Timestamp #216: The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood

Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth
Doctor Who: Cold Blood
(2 episodes, s05e08-09, 2010)

Timestamp 216 Hungry Earth Cold Blood

Time travel can be cruel.

The Hungry Earth

In the year 2020, a team led by Dr. Nasreen Chaudhry is engaged in the deepest drilling project in history. This is taking place in Cwmtaff, Wales, and they’re seeking minerals that have appeared recently but haven’t been seen on Earth of over twenty million years.

Mo Northover, the night watchman at the site, heads to work only to be greeted by an earthquake. When his security monitors cut out, he investigates and finds a hole in the floor of the storage area. When it seals up, he reaches through the seal and is dragged inside.

The Doctor, Amy, and Rory land in Cwmtaff shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, they were aiming for Rio de Janeiro. The Doctor is fascinated by the local flora, and Amy spots a version of Amy and Rory from ten years in the future. The Doctor is intrigued by the ground feeling wrong, so he sets out for the nearby mining operation. Rory returns Amy’s ring to the TARDIS and encounters Ambrose and Elliot, Mo Northover’s family. They mistake him for a police officer and ask him to investigate the supposed vandalism of their family plot. One of her deceased relatives has been taken, coffin, body, and all.

The Doctor and Amy arrive at the mining facility where they meet Dr. Chaudhry and Ambrose’s father, Tony Mack. Suddenly, the floor starts to give way and Amy partially falls into one of the holes. The Doctor orders the drilling to stop while he holds on to Amy’s hand. Unfortunately, she slips beneath the surface. The Doctor determines that the earth was bio-programmed to attack when it perceives a threat. He also hears evidence that another drill is at work underground. The minerals and grass were warnings to stay away, and while the team was drilling down, something else was drilling up.

Something is coming now and has erected a forcefield dome over the village.

Rory and Elliot investigate the gravesite. Elliot presumes that the coffin was taken from underneath. They find the Doctor when the dome goes up, and Rory is distraught to learn about Amy’s fate. Ambrose also learns about her husband’s fate as the team move to a nearby church and set up a security network around the village to monitor whatever is coming.

The Doctor also makes inroads with Elliot by trusting the dyslexic boy to make a map of the village.

The attack begins with the dome cutting off all light from the outside world. The electricity is knocked out, disabling the security network. Elliot, who had left to find his headphones, is chased and captured by a reptilian being. The group rushes outside to find him and Ambrose finds his headphones. She is attacked by the being, and when Tony tries to save her, the creature stings him with a venomous tongue. The Doctor sends Ambrose, Tony, and Rory back to the church while he hunts the being with special infrared sunglasses.

He knows who they are.

He and Rory set a trap and capture it, prompting the rest of the intruders to retreat.

Amy awakens in a transparent coffin-like box. She is soon knocked unconscious by gas. Meanwhile, the Doctor talks to his prisoner, identifying her as a Silurian. Her name is Alaya, and he admits that he’s tried to broker peace between humanity and her species numerous times, but has failed mostly due to humanity being uncompromising. Alaya is set on war with humanity, so the Doctor returns to the church to declare his intent to go to the Silurian tribe’s home and negotiate directly with them.

When Tony suggests dissecting Alaya, the Doctor refuses. If they want their loved ones back safely, Alaya must be unharmed. Nasreen asks to go with him, and he refuses at first but finally relents. Her “bigger on the inside” moment in the TARDIS is short-lived, however, when the Silurians drag the ship beneath the surface.

Amy wakes up on a surgical table. Mo is on the table beside hers and warns her that she will be dissected while still alive. Elsewhere, Nasreen and the Doctor find an underground Silurian civilization stretching for miles.

Cold Blood

A Silurian tells the story of how he remembers when he met the Doctor 1000 years ago and the losses that the Time Lord suffered because of the failed attempt to negotiate peace.

The Doctor and Nasreen investigate the Silurian city and trip a security alarm. They are greeted by Silurian warriors who knock them unconscious. Luckily, the security alarm stops the physician from dissecting Amy and she’s able to pickpocket a device to set her and Mo free. They find Elliot in some kind of pod with monitors attached. Amy convinces Mo to keep moving, promising that they’ll get him out.

The Doctor and Nasreen are strapped to surgical tables and decontaminated, causing the Doctor to yell in pain. The process is overseen by Commander Restac, a Silurian who is related to the missing Alaya. The Doctor convinces them to stop the decontamination process since it will kill him. He then discusses terms with Restac as he learns that the drill was destroying the oxygen pockets above the city. Restac decides that instead of negotiating, she’ll execute the intruders instead.

Amy and Mo find two warriors in suspended animation. They take their weapons and stumble across an army. In the church above, Ambrose learns about the poison running through Tony’s veins and starts to treat him. She demands an antidote from Alaya and attacks her with a stun gun. Rory tries to prevent Alaya from dying, but he is unsuccessful. Ambrose is remorseful.

The Doctor tells Nasreen about the history of the Silurians. Restac is surprised, but furious after she learns how humans have killed her kind in the past. When they reach the courtroom, Amy and Mo arrive but are soon disarmed. Restac dismisses Malohkeh and prepares to execute the prisoners. She contacts the humans above to negotiate for Alaya. When she’s unsuccessful, she threatens to execute Amy, but is stopped by Eldane.

Eldane is the Silurian leader, awakened by Malohkeh to stop Restac’s brash actions. The prisoners are freed and the Doctor negotiates a peace, asking the humans above to come down with Alaya. While the Doctor negotiates this temporal tipping point and appoints Nasreen and Amy as ambassadors, Ambrose encourages Tony to reactivate the drill on a timer in case things go wrong.

Mo is reunited with Elliot and the Doctor learns that Malohkeh has been researching humans for a long time. The Doctor apologizes to Elliot, and as they return to the negotiating table, Malohkeh investigates the opening of the cryo-storage facilities. Restac has been awakening the warriors. When Malohkeh discovers this, Restac kills him.

The humans arrive and share their bad news. The Doctor tries to patch things but Ambrose is defiant. At that moment, Restac arrives and finds out what happened. Ambrose reveals that the drill is set and Restac orders her troops to open fire. The humans run with Eldane and end up cornered in a laboratory. The venom in Tony’s blood is reprogramming his DNA, the Doctor and Nasreen develop a plan to destroy the drill, and Eldane decides to use a toxic fumigation to stop Restac’s coup.

The Doctor asks Eldane to set his hibernation chambers to awaken everyone in 1000 years, and then asks the humans to spread the word as religion or rumor. Tony decides to stay behind when he learns the Silurians can cure his wound. Nasreen also opts to remain with Tony, thanking the Doctor for helping her fulfill her dream of seeing the Earth. They will awaken with the Silurians in 1000 years. Everyone else runs for the TARDIS.

When they reach the TARDIS, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory spot another crack in time. The Doctor reaches into the crack and pulls back a piece of shrapnel from the temporal explosion. Restac crawls onto the scene and takes aim on the Doctor, but Rory jumps in front of the blast and dies.

Amy is frantic but the Doctor has no choice but to leave. The crack absorbs Rory and as the Doctor starts the TARDIS into motion, he pleads with Amy to remember Rory before he’s erased from time. She tries, but the TARDIS is jostled as it lands and her concentration is broken. Everyone on the TARDIS rushes outside just in time to see the drill destroyed.

The Doctor tells Ambrose to make up for her actions by raising Elliot to be the best of humanity. The Doctor and Amy return to the TARDIS, and Amy waves at future Amy across the way. She thought she spotted someone else but cannot be sure. As Amy enters the TARDIS, the Doctor takes a look at the shrapnel he pulled from the crack.

It’s a piece of the TARDIS.


This story took the whole ride, from humor and lightheartedness as the Doctor screws up yet another beach trip, to the excitement of revisiting a classic enemy, to the absolute tragedy of killing a companion.

Not just killing a companion, but erasing them from all existence. It was brutal and Amy’s reaction was gut-wrenching. Rory joins Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric, Kamelion, K-9, Astrid Peth, Adelaide Brooke, and River Song in an elite and morbid club. Of course, we had to know it was coming as soon as the Doctor emphasizes that the negotiations were a temporal tipping point instead of a fixed point. It also gives a bit of hope that Rory will return somehow.

(Yes, I know he will.)

The return of the Silurians was a welcome touch, especially since we haven’t seen them since 1984, as was the direct nod to the Doctor’s previous attempts to negotiate peace between them and humans. With Doctor Who and the SiluriansThe Sea Devils, and Warriors of the Deep, the Doctor has tried (and failed) to broker peace.

The costuming was superb, echoing back to the armor and net-like garb of previous Silurian appearances. Even more impressive was actress Neve McIntosh and her double-duty performance as both Alaya and Restac. Both characters were unique in appearance and (most importantly) personality. She was magnificent.

The Matt Smith era also continues its tradition of recycling plot points and calling back to franchise touchpoints: the earth was also hungry in Frontios; mining and drilling were critical in both Inferno and The Green Death; the Master used an energy barrier to cutoff a village in The Dæmons; Rory unknowingly duplicated Jenny’s sacrifice in The Doctor’s Daughter; the gravity bubble returned from Victory of the Daleks; the Silurians used the heat ray weapons from Warriors of the Deep; and the Fifth Doctor also called celery an “excellent restorative” in The Caves of Androzani.

The message of this story is also important. We should all aspire to be the best humanity has to offer.

Also, spread the word. As of last year, the Silurians will return in the next millennium.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor

cc-break

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

Culture on My Mind – The Life Cycle of a Cup of Coffee

Culture on My Mind
January 15, 2021

This week, I have coffee in my mind. In particular, a TED-Ed presentation on how the cherries in the field end up in your morning cuppa.

The TED series of educational presentations has been around for quite some time. I really enjoy losing myself in some of the talks, and the “lessons worth sharing” are no example. I love to learn, and this is just one more way to do that every day.

So this week, I’m sharing this less from A.J. Jacobs that dives into the round-the-world journey of coffee, from plant to brew, the complex infrastructure, and the people who make it happen.

cc-break

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 #215: Amy’s Choice

Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice
(1 episode, s05e07, 2010)

Timestamp 215 Amy's Choice

Life is but a dream.

In quiet Upper Leadworth, a very pregnant Amy is mixing up a cake in the kitchen when she has a false labor alarm. Rory finds her eating the batter when the Doctor arrives. It’s been five years since they last saw each other and the Doctor is surprised to see Amy with child.

They take a tour of the quiet village, but when they stop to rest on a bench, a bird’s song puts them to sleep.

They awaken in the TARDIS, back to their normal selves, but all having shared the same dream. The console is also wonky. Another bout of birdsong forces all of them back to the bench. They all question what’s going on and the Doctor tells them to trust nothing. This is going to be a tricky one.

The trio awakens in the TARDIS and the Doctor gets cross with the console. Amy asks about the TARDIS manual, but the Doctor has long since ejected it into a supernova because he disagreed with it. The team discusses the situation until the TARDIS stops moving and goes dark.

Then they’re back in Leadworth. The Doctor rules out virtual reality, but focuses on Rory’s newfound medical degree before deciding to visit the local retirement home. He notices something suspicious about the residents, including Mrs. Poggit, before the birds send them all back to the TARDIS.

Once there, they meet a mysterious, noncorporeal man named the Dream Lord. He is testing them, revealing that there are two worlds. One is real, one is fake, and each holds a deadly danger. They must figure out which is real.

The birds send them back to Leadworth where the Dream Lord poses as a doctor. He poses a challenge: “If you die in a dream, you wake up in reality, healthy recovery in next to no time; ask me what happens if you die in reality.” The Dream Lord disappears, as have the senior citizens, leaving the travelers to explore the village for clues.

When the Doctor mocks the pastoral village, Amy fakes labor pains to scare him. She reminds him that he should never make fun of her world. They spot Mrs. Poggit, but as the Doctor starts to observe her, the birds sing again.

The TARDIS is getting colder. Amy and Rory go in search of blankets while the Doctor pokes at the console. Amy and Rory have another tense conversation about their pending nuptuals before returning to the Doctor and helping with the console. The scanner activates to reveal their pending danger: A cold star approximately forty minutes away. The Doctor is at a loss for an explanation and Rory is upset about the Time Lord being the hero, but the Dream Lord’s taunting and the sound of birds sends them back to Leadworth.

The pastoral scene is broken by piles of dust where children used to play. The Doctor believes that they were disintegrated by Mrs. Poggit, and after a quick discussion with the Dream Lord — there’s only one person who hates the Doctor as much as the Dream Lord does — they encounter a herd of alien-infested senior citizens. The aliens are the Eknodines, aliens who lost their homeworld and now want to take over Earth by eliminating humanity.

Amy and Rory run while the Doctor tries to reason with the Eknodines. The Dream Lord tries to send the Doctor back to the TARDIS, which would leave him completely helpless. The Doctor locks himself in a butcher’s freezer before the trio drifts off.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rory disagree over which world is real. While Amy fashions blanket ponchos for everyone, the Dream Lord arrives and takes Rory and the Doctor back to Leadworth. Rory hauls a comatose Amy upstairs to defend her against the horde while the Doctor escapes the freezer and hijacks a bus to save the villagers.

The Dream Lord taunts Amy, asking which man she would choose, reminding her that the Doctor doesn’t completely trust her. After all, she doesn’t even know his name. The Dream Lord travels to Leadworth and taunts the Doctor, telling him that it’s time to make a decision. The Doctor arrives at Amy and Rory’s house just as Amy returns to this reality. He climbs to the second floor through the window, but Rory is soon hit with the Eknodine gas and turned to dust.

Distraught that the Doctor cannot save Rory, Amy declares that Leadworth is the dream because she Rory’s not here. She storms outside, begging for the Eknodine to kill her, but they won’t because they know what she’s trying to do. She takes the van’s keys from the Doctor and rams them both into the house.

All three of them awaken in the TARDIS, covered in frost. The Dream Lord congratulates them on their victory by restoring power to the TARDIS and steering them away from the cold star. He then vanishes, but the Doctor is unconvinced. He decides to blow up the TARDIS, calling the Dream Lord’s bluff because the Doctor knows who he is.

In a bright flash of light, everyone wakes up on the TARDIS. The Doctor presents a speck of psychic pollen from the candle meadows of Karass don Slava, which apparently induced the dream state by warming up in the time rotor and feeding on the Doctor’s darker instincts. The Dream Lord was a manifestation of that energy.

The Doctor works on a new course while Amy tells Rory that she didn’t know which reality was the dream. All she knew was that she couldn’t live without him. As they share a passionate kiss, the Doctor leaves their destination as Amy’s choice.

When the Doctor looks at his reflection, he sees the Dream Lord staring back. When he checks again, the reflection is gone.


This is a wacky story that plays around with the Doctor’s darker instincts. This time, instead of the Doctor having to confront and overcome this darkness in himself, he has to face an external foe. Which, we saw before in The Trial of a Time Lord with the Valeyard.

What this story has working for it is the spark that I wanted to see between Amy and Rory. I believed their love in this episode, which is a big step up over the last few adventures.

What this story lacks is a way for the viewer to figure out the mystery. The ground rules are easy: Two scenarios, one of which is real. But the hidden twist is a piece of information that only the Doctor has, making him critical to the story rather than a companion on the adventure. These stories are certainly much more fun when the audience can play along at home.

We also get a repeated theme from the last adventure with orphaned aliens looking for a new home.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth and Doctor Who: Cold Blood

cc-break

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 – Post-Christmas Classics

Culture on My Mind
January 8, 2021

I know that we’re officially outside the holiday season and firmly into the new year, but the American Sci-Fi Classics crowd knows no temporal bounds. Join me this week for one last taste of the holiday season.

On December 24th, Kevin Eldridge, Chris Cummins, Jonathan Williams, and Kevin from Gleaming the Tube took a look at weird Christmas things, from E.T. replacing Santa Claus to Emmet Otter, the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas special where Skeletor turns out to be nice, and Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey!

On December 31st, Gary and Joe waged a battle to escape the grasp of 2020 by discussing time travel movies with Gary Lindros, Shaun Rosado, and… Doctor Victor von Doom? There was also a side-battle between Mitchel and Lindros to determine who is the Ultimate Gary.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again): Gary and Joe have a lot more fun discussions planned, so you should stay tuned to the YouTube channel and 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.

cc-break

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 #214: The Vampires of Venice

Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice
(1 episode, s05e06, 2010)

Timestamp 214 Vampires of Venice

There’s something fishy in the waters of Venice.

Meanwhile in the TARDIS, Part II

The Doctor gets Amy back into the TARDIS where she continues trying to seduce him. While he tries to work the console, proclaiming to be a mix between Gandalf and Yoda, Amy points out just how much a a typical guy he is.

The Doctor tells her that he just can’t see it anymore. He’s lost the wonder. Everything is just… stuff. He wants Amy to help open his eyes to the wonders again.

Amy takes this as a clue that she’s not the first companion. When she asks how many of them were girls, the Doctor dances around the question, so Amy brings up the visual records with a little trick. The TARDIS obliges, showing her only the women who have traveled with the Doctor.

The Doctor decides to go find Rory, who is at his bachelor party.

The Vampires of Venice

In Venice, 1580, Guido presents his teenage daughter Isabella to Rosanna Calvierri and her son, Francesco. Isabella is seeking entrance to Rosanna’s school, and when it is granted, Rosanna takes the young woman promptly.

As Guido leaves the room, Isabella is inspected before Francesco reveals himself as a vampire.

Four centuries in the future, Rory is enjoying his bachelor party until the Doctor pops out of a cake instead of the expected stripper. The Doctor reveals that Amy tried to kiss him, but it’s okay because she is a great kisser.

It sounded better in his head, you know.

Some time later, the Doctor is working on the TARDIS console as he offers relationship advice to the young couple. He also offers to take them to any location so they can get away together. He decides on Venice, a bit perturbed that Rory understands the “bigger on the inside” concept.

He goes on for a spell about the founding and history of Venice, including a note to avoid Casanova, before running into a guard who asks for traveling credentials in an attempt to stop the plague. The travelers use the psychic paper to bypass the checkpoint – Rory is apparently the Doctor’s eunuch – before running into Guido and learning about Isabella’s plight.

In the school’s courtyard, Francesco tries to convince his mother that they have more than enough converts, but she’s not convinced at all. He later trawls the streets looking for another victim. The subsequent screams draw Amy and Rory. After spotting the vampire fangs, Amy gives chase.

The Doctor breaks into the school and encounters a group of female vampires, impressed by their lack of reflections. They ask who he is and he shows them a library card, so they vamp out to chase him away. He runs into Amy and Rory. Amy and the Doctor are excited about the vampires, but Rory is appalled.

Amy and the Doctor strategize with Guido on how to get into the school undercover. The Doctor and Rory argue that Amy shouldn’t be the one to go in, but she spins an elaborate cover story. Rory does not like the idea of the Doctor posing as her fiancé, so Amy and Rory pose as siblings to gain Rosanna’s favor. One flash of the psychic paper later and Amy’s matriculated.

She soon finds Isabella and learns about being strapped to a chair for a procedure that she cannot remember. All she knows is that the sunlight now burns her skin. As Amy looks for a way in for her traveling companions, Guido (in Rory’s stag party shirt) takes the Doctor and an apprehensive Rory to meet her.

They talk about Amy’s relationship with the Doctor while the Time Lord shows off his huge UV light. Rory challenges the Doctor about his attitude that makes people take risks to impress him. They also discover a corpse that it completely drained of all fluids before being ambushed.

Amy gets captured and taken to Rosanna where she is confronted about the psychic paper. Amy is strapped down and bitten by Rosanna. The headmistress explains that they drink the girls dry and replace their blood with that of their own kind. Amy kicks Rosanna, exposing a perception filter and the vampire’s true nature.

Yep, they’re aliens.

Isabella rescues Amy and the travelers escape into the sunlight. The Doctor tries to go back for Isabella but is attacked by an electric shock. As the morning continues on, Isabella is forced into the canal behind the school where she is eaten alive by the males of the species who are hiding beneath the water’s surface.

Rosanna returns to her throne room to find the Doctor waiting for her. He has deduced she is from Saturnyne. She’s using a perception filter to appear human and they share a common identity as alien refugees. Rosanna’s planet was consumed by the cracks in time, and while fleeing the Silence, they ended up on Earth. Rosanna asks for the Doctor’s help in rebuilding her species, but he only wants to know what happened to Isabella. Rosanna disavows Isabella, remarking only that all traitors must be killed. As the Time Lord is escorted out, he shouts that he will stop her. If only because she didn’t know Isabella’s name.

With a malfunctioning perception filter, Rosanna assembles her girls in the courtyard and prepares to wage war. Meanwhile, the Doctor reunites with Guido and his traveling companions and hashes out Rosanna’s plan. He deduces that she plans to sink Venice and give rise to a new Saturnyne.

The “vampires” pick that moment to assault Guido’s home, forcing the heroes to flee. Guido commandeers the UV light and locks himself inside, luring the girls to his gunpowder stash which he uses to destroy the invaders at the expense of his own life.

As Rosanna begins her plan, the Doctor forces Amy to return to the TARDIS. Rory thanks the Doctor and pursues her as the Time Lord returns to the school and tries to stop Rosanna’s machine. He finds it deadlock sealed, but even the news that her daughters are dead doesn’t dissuade the headmistress.

Rory and Amy find a detour in Francesco. Rory fights him while Amy uses her compact mirror to disintegrate the alien in a burst of sunlight. Amy kisses Rory in celebration before they both rush off to help the Doctor.

The Time Lord is miffed about Rory’s change of heart, but he soon leaves them in charge of dismantling the throne as he ascends the bell tower after Rosanna. He ascends to the spire and stops the weather machine before finding Rosanna on the canal’s edge.

The matriarch’s perception filter has failed, locking her in her human form. She prepares to dive to her death, and as the Doctor rushes to stop her, she tells him that he’ll have to live with the death of her species on his conscience. She then jumps into the water and is consumed.

The Doctor, Amy, and Rory return to the TARDIS. Seeing Amy’s excitement and her apprehension about the wedding, Rory offers to break off their engagement. Amy replies that he should travel with them, and the Doctor agrees.

As they are about to leave, silence falls around the Doctor, an omen of the darkness still surrounding them.


This is a tough story to consider. On the one hand, the story is quite average with a small connection to the ongoing thread about the Doctor being the last of his kind. This story would have played well in the Tennant era which leaned heavily on the Doctor pledging to prevent another such genocide. It also plays well here, both as a counterbalance to Matt Smith’s portrayal of a younger, hip, almost laissez-faire Doctor and as a fulfillment of his promise to never be cowardly or cruel, and to never give up or give in.

On the other hand, we have some great (and tough to handle) character development with this twisted triangle. As much as I despise the attempted seduction of the Doctor by Amy, it opens the door to some dramatic friction. Amy’s attracted to the Doctor, but the Doctor isn’t interested in her. Rory loves Amy and she seems to love him, but she’s not quite ready to settle down. The Doctor’s interests reside with unraveling the mysteries surrounding these two while helping them to find each other.

But the biggest source of friction is how poorly Amy treats Rory. She seems irritated that the Doctor brought him in, but seems excited to be with Rory on a wedding-gift vacation. It all comes back to the Doctor, however, because they are there purely because of time travel and Amy immediately gravitates back to the adventure instead of guiding and mentoring her future husband.

Let’s be frank: Rory needs reassurance about their relationship and Amy is either ignorant or reluctant to provide it. She’s not holding up her end of the Pond-Williams team and effectively leaving Rory alone in the storm roiling around them.

I wish that she would treat Rory better because I really love the chemistry between Karen Gillan and Matt Smith, but that amazing connectivity is blunted by Amy’s disregard for Rory, who seems to be a really sharp and grounded character.

I loved a lot of the mythology touches throughout the episode, from the First Doctor library card to the Doctor’s continued fear of heights. A closer look at the library card reveals that it was issued to “Dr. J. Smith”, continuing the John Smith alias into the Hartnell era, and was registered to 76 Totter’s Lane in Shoreditch, London. The story also swerved into meta territory with the jokes about Casanova, which touches on both David Tennant and guest star Helen McCrory.

We also cannot forget that the Doctor has plenty of experience with vampires and blood-drinkers, including State of DecayThe Curse of Fenric, and Smith and Jones.

I bounced back and forth for a while on the score for this one, but finally settled on my modus operandi of rounding up.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice

cc-break

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.

Rabbit Rabbit – January 2021

Rabbit Rabbit
January 2021

Rabbit, rabbit!

Since at least 1909, a superstition has lived in North American and the United Kingdom that if a person says or repeats the word “rabbit” upon waking up on the first day of the month, good luck will follow for the remainder of that month.

Elements of the tradition exist in the United Kingdom, New England, and even in various First Nation cultures.

While I’m not necessarily endorsing the superstition, it provides a way to look in depth at each month of the year, from history and observances to miscellaneous trivia. The topic this month is January.

History

January is named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology. Ancient Roman farmers’ almanacs also suggest that Juno, the goddess of marriage and childbirth, was the tutelary deity of the month.

The original Roman calendar traditionally consisted of 10 months totaling 304 days, with winter being considered a period without months. Circa 713 BC, the semi-mythical successor of Romulus, King Numa Pompilius, supposedly added the months of January and February, bringing the calendar to 354 days, the length of a standard lunar year.

March was originally the first month in the old Roman calendar. January became the first month of the calendar year either under Numa or the Decemvirs in about 450 BC.

Various Christian feast dates were used for the New Year in Europe during the Middle Ages, including the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and December 25. Medieval calendars kept the Roman tradition of displaying twelve columns from January to December, but beginning in the 16th century, European countries began officially making January 1 the start of the New Year once again. This is sometimes referred to as Circumcision Style because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, being the seventh day after December 25, the supposed birthday of Jesus Christ.

Observances

Canada observes Alzheimer’s Awareness Month throughout January. The United Kingdom considers the month as Dry January, based on a public health campaign urging people to abstain from alcohol.

The United States packs January with several observances: National Codependency Awareness Month, National Mentoring Month, National Healthy Weight Awareness Month, Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and Stalking Awareness Month.

The United States also has several food related observances, including Be Kind to Food Servers Month (in the state of Tennessee), California Dried Plum Digestive Health Month, Hot Tea Month, National Soup Month, and Oatmeal Month.

Ancient Roman observances during this month include Cervula and Juvenalia (celebrated on January 1st), one of three Agonalia (celebrated on January 9th), and Carmentalia (celebrated on January 11th). These dates were according to ancient calendars and do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.

Trivia

  • Historical names for January include its original Roman designation, Ianuarius,
  • The Saxons referred to January as Wulf-monath (meaning “wolf month”) because people were supposedly in more danger of being devoured by wolves in that month.
  • The full moon occurring in January is known as the Wolf Moon.
  • Charlemagne referred to the month as Wintarmanoth, meaning “winter month” or “cold month”.
  • In Slovenian, the month is traditionally called prosinec. That name is associated with millet bread and the act of asking for something, and was first documented as such in 1466 in a manuscript from Škofja Loka.
  • In Finnish, the month is known as tammikuu, meaning the heart of the winter. The name literally means “oak moon”.
  • January’s birthstone is the garnet. It represents constancy, is the birthstone associated with Aquarius (spanning January to February) in astrology, and naturally comes in multiple colors, though blue is very rare. In this application, it is typically a red color.
  • January also contains the zodiac sign of Capricorn, carrying over from December.
  • The month’s birth flowers are the pink carnation and the galanthus, and the Japanese floral emblem is the camellia.
  • January starts on the same day of the week as October in common years and April and July in leap years.
  • January ends on the same day of the week as October in common years and July in leap years.

Rabbit Rabbit is a project designed to look at each month of the year with respect to history, observances, and more.

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

The Thing About Today – December 31

December 31, 2020
Day 366 of 366

December 31st is the 366th day of the year. It is New Year’s Eve, celebrated alongside other events like First Night in the United States, Last Day of the Year (Bisperás ng Bagong Taón) in the Philippines, Novy God Eve in Russia, Ōmisoka in Japan, and the first day of Hogmanay or “Auld Year’s Night” in Scotland.

This is the final day of 2020.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Champagne Day, No Interruptions Day (typically observed on the last work day of the year), Make Up Your Mind Day, and the Universal Hour of Peace.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and started brewing Guinness.
  • In 1790, Efimeris, the oldest Greek newspaper of which issues have survived to this day, was published for the first time.
  • In 1831, Gramercy Park was deeded to New York City.
  • In 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa, then a small logging town, as the capital of the Province of Canada.
  • In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed an act that admitted West Virginia to the Union, thus dividing Virginia in two.
  • In 1879, Thomas Edison demonstrated incandescent lighting to the public for the first time in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
  • In 1907, the first New Year’s Eve celebration was held in Times Square (then known as Longacre Square) in Manhattan.
  • In 1937, Welsh actor, director, and composer Anthony Hopkins was born.
  • In 1943, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor John Denver was born.
  • Also in 1943, English actor Ben Kingsley was born.
  • In 1958, actress and dancer Bebe Neuwirth was born.
  • In 1959, actor Val Kilmer was born.
  • In 1983, the AT&T Bell System was broken up by the United States Government.
  • In 1991, all official Soviet Union institutions were to have ceased operations by this date, five days after the Soviet Union was officially dissolved.
  • In 1994, this date was skipped altogether in Kiribati as the Phoenix Islands and Line Islands changed time zones from UTC−11:00 to UTC+13:00 and UTC−10:00 to UTC+14:00, respectively.
  • In 2009, a blue moon and a lunar eclipse occurred simultaneously.
  • In 2011, NASA succeeded in putting the first of two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory satellites in orbit around the Moon.

December 31st marks the last day of 2020, and thus the last day of The Thing About Today on this blog.

When I conceived the feature last December, it was a challenge to write one post per day on this site, as well as an opportunity to look at each day of both a leap year and a personal milestone year with respect to historical context. Who could have known what this year would bring with the COVID-19 pandemic and such significant changes to each of our lives and the world at large?

My hope for this feature is that it brought both knowledge and entertainment to you this year. I’m grateful and thankful for your attention and endurance over the last 366 days.

I hope that we all have a prosperous, safe, and healthy year ahead of us.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

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

Timestamp #213: The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone

Doctor Who: The Time of Angels
Doctor Who: Flesh and Stone
(2 episodes, s05e04-05, 2010)

Timestamp 213 Time of Angels Flesh and Stone

Not blinking just got a lot more complicated.

The Time of Angels

A uniformed man spins blindly in a field, his face graced by a lipstick kiss. When a man in an evening suit wipes the lipstick smear, he realizes that the man is hallucinating and River Song is on the starship. Sure enough, she’s fired up a torch and is burning a black box with it.

Twelve thousand years in the future, the Doctor and Amy are exploring the Delirium Archive, final resting place of the Headless Monks. He finds the message engraved on the box in Old High Gallifreyan – “Hello, Sweetie.” – and steals the box. Using the box, he tunes into where River is running from the guards just in time to head a set of coordinates. River blasts herself into space and the Doctor materializes the TARDIS in time to catch her.

She tells him to follow the Byzantium, the ship she just departed.

As the TARDIS gives chase, River suggests using the “blue stablizers”. The capsule stops shaking, the wheezing sound disappears (apparently, the Doctor leave the brakes on all the time), and the landing is soft. After a haphazard environment check, River steps outside to find that the target ship has crashed.

Amy wants to know what’s going on and pressures the Doctor to show her the planet. Reluctantly, he agrees, and Amy Pond meets Professor River Song. There’s also a thing in the crashed ship. A thing that can never die.

River glances through her diary to figure out where she and the Doctor are in their respective timelines as her associates, a group of four soldiers, materialize on the surface. As they enter the ship and nearby temple, she reveals that they’re facing the Weeping Angels.

The Doctor and River explain the Angels to Amy and Father Octavian, the leader of the soldiers. It turns out that he’s the bishop, his troops are clerics, and by the 51st century, the church has moved on. They spot one of the Angels on a security feed. The catacombs are flooded with radiation, a banquet to the Angels, and plans are made without Amy.

River offers the Doctor a book about the Angels, which he reads and declares to be wrong. Meanwhile, Amy keeps watching the clip of the Angel and notices that it keeps shifting positions. She tries to turn off the monitor, but it keeps turning back on again. As this happens, the Doctor reads the part about how an image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel, and he races to save Amy. Unfortunately, the room and monitor have deadlocked. She tries to disable the monitor again as the Doctor reads another part of the book: The eyes are the doorways to the soul. Amy spots a glitch in the clip and turns off the monitor in that moment, thus avoiding the image. The room is opened again, and while everything seems fine, Amy has a problem with her eye.

The deacons blow an entrance into the temple, revealing a vast area full of crumbling statues. It’s the perfect place to hide for an Angel. As the Doctor moves on, Octavian warns River to not let him figure out where they are in his timeline and why she’s imprisoned. Meanwhile, Clerics Christian and Angelo investigate a nearby exit from the chamber.

Amy keeps rubbing her eye, releasing a stream of gray dust. River catches up to her and they muse about the Doctor and his relationship with her. Amy is convinced that they are married.

Oh, and Clerics Christian and Angelo? They are soon killed by the Angel.

The Doctor, River, and Amy run to the sound of gunfire. They find a young cleric named Bob (a sacred name) and, even with Father Octavian berating the youth, the Doctor insists that his fear will keep him alert. They team moves into the maze, and the Doctor remembers the Aplans who built the crypt. He remembers dinner with the chief architect, then asks River about the last line in the book: It’s an ominous prophecy: “What happens when ideas have thoughts of their own? What happens when dreams no longer need dreamers? When these things have come to pass, the time will be upon us. The Time of Angels.”

River notes that something is wrong and the Doctor realizes that he’s made a terrible mistake. The Aplans have two heads, yet all of these statues have only one. The Doctor runs a quick experiment and reveals that every statue in the maze is a Weeping Angel. They’re slow due to a lack of energy to feed on, but they’re all coming for the team, and the radiation from the Byzantium is powering them up.

Cleric Bob, on the other hand, is already dead, having been called to his doom by the voices of his former squadmates. He tells the tale to Father Octavian over the radio, a puppet of the Angels who have reanimated a copy of his consciousness to communicate.

The team continues on to the Byzantium, but Amy is turning to stone. The Doctor tells her that it’s the Angels playing with her mind, which has been infiltrated by the Angel in the monitor, and when she won’t move he bites her hand. When the team reaches the crash site, their lights start failing and the Angels approach.

River reminds the Doctor that this kind of crunch time is when the Doctor works his best, and as Bob tries to anger the Doctor, he remarks that there’s one thing that they’ve failed to realize. There’s one thing that you never put in a trap.

The Doctor.

He borrows a gun from Octavian, warning them all to jump at his signal. He shoots the gravity globe above them, plunging everything into darkness.

Flesh and Stone

The Doctor tells everyone to look up as the lights come back up. When they jumped, they fell into the Byzantium‘s artificial gravity and landed on the ship’s hull. The Doctor opens an airlock and the team enters the ship. As the Doctor works on a solution further into the ship, the Angels pursue.

The Doctor tells them that he needs to turn off the lights for a moment, and Octavian asks River if she trusts the Time Lord. She does.

The lights go out and Octavian’s men light up the corridor with gunfire, keeping the Angels at bay as the doors slide open and give the team access to the rest of the ship. The Angels continue their pursuit, much to Octavian’s dismay, and the Doctor continues to work. He realizes that the ship’s mission required a sustainable oxygen supply, and he reveals a cybernetic forest onboard.

He’s also intrigued at the reason why Amy continues to count down from ten.

As the Clerics probe the forest, the Doctor has another conversation with Angel Bob. Bob reveals that the Angels are feasting and that they’ve inhabited Amy through her eyes. They’re making her count to scare the survivors. The Angels are laughing because the “Doctor in the TARDIS hasn’t noticed” the overarching threat. He turns to see the crack from Amy’s wall, now in the hull of the Byzantium. The Doctor scans the crack as the Angels infiltrate the room and everyone else leaves. Unfortunately, the Angels snag the Doctor by his jacket.

The Angels are distracted by the crack, which is pure time energy, allowing the Doctor time to escape. As he runs to catch up with the group, Amy counts to four and collapses. The Doctor runs through everything as Amy counts to three, realizing that there’s an Angel in her mind. The Quantum Lock that they use – freezing when spotted – is not only a defense mechanism but a means of reproduction. At zero, it will pop out of Amy’s head and kill her.

The Doctor has Amy close her eyes, which stops the countdown and stabilizes her. Amy can’t open her eyes, so the Doctor sets a course to help cure her. The Doctor, River, and Octavian leave Amy with the Clerics, and the Doctor asks her to trust him and remember what he told her when she was a little girl.

His appearance is slightly different here. There’s a significant jump in time for that one moment.

En route to the flight deck, the Doctor learns that River is in Octavian’s custody and that she’s a prison in the Stormcage Containment Facility. If this mission succeeds, she’ll earn credit toward a pardon. While River tries to open the door to the primary flight deck, the Doctor considers the anomalies he has recently noticed, from the duckless duck pond in Leadworth and Amy’s inability to remember the Dalek invasion of Earth to the lack of any mention of the CyberKing in Victorian London in the history books. River’s scanner reveals that a temporal explosion will occur on June 26, 2010 and cause the cracks. It will happen in Amy’s time.

Back at Amy’s location, the Angels start disrupting the lights by breaking the cybernetic trees, but a bright burst of light apparently scares the Angels away. Amy glances at the light and notes that it is the same shape as the crack in her wall. As the Clerics investigate the light, all memory of them is erased, and Amy notes this with Marco, the last remaining Cleric.

River opens the door, but Octavian waits for the Doctor to go through. Unfortunately, he’s immediately trapped by an Angel. Realizing that there’s no way out for him, Octavian reveals that River is in prison for murder and that the Doctor cannot trust her. The Doctor reluctantly leaves Father Octavian, hearing his neck snap as he ducks into the flight deck where River is working on a teleport.

Marco leaves Amy to scout the light and disappears from time. The Doctor makes contact with her and turns her communicator into a homing beacon tied to his sonic screwdriver. She has to move before the time energy in the crack catches up with her and erases her from existence. Step by step, she makes her way toward the Doctor, but she trips over a root and falls. The Angels, running from the crack, find Amy but do not attack because they think that she can see them. They realize that she’s effectively blind and converge on her, but River saves her in the nick of time with the teleport.

As the ships runs low on power, the door to the forest opens to reveal all of the Angels snarling at the survivors. The Angel Bob demands that that the Doctor throw himself into the crack in order to save them, but the Doctor has other plans. As the artificial gravity fails, the Angels fall backward into the crack, erasing the lot of them. The crack seals behind them.

Pretty much just like Doomsday.

Later on, the Doctor and Amy sit on a beach and muse about the crack and her newfound status as a time traveler. The Doctor discusses River’s prison sentence with her, but she won’t reveal who she killed. She promises, however, that he’ll see her again when the Pandorica opens. The Doctor dismisses it as a fairy tale, and as Amy bids her farewell, River is transported to the prison ship that has just arrived.

Once they’re back on the TARDIS, Amy requests that the Doctor take her home. Not to stop traveling, of course, but to show him what she’s running from. In her bedroom, five minutes after they first left, she tells the Doctor about her engagement to Rory. She also makes advances on the Doctor, but he vehemently refuses. He also realizes that everything wrong with the universe is tied to her.

The date of the temporal explosion is Amy’s wedding day.

The Doctor pushes Amy back into the TARDIS and takes off.


The last time that we saw River Song was at her death. All we knew was that the Doctor would come to trust her enough to tell her his true name. So, the Doctor’s adversarial attitude toward River is understandable, especially considering how she flaunts her knowledge of him, placing him at a severe disadvantage.

The development of the River/Doctor relationship and mythology is fun to watch, as is the interplay between Amy and River. Those two are peas in a pod. We also get some hints of the future with River being incarcerated for killing the best man that she knew and his future/her past meeting at the Pandorica.

Steven Moffat loves his foreshadowing.

One of the biggest mistakes in this story comes with the Weeping Angels. I love the creeping horror they bring to this story, and I do like the expansion of their powers from an image being an extension of their selves to being able to possess someone through the quantum lock defense.

The mistake comes from allowing them to move on camera. One of Blink‘s biggest selling points was using the camera’s point-of-view as an observer, and it held true here until that single moment in the forest with Amy. In that moment, the Angels lost their power with me. They became just another Doctor Who monster.

The second big mistake in this story is the treatment of Amy. From The Beast Below until now, she’s been a competent and intelligent companion. In the last few minutes of this story, however, her integrity plummeted as she pushed for sex with the Doctor. With her wedding dress hanging mere feet from her bed, she actually contemplated cheating on her fiancé.

It’s an unfortunate and anger-inducing development for her. Steven Moffat later walked it back, but the scene was a terrible idea from the start.

Now, there is some nice consistency across the franchise with this story, from the Doctor being miffed that someone else can drive the TARDIS better than him (The Ribos Operation) to the Doctor showing affection to his companions before leaving them for a few moments (The War Games/Colony in Space).

Overall, this is a really good suspense thriller that covers a lot of ground in the ongoing universe building. The thing that really knocks this from being fantastic is the downturn for Amy’s character.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice

cc-break

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.

The Thing About Today – December 30

December 30, 2020
Day 365 of 366

December 30th is the 365th day of the year. It is the anniversary of the Day of the Declaration of Slovakia as an Independent Ecclesiastic Province.

There are two days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, Falling Needles Family Fest Day, and Bacon Day.

Mmmm… bacon…

Historical items of note:

  • In 1851, businessman and politician Asa Griggs Candler was born. In 1888, he purchased the Coca-Cola recipe for $1,750 from chemist John Stith Pemberton in Atlanta, Georgia. He founded The Coca-Cola Company in 1892 and developed it as a major company. He served as the 41st Mayor of Atlanta from 1916 to 1919.
  • In 1865, Indian-English author and poet Rudyard Kipling was born. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.
  • In 1896, Canadian ice hockey player Ernie McLea scored the first hat-trick in Stanley Cup play, and the Cup-winning goal, as the Montreal Victorias defeated the Winnipeg Victorias by a score of 6-5. The hat-trick is accomplished when a single player scores three goals in a single game.
  • Also in 1896, Filipino patriot and reform advocate José Rizal was executed by a Spanish firing squad in Manila.
  • In 1916, the last coronation in Hungary was performed for King Charles IV and Queen Zita.
  • In 1920, actor Jack Lord was born.
  • In 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed.
  • In 1924, Canadian-American propulsion engineer Yvonne Brill was born.
  • In 1927, the Ginza Line, the first subway line in Asia, opened in Tokyo, Japan.
  • In 1945, English singer-songwriter and actor Davy Jones was born. He was a member of The Monkees.
  • In 1947, author, screenwriter, and producer James Kahn was born.
  • In 1953, journalist and game show host Meredith Vieira was born.
  • Also in 1953, the first-ever NTSC color television sets went on sale. They were sold for about $1,175 each by RCA.
  • In 1963, Let’s Make a Deal debuted on NBC.
  • In 1972, actress Maureen Flannigan was born. I was introduced to her on Out of this World, a little low-budget family sitcom that I still would love to see on TV again someday.
  • In 1980, actress and producer Eliza Dushku was born.
  • In 1982, Canadian actress Kristin Kreuk was born.
  • In 1986, actress Caity Lotz was born.
  • In 2006, former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein was executed.

December 30th is Falling Needles Family Fest Day.

What is that? Well, it’s a day to remind everyone to clean up and recycle that rapidly decaying live Christmas tree. Instead of putting it in the garbage, the tree can be reused in many ways. It can be mulched down for use in your garden or donated to mulching programs. According to Purdue University, it can be anchored in your yard to serve as a temporary winter home for birds. It can also be donated to programs that place trees in waterways to act as homes for fish. It can also be used as a soil erosion block for hills, lakes, rivers, and dunes.

It can also be cut and dried for later use in fire pits. Of course, you should never burn it indoors due to the oils found in firs and evergreens.

Check with your local municipality to see what options are available to recycle your used tree.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

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

The Thing About Today – December 29

December 29, 2020
Day 364 of 366

December 29th is the 364th day of the year. It is Independence Day in Mongolia (Монгол Улсын тусгаар тогтнол) as they commemorate their separation from the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

There are three days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Hero Day, National Pepper Pot Day, and Tick Tock Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1800, self-taught chemist and engineer Charles Goodyear was born. He developed vulcanized rubber, a process for which he received the patent. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company is named after him.
  • In 1860, the launch of the ironclad HMS Warrior, with her combination of screw propeller, iron hull, and iron armor, rendered all previous warships obsolete.
  • In 1916, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the first novel by James Joyce, was first published as a book after it had been serialized in The Egoist.
  • In 1928, British actor Bernard Cribbins was born.
  • In 1936, actress and producer Mary Tyler Moore was born.
  • In 1947, actor and producer Ted Danson was born.
  • In 1965, the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball, premiered.
  • In 1967, director, screenwriter and producer Lilly Wachowski was born.
  • In 1972, actor Jude Law was born.
  • In 1979, Mexican actor, director and producer Diego Luna was born.
  • In 1987, Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker was born.
  • In 1998, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge apologized for the 1970s genocide in Cambodia that claimed over one million lives.

December 29th is Constitution Day in Ireland.

The Constitution of Ireland, Bunreacht na hÉireann, asserts the national sovereignty of the Irish people in the tradition of liberal and representative democracy. It guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected non-executive president, a bicameral parliament, a separation of powers, and judicial review.

It is the second constitution of the Irish state since independence, replacing the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State. It came into force on December 29, 1937 following a statewide plebiscite. It is the republican constitution that has been the longest continuously in operation within the European Union.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

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