Timestamp #CLS4: Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart & Brave-ish Heart

Class: Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart
Class: Brave-ish Heart
(2 episodes, s01e04-05, 2016)

Timestamp CLS4 Lonely Heart Brave-ish Heart

Loads of character development in a two-hour adventure.

Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart

Far across the universe in the halls of the Shadow Palace on The Underneath, Corakinus receives word that his servants can make his heart whole again. Unfortunately, his attempts to sever the attachment to April only strengthen the connection. On the other end of that connection in Shoreditch, April gasps in pain before picking up the sword of the Shadow King.

The next day, a strange petal dances on the wind before landing on April’s window as she practices her violin. April breaks a string and cuts herself, but the power of the Shadow King allows her to heal quickly. She also shares some bad news with her mother Jackie: He father has recently been released and made contact with the family.

Ram is feeling better after connecting with April. Meanwhile, Charlie shares the truth about the Cabinet of Souls with Matteusz. Everyone heads to school where Miss Quill watches as Mr. Armitage‘s name is added to the memorial and meets Dorothy Ames, the new headteacher sent by the Governors.

Later in class, April challenges her teacher during a lesson about warfare and the Dunkirk evacuation. As she literally breaks into her locker later, it’s apparent that the Shadow King is bleeding into her psyche. After ignoring a call from her father, she asks Ram for help. While they chat in Ram’s car, several more petals fall on the city and April’s father Huw MacLean shows up. His appearance is a violation of a court order, but all he wants is the chance to apologize. When he presses the issue, April manifests as the Shadow King and scares him away.

They are confronted by Ms. Ames for their truancy and Ram is encouraged to take April home while the headteacher is bitten by a flower petal. As Ram and April talk in her bedroom, the Shadow Kin locate Earth and plot an attack. April and Ram turn from talking to romance, which has a similar effect on the Shadow King 9,000 years of space travel away. Unfortunately for him, the Shadow Kin are disgusted by the thought of intimacy during sex. Afterward, April and Ram are discovered by April’s mother.

Charlie and Matteusz discuss the Cabinet of Souls and the prince reveals that the cabinet could transfer the souls into the bodies of another race. The cabinet is a powerful weapon capable of genocide. Miss Quill is angered by the discussion and storms away.

Later on, Tanya confronts Charlie about how he lords over the team. Matteusz chimes in occasionally while also being bitten by a flower petal. In fact, the petals are growing in number. Meanwhile, Miss Quill requests time off to deal with something at home, but Ms. Ames calls her into a meeting. The new headteacher also has a file with Charlie’s true identity on paper.

Jackie confronts the two teens about their relationship. Ram acts with respect toward her, but after he leaves, Jackie expresses her concerns about Ram and the parallels with April’s father. Ram calls Tanya and tells her that April is in trouble, which is a call that Huw overhears as he lurks nearby. On the ground is a squirrel, bloodied and killed by the flower petals.

Ms. Ames shows the petals to Miss Quill, remarking that there haven’t been many squirrels or birds around. One drop of blood causes the petals to multiply rapidly, and Ms. Ames asks Miss Quill to help solve the problem. She offers to remove the creature from Miss Quill’s head and free her from the contract.

April leaves the house to make up with Ram, but her departure is interrupted by Huw. After her parents argue, April is attacked by the Corakinus and the two personalities begin to merge. The Shadow King’s servant amplifies the effort but April resists as she attacks her father. Ram arrives just as April is about to execute her father with the Shadow King’s swords. April spares his life as she returns to lucidity. The rest of the team arrives just as April turns on her mother and heals her with the Shadow King’s power.

The act displaces enough energy to reveal Earth’s location to Corakinus, so April takes the initiative and slices open a rift. She dives inside, headed toward The Underneath, and Ram jumps in after her.

Brave-ish Heart

Ram races through The Underneath as a Shadow Kin chases him. He is saved by April and her scimitars, joining her as she makes her way to the Shadow Palace. She reveals that she cannot open a rift back home, so the two of them may be trapped there permanently. Back on Earth, Tanya reveals the truth of April’s condition to her parents, and they accompany Charlie to find help. Tanya finds Ram’s father and brings him into the team.

Meanwhile, Miss Quill and Ms. Ames continue their discussions. Ms. Ames asks for her thoughts on genocide, linking her plan back to Charlie and the Cabinet of Souls. They meet up with April’s parents and Charlie and Miss Quill confronts the prince over the cabinet. She’s angry that all of the people who slaughtered her people are still alive. Ms. Ames and the Governors want to use the cabinet’s power to destroy the petals.

April and Ram make their way through a cavern that reminds the Shadow Kin that they must defeat the universe or be crushed by it. They believe that they are a mistake of the universe and destined to live as shadows beneath everyone else unless they can overpower the universe. Ram discusses his Sikh heritage with April, proclaiming that doing good for the sake of doing so means getting closer to his god. They are interrupted by a telepathic link to Corakinus. He knows where they are.

Ram’s father and April’s parents argue about their children’s relationship while Tanya talks them down. As April gears up for war against the king and his army, Jackie’s heart glows. At the Quill/Smith home, Ms. Ames, Miss Quill, Charlie, and Matteusz debate the merits of using the cabinet to save the planet. Since only a Rhodian can operate the cabinet, Ms. Ames threatens Matteusz’s life to force Charlie into action. Tanya escorts everyone to the headteacher’s office as Matteusz sends her a text message. Apparently,  according to Ms. Ames, shadows can kill the petals. But bringing the Shadow Kin to Earth is a non-starter even though the petals are now consuming humans.

April engages Corakinus in a one-on-one battle where the victor becomes the new king. As they duel, the connection between Jackie and April intensifies. Using that connection, April opens a rift and she is joined by her father and Ram’s father. April finally defeats Corakinus. Huw talks her out of killing the king, and April declares that defeat is enough to depose Corakinus. The newly-crowned king has Corakinus locked away before she returns to Earth.

Under duress, Charlie decides to use the cabinet, but Matteusz is able to ambush Ms. Ames and throw her gun away. He stops short of committing genocide when April opens a rift and dispatches the Shadow Kin against the petals. Once the threat is obliterated, April orders the shadows to return home and destroy the path along the way.

Inside his cell, Corakinus severs the link that his followers created. April’s powers are gone, but they still share the same heart. Fortunately, the actions she took with the powers remain, including her mother’s ability to walk again. Her family is healing, but she needs Huw to stay away until the MacLean women can forgive him.

Meanwhile, Ms. Ames reveals that the Governors foretold all of this. The offer for Miss Quill still stands.


This should have come a lot sooner in the series. There is so much character development in this pair of episodes and it is a shame that we had to trudge through two really thin and slow plots to finally reach it.

I love seeing the weight on Charlie’s shoulders as a deposed prince, the last of his people, and the pressure placed upon him by his former enemy now turned indentured servant and protector. Miss Quill is hungry for revenge for her people and she’s willing to make a deal with the devil to get it. These two living under the same roof is delicious tension, particularly as Matteusz tries to tread the thin line of armistice between them.

We got a glimpse of Tanya’s leadership last week, and this week brings it back as she wrangles the personal conflicts between April and Ram’s parents while trying to save her friend. April and Ram continue to develop their new relationship, and they both show intense boldness alongside brilliant empathy. April’s personality tempers her heart – a most appropriate weakness for her empathy – with her wisdom, making her my favorite character of the bunch.

I also love that she’s practicing “Night Visiting” on her violin. A follow-on from that previous story, it’s a song inspired by legends about the spirits of deceased loved ones. Those spirits would knock on their living relative’s windows at night and appear as either warnings of danger or as an escort to drag their living relatives to Hell. It seems to have stuck with April, especially since she’s a student of folk songs.

Finally, in a neat bit of trivia, Charlie’s last name is Smith. Presumably no relation to the other Smiths that we know, either Time Lord or journalist.

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


UP NEXT – Class: Detained

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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 – The 2022 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The 2022 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar
January 20, 2023

2022 SW LEGO Advent CalendarIt’s time to talk about the 2022 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar!

My family has been doing these LEGO advent calendars since 2015 and I chronicle the daily builds on Instagram. Each of the annual box sets has been spotlighted on this site. These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. This box leaned on the recently released LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation special.

Despite the Summer Vacation links, however, this set also tied in some holiday cheer and sampled various aspects of the Star Wars library. It started with the prequel era (with a brief nod to The Bad Batch), then hopped into the classic era (with a small bounce into Summer Vacation), before wrapping up with a Santa-themed GNK droid.

The holiday sweater-clad C-3PO and R2-D2 were so much fun to see, as was the beach bum Darth Vader with his snorkel fins and sand castle. The abstract mini-builds were all well done and I adored the ability to hang Luke Skywalker from the Wampa cave. The snowtrooper was a big hit in our household since LEGO took time for representation and gave us a black woman beneath the helmet. That was a great surprise and I hope they have more like them in the future.

Even the basic fillers like a B1 battle droid and a weapons rack didn’t take away from the fun, leaving 2022 with one of the best Star Wars advent calendars in recent memory.

Now, on to the countdown:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16

Day 17

Day 18

Day 19

Day 20

Day 21

Day 22

Day 23

Day 24


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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 #CLS3: Nightvisiting

Class: Nightvisiting
(1 episode, s01e03, 2016)

Timestamp CLS3 Nightvisiting

When memories become weeds.

On the two-year anniversary night of Tanya’s father’s death, she is visited by something that resembles him. She doubts his appearance, believing that he is a hallucination, but the being has actual memories of their lives together. If she takes his hand, her grief will be gone forever.

A similar apparition visits Miss Quill, posing as her sister and promising that she can use a gun again if she accepts the bargain. Ram also gets a visitor in the form of Rachel while he video chats with April. Meanwhile, Charlie and Matteusz hook up after the former consoles the latter about his family’s homophobia.

Tanya returns to her room to talk with her “father” after checking in with her mother. She presumes that her mother is asleep but doesn’t notice that the woman is entangled in the alien vines. Both Tanya’s and Quill’s apparitions explain that they are the Lankin, an organism that feasts on a victim’s grief while killing them. They are all connected to the “great trunk” by vines running throughout the city and can presumably read their victims’ minds to emulate essential memories. The vines are also self-healing.

Ram and April rendezvous outside and try to work out this invasion. April reveals that her father attempted to kill himself by driving off a bridge when she was eight. Unfortunately, both she and her mother were in the car, resulting in her mother’s paralysis. April focuses on the things she loves to prevent the memory from controlling her life, and she uses this power to console Ram.

Ram and April follow the vines to Coal Hill and then follow the one into Tanya’s flat. Tanya struggles with the memory of her father since the Lankin only gets more aggressive about feeding on her grief. Ram and April arrive and warn her about the threat, but Tanya takes the Lankin’s hand. Unfortunately for the vine-creature, Tanya has more anger than grief toward her father’s memory. The anger poisons the creature but doesn’t weaken it enough.

Quill outright rejects her nightvisitor’s offer and eventually has Charlie and Matteusz stab the creature. They join up with the others to fight the threat. They finally defeat it after Quill steals a bus and rams it through the tentacles, forcing the broken links to retreat into the rift. Everyone seems fine afterward, and most of the victims have amnesia about the event.

The adventure ends as new bonds are forged within the team: Charlie offers space in his home for Matteusz while April and Ram continue to bond over their time together.


There’s not much to talk about here.

The episode tips its hand too way early by exposing that the ghosts of loved ones past are an alien tentacle invasion. While it does a good job of exploring the deeper hurt within the core team members, it spends a lot of time meandering through the 45-minute runtime before spending about five minutes actually fighting the threat.

The good side is that we see the team being proactive (in pieces, anyway), and admitting that they are gelling together after the threat is defeated. Hopefully it means that we’ll see them taking action more often in the remainder of the series run.

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


UP NEXT – Class: Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart & Class: Brave-ish Heart

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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 – The 2021 LEGO Marvel Advent Calendar

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The 2021 LEGO Marvel Advent Calendar
January 13, 2023

2021 SW Marvel Advent CalendarApparently, the latter days of 2021 and early days of 2022 were chaotic. So chaotic, in fact, that I completely forgot to post my summaries of the 2021 LEGO Star Wars and Marvel advent calendars. So, January 2023 will bring you some late (and even later) gifts as I take a look back at four separate calendars.

Last week, I looked back at the 2021 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar. In the coming weeks, I’ll cover the 2022 sets for Star Wars and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. This week is about the 2021 LEGO Marvel Advent Calendar.

My family has been doing these LEGO advent calendars since 2015 and I chronicle the daily builds on Instagram. Each of the annual box sets has been spotlighted on this site. These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on franchise staples. The Marvel characters made their debut with this holiday line in 2021, and there was no better way to kick it off than to highlight the Avengers from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

At this point, the MCU was settling into what would become Phase Four. The Infinity Saga (Phases One, Two, and Three) ended in 2019 and, of course, 2020 put everything on hold due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of 2021, we had four new films and five new television series to crack open the multiverse concepts that would define the next three phases, but the pandemic had definitely thrown a wrench into plans at Marvel Studios.

Thus, celebrating the Avengers was a strong choice.

The 2021 Marvel-themed box focused on themes and characters from The Infinity Saga, including minifigures for Tony Stark/Iron Man, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Thanos, Captain Marvel, Nick Fury, and Thor. Those minifigures were also outfitted differently to make them exclusive to this set, which presents a challenge to “gotta-have-em-all” collectors.

The Marvel set differed from the traditions set by the Star Wars sets by building a world for these characters (and kids of all ages) to play in. The scene was set for an Avengers-style holiday party, including presents and decor to compliment the typical abstract micro-builds. It’s a neat concept, but it also comes across as filler in some cases, such as the barbeque grill and present wrapping station.

I did really like the idea of presents, however, particularly how they were linked to each character’s style and cinematic gags. Spidey gets a churro and an arachnid-themed box while Tony gets the arc reactor under glass as proof that he has a heart. I also really enjoyed the helicarrier, Stark robot, and Avengers Tower builds, and the finale with an Infinity Gauntlet was an elaborate one. It came with enough extra Infinity Stones to reenact the paperweight scene from Loki.

It’s a good debut for the Marvel brand, and while I expected something closer to the Star Wars boxes, the world/scene-building aspect isn’t a terrible choice. For every barbeque grill and Christmas wreath, I have to remind myself that children are building these sets with their parents. The fun they have and memories they build together is worth it.

Now, on to the countdown:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16

Day 17

Day 18

Day 19

Day 20

Day 21

Day 22

Day 23

Day 24


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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 #CLS2: The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo

Class: The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo
(1 episode, s01e02, 2016)

Timestamp CLS2 Coach Dragon Tattoo

The episode that played with boredom.

Picking up after his injury in the fight against the Shadow King, Ram has trouble adjusting to his new leg. His performance during a football game disappoints Coach Dawson and Ram’s father Varun. The coach is also upset with his assistant, Caroll, who is brutally attacked and skinned alive in the locker room by a dragon-like creature.

Ram returns to the locker room and finds the corpse which triggers his trauma from the night of the prom. He hides in a restroom stall but the corpse and blood are gone when he returns. In their place stands Coach Dawson. The coach tells Ram to go home, then takes a shower while the dragon tattooed on his body snarls through bloodied teeth.

The next day, Charlie, April, and Tanya muse about how the rest of the school has seemingly forgotten about prom night. They also discuss Ram and his trauma. While they muse over what to call the temporal rifts in the school, Miss Quill and Mr. Armitage discuss the day’s inspection of her science class in front of the Barbara Wright Building. Finally, Ram is transferred to the second-string football team and rejects Charlie’s attempts at friendship.

In science class, Miss Quill tries to impress the inspector in her cold way. Ram storms out of class and finds Coach Dawson to ask about extra training. Unfortunately, Dawson doesn’t have time and Caroll is missing, so Ram is dismissed from the coach’s office. While Ram goes to the locker room to look for evidence of what he saw, we note that the coach has a corpse in a trash bag under his desk. Coming up empty-handed, Ram takes a smoke break with one of the cleaning staff. While he’s out there, the dragon strikes again, consuming the cleaner and dousing Ram in her blood. He takes a shower as the trauma consumes him.

That night, Ram talks to Tanya and they agree to meet up where the cleaner was killed. Tanya suggests involving Miss Quill and the new team, but Ram refuses. He wonders about his value now, but Tanya reminds him that he helped save April on one leg. They’re both surprised when Coach Dawson appears out of nowhere and dismisses the pair before chastising the sentient tattoo that moves across his body.

Miss Quill continues her silent torment with the inspector. She later consults with Charlie, insistent that the inspector is an alien or impostor. Meanwhile, Ram continues to perform poorly on the pitch. His father tries to console him on the drive home, but Ram doesn’t want to talk about it. He finds some solace in discussing death with Tanya, whose father died suddenly some time ago.

The inspector subplot continues as Miss Quill throws a stapler at the man and confronts him. Funny enough, the inspector is intrigued enough to request another observation period with her class.

Tanya, April, and Charlie talk about the coach, the cleaner, Ram, and Miss Quill’s attempts to hack into UNIT. Mainly, Tanya is upset that their new team isn’t getting involved in the mysteries. They start looking into the cleaner’s death but have trouble discussing it with Mr. Armitage. While they’re in his office, a space-time rift opens behind the headmaster and the dragon emerges. It kills the headmaster in front of the students and drags the corpse through the rift. The coach isn’t a direct suspect since he was talking to Ram at the time, but Ram also noticed the tattoo moving across the coach’s flesh.

The students involve Miss Quill, but she’s too wrapped up in her inspections to engage, so Tanya declares that they are on their own. Tanya does have a breakthrough with Ram during their homework chat that night, and April seeks solace in a video chat with Charlie. The team finally begins to coalesce around the mystery dragon as Ram lets slip what they experienced in the headmaster’s office. Ram realizes that the dragon that Charlie sketched from his memory is the same image that was on Dawson’s body.

The team meets at the school to find Coach Dawson while Miss Quill confronts the inspector. The inspector is inexplicably in the school after dark, and he ends up in a chase through the school with the dragon and Miss Quill. The dragon attacks the inspector and we find out that the inspector is a robot.

Correction: Was a robot. He’s decapitated now.

Meanwhile, the students watch Coach Dawson dispose of Mr. Armitage in the school’s trash bins. They confront the coach as Miss Quill leads the dragon to the scene. In the end, we find that the coach was inadvertently fused with a dragon when it came through a rift. It acted like a parasite and he had to feed it blood from the people that he killed. This second dragon has come in search of its mate.

Ram offers himself, primarily to rid himself of the pain, but the dragon simply abducts Dawson and takes him through the portal. Problem solved? The team isn’t convinced since it required a man’s death to end the threat.

Miss Quill continues to go on about the robot. No one cares, but she does find a clue that points toward “The Governors,” providing a hornet’s nest for her to kick.

Later that night, April ignores a call from her father while Ram discloses his secrets to his own. Varun consoles his son and helps him train with the new leg.


This was a rough one because it didn’t seem to have much heart. It works thematically, but the team doesn’t really gel at any point as this plot spins its wheels. The important pieces are placed on the board way too late, revealing that Coach Dawson isn’t necessarily evil but rather possessed by an entity beyond his control.

The inspector subplot has some funny points, mostly related to Mr. Armitage’s reaction to Miss Quill’s over-the-top investigation. “I don’t even understand some of these swear words.” But overall it is painfully obvious filler alongside a lackluster plot that wastes one of the most empathetic characters with a meaningless death. Thus ends the journey of Headmaster Armitage, whom we’ve known since Into the DalekThe Caretaker, and Dark Water, and it is a shame.

This episode also points out a rather large problem with the suspension of disbelief. Tanya claims that she’s 14 due to being moved ahead because of her academic performance. At the time of filming, actress Vivian Oparah was 19 and it’s pretty obvious since she blends in so well with the rest of the cast who are playing 17-year-olds. I’m no stranger to drama series set in high schools with twenty-somethings playing the students, but the difference between 14 and 17 is a bit more distinct.

Setting that aside, the most heart and character that this episode provides is between Ram and his father. Watching their relationship as Ram begins to heal from back-to-back episodes of blood-soaked trauma is beautiful. I only wish that the story had provided the same to the rest of this Scooby team.

If this story is any indication, Class is becoming Torchwood with edginess and darkness, but without a good chunk of the humanity that provided a flicker of hope in the fight.

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


UP NEXT – Class: Nightvisiting

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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 – The 2021 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The 2021 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar
January 6, 2023

2021 SW LEGO Advent CalendarApparently, the latter days of 2021 and early days of 2022 were chaotic. So chaotic, in fact, that I completely forgot to post my summaries of the 2021 LEGO Star Wars and Marvel advent calendars. So, January 2023 will bring you some late (and even later) gifts as I take a look back at four separate calendars.

Next week will bring the 2021 Marvel set. After that, I’ll cover the 2022 sets for Star Wars and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. This week is all about the 2021 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar.

My family has been doing these LEGO advent calendars since 2015 and I chronicle the daily builds on Instagram. Each of the annual box sets has been spotlighted on this site. These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on franchise staples. The Marvel ones are relatively new to the line, but Star Wars has been a longtime anchor property.

The 2021 Star Wars-themed box was heavy on ships and characters from The Mandalorian, a move that made a ton of sense since that was the big draw for fans on Disney+ starting in 2019. I particularly liked the Razor Crest build, the whimsical multi-day stormtrooper and shooting range setup, the Slave I (the “flying iron”), and the multi-day Grogu/Mandalorian run. Of course, staples like the X-Wing, landspeeder, and Imperial cruiser are nice to have. On the downside, there seemed to be a lot more filler with weapons racks and the like.

Now, on to the countdown:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16

Day 17

Day 18

Day 19

Day 20

Day 21

Day 22

Day 23

Day 24


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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 #CLS1: For Tonight We Might Die

Class: For Tonight We Might Die
(1 episode, s01e01, 2016)

Timestamp CLS1 For Tonight We Might Die

A threat like the Hellmouth and a warrior like the Doctor.

At Coal Hill Academy, a student runs through the halls in the dark of the night. A woman pulls him into hiding but a molten creature still finds them. In the aftermath, a rift tears open in the hallway.

The following day, the students report for classes and gossip about Kevin’s disappearance. In the foyer, April MacLean tries to convince Tanya Adeola to help her decorate for the autumn prom. Tanya declines due to her strict mother, and April ponders taking the new kid, Charlie, as her date.

The new physics teacher, Miss Quill, argues with the head teacher, Mr. Armitage, over her new position. She soon convenes class and chastizes the kids over their personality quirks. She tries to stump the students with a difficult equation, but Tanya recognizes it as a Gibbs probability density (the Boltzmann distribution) of a classical Klein-Gordon field. After class, Charlie lets April down by telling her that he’s taking Matteusz as his date. April’s disappointed but happy that Charlie’s out and proud.

At a later football match, Ram Singh misses a goal when he spots a mysterious shadow on the field. Meanwhile, Tanya spots a similar shadow while walking home, and this shadow chases her into a shop. She dismisses the shadow as being under too much stress. Tanya later returns home, is chastised by her mother for not doing her homework, and calls Ram to tutor him in physics. April ends up facing the shadow as Ram tries to help her via video call.

Charlie heads home as well only to find Miss Quill waiting for him. He questions her about the burn marks on the floor and whether or not she killed Kevin. As Quill steps outside, she reminisces about the prior night’s events – she made Kevin shoot the monster, but the two ended up killing each other – and walks off with the gun that she’s not allowed to shoot in her pocket.

April ends up decorating for the prom alone and gets attacked by the shadow. Miss Quill arrives and tells April to run as they face the creature, telling April to use the gun. Before she can shoot it, Charlie interferes and knocks the gun out of her hands. The shot goes wild and clips the monster, and as April staggers from the pain, Miss Quill explains that the weapon is a displacement gun. Effectively, it displaces the target in space and time by sacrificing the shooter.

Since April hit the Shadow Kin with a glancing blow, they now share a heart. The creature retreats from both the school and Tanya’s room, and Tanya’s mother freaks out about the video call. Charlie and Miss Quill help April decorate for the prom and April learns the truth about the other two. Charlie is a Rhodian prince and Miss Quill is a freedom fighter from an opposing force. When the war ended, Quill was bound to Charlie’s service by a parasitic arn, which prevents her from using the gun. During the war, the Shadow Kin slaughtered all of the Rhodians. Quill saved Charlie and they were dropped on Earth by a figure of legend out of space and time. That figure, the Doctor, left them in hiding at Coal Hill School.

Since her heart is split across space and time, April hears the Shadow Kin’s thoughts. The creature is coming for Charlie and the object that he salvaged from his homeworld. Later that night, Charlie ponders the mysterious box while April stares at the stars.

The next morning, April warns Tanya to be careful of the shadow while at the prom. Tanya passes the warning to Ram later on, and as April, Ram, and Charlie prepare for the prom, Tanya tells her mother that going to the dance will help with a school assignment. Charlie, April, Matteusz, Ram, and his girlfriend Rachel arrive as Miss Quill chaperones the event. Everything goes well until the Shadow Kin makes contact through April, warning that it is coming through the rift that it created.

The creature kills Rachel and the students engage a group of the Shadow Kin. April tries to convince everyone to evacuate the school, but the students refuse. As the Shadow Kin burst through the doors, however, the students run. Meanwhile, Ram loses a leg as he attacks a Shadow Kin. The Shadow King confronts Charlie and destroys the gun, but as the king advances, the battle is interrupted by the Twelfth Doctor.

The Doctor riffs on once being the school’s caretaker before confronting the Shadow King, inadvertently revealing Charlie’s and Quill’s secret identities. The Shadow Kin demands the Cabinet of Souls, which supposedly contains the souls of every Rhodian and could be used as a weapon. While the Doctor questions avenging a genocide with genocide, Charlie reveals that the cabinet is empty. The legends were just a myth.

April threatens to kill herself to defeat the Shadow King, but the Doctor and Tanya fight back by eliminating the shadows in the school. Without a shadow to hide in, the Shadow Kin cannot occupy the space. The king threatens to take April with him, but Ram knocks the king into the rift as the Doctor seals it.

In the aftermath of the battle, the authorities clean up the mess while the Doctor assesses the new team. He reveals that the excess of artron energy in the area has worn the fabric of space/time quite thin. The school acts like a beacon and this team will need to defend the school. Ram is healed with an alien prosthetic leg and Miss Quill is left in charge of the defense force as penance for Kevin’s death.

With that, the Doctor departs.

Ram and Tanya head home in disbelief of the night’s events, the former trying to get used to his new leg and come to terms with Rachel’s death. Charlie promises April that they’ll get her heart back, and she tells Charlie about her mother who was paralyzed in a car accident. April says that if her mother can adjust, so can she.

Quill asks Charlie how he’s not consumed by the rage over the loss of his people like she is over her own. He doesn’t see a point in the rage, then returns to his room to reveal that the Cabinet of Souls is indeed full.


This is a decent start with a generic story that has a Doctor Who meets The CW feeling. It’s an interesting touch to have the two aliens in charge of the school’s new defense force be refugees, one the last of his kind and the other unable to wield her special weapon. I also like that our heroes have flaws to overcome during this journey. The potential exists for a decent ensemble adventure.

The Coal Hill School Roll of Honors is a nice touch in a setting reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – explained here as existing in the Doctor Who universe alongside Once Upon a Time and The Vampire Diaries – and draws the Doctor with Clara‘s name among those who have mysteriously disappeared from the school. The Doctor may not recognize her name directly, but he should recognize Danny Pink and Susan Foreman. Just like Sunnydale High, Coal Hill acknowledges that there’s something strange in the neighborhood but they can’t quite put a finger on what it is.

Pilot episodes are shaky, and this is no exception. But with the Doctor there to bless this spinoff, I’m eager to see what this ensemble does with the potential that they have been gifted.

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


UP NEXT – Class: The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo

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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.

Schedule Update: The Timestamps Project (December 2022)

Schedule Update: The Timestamps Project
December 2022

Timestamps Schedule Update Dec 2022

The Timestamps Project will return after a break for the holidays.

Starting in January, the plan is to review Class for eight weeks. This is an opportunity that hasn’t come up since reviewing The Sarah Jane Adventures since I haven’t seen a single episode of this short series. After that, I will return to Doctor Who with Series 10, Peter Capaldi’s last set, and the introduction of Bill Potts.

As always, the schedule is tentative. I hope you and yours have a happy, safe, and warm holiday season. See you next year.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.

Timestamp: Series Nine Summary

Doctor Who Series Nine Summary

Timestamp Logo Twelfth

Peter Capaldi’s sophomore set was a big step up.

After Series Eight‘s uneven performance, the Twelfth Doctor really started to shine with stories better aligned with science fiction’s mission to analyze the human condition. Series Nine tackled vengeance and regret, life and death, and war and peace before capping the run with a love story.

Along the way, we did get a straight time travel tale in Under the Lake & Before the Flood and a swing-and-a-miss regarding choice and consequences in the three stories orbiting Clara’s death, as well as an experiment that flopped with Sleep No More. Those last two were the big drawbacks in the series, but I’m more than pleased with the deep dive into the human condition that was amplified by Peter Capaldi getting more comfortable in the Twelfth Doctor’s skin.

Clara’s negative growth from the last series didn’t play out well in this series. She was a lot more stable in this set, but her arc didn’t pay off thanks to Steven Moffat’s inability to say goodbye. She faced the consequences of her actions but then had the choice reversed, thus reinforcing my position that Last Christmas should have been her last journey.

Overall, Series Nine comes in with a solid 4.1 score, putting it alongside the Fifth and Eighteenth classic seasons and the Second and Seventh revival era series. That collection is a tie for tenth among the thirty-seven seasons (so far) in the scope of the Timestamps Project. That’s a good place to be.

The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar – 4
Under the Lake & Before the Flood – 5
The Girl Who Died & The Woman Who Lived – 4
The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion – 5
Sleep No More – 2
Face the Raven – 4
Heaven Sent & Hell Bent – 4
The Husbands of River Song – 5

Series Nine Average Rating: 4.1/5


Next up, the Timestamps Project takes a look at Class, which is the last big set of episodes that your humble reviewer hasn’t watched before. That will take about eight weeks and lead back to Doctor Who, which will take us through Series Ten and the final adventures of the Twelfth Doctor before embarking on the Thirteenth Doctor’s journey.

UP NEXT – Class: For Tonight We Might Diecc-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.

Timestamp #271: The Husbands of River Song

Doctor Who: The Husbands of River Song
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2015)

Timestamp 271 Husbands of River Song

Farewell, Professor.

Christmas Day, 5343, on the human colony of Mendorax Dellora brings a man named Nardole to the TARDIS. He was sent there with a handwritten note but is rebuffed by the Doctor wearing costume antlers. Nardole explains that there is a medical emergency and the Doctor decides to tag along despite already having had a long day. As they pass the real physician, they find themselves at the door to a flying saucer and a woman in a hooded cloak.

Hello, sweetie. The Doctor easily recognizes River Song, but she has no idea who this face belongs to. Also, she’s married. And her husband is dying.

River’s husband is King Hydroflax, a man in a giant suit of armor being watched by guards genetically engineered to have anger problems armed with sentient laser swords and (remotely) by four billion subjects. Posing as the physician, the Doctor studies the king while refusing to bow – bad back and all – and finds that the ruler has something jammed in his head. River takes him aside for a brief consultation while Nardole tries to calm his own frazzled nerves.

According to the holographic x-rays, the offending projectile is the Halassi Androvar, the most valuable diamond in the universe.  It was shrapnel from a raid on the vaults where the diamond was kept. River wants to remove the entire head, admitting that she is actually contracted to retrieve the gem. The Doctor is shocked but their discussions are interrupted by the king and his guards. He has been listening in and offers to help his false wife by removing his own head, revealing that he is a cyborg.

A brief battle ensues. River fends off the cyborg body with a sonic trowel while the Doctor coerces the king’s head to order his body to stop. The king’s head ends up in a bag before River and the Doctor are transmatted outside. The Doctor finds the entire affair to be hilarious but he’s still put off that River can’t recognize him. He’s also upset that she’s married to her associate Ramone, a man that she’s tasked to find the Doctor and who has had his memory of the wedding wiped. River assumes that the Doctor can only have twelve faces but Ramone has been unable to find any of them. He has located the TARDIS, though.

Meanwhile, Nardole is assimilated into the cyborg body and sent in search of the fugitives.

River, Ramone, and the Doctor walk to the TARDIS. As River steals the TARDIS, the Doctor finally gets the opportunity to have a “bigger on the inside” moment. When this hilariously cheesy monologue is over, he’s shocked to find River sampling the store of Aldebaran brandy hidden behind a roundel. When the king’s head starts to beep, River tries to pilot the TARDIS away but the capsule refuses to move. After she argues with the Doctor over how to drive, they determine that the TARDIS won’t establish a proper space-time envelope since the king is technically split across the inside and the outside.

Outside, the cyborg finds Ramone and demands that he deliver a message. Nardole is (figuratively) beside himself during this process. Inside the TARDIS, the king’s head declares that his body contains a bomb that will burn the world. The cyborg body, now wearing Ramone’s head, soon breaks into the TARDIS and the capsule takes off. When it lands, the Doctor and River snag the head and scramble into a party on the starship Harmony and Redemption.

River is greeted by the Maître d’, Flemming, whom she convinces to lock the cargo hold. They then head to dinner with a quick wardrobe change courtesy of a perfume bottle. River admits that she’s had her lifespan altered – she’s now 200 years old – and that the ship is full of people who are far worse than she is. The ship is where genocide comes to relax.

The couple is seated and River reads from her TARDIS-shaped diary. She reminisces about the man who gave it to her, noting that there are a scant few blank pages left. As they wait, Flemming is summoned to the cargo hold by a distress call from Ramone. Meanwhile, River and the Doctor are soon joined by a man named Scratch who holds special cargo in his own head. After a brief squabble over the diamond, Scratch reveals that the room is full of his own people as a guarantee. This group worships Hydroflax and wants the diamond in his honor.

Despite attempts to hide the head in the bag, the couple is forced to reveal the truth and create a distraction. A bigger one wanders in when Flemming and the cyborg body crash the party. Unfortunately for the king, the cyborg doesn’t want the ruler’s head back since it will die in seven minutes. The cyborg vaporizes the king’s head and Flemming offers the diary as a lure for the perfect replacement: The head of the Doctor.

Flemming reads the diary, noting that River witnessed the Pandorica opening, has been to Asgard for a picnic, survived the crash of the Byzantium (which was turned into a movie), has met Jim the Fish (who is known by everyone), and has just been to Manhattan (which Flemming thinks is a planet). Nardole’s head confirms that River is the Doctor’s consort, but River refuses to admit to his whereabouts. She does, however, state the truth that the Doctor doesn’t love her back. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. She adds that he wouldn’t be sentimental enough to be at her side at this point.

She then takes an honest look at the man she’s been traveling with. “Hello, sweetie.”

They kill some time as the ship pilots into a meteor storm, then fall into the deck below. River catches the falling diamond in her dress and heads off to deal with the ship’s emergency while the Doctor faces the cyborg. He defeats the menace by tempting it with Scratch’s orb that accesses the universe’s banks then introducing the cyborg to the best firewalls in the universe.

The Doctor rushes to the bridge as River recognizes that they are approaching the planet Darillium. The Doctor teleports River to the TARDIS, which she then materializes around him as they argue over how to save the ship. At the last second, they both rush back into the TARDIS and ride out the collision as the ship enters the atmosphere and crashes.

The Doctor takes the TARDIS to the next morning and gazes upon the wreckage, meeting with a rescuer who hasn’t found any survivors. Once the Doctor recognizes where he is, he suggests that someone build a restaurant that would gaze upon the famous singing towers. He also gives the rescue worker the diamond as capital to build it.

He travels to the future, makes a reservation, and then travels to the reservation itself. When River awakens, she is escorted to the Doctor’s side where she finds Ramone and Nardole in the cyborg body, now working for the restaurant. The Doctor himself is in a suit and offers River her own sonic screwdriver.

The same sonic that she will have at the time of her death.

They gaze upon the Singing Towers of Darillium and River is speechless. The Doctor is sad but reassures her as she speaks of stories about them. That their last night together is spent at these towers. In his way, the Doctor offers a confirmation but consoles River with confirmation that he does indeed love her.

The nights on Darillium are twenty-four years long, and happily ever after just means time. As such, River and the Doctor lived happily ever after.

Rather, they lived happily… together.


Her first and last stories in the show’s chronology are my favorite River Song adventures. The mystery of her life with the Doctor in Silence in the Library & Forest of the Dead makes for some great comedy and drama, and this story brings some hot chemistry between the two time-crossed lovers.

Holiday episodes are typically heavy with dumb fun and this one is no exception, but the love story here is carried by Alex Kingston and Peter Capaldi all the way to the bank (pun intended). You feel the heart of their relationship in the wacky pulse-pounding adventure and the soul is the quiet moments punctuated by discussions of love.

It’s also the perfect place to end their story. Fans often ask when Alex Kingston will return to Doctor Who, and while I miss her superlative talent on the show, I don’t see how her return pushes the relationship forward. We’ve seen the beginning and the end with flights of fancy in the middle, and this story is the perfect period to close their last chapter together.

I adored the callbacks to the franchise, including the wallet photos of each of the Doctor’s faces. For your Doctor Who trivia nights, those photos were screencaps from The Smugglers, The Two Doctors, Carnival of Monsters, The Hand of Fear, Resurrection of the Daleks, Mindwarp, Survival, the TV movie, The Day of the Doctor, The Parting of the Ways, The Runaway Bride, and The Bells of Saint John. It is interesting that she knows about the Doctor’s prior regeneration limit – by default, that includes the vanity regeneration that she met – and the faces of his former lives (she admitted this in The Time of Angels), but she doesn’t know anything about the Twelfth Doctor.

Also, notably, the Twelfth is not her Doctor. From Forest of the Dead:

You know when you see a photograph of someone you know, but it’s from years before you knew them. and it’s like they’re not quite finished. They’re not done yet. Well, yes, the Doctor’s here. He came when I called, just like he always does. But not my Doctor. Now my Doctor, I’ve seen whole armies turn and run away. And he’d just swagger off back to his TARDIS and open the doors with a snap of his fingers. The Doctor in the TARDIS. Next stop, everywhere.

The Tenth Doctor had no idea that someone could open the TARDIS with a snap of their fingers. River didn’t know the Twelfth Doctor until this adventure. River Song’s Doctor is the one that she married. Her Doctor is the Eleventh Doctor, whom she was just with as her own parents were lost in New York City’s past.

I love the subtle callback with the Twelfth Doctor scanning River with her new sonic screwdriver, thus enabling his former incarnation to save her as a data ghost. There’s also some degree of subtlety with the hidden brandy stash in the TARDIS, especially given the Doctor’s somewhat complicated history with alcohol. The First Doctor claimed to have never touched the stuff, the Fourth Doctor admitted to having a brandy stash onboard, the Third and Fourth Doctors drank regularly, the Ninth Doctor celebrated once with brandy and both he and the Tenth Doctor were rumored to be partiers, but the Eleventh Doctor routinely rejected drinks.

As I said, holiday episodes are often dumb fun, but the thin plot gave our leads plenty of room to shine. It’s a beautiful Christmas tale and a fitting end for a story arc that dominated the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Series Nine 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.