Timestamp #TW41: The Blood Line

Torchwood: The Blood Line
(1 episode, s04e10, 2011)

Timestamp TW41 The Blood Line

Everything changes… back.

Gwen stares out the window and relates a story about the day that her father was accused of thievery. Young Gwen offered to help pay back the money, but her dad taught her a lesson about impressions and honesty. He couldn’t stand being known as a dishonest man when he wasn’t. Gwen saw him as the nicest man in the world.

Today is the day that she kills him.

The two Torchwood teams prepare for the coming confrontation. Rex and Esther contact Director Shapiro for CIA assistance while keeping Jack, Gwen, and Oswald’s presence in Shanghai a secret. Unfortunately, that includes Charlotte, the mole in the agency. Meanwhile, The Mother plans to bomb the sites of The Blessing to keep it safe.

In Shanghai, Gwen locates the site but retreats to contact Jack when she gets whammied by the emotions surrounding it. Before they rendezvous with Gwen, Jack and Oswald have a heart-to-heart. Gwen takes a moment to call Rhys, who is working with Andy Davidson to gain access to the Cowbridge Overflow Camp so he can say a proper goodbye to Gwen’s father.

Across the planet, the CIA coordinates with the Argentinian army. Captain Federico Santos arrives with a detachment of soldiers, but a Three Families agent inside the detachment bombs the truck. The soldiers are all Category 1, the supply of Jack’s blood is destroyed, and Rex and Esther are presumed dead. Director Shapiro demands that they find the CIA mole immediately. Charlotte sets a bomb and leaves just as the trace is completed. The bomb makes everyone in the command center Category 1.

The two teams infiltrate their respective sites. Oswald objects to leaving a trail of Category 1 bodies and Gwen gets notification that Rhys has arrived at her father’s side. He only has ten minutes before the Category 1s are taken to the ovens. As Rhys comforts Gwen’s father, Andy comforts an unknown 15-year-old girl.

Jack, Gwen, and Oswald descend to the Blessing and are met by Jilly, The Mother, and three armed guards. Unfortunately for them, Jack has rigged Oswald with a suicide vest. Unfortunately for Torchwood, Rex and Esther have been captured and are being held at gunpoint by the Three Families. The standoff is stalemated when Jack presents his blood to the Blessing. He warns The Mother to be very, very careful with him.

Oswald, exposed to his very soul before the Blessing, almost loses himself in the reflection of his sin. Jack brings him back before he and Gwen muse about the origins of the Blessing. Jack muses about the Doctor, Silurians, the Racnoss, and huon energy before admitting that he has no idea where it came from. It projects a morphic field in symbiosis with the human race, but the Families fed Jack’s blood to the anomaly. The Blessing transformed the blood’s pattern into a gift for all humankind and the Families took advantage of the worldwide disruption in a form of eugenics.

In order to secure the plan, the Families drew Jack out of hiding and attempted to kill him. Jack threatens to bleed into it and reset the planet’s mortality, but the Families remind him that it has to be introduced from both sides simultaneously. As the standoff intensifies, Rex reveals that Esther transfused Jack’s blood into him. The destroyed blood was a ruse.

To stop the salvation of the world, the Families mortally wound Esther. As Rex descends into sorrow, Gwen talks him back off the ledge. Together, Rex and Jack drain themselves into the Blessing.

Death returns to the world in a single breath as every Category 1 says goodbye.

Both ends of the Blessing begin to tear themselves apart. Jack returns to life as his immortality is restored while Oswald and Rex eliminate the Families representatives and Gwen knocks Jilly out. Rex and Esther, both on the edge of death, are retrieved by Captain Santos. Jilly disappears into the explosion at Shanghai.

Several months later, Jilly is found by her contact in the Families and offered a place to restart her life in charge of Plan B. Elsewhere, the Torchwood team joins Charlotte and Rex at Esther’s funeral. Charlotte offers her condolences to Rex before leaving. Rex gets an update about the trace program that Shapiro was running and finds out that Charlotte was the mole. She shoots Rex and is gunned down by the other agents in attendance. Rex is declared dead.

And then comes back to life. His wounds, including the Miracle Day wound, all heal. He is now immortal.

Everyone is surprised, but none more so than Rex.


The production team killed the wrong person.

No, seriously. In terms of character growth over the ten episodes of Miracle Day, Esther moved leaps and bounds over Rex. By killing her off, they not only wasted that character development, they also committed the narrative sin of fridging her in order to motivate Rex.

That trope originates from the comics, specifically Green Lantern. In that story, the villain Major Force left the corpse of then-Green Lantern Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, literally stuffed into a refrigerator. The idea is to spur the hero into action by brutalizing someone that they care about. It was later named and shamed by comic book writer Gail Simone.

In this case, Esther was fridged in order to motivate Rex. It’s lazy writing that immediately devalues Esther as a character. No matter what happened with her to this point, her final intrinsic narrative value is a plot device to motivate a stereotypical action hero.

It’s also sad, because the story and characters could have been better served. Keep Rex as the vessel for Jack’s blood, an idea that came from Esther to begin with, and transfer the Gwen-shooting-Jack action to Esther instead. Let Rex die for the world and Esther come out with a completed growth arc that we watched happen over ten episodes of television. She could also end up with immortality, for all the good that it does Torchwood after this point, as a reward of sorts.

Other than that rather large elephant in the room, the finale was entertaining enough, if not a bit bloated (as was the rest of the Miracle Day season). The return of death to the world was emotionally stirring. Oswald was finally useful.

The cliffhanger itself is rather disappointing in the end given that this marks the end of Torchwood on television. In fact, Rex Matheson hasn’t appeared on television again to date. He’s been in two novels, one of which is a prequel, and an audio drama, but his parts in the post-Miracle Day universe appear to be sparse.

How disappointing.

It should have been Esther who survived the Miracle.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Web of Lies

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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 #227: Night Terrors

Doctor Who: Night Terrors
(1 episode, s06e09, 2011)

Timestamp 227 Night Terrors

The Doctor makes a house call.

It’s nighttime and time for little George to go to bed. Unfortunately, he’s afraid to do so. His mom flips the lights five times to ward off evil and tells the boy to put his fears in his cupboard. He also whispers a plea to the heavens, “Please save me from the monsters,” before he heads to bed. While George’s parents worry that he needs a doctor, the plea reaches the psychic paper and the Doctor sets a course.

The TARDIS materializes on the street below and the Doctor and the Ponds head up to find George’s apartment. As the group splits up, they encounter several interesting characters including the elderly Mrs. Rossiter, landlord Jim Purcell, and a mother and her creepy twin daughters. Every one of them are suspicious and slam the door on their traveling visitors.

George overhears Rory joking about the monsters eating the kid, but the Doctor notices when George peeks through the window. The Doctor sends the Ponds on a wild goose chase while he goes to meet George alone. The Ponds end up in an elevator that plummets to the ground and spirits them away. Similarly, Mrs. Rossiter is taken away as she’s consumed by a garbage pile.

George’s father Alex mistakes the Doctor for a social worker. Alex insists that George is “scared to death of everything” and explains that they established the tradition of putting everything scary into the cupboard. When George startles at the sound of the elevator, he meets the Doctor. The Time Lord takes the opportunity to ask about the monsters.

The Ponds wake up in the dark. Rory thinks that they’re dead (or that they’ve time traveled) but they’re really in a dark and rather peculiar house. They find an electric lantern and a wooden pan designed to look like a copper one. They also find a giant glass eye in a drawer. As things get curiouser and curiouser, they get even more unnerved, especially by the strange giggling.

The Doctor tries to communicate with George, even to the point of opening the cupboard before a knock at the door interrupts them. Landlord Jim and his dog arrive to badger Alex about the money he owes, offering the Doctor the chance to use his sonic screwdriver. This both comforts George and allows the Doctor to scan the cupboard. What the Doctor finds in the scan rattles him. Jim leaves and Alex offers to open the cupboard, but the Doctor tells him to stop. George’s monsters are indeed real.

Alex is furious at the Doctor’s actions, but the Doctor is not swayed.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Rossiter is revealed to be alive in the mysterious house. The Ponds look for a way out but only seem to be getting closer to the eerie giggles. They open a door and find a child-like wooden doll with a large Funko Pop-like head. As they walk away, the doll creaks to life.

The Doctor finally decides to open the cupboard. When he does, he finds a host of items but nothing nefarious. At the same time, Landlord Jim is swallowed by his apartment floor. The Doctor has a bout of inspiration and quizzes Alex about George’s birth, but Alex can’t remember it. In fact, he blurts out that Claire can’t have children.

The answer lies with George.

The cupboard springs to life with bright lights, pulling the Doctor and Alex into the mysterious house. There, the Ponds watch as a creepy doll transforms Landlord Jim into a similar doll. The Doctor recognizes the house as a dollhouse, a psychic repository for all of George’s fears, and starts looking for a way out with Alex in tow. Luckily, Alex finds a pattern in the lights: They cycle on and off in fives.

Amy is captured and transformed by the dolls. The dolls also find the Doctor and Alex, but the sonic screwdriver is useless against wood. As he and Alex run, the Doctor realizes that George is a Tenza, an alien species that are like cuckoo birds. They find foster parents and adapt perfectly into what their parents want as their child, and George instinctively sought out Claire and Alex because they were unable to have kids. When something startled him, he started this subconscious cycle of fear.

The Doctor pleads with George to end the cycle, but he realizes that the fear is based on Alex’s rejection of George. When George calls for help and the dolls swarm him, Alex instinctively springs into action and promises to protect him. This breaks the cycle and releases the captives.

The Ponds arrive in the elevator, Mrs. Rossiter emerges from the trash pile, and Landlord Jim wakes up on the floor with his dog. As Claire arrives home from work, she finds Alex and George laughing and giggling with the Doctor. Claire is amazed at the change, but the Doctor asks her to trust him. The Time Lord reassures Alex that everything will be okay before reuniting with the Ponds and returning to the TARDIS.

As they set a course for their next destination, the time and place of the Doctor’s death appears on the monitors, accompanied by a nursery rhyme:

“Tick, tock, goes the clock, even for the Doctor…”


On the one hand, this was a fun little story with a neat twist. Unfortunately, that twist comes with one of the weakest but most often employed tools in the Steven Moffatt era’s arsenal: The Doctor being the smartest character in the room.

As I’ve said before, the story loses its power and magic when the answers are just handed to the audience, and this is no exception. There were no indications in the narrative that George was the source of the problem aside from the five-light pattern. There was also no introduction of the Tenza or any other “cuckoo bird” analogues, making the revelation about George simply something that the Doctor yanked from thin air (or any applicable orifice). The same can be said about the dollhouse setting.

In fact, I checked. The Tenza have never been mentioned before this story, and they have never been mentioned again to this point. (And, no, the mention of Sherpa Tenzing wasn’t relevant at all.)

It’s not smart storytelling. In fact, it’s lazy, sloppy, and irritating. Part of the fun in any mystery is the ability for the audience to solve it. Without the very basis to reach the revelation, the audience is merely along for the ride.

There were some minor bright spots. As a fan of Poltergeist, I liked the parallel when the Doctor and Alex are sucked into the cupboard. I also liked how George’s message on the psychic paper was so strong that it persisted and both Rory and the Doctor could read it.

I also liked the fanciful listing of the Doctor’s favorite childhood tales: The Emperor Dalek’s New Clothes (a play on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes), The Three Little Sontarans (a play on The Three Little Pigs), and Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday (a play on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the 1970s stageplay Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys to Doomsday, and the 2008 audio adaptation Seven Keys to Doomsday).

Note that The Emperor Dalek’s New Clothes contradicts the claims that the First Doctor didn’t know of the Daleks before The Daleks. Also note Rule #1: The Doctor lies.

But, in the end, these little nuggets of fun can’t override a terribly constructed story. Especially one that insults the audience by pulling the rug out from under them.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Blood Line

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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.

Debrief: Dragon Con 2021

Debrief: Dragon Con 2021
Atlanta, GA – September 2 through September 6, 2021

Just like that, Dragon Con 2021 is in the books! And, wow, it was a weird year.

Attendance was reported at 42,000 and you could definitely feel it. Thanks to the pandemic precautions – proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test along with a 100 percent masking requirement – and attendance caps (including limits on daily sales), the crowds were significantly thinner. Let me tell you, though, I could get used to an attendance cap at Dragon Con. Maybe 65,000 to 70,000 in normal times?

Despite the smaller crowds, we did a lot of good work this year for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, raising $120,000 for that charity. That’s $10,000 more than we pulled together in 2019 with just over double the weekend crowd.

It was also a getaway that I really needed. With everything that’s been going on recently, I needed to see the geek family and get my mind orbiting around a lot of fun and creative things. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve missed these people.

It’s important to note that the Marriott and Hyatt were flooded with partiers at night who weren’t wearing face masks. It seemed that, once the sun went down, enforcement went out the window. Since I’m seeing several reports of attendees popping positive for COVID-19, panelists who refused to wear masks on panels, and vendors who went unmasked at their booths, I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone get tested for COVID-19 (both rapid and PCR if you can) and limit the spread as much as possible in the meantime.

There were a lot of naked respiratory orifices at Dragon Con 2021. Far. Too. Many.

Read More »

Culture on My Mind – Dragon Con Shenanigans 2021

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Dragon Con Shenanigans 2021
September 2, 2021

The Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track recently spent some time telling the good tales about Dragon Con and teasing a bit of what’s to come this year.

I joined Sue Kisenwether, ToniAnn Marini, Denise Lhamon, Jeff Burns, Sherman Burris, Darin Bush, Chris Cummins, Kevin Eldridge, and John Hudgens to… well… geek out. 

 


If you want to keep up with the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track in the off-season, the best ways to do that are on the YouTube channel and the Facebook group. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch. (Be sure to authorize StreamYard to work with Facebook if you play that way.)

If you want to join us for real life panels, we’ll be at Dragon Con 2021 over Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.

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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.

Donald Blane Cox – October 12, 1956 – August 22, 2021

Donald Blane Cox
October 12, 1956 – August 22, 2021

Blane Header

[Reprinted from the public obituary, courtesy of the Cook Family Funeral Home]

Donald Blane Cox, 64, of Silverdale, Washington, peacefully passed away on Sunday, August 22nd after a life well lived, if all too short. Born in Willet, California to Donald Duane Cox and Edna Hatch, Blane primarily grew up in Utah where he married his high school sweetheart, Tish.

Blane was talented in anything that he pursued in life. He had a passion for many things including woodwork and architecture, and he was always seeking perfection. He designed and built a home while simultaneously helping out with several projects initiated by family and friends. He loved to laugh with people and would often respond to the question “Do you mind?” with “Seldom, if ever.” With a quick mind, he would readily poke fun at a situation or even himself. Blane was an avid outdoorsman and loved to be among nature’s beauty while hiking, fishing, camping, or simply seeing the sights.

In his career, he did many things to support his family. He built boats at Starfire and then HydroSwift, performed aircraft maintenance at Hill Air Force Base and worked for the United States Navy in supply before transferring to sub maintenance. It was there that he worked up to supervisor over four maintenance shops.

Blane is survived by his wife, his sister, five sons, three daughters, five grandchildren, and a large extended family, including his dear friends. He will be sorely missed.


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Rabbit Rabbit – September 2021

Rabbit Rabbit
September 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 September.

History

September, deriving from the Latin for “seven”, was originally the seventh month in the original ten-month Roman calendar. When the calendar was reformed to add January and February, September became the ninth month.

September is the beginning of the ecclesiastical year in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is also the start of the academic year in many countries of the northern hemisphere, marking the season when children return to school after the summer break.

Roman observances for September include the religious festival Ludi Romani, originally celebrated from September 12th to September 14th, but later extended to the window of September 5th to September 19th. In the 1st century BC, an extra day to the month in honor of the deified Julius Caesar on September 4th.

Additionally, Epulum Jovis was held on September 13th, Ludi Triumphales was held from September 18th to 22th, and the Septimontium was celebrated in September (and on December 11th on later calendars). None of the Roman dates correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.

September was called “harvest month” in Charlemagne’s calendar, and corresponds in part to the Fructidor and the Vendémiaire of the French Republican Calendar. It is called Herbstmonat (harvest month) in Switzerland and Gerstmonath (barley month) among the Anglo-Saxons.

On Usenet, it is said that September 1993 (the Eternal September) never ended. It’s the same month that America Online began offering Usenet access to its many users, a move that overwhelmed the existing culture for online forums. Before then, Usenet was largely restricted to colleges, universities, and other research institutions.

The British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. In the British Empire that year, September 2nd was immediately followed by September 14th.

Observances

The September equinox takes place in this month with its associated observances. It is the Autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. On the astrological calendar, September is mostly in the sixth month and the first part of the seventh. That calendar begins at the end of March/Mars/Aries.

September’s observances include Amerindian Heritage Month (in Guyana), Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (in the United Kingdom), Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, and National Suicide Prevention Month.

The United States adds Turkish Heritage Month, Better Breakfast Month, Food Safety Education Month, National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Hydrocephalus Awareness Month, Pain Awareness Month, National Preparedness Month, National Prostate Health Month, National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and National Yoga Month. The country also adds a ton of food-based tributes, including National Bourbon Heritage Month, California Wine Month, National Chicken Month, National Honey Month, National Mushroom Month, National Italian Cheese Month, National Papaya Month, National Potato Month, National Rice Month, National Whole Grains Month, and National Wild Rice Month.

Trivia

  • September’s birthstone is the sapphire, which is believed to bring gifts of fulfillment, joy, prosperity, inner peace, and beauty
  • The western zodiac signs of September are Virgo (until September 22) and Libra (September 23 onwards).
  • The month’s birth flowers are the forget-me-not, morning glory and aster.

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.