Saturday, March 30, 2013

Here Is a Riddle to Guess If You Can - Review of "The Bells of Saint John"

"The Bells of Saint John" is in the history books! As such, a review must follow. Spoilers, sweetie!

(That almost seems outdated now)

It's going to take me some time to get used to Eleven in modern day (and it looks like I won't get that time, but I'm oddly okay with it).  It feels like so long since we've had an adventure in the present ("The Power of Three," notwithstanding).  It also feels like it's been a long time since we've had new Doctor Who... even though Christmas was barely four months ago (three months? Math and I do not get along).

More than anything, "The Bells of Saint John" feels like a total reboot of Doctor Who.  New companion, new TARDIS interior - the Doctor even gets a new outfit (I am digging the longer coat, though).  The format even feels new.  I don't know why, really.  Maybe it's just that the 50th Anniversary celebration really feels like it started today (new casting announcements helped that along, certainly).

Mostly, I have a list.  That is nothing new -

- Opening Titles - I am so in love with the new titles, it's not even funny! Also, it seemed like the theme music was a bit different, even from "The Snowmen."  It really feels like a very classy mix of all the Classic Who openers and I could watch it all day!  I love all the different "spacescapes" (that's what I'm calling them - I think there's even one part that calls back to the black-and-white era) and the music gives it a further air of mystery (as does the blink-and-you-miss-it Doctor's face).  It also reminds me of the Eighth Doctor's theme from Big Finish. It gives me chills and I love it!

- The Doctor's opening scenes felt very "Time Meddler" to me.  Maybe I was just looking for callbacks to Classic Who (then again, mention the Mad Monk in "Doctor Who" - what do you expect?)  Of course, I kept reminding myself that Steven Moffat's mantra of late has been that the 50th Anniversary should look ahead, not behind (though if he really wants to look ahead - throwing UNIT in right after The Great Intelligence is a poor way to start.  I AM NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT THIS! just so we're clear on that).

          - Addendum - This might come from my recent fascination with missing episodes, but maybe this re-introduction of The Great Intelligence into New Who is Steven Moffat's way of trying to resurrect those old favorites that we can no longer see.  Same with the Ice Warriors (even though that's getting the animation treatment - someone recently asked on LiveJournal which missing stories everyone would like to see and I replied with ALL OF THEM!! Even the ones that are considered crap. Don't care - I WANT IT ALL!!!)

           (Nope. I'm not asking too much, am I?)

- The Mystery of Clara Oswin Oswald - There wasn't much expounding on her in this episode (although THANK RASSILON SHE DIDN'T DIE! AGAIN!) But I still loved her to bits!  I love her keeping up with the Doctor and all her questions and SHE HAS A BOOK WRITTEN BY AMELIA WILLIAMS!! A little part of me was sad that the Doctor didn't find that book, but on the flip side I'm glad that he didn't.  I don't want Eleven to get all whiny-piney about stuff he can't do anything about.  Not when there are mysteries to solve and adventures to be had (as soon as he picks up Clara at 7:00 tomorrow).

           - Does she still have computer-genius-stuff in her brain?  Because she couldn't log onto the internet to save her life in the beginning, but then she was hacking away at those webcams toward the end.  That could certainly lend itself to the theory that Clara is Oswin from "Asylum of the Daleks" and she just got separated from the Doctor in typical timey-wimey fashion.

            - Also - Jenna-Louise, oh boy, can that girl rattle off her lines!  I don't really know what else to say about her other than she's fantastic and wonderful and brilliant (and NOT Rose 2.0, wehavebeendownthatroad andaredonewithit, thankyouverymuch. Geesh - some of those Tor articles make me want to tear my hair out. 'Nother story for another day).  I love having a companion that can hit the ground running and keep pace with the Doctor.  I don't think I've seen one like that who didn't need a warm-up period before they really got the hang of it (Romana, maybe).  Maybe that further lends to her mystery or maybe it's just nice to have a change (or maybe I still haven't caught my breath from running after the pair of them).  She's like River Song in some respects, but definitely her own person (I don't ever see River traveling in the TARDIS as a long-term companion, do you?)  She matched the Doctor step-for-step and that is flat out amazing.  Though I'm going to need a nap after every episode because I just don't go that fast :)

- The Entire Airplane Scene - I can't be the only one who thought "Doctor - you've come a long way since Concorde."

- Saint John = St. John Ambulance. Oohhhhhh! I GET IT! The bells of Saint John is the telephone in the TARDIS! Kind of feel like an idiot for not getting it sooner.  I mean - I have a model of Eleven's TARDIS with the St. John Ambulance decal sitting on my desk).

- Whatever woman it was at the shop that's giving out the TARDIS phone number as the help line - I want to go to that shop!

- Last night for Friday Night Who, we watched The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon.  A frequent comment was that lots of seeming-throwaway-lines were actually major plot points - or they at least telegraphed some stuff that didn't become important until later (Amy wondering about her baby having effects from her traveling in the TARDIS - the Doctor going to drop the Ponds off to live in wedded bliss and make babies - there were others, but I can't remember them now :/)  So, it does not surprise me when Clara's throwaway Twitter joke became a clue to the Doctor that All Was Not Well with Clara (other than it being a side-result of The Moff giving up Twitter - seriously, it's a bad habit. You kids should stay away from it).  Also - The Anti-Grav Olympics.  I want that motorbike (on second thought... I'm scared of riding motorcycles, so maybe not).

- Richard E. Grant IS The Great Intelligence! I think I accidentally saw a spoiler for that some time ago, but I dismissed it as IMDb being stupid again.  And the lady running the Spoonhead thing (I totally missed her name, but I'll remember it on a rewatch) reverting to a young child after GI let's everything go... wibble.

- I did get flashes of "The Idiot's Lantern" in this story - but with much better execution than that story had.  I'm fine with it.

- What else -
         - With the TARDIS, you're never late for breakfast!
         - I can't tell the future, I just work there.
         - The Doctor keeps his bowtie in a box (and chucks the fez off to the side - so he finally bought on, eh?)
         - [Chapter] Eleven is the best. You'll cry your eyes out (after the kid says he's only up to chapter 10 - little bit of projection, you think?)
         - Amelia Williams wrote books! I know I mentioned that already, but it warms my little bookworm heart :)
         - ETA - If the inclusion of UNIT at the end means Kate Stewart can come back and be a semi-regular, I will do happy-dance-somersaults until the end of forever!

Last Page - I will have to rewatch this, only because it went so fast and my handwritten notes look like crap.  But, if this is as fast as everything's going to go this year - yeah, they can cram a shedload of stuff into the 50th Anniversary.  Beyond that - I feel like I've been renewed.  A new season of Doctor Who (technically, middle of the season, but it feels brand new) and anything can happen.  We had cozy slippers last fall, now it's time for some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants action.  I want to see more of the new companion and see the lead-up to the 50th and beyond.  I'm ready to roll, so let's get going!

(... is that why I'm compelled to check my iPhone every morning? Creepy...)

Kicking Off the 50th Anniversary Year

[This is me on a slow day at work trying to stay away from New Who spoilers.  Luckily - THERE IS NEWS! *happy dance*]

Rule #1 - Everyone lies!
Unless you've been deliberately avoiding the internet in fear of spoilers from "The Bells of Saint John" (which airs today - hooray!), you already know that David Tennant and Billie Piper (and some guy named John Hurt*) will be in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special!

First off - ABOUT DAMN TIME, BBC! We've been chomping at the bit and jumping on every dinky rumor just for any measly tidbit about the 50th, so THANK YOU for finally delivering!  I'm not so much happy that it's Tennant is indeed going to make an appearance as much as I'm happy that there is actual, concrete NEWS! (hell, I'd have been just as happy to hear that Tom Baker was going to be in the special as long as we got something!)

Second off - Since David and Billie were denying involvement as recently as January, this is my new pet theory - the BBC has probably been in talks with people but given instructions that if anyone asks - DENY EVERYTHING! At least, until the BBC officially comes out and says so (and even then - this came because a bunch of copies of Doctor Who Magazine got out into the wild before they were supposed to. Ooops...)  I'm certain that this will not be the last major casting announcement to come. If you're going to do previous Doctors for an anniversary special, you can't just have one show up other than the current Doctor and I am certain that there have been a few others not exactly telling the whole truth, per the BBC's orders.  Personally, I'm keeping my policy of "Nothing is for sure until the BBC says so" in effect because, well, the BBC finally said so.

Third off - Some people are already speculating that it's going to be Handy!Doctor and not the "real" Tenth Doctor, so they've already got their "Perpetually Unsatisfied Fan" pants in a squish.  While that could be possible - could it not also be possible that Eleven and Clara intercept Ten and Rose somewhere along the Series 2 timeline?  I mean, you don't have to be disappointed before you even know where this is going to fall in line.  And if it is Handy!Doctor - would that really be so bad? I realize I'm in the minority that actually liked Handy!Doctor and didn't mind the Doctor/Rose romance as much as everyone else tends to.  To me, Ten was the emotional incarnation of the Doctor, just like Seven was the manipulative incarnation and Two was the Cosmic Hobo and Three was the action hero and Five was the nice guy and Eleven is Tigger.  So, it made sense for Ten to fall in love and want to be withhis One and Only - even though he still wanted to travel and do his Doctor-Time-Lord-Timey-Wimey-Spacey-Wacey thing (that's a technical term). Of course, he chooses to continue as he always has, but he jumps on the opportunity to leave something of him behind for Rose and - in my mind, at least - it counts.  Rose and Ten get to be together and the Doctor gets to swann off in his TARDIS for more adventures and a new regeneration. Everyone wins.

(I just realized I've never really gone to the mat for Handy!Doctor before. Perhaps it's time I should).

Anyway - alternate universe Doctor and Rose. Yeah, I'm cool with it.  And if it's Series 2 Doctor and Rose, I'm cool with that too.  Point is - WE HAVE DOCTOR WHO 50TH ANNIVERSARY CASTING NEWS! REJOICE, FANDOM, FOR SALVATION IS AT HAND!

As for me - it finally feels like the 50th Anniversary year has begun. And this is the perfect way to start it all off.  Review of "The Bells of Saint John" will be coming tonight.

*Before I get comments and protestations - yes, I know perfectly well who John Hurt is. Stop looking at me like that

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This Is Going to Make All Sorts of People Mad...

Yesterday and today, I've seen tons of people on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else you can post an infographic or change a profile pic touting their views on the debate over same-sex marriage.  Even places where I don't normally go looking for political-type debate - it's there (has anyone checked to see if ESPN has weighed in on the topic? Wouldn't surprise me).  Both sides are bound and determined to paint the other side as some kind of knuckle-dragging demon bent on destroying everything they hold dear.  I tried to ignore it because my view on it is going to have all kinds of pitbulls after me.  Pro-same-sex marriage folks will be mad that I'm bringing religion into it and pro-traditional marriage folks will be mad that I'm admitting that there could be an option for allowing same-sex partners legal protections.  I just can't win with this one.

But with the proliferation of people “seeking awareness” (whatever the hell that means), on the same-sex marriage issue, I just really want to be understood on a few things - as long as both parties are consenting adults, I do not give a flying monkey crap about who you love or who you choose to spend your life with.  I don't want to fight over this just because we may disagree on a few details. My time is too valuable to try to persuade people who are just never going to agree with me anyway.  Besides, I have had way too much experience with friends who don’t share my political or religious views, but who I still consider good people and worth my respect and friendship.  I said this during the past election - my friendships are too valuable to cast aside over something so petty (yes, I said "petty" in reference to political debate. Meaning it's really not that important. Sharpen the pitchforks and light the torches!  I'll have cookies ready for you).

I strongly believe that everyone has the right to choose to live their lives according to the dictates of their own conscience.  I may not agree with what people do, but that’s their choice and I am not the Judge of humanity (and thank goodness that I'm not because I have a list of people who I would smite if given the chance).  If Adam and Steve want to live together and have the state recognize their partnership legally and have all the benefits pertaining thereto, then they are welcome to it.

So, why am I not waving the rainbow flag and jumping up and down with HRC-sanctioned pom-poms?  I’ll tell you why:


About five years ago, I was serving an LDS mission in Florida.  This was right around the time Proposition 8 was a Big Deal in California (conversely, there was a similar measure on the ballot in Florida at the time that also defined marriage as between one man and one woman - funny how all hell didn't break loose after that one was voted into law).  As a missionary, you don’t worry about what’s going on in current events and all that stuff because you've got other things on your mind.  The only reason I knew anything was going on was there were a lot of election signs in people's yards and sometimes church members would tell us things.  As I went along doing my missionary thing, sometimes people would yell at us for reasons I had no clue of at the time (people yelled at us just because we were easy targets anyway - and I paid them no heed.  If they didn't want to talk to me, I didn't want to talk to them - simple as that).

But I remember one encounter distinctly.  It has significantly colored my perception of the pro-gay marriage crowd and I really wish it didn't.  While I and my companion were out talking to people one day, this guy came up to us and started shouting the worst kinds of obscenities for no apparent reason.  All of it was based on the fact that he was gay and supposedly all people from my religion hate gay people (which could not be further from the truth.  There are always a few nuts, but we try to relegate them to the back of the cupboard, with varying degrees of success).  It was probably the most-hate-filled tirade I encountered on my entire 18 month mission (bear in mind - I was in the Bible Belt and met plenty of Evangelicals who were more than happy to go all hellfire and damnation on a pair of Mormon missionaries).  When the guy left, my companion and I just stood there dumbstruck that anyone could be so horrible and say such awful things (and then he turned back and screamed “And I suck a lot of ****!”, just in case there were any five-year-olds that didn't hear him the first time, I guess).

Later, I found out that the LDS Church was being portrayed as on this monolithic crusade against gay marriage and as being so terrible and hateful for it (never mind there were plenty of other groups pumping for traditional marriage and they were never singled out like we were).  So, of course it was okay for people to spray graffiti on the walls outside the Los Angeles Temple.  Of course it was okay for groups to gather at LDS meetinghouses and harass people and their kids trying to go to church on Sundays.  Of course it was okay for people to scream obscenities at sister missionaries who were out trying to share a message of peace and faith and for whom the issue of same-sex marriage was about as important as what some stray cat left on the back porch last night.

Yeah, way to garner sympathy for your cause there.  At the time, I may have been persuaded to your side.  But since you had to go and be a total dipshit about it, that's a great big "Hell-to-the-No!" on that score.

Since that unfortunate episode, I have met some people of goodwill who have made convincing arguments for legalizing same-sex marriage and who are willing to listen to my own concerns over it.  But I've also encountered plenty of people who will spout hate at me at the drop of a hat because I believe in God and they have a preconceived notion of what someone like that thinks.  Now, I realize I can't paint all pro-SSM people with the same brush - just like I hope not everyone paints all pro-traditional marriage people with the same brush they do Westboro Baptist Church (which, they're not a church.  I don't know what cave those creatures crawled out of, but if anyone was the direct polar opposite of "Love one another as I have loved you," they're it).  But it's hard to ignore the negativity when you're honestly trying to be reasonable.

Here is where I'm coming from - For thousands of years, marriage has been a religious sacrament. Somewhere along the line, the state got involved (or this is a holdover from when the state and the church were the same and obviously that’s not the case anymore) and that’s where you get stuff like personal and property rights and spousal benefits and the marriage tax penalty, etc.  But for people of faith, marriage is still a sacred covenant between a man and a woman and God.  God sets the terms and the man and the woman make it work.  It’s bigger than laws devised by humans - more important than a bunch of legalese.  God is the one that sets the definition of marriage, as it is understood in the religious ordinance.  I don’t believe that any mortal institution has the right to change the definition because that definition transcends earthly courts and governments, but I also understand that not everyone feels that way.

Iowahawk said it perfectly over at (read the whole article - it's good stuff) - 

"The problem, I think, is that marriage uniquely represents a religious sacrament that doubles as an official secular legal status. We don't have laws, for example, that recognize someone's baptism or confirmation. Because of that duality of marriage, attempts to expand its definition naturally are seen as an attack on religion, while attempt to restrict its definition are seen as the imposition of religion on society. Everybody gets mad and yells."

Like I said, I have no problem with giving homosexual partners equal benefits and recognition before the law.  But the amount of hate and spew I’ve come into contact personally from those who believe in that cause - I’m just not willing to jump up and start waving placards with them.  Rest assured, I will certainly call out jackholes who profess to love God but still spew insults and condemn others to hell (like they have any right to do that. I mean, really?)  And I have met plenty of respectful people who just come in and say ”Look, we don’t want to infringe on your religious beliefs because we understand those are important and special to you and we don’t want to take any of that away.  But this is important to us the same way your traditions are important to you and all we want is equal legal protection.”  Want to know how best to earn my respect and support? You say that to me and honestly mean it.  You do that and I’m with you!  You can have whatever legal protections and benefits you want!

Bottom Line - I can see where proponents of same-sex marriage are coming from.  I also see where people of religious faith are coming from.  I believe in individual choice and the right to live your life according to your personal conviction (it’s just as essential to my worldview and my lifestyle choices as it is to anyone else's).  So, I’m more than willing to extend that to homosexual couples.  It's the same stance I have with heterosexual couples, frankly - as long as I don't have to hear about it or pay for it, you can do whatever you want with whoever you want!  It's up to you.  Whatever stops everyone yelling.

But if I hear one F-bomb from some jackass who thinks he knows what my opinions are before I even open my mouth, all bets are off.  And I'm still not changing my Twitter avatar over it.

UPDATE: Larry Correia (another favorite author of mine and he happens to be LDS as well) has a brilliant take on this subject.  And I appreciated his paragraph about why Mormons in particular are a bit nervous about the federal government defining marriage (I have personal journals from my ancestors that discuss the time period he's referring to - yeah, it sucked).  I knew this was the case, but it was hard for me to explain it in a concise and well-reasoned way, so I thank him for that.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Redeemability of Humanity

I saw this story going around Facebook yesterday.  I thought it was an awesome, feel-good story (and it's somewhat local to me - I know exactly where this Midvale Chili's is).  But I was surprised this morning when I saw that The Blaze and Good Morning America picked it up!  Basically, a little girl who has autism went out to eat with her older sister.  When the waitress brought the girl her cheeseburger, it had been cut in half.  The girl thought her cheeseburger was "broken" and wouldn't eat it (you have to be very direct and upfront about what you're doing when you're dealing with an autistic person.  They cling on to routine and expectations and they can get upset if their routine is changed without them knowing).  The sister asked the waitress if they could get another cheeseburger and she would happily pay for it.  But instead of treating them like That Stupid Customer Who is Never Satisfied, the waitress very kindly apologized for bringing the girl a "broken" cheeseburger and told her she would bring her another one.  Even the manager came out to apologize and offered her some french fries while they were waiting.  The older sister was very grateful for the kindness of the Chili's staff that she posted the story on Chili's Facebook page to thank them and it's gone viral.

I don't know as much about autism as I'd like to.  My dad's cousin has a son who is autistic (they come out to the ranch sometimes and this boy can't get enough of the tractors and heavy machinery.  Horses? Cows? Sheep? Wide open landscapes? Pfft! Let him get under the hood of a John Deere backhoe and he's happy as a clam).  At one point, we thought my youngest sister was on the autism spectrum and that led me to learn more about it.  It turned out that she doesn't have "autism" specifically - I'm not entirely sure what she has, if anything (it's very similar to autism, but not Aspberger's - that was the first thing they thought of, but it turned out not to be that either. But we've all figured out how to work with her and she's probably the happiest out of us all. I love that kid).  That's about as far as my experience with autism goes and I wish I knew and understood more.

Some months ago, I got to help one of the librarians in the system with a Sensory Story Time geared toward autistic kids.  I'd heard about her program at ULA and I told her I was interested in what she was doing and she asked if I'd like to come help her out one day with her program.  I was a little nervous about it because I do know there are certain things you have to be mindful of with autistic kids and some of the kids that come to her programs are on the severe end of the spectrum and I'd never had experience with anyone like that.  I didn't want to say or do the wrong thing, but I'd also heard stories of families with autistic children who were treated poorly by others because their child had an episode in public and people told them they were bad parents or whatever.  But the program - as my colleague said - was to help autistic kids have a good library experience and also to give the parents a place where there were other parents and adult who understood the things they went through with their children.

Thing is about autism is that a person on the spectrum doesn't look any different that anyone else.  I don't want to say something wrong here (and if I do, I apologize - I'm still learning), but for example, if a person has Down's syndrome, you can tell by looking at them.  But autistic people don't have anything visual cues that let other people know they have autism.  And if you're in a restaurant or a store and an autistic child is having a meltdown, the general masses typically see a spoiled, unruly child and parents that can't be bothered to control said child (to my great shame, I've even caught myself thinking "Can't you people shut that kid up?" before I realize that there might be something else going on there and cut the parents a break.  I've never wanted to publicly berate someone for their child, but then again, I've never stepped up to help someone out.  I just wouldn't know what to do and I'm too afraid of making a mistake and making things worse).

I'm not a really good spokesperson for autism, but I want to know and understand better.  Maybe it's because I have a little history of autism in my family (though, my dad's cousin's son is kind of a stretch), I really don't know.  It's kind of hard for me to do this because I feel like I'm infringing on something that I don't have a lot of experience with and there are people for whom this hits home more than it does me (*checks grammar of previous sentence* yeah, I think that's right).  Besides, there are so many different kinds of autism that just because I know of one person with autism, doesn't mean I know how all people with autism are.  But I do know that the autistic people I've known have been very sweet and very special.  There's a certain sense of joy and innocence about them that I just love.  If you take the time to look beyond "Oh, there's that goofy kid that says really weird and inappropriate stuff and we ought to muzzle people like that" (or whatever it is that insensitive people say), you're going to find that joy and innocence.  And you will be better for it.

What I've really hated lately is how focused everyone is on finding mistakes in others.  I mean, there's a line between calling someone out for being a complete jackass and purposely looking for someone's silly slip-up just for the sake of having something to gossip about.  But the story about the little girl at Chili's and her broken cheeseburger and the kindness of the wait staff - that just warmed my heart and made me feel better about humanity (moreover, that major media outlets picked up on the story and actually gave it air time and server space when they could have rehashed some idiotic controversy that's already been beaten to death).  It's probably not going to matter much in the grand scheme of nations and world conflicts and great divisions in opinion and what-have-you - but then again, maybe it really will.

And if you do happen upon a family with an (possibly) autistic child having a meltdown in a public place, cut them a break.  Encourage those around you to do the same.  Help out if you can.  Kindness goes a long way, folks.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Quiet Room for the Doctor - Review of "The Bells of Saint John: A Prequel"

One week until new "Doctor Who"! And, as is quickly becoming tradition, we have a prequel/prologue/prelude/sample/thing to get ourselves psyched up!


Some thoughts -

- Some folks on Twitter and elsewhere were coming up a bit curmudgeonly about "Meh - I called it halfway through - not a surprise!"  While I did figure it out around the 1:26 mark, I found it very sweet.  Plus, it fits in with the Doctor not realizing at first that he's met Clara before and possibly cottoning on later (or not at all).  The universe simply isn't going to make it easy for him to find her (there's a moral in there somewhere...)

(I would have been very surprised if the die-hard Whovians didn't figure this out. Casual viewers might see this and be surprised at the ending, but we've trained ourselves to find little details and hints in Steven Moffat's stories. We almost spoil ourselves, if truth be told).

- I think this bookends quite nicely with the ending of "The Angels Take Manhattan" - the Doctor sitting alone, being contemplative (and a bit melancholy - let's be honest). Somehow, the companion interjects herself in the story - whether it's Amy narrating the epilogue of the "Melody Malone" book or it's little Clara showing up and talking to a stranger (which she is obviously not supposed to do).

- I also like this because it's a chance to see what the Doctor's been up to since Christmas.  Most of his time has been taken up by trying to figure out how he might bump into Clara again.  That seems like an internal, thinking-thinky-thoughts process - something that isn't easy to put on screen.  But who better than to help the Eleventh Doctor with his thought process than a young child asking him questions? An adult would just find it strange and either give unwanted advice (which wouldn't work anyway) or scoff at the idea or (worst case scenario) call the police.  One theme in the Moffat-era is the theme of trusting children and their imaginations to understand seemingly complex issues and I totally love that about Moffat's writing.  It's so simple and innocent and beautiful - something that I think gets pushed aside in fandom analysis because everything's supposed to be heady and gritty and complicated and dark because that's how adults think.  We've had the childlike simplicity beaten out of us until we can't recognize how wonderful it is anymore.  I think that's why I've glommed onto "Doctor Who" - most sci-fi prides itself on being edgy and dark and that's not my thing (not really). But "Doctor Who" isn't that at all (or it rarely is - and when it does go down that dark road, there's a reason for it, but it quickly comes back).  It's a show about the wonder of the universe and all the crazy stuff that can happen and all the fun you have running through corridors and being enchanted by all that there is to see out there.

Anyway - I loved this little glimpse into the upcoming new episodes and I can't wait to get started! (this post-Gally funk just won't leave me alone!)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Teaching Daleks to Dance - Review of Laughing Stock's "Doctor U"

A few days ago, a good friend of mine mentioned that a friend of hers was in the local improv group Laughing Stock at the Off Broadway Theatre in downtown Salt Lake City (plugging, plugging, plugging...) and they were putting on a comedy show "Doctor U" - the premise being the Doctor has landed in Utah and hilarity ensues.  Feeling a bit of the post-Gally blues (it's been a month, y'all), I decided I'd check it out.  Now that I'm back from it, I wish I'd heard about it sooner and not just gone on closing night because then I could use My Fantastical Internet Blogging Powers to convince everyone in the Salt Lake metro area to go see this show! (they do other shows, plus general improv on Friday and Saturday nights - and I'm sure that they are just as gut-busting as this one was).

It's the TARDY!
The show begins with the Tenth Doctor and his lovely blonde companion "Billie" landing the TARDY (Time and Relative Dimensions... Yo) on what is supposed to be an alien planet.  They meet a lovely young redheaded girl in a leather jacket and red scarf named "Karen" who informs them that they have actually landed in Utah.  The Doctor and Billie stumble upon a sinister lair belonging to an evil alien race that the Doctor has completely killed over and over again but they still keep coming back - the Derelicts.

(Oh - and you can say "Doctor" because that's a generic term, like Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Mathematics - but that's kind of a waste of an education.  You can also say the word "Who," as in "Who are you?" or "Who are you talking to?" But you can never put the two together or it will cause such a critical time paradox that will result in a copyright lawsuit).

And, Ben Franklin shows up and proceeds to play Red Light, Green Light with a Sonic Pen and a Peeping Angel (and if the Angel's wings move, ol' Benny picks up the Angel and moves it back to the beginning).

The jokes in this were fabulous!  There were a few local-flavored jokes (like the Doctor never having heard of Brigham Young University or Ben Franklin's meetings always starting on time - but no green Jello jokes... maybe that was on a previous performance.  This is an improv group), but this could easily be something performed at Gallifrey One.  Hell, I felt like I was back at Gally - most of the audience were well-versed Whovians and everyone laughed at all the jokes (which - I have to ask - WHERE ARE ALL YOU PEOPLE HIDING??? I can never find any of you in real life!  Clearly there are plenty of Salt Lake-based Whovians and I'm just missing the boat.  But I digress).

All of the actors interacting with the kids were phenomenal.  During intermission, some of the kids went up to the TARDIS on stage and took pictures.  Well, the TARDIS was also a stage entrance and the two guys playing Ten and Eleven poked their heads out of the TARDIS just as someone's mom was taking a picture.  Instead of slipping back inside, they stayed and snapped a few more pics with the kids and even invited a few of them inside to look around the blue box prop.

My iPhone doesn't do well with stage lights, but you get the idea.
Other highlights included -

- Captain Jack and the Harknesses (I think that's what they were called) - three guys dressed as Captain Jack, Ianto and Tosh from Torchwood would come out and sing during scene changes - the best was when they came out and sang this song (up until the E.T. tribute portion).  But also when they came out to console the Master's companion, Cornucopia - who to that point had been treated very poorly by the Master - was adorable.

Karen leading the audience in singing to people who are having a birthday before the show begins.
- Cameo appearances from other time travelers - Marty McFly (who is so dazed by flying around in the vortex that he mistakes Ten for Doc and Billie for Jennifer), HG Wells (who thinks regeneration is cheating) and Bill and "Fred" (who flirt with Karen).

- Also, cameos by 4, 5, and 9 - during the swordfight between the Master and the Doctor, the Doctor gets killed a couple of times and 4 comes out with a ton of scarves, 5 comes out with a carrot on his jacket - and 9... well, 9 quotes himself at the end of his regeneration in the show ("You were fantastic - and you know what? So was I!") And then Eleven comes out with a mustache because there are only so many ways you can regenerate a humanoid body (Ten is off finding Billie, who has been brainwashed by the Master into being evil and the Master threw a squeaky toy to get Billie out of the way).

- Benjamin-EFFING-Franklin! Holy cow - that guy was amazing!  The best was when the Master said he was kidnapping the President and Ben says "I'm not the president."  The Master asks "Why are you on money, then?"  And Ben just shrugs.  I think by that point, we were all so hyped up on laughter that it was just FUNNY! And then Ben kissed a Peeping Angel and when Ben and Karen weren't looking, the Angel wiped its face off.  Eleven came back out with a fez and a mop and a roll of toilet paper - because paper covers rock in Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Logically, toilet paper covering a stone Angel will defeat the Angel!

- The Derelict chase that took off into the audience - Ten and Eleven climbed over the audience (and Ben - ever the lonely old man - sat down and started flirting with someone in the audience).  Somehow, Eleven ended up with a box of Red Vines and the cast got back up onstage and started munching on then - even the Derelict wanted a piece of the action, so Eleven handed a Red Vine through the Derelict casing to the disembodied hand underneath.  The audience went NUTS at that one!
Exterminate! Annihilate! Appreciate! Chocolate!
- Also during the Derelict chase scene, the Doctors realize the Derelict couldn't do stairs, so they and Ben Franklin carried the Derelict down and then ran away from it screaming.  Then they went back up on stage and had to carry the Derelict back up the stairs (Ben wouldn't do it since the Derelict had been sent to kill him)

- The Master couldn't remember the Derelict's name and the Derelict's eye-stalk drooped.  The audience went "Awwww..." like they felt sorry for the Derelict.  And the Master turned to us and said "Don't 'Awww...' the genecidal maniacs!"

- ETA: I ALMOST FORGOT THE SETS! *stupid, stupid*  The sets for this show were PHENOMENAL! The interior TARDY was brilliant! Had the glowing-green console and Ten-era roundels and everything!  I almost think they could have pulled off HG Wells' steampunk time machine and not leave that to the off-stage imagination (though it was funny when the Master snapped at some kid who wanted to see what was back stage - "There's nothin' there!")

- After the Big Act 1 Musical Finale (a parody of "We Are Young" - that brought out the lighter!sonics, including mine), the Derelicts came out and sang "Let's All Go to the Lobby".

The fearsome Derelict in all it's glory!
- Act 2 opened with Ten, Eleven and Karen flying out of the exploding TARDY into 1752.  Karen asks what happened to the TARDY and Ten proceeds to say that all will be explained by the end of the show because audiences like having loose ends like that tied up (spoilers - it's never explained).

I got my picture with Eleven!
There was so much more, but I'm going to close that up for now.  But it was a worthwhile venture and I wish tonight wasn't closing night or I would go again.  I know one thing - I want someone to sneak a box of Red Vines onto the TARDIS set for Matt Smith to find and see what he does with them (the Red Vines from this show were still in Ten's pocket during the Meet and Greet after the show).

Eleven and Ten signing programs. If you can spot the Red Vines in this picture, you get...
the satisfaction of finding the Red Vines.

Anyway - if you're in the area, go support Laughing Stock and the Off-Broadway Theatre.  They're a small-time operation, but they put on a quality show (and they're infinitely more affordable than the Hale Centre or Pioneer Theatre).

Friday, March 15, 2013

From the Silly to the Sublime - Podcast Review of Verity!

A few weeks before Gallifrey One (my life lately has been divided into Pre-Gally, Gally, and Post-Gally eras), there was chatter about a new podcast making the rounds.  This in itself is nothing new. In "Doctor Who" circles, podcasts multiply like rabbits. A search on iTunes for "Doctor Who podcast" will overwhelm you with the number of people wanting to broadcast their own discussions of Who.  Hell, if I knew any of the technical stuff of podcasting, I would probably do it too! (on second thought - after listening to my inane babbling on the Traveling the Vortex Gally updates, I'll stick to blogging).  However, it seemed like so many other podcasts and bloggers and even Twitter were talking about this particular podcast.  I'm speaking of Verity!

According to the tagline on the website, Verity! is "Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who" as well as the namesake of Verity Lambert, the first producer of Doctor Who (not the first female producer, the first producer. Period. End of Sentence. No qualifier necessary).  There are six regular contributors to the podcast, but they don't all appear on the podcast at the same time (I can imagine how difficult it would be sync up six different calendars in different timezones on different continents).

Initially, I was very skeptical.  More often than not, a group of women discussing geek-related things tends to devolve into a snippy "She-Woman, Man-Hater" fest and that gets really old, really fast. I've had to unsubscribe to plenty of "girl geek" blogs and podcasts because of the abject hate and poisonous spew that issues forth all in the name of being a female fan (and if that's the prevailing definition of a female fan, I want no part of it).  Because of this, I tread lightly around anything that advertises itself as "A woman's view of X."  That may be a sad commentary on the state of things (and another topic to be covered another day), but I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

However, I actually met Liz and Deb from Verity! at LobbyCon the night before Gallifrey One and they were a joy to meet (Liz actually introduced herself as "the crazy Scottish one" and I immediately wanted to be her best friend).  I later sat in on the "Evolution of the Daleks" panel that Liz was featured on (among others) I very much enjoyed what she brought to the panel.  The discussions started out serious but slowly made it way into well-mannered silliness, culminating in Liz proclaiming the Skittles Daleks were fabulous because Daleks now had careers and she had her Orange Scientist Dalek there to prove it.  So, as I headed home with renewed joy in "Doctor Who" and a desire to keep the good Gally feelings going, I resolved to do a series of things:

1 - Scour the Salt Lake City Public Library for any "Doctor Who" media that Salt Lake County Library doesn't have (I've long-since exhausted the latter's resources).
2 - Locate more "Doctor Who" novels, particularly the Eighth Doctor New Adventures.
3 - Subscribe and listen to Verity!

Once I downloaded all the Verity! episodes available, I proceeded to take in everything that they were saying.  And it was all a joy to behold!  The discussions are very smart and very organized, but always with that little layer of giggly-glee bubbling under the surface that I myself indulge in from time to time (okay, a little more than "from time to time").  You get the sense that all of the Verity! ladies are the best of best friends, but there are things that they all don't agree with (the debate of what episode best exemplified the 10th Doctor's era was a debate for the ages!)  But even when they present conflicting arguments and have spirited debate, they still close out the podcast with the feeling that they all could still sit down around a cuppa and ask how the family's doing (or some such).  You have to admire that in a group of friends, really.

What I love about the Verity! ladies is that their interests in Who range all over the place, as does their experience with Who - which is typical of any sampling of Whovians, it seems. And I apologize because I don't have everyone's names matched up with their voices quiet yet (with the exception of Liz and Deb, since I met them at Gally - and even then, I'm still not 100% sure). But among the group, there are those who remember the first run of the Classic Series, there are those who came to the New Series, there are those who are TV-only, there are those who delve into books and Big Finish and comics and toys or some combination of the expanded media. Are there any crafters or cosplayers amongst the Verity! ladies? I don't think that's come up yet, but I imagine it will at some point - and the discussion will be glorious!

I also love how they utilize their website as an extension of the podcast by linking things that they like that go along with the latest discussion - and also allowing the ladies who weren't on the latest episode to chime in with their contribution to the topics at hand. It still means we get a well-rounded coverage (not that the podcast itself doesn't do this), but not all six contributors have to be present (like I said - syncing up different calendars in different time zones).

My next point is going to be long and rambly (like that never happens around here), but hear me out: In my (relatively short) time as a Whovian, I've devoured everything Who-related that I could get my hands on.  I even went back to delve into the behind the scenes history of the show - including fan culture in the Wilderness Years.  And, yes, it was very male-dominated.  I don't think that was by design, it was just how things happened.  However, what I love about Doctor Who is while there were lots of guys keeping this thing going, when the girls came knocking on the clubhouse door, they got to come inside.  And no one makes a huge deal out of it (the Tennant-fangirl stereotype notwithstanding - and I really don't think that is as prevalent as the jokes would have us believe. Then again, there's a huge swath of Tumblr that I pretend doesn't exist).  While I do have a huge beef with "girl geeks" who use their love of sci-fi and fantasy as an excuse to play the perpetual female victim card, I also have a problem with guys who still think they're in elementary school and do the whole "Ew - girls can't like boy stuff!" thing.  But I really haven't had that problem in Who fandom (oh, how I wish I could go back in time and tell my-five-year-old-Ninja-Turtle-loving-self that it really does get better - you grow up and leave all those snotty children on the kindergarten playground far behind!). Basically, if you have something to contribute that's Who-related, then you're in.  That's what I think is great about the premise of Verity! - not only the way that premise has been carried out, but also how it has been received. Not that I thought there would be an issue with it, but it's just good to see verification that so-called "The Old Boys' Club" has opened its doors widely for all who care to enter.

My entire point in this long, sprawling and sometime deviating blog post is to convince all within the sound of my typing to listen to Verity! and to express some admiration and appreciation for a quality podcast.  I'm sure that Verity! isn't lacking in praise or recommendations, but I just like to add my voice to the mix (and also mention that, after hearing about it in the latest Verity! Extra about the Eighth Doctor's Big Finish stories, I kind of want a copy of Tansy's list).

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Gallifrey One Postgame Show - Part 4: The End of the Line

I wanted to embed this video, but embedding's been disabled. So, go to this link here and enjoy Ed Stradling's tribute to Gallifrey One "The End of the Line" (and see if you can't spot a certain somebody at the far right of the screen at 2:23 wearing her Fifth Doctor hat and taking pictures at Freema Agyeman's interview Sunday morning)

All good things must come to an end, sadly.  But before I get all verklempt and sobbing (in my defense - I am an emotional person by nature) - I have a few more things to talk about in my Gally Postgame, so bear with me.

I haven't talked much about the panels yet.  Before I went to Gally, I made a promise to myself that I would sample everything (or as much as I could).  Cosplay, panels, dealer's room, interviews - if it was at Gally, I wanted to experience it.  But when I got there, I realized that there was so much going on that I needed to be cloned or steal borrow a time machine to get it all done.  The panels are a great example of this.  Looking at the panel schedule, I saw that so many great topics would be covered and I wanted to go to all of them!

This is but a mere portion of the things I wanted to accomplish. Not shown: Autograph lines, Cosplay Hall, Pictures with the TARDIS shell and TARDIS console, Browsing the Art Show, Lunch
Well... that didn't happen.  Some were scheduled at the same time, others were during other things I wanted to do.  And there was that little matter of finding food and restroom breaks at regular intervals (Sadly, the "no eating, no peeing" thing only works for Jack Bauer).  But the panels that I did get to go to (with the possible exception of one, but it was still okay) were some very enjoyable discussions and I cam away with some new perspectives on Doctor Who that I hadn't thought of before, but are now my personal headcanon (making the Peter Cushing films part of Handy!Doctor's future continuity actually works very well in my head. That might give someone else heartburn, but I like it!)

Sunday was the day I decided to camp out in the Main Programming Hall (the Ballroom, the Interview Room, Program A - whatever you want to call it) because I hadn't really seen any of the guest interviews - not since the Radio Free Skaro show on Friday.  Those interviews - holy cow - so much fun!  My favorite had to be the one with Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling where they just reminisced about their time on Doctor Who and told stories and joked with each other (of which the Crowning Moment of Awesome/Crowing Moment of Funny I was fortunate enough to be videoing and had the good sense to keep going even after the set-up story was over and was treated with Deborah's very well-thought-out punchline).  It was brilliant watching two people who were still very good friends talk about something they still loved so very much and sharing those experiences with a few hundred of their fans and friends.

Speaking of Radio Free Skaro - this was my favorite picture that I managed to get. Sylvester McCoy realizing just how tall Chris is (yeah, he is that tall. And a super-nice guy to boot).  It was great.

The Dealer's Room: Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt. SO MANY PRETTIES!  They didn't allow pictures in the Dealer's Room, otherwise I could have shown you the complete and total joy of all that Doctor Who merchandise! (someone commented that this year's Dealer's Room didn't have as much as last year's, to which I have to say that I don't know if I could have handled last year's!)  Luckily, I had resolved to look around first before deciding on buying anything.  I didn't want to blow all my money on the first thing I saw and then find something else I wanted more and have no money for it.  I'm not really big on buying action figures, but there was a really cool '60s Dalek figure (the silver and blue ones that are my absolute favorite - for no real reason, actually) that I wanted to buy, but I thought I could find it online for cheaper (turns out I can't - not just the Dalek by itself).  I did get a couple of t-shirts, though.  And I hit up the Big Finish booth, which I would have easily given Big Finish my entire bank account if I hadn't been careful (as it was, I bought three CDs - I would have bought the Big Finish Companion book if they'd had Volume 1 there, but they sold out).  Oh! And I found this really sweet postcard from the 1980s of the Fifth Doctor! It was only a buck, but I was super-excited to find it! (I like old school, throwback stuff)  Pictures:

And a special nod to the Art Show - while not part of the Dealer's Room, there were some very nice things for purchase there as well.  That's where those fez-and-bowtie Eleven Doctors buttons came from (coming home, I realized I'd seen this particular fan art on Tumblr as part of a countdown for Series 6 - damned if I can find it again :/)  But they were cute and I needed something bright and happy after I made Shaun depressed over the buttons I got at LobbyCon that paid tribute to the Who actors we've lost in the recent past (and these were very nice too)

Tributes to Nick, Lis, Carrie and Mary *sniffle*
Speaking of Big Finish - This is somewhat unrelated, but Nicholas Briggs brought the trailer for Big Finish's 50th Anniversary Extravaganza! (they didn't use those words, I did!)  Which I share with you now - the trailer for "The Light at the End" -

Bringing It All Home -

In years past, I've heard lots of people talk about Gallifrey One.  They say it's like a big family reunion - there's so much love between the fans and the guests - it's like coming home - it's just the best little convention a Whovian could ask for.  Everyone says the same things about it.  And there were moments where I wondered if people were getting paid to say this.  From what I saw online from people who went, it looked like it was a blast and I certainly wanted to go, but I was the teensiest bit skeptical that it really was as good as everyone made it out to be.  Trust, but verify.

Well, I can verify that Gallifrey One is everything they say and more (and no money changed hands. Except in the Dealer's Room, but that's for entirely different reasons).  Even after four blog posts gushing about how great it was, I'm still not entirely sure how to describe it fully.  Before I got there, I felt a little bit like an outsider - much the way I felt when I first started watching Doctor Who.  There was an established fanbase and to intrude on that sense of family felt wrong somehow.  But even before I got to the Marriott - when I got on the shuttle from the airport - I met Gally people and I was welcomed like a long-lost friend.  Much the same as I felt soon after I really got into Doctor Who.  It was like The Greater Cosmos was saying "Here you go kid. This is what you've been looking for. This is your tribe. Go have fun."  It was a gorgeous feeling - and still is.  But it's difficult to put into words.  The entire time I was running around the Marriott, I had this voice in the back of my head going "How are you going to tell people about this?  How are you going to explain why this means so much to you?"

And the Sunday afternoon at Gally, I had my answer.  From the most unlikely of places (for me, anyway).

Sunday afternoon, I sat in on the Mark Sheppard panel.  I'm not particularly a huge fan of Mark Sheppard, though I do like his characters in Doctor Who and Firefly (the man isn't lacking for fangirls, I'll say that much).  Toward the end of his panel, he said something to the effect of being a geek and coming to conventions takes bravery.  To come and wear your fandom on your sleeve and to dress up and talk to the actors and do the things fans do takes courage.  While I appreciate the sentiment, I'm afraid I must diverge from Mr. Sheppard on one point - it does not take bravery to be a geek at a convention.  It takes bravery to be a geek in reality.

Here's what I mean about that: Coming to a Doctor Who convention, I finally feel like I can let loose and be the insane, crazy, free-spirited, Whovian - just letting myself love this show with reckless abandon because I have such an intense love for it ... and because there are 3000+ other people doing the exact same thing.  It is not hard to be a geek at a geek convention - no matter what that convention is (though San Diego ComiCon is it's own animal, which I may discuss in another post).  I can walk around in a Femme!Five cosplay and people appreciate the work and love I put into it.  They ask to take my picture - they ask me to be in their group cosplay photo - they ask how I made it and where I found the pieces.  And I ask about their costumes and they proudly share their work.  If I were to wear that costume to a work Halloween party, people would just think I was supposed to be a crazy old gardener lady (while a bunch of other girls would come in their underwear and bunny ears).  But at Gally, I can talk Who with random strangers and they get it! Standing in autograph lines or out in the hall - we can talk about our favorite Doctors and companions and stories.  We can debate canon and things we'd like to see and how we came to Who in the first place.  We all speak a common language.  With real people - face to face.  These Twitter handles and podcast voices and LiveJournal userpics and bloggers have real names and real faces and they're real friends. And it's glorious.

So, leaving Gallifrey One and leaving my new friends - yeah, I shed a few tears (okay more than a few tears, - hell, I broadcasted that to the entire internet on Gally Update 4 -_-')  But I left feeling like this was all worth it.  The weird looks I get and the dopey questions and the teasing at home - it doesn't matter.  Because there is a place where I am the most normal person in the room (where the standards of "normal" have been thrown out on their ears).  I still can't describe what that means to me, but maybe you already get it.

I still think the Two-Minute Time Lord segment from the Radio Free Skaro show at Gallifrey 2012 sums it up the best - Gallifrey is our childhood and our home:

Yup - Gallifrey is home. And I'm going back next year.