Timestamp #SJA23: The Empty Planet

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Empty Planet
(2 episodes, s04e04, 2010)

Timestamp SJA23 The Empty Planet

It’s a tale of loneliness and acceptance.

Mr. Smith detects an alien energy trace but it vanishes into Earth’s own energy signals. Sarah Jane asks for a deep scan to locate it while Rani and Clyde look on. Sarah Jane reminds her teammates that it is a school night and they should head to bed. As they leave, Rani reminds Clyde of a pending school assignment. Clyde rebuffs the advice because, hey, they might just be invaded tomorrow.

As Rani reads Great Expectations, her father stops by for a quick chat before turning in. Clyde, on the other hand, is working on his artwork rather than his reading, but his mother compliments his creativity and genius.

They both go to sleep. The world goes quiet. All signals cease.

When they wake the next morning, they seem to be alone in the world. Rani’s parents, Clyde’s mother, Sarah Jane, and even Mr. Smith are gone. Rani snags Sarah Jane’s sonic lipstick as she runs the streets to investigate. She returns home and Clyde stops by. Together, they head into town to look for people, but they don’t find anyone.

They also remark that there are no crashed planes or cars, so whatever took the humans did not want to cause harm or damage. Rani and Clyde continue their discussion over breakfast. They decide to head back to the attic, but discover another living person. They give chase on bicycles and follow him to his apartment. His name is Gavin, and he has been living with his aunt and uncle since his mother died and his father ran off.

Gavin is skeptical of the newcomers, so Rani tells him about aliens to gain his trust. A loud trumpeting and rumbling sound distracts them and Gavin slips away. Clyde and Rani pursue but Gavin has disappeared. Clyde wonders why he doesn’t seem like a normal kid but Rani doesn’t believe him. They return to the restaurant and hash out their relationship. While they talk, the planet’s broadcasts light up with a single signal. It’s a black screen with a red triangle and yellow alien text.

When they investigate, they find giant yellow and red robots who seem intent on blasting them both. Luckily, Gavin saves the day and the trio escape into the nearby shops. The robots prove that they aren’t very robust by completely missing Clyde posing as a mannequin. The trio reunites at the electronics store as they discuss the signal then return to the restaurant.

They try to figure out the common link between them, ranging from time fissures and the TARDIS to their restriction to Earth by the Judoon. That doesn’t quite explain Gavin, but the ruminations are interrupted by the robots. They scatter and the robots pursue.

Both Rani and Clyde end up being cornered and scanned by the robots. They reunite at the restaurant, robots in tow, and begin the time-honored science fiction tradition of trying to communicate. In Short Circuit fashion, they use a newspaper as input, resulting in the translation of the alien signal. It’s a countdown, and the robots reveal that they are in search of a heir who is hiding on Earth. Humanity has been blipped into a sub-universe and will return if they can find the young prince in time.

And, believe it or not, Gavin is the errant heir. His father was an alien king, and since the king is dead, the robots have come to take their new ruler home. The energy trace was a signal calling him home.

After a bit of quick detective work, Rani and Clyde track Gavin to a nearby nature area. The robots can’t see Gavin because of a bio-dampening ring that shields his alien half. Gavin believes Rani and Clyde, removes the ring, and takes his place as the rightful heir.

The prince orders that the people of Earth are restored as he jets off to his new home. Before he leaves, he names his benefactors Lady Rani and Lord Clyde. As the timer hits zero, everyone returns to the planet as if they were never gone save losing ninety minutes somewhere.

Rani’s parents thought she was missing. Haresh asks where she was and she tells him the truth: She was with Clyde. Sarah Jane walks in, thus reuniting the Bannerman Road Gang. Later that night, the team celebrates Rani and Clyde’s victory as Mr. Smith scrubs the official records to hide the truth. Sarah Jane springs for pizza in honor of their good work.


I liked the core moral here, which is that everyone has worth, value, and a place. We see it with Rani and Clyde as they become more than just “hangers-on” and save the people of Earth, and we see it with Gavin as he realizes that he is important on a scale that he never imagined.

As a scientist and engineer, it took me a few minutes to adapt to the dampening effect. It seemed to be limited to broadcast signals since electricity was still available, but it made me wonder for a while exactly how it worked. I had a similar problem with Revolution, a sci-fi series with the premise that all electricity ceases one day. “Yeah, but,” I said, “what about the electrical signals in the human nervous system?”

After a while, you just let it go as pure handwavium, kind of like the concept that the seemingly peaceful seeker robots would consider obliterating an entire species if they didn’t find their target. I mean, that is a whole new level of hide and seek.

One thing that did throw me for a while was Clyde’s use of “honest injun” to describe his integrity while paying for a soda. The phrase supposedly originated in the 1850s (or earlier) and gained popularity when used by author Mark Twain in the 1890s. By the mid-twentieth century, however, it fell into obsolescence, probably due to its prejudicial overtones. The slur “injun” is a corruption of the term Indian, as in Native American, and the honesty part is said to stem from the idea that white people “spoke with a forked tongue” while the tribesmen were considered to be forthright and sincere in their dealings.

Given the stereotypes and prejudices that still exist to this day about Native Americans (at least in the United States), it shouldn’t surprise me that a television program from 2010 worked one of them in. What did surprise me is how far they’ve reached, considering that The Sarah Jane Adventures is a UK production.

Among the minor things that I found fun, Clyde’s still working on his art and our remaining teenagers are still toying with a relationship. I’m glad that the latter is developing organically instead of being created out of the ether.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Lost in 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.

Culture on My Mind – Battle of the Bands

Culture on My Mind
March 26, 2021

It’s time for this week’s second helping of science fiction classics, and this time we’re going to rock.

On March 4th, the first round began as Kevin Cafferty, Chris Cummins, Shaun Rosado, and Leigh Tyberg considered sixteen performers from the depths of classic sci-fi.

On March 11th, Round Two began with the jury of Toni Ann Marini, Kevin Cafferty, Chris Cummins, Shaun Rosado, and Leigh Tyberg.

On March 18th, this classic trilogy of musical mayhem converged with the illustrious panel of Keith DeCandido and Wrenn Simms (sharing one screen and, allegedly, one vote), Kevin Cafferty, Chris Cummins, Shaun Rosado, and Leigh Tyberg.

If you want to experience each of the competitors, you can do so through these convenient YouTube playlists:


We’re all caught up now with the exception of the March 25th panel. Rumor says that it involves another battle, but this time it’s all about AH-nold. After all, if it bleeds, Schwarzenegger can kill it.

There are also rumors that the March musical madness is not the end of the battle of the bands. There’s still time for King Thunder!

Gary and Joe have a lot more fun discussions planned. If you want to play along at home, get thee hence to the YouTube channel and the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

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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.

Culture on My Mind – February’s Classical End

Culture on My Mind
March 23, 2021

It is time to catch up on another batch of American Sci-Fi Classics discussions.

On February 18th, Price Horn and Jessa Phillips went to test depth to talk about what happens when science fiction gets wet.

On February 25th, a few members of the Council of Mikes participated in the ultimate Michael tournament. Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Michael Bailey, and Michael G. Williams duked it out. I was unable to attend due to a work trip.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again): Gary and Joe have a lot more fun discussions planned, so you should stay tuned to the YouTube channel and the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

Later this week, I’ll take a look at the fun that they had in the first three weeks of March. Those panels were all about the Battle of the Bands. I’m rooting for King Thunder from Quantum Leap because “Fate’s Wide Wheel” keeps on turning.

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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 #SJA22: Death of the Doctor

Sarah Jane Adventures: Death of the Doctor
(2 episodes, s04e03, 2010)

Timestamp SJA22 Death of the Doctor

The Doctor is dead. Long live the Doctor.

Luke is talking to the Bannerman Road Gang over webcam when UNIT arrive at Sarah Jane’s home. Colonel Tia Karim bears bad news: The Doctor is dead.

The Shansheeth discovered the body of a Time Lord and, upon confirming the DNA, organized a funeral. The Shansheeth delivered a holographic epitaph via Colonel Karim and Sarah Jane doesn’t believe the news, but Rani helps her to cope. Later that night, Sarah Jane muses with Luke that the Doctor cannot be dead. After all, she believes that she’d know somehow as though a piece of her was missing.

The Bannerman Road Gang take a road trip with UNIT to the funeral location at Mount Snowden, a massive UNIT base. While getting into the private car, Clyde experiences a jolt of energy, but he chalks it up to simple static electricity. When they arrive, they find out that the Brigadier is stranded in Peru and Liz Shaw is unable to leave the moon base in time for the service. They also see a group of Groske – a blue and tame version of the Graske – who tell Clyde that he smells like time. Clyde notices the energy on his hand and the Groske simply says that “he’s coming.”

The gang attend the gathering of remembrance where Sarah Jane requests that Karim open the coffin. The colonel replies that the Doctor was injured and a viewing is impossible. Sarah Jane notes that the last time that she saw the Doctor he was preparing for regeneration. He could have a completely different face now.

As the Shansheeth officiating the ceremony asks everyone to recollect their memories, Clyde recognizes the static as artron energy and a newcomer arrives. Enter: Jo Jones, previously known as Jo Grant. Sarah Jane recognizes her from the way that UNIT described her and they hit it off right away. Rani and Clyde meet Jo’s grandson Santiago who talks about the family’s globetrotting activism.

Jo is upset to learn that the Doctor returned for Sarah Jane. He never stopped in for her. But they share the belief that they’d feel it if the Doctor died (even on Metebilis III), so they start brainstorming his faked death. They also bond over their shared experiences on Peladon with the great beast Aggedor.

Meanwhile, Clyde pursues the mystery of the artron energy and we learn that the Shansheeth are trying to harvest the mourner’s memories of the Doctor using a memory weave that will kill the former companions. Clyde, Rani, and Santiago overhear the Shansheeth plot. They run back to Sarah Jane and Jo just in time for the Doctor to make contact through (and then exchange places with) Clyde.

Clyde’s on a red planet somewhere, but the Doctor is here. The companions catch up with the Doctor’s new face and the Time Lord confronts the Shansheeth. The Shanseeth reply with an energy beam and the sincerest wish that he rest in peace.

In the energy beam, the Doctor and Clyde swap places a couple of times. Once released, the Doctor runs with the assembled allies to safety behind a locked door. The Doctor grabs hands with Jo and Sarah Jane, spiriting “Smith and Jones” away to the red planet, the Crimson Heart. Clyde is left behind with Rani and Santiago in the locked room. They are soon rescued by the Groske and taken to his hiding spot in the ventilation system.

The Shansheeth, meanwhile, reveal that they have the TARDIS and are building a method to break in.

Sarah Jane and the Doctor work on the gadget that he used to swap places with Clyde while Jo muses about why the Doctor left her behind. After all, he did promise that he’d see her again. The Doctor reveals that, just before his regeneration, he visited every one of his former companions and is very proud of what Jo has done with her life.

Colonel Karim discovers where Rani, Clyde, and Santiago are hiding and locks them inside while turning up the heat. Luckily, the Doctor and his companions have fixed the device so they can return to Earth without leaving Clyde on the Crimson Heart. The Doctor saves the teenagers but Sarah Jane and Jo are captured by Karim and the Shansheeth.

The Shansheeth plan to use the memory weave to conjure a physical TARDIS key from the memories of the companions. They want to use the TARDIS to stop death on a universal scale and put an end to pain and suffering. Karim, on the other hand, merely wants to leave the planet and travel the stars.

The Doctor stops the memory weave’s operation by calling to the companions through the locked door and asking them to remember every adventure that he shared with them. Clyde and Rani also tell Sarah Jane to remember all of their adventures on Bannerman Road and Santiago prompts Jo’s memories of their Earthbound travels.

The memory weave overloads and begins a self-destruct sequence. Jo and Sarah Jane are trapped, but the Doctor reminds them of the lead-lined coffin. It provides just enough protection to shield the companions from the blast. The Shansheeth and Karim are destroyed and the Groske is amused by the smell of roast chicken.

Everyone hitches a ride home with the Doctor in the TARDIS. The companions say their farewells – Jo has no idea about the Time War, but why would she? – and the Doctor hies off to his next adventure. Rani and Clyde help Santiago figure out how to reunite with his parents, then Jo and Santiago say goodbye as they move on to Norway.

Sarah Jane tells her friends about the echoes of the Doctor around the globe: Tegan is fighting for aboriginal rights in Australia; Ian and Barbara Chesterton are Cambridge professors who are rumored not to have aged since the 1960s; Harry Sullivan is a doctor working on vaccines; Ben and Polly run an orphanage in India; and Dorothy McShane has raised millions through her company “A Charitable Earth”.

All of that from a simple Google search for “TARDIS”.

Long live the Doctor.


What a powerhouse story! Russell T Davies provided a story reflective of his years on Doctor Who, right down to the pacing and well-crafted prose. It’s also saturated with Doctor Who lore, including scenes from 36 adventures which I am not going to list here. Believe me, it’s tempting…

The attention to detail about regeneration – Jo knows about it since she met the First and Second Doctors – and the Last Great Time War is amazing. It’s also fun to watch the Doctor toying with Clyde about regeneration. The idea of 507 possible regenerations was a jest by this incarnation, but we know for a fact that regeneration can indeed result in changing into a form other than a white male.

I was amused by the Doctor musing about ventilation shafts, particularly in light of The Ark in Space, The Hand of Fear, and Planet of the Daleks. I also laughed about Amy and Rory’s marital adventures on the honeymoon planet. Ah, sentient planets.

Last but not least, the memory weave has a distinctive sound in science fiction history. It is unmistakably the activation sound for the proton packs in the Ghostbusters franchise. That takes me back.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Empty Planet

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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 #SJA21: The Vault of Secrets

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Vault of Secrets
(2 episodes, s04e02, 2010)

Timestamp SJA21 The Vault of Secrets

Here come the Men in Black… um… again.

A teenage girl searches an abandoned asylum for something called the Vault of Secrets. Her arrival sets off alarms and awakens guardians. When she finds the vault she’s stopped in her tracks because the container requires two keys and she only has one. A door opens behind her and reveals three black-suited figures with guns for hands. We last saw them in Dreamland.

The girl escapes but twists her ankle. She falls unconscious and Androvax the Veil emerges from her.

Meanwhile, in the Attic, the Bannerman Road Gang (with Luke calling in via video) watch a livestream from a recent NASA Mars rover landing. As the rover crests a hill, Sarah Jane disables the machine. NASA believes that they’ve lost another one, but Sarah Jane knows the truth: She’s just prevented the probe from discovering an ancient and deadly civilization.

Rani’s parents, Gita and Haresh, attend a meeting of the B.U.R.P.S.S. – the poorly-named British UFO Research and Paranormal Studies Society – after their recent encounter with Androvax. On the way home, Gita spots Androvax in Sarah Jane’s driveway, but Sarah Jane talks Haresh down from searching for the alien. Androvax takes over Rani’s body and leads a chase to the attic where the alien stages a tense reunion with Sarah Jane, Rani, and Clyde. Surprisingly, he asks for their help.

Androvax claims to be dying, poisoned by a swamp viper from a Judoon prison facility. He wants to free one hundred survivors from his otherwise dead planet that crashed on Earth forty years ago. The Alliance of Shades placed the ship in the Vault of Secrets, of which Androvax possesses a key. The Bannerman Road Gang head for the asylum after a short diversion by B.U.R.P.S.S.

Once inside, the gang finds the resting pods for the Men in Black – along with evidence that Ocean Waters, the leader of B.U.R.P.S.S., was abducted at some point – and the suits themselves. When the MiBs threaten incineration, the gang runs after discovering that the androids are sonic-proof. Arriving back in the attic, they learn about the Alliance of Shades and their mission to cover up alien incidents on Earth. Sarah Jane decides to visit Ocean Waters, and Androvax asks to go along to learn more about her knowledge of the Alliance of Shades. Androvax takes over Clyde for the trip which proves fruitful when Ocean is almost effervescent about her experience with Mr. Dread.

Ocean also has the second key, which Androvax immediately steals. On cue, the Men in Black break down the door and threaten to incinerate everyone. They explain that any attempt to release the Veil ship will destroy the planet. Androvax uses the distraction to escape and switch bodies from Clyde to Gita and make haste for the asylum.

The Bannerman Road Gang pursues, taking a moment to disable Mr. Dread’s can with a pulse of the sonic lipstick. When they arrive, they split up to search the building. Rani and Clyde rescue Gita-Androvax from one of the Men in Black while Mr. Dread confronts Sarah Jane at the Vault. When Mr. Dread decides to confiscate Sarah Jane’s technology and process her, she runs.

Meanwhile, Rani uses diplomacy to extract Androvax from Gita, then tricks the alien so they can all run away. Rani confides in her mother that aliens are real and she’s helping to fight them. Clyde runs interference with the Men in Black while Rani and Gita escape. He manages to catch two of the androids in a crossfire, destroying both of them and winning a cool new pair of shades in the process.

Sarah Jane finds Androvax and ends up being possessed by the Veil while Rani and Gita are taken prisoner by Mr. Dread. The android takes them back to the charging pods where Clyde ambushes him and locks him away. The gang catches up with Sarah Jane-Androvax at the Vault and opens it, revealing an extradimensional space beyond filled with spacecraft.

Androvax leaves Sarah Jane and enters the Vault, sealing himself inside. While Androvax powers up the Veil stardrive, the gang awakens Mr. Dread two minutes before the planet is destroyed. They use a transmat device coupled with the android’s power source to move the Veil ship into orbit. At the cost of 450 years of Dread’s energy, the Veil leave without destroying Earth. Mr. Dread then erases Gita’s short-term memory and, with his mission over, settles in for a long nap.

The team arrives home to find B.U.R.P.S.S. waiting for them. Gita no longer believes in aliens and Sarah Jane denies any knowledge of the Men in Black. As the comedic support group walks away dejected, Androvax flies through space in search of a second genesis for his people.


This was an exciting story where a couple of recent enemies came together with completely different motivations. It was a fresh take with plenty of humor to go around in the first post-Luke adventure.

Among this story, Rose‘s whoisdoctorwho.co.uk, Love & Monsters, and The End of Time‘s Silver Cloak, it’s really interesting to me how the normal civilians build communities around the things that they cannot explain. Be it the Doctor’s presence throughout human history or alien abductions, we keep seeing support groups and conspiracy theorists popping up, mostly with humorous and dysfunctional results.

It’s easy to lose track of that human element in the vastness of time and space, but just like my admiration of Rose’s mother and Martha’s family, I think it adds a nice touch to ground things a bit. After all, at its core, science fiction is the art of discussing the human condition through metaphor.

Doctor Who and its spinoffs keep doing a fantastic job with that.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Death of the Doctor

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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 #SJA20: The Nightmare Man

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Nightmare Man
(2 episodes, s04e01, 2010)

Timestamp SJA20 The Nightmare Man

You can’t get him out of your head.

Luke starts the story with a warning that the end of the world is approaching, that it is his fault, and the Nightmare Man is coming for him.

One year earlier, Luke confides in Sarah Jane that Mr. Chandra has given him permission to take his A-level exams early. This will enable him to go to Oxford University. Their discussion is interrupted by the fact that they are chained to a bomb, but fortunately Rani, Clyde, and K9 arrive to defuse the bomb and stop the Slitheen behind it.

Of course, in show tradition, everyone ends up covered in exploded alien goo.

Some time later, Luke passes his exams with flying colors. Some time after that, Luke watches Rani head to school while he packs his room and confides his nervousness in Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane tries to console him with scrambled eggs for breakfast, but ends up setting the kitchen on fire. Rani and Clyde hear about this on their way to school as they lament Luke’s departure.

Sarah Jane presents Luke with her old VW Beetle. She tells Luke that he gave her something to live for in an existence of loneliness. She promises him that Bannerman Road will always be his home and that she will miss him.

Later that night, Luke is awakened by laughing and overheads Sarah Jane and K9 talking about how they can’t wait for him to leave. Turns out that it was a nightmare, and as Luke startles awake he hears laughing. Luke shouldn’t be able to dream due to his genetic makeup, and while Rani suggests that he tell Sarah Jane, he decides against it. He also confides that he hasn’t seen Clyde for a while, and Rani pressures him to visit Luke.

Luke has another nightmare, this time with Clyde and Rani at the school. He meets the Nightmare Man, an entity that feeds on fearful dreams. He tells Sarah Jane about his nightmare and Mr. Smith scans Luke but finds nothing. He receives a text from Clyde and ends up at a surprise farewell party. The friends have a quick chat and Luke suggests that Clyde dance with Rani. After that, he inadvertently falls asleep and comes face-to-face with the Nightmare Man, but is told that he cannot speak the entity’s name. He is woken up by Rani and Clyde and taken back to the dance floor.

Later that night, Luke is sending a message to Maria but still cannot tell anyone about the Nightmare Man. He falls asleep and dreams about Sarah Jane replacing him with a new boy named Josh. His family throws all of their memories of him into a barrel and lights it on fire. The Nightmare Man tells him that one more nightmare will allow him to enter the real world and terrorize everyone.

On the final day before Luke leaves for Oxford, the Bannerman Road Gang throws him a farewell bash. Clyde and Rani keep Luke company but they fall asleep. Luke records the video that we saw in the opening sequence, sidestepping the rules by speaking to the camera and not to a particular person. He orients the camera to capture the events as he falls asleep. The Nightmare Man materializes shortly thereafter, but Luke is trapped in an echoing empty void.

The entity disappears as Sarah Jane enters the room and picks up the video camera. It materializes next to Rani and Clyde and begins to attack Rani as Sarah Jane watches Luke’s recording. Rani’s nightmare involves being pulled into the television by the BBC’s (completely fictional) Louise Marlowe. The Nightmare Man moves on to Clyde as Sarah Jane summons K9 and Mr. Smith to help combat the threat.

Mr. Smith identifies the entity as a Vishklar from the Seretti dimension as Clyde has a nightmare about being a fry cook and being berated by Sarah Jane for his lack of success. Rani’s dream continues as she takes the role of a newscaster being forced to tell the secrets about Sarah Jane Smith.

Sarah Jane and her cybernetic companions use a sentient concrete and a power boost to connect Luke with K9 inside his dream. Luke is able to connect with Rani and Clyde through the dream universe and rescues them through their focus. The Nightmare Man extends his influence onto the rest of Bannerman Road, but Luke, Rani, and Chandra stifle his power so he materializes in the attic, disables K9 and Mr. Smith, and turns his attentions on Sarah Jane.

Sarah Jane isn’t afraid of the Nightmare Man, but the entity is unwilling to send her into the dream. Instead, he materializes in the dream and threatens the team. Luke confronts him, emphasizing his love for Sarah Jane and his friends. The power of their friendship overwhelms the Nightmare Man and pushes him into a nightmare of his own. A nightmare where the elderly Sarah Jane Smith tells him all about Luke’s successes for all time.

The trio awakens as Sarah Jane brings K9 and Mr. Smith back online. Sarah Jane decides to send K9 with Luke. The next morning, they all gather to say farewell to Luke and K9. After hugs and tears, Luke leaves Bannerman Road in the yellow Beetle, eager to face the adventure ahead.


This is a pretty straightforward story, told in a fractured style, that has ties within both its series and year of production. Alongside Amy’s Choice, this was the second story in 2010 to involve a dream universe. It was also the second premiere to serve as a farewell for a series regular, the former being Maria’s departure in The Last Sontaran.

Tommy Knight had previously reduced his involvement in the show to focus on his schoolwork, but when his studies became much more demanding he decided to bow out. The other character to leave the show, the very good boy K9, was written out due to the Australian K9 spin-off. Thus, only Elisabeth Sladen remains from the roster of original full-time regulars that started the show.

This episode played well on both of those fronts. The anxiety and apprehension surrounding Luke leaving the nest is scripted nicely, and is sold by Elisabeth Sladen’s performance. Similarly, I loved the talent exercise of elderly Sarah Jane. We also got a touching and humorous farewell between Mr. Smith and K9, adding a beautiful dimension to their friendly rivalry.

All told, the story was good as both a welcome back and as a farewell.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Vault of Secrets

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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.

Rabbit Rabbit – March 2021

Rabbit Rabbit
March 2021

Rabbit, rabbit!

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

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

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

History

March comes from the Roman month Martius, the first month of the Roman calendar. It was named after Mars, the Roman god of war, and an ancestor of the Roman people through his sons Romulus and Remus. Thus, the month of Martius was known as the beginning of the season of warfare.

Martius remained the first month of the year until 153 BC, and many of the religious observances in the month doubled as celebrations of the new year. Martius observances included Agonium Martiale (March 1st, 14th, and 17th), Matronalia (March 1st), Junonalia (March 7th), Equirria (March 14th), Mamuralia (March 14th or 15th), Hilaria (March 15th and 22nd-28th), Argei (March 16th and 17th), Liberalia and Bacchanalia (March 17th), Quinquatria (March 19th-23rd), and Tubilustrium (March 23rd). These dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.

In Finnish, the month is called maaliskuu, believed to originate from maallinen kuu. During March, the earth finally becomes visible under the snow, quite literally “a month with ground”. In Ukrainian, the month is called березень/berezenʹ, meaning birch tree. Similary, it is known as březen in Czech.

Historical names for March include the Saxon Lentmonat, named after the March equinox and gradual lengthening of days, and the eventual namesake of Lent. Saxons also called March Rhed-monat or Hreth-monath (deriving from their goddess Rhedam/Hreth), and Angles called it Hyld-monath.

In Slovene, the traditional name is sušec, meaning the month when the earth becomes dry enough so that it is possible to cultivate it. That mouthful was was first written in 1466 in the Škofja Loka manuscript. The Turkish word Mart is given after the name of the god Mars.

Observances

The Catholic faith observes March as the Month of Saint Joseph, the believed human father of Jesus. In Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, it is Women’s History Month. On the international stage, it is Endometriosis Awareness Month.

In Canada, March is National Nutrition Month. The United States, on the other hand, floods the market with Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, Irish-American Heritage Month, Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, Music in our Schools Month, National Athletic Training Month, National Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month, National Celery Month, National Frozen Food Month, National Kidney Month, National Nutrition Month, National Professional Social Work Month, National Reading Awareness Month, Youth Art Month, and National Ladder Safety Month.

The March Equinox occurs this month, marking the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.

Trivia

  • March’s birthstones are the aquamarine and bloodstone, both symbolizing courage.
  • The western zodiac signs of March were Pisces (until March 19, 2020) and Aries (March 20, 2020 onwards).
  • The month’s birth flower is the daffodil.

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

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

Culture on My Mind – The Color of Our Food

Culture on My Mind
February 26, 2021

This week, I have food on my mind. In particular, a video from Cheddar about the history and current use of dyes in our food.

It is fascinating to me that Americans invest so much into food appearance, even to the point of tasting something that isn’t really there to begin with. I already knew that we waste about $218 billion dollars of food every year, including the destruction of otherwise perfectly good produce at the grocery store due to cosmetic blemishes, but the psychology is laid bare in this simple eye-opening presentation.

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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: Series Five Summary

Doctor Who: Series Five Summary

Timestamp Logo Eleventh

Series Five shifted gears with a new Doctor and a new showrunner.

Having seen the Matt Smith episodes before, I haven’t looked back fondly upon them. I think part of it was my mindset, especially after binging the episodes from Series One. I’m also a big fan of David Tennant and the paradigm shift from Russell T Davies and David Tennant to Steven Moffat and Matt Smith was a shock.

There’s a lot later in Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner to be critical about, but Series Five is much better than I remember.

The big stumbling blocks were Amy’s Choice and The Lodger. In the former case, the issue was presenting a mystery for the audience to solve but leaving out a critical puzzle piece to make the Doctor the smartest man in the room. In the latter case, the story was obviously a filler episode. The season also had a hard time selling me on the love between Amy and Rory. He obviously adores her, but she treats him like refuse far too often.

But it’s hard to be angry with such a fun and interesting slate otherwise, from the “I’m the Doctor” moment in The Eleventh Hour to the Daleks winning the battle in Victory of the Daleks, the return of the Silurians in The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood, and the time-traveling epic that is The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang.

Lest we forget the most beautiful story in this batch: Vincent and the Doctor. It makes me cry every time.


Series Five comes in at an average of 4.3. That leaves it in a three-way tie for fifth place for the Timestamps Project, coming in behind the classic Ninth Series, the new era’s Series Four, the Eighth Doctor’s run, and the Tenth Doctor’s specials. It’s on par with two other revival groupings – Series One and Series Three – and just ahead of the classic Eleventh Series.

The Eleventh Hour – 5
The Beast Below – 5
Victory of the Daleks – 4
The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone – 4
The Vampires of Venice – 4
Amy’s Choice – 3
The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood – 5
Vincent and the Doctor – 5
The Lodger – 3
The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang – 5

Series Five (Revival Era) Average Rating: 4.3/5


Next up, we head back to Bannerman Road with the fourth series of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

UP NEXT – The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Nightmare Man

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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 – Early Year Classics

Culture on My Mind
February 19, 2021

It is time for another batch of American Sci-Fi Classics discussions.

On January 7th, Keith DeCandido, Denise Lhamon, and Michael Bailey stopped by to discuss the 30th anniversary of Dick Tracy.

On January 14th, Sue Kisenwether, Deanna Toxopeus, Darin Bush, and Lola Lariscy asked the question “But is she a Mary Sue?”

On January 21st, Sue Kisenwether, Denise Lhamon, Deanna Toxopeus, Kevin Eldridge, Sherman Burris, and newcomer Maree Jones talked about the purrrfect organism. Yep, it’s all about cats in science fiction.

On January 28th, newcomer Kornflake of The Flopcast podcast joined Denise Lhamon, Sherman Burris, and Shaun Rosado in a deep dive of animated fantasy from the 1970s.

On February 4th, Felicity Kuzinitz, Nathan Laws, Tom Morris, Charlie Morris, Shaun Rosado, and Michael Williams signed up for electroshock treatments as they looked back on the 35th anniversary of Return to Oz.

Finally, to celebrate the season of love, February 11th brought newcomer Jeff Burns, Elizabeth Jones, Kevin Cafferty, Deanna Toxopeus, Lola Lariscy, and Jessa Phillips to the virtual love boat to talk all about the best genre romances.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again): Gary and Joe have a lot more fun discussions planned, so you should stay tuned to the YouTube channel and the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

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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.