Culture on My Mind – Fly You Fools!

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Fly You Fools!
January 17, 2022

One thing that the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track does well is anniversaries. Last Thursday, they celebrated twenty years of assembling the Fellowship. 

On January 13th, they talked about hobbits and Gandalf and Tolkien galore as they looked back on two decades of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The live-action movie, not the book. Because the book is much older. Joe Crowe was joined by Shaun Rosado (pneumaz on Twitter), ToniAnn Marini (jersey_devil86 on Twitter), Nathan Laws (host of The 42Cast), and David Wright (Galahad’s Doom).


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 future of the Classic Track’s YouTube channel holds another 20-year anniversary celebration. You can find 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 #234: Good as Gold & Pond Life

Doctor Who: Good as Gold
Doctor Who: Pond Life
(6 episodes, pre-Series 7 Specials, 2012)

Timestamp 234 Pond Life

Catching up with the Ponds.

Good as Gold

The Doctor and Amy are traveling in the TARDIS. Amy notes that the Intrepid Universe Traveler Handbook says they need to have at least one adventure per week, so the Doctor turns on the “Adventure Setting” for the TARDIS. In short order, the Cloister Bell sounds and the TARDIS crashes.

After the crash, an athlete runs through the door holding the Olympic Torch. They’ve landed in the middle of the Olympic running track, but it’s a good thing since the athlete was being pursued by a Weeping Angel. The Angel wants to steal the Olympic flame and destroy the Pride of the Olympics, so the Doctor points his sonic screwdriver at the torch and fractures the Angel.

The athlete grabs the torch before it hits the floor, then thanks the Doctor for his assistance by giving him a gold medal before running on to light the 2012 Olympic flame. As the Doctor prepares for the next adventure, the Weeping Angel reappears in the doorway. It is cracked and missing the arm that touched the torch, but it is still inside the TARDIS… a story fragment to probably never be resolved.

Pond Life: April 2012

The Doctor leaves a message on Amy and Rory’s answering machine about his recent adventures. He has fled Sontarans by surfing the firefalls on Florinall 9, had a risqué meeting with Mata Hari in Paris while roasting crumpets, sung the backups for an album, and crashed into ancient Greece due to a fault in the helmic regulator.

It seems that the TARDIS was hit by an arrow at the Battle of Hastings.

Pond Life: May 2012

The Doctor bursts into the Ponds’ house while they sleep. The world is endangered and the Ponds need to save the world! Except that it is the wrong time for them – helmic regulator! – so everything is fine. He wishes them a good night and leaves to find the right Ponds, leaving Rory to remark about how much he hates it when the Doctor does that.

Pond Life: June 2012

Rory steps into the bathroom only to be startled by the unexpected. While Rory collects himself, Amy checks things out. She finds an Ood on the loo who asks, “May I be of any assistance?”

Pond Life: July 2012

The Ood is no longer on the loo, but instead is acting as a butler for Amy and Rory by cleaning their windows, making food, and doing the wash. The Doctor explains that he rescued the Ood from the Androvax conflict and is planning on returning it to the Ood Sphere. Unfortunately, he misplaced the Ood on his last visit but plans to pick him up tonight.

Whenever that is.

Pond Life: August 2012

The Doctor has returned the Ood to the Ood Sphere. While changing the TARDIS light bulb, he recounts his recent adventures on the Ponds’ answering machine, including riding a horse through 11th Century Conventry, having invented pasta, and visiting their home (except that they were out).

He hopes that everything is okay, but he’s unaware that Rory stormed out of the house during a fight with Amy. He decides to delete the message just before Amy returns home. She checks the empty recording, then looks into the distance with a wish on her lips.

“We need you, raggedy man. I need you.”


Good as Gold written by The Children of Ashdene School in the same spirit as Death is the Only Answer. It also links back to the Olympic moments of Fear Her and provides a potential crossing of the Doctor’s timeline.

Good as Gold joins Pond Life to provide some fun filler while the show was away for nine months between the 2011 Christmas Special and the Series 7 premiere, but ultimately they are an average prologue to pass the time.

Even if they did give us “Ood on the loo.”

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks

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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 – Slay Bells

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Slay Bells
January 10, 2022

It’s a new year with some old… no, classic takes. This time around, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track crosses holiday streams by mixing horror and Christmas seasons like chocolate and peanut butter. 

On December 30th, they talked about Krampus and Black Christmas and Frosty the Snowman(?) in the magical mixture that is chills and thrills in the wintertime wonderland. After all, the holiday season can be a real killer. Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel were joined by Shaun Rosado (pneumaz on Twitter), Lola Lariscy (also on Twitter), and Jonathan Williams (Wrestling with Pop Culture).


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 future of the Classic Track’s YouTube channel holds two 20-year anniversary celebrations, one of which I will be participating in at the end of the month. You can find 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.

STEAM Saturday – Solar Probes and Turbine Blades

STEAMSaturday

STEAM Saturday
Solar Probes and Turbine Blades
January 8, 2022

STEAM Saturday debuts! This time, with solar probes, turbine blades, and composting humans.

STEAMHeadlines

NASA – NASA Enters the Solar Atmosphere for the First Time, Bringing New Discoveries (Dec 14, 2021)
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe entered the Sun’s atmosphere and sampled particles and magnetic fields.

Business Insider – How one company keeps wind turbine blades out of landfills (Dec 10, 2021)
Wind turbine blades are notoriously difficult to recycle. One company has a solution, but is it the right one?

BBC News – Scotland to ban most single-use plastic from June 2022 (Nov 11, 2021/Jan 4, 2022)
The legislation will ban the use of plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and food containers made from expanded polystyrene. An exemption will be in place for people who need plastic straws for medical reasons or to ensure they can continue to live independently. Scotland is the first UK nation to pursue the ban.

TED-Ed – Blood, concrete, and dynamite: Building the Hoover Dam (Dec 23, 2021)
The engineering of the Hoover Dam, a concrete arch-gravity dam on the Colorado River in the southwestern United States, in five minutes.

 


STEAMSci

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

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.

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

NASA – James Webb Telescope
The James Webb Telescope has launched and you can keep track of its progress courtest of the Goddard Space Flight Center. Named after James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968 who played an integral role in the Apollo program, the telescope is intended to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship mission in astrophysics.


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.

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.


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. [A]

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

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.

JackJack – YouTuber JackJack is based in the United Kingdom and does phenomenal work with models and resin.

PF Woodturning – Peggy Farrington is a woodturner from Maine who allows the wood to speak for itself as she crafts it into works of art.

 


STEAMMath

Veritasium – A combination of the Latin for truth, veritas, and the suffix common to many elements, -ium, this show is literally an element of truth. It is hosted by Australian-Canadian science communicator, filmmaker, and inventor Derek Muller (Ph.D., Physics Education Research). [S]


STEAMMulti

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.

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.

Frank Howarth – A Portland, Oregon based architect and woodworker, Frank Howarth uses stop-motion animation to demonstrate his design and building process for a variety of projects and art pieces.

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.

Sam the Cooking Guy – Sam Zien is a Canadian-born television cook, restaurateur, and cookbook author Based in San Diego, California, his often-irreverent cooking channel on YouTube focuses on the simple fact that everyone can cook. He makes it easy and fun.

 


If you have any suggestions for STEAM Saturday, please leave them below in the comments. 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 periodic 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 #233: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2011)

Timestamp 233 Doctor Widow Wardrobe

Facing traumas and Christmas miracles.

Prequel

The Eleventh Doctor holds a button that, when released, will blow up a ship that’s about to destroy the Earth. He calls Amy Pond on the TARDIS phone to ask her to rescue him, but he realizes she cannot fly the TARDIS. He also doesn’t have the coordinates and, well, Amy is no longer with him.

The Doctor admits he just wanted to chat and wishes her a merry Christmas before triggering the explosion.

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

A spaceship approaches Earth in 1938, ready to destroy the planet, but it blows up from within courtesy of the Eleventh Doctor. The Doctor is ejected from the ship and plummets toward Earth as he struggles into a nearby spacesuit.

He plummets to the ground near a woman riding her bike in the dark. That woman, Madge Arwell, finds the Doctor in a crater, his helmet on backwards, and mistakes him for a space angel. Madge leaves an elaborate message with her son and takes the Doctor to town to find a police box. Unfortunately, they find the wrong box at first, but Madge is presumably successful by the time she returns home. The Doctor tells her that all she needs to do is make a wish and he’ll be there.

Three years later, her husband is lost in the war when his plane crashes. Madge Arwell now is a war widow with two kids. She makes a silent wish before taking the children to Uncle Digby’s abandoned country estate for the holiday. It is there that the family formally meets the Doctor, posing as the caretaker.

A whirlwind tour reveals a sitting room with moving chairs, a kitchen with a lemonade tap, the rumor of panthers, and a magical children’s bedroom complete with hammocks. Madge is beside herself and privately asks why the Doctor is doing all of this. He tells her that he knows the sadness that will come when she finally tells them the bad news.

The family adjourns to the main sitting room with a large Christmas tree and a giant glowing present. The Doctor wanders away as Madge promises the kids that this will be the best present ever. That night, Cyril sneaks down to investigate the present while Lily looks in on the Doctor. Lily finds the Time Lord fiddling with the TARDIS while Cyril discovers that the present leads to a Narnia-like world beyond its wrappings.

Once the Doctor realizes that Cyril has entered the package, he and Lily give chase. The Doctor tells Lily that it was supposed to be a portal to the safest planet he knew but it wasn’t supposed to be opened until Christmas. Meanwhile, Cyril has followed mysterious footprints from a creature that hatched from a silver ball to a tower in the woods.

The Doctor recognizes that the voices around him are the trees talking to each other. There is something wrong in the forest. As they search for Cyril, Madge finds the package and enters the portal as well, soon encountering three harvest rangers who hold her at gunpoint. The forest is private property and an acid rain storm is about to melt the trees for fuel. The stress of the entire encounter is too much as Madge breaks down in tears.

Cyril enters the tower and finds a wooden being on a throne. It comes to life as Cyril climbs the stairs behind it. When he reaches the top of the tower, he finds a throne with another wooden statue. The Doctor and Lily enter the tower and recognize the Wooden King and that the tower is made from trees. It is a trap, but the Doctor questions why the forest needs people. Above them, Cyril is forced to sit in the throne and is crowned by the Wooden Queen. This forces the Wooden King to rise and ascend the stairs.

The harvest rangers are from Androzani Major and they lower their weapons, believing that Madge is no harm. Unfortunately for them, she pulls out a gun. After all, there’s a war on. The men are bound as the female ranger tries to scan for the Arwell children. Unfortunately, she can’t pilot the ranger vehicle and the rangers are teleported away as the final warning is announced.

The Wooden King and Queen speak through Cyril, passing along the news that they are shepherding the lifeforce of the forest away before it is melted. They are using Cyril as a lifeboat, but the boy is too weak to hold forest’s lifeforce. The Doctor is also not compatible, but Lily is. Unfortunately, she’s also too young.

Then the rain begins.

Madge can hear the children and the Doctor over an open channel, motivating her to drive the ranger harvester to the tower. It topples over as it reaches the tower but Madge makes it inside safely. After she chastises the children, she is crowned by the Wooden Queen. Madge is strong enough to save the forest.

The Doctor is perplexed by Madge’s ability to house the entire forest in her head, then realizes that weak and strong are code for male and female. The geodesic sphere atop the tower lifts off and plunges into the temporal vortex to remain safe while the forest is converted. The Wooden Queen tells the Doctor that Madge can pilot them home with a single thought.

Using the telegram that announced her husband’s death, she focuses on her family and plots a course home. On the way, she sees her history with her husband, including his death over the Channel, revealing the truth to her children.

The transit ends with the forest finding a new home among the stars. They have returned to the estate and the family shares a moment over the tragic news. The Doctor leaves them for a moment and makes a life-changing discovery.

Madge’s husband died because there were no stars to light the way home. Because of what Madge did for the forest, the light of the temporal vortex became his beacon home. He landed with them and survived the war after all, given the Arwells a Christmas miracle.

Later on, Madge discovers that the Doctor is her spaceman angel. She thanks him and asks him to stay for Christmas. He declines and readies to leave, and she tells him that no one should be alone for Christmas. He should go see his family, even though they think that he’s dead.

If Madge needs him again, all she needs is to make a wish.

The TARDIS dematerializes, taking the Doctor to the Pond home. Amy answers the blue door, ready to spray annoying carolers, and expresses her annoyance at the Doctor’s two year absence. She reveals that River told them about the Doctor’s survival, and after a brief standoff, the two hug once again. Rory and Amy also tell him that they always set a place for him at Christmas dinner.

The Doctor steps inside and smiles as he wipes a tear from his eye.


This story embodies the positives of the holiday specials. They typically meld the science fiction elements of the franchise with a feel-good story to life viewers up in the season, and this was a prime example of their magic.

The story handled the trauma of loss and the family left behind in war quite well, allowing the family to heal from the obvious friction that started their Christmas holiday. I admit that I was crying as Madge faced that which she did not want to, and I kept crying as her family found their miracle in saving his life.

The plot plays a wonderful parallel to the Doctor’s own life, resulting in a payoff as he realizes that he needs other people in his life after all.

Reg Arwell as played by Alexander Armstrong, whom we have heard before over five series as the supercomputer Mr. Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s good to put a face to the voice.

The parallels to the C.S. Lewis Narnia tales is quite obvious, as are several of the ties back to this show’s mythology from the Magna Carta to the Doctor’s respiratory bypass system to survive in space. Oh, and the entire Androzani link for the Fifth Doctor’s swan song.

And the sonic screwdriver being used as a tool and rendered inoperative because of all the wood. That was a nice touch.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Good as Gold and Doctor Who: Pond Life

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

Timestamp Special #13: Farewell, Sarah Jane

Farewell, Sarah Jane
(Doctor Who: Lockdown: April 19, 2020)

Timestamp S13 Farewell Sarah Jane

On the ninth anniversary of Elisabeth Sladen’s untimely passing, in the midst of a global pandemic, we were offered a chance to say goodbye.


It was a beautiful and fitting tribute to the character and the woman who brought her to life. Russell T Davies did an amazing job, especially with his bridge between the classic and revival eras. He also put the cap on his vision for The Sarah Jane Adventures which had been considered impossible in 2011.

I, for one, want to experience that adventure with Ace, Sarah Jane, and the Diamond Wolf Clan.

Until then, farewell, Sarah Jane.


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

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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 – Rankin-Bass Thunderdome!

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Rankin-Bass Thunderdome!
December 27, 2021

Welcome back. I hope you all had a happy, safe, and warm holiday season. This time around, I’m taking a look at Rankin-Bass and a face off on the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track. 

On December 16th, they pit sixteen Rankin-Bass Christmas cartoon favorites against one another in a winner-take-all competition. Joe “Mr. Heat Blister” Crowe and Gary “Mr. Green Christmas” Mitchel were joined by Kevin “First Podcaster to the King” Eldridge (The Flopcast) and Kevin “Too Much” Cafferty (Gleaming the Tube and Let’s Get Chatty About David and Maddie).


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.

The future holds a little holiday horror and two 20-year anniversary celebrations. You can find 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 Roddenberry 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: Sarah Jane Adventures Series Five Summary

Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Five Summary

Series Five was a strong finale dedicated to the show’s roots.

It’s an odd position to be in with three stories and an unexpected finale, but those three showcased the found family heart of The Sarah Jane Adventures. That’s really what this series and Sarah Jane herself were all about. The Bannerman Road Gang came together under a common cause and ended up becoming a family bound by purpose instead of blood, from Luke and Maria to Clyde, Rani, and Sky.

It’s a philsophy that so many of my friends (who are like family) live every day, and one that so many  more could learn a lesson from.

Series Five comes in at an average of 4.7. That’s the highest rated set for the show, and in comparison to Doctor Who, it would be second place behind the Ninth Series from the classic era.

Sky – 4
The Curse of Clyde Langer – 5
The Man Who Never Was – 5

Sarah Jane Adventures Series Four Average Rating: 4.7/5


Sadly, this ends The Sarah Jane Adventures on television. After decades of watching television, I understand that endings are inevitable. But the premature ending here is tough. The series overall was quite enjoyable and is something that I would readily recommend to Doctor Who fans, especially if they want something lighter than the normal fare.

Series 1 – 4.3
Series 2 – 4.1
Series 3 – 3.3
Series 4 – 4.3
Series 5 – 4.7

The Sarah Jane Adventures Weighted Average Rating: 4.11/5.00

The premature end of this spinoff meant that several story ideas were left behind. In fact, three more stories were planned for Series Five and a set of four Halloween specials were planned after that to bridge the gap leading into Series Six.

The first was Meet Mr. Smith, written by Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman. It would have seen Mr. Smith transformed into a human by an alien called the Ozmo. Mr. Smith’s human form would have been played by the supercomputer’s voice actor Alexander Armstrong.

The next story was The Thirteenth Floor, written by Phil Ford. This tale would have finally united Rani and Clyde as a couple after hinting at the relationship over the course of the series. It would have also potentially featured Amy and Rory. The story was repurposed by Phil Ford for Wizards vs Aliens, another show on the CBBC.

The final story of the Series Five set was The Battle of Bannerman Road, which would have returned the Trickster to the series. The plan was to reveal that he had instilled his essence into Sky at the moment of her creation and manipulated events to leave her on Sarah Jane’s doorstep. The Trickster would have used Sky to take over Bannerman Road and the world, but Sky would turn on him and eventually supervise his imprisonment. Jo and Santiago Jones, Professor Rivers, and the Shopkeeper would also return to help.

The first Halloween story was scheduled to be Full Moon, written by Clayton Hickman. The Bannerman Road Gang would have been pitted against the Pagan gods Gog and Magog, escapees from an alien ship.

The second Halloween story was to be The Station, also written by Clayton Hickman, which would have thrown the Bannerman Road Gang back in time to 1911 and 1934.

The third Halloween tale was also penned by Clayton Hickman but was unnamed at the time. It would feature our heroes encountering a Gargoyle-like creature.

Finally, the last Halloween tale was The Night of the Spectre, written by Phil Ford. It would have been an animated story and featured the return of Alan and Maria Jackson. The team would have faced off against an enemy called the Spectre.

The Sarah Jane Adventures also featured ten audiobooks between 2007 and 2011. The first eight – The Glittering Storm, The Thirteenth Stone, The Time Capsule, The Ghost House, The White Wolf, The Shadow People, Deadly Download, and Wraith World – were read by Elisabeth Sladen. The ninth book, Children of Steel, was read by Daniel “Clyde” Anthony. The final book, Judgement Day, was read by Anjli “Rani” Mohindra.

I think it fair to assume that I’ll eventually get to those audio adventures.

The Sarah Jane Adventures finally came to an end in April of 2020 during the global COVID-19 pandemic. During the Doctor Who: Lockdown series on YouTube, Russell T Davies crafted a celebration of Elisabeth Sladen’s life and a capstone for the iconic character of Sarah Jane Smith in his short story Farewell, Sarah Jane.

UP NEXT – Farewell, Sarah Jane

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

Timestamp #SJA28: The Man Who Never Was

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Man Who Never Was
(2 episodes, s05e03, 2011)

Timestamp SJA28 Man Never Was

Slave trades and work simulations.

At Serf Systems, an office cleaner named Adriana Petrescu does her job as an advertisement for the new SerfBoard computer plays on overhead screens. A strange noise draws Adriana to the elevator. When she investigates, she’s pulled inside.

The Bannerman Road Gang is hard at work in the attic as Sky expresses her anxiety about meeting Luke for the first time. Luke notes that his room is no longer his and pops up to the attic for a reunion. He greets Clyde and Rani with the new pet name “Clani”, then has an awkward meeting with Sky. Luke had to leave K9 at the university as the robotic dog is backing up the entire Bodleian library. Mr. Smith is ecstatic at that news.

As the team muses about the SerfBoard launch, Sarah Jane breaks the news that she’s covering it as a journalist. Unfortunately, she only has enough passes for herself, Luke, and Sky. Once there, they meet Lionel Carson, Sarah Jane’s former editor and close friend. As the dress rehearsal begins, Sky tells Luke that she feels a strange buildup of electricity.

Each of the attendees gets a free SerfBoard, a device that sways the normally technophobic Lionel. Sky and Luke also note that Joseph Serf, the president of the company, glitches during his presentation. Luke stays behind after the rehearsal while Sarah Jane and Sky review the footage with Mr. Smith and the gang in the attic. Mr. Smith’s research indicates that, after an accident, Serf became a recluse. Serf also never holds anything.

Mr. Smith commences a deep scan of the SerfBoard while Sarah Jane arranges a rare personal interview with Joseph Serf. Sarah Jane takes Sky along as Clyde and Rani wait for the scan results. The interview is supervised by Mr. Harrison, Serf’s assistant, and Serf refuses to shake hands due to a supposed allergy.

The deep scan comes up with nothing special, so Clyde and Rani investigate the SerfBoard with a great deal of humor. What they find is a typical low-spec budget computer.

At Serf Systems, Luke and Sky discover a sub-basement occupied by Jawa-like aliens who are controlling Serf like an automaton. The controllers get overwhelmed by the complexities of the interview, eventually providing an opportunity for Sarah Jane to spot the glitches for herself. The controllers attempt to hypnotize her, but she sees right through it. As Harrison pulls a weapon on Sarah Jane, Luke and Sky are discovered and surrounded by the cyclopean controllers.

Luke and Sky are surprised when the aliens tell them to run. Sky saves Sarah Jane from being shot by manipulating the controls, but Harrison punishes the aliens. He also spots the intruders on the monitors as Sarah Jane is apprehended and has her sonic lipstick confiscated.

Harrison takes Sarah Jane to the sub-basement and punishes Plark, the lead alien. He reveals that the beings are Skullions that he bought on the black market in Central Asia. The Smiths are astonished at the slave trade, uncovering that Harrison’s plan is simply to make as much money as possible on the SerfBoard launch. Sarah Jane is locked in a storage room with Adriana while Luke and Sky are confined elsewhere. Sarah Jane and Adriana become friends and break out in short order.

Luke and Sky try to befriend a Skullion who brings them food and water, but the being is too fearful. We also learn that the Skullions are allergic to water and thrive on citrus juice. Sky devises a plan to use K9’s dog whistle to signal Mr. Smith. Meanwhile, in the attic, Rani comes up with a plan to crash the launch party as journalists. K9’s whistle, in Morse Code, signals Clani to steal Harrison’s pen.

The Smith family is soon reunited and they enter the Skullion control room. Sarah Jane signals Mr. Smith to arrange a rescue mission for the Skullions while Clyde and Rani snag Harrison’s pen. Sarah Jane and Adriana shepherd the Skullions to the roof while Luke and Sky monitor the control room. Unfortunately, Harrison retreives his pen so Luke and Sky have to drive the Serf simulation.

After some humorous Toy Story-infused hijinks, Luke and Sky use the hypnotic power to secure the pen and destroy it. They also tell everyone at the party that the SerfBoard is garbage before ending the simulation. Harrison arrives on the roof just in time for the Skullions to leave. Harrison inadventently jumps into the transmat beam and is taken for an intergalactic ride.

With the day saved (an Adriana referred to UNIT for a job), the Bannerman Road Gang retires to the attic. Luke has decorated Sky’s room with a custom banner, a signal that he fully accept her. Sarah Jane muses about the adventures she and her found family have shared in a farewell montage.

“I’ve seen amazing things out there in space, but strange things can happen wherever you are. I have learned that life on Earth can be an adventure too. In all the universe, I never expected to find a family.”

And the story goes on…. forever.


The story is a good take for a children’s show on slavery and greed and the cruelty associated with both. It also closes the loop on Luke and Sky, bringing the whole family together for one last adventure on Bannerman Road.

The discussion on slavery is not a new one for the franchise and this take still packs a lot of weight. I also really enjoyed the twists of the puppet president and the enslaved Skullions looking out for the Bannerman Road Gang.

The special epilogue was unexpected and brought several tears to my eyes. In its short span, it covered beautiful milestones of Elisabeth Sladen’s journey with Doctor Who, from The Time Warrior to Journey’s End and The End of Time, as well the scope of her wonderful adventures on Bannerman Road.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Five Summary

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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 – Ask Gary and Best Franchises

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Ask Gary and Best Franchises
December 10, 2021

It’s been a hot minute (or two) since we visited the crew at the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track, so here’s what’s been happening. 

On November 18th, the Garys had a face-off. It was Classic Track co-conspirator Gary Mitchel’s birthday, and in track tradition he was forced to answer questions and address topics sent in by the audience. It’s like an Ask Me Anything, but more entertaining. The face-off came about with Gary’s co-host, Other Gary (Lindros), as they competed for the title of ULTIMATE GARY.

You can find Gary Mitchel on the Twitter and Gary Lindros on the Facebook.

On December 2nd, a panel was assembled with Deanna Toxopeus, Lola Strickland, Shaun Rosado, Bobby Nash, and Sherman Burris to discuss the top movie franchises for holiday binge watching. Some might think you should skip Thor: The Dark World, but I’m not one of them.


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.

The future holds the return of Sci-Fighters, a little holiday horror, and two 20-year anniversary celebrations. You can find 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 Roddenberry 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.