Culture on My Mind – The Impact of Theatre Education

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Impact of Theatre Education
May 26, 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 took on education.

“Learning is about much more than science and math. Doing theater, music, and art in school really helps children’s minds grow because they’re using different parts of their brains. Parents who care should insist on that.”

– Julie Taymour

Theater is often thought of as a hobby and relegated to the sides of education that are considered less important than math, science, and other technical fields. On May 16th, Gary Mitchel and Sarah Rose were joined by educators who disagree with that assessment and they discussed why theatre education is important in today’s world, the lasting impacts it makes, and why we all should encourage more arts education in schools and communities.

This panel’s guests included Jennifer Simmons, Primetime Steve, Alicia, and Charles Pillsbury III. 

Note: Depending on security settings, you may have to click 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 also find them on Instagram and coming soon on TikTok.

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.


Timestamp #281: World Enough and Time & The Doctor Falls

Doctor Who: World Enough and Time
Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls
(2 episodes, s10e11-12, 2017)

Timestamp 281 World Enough and Time Doctor Falls

Powerful, surprising, and heartbreaking: A Doctor Who triple threat.

World Enough and Time

Upon a snowy landscape, the Doctor stumbles from the TARDIS and repeats the word “no” as he begins to regenerate. He falls to his knees as the energy overtakes him…

…and we flash back to a long cylindrical spaceship hovering at the edge of a black hole’s event horizon. The TARDIS materializes in the control room at the closest point to the phenomenon and Missy emerges. She describes herself as “Doctor Who” and introduces her companions. As alarms sound, we find out that this is a test of Missy’s resolve to be good. The Doctor watches from the TARDIS as Missy, Bill, and Nardole work through the puzzle and make contact with a blue-skinned humanoid named Jorj.

Jorj arrives at the control room with a gun and demands to know which of them is human. As three lifts race toward the control room, the Doctor emerges from the TARDIS and Bill admits to being human. Jorj declares that she is why the lifts are coming and shoots Bill, mortally wounding her. Figures with bandaged faces emerge from the lifts and take Bill, claiming they will fix her but will not return. The Doctor decides to trust them and leaves a psychic message for Bill to wait for him when she wakes.

Before the trip, Bill had disagreed with the Doctor about the rehabilitation test. The Doctor wanted Missy to be good, but Bill didn’t know if it was possible. They later had a discussion about the Doctor, the Master, and Time Lords and their flexible approaches to gender. Bill confided that Missy scared her, and the Doctor told Bill that he would do his best to not let her die.

This pressure now weighs on the Doctor. He let his companion die on his watch.

The Doctor tries to scan the lift with his sonic screwdriver, and when Jorj threatens him, he warns Jorj not to make him angry. The Doctor is borderline furious. Nardole finds thousands of life signs in the lower levels of the ship, leading the Doctor to understand that the different levels of the ship are moving at different times due to relativity.

On one of those lower levels, Bill wakes up in a medical facility with a cybernetic heart in her chest. She gets the message from the Doctor and meets a caretaker named Mr. Razor. She also hears a cybernetic voice calling out in pain. She finds the patient as screens show the time differential between Floor 0000 and Floor 1056. She can’t stop the voice from chanting “pain” over and over, and a nurse merely mutes the voice instead of tending to the pain. Bill finds that the others are also chanting about their pain but their voices are also muted.

Mr. Razor finds Bill and takes her to his room for tea. He explains that they are curing the people in the surgical  (conversion theater) suites and that she was saved from death with her new “shiny” cybernetic heart. She’s been on this level for months and passes the time watching the live feed of Level 0000. The Doctor literally takes a week to raise his eyebrow. Bill eventually recovers enough to work as a cleaner as she continues to wait. Meanwhile, the Doctor uses Venusian aikido to knock out Jorj and make his way to Bill.

Bill also cannot leave the hospital. Her heart will supposedly cease to function and the patients will raise the alarm. Mr. Razor explains that the people are being converted to survive Operation Exodus, a necessity since the human lifespan cannot survive the trip back to the top of the ship. Mr. Razor takes Bill outside one day, and sure enough, after a brief walk, her heart begins to fail.

The years pass and Bill continues to wait. She watches as the Doctor, Missy, and Nardole board a lift. They cannot take the TARDIS because the black hole with mess with navigation. Mr. Razor tricks Bill into one of the conversion theaters and condemns her to a full conversion. After all, people usually scream when they find out the real reason for surgery. They fit her for a headpiece that will inhibit emotion.

When the Doctor, Missy, and Nardole arrive on the bottom floor, Missy is left to explore the ship’s computer history. She soon meets Mr. Razor who is enamored with her and seems to know who she is. On separate paths, the travelers learn the truth: The ship’s origin was Mondas, the twin planet of Earth, and the conversions are the genesis of the Cybermen.

More shocking, Mr. Razor reveals that he is Missy’s predecessor, the Saxon Master. With that revelation in mind, Missy reverts to her cruel nature.

Even more shocking, this trip has turned upside down. The Cyberman standing before the Doctor is Bill Potts, and the former companion cries beneath the mask as she tells the Doctor that she waited for him.

The Doctor Falls

On Floor 0507, farmers and families face off against the scarecrows – the prototype Cybermen from Floor 1056 – shooting them at night and restraining them on wooden crosses by the light of day. One of those days, the relative peace is broken when a shuttle crashes through the ground near a girl named Alit. From the wreckage emerges a Cyberman carrying the unconscious form of the Doctor.

We flash back to the Doctor restrained to a wheelchair on the roof of the hospital on 1056. He was subdued by Missy and the Master, dancing and flirting as they discuss the Doctor’s deaths and how many regenerations he has left to spend. Notably, Missy cannot remember what happened that forced her regeneration. The Doctor ponders what happened in the Master’s life since he vanished while blasting Rassilon with his life energy.

Upon returning to Gallifrey, the Time Lords showed their gratitude for the Master’s help in preventing Rassilon from executing the Ultimate Sanction by restoring his body and kicking him off the planet. The Master stole a TARDIS and landed on the Mondasian colony ship where he lived like a king and killed at his leisure. When the colonist overthrew him and he attempted to run, he found that his TARDIS was burned out from being too close to the event horizon.

While they gloat, the Masters are shocked to find that the Cybermen are advancing on them. When the Masters attacked the Doctor, he was able to change the coding for humanity to read two hearts instead of one. With the Cybermen marching to convert the Time Lords, Missy knocks the Master unconscious and rescues the Doctor. She frees the Doctor and he calls for Nardole, who has successfully stolen a shuttle.

As the Masters and the Doctor try to board the shuttle, a Cyberman attacks the Doctor with an electrical shock. Bill kills the Cyberman but the Masters take over the shuttle as the Doctor falls. Bill stops the craft from taking off and ensures that the Doctor boards the shuttle.

That same shuttle has since crashed into 0507, leaving the entire group stranded. Two weeks pass as the Doctor recovers and Nardole prepares the families for war. Bill has been resigned to the barn since she frightens the children, and while she believes that she is still human, everyone else sees her as a Cyberman. Alit comes to her side with a mirror and Bill is shocked to see her true self. When the Doctor arrives, he rewards Alit for being kind to Bill. They have a brief discussion about Cybermen and what she’s become, Bill’s anger and grief boil over as she accidentally destroys the barn’s door.

The Doctor is amazed by Bill’s resiliency against the Cyberman programming. When Bill sheds a tear because everyone is afraid of her, he wipes it away and notes that she shouldn’t be able to cry. They meet with the Master, who mocks Bill and tells the Doctor about a plan that he and Missy have been working on. As they all walk across the farmland, the Doctor limps and stifles regeneration energy in his hand, revealing that his electrocution was fatal. When Bill worries about him and her future, he tells her that “where there’s tears, there’s hope.”

They reach the forest where the Master and Missy theorize that they’re out of temporal sync so they can’t retain their memories of these events. Missy reveals that the forest around them is a holographic wall disguising the lifts. Missy calls for one, not remembering that it is coming from the bottom floor and not empty. The lift reveals an evolved Cyberman, and despite killing it, the trio of Time Lords knows that the Cybermen now know where they are.

They cannot run because time is running faster on the lower levels. The Cyberman invasion would easily catch up to them. They have no choice but to fight as the Cybermen begin punching through the various floors. Nardole uses the fuel piping on Floor 0508 as weaponry and the Doctor finds a service duct that can be used to evacuate the children. Meanwhile, the Masters discuss running for their TARDIS on the bottom floor. After all, Missy once (now) threatened her former self into carrying a spare dematerialization circuit.

As night falls, the first wave of Cybermen appears. Nardole tricks them into believing that a single apple can destroy them all. When the Masters decide to leave, the Doctor delivers an emotional and passionate speech on why he helps people. It’s not easy and doesn’t always work, but it’s the right and kind thing to do. The Master ridicules the Doctor and continues on, but Missy is somewhat moved. She agrees that being the Doctor’s friend was what she always wanted, but she goes with her predecessor anyway. Within minutes, the two Masters arrive at the lift where the younger tricks the elder by fatally stabbing him and leaving just enough time to reach his TARDIS before regenerating. Unfortunately, the Master fires his laser screwdriver at Missy and mortally wounds her.

By all appearances, Missy dies. Her last intention was to return to the Doctor’s side.

The next wave of Cybermen arrives and Nardole’s tricks force them to retreat and develop a new plan. The Doctor downloads the plans for the floor into his sonic screwdriver and sends Nardole to escort the children to the service ducts. The Doctor convinces Nardole to leave despite the latter’s protests. After all, the Doctor is treating this like a suicide mission and Nardole owes him too much. The Doctor convinces Nardole that this will be penance for his crimes from before the Doctor rescued him. Bill stands beside the Doctor and Nardole admits that he’ll never be able to find the words for their sacrifice.

Now alone on Floor 0507, the Doctor and Bill prepare for a last stand by saying their farewells. They move to opposite sides of the floor and engage the Cybermen. The Doctor cites his numerous victories over them – Mondas, Telos, Earth, Planet 14, Marinus, Voga, Canary Wharf, and the Moon – before falling to several laser blasts. He nearly regenerates, but holds it back as he ignites the piping below the floor and engulfs the forest in fiery destruction. The Cybermen are destroyed.

As Nardole and his charges reach Floor 0502, he holds out hope that Bill and the Doctor will return. Alit convinces him to move on and focus on living with them instead.

Amongst the wasteland that is Floor 0507, Bill finds the wounded Doctor. She’s barely functioning, but her personality is nearly restored, and she mourns over the Time Lord’s body. She is surprised to find Heather emerging from a nearby puddle and learns that she’s real through a passionate kiss. Heather changed Bill into a being like her, and together they take the Doctor’s body back to the TARDIS. Heather sets the controls for a new location and offers Bill the choice to return to her old life or live a new one at her side as she travels the universe.

Bill chooses the latter, shedding a tear over her friend and telling him that “where there’s tears, there’s hope.” The two women depart as the TARDIS flies on and the Doctor heals, dreaming of Bill, Nardole, Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Captain Jack, Donna Noble, Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, Sarah Jane, Amy Pond, Clara Oswald, and River Song as they each call his name. The last voice is Missy’s, one which awakens the Doctor as he mutters some words of his former lives. He yells that he can’t keep being someone else and suppresses his regeneration as the TARDIS lands.

The Doctor is defiant, telling the TARDIS that he would listen to the lesson it’s trying to teach him, and steps into an arctic landscape. He screams into the snow and stifles his regeneration, pledging not to change as he hears a voice that echoes his concerns. When he demands to know who the other person is, he’s surprised to find the Doctor in the snowstorm. The original, you might say.

He finds the First Doctor.

Before this point, the televised history of the Cybermen was pretty simple: There were the Mondasian Cybermen from this universe and the Cybus Cybermen from Pete’s World. This pair of episodes complicate the evolution by introducing various origins for the Cybermen of this universe.

After Mondas was ejected from Earth’s orbit, the Mondasians were split into two groups based on the desire to fully embrace cyber conversion. The so-called Faction left Mondas to find their destiny in The Wheel in SpaceThe Invasion, and The War Games (with a cameo in Carnival of Monsters and brief nods in Dalek and Death in Heaven). The remaining Mondans would evolve into Cybermen in this episode – and in the audio drama Spare Parts and the comics The World Shapers and The Cybermen, if you count those – before proceeding to The Tenth Planet. It’s worth noting that the Cybermen in The Tenth Planet arrived with their rogue planet, so these Cybermen might not be those Cybermen.

Apparently, every other version of the Cybermen evolved independently and on parallel trajectories across time and space. At least, that’s how the story goes as of right now since Doctor Who‘s continuity is perpetually fluid.

As if that wasn’t enough, we get a quasi-confirmation that “Doctor Who” is a legitimate variation of the Doctor’s name. These days, fans will point to all sorts of sources to justify the character’s moniker of “The Doctor,” but there are several sources that also make “Doctor Who” just as legitimate: The computer WOTAN repeatedly called for “Doctor Who” in The War Machines; The Second Doctor used the alias “Doktor von Wer” – literally, “Doctor [of] Who” – in The Highlanders; The Second Doctor signed a note as “Dr W” in The Underwater Menace; Bessie’s license plate was WHO 1 and WHO 7; and Miss Hawthorne referred to him as “the great wizard Qui Quae Quod” – literally “Who Who Who” in Latin – in The Dæmons.

What about the show’s credits, you might ask. The character was credited as “Doctor Who” from An Unearthly Child all the way through Logopolis, spanning 18 seasons of stories. Starting with Castrovalva and the Fifth Doctor’s run, the character was credited as “The Doctor” through the TV movie (which also credited the Seventh Doctor as “The Old Doctor”). The name changed again to “Doctor Who” for the Ninth Doctor‘s run before returning to “The Doctor” in The Christmas Invasion. Rose also featured a website entitled “Doctor Who?”.

All that to say that either name is legitimate, really. Sure, Missy lies… a lot… but her lies always have a kernel of truth within. In recent years, the title has referred more to an ethos and mission statement rather than an actual name.

Considering the stories at hand, the horror film feeling of these episodes is amazing. The first half is edge-of-your-seat tension mixed with copious amounts of body horror, and the second half blunts the body horror for more battlefield tension. The tension follows the lighting, leading to more empathic storytelling in daylight and ratcheting tension during the night. The Doctor’s impassioned speech is truly a last-stand Hail Mary pass, and it serves up more tension before the final battle. The moment that truly sent shivers down my spine was “pain, pain, pain,” cueing the audience to just how monstrous the Mondasians were.

Another shocker was the identity of Mr. Razor, but this is only because I didn’t the “coming soon” teaser at the end of The Eaters of Light when this series was in first-run. If I had known that John Simm was returning, I probably would have seen right through the Mr. Razor disguise. Since I didn’t know at the time, it blew me away back in 2017.

As someone who earned a degree in physics, I love when science fiction shows play around with the subject and can explain it to the home audience. Gravitational time dilation is a real phenomenon related to special relativity that has been observed on Earth. Scientists placed identical atomic clocks at different altitudes (which relates to the pull of gravity) and noted significant differences in time between them. In this case, “significant” is on the order of nanoseconds, but imagine scaling that up beyond the fragile envelope of our atmosphere to a really long spaceship parked longitudinally on the event horizon of a black hole. That difference in gravity is pretty big.

I did have a question about fridging the black woman in this story – a terrible trio of tropes! – but Bill doesn’t really die and she’s not put in peril by the villain simply as a means to motivate the hero, so I dismissed the idea.

The video of Level 0000 looks like a paused classic black-and-white episode of the show. It added to the feeling of tension and was a nice callback to the era that this story and its cliffhanger were meant to evoke.

The two Masters working side-by-side in this story was pure joy. Notably, this is the first televised story to feature multiple Masters. It was also the third finale of the three in Capaldi’s run to feature the Cybermen.

In the end, I’m left in awe of the Twelfth Doctor’s resolve and strength. He survived all of that and still had the fortitude to hold back one of the character’s most primal forces, setting the stage for Peter Capaldi’s swan song in the next adventure.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time


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 #280: The Eaters of Light

Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light
(1 episode, s10e10, 2017)

Timestamp 280 Eaters of Light

Last stand in Scotland.

In the present day near Devil’s Cairn, Scotland, little Judy tells her brother that she wants to hear the ghosts. Her brother warns that there are ghosts, but Judy hears music and defies his request for her to leave. A crow lands nearby a carving of the TARDIS on the stones, calling “Doc-tor!” into the cloudy day.

In Aberdeen, Scotland, circa 2nd century AD, the TARDIS materializes with the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole as they ponder the disappearance of the lost Ninth Roman Legion. The Doctor touts his experience amongst the Romans, including his credentials as a Vestal Virgin Second Class. Eager to prove herself and her research, Bill splits off and encounters a Pictish girl. She falls into an underground pit and (at swordpoint) finds a Roman soldier.

The Doctor and Nardole find a crow that says “dark” repeatedly, which the Doctor explains away as that crows can speak in the future, but humans are too daft to understand it. The crow is warning them of danger as the sun goes down, a fact reinforced by the discovery of the dead Ninth Legion, slain by extraterrestrial means that looks like a complete lack of sunlight. The pair is soon taken hostage by a group of Picts.

Bill introduces herself to the soldier and is amazed that the TARDIS is able to translate her words into Latin. The soldier she found is from the missing legion, and together they escape the pit. They encounter a being that attacks the soldier, but he is able to tell her where the Roman survivors are hiding. She races to the cave and narrowly escapes the monster, though not before the creature attacks her. Bill passes out amongst a group of Ninth Legion Romans.

The Doctor and Nardole meet the Keeper of the Gate, a woman named Kar. Nardole attempts to charm the Picts with popcorn but the Doctor loses his patience with the group. He is soon introduced to Kar, the woman who attacked Bill and claims that she defeated the Roman legion. Kar considers the Romans imperial plunderers who will steal and slaughter across the land. The Doctor is skeptical that Kar could kill 5,000 soldiers and points to the gatekeeper’s gateway weaponry. Using the popcorn, the Doctor stages a diversion, and he and Nardole escape.

The Doctor and Nardole return to the cairn while looking for Bill. The Doctor watches as a gate opens and reveals several hostile creatures. As he recoils, the gate closes, and Nardole tells him that he was away for two days. The cairn is an interdimensional temporal rift. Nardole also reports that he was unable to find Bill.

In the cave, Bill is awakened by a soldier named Lucius. He moves her into a beam of sunlight to burn off the creature’s slime and has a bite to eat. Bill decides to leave and find the Doctor, but Lucius asks her to stay. They have a frank discussion about sexuality, to which Bill is surprised by Roman progressiveness.

The Doctor and Nardole find Kar and ask if she knows what’s inside the portal. She calls the creature the “eater of light” and says that each generation elects a warrior to hold it back. The battle takes decades in the real world. Unfortunately, it got out and killed the Ninth Legion, but Kar thinks that it will die soon. The Doctor argues with her, but they both turn as a scream cuts the air. They find a slain Pict girl and the Doctor explains that the monster won’t stop until it decimates the world.

Bill tells the Romans about the Doctor. She also explains that being scared is human, but it isn’t cowardice. They develop a plan to find the Doctor. They use a passage to sneak past the beast and find a ladder. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Kar devise a plan of their own based on the mirrors that the Picts carry. They consider how the portal periodically opens, likening it to an oil gush that relieves pressure periodically. The Doctor does what he can to rally Kar and her people to action.

The ladder from the cave system leads into the space where the Doctor, Nardole, and the Picts are hiding. After some tense moments, Bill and the Doctor are able to negotiate a truce based on the TARDIS’s translation circuits. The Doctor chides the lot, demanding that they “grow the hell up” and stop the beast before it consumes the entire universe.

The plan is to use the creature’s desires against it. They lure it with light and music, then use mirrors (which poison the light) to hold it at bay and push it back into the portal. The gate has to be guarded, and the Doctor volunteers to guard it with his relatively infinite lifespan. Bill and Kar disagree, telling him that he has gates of his own to guard. Kar and the Ninth Legion survivors stand before him as Nardole knocks him on the head. Kar and the soldiers advance into the gate and the cairn begins to fall apart due to the strain. When the cairn collapses, the portal is closed forever.

Nardole urges the Doctor to not hold a grudge as Kar’s brother tells the crows to spread the word about who saved the world. A crow flies off screaming “KAR” into the cloudy sky. The Doctor admits that he was wrong about the Ninth Legion, and Bill does as well. They weren’t missing or killed but instead were always here.

As the trio enters the TARDIS, Nardole is surprised to find Missy in the TARDIS. The Doctor let her out to do maintenance on the engines, but he’s locked her out of every major function on the time capsule. She can’t even leave the ship. Later, she cries as she hears bagpipe music, presumably from the warriors in the cairn, and suggests that it’s time to rebuild their relationship. The Doctor remains skeptical, stating that it’s not the right time during her rehabilitation.

The writer of this phenomenal tale was Rona Munro. She was also responsible for Survival, which she also novelized, and therefore took the record for the longest gap between two Doctor Who television stories by the same writer. That gap was approximately 27 and a half years.

It’s understandable why this episode has the lowest ratings (to date) of the revival era. It is a dark episode, both in content and overall lighting. So much of the story is portrayed by firelight or in dark woods, and even the daylight scenes end up shadowed by mostly cloudy skies. But, it also helps to drive the claustrophobic and defeated mood that permeates the plot, and I think it adds quite a bit overall.

Missy’s redemption(?) arc remains shrouded in mystery, but the ongoing thread of human sexuality continues with better, more respectful discussions about the topic through history. There’s a nod to a “long story” about the Doctor being a Vestal Virgin Second Class – ‘twould be an interesting story to see since the Vestal Virgins were priestesses who vowed to remain virginal between the ages of 10 and 40, which makes me wonder how the Doctor pulled this off in a world (spoilers) pre-Thirteenth and pre-Timeless Child – and I smiled about Lucius being called “granddad” since he was the oldest soldier in the legion. That’s quite the thumb at the confluence of youth and war.

It may not be a popular episode, but I really enjoyed it.

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: World Enough and Time & Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls


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.

STEAM Saturday – Catching Up With Space, Time, and Non-Binary Nature


STEAM Saturday
Catching Up With Space, Time, and Non-Binary Nature
May 13, 2022

In this edition, we’re playing catch-up.

It’s been a while since I published a STEAM Saturday edition – the day gig certainly picked up the pace in 2023’s first quarter – so this one will have some links stretching back to February. Sometimes science news gets lost in the shuffle and grind, so I’m okay sharing them regardless of age.

As always, 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 in future editions.


NASA – NASA Names Astronauts to Next Moon Mission, First Crew Under Artemis (Apr 3, 2023)
NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced the four astronauts who will venture around the Moon on Artemis II, the first crewed mission on NASA’s path to establishing a long-term presence at the Moon for science and exploration through Artemis.

Scientific American – Here’s Why Human Sex Is Not Binary (May 1, 2023)
Ova don’t make a woman, and sperm don’t make a man.

NBC News – Japanese company says moon lander unexpectedly accelerated and likely crashed (Apr 26, 2023)
If all had gone well, ispace would have been the first private business to pull off a lunar landing.

Science News – Mouse hair turns gray when certain stem cells get stuck (May 1, 2023)
Pigment-producing stem cells must keep moving and changing to give hair its natural color.

NASA – NASA’s Curiosity Finds Surprise Clues to Mars’ Watery Past (Feb 8, 2023)
Among other discoveries made by the rover, rippled rock textures suggest lakes existed in a region of ancient Mars that scientists expected to be drier.

Scientific American – Nuclear Waste Is Piling Up. Does the U.S. Have a Plan? (Mar 6, 2023)
We need a permanent national nuclear waste disposal site now, before the spent nuclear fuel stored in 35 states becomes unsafe.

NASA – NASA’s NuSTAR Telescope Reveals Hidden Light Shows on the Sun (Feb 9, 2023)
Some of the hottest spots in the Sun’s atmosphere appear in the telescope’s X-ray view.

Science News – Satellite data reveal nearly 20,000 previously unknown deep-sea mountains (Apr 30, 2023)
The find roughly doubles the number of known seamounts in Earth’s oceans.

Scientific American – Who Invented the Measurement of Time? (Apr 25, 2023)
The first timekeeping devices were probably natural materials lost to the ages, but the ancient Egyptians were the first to leave records of their timekeeping methods.


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.

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).

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

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

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

Johnny Harris – Johnny Harris makes videos about maps… and other things.



Becky Stern – Becky Stern is a maker living in NYC. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions!

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.

Nostalgia Nerd – The Nostalgia Nerd has an addiction to nostalgia & things often categorized as “nerdy”. He talks about software, hardware, games, toys, programs, magazines, and other things from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, sometimes with a liberal amount of dry humor.


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.

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).

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

Not Just Bikes – Stories of great urban planning and urban experiences from the Netherlands and beyond. There are a lot of reasons why Dutch cities are so great; it’s not just bikes.



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

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

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.

Boylei Hobby Time – A hobbyist just trying to make fun things and inspire you to be creative.


David Bennett Piano – David Bennett is a pianist and music lover creating educational music videos about all things interesting in music and music theory.


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.

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.

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

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.

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


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

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.


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.

Culture on My Mind – Twenty

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
May 10, 2023

Despite growing up in Utah, I’m not particularly religious, but I do have a favorite section from the Bible. Today seems like a great day to share it.

Twenty years ago, I married my friend. Over the last two decades, we have lived in seven states, have provided loving homes for four pets, earned five academic degrees, and faced several life-changing challenges. The constant over them all has been each other.

There isn’t really a secret to success in relationships. Every one of them has different chemistry and dynamics that wouldn’t work in other scenarios. But if I had to pick one key, it would be communication. It sounds trite, but we talk about (almost) everything. The only secrets that we keep from each other are pleasant surprises (like gifts) or work-related requirements (like client confidentiality or things I may or may not have done in the Navy). We don’t engage in “bitch sessions” with friends about one another. We don’t talk about each other behind our backs. If we have problems with each other, we talk to each other about them.

We are a team challenging the world. We have faith in each other, hope for our continued journey, and love to bind it together. Always and forever.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

—1 Corinthians 13

Here’s to the decades to come.


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.

Schedule Update: The Timestamps Project (May 2023)

Schedule Update: The Timestamps Project
May 2023


The Timestamps Project will continue through the summer with Series Ten and Series Eleven. This will finish Peter Capaldi’s run as the Twelfth Doctor and begin Jodie Whittaker’s run as the Thirteenth Doctor.

After that, the series will continue until it catches up to the first-run episodes around the first quarter of 2024.

As always, the schedule is tentative. Thanks for your continued

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 #279: Empress of Mars

Doctor Who: Empress of Mars
(1 episode, s10e09, 2017)

Timestamp 279 Empress of Mars

Long live the ice queen.

In 2017, the controllers at NASA are watching with bated breath as the space probe Valkyrie approaches Mars. The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole appear in Mission Control as the countdown ends and the first images return. Everyone is perplexed when the first sight of Mars is a message: “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.”

The Doctor tracks the message’s origins to 1881 and takes the TARDIS to Mars to find out how it happened. The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole explore the Martian underground and discover a campfire. Where there’s fire, there’s typically oxygen, so the trio removes their helmets. Bill accidentally falls down a hole to a lower level so the Doctor sends Nardole back to the TARDIS for climbing gear, but the TARDIS inexplicably dematerializes with him onboard.

As the Doctor rushes toward the sound of the departing TARDIS, Bill encounters a man in a primitive spacesuit and the Doctor encounters an Ice Warrior. The Doctor tries a ritual greeting – which seems to work – but is interrupted by a Victorian-era soldier who threatens the Doctor and calls the Ice Warrior Friday. The Doctor and Bill are treated to tea with Colonel Godsacre, Mr. Catchlove, and Friday. There they learn that the humans found the Ice Warrior’s ship in South Africa where they exchanged help in repairing Friday’s ship for rare gems. the Ice Warrior is named in honor of Robinson Crusoe, in which the title character rescues a native man who takes the name and becomes his servant.

The soldiers are mining with a Martian laser, but their efforts have borne no fruit. After tea, the Doctor relates his knowledge of the Ice Warriors to Bill – “They could build a city under the sand, yet drench the snows of Mars with innocent blood. They could slaughter whole civilizations, yet weep at the crushing of a flower.” – and Friday breaks his silence by telling them that he is old and wishes to die in peace. His statement is contrasted by his dexterity as he catches a falling plate with ease.

Nardole tries to pilot the TARDIS back to Mars, but the capsule refuses to budge. Reluctantly, Nardole releases Missy from the vault to help.

The mining crew bickers amongst themselves before finally breaking through to an ornate chamber. Inside lies the tomb of an Ice Warrior queen, and even though the Doctor wants to investigate, the soldiers are blinded by the riches within. They consider Mars part of the British Empire but the Doctor points out that they are the invaders here.

Sure enough, the sentries standing watch at the tomb are assaulted by the queen after they try to plunder the tomb. When they attack her, she dispatches them with ease. Friday arrives as a soldier named Vincey flees, and the Ice Warrior servant reveals that his people have slumbered too long. Mars is dead.

Vincey sounds the alarm and the troops rush into the tomb. The Doctor asks to speak, and Godsacre allows it despite Catchlove’s protests. The Doctor backs Friday’s claims as Queen Iraxxa asks Bill for her opinion. She and the Doctor explain how the humans saved Friday’s life, and even though she wants to fight for honor, the Doctor requests mercy. When one of the soldiers accidentally fires his rifle, the queen says that she’ll show mercy by way of their swift deaths.

The soldiers flee to the Ice Warrior superlaser that they used for mining, but only after Bill’s intervention does a fatal shot end up merely collapsing the tomb entrance. Catchlove takes command from Godsacre, revealing that the colonel suffered a failed execution for desertion and ordering Godsacre, the Doctor, and Bill to be imprisoned in the brig.

While the Doctor and Bill plan their escape from the brig, they obliquely explain themselves to Godsacre. Meanwhile, Catchlove plots an attack but is routed after the Ice Warriors emerge from the soil behind them. Catchlove uses Vincey as a human shield to escape. Friday burrows into the brig and asks the Doctor for help in ending Iraxxa’s madness as she awakens the sleeping warriors at her command.

Now free from the brig, Bill requests to speak to the queen as a distraction while the Doctor implements a plan. Bill pleads with the queen to stay her hand, but Iraxxa refuses. The Doctor aims the superlaser cannon at the cavern roof and threatens to entomb them all in the polar ice above. Catchlove interferes by taking the queen hostage so he can escape the planet. His cowardice is ended by Godsacre when the colonel shoots him.

Godsacre relates his story to the queen and is willing to sacrifice himself to save everyone else. She decides that he will die with honor in battle, but only at her side should he swear allegiance to Mars until his final days. When he does, the battle is done.

The Doctor hotwires the communication system to send a distress call to evacuate the Ice Warriors to a new planet. He is surprised to see that his old friend Alpha Centauri responds to help. The Doctor, Bill, and Godsacre return to the surface and leave the message on the Martian surface as a beacon for the incoming fleet. After that, the Doctor and Bill find the TARDIS as it materializes.

The Doctor is stunned to find Missy and Nardole inside. He’s even more stunned when Missy is compliant instead of defiant.

With the return of the Ice Warriors and the debut of the first female Ice Warrior on screen, we get far more connective tissue to the classic era than we did in Cold War. For one, the Doctor declares that he is an Honorary Guardian of the Tythonian Hive. For another, the Doctor finds yet another group of British explorers on Mars. Finally, we get the return of Alpha Centauri.

The amazing part about this very short character reprisal is that the producers were able to get Ysanne Churchman to voice her again. At the age of 92, she became the oldest actor to appear in the revival era, and her return was kept a secret until the episode’s premiere. In the age of the internet and fans who seek out filming locations to spoil casting and plot elements, I love it when Doctor Who can still keep secrets.

The story itself is a pretty standard exercise in the follies of imperialism and the stereotypical military mindset, both being mainstays of the franchise over the years. It’s not surprising considering that Mark Gatiss wrote this story as well as Victory of the Daleks and Cold War. This marks his final script (to date) for the franchise, but not his final appearance. The episode carries itself well with tense drama and excellent performances. It is a joy to watch.

I’m still curious about the TARDIS and her recent bout of autonomy. I wonder what she’s up to.

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light


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 – Phantom of the Opera: A Salute to the Music of the Night

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Phantom of the Opera: A Salute to the Music of the Night
May 1, 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 took on a champion of Broadway.

For 37 years, The Phantom of the Opera has been there, inside our minds! From its debut in the West End through its legendary run on Broadway, Phantom has dominated what most people think about when you mention theater.

On April 21st, Sarah Rose was joined by guests Lauren, Max, Ashley, Kurt, and Jenn to discuss the sweet intoxication, the chandelier, the secret sewer lair, and the music of the night. 

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 also find them on Instagram and coming soon on TikTok.

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.

Timestamp #278: Extremis, The Pyramid at the End of the World, & The Lie of the Land

Doctor Who: Extremis
Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World
Doctor Who: The Lie of the Land
(3 episodes, s10e06-08, 2017)

Timestamp 278 Monk Trilogy

All shall love and despair.


A long time ago, the Doctor confers with an executioner named Rafando about a method for destroying a Time Lord. After the execution is completed – a process that stops both hearts, all three brain stems, and the ability to regenerate – the body will be placed in a quantum fold chamber for a millennium to prevent “relapses“. The process also requires that a Time Lord be the one to pull the lever.

The prisoner slated for execution is Missy. The Doctor has been selected to kill her. Missy begs for her life, promising to do anything in return.

In the present day, the Doctor confides in Missy about his blindness through the vault door. His discussion is cut short by an email, sent via the sonic sunglasses that he uses to get around, with the subject line of Extremis. Always curious, the Doctor opens the message.

The Doctor stands in a darkened lecture hall as fifteen men enter. They claim to be from the Vatican, and a cardinal named Angelo asks for the Doctor’s help after a series of suicides. The Pope descends the stairs and personally asks the Doctor for help. In his office, the Doctor is given a parchment that reads Veritas – literally, and not subtly, truth – but the resulting text is in a language lost to time. A later translation contains a secret that drives the reader to suicide. All of the bodies have been recovered except for one.

The Pope asks the Doctor to read Veritas to help. Because he has lives to spare?

Bill brings a girlfriend named Penny to Moira’s home, but the romantic interlude is interrupted by the TARDIS and the Pope. Penny runs out in fear as Bill chastises the Doctor for dropping the Pope and his assembly in her bedroom. As Nardole briefs Bill on the task, Cardinal Angelo offers a friendly ear for the Doctor.

Back at Missy’s execution, Nardole arrives dressed as a monk with orders from River Song to stay the execution. After the conference, Missy begs for mercy with tears in her eyes.

In the present, the TARDIS materializes in Vatican City. Nardole confers with the Doctor about the secret of his blindness before the Pope bids farewell. Cardinal Angelo shows the travelers to the Haereticum, a labyrinthine library that reminds Bill of a fictional wizarding school. Angelo leads the group to the heart of the library where a bright light shines through a portal with a man inside.

The portal vanishes and Angelo checks the security while the travelers proceed to the cage where Veritas is kept. Angelo is soon abducted by a mysterious claw-like hand. A priest scares the group and reveals that he sent the email before running off. While the Doctor investigates the Veritas, the mysterious priest commits suicide. When Bill and Nardole investigate the body, they find another mysterious portal and take a look.

I realize that I said mysterious a lot. This whole story is full of it.

As the Doctor begins scanning Veritas with a device that will temporarily fix his eyesight, he is approached by a mysterious peculiar figure.

Back at the execution, the Doctor pulls the lever and activates the machine. He promises to guard Missy’s corpse for one thousand years.

In modern day, Bill and Nardole emerge from a closet into a Pentagon operations center. They climb back through the portal into a strange hub. They walk through another portal to CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) and meet a scientist.

The Doctor finishes his work and tries to read the book as the mysterious curious figure with a zombie-like face locks him to the chair. The figure takes Veritas but the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to turn off the lights and escape with a laptop containing a translation. He later tries to read the screen but is interrupted by more of the figures and his failing eyesight. He runs off and finds another portal.

At CERN, the scientist leads Bill and Nardole to the cafeteria where a five-minute countdown has started. The countdown is leading to a mass suicide explosion. The scientist explains that the explosion will release them from this world, a world that doesn’t truly exist. He tests Bill and Nardole by having them pick a series of random numbers. When each choice matches exactly, they both run and dive through the portal at the last second.

Bill and Nardole find a trail of blood in the hub as Nardole realizes that each portal leads to a holographic simulation. He soon realizes that they are also part of the simulation and he steps outside of the projectors, thereby vanishing. Bill follows the blood trail to the White House and finds the Doctor and the President of the United States in the Oval Office. They both have read the Veritas and the President has committed suicide. The Doctor explains that a demon is trying to conquer the world but has created a “shadow world” to practice. This simulation assesses the abilities of the human race throughout history. The key to understanding that one is in the program is a string of numbers, the same ones that Bill and Nardole recited.

Once a simulant understands their role in the program, they escape back to reality by ending their program.

With that, Bill disappears, leaving one of the mysterious strange figures behind. It tells him that they have killed many times before, but the Doctor replies that they have fallen into their own trap because the simulation is too good. Since he is linked to the sonic sunglasses, they are a recording of the last few hours. Before he vanishes, the Doctor emails the recording to the Doctor in the real world.

The Extremis email was that recording. The Doctor finishes watching it and then calls Bill. He tells her to call Penny and ask her on a date.

In the last flashback to Missy’s execution, the Doctor reveals that he sabotaged the machine to knock her out instead of killing her. The Doctor scares the executioners away by asking them to look up his list of fatalities, then he and Nardole load Missy into the vault.

Outside of that vault, the Doctor asks Missy through the door how he can save his friends when he is blind.

The Pyramid at the End of the World

Following the Doctor’s recommendation, Bill takes Penny back to her home. During the date and walk home, Bill relays her experience in the alien computer simulation. Once they reach Bill’s home, the United Nations Secretary-General arrives and demands that Bill take them to the President. Bill denies knowing the President of the United States – she wouldn’t have voted for the “orange” man anyway – but the Secretary-General clarifies his request. Because the world is in danger, he’s looking for the President of the World.

He’s looking for the Doctor.

The Secretary-General takes Bill to an airplane while explaining their interest in a 5,000-year-old pyramid in Turmezistan. It’s a fascinating site because the pyramid literally appeared overnight. Meanwhile, the Doctor meditates with his guitar while he monologues about how each person’s death is predestined and each step takes them closer to the event. To punctuate it, a woman named Erica breaks her reading glasses as she leaves home, suggesting that a minor event can lead to a series of larger ones.

The Doctor is surprised to find that his TARDIS has been hijacked by the secretary-general’s plane. His university office apparently has much larger windows now as well. As the Secretary-General explains what he needs, Erica delivers coffee to her lab partner at Agrofuel Research Operations. The lab partner, Douglas, is hung over, but since Erica can’t see without her glasses, she asks him to mix the next stage of their experiment. As they work, the mysterious aliens Monks watch through a lab camera.

The travelers arrive and meet United States Army Colonel Babbit – a man who is out of uniform since he’s wearing the rank insignia of a four-star general – before investigating the pyramid. The structure opens for the Doctor and he is greeted by a Monk. After a brief interaction, the Monk retreats and everyone’s clocks around the world are set to 23:57:00.

Three minutes to midnight. Three minutes left on the Doomsday Clock.

Sure enough, Douglas miskeys a value in the experiment. Not recognizing the mistake, the scientists leave for lunch and let the computer take control.

The Doctor assembles Ilya Svyatoslavovich (the leader of the Russian military in Turmezistan), Xiaolian (the leader of the Chinese military in Turmezistan), General-Colonel Babbit, the Secretary-General, Bill, and Nardole in the UN base. They discuss the reasons for the Monks’ arrival, settling on the relative weakness of humanity at this time. Despite his companions’ objections, the Doctor recommends a coordinated attack to demonstrate strength.

The Doomsday Clock advances to 23:58:00. Nardole and Bill become concerned for the Doctor.

Bill later asks the Doctor what’s bothering him, but he says that fear rules him to the extent that he cannot even reveal what scares him. As they speak, the pyramid emits a bright orange beam into the sky that consumes the bomber en route to the pyramid. The crew are replaced by Monks and the plane is gently deposited on the desert floor. Several members of the coalition military emerge from the pyramid as a Russian submarine lands in the desert. The Monks have stopped all of the attacks against them, but they are ready to talk now.

The world leaders join the Doctor and his companions in the pyramid. The Doctor tells Bill that traps provide a chance to learn about their enemies. The assembly meets with a Monk who explains that the chain of events is in progress that will destroy the planet at humanity’s hands. They witness the Monks working on the simulation from the outside, weaving strands in a tapestry. The Monk shows the group a vision of the future, then offers to help humanity survive, but to do so will enslave the human race.

The Doomsday Clock advances to 23:59:00.

The Monks must be wanted and loved because ruling through fear is inefficient. With the vision of the future in his mind, the Secretary-General consents to help, but since his consent was based on fear, he is immediately destroyed. The rest of the group leaves the pyramid.

At Agrofuel, the experiment goes awry. Erica and Douglas begin analyzing the problem, but Douglas breaches containment in the process. In Turmezistan, the world leaders consider their position and decide on peace. But since they are not the source of the end of the world, the Doomsday Clock doesn’t budge. Sure enough, the experiment at Agrofuel is the source and creates a deadly microorganism. The world leaders come to the same conclusion, and the Doctor responds by placing every top secret document online so that they can all start searching. Meanwhile, Douglas collapses from exposure to the virus and immediately decomposes into a puddle of goo.

General-Colonel Babbit wants to negotiate terms with the Monks, but the Doctor suggests that the price is way too high. Bill agrees with them because she sees no other choice, and the military leaders decide to surrender. As they leave, the Doctor almost reveals his secret to Bill but then decides on a different course of action.

Leaving Bill to watch the military leaders, the Doctor and Nardole use a list of biochemical labs on the UNIT watchlist to narrow the possible targets. They turn all of the CCTV cameras off, and when the Monks restore the feed, the Doctor takes the TARDIS to Agrofuel. The Doctor asks Nardole to monitor him from the TARDIS but Nardole has already been exposed. Meanwhile, the Doctor briefs Bill and the military leaders on the situation.

The Doomsday Clock advances to 23:59:40.

Since the lab’s filtration system has been compromised, the Doctor decides to incinerate the microorganisms. While he works, the military leaders are killed since their consent is based on strategy, not love. The Monks offer the deal to Bill since she is the representative of the Doctor. She must truly want their help in light of the consequences.

The Doctor sets the incendiary device and the Doomsday Clock begins to reverse. As the Monks panic, Bill leaves the pyramid. Unfortunately, since the lab is locked down, the airlock is secured by a combination lock. Since the Doctor is blind, he cannot see the numbers and therefore is trapped with the bomb.

He tells Bill about this problem and she decides to save his life by asking for help. She asks the Monks to restore the Doctor’s sight by consenting to their rule. Her consent is pure. The Doctor can see again. He spins the numbers and leaves the lab just in time.

As the fires rage, Bill asks the Doctor to get her planet back.

The Lie of the Land

As the Monks take control of humanity, they cultivate the lie that they have always been by humanity’s side. Their propaganda is spread by television broadcast messages delivered by the Doctor. Any dissension is punished by imprisonment and execution.

It’s only been a few months since the Doomsday Clock event at the pyramid but it feels like an eternity.

Bill prepares two mugs and concentrates, apparently summoning another woman to sit across from her. This woman is her mother. Bill reveals that she can’t remember escaping from the pyramid but she can see how the people of Earth have been brainwashed. Every day is harder than the last as the memories threaten to invade, but Bill believes that the Doctor will come back and save the world.

Her monologue is interrupted by Nardole, and after verifying that he is real, she welcomes him. Nardole recovered from the microorganism after six weeks and has done some research. He has traced the broadcasts to their source, a prison ship that is regularly resupplied by small boat. The captain of the supply boat hates the Monks since his son has been imprisoned for possession of comic books.

Nardole also points out that the Monks have altered the perception of human history for a good reason: However bad a situation is, if people think that’s how it has always been, they’ll accept it.

Nardole and Bill access the prison ship and are almost caught immediately, but an appearance by a Monk distracts the guards. They sneak into the bowels of the ship and find the Doctor in a room surrounded by speeches. The Doctor calls for help and the room fills with guards. He places a call to the Monks and then explains that human society is regressing, but Bill argues in favor of free will. They argue philosophy and Bill’s actions with the Monks and his eyesight. Bill tries to use a coded message regarding their trip to the Thames, but the Doctor deflects.

Bill finally breaks, talking about her personal rebellion while waiting for the Doctor’s return, and eventually pulls a gun on the Doctor. Seeing him as the enemy, she shoots him several times. The Doctor stands and appears to regenerate, then reveals the entire thing as a ruse. From sneaking on board to Bill shooting the Doctor (with blank ammunition), the last six months have been a plan by the Doctor. He even de-programmed his own personal guards.

Now he needs an ally nearly as smart as himself. So, the Doctor drives the prison ship to the mainland. They return to the university to find the Monks in wait, so they head to the vault and open it, finally revealing Missy inside. Bill is astounded to see who she thinks is just a woman, but the Doctor reveals her true form.

Missy tries to haggle over her role in the process, then works through the mystery of the Monks with the Doctor. The Doctor eventually comes to the conclusion that they use Bill as a linchpin through a psychic link. To keep themselves in power, the statues around the world act as transmitters to boost the signal. The link would be passed down genetically through millennia, so Missy suggests killing the linchpin and ending the chain.

Bill, obviously, has problems with that proposal.

Of course, Missy’s plan requires ages since the memory of the Monks would fade over time, so the Doctor and Bill offer a counterproposal at resistance headquarters. They decide to break into the Cathedral, the place where the Monks power their transmission, and replace Bill’s brainwaves with his own. Through reconnaissance, they determine that there are only a few Monks on the planet, but the transmissions make people believe that the Monks are everywhere all at once.

Using headphones playing a recording of their mission objectives, the resistance members infiltrate the Cathedral. Two of them are killed and one is turned when his tape player is damaged, but the turncoat is dispatched by Nardole. The team reaches the broadcasting chamber – Fake News Central, the eye of the storm – and finds a Monk wired into the antenna and sending the message. The Doctor attempts to override the transmission but the Monk is too powerful. The Doctor is knocked out.

When the Doctor comes to, Bill has tied him up to a pillar. She says her goodbyes and thanks the Doctor before walking to the antenna. The Doctor breaks free just as Bill places her hands on the Monk’s head. The Monk’s power overwhelms her and starts overwriting her memories, but the one that they cannot touch is that of Bill’s mother.

The Doctor sees this and persuades Bill to fill her mind with images of her mother. The pure, uncorrupted, irresistible image is broadcast to the world and overrides the control signal. The people of Earth are free and the Monks leave the planet in their Cathedral.

Sometime in the future, at the university, Bill and the Doctor muse about how humanity doesn’t even remember the Monks or what they did. The Doctor leaves Bill to her studies and sits with Missy as the prisoner expresses remorse for all of the people whom she has killed.

I mused about it in the slug line, but this story reminds me of Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings. When the elder elf is tempted by the One Ring, she compares herself to various forces of nature and declares that people would love her, fear her, and despair ever having liberty under her rule as a Dark Queen. Her subjects would love their slavery.

Galadriel passes her test by rejecting that vision of the future, but Bill takes an alternate path by accepting the Monks to save the world and her friend.

Episode by episode, this trilogy experiences several ups and downs. I found Extremis to be equal parts confusing and clever, especially how the flashbacks to (re)introduce Missy betrayed the main story’s existence as a virtual reality simulation. It’s a fascinating setup that slowly unravels as plot points don’t quite line up. The whole “practice invasion” scenario is quite reminiscent of The Android Invasion.

The Pyramid at the End of the World starts with a decent mystery surrounding the titular pyramid, but the intrigue is drowned by the snail’s pace of the story. The cardinal sin behind this second part is boredom, broken in parts by gallows humor (as scientists with hangovers create a pathogen that can destroy the world) and the absurdity behind the apparent inability to check United States Army rank insignia when the internet literally sits at the world’s fingertips. The story also returns to the fictional Turmezistan, which I called out not that long ago for Orientalism.

In better news, the Doctor gets his eyesight back, but The Lie of the Land makes me wonder why it was even a plot point at all when he can regenerate at any time. All I can think is that it doesn’t count unless the Time Lord starts healing, like the Eleventh Doctor giving up a small bit of energy to River Song. This episode moves a little better than Pyramid, but it still takes forever to establish a brainwashed world that won’t be remembered. The final solution is touching, but the idea that the world chooses to forget the whole earth-shattering experience is a bit much to swallow. The entire world was under their control for months and people across the globe were subject to horrors during that time.

Of course, the sonic screwdriver was easily fixed before this whole trilogy started. That should have been a clue about consequences and how long they last.

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Empress of Mars


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 – A Great Ape at 90

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
A Great Ape at 90
April 21, 2023

This week, I’m thinking about the king of kongs.

Rather, King Kong, the gorilla monster that debuted in 1933. His first appearance was in the novelization of the 1933 RKO Pictures film. That film, King Kong, premiered two months later and was a smash hit, spawning various sequels and remakes and adaptations and parodies and spoofs and… you get the point. The film franchise alone consists of twelve titles. Those are split among seven American films (produced by RKO, Warner Bros., Legendary, Paramount Pictures, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, and Universal Pictures), two Japanese tokusatsu kaiju films produced by Toho, and three direct-to-video animated films (produced by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment, BKN International, and TF1 for the fanmade sector).

On April 7th, Joe Crowe was joined by ape enthusiasts Mark Finn (@FinnsWake on Twitter) and Rick Klaw (Tachyon Publications) to celebrate the Eighth Wonder of the World, the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld.


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels are typically 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 world wide webs to the track’s 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.

Gary can also be found on A Podcask of Amontillado, a horror-themed podcast that he co-hosts with Erin McGourn.

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.

You can find those discussions 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.


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.