Timestamp #TW34: Dead of Night

Torchwood: Dead of Night
(1 episode, s04e03, 2011)

Timestamp TW34 Dead of Night

The people of Earth have nothing and everything to lose.

Late at night, Brian Friedkin finds that his television is not only turned on, but that it’s also tuned to an Oswald Danes interview. When he switches it off, he is confronted at gunpoint by Rex. The agent is angry that the CIA is poisoned against him. Friedkin explains that his mysterious bosses have been around for decades and communicate on a single phone.

Rex secures the phone and rushes out to a car where Jack is waiting. Esther is on comms and Gwen is standing by with a spike strip to disable police pursuit. The raid is a victory.

Sometime later, Gwen watches a parade of masked people – the Soulless – who believe that the Miracle has robbed people of their souls. Gwen is both shocked and confused. She takes her groceries back to the hideout but laments that all she could find are bags of crisps.

Or chips, as she’s corrected by her new American comrades.

Jack informs Gwen that Rhys and Anwen are in a safe house under Andy Davidson’s protection. Gen worries about emptying Jack’s bank account, but Jack doesn’t think that it’s possible. He’s been gathering interest there for 109 years. Esther and Rex reveal they cannot trace the phone since the signal branches out repeatedly to prevent it.

The American members of this new Torchwood aren’t quite used to how Jack and Gwen operate. Jack decides that they should investigate the morphic fields since he feels a universal consciousness driving the world’s immortality. Esther finds out that Friedkin has blocked off a warehouse in Washington, DC, prompting the team to steal a car. After Gwen’s blunt approach (and Rex’s thievery of their victim’s dry cleaning), they’re on the road to the warehouse.

Gwen concusses the guard. Jack, Rex, and Gwen break in to find shelves upon shelves of non-narcotic painkillers. All of them are from PhiCorp. The warehouse is stuffed to the gills with the pills.

At the emergency panel meetings, the doctors realize that aborted pregnancies and miscarriages are impossible, and some countries are considering contraceptives in water supplies. Vera is also perplexed by the new definition of murder since people can’t die but the motivations to kill still remain. Later on, Jilly Kitzinger convinces Vera to visit PhiCorp.

Jack believes that the team needs to take on PhiCorp, so Rex leverages his CIA contacts for resources and allies. He discovers that his contacts are ready to betray him, so the team is on their own. A frustrated Rex argues that Torchwood is dead and that Jack got his team killed. Rex takes the car and leaves Jack, Gwen, and Esther standing in an alley.

On the way back to the base, Jack finds a bar and leaves the ladies to get a drink. Esther contemplates turning herself in because she’s not cut out for the Torchwood life. Gwen convinces her otherwise and they keep walking. Meanwhile, Jack gets his drink – a bowl on the bar is full of sobriety chips – and a companion for the night with bartender Brad. Of course, since a lifetime of regret just got a lot longer, Jack wants his encounter to have protection.

Vera returns home to find Rex asking her to dress his wound again. He collapses and she tends to him. They end up having sex despite both of them being exhausted. Afterward, they discuss PhiCorp’s connection to the Miracle. Vera explains her regret at letting her mother die a year ago, the tells Rex about Jilly’s offer. Rex asks Vera to spy on PhiCorp, but he botches the request.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Oswald Danes sneaks away from his protective custody to enjoy a slice of pie at a local diner. A couple ambushes him and is sent home by the police, but the officers take the matter into their own hands by beating him before dumping him at his motel. Jilly approaches him one more time, and this time he takes her up on the offer.

Jack calls Gwen and has a long discussion about their relationship and Torchwood. The call is interrupted by Esther, who has established a secure video connection to Rhys and Anwen.

Come the morning, the team gets back together. Vera agrees to be their eyes in PhiCorp, so Gwen introduces Rex to the Eye-5s. She also lies by telling him that the lenses are isomorphic and tuned to her biology. Everyone but Rex knows that she’s fibbing.

When Vera arrives at PhiCorp, she finds an auditorium full of medical professionals. Vera meets Gwen, who proceeds to Jilly’s office while Vera keeps Jilly distracted. Gwen spots Jilly escorting Oswald to a special meeting which piques Jack’s interest. As the main presentation commences, Vera broadcasts it on speakerphone to Torchwood.

The presentation is a video by a United States Senator who is pushing legislation to make all medicines prescription-free. Jilly leaves the auditorium and almost finds Gwen in her office, but Rex is able to pull Jilly away through Vera. Rex and Esther are surprised when the strange red phone rings, but the phone shuts off without a word when Rex answers it.

Rex and Esther pack up the operation as Jack sneaks away to meet Oswald Danes. At gunpoint, he asks Oswald why he met with PhiCorp and if they mentioned the name Jack Harkness. When Oswald would talk about it, Jack switches to his burning question: Why did Oswald lie about feeling forgiven?

Oswald exposes his most repugnant sociopathic self, praising his motivations for killing the young girl because she flaunted her innocence. She bruised so easily that Oswald imagined that he was “painting” her with each strike. He felt ecstasy as her life force drained away.

Jack recorded the entire conversation and threatens to publish it, but Oswald calls in the protection that he arranged from PhiCorp to seize it. Jack knows that Oswald’s life will never reach the high of murdering Susie Cabina, so now the murderer and rapist wants it to end on that high. The hired goons beat Jack and toss him on the street while Oswald attends to his interview.

Oswald endorses PhiCorp. He asks the world to join him as he offers solace in the storm.

Jack can only watch in disgust as Oswald Danes wraps the planet Earth around his finger.


The story continues to develop as the world’s sense of order has dismantled by the chaos of immortality. In a land of such confusion, people seek stability and PhiCorp is offering it in spades. What could make this even worse? Using a complete sociopath with absolutely nothing to lose as the messiah of this movement.

Oswald’s revelations about his despicable acts were chilling. He enjoyed the atrocity. He’s a sick and dangerous man.

There wasn’t much development for Gwen and Jack, but Esther’s decision to dig deep and stay the course after Gwen’s pep-talk was a great bit of growth for the CIA analyst. Despite the lack of character development, the story advancement was superb. I’d expect nothing less from writer Jane Espenson.

I wasn’t quite sure if Jack was being sarcastic about the warehouse being “bigger on the inside”. We’ll have to wait and see if dimensionally transcendental technology is in play.

Finally, there was a lot of sex in this episode. The fascinating angle was how it was treated in various broadcasts. The United States, Canadian, and Australian markets had no problem showing the scenes, but the UK took a different approach by editing Jack’s encounter and completely excising the scenes between Rex and Vera.

It was also the first time in Doctor Who history that a woman’s bare butt was seen on screen. It had to happen on Torchwood, didn’t it?

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Escape to L.A.

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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 – Classic Traumas, Robot Mockery, and a Birthday Potluck

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Classic Traumas, Robot Mockery, and a Birthday Potluck
June 25, 2021

The Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track confronts its traumas, celebrates the Satellite of Love, and brings the best dishes to dish on Joe.

On June 3rd, Denise Lhamon, Tom Morris, Bobby Nash, Bethany Kesler, and Stormy O’Dell came together to remember when someone once said, “Let’s take the kids to a movie!” How they saw a fox abandoned in the woods. How they watched a giant owl about to eat the mouse lady. How they sat helplessly as a horse struggled in a swamp. The list goes on and on…

On June 10th, the track circulated the panelists as they gathered up their robot buddies and headed into Deep 13. Way back in the not to distant future (next Sunday, AD), a stand-up comedian and inventor came up with the brilliant idea. While there had been movie hosts who mocked their (usually bad) movies, he thought it might be funnier to do it during the movie. Deanna Toxopeus, Jason De La Torre, Nathan Laws, Kevin Cafferty, and Tom Morris took stock of the Mads, the SoL, the riffs, and Nummymuffincoocoolbutter.

On June 17th, it was time for another birthday celebration. Once again, Joe Crowe (somewhat) safely made another sojourn around the sun, and the panel of Lola Lariscy, Kevin Eldridge, and Kevin Cafferty celebrated by bringing random geek topics upon which Joe had no choice but to pontificate about for five minutes. The result might just rival Manimal for the most awesome thing of all time.

 


We’re all caught up for now. Fun times lay ahead, and 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.

What lies ahead may be the best dads of science fiction or the question “Why a spoon?”, but to find out, you must come on the journey into American science fiction classics.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp – A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast.

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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 #TW33: Rendition

Torchwood: Rendition
(1 episode, s04e02, 2011)

Timestamp TW33 Rendition

Airborne chemistry and conspiracies abound!

The Torchwood team is escorted to Heathrow. Rex takes the vortex manipulator and dismisses Rhys and Anwen before forcefully loading the team on a waiting plane. The CIA is involved as well since both the United States and Britain are asking a lot of questions about the rendition. Rex takes a trip to the lavatory where he considers his near-death experience while swallowing an aspirin.

Gwen and Jack catch up on their lives since the 456 incident. Rex asks Jack about the vortex manipulator while being hostile toward the team. Jack asks about morphic fields, explaining the basics of it to Rex. He also makes fun of Rex by telling him that the vortex manipulator is reporting low sodium levels. Rex calls Dr. Vera Juarez, who verifies the diagnosis, and then snacks on a bag of pretzels.

At the CIA, Esther gets word that Torchwood is being brought to the United States and she asks supervisor Brian Friedkin about working on the case. Esther returns to the floor while Friedkin consults with agent Lyn Peterfield on the plane via text message. Through a mysterious box, he consults someone about the morphic fields. The response: “Remove”.

Oswald Danes prepares himself for a television interview by raiding the craft services table. He muses about his future and how he’s more of a prisoner now that he’s free. During the interview, Danes dodges the interviewer’s questions, but is stunned when confronted by a photograph of his 12-year-old victim. In a sobbing fit, he says that he’s sorry for what he did and apologizes for the person that he is. The production assistant apologizes for her rude behavior as Danes leaves. He also meets Jilly Kitzinger, a supposed talent spotter who congratulates him on his acting performance. She offers her services as a public relations representative. He turns her down when he gets an offer to appear on Oprah.

Peterfield prepares drinks for the prisoners and slips poison into Jack’s cola. When the effects take hold, he rushes to the lavatory and vomits while musing that his immune system is also critically vulnerable. Gwen puts the data points together and prompts Rex to search Lyn. Lyn is quickly apprehended and Jack identifies the poison as arsenic based on a Slovenian boyfriend who took it for skincare. Rex is confused since that was in the 1800s.

Esther happens across strange events at the CIA, including mysterious agents prowling through her account and Rex’s office. She’s also in receipt of an odd sum of money from China, framing her as a double agent. She swipes her co-worker’s badge and makes her escape. Come to find out, the agents are under orders from Friedkin.

Dr. Juarez attends an impromptu medical conference about the Miracle. She learns that people are still aging and can be critically injured, but skin cells will still divide and die like normal. In fact, the Miracle is limited to humans. Microorganisms will become resistant to medicine as they have an eternity to feed on bodies and grow stronger. Vera also learns food and medical supplies will drop rapidly and the ever-growing population could become a big problem.

Rex calls Vera for help with Jack’s condition. The conference attendees guide Gwen and Rex in how to mix an antidote, but Lyn interferes. Gwen dispatches Lyn with a punch to the face and then injects Jack with the antidote. It’s painful, but it does the trick. Rex calls Friedkin and arranges for a security team to meet them upon landing.

Jilly Kitzinger makes the rounds, now trying to woo Vera. Vera figures out that Jilly works for a pharmaceutical company and initially rejects the offer, but changes her mind when Jilly gives her a tip about how to navigate Congress.

The plane lands and everyone is escorted to the terminal. Esther calls Rex to warn him as the security team frees Lyn. Rex has also received a sum of money from China. As Esther races to the airport, Rex bluffs his way through freeing Jack and Gwen. In the ensuing fight, Rex snaps Lyn’s neck, but under the current circumstances, she’s still alive.

Jack gets his vortex manipulator back as Esther and Vera arrive at the airport. Rex gets a bag of painkillers from the doctor and he piles into Esther’s Mini with Gwen and Jack. Their escape is briefly stalled by Lyn who bobbles around before collapsing. Esther drives on, wondering what the hell is happening.

Gwen answers her with a smirk: “Welcome to Torchwood.”


For what is mostly a bottle episode, this one pushes the plot along quite well. Someone wants Torchwood gone for good, presumably to prevent them from stopping the Miracle, and those battle lines are drawn here. The team is certainly not cohesive, but we have a good understanding of who’s who.

We also see a lot of ground covered with respect to the Miracle’s effects on humanity and the planet. The medical industry is panicking as they realize that the rules of the game have substantially shifted. I loved that writer Doris Egan (who also worked on SmallvilleTru Calling, and House, M.D.) worked the Greek myth of Tithonus into the discussion of eternal life without eternal youth. Al bacio!

The frantic quest for an antidote for Jack was very humorous, especially as Gwen got more stressed, and reminded me of the Doctor/Donna blitz in The Unicorn and the Wasp.

Overall, a good continuation of the plot with substantial world building.

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


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Dead of Night

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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 – Juneteenth

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Juneteenth

June 18, 2021

This week, I have Juneteenth on my mind.

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. It is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. It was established in 1865, when over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally informed of their freedom.

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. It was formally issued on January 1, 1863, declaring that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were to be freed.

Planters and other slaveholders had migrated to the more geographically isolated Texas from eastern states to avoid the fighting, many of them bringing enslaved people with them. This increased the enslaved population of Texas by thousands, and by 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in the state.

News of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, which happened on April 9, 1865, reached Texas later in the month. The western Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2nd, and by June 18th, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government.

The following day, while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, General Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Even though the event is popularly thought of as “the end of slavery”, the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to those enslaved in Union-held territory. Those slaves would not be freed until a proclamation several months later after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.

The freedom of formerly enslaved people in Texas was given legal status in a series of Texas Supreme Court decisions between 1868 and 1874.

June 19th is still officially celebrated as Juneteenth in Texas. Every state in the Union except South Dakota and Hawaii recognizes the event.


There are several places to find more information about Juneteenth and its impact on the Black community. I have highlighted four of them below. I hope that they offer a chance to learn about the importance of Juneteenth and spark further interest in finding out more about it.

“Why all Americans should honor Juneteenth” from Vox:

Vox also has a discussion and other resources at their website.

NextGen America presents a history of the event and how it has shaped the experience of Black people in the United States:

The Washington Post explores what Juneteenth tells us about the value of Black lives in America:

Finally, Dr. Shennette Garrett-Scott made a detailed presentation of the holiday’s history back in 2013:


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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 #TW32: The New World

Torchwood: The New World
(1 episode, s04e01, 2011)

Timestamp TW32 The New World

Who are they? Torchwood.

Early in the morning, absolutely despicable child rapist/killer Oswald Danes is scheduled for execution by lethal injection. He refuses to make a final statement and the injections begin. Danes convulses violently.

At the CIA, Esther Drummond is seeing several references to Torchwood as she talks with Rex Matheson on the phone. The institute’s name has been sent all over the UK, but as Drummond starts digging into it the entire system crashes. On the other end of the line, Matheson gets into a car accident and ends up taking a piece of rebar to the chest. He is taken to the emergency room.

Meanwhile, Gwen Cooper wakes up from a nightmare about Torchwood. Gwen, Rhys, and their daughter Anwen are living in middle-of-nowhere Wales. Gwen tells Anwen a story about aliens while feeding her. Helicopters have been flying overhead so tensions are high. There’s also a knock at the door – Gwen and Rhys pull out an arsenal of weapons just in case – but it’s just two lost hikers.

Or at least they seem to be until the hikers exchange knowing glances as they leave.

Matheson survives his surgery in a modern-day miracle. Turns out that no one has died in the hospital over the last twenty-four hours, and it’s not limited to this location. It’s worldwide. It also means that Oswald Danes survived, and he’s gearing up for a Fifth and Eighth Amendment defense so he can be set free. Matheson has a hard time wrapping his head around this Miracle Day.

Gwen and Rhys are busy painting the walls when a mobile phone rings. Andy Davidson bears the bad news that Gwen’s father is in the hospital. Gwen apologizes to Rhys because this means that they have to go back.

Further investigation into Torchwood reveals that every reference has been scrubbed under the 456 Regulations. Drummond crawls through the archives to find any physical reference to Torchwood. She finds the 456 files and photos of the Torchwood Three team, and then she meets Captain Jack Harkness. Jack asks her to accompany him but Drummond runs. She finds that the man in charge of the archives has been murdered and Jack saves her from being shot as well. To avoid being killed by suicide vest, Jack and Esther take a dive through a window into a fountain in the courtyard.

Jack tells her about the history of the Torchwood Institute while he mulls over the fact that he was injured. His intent is to keep Torchwood buried to maintain Gwen’s safety. He wiped the traces of Torchwood using malware. He secretly gives Esther a dose of Retcon and then poses as FBI agent “Owen Harper” to witness the suicide bomber’s autopsy.

Rex is able to watch the proceedings through the hospital’s security cameras. The bomber is an exploded mass of burned tissue and bone, but he’s still conscious and alive. Jack suggests severing the head to put the man out of his misery, but that doesn’t work.

Gwen and Rhys return to Cardiff with Anwen and meet up with Andy. Gwen is perplexed by the mass of people paying honor to the Miracle. They go inside and reunite with Gwen’s father despite her mother’s protests. Gwen later gets a briefing on the Miracle Day from Andy – Jack simultaneously hunkers down in an abandoned building and reads while he eats – and they discover that the human race has four months to live if no one else dies. Rhys is understandably angry about Gwen getting involved and she relents.

Esther wakes up in her apartment. The only evidence of the previous night’s adventure is a large bruise, but she doesn’t remember a thing. Jack has a bruise as well, so his healing factor has apparently stalled. When Esther goes to work, she finds the last remaining physical Torchwood file but she dismisses it due to the Retcon. Rex calls her and they discuss Torchwood and the Miracle, discovering that Torchwood resurfacing coordinates with the last time that a human died on Earth. Rex checks himself out of the hospital and takes a taxi to the airport. He’s headed to the United Kingdom despite the severe amount of pain that he’s in.

When Rex arrives, he gets a handgun from UK officials and drives to Wales while Esther gathers intel about Gwen. He eventually arrives at Gwen’s doorstep and collapses at gunpoint. When he wakes up, he’s tied to a radiator as Gwen and Rhys try to escape. Rex escapes easily, but the group of them are interrupted by a rocket that passes through the entire house and explodes in the hillside behind.

Gwen kills the shooter with a pistol – Anwen, babe in arms, smiles as her mother goes to work – and Jack arrives in a Land Rover to take everyone down the beach at high speed. Gwen finds a rocket launcher in the backseat and destroys the helicopter. When Rex asks who Gwen and Jack are, she defiantly replies, “Torchwood.”

The team regroups in Cardiff at Roald Dahl Plass. Gwen instructs Rhys to take Anwen to Gwen’s mother’s house. Gwen still has the Eye-5 lenses, but the rest of Torchwood’s technology was lost in the Hub’s destruction. Jack reveals that he can no longer heal himself and is a mortal man. Rex greets an arriving cavalcade of police cars with open eyes.

Rex has ordered a rendition. Torchwood is being handed over to the United States.


Torchwood covers new ground with this series. This was the first episode of Torchwood to be principally filmed in the United States (and the third episode of the Doctor Who universe after The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon) and the first episode in the larger franchise to film in California. It was also broadcast in the United States (and Canada and Australia) before the UK, which was another first.

The big narrative ground that Torchwood ventures into is swapping roles for Jack and the rest of the world. By removing his powers of resurrection and giving them to everyone else, Jack is placed in a position of extreme vulnerability and weakness. It’s a great starting point for the heroes as they set out to figure out what’s going on.

I appreciate how this episode also explored concepts like the force majeure (unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract, such as an “Act of God”), the Fifth Amendment (no “person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”), and the Eighth Amendment (“cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted”).

I love how downright creepy and despicable Bill Pullman is as Oswald Danes. I mean, come on, this is the magnetic lead from Independence Day and Spaceballs, and here we find him just oozing with malice and soullessness.

More than that, I enjoy how this episode placed our team in the post-Torchwood world and forced them back together in rather explosive circumstances. As much as they don’t want to get the team back together, they absolutely have to in order to save the world from certain destruction.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Rendition

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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 – Pershing’s Own and Queen

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Pershing’s Own and Queen

June 11, 2021

This week, I’m reaching back to May 2020 and the United States Army Band. The U.S. Army Voices and Downrange joined forces to present a medley of hits by Queen.

You can find more about Pershing’s Own and the Army Band’s ensembles at their official website.

These musical versions of Culture on My Mind are short and sweet. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again very soon. Take care.

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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 #225: A Good Man Goes to War

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War
(1 episode, s06e07, 2011)

Timestamp 225 A Good Man Goes to War

Demons run when a good man goes to war.

Prequel: Brain Trafficking

Dorium Maldovar meets with three cloaked figures. He tells them that his agents have procured the exact security software they have requested, extracted from memory – the literal brain – of a Judoon trooper. He exchanges it for a bag of sentient money.

Dorium doesn’t understand why they are doing all this to imprison one child, and he’s astonished at the child’s identity and relationship to the Doctor. He warns them: “God help us if you’ve made him angry”.

A Good Man Goes to Wars

On the Demons Run base, Amy consoles her new daughter, Melody Pond. She promises that help is on the way and is distraught that she has been unable to care for Melody since she was born.

Elsewhere in the cosmos, Rory and the Doctor have been hunting for Amy. They lay waste to an entire Cyberman fleet, news of which reaches the troops on Demons Run. Soldiers “The Fat One” and “The Thin One” – together, the Thin-Fat Gay-Married Anglican Marines – converse briefly with Cleric Lorna Bucket, a woman who has once met the Doctor in the Gamma Forests. Lorna sews to pass the time and was the only Cleric to show empathy for Amy’s plight. While The Thin One and Lorna discuss the Doctor, The Fat One is led away by the Headless Monks, the cloaked figures who met with Maldovar, and asked to make a donation into an appropriately head-sized box.

In London, circa 1888 AD, a Silurian named Vastra returns home after dispatching Jack the Ripper by her blade. Her maid Jenny informs her that the TARDIS has appeared in the drawing room, and Vastra knows that it is time to repay an old debt.

At the Battle of Zaruthstra in 4037 AD, Command Harcourt and Madame President Eleanor are ready to leave an infirm child as they retreat, but the child is saved by an unlikely nurse. A Sontaran named Strax tends to the child, then leaves as the TARDIS arrives.

At Stormcage, as River is breaking back into her cell, she meets Rory in his Centurion garb. She’s just returned from a birthday celebration with the Doctor in 1814 and Rory is summoning her to Demons Run. River explains that the Battle of Demons Run is when the Doctor will finally know who she is and that she cannot be there until the very end. During this event, the Doctor will rise higher than ever before, but will fall so much further.

At the Maldovarium, the Eyepatch Lady confronts Maldovar. She is known as Madame Kovarian, and Maldovar explains that the Doctor is raising an army. He also explains the origin of her base’s name: “Demons run when a good man goes to war.” When Kovarian leaves, the TARDIS arrives for Maldovar.

Back on Demons Run, while Colonel Manton rallies his troops, Lorna tries to present Amy with a prayer leaf. It’s a fabric token embroidered with Melody’s name in Lorna’s native language. They discuss the Doctor’s status as a legend and how each of them met the Time Lord. Amy accepts the gift and the apology.

Lorna returns to the colonel’s rally just in time for Manton to reveal the true face of the Headless Monks. Of course, the Doctor is masquerading as one of the monks, and as everyone in the crowd draws arms against him, the lights go out and the Doctor vanishes. The Clerics and the monks start shooting each other until Manton reestablishes control over the assembly by having all of the Clerics disarm themselves. Meanwhile, Vastra and Jenny have taken the control room in order to monitor the situation.

The assembled troops are suddenly surrounded as an army of Silurians and Judoon materialize. Commander Strax holds Manton at gunpoint. Manton claims that his fleet will come to help if Demons Run falls, but the Doctor counters: The fleet won’t know to come if Demons Run can’t call for help. The Doctor uses the Dalek-upgraded Spitfires, courtesy of Winston Churchill, to disable the communications tower.

Madame Kovarian readies her ship with young Melody in tow, but she’s thwarted by Rory with help from Henry and Toby Avery. Kovarian and Manton are brought before a barely restrained Doctor. He wants Manton to order his troops to “run away” so that he’ll be remembered by it for all time. Kovarian eventually yields and orders Manton to give the word.

Rory, with help from a sonic screwdriver, frees Amy from her cell. They both weep over their baby and the reunion. The Doctor soon joins them and their reunion is complete with a bout of humor. The Doctor speaks baby after all, and Melody has a lot to say.

Madame Vastra reports that the Clerics are leaving without any bloodshed. When she gloats that the Doctor has never risen higher, Rory remembers River’s warning.

The group gathers in the hangar. The Doctor doesn’t want to leave until he figures out why the base was used in the first place. The Doctor also produces his baby cot so Melody can settle down for a nap. Vastra calls the Doctor away, but before he goes he explains how Amy was split between the Ganger avatar and Demons Run. As the Doctor leaves, Strax brings in Lorna as a prisoner.

In the control room, the Doctor finds out that Melody has a mixture of human and Time Lord DNA. Presumably, it happened as a result of conception while exposed to the Untempered Schism, just like how the Time Lords began. Vastra is concerned that their victory was too easy.

In the hangar, Lorna claims that she’s a friend who only wanted to meet the Doctor. She also claims that he’s a great warrior, hence his name. Unfortunately, they soon fall under siege from the Headless Monks. While Vastra and Maldovar return to the hangar, Kovarian contacts the Doctor as he thinks back to the child in the astronaut suit from 1969. Kovarian explains that the child represents hope in their endless, bitter war against the Doctor.

A force field snaps into existence around the TARDIS and the hangar is sealed. The Headless Monks advance with their attack prayer and Amy retreats to safety while everyone else prepares for battle. Maldovar tries to reason with the monks, but he is cut down.

As the battle is met, the Doctor connects the dots. Kovarian has replaced Melody with a Ganger. The child is still lost. The Doctor arrives moments too late. The monks have been defeated, but Lorna and Strax have paid the price. The Doctor and Jenny try to comfort Amy. He also speaks briefly with Lorna before she dies, promising that he remembers her just like he remembers everyone he meets.

The Doctor is ready to give up on his quest against the Silence, but channels his anger toward the newly-arrived River Song. He wants to know where she was, but River says that she could not have turned the tide of the battle. She warns him that his name, which means healer across the universe, could become just like the people of the Gamma Forests know him: Mighty Warrior.

Demons run when a good man goes to war
Night will fall and drown the sun
When a good man goes to war

Friendship dies and true love lies
Night will fall and the dark will rise
When a good man goes to war

Demons run, but count the cost
The battle’s won, but the child is lost

The Doctor demands to know who she is and she leads him to the baby cot. The answer is inscribed on the cot in Gallifreyan and the Doctor’s mood shifts dramatically. He rushes to the TARDIS, asking River to get everyone home safely, before flying away to find Melody.

Amy demands to know where he’s gone and who she is. River shows her the prayer leaf and explains that Melody Pond in the language of the Gamma Forests translates to River Song. “The only water in the forest is the river.”

River Song is Amy and Rory’s daughter.

The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later

Strax awakens two days after the Battle of Demons Run, having been healed by alien technology. Vastra and Jenny tell him that they are the last to leave and invite him to join them in London. After all, Jenny has been ostracized from her family for her sexual orientation, Vastra is presumably the last of her kind, and Strax is all alone. There could be a future for them all together.

Strax refuses at first, but once he learns that London will involve crime-solving and plenty of adventure, he agrees to accompany them.


This story serves multiple purposes and it serves them well. Primarily, it ties off the thread of Amy’s abduction and opens the story of a war against the Doctor with Melody at its core. Second, it presents a cliffhanger to close out the first half of the season and tease the direction of the second half. Third, it offers a springboard for the team of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax.

That team is an intriguing combination of a Silurian, a human servant, and the unlikely Sontaran nurse. All three are outcasts of some sort, and that characteristic provides the glue to bind them. Strax provides a wonderful parallel to Rory through their mutual professions and Vastra offers a connection to the Doctor, the man who saved her at some point in his on-again-off-again guardianship of her species.

We get a beautiful inadvertent tie back to The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang with the Cybermen. In that Timestamp, I mused about the status of the Cybus and Mondasian Cybermen at this point in the franchise. The Cybermen in that story were Cybus models, survivors of the Battle of Canary Wharf, and had either built or assimilated into a fleet. The Mondasian Cybermen, last seen in Silver Nemesis, still had to exist but I had wondered if the two could co-exist.

Obviously, they can to some degree, as the Cybermen seen in this story were obviously Mondasian – they didn’t have the Cybus C on their chests – but have evolved (or assimilated into) the more bulky Cybus body time. I’m excited to see their return.

The other blink-and-you’ll-miss-it note surrounds River Song. On the surface, it seems like the River that Rory visits in Stormcage is the same River that arrives after the Battle of Demons Run, but the context clues point in a different direction. River at Stormcage had to consult her diary, which means that Demons Run has already happened for her. The River at Stormcage was from a later point in her timeline and she knows what happens to the Doctor. A minor addition is a reminder that River once remarked how the Doctor could make whole armies turn and run.

In a smaller callback, we see the Church again, previously met in The Time of Angels.

All told, this was a great story, a wonderful springboard, and a terrific cliffhanger.

Since the Timestamps Project is proceeding (for the most part) in airdate order, the next stop on this journey is a return to Torchwood. At some point, the streams will cross for a brief period as Doctor Who continues Series Six.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The New World

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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 – Good Puppers and Dreams Given Form

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Good Puppers and Dreams Given Form
June 4, 2021

The Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track keep on rolling out genre goodies. This time around, it’s time to look at the bestest bois and Babylon 5.

On May 20th, a group of dog lovers joined forces to analyze the best canines in science fiction. Guests this go-round included Linda M. Young from Lassie Web, Kristen Kerouac and Kevin Eldridge from The Flopcast, and Lola Lariscy. These fine folks also brought their favorite rescue and pet adoption centers to the game:

On May 27th, the American Sci-Fi Classics Track joined with the fine folks of Military Sci-Fi Media Track to form a League of Non-Aligned Tracks and discuss that shining beacon in space, all alone in the night: Babylon 5. This panel included Karen Henson, Sherman Burris, John Hudgens, and Nathan Laws and discussed the show’s history, its impact, and if it still holds up nearly 30 years later.

 


We’re all caught up for now. Fun times lay ahead, and 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.

Rumor says that future discussions may include a little MST3K, some thoughts on the best dads of science fiction, and more classic movie musings.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp – A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast.

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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.

Rabbit Rabbit – June 2021

Rabbit Rabbit
June 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 June.

History

June, known as Junius in Latin, originates from multiple places. One of Ovid’s origins is an ode to the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage and the wife of the supreme deity Jupiter. The second is the Latin word iuniores, meaning “younger ones”, which contrasts with maiores (“elders”), a potential origin for May. The third is Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic and ancestor of the Roman family gens Junia.

In ancient Rome, mid-May through mid-June was considered unlucky and unpromising for marriage. Ovid relates a consultation with Flaminica Dialis (the high priestess of Jupiter) about setting a date for his daughter’s wedding during which he was advised to wait till after June 15. On the other hand, Plutarch implies that the entire month of June was more favorable for weddings than May.

On the ancient Roman calendar, the festival of Ludi Fabarici spanned May 29 to June 1, Kalendae Fabariae took place on June 1, the Festival to Bellona took place on June 3, Ludi Piscatorii took place on June 7, and Vestalia took place between June 7 and June 15. A Rosalia was held on June 20, and the Secular Games were held roughly every 100 years in either May or June. These dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.

June also contains certain meteor showers, including the Arietids (May 22 to July 2 with a peak on June 7), the Beta Taurids (June 5 to July 18), and the June Bootids (June 26 to July 2).

Observances

Further observances in June include African-American Music Appreciation Month, Pride Month, Caribbean American Heritage Month, Great Outdoors Month, National Oceans Month, and PTSD Awareness Month.

Canada adds in ALS Awareness Month. Barbados includes Crop Over (through the first Monday in August) and the Season of Emancipation (spanning April 14 to August 23). The United Kingdom celebrates National Smile Month in June.

In the Catholic tradition, June is the Month of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

June also contains Juneteenth, a celebration of the emancipation of slaves in the United States. It is commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement by Union Army general Gordon Granger. That announcement proclaimed freedom from slavery in Texas, the last state in the Union to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.

Finally, June contains the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere – the day with the most daylight hours – and the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere – the day with the fewest daylight hours – although the polar regions are exempted.

Trivia

  • June’s birthstones are the pearl, alexandrite, and moonstone. Pearls are emblematic of perfection, incorruptibility, long life, and fertility. Green alexandrite represents growth, peace, hope, calm and fertility, whereas red alexandrite represents conflicting characteristics such as energy, power, passion and aggression. Moonstone represents hope, sensitivity, and abundance.
  • The western zodiac signs of June are Gemini (until June 20) and Cancer (June 21 onwards).
  • The month’s birth flowers are the rose and honeysuckle.

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 – Gingertail’s Mandalorian

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Gingertail’s Mandalorian

May 28, 2021

This week, I have music from The Mandalorian on my mind.

Specifically, this cover by YouTuber Alina Gingertail.

These musical versions of Culture on My Mind are short and sweet. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again very soon.

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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.