Timestamp #274: Smile

Doctor Who: Smile
(1 episode, s10e02, 2017)

Timestamp 274 Smile

The importance of understanding emotion.

Bill prepares for her first proper trip in the TARDIS, musing about how the seats are too far from the console and how difficult it seems to drive it. She’s impressed that the Doctor stole the TARDIS instead of buying it, and their back-and-forth is interrupted by Nardole who chastizes the Doctor for considering a trip off-world. The Doctor dismisses him by requesting to put the kettle on for tea.

Between the vault and the Doctor’s office, before the kettle boils, the Doctor takes a trip to the future.

On a planet with vast expanses of wheat, colonists are waging a battle with their robots. If the robots detect emotions other than happiness, they murder the colonists with a wave of tiny drones. Sometime later, the Doctor and Bill arrive and take a self-guided tour of one of Earth’s first off-world colonies. They are fitted with translation devices while the emoji-bots stalk them from the windows above. One of the emoji-bots meets the travelers and offers them badges that reflect the wearer’s emotions. The emotions are not visible to the wearer and are worn on the back to facilitate transparency.

The robot serves Bill a meal of processed algae as she notes how skeptical the Doctor is about the empty city. She’s also amazed by the Doctor’s dual hearts, which he mentions during an excited monologue about how the city was built. He later finds a necklace on the ground and his theory changes regarding the residents of the colony. He verifies it by locating the source of a greenhouse’s calcium-based fertilizer.

The Doctor’s shift in mood is noted by the emoji-bots and they chase the travelers before the Doctor tells Bill to smile. The robots are programmed to ensure the happiness of the colonists and they have done so to a fault. The Doctor and Bill evade the robots and return to the TARDIS. The Doctor plans to leave Bill at the TARDIS while he destroys the death trap that is the city, but she is swayed otherwise by the sign on the TARDIS door: “Advice and assistance obtainable immediately.”

The Doctor is the universe’s helpline.

Bill returns to the Doctor’s side and he explains that the killer insect drones – the Vardy – are the literal bones and flesh of the buildings around them. At its core lies the original ship that the colonists arrived in, just like the Vikings who lived in their ships until they built their cities. As the travelers enter the ship, the Erehwon, the emoji-bots go on alert.

The Doctor navigates to the ship’s engine room with Bill’s help and a good old-fashioned deck plan. As the Doctor enters the engine room, the emoji-bots enter murder mode. Bill remembers that she can photograph the deck plan with her phone before following the Doctor’s path. She moves through stacks of artifacts and finds a room holding the remains of a recently-deceased elderly woman and a digital book filled with images of Earth’s history. She deduces that the colonists were the last humans evacuating from Earth.

Bill decides to rendezvous with the Doctor but finds a human boy. Meanwhile, the Doctor is ambushed by an emoji-bot. The Doctor meets up with Bill and the boy and he decides to disarm his makeshift bomb because the ship is a cryogenic colony ship filled with survivors from Earth. They meet Steadfast, one of the first to awaken, and the Doctor orders him to remain on the ship until told otherwise.

Bill takes the Doctor to the elderly woman whom the Time Lord identifies as a shepherd for this flock. She was the first to die, passing from natural causes, but the grief of her death passed through the colony like a virus. The Vardy identified grief as the enemy of happiness and started a cascade of death to stem the tide. Using the necklace, the Doctor recognizes that the grief cycle will continue, so he assembles the colonists to tell them the story.

The boy has left the ship and the colonists decide to wage war on the Vardy. When they fire on an emoji-bot, it experiences rage, and the Vardy attack the colonists. The Doctor realizes that the Vardy have become self-aware and stuns everyone in the city, effectively resetting the city into a symbiotic relationship where the humans are tenants in the Vardy’s new home.

Bill and the Doctor leave in the TARDIS as she muses about his role as an intergalactic policeman. The Doctor presumes that he can return them to the exact moment that they left, but they materialize in the wrong time as an elephant walks up the frozen Thames.

What starts as a monster-of-the-week story ends up with a Doctor Who twist as the supposed enemy ends up on top because it is simply misunderstood. Couple that with the theme of a new companion’s first real trip in the TARDIS and you have a winner.

The origin of this story makes me laugh: Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat don’t understand emojis, so they often had trouble understanding texts from Jenna Coleman (who uses a lot of them in her communication). Thus was born a story about miscommunication based around emotions.

The story’s moral, of course, orbits the concepts of miscommunication and toxic positivity and emphasizes the need to read and understand emotions in relationships. The Vardy only understand black and white when it comes to emotions – grief is the enemy of happiness – but humanity exists in shades of grey that are wide open to interpretation and analysis. We can make a lot of headway together by simply talking things through with transparency.

Following on from the wave of comic characters that exist in Doctor Who canon from The Return of Doctor Mysterio, Bill lets us know that Mister Fantastic of Marvel’s first family (The Fantastic Four) is another superhero in this continuity.

The show also returns to classic tropes with human colony ships (The Ark and The Beast Below, for example) and cryogenic suspension (The Ark in Space, for example). It’s also the second time that we’ve seen a human colony where unhappiness was a death sentence (The Happiness Patrol was the first).

I enjoyed the story of The Magic Haddock, which is a story about being careful about what you wish for. That in-universe parable is made up of two different stories: The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish is the source of the wishes in the haddock story, and The Monkey’s Paw is about an artifact that grants wishes at a deadly expense.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the colony planet was never named. It’s a literal “nowhere” colonized by people who traveled on a ship called Erewhon (“nowhere” spelled backward). (The planet is later called Gliese 581d and Earth 2.7 in different prose stories, but it is not identified in the course of this televised story.)

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Thin Ice


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


Timestamp #273: The Pilot

Doctor Who: The Pilot
(1 episode, s10e01, 2017)

Timestamp 273 The Pilot

A new companion gets an education.

An empty university office soon welcomes Nardole and a woman we will come to know as Bill. The TARDIS stands darkly in the corner of the office, apparently out of order, and photos of River Song and Susan decorate the desk alongside a small jar of sonic screwdrivers. The Doctor makes his entrance with an electric guitar before questioning Bill as to why she’d attend his lectures if she wasn’t a student. Bill tells a story about a girl and fries before asking about the TARDIS.

The Doctor deflects and redirects Bill to the question at hand. He notes that she tends to smile when she doesn’t understand something. She wonders what he actually lectures about. The Doctor offers to tutor her so long as she performs well.

The Doctor lectures about time as Bill works her job in the canteen, and she arrives at his tutoring sessions on time while scoring top marks. Bill’s foster mother Moira wonders about her relationship with the Doctor, but Bill replies under her breath that she’s not interested in men. To wit, she sparks a relationship with a woman in a bar who has a star pattern in her eyes.

One day, Bill follows the Doctor and Nardole to a secret underground chamber. She overhears the pair talking as they work on a large door, but after she knocks over some debris on the floor, she rushes back outside. She soon runs into Heather, the woman from the bar. Heather explains that the star is a defect in her iris but offers to show Bill something that’s bothering her. They sneak into a construction area where Heather shows Bill a puddle that hasn’t evaporated since the rain last week. When Bill looks into it, she notes that the reflection is somehow wrong. Heather walks away without much explanation as a voice inside the puddle proclaims that the pilot has been located.

Christmas eventually rolls around and the Doctor and Bill celebrate with a small gathering. She talks about her mother and wonders about photographs helping ease the pain of loss. Later on, she returns home and looks at some photographs of her mother. She spots the Doctor in one of them and is intrigued.

She sees some other strange things when the new term starts, including evidence that the TARDIS has moved. She finds Heather staring into the puddle but the woman disappears when Bill approaches. Sadly, Heather is trapped in the puddle and identified as the pilot.

Bill tells the Doctor about Heather and he rushes off like a “penguin with his ass on fire” to investigate it. The Doctor soon understands that the problem with their reflections is that they’re being shown the wrong way. Whatever is in the water is mimicking the observer. The Doctor also takes note of the scorch marks around the puddle and then sends Bill home. The puddle pursues, claiming to have found its passenger.

When Bill returns home, she assumes that Moira is in the shower, but a phone call proves that assumption wrong. When Bill investigates the running shower, she finds Heather’s starry eye staring back at her from the drain. Bill rushes back to the university to find the Doctor, but is confronted in the darkness by a sopping wet Heather. Heather is a bit freaky and Bill rushes to the Doctor’s office where he is analyzing a sample of the puddle. The puddle pursues and takes Heather’s shape once again.

The pair takes shelter in the TARDIS where the Doctor is pleased to show off his time capsule. Bill is astounded as most companions are, but she does proclaim that it resembles a kitchen. Nardole appears as the puddle attacks, forcing the Doctor to relocate the TARDIS to the underground vault. As the Doctor and Nardole analyze the vault for any breaches, Bill finally has her “bigger on the inside” moment.

The puddle eventually catches up to them so the trio takes flight to Sydney, Australia. The gravity of what’s happening finally catches up to Bill, and she starts asking the Doctor questions about his life and history. They’re interrupted when Heather catches up to them, so the Doctor takes the TARDIS off the planet and twenty-three million years into the future.

Bill is amazed as Nardole and the Doctor muse about the puddle. They presume that the puddle is a remnant from an alien craft that can take the shape of what it needs. It found Heather, someone who wanted to leave the world around her, and took her on board to leave the planet. The puddle catches up to them and nearly abducts Bill, and the Doctor takes his team to the most dangerous place in time and space. When they arrive, the Doctor tosses a classic sonic screwdriver to Nardole before rushing into a war zone in the past. Nardole tries to distract the Daleks, who are fighting the Movellans, as the Doctor and Bill try to escape the puddle.

Taking a slight detour to the Friend from the Future promo teaser, the Doctor and Bill run from the Daleks. Taking refuge behind a wall, Bill repeatedly questions the Doctor about the Daleks.

The Doctor finds a Dalek and has it scan his sonic screwdriver. It fires on the Doctor, but he dodges so the blast hits Heather. As the travelers run, Heather morphs into a Dalek but the Doctor is not tricked. He does wonder, however, why she didn’t shoot when she had a gun.

Bill realizes that Heather’s last conscious thought was to not leave without her. The pilot has been trying to fulfill that promise since Heather was killed. Bill releases Heather from the promise after briefly bonding with the pilot. The puddle retreats and the traveling trio returns to the TARDIS, though Bill notes that she is now partially connected with Heather.

Back in the university office, Bill regrets leaving Heather and the Doctor decides to wipe her memory in order to protect his undercover disguise while he guards the vault. Bill asks him to imagine what it would feel like if someone did the same to him and the memory of Clara forces him to send Bill away. The TARDIS and the pictures of River and Susan chide him, and he decides to meet Bill downstairs with the time capsule.

It’s a big universe, but maybe one day they’ll find Heather again. Until then it’s time for an adventure in time and space.

This episode’s title does double duty. The obvious meaning is in reference to Heather’s fate, but the other one is this story’s status as a perfect entry point for newcomers. The story tells the viewer everything they need to know about Doctor Who while easing them into the universe and a season-long story arc. Steven Moffat has compared this story (in that regard) to both An Unearthly Child and Rose. To a lesser degree, I’d also include The Eleventh Hour, Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons, and Remembrance of the Daleks.

Bill debuts here as a not-the-usual companion. Most companions are enraptured by the magic and fantasy of everything Time Lord, but Bill’s worldview pushes all of that to the backseat as she parses the new world around her. It’s quite refreshing.

We also get the mystery of the vault beneath the university. The Doctor and Nardole have apparently been guarding it for approximately 50 years. Since St. Luke’s University is in Bristol, the Doctor runs the risk of crossing his own timeline since Flatline also took place in Bristol. It’s also across the Bristol Channel – about an hour’s drive or so – from Cardiff, which means possible interactions with the Ninth Doctor, the Tenth Doctor, and Torchwood Three. I mean, none of those things will occur, but I’m honestly surprised that more inadvertent timeline interactions don’t happen given how much time the Doctor spends on the British Isles.

This episode marks the return of the Movellans to Doctor Who, which results in a neat timeline check with the Daleks. They don’t know that the Twelfth Doctor is their nemesis until they scan the sonic screwdriver because they only know about the current incarnation (the Fourth Doctor) who was involved in the Dalek-Movellan war shown in Destiny of the Daleks.

Overall, The Pilot fulfills its mission of serving both newbies and veterans with plenty of explanation and nods to the past interwoven with an engaging story and enjoyable actors. It serves well as a welcome back to the Twelfth Doctor after the complicated drama dance with Clara.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Smile


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 – Darren Nowell

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Darren Nowell
March 10, 2023

February was a rough month for me. My family had some health scares and my friends were rocked by deaths in their families. Among them was the sudden loss of Darren Nowell on February 21st.

Darren Nowell

Darren was well-known in Dragon Con, local geek, and local podcasting circles. He worked with the ESO Network for a long time, including as a co-host on the Dragon Con Report podcast which is where I met him. His memorial was held last Sunday with a building full of friends and family to honor his legacy.

The ongoing theme as everybody swapped stories about Darren was that he gave of himself unconditionally. If you needed help, he was there for you. He lived his life without disguises, showing the world his true, compassionate, and authentic self at every turn.

More importantly, he encouraged those around him to do the same. To be proud of the skin in which they lived.

I didn’t know Darren long, but he was certainly one of the brightest burning stars of charisma and compassion that I have had the privilege of being around.  He was an amazing example of what humanity can be.

His physical presence will certainly be missed. His legacy will be with us for a very long time.

Thank you, Darren.

Darren Nowell Comics


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 #272: The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2016)

Doctor Who Christmas 2016 The Return of Doctor Mysterio

With great fandom comes great tributes to nostalgia.

It’s Christmas Eve in 1990. In New York City, a boy named Grant meets the Doctor in the middle of the night as the Time Lord dangles by his ankles in front of Grant’s window. The Doctor was testing a trap and inadvertently set it off. After some hijinks, the Doctor is finally let in because he is “expected.” Turns out that Grant and his mother believe that the Doctor is Santa Claus.

The Doctor flips through Grant’s Superman comic collection, discovering that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. The Doctor also learns about Spider-Man before taking Grant to the roof to work on the Doctor’s trap. Grant names the Time Lord “Doctor Mysterio” as he works on the “time distortion equalizer thingy” that will take the edge off of his frequent incursions near the area. It will also help protect a glowing gemstone in the Doctor’s possession. The gemstone is one of four left in the universe and is known as the Hazandra. This “Ghost of Love and Wishes” uses power from a nearby star to make the wisher’s dreams come true.

Unfortunately, Grant swallowed the gemstone after mistaking it for medicine, and now has superpowers. Fast-forwarding to the future, a now-adult Grant works as a nanny. Elsewhere in the city, a man named Brock is hosting a press release at the Harmony Shoal building – which looks a lot like the Daily Planet – and fields questions from a reporter named Lucy Fletcher and Nardole.

Brock later meets with Dr. Sim at midnight, missing the fact that Lucy and Nardole have both independently sneaked back into the building. Sim and Brock enter a vault full of brains and Sim questions where some of the brains came from. Lucy overhears this and meets the Doctor as Brock discovers that Sim and the brains are aliens. The aliens swapped the brain of the real Dr. Sim with an invader, and a surgical team soon does the same to Mr. Brock.

Lucy and the Doctor retreat to the lobby where they meet with Nardole before being discovered by Sim. Sim threatens to kill the intruders but they are interrupted by a superhero knocking on the window of the 100th floor. This superhero is known as the Ghost and he saves the protagonists. The Doctor recognizes Grant as the Ghost before the superhero flies Lucy home.

On the day that Grant swallowed the gemstone, he promised not to use his powers as he waited for the stone to pass naturally. The Doctor tracks Grant back to the apartment where he works as a nanny to confront the hero with a Spider-Man catchphrase. It turns out that Grant is working for Lucy, and when she arrives home she is surprised to find the Doctor and Nardole in her dining room.

The Doctor checked in on Grant from time to time. One of those times was in high school when Grant knew Lucy and had x-ray vision. It was then that the Doctor knew that the stone had bonded with Grant’s DNA. In the modern day, the Doctor chats with Grant before sirens call the hero away and the Doctor meets with Lucy.

Lucy investigates the Doctor while using a Mr. Huffle toy – later sold as a Doctor Who-branded collectible! – to persuade him to tell the truth. The Doctor reveals everything about Harmony Shoal and the brain-swapping operation, and Lucy wants to know how the Ghost is related to the plot. She deduces that the Doctor knows the Ghost’s identity, but she’s oblivious to Grant’s secret. Grant overhears Lucy’s demands and calls her in his Ghost persona. Hilarity ensues as the Ghost agrees to have dinner with Lucy and Grant agrees to watch her daughter for the night.

As Sim and Brock hatch a plot to take over the Ghost’s body, the Doctor confronts them. He figures out the plan to assimilate the world’s leaders and warns the body-swappers as Nadole materializes the TARDIS around him. We learn that the Doctor extracted Nardole from Hydroflax because he was lonely. They travel to the Tokyo branch to search for clues while Grant and Lucy have their dinner on the roof of her apartment building. The Doctor and Nardole track a signal in orbit and find a spaceship.

Brock tracks the Ghost and leads a team to assimilate him while the Doctor and Nardole investigate the ship. The ship has been rewired into a floating bomb and has been targeted toward New York City to stage an attack and lure the world’s leaders. Luckily, Harmony Shoal has been designed as a bunker that can withstand the blast. The Doctor decides to crash the ship into the planet’s atmosphere.

Brock attempts to assimilate the Ghost, but Grant breaks free and returns in his civilian guise to confront the aliens. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to communicate with Grant, asking the hero to use his powers and stop the ship from crashing. Of course, Grant is forced to reveal his true identity to Lucy, but the city is saved from nuclear disaster. The Doctor and Nardole arrive in the TARDIS and confront Brock. Grant and Lucy kiss and fly into the sky with the ship as UNIT arrives to close down Harmony Shoal.

Unfortunately, the brain-swappers escape (as the baddies in the comic pages usually do).

As the Doctor and Nardole say goodbye to Grant and Lucy, they discuss how things end and begin again, alluding to the Doctor’s final night with the woman he loved. Nardole explains as the Doctor returns to the TARDIS. Together they set course for adventures unknown.

In typical Christmas Special fashion, this was a light and fluffy piece with plenty of room for the actors to have fun. Steven Moffat’s love of the Superman comics is on full display, making up most of the homage here. Grant puts off definite Clark Kent and Peter Parker vibes as he dances between his personas, and he acts like Batman with a serious and gravelly voice while in the cape and mask. There are several other elements, particularly from the 1978 Superman film, including the rooftop interview and being contacted on a specific frequency that only their super ears can hear. The x-ray vision sequence in the high school reminded me of the Smallville episode “X-Ray” from 2001, though Clark Kent seemed to enjoy the power a bit more than Grant did.

The Superman comic that the Doctor reads is Superman Vol. 2 #19 from July 1988. In that issue, “The Power that Failed”, the villain Psi-Phon removes Superman’s powers one by one. It’s an ironic choice given how young Grant is shown as gaining his powers sequentially in this episode.

The superhero homage is embellished to the extreme in young Grant’s bedroom, complete with tributes to Superman, the Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Captain America, Iron Man, the Defenders, and more. All of them are apparently canon in the Doctor Who universe, and Batman was previously mentioned in Inferno, The Time Monster, Remembrance of the Daleks (where Ace’s earrings were outstanding!), Sky, and The Curse of Clyde Langer. It’s all capped by the nods to Miss Shuster and Miss Siegel, which pays tribute to Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the parents of Superman’s legacy.

Brain swapping is a storytelling trope with a long history behind it. In fact, the first supervillain in a DC Comics story was the Ultra-Humanite, a mad scientist who tangled with Superman in Action Comics #13 (“Superman vs. the Cab Protective League”) in June 1939, and that ne’er-do-well transplanted his brain into an actress after supposedly dying in battle against the Man of Steel. He transplanted his brain multiple times over the years before settling on the body of an albino gorilla. Doctor Who fans will recognize the trope as part of the story The Brain of Morbius.

A fun bit of trivia that I didn’t know until I started diving into this story relates to the name Doctor Mysterio. When Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi were doing the Doctor Who World Tour, they fell in love with the show’s Mexican title Doctor Misterio. Peter Capaldi’s delivery of that name in this episode is an impersonation of the announcer’s voice on the overdubbed soundtrack.

Finally, I loved how the Doctor brought snacks to his investigation. I also loved the callback to The Green Death as Lucy disguises herself as a cleaner just like the Doctor did to infiltrate Global Chemicals.

Overall, this ends up as a wholesome fluff story and a lovely tribute to the superhero genre.

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Pilot


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 Art of Plays

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Art of Plays
March 6, 2023

This week, I’m back to the performing arts with the Theater and Musical Lovers YouTube Channel.

The channel and its associated Facebook group were established as an unofficial gathering of Dragon Con attendees who love theater, musicals, and the performing arts. Their goal is to create a community of fellow thespians and fans at the convention. This time, they assembled to talk about the non-musical – better known as stageplays – and what they love about them, why they work, their favorite playwrights, and more.

On March 4th, Gary Mitchel and Sarah Rose were joined by Kris, JJ, Mera Rose, and Matt Duron to explain exactly why the play’s the thing.

Note: Depending on security settings, you may have to click through below to see the video directly on YouTube. You should definitely subscribe to their channel for more updates.

The Theater and Musical Lovers Group will be hosting more of these panels. If you’re interested in participating or have some topic ideas in mind, head over to the group on Facebook and drop them a line

You can find Gary and Sarah on the socials: On Twitter, they are Gary_Mitchel, SarahRose_KPK, and Daisuki_Suu; on Instagram, they are Gary_Mitchel and Daisuki_Suu; and Gary’s horror-themed podcast that he hosts with Erin McGourn is A Podcask of Amontillado. Of course, the Theater & Musical Lovers channel can be found on YouTube.


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 – A Career in a Coffee Mug

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
A Career in a Coffee Mug
March 3, 2023

The Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have a tradition.

Well, okay, they have a lot of traditions. Trust me, as a Navy veteran, I know this all too well. But one of the fascinating ones among the senior enlisted and the mustangs (a commissioned officer who began their career as an enlisted service member) centers on their coffee mugs.

Coffee is life blood in the military. From long hours spent on watch to even longer hours spent performing collateral duties, the cups of caffeine can be just what you need to keep moving. Ships usually have a set of coffee mugs available for use in the coffee mess – the space authorized for preparing and dispensing coffee and assorted accoutrements – but Sailors, Marines, and Guardsmen also have their own personal mugs. The senior enlisted, known as non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the Marine Corps and Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) in the Navy and Coast Guard, also tend to have special personal mugs. Some of those special mugs come with command iconography and such, leaving no doubt as to whose mug is whose.

The tradition has to do with the seasoning of those mugs. You see, NCOs and Chiefs typically take their coffee black and believe that not washing their mugs is good luck. The coffee stains on the inside of the mug build up over time, effectively telling the history of the mug and its owner. The more sludge in the mug, the more experience the owner has.

One example comes from the Naval Historical Foundation and Coast Guard Senior Chief Darcy Collins, as found on the Navy History Tumblr page.

seasoned mug

Some studies suggest that the practice isn’t that unhealthy so long as you don’t share the mug with anyone and drink the coffee black with neither cream nor sugar. In fact, the Navy Times picked a few suggestions from the fleet for the perfect mug, including drinking coffee black, drinking the entire mug, and even seasoning it with leftover grounds like a cast-iron skillet.

The last suggestion on the list is the most important for any servicemember: Don’t wash the mug. Ever. If the owner washes it, the respect for them goes overboard. If a junior member washes it, even through ignorance or on a dare, there is no end to the harassment that they will endure at that command and beyond.

After all, the fleet talks and reputations have long lives.

I’ve seen my share of deeply seasoned mugs, but my personal mug only had minimal stains. I take my coffee with cream/milk and sugar, and I also prefer to drink from clean vessels. I’m a bit of a germaphobe that way.


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.