Timestamp #209: The End of Time

Doctor Who: The End of Time
(Christmas Special, 2009)
(New Year Special, 2010)

“It is said that in the final days of planet Earth, everyone had bad dreams…” Everyone forgot these terrible dreams, except one man.

London is gearing up for Christmas, and Wilfred Mott is no exception. However, when he sees flashes of the Master laughing maniacally, he seeks the sanctuary of a nearby church. In the stained glass, he spots an image of the TARDIS. A mysterious woman tells him that it’s called the mystery of the blue box, driven by a sainted physician who smote a demon and vanished. She muses that he may be coming back, but when Wilf tells her that it would make his Christmas, she vanishes.

And the Master laughs.

The TARDIS materializes on the Ood Sphere, a full century after the Doctor and Donna freed the Ood. The Doctor struts into the snowy landscape in a tropical get-up, trying to get a laugh from Ood Sigma with a remote car lock on the time capsule. It doesn’t work. Neither does the Doctor’s boasting that he named a galaxy Alison, saw the Phosphorous Carousel of the Great Magellan Gestalt, and married Queen Elizabeth I.

The Doctor is troubled by the rapid nature of the Ood evolution. The Ood are troubled as well, though their burden is bad dreams of a return. The Doctor joins their vision and sees the laughing Master. The Doctor protests since the Master is dead, sharing his memories of The Year That Never Was, but is troubled as he sees visions of Wilf, Lucy Saxon, and a mysterious couple.

He recounts the tale of the Master’s demise and funeral, but the Ood note how he missed a woman picking up the Master’s ring. There’s also a shadow falling over creation. The end of time is coming.

The Doctor runs for the TARDIS. Lucy Saxon is set free from her jail cell in Christmas Eve. As the Doctor flies the TARDIS apart, Lucy is introduced to Miss Trefusis, the woman who retrieved the ring, and a group of fanatical disciples of the Master. The ring is placed into a vessel among potions and the biological signature from Lucy’s lips. The disciples surrender their life energy as the Master rematerializes in a burst of energy. The drumbeat echoes in his head as he muses to Lucy, but Lucy stymies his plans by throwing a potion of her own into the mix.

The prison explodes.

The Doctor arrives a day too late.

But someone survived the inferno, and that unknown couple celebrates. They are Joshua Naismith and his daughter Abigail, and they give orders to prepare the gate.

Meanwhile, Wilf joins a group of friends for drinks, but ends up giving them informational packets to keep an eye our for the Doctor. When they question him, he reminds them of their bad dreams and that the Doctor can help them.

In a junkyard, two men pick up meals from a food truck. A third man in a hoodie arrives and reveals himself as the Master. He devours a hamburger with the other two men, and after he’s identified as Harold Saxon, he chases them back to the food truck while phasing in and out. The food truck has been destroyed, and the two men are consumed next.

The Doctor stands over the junkyard, which the Master senses. The Master begins pounding a drumbeat on a steel drum. The Doctor runs to find him but arrives just in time to watch the manic Time Lord jump away with superhuman power. The Doctor pleads with him, asking to help him before he burns up his lifeforce, but the Master disappears.

Wilf arrives right away with his Silver Cloak network, and the Doctor is beside himself as they fawn over him. The Doctor returns to town with Wilf and they sit down over tea. The Doctor wonders why they keep meeting, musing about the prophecy of his own death. Even upon regeneration, he says, each incarnation dies as the next carries on.

They spot Donna, and while the Doctor reinforces that she can never remember him, he’s pleased that she’s moved on. She’s engaged to Shaun Temple, but Wilf knows that she knows that something is missing in her life.

Wilf asks about his companions and the Doctor tells him that he’s traveling alone. Sadly, he notes, without a companion he’s made some bad choices. The Doctor starts crying, burdened by the guilt of his recent actions which also devastates Wilf. He asks if Donna could make him smile again, but by now she is gone. The Doctor moves on as fate places all of the players on the field.

The Doctor finds the Master. The Master generates some kind of electrical blasts and pours energy into the Doctor, forcing the Time Lord to the ground. The Doctor realizes that the Master’s body has been torn wide open, enabling him to weaponize his life force at the expense of his own time. It’s a resurrection gone wrong and the Master is insane.

The Master remembers back to their childhood, where they would play on pastures of red grass, stretching across the slopes of Mount Perdition. The Doctor talks of the prophecy and the Master of his drumbeat. The Master shares the sound with the Doctor, forcing the Doctor to recoil in fear. The Master rockets away and the Doctor gives chase. The Master stops and asks what is calling him. Then a helicopter arrives, shoots at the Doctor, and abducts the Master. The Doctor is left unconscious in the junkyard.

Christmas arrives. Donna has given Wilf a copy of Naismith’s book, Fighting the Future, which troubles Wilf. Donna has no idea why she picked it out. It just felt right. Shaun arrives and Wilf tries to watch the Queen’s address, but it is preempted by a message that only he can see. The mysterious woman warns that, even though he fought in the war and never took a life, he will need to take up arms. He should also not warn the Doctor of this.

He goes to his bedroom and retrieves his service revolver. He looks up as the Doctor tosses a rock at his window, and goes out to talk to him. The Doctor is trying to connect the dots and finally does when Wilf shows him Naismith’s book. When Donna comes calling, the Doctor and Wilf take off in the TARDIS, leaving Sylvia yelling at the wind and Donna amused.

It’s Wilf’s first trip in the TARDIS. He thought it would be cleaner.

Meanwhile, the Naismiths celebrate the arrival of the Master. Wrapped in a straitjacket, the Time Lord is introduced to the Immortality Gate, which Naismith found after the fall of Torchwood. The gate’s power supply includes two booths connected to a nuclear device so that it has to be manned all the time. Naismith wants immortality for his daughter, who is aware of the disciples of Saxon.

Naismith has moles in his staff. Two of his scientists, Addams and Rossiter, are undercover Vinvocci disguised as humans. They want to take the gate for themselves.

The Doctor and Wilf arrive, and the Doctor pushes the TARDIS one second out of sync to hide it. They sneak into the Naismith complex and find the Vinvocci as the Master repairs the gate and brings it online. As the Master is restrained, the Doctor questions what is going on.

The Vinvocci are a salvage team and the gate is a medical device that repairs entire planets using a genetic template. They are also not the Zocci and take offense to being compared to cacti. With this knowledge, the Doctor rushes upstairs as the Master jumps into the gate. The Master’s genetic template is transmitted across the planet into every human being.

The Doctor and Wilf jump into the control booths. The radiation shielding protects Wilf from the transmission, leaving the Doctor free to work. Meanwhile, the planet is panicking.

Everyone begins transforming into the Master and Donna has witnessed it since she’s immune due to the metacrisis. Unfortunately, she’s begun to remember all of it as the Master celebrates the rise of the Master race.

And that unknown narrator who has been chronicling the story? He’s happy, because the return of the Time Lords and Gallifrey is at hand. He’s also the current Lord President.

In Doctor Who fashion, this story is taking place in two distinct temporal zones. On the last day of the Time War, the High Council tells the Lord President that the Doctor still has the Moment. Once he uses it, Gallifrey will fall as the Daleks are destroyed. One adviser suggests that it might be for the best since billions are dying and being resurrected over and over, but the President vaporizes her for the suggestion.

He will not surrender.

He learns that the Doctor and the Master will survive the Time War and will end up on Earth, so the President sets his sights there.

On Earth, the Doctor and Wilf are restrained as the Master checks in with himself around the world. The Master is surprised as Donna calls, demanding to know why she hasn’t changed. Wilf warns her to run as the Master pursues, but when Donna is cornered, the Doctor-Donna power is unleashed. The Masters and Donna all collapse.

The Master ungags the Doctor. The Doctor offers to let the Master travel with him, but the Master is concerned about the drumbeat in his head. Wilf asks about it, and the Master shares the story of how he was forced to look into the Untempered Schism. That was when it began.

The Lord President learns of this story at the same time, correlating the rhythm of four with the heartbeat of a Time Lord.

The Doctor realizes that the Master is still dying even with the Gate’s influence, but the Master is otherwise obsessed. The drumbeat is now amplified billions of times and coming from the end of time. The prophecy concerns him.

When the Master order Wilf to be executed, the guard turns out to be Rossiter. The Master is knocked unconscious and Wilf and the Doctor are rescued by Rossiter, Addams, and a teleport to the orbiting Vinvocci ship.

Once freed from his restraints, the Doctor rushes to save them from a planet of missiles aimed toward the skies. Oh, and a starstruck Wilf who has never been to space.

The Doctor’s solution? He turns the entire ship off by destroying the ship’s systems. It has stranded them in orbit, but Wilf has faith in the Doctor. As the Doctor begins to rebuild the ship’s systems, the mysterious woman appears to Wilf again and orders him to give his gun to the Doctor.

As the Masters listen for the drumbeats – which are now revealed to have been planted by the Lord President at the end of the Time War – the High Council sends a White-Point Star through the link. The size of a diamond, it is small enough to break the temporal lock, and when it lands in London with a giant crater, the Master laughs hysterically.

Wilf talks with the Doctor as the Time Lord works on the ship. He recounts his memories of the war and learns that the Doctor is 906 years old. He supposes that the Doctor sees humans as insects, but the Doctor admits that he really sees them as giants. The Doctor refuses the gun, but tells Wilf that he would be proud to be his son.

The Doctor wonders if Time Lords live too long, but realizes that killing the Master would only mean that he starts down that dark path. While he’s made some bad choices and taken lives, he won’t kill the Master to save himself, even if Wilf pleads with him.

The Master sends an open broadcast to the Doctor, revealing the existence of the White-Point Star. The Doctor realizes with fear that the Time Lords are returning, and he takes the gun and rushes to the control room.

On Earth, the Master uses the White-Point Star to establish a link and open a pathway. Contact is made, and the High Council chooses life over the fall of Gallifrey.

Wilf is confused. He thought that the Time Lords were wise and peaceful, but that’s how the Doctor chooses to remember them. In reality, the horrors of the Time War had changed them, irrevocably corrupting them and making them far more dangerous than any of his enemies.

The Doctor restores power to the ship and takes control. With an old Earth saying, a word of great power and wisdom and consolation to soul in times of need, he drives the ship toward the planet: “Allons-y!”

Using the ship’s salvage lasers, Wilf and Rossiter destroy the planet’s missiles as the ship races to England. When they arrive, the Doctor dives from the ship, falling through the glass dome into the chamber below at the President’s feet in a battered mess.

That’s right. The Time Lords have arrived.

The President greets the renegades as “Lord Doctor” and “Lord Master”, noting the paradox of having been saved by Gallifrey’s most infamous child. When the Master tries to change the Time Lords into himself, the President reverses the effect worldwide and demands that humanity kneel before him.

Then Gallifrey materializes in Earth’s orbit, bearing down on the planet and causing it to quake. Shaun goes in search of Donna as everyone panics in the street. Wilf finds his way to the surface and enters the Gate’s control chamber.

The Master is excited that the Time Lords have returned, but the Doctor reminds him that he wasn’t there in the final days. All of the other horrors born in the last days of the Time War, which he had sealed away in the Time Lock, would also be released. The Daleks would be joined by the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, and the Could’ve Been King with his Army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres. Hell has come to Earth, and the Time Lords, who had planned to deal with these horrors with the Ultimate Sanction – an ascension above the physical form while creation tears itself apart – would be enacted here.

All of this chaos was happening at the same time as Dalek Caan breaking through the time lock to rescue Davros. Apparently, while it was primarily a battle between the Daleks and the Time Lords, the Time War engulfed the entire universe in both space and time.

The Doctor draws Wilf’s gun on the President, then on the Master. Both are the ends of the link, but the Doctor cannot kill either. Finally, he spots the mysterious woman in the President’s retinue. She was one of the two advisers who disagreed with the President and was forced to hide her face like a Weeping Angel. Her tear-streaked gaze focuses on the White-Point Star, and when the Doctor shoots it, Gallifrey returns to its rightful place on the last day of the Time War.

The President, now revealed as Rassilon, threatens to take the Doctor with him, but the Master unleashes his energy in fury. Rassilon falls to his knees as Gallifrey, the Time Lords, and the Master vanish.

The planet and her people are safe once again, and the Doctor is certain that he’s dodged the prophecy.

But someone knocks four times.

Wilf is still in the control booth, and the only way out is if someone replaces him and takes the brunt of the nuclear blast of 500,000 rads as the energy source goes into overload. Wilf offers to sacrifice himself, but the Doctor cannot allow that. Even in his anger because he could do so much more!

The Doctor pushes his own darkness aside because he knows the right answer and enters the booth. Wilf is saved as the energy pours into the Doctor. The Time Lord collapses in pain, and once the energy release is complete, the Doctor exits the now dead booth.

Wilf thinks that the Doctor made it out okay, but the Doctor shows him the injuries from his skydive. His regeneration has begun. The Tenth Doctor is dying.

All Wilf can offer is a hug.

Shaun and Sylvia tend to Donna as the Doctor drops Wilf at the house. The whine of the TARDIS awakens her, and she seems to be no worse for wear. The Doctor promises that he’ll see Wilf one more time, but he has a reward to find.

Here we find the Tenth Doctor seeking redemption for the dark things he’s done since losing Donna.

First, he saves Martha and Mickey from a Sontaran sniper. It turns out that they’re married now. To each other.

Next, he saves Luke Smith from being struck by a car. With a glance, he says farewell to Sarah Jane. She knows what’s coming next.

Next up? An intergalactic bar where he introduces a despondent Captain Jack Harkness to Midshipman Alonso Frame. You know what happens next.

After that, he buys a book from Verity Newman. Her great-grandmother was Joan Redfern, the woman who fell in love with John Smith. He asks if Joan was happy in the end. She was. Silently, so was he.

He returns to Wilf at Donna’s successful wedding. He offers a winning lottery ticket bought with a pound from Sylvia’s late husband. Once they cash it in, all of the family’s financial troubles will be history. The Doctor leaves with a final look at Wilfred, the man whose life he saved at the expense of his own. Wilfred cries, realizing that he’ll never see the Doctor again. It’s one salute that the Doctor doesn’t mind.

Finally, we come to New Years Day 2005. From the shadows, he talks to Rose Tyler at the Powell Estate, promising her that she’s going to have a really great year. When she meets the Ninth Doctor in a few months, she certainly will.

With that, he struggles back to the TARDIS, guided by Ood Sigma. Sigma tells him that the universe will sing him to sleep, and while this song is ending, the story never ends. The Doctor musters his strength as the Ood sing “Vale Decem” in chorus.

He enters the TARDIS, discards his coat, and looks upon his glowing hand as the TARDIS reaches orbit. He laments, “I don’t want to go,” and then erupts in violent regeneration energy.

The explosion rips through the TARDIS, toppling the coral supports, tearing apart the console, and blowing out the windows.

“Geronimoooooooooooo!”


You know, I actually feel sorry for the Master. When Professor Yana regenerated into this version of the Master, I was pleased. Professor Yana was a little crazed due to his identity crisis but also a whole lotta evil. The Harold Saxon Master was diabolical and slightly insane due to the constant drumbeat in his head. When the Master was defeated and killed by Lucy Saxon, I thought it was a good ending for the character, even with the knowledge that the Master never dies.

This resurrection gone wrong takes the character in an entirely wrong direction. I can understand the increased mania, since we’ve seen regenerations gone wrong before, and I loved the dynamic of the Doctor trying to save the Master from self-destruction, but the flight and speed superpowers were way over the top. It shifts a nefarious nemesis into a parody, and thankfully the powers were limited.

What’s really intriguing is the Gallifery connection. We know Rassilon, from his origins as a founder of Time Lord civilization to the manifestation of his quest for power in The Five Doctors, and we know just how aloof and disdainful the Time Lords are in general. So, it really makes sense that they would willingly torture one of their own to save their civilization.

The Doctor knew it, too. Throughout the classic era, the Doctor wore his displeasure on his sleeves. Whatever happened in the Time War – whatever mighty burden the Doctor carries in the aftermath – was powerful enough to change his anger into rose-colored nostalgia.

Shifting gear, Wilf is just too precious. He is the perfect embodiment of Doctor Who, from his wide-eyed wonder upon going to space (having dreamed about it since Partners in Crime) to his delicate balance of self-sacrifice, love, and understanding that darkness is necessary to balance the light. He claims that he’s lived his life to its natural conclusion, but he has so much more to give the world in his honesty and sincerity. One of my favorite character notes is that he was a veteran, but he never killed anyone in the war and sees that as a badge of honor.

I am really going to miss him.

His moment in the “final reward” farewell tour was touching. It was also a fitting ending to Donna’s story as she gained so much happiness after losing so much. I was also pleased with the emotion and scope of the farewell tour, from Sarah Jane and Captain Jack – that scene was also a farewell to Russell T. Davies as well, given all of the creature cameos in those short minutes – to Rose and even Mickey the Idiot. The nod to the franchise’s origins with Verity Newman was a very nice touch.

The scene with Martha and Mickey was pretty cool, but their marriage comes out of pretty much nowhere. Last we knew from The Last of the Time Lords, Reset, and The Sontaran Stratagem, Martha was engaged to Tom Milligan. You know, the pediatrician working in Africa who was a resistance leader in The Year That Never Was? But somewhere between The Sontaran Stratagem and The End of Time, she hot-swapped Tom for Mickey.

The final farewell with Rose was a perfect place to end the tour, promising her a fantastic year to come from the shadows. She obviously disregarded the whole meeting as one with a New Year’s drunk, but the promise is heartwarming.

Then we come to the part where Murray Gold hits it out of the park. “Vale Decem,” which premiered at the end of The Waters of Mars, is a near-perfect farewell for the Tenth Doctor. It combines the Doctor’s theme with a Latin love letter that literally says “Farewell Ten”, and since the Doctor’s theme is the base melody and the Doctor can hear the song, it can be assumed that the Doctor’s theme exists in the “real world” of the Doctor Who universe.

Finally, the regeneration. It is heartbreaking from both the in-universe and production aspects. The Tenth Doctor was the most popular incarnation of the character since the Fourth Doctor, greatly owed to each of them being an entry point for the franchise. You never forget your first Doctor, after all. But from production, the regeneration was the coda to an era of the show which heralded the resurrection of the franchise.

In the phoenix flames of rebirth, the title character destroys the console room (which was iconic for years) and ends the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who.

And, yeah, that regeneration makes a lot of sense. He’s been holding this process back for who knows how long. Effectively, he’s been dying the entire time. The explosive destruction should be expected.

The end result on this story? It is a fun adventure when the tempo picks up, but I remember the first time that I watched it. I had only seen the series from Rose forward, and with very little knowledge about the show’s history or the Time War, the story was confusing and convoluted. It made a lot more sense on this watch thanks to my detailed trip through Doctor Who, but I wonder how much I would have enjoyed this a decade ago if Russell T. Davies had addressed more about the Time War in the course of his run.

That mystery will continue for several seasons.

Based on the rules of the Timestamps Project, regeneration episodes get a +1 handicap since they tend to be a little rough. Without that bump, this story would have settled at a high 3 or low 4, primarily from the Super Master effect.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Specials and Tenth Doctor Summary

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

Timestamp #208: Dreamland

Doctor Who: Dreamland
(Animated Special, 2009)

“Always count your steps, Seruba Velak. You never know when you might need to escape in a box.”

One ship is pursued across the sky by two others. In a hail of laser fire, it crashes into the New Mexico desert, outside Roswell, on June 13, 1947.

Eleven years later, the Doctor arrives at a diner in Dry Springs, Nevada. He meets Cassie Rice, a customer named Jimmy, and a mysterious artifact that lights up under sonic screwdriver. While Cassie and Jimmy marvel over the technology, a man in a black suit arrives and demands it. He assaults them for it, and they make haste for the ranch where Jimmy works.

When they arrive, they find a large Viperox battle drone which has been eating the cattle. A helicopter arrives with soldiers on board, and after they blow up the Viperox, they tell the Doctor that he’s wanted at Area 51.

Also known as Dreamland.

Accompanied by Jimmy and Cassie, the Doctor is taken below ground to meet Colonel Stark. He tells them that he plans to wipe their minds, straps them to some operating tables, taunts them for a few minutes, and turns on the amnesia gas. The Doctor wriggles free, turns off the gas, and helps his companions escape through the ventilation shafts.

As alarms echo through the facility, the trio takes flight, ending up in Lab 51. Inside the lab, they discover an alien behind a glass partition. Force to run again, the team takes a lift to a hangar where they are immediately captured.

The Doctor’s entourage are shepherded toward the alien craft that crashed in Roswell. Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor hijacks the ship and takes it for a spin. Pursued by Air Force fighters, he crashes the ship in the desert. They take refuge in a ghost town called Solitude.

Meanwhile, Colonel Stark is confronted by a Viperox named Lord Azlok, demanding that he not disappoint the Viperox forces. Azlok is also very interested in the Doctor and his skills.

The Doctor and his companions find a Viperox that pulls Jimmy underground. Lord Azlok interrogates Jimmy and meets the Doctor, whom he pegs as an alien because of his two heartbeats. Cassie frees Jimmy and stages a diversion, and although the Doctor is upset that he didn’t figure out the master plan, they discover it soon enough. Lord Azlok brought the Viperox Queen to Earth, and she’s laying eggs Aliens-style to hatch an invasion force.

The trio runs again, this time taking an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom mining cart ride into the blinding desert. There, they meet four men in black suits. The head Man in Black, Mr. Dread, demands the the ionic fusion bar from the diner. When the Doctor stalls, the MiBs reveal themselves as robots. They are saved by Jimmy’s grandfather, Night Eagle, and a hail of arrows.

Night Eagle reveals that he found another of the gray aliens from the crashed ship and kept him safe. Rivesh Mantilax wants to go home, but first he needs to find Seruba Velak, his wife and the alien in the base. His wife was an ambassador who was trying to build an alliance against the Viperox, but was attacked by hired mercenaries.

Colonel Stark arrives and takes everyone into custody. Back at Area 51, the Doctor discovers that Stark has allied with Azlok. They watch as the gray aliens are reunited, then discuss how Rivesh was developing a genetic weapon to destroy the Viperox. Joined by Mr. Dread, Stark reveals his plan to use the ionic fusion bar as a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union.

The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to disable Mr. Dread, then runs to the roof with the alien weapon. On the edge of the roof, held at gunpoint by Stark, the Doctor pleads for the colonel’s help. Stark listens to reason, but his plan to arrest Azlok is interrupted by the Viperox leader himself and the promise to tear Earth to shreds.

Down below, Cassie finds Rivesh has been critically injured by Azlok. Once freed, Seruba says that she can save her husband, but only with her ship. Stark takes the group to the Area 51 Vault where all of the ship’s contents were stored in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. While the Doctor and Seruba start searching, he sends Cassie and Jimmy to retrieve the TARDIS.

As the sun sets, the Viperox emerge from the desert and start their rampage while Seruba finds the component and the Doctor finds a swarm of hungry Skorpius Flies.

Stark deploys his army against the Viperox while Seruba and the Doctor play hide-and-go-seek with the flies. The army is no match for the invasion, and as Stark’s operations center is overrun by Azlok, the Doctor is reunited with the TARDIS. Jimmy, Cassie, and Seruba step aboard and they travel to Rivesh’s side. Once Rivesh is revived, the Doctor asks him to activate the device but to stop before destroying the Viperox. The Doctor connects the device into the TARDIS console and it broadcasts a signal that drives the Viperox off the planet entirely.

The Doctor let them live because, one day, they are destined to evolve into something better.

The Doctor entrusts the device to Colonel Stark for the protection of Earth. They bid farewell to Seruba and Rivesh, and the Doctor takes off as Cassie and Jimmy hold hands.


Admittedly, it is a function of its form, but this story moved like a squirrel binging energy drinks. This piece was originally planned as seven six-minute episodes for the BBC’s Red Button service. As a result, we got a story that has a plot climax every five or six minutes.

It was kind of tiring.

I could point out the technical inaccuracies, but the fact that this was a cartoon developed for a charity event gives the writers a considerable amount of grace in my eyes. Some of the errors are animation shortcuts, others concern United States history, but overall they are inconsequential to the plot on the whole.

So, I’ll revel in the character and cast lists.

Like, the return of Georgia Moffett – daughter of Peter Davison and wife of David Tennant – who we last heard (and saw) in The Doctor’s Daughter and who I really enjoy seeing/hearing on the show.

Or Lisa Bowerman as Seruba Velak. Big Finish fans know Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield, and classic era fans might remember her as Karra from Survival.

Or the first Native American companion (however briefly) in Doctor Who, Jimmy Stalkingwolf, portrayed by Canadian born English actor and singer Tim Howar. It would have been nice to a Native American actor in either this role or Night Eagle’s role, but I’ll take this advancement as progress. I mean, we’ve come quite the distance from An Unearthly Child when the First Doctor referred to “Red Indians” as having “savage minds”.

Or… How about Doctor Who getting David Warner as Lord Azlok. Emmy-award winning film, television, and theatre actor David Warner from The OmenTime After TimeTime BanditsTronTitanicStar Trek V: The Final FrontierStar Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryStar Trek: The Next Generation, and so much more.

I mean… wow. Just, wow.

Of course, we first heard of Dreamland from Prisoner of the Judoon, which is where we first saw the ship designs seen in this tale. We get plenty of continuity from the Doctor abhorring salutes (previously The Sontaran Stratagem and Planet of the Dead) and outright despising the nickname “Doc” (referencing The Time MeddlerThe Five DoctorsThe Twin DilemmaThe Ultimate Foe, and more I’m sure).

I also enjoyed seeing Doctor Who outright embrace the Roswell mythos, from the “grays” of typical close encounter accounts to the legendary Men in Black.

Production-wise, this marked the first six-part story on television since The Armageddon Factor and the first six-part story produced since Shada, which was finally completed in 2017 (but not yet reviewed in that form on this site… although there’s always hope).

But, all of that awesomeness considered, I keep coming back to that over-caffeinated squirrel of story pacing. Like I said, it was tiring, and it really pulled me away from the adventure because I was trying to keep up with what was going on with otherwise thinly developed characters.

And that is truly a shame for a tale with so many other groundbreaking elements.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The End of Time

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

Timestamp: Sarah Jane Adventures Series Three Summary

Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Three Summary

Series Three slid down a notch.

The series started strong with Prisoner of the Judoon and had a high note with The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, but the rest of the series seemed to hit a middle of the road status quo in a year packed with Doctor Who universe productions.

It makes sense that something had to give. The main show was concerned with wrapping up David Tennant’s run as the Tenth Doctor and introducing his replacement. Meanwhile, Torchwood was running full steam with a well-received series in what might be considered the golden age of the modern era.

On the other hand, if something had to give in terms of quality, this show was a good choice. The core audience was children and the standards for that demographic are typically lower. It’s just a shame considering how high the quality had been for two series preceding.

Series Three comes in at an average of 3.3. That’s the lowest so far for The Sarah Jane Adventures. In comparison to Doctor Who, that’s on par with classic seasons Six, Fifteen, Seventeen, and Twenty, ranked in a four-way tie at twelfth overall.


Prisoner of the Judoon – 4
The Mad Woman in the Attic – 3
The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith – 5
The Eternity Trap – 3
Mona Lisa’s Revenge – 2
The Gift – 3

Sarah Jane Adventures Series Three Average Rating: 3.3/5


The Timestamps Project is still proceeding in airdate order, so we’ll finish off the David Tennant era next with Dreamland and The End of Time, then move into the Eleventh Doctor’s era with Series Five, the fourth series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and then the sixth series of Doctor Who.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Dreamland

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

Timestamp #SJA19: The Gift

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Gift
(2 episodes, s03e06, 2009)

Eat your vegetables before they eat you.

The Bannerman Road Gang chases a disguised Slitheen with a stolen matter compressor into a warehouse. The plan is to compress the planet’s carbon into a giant diamond. When the Slitheen gets away, Sarah Jane calls K9 to act as a bloodhound.

The gang ends up in a standoff with the Slitheen agents, but the world is saved when two orange-skinned Slitheen materialize and apprehend the bad guys.

It turns out that they are Blathereen, another family from Raxacoricofallapatorius. The planet holds many families, but only the Slitheen are criminals. These two Bathereen, Tree and Leef, wish to show their appreciation with a dinner party, and Rani offers her home as a host.

The dinner party goes off without a hitch. The Blathereen talk about Raxacoricofallapatorius and how it was once the jewel of the Raxas Alliance until the Slitheen destroyed the reputation. They offer a gift, a pot of rakweed, which is supposedly a staple food on Raxacoricofallapatorius. They want Sarah Jane to act as an ambassador to end starvation on Earth with this single plant.

Sarah Jane and Rani are skeptical, and Clyde is suspicious. After the dinner, Sarah Jane asks Mr. Smith to analyze the plant but he finds nothing harmful. The gang heads to bed to prepare for their upcoming biology test. Clyde hasn’t studied, so he hatches a plan to borrow K9 to cheat on the exam.

The next morning, Luke searches for his tie in the attic and discovers that the rakweed has released harmful spores into the atmosphere. When he inhales the spores, he gets sick. That’s a first since the Bane made him the vision of perfect health. 

Luke stays home from school while Rani heads in and discovers Clyde’s plan. He has K9 transmitting him answers via an earpiece, and the plan makes Rani furious and fearful.

Sarah Jane and Mr. Smith discuss the rakweed’s mutation. The plant hunts its victims and drains their energy. The plant is spreading, and reports indicate that people are collapsing with black and red marks on their skin. At the current rate of propagation, the plant will have seeded the whole of London within hours, and the Earth within a week.

The rakweed issues another burst of spores and Mr. Smith saves Sarah Jane by using his cooling fans to divert the spore cloud. His energy is depleted as a result, but he’s still able to commence work on an antidote. Unfortunately, it won’t be ready in time. Sarah Jane puts the plant in her safe to block any further spores.

The rakweed spores infect Clyde and Rani’s teacher, sending the students into a panic. Clyde, Rani, and K9 are trapped in the school. By chance, while trying to escape the school, they determine that the sound of a bell causes the plant’s destruction.

Sarah Jane traces the Blathereen teleportation trajectory to Antarctica and follows them to their ship where they are gloating about their conquest of Earth. The trip is a one-way event, but Sarah Jane takes a Super-Soaker filled with vinegar and demands their help.

Unfortunately, the Blathereen trick and restrain her. She finds out that the rakweed is addictive and the Blathereen intend to use Earth as a farm to corner the galactic market. Leef and Tree reveal that they are descended from both the noble Blathereen and the criminal Slitheen, products of an interclan marriage. 

Sarah Jane learns that the plants require communication to survive, then escapes and teleports home. While she checks in on Luke, K9 amplifies the school bell and eradicates the plants within the school building. Clyde connects with Mr. Smith via K9 and shares their knowledge. Mr. Smith uses every electronic device in the affected area to transmit a signal at 1421.09 Hertz. The plants are destroyed and the infected are cured.

Saved by the bell, eh?

Furious, the Slitheen-Blathereen teleport to the attic and prepare to murder Sarah Jane. Mr. Smith activates the signal again, causing the rakweed in the alien stomachs to react quite negatively. The aliens explode in a burst of orange goo, covering the entire attic.

Thank goodness that this is the season finale. Cleaning that set is going to be a pain in the ass.

Clyde cleans the attic and the gang settles in for a nice picnic lunch and Sarah Jane muses on the possibility that one day some alien races will want to help humanity. That through friendship, the Earth could become a shining example to the entire universe.


The idea of breaking the Raxacoricofallapatorian monoculture is great. All too often in science fiction and fantasy, the cultures that we meet are one-note. Doctor Who is no exception. The big failing here is that we don’t break that tradition, and while we see an open door for non-villainous Raxacoricofallapatorians to exist, we continue the stereotype that all of them are nefarious.

That’s a lot of lost potential. The story could have been a great analogy for accidental introduction of invasive plant and animal species, cultural miscommunication, or even imperialism and colonial politics. The Blathereen gift could have been a legitimate olive branch given Sarah Jane’s galactic reputation, a miracle for any other planet but Earth, and the door of friendship could have been opened by having these two disparate groups working together.

Alas, no. Instead we have the evil aliens trying to take over Earth and our heroes finding the solution completely by chance.

The story does play with established mythology again, introducing the Raxas Alliance with Raxacoricofallapatorius, Clom, Raxacoricovarlonpatorius, and Clix. We also get mentions of several UK locales including Ealing (first mentioned in Ghost Light and Survival, but returning throughout Series Four), Perivale (from Ghost Light and Survival), and Chiswick (first seen in The Runaway Bride, but featured in Series Four).

The discussion of Sarah Jane Smith’s tendency to improvise was a nice callback to the Third Doctor in The Five Doctors, as was her lament that there should have been another way aside from violence to save the world, ala Warriors of the Deep. A fun (but disgusting) callback was Clyde’s “why does this always happen to me” when splattered with goo, which happened twice in Revenge of the Slitheen and Enemy of the Bane.

Finally, I find the K9-Mr. Smith rivalry to be pretty humorous. Two supercomputers who cannot stand one another… wacky fun.

But really, this story ends up fairly average and a little disappointing given its lack of original thought the pure amount of luck involved. It could have been so much more.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Three Summary

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

Timestamp #207: The Waters of Mars

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars
(Autumn Special, 2009)

Is there any way to slake your thirst in the dust of the Red Planet?

Adelaide Brooke, the commander of Bowie Base One on Mars, tries to call home but loses contact. While her scientific teams have some fun on the planet’s surface, the Doctor arrives in the TARDIS.

He’s soon found and held at gunpoint by a flimsy robot named Gadget as a trespasser.

Once inside, Brooke demands to know his name, rank, and intention. He replies “The Doctor, doctor, fun,” before asking that she lower her gun and trust him. Brooks wonders if he’s a spy from a rival space agency, but the Doctor realizes that this mission is the one fated to end in a mysterious explosion with all hands lost. Unwilling to break the laws of time and subvert a fixed point in history, he apologizes with all of his hearts and tries to leave.

In the hydroponic farm, Andy Stone and Maggie Cain encounter a problem. Stone is infected by a mysterious life form and turns into a zombie-like creature that gushes water and attacks Cain.

As the crew investigates the mystery, the Doctor is forced to help Brooke when she locks up his spacesuit. As the crew walks to the hydroponic dome, the Doctor muses about robots – Gadget is controlled by Junior Technician Roman Groome – and asks Brooke if the mission is worth it. She says yes, with what the Doctor calls “starlight in her soul.”

They discover Cain and call for medical help. She is alive and taken to isolation while Brooke, physician Tarak Ital, and the Doctor look for Stone. Cain has no idea what happened to her, but she’s required to be isolated for twenty-four hours. Meanwhile, Ital finds Stone and is infected. Cain turns soon afterward.

Cain, controlled by the mysterious lifeform, discovers that Earth is mostly water. They should like that world.

Brooke and the Doctor find Stone and Ital. Talking to them fails, so they run for the airlock. Stone shoots a stream of water at the airlock door but none enters the chamber. Instead, both infected crewmen start probing the airlock door with water. They break through and continue the chase through the tunnels, hijacking Gadget along the way to act as a supercharged go-kart. The three of them return to the central base, but the Doctor warns her that water is patient and always wins.

Back in the base, they check in with Cain in the infirmary. The Doctor tries speaking in ancient North Martian, to which Cain reacts positively. He surmises that the ice fields, the source of the colony’s water, is contaminated. El Gold convinces Brooke to evacuate the base and the remaining crew start preparations. The Doctor reminds her that, since they’ve all been drinking from the same supply, they may all be infected already.

Swayed by his argument, Brooke leaves to investigate the ice fields. The Doctor debates leaving again, but joins her. Cain is left alone in the medical dome and immediately starts breaking out. With a scream, she sends a message to her infected comrades.

At the ice fields, the Doctor muses about the Ice Warriors and hypothesizes that they may have frozen the virus as a means of defeating it. Brooke asks why the Doctor is so keen to leave and he explains what a fixed point in time is. Brooke tells him about her inspiration: When she was ten years old, the Earth was stolen and moved across the universe, and she saw the Daleks from her window. She knew that she would follow them to the stars.

The Doctor tells her that, in doing so, she has created history. Brooke’s granddaughter, Susie Fontana Brooke, will be inspired by her story to pilot the first lightspeed craft, paving the way for generations of her descendants to explore the galaxy, with one even falling in love with an alien prince and creating a whole new species.

But the tale is only a consolation.

The moment is broken by a log entry from Stone. A filter was broken earlier in the day, allowing the virus to enter the water supply. Since the water isn’t available yet for the crew, the survivors are able to leave for Earth. While they continue preparations, the Doctor debates whether or not he should leave.

The crew discovers that Stone and Ital have scaled the base, surviving the elements, and are burrowing into the ceiling. It’s now a raise against time, and the Doctor knows that the fixed point has not changed.

He considers leaving. After he’s suited up and standing in the airlock, Brooke locks the system until he explains what happens next. He asks her to imagine Pompeii and how any action she took would only precipitate the event. He tells her about her destiny, how she destroys the base for reasons unknown but her sacrifice saves Earth, but Brooke refuses to die. She asks for help to change the future, but the Doctor refuses. He wonders if the Dalek knew when it saw her so many years ago.

Brooke releases him with a whispered “Damn you” and rushes away as the water enters the base. The Doctor listens as the crew tries to fight it… as Steffi Ehrlich plays a message from her daughters as she succumbs to the virus… as the shuttle is prepped for departure but fails as Cain breaks through… as Roman falls from one drop on his face… as Ed destroys the shuttle to prevent an incursion on Earth…

It’s the tragedy of a Time Lord. Of knowing everything and being powerless to change it.

But the Time Lords no longer exist. Their rules are gone forever. Nothing remains to restrain the Doctor. He can make his own rules.

So he decides to change it.

Knowing that the end of his song will be heralded by four knocks, he returns to save the crew, proclaiming that the laws of time are his and that they will obey him.

The environmental controls are destroyed. The spacesuits are damaged. The infected are breaking the ice. But the Doctor has a funny robot.

Using Gadget, the Doctor tries to bring the TARDIS to the crew as Brooke starts the self-destruct countdown. Gadget enters the TARDIS and sets the controls, piloting the time capsule to the base as the nuclear device explodes.

The TARDIS materializes on a snow-covered street. Brooke, Bennett, and Kerenski, and Gadget have survived, but the robot shuts down as it loses its control signal. Bennett can’t handle the stress and runs off. Kerenski follows while Brooke confronts the Doctor with the consequences of his actions. The future the Doctor told her about will be broken, but she tells him that no one should have that much power.

The Time Lord Victorious is wrong.

Brooke enters her house, but as the Doctor walks away, she commits suicide with her laser pistol. Bennett and Kerenski will still tell the tale of how she bravely saved Earth. The future is saved.

The Doctor realizes that he’s gone too far, witnessing a vision of Ood Sigma as he wonders if his time has come.

The Cloister Bell sounds. His time is near. But with a defiant “No”, the Doctor sets the TARDIS in motion once again in an effort to outrun his destiny.


What we see here are the depths of the Doctor when unrestrained by neither the conservatism of the Time Lords nor the humanity of the companions. We’ve seen the darkness of the Doctor before – the Tenth Doctor’s rage manifested in The Runaway Bride, the Sixth Doctor let it slip through in post-regeneration psychosis, and the Fourth Doctor displayed how easily he’d wield absolute power in the absence of companions – and we know just how important it is that the Doctor be tempered.

The maxim is true: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

That is one of the Doctor’s weaknesses. Another is love and compassion, which is played in concert with the temptation of power, resulting in this excellent character study of someone who wants to do so much.

It certainly earned that 2010 Hugo Award. The story was competing against its own, of course, but I’d side with this one.

Taking a look at the franchise’s history, this is the second time that the TARDIS has heralded the Doctor’s regeneration through the Cloister Bell. It did this in Logopolis, but in that instance, the Fourth Doctor was willing to wait for the inevitability whereas the Tenth Doctor pretty much fears the coming milestone.

The nod to K9 was amusing, owing to the Doctor’s long-standing love for his canine companion.

We also have quite the focal point in the mythology here. By live action standards in 2009, the next story is Tennant’s finale, The End of Time. Come 2013, The Day of the Doctor would get wedged in between the two, and if we expand to the animated specials (which we do on the Timestamps Project), Dreamland is also on the table.

This story’s placement gets even more complicated this year with the Time Lord Victorious multimedia event, which (naturally) incorporates this story into its narrative.

Finally, there’s an important companion note related to this story and actress Lindsay Duncan. As of this story, she became both the oldest actress and oldest individual to travel in the TARDIS. She’ll forfeit the latter title to Bernard Cribbins in The End of Time.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Gift

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

Culture on My Mind – Quarantine Con, Episodes XX-XXI

Culture on My Mind
October 23, 2020

The folks at the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics have started up the quarantine panels once again, and I have two to offer you this week.

The twentieth panel in this series comes ready to discuss favorite Frankensteins (or monsters thereof).

Panel #21, in typical track tradition, kept it strange by comparing famous cereal mascots to actual serial killers.

Gary and Joe have a lot more fun discussions planned in the Dragon Con off-season, if anything because these are so much fun to do. 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.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

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

Timestamp #SJA18: Mona Lisa’s Revenge

Sarah Jane Adventures: Mona Lisa’s Revenge
(2 episodes, s03e05, 2009)

Timestamp SJA18 Mona Lisa Revenge

The art is so lifelike.

The Bannerman Road Gang is enjoying a moment in class while Clyde sketches K9. Mr. Chandra comes in with an important announcement, revealing that Clyde has won a chance to see the Mona Lisa at the National Gallery. Clyde never entered the competition, but Luke did it for him secretly. Clyde doesn’t mind given the occasion.

At the gallery, Lionel Harding and Phyllis Trupp examine the newly arrived painting. Phyllis longs for Harding, but as he ignores her overtures, the panting comes to life.

Luke arrives home to a furious Sarah Jane. She’s upset about the state of his room, and Luke is upset because she expects perfection just like the Bane did.

The next day, the class arrives at the gallery. Per the rules, they turn in their phones before perusing the facility. Luke confides his troubles in his friends and they start the tour. Luke picks up a Chinese mystery box and Clyde chastises him for handling the exhibits. They’re soon introduced to Harding and Trupp. Phyllis finishes preparing the exhibit hall and, upon confessing her feelings to the painting, is attacked by the Mona Lisa.

Clyde finds his own work in the gallery and his classmates celebrate. Harding praises his work, which Clyde later admits to his friends is inspired by their adventures. When the class is taken to see the Mona Lisa, they find Phyllis in the picture instead. After the class is ushered out of the exhibit, the gang sneaks back in to investigate.

Back at Bannerman Road, Mr. Smith checks in with Sarah Jane and her distracted state. She’s feeling depressed because Luke is growing up so quickly and that she’ll be alone again. Mr. Smith notifies her that the Mona Lisa has been stolen, and despite a lack of obvious alien activity, she decides to investigate because the kids are involved and the circumstances are so weird.

On their way to the exhibit, Rani notices that one of the guns is missing from Clyde’s painting. Hardin arrives to retrieve the kids and  Mona Lisa emerges from the shadows, armed with a Sontaran blaster. After a brief discussion with her hostages, she declares that she wants to have fun and opens fire, sending the gang running.

They find the police officers and museum staff trapped in the museum’s paintings. Meanwhile, Mona Lisa remembers Harding from his multiple trips to the Louvre and requests his help to free her brother from a painting of her same vintage. It so happens that the painting is in the museum.

The gang spots Sarah Jane’s car in the parking lot. While they look for her, Sarah Jane finds her way to the Mona Lisa exhibit gallery and hides as Harding and Mona Lisa arrive. Sarah Jane is taken hostage by Mona Lisa, who recognizes her from Luke’s discussion with his friends. Mona Lisa nearly shoots Sarah Jane, but stops when she hears a grumbling from her brother.

Mona Lisa puts Sarah Jane in a picture, drawing the gang to the gallery. They demand that Sarah Jane be released, but Mona Lisa refuses. Luke tackles Mona Lisa and the gang runs with Sarah Jane’s painting, so Mona Lisa releases William Bonneville’s Dark Rider from the painting of the same name.

And the chase commences. Mona Lisa and Harding continue their search while the Dark Rider pursues the gang with unlimited ammunition.

During their search, Mona Lisa sees a window and asks to go outside. When she reaches beyond the building, her arm reverts to its painted form. Furious that she’s trapped in the museum, she storms into a unfinished section. Clyde overhears as Mona Lisa details her plan to release her brother and conquer the world, but he is soon captured by the Dark Rider.

Clyde is forced to join the hunt for The Abomination, a painting by Giuseppe di Cattivo crafted from paint derived from sentient rocks that fell to Earth. The same paint was used to craft the Mona Lisa. The painting drove the artist insane and he crafted a puzzle box to make sure no one ever saw the painting again. Luke and Rani find this same information in a book from the gift shop.

The quest takes Mona Lisa and her group to the museum’s vaults. They find the painting, but the case is locked and the puzzle box is missing. In the gallery above, Luke realizes that the puzzle box he examined earlier is the key, but Mona Lisa arrives moments later to retrieve it. Harding tries to stand up against her, but after he smashes the box, Luke saves his life by promising an alternate method of opening the lock.

Everyone is unhappily reunited in the vaults. Luke asks Clyde to draw a new puzzle box so Mona Lisa can manifest it in the physical world. When she tries to, however, she also manifests K9 from Clyde’s sketchbook. When Mona Lisa opens the lock, K9 blasts the Abomination and destroys the alien pigment. This breaks Mona Lisa’s link on the physical, forcing all of her manifestations to revert to their true forms.

The world is saved once again.

The gang reunites with Sarah Jane and Luke makes amends while Sarah Jane praises his ingenuity. Meanwhile, Harding reunites with Trupp, but Trupp wants nothing to do with him after his dalliance with Mona Lisa.


The Mona Lisa is not a stranger to Doctor Who, having appeared before in City of Death alongside a Chinese puzzle box. There’s also another link with faces and time: An artist in City of Death painted Romana’s face as a clock, and one of the paintings in this story’s classroom setting was titled Face of Time.

That classic callback aside, this story was not particularly engaging. The villain had simple motivations, but the acting and thin plot were not compelling. The character moments with Sarah Jane and Luke felt forced for the story and didn’t seem to naturally evolve.

On the plus side, it was good to see Clyde happy about his craft. His joy was palpable, both in seeing his work in an actual museum and in his friend secretly submitting him for consideration.

I also like how he adores K9. I do too.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars

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

Debrief: Pop Pop Con Con

Pop Pop Con Con
October 16 through October 18, 2020

Pop_Pop_Con_Con

Last weekend was Pop Pop Con Con, a free virtual convention hosted by Shaun and Laura Rosado of PopCycled Baubles.

Three days of geeky discussions helped to fill the gap of conventions cancelled by the global pandemic, and it was a really fun event overall.

All of the weekend’s panels can be found on the PopCycled Baubles YouTube channel, and the videos from the panels I participated in can be found below.

I want to thank the Rosados and all of the panelists for a great weekend, and for experimenting with the path forward for events like this in the future. The entirety of the convention was hosted and run on Streamyard, including the transitions between discussion panels, video bumpers, and scrolling chyron banners. It was very well crafted.

I keep saying that this is the way new and smaller conventions should be run. There’s no need for renting physical space with this, and it would certainly help to build an audience and get the convention on its feet in the first few years.


The New Normal – VOD

1984

Far Beyond the Stars

D&D Tips and Tricks (Player Edition)

NuTrek

Sci Fi Westerns

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Timestamp #SJA17: The Eternity Trap

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Eternity Trap
(2 episodes, s03e04, 2009)

Timestamp SJA17 The Eternity Trap

Spooky fun.

Professor Rivers has returned, this time with the story of a haunted house. In 1665, Ashen Hill Manor was inhabited by magician Erasmus Darkening, who promised to replenish Lord Marchwood’s fortunes through alchemy. Marchwood’s two children, Elizabeth and Joseph, spied on the magician one night and vanished for eternity.

The professor tells this story to Sarah Jane, Clyde, Rani, and her assistant Toby. Sarah Jane is covering the story as Rivers studies the estate, and Luke remained home just in case something went wrong. They find out the estate has been plagued by other disappearances over the years.

It’s a beautiful home. It’s also haunted.

Sarah Jane doesn’t believe in ghosts. While the team roams the halls, they hear a series of church bells but cannot find the source. Clyde and Rani wander outside find a shed and a fountain while Sarah Jane examines a bookshelf. The books shuffle on their own, the fountain cycles on and off, and wet footprints appear in the shed as children giggle and music plays.

They hear a young girl crying, but it stops as Clyde pulls the sheet off of a mirror. The magician appears in the mirror and Clyde and Rani return to the house.

Everyone convenes around a lantern and talk about what they’ve all found. Toby gathers everyone’s mobiles after the gang calls home, and Rivers starts the experiment. The camera monitors flicker with the magician’s face before the nursery camera shorts out.

Meanwhile, Rani finds the magician’s face in the history book Sarah Jane was reading. The book had flipped itself to the right page. The gang returns to the control area as Rivers vanishes in the nursery and electromagnetic readings spike throughout the house.

The gang investigates only to find echoes of Marchwood’s children and the toys come to life. Rivers begs for help over the walkie-talkies, but the team can’t reach her. A message appears on the chalkboard: “GET OUT.”

Instead of getting out, the team tracks the energy and, against Sarah Jane’s better judgment, splits up.

Sarah Jane finds the echoes of Marchwood’s children. They warn her to leave before Erasmus takes her too. She ventures outside to discover a being with red eyes that is vanquished by the spirit of Lord Marchwood.

Rani and Clyde explore and find a secret passage to Erasmus’s lab. The discover a computer, which should not exist, along with Erasmus Darkening (who claims not to be a ghost). Before they are captured, they are rescued by Marchwood and his children.

Sarah Jane returns inside and hears the voice of Professor Rivers again, asking for help by name. She’s reunited with Rani and Clyde, then all three of them find Marchwood who beseeches them to leave. Sarah Jane reiterates that the curse doesn’t result in ghosts, and the gang meets up with Toby at the staircase in time to see all of the people who have disappeared in the house except Rivers. When Erasmus arrives, they all vanish.

Erasmus promises to come for the team and reveals that he is not exactly human. Sarah Jane and Toby seek out the computer while Rani and Clyde distract the so-called magician.

Toby tells Sarah Jane about a a creature that used to come into his room and watch him sleep. Meanwhile, Rani and Clyde are chased into the game room and watch as the pool table comes to life. They eventually run outside and are locked out of the house. They seek solace in the shed from the red-eyed being.

Sarah Jane and Toby find the computer and surmise that the house has been transformed into a portal to another galaxy, the pathway home for an alien who was stranded on Earth three centuries ago. The machine has malfunctioned and trapped the disappeared between dimensions.

Erasmus confronts Sarah Jane and Toby, preferring the eternal life of the accelerator over death in isolation. The red-eyed creature came through the portal, and Sarah Jane realizes that her friends are in trouble. After Lord Marchwood rescues Clyde and Rani, they are all reunited with Sarah Jane and Toby. Toby’s ghost-hunting technology inspires Sarah Jane.

After Erasmus took Marchwood’s children, the lord sought revenge and inadvertently damaged the device. Lord Marchwood uses that information to lure Erasmus into a trap that dissociates him into pure energy. The “ghosts” have all vanished and Rivers has returned, and Sarah Jane destroys the computer once and for all.

As the gang says farewell to Professor Rivers and Toby, they debate the existence of ghosts. Sarah Jane remains firm that ghosts don’t exist, but hesitates when she sees Marchwood’s family watching from the window.


This was a fun little romp that took advantage of actor Tommy Knight’s school exams to get the gang out of the house. For the first time, Luke, Mr. Smith, and the Bannerman Road house do not appear in the series.

The setting was quite beautiful. This location, Hensol Castle, was previously seen in Forest of the Dead and is used as a wedding venue in South Wales.

The story itself, which was quite relevant for the lead-up to Halloween for this publication, was an amusing ghost hunting expedition, but quite average otherwise. The spin on the haunted house story by making the menace a trapped malevolent alien was a good one.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Mona Lisa’s Revenge

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

Pop Pop Con Con

Pop Pop Con Con
October 16 through October 18, 2020

Pop_Pop_Con_Con

I’ll be contributing to another genre convention this year.

With the global pandemic, so many fan conventions have been cancelled. The fun of great conversation and hanging out with friends is something that I miss. In an effort to help fill that gap, Pop Pop Con Con will be happening over the weekend of October 16-18, 2020.

Pop Pop Con Con is absolutely free, and will assemble fans of anime, movies, comics, TTRPGs, and more. We’re going to be discussing a ton of fun topics with a laid back atmosphere.

The event is being hosted by Shaun and Laura Rosado, longtime fans and owners of PopCycled Baubles. Along with putting on this show, they’re also celebrating the re-opening of their online store.

The event will be hosted online on the PopCycled Baubles Facebook page, YouTube channel, and Twitch channel.

The schedule of events can be found on the PopCycled Baubles website, and the specific panels that I am sitting are listed below.

Friday, October 16th

PPCC-1-VOD9:30pm – New Normal VOD
Premium Movie Rentals: COVID-19 has changed how we do a lot of things, even going to the movies. Will Premium VOD become the new normal? What does the movie industry look like after COVID?
Panelists include Nathan Laws, Gary Mitchel, and Jenna Busch

PPCC-2-198411:00pm – 1984
It’s been argued that 1984 was one of the single best years in the history of movies. Is it true? Why? Let’s find out.
Panelists include Kristen Nedopak, Eric Ratcliffe, Gary Mitchel, and Calvin Watts

Saturday, October 17th

PPCC-3-DS93:00pm – Far Beyond the Stars
Deep Space Nine was a groundbreaking moment in Star Trek and in TV history. We’re going to talk about the best Star Trek series you’ve never seen and how it changed the world.
Panelists include Sue Kisenwether, Nathan Laws, Kimi Hughes, Michael Williams, and Will Nguyen

PPCC-4-DnDPE8:00pm – D&D Tips and Tricks (Player Edition)
Being a player can be tricky and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. We’re going to talk about the best tips and tricks to ensure you get the most out of your TTRPG experience (can be used for any Tabletop RPG).
Panelists include Dodger, Jeff Mueller, Nathan Laws, and Michael Williams

Sunday, October 18th

PPCC-6-NuTrek6:00pm – NuTrek
Trek has entered a new golden age of content. With Picard, Discovery, The Lower Decks and new movies on the horizon, the world of The Federation has grown by leaps and bounds. What hit? What missed? What’s next? Let’s talk.
Panelists include Sue Kisenwether, Callie Wright, Nathan Laws,  Michael Williams, and Calvin Watts

PPCC-5-Western7:30pm – Sci Fi Westerns
In the last 20 years, the Sci-Fi Western has become a regular staple and the cornerstone of a genre that tends to produce excellence. From The Mandalorian, Firefly, Westworld and Wynonna Earp, we’re going to talk about the Sci-Fi Western.
Panelists include Corrine Vitek, Bethany Kesler, Donald Maher and Brandy Roatsey

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