilo’s Military Hospital. Heading into the ward, they see a bright light and a glimpse into the future where Tosh and a soldier named Tommy are huddled. Tommy tells the 1918 Torchwood team that they need to take his earlier incarnation from the recovery ward to ensure his existence in the future.

Cardiff, 21st century: Tosh dances about in her home as she gets ready for work, then goes to the Hub where Torchwood Three is about to awaken Tommy Brockless from cryogenic hibernation. Apparently, they have to revive him every twelve months, and Tosh is able to calm him down when he comes back to life.

Tommy settles in for a meal with the team, complimenting Tosh on her dress while he eats. Later on, during his examination, he recites name, rank, regiment, and parents’ death dates. Elsewhere, Jack briefs Gwen on the events from 1918 where time zones were colliding. Agents Kneale and Derbyshire left orders sealed with a temporal lock, and when the time is right, Tommy’s presence will prevent the temporal collision from spreading to the rest of the world.

Tosh takes Tommy outside for a day in the world while Gwen looks into the 1918 Torchwood team. Gwen decides to investigate the hospital. She finds a man with a missing leg who vanishes and a team of firemen who intend to demolish the building. Jack arrives soon after and theorizes that the workers may have released psychic trauma that has charged the Rift. As the workers continue to tear into the building, Jack feels a burst of energy and sees a man being wheeled down the hallway. Gwen sees an injured man in a chair being tended to by a nurse. Unlike all of the other ghost sightings, however, this time the nurse notices her. Gwen’s not supposed to be here, she says as she chases her back.

Tommy and Tosh share drinks over a pool game. Tommy sees news from hostilities in Iraq on the television and laments the fact that there is always a war somewhere. He asks if the human race is worth saving, and Tosh immediately says yes. He feels a bit of the psychic energy from the hospital before the pair head to the boardwalk. Tommy gives Tosh a kiss, but she returns some mixed signals before kissing him back. It’s evident that they’re falling for each other, but before anything else can happen, Jack calls them to the Hub.

Demolishing the hospital is the trigger.

After a briefing, the team heads for the hospital to start setting up rift monitors. Owen cautions Tosh about her relationship with Tommy, telling her that he doesn’t want to see her get hurt. Gwen calls them with a strange note from the 1918 report: “Through a hole in the external wall, we hear the roar of great engines. Outside is a woman in strange armor, ripping a Union Jack, perhaps some future heroine of the Empire.” Owen spots a car advertisement through a hole in the wall matching the description. Today is the day, punctuated by the Rift monitors alarming.

On cue, the temporal lock lifts and Jack reads through his orders from 1918. The instructions are for Tommy and Tosh: Tommy needs to be ready to jump through the fracture when it opens, leaving present Tommy trapped in the past after sealing the fracture with a Rift Manipulator.

Separately, Jack tells Tosh that Tommy will die three weeks after returning. His mind will revert to the way it was before being frozen, shell-shocked from the war, and he will be executed for cowardice. Tosh protests, but she has no choice.

Ianto pulls Tommy’s hospital attire out of storage, preparing him for his trip. Tommy then joins the rest of the team in the Hub and wonders what to do with the rest of his time. Tosh offers to take him to her place for the night. Back at the Hub, Ianto asks if Jack could return to his own time as well, but Jack wouldn’t want to sacrifice all of the amazing things he’s done since leaving home.

Both couples consummate their respective relationships, but Tosh’s is bittersweet.

At 6:30 am, the Rift monitors alarm and ghosts begin to appear. Tommy hears the 1918 Torchwood team speaking to his past self, realizing that Torchwood took him for this purpose, and he begins to question his role in this operation. He says that Torchwood is no better than the Army, knowing that if he goes back, he’ll be headed back to the front.

Tosh comforts him as the fracture begins. They find themselves in 1918 and Tosh tells Tommy that he has to step up and save the universe. He issues his orders to Torchwood 1918. before Tosh kisses him goodbye. Tommy heads to bed like he’d never been away.

Tommy watches as Torchwood 1918 takes his previous self away. As he climbs into bed, he doesn’t trigger the device. Tosh engineers a psychic projection so that someone can remind him to use the key. Tosh volunteers since Tommy trusts her the most. Once projected into the past, she helps him to activate the key and seal the fracture.

Tosh laments Tommy’s sacrifice as she packs his modern era clothes away. Jack thanks her as she leaves. Outside, Owen tells her that she saved the world. Tosh disagrees: Tommy saved the world.

But she wonders if humanity is worth it.

 

It was great to see Naoko Mori in the spotlight as Tosh. The last episodes with her in a major role were Greeks Bearing Gifts and Captain Jack Harkness (also a time shift episode involving a world war), and they are few and far between. We also get a good look at the Torchwood Institute as it would have functioned closer to its inception.

There was a humorous callback to Doctor Who with Tommy’s remark about how silly it would be to save the world in pajamas. The Tenth Doctor embraced that silliness just after his regeneration.

Overall, this story was a breath of fresh air in a franchise that often deals with darkness and drama. It handled weighty issues like sacrifice and historical approaches to PTSD while letting the sun in for a little bit. That is much appreciated.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Meat

 

 

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 #TW15: Sleeper

Torchwood: Sleeper
(1 episode, s02e02, 2008)

 

What is humanity?

Beth and Mike, a happily married couple, are fast asleep when an intruder startles them awake. Mike faces the danger with a cricket bat while Beth calls the police. Two burglars enter the room, knock Mike out, and assault Beth. The criminals scream as the lights grow brighter.

Torchwood Three is called to the scene. One of the burglars is dead but the other is severely injured. Tosh and Jack investigate the bedroom while Gwen and Owen follow the ambulance to the hospital to interview the survivors. Both Jack and Owen suspect Beth in the incident, but Beth remembers nothing. The surviving criminal eventually succumbs to his injuries, but before he dies, he tells Gwen that “the woman” did it.

Beth is taken to the Hub for interrogation. Beth still can’t remember anything, even in the face of crime scene photographs. A power surge occurs, just like one at the hospital, and Gwen takes a more gentle approach. Tosh tries a body scan, but nothing is out of the ordinary. Things get weird when Owen tries to draw blood and two needles break against her flesh. Owen tries a scalpel with the same result. Beth also tells him that she’s never been sick.

Jack immediately believes that she’s an alien.

When Beth says that there’s no such thing, he shows her the captive Weevil, and it cowers before her. Beth, scared out of her mind, begs for a way to prove herself to him, so Jack brings the mind probe out of storage. Ianto objects since the last subject to be probed ended up exploded, but Jack assures him that it won’t happen again. Tosh commences the probe, lights flicker, and Beth passes out before sitting upright and displaying a lighted ridge-like formation on her arm. Beth repeats a series of words in an alien language, and Jack is satisfied when he recognizes them as name, rank, and serial number.

Jack tells the team about this species. It isn’t much since they don’t tend to leave survivors. Cell 114 infiltrate planets by disguising themselves as local inhabitants and relay the information home, leaving their sleeper agents completely unaware and cloaked in false identities. The implant in Beth’s arm is protected by a force field.

Jack shares the results with Beth, leaving her distraught. Gwen assures her that humanity doesn’t just lie in the body but in the mind as well. Jack rebuts, telling Beth that she will transform on invasion day and the Cell 114 inside her will take over.

Beth is in the middle of an identity crisis.

The team debates over what to do with her. Tosh suggests cryogenic storage with an electromagnetic pulse to disable the transmitter. Before she’s sedated, Beth asks for euthanasia if they can’t keep her humanity intact. Unbeknownst to the team, a secondary transmitter activates, waking sleeper agents nearby who kill loved ones and abandon tasks in progress.

The Cell within Beth awakens and breaks out of the vault. She escapes through the tunnels, and the team assumes that she showed them exactly what they wanted to see. Meanwhile, Beth takes advantage of her status off the alien network to visit Mike and say goodbye. The farewells become too much and Beth accidentally impales Mike with an alien blade. Jack and Gwen arrive and drag her away.

Across town, one of the sleeper agents kills Patrick Grainger, a local council leader. Another sleeper agent uses a fuel tanker to destroy a highway and underground fuel pipeline. More and more sleepers are scrambled to seed chaos and prepare the planet for invasion. The demand information from Beth and urge her to connect to the network. She reveals that there is only one agent left.

While the team panics about loss communications, Jack rigs a CB radio to reach them. They track the sleeper to an abandoned farm which was a front for a coalmine housing ten nuclear warheads. The soldiers guarding the arsenal are unable to stop him. When Jack and Gwen arrive, they ram him with the SUV.

The sleeper runs Jack through with the arm-sword while Gwen disables the transmitter. The sleeper tells Jack that they’re too late before committing suicide by bomb: The invasion is already underway.

Beth returns to the Hub for cryogenic freezing. She feels guilty for what she has done, but fears becoming an uncaring murderer. She thanks Gwen for her compassion, asking her to remember who Beth was before holding Gwen hostage with the arm-blade. Gwen begs the team not to kill Beth, realizing that Beth wants to them to kill her while she’s still human. She succeeds by threatening Gwen, falling dead as the team opens fire.

Gwen and Jack talk later, discussing the upcoming wedding and the invasion. Gwen believes that even if they haven’t stopped it, they know enough now to fight when the day comes.

 

This was a pretty straightforward story that outlined a hidden threat in society. The drama surrounding Beth’s humanity and identity crisis was riveting and engaging, and it kept the episode from becoming another monster-of-the-week bonanza.

The one link back to the continuing Doctor Who mythology was the mind probe, an element mentioned before in Frontier in Space and The Five Doctors. Other than that, this is all-new territory with an all-new threat.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: To the Last Man

 

 

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 #TW14: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Torchwood: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
(1 episode, s02e01, 2008)

 

Nothing good happens at midnight in Cardiff.

As evidence of that claim, a sports car pulls up and motions an elderly lady across the street. When the light turns green, the car speeds off, but Torchwood is in pursuit. After a short chase, the team catches up to the Blowfish and Owen shoots out the car’s tires. They find the Blowfish holding a family hostage. The Blowfish taunts the team and urges Ianto to shoot him, but a mysterious gunman shoots the Blowfish between the eyes.

Yes, Jack, they missed you.

Back at the Hub, Gwen airs her frustrations with Jack’s disappearance. Jack says that he found his Doctor, but came back for the team. The moment is interrupted by Rift activity as a mysterious man appears from thin air and walks into a mugging. This stranger, Captain John Hart, solves the problem by dropping the mugger off the side of the car park. He threatens the victim, vowing that he was never there, and then retires to a nearby club. He tells everyone who he doesn’t find attractive to leave, and when that doesn’t work, he pulls two handguns. The crowd panics.

While Torchwood Three investigates the dead mugger, Jack gets a holographic message from John. After a nod to Star Wars, Jack rushes off to find the new arrival. Inside Bar Reunion, there’s a reunion involving kissing, fighting, and drinking to the sounds of Blur.

Torchwood Three responds to the disturbance, Jack and John catch up. John went to rehab for drink, drugs, sex, and murder. Jack finds out that the Time Agency has been shut down with only seven agents left in the field. John ridicules the team name – “Oh, not Excalibur?” is a nice nod to the original pitch for the show – and explains that they were partners for two weeks. Except that it was two weeks in a time loop, so it was more like five years.

John finally explains that he’s looking for three deadly radiation cluster bombs scattered across Cardiff. They must be found and neutralized or else the Earth is in danger. The team takes John back to the Hub (which is missing a pterodactyl) and scan him for weapons. He has a lot of them.

Gwen takes Jack aside and asks about his time away. Jack talks about seeing the end of the world but tells Gwen that he came back for her. Gwen reveals that she’s engaged to Rhys, mostly because “no one else will have” her. Well, then, back to work.

Tosh finds the bomb locations and Gwen organizes teams to search in pairs: Jack and Ianto, Owen and Tosh, and Gwen and John. Jack takes Gwen aside and they hash out her plan to figure out what John is really up to. Jack relents, but warns her not trust him and not to let John kiss her.

Gwen and John find the first cluster bomb at a container shipping yard. John double-crossed Gwen by kissing her with poisoned lip gloss. Gwen is paralyzed with a time limit of two hours before her organs shut down. John locks her in the container and leaves, disposing of her mobile phone along the way.

Owen and Tosh search through an abandoned building. They find the bomb, but John ambushes them. Tosh is knocked out and Owen takes a bullet to the hip. Elsewhere, Jack and Ianto search an office building and sort through their relationship. Jack goes to the roof while Ianto looks through the office floor. Ianto is ambushed by John and told to help his friends. John goes to the roof, and after Jack throws the final bomb over the side, John pushes the good captain over for good measure.

The murder rehab never worked.

Ianto goes to Owen and Tosh. After dressing the gunshot, they all go to the docks and rescue Gwen.

Meanwhile, John takes Jack’s wrist device and returns to the Hub. He retrieves a pyramid-shaped device from the Blowfish’s corpse but is surprised by the Torchwood team… including a resurrected Jack Harkness. John reveals that there are no cluster bombs, but rather an Arcadian diamond that belonged to a former lover that he killed. The “bombs” were a tracking system to find the diamond, but the loot is a trap. It turns out to be a bomb that locks onto the DNA of her murderer – John Hart – and will kill him in ten minutes.

John cuffs himself to Gwen and swallows the key, forcing the team to find a solution. They take John to the Rift where he first arrived while Jack and Owen develop a DNA plan. They inject John with the DNA of every Torchwood member, forcing the bomb to detach. Jack tosses it into the Rift and the shock wave launches all of them back to the moment when John arrived.

John produces the key and unlocks the handcuffs. Gwen sucker punches him and Jack shows him the door. As John disappears into the Rift, he reveals something: “I found Gray.”

Jack is stunned, but won’t reveal who Gray is. The team gets back to work.

 

The team is pretty much right where we left them, though the tensions are high due to Jack’s disappearance. James Marsters – Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame – amps up that tension with a good dose of chaos thanks to Chris Chibnall’s fast-paced writing.

Otherwise, the threads are laid for the season ahead with John Hart, Gray, Gwen’s pending nuptials, and the team’s distrust of Jack, all starting with this exciting return episode.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Sleeper

 

 

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.