Timestamp Special #15: An Adventure in Space and Time

An Adventure in Space and Time
(50th Anniversary Docudrama Special, 2013)

Timestamp S15 Adventure in Space and Time

Peering into the past.

This docudrama was marketed as the story behind Doctor Who, but it ended up closer to a limited biopic focused on William Hartnell’s run from An Unearthly Child to The Tenth Planet. That’s the unfortunate side of the presentation since it pushes much of Verity Lambert’s successes and struggles to the background.

Several other creative liberties were taken along the way, particularly with the historical events surrounding the show’s development. That said, I enjoyed the dramatization of Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert, and Waris Hussein coming together to produce a science-fiction series in the era of the Space Race. Lambert’s challenges in breaking the glass ceiling against the “old boys club” of the BBC were great to explore, but I’d love to see a fully-developed documentary about her life and the paths she paved.

The same holds true for Waris Hussein and Delia Derbyshire, both of whom were instrumental in the show’s birth and have fascinating life stories.

The film was written by Doctor Who veteran Mark Gatiss, a driving force in the franchise since the 1990s. In the television side, he debuted with The Unquiet Dead and continued well into the Twelfth Doctor’s era. He also wrote several novels and has worked extensively in the Big Finish audios.

This drama set the course for David Bradley as the third actor to portray the First Doctor (not counting body doubles, stand-ins, or audios). We saw him previously as the villainous Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and heard him as Shansheeth Blue in Death of the Doctor. We’ll see him again at the end of the Twelfth Doctor’s run. He has also carried the portrayal into the Big Finish universe.

Claudia Grant, Jemma Powell, and Jamie Glover also followed similar trajectories after this film, portraying Susan, Barbara, and Ian in the Big Finish audios. Jamie Glover comes from a family tradition of travels in time and space since both of his parents have been in Doctor Who.

Jessica Raine was last seen in Doctor Who as Emma Grayling in Hide. Sacha Dhawan will be seen again in the Thirteenth Doctor’s run. It was good to see Doctor Who veterans William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Jackie Lane, Maureen O’Brien, Peter Purves, Mark Eden, and Jean Marsh in cameos as a nod to the franchise’s history.

The TARDIS console prop became a staple of future Doctor Who adventures that required a classic console. I admire the dedication that the production teams applied to their craft for this film. I also admired the solid casting for William Hartnell, but I wasn’t as sold on the casting for Patrick Troughton. Mind you, it was close but not quite there.

I love the moment where Hartnell “sees” Matt Smith. He obviously didn’t see the future or anything, so I took it as an artistic statement on the future of the franchise being secure even without William Hartnell in the title role. It was a beautifully poetic moment for that point in his career and the show’s future.

Finally, the ending with the speech from The Dalek Invasion of Earth was the perfect place to end. It marks this film as a wonderful tribute to both William Hartnell and the legacy of Doctor Who.


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor

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

Culture on My Mind – The Classic Stephen J. Cannell

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Classic Stephen J. Cannell
May 23, 2022

This week, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track celebrates the man marked by that fancy title card with the typewriter and the flying papers.

You know, this one.

Gary Mitchel was joined by Kevin Eldridge (The FlopCast) and Nathan Laws (The 42Cast) for a celebration of ’70s and ’80s TV action stylings. Cannell was one of the most prolific television creators in history and practically defined the 1980s. He was the pen behind The Rockford Files, Baretta, The A-Team, Hunter, 21 Jump Street, The Greatest American Hero, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, and more.

It’s only fitting that the Classics Track celebrates this classic producer.


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 a special on May 25th. 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 Special #14: The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
(50th Anniversary Parody Special, 2013)

Timestamp S14 Fiveish Doctors Reboot

Covert ops at the BBC.

I love this “real-world” parody adventure focused on the remaining classic-era Doctors trying to be involved with the 50th-anniversary special. Peter Davison is simply obsessed with the quest (especially with his sons being so excited about David Tennant’s appearance in the special), Colin Baker just wants to play in the universe again, and Sylvester McCoy is keen to join so long as everyone knows about his role in The Hobbit.

Paul McGann is willing to join as long as it doesn’t interfere with his filming schedules. Obviously, that comes back to call when he’s pulled into The Night of the Doctor. And, one of my favorite gags, is the callback to Tom Baker’s “appearance” in The Five Doctors when he (in more ways than one) punted on a role in the special.

Written and directed by Peter Davison, this special has a lot of similar callbacks to the franchise’s fifty years. It has Georgia Moffett (Peter’s daughter and David Tennant’s wife) and her ice-cream-and-celery pregnancy cravings, Matthew “Adric” Waterhouse reflecting on his exit, nods to the Peter Cushing movies, a sideways approach to the “You’ve redecorated… I don’t like it” gag with the classic Doctors in the modern TARDIS, and so much more.

I got a kick out of Colin Baker’s obsession with Vengeance on Varos. It’s a story that’s often derided by critics for excessive violence and dark tones, but it is cited as a favorite of both Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. His copies of the episode keep going missing, so he buys replacements. The special edition DVD has “even more of me“!

The ending’s meta-twist is jarring, but I totally love how the actors end up in the final cut as the shrouded Zygons in the Under Gallery scenes.

This was a great classic-era accompaniment to The Day of the Doctor.


UP NEXT – An Adventure in Space and Time

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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 – Star Trek: Picard

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Star Trek: Picard
May 16, 2022

I have been wrestling with my thoughts on Star Trek: Picard since the second season wrapped on May 5th. 

The series overall has been frustrating for me. It is laden with some great philosophical and socio-political ideas – a hallmark of Star Trek since 1966 – but it frequently misses the mark when actually exploring these ideas.

First, I want to point to the excellent season reviews by Jessie Gender. She has captured a lot of my conflict with this series in these analyses, highlighting many of the elements that I loved and disliked.

Season One:

Season Two:

In Season One, I loved seeing civilian life in the Federation and the aftermath of the destruction of Romulus, something that was born rather hand-wavedly in 2009’s Star Trek film. The world-building grabbed me as it showcased complicated interstellar politics and a Starfleet that had moved on from the troublesome climax of Star Trek: Nemesis.

I rather liked the deconstruction and organic redemption of the former Borg. I liked the idea of the Federation trying to help the fractured and displaced Romulan people, following on from the ground laid in Star Trek: Nemesis. I liked that Jean-Luc Picard actually stuck to his principles and resigned from Starfleet when they refused to back that program. I liked that Starfleet rejected the former captain’s hubris when he demanded a starship to solve the mystery because of who he was.

I liked the Star Trek exploration of Brexit, Trumpism, and the Syrian refugee crisis. I loved the Troi-Riker family and the exploration of trauma. I loved Picard having to face the skeletons in his closet by examining and reconciling his failures. I loved the conclusion of the Picard-Data relationship.

But then we get a Romulan anti-synth religious cult, a lack of resolution on threads like Seven’s adaption of the Borg Queen persona and Narek simply fading into the background, handwaving “space magic” tools and fixes, huge fleet space battles, and yet another galactic-scale conflict teasing a Lovecraftian big bad that we’ll likely never see again. It’s representative of the writers having far too many ideas and not enough time to implement everything to their full potential. That’s where the frustration started for me because each of these ideas ends up half-baked by the final episode.

At the end of the season, the entire synth ban is resolved far too quickly, but Picard’s status is right up Star Trek‘s alley with the mission to seek out new life. I really liked the idea of Picard being resurrected into a synth body that is virtually indistinguishable from “real” life.

Season Two starts off well enough with Picard back in true form and Starfleet being… well… Starfleet. The gang gets back together just in time to meet up with the Borg Queen and consider her application for provisional status in the Federation.

Then everything goes boom and Q pops up, leaving our heroes in an alternate fascist universe that is definitely not the mirror universe.

It’s a decent starting point. I could do without using the Borg once again, but John de Lancie is magnificent. However, it starts to slide downhill from here as the next two episodes rely on nearly the exact same plot as we go from the Prime Universe to this fascist universe to Los Angeles 2024: Figure out the new setting, get everyone back together, develop a plan, and move to the next episode. 

The rest of the season is spent in 2024 (with hardly a mention of the events of Deep Space Nine‘s “Past Tense”) exploring various tangents and failing to analyze the effects of the time jump.

  • The team rescued the Borg Queen from the Confederation future in order to slingshot around the sun and travel to 2024. Even though she shares some kind of temporal link with every universe’s Borg Queen, she’s not the Prime Universe’s Borg Queen, so her existence could very well create a paradox when our heroes succeed.
  • The team is obviously from a future alternative to the Prime Universe because Guinan has no idea who Picard is. The events of The Next Generation‘s “Time’s Arrow” never happened, and given the Confederation’s aggressively xenophobic nature, the Devidians were probably slaughtered anyway.
  • But, wait! The Kirk Thatcher guy on the bus from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home seems to recall getting nerve pinched by Spock. The planet also remains intact, so something had to stop the whale probe. Did Kirk and company still travel back to retrieve George and Gracie?
  • Finally, do our heroes have the right to “fix” the universe? Star Trek‘s “fix the timeline” stories usually stop a bad thing from happening so that the starting and ending points are the same. The crew starts in the normal timeline, someone goes back and breaks something, and our heroes go back and fix it to keep the timeline as it should be. The deviation here is that our heroes started in the Confederation’s future. In order to put events in 2024 on the path to the Prime Universe, a handful of time travelers have to decide the fate of billions of people and eradicate an entire existing timeline. Those ethical implications were never discussed. 

Q claims that he dropped the cast in the Confederation timeline to teach Picard a lesson. The key to fixing everything was ensuring that Picard’s astronaut ancestor successfully launched on her mission and discovered an alien microbe.

Strangely, Q attempted to snap Renee Picard out of existence halfway through the season. Why? Who knows.

We also meet more of the Gary Seven-style observers (yay!) and tie them into Wesley Crusher and the Travelers (I can buy that, though there was zero build-up to that revelation). Rios has an adventure with a local doctor and immigration officials (but we never explore the sociopolitical implications of immigration in the United States of 2024) before deciding to remain in the past. Seven and Raffi explore their own traumas, as well as plumb the depths of the relationship that was spawned by a random (and unearned) hand-holding flirtation in the first season.

One of Raffi’s traumas? Elnor, who was brutally murdered in the second episode and popped up periodically to justify keeping Evan Evagora in the opening credits. Seriously, he was criminally under-used in the second season.

Picard also faced his own trauma by uncovering the memories of his mother’s suicide. That came with a host of good and bad issues. The good was a discussion of mental health and using it as the framing device for Q’s lesson on Picard’s anxieties. Star Trek has done some good work in the last few years to address trauma and mental health. It’s a reminder that mental health is important for all of us, and also how we need to understand how it shapes us so we can unlock our potential.

On the downside, they dragged that storyline on forever with nary a mention of why it never came up before during his long self-imposed exile at the chateau.

We also spent an entire episode with Picard and Guinan in FBI custody running through a throwaway sidequest. I haven’t even mentioned the Adam Soong storyline because… yeah… yet another Soong means yet another Trek trope. Brent Spiner plays evil so well, but this story thread did nothing for me. 

Oh, and the trauma Jurati experienced in Season One? Hand-waved away. That made me angry.

Where Season One started frustrations with half-baked and abandoned ideas, Season Two capitalized on it in spades. Season Two had a ton of potential to explore, but it did not flow gracefully from idea to idea. Instead, it introduced concepts and then rapidly resolved them through easy yet uninspired tropes.

The whole thing resolves in a predictable manner with the Borg Queen needing Picard to lead a defense against yet another galaxy-killing event.

The end of the season brings a huge cast shake-up leading into the final season of the show. Isa Briones, Eva Evagora, Alison Pill, and Santiago Cabrera are done, which leaves room for the TNG regulars to come aboard.

Picard-3-cast-announcement

Where I would normally be excited to see these characters back in action for what is essentially TNG Season 8, I temper that excitement with the show’s performance so far. The characters and franchise deserve far better than a collection of loose story threads that defy cohesion.

While I have loved the new characters in general, I would have rather seen a single season of this show with the TNG characters on a final mission with Picard as he rectifies his mistakes and even sacrifices himself to save the day.

Will I watch Season Three? Yes, but with trepidation, because Star Trek: Picard has definitely been my least favorite series in this modern era of the franchise. It might even be my least favorite overall.

The storytelling potential deserves better.


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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 – The End of the iPod, Gender Bias in Parasites, and Underwater Spiders

STEAMSaturday

STEAM Saturday
The End of the iPod, Gender Bias in Parasites, and Underwater Spiders
May 14, 2022

In this edition, Apple ends the iPod, parasitology hides gender bias, and a spider hides underwater.

The end of the iPod holds special significance for me. Since the device and iTunes debuted, I have owned five generations of the music player. Two of those were stalwart companions on deployments when I was in the Navy, bringing me a slice of home with music, television episodes, and podcast novels.

It was those iPods that opened my eyes to what used to be Podiobooks.com, introducing me to the likes of Tee Morris, Philippa Ballantine, J.C. Hutchins, Nathan Lowell, Scott Sigler, and P.G. Holyfield. That was my springboard to writing for The ScapeCast and starting my journey with podcasting and writing.

There are a lot of fond memories in those bricks of glass and metal.

STEAMHeadlines

BBC – Apple to discontinue the iPod after 21 years (May 10, 2022)
Apple has announced it is discontinuing its music player, the iPod Touch, bringing to an end a device widely praised for revolutionizing how people listen to music.

Science.org – Do species names perpetuate gender bias in science? (May 10, 2022)
When it comes to christening parasites, men almost always get the honor.

ScienceDaily – Spider can hide underwater for 30 minutes (May 9, 2022)
A tropical spider species uses a ‘film’ of air to hide underwater from predators for as long as 30 minutes, according to new research.


STEAMSci

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.

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.

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. [S]

 


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

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

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. [A]

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.

Moonpie Creations – Ken is a woodworker and creator who likes to have fun. A combat veteran, he uses his tools as a way to relax and deal with everyday stress. He loves to try new things, think outside the box, and stay cool.

 


STEAMMath

8-bit Music Theory – This YouTuber loves music, video games, and analyzing and talking about music from video games. He promises that if you are a big nerd, you’ll love it too!

 


STEAMMulti

Smarter Every Day – Mechanical engineer and aerospace engineer Destin Sandlin explores the world using science in this series. He was one of three YouTube personalities chosen to conduct a one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama after his final State of the Union address. His secondary channel provides additional details and interviews to supplement his primary channel’s videos.

Simone Giertz – A Swedish inventor and robotics enthusiast, Simone Giertz uses deadpan humor to demonstrate mechanical robots to automate everyday tasks. Despite working from a purely mechanical standpoint, these creations often comically fall short of practical usefulness. [E, T]

[vid]

Mark Rober – An engineer and inventor, Mark Rober presents popular science concepts and do-it-yourself gadgets in easy-to-understand terms. He was previously a NASA engineer (where he worked on the Curiosity rover) and a product designer at Apple’s Special Projects Group (where he authored patents involving virtual reality in self-driving cars). One of his best-known series involves the development of a glitter bomb to combat porch pirates and internet scammers. [S, E, T]

Emmymade – Whether it’s trying to figure out if it’s really worth it to wait a hundred hours for a batch of brownies, finding out what Ranch gummies or giant centipedes taste like, making mayonnaise from a vintage gadget, or tasting desserts and dishes from around the world, Emmy wants to learn about our world through food.

U Can Beat Video Games – U Can Beat Video Games is a YouTube channel for all of us! Have you ever wanted to get better at video games, but every video requires players to have superhuman abilities? On UCBVG, watch Kylo take on titles like Castlevania, Mega Man, or Zelda, and learn strategies that anyone can use for these games and more! UCBVG also discusses the history and technology behind these games during his tutorials.

Game Maker’s Toolkit (GMTK) – Game Maker’s Toolkit is a deep dive into game design, level design, and game production, hosted by Mark Brown.


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.

Disclaimers: Any sponsored content or advertising presented in videos and/or links highlighted in STEAM Saturday are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Creative Criticality. Pursue such content and offers at your own risk. The links and videos attached to this post were publicly available at the time of publication, but there is no guarantee of availability after publication.

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 #250: The Day of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor
(1 episode, 50th Anniversary Special, 2013)

Timestamp 250 Day of the Doctor

The big event in a cup-a-soup.

The Last Day

A soldier opens his eyes to find someone standing over him. The soldier is part of the army on Gallifrey and has been fitted with a headcam. The man explains the headcam’s use and function, including how the frightening images that keep popping up are hallucinations, not premonitions. The headcams are installed into the brain and record everything for the official record. The recording is censored, with violence and language deemed unsuitable for the soldiers’ families cut out, and anything particularly graphic gets tinted red.

These soldiers proceed to Arcadia, the safest place on Gallifrey due to the impenetrable sky trenches. If even one Dalek did get through, the city could be destroyed, so the soldier has to remain vigilant in his scans. As he is trained on the scanner’s use, he detects a Dalek.

That Dalek leads to many more. As the Daleks open fire, the soldier’s headcam goes blank. The last sound heard in the background is a chilling death cry of anguish.

Thus begins the Fall of Arcadia.

The Day of the Doctor

After opening on a familiar theme, we see a police constable patrolling near I. M. Foreman’s scrap yard and Coal Hill School. Inside the school, Clara finishes a lesson for her class as the bell rings. She gets a note to meet “her doctor” at an address on an open patch of road. There she spots the TARDIS and races toward it on her motorcycle.

The TARDIS lets her in without complaint and she snaps her fingers to close the doors. After a cheerful reunion with the Doctor, she jumps as the TARDIS shudders. A helicopter hauls the box away. The Doctor calls Kate Stewart at UNIT headquarters only to find out that she’s bringing the TARDIS. She had no idea that he was still inside.

She has the TARDIS taken directly to the National Gallery where she presents instructions directly from Queen Elizabeth I. The Doctor and Clara meet UNIT scientist Petronella Osgood – she has a nice scarf – and proceed into the gallery. There they find a Time Lord painting known as both No More and Gallifrey Falls. It depicts the Fall of Arcadia and appears in three dimensions. The Doctor is shaken by what he remembers upon seeing the painting, recounting the day that the previously unknown Doctor ended the Time War.

Inside the image, we find the last day of the Last Great Time War. As the Daleks rage and innocents die, the War Doctor takes a gun from a lone soldier. With that weapon, he carves a message into a wall near the TARDIS.

It reads “NO MORE”.

The Doctor escapes by plowing the TARDIS through a wall and a gathering of Daleks. As he flees, the High Commanders gather in the War Room to plan their next move. The Eleventh General dismisses the High Council’s plans since “they have already failed” and ponders the Doctor’s message. He also learns that there has been a breach in the Omega Arsenal of the Time Vaults. Among all of the forbidden weapons – many of which have already been used in vain against the Daleks – the Moment has been taken.

The Moment was the final work of the ancients of Gallifrey. It is a weapon so advanced that it developed a conscience to stand in judgment of the user. The General muses that only the Doctor would be mad enough to use such a weapon.

Sure enough, the Doctor issues a final warning as he walks the empty desert toward an abandoned farmhouse: “Time Lords of Gallifrey, Daleks of Skaro, I serve notice on you all. Too long I have stayed my hand. No more. Today you leave me no choice. Today, this war will end. No more. No more…” He uncovers a complex box that ticks and whirs, lamenting the lack of a big red button to activate it. He hears a rustling sound and investigates, returning to find a woman sitting on the box.

This woman appears to be Rose Tyler, a face that this incarnation does not recognize, but she eventually identifies as Bad Wolf, an avatar of the Moment. She mocks the Doctor in her judgment, wondering why he left the TARDIS so far away. Perhaps so the TARDIS couldn’t witness what he’s about to do. Meanwhile, the Time Lord refuses the right to be called Doctor. Even though the name resides in his head, he no longer feels worthy of it. The suffering of the universe is too great, and he must end it even though it means his death. The Moment decides that his fate and punishment will be to survive the holocaust and live with the consequences, counting the dead for the rest of his lives.

They are interrupted by a fissure that opens overhead. A fez falls out.

In the 21st century, the Eleventh Doctor opens the queen’s letter.

“My dearest love: I hope the painting known as Gallifrey Falls will serve as proof that it is your Elizabeth that writes to you now. You will recall that you pledged yourself to the safety of my kingdom. In that capacity, I have appointed you Curator of the Under Gallery, where deadly danger to England is locked away. Should any disturbance occur within its walls, it is my wish that you should be summoned. Godspeed, gentle husband.”

Kate leads the Doctor and Clara away to show them the next piece of the puzzle. As they leave, UNIT scientist McGillop takes a mysterious phone call and questions why he should move the painting.

The Doctor, Clara, and Kate arrive at a painting of Queen Elizabeth I and the Tenth Doctor, leading the scene to England, 1562. There, the Tenth Doctor and Queen Elizabeth I ride a horse out of the TARDIS where he presumably just gave her a tour of the time capsule. They later share a picnic, and after she remarks on the face that has seen war, he proposes marriage.

It’s a ruse to uncover a Zygon invasion of Earth. Unfortunately, even with his tracking device that goes ding, he misidentifies the queen as a Zygon. When the horse changes shape, the duo runs from the threat. They end up separated, and while the queen gets attacked, the Doctor threatens a rabbit before realizing that it is truly just a rabbit.

The Doctor finds the queen once again, as well as a doppelgänger. While he tries to figure out which queen is the real one, a time fissure opens and a fez falls out.

In the 21t century, Kate leads her group into the Under Gallery where the Eleventh Doctor is fascinated by stone dust. Kate orders Osgood to analyze it while they proceed deeper. The Doctor pulls a fez from a display case before coming to the reason why Kate called him here. Several 3-D paintings that used to show figures have had their glass broken out from the inside. The figures are missing.

The time fissure opens and the Eleventh Doctor faintly recalls seeing it before. He tosses the fez through before jumping across, landing at the Tenth Doctor’s feet. The two Time Lords realize who each other are, compare sonic screwdrivers, and bicker a bit before the time fissure crackles.

The Tenth Doctor sends the queens away with a pair of kisses as Clara communicates with the Doctors through the fissure. The Eleventh Doctor tries to send the fez back, but it never arrives in the Under Gallery. Instead, it lands at the War Doctor’s feet.

Kate leaves Clara in the Under Gallery as she calls her office to request the Cromier file – invoking a nod toward the “UNIT dating controversy” – unaware of the Zygon lurking behind her.

The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors attempt to analyze the fissure, canceling each other’s reversal of the polarity with their sonics. After a moment, the War Doctor jumps through and meets his successors, mistaking them at first for companions instead of Time Lords.

He also chastises them for pointing their sonic screwdrivers like water pistols.

The meeting is interrupted by the queen’s royal guard. The Eleventh Doctor tries to get Clara to pose as a witch through the fissure, but the guards and the War Doctor are not impressed. The Queen arrives and threatens to toss the Doctors in the Tower of London, which serves as Kate’s office in the future.

Once there, the Eleventh Doctor sets to work scratching at a pillar while the Tenth Doctor questions the War Doctor. Meanwhile, in the future, Osgood puts the pieces together and realizes that the statues are Zygons. She’s too late, however, and both she and McGillop are copied. Osgood is able to escape in short order.

Kate leads Clara to the Black Archive, a space where the deepest secrets are kept and everyone’s memories of visiting it are wiped. The archive is TARDIS-proofed to keep the Doctor out since he wouldn’t approve of the collection within. Kate shows Clara a vortex manipulator gifted to the archive by Captain Jack Harkness. The access code has been carved into a pillar.

Clara also finds out that Kate, Osgood, and McGillop are Zygons. In that confusion, Clara steals Kate’s phone and uses the access code to teleport away with the vortex manipulator.

In 1562, the War Doctor muses that he could program his sonic screwdriver to disintegrate the door, but the calculations would take centuries. He suggests starting on them while questioning the dread on the faces of his future selves. They discuss the Last Day of the Great Time War, and the Moment – only visible to the War Doctor – prompts him to ask about the children.

The Eleventh Doctor can’t remember the number of children on Gallifrey, but the Tenth Doctor can. There were 2.47 billion children, and the fact that the Eleventh Doctor doesn’t want to remember angers – no, infuriates – the Tenth Doctor.

The Moment fills in the blanks for the War Doctor: The Tenth Doctor is the man who regrets and the Eleventh Doctor is the man who forgets. She also points out that they all have the same sonic screwdriver at heart with different cases.

If the War Doctor can scan the door, then the Eleventh Doctor’s screwdriver could calculate the method of breaking the door. They confirm it but are amazed when Clara bursts through the door and claims that it wasn’t locked. The queen is right behind her, confirming that she was curious about what they would do.

In the modern day, the real Osgood skulks about the Under Gallery and finds Kate in Zygon stasis. In 1562, the queen shows her visitors what is going on, including how she implanted the Zygons in the Gallifreyan paintings using stasis cubes. They also learn that the woman is the real Queen Elizabeth I and that she killed her impostor in the forest.

After the Tenth Doctor and Queen Elizabeth I are married, the three Time Lords and Clara board the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS. Detecting a potential paradox, the TARDIS compensates by shifting the desktops around a bit before Clara notifies the trio that they should head for the Black Archive.

The Zygons in the Black Archive are joined by their human counterparts, and Kate informs them that the Archive’s self-destruct mechanism has been activated. In five minutes, the nuclear warhead beneath them will detonate. The Doctors try to land the TARDIS in the Archive and fail, so the War Doctor suggests using the stasis cube instead.

When McGillop takes his call near the first painting, he gets an order to take the painting to the Black Archive. Once there, the Doctors emerge from the Fall of Arcadia and enter the Black Archive. They then use the memory modifiers to confuse everybody as to whether they are human or Zygon. If the participants stop the detonation and create a peace treaty – which is sure to be incredibly fair since the negotiators can’t remember which side they’re on – they will have their memories restored.

The countdown is stopped and the negotiations begin. The Osgoods figure each other out only by the nature of asthma. Meanwhile, Clara talks to the War Doctor about the Last Day, discovering that he hasn’t used the Moment. She expresses the Doctor’s regret about what he did that day, and the War Doctor makes his decision.

The Moment takes him back to the barn in the desert and presents him with a big red button.

He knows now that his successors are extraordinary men, but that they will only become so if he follows through. The Moment talks to him about the wheezing and groaning of the TARDIS, a sound that brings hope wherever it goes. At the same time, two TARDISes materialize behind him and his successors arrive.

They were able to arrive in this time-locked space because the Moment allowed it.

The two Time Lords talk about how they’ve treated their memory of the War Doctor. They explain that he was the Doctor on the day that it was impossible to get things right, and they offer to help him push the button today. Not out of fear or hatred, but because there is no other way. In the name of the lives that they cannot save.

The Eleventh Doctor stays his hand at Clara’s face. She could never imagine him destroying his own people. The Moment shows them the Fall of Arcadia, adding a moment of conscience to the act. Clara judges them: The Warrior, the Hero, and… what is the Eleventh?

She reminds him of the promise of the Doctor – “Never cowardly or cruel. Never give up; never give in.” – and tells her Doctor what to do. They have enough warriors, and any old idiot can be a hero. He should be a Doctor.

The Eleventh Doctor disarms the Moment and explains. He’s had lifetimes to think about this, and these three have a stasis cube. While the War Doctor thanks the “Bad Wolf girl” – the Tenth Doctor is taken aback – the Time Lords put their plan into action.

On the Last Day of the Great Time War, the Doctors send a message to Gallifrey High Command: GALLIFREY STANDS. They explain their plan to the Eleventh General, and even though the general finds the idea absurd, the Doctors explain that they’ve been working on it all their lives.

In an extraordinary moment, the three Doctors are joined by their other ten incarnations, including the one they will eventually become. The thirteen TARDISes take position as the Daleks intensify their firepower. The general tells the Doctor to go ahead. The planet Gallifrey disappears into a pocket dimension and the Daleks destroy each other in the crossfire. A single Dalek pod spins off into the void, foreshadowing their eventual return as the Cult of Skaro.

Gallifrey stands.

Back in the National Gallery, the Doctors muse on whether or not they succeeded. The mysterious painting remains an enigma, but they agree that it was better to have failed having done the right thing than succeeding in doing the wrong. The War Doctor bids farewell to his successors with a special nod to Clara, and they address him as Doctor, fully worthy of the title. He won’t remember this adventure, however, because the timestreams are a mess, but the Eleventh Doctor and Clara will. His legacy is safe with them.

As the War Doctor departs, he begins to regenerate after surviving the Time War. He hopes that the ears will be less conspicuous before transforming into the Ninth Doctor.

The Tenth Doctor takes his leave, asking the Eleventh Doctor where he’s going next. The Eleventh Doctor relents and reveals that they are destined to die in battle on Trenzalore. The Tenth Doctor is glad that his future is in safe hands, but expresses a desire to change their final destination. After all, he doesn’t want to go.

Clara leaves the Eleventh Doctor to sit and look at the painting for a little while. As she steps into the TARDIS, she mentions that the gallery’s curator was looking for him. He muses that he would be a great curator, and a deep voice agrees with him. The Doctor is astonished to see a very familiar face as the Curator arrives, looking very much like the Fourth Doctor.

The Curator suggests that the Doctor may revisit a few of his old faces before turning to the painting. He points out that everyone screws up the title of the painting: It is neither Gallifrey Falls nor No More, but rather Gallifrey Falls No More.

Gallifrey survived, and now the Doctor is tasked with finding it. The mission is now returning it and all its people to the universe.

Later on, the Doctor speaks of his dreams. In a vision, he walks through the TARDIS doors to join his previous incarnations as they stare at the planet Gallifrey above. He is destined to go home, even if it takes him the long way around.


First and foremost, I adore this episode. It is littered with nods to the franchise’s mythology, but more salient, it tackles some important concepts with the Doctor’s character.

During the revival era, the Last Great Time War has hung over the Doctor’s head. The Ninth Doctor was fresh from that conflict and obviously suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the magnitude of his choices. The Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor carried this weight as shown in this story.

The beauty of this story is that it retains the show’s history – the Doctor’s incarnations before now do not remember saving Gallifrey, so none of the motivations or choices made have changed – but absolution and redemption are offered for everyone involved, especially the Eleventh Doctor. Even though it is temporary, the senses of forgiveness and relief are important for the War Doctor and the Tenth Doctor and definitely shed a different light on the episodes we’ve seen to this point.

I love how the destruction of Gallifrey was driven by Clara, thus allowing a sense of humanity to temper the decisions of the Time Lord. This has been a constant over Doctor Who‘s history and was used to great effect here.

I do question how every incarnation of the Doctor knew to calculate the salvation of Gallifrey. Earlier, the sonic screwdrivers drove the point that the shell may change but the software remains the same, but those calculations were started by the War Doctor and matured with the Eleventh Doctor. In reverse, the idea to save Gallifrey seems to propagate from Eleven to War to Ten, a path that is far from linear. In fact, it’s wibbly-wobbly, which describes the Doctor to a tee.

Speaking of, I am so glad that the writers were able to give the War Doctor such brilliant insights into the revival era’s use of sonic screwdrivers. They’re not magic wands or water pistols, and the Doctor’s not going to assemble a cabinet at an enemy. I love his view on these scientific instruments.


Shifting gears, as much as I love the War Doctor and John Hurt, I really wish that Steven Moffat hadn’t needed to introduce him.

I get the reasons why: Christopher Eccleston did not want to return after how he was treated in the role, and he was less than impressed with the script when it was sent to him. What I don’t understand is why Paul McGann couldn’t have filled the same role.

Yes, I also love The Night of the Doctor, but it was developed as part of this whole story arc. Realistically, the Eighth Doctor could have been the incarnation that engaged in the Time War after seeing how Cass Fermazzi was willing to sacrifice her own life to avoid traveling with a Time Lord. This would effectively avoid the Stuffed into the Fridge trope (since Cass isn’t a loved one being used to motivate the hero) and could give us far more screen time for Paul McGann than just a TV movie and a webcast short.

It would have avoided the thirteen lives complications that developed from introducing another Doctor (which we’ll obviously cover during The Time of the Doctor) and would have still avoided the need for Christopher Eccelston’s involvement.

Everything else in The Day of the Doctor could have remained the same.

As much as I adore John Hurt and his performance here, the War Doctor needlessly complicated things, which apparently stemmed from Steven Moffat’s desire to have a “complete set” of regenerations before his departure. From what I can tell, that’s a rumor, but… yeah.


No look at the fiftieth anniversary special would be complete without a look at the mythology.

I have linked a good number of the mythological callbacks, but there are still quite a few favorites that jumped out in the course of this celebration. One of them is the set design, particularly the roundels (“the round things”) in the War Doctor’s TARDIS and in the Curator’s gallery. The War Doctor’s TARDIS design is a fun mix between the classic era (not counting the TV movie) and the coral motif that kicked off the revival era. The Curator’s gallery adds the hexagons to the roundels, tying the classic and revival eras together.

The Brigadier’s space-time telegraph made a notable appearance in the Black Archive. It was prominently featured in Revenge of the Cybermen and Terror of the Zygons, the latter of which was our last meeting with the Zygons. That portion of the story also showcased one of my favorite Osgood moments as she and her doppelgänger share their identities over her asthma inhaler.

The Day of the Doctor marks the last salvo fired in the Last Great Time War, a confrontation that began in Genesis of the Daleks. Russell T Davies stated in an episode of Doctor Who Confidential that the origins of the war that he envisioned began when the Time Lords struck first – the attempted genocide of the Daleks – in the Fourth Doctor’s era. This idea was repeated by RTD in Doctor Who Annual 2006, and was adapted in Hunters of the Burning Stone, a 2013 comic story published in Doctor Who Magazine as part of the 50th-anniversary celebration. The comic was written by Scott Gray and served as a sequel to An Unearthly Child, though it was the Eleventh Doctor in the lead with Ian and Barbara.

The Black Archive pinboards hold tons of photo references to the franchise’s history, including: Susan Foreman; Barbara Wright & Ian Chesterton; Vicki Pallister; Katarina & Sara Kingdom; Steven Taylor; Dodo Chaplet; Ben Jackson & Polly Wright; Victoria Waterfield; Zoe Heriot; Liz Shaw; Captain Mike Yates; Harry Sullivan & Warrant Officer John Benton; Leela; Romana I; Romana II; Adric; Nyssa; Tegan Jovanka; Kamelion & Vislor Turlough; Jamie McCrimmon; Peri Brown; Melanie Bush; Brigadier Winifred Bambera; Ace McShane; Grace Holloway; Adam Mitchell (why?); K-9 Mark III; Lieutenant General Sanchez; Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart; UNIT Captain Erisa Magambo; Donna Noble, Martha Jones, Mickey Smith, Rose Tyler, & Wilfred Mott; Jo Grant; Jack Harkness; Craig Owens (again, why?); Sarah Jane Smith;
Amy Pond & Rory Williams; River Song; Kate Stewart; and Clara Oswald.

Finally, that moment. The all thirteen moment. The moment that made me jump out of my seat and cheer. The moment that makes me grin from ear to ear every time I see it.

It was amazing to see all of the Doctors on screen, interacting with each other to save their home. Since many of them are no longer with us, it was also fun to see exactly where the producers sourced the footage to bring this moment together.

  • The First Doctor’s footage came from The Daleks (specifically “The Dead Planet”), and his voice was newly recorded audio by John Guilor (who also voiced the First Doctor in the reconstruction of Planet of Giants).
  • The Second Doctor’s footage came from The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Mind Robber, and his audio came from The Seeds of Death.
  • The Third Doctor’s footage came from Colony in Space – the re-used footage was flipped from the original – and the audio came from The Green Death.
  • The Fourth Doctor’s footage came from Planet of Evil – again, the re-used footage was flipped – but the audio (“Ready.”) has yet to be identified.
  • The Fifth Doctor’s footage was sourced from Frontios and the audio came from The Five Doctors.
  • The Sixth Doctor’s footage and audio were sourced from the same story: Attack of the Cybermen.
  • The Seventh Doctor’s (flipped) footage and audio came from Battlefield, but the producers also used some footage from the TV movie.
  • The Eighth Doctor’s footage came from the TV movie. The audio (“Commencing calculations.”) hasn’t been identified.
  • Finally, the Ninth Doctor’s footage came from Rose and The Parting of the Ways (“And for my next trick…”), along with some footage from Aliens of London.

The sheer amount of work and research required to make this climactic scene come to life amazes me.


Finally, I want to take a look at three smaller items before closing this out.

First, The Last Day: It was a quick and easy prequel story. The biggest thing that came from it was a desire to know more about the soldiers and the headcams.

Second, the visual salute to Christopher Eccleston’s legacy in the regeneration. Steven Moffat didn’t want to include an image of Eccleston in the regeneration sequence because it would have been “crossing the line” by implying that he had been on set. So, there are hints as John Hurt morphs into Christopher Eccleston, but the camera cuts away just in time to give us the impression of what comes next. Of course, as implied by the novelization of this story, the Ninth Doctor broke every mirror in the TARDIS just after regeneration because he couldn’t face himself. That adds a new dimension to his first glance in the mirror in Rose.

The last is the novelization of The Day of the Doctor. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, pick it up. It tells the story of the TV episode but breaks the chapters into narratives by the War Doctor, the Tenth Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor, Petronella Osgood and the Zygons, the Twelfth Doctor, and even the Thirteenth Doctor. It expands a lot of the characters and scenes, and it also adds a few additional insights and inside gags, including some time with Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who. While I don’t generally lean on the expanded media for information, this is written by Steven Moffat so I consider it a bit more authoritative. Chapter 9 (“The Truth of the Doctor”) is a hoot.

It’s a quick read and well worth the time.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

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

Culture on My Mind – The Fourteenth Doctor

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Fourteenth Doctor
May 9, 2022

This week, I changed course mid-stream because the BBC dropped some big news on Sunday morning: Ncuti Gatwa will be the Fourteenth Doctor!

Ncuti Gatwa (pronounced SHOO-tee GAT-wah) is a Rwandan-Scottish actor best known for his role as Eric Effiong on Netflix’s Sex Education. In that role, he has been nominated for 15 different awards and has won seven of them. He is the first Doctor Who lead to be born after the classic era ended (not counting the TV movie), the first Doctor Who lead to be born outside the United Kingdom, and the first black actor to lead the show.

Notably, Jo Martin was the first black actor cast as the Doctor, but she’s always been credited as a guest star (as the Fugitive Doctor).

I’m excited about this casting because I don’t know the actor. That’s perfect for me when it comes to the Doctor. Oddsmakers and internet rumormongers suggested that several big names in the UK could take over when Jodie Whittaker leaves the role, including a return of David Tennant. I’m glad that the casting choice is someone who is relatively unknown.

Our first look at Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor will likely be during the BBC Centenary Special in October, an episode that will mark the regeneration from the Thirteenth to the Fourteenth Doctor. After that episode, we’ll have to wait until the 60th Anniversary Special in 2023 for his first full story.

He’s also appearing in 2023 Barbie film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

Ncuti_Gatwa
Ncuti Gatwa – Instagram (@bbcdoctorwho)

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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 #249: Clara and the TARDIS & Rain Gods & The Inforarium

Doctor Who: Clara and the TARDIS
Doctor Who: Rain Gods
Doctor Who: The Inforarium

(3 episodes, Blu-Ray Specials, 2013)

Timestamp 249 Clara TARDIS Rain Gods Inforarium

Tying off loose threads before the anniversary party.

Clara and the TARDIS

Clara Oswald gets into an argument with the TARDIS. It seems that the TARDIS is playing practical jokes on her in the shower and making her bedroom disappear. The time capsule compares Clara to his various female companions, and despite them coming to somewhat of a truce, the TARDIS can’t help but pull one more trick.

Clara can’t find her bedroom, and neither can Clara from the next day. Or the next. Or the next.

The console room fills with copies of sleep-deprived Claras.

Rain Gods

The Doctor and River Song are being marched by spearpoint to be sacrificed by natives to their Rain Gods. The couple banter back and forth until the Doctor demands that the Rain Gods strike him dead if they aren’t rubbish.

A lightning strike forces their guards to cower, and the couple runs off in the ensuring rainstorm to the safety of the TARDIS.

The Inforarium

The Inforarium is the greatest source of illicit information in recorded history… and it has been compromised. The Doctor has broken in, upset that the operatives have been selling that information to his enemies. He tells the guard that he will be erasing all traces of himself from their database, making everyone forget what they’ve heard through means he’d adapted from the Silence.

The Doctor, truly a holographic recording, continues to dismiss the guard’s complacency and suggests that he check the data drives. The guard turns away, completely forgetting the whole interaction, unaware that he’s trapped in a memory loop.

So, the message begins again.


These three home media shorts present some fun slices of life for this season. One of them actually has some meat on the bone as far as the series mythology is concerned.

The first two are frivolous throwaway stories: Clara and the TARDIS plays with the belief that the TARDIS doesn’t like Clara, a story element that was resolved with her mystery. Rain Gods adapts an unused opening sequence from The Doctor’s Wife, replacing the Ponds with River Song.

Of note, the opening for Rain Gods credits Steven Moffat as the writer, but it was actually Neil Gaiman, making this the first on-screen story featuring River to not be penned by Moffat. It’s also one of the shortest Doctor Who stories ever.

The short with the most bearing on this season’s events is The Inforarium, an adventure that shows how the Doctor was able to erase his existence leading to the events at Trenzalore. It is equal parts hilarious and chilling, and I feel a little bit sorry for the guard who is trapped in an endless loop.

These stories fill a few gaps that didn’t need sealing. They are presented here as the last bit of story material leading into the fiftieth-anniversary celebration and the Eleventh Doctor’s regeneration.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor

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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 – Speed of Light

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Speed of Light
May 2, 2022

This week, I have physics on my mind, courtesy of a meme.

lightyears

The meme presents some interesting concepts that can be confusing to think about. They also require a few assumptions, as science usually does.

The speed of light in a vacuum is an important physical constant in physics. The value is commonly denoted as c and is exactly defined as 299,792,458 meters/second (though easy figures for simplicity are 300,000 km/second and 186000 miles/second). Basically, light can circle our planet about 7.5 times in one second.

In terms of the special theory of relativity, this physical constant is the upper limit for the speed at which conventional matter, energy, or any signal carrying information can travel through space. It also defines the relationship between energy and mass – E=mc2 – which suggests that a tremendous amount of energy is needed to accelerate any mass to that speed.

All forms of electromagnetic radiation – light, radio, etc – travel at the speed of light and we can measure the distance that they travel through space. We put a lot of signals out into space from our planet, and the distance those signals travel through a vacuum in one year is defined as a light-year.

That brings us back to the meme.

If a ship was parked one light-year away from the planet, the light and signals that reached them would be from one year in our past. We would be living in 2022, but they’d be seeing information from 2021 since that was when those signals were broadcast.

If that ship was parked 53 light-years away, they would be able to watch humans land on the Moon for the first time. Those television signals were generated in 1969.

Since light is an electromagnetic signal, we can use telescopes like Hubble or James Webb to capture that light and study the past. The light coming from a star one million light-years away shows us what was happening there one million years ago. If there was a habitable planet around that star and we had a sufficiently powerful telescope, we could theoretically see what life was like on that planet one million years ago.

It’s a difficult concept for some people to understand, but it’s exactly why we send telescopes like Hubble and James Webb up there. By studying the light from stars so far away, we can begin to understand the formation of the universe. We could even look back to its very beginnings.

The meme is simple, but the science is awesome.


What I have here is very bare bones, but the science from Ole Rømer to James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein is easy to read about. It’s fascinating stuff.

If you want more science stuff from this site, check out my feature STEAM Saturday, in which I gather some interesting stuff from science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics to share with you. I publish that (roughly) every two weeks.


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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.