Timestamp #259: Mummy on the Orient Express

Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express
(1 episode, s08e08, 2014)

Timestamp 259 Mummy on the Orient Express

One minute to doom.

A sixty-six-second clock begins ticking as Mrs. Pitt and her grandaughter Maisie are enjoying a meal in a luxurious train dining car. Mrs. Pitt spots a “mummy monster” but no one else seems to notice. Even a train official is oblivious.

At 6 seconds, the mummy gets closer. At 5 seconds, it has its face in hers. At 4 seconds, Maisie begins to worry as her grandmother panics. At 3 seconds, everyone in the car is staring. At 2 seconds, Mrs. Pitt screams in terror. At 1 second, the mummy has his hands on her forehead.

At zero seconds, she dies.

The Doctor and Clara arrive at the TARDIS materializes on the train. It is the Orient Express, one of many trains to hold the name, but this is the first innnnnn spaaaaaaaace. The Doctor is in a tuxedo and Clara is in a dress from the 1920s. As a singer offers a jazzy rendition of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, the travelers enter the dining car where the Doctor questions Clara’s confusing sad/happy smile. It’s understandable since he chose this journey as their last together.

Clara admits that she hated him for weeks, but she received some advice: “Hatred is too strong an emotion to waste on someone you don’t like.” Clara realized then that she doesn’t hate the Doctor, but she can’t keep traveling with him in this form. They are interrupted by Maisie who calls the Doctor on what she sees as a lie. The train’s conductor, Captain Quell, apologizes as Maisie is escorted away. He then explains what happened to the young woman.

Later on, Clara begins to question her decision to leave the Doctor when she realizes that she may never see him again. The Doctor ponders the mystery of Mrs. Pitt’s death while Clara calls Danny about her quandary. The Doctor can’t refuse a good mystery, but he decides to leave Clara behind.

In the engine room, the Doctor finds a life extender – a device that tried and failed to save Mrs. Pitt – and Chief Engineer Perkins. Meanwhile, Clara gets dressed and finds Maisie, who is walking the halls in her nightclothes and carrying a shoe. She’s denied access to her grandmother’s body until she beats the lock with her shoe. Clara makes friends with Maisie as they work the problem at hand.

The Doctor finds a passenger named Professor Emile Moorhouse, an expert in alien mythology, and asks about the Foretold. This mythical mummy’s stare offers only sixty-six seconds to its victims, but victims can only see the creature when it appears to them. As they chat, the mummy attacks a chef.

After Quell orders the staff to cover up the chef’s death, the Doctor interrogates him with help from the psychic paper. Talking with Quell doesn’t pan out, but Perkins gives the Doctor a trove of documents and information. After meeting up with Moorhouse in the engineer’s room, the three watch the footage of Mrs. Pitt’s death.

The search for Mrs. Pitt comes up fruitless. The body is missing. Clara and Maisie are trapped in the room in which she was supposedly stored, and Maisie questions whether or not Clara is really done with her travels. The Doctor calls Clara’s mobile on the train’s communicator and rushes to her rescue when she tells him that she’s trapped. A suppression field blocks the sonic screwdriver, so Clara and Maisie are alone when a sarcophagus opens in the storage room. The box only contains lights and bubble wrap, and as Captain Quell apprehends the Time Lord for trespassing, another passenger is killed. The captain has no choice but to trust the Doctor with the case.

The Doctor realizes that someone has orchestrated the trip since the passenger list is stacked with brilliant scientists. When the Doctor questions this, the train stops and various passengers disappear as a lab appears in their place. Those passengers were hard-light holograms and the train’s computer Gus is in charge of this examination of the Foretold. Moorhouse suddenly catches sight of the mummy and is able to pass some information about its appearance before succumbing to fear and dying.

Clara calls the Doctor with the papers and schematics that she found. The Foretold appears to be targeting weaker passengers first, but this avenue of analysis is stopped when Gus sacrifices the entire kitchen staff to persuade the Doctor to return to work. As the team of scientists crunches through the data, Quell is the next to die as the Foretold exploits his post-traumatic stress. Quell describes the creature in detail and Perkins realizes that the specific time is related to technology to bring victims out of phase so it can consume their energy.

Also, Maisie is the next most likely target. The Doctor arranges for Clara and Maisie to come to the laboratory so the scientists can study her death, and Clara notes that the TARDIS is trapped behind a force field. Clara also confronts the Doctor because he knew that something might happen on this trip.

As Maisie sees the mummy, the Doctor transfers her grief to him so he can confront the mummy. During his 66 seconds, he deduces that the scroll that the scientists were analyzing is actually a flag. The mummy is an ancient soldier augmented with stealth technology to allow it to kill only its victims by pulling them out of phase, and it is trying to protect the flag. The Doctor declares that the war is over and surrenders, thus ending the mummy’s watch as it salutes and collapses into a pile of dust.

Gus congratulates everyone for solving the mystery, then decides to kill them all. The Doctor works the teleport technology in the mummy’s remains and saves everyone as the train explodes. Clara discovers this as she wakes up on an alien world, also understanding that the Doctor had to pretend to be heartless in order to fool Gus. The Doctor explains that he couldn’t save everyone, and he had no idea if he could succeed. He also has no idea who was manipulating the train’s computer. He tells Clara that sometimes, all your available choices are bad ones, but in the end, you still have to choose.

Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor offers to travel with Perkins but he refuses. Clara asks the Time Lord if he loves being the man to make an impossible choice. When the Doctor says that it is his life, Clara wonders if it is an addiction. But you can’t truly tell if something is an addiction until you have tried giving it up, and the Doctor has never done so.

Clara takes a call from Danny, then lies to her boyfriend and chooses to continue her travels with the Doctor.


This story swings back upward after the character decline of Kill the Moon. It effectively removes the tension between the Doctor and Clara by framing this adventure as Clara’s last hurrah and then reframes it to provide room for epiphany. Clara realizes that the Doctor is now a realist – sometimes all of the available choices are bad ones, but there is still no choice but to choose – and the Doctor realizes that Clara’s empathy forces her to mourn every death and failure, no matter how small.

The Doctor is still abrasive and detached, but at least they’ve met on common ground. Unfortunately, that leads Clara to forgive by lying to the man she loves. Not a good look, Clara.

Otherwise, the monster feature is a fun horror romp with a twist. I actually enjoyed that the Doctor had to scientifically prove what the monster was, even though it meant sacrificing people for the methodology. The story is also another dip into the well of Agatha Christie’s oeuvre, which we previously visited in The Robots of Death, Terror of the Vervoids, and The Unicorn and the Wasp.

This story also features a music video due to the cameo of real-life singer Foxes covering Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. The BBC released an official music video with clips of Series 8 episodes, which was a first for Doctor Who. Foxes herself then uploaded a second video consisting solely of her performance and music mix.

Of course, we have ties to the history of Doctor Who. Following Amy and Rory’s wedding, the Eleventh Doctor received a call regarding an Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express in space. Meanwhile, the Doctor manipulates Clara in a similar fashion to how Seventh Doctor manipulated Ace in The Curse of Fenric. The Doctor’s respiratory bypass also came into play once again, as it had in The Ark in Space, Four to Doomsday, Smith and Jones, and The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe.

Considering mummies, the previously encountered them (in one form or another) in Pyramids of Mars (the source of one of my favorite Doctor Who “nope” GIFs) and The Rings of Akhaten. Oh yeah, and that question… of course, he had to ask “Are you my mummy?

This story is a big step up from the previous outing and provides a good stepping-off point as we barrel toward the finale and the resolution of Missy’s plan.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Flatline

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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 – So Much Yummier

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
So Much Yummier
August 15, 2022

This week, I’m thinking about the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track and a big anniversary.

On July 28th, I joined Joe Crowe, Gary Mitchel, and Kevin Cafferty (Gleaming the Tube) to discuss the 30th anniversary of Batman Returns. This was my first introduction to Batman on the screen, and it led the way to my discovery of Batman ’66. This film is pure Tim Burton (for many reasons) and pushed the boundaries of sexuality, feminism, and brutality in the 1980s-90s era of comic book film.


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be held once every two weeks (or every fortnight, if you will). If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the webs to the YouTube channel and/or 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.

If you want to connect with the track, Joe, and/or Gary on the socials, you can find them on Twitter (ClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and sneezythesquid) and Instagram (SciFiClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and Gary_Mitchel). And, of course, to celebrate more pop culture awesomeness, you can find Dragon Con all year round on the internet, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The next panel will be on August 25th as a Dragon Con teaser leads the track into live-action panels at Dragon Con 2022. You can find all of this and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

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 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 #258: Kill the Moon

Doctor Who: Kill the Moon
(1 episode, s08e07, 2014)

Timestamp 258 Kill the Moon

An innocent life versus the future of all mankind.

Do you remember Courtney Woods? It seems that she’s been quite the troublemaker after meeting the Doctor. She’s been using the psychic paper to sneak into clubs and stowing away in the TARDIS, and it’s all been since the Doctor told her that she wasn’t special. It damaged her psyche.

The Doctor and Clara find Courtney in the console room and the Time Lord offers to make the student the first woman on the Moon. The TARDIS lands in the cargo bay of a shuttle approaching the Moon, and after the landing, the travelers meet the crew who want to know what’s going on. The cargo bay is full of bombs, and the Doctor distracts the human crew with tales of infinite regenerations while conducting a Fourth Doctor gravity test with a yo-yo.

The Moon’s gravity is too strong and no one knows why. The Doctor presumes that it has somehow increased in mass. A Mexican mining outpost has gone missing and this crew is an after-thought in a third-rate spacecraft. The travelers and the crew venture onto the lunar surface to investigate, finding the outpost and a lot of organic webbing.

Inside the mining outpost, the team finds a corpse. They restore power and oxygen and the Doctor discovers that the Moon is slowly disintegrating. Crewman Henry explores a nearby cave and gets eaten by a spider. Another spider enters the base kills crewman Duke and sets its sights on the rest of the team. Courtney gets separated from the team and ends up killing the spider with a cleaner that she brought along, leading the Doctor to conclude that the spider is a germ. Gravity is also shifting as the internal mass of the Moon is moving.

Courtney would really like to go home so the team returns to the TARDIS. Clara wonders why they don’t just leave but the Doctor isn’t sure that the Moon doesn’t survive this adventure. He isn’t sure what happens beyond this point, but he knows that he must remain here to see that this problem is resolved. It is a fluxed point in time. Meanwhile, crewman Lundvik begins prepping her nuclear arsenal.

The team investigates the site where Henry died and finds the cave to be full of germ spiders that are afraid of the sunlight. The Doctor finds evidence of amniotic fluid in a crater and dives in to investigate. Left behind, Clara and Lundvik head back to the TARDIS as Courtney posts about her adventure on Tumblr. Unfortunately, the shuttle is swallowed by a crevasse.

The Doctor returns and takes the team back to the mining base. He has figured out that the Moon is an egg, and the spiders are bacteria living inside it. If they destroy the Moon with nuclear bombs, they will have to explain why they killed a creature that is the last of its kind. On the other hand, the lunar disruptions are taking a toll on the Earth. While the Doctor and Clara debate with Lundvik, the Doctor gives Courtney instructions to bring the TARDIS to him.

He then decides to let the humans sort it out. Not being from Earth or the Moon, the Doctor chooses not to interfere, insisting that only humans can decide the future of their planet. He boards the TARDIS and leaves.

The team discusses the risks of eliminating the Moon. Lundvik decides to activate the bomb timer but Courtney and Clara suggest that the people of Earth take a poll. Between “kill” and “don’t kill”, the planet chooses “kill”. Lundvik decides to detonate the explosives but Clara presses the abort command first just as the Doctor returns.

The team descends to a beach on Earth’s surface as the creature hatches. As the Doctor monologues, the butterfly-like being flies into the stars, leaving another egg behind that becomes a new Moon. From this point, humanity expands into space and endures to the end of the universe because they chose not to kill. Lundvik is left to find her way to NASA while the Doctor takes Clara and Courtney home.

As Courtney leaves the TARDIS, Clara confronts the Doctor about what he knew. He explains that he knew that the egg was harmless but that it wasn’t his place to choose the fate of humanity. Clara is furious for patronizing her and placing them in danger. As her friend, he left her behind to scrabble with the rest of humanity.

She tells him to go away and not come back.

As the TARDIS fades from sight, Clara returns to her classroom and finds some solace with Danny. He tells her that, because she’s still angry with him, her relationship with the Doctor is not over. She agrees, then heads home for a glass of wine as she stares out at the Moon.


We continue the Doctor’s decline that I noted in The Caretaker. While I appreciate the prickly nature when it comes to no one getting sick and no hanky panky on the TARDIS, I found his decision to leave the humans to fend for themselves… well… anger-inducing.

I get it. I really do. It was important for humans to make this choice for themselves, but he could have offered a bit more warmth and explanation for his choice. He’s helped so many other times, but this one is the one that has to be completely hands-off? Clara had a point about the Twelfth Doctor being patronizing instead of being a counselor, and her anger is completely justified.

Now take this to the next level: Kill the Moon is an analogy for abortion. While the de facto custodians of this new life – Clara, Courtney, and Lundvik, notably all women – have the agency to choose, the Doctor’s role with his vast knowledge of was to guide, counsel, and console. He performed none of those roles, waving the “not my problem” flag and leaving the humans in the mire of making a life-altering decision without a trusted someone to provide support.

Clara’s anger was birthed from frustration and fear, and all of it could have been avoided with the Doctor’s help. Now that trust is broken. Especially because he knew that the egg was (mostly) harmless.

Note that the Ninth Doctor took a similar approach in Aliens of London, but he still remained as an anchor through a difficult moment. The Twelfth Doctor abandoned his companions.

All of that analysis aside, this story has an interesting hook with a Philip Hinchcliffe monster-of-the-week execution and terrible logic. The Moon is really an egg that incubates for millions of years, causes planetary distress upon hatching, and then is replaced by an exact copy to repeat the cycle in another eon?

The concept should have been incubated for much longer.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express

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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 #257: The Caretaker

Doctor Who: The Caretaker
(1 episode, s08e06, 2014)

Timestamp 257 The Caretaker

Life, love, and lies in time and space.

Clara and the Doctor begin this adventure chained to posts on Geonosis a red desert planet with no name. The Doctor asks Clara for the vibro-cutters, but she left them in her other jacket. The Doctor asks why she has a backup jacket, to which Clara retorts that even if she had the device, she wouldn’t be able to pass it because her hands are restrained.

Of course, they won’t die of exposure because the sand piranhas will eat them first.

They escape somehow and Clara meets Danny for a date. He comments on her deep tan.

Later, she tries to leave for another date only to find the Doctor and the TARDIS in her bedroom. He tempts her with an adventure among the fish people. She later explains her soaking wet dress and the seaweed in her hair as a freak rain shower.

On another adventure, the travelers run from soldiers bent on killing them. She then meets up with Danny for a run outside. When she gets home, she claims that she can’t keep this up. She then decides that she has everything under control.

Clara enters the TARDIS for another trip but the Doctor says that he has nothing for her to do. She calls his bluff but he maintains the story that he’s going undercover. Clara is not convinced but leaves the Doctor to his work. Clara finds out the next day that his undercover assignment is as John Smith, the new caretaker of Coal Hill School.

Oh, boy.

Clara finds a moment to interrogate the Doctor about this mission, but the Doctor has no desire to explain why he’s working there. He simply says that the children will be safe if he’s allowed to complete his task.

Later on, a police officer finds two students on the street. He tells them to get back to school, then investigates a strange noise in a nearby abandoned building. The officer is soon killed by an alien robot.

The Doctor interrupts Clara’s class to tell her that she has the publication date of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice wrong. She introduces him to the class as the new caretaker, and as the bell rings, he continues laying devices around the school perimeter. Clara finds the Doctor talking to Danny and Adrian Davies, and she eavesdrops to help preserve the secret of their traveling relationship. She also reminds the Doctor about Colonel Orson Pink before being pulled away for teaching business. The Doctor mistakes Adrian for Clara’s boyfriend, and as he continues his work, Danny keeps a suspicious eye on him.

The Doctor also meets Courtney Woods when the schoolgirl finds him working in the TARDIS (which is hidden in the caretaker’s workshop). Courtney threatens to tell the headmaster about the strange blue box but the Doctor deflects as Clara arrives. After Courtney leaves, the Doctor explains that he’s looking for a Skovox Blitzer, a machine that may be hunting the artron energy and will kill everyone in its path before destroying Earth. He also shows her a wrist-mounted cloaking device that he will use to prevent the Blitzer from scanning him while he traps it.

Oh, and he’s lured it to the school.

Clara meets up with Danny and they discuss plans for a date and the new caretaker. After the school closes and the sun sets, the Doctor puts his plan into action, unaware that Danny is stalking him. Clara also canceled her date in order to help the Doctor, so all three of them are in harm’s way.

The Blitzer pursues the Doctor by following the scanning devices that Danny Pink moved to the assembly hall. The Doctor saves Danny’s life by pulling the Blitzer into the temporal vortex and casting it into the future. He chastises Danny for interfering, concerned that the device changes have altered the plan. Instead of returning in one billion years, the Blitzer will return in three days.

Danny puts the clues together and the Doctor tries to erase his memory. As Clara tries to convince him otherwise, she admits that she loves the math teacher. She determines that the best way to explain everything is the truth, including showing Danny the TARDIS.

Danny wants to call in the military to fight the Blitzer, but the Doctor tells Clara to take Danny away. The humans go to Clara’s flat to deal with what Danny has learned while the Doctor resets the trap. Despite her denials, Danny struggles with whether or not Clara loves the Doctor romantically, but he does accept that she travels to see the wonders of the universe. He does, however, feel betrayed by the lies, so Clara offers the cloaking watch so he can observe how she interacts with the Doctor.

In the TARDIS, Clara tries to change the Doctor’s opinion of Danny, but she fails. Danny decloaks himself and the Doctor reveals that Time Lords can feel invisibility fields around them. Danny and the Doctor argue – Danny considers the Time Lord to be pompous due to his aristocratic title and the Doctor sees the math teacher as nothing more than a soldier – and the teachers leave for Parents Night.

The Doctor presumes that he is alone but is met again by Courtney. The Doctor shows Courtney the TARDIS, suggesting that she could travel with him because there may soon be a vacancy. Meanwhile, the teachers meet with the parents as the vortex unexpectedly opens and deposits the Blitzer in the assembly hall.

The Doctor summons Clara to help. Danny follows but is rebuffed by the Doctor while Clara acts like a decoy. The Blitzer chases Clara into the caretaker’s storeroom where the Doctor is waiting with an improvised trap and poses as the Blitzer’s superior officer. Danny provides a final distraction that gives the Doctor enough time to end the threat. The Time Lord and the math teacher finally resolve their conflict as they both realize that Danny is good enough for Clara.

The Doctor takes Courtney as he leaves the Blitzer in deep space, but the schoolgirl proves that she can’t handle travel in the TARDIS. Back in Clara’s flat, Danny explains that he knows the Doctor because he’s seen men like him in the military. He asks her to tell him if the Doctor pushes her too far.

Finally, in a brightly lit office, the police officer who was killed by the Blitzer is being interviewed by a man named Seb. It is revealed that CSO Matthew is in the afterlife in a place called the Nethersphere, and as he spots Missy walking the hallway, Seb asks the new arrival if he has any questions.


This story is this set’s The Lodger and Closing Time, and that leaves it on somewhat shaky ground. It is great to see some development with Clara and Danny, but the counter is how the Doctor is so abrasive and detached from the people he’s trying to protect. Further, he literally draws the threat to the school, potentially placing plenty of innocents in danger when the plan goes sideways.

At the point, the halfway mark in Peter Capaldi’s debut series, it’s painfully apparent that the Doctor is alien. It’s also painfully apparent that he has not grown into the traditional role of being a companion to those he serves and travels with.

It’s a double-edged sword. It’s a good dynamic to explore in the revival era, which has had plenty of Doctors that are intimately familiar with their companions, but the abrasiveness is also off-putting. Even the Sixth and Ninth Doctors had a certain degree of compassion, but the Twelfth (to this point) feels like he sees humanity as something beneath him.

This story also echoes to another revival-era undercover story in School Reunion with similar results from a less prickly Doctor. The artron emissions that drew the Blitzer to Earth could either be from every adventure that the Doctor has had on the planet, or it could be specific to Coal Hill with An Unearthly Child, Attack of the Cybermen, Remembrance of the Daleks, and maybe even The Day of the Doctor. The first adventure is also nodded to with the “Home sweet home” throwaway line, and another callback reaches out to Mawdryn Undead with the discussion that a soldier cannot become a math teacher. The Brigadier would like a word, dear Doctor.

This had the power to be a great character-building story, but I couldn’t get past the Doctor’s apparent lack of progress on the same plane.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Kill the Moon

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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 – Marge Piercy’s “Right to Life”

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Marge Piercy’s “Right to Life”
July 25, 2022

This week, I’m thinking about a poem that, in the writer’s words, is taking back a phrase from those who are not entitled to it. The poem was written in 1980, reinforcing the painful awareness that women’s rights and freedoms continue to be a cultural punching bag.  

Right to Life
Marge Piercy

A woman is not a pear tree
thrusting her fruit in mindless fecundity
into the world. Even pear trees bear
heavily one year and rest and grow the next.
An orchard gone wild drops few warm rotting
fruit in the grass but the trees stretch
high and wiry gifting the birds forty
feet up among inch long thorns
broken atavistically from the smooth wood.

A woman is not a basket you place
your buns in to keep them warm. Not a brood
hen you can slip duck eggs under.
Not a purse holding the coins of your
descendants till you spend them in wars.
Not a bank where your genes gather interest
and interesting mutations in the tainted rain.

You plant corn and you harvest
it to eat or sell. You put the lamb
in the pasture to fatten and haul it in
to butcher for chops. You slice
the mountain in two for a road and gouge
the high plains for coal and the waters
run muddy for miles and years.
Fish die but you do not call them yours
unless you planned to eat them.

Now you legislate mineral rights in a woman.
You lay claim to her pasture for grazing,
fields for growing babies like iceberg
lettuce. You value children so dearly
that none ever go hungry, none weep
with no one to tend them when mothers
work, none lack fresh fruit,
none chew lead or cough to death and your
foster homes are empty. Every noon the best
restaurants serve poor children steaks.

At this moment at nine o’clock a partera
is performing a table top abortion on an
unwed mother in Texas who can’t get Medicaid
any longer. In five days she will die
of tetanus and her little daughter will cry
and be taken away. Next door a husband
and wife are sticking pins in the son
they did not want. They will explain
for hours how wicked he is,
how he wants discipline.

We are all born of woman. In the rose
of the womb we suckled our mother’s blood
and every baby born has a right to love
like a seedling to sun. Every baby born
unloved, unwanted is a bill that will come
due in twenty years with interest, an anger
that must find a target, a pain that will
beget pain. A decade downstream a child
screams, a woman falls, a synagogue is torched,
a firing squad is summoned, a button
is pushed and the world burns.

I will choose what enters me, what becomes
flesh of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,
no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield,
not your uranium mine, not your calf
for fattening, not your cow for milking.
You may not use me as your factory.
Priests and legislators do not hold
shares in my womb or my mind.
This is my body. If I give it to you
I want it back. My life
is a non-negotiable demand.

In her own words:


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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 #256: Time Heist

Doctor Who: Time Heist
(1 episode, s08e05, 2014)

Timestamp 256 Time Heist

Doctor Who goes Ocean’s Eleven with the Architect’s Four.

The Doctor is trying to convince Clara to take another trip with him, tempting her with the Satanic Nebula and the Lagoon of Lost Stars. Unfortunately for him, she has a date planned with Danny Pink. In fact, the most that he’s noticed is that she’s taller due to high heels. Clara tries to leave but the TARDIS phone rings. This perplexes the Doctor since very few people have that number, but when he answers it, he and Clara are transported to a table with two other people, all of them victims of a memory worm.

According to vocal recordings, the others are an augmented human named Psi and a mutant human named Saibra, and all of them agreed to the memory wipes of their own free will. A case opens on the table revealing plans by “the Architect” that instruct the quartet to rob the Bank of Karabraxos, the most impregnable bank in the universe. They can’t back out because they’re already in the bank and the guards are aware of their presence.

Psi downloads the plans into his memory before the quartet runs. The guards are stopped when they handle the memory worms, leading the bank’s head of security, Ms. Delphox, to dispatch the Teller, an alien bloodhound that hunts guilt.

After a round of introductions, we learn that Psi was in prison for bank robbery and Saibra can change shape based on contact with biological matter. As the quartet makes its way through the bank, Clara and the Doctor question where the TARDIS is located. As they enter a populated area, Ms. Delphox uses the Teller to sniff out a random person’s guilt in front of them. The man’s brain is turned into soup as a result.

The quartet enters a vault and secures a bomb. They use the schematic to blow a hole in the floor and access the service corridors below. The bomb is a phase-shifting device, so the hole is sealed when they pass through and the guards are unable to follow.

The Architect’s plan leads the team to a series of cases, each with useful items as they get closer to the vault. One of those cases contains six items that the Doctor claims not to recognize. Saibra calls his bluff and he admits that they are the exit strategy while Psi and Clara discuss the latter’s ability to delete his memories.

The team ends up near the Teller’s hibernation chamber and the bloodhound detect’s Clara’s brainwaves. The Doctor breaks her free but Saibra is caught in the scan. She uses one of the exit strategy devices, an atomic shredder, as a more humane way to die and vanishes in the process.

The remaining three carry on as Psi aggressively questions the Doctor’s motives. Psi is able to hack into the vault’s security systems as Ms. Delphox releases the Teller to hunt them down. The Doctor and Clara split up to distract the Teller as Psi works. Psi is found when he saves Clara’s life and opts to use the atomic shredder device to avoid the Teller.

Psi’s work was mostly successful, but the vault remains closed due to one last lock. The Doctor and Clara are prepared to meet the Teller when a solar storm arrives, disrupting the bank’s systems and breaking the final lock. The Doctor then realizes that the Architect must be located in the future, making this robbery a time heist.

*ding* There’s the title!

The storm would also prevent the TARDIS from traveling to this time and place. Convenient plot device, that one.

The Doctor and Clara follow the clues to a safe deposit box where a neophyte circuit resides. They also find a gene suppressant before being found by the Teller. They are taken to Ms. Delphox with the knowledge that these items were Psi and Saibra’s fees for the heist. Ms. Delphox leaves to put the Teller back into hibernation to protect him from the solar storm, ordering her guards to kill the intruders. The guards end up being Saibra and Psi, revealing that the disintegrators were really teleporters linked to a ship in orbit. The Doctor gives them the items from the vault but also needs to find the remaining private vault, so Psi leads them into the depths of the bank.

The private vault turns out to be the residence of Ms. Karabraxos, who is identical to Ms. Delphox because the security chief is a clone. In fact, Karabraxos has a clone in charge of security in every one of her facilities and burns them alive when they fail her. Ms. Karabraxos sentences Ms. Delphox to that fate after ordering the Teller to the vault. The Doctor, meanwhile, puts the clues together and realizes that Ms. Karabraxos is behind the heist and gives her his phone number to use in case of an emergency.

See, this solar storm wipes out the bank, and Ms. Karabraxos gathers a few possessions before departing. The Teller arrives soon after and the Doctor submits to its powers in order to find the memories that were blocked by the worms. A dying and regretful Ms. Karabraxos was on the other end of the TARDIS phone, and she asked the Doctor to prepare a plan to fix the past. As the architect, he assembled the crew and the plan.

With this knowledge, the Teller is free of Karabraxos and Delphox and uses its power to free its mate. The heist was a rescue mission to save the last two of the Teller’s species, and the Doctor takes them to an isolated planet far from the universe’s telepathic noise. He then returns Psi and Saibra to their homes before dropping Clara back at her flat in time for her date.

The Doctor muses that robbing a bank is unbeatable for a date.


On the plus side, this episode meets the goal of being a tribute to the classic heist film. It assembles a team of experts with the mission of breaking into a super secure vault to retrieve a valuable whatsit. (I almost called it a MacGuffin, but that particular Hitchcockian plot device is of trivial value.) The story even has a few twists and turns that add personal value to each treasure and complicate motivations.

The plot is a fun conceit, but elements of feel rushed including the use of convenient loot boxes that act as signposts along the path. The ending where everyone is returned home in a triumphant montage also feels tacked on and really steals momentum from the climax. All of this is understandable since the classic heist film runs between 90 to 120 minutes, but this story has to be compressed into an hour-long block.

The biggest downside is how this episode exercises the Black Dude Dies First trope, which is overused in science fiction and “slasher”-style stories. The first two victims of the Teller are people of color, and even though one of those deaths is subverted later, it still stings. The trope stems from the history of cinema where black actors purposely kept clear of leading roles. As times changed and more actors of color were cast in bigger roles, they were treated as token actors and their characters were often killed off first.

Note that this 2014 production doesn’t have any explicit racist intent, but the history behind the trope makes people question it when the plot gives the appearance.

Swinging back to series mythology, this tale is packed with references. The computer databank has files on a Sensorite, Androvax, Kahler-Tek, a Terileptil, John Hart, Abslom Daak (a character from the novels and comics!), an Ice Warrior, the Slitheen family, a Weevil, and the Trickster. The Doctor makes direct reference to his previous and Fourth incarnations, and the disintegrators-turned-teleporters also call back to Bad Wolf.

Overall, not a terrible story, but the time compression and unfortunate narrative choices work against an otherwise intriguing tribute. I came in around a 3.5 score but rounded up.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Caretaker

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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 – Gilligan Meets Gomez

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Gilligan Meets Gomez
July 18, 2022

This week, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track thought about classic television mash-ups.

On July 14th, Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel were joined by Kevin Eldridge (The Flopcast), Kevin Cafferty (Gleaming the Tube), and Anthony Davis (self-described random guy who loves classic sci-fi) to muse about what might happen if various classic television series had played with crossovers and guest stars.


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be held once every two weeks (or every fortnight, if you will). If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the webs to the YouTube channel and/or 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.

If you want to connect with the track, Joe, and/or Gary on the socials, you can find them on Twitter (ClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and sneezythesquid) and Instagram (SciFiClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and Gary_Mitchel). And, of course, to celebrate more pop culture awesomeness, you can find Dragon Con all year round on the internet, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The next panel will be on July 28th. The future of these panels includes a Bat-anniversary, horror of 2002, and a Dragon Con teaser as the track careens like a train on fire toward Eastwood Ravine and live-action panels at Dragon Con 2022. You can find all of this and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

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 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 #255: Listen

Doctor Who: Listen
(1 episode, s08e04, 2014)

Timestamp 255 Listen

Are we ever truly alone?

The Doctor meditates on top of the TARDIS in Earth’s orbit when he whispers the episode’s title. *ding* He later muses in the console room about the habit of talking to oneself when alone. Perhaps it is because we know that we’re not truly alone. On a tour of the world’s biomes, he studies hunters and prey and hypothesizes about a being that can remain perfectly hidden. He places his piece of chalk in an open book and asks what such a being would do. When he returns to the book, the chalk is on the floor and the chalkboard contains a single statement.

Listen.

Clara returns home from a date with Danny Pink, but it is obvious that things did not go well. In fact, Danny became hostile when she joked about him knowing of killing another person. She tries to apologize for her gaffe but, through a series of miscommunications, ends up leaving. Danny is also upset over the interaction.

Clara finds the Doctor and the TARDIS in her bedroom. The Doctor ropes her into his theory, including his dream journal, and the premise that everyone has had the exact same nightmare that someone is watching. In the premise, there’s no one there until a hand reaches out from under the bed to grab the dreamer’s leg.

To her credit, Clara wonders how long the Doctor has been traveling alone.

The Doctor interfaces Clara with the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits and sets the craft in motion. They arrive at the West Country Children’s Home in Gloucester in the mid-1990s, which the Doctor claims is part of Clara’s childhood but she doesn’t remember visiting the location. Since meeting herself could be catastrophic, the Doctor leaves Clara with the TARDIS while he investigates, but she spots a boy waving from a window. The boy is Rupert Pink, has a desire to change his “stupid” first name, and waves just like Danny does.

The Doctor enters the home and poses as an inspector. While he talks to the night manager about strange things that happen while he’s alone (and steals the man’s coffee), Clara sneaks upstairs to Rupert’s room. She asks the boy about the Doctor’s theoretical dream and then dispels the notion of a creature under the bed by climbing under it with Rupert. Her explanation is interrupted by someone sitting on the bed.

When Clara investigates, she finds someone sitting under the covers. The Doctor arrives to investigate and talk with Rupert about fear. He convinces Clara and Rupert to turn their backs on the figure under the covers, then addresses the figure with an offer to leave in peace. It approaches them and uncovers itself, and the Doctor implores them to promise that they’ll never look at the being. The figure leaves with the slam of a door and Clara convinces Rupert that his toy army will guard against anything else happening to him. She includes a soldier without a gun as the leader – Dan the Soldier Man, a soldier so brave that he doesn’t need a weapon to keep the world safe – and then the Doctor telepathically puts him to sleep.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor muses about why they were there when they should have been somewhere on her timeline. Since she was thinking about Danny when she was piloting the TARDIS, she theorizes that the boy was him. The Doctor reinforces this by saying that he scrambled Rupert’s memory of the night’s events with a dream about Dan the Soldier Man.

Clara tests the hypothesis by asking the Doctor to return to her to the moment when she stormed out on Danny. She makes amends with him but stumbles when she blurts out his real name. Danny asks for the truth about Clara, but leaves when she can’t tell him. Clara spots a figure in the Doctor’s orange spacesuit who beckons her back to the TARDIS, a person who is revealed to be Colonel Orson Pink, a time-traveling descendant of Danny’s. The Doctor found him at the end of the universe, stranded on an expedition that was only supposed to send a pioneer one week forward in time. They missed.

The Doctor stalls for time to ask about his dream theory. Even though there’s no one else left in the universe, Orson still locks his doors at night. Orson is adamant about not speaking of it, but the Doctor assumes that the figures have emerged since there’s no one left to hide from.

Orson hides in the TARDIS and inadvertently reveals Dan the Soldier Man, an heirloom that brings luck. He strongly implies that he and Clara are related.

As the Doctor and Clara spend a night in Orson’s base, they hear the rattles and squeaks related to the Doctor’s theory. They banter about Clara’s date and discuss the Doctor’s need to pursue the theory. They are interrupted by a knocking on the locked door and, as Clara asks why he’s so motivated to find out what’s going on, the Doctor unseals the door and sends Clara to the TARDIS.

Clara and Orson watch on the TARDIS scanner as the door opens, but the screen shorts as the air shell is breached. Orson rushes out to save the Doctor. When they return, the TARDIS begins to shake and the Cloister Bell sounds, so Clara engages the telepathic circuits to move the ship. She goes outside to investigate, leaving Orson to tend to the Doctor.

Clara emerges in a barn where someone is crying in a bed. She climbs to the loft, mistaking the child for Rupert and Orson before hiding when the a man and woman arrive. The child prefers to sleep in the barn because he cries so often. He also doesn’t want to join the army, but the man doesn’t think the boy has what it takes to join the Academy and become a Time Lord.

Wait…

The Doctor awakens in the TARDIS and calls for Clara, prompting the boy to spring from his bed. Clara grabs the boy’s leg and persuades him to go back to sleep, dismissing all of this as a dream. The boy does so and Clara departs, leaving him with a comforting thought. She asks him to listen and tells him that fear is a superpower. That one day he’ll return to the barn in fear, but that fear need not make him cruel or cowardly. Instead, it should make him kind.

She has crossed the Doctor’s timeline and encountered him as a child.

Clara returns to the TARDIS and suggests that all of this potentially stems from a fear of the dark. She tells the Doctor to take them somewhere else and never look at where they were. They return Orson home and then Clara returns to Danny’s side to discuss his fears.

The Doctor can be afraid, but that fear can be a comforting companion that always brings him home. In the TARDIS, the Doctor closes the book by underlining the word LISTEN. In the barn, the Doctor awakens to see the night sky and a gift from the mysterious voice under his bed: A toy soldier so brave that he doesn’t need a weapon.


This story makes good progress on the season arcs related to the Doctor’s identity and the relationship with Danny Pink. Both of these characters are alien to the environments in which they live, and the parallel between the Doctor’s quest to find himself and Danny’s quest to reconcile his history is fantastic. I especially like how both characters are on these journeys but still have to appear “normal” and blend in with the people around them. They have both experienced things that those around them cannot fathom, and as a military veteran myself, I can empathize.

Clara is a good counterbalance to both characters as they travel these paths, and I’m glad that she can be there for both of them.

This story marks the first appearance of the Doctor as a child. While the actor’s face remains shadowed throughout the encounter, it was a good call by director Douglas Mackinnon to style Michael Jones’s hair to match a photograph of William Hartnell in his youth. I also liked the parallel to The Day of the Doctor with the barn becoming a place of solace for the Doctor in his most stressful times.

Clara’s words of strength to the young Doctor echo throughout his life: The thread of not being cruel or cowardly was recently reinforced in The Day of the Doctor, and “fear makes companions of us all” was said to Barbara Wright in An Unearthly Child. The fear of the dark calls back to Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, and we also have character threads reaching back to The Empty Child and The Girl in the Fireplace.

Sadly, the aliens themselves are a clever idea but are backseated as a plot device to carry the theme. I’d really like to know more about them and the mystery that they embody.

Overall, it’s a twisted and convoluted narrative, but the results struck home for me.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Time Heist

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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 – Remote Control

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Remote Control
July 11, 2022

This week, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track visits a classic MTV game show. You know, back when MTV actually played music videos. 

On June 30th, Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel were joined by Kevin Eldridge and Kornflake (The Flopcast), Chris Cummins (Sci-Fi Explosion), and Tom Morris (The Good, the Bad, and the Nerdy Movie Podcast) to play the board game version of Remote Control.

The original Remote Control ran on MTV from 1987 to 1990 and was MTV’s first original non-musical program and first game show. Three contestants answered trivia questions on movies, music, and television, and selected the topics from lounge chairs using remote controls.


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be held once every two weeks (or every fortnight, if you will). If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the webs to the YouTube channel and/or 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.

If you want to connect with the track, Joe, and/or Gary on the socials, you can find them on Twitter (ClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and sneezythesquid) and Instagram (SciFiClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and Gary_Mitchel). And, of course, to celebrate more pop culture awesomeness, you can find Dragon Con all year round on the internet, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The next panel will be on July 14th. The future of these panels includes TV mashups, an anniversary, and more as the track careens like a train on fire toward Eastwood Ravine and live-action panels at Dragon Con 2022. You can find all of this and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

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 Star Trek Podcast.

cc-break

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

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

Timestamp #254: Robot of Sherwood

Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood
(1 episode, s08e03, 2014)

Timestamp 254 Robot of Sherwood

Oo-de-lally?

Whilst in the TARDIS, the Doctor writes some equations on a blackboard while offering Clara the opportunity to take them anywhere and any time. She gleefully chooses Robin Hood but the Doctor tells her that the legend is not real. The character is made-up. He offers up alternatives such as the Ice Warrior hives of Mars or the Tumescent Arrows of the Half-Light, but Clara is adamant. She wants to visit Sherwood Forest in 1190.

The Doctor is sure that she’ll be disappointed but relents. While Clara changes into appropriate attire, the Doctor steps outside and surveys the area, but is surprised when an arrow pierces the TARDIS door. He’s even more surprised to find that the archer is none other than Robin Hood.

The Doctor extracts the arrow – the TARDIS heals immediately – and confronts the archer. The testy interaction is interrupted by Clara’s arrival. She is enthralled and the archer is smitten, however, Robin wants to take the magic box from the Doctor. He and Robin duel spoon-to-blade until the archer is knocked into the river, but Robin gets the last laugh as he pushes the Doctor into the water as well.

In a nearby village, knights are abducting prisoners as Master Quayle pleads with them not to take his young female ward. The Sheriff of Nottingham appraises the gold that the knights have gathered, tosses a ruby aside, and kills Quayle as the master confronts the sheriff. The woman is taken away for labor at the castle.

Clara is introduced to Robin’s merry men while the Doctor intrusively investigates the party. She meets Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale, Walter, and John Little, then pulls the Doctor aside to chastise him for his rudeness. The Doctor has confirmed that the men are real people, but questions if the surroundings are a Miniscope. When he asks when Clara began to believe in impossible heroes, she reminds him that it was the day they met.

As the Doctor continues his scans, Robin talks with Clara about her friend and his own history. While the king is away, the sheriff has been causing nothing but misery. Robin spoke out against the tyranny but was stripped of his title – Earl of Loxley – and forced into hiding. He fights against injustice in order to end the sheriff’s campaign and reunite with his love, Marian.

Robin announces the sheriff is holding a contest to find the most skilled archer in the land. The prize is a golden arrow, and Clara immediately warns that it is a trap to capture Robin. Robin knows it is, but enters anyway since he is the best archer in Nottingham. Under the guise of Tom the Tinker, Robin enters the contest and wins the prize but the Doctor immediately shows him up. Robin and the Doctor duel until the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to blow up the target. The sheriff orders the protagonists to be apprehended, but Robin, Clara, and the Doctor fight back, eventually revealing the knights to be robots. They are soon apprehended and taken to the dungeons as part of the Doctor’s plan to unravel the mystery.

The robots readily execute any of the peasant workers who don’t perform adequately. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Robin continue to spar until Clara has had enough. She gets them back on track, but the plan for escaping hits a snag since the sheriff has taken the sonic screwdriver. Luckily, one of the sheriff’s lackeys arrives and demands to know who the true ringleader is. From the arguments he has overheard, he selects Clara and leaves the other two behind.

While the peasants continue to toil, melting down the gold they have seized for extraterrestrial purposes, Clara is taken to dine with the sheriff. The sheriff is intrigued by the Doctor’s possessions, including the sonic screwdriver, and asks Clara if she is from beyond the stars. She is able to goad the sheriff into revealing that he witnessed a spaceship crash and has been trying to repair it by collecting gold to repair the circuitry. Planning to seize the kingdom and the world, he offers to make Clara his consort, but she vehemently rejects his advances.

In their cell, Robin and the Doctor execute a plan to attract the guard. The Doctor eventually suggests that Robin carries a vital message for the king that promises a large bounty. Robin headbutts the guard but they are unable to retrieve the keys due to their bickering. They uproot their posts and break their chains at a blacksmith’s forge, then locate the spacecraft in the castle. The Doctor examines the logs and finds that the ship was en route to the Promised Land. Every anachronism that the Doctor has seen is being caused by the ship’s presence, including (he presumes) Robin’s very existence, but Robin rejects the notion as the Sheriff blasts open the door and orders the robots to kill the men. Robin escapes by jumping with Clara into the moat, leaving the Doctor with the sheriff. The Doctor is soon knocked out and taken to join the peasant workforce.

Clara, meanwhile, awakens in Robin’s camp. Much to her confusion, the archer demands to know who the Doctor is, what he knows about Robin Hood’s life, and what his plans are.

The Doctor meets the woman from earlier, escapes his chains, and arms the peasants with reflective platters to defeat the robots and their energy beams. This angers the sheriff, who arrives as the Doctor frees the peasant workforce. The Doctor tries to dissuade the sheriff’s plan, which cannot succeed due to a lack of sufficient gold. They also discuss Robin’s status as a robot, but the sheriff denies it. When the Doctor realizes that he’s been wrong and that Robin is a legend, the archer and Clara arrive to finish the battle.

Robin and the sheriff duel, resulting in the archer using the Doctor’s earlier footwork to send the sheriff to a fiery demise. The survivors rally outside the castle as the spacecraft takes off, and the Doctor realizes that the golden arrow may provide enough fuel to reach orbit. From there, the spacecraft can harmlessly explode. The former rivals work together – the Doctor and Clara hold the bow while Robin fires the arrow – and the kingdom is saved.

At the TARDIS, Clara says her farewells and asks Robin to stay safe if he can. Robin is pleased that history will forget that he was a real person. After all, history is a burden but stories can help people soar. Robin sympathizes with the Doctor and they part on good terms.

As the TARDIS departs, the Doctor reveals that he left Robin a gift. The woman he met in the dungeon was none other than Marian, and she reunites with the legendary archer as the travelers move on to the next adventure.


This story is hit and miss with me. The moral at the end is the best part as it reflects upon what makes Doctor Who great. Between “A man born into wealth and privilege should find the plight of the oppressed and weak too much to bear… until one night he’s moved to steal a TARDIS and fly amongst the stars, fighting the good fight.” and the concept that both men should continue to pretend to be heroes to inspire others to rise up, the episode touches on the heart(s) of the franchise itself.

But the journey to get there is often weighed down by bickering and one-ups-manship. Instead of something inspiring or uplifting, we get the “privilege” of watching the equivalent of a penis-measuring contest. The novelty of that wore off after the first duel on the river.

Quite frankly, the legends of the Doctor and Robin Hood deserve better.

I did find joy in the Doctor explaining that he was taught fencing by the best – Richard the Lionheart, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Errol Flynn – particularly since this story intersects with two previous adventures. During this tale, King Richard is fighting the Crusades, and met the First Doctor during The Crusade. About twenty-five years down the road, the Fifth Doctor met Kamelion masquerading as King John in The King’s Demons.

Also fun was how the spaceship was disguised as a castle (see State of Decay) and escaping a prison cell by feigning a possession (see The Smugglers). We also saw the TARDIS struck by arrows in Silver Nemesis and The Shakespeare Code.

Finally, we continue the Third and Fourth Doctor comparisons as this brash Time Lord uses all sorts of scientific toys to analyze the goings-on. I just wish this adventure better aligned with one of those predecessors instead of being filled with pettiness and meaningless feuds.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Listen

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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.