Twelve of My Favorite Doctor Who Episodes

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Over the past seven or eight months, I have watched every episode of all seven seasons of the current Doctor Who series. Of course, I had already seen almost all of them, but there were a few that I hadn’t seen and quite a few that I had forgotten and some that hadn’t made sense before because they required some backstory that came from an episode I hadn’t seen. But now that I have seen them all in order, I am qualified to state my opinion about which episodes and seasons are cooler than others. My conclusion is that seasons three and seven are the best. Here is a list of twelve episodes that I particularly like. It isn’t necessarily my top twelve favorites, because I made sure to include at least one from each season. In the case of two-part stories, I counted them as if they were a single episode.

OneThe Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (Season 1)

With the ninth Doctor and Rose

This story takes place in WWII London and features one of the most disturbing Doctor Who monsters of all time: a not-really-human child with a gas mask for a face who wanders the streets asking for his mother and who can telepathically control telephones and inanimate objects. Over the course of the two episodes, The Doctor and Rose piece together the story behind this phenomena, and, of course, discover that it poses a threat to human life as we know it.

TwoThe Girl in the Fireplace (Season 2)

With the tenth Doctor, Rose, and Mickey

The TARDIS lands on a seemingly deserted spaceship that contains numerous gateways to 18th century France. These gateways all lead to various events in the life of Madame De Pompadour, a real person who was an actual historical figure. The Doctor and his companions must save her and all humankind from alien invasion. In the meantime, The Doctor and Madame De Pompadour fall in love with each other. I don’t normally like it when the Doctor falls in love with a one-episode-only character, (especially because the Doctor in the original series was less emotional and less romantically inclined) but in this particular episode, it works.

ThreeThe Shakespeare Code (Season 3)

With the tenth Doctor and Martha

The Doctor and Martha travel to Elizabethan England to see a Shakespearean play that’s brand new. Little do they know that Shakespeare is being essentially possessed by extraterrestrial witches who are using his words to give themselves the power to come and take over the Earth. You see, where they come from, the spoken word has such power that language is basically magic. Since I have a degree in English, I am officially compelled to like this concept.

FourBlink (Season 3)

With the tenth Doctor and Martha

Unlike every other Doctor Who episode, this one gives very little screen time to either the Doctor or his companion, and instead features a cast of one-time characters. The main protagonist is Sally Sparrow, an inherently likable character who is exploring an abandoned house when she finds a message under the wallpaper that is addressed specifically to her. The next day, she returns with her friend Kathy. Kathy gets zapped back in time by a stone angel. This begins a chain of events in which Sally follows instructions left for her by the various people who have been the victims of the stone angels, including Kathy, a policeman named Billy Shipton, and, of course, the Doctor and Martha. The cool bit is when Sally talks to a recording of the Doctor, which has been preserved as an Easter egg on certain DVDs. The Doctor informs Sally that the angel statues, officially called weeping angels, are a life form that feed off of people’s time energy; they survive by zapping people back in time. But they can only move when no one is looking. So when you’re with one, you have to look at it. You can’t even blink; blink and you’re dead. This is actually my number one favorite episode, partly because the weeping angels are just such an awesome idea, and partly because there are so many great quotable lines.

FiveSilence in the Library/Forest of the Dead (Season 4)

With the tenth Doctor and Donna

In this two-episode story, the Doctor and Donna travel to a library that takes up an entire world. Oddly enough, there is no one else there. Even more oddly, this library is contained within the mind of a little girl, which we know from occasional short scenes that show her talking to a man named Doctor Moon, who is evidentially a child psychiatrist. Another group of visitors show up at the library, including River Song, an archeologist who is an important reoccurring character in subsequent seasons. One by one, the group is attacked and killed by the vashta nerada, which is basically a living shadow. Technically, the vashta nerada is a microscopic swarming creature, and the swarms only look like shadows. The Doctor says that they live on almost every planet, including Earth, but are relatively harmless in low concentrations. However, in this library, there are lots of them, and they are capable of consuming people. We are given to understand that this is the reason for the library’s emptiness. Notice that I didn’t actually say that the people all died. But it would be a spoiler if I explained any further.

SixThe Next Doctor (Season 4)

With the tenth Doctor

The Doctor is visiting Victorian London at Christmastime when he meets another man who calls himself the Doctor, says he has a TARDIS and a sonic screwdriver, and takes it upon himself (with the help of a companion named Rosita) to save the world from alien invasion. He is evidently a future regeneration of the Doctor, but he doesn’t recognize the tenth Doctor as his past self. Nevertheless, the two join forces to fight a Cyberman invasion. I will not reveal the actual identity of ‘the next Doctor’ or why he calls himself the Doctor, but it makes for a very interesting plotline.

SevenThe Vampires of Venice (Season 5)

With the eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory

When the Doctor realizes that Amy has a crush on him even though she’s engaged, he decides to take her and her fiance on a romantic vacation to Venice. Little does he know that the three of them will end up having to save the Earth from invasion by an alien vampire who is converting Venetian girls into vampires after luring them to her home by pretending that she operates a very exclusive and prestigious school. To be honest, I think that the main thing I like about this episode is that it reminds me of State of Decay, my favorite classic Doctor Who episode, in which the fourth Doctor and the second Romana find themselves on a planet ruled by three vampires.

EightThe Curse of the Black Spot (Season 6)

With the eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory

This episode takes place on a pirate ship. That is really all you need to know to understand why it’s cool. The monster in this episode is a siren, and I like the way they portray her, and I also like the twist ending, which I’m not going to give away. Actually, this isn’t one of my favorite episodes, but none of my favorites come from season six, so I decided to put this one on the list anyway. It was either The Curse of the Black Spot or Night Terrors, which greatly disturbed me the first time I saw it because it was uncannily similar to a bad dream that I had had months earlier.

NineAsylum of the Daleks (Season 7)

With the eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, and Oswin

The Doctor, Amy, and Rory have all split ways, but the daleks capture the three of them and send them together on a mission to disable a force field that will enable the daleks to destroy the planet that they use as an asylum, hence the title of the episode. Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, there is a crashed cruiseliner with one survivor, Oswin, who has spent the year making souffles and hacking into the daleks’ technology. At least that’s what we’re told throughout most of the episode. But I’m not going to give spoilers for this one, either.

tenA Town Called Mercy (Season 7)

With the eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory

The Doctor and his companions wander into Mercy, an isolated town in the Old West, which is harboring an extraterrestrial doctor by the name of Jex. (Incidentally, it’s so cute the way the BBC thinks that all Americans have the same accent. Usually, it’s an exaggerated Texas accent, but in this case, there is a narrator who has an exaggerated Southern accent.)  On his home planet, Jex was a war criminal who turned people into cyborgs. One of those cyborgs, the gunslinger, has followed Jex to Earth and wanders the general vicinity of Mercy, waiting for an opportunity to bring Jex to justice. The people of Mercy are questioning their decision to protect Jex because they themselves are in danger. The safety of the town and the question of Jex’s fate become the Doctor’s responsibility. Cool cinematographic effects and awesome background music ensue.

elevenThe Angels Take Manhattan (Season 7)

With the eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River Song

The cool bit about this episode is that River Song attracts the Doctor’s attention by writing a book in 1938 New York, which he reads in 2012 and originally thinks is a fictional work. When the narrator/protagonist/author meets Rory, who has been zapped back in time while going to get coffee for Amy and the Doctor, the Doctor suddenly realizes that he is reading a novel about the adventure that he is about to undertake. The title of the episode is an apt description of the threat that the Doctor and his companions must face: the weeping angels are in the process of taking over the Manhattan of 1938. Warning: this episode has a sad ending. Very, very sad. I mean, it’s pretty much the saddest Doctor Who moment of all time.

twelveThe Day of the Doctor (50th anniversary special after season 7)

With the eleventh Doctor, the tenth Doctor, the eighth-and-a-half Doctor, Queen Elizabeth I, and Clara aka Oswin

The Doctor is summoned by UNIT, a military organization that has had ties with the Doctor since the 1968 season, featuring the second Doctor. UNIT has a message to give him from Elizabeth I, who was his wife back when he was the tenth Doctor. (This has frequently been hinted at and alluded to, but until this episode, we never actually got the whole story.) In the course of this episode, the Doctor is reunited with two of his past selves: the tenth Doctor and the eighth-and-a-half Doctor who doesn’t actually go by the name “The Doctor” because he is fighting in the time war that is to destroy both the timelords and the daleks. In fact, it is he who activates the weapon that ends the war by wiping out both sides. Or at least, so we have been given to assume for the past seven seasons. This episode reveals the events that occurred between the older Doctor Who series and the new Doctor Who series, which have been described vaguely, inadequately, and incompletely up to this point. This episode had a cool plot and did a good job of typing up old loose ends in a satisfying way, which is more than I can say for the rather disappointing Christmas special that came out a month later. Also, this episode had a lot of nostalgic value, not only because it brought back the tenth Doctor and the actress who played Rose, but also because it managed to tie into the classic series. And, (mild spoiler) at the very end, Tom Baker himself makes a brief appearance. For anyone who doesn’t know, Tom Baker played the fourth Doctor from 1974 to 1981, and he was the most famous (and my personal favorite) of the Doctor’s first eight incarnations.

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Life and Souffles

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There are certain questions that one finds oneself asking from time to time. What is my purpose in life? Why am I here? What am I meant to be accomplishing right now? What must I do in order to bake a really great soufflé? I don’t have answers to any of these questions, but one of them seems a little easier to solve than the others, and so that’s the one that I have turned my attention to today.

I found this image on google, but it's pretty similar to what my soufflé looked like. Except mine was a little paler and I used a glass dish.

I found this image on google, but it’s pretty similar to what my soufflé looked like. Except mine was a little paler and I used a glass dish.

For the record, I would like to say that I am pretty pleased with my latest soufflé. For one thing, I didn’t use a recipe, but it turned out anyway, which is an indication that I know what I’m doing, more or less. This cannot be said for every aspect of my life, so it’s nice that I can say it about soufflés. Also, it was a very pretty soufflé. It’s too bad that my camera batteries are dead, and that I was therefore unable to preserve the beauty of my soufflé for posterity and the internet.  It tasted fine, too.

One of the appeals of the endeavor to make an awesome soufflé is that it’s supposedly pretty difficult. Soufflés have a reputation for being prone to failure, which is mainly because they have a very high air content and do tend to collapse. The process of making a soufflé is also somewhat more complicated than that of making things like most cookies or cakes. Also, the main ingredient of soufflés is thoroughly beaten egg whites, and egg-white-beating is an acquired skill. But learning how to make good soufflés is an easier objective than, for example, finishing college, so I think it’s a feasible goal.

OswinAnother appeal of soufflé-making is, of course, that soufflés feature relatively prominently in Asylum of the Daleks, the Doctor Who episode from September 1, 2012. In this episode, The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are sent down to a planet that the daleks use as an asylum, hence the episode title.  A human named Oswin Oswald has also been residing on that planet for the past year, ever since her starliner crashed. (There’s more to her story than that, but it doesn’t come out until later in the episode, and I’m not doing spoilers right now) This is where the soufflés come into the tale. During the year that Oswin has been trapped someplace “not nice”, surrounded by daleks, she has been passing the time by making soufflés.

Oswin isn’t the greatest soufflé-maker; the soufflé that she makes at the beginning of the episode is a failure. (And for some reason, she throws away the soufflé pan along with the soufflé, an action which has always puzzled me) But that’s not the important thing; the important thing is that Oswin is the type of person who, when space-shipwrecked on a hostile planet full of daleks, responds by practicing her soufflé-baking skills.

I particularly like Oswin as a character, and have frequently attempted to find ways to equate myself with her. In fact, for a while I used her likeness as my facebook profile picture, and her face is my current tumblr avatar. Right now, I especially relate to Oswin in that particular episode. Spending a few months in limbo between college and grad school isn’t exactly the same as spending a year trapped in a crashed starliner surrounded by daleks, but it seems to me that there is a pretty clear allegorical connection. So, since Oswin’s awesomeness manifests itself in such occasions through the practice of soufflé-making, the application in my own life is fairly apparent.

 

In the image above, we see various levels of egg-beating, ranging from “cheater” to “expert”. I come in at level three with the non-electric hand-mixer, although I’m working on achieving whisk proficiency.

 

Doctor Who: City of Death

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Doctor and Romana

Every time I see City of Death, I appreciate it a little more, and I now have decided that it is one of my three favorite classic Doctor Who stories. (I say “stories” rather than “episodes” because in the classic Doctor Who series, most stories were four episodes long.) In chronological order, my three favorites are The Pirate Planet, City of Death, and State of Decay. Incidentally, they all have the fourth Doctor and Romana, who is so awesome that I named my awesome kitten after her. Also, it is interesting to note that two of these three are by Douglas Adams. (State of Decay, however, was written by Terrance Dicks) This is further proof that Douglas Adams was one of the awesomest writers of all time. True, the name given in the credits is David Agnew, but this was a pseudonym. The note on the back of the DVD case makes it unclear whether the script was team-written or whether this pseudonym was used by multiple writers at different times, but at any rate, Douglas Adams was at least in part responsible for the awesomeness that is City of Death. In appreciation for this television masterpiece, I hereby share a list of my favorite lines, a few screenshots, a couple random observations and thoughts, and expository plot points as necessary. I wrote this over the course of two days, while watching City of Death in fragments.

  1. I can’t help wondering if the line “Help us! Skaron! You are our only hope!” from the very beginning of the first episode, is a deliberate Star Wars reference. It seems likely, given the fact that this episode is from 1979, two years after the original Star Wars movie was released.
  2. If for no other reason, this is an awesome episode because of the exchange where Romana asks the Doctor, “Where are we going?” and he says, “Are you talking philosophically or geographically?”
  3. This music that plays as the Doctor and Romana are walking through Paris is some of the best Doctor Who music ever. I think I like it just as much as the theme, and that’s saying a lot because I love the theme.
  4. A Portrait of a TimeladyThe sketch that the man in the café draws of Romana is fascinating, or, as Romana says, “extraordinary.” He draws her face as a fractured clock face, which I think is a very artistic idea. That’s how he perceives Romana, but what does it mean? The Doctor thinks of it as an accurate representation of a timelady, but why does a random Earth man see that in Romana? And does it mean anything to the plot besides a foreshadowing that something’s wrong with time?
  5. The Doctor tells Romana that the Louvre is one of the greatest art galleries in the galaxy, and she lists various other art collections that are evidently well renowned. It’s a classic Douglas Adams moments.
  6. It amuses me that the Doctor and Romana discuss the Mona Lisa’s lack of eyebrows. Current Doctor Who fans wonder why Matt Smith doesn’t have eyebrows. If I could make gifs, I would make one of this segment from City of Death, but I would edit a picture of Matt Smith into the frame where the Mona Lisa is. It would be funny. If anyone reading this has the right computer program to make such a gif, feel free to steal this idea, post it on tumblr, and send me a link so I can reblog it.
  7. Another good line, from the mouth of the overworked scientist working for the Count: “I appreciate many things. I appreciate walks in the country; I appreciate sleep, regular meals…”
  8. Funny how it’s okay for the Doctor to steal a bracelet just because he can tell it’s extra-terrestrial, but it is ultimately important to keep the Mona Lisa from being stolen. It just goes to show, if Doctor Who was D&D, The fourth Doctor would be chaotic good.
  9. “Romana, I think something very funny is going on. You know that man who was following us? Well, he’s standing behind me pointing a gun in my back,” says the Doctor. And when the man forces them into the café at gunpoint, the Doctor orders three glasses of water. The fourth Doctor is awesome.
  10. The countessI think that the Countess must have a tumblr account. She tells the Count, “Well then I had the fool of a detective followed.” “Why?” the count asks. She gives him a look and says, “Reasons.”
  11. Another great part: Duggan, the detective who was following the Doctor, asks him, “What’s Scarlioni’s angle?” The Doctor doesn’t know; he has never heard of Count Scarlioni. Neither the Doctor nor Romana know who Scarlioni is or what his angle is, so Romana says, “I never was any good at geometry.”
  12. For no readily apparent reason, Duggan befriends the Doctor and Romana after the bracelet is taken from them and returned to the Count and Countess. The detective explains that the Count is in some way connected to the sales of suspiciously many valuable artifacts, which evidentially are not fakes, but the Count himself is “clean; so clean he stinks.” Another classic Douglas Adams line.
  13. End of the first episode: The Count locks himself in the laboratory while the scientist is resting. He takes off what we now see is only a mask, and lo and behold, he’s a creepy-looking one-eyed space alien! *theme music and credits*
  14. Tom Baker“I say! What a wonderful butler! He’s so violent! Hello!”  the Doctor says upon being pushed into the room where the Countless wants to interrogate him. And then, moments later, he thanks the butler and sends him away, then welcomes Romana and Duggan into the room and offers himself a drink. “You see, I’m a thief,” he explains to the Countess. “This is Romana; she’s my accomplice. And this is Duggan. He’s the detective who was kind enough to catch me. That’s his job. You see, our lines of work dovetail beautifully.” The Countess says that’s very interesting.
  15. “You’re a very beautiful woman, probably,” The Doctor tells the Countess.
  16. I remember one time years ago when my parents were discussing how funny it is the way the fourth Doctor can play stupid when it suits his purposes, and I didn’t know what they meant. But this scene is a perfect example. The Doctor claims that he stole the bracelet because he thought it was pretty. He adds that he would have preferred to have stolen a painting, but he’s tried that before, and all sorts of alarms went off.
  17. “My dear, I don’t think he’s as stupid as he seems,” the Countess tells the Count. “I don’t think anyone could be as stupid as he seems,” the Count replies.
  18. The cell“What’s the point of coming all the way here just to escape immediately?” –The Doctor, from inside a dark prison cell.
  19. I love the way Romana can measure space just by looking at it and therefore realizes that there’s a hidden room next to the prison cell, while The Doctor and Duggan are busy trying to escape.
  20. Now comes the bit where we discover what exactly Kerensky, the professor guy, has been building in the laboratory.  He puts a chicken egg in his machine and grows a chicken out of it in seconds. Then the Doctor sneaks up behind him and says, “Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? What you’re doing is terribly interesting, but you’ve got it all wrong.”
  21. I can’t figure out what that thing on the Doctor’s lapel is.
  22. Oh, dear. The machine thingy has a few technical difficulties. Or, in the words of the Doctor, the scientist guy has “created a new time continuum that is totally incompatible with ours.” That is to say, the chicken’s dead now.
  23. The plot thickens. The Doctor sees the evil alien’s face in the machine thingy and Duggan knocks the professor guy unconscious for no particular reason. (Duggan does that kind of thing a lot.)The Doctor is angry; he tells Duggan that if he ever does that again, he’s going to have to take very, very severe measures. “Like what?” Duggan asks. “I’m going to ask you not to,” the Doctor says very, very severely.
  24. The bad guys (That is, the Count and the Countess) have a sonic knife that can cut through glass, such as the glass protecting the Mona Lisa. And they have a machine that can alter the refractive index of the very air itself, which can move laser beams, such as the ones guarding the Mona Lisa. Just for example. Dearest me, what can they be plotting?
  25. Guess what’s in the hidden room that Romana so cleverly found? It’s a bunch of Mona Lisas! Six, to be exact. “They must be fakes!” Duggan says. But the Doctor checks, and indeed, they are real. Duggan says that there are seven people who would want to buy the Mona Lisa. Clearly, Duggan and Romana deduce, the Count’s plan is to steal the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, and then, when he sells his seven Mona Lisas, each buyer will assume they have the one that was in the Louvre. Clever.
  26. Mona Lisa room“I wouldn’t make a very good criminal, would I?” The Doctor asks Duggan. “No,” the Count agrees, “good criminals don’t get caught.” He catches them.
  27. “Can I ask where you got these?” The Doctor asks. “No,” the Count tells him. “Or how you knew they were here?” The Doctor adds. “No,” the Count says.  “They’ve been bricked up a long time!” The Doctor observes. “Yes,” the Count agrees. “I like concise answers!” the Doctor compliments him. “Good,” the Count says with satisfaction.
  28. “I came down to find Kerensky” the Count continues. “But he doesn’t seem to be able to speak to me. Can you throw any light on that?” The Doctor cannot. “I can!” yells Duggan, and he throws a light. Nicely done, Douglas Adams.
  29. “Duggan, why is it that every time I start to talk to someone, you knock him unconscious?” The Doctor asks in annoyance.
  30. Da Vinci's HomeNow Duggan heads off to the Louvre to stop the robbery, Romana heads off to the Louvre to keep an eye on Duggan, and the Doctor heads off to meet a late Renaissance Italian. Dark music plays as we watch the Doctor sneak through an art exhibit, presumably the Louvre, as he goes to the TARDIS, despite the fact that he and Romana walked to the Louvre, so that’s not where the TARDIS should have been. Dearest me, it’s a plot hole!
  31. As the second episode draws to a close, The Doctor finds an unexpected guest in Da Vinci’s home. ‘Tis the Count! *theme music and credits*
  32. Romana’s only 125! Interesting. I don’t know exactly how Gallifreyan age corresponds to Earth human age, but she’s very young compared to the Doctor.
  33. It’s too late; the Mona Lisa has already been stolen from the Louvre. Meanwhile, Kerensky finds the hidden room with the Mona Lisas and the unconscious Count. And The Doctor is still in Leonardo da Vinci’s home, trying to persuade the Count that he doesn’t know how he time travels. He’s just walking along minding his own business and suddenly he’s in another time and place. Still playing stupid, he is. And the Count reveals that he is Skaron, the last of the Jagaroth, who died 430 million years ago. His ship landed on Earth and blew up. “I was fractured,” he says, “Splinters of my being are scattered in time, all identical, none complete.” Interesting. Does this remind anyone else of The Name of the Doctor, from May 18,2013?
  34. I figured it out; I know what that thing on the Doctor’s lapel is. It’s a pin that looks like three tubes of paint. Cute.
  35. The Doctor and the soldierThis soldier pointing a sword at the Doctor is another classic Douglas Adams character. He says he’s paid to fight and he believes whatever he’s told. He reminds me of a Vogon. I seem to recall that there’s also a similar exchange in The Pirate Planet.
  36. We are given to understand that the reason there are seven genuine copies of the Mona Lisa is that the Jagaroth guy has commissioned Da Vinci to paint seven identical pictures in order to set up his plot in the year 1979. He needs to be extremely wealthy in 1979 so that he can fund Kerensky’s research as he works to build a time machine so that he can go back and stop his ship from exploding. The Doctor cleverly foils his plot by knocking the soldier unconscious, in true Duggan style, and then writing “THIS IS A FAKE” on the blank canvases. He then leaves a note for Da Vinci apologizing and instructing him to just paint over it.
  37. “You never cease to amaze me! That such a giant intellect could live inside such a tiny mind!” –Count Scarlioni (I doubt I’m spelling that correctly)
  38. Why are they talking about how many dollars the Mona Lisa is worth, when this is a British TV show and this episode takes place in Paris?
  39. “If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s being tortured by someone with cold hands.”  And moments later, “What do you mean, time’s running out? It’s only 1505!”
  40. Romana and the countOoh, interesting development. The Count is now taking credit for “causing the pyramids to be built, the heavens to be mapped, invented the wheel, shown the true use of fire, brought up a whole race from nothing, to save his own race.”  There are some interesting grammatical problems in his sentence, but I guess you can’t expect one person to know how to do everything.
  41. Oh dear, something is wrong with the space-time continuum, and a voice is calling Skaron’s name across time and space, and all his selves start to yell, “The centuries that divide me shall be undone!” Meanwhile, the Doctor escapes from 1505 and returns to 1979.
  42. “Here, have some coffee,” Romana tells Duggan.  One of the best lines ever on television.
  43. “I used to do divorce investigations. It was never like this,” Duggan says to Romana.
  44. “You can have two adjacent time continuums running at different rates,” Romana explains. “But without a field interface stabilizer, you can’t cross from one to the other.” Douglas Adams was such a great science fiction writer. I mean, this totally makes sense even though the terminology is just made up.
  45. “Can anyone join in this conversation or do you need a certificate?” –Duggan
  46. The Doctor rushes back to the chateau, where Romana and Duggan have already gone, for no readily apparent reason. The Count now knows who Romana and the Doctor are, and he wants to force Romana at gunpoint to work on his machinery, since Kerensky says he is both unwilling and unable to continue the research. So the Count uses his machinery to zap the unfortunate scientist into old age and death. *theme music and credits*

    Famous last words: "No, not that switch!"

    Famous last words: “No, not that switch!”

  47. When the evil space alien guy tells Romana that his spaceship exploded, she smirks and says, “That was clumsy of you.” This amuses me.
  48. So this space alien was divided into twelve pieces. I feel like this is somehow very clever in a way that has something to do with the twelve hours on a clock face, or maybe something to do with the fact that a timelord has twelve regenerations. Which reminds me of Romana’s clockface in that sketch back in the first episode of this story. There’s some very awesome connection here somewhere, I think.
  49. The Countess has the original copy of Hamlet. She assures the Doctor that it’s genuine. “I know,” The Doctor says, “I recognize the handwriting.” “Shakespeare’s,” The Countess says. “No, mine,” The Doctor corrects her. So now we know.
  50. “I hope you’re not making a time machine; I shall be very angry,” The Doctor tells the Jagaroth guy.
  51. The JagarothFascinating… I’m noticing some similarities to The Phantom of the Opera. A creepy-looking guy who wears a mask is in the cellar and threatens to blow up Paris.
  52. Why is Romana helping him? Why, Romana, why? Don’t you understand that it will tear the space-time continuum apart if he reunites himself? Wait, why will it do that? I just realized that his goal makes perfect sense. Why isn’t the Doctor helping him? Why, Doctor, why? Don’t you understand that he just wants to exist as a single person?
  53. Now the Doctor has told the Countess who her husband is, so she’s pointing a gun at him. Oh, dear, she’s still wearing the bracelet, and he just killed her with it.
  54. Oh, I just remembered why Romana isn’t supposed to be helping him. Jagaroth are evil or something. Romana only knew he was an alien; she didn’t know he was a Jagaroth, and if she’d known that, she wouldn’t have helped him. His plan was to go back in time to stop himself from letting his ship blow up. And there’s a major spoiler that explains why that’s such a bad thing, but it’s not time for that yet.
  55. “You now see me as I really am!” The Jagaroth guy says. “Very pretty,” the Doctor tells him.
  56. John Cleese in City of DeathIt’s John Cleese and the lady from The Beatles’ Help, discussing the TARDIS as a work of art. And when it dematerializes, she says, “Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite.”
  57. The Doctor, Romana, and Duggan go back in time to prehistoric Earth to keep the Jagaroth guy from keeping his spaceship from exploding. And here’s where we get the climax of the story. It turns out that the explosion of the spaceship started all life on Earth. Unless The Doctor stops the Jagaroth from stopping the explosion, the human races ceases to have ever existed. Guess what happens? Duggan punches the Jagaroth and knocks him unconscious. The spaceship explodes. The Jagaroth guy is somehow transported back to his laboratory in his own basement, but his butler throws a vase, causing his machine to blow up. I think he dies, but I’m not sure.
  58. Here’s the good bit: All of the Mona Lisas are in that basement, and six of the seven get burnt up. One survives, but it is one of the ones that says “THIS IS A FAKE” under the paint. This, we are given to understand, is the real Mona Lisa that has been in the Louvre ever since then. The Doctor and Duggan discuss whether or not it’s really real. After all, it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci himself. Everyone lived happily ever after, the end. *theme music and closing credits*

Mona Lisa

The Attack of the Evil Interdimensional Psychic Trains

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10:00 PM

Cups of coffee: 0

It’s horrible just how many all-nighters I’ve pulled this semester. What makes it even worse is that the real reason this is necessary is just that the middle of the night is the only time I can get a moment’s quiet. My life is essentially characterized by an incessant cacophony of train whistles, airplanes, sirens, people’s voices, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, running faucets, hair dryers, loud footsteps, and slamming doors. The lawn mowers are the worst. The train whistles are really high on the list, too, and they unfortunately are the one that is still present in the middle of the night. But at least the noise level goes down enough that it’s technically possible to get work done, which simply isn’t true during the daytime. So I’ve gotten into the habit of pulling all-nighters at least once a week, and I think I’m actually in danger of literally going insane. If for no other reason, I’m looking forward to graduation because after that, I’ll be able to sleep occasionally.

 

11:00 PM

Cups of coffee: 1

As long as I’m going to be up all night, I decided that this would be a delightful opportunity to do my laundry. Once upon a time, (until about a month ago, in fact) Saturday mornings were laundry time, but now the universe is falling apart and laundry time has become a movable occurrence. I cannot shake the conviction that Monday night is not a time during which one really ought to be doing laundry, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t do laundry last Saturday morning because I really, really didn’t feel like it, and so it is necessary that I do laundry early this week. So I put my laundry in a laundry bag and headed to the laundry room, only to find to my dismay that washer number nineteen had someone else’s laundry in it. Now, there’s nothing particularly significant about the number nineteen, (in fact, I happen to intensely dislike the number nineteen) but there is something significant about washer number nineteen. That significant thing is that I always use washer number nineteen. Except sometimes when it’s full of someone else’s clothes, and so I use washer number seventeen instead. But this time, washer number seventeen had someone else’s clothes in it, too. I settled for washer number seven, but this is not the way it should be. This is an even greater problem than the new uncharacteristically mobile nature of laundry time. In fact, the horror of this situation is comparable (although still significantly less) than the trauma of finding someone else in my favorite parking space. For the record, I am a Lutheran and a ballet dancer and I’m OCD which means that nobody had better take my parking spot. When they do, bad things happen, and considering that I’m the one to whom they happen, other people don’t necessarily have an incentive to stay away from my parking spot, which is really a problem. Granted, my parking spot has only been taken from me once in the last several months, but it was a very traumatic experience and will probably haunt me for as long as I live.

 

1:15 AM

Cups of coffee: Technically still one. I just poured the second cup.

This is a book I greatly enjoyed, and its title is very relevant to my life at the moment.

This is a book I greatly enjoyed, and its title is very relevant to my life at the moment.

I have no idea what has happened to the last three hours. Well, actually I do; they were killed by homework, a fate which I fear I may end up sharing. But while they were in the process of slowly and pitifully losing their battle against the overwhelmingly powerful army of my math homework, I was not aware how many of them had fallen. And now the three of them lie lifeless on the battle field, and I sadly stand here staring at their remains and thinking of all the potential they had. I could have used those three hours to read interesting books or to write Doctor Who fan fiction or to play many games of Settlers of Catan or to do any number of other delightful things. But instead, they gave their lives so that I might do my calculus and linear algebra homework, and indeed, they died in vain, for I still don’t understand math. Over the course of this semester, there have been times when I’ve hated calculus but been okay with linear algebra, and there have been times when I’ve hated linear algebra but been okay with calculus. At the moment, I’m not on very friendly terms with either of them. But if I had to choose one as a favorite over the other, I’d go with linear algebra. In calculus, I understand the concepts, but I somehow invariably get the wrong answers anyway, and I have no idea why. In linear algebra, I don’t really understand the concepts, which completely explains why I’m not always getting the right answers. It’s a much less frustrating situation, because it implies the possibility that there shall be a time in the future, perhaps the very near future, that I will understand the concepts and will find correct answers to the problems. Or maybe not. Because that’s just not the kind of thing that happens in my life.

 

2:30 AM

Cups of coffee: 2

I got this picture from Google, but it looks a lot like the train tracks I remember from when I was little.

I got this picture from Google, but it looks a lot like the train tracks I remember from when I was little.

I hate trains. This is a sad turn of events, for I once loved trains. That is, I loved toy trains. The wooden train track set that my siblings and I once played with, which is presumably still in a box in my parents’ garage, was a source of much entertainment and many good memories. I have not had many experiences involving real trains, although last year I read a very fascinating book on the history of the Milwaukee Railroad. That may sound like a somewhat dull subject, but I greatly enjoyed the book for two reasons. First, it was extremely well written, and I found myself admiring the prose in a way that one does not normally do when reading a book about the history of a railroad company. Second, as it turns out, the history of the Milwaukee Railroad is a riveting tale involving many interesting personalities, some very complex controversies, and probably a few illegal dealings. Unfortunately, I do not remember the title of the book and cannot specifically recommend it, but I do wish to express a general recommendation for books about the history of the Milwaukee Railroad. Nonetheless, I hate trains, for they seem bent upon preventing me from accomplishing anything tonight. The train whistles have been going constantly all night long, without so much as pause. I’ve been keeping track; it’s literally true that the train whistles haven’t stopped since I got back on campus hours ago. This has also been the case every other time I’ve tried to use the middle of the night to do homework. In fact, I have had this same problem for my entire college career, although it has been worse since I’ve lived in my current room, which has a window that doesn’t close and that looks out over downtown. It makes no sense for train whistles to blow constantly, so I can only come to the conclusion that this is a deliberate conspiracy aimed specifically at me. Unfortunately, it seems to be working, because I can’t do this anymore and will probably now have to drop out of college, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be graduating in less than four weeks. I can only imagine how odd it will sound when I try to explain to future prospective employers that the reason I don’t have a college degree is that the trains were out to get me. Alternatively, I could make an attempt to stay in college despite the train conspiracy, in which case “train whistles” will be the cause of death listed on my death certificate. This, I can only imagine, will both baffle and amuse many people. Many years from now, historians will have long
arguments as they try to guess what exactly happened to me. I will become famous as the only person to have ever died of sheer annoyance.

 

4:00 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

This was the episode I saw.

This was the episode I saw.

They say that one of the main purposes of sleep- and of dreams in particular- is to organize and arrange new information. It’s an essential part of the learning process. Unfortunately, I’m too busy learning to sleep. This is a problem; college is making me stupid. Fortunately, I’ve recently come up with something that helps a little. Sometimes, watching an episode of Doctor Who is a reasonable substitute for dreaming. I tend to dream in Doctor Who fan fiction anyway, so the only actual difference is that it isn’t my own brain that’s making up this stuff. (Admittedly, that’s a pretty significant difference, but I don’t really have a better option.) Also, Doctor Who only takes about 45 minutes, while sleeping takes a few hours. And Doctor Who involves wearing earphones and deliberately blasting noises into my eardrums, which temporarily block out the train noises. (Which, unfortunately, I can now hear again. This is ridiculous; it’s been at least eight hours since they’ve been quiet.) In case it isn’t obvious by now, trains are not my friends. I prefer weeping angels. Maybe, when I go downstairs to get my laundry in just a minute, there will be weeping angels down there, and they’ll catch me and send me back to a time before trains existed. That would be nice.

 

4:30 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

Pictured: An ordinary, harmless train

Pictured: An ordinary, harmless train

I have a theory. As you may have guessed, it involves trains. My theory is based upon two observations. For one thing, I don’t know where the train tracks are. In the course of my daily life, I drive a total of more than 200 miles each week, and I never ever cross train tracks. Yet these trains must pass quite close to where I am, since they’re so loud and disruptive. The other observation is that I rarely hear anyone else mention or complain about these trains. Instead, other people mention and complain about the birds. It’s true that the birds on campus are fairly loud and have a tendency to sing at all hours of the night. I’ve been hearing them for the past three or four hours now. But I am very baffled as to why someone would be bothered by the sweet, melodious tunes of a little bird when they could be bothered by the loud, mechanical bellow of a train whistle. Evidently, other people simply do not hear these train whistles, which is quite odd, considering the fact that they are absurdly loud and unbearably frequent. So I ask myself, why is it that there are trains without train tracks, and that other people can’t hear these trains? The answer is obvious. Well, not really, but I’m going to go with it anyway. These trains exist in an alternate set of dimensions. They are evil interdimensional trains that cross the void into my own dimensions for the sole purpose of antagonizing me, and their whistles of doom have properties that pull IQ points out of my brain, depriving me of intellectual capacity. That’s why I can’t ever get stuff done adequately. Maybe I should explain this to all of my professors and see what they have to say about it.

 

6:00 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

sunshine‘Tis approaching sunrise, that time of day when the sunshine reappears on the horizon and says in its cheery early morning voice, “Good morning! I’ve just gotten back from having a lovely day on the other side of the world, during which time I provided light and warmth to billions of people and made all the plants grow and brought smiles to many faces. What about you? What have you done in the last few hours?” To which I respond, in my grumpy early morning voice, “Be quiet, sunshine. I’ve done my best, and it isn’t my fault it hasn’t worked out. Don’t criticize me unless you yourself have experienced the plague of evil psychic interdimensional trains stealing your brain from you.”

 

7:00 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

At last, there is some progress being made on my linear algebra homework. In fact, I have suddenly found that I’m nearly halfway done. That’s after working on it for the past nine hours, and it’s due in about five and a half hours. Um, never mind, I guess this isn’t such a good thing after all. Especially considering that I have other homework to do during that time, too. Meanwhile, the city has woken up and the train whistles have been joined by their friends, the ambulance sirens and a lawn mower. Meanwhile, I’m pondering how ironic it is that I once loved the song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”. On an unrelated note, I think it’s about time for me to take a short break to get breakfast and, more importantly, coffee.

 

8:00 AM

Cups of coffee: About 4

My question is what the trains want with my brain anyway. I mean, they’re presumably from some planet with advanced knowledge and technology; otherwise, they wouldn’t be capable of mind theft. I doubt there’s any information in my brain that would benefit them in any way. Even I am not quite paranoid enough to imagine that an alien race would do things to mess with my mind for no other reason than to be evil to me. There must be some motive. If I can come up with a good one, this could be the basis for a decent science fiction story. I would call it “Train of Thought”.

 

9:30 AM

Cups of coffee: About 4 ½

I posted this on tumblr the other day for the purpose of complaining about math.

I posted this on tumblr the other day for the purpose of complaining about math.

I was finally starting to think I was actually going to get this algebra homework done, and even have a couple of hours to spare for other stuff, like, you know, calculus or something. But this last problem clearly just isn’t going to happen.  I hate eigenstuff so much because I have no idea what the camaduka any of it means, which probably is due to the fact that I was in Louisville, Kentucky, presenting a paper, during the time when the rest of my linear algebra class was learning what the camaduka eigenthingies are. Considering the fact that this was a couple weeks ago, you’d think I’d have caught up by now, but the book makes no sense and my notes from subsequent classes contain contradictions. I have come to the conclusion that eigenstuff, like trigonometric functions, have no purpose or definition and exist solely for the purpose of making mathematics more confusing. At some point, some evil genius realized that he was so much cleverer than everybody else that he could make up random things that sounded like math, and everyone would believe him, and some people would even pretend to understand it, just so that they could feel clever. And thus was born a branch of mathematics that doesn’t actually exist. Either that, or I’m too stupid to understand it, and I don’t like that theory much.

 

10:45 AM

Cups of coffee: About 4 ½

The morning has more or less come to an end, and I’m about to go to class. Therefore, I shall now wrap up this blog post with the acknowledgement that I have succeeded in surviving one more night without having my brain taken over by a sinister extraterrestrial psychic train. I can still hear them even now, but their power seems to be diminished slightly in the daytime, or maybe it’s just that I can’t hear them as clearly over all the daytime noises. At any rate, the fact remains that I still have at least some remnant of my mind more or less intact. One more alien invasion survived.

Obligatory First-Day-of-School Blog Post

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JanuaryMy college has this thing called January term. Actually, that’s not what it’s officially called, but I can never remember its real name because they change it practically every year. It always works more or less the same way, though: In between fall term and spring term, there’s a four-week-long term where students take one class that follows a more intensive schedule than a regular college class. Still, I’ve always found that I have an awful lot more free time in January than at any point in a real semester. Despite that, I’m not really a big fan of January term. Coming back from Christmas break is already disorienting, and I don’t like the fact that my schedule is going to completely change again in just a month. This just makes it harder to get back into the swing of things now. But that’s the inevitable downside of being compulsively organized about my time.

In September and February, I enjoy the beginning of a new term. There’s a much greater degree of optimism and academic enthusiasm than later in the semester, when the homework load has gotten heavier and everyone’s getting tired. Besides, I’m so fond of list-making that I enjoy the process of writing out a new schedule and re-determining what things are important enough to me that I must try to find some free time to spend on them. That’s not the way it works in the beginning of January, though. Right now, I’m just trying to remember what matters to me and what kinds of things I like to do. For the last three weeks or so, my life has revolved completely around Christmas. I’ve listened to Christmas music, eaten Christmas foods, blogged about Christmas, and deliberately ignored anything that I knew wouldn’t matter until after Christmas. And, of course, I’ve been sleeping up late, spending too much time online, and joining in games and Doctor-Who-watching with my siblings. Before that, I was busy with finals and with rehearsals for The Nutcracker, and there hadn’t really been any such thing as free time since early-to-mid November. That was such a long time ago that I can’t really remember the specific details of how life worked back then. All I know is that it felt very weird yesterday to be in my dorm room by four in the afternoon and not to have someplace to go that evening. I had quite a lot of things to get done and ended up being relatively busy, but it was very strange to spend a quiet evening in my room when I’d long since forgotten that there was any such thing as a quiet evening.

This January, I’m taking a class about relativity and space and time and stuff, ‘cause I’m just kind of a nerd like that. Also, this way, in the future I’ll be somewhat more justified in making up convoluted explanations for things by talking about the space-time continuum. The only problem is that my ideas about the space-time continuum aren’t necessarily scientifically accurate and probably only work in my own science-fiction framework. They just happen to be cooler than the actual rules of physics. At some point, I’m going to write at least one blog post about my idea of time gravity, even though I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing in real life.

Yesterday was the first day of January term,  and we spent most of the class period talking about stuff like Galileo and Newton. I did take high school physics when I was seventeen, so it was pretty much review. That’s good because I’m still not completely better from the nasty cold I had over New Year’s, so my brain wasn’t very focused. The part of the class that I got the most out of was the part about inertia. Of course, I already knew what inertia is; I’ve often heard it defined as “the tendency of an object at rest to stay at rest and of an object in motion to stay in motion”, and also as a word that my father thinks sounds like it should be a girl’s name. For the sake of this class, though, we defined it as “the property that resists change.” That’s just a concise version of the typical definition, but I like it better because the word “change” is ambiguous enough to open up a variety of semi-metaphorical uses of the word “inertia”. For example, I like to use the phrase “academic inertia” to refer to the phenomenon in which it is actually easier to force yourself to do overwhelming amounts of schoolwork when you have way too much homework to do than to force yourself to spend a couple hours on homework when you’ve just come back from a break and have forgotten how hard homework can be. But now I’ve decided that I can also blame inertia for the fact that I dislike having my schedule change.

Maybe my father’s right; maybe Inertia would make a good name, and maybe I should change my middle name to Inertia, since I don’t like change. Either that, or Oswin. I would really like to change my middle name to Oswin.

This is Oswin. Oswin is very, very cool.

This is Oswin. Oswin is very, very cool.

How I Helped Save the World: Doctor Who fan fiction for the apocalypse

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TARDIS

It was the middle of the night, and most of the family was asleep. The house was dark and as quiet as it ever is, but I was still awake because of the fact that the internet exists. My brain had been telling me for a few hours that I should go to sleep, but it hadn’t happened yet. Suddenly, I heard an odd noise. “Is that the TARDIS?” I said to myself. I looked up from the computer screen. There before me was the TARDIS. The door opened and the Doctor emerged. It was the tenth doctor, not necessarily because he’s my favorite, but because I actually haven’t seen that many episodes with Matt Smith. Really, Tom Baker is my favorite, but it wasn’t Tom Baker who was standing there in my sisters’ bedroom. It was David Tennant.

“No time to explain,” said the Doctor. “Come on.”

“Um… What’s going on?” I intelligently asked.

The Doctor“It’s the apocalypse,” The Doctor reminded me. “The solstice is at 4:12 AM in your time zone, and the world is going to end if we don’t do something about it.”

“Oh, that’s right,” I said. “But I thought that the whole apocalypse thing was just a misunderstanding about the Mayan calendar. And that nothing is actually going to happen except that the Mayan calendar is going to end, just like our calendar is going to end at midnight on December 31.”

“Yes, well,” said the Doctor, “That’s true, except that the world really is going to end if we don’t save it. You’d better come with me.”

“Okay,” I said, “but incidentally, why? Don’t you have Rose or Martha or Donna or someone to help you save the world? Not Donna, I hope, ‘cause I don’t like her much. I kind of like Amy, from what I’ve seen of her, and I’m looking forward to seeing episodes with Oswin, because she seems cool. I heard she’s from-”

“It’s Martha,” said the Doctor, “but she’s on vacation right now. That’s why they aren’t televising this. But the world needs to be saved, so I needed to pick up a temporary assistant somewhere. I picked you because my brilliance detector in the TARDIS detected that you, at some point in time, are the most brilliant human in existence.”

I thought for a moment. “I’ll buy that,” I said. “But I think we should bring my sister Nadia, too. She’s brilliant, and she’s totally obsessed with Doctor Who.”

“All right,” said the Doctor. “But hurry! We don’t have much time!”

“HEY, NADIA!” I yelled.

Nadia rolled over, mumbled a reference to an episode that I hadn’t seen, and became motionless again.

“NADIA!” I yelled and shook her a little, but she still didn’t wake up.

The Beautiful Princess

The Beautiful Princess

“MROOOOOWWWWWW!” yelled the cat.

“Beautiful Princess!” Nadia exclaimed, jumping out of bed like a jack-in-the-box.

“She’s up,” I helpfully informed the Doctor.

“Allons-y!” said the Doctor.

“Wait a minute!” I cried.

“What is it?” Nadia asked, already standing at the door of the TARDIS.

“I can’t save the world in these earrings!” I wailed. “Where are my saving-the-world earrings?”

“That’s not important,” Nadia told me. “Come on, let’s go.”

“But these aren’t the right earrings,” I insisted, “and I can’t find the right ones! The world is coming to an end, and I don’t have my- Oh, here they are. All righty, I’m ready. Let’s go.”

So The Doctor, Nadia and I piled into the TARDIS. I beckoned to the Beautiful Princess, but she is a little skittish and doesn’t like entering unfamiliar TARDISes. Technically, every TARDIS is an unfamiliar TARDIS to her. So she stayed in my sisters’ bedroom, and the Doctor closed the TARDIS door.

TARDISIf you think that the interior of the TARDIS looks cool on the TV screen, you should see it in real life. It’s big and shiny and awesome-looking.

“Nice,” I said, but I said it in two syllables because this is Arkansas. Or at least, that’s where we had been. The Doctor was already pressing buttons and pulling levers, and the TARDIS was dematerializing.

“What do you need us to do?” Nadia asked the Doctor.

“Ooh, shiny,” I said, touching shiny stuff.

“DON’T TOUCH THAT!” yelled The Doctor. “It’s a very delicate device with very sensitive components! If you aren’t careful, you could alter the subatomic structure of the transdimensional circuitry, which would result not only in physical harm to you, but also a possible breakdown of the stability of the space-time continuum!”

“Well, sorry,” I said.

“Can we talk about the apocalypse?” Nadia asked. “I want to save the world.”

“Yeah, what’s up with the whole apocalypse thing?” I wanted to know. “I thought that was just some silly internet hype. You know, even the Mayans didn’t think that the end of their calendar meant the end of the world. I thought that’s just something that people on the internet made up because people on the internet like predicting the apocalypse. How can it be real?”

“Because it’s Christmastime,” said the Doctor. “Apocalypses always happen at Christmastime.”

“Are we going to London?” Nadia wanted to know.

“No, I want to go to Central America, where the Mayans are!” I said. “I love Mayans! They’re awesome because they invented baseball. And Incans are awesome because they lived on beautiful mountains and had llamas. And Aztecs are awesome because they discovered chocolate and because they were Aztecs and Aztecs are cool by definition.” I paused briefly for breath. “Also,” I added, “When I was taking World History in high school, I got a perfect score on the quiz the week we did Mayans and Incans and Aztecs.”

“But the apocalypse always starts in London,” Nadia said. “Haven’t you ever watched the Doctor Who Christmas specials?”

“We’re not going to London,” said the Doctor, “We’re going to a spaceship that’s hiding in another set of dimensions, like in Stones of Blood, even though that’s one of the older episodes with Tom Baker.” He used his sonic screwdriver to do something I didn’t understand to the shiny thing that I wasn’t supposed to touch.

“That’s the episode that comes right after my second favorite one,” I helpfully informed everyone.

“Once we’re in the spaceship,” Nadia asked, “what do we do?”

The Doctor“I’m going to go disconnect the stabilizer circuitry in the time-jam generator,” The Doctor explained, “which will cut off the influx of time gravity and keep time on your planet moving forward. That will buy me enough time to sneak into the control room and reprogram the transdimensional navigation system circuitry for the apocalyptic explosives. Then we run back to the TARDIS and dematerialize quickly before the spaceship sinks into our set of dimensions, falls into the black timehole it created to destroy the Earth, explodes, and bursts into anti-time-gravity flames, which will neutralize the black timehole.” He seemed to be building the shiny thing I wasn’t supposed to touch into the TARDIS control panel.

“Okay,” I said, “I totally didn’t get any of that, but now I have another question. While you’re doing all of that science-fictiony stuff, what are Nadia and I supposed to do?”

“Take these,” said the Doctor, handing us each a thing that appeared to be a Nerf gun, “and shoot any Griggerumps you see.”

“That I can understand,” I said, “except just one thing. What’s a Griggerump?”

“They’re purplish greenish lizardy things with five heads, six feet, a few tusks, and an antler or two,” said the Doctor. “You’ll recognize them when you see them.”

“Why couldn’t we just have daleks?” I grumbled. “I already know exactly what daleks look like.”

The TARDIS rematerialized forcefully, and Nadia and I both stumbled for a moment before catching our balance. Loud, disturbing noises came from the TARDIS console.

“WHAT’S THAT?” I wondered.

“THE TRANSDIMENSIONAL NAVIGATOR IS MALFUNCTIONING!” Nadia explained. “WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO HURRY SO WE CAN GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE IT STOPS WORKING ALTOGETHER, OR ELSE WE’LL BE STUCK HERE UNTIL WE BLOW UP IN THE BLACK TIMEHOLE!”

“Why do these things always make sense to her?” I complained. But nobody heard me because I wasn’t talking in caps lock.

We left the TARDIS and found ourselves in a long, white, featureless hallway with numerous black doors and a funny chemical smell. The Doctor hurried off to find the control room, while Nadia explained to me that it was vitally important that we guard the TARDIS because the Griggerumps were searching for it because the Doctor had stolen the transdimensional navigator from their scout ship down on the planet’s surface. More specifically, it was in London. The Doctor had uncovered their plot, snitched the transdimensional navigator, and linked it to the TARDIS’s controls so that he could use it to get to the set of dimensions where the mothership was. That’s where we were now, Nadia told me, and if the Griggerumps discovered us, we couldn’t let them get the TARDIS. They could take it apart to get replacement parts for all the stuff the Doctor was sabotaging in their own ship.

“Plot hole!” I pointed out. “It shouldn’t be possible for you to explain this stuff to me. You don’t have any way of knowing it.”

“I was being observant and clever,” said Nadia, “while you were looking for your earrings and talking about Mayans.”

Suddenly, a Griggerump popped up out of nowhere. Nadia and I both shot at it and it died, but by that time, we were surrounded by a bajillion others.

“OW!” I yelled.

“Did they get you?” Nadia asked as she shot frantically.

“No,” I said, “I stubbed my toe on the TARDIS.”

“ONE GOT PAST YOU!” yelled Nadia.

I whirled around, and sure enough, there was a Griggerump slithering into the TARDIS.

“I MUST STOP IT!” I shrieked, and dived headfirst into the TARDIS behind it, cleverly dropping my Nerf gun as I did so.

The Griggerump was already halfway to the TARDIS console. I grabbed it by an antler and a tusk and pulled with all of my strength, which happened to be significantly less than all of its strength. It made an annoyed hissing noise and slobbered disgustingly on my hands. The slobber was slightly acidic and stung a little. That was probably mostly because of my dry skin. I really wished I’d put hand lotion on my hands before we’d left. I regretted having almost lost my saving-the-world earrings. If I was as brilliant as the TARDIS thought, I’d have already been wearing them, which would have saved me some time.

With a silly whimpering noise, the Griggerump died, and I realized that Nadia had just shot it as she and the Doctor ran back into the TARDIS. Nadia slammed the door and the Doctor hurried to the console and pressed a few buttons.  The TARDIS dematerialized with that lovely familiar sound which is even more reassuring in real life than it is on TV.

“Ew, look at my hands,” I said. The Griggerump slobber was a funny puce color. “Do you have a sink where I can wash them?”

“Wait until we get back home,” Nadia suggested.

“But I want to give you a high-five!” I said.

Minutes later, we were back in Nadia’s bedroom, and we went back to sleep with the satisfaction of having done our part to help the Doctor save the world from the Mayan apocalypse.

I think we’re going to bake some apocalypse cookies this afternoon.

Thoughts on Time Travel and Stuff

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Most movies or books that involve time travel deal with the premise that the time traveler can cause changes in the past that will affect subsequent events and alter the course of history. The movie Back to the Future is a perfect example of this. (Partly because it makes my point adequately, but mostly because it’s such an awesome movie that I just really want to mention it) By saving his future father from being hit by a car, Marty changes the circumstances of how his parents met. He then spends the rest of the movie plotting to ensure that his parents fall in love anyway so that he doesn’t fade out of existence. What the movie doesn’t mention is that, if Marty McFly ceases to exist, then he never could have gone back in time and messed things up in the first place, so his parents would have met, fallen in love, and gotten married just as they did before he went back in time. And then he would have been born and existed after all. But if he had existed, then he would have still gone back in time and his parents wouldn’t have fallen in love and he never would have been born and… Actually, let’s just stop this train of thought right here. It doesn’t matter whether or not the movie said anything about that because the movie is awesome just the way it is.

Anyway, that’s a pretty common theme in science fiction. Just off the top of my head, I can think of numerous books and movies and episodes of things like Star Trek and Doctor Who that have a similar theme. In my all-time favorite Star Trek episode, The City on the Edge of Forever, Captain Kirk and Spock must decide whether or not to save a certain woman (who Captain Kirk is, of course, in love with) because they know that if they make the wrong choice, the subtle alteration of history will result in World War II never happening and Hitler taking over the world. They just don’t know whether the woman’s death or the continuance of her life is necessary to stop Hitler. I think that one of the things I like most about that episode is that it acknowledges the fact that good guys from the future are just as capable of destructively altering events in the past as relatively normal people like Marty McFly, who don’t really understand what’s going on. As much as I love the show Doctor Who, I feel like it often unrealistically allows the Doctor to meddle in historical events without any affect whatsoever on the future. I can understand the concept that the history of the world as we know it has been shaped by an extraterrestrial time traveler, and that the only reason I didn’t know about all of the alien invasions in Earth’s history is that the Doctor already prevented them. I just think that if we’re supposed to think of it that way, they should explicitly say so more often. In all fairness, they do say so sometimes. The episodes Pyramids of Mars (an older episode with Tom Baker) and Blink come to mind.

This is similar to Douglas Adams’ explanation of time travel, which isn’t surprising because Douglas Adams was one of the scriptwriters for Doctor Who. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Douglas Adams neatly solves the problem by explaining that time is like a jigsaw puzzle. To paraphrase the general idea, the pieces fit together in the same way regardless of the order in which you attach them. If you alter the past, you aren’t changing anything about the present because the present is already there. Even if the things that you do actually do affect subsequent events, those subsequent events have also already happened, so nothing is actually changed. It makes sense if you think of time as being multi-dimensional, just like space, with an objective reality that applies regardless of where or when each individual is. If I pick up my chair and set it on top of my desk, that chair is on top of my desk regardless of whether you’re seven hundred miles away or standing right there next to me and wondering why the camaduka I want my chair to be on top of my desk. Likewise, if you go back in time to 1963 and shoot President John F. Kennedy, he’s dead whether I am also there in 1963 or here in 2012. (Please note that I’m not recommending that anyone go back in time to assassinate people. That would be evil. I’m just saying that if anyone were to go back in time and assassinate someone, the assassination has already happened)

This question of time travel’s role in cause and effect is one of the main ideas behind a book I’m reading right now, called Time and Again, by Jack Finney. I’ve actually read it quite a few times and I always really enjoy it. The book offers a theory which is essentially the same as Douglas Adams’ jigsaw puzzle analogy, although this book uses the metaphor of a twig in a river. The basic idea, though, is that time travel does not result in history being changed. However, the characters are just learning how to make time travel possible, so they aren’t actually sure about that, and that uncertainty is a central point in the book.

Douglas Adams’ theory of time is the one that makes most sense to me. For my own works of science fiction, I use a similar idea by assuming that time is three-dimensional. Maybe sometime I should write another blog post excplaining that. It works really well, because it sounds really technical and science-fictiony, but it makes the theory behind time travel so much more logical. If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, you’ve probably noticed that I have a thing about making sense. I’m generally in favor of it.

As sad as I am to say it, I don’t really think that non-linear time travel is possible in real life. (Of course, we all travel in time linearly) Time travel serves an important role in fiction, though, partly because it’s really awesome and generally makes for a fascinating story, but also because the questions that it raises are actually relevant for regular linear time. In your life, you may never be faced with a situation in which you, like Captain Kirk, must make a choice that could result in Hitler’s successful conquest of Earthly civilization as we know it, but you will be faced with choices that could result in your failure or success in something, or that could affect details of other people’s lives in negative or positive ways. Like Captain Kirk, you might not have any easy way to know what the right or wrong choice is. Like the characters in Time and Again, you might not even know whether or not it’s really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but you have to be aware that it could be. Like Marty McFly, you might have already made a bad decision without even understanding why it was wrong. But maybe Douglas Adams is right about everything and whatever happens is just the way things are and we don’t need to worry about the subsequent effects. I say we should trust Douglas Adams on this one; Douglas Adams was a pretty awesome writer.