Culture on My Mind – Sci-Fi Sports

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Sci-Fi Sports
February 28, 2022

The week, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track is celebrating the sports of science fiction as we come into March, which is mad for hoops or something.

On February 24th, the panel of Darin Bush (on Amazon, though the man really needs a website) and Shaun Rosado (pneumaz on Twitter) joined Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel for a celebration of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Dodging that bludger, bouncing on that trampoline, and doing some real podracing!


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be held once every two weeks (or every fortnight, if you will). If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the webs to the YouTube channel and/or the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

If you want to connect with the track, Joe, and/or Gary on the socials, you can find them on Twitter (ClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and sneezythesquid) and Instagram (SciFiClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and Gary_Mitchel). And, of course, to celebrate more pop culture awesomeness, you can find Dragon Con all year round on the internet, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The next panel will be on March 10th. The docket contains battling bands, a famous bloodsucker, and a bonus panel that shall remain nameless for now. You can find all of this and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp: A Star Trek Podcast.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

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

Culture on My Mind – The Book of Boba Fett

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Book of Boba Fett
February 21, 2022

The Book of Boba Fett has just recently ended on Disney+ and it is on my mind.

When the series was announced in a surprise stinger to The Mandalorian‘s second season finale, I was immediately struck by the name. The Book of conjured imagery of religious texts – particularly Christian, based on my upbringing – and unreliable narrators, which has been a theme of The Mandalorian‘s unique cult-like sect of wandering warriors. To that end, I expected The Book of Boba Fett to be the story of the resurrection and rebirth of the title character.

It’s a theme in keeping with the rest of Star Wars, which really is a collection of legendary tales. It is our modern mythology.

I have a complicated history with the character of Boba Fett. He debuted in the animated interlude of The Star Wars Holiday Special, returned for his best-known appearances in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and then popped up in the Droids animated series for a single episode. He was also peppered throughout the early comics. He was originally conceived as a member of some elite “super trooper” squadron, but was rewritten as a solitary bounty hunter. His air of mystery during a handful of movie minutes made him iconic to Gen X Star Wars fans, but I found the character boring because there was nothing substantial to him. I prefer characters with some amount of body and, sadly, Boba didn’t have that.

I got excited during the former Expanded Universe’s heyday when various authors tried to explore Boba’s history, but it all ended up being a dumpster fire of hand-waving, smoke, and mirrors. His return in Dark Empire was a highlight of that story, but from Jaster Mereel of Concord Dawn to is-he-or-isn’t-he-a-real-Mandalorian, I found all of Boba’s EU story to be frustrating.

When we got to the revised origin from Attack of the Clones, I finally found my hook. An unaltered clone of Jango Fett, the very template of the clone army that served and destroyed the Republic, Boba finally had some something interesting. His father was more interesting – we named our hound Jango, after all – but the potential in Boba was evident. It only expanded as The Clone Wars progressed, the Expanded Universe was transformed into Legends, and the overall canon was pseudo-reset.

Boba’s appearances in The Mandalorian finally made me care about him. The Book of Boba Fett gave me the promise of how he escaped death in the Sarlacc and would return to his father’s core belief as a simple man trying to make his way in the universe. I have been mostly pleased with what I have seen.

Boba Fett reminds me of a cowboy, and not just because of the spur sounds when he walks. To explain that, I have to give you some of my backstory. My parents both competed in the Utah rodeo circuits – my mother was a barrel racer and my father was bullrider and bullfighter – and I grew up surrounded by cowboys. I actually competed for a little while before bull riders that I knew were killed and I decided that it wasn’t the life I wanted to pursue.

My dad turned away from competing and performing as it took a toll on his body, but he never relinquished his core. He honed his craft as a professional photographer and my parents sold that skill and their experience to local rodeo circuits. Mom would help with timing and coordinating events while Dad was in the dirt getting the good shots but using his knowledge to stay out of harm’s way. They also both helped mentor the next generation.

It was during these trips that I met Charles Sampson. He was the first African American cowboy to win a world championship in professional rodeo, he was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1996, and he was one of the people behind a circuit that we followed. Charlie rode for nearly 20 years, including 11 trips to the National Finals Rodeo, and is well-known for his many injuries. Notably, his left calf has 17 pins and two metal plates, he has broken every bone in his face, and even lost an ear when a bull ran him over in 1988. He literally shattered his face during a riding accident in front of President Ronald Reagan. He retired from riding and turned to helping a younger generation through his expertise.

Boba Fett reminds me of these two cowboys. The Book of Boba Fett shows us how the bounty hunter has changed from the quiet menace we met in the original trilogy. He undergoes a change during the miniseries, growing from a solitary hunter to a member of a community. He learns a new way of looking at the world while retaining his core experience and expertise. He can still move and fight as necessary, but he still wants to make his way through the galaxy as a simple man.

To that end, he has eschewed the methods that made him famous, using the knowledge he’s gained to bring about order with minimal bloodshed within the community. Much like how Charlie and my father remained cowboys but changed how they interacted with rodeo, Boba Fett still thrives in the Outer Rim while teaching the people who suffered under Jabba corruption how to thrive together.

Boba takes the title of daimyo, a title inspired from the Japanese feudal lords of the 10th to 19th century. Daimyo ruled hereditary land holdings and led clans, often guarding their holdings through samurai that were paid in land or food. Both land and food were used as payment for Fett’s own samurai throughout this show.

Boba has learned to rule through compassion and compromise, not through fear and absolutism. He has learned that there are better ways to resolve conflict than just shooting someone. It’s easy to kill an opponent, but it takes a stronger character to change minds and avoid taking lives. He’s learned this after his vengeance-fueled childhood and his years as a violent bounty hunter.

It’s actually disturbing to me that, based on the hot takes in social media, so many fans in my generation think that Boba’s compassion is a weakness. Of course, Boba’s attitude in this miniseries – injustice against anyone should not be tolerated, no matter how close or far from you it takes place – parallels the attitudes that these same Gen-Xers classify as the “social justice warrior” mindset, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.

The Book of Boba Fett, which was billed as “Season 2.5” of The Mandalorian, is a side story that tells the legend of Boba Fett’s resurrection and rebirth through the style of the unreliable narrator. It highlights his reconciliation with his past, both the vengeful orphan and the “no disintegrations” violent hunter, as he evolves into a different kind of force. The season reminds me of the small spinoffs that happen in comics, offering an amplifying story to the big events that don’t necessarily fit in the main arc.

The flashback sequences of his survival and rise on the Dune Sea are his own dreams while he tries to regain his own physical strength. Those dreams are subjective by nature, part of the legend or the myth. For me, that also lent itself to the “modern day” sequences as possibly being told like the Armorer’s superstitious stylings of the purge of Mandalore.

This “legend of” story also explains why Boba Fett isn’t in every episode (even though the only one that he wasn’t in was the fifth episode, primarily a Din Djarin chapter, despite what the social media meme-makers think). The meme-makers have fun with this story because it is very different from the normal television method. Boba’s name on the tin, but he’s not in frame for twenty-five to thirty percent of the series.

Carrying the Biblical parallels forward, the New Testament is about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the progression of Christianity, but Jesus only appears in four of the twenty-seven books. Notably, those four all tell essentially the same story from different points of view. The remaining twenty-three books muse about the legacy and the legend.

The salvation of Tatooine is turned into gospel by Boba Fett’s ultimatum to the Pyke Syndicate. It is written and anyone within earshot will carry that legend to the ends of the galaxy.

I, Boba Fett, speaking as daimyo of the Tatooine territories formerly held by Jabba the Hutt, present the following offer: Nothing.

You will leave this planet and your spice trade. If you refuse these terms, the arid sands of Tatooine will once again flourish with flowering fields fertilized with the bodies of your dead.

At the end of The Book of Boba Fett, these Tatooine territories are free from the corruption and oppression of the Hutts, the Pykes, and the “curse” of the criminal element. The show called back several times to the ancient oceans of the desert planet, and I think that’s Boba’s vision of the future. It’s a restoration of balance to the planet by returning it to the people, both the Tuskens and the homesteaders. It also lights a beacon for the healing of another society as Din Djarin heads toward the ruins of Mandalore.

The Book of Boba Fett also fills some important gaps in the modern media landscape. First, we have the story of a sixty-year-old actor, Temuera Morrison, playing a middle-aged man in the second or third phase of his life. We also have an actress of similar age, Ming-Na Wen, playing Fett’s enforcer. Both characters are taking charge and getting results, living new and distinct phases of their lives. So much of what we see in Hollywood is focused on coming-of-age stories, tales of young and sexy CW archetypes battling angst, or even mid-life redemption stories portrayed by middle-aged actors. In the industry, older actors (especially women) aren’t even considered for action-hero roles. This is a refreshing change.

The second change is also refreshing: We have a single man and a single woman working together and they’re not romantically involved. There is no unresolved sexual tension, no will-they-won’t-they Moonlighting bantha poodoo, and not even a hint of attraction between them. The relationship is professional and asexual, and I am on board for all of it.

The Book of Boba Fett is not without problems, of course. The parallels to Dune are more than obvious, as are elements of the White Savior/White Man’s Burden, Magical Negro, Going Native, Mighty Whitey, and Disposable Vagrant tropes. The heartless elimination of the Tusken Raiders – the Tatooine natives – is deeply problematic because it treats them as props in Boba Fett’s ascension/resurrection. So, add Stuffed into the Fridge to the list of this story’s sins, which is a sad development since I really loved the added depth for the Tusken Raiders in this miniseries.

While I admired the storytelling style, I would have written the miniseries in a more linear fashion, presenting the flashbacks as the first few episodes, then building into the modern day story as Boba brings order to the towns under his purview. I would have spread the wealth of Episode 5’s Din Djarin story through Boba Fett’s story, following more of the A-plot/B-plot style of other television series. The present-day story stumbles in light of the flashbacks because there is no meat to it before the finale.

I would have also spent a bit more time polishing the disjointed action sequences that Robert Rodiguez directed because they are too narrowly focused. While the action occurs in frame, the rest of players stand around waiting for the lens to swing toward them. It breaks believability, especially in the finale.

But, those drawbacks considered, The Book of Boba Fett strikes me as the dogmatic material that inspired its name: A story told by an outside and biased observer trying to capture the epic scope and reputation but needing to embellish it here and there each time it comes ’round.

It’s not really a story about the man. It’s a story about his legend. Just like cowboy stories, both classic and modern.

We have a story about the legend of Boba Fett. All we need now is a campfire, a clear night, and a halfway decent pot of coffee on the Dune Sea.


Edited on February 24

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I also joined the Earth Station One podcast to discuss the series with Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, and Ashley Pauls. You can find this discussion on the Earth Station One podcast’s website and wherever fine podcasts are fed. You can also find the ESO Network on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram


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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.

STEAM Saturday – Fusion Breakthrough, Nuclear Incentives, and LEGO Beach

STEAMSaturday

STEAM Saturday
Fusion Breakthrough, Nuclear Incentives, and LEGO Beach
February 19, 2022

In this edition, we have breakthroughs in fusion energy, incentives for nuclear power, and a beach awash in LEGO bricks.

STEAMHeadlines

BBC – Major breakthrough on nuclear fusion energy (Feb 9, 2022)
European scientists say they have made a major breakthrough in their quest to develop practical nuclear fusion – the energy process that powers the stars.

Energy.gov – DOE Establishes $6 Billion Program to Preserve America’s Clean Nuclear Energy Infrastructure (Feb 11, 2022)
DOE seeks public input on executing the bipartisan infrastructure law’s civil nuclear credit program to ensure continued operation of clean, reliable nuclear energy.

BBC – Why Does Lego Keep Washing Up on a British Beach? (Feb 12, 2022)
The recent video follows up on an article from July 21, 2014: “A container filled with millions of Lego pieces fell into the sea off Cornwall in 1997. But instead of remaining at the bottom of the ocean, they are still washing up on Cornish beaches today – offering an insight into the mysterious world of oceans and tides.”

Data Center Dynamics – Substations planned for nuclear-powered Pennsylvania Bitcoin data center (Oct 26, 2021)
Talen Energy, a Pennsylvania power producer, has signed contracts for three substations to deliver power from its Susquehanna nuclear power plant to a Bitcoin mining data center owned by Talen.

AgDaily – Fruit or vegetable: Botany and kitchens may not agree (Jun 15, 2021)
When your mother told you that you had to eat vegetables to grow big and strong, you probably thought about broccoli, carrots, squash, maybe even tomatoes. But did you know, only two of those are actual vegetables?


STEAMSci

Kyle Hill – Kyle Hill is a science educator with degrees in civil and environmental engineering and science communication. He previously hosted the popular Because Science YouTube series, but now runs The Facility.

Steve Mould – Steve Mould is a Master of Physics from the University of Oxford. He’s a British author and science communicator who hosts educational videos on his YouTube channel. He co-hosted ITV’s I Never Knew That About Britain alongside Paul Martin and Suzannah Lipscomb and previously appeared as a science expert on The Alan Titchmarsh Show, The One Show, and Blue Peter.

Cheddar News – Cheddar News feeds curiosity about what’s next with the latest in business news, culture, media, technology and innovation shaping our world tomorrow.

A Capella Science – Deep science. Sweet harmony. Explore the world through educational song. A Capella Science was suggested by Jennifer Hartshorn.


STEAMTech

Jerry Rig Everything – Zack Nelson has used his love of repairing, simple explanations, and brief tutorials to help millions of people with repairs of their own. Outside of YouTube, his ‘to-the-point’ style of teaching has created instructional and informational videos for manufacturers and factories around the world.


STEAMEng

CGP Grey – CGP Grey is an American-Irish educational YouTuber, podcaster, and streamer who creates short explanatory videos on subjects including politics, geography, economics, history, and culture.

I Like To Make Stuff – Bob Clagett likes to make stuff, whether it be home renovations, fixing up a vintage car, or building an astromech droid.


STEAMArt

InsiderInsider is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

Ben’s Worx – Ben is a maker from Queensland, Australia who has always had an interest in woodworking. He makes all kinds of things from wood, metal, plastics, and epoxy resin, and loves to experiment in the name of entertainment.

 


STEAMMath

Patrik Pietschmann – Patrik Pietschmann is a keyboard player, arranger and programmer from Germany who creates piano arrangements of popular current soundtracks.


STEAMMulti

Physics Girl – Hosted by Dianna Cowern, a science communicator and physics alumna from MIT, this show was part of PBS Digital Studios until 2020. She uses her platform to explore complex physics, astronomy, and science-related topics in simple terms.

InsiderInsider is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

Glen and Friends – Glen and Julie Powell of Toronto host this look into recipes from the Depression Era, including if those recipes still work or can be improved in the modern day. It’s a great look into history and how cooking is both science and art.

Wendover Productions – Wendover Productions, run by filmmaker Sam Denby, is all about explaining how our world works. From travel, to economics, to geography, to marketing, and more, every video will leave you with a little better understanding of our world.

 


If you have any suggestions for STEAM Saturday, please leave them below in the comments. If your suggestion is used, your name will be credited.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope that something inspired you to get out there and explore the universe.

 

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STEAM Saturday is a celebration of curiosity and imagination through science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, the very building blocks of the universe around us.

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

Timestamp #239: The Angels Take Manhattan

Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan
(1 episode, s07e05, 2012)

Timestamp 239 The Angels Take Manhattan

Goodbye, Ponds.

The Angels Take Manhattan

Julius Grayle, an art collector and mob boss, hires private detective Sam Garner to investigate statues that move in the dark. Garner thinks that Grayle is crazy, but the mob boss knows that the threat is real. Garner follows his instructions to Winter Quay, an apartment complex with familiar weeping angels out front.

When he enters the building, he goes up to a room on the seventh floor where he finds his name on the door. He enters, unwittingly avoiding the Angels as he goes, and finds artifacts from his own life. He also finds an old man who claims to be him. The old man dies after warning Garner that tonight is the night he gets sent back.

He tries to run, eventually ending up on the roof, but is cornered by an Angel. An Angel in the form of the Statue of Liberty.

[Insert facepalm here.]

Moving forward to New York City, 2012, the Doctor and the Ponds are enjoying a picnic in Central Park. The Doctor is reading aloud from a pulp novel, Melody Malone: Private Detective in Old New York Town, a habit that drives Amy mad. He pokes fun at her use of reading glasses and then the wrinkles around her eyes. Rory tries to dodge the situation by going for coffee, but Amy defuses the whole affair with a kiss. The Doctor borrows her glasses for fun and Amy asks him to read to her. He rips out the last page and sets it aside – a habit he’s formed because he doesn’t like endings – and begins to read.

Rory heads back with the coffee, hearing cherubic laughing as a small statue under Angel of the Waters disappears and rattles around in the shadows. As the Doctor narrates, he realizes that he’s reading a tale about River Song and that Rory has somehow traveled back in time. Amy and the Doctor use the TARDIS to travel back to April 3, 1938, as the story continues. As Melody Malone, River tells Rory that the city is full of time distortions and will prevent the TARDIS from landing. She only arrived by use of a vortex manipulator.

After the TARDIS bounces off of 1938, it lands in a 2012 graveyard. As the Doctor uses a fire extinguisher on the TARDIS, he stops Amy from reading the book because once she reads from it, history will be written in stone. It will become a fixed point.

What they don’t see is a headstone nearby that reads “In Loving Memory: Rory Arthur Williams”.

Back in 1938, River and Rory are taken to Grayle’s mansion. River remarks on the mob boss’s affinity for Qin artifacts and the number of locks on his doors. Rory is taken to the basement to wait with “the babies”, a box of matches as his companion.

Once the Doctor knows about Grayle’s affinity for Qin artwork, the Doctor sets a course for China, 221 BC, and has a special vase made. In 1938, River notices the vase and translates the symbols through residual TARDIS energy: It reads “Yowza!”, prompting River to utter a trademark “Hello, Sweetie.”

River uncovers a chained Angel in Grayle’s office, then transmits the “Yowza” as landing lights for the TARDIS, offering the Doctor coordinates to lock onto. Grayle has damaged the Angel, which prompts River to tell him that the Angel is screaming. Grayle uses it as an interrogation device, flashing the lights to drive it closer to intended targets.

Down in the basement, Rory is being tormented by the smaller statues. The whole house shakes as the Doctor arrives, punching through the interference and literally spinning the TARDIS into place. Amy searches for Rory as the Doctor reunites with River in a humorous exchange about The Wedding of River Song.

The Doctor knows that River can only be freed from the Angel by breaking her own wrist. Amy has the idea to use the novel, but only to use the chapter titles instead of the actual contents. Through them, the Doctor finds out that Rory is in the basement, but he also finds out that Amy is due for a final farewell. This angers him because it’s now a fixed point, and he demands that River figure her own way out while he tends to Amy and Rory.

Unfortunately, Rory is missing. The Doctor and Amy surmise that he’s been taken by the Angels, but River deduces that he’s only been moved in space. The Doctor notes that River has escaped, but soon finds out that it was because she followed the future as written. He has Amy track Rory while he patches things up with River by transferring a bit of regeneration energy into her broken wrist.

River doesn’t take that well and storms out. Amy follows and has a heart-to-heart with her daughter about endings.

The trio makes their way to Winter Quay, leaving Grayle behind, unaware that the mob boss is trapped by the statues. Rory has been exploring the building and the trio reunites with him near a smiling Angel. The door nearby reads “R. Williams” and behind it lies an elderly Rory on his deathbed. It is the Death at Winter Quay forecasted by novel’s chapter.

The building is a battery farm for the Weeping Angels. They keep their victims imprisoned and send them back in time repeatedly. The elderly Rory’s death means that Rory is destined to remain there, and Amy won’t be with him because of how eager the elderly Rory was to see her. If Rory doesn’t remain, the Angels will chase him forever. River realizes that if Rory escapes, the subsequent negation of the timeline will cause a paradox that will poison the time energy the Angels feed on and kill them, but the Doctor is unsure because of the power that it would take.

The stomping of the Statue of Liberty Angel grows closer, prompting Amy and Rory to run. The Doctor and River are trapped behind but eventually catch up via the fire escape, reuniting with the Ponds on the rooftop. Rory considers jumping off the roof to cause the paradox. After some discussion, Amy joins him, jumping just as the Doctor and River arrive.

The companions embrace as they fall. Their deaths traumatize the Doctor but disrupt the timeline as the paradox takes effect. All four of them escape the collapsing timeline and awaken in the 2012 graveyard with the TARDIS nearby.

Rory is drawn to the nearby gravestone, puzzled by his name being engraved upon it. He’s suddenly touched by an Angel and disappears. Amy cries out and the Doctor determines that it is a survivor of the paradox.

Amy sees the headstone and realizes the truth. They cannot use the TARDIS to travel back and get Rory because any additional paradoxes would destroy New York City. The timelines are scrambled enough already. The only alternative that Amy sees is to join Rory, assuming that she’ll be deposited there with him.

She says her farewells and then turns her back on the Angel. The headstone tells the tale. Amy survived and created a fixed point. The Doctor can never see her again.

The Doctor and River take off in the TARDIS, and she makes him promise in his grief to never travel alone. They discuss the novel and River promises to make Amy write an afterword for him. He runs back to the park and pulls out the last page. He puts on Amy’s glasses and reads it.

Afterword, by Amelia Williams.

Hello, old friend, and here we are. You and me, on the last page. By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone, so know that we lived well, and were very happy. And, above all else, know that we will love you, always. Sometimes, I do worry about you though; I think, once we’re gone, you won’t be coming back here for a while, and you might be alone, which you should never be. Don’t be alone, Doctor.

And do one more thing for me: there’s a little girl, waiting in a garden; she’s going to wait a long while, so she’s going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story. Tell her that, if she’s patient, the days are coming that she’ll never forget. Tell her she’ll go to sea and fight pirates, she’ll fall in love with a man who’ll wait two thousand years to keep her safe. Tell her she’ll give hope to the greatest painter who ever lived, and save a whale in outer space.

Tell her: This is the story of Amelia Pond — and this is how it ends.

The TARDIS is heard as young Amelia sits on her luggage in her garden. The Doctor honors Amy’s last request.

P.S.

Picking up directly after The Power of Three, the Doctor leaves with Amy and Rory after having dinner with Brian.

A week later, Brian answers a knock at the door. His visitor is an American man named Anthony, a sixty-year-old holding a letter addressed to Dad. The visitor waits in the hall while Brian reads the letter. It is from Rory.

The letter tells the story of how Amy and Rory were permanently trapped in the past in New York City. Rory assures his father that they lived happily together for the rest of their lives. In 1946, they adopted a son named Anthony, who is the man that delivered the letter. Rory tells Brian that he misses him and loves him, and he understands how weird it must be to have a grandson who is older than he is.

Brian returns to the hall to see Anthony. Anthony offers a handshake, but Brian hugs him instead.


Starting with the good stuff, I really love how this story plays with the notions of fixed points and temporal paradoxes. Fixed points are a narrative tool developed for the post-Rose revival era in an attempt to deal with things that shouldn’t be changed despite the inherent power of time travel. We’ve seen how violating fixed points can break the universe (Father’s Day), delay the inevitable (The Waters of Mars), and assist our heroes in creating loopholes for victory (The Wedding of River Song).

The concept plays around with the First Doctor’s imperative in The Aztecs: “You can’t rewrite history. Not one line!” It turns out that a time traveler can rewrite history, but it’s complicated.

In this story, our travelers play around with the rules of fixed points and paradoxes, exercising them a bit to play a “will they, won’t they” game with the fate of the Ponds. The end result is a victory for the Weeping Angels and a tragic blow to the Doctor as his faithful companions are locked away from him forever by powers beyond his control. The first paradox that destroyed the Winter Quay battery farm – since it never existed, they never traveled there in the first place… even though they remember everything about the trip – prohibits the Doctor from traveling to that exact time and space again to rescue the Ponds.

What stops him from parking the TARDIS in New Jersey and crossing the Hudson River to Manhattan? I guess it depends on the Doctor’s intent or something. The Doctor has yet to travel (on television, anyway) to 1930s/1940s New York City since. It’s a complicated conceit to lock the Ponds away permanently without killing them off. I give Steven Moffat credit for the effort.

I also give him credit for a tearjerker of an ending that finally makes me believe that Amy actually cares about Rory. I’ve talked many times about how selfish and poorly communicative Amy is with respect to the Pond relationship, but here she twice displays how important Rory is in her life.

I also give a ton of credit to Chris Chibnall for his follow-up that ties off the thread for Brian Williams that was laid down in The Power of Three. The Doctor kept his promise and the Ponds technically survived.

One conceit nearly ruins this whole affair for me: The Statue of Liberty as a Weeping Angel. The concept is just dumb from both the writing and in-universe logistics. In the Doctor Who universe, who isn’t going to notice a series of stomping earthquakes as the most popular local statue leaves Bedloe’s Island/Liberty Island and maneuvers through a tightly packed city? In our universe, it’s a pretty bad example of making enemies bigger in an attempt to make them badder. It’s just terrible.

The Doctor once again uses excess regeneration energy to affect the world around him. Here he heals River’s wrist, while previously he recharged the TARDIS in Rise of the Cybermen. One presumes that it’s a leftover from Let’s Kill Hitler, because (within the timeline to this point) this is the Doctor’s final regeneration. Even though he doesn’t remember the War Doctor at this time, he shouldn’t have physically been able to muster the power unless it came from somewhere outside himself.

River has been pardoned since she never killed the Doctor, though this does wreak a little havoc with the opposing timelines nature of their relationship. This phase of their lives may be somewhere in the middle of the two converging timelines.

This story also prevents a crux by which to explore the alternative theory presented in The Power of Three, specifically how that story and A Town Called Mercy take place after the Doctor loses the Ponds, giving him one more adventure with his dear friends as he tries to overcome his grief. Thanks again to Jennifer Hartshorn and Mike Faber for that discussion.

The Statue of Liberty aside, I find this story to be an engaging and emotional mind-bender well worth watching again. I’m not sure that I’ll miss the Ponds, though. It was time for them to go.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Snowmen

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Leeloo Dallas Multipass!

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Leeloo Dallas Multipass!
February 14, 2022

The week, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track is celebrating a quarter century of The Fifth Element. It is kind of hard to believe that it’s been that long since this oddball and magnificent science fiction film debuted.

On February 10th, the panel of Rick Klaw (on Twitter), Deanna Toxopeus (RevolutionSF’s Facebook page), and Lola Lariscy (on Twitter) joined Joe Crowe for a discussion of meat popsicles, cosmic good and evil, Fhloston Paradise, and blue divas. They had a show to run, and it had to pop, pop, POP! Pass this knowledge on to the next as it was passed on to you.

Because it is Valentine’s Day, here’s a bonus video: Little Light of Love by Éric Serra. It was the end title theme from The Fifth Element.


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be held once every two weeks (or every fortnight, if you will). If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the webs to the YouTube channel and/or the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

If you want to connect with the track, Joe, and/or Gary on the socials, you can find them on Twitter (ClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and sneezythesquid) and Instagram (SciFiClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and Gary_Mitchel). And, of course, to celebrate more pop culture awesomeness, you can find Dragon Con all year round on the internet, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The next panel will be on February 24th. The docket contains a fictional sports (just in time for that “Superb Owl” football game), battling bands, a famous bloodsucker, and a bonus panel that shall remain nameless for now. You can find all of this and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp: A Star Trek Podcast.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

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

Timestamp #238: The Power of Three

Doctor Who: The Power of Three
(1 episode, s07e04, 2012)

Timestamp 238 The Power of Three

Pond life redux, but is it entirely linear?

It is July. The Ponds have just returned home from another trip with the Doctor. The laundry is pungent, the food in the fridge has turned multiple times, and the answering machine has 59 messages. The Ponds realize that they lead two lives: The normal everyday and the adventures in time and space. They realize that they have to choose one or the other, but as the TARDIS sound echoes around them, they know that today is not the day to decide.

Every time that Amy and Rory go away with the Doctor, they become a part of his life. He has never stuck around long enough to become a part of theirs… until the cubes arrived.

Thus began the Year of the Slow Invasion.

Brian Williams arrives at the Pond residence early in the morning to alert Amy and Rory to the strange, perfect, identical cubes that have appeared overnight. The Doctor is involved as well, and he appreciates Brian’s thorough analysis of all the possibilities.

The Doctor has moved the TARDIS into the Pond home and uses the kitchen as a makeshift lab. He’s surprised that Amy and Rory have actual jobs – Amy now writes for a travel magazine and Rory works part-time at the hospital – and Amy replies that she can’t hold down a normal job with all of their travels. She calculates that they’ve been traveling with the Doctor (off and on) for approximately ten years.

The moment is broken by a UNIT strike team led by a woman named Kate Stewart, the head of scientific research at the organization. She detected a spike in artron energy and, with all the goings-on, decided to investigate. She also determines the Doctor’s identity and is pleased to meet him. UNIT has been testing the cubes but has no idea what they are. The Doctor decides that observation is the best policy.

He does so for four days and is absolutely bored. He needs to be busy, so Amy and Rory volunteer to watch the cubes while the Doctor does various tasks, including painting the fence, practicing his football skills, mowing the lawn, rewiring the car, and vacuuming the house.

All of that takes about an hour.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS to find Brian, who has been watching the cubes in the console room for the last four days. The Doctor wants to travel again, but the Ponds refuse to join him because the have lives to lead, so the Doctor takes off alone.

Come October, Amy promises to be her friend’s pending bridesmaid and Rory gets a full-time job offer. This could be the beginning of real life for them. Meanwhile, Brian has spent the last 67 days studying and documenting the cubes.

Then it’s December. Rory tends to a man stuck in a toilet while a series of cubes spontaneously activate at the hospital. A little girl appears possessed by them and an orderly dispatches an elderly man.

Life goes on as the cubes take positions of normalcy in everyday life, from paperweights to knick knacks. As June rolls around, the Ponds celebrate their annivesary with a cookout. Amy leaves a message for the Doctor and he stops by with a special gift. He takes them to the Savoy Hotel’s opening night in 1890, only to stop a Zygon plot to remove their spaceship from underneath the hotel. They go on several other trips, during one of which Amy accidentally marries Henry VIII.

The Doctor returns the Ponds to the moment he took them. Brian worries about what happens to the Doctor’s companions. The Doctor explains with a look of regret that most of them have left willingly or he purposely left them behind, and very few have died. However, he promises Brian that he will do everything within his power to keep Amy and Rory safe.

He then asks Amy if he can stay with the Ponds to watch the cubes.

On the anniversary of the cubes’ arrival, the cubes spin slightly. Brian notes this and tricks the cube by pretending to sleep, finally catching it moving. A cube at the Pond home opens and closes, piquing Rory’s curiosity. Another samples Amy’s hand. The Doctor watches one float by as he’s playing a tennis game on the Wii and realizes the enormity of what’s happening. When he threatens it, the cube shoots a laser at him before running a scan of the planet.

Rory is called to work as the cubes start attacking people. Brian joins him as the Doctor and Amy are paged to the Tower of London. Kate tells them that the cubes are acting randomly and the Doctor starts looking for a signal that controls them.

He also makes the connection: Kate Stewart is the daughter of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

The cubes remain active for 47 minutes and then shutdown. The Doctor leaves the underground base to think, taking the time to ask Amy about her future on the TARDIS. She considers his travels to be “running away”, but the Doctor considers it “running to”, a quest to see whatever the universe holds before it’s gone forever. He comes back to Amy time and time again because her face was the first face his face saw. Its image is seared onto his hearts.

The moment gives him an epiphany: The cubes have scanned everything about humanity in 47 minutes. As the power goes out, the cubes activate a countdown starting at 7. As he tries to figure out what’s happening, the Doctor locks himself in a room with a cube. At zero, the cubes open but contain nothing. The Doctor is perplexed, but suddenly people start going into cardiac arrest, including the Doctor.

Meanwhile, the program he set earlier to find the source of the cubes reveals seven different sources. The closest is the hospital where Rory works. It’s also where Brian has just been kidnapped by aliens and taken to an orbiting spaceship. Rory has chased them there.

The Doctor, Amy, Kate, and UNIT go to the hospital to look for clues. They find the little girl, who turns out to be a surveillance drone, and look for a wormhole. Amy also resets the Doctor’s heart with a defibrillator. They find the wormhole and step through, finding Rory and the others who have been taken. Amy revives Rory and they start rescuing the victims while the Doctor confronts the leader of this threat.

The Doctor finds that the Shakri are behind the plot, who are told of in Gallifreyan legends as the “pest controllers of the universe”. The Shakri consider humanity to be a plague and have set to that task, but the Doctor stands in defense of the people of Earth. The Shakri representative announces that another wave of cubes will be sent to Earth before vanishing, nothing more than a holographic transmission.

The Doctor plays with the controls and rewires the cubes on Earth, reversing the damage with a mass defibrillation. As the humans are revived, the backlash of energy overloads the ship. The Doctor, Amy and Rory escape just as the spaceship is destroyed.

Kate Stewart is impressed and expresses her gratitude as the Doctor flips her a jaunty salute.

That night, the Doctor has dinner with the Pond family before getting ready to leave. Brian encourages Amy and Rory to go with him as full-time companions, travelling to make the universe a better place. Brian offers to stay behind to take care of the house as the trio board the TARDIS and shut the door.


There is an rather interesting theory about this story and the previous one, particularly as they relate to the departure of the Ponds in the next adventure. It was brought to my attention by Mike Faber and Jennifer Hartshorn. The question is whether or not Series 7 is presented in order, particularly if A Town Called Mercy and The Power of Three occur before or after The Angels Take Manhattan.

The big pointer is how the Doctor treats Amy and Rory in both stories, especially when it comes to his heart-to-heart with Amy in this episode.

I’m not running away. But this is one corner in one country in one continent in one planet that’s a corner of a galaxy that is a corner of a universe that is forever growing and shrinking and creating and destroying and never remaining the same for a single millisecond. And this is so much, SO MUCH, to see, Amy. Because it goes so fast. I’m not running away from things. I’m running to them before they flare and fade forever. That’s all right. Our lives would never remain the same. They can’t. One day, soon maybe, you’ll stop. I’ve known for a while. […] I’m running to you and Rory before you… fade from me.

He’s known that they’ll stop traveling with him for a while. He’s running toward them before the fade away from him.

There’s nothing definitive from Steven Moffat or the production team, but there are a lot of hints and clues. We know that A Town Called Mercy and The Power of Three come after Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, but it is possible that those two happen simultaneously and after the Ponds leave the TARDIS.

I actually like that theory a lot.

Back to this story, there’s a lot to like in this expansion on Pond Life. We get the introduction of Kate Stewart, daughter of the Brig, who will play a large role in the series going forward. We get a fun look at the home lives of the Ponds and how much they have loved traveling over the last ten relative years. We get honesty from the Doctor on the fates of his companions.

Some have left him, some have been left behind, and a very few have died. Raise a glass for Katarina and Sara Kingdom (The Daleks’ Master Plan) as well as Adric in Earthshock. If we count the audios, the Eighth Doctor lost three companions in one adventure, namely To the Death.

Finally, the callbacks: The Doctor mused about humans having only one heart in The Shakespeare Code, experienced a defibrillator in the TV movie, and lamented Twitter in The Girl Who Waited.

Overall, this story is filler, but it does so many bold things for this era of change in the Eleventh Doctor’s run.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Toynk Toys Minecraft Box

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Toynk Toys Minecraft Box
February 7, 2022

During my daily look on at the Star Wars and Marvel LEGO advent calendars last December on Instagram, Toynk Toys reached out about reviewing a Minecraft-themed box of toys and collectibles. Toynk Toys sent the box to me free of charge and in return I am offering my honest review of the experience.

toynk_toybox_logo

The box contained five items ranging from small items geared for kids to items specifically geared for adult collectors. Anything that we did not want to keep will be given away for free to family, friends, or neighbors through our local “no buy” Facebook group.  

The smallest of the items was a blind pack item from the SquishMe line. Series 2 of these palm-sized foam squishables included a red cow, a brown cow, a grass-green sheep, a panda, a sea turtle, and a blue charged-up Creeper. The Creeper is the chase item in the random foil packs, with a 1:24 chance of finding it.

My wife and I are both certified scuba divers. When I mentioned that the blind pack might contain a sea turtle, she was excited. That excitement only increased when she found out that it was the sea turtle!

The coloring and textures are true to the game. The foam has a good soft feel with satisfying spring-back. The toy itself is just as adorable as the game sprites and now has a place in my wife’s office next to her R2-D2s. She’s a big fan of that loyal astromech, and the turtle is in good company.

toynk_turtles

The Minecraft SquishMe blind packs are available from Toynk for $9.99 each. The selection is random.

The next item is something I think is definitely for kids, especially if they want to decorate their favorite space. The pack of removable and detailed vinyl stickers contains 19 decals on four different sheets. They claim to be wall safe and easy to reposition. Toynk sells the set for $17.99.

The sticker pack goes hand-in-hand with the Green Creeper Bed Canopy. It goes from floor to ceiling and covers a kid’s bed in a polyester decorative drape. Toynk sells it for $39.99.

toynk_sticker_netting

Moving to items for the slightly older fan, the box also contained the Yellow Bee Figural Mood Light. This item came with some notable pros and cons.

On the pro side, this light is sturdy. It matches the shapes of the game sprites pretty well and feels strong to the touch. It is about five inches tall – pictured below with the 3.75″ scale R2-D2 action figure for scale – but is also light and easy to move. It would make a great statue-style display piece for any Minecraft fan.

The light is supposed to have three modes: Off, on, and 15-minute mood timer. Unfortuantely, the light I received in the box did not function as advertised. I tried multiple sets of fresh AA batteries – the light takes three of them – and had no joy in powering on the light.

Since UPS had done a number on the actual shipping box in transit, I contacted Toynk Toys and they sent a replacement straight away, however I had the same exact problem with the second light. After looking on Google for options, it seems that the problem comes up frequently with this product.

Try as I might, I could not get either bee to light.

With that in mind, Toynk does offer a decent return policy for purchases. It is valid for up to 30 days after receipt. They will refund the value of the merchandise in the same manner in which it was paid, however the return shipping cost is the buyer’s responsibility.

Toynk offers this Yellow Bee Mood Light for $35.99.

toynk_bee

The last item in the box was the Grass Block Storage Tote. This 15-inch square fabric tote is collapsible and has a padded lid that helps accentuate its look as one of the grass blocks from the game. It bridges the gap between home decor and novelty collectible. We have a few generic version of these fabric storage boxes around the house, and this will be a nice addition to my studio area once we get it constructed.

Toynk offers the Minecraft Grass Block Storage Tote for $39.99.

toynk_grass

All told, the Minecraft toys and collectibles on the market are pretty cool and capture the essence of the game and the fandom well. Minecraft is an open-world experience and allows players to do pretty much anything that they want. It promotes and rewards creativity in world-building. This box is no exception, offering a slice across the spectrum from simple items to more complex multi-purpose collectibles.

Just make sure, as a buyer, that you do your research ahead of time to make sure you know what you’re getting and how well it will hold up. You money and time are just as important as your passion for the things you love.

Once armed with that information, I think Toynk will be a place that I visit in the future when considering my toy and collectible purchases. In many ways, they seem to fill the void left from ThinkGeek’s departure (read: merging with GameStop’s marketplace).

Once again, Toynk Toys sent the box to me free of charge and in return I am offering my honest review of the experience.


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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.

STEAM Saturday – Day of Remembrance, Spaceflight, and Bomb Cyclones

STEAMSaturday

STEAM Saturday
Day of Remembrance, Spaceflight, and Bomb Cyclones
February 4, 2022

This week, we remember NASA’s fallen heroes, celebrate space travel, and explore the bomb cyclone.

STEAMHeadlines

NASA – NASA Day of Remembrance 2022 (Jan 27, 2022)
Each January NASA pauses to honor members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery, including the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. In 2022, the Day of Remembrance will be observed on Jan. 27. This year’s NASA Day of Remembrance also marks 55 years since the Apollo 1 tragedy.

ESO613

The ESO Network – A Look @ Science: Is 2022 The Year Space Flight Takes Off? (Jan 27, 2022)
Light the candle! Mike, Mike, Dr. Scott Viguie, Chip Johnson, and Michael Falkner launch into a discussion reviewing the recent high profile space flights and what should be included in the next stage. Plus, filmmaker/writer/podcaster Steven Rubin faces a fate even more dangerous than a Bond villain in the Geek Seat. All this along with Angela’s A Geek Girl’s Take, Ashley’s Box Office Buzz, Michelle’s Iconic Rock Moment, the Creative Outlet with Edgar Pasten, and Shout Outs!

NASA – NASA Honors Black History Month (Feb 1, 2022)

Scientific American – What Is a Bomb Cyclone? (Jan 28, 2022)
An atmospheric scientist explains in this essay reprinted from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.

Karen Hallion Art – Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: “We Are All Bound Up Together” (Feb 1, 2022)


STEAMSci

The Science & Entertainment Exchange – The Science & Entertainment Exchange is a program of the National Academy of Sciences that provides entertainment industry professionals with access to top scientists and engineers to help bring the reality of cutting-edge science to creative and engaging storylines.

Be Smart – A PBS Digital Studios science show hosted by Dr. Joe Hanson (Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology). 

Ask a Mortician – Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, author, blogger, and YouTube personality known for advocating death acceptance and the reform of Western funeral industry practices. You got death questions, she’s got death answers. Ask a Mortician was suggested by Sue Kisenwether.

 


STEAMTech

Brain Craft – Vanessa Hill (Master of Science Communication, Australian National University) talks about psychology, neuroscience, and why we act the way we do. Her series is part of the PBS Digital Studios family, and she has also contributed to research about the disproportionate amount of hateful comments directed towards women on YouTube.

 


STEAMEng

Practical Engineering – Grady Hillhouse is a civil engineer in San Antonio, Texas. His channel aims to increase exposure and interest in the field of engineering by highlighting the connection between the world around us and the energy, passion, and thought that goes into making it a nicer place to live.


STEAMArt

Nick Zammeti – A woodturner and artist based in the United Kingdom, Nick Zammeti thrives in funky and creative projects fueled by a healthy love of pop culture, especially Back to the Future.

Shop Time – Peter Brown is a geek with a full set of power tools, and he uses that knowledge to experiment, craft, and have fun.

The Smugglers Room – Building something out of nothing with a Star Wars flair is the order of the day in the Smugglers Room.

Ben’s Worx – Ben is a maker from Queensland, Australia who has always had an interest in woodworking. He makes all kinds of things from wood, metal, plastics, and epoxy resin, and loves to experiment in the name of entertainment.

 


STEAMMath

If you have a suggestion for a mathematics-themed channel or blog, please leave it in the comments. If I use your suggestion, your name will be credited in future editions of STEAM Saturday.


STEAMMulti

Glen and Friends – Glen and Julie Powell of Toronto host this look into recipes from the Depression Era, including if those recipes still work or can be improved in the modern day. It’s a great look into history and how cooking is both science and art.

 


If you have any suggestions for STEAM Saturday, please leave them below in the comments. If your suggestion is used, your name will be credited.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope that something inspired you to get out there and explore the universe.

 

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STEAM Saturday is a celebration of curiosity and imagination through science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, the very building blocks of the universe around us.

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

Timestamp #237: A Town Called Mercy

Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy
(1 episode, s07e03, 2012)

Timestamp 237 A Town Called Mercy

Living in the wild, wild west.

The Making of the Gunslinger

Scientist Kahler-Jex is working in a lab, announcing that “Subject 6”, Kahler-Tek, has been activated. The cyborg raises up his arm weapon and a light emanates from it.

A Town Called Mercy

Against the backdrop of a starry night desert, a narrator with an American western accent narrates a story her great-grandmother told her when she was a girl. It is a story about a man who fell from the stars and was weighed down by the things he had seen.

The Kahler-Tek cyborg shoots down a probe in the desert, then takes aim on an injured man. The man comes from the same place as the cyborg gunslinger. He attempts a last stand and fails, but before he dies, he asks if he is the last one. The cyborg replies that there is one more: “the doctor”.

In the daylight, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory stand outside a perimeter of stones and wood that surrounds the town of Mercy, population 81. They cross the barrier and stroll down the main street. The Doctor notes that the town has electricity, something that is ten years too early for this time. The Doctor is intrigued by the town and heads for the saloon. When he introduces himself, he is promptly measured for a casket by the undertaker.

After he admits to being an alien, he is forcibly removed and thrown over the barrier. The townsfolk all draw their sidearms as the gunslinger approaches the Doctor. As the preacher says the Lord’s Prayer, Isaac, the town marshal, interrupts the festivities and brings the Doctor back across the line.

Turns out that this ain’t the right doctor.

Isaac explains that the gunslinger showed up about three weeks earlier and built the barrier to keep the people of Mercy imprisoned. All he wants is the alien doctor. The Doctor stares at the lights and comes to a conclusion: The marshal’s office is the safest place to be if the townspeople wanted to hand over the doctor.

Sure enough, the right doctor is in the jail cell. His name is Kahler-Jex.

The Doctor is over the moon. The Kahler are one of the most ingenious species in the universe. Jex explains that his ship crashed in the desert and the people of Mercy rescued him. He saved the town from cholera and provided them with electricity, and Isaac defends him since Mercy is a town of second chances. Without Jex, Isaac fears that the town would fall into chaos.

The Doctor decides to use the TARDIS to help Jex escape and evacuate the town. To do that, they must engage in a little sleight of hand to get past the Gunslinger. Isaac (dressed as Jex) and Rory run through the desert in one direction while the Doctor borrows a horse — “He’s called Susan, and he wants you to respect his life choices.” — to ride out to the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Amy sits with Jex. The scientist knows that she’s a mother because of the kindness, sorrow, and love in her eyes. He goes on to say that he’s something of a father himself.

On the way to the TARDIS, the Doctor finds the power cables providing electricity from Jex’s ship. Susan reminds the Doctor that they have a mission, but the Doctor is not one to give up on a mystery. Jex notes the power fluctuations in town and Amy laments the Doctor’s failure to follow a basic plan.

The gunslinger catches up to Issac and Rory after using infrared scanning. When the Doctor scans the ship, it sets off an alarm that distracts the cyborg and draws him away. The Doctor overrides the self-destruct system before finding the personal files detailing Kahler-Jex’s brutal experiments. The gunslinger finds the Doctor and explains that he wants justice. He promises to kill the next person who leaves town.

In town, Jex turns on Amy and uses her as a human shield. The gunslinger will refrain from taking innocent lives unless it is necessary. Luckily, he is stopped by Isaac.

The Doctor confronts Jex over the atrocities he witnessed, barely restraining his rage. He explains Jex’s experiments to Isaac and the Ponds. Jex further explains that he saved millions by sacrificing the few as cyborgs. After the war, they were supposed to be decommissioned, but one escaped and took revenge on those who created him. Jex is the last survivor.

Jex also draws a parallel between himself and the Doctor, forcing the raging Doctor to usher the scientist to the edge of town. The Doctor holds Jex at gunpoint as Amy protests his actions. The Doctor wants to honor the victims, including those who died as a result of his mercy, and Amy points out that this is why he cannot travel alone. The Doctor finally agrees that prosecution outweighs vengeance.

The gunslinger finds Jex and nearly kills him, but Isaac takes the fatal shot instead. With his dying breath, he transfers control of the town to the Doctor, who in turn appoints Amy as his deputy after placing Jex into custody.

The gunslinger gives the town of Mercy an ultimatum: Surrender Jex by noon the next day or he kills everyone in town. Later that night, the preacher stops by to invite the Doctor outside, stopping long enough to warn him that he should be armed. A mob of townsfolk want to take Jex to the gunslinger to protect themselves, but the Doctor cannot do that. The Doctor wonders if the mob leader, a man of barely 18 years, has the courage to pull the trigger. Turns out that he doesn’t, and the situation is defused for now.

The Doctor returns to talk with Jex. The scientist suggests that he be turned over to Tek, but the Doctor is firm in his resolve. It would be easier if Jex was only one thing — mad scientist or benevolent doctor — instead of both, and the Doctor reminds him that Jex doesn’t get to decide how his debt is repaid. Jex explains that he fears death. Kahler religion dictates that the dead must climb a mountain, carrying the souls of all those whom they wronged in life. Isaac will be added to Jex’s load, and the the Doctor sympathises.

But, he also has a plan.

Come noon, the Doctor waits for the gunslinger. Instead of a firearm, he wields his sonic screwdriver, producing a high-pitched frequency that shatters glass and disorients the cyborg. The Doctor runs as the gunslinger fires wildly, taking refuge as the townspeople run about Mercy with simlar marks on their faces to Jex’s own.

The gunslinger searches the town, eventually breaking into the church and frightening the women and children. The Doctor urges Jex to run into the desert in order to save the townsfolk. Meanwhile, the gunslinger switches to manual targeting and locates the Doctor.

Jex reaches his ship and pages Tek, sympathizing about their mutual status as monsters. Jex knows that if he runs, he’ll only place another group of people in danger. Instead, he arms the self-destruct and sacrifices himself, completing Tek’s mission and atoning for his own crimes. The gunslinger sees this as honorable.

Because the Gunslinger sees himself as nothing more than a weapon of war, he prepares to self-destruct a safe distance in the desert. The Doctor changes his mind by telling him that while he may have built as a weapon of war, he can now protect the peace instead.

Later on, the Doctor brings the TARDIS to Mercy to collect all of the anachronistic technology. As the Doctor leaves to take Amy and Rory home, the little girl from the church walks into the desert to gaze upon the gunslinger. She’s the narrator from the introduction, and he is now the town marshal, protecting her and everyone who calls Mercy home.


As the first western-themed story since The Gunfighters, this was a good adventure. I enjoyed the redemption story for Jex and the turn from assassin to guardian for Tek. War creates consequences, most times unintended, and here we explore how those propagate, fester, and hurt the innocent.

The Doctor knows this all too well.

As a big Farscape and Stargate fan, I was overjoyed to see Ben Browder join the Doctor Who family. He nails the role of Isaac and I really wish we could have seen more of him in the future. Perhaps he can return in a different role?

Finally, it was fun to see Matt Smith in a Stetson again. That man looks good in the brand.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Power of Three

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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.