30 January 2016

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During the week I came back from house-sitting for friends.  They were away for six days, up and down the island, showing it to visiting family.  I looked after their cats while they were away.

Part of the visit allowed me to raid their digital television cache for things I wanted to catch up on or see.  I don’t usually bother with downloading things at home so this is a treat.

What did I watch?

  • Doctor Who: I hadn’t caught up with all the episodes of Season 9.  I have been eratic about this.  I felt the Zygon episodes could have been better.  They kept a light hand on dealing with issues of terrorism and radicalisation of minorities which could have been more forward; and UNIT still are used as stooges.  I also hadn’t seen Heaven Sent and enjoyed this episode, placing Hell Bent in context.
  • The Expanse: Recommended.  I watched the first five episodes and loved it.  It’s Engineers in Spaaaaace! An empire-building space opera with hard science as humanity expands to colonise the solar system two hundred years in the future.  As they are based on a series of books I am now wanting to read the first title, Leviathan Wakes.  Apparently the series has been faithful to the books so far.
  • The Last Ship: season two of this post-apocalyptic series.  I liked the acting and writing in this series, and a second season did not disappoint me.  I am looking forward to a third season.
  • The Shanara Chronicles: Oh. Dear.
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Promise? Yes, please, I’ll wait.  Make it good!

Hobbit in Advent

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It’s December, what’s happened?

I went house sitting again.  This time up in Opoho, for friends going overseas.  Unfortunately for them they were going to Paris, just before the attack on that city.  Chaos and confusion on their arrival.  They were able to leave and stay with family in Germany.

A change from Manono House was restful.  I looked after the chickens.  Evans Street is about 20 minutes walking from work, half the time from Manono House.  There are a couple of houses on the street that I would call crooked houses.

At the end of November I visited Invercargill for the Burt Munro Challenge, our annual family gathering.  I will be back there for Christmas.

I caught most of this season’s Doctor Who, not every episode.  I had hoped that when the Doctor got to Gallifrey there would be changes.  I confess to being disappointed.  The Time Lords fought what appears to have been a standing war against the Daleks and nearly lost.  They have the powers of gods and no imagination to exercise it.

I guess Lord President Rassilon regenerated after the Doctor sealed the Master in the imprisoned Gallifrey.  This new Lord President gave the Doctor his new regenerations. The Master regenerated into Missy and  spearheaded Gallifrey’s escape from the time-loop.  The Time Lords have retreated to the end of the universe, maybe not the wisest choice as the fruit-jube Daleks also fled into deep time.

I had speculated on the idea of Time Lord renegades escaping Gallifrey, a revolution overthrowing the High Council’s power.  The chances of this look unlikely from what we have seen of Gallifrey.  It is under the control of a powerful aristocratic elite.  The ideas of change lie outside the agenda of the programme.

The idea of Missy / the Master as an agent of chaos makes sense.  Her motive is to undo the Doctor’s plans, a mean intellectual agenda, the Doctor’s antithesis.

I have returned to Manono House from house-sitting to find changes.  One person who was proving to be difficult has moved on, which has improved the house.  Another person who was away from the house for part of the year has returned, which I find good to see.  It promises better things next year.

My workplace at the Presbyterian Archives also changes.  The newest appointments have up-sticks and left.  After two to three years of their leadership this is a disappointment.  It means changes in the new year.  It may work out for the better.

Doctor Who Series 8

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200px-Doctor_Who_Series_8_boxsetMy treat for Blank Holiday (popularly known as the Day after New Year) was to sit down and binge on Doctor Who episodes from Doctor Who: The Complete Eighth Series.  I saw Deep Breath at the cinema screening, and downloaded Into the Dalek soon afterwards.  The rest I held off watching, and avoided spoilers until the DVDs came out.  I haven’t changed over to digital signal yet and missed them when they played on television.  The last few days I have watched from Robot of Sherwood to Death in Heaven.

Favorite episodes from Series 8: Listen (it felt like themes from Midnight pushed further, and the monsters never appear) and Flatline (Afterwards I picked up the short story Details by China Miéville and read it again).

Disappointments: Kill the Moon (giant bacteria spiders?!), In the Forest of the Night (it felt like a Torchwood episode and didn’t live up the William Blake expectation hinted in the title), and the series finale two-parter (Doctor Who series finales just don’t work for me, I’m afraid).

Thoughts that occured to me during the episodes:

  • Would mirrors be sufficiently advanced to do stage magic in the 1190s?  I know it is a throw-away line, but still . . .
  • It is probably possible for a good fighter to defend against a sword armed only with spoon.  You would have to be very good.
  • If the sonic screwdriver doesn’t work on wood then how did the Doctor manage to blow up archery butt so dramatically?
  • I would like to see a story where selective memory wipe is used for therapeutic healing from personality disorders and phobias than just a plot device.
  • Clara is too easily distracted by the Doctor’s presence at Coal Hill School to be a good teacher.  She will loose control of the kids if she lets him distract her.  A teacher needs strict control of a class to teach, and of their parents.
  • References to previous incarnations: the yoyo; and left alone on the Orient Express the Doctor was beginning to sound like his fourth incarnation; in Flatline Clara was beginning to look like Sarah Jane Smith.
  • Psychic paper is defenseless against a mean-spirited lack of imagination.
  • I was expecting a Krynoid to turn up in In the Forest of the Night.
  • I would have thought that the Doctor has been in enough mythologies to know how to break into an afterlife.
  • There are places where the Doctor cannot navigate the Tardis: the end of time, lost Gallifrey.  Humans can navigate into those spaces.  The Doctor has not picked up on that yet.
  • Gallifrey is in another dimension.  It is not lost.  Missy came from there.  Gallifrey is still waiting.  It’s possible that other Time Lords will follow the same route, perhaps separately; perhaps in large numbers.  What will be their motives?

Reading

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Report on this year’s Regent Theatre Book Sale: Small pickings this year.  No new language books.  An Italian grammar that I picked up proved to be a text I already had.  I have put it into the stack to go to the Opoho Church fair next week-end.  Down-stairs among the priced books proved a couple of finds: Bacon’s Up to Date Atlas and Guide to London, undated, the spine is split along the third folio however it is still holding together.  Also the New Zealand Historical Atlas (1997): the copy I picked up for $8 had a dust jacket in better condition than the one I saw for $10, a good buy.

My comics came for the week-end.  They have made my week-end’s reading.

Dial H: End of this series, the Dialers arrive at the nexus of the shared universes on the Network.  After the end of the Dial Wars it is a shattered world.  They can rebuild and go out again.

The Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin: The end of a six-part story-line.  I don’t plan to continue with this series.

Doctor Who: The final stories of IDW’s run with this title ends with the stories Sky Jacks and Dead Man’s Hand.  The 2013 Special that concludes IDW’s run is a delightful one-off story penned by Paul Cornell, The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who.  The TARDIS lands in a parallel universe where the Doctor is a fictitious character on TV.  In a universe without monsters  (the Land of Un-Fiction) the Doctor goes to a convention, meets Matt Smith, and still saves the day.  (‘And how can parts of my life have titles?! And if I’d known some of these were called things like “The Android Invasion” it would have saved a lot of bother!)  This one is a must-read for fans.  Recommended.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9: End of the Ninth Season.  I need to give the whole season a consecutive reading.  I have already seen flyers for Angel and Faith Season 10.  It has piqued my appetite for more.  Both titles seem to be up and running for another season.  I still want to see a ‘Li’l Ripper’ series.

The Time of the Doctor

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To quote Pratchett, Every year, at Christmas, we are reminded a saviour is born to us, and his name is Bond, James Bond.  Well, that was the case.  For the last few years there has been a new Christmas special on the block, and it’s heralded by Doctor Who.

This year the Doctor was summoned by a message to an unknown world.  Gallifrey? no Trenzalore.  On the plains of Trenzalore, the Obvious Question will be asked, Doctor who?  The Silence will fall and the Doctor has to die.  The alternative is that the Doctor will say his secret name and Gallifrey of the Time Lords will return to this universe.

Nearly all of the big bads of New Who have besieged the planet: we see Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Weeping Angels, and the Silents.  Apparently the Ice Warriors and the Silurians didn’t get the invitation.  If Gallifrey returns the Time War will begin again and the fabric of the Universe will be endangered.  (How the Time War threatens the fabric of Time and Space has not been explained yet.)  The Church of the Papal Mainframe have shielded the planet so none of the big bads can get in.  Unfortunately they are on the outside too and inevitably vulnerable to a hostile takeover by the Daleks.  All the other big bads are reduced to cameo appearances.

BTW what’s the back story to the Doctor’s companion, Handles the Cyberman Head?

The Church of the Papal Mainframe are chosen to be the allies of the Doctor.  The alternative would be the Shadow Proclamation.  While they should have the most to lose from the return of Gallifrey, the last appearance of the Shadow Proclamation showed them to be fussy and ineffectual.  Instead the Doctor is fighting alongside the Church’s soldiers and the Silents.

The Doctor remains trapped by the siege on Trenzalore without access to the TARDIS for several hundred years.  He is the protector of the old-fashioned village of Christmas which lies within the truth field of Time Lords meaning no one can lie, and the Doctor is compelled to reveal his name to guarantee their return.  Sunrise is immediately followed by sunset in the village of Christmas so it is always night.  The axial tilt of the planet must be really interesting.

It’s revealed early on in the adventure that the Doctor cannot regenerate again, the regeneration of the War Doctor and the aborted regeneration that affected Donna Noble in Journey’s End have filled out the count of all the Doctor’s regenerations.  Instead the Doctor has aged so he looks like the first Doctor.  His energies have become stretched and thin.

The Time Lords asked the question.  In the end Clara Oswin Oswald appeal to them, the higher authority, to save the Doctor.  They cannot return at this time, through the crack in the universe, without the threat of a new phase in the Time War.  Instead they decide to be creative and give the Doctor future regenerations.  We don’t see these events from the Time Lords’ perspective.  They seem to act quickly to seal the crack in the universe and give the Doctor the regeneration energy he needed to defeat the Daleks.  We don’t see the decision-making or the debate among the Time Lords.  That could be interesting to explore at some later stage.  Instead the Doctor remains their agent in the Universe — again!  Perhaps he can bring around the circumstances to end the Time War and return his people to this Universe.

The new Doctor played by Peter Capaldi is revealed.  From what I’ve seen he looks less shouty than David Tennant or Matt Smith.  He looks like he is going to be the same energy and bounciness to the role.  Perhaps we will see a more measured performance, a Jon Pertwee Doctor perhaps.

The adventure felt slow and muddled to me.  With the introduction of a new Doctor it ends on a high note.

Comics update

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Having not collected any comics for several months they arrived in a parcel a couple of weeks ago.  This is a quick summary of what I’ve been reading.

Dial H Four comics arrived in this series written by China Miéville.  It’s a continuous story.  Each issue is its own title.  Having defeated the Nullomancer and her ally the Abyss in the first arc Nelson and Roxie are venturing to the Exchange, the heart of Dial Technology.  I see that DC Comics have cancelled this series and it will finish with the next issue.

Doctor Who Two stories.  The first includes Amy and Rory with the Doctor and Lady Christina De Souza aboard a luxury starship orbiting a would-be nova star.  We may have been here before.  The second story has the Doctor aboard a cosmonaut capsule in 1965.  The Vashta Nerada are outside and the capsule is about to go into the dark side of the Earth.

Willow A miniseries as part of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 arc.  As a consequence of Season 8 magic has left the world.  Willow is on a quest to restore it.  Her adventure takes her to the witch goddesses’ version of the Garden of Earthly Delights, and she duels with an old enemy.

Angel and Faith  One of the two titles for the BTVS Season 9 arc.  Another of the consequences of Season 8 was Giles was killed in the final battle with the Big Bad, a brilliant, shoking and savage action.  Angel’s quest has been to find the parts of Giles’ soul and resurrect Giles.  He and Faith have been based in London, in Giles’ flat, with Giles’ immortal and narcissic aunts Lavinia and Sophronia.

At the end of the arc it is revealed Giles’ soul was sold to a major demon and they have to get it back.  They are successful, and one of the results of the resurrection spell is Giles is restored as a 12 year old boy.  There’s some hilariously funny dialogue involved.  It’s like Anthony Head has been replaced by a child actor.  I like it!

The final story is a face-off with the season’s villains in London.  The team breaks up.  It looks like Angel will remain in London for Season 10, which is now full of fantastic creatures.  If he remains in London then maybe the story can cross over the Irish Sea and find out more of Angel’s former life in Ireland before he was turned into a vampire.  I also want to see more of Baby Giles.  Lil Ripper has already been suggested as a comic book title for this character.

The final issue of Buffy Season 9 wasn’t in the parcel.  I’ll save it for a later summary.  The story is picked up nicely and I wait to see its conclusion.

Doctorsday: The Adventures of Grandpa, Sandshoe and Dickybow

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I’ve seen the Doctor Who Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor; and the web episode, The Night of the Doctor.  If you haven’t seen the Night of the Doctor here is the link below.  It is worth watching.

The Sisterhood of Karn are keepers of the flame of immortality.  The Time Lords rejected immortality as a dead-end development, choosing regeneration.  Potentially members of the sisterhood have lived for billions of years.  Karn is one of only two worlds known in the Doctor Who Cosmology where an immortal flame exists.  The other is Sarn.  Who thinks up these names?

The Sisterhood can use meta-concerted telekinesis to make Karn a graveyard in space and discourage explorers.  It is entirely possible they brought down Cass’s ship to draw out the Doctor.

We now know that the Eightth Doctor took no role in the Time War.  He wasn’t the Doctor who ended Gallifrey.  We still haven’t seen what the Time Lords did to become as terrifying throughout time and space as the Daleks.  We are told that time and space was on the knife edge.  I can think of three home-worlds that were destroyed in the Time War: the Nestenes, the Gelf, and the Zygons.  The General mentions that they have used nearly all of the forbidden weapons, the last being the Moment.  Considering what has been revealed has been available to the Time Lords in the past: star-killers, time scoops, prison worlds, and disintegration weapons, what they have done is terrifying to speculate.  There has been mention of the Nightmare Child, the Would-be King and the Never-Weres.  Did the Time Lords raid the multiverse and the Howling for their mercenaries?

It was still not enough to stop the Daleks who barricaded Gallifrey and broke through its defences.  The Fall of Arcadia did not look like that a concerted defence was possible.  It is a broken firefight.  I doubt if the civilians have anywhere realistic to which to retreat.  The Master said he fled the battle when the Emperor Dalek entered the Panopticon.  He hid among the Last Men at the end of the stellaferous age.  It is possible from the Panopticon the Daleks could seize control of the Matrix and the Eye of Harmony.

Other thoughts:  I want to see Paul McGann return and do more as the Doctor, and the chemistry that John Hurt brought to his role as the War Doctor was enjoyable to watch.  The UNIT subplot disappointed me.  I don’t mind that they are soldiers and they make stupid mistakes.  I do mind that they have no character or humanity.  They are faceless.  This is not the role that UNIT played when it was first introduced.  They are the first line in protecting us against the monsters.  For all their stodginess give them some personality.  Even Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is someone for the Doctor to lecture because he is the Smartest Man In The Room, and bore me to sleep.

Final thought: Gallifrey is coming back.  It is simple as that.  It always had to.  Its return will be a story that always had to be done after it was destroyed.  The Doctor saved Gallifrey in a way that was artistic and wonderful, the way the Time Lords failed to wage the Time War.  However there are two factions on Gallifrey now, there’s the rub.  There’s the High Council revealed in The Last of the Time Lords under mad Lord Rassilon trapped in the time-loop of eternal struggle, and there’s Gallifrey hidden in a moment of time where two billion, seven hundred and forty thousand children did not burn!  Game on! Which will it be?

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