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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Christmas Movies

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When I little, there were certain movies that my family made sure to see every single year around Christmastime. Many of them were cartoons, like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but they also included others like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Of course, as the years went by and my siblings and I got older and our schedules got more complicated, it became harder and harder to find time to watch all of those movies in just a few weeks, especially because it is obviously impossible to allow Christmas movies to interfere with other important things like Star Trek night.

Then, in the past few years, there have been other movies that I have come to associate with Christmas. Of those, Elf is the only one that is specifically a Christmas movie. The others are only Christmas movies to my mind because of personal connotations, so I have left them off of this list. (Even Jesus Christ Superstar and Passion of the Christ, despite the fact that it is valid and theologically meaningful to associate the non-nativity events of Jesus’ life with Christmas) There are a few other movies that I had planned to include, but left off for various reasons. For example, I only have seen A Christmas Story once, and don’t remember it well enough to say much about it, and I personally don’t associate Sleepless in Seattle or Meet Me in St. Louis with Christmas even though a significant section of each one takes place on Christmas.

With all of that being said, I have a list of eleven movies that I specifically associate with Christmas, that are typically categorized as Christmas movies, and that I have seen many times. I realize that pretty much any holiday-movie-lover will be able to think of several important ones that I left off of my list. But nonetheless, I would like to observe the continuance of this Christmas season (It’s still Christmas until Epiphany, y’all!) by stating my opinion of these eleven Christmas movies.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (animated TV short from 1965)

A Charlie Brown ChristmasThis classic Christmas cartoon is a prime example of the anti-commercialization message that is so prominent in holiday movies. That message has become so common and so clichéd that it is almost a new form of commercialization, one that is used to sell movies and other forms of art rather than toys and the like. But that shouldn’t be held against this particular movie, which I think is more sincere than many true-meaning-of-Christmas stories. So, yeah, I like this movie.

A Christmas Carol (movie from 1951 starring Alastair Sim)

There are quite a number of different movie versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but this is one of the earlier ones and it’s the one that depicts the ghost of Christmas future most creepily and it’s the one that includes Patrick Macnee in a small role, and Patrick Macnee went on to be John Steed in the awesome 1960s British show The Avengers, so yes, this is the best movie adaption of A Christmas Carol. Also, it’s my understanding that it’s a fairly close remake of the 1935 movie Scrooge, which I believe is the original movie version.

Elf (movie from 2003 starring Will Ferrell, Bob Newhart, Zooey Deschanel, and Mary Steenurgen)

ElfI actually hadn’t seen Elf until just a couple years ago, by which time it was already considered a holiday classic, at least among people approximately my age. (Technically, 10 years plus a couple months isn’t old enough to be a classic, but pop culture ages very quickly among frequent internet users.) The basic plotline is that Buddy, a human who has been raised as an elf, travels to New York to meet his real father and attempts (with little success) to function in human culture. It’s not the most original movie idea ever, but it’s one that is practically guaranteed to be funny. Humans love seeing their lifestyle parodied by viewing it through the eyes of a character who is likable, but not the brightest banana in the bunch. I think that Elf is an entertaining movie and deserves its position as a beloved Christmas film, although it should perhaps be pointed out that there’s not much that can be said about it from an intellectual perspective. But in that respect, it certainly isn’t any worse than the plethora of Christmas-themed chick flicks and animated Christmas movies. Elf deserves some recognition for the fact that it is an entertaining, feel-good Christmas movie that falls into neither of those categories, even though it actually does include a romantic subplot and the characters are about as cartoonish as a character in a non-animated movie can be.  Also, it has an incredible cast. I mean, Mary Steenburgen is from Back to the Future III, y’all.

Frosty the Snowman (animated TV short from 1969)

As far as I can recall, this was only among my favorites for one or two Christmases. It features memorable characters who are fun to quote and it has a hilarious antagonist, which are the most important criterion for evaluating the coolness of an animated movie, but the plot didn’t particularly appeal to me. And it’s way too sad. Christmas-themed television is supposed to be happy, and cool characters aren’t supposed to die on Christmas. Are you listening, Steven Moffat?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated TV short from 1966)

GrinchIt is with great regret and sorrow that I admit that I didn’t see this particular movie this Christmas season. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a very important movie. Pretty much every little piece of it is entertainingly quotable, and it contains two songs that deserve a place among everyone’s Christmas music. Granted, one of them is mostly gibberish and the other one is only Christmasy when you consider it in the context of the story as a whole. But seriously, if this movie isn’t a part of your Christmas nostalgia, you have missed out on something that everyone should have.

It’s a Wonderful Life (movie from 1947 starring James Stewart and Donna Reed)

This is probably the most famous of all Christmas movies. I get the impression that very few people have a neutral opinion of this movie; you either definitely like it or definitely dislike it. I definitely like it, although when I think about it, I can’t explain why. A lot of people think that it’s heartwarming and that it expresses a positive message about the value of each individual person, but I think it’s actually pretty depressing and discouraging. (If you want to read a bit of a ramble about why I think that, take a look at this blot post from last year) A lot of people think of it as a quintessential Christmas movie, but the storyline doesn’t actually require the story to take place on Christmas. If it didn’t involve a holiday, it wouldn’t have been as popular, but the basic plot would have been the same, so I don’t see that as a reason to like this movie specifically. I suppose it wins some bonus points for the likability of most of the characters and the believability of their lives. And part of my personal penchant for this movie probably comes from the fantastical and almost science-fiction-like nature of the alternate-world part, even though the characters don’t describe it as an alternate world. Those factors do give it some basis for its reputation, but I still can’t exactly explain what sets it so far ahead of so many other great movies.

On a completely random note, I’ve always been intrigued by that bit at the end, where George tells Mary that she has no idea what happened to him, and she starts to say the same thing back to him. After watching this movie twenty gazillion times over the course of my life, I have had to conclude that she is simply referring to the fact that she has found out that the entire population of the town is glad to do whatever they can to help George in his time of need. But I want to think that she, like George, has had some abnormal and supernatural experience, and that the moviemakers deliberately left it up to our imagination to figure out what exactly happened to her.

Little Drummer Boy (animated TV short from 1968)

This one wasn’t particularly a favorite of mine. When I was younger, this was one that I was usually willing to miss if necessary. It’s a fairly short animated movie that leads up to a depiction of the scenario in the song. To be honest, I don’t even remember much of the plot except that I seem to recall that it’s actually pretty emotional; I think the little drummer boy was orphaned and enslaved, or something like that.

Miracle on 34th Street (movie from 1947 starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwen, and Natalie Wood)

Miracle on 34th streetI always have thought of this as a Thanksgiving movie rather than a Christmas movie, but it’s about Santa Claus and it ends on Christmas day, so we’ll count it as a Christmas movie for the purpose of this list. I enjoy it largely because I like the characters, especially Susan. But it’s really an awfully hokey movie. The basic point of the movie is to communicate the value of belief and imagination, but it links the two to such an extent that it equates not believing in Santa Claus with having a pessimistic attitude and an unhealthy inability to trust people. Of course, as in watching every movie, the viewers are supposed to suspend their disbelief and imagine that all of the characters are real, which, in this case, includes Santa Claus. Within this story, Santa Claus is a real person even though most adults don’t believe in his existence. But still, I would argue that either in real life or in a relatively lifelike fictional setting, a person can be practical and unimaginative without being cynical.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (animated TV movie from 1964)

This is a delightful movie except that it has bad music. That Silver and Gold song that the snowman sings is incredibly boring and adds absolutely nothing to the plot. A Holly Jolly Christmas is one of the most annoying Christmas songs of all time. I think it came in at #4 the year that my sisters and I actually made a top ten list of annoying Christmas songs, and it might have come even higher than that if I’d been making the list myself. Aside from the title song, those are the only two I even remember, so the others must not have been anything special, either. The best thing about this movie, of course, is the Abominable Snowman. That needs no explanation; Abominable Snowmen are automatically cool.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (animated TV movie from 1970)

It’s been quite a number of years since I’ve seen this one, but I recall that when I was little, it was one of my very favorites. It describes Kris Kringle’s early life, and offers a backstory for various aspects of the Santa Claus tradition. Also, the Winter Warlock was almost as cool as the Abominable Snowman. (There’s something about the genre of children’s Christmas television that automatically leads to awesome antagonists) And Burgermeister Meisterburger was pretty entertaining, too.

White Christmas (movie from 1954 starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen)

White ChristmasThe first time I saw White Christmas was probably around 2004 or 2005, and it doesn’t carry the same nostalgic connotations for me that it does for a lot of people. I’ve still only seen it a few times. My opinion is that it’s a fairly good movie that is fairly enjoyable, but it doesn’t especially stand out as a particularly great movie, either within the genre of Christmas movies or the genre of musicals. (Even though it does have Danny Kaye, and Danny Kaye is cool, y’all. Also, I really like Vera-Ellen in this movie and I presume that I would enjoy seeing her in her other movies, too.) Probably my favorite part of it is the song and dance The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing near the beginning. And that part of the movie has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.

Things I’ve Learned From Watching The Big Bang Theory

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The Big Bang Theory 1I can’t remember exactly when I first became aware of the TV show The Big Bang Theory, except that it was at some point during spring semester my junior year. (That is to say, last year) I also don’t remember exactly what I saw first, except that I know I saw a lot of short clips on youtube long before I ever saw a full episode. In fact, I still haven’t seen many full episodes beyond the first season. I enjoy The Big Bang Theory for two reasons: the characters and the nerdiness. The main characters are all unrealistic enough to be ridiculous while still being realistic enough to be relatable, which is a combination that maximizes the humor. Sheldon Cooper, for example, is more socially inept and more obsessive than anyone in real life could possibly be, but there are at least a couple moments in nearly every episode where he says or does something that is exactly the kind of thing that I would say or do, or where he seems exactly like certain people I know. That fact actually has to do with both of my reasons for liking The Big Bang Theory; the fact that I find Sheldon relatable just goes to show that I’m a nerd and that the nerdiness is the real reason that I like the show.

The Big Bang Theory 3The problem with The Big Bang Theory, though, is that it’s kind of inappropriate. Not only is there often some obscene humor, but the plotlines themselves are often pretty raunchy. It’s annoying enough when you’re watching something that contains a lot of sexual innuendos, but it’s pretty hard to ignore when the story itself revolves around the characters’ promiscuity. I know that The Big Bang Theory isn’t exactly X-rated and that it might sound a bit prudish to find it offensive, but I think it’s pretty sad that our culture is so accepting of obscenity that it can be considered prudish to be disturbed by it.

My point here is that, even though I enjoy The Big Bang Theory, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.  However, I don’t regret the fact that I’ve watched a good deal of it. I would here like to offer a list of random nerdy trivia that I have picked up from The Big Bang Theory. This list comes entirely from season one and only contains facts that I didn’t already know. (For example, I felt no need to include the fact that tomatoes are technically a fruit.) It also omits all of the physics stuff that admittedly went over my head. Most of the items on this list are direct quotations; those that are paraphrased are the ones that I didn’t put in quotation marks. Also, it is worth noting that I was too lazy to look up any of these facts yet (even though that had been my intention when I started making this list) so it’s possible that some of them were fabricated by the scriptwriters.

1. “If the height of a single step is off by as little as two millimeters, most people will trip.”- Sheldon

2. “Curry is a natural laxative.” –Leonard

3. “Thailand has had the fork since the latter half of the 19th century. Interestingly, they don’t actually put the fork in their mouths; they use it to put the food on a spoon, which then goes into their mouth.” –Sheldon

4. “Evolution has made women sensitive to high-pitched noises as they sleep so that they’ll be roused by a crying baby. If you want to avoid waking her, speak in a lower register.” (Note: I kind of cheated by putting this one on the list, because I’d actually heard it before)

5. The development of the atomic bomb was in part due to someone named Oppenheimer, who regretted his involvement in the creation of such a weapon.  –Leonard

6. “You can’t prove string theory. At best, you can say, ‘Hey look! My idea has an inherent logical consistency!’ “- Leonard (Note: I kind of cheated on this one, too, because technically it’s not really a fact. It’s just a quotation I like that happens to be about a specific scientific theory.)

7. There are only eight consonants in the Hawaiian language. –Sheldon

8. “A serape is open at the sides; a poncho is closed.” –Sheldon (Note: Actually, I knew this one, too.)

9. “When you start a party at seven, no one actually shows up at seven.” –Penny (Note: It’s really sad that I picked up a fact of commonly accepted social conventions from a TV show that is largely defined by the fact that the characters have a poor understanding of commonly accepted social conventions.)

10. “A bed is oriented with the headboard away from the door. It serves the ancient imperative of protecting oneself against marauders.”- Sheldon (Note: I have always instinctively followed this rule whenever possible, and now, thanks to TV, I know why.)

11. The phrase sleep tight “refers to the early construction of beds, which featured a mattress suspended on interlocking ropes which would occasionally…” –Leonard (Note: It disappoints me that Leonard doesn’t actually finish the sentence, because I was genuinely curious. I presume that the following words would have something to do with the ropes either breaking or stretching.)

12. “Indian parents continue to have a greater than average involvement in their children’s love lives.” –Sheldon

13. The brain chemistry of white mice is actually more similar to that of humans than is the brain chemistry of guinea pigs. –Sheldon

14. Dentists have an extremely high suicide rate. –Raj

15. “Gram for gram, no animal exceeds the relative fighting strength of the army ant.” –Shldon

16. “In a proper sandwich, the cheese is adjacent to the bread in order to create a moisture barrier against the lettuce.” –Sheldon

17. Bertram Forer, in 1948, conducted research to debunk astrology. –Sheldon

18. “Starch absorbs fluid, which reduces the amount of vomit available for violent expulsion.” -Sheldon

The Big Bang Theory 2

Bonus Interesting Metaphors:

1.When Penny said that she both hated and loved her ex-boyfriend, Leonard equated this with the paradox that light acts both as a wave and a particle.

2. When both Penny and Leonard ask Sheldon for advice about whether or not they should go through with their date, Sheldon compares their uncertainty about the future of their relationship with the uncertainty described in the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment. (Here is a link to a blog post I wrote a few months ago that described Schrodinger’s Cat)

This concludes my list. Just for the fun of it, I might make similar lists for later seasons, if I find the time to watch them.