A Facebook Doctor Who Survey

Over the weekend a Doctor Who preferences survey wormed its way around Facebook — what do you like, what don’t you like, what’s overrated, what’s underrated. Seemed like fun. Here are my answers, and if you have comments on any of my choices, leave them at the bottom —

DOCTOR WHO SURVEY

FAVOURITE TV DOCTOR: The War Doctor.

FAVOURITE AUDIO DOCTOR: The sixth Doctor.

FAVOURITE COMIC STRIP DOCTOR: The fifth Doctor.

FAVOURITE NOVELS DOCTOR: The eighth Doctor.

BEST TV DOCTOR WE NEVER HAD: Hugh Grant. Series 1 would have been vastly different with Grant instead of Christopher Eccleston, but damn, I would have liked to see it.

FAVOURITE TV COMPANION: Sarah Jane Smith.

FAVOURITE AUDIO COMPANION: Charlotte Pollard.

FAVOURITE BOOKS COMPANION: Fitz Kreiner.

FAVOURITE COMIC STRIP COMPANION: Izzy Sinclair.

MOST UNDERRATED DOCTOR: The third Doctor.

MOST UNDERRATED COMPANION: Steven.

FAVOURITE CLASSIC SERIES STORY: “Pyramids of Mars.”

LEAST FAVOURITE CLASSIC SERIES STORY: “The Mark of the Rani.”

GUILTY PLEASURE CLASSIC SERIES STORY: “Planet of the Daleks.”

MOST UNDERRATED CLASSIC SERIES STORY: “Battlefield.”

MOST OVERRATED CLASSIC SERIES STORY: “Tomb of the Cybermen.”

FAVOURITE NEW SERIES STORY: “The Girl in the Fireplace.”

LEAST FAVOURITE NEW SERIES STORY: “In the Forest of the Night.”

GUILTY PLEASURE NEW SERIES STORY: “Planet of the Dead.”

MOST UNDERRATED NEW SERIES STORY: “Nightmare in Silver.”

MOST OVERRATED NEW SERIES STORY: This one was hard, and it’s either “The Doctor’s Wife” or “The Waters of Mars,” depending on my mood that day.

FAVOURITE AUDIO STORY: “Doctor Who and The Monopoly Pub Crawl of Doom.”

LEAST FAVOURITE AUDIO STORY: “Zagreus.”

GUILTY PLEASURE AUDIO STORY: “The Holy Terror.”

MOST UNDERRATED AUDIO STORY: “Death Comes to Time.”

FAVOURITE COMIC STRIP STORY: “The Land of Happy Endings.”

LEAST FAVOURITE COMIC STRIP STORY: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2.

GUILTY PLEASURE COMIC STRIP STORY: “Abslom Daak… Dalek Killer.”

MOST UNDERRATED COMIC STRIP STORY: Winter’s Dawn, Season’s End.

FAVOURITE NOVEL: The Infinity Doctors.

LEAST FAVOURITE NOVEL: Legacy of the Daleks.

GUILTY PLEASURE NOVEL: The Coming of the Terraphiles.

MOST UNDERRATED NOVEL: Asylum.

FAVOURITE SHORT STORY: None spring to mind.

LEAST FAVOURITE SHORT STORY: None spring to mind.

GUILTY PLEASURE SHORT STORY: None spring to mind.

MOST UNDERRATED SHORT STORY: None spring to mind.

FAVOURITE TARDIS INTERIOR: The 1996 Gothic Cathedral

LEAST FAVOURITE TARDIS INTERIOR: The Pertwee era.

FAVOURITE MONSTER: Ice Warriors.

LEAST FAVOURITE MONSTER: None spring to mind.

FAVOURITE REGENERATION SCENE: “The Caves of Androzani.”

LEAST FAVOURITE REGENERATION SCENE: “The End of Time, Part Two.”

FAVOURITE DOCTOR DEBUT STORY: “The Eleventh Hour.”

LEAST FAVOURITE DOCTOR DEBUT STORY: “The Twin Dilemma.”

FAVOURITE MULTI-DOCTOR STORY: Cold Fusion.

LEAST FAVOURITE MULTI-DOCTOR STORY: Prisoners of Time.

FAVOURITE UNIT STORY: “The Invasion.”

LEAST FAVOURITE UNIT STORY: “The Android Invasion.”

FAVOURITE PLANET NAME: Trenzalore.

FAVOURITE MASTER: Sir Derek Jacobi (“Utopia”).

LEAST FAVOURITE MASTER: Eric Roberts.

FAVOURITE DALEK STORY: “Evil of the Daleks.”

LEAST FAVOURITE DALEK STORY: “Into the Dalek.”

FAVOURITE CYBERMAN STORY: “Earthshock.”

LEAST FAVOURITE CYBERMAN STORY: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2.

CHARACTER WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN A COMPANION: Princess Mary from The Tudors, as played by Sarah Bolger.

COMPANION WHO SHOULD NOT HAVE JOINED THE TARDIS: The Ben & Polly team. I have no real affection for either.

WHO SHOULD PLAY THE 13th DOCTOR?: Romola Garai or Laura Carmichael.

The Fourth Doctor and the Curator: What’s the Connection?

Earlier this week, Lance Parkin and Lars Pearson’s Unhistory, a chronology of the apocryphal (and sometimes impossible) Doctor Who stories, was released as an ebook. Like the previous Ahistory (a chronology of the “real” Doctor Who), Unhistory has essays on various topics that deserve greater exploration and insight. Notably, Unhistory has an essay titled “Old Tom,” an exploration of the white-haired Doctor portrayed by Tom Baker in the video release of “Shada,” a series of New Zealand television commercials, and “The Day of the Doctor.”

Unhistory explores three possibilities — this Doctor is a future Doctor (a possibility that Unhistory dismisses for a variety of reasons), this Doctor is a ghost of the fourth Doctor created as a byproduct of the Watcher’s influence in “Logopolis,” or this Doctor was resurrected by the Time Lords during the Time War (much as they did with the Master) when the eighth Doctor wanted nothing to do with the conflict.

I was musing on these possibilities this morning while I was drinking my coffee, when my brain wasn’t quite in gear. And I had an insight. “Old Tom” may explain how the Doctor both has and doesn’t have pre-Hartnell incarnations.

“The Brain of Morbius” shows that the Doctor’s life didn’t begin with William Hartnell’s Doctor. We see that the Doctor had eight lives before Hartnell, and Hartnell was the ninth Doctor, making Tom Baker the twelfth incarnation. This then became a data point that Doctor Who then dismissed; Peter Davison is clearly several times the Doctor’s fifth incarnation. At one point in time, William Hartnell, though he was the first actor we saw as the Doctor in Doctor Who, Hartnell wasn’t the first Doctor. But, then Hartnell was both the first actor to play the Doctor and the first Doctor. How did this happen? How can both be true?

Here’s my hypothesis.

During the Time War, the Time Lords didn’t so much resurrect the fourth Doctor to act as their agent as they pulled him out of time and duplicated him.

Perhaps the Time Lords couldn’t resurrect the fourth Doctor because the Doctor was still alive, so they had to do something else, something desperate — they found a point in the Doctor’s life (perhaps when he was timescooped and trapped in time during “Shada”/”The Five Doctors” — a result not of a faulty Time Scoop but the War-era Time Lords intercepting the Time Scoop) and, to duplicate him, they took his biodata and overwrote it onto another Time Lord’s life, transforming this sacrificial Time Lord into the fourth Doctor and, as far as he’s aware from this point forward, mentally and biologically he always was and is the Doctor.

But, this process also truncated the duplicate Doctor’s life; perhaps it used a regeneration cycle (or three) of the sacrificial Time Lord in their efforts to transform him into the Doctor. As a result, the Doctor, who had been in his twelfth incarnation when he was taken out of time and duplicated, is duplicated into a Time Lord who was only in his fourth. And so, the duplicated Doctor only remembers his preceeding three lives with any certainty and things before that uncertainly or not at all.

Now, this is where it gets tricky or strange.

The “real” fourth Doctor would be the one who fights the Time War, introduces “Shada,” and eventually retires to become the Curator of the Undergallery. If the Time Lords went to this end to pull the Doctor into the Time War, they would want to make sure they had the “real” deal. This Doctor would remember his pre-Hartnell lives with great detail.

The “duplicated” Doctor, then, is the one who was freed from the Time Scoop, continued to travel with Romana, regenerated into Peter Davison, and so on. When he meets his wife, Patience, after his regeneration, it’s no puzzle why he can’t entirely remember her; his memories of his pre-Hartnell lives don’t really exist for him anymore. He may suspect at times that part of his life is gone, but eventually his mind forges false memories to cover over the gaps, and as far as he’s concerned his life always and ever only began with William Hartnell’s Doctor, and when Matt Smith rolls around he is legitimately the thirteenth and final incarnation of this Doctor’s cycle of regenerations.

None of this means that the Doctor we’ve followed on Doctor Who since “Shada” is a different Doctor than we saw before. A difference that makes no difference is no difference, and as far as the Doctor is concerned, as far as biology is concerned, as far as the universe and history is concerned, there’s no difference to who he is, even though he’s been duplicated by desperate Time Lords far in his future.

As strange, weird, and downright niche this is, this hypothesis feels intuitively right to me. Of course, there’s no way to test this hypothesis, but now I can imagine a multi-Doctor story set during the Time War with an older, white-haired fourth Doctor and the War Doctor, perhaps still in his relative youth after his regeneration.

Things I’ve Been Reading: “Terror of the Cabinet Noir”

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #11-13
Titan Comics
Written by Robbie Morrison
Art by Mariano Laclaustra with Fer Centurion and Agus Calcagno

Cover to Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #11This week, Titan Comics wrapped up a storyline in the twelfth Doctor comics, “Terror of the Cabinet Noir.”

Paris, 1695. Cardinal Richelieu seems to be immortal, and there’s a darkness permeating French society. While the public awaits a celebration of the Sun King, the upper classes are taken by an enchanting twenty-two-year-old opera soprano, one who is as quick with the sword and an insult as she is with a song. Her name is Julie d’Aubigny, and when she crosses swords with the Doctor in the streets of Paris she embarks on a wild adventure that involves Dark Matter invading our world and possessing Richelieu, making him both near-immortal and near-omnipotent.

Julie d’Aubigny is one of history’s notorious badasses, a bisexual opera singer and swordswoman who lived fast, fought hard, and died young. Robbie Morrison’s script for “Terror of the Cabinet Noir” doesn’t shy away from her unsavory history; issue #11 features a four-page flashback to Julie’s childhood, her arranged marriage, her love for another woman that led her to join a convent just so she could kidnap her paramour and run off with her, and her skill with the sword. She’s an incredibly headstrong and self-confident woman, the smartest person in the room and one who doesn’t suffer fools at all, quite capable of defending herself with her snark and her sword, and when she steps in the TARDIS at the end of issue #11 she doesn’t have time for the usual “It’s bigger on the inside” nonsense.

Despite a rushed ending in issue #13 (I felt that it was missing a page or two as the plot skipped ahead of itself), “Terror of the Cabinet Noir” is an immensely fun story thanks to a captivating characterization of Julie as a bright and quick-witted person who doesn’t have the time for anyone’s bullshit (including the Doctor), and the artwork by Mariano Laclaustra, as colored by Carlos Cabrera, has an almost painted quality to it. This feels very much like a “companion introduction” story; besides the villain referring to Julie as the Doctor’s “companion,” there’s a nice rapport between the Doctor and Julie, we “see” much of the story through Julie’s POV and the narrative weight rests on her, and at the end of the story she says outright that she’s looking forward to more adventures in time and space (to which the Doctor notably does not say no).

Cover to Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #12Personally, I hope Julie sticks around until Titan introduces Bill in the summer. Titan has done well introducing original companions (the tenth and eleventh Doctors have traveled exclusively with comics-original companions in Titan’s comics, and they’ve just introduced a comics-original companion for the Nine/Rose/Jack team), and bringing an historical personage into the TARDIS would, I think, be quite fun. (As an aside, when I watched The Tudors years ago, I dreamed of a Doctor Who series with Sarah Bolger’s Princess Mary as the tenth Doctor’s companion.) Julie d’Aubigny would have to leave eventually — the BBC would prefer Bill (and Nardole, I’d assume) in the TARDIS as soon as possible, and Titan is already promoting the Free Comic Book Day special in May as Bill’s comics debut — but until then, she could have a nice ten-issue run (from her debut in Year Two #11 to, presumably, Year Three #5). Some television companions don’t even last that long. :)

If, like me, you want a nice Doctor Who pseudohistorical, “Terror of the Cabinet Noir” in Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Year Two #11-13 is a welcome choice with its fun characters and great artwork. Plus, it’s a great jumping-on point for Doctor Who fans.

Just ignore the Cybermen on the cover to issue #11. There are no Cybermen here. Titan’s Doctor Who covers, especially when you get into the variants, don’t typically reflect the contents. :)

Into Syria with the Doctor aboard the TARDIS

I have easily a hundred ebooks on my Kindle that I’ve never read. Either they were freebies, or I made them from files off Project Gutenberg, or I got them as part of a bundle where I was interesting in only two or three specific titles, or I bought them cheaply from one of the various ebook alert newsletters I subscribe to. My Kindle isn’t my preferred way of reading — I still enjoy the tactile pleasures of the printed page — but it serves a function, even if that sometimes seems like a virtual “to-be-read pile” of forgotten files.

coverLast weekend I went through my Kindle and I found that, sometime in the past, I’d downloaded Aboud Dandachi‘s The Doctor, the Eye Doctor, and Me. Dandachi’s book, a look at Doctor Who through the prism of the Syrian civil war offered for free on the Kindle, interested me conceptually, but I never got around to reading it. In light of the fall of Aleppo to Bashar al-Assad’s government forces, I decided it was time to visit the book.

A refugee from Syria’s civil war and holed up in a hotel in a seaside city, Dandachi discovered Doctor Who as a way to pass the time while the war went on around him. A short book of maybe 25,000 words, The Doctor, the Eye Doctor, and Me looks at Matt Smith’s era as the eleventh Doctor, which corresponds to the first three years of the Syrian civil war, and relates the storytelling to his experience and the war itself.

Dandachi examines several episodes of Smith’s era — in order, “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon,” “The Doctor’s Wife,” “A Good Man Goes to War,” “The Girl Who Waited,” “The Wedding of River Song,” “The Eleventh Hour,” “Asylum of the Daleks,” “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS,” “The Night of the Doctor,” “The Day of the Doctor,” and “The Time of the Doctor” — and explores the ideas in the episode, the character of the Doctor, and how the episode illuminates aspects of Syria’s civil war. Initially predisposed against the Doctor due to his name — in Syria, Bashar Assad is known as “the Doctor” — Dandachi finds something compelling in the Doctor, a man whose first choice is never violence but, when forced to fight, picks his fights and plans his moves. He contrasts the Doctor with the “Eye Doctor,” Assad himself (a trained eye doctor), and finds Assad wanting. Delving into the episodes, he examines how conflict hardens and scars people (“The Girl Who Waited”), how people lie to themselves to cope with horrible circumstances (“Asylum of the Daleks”), how nature abhors a vacuum and what fills it may be as bad or worse than was had been there (“The Time of the Doctor”), even how Matt Smith’s departure and the revelation of Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor represented a turning point in his life. Dandachi presents a thoughtful and unexpected take on Doctor Who here, showing how the series cuts across cultures and offers universal lessons.

In the course of his exmaination of the series, Dandachi delves into the history of Syria, how Assad came to power, how the civil war unfolded, and how Syria’s population suffered from Assad’s incompetence. (Violence, as Isaac Asimov wrote in Foundation, is the last refuge of the incompetent.) He also has harsh words for the “Friends of Syria,” countries who condemned rhetorically Assad’s brutal suppression of his people but stood by and did nothing as he unleashed chemical weapons attacks on the rebels and destroyed cities like Homs and Aleppo. He writes about what it’s like to be in a city block that’s being shelled by the Syrian military and notes how unrealistic it was for the Gallifreyans of Arcadia to run out into the streets as the Daleks move in to exterminate.

An intensely political book, this book is a compelling account of what remains, even with the fall of Aleppo and a tenuous truce, an ongoing humanitarian tragedy in Syria, one man’s discovery of Doctor Who, and the lessons in life and politics he drew from the series. Occasionally repetitive, sometimes in need of a good copy-edit, The Doctor, the Eye Doctor, and Me is literate, thoughtful, and worth the time for any Doctor Who fan with an interest in geopolitics and the plight of Syria’s population.

Steven Moffat, Leaving Doctor Who in 2017

Steven Moffat is leaving Doctor Who.

A Doctor Who Christmas Special, starring Peter Capaldi, will air in December 2016, followed by Moffat’s final series as producer, also starring Capaldi, in the spring of 2017. Then, Chris Chibnall, formerly of Law & Order UK, Torchwood, and Broadchurch, will take over for Steven Moffat for 2018.

My incoherent thoughts at the moment.

First, revealing this when they did, this stinks of a Friday news dump on the part of the BBC. I’ve been around Washington too much, clearly, where bad news is buried on a Friday with a late afternoon dump.

Second, I’ve felt for a long time that, unless the BBC decided to go outside of their comfort zone for a Bryan Fuller or an Ira Steven Behr (both of whom, frankly, would kick serious ass as a Doctor Who creative producer), it would be Chibnall. He not only is the safest hands, he’s also the most experienced at television production of the names that fandom has usually mooted (like Gatiss or Toby Whithouse).

Second-and-a-half, I really feel that Doctor Who would benefit greatly from an American-style writer’s room, with actual staff writers and break sessions and all of that. Which is why I think someone who’s done that, a Fuller or a Behr, would be the ideal creative producer for Doctor Who, to run the writer’s room and oversee the arcs, leaving the nitty-gritty of the production to a line producer.

Third, a single Christmas special in 2016 isn’t at all surprising. A full series in 2016 wasn’t in the cards because it would have needed to start filming right about now. A Christmas special and a spring run lets Moffat and his team start filming in June or July (like Series 5 did), after Sherlock finishes filming, for an April broadcast date.

Fourth, despite airing first, I suspect the Christmas special will be filmed in an autumn block. There’s no reason to film it any earlier than that. I’d almost expect to meet the new companion in the Christmas special, then.

Fourth-and-a-half, I also wouldn’t expect us to find out who the new companion is until June.

Fifth, I’m leaning toward the assumption that Moffat and Peter Capaldi will leave at the same time, so Chibnall will start his tenure much life Moffat did, with a blank slate.

Sixth, I’m fairly certain people in BBC America are peeved right now.

Seventh, with Chibnall as the next producer, I wonder if Ben Daniels (Law & Order UK) might get a second chance at the Doctor. He was the runner up when Capaldi was cast, Chibnall has worked with him. It’s not impossible.

Eighth, I have no opinion about what kind of show Chibnall’s Who will be. I don’t expect it to be risky. You don’t hire Chibnall if you want risky. What he is is a safe, competent pair of hands. He’s not a bad choice. At worst, he’ll be a caretaker producer.

Ninth, I’ve been critical of Moffat in the past. I feel that he stayed too long, that his bag of tricks wasn’t especially deep, and that he often mistook complicated storytelling for complex storytelling. That said, he did something that a lot of people thought would be impossible — following RTD — and on his watch, Doctor Who turned into a global phenomenon. I may not always respect his writing, but I absolutely respect his ability to be part huckster, part fan, and the efforts he made to transform Doctor Who into a global brand.

Link Round-Up: December 29

A couple of things that caught my attention today.

There was one other thing that caught my attention, but I plan on writing about that separately.

Why the Doctor Looks Like Peter Capaldi

Two years ago, Steven Moffat cast Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor. This wasn’t Capaldi’s first brush with the Whoniverse as an actor; he had previously played the Roman Caecilius in “The Fires of Pompeii” and British government functionary John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth. There was a reason, Moffat said, why the twelfth Doctor looked the way he did.

Last night, we got the explanation.

Let me be frank. The explanation for the Doctor’s face is nonsensical. We are supposed to believe that the Doctor chose the face of someone he met briefly two regenerations and 1,200 years previous in his life.
Seriously? I’m calling shenanigans.

Two regenerations. Twelve hundred years. I’m hammering away at these numbers because they’re important. That’s how long, give or take a decade or so, passed in the Doctor’s life between meeting Caecilius and his family in Pompeii and his new regeneration cycle on Trenzalore.

Twelve. Hundred. Years.

To put this in perspective for us, twelve hundred years takes us back to Charlemagne.

It would have made infinitely more sense if the Doctor subconsciously took the form of someone on Trenzalore. After all, he’d seen everyone there, for nine hundred years, be born, grow old, and die. He lived with them daily in a way that he never lived with Clara.

Sometimes I think Moffat forgets that marooned the Doctor on Trenzalore for hundreds of years, because the twelfth Doctor never acts like it. His relationship with Clara has never felt like it has that kind of discontinuity in it; he picks up in “Deep Breath” like the Christmas dinner with her family was a few days previous instead of, from his perspective, nine hundred years earlier. He treats Clara like she’s his best friend, when in reality she’s an utter stranger to him. To put nine hundred years in perspective, we’re back to the First Crusade. That’s how long the Doctor was confined to Trenzalore.

This explanation is like the fourth wall breakage last week. It’s something meta that makes sense in terms of television and its production. For the audience, the Doctor meeting Caecilius was seven years and about sixty episodes ago. The audience could have watched that episode on DVD yesterday or last week. But, in-universe, for the Doctor living his life, it makes zero sense. None.
Twelve hundred years, Moffat! Twelve. Hundred. Years.

If Moffat doesn’t take his universe seriously, why should his viewers?

Scenes from a Vacation Day

On Thursday, I took a vacation day and went to Washington, DC. The Washington Nationals were having Pet Day — with a special ticket, you received a 2015 calendar of the Nationals players and their pets, you could participate in a pre-game petting zoo, and part of the cost of the ticket went to the local humane society.

“Why not?” I said. Why not, indeed, and last week I bought the special ticket.

I left home the same time I would leave for work in the morning, a little past eight, and I stopped at the Barnes & Noble in Pikesville. What I wanted was a copy of Andy Weir’s The Martian (I could remember the title, but not the author, and had to walk around the Science Fiction section until I found it), and I also bought a copy of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit, her history of the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, off the bargain table.

While looking at the bargain racks, this is a conversation I had with myself when I saw that Barnes & Noble had published a leatherbound edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. As it was shrinkwrapped, I could handle it, but I couldn’t look at it.

“I want it!”

20150828_081053“Why? You have three copies of Malory at home. One is the paperback you bought and read in college. The second is an illustrated hardcover edition you bought ten years ago. The third is the Oxford abridgement of the Winchester manuscript you bought last summer. You don’t need this.”

“It’s leatherbound! I want it!”

“No, you don’t.”

“It might be illustrated!”

“It might not. You don’t need it. You aren’t buying it.”

“Look! A leatherbound edition of two Doctor Who novels! The Silent Stars Go By and Touched by an Angel! I want it!”

“Why? You already own both boooks. You already have two copies of Touched by an Angel. You didn’t even like it.”

“But I want it.”

“You don’t need it. At best you’ll clear space on the bookshelf for it, then wonder what you were thinking when you bought it the next time you move and have to either pack it or give it away. You are not buying it.”

“You’re no fun.”

Yes, I really do have conversations like this.

I took the Green Line into DC from the Greenbelt station (and I think this is the first time I ever had to pay to park at Greenbelt, but that’s mainly a function of usually going to DC on the weekends or holidays), and hopped off at the Navy Archives stop. It’s a good stop; it puts you in the city behind the National Mall, and two blocks you’re there. It’s also the site of the Navy Memorial and the Navy Museum. And since it was my late grandfather’s birthday, it was an appropriate place to be.

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From there I went to the National Gallery of Art which, in recent years, has become my favorite of the Smithsonian museums. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone through the Dutch and Flemish collection over the last hemidecade, yet I make a point of walking through it every time I go. There are paintings by Rembrandt and Van Dyke, and many of them are of people I remember from my college history classes. For instance, this painting of Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest son of King Charles I.

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There was an exhibition of homegoods from the Revolutionary and Early Nation periods. I was particularly taken by this wall clock that featured an image of Perry’s victory over the British on Lake Erie:

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The museum’s main exhibition was of the work of Gustave Caillebotte, one of the minor Impressionists. That exhibition was rather cramped and the galleries were packed.

From there I went to the Museum of American History. Though there hasn’t been anything new displays there in what seems like a few years (one wing of the museum is under reconstruction), there was something interesting going on — Max Impact, the Air Force’s official rock band, was performing as part of a summer concert series at the museum.

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I thought about going to Air & Space, but I didn’t feel like waiting in the security line. Instead, I walked about the Mall, much of which is under construction as they’re resodding the grass and making other improvements.

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From there I went down Pennsylvania Avenue in the direction of Congressional Cemetery. I have ancestors that are buried there, and it’s an interesting place to visit and explore.

This time I took a look at burial slabs (because I’m not sure what else to call them) from the 1810s to 1830s. These slabs, basically, are like tombstones but placed horizontally across the grave instead of horizontally. There are two things of note about these slabs. The first is that while some rested directly on the ground, others were set atop pillars. The second is that these slabs were inscribed with long, carved messages (which ran the entire length of the slab, usually about six feet) and, surprisingly given the age of the slabs, these messages were still readable. (Headstones of a few decades later are usually weathered and worn to the point where they’re no longer readable.)

I also did the usual things I do there — visit my great-great-grandfather’s unmarked grave, visit John Philip Sousa’s grave, visit the burial vaults, take a look at the cenotaphs designed by Benjamin Latrobe, that sort of thing.

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The day was wearing on, and the gates for the petting zoo opened at 4:30, two and a half hours before the game. Rather than make my way to Nationals Park directly, I went west along G Street which took me past Christ Episcopal Church, an historic church which John Adams and Thomas Jefferson attended and of which John Philip Sousa was a member. I also suspect, but could not prove, that my great-great-grandfather attended there; he and his family lived in the area and, despite its name, Congressional Cemetery was and still is affiliated with this church, which could be why he’s buried there.

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Unfortunately, the petting zoo was cancelled.

I had so been looking forward to the Pet Day Petting Zoo. That, more than the Pet Day Calendar (which is nice, and I didn’t notice anyone else with one), was why I bought the special Pet Day ticket for the game and took off a day from work to come down to DC. A “mental health day,” I called it.

I live in an apartment complex that doesn’t allow pets. (I could move, but I’d leave Pennsylvania — and my job — entirely if I did. A little move isn’t worth it to me to just have a cat.) The thought of baby goats and sheep and kittens and puppies made me happy. And the previous forty-eight hours (Tuesday and Wednesday) were unsettling; my old high school in West Virginia witnessed an armed hostage situation (which, thankfully, ended with no bloodshed) on Tuesday, and I don’t need to mention what happened near Roanoke on Wednesday. By Wednesday night, I felt the weight of psychic distress bearing down on me, and the petting zoo I was certain would be a welcome release.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. The deejay in center field was not as exciting.

Things happen and plans fall through. Let me be clear, I’m not blaming the Nationals for this at all; the reasons were almost certainly outside their control. The best-laid plans sometimes just don’t happen. I know that.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel crushed.

Still, there was a baseball game to enjoy — the Nationals and the San Diego Padres.

I tried the Samuel Adams Nats Anniversary IPA. I have to be honest, I wasn’t a fan. I don’t enjoy IPAs a lot. Give me a stout or a porter any day. I also had a frozen margarita tube, so by the time of first pitch I wasn’t feeling a lot of pain. ;)

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As the game started, I took notes as I do. I don’t know how to fill out a scorecard, so I have a different notetaking system that works for me, which breaks the game down pitch by pitch.

The crowd continued to arrive into the third inning, and then around the seventh inning the crowd started to leave. By the end of the game, there weren’t many people left in my section; the last people in my row left in the top of the 8th.

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The game was notable for the various defensive shifts the Nationals had to make due to injury. Yunel Escobar was hit by a pitch and left the game, which shifted Anthony Rendon to third and brought in Danny Espinosa to play second. Then when Michael Taylor ran into the outfield wall and banged his knee, Taylor was replaced by Bryce Harper in center, Jayson Werth moved from left to right, Epinosa moved to left, and Trea Turner came in to play second.

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The Nationals won, 4-2. Jonathan Papelbon came in for the save with a three run lead, walked the first batter, balked him to second, and gave up a ground ball single to bring in a run. Then he got the final out, and it was time for Happy Handshakes!

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After that, there’s nothing to tell. A short walk to the Navy Yards Metro station, a drive from Greenbelt back to York, and then to bed.

A good day was had. It was a lovely day in the District, not too hot, not too humid. I walked a lot, and I have lovely tan lines at my ankles. I should do more days like this.

Lost Scenes from a Doctor Who Story

I found something unexpected on my hard drive yesterday, working scenes from my first draft of “The Spindle of Necessity.”

“Spindle,” as you may know, is a Doctor Who story I wrote for a Big Finish Short Trips anthology in the spring of 2007 in which the sixth Doctor goes on an adventure with the Greek philosopher Plato. The published version, which appeared in The Quality of Leadership and Re:Collections (the Short Trips best of volume), is written in the form of a Socratic dialogue.

The first draft was nothing of the sort. Continue reading “Lost Scenes from a Doctor Who Story”

Doctor Who Conquers the Martians

On Saturday night, the eighth season of Doctor Who came to a close in “Death in Heaven.” I’m not here to talk about that. I’d rather discus the teaser for the forthcoming Christmas episode, with Nick Frost (probably best known to Americans for his collaborations with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright — Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End) as Santa Claus.

Now, the teaser.

Now, I should tell you that, for several years now, I’ve had a mad idea about Doctor Who, Santa Claus, and my dream Christmas special.

Doctor Who Conquers the Martians.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, a childrens’ film made in the mid-1960s. On Mars, the children are lethargic and addicted to American television, and when Kimar, the leader of the Martians, is told by an old seer that what the children of Mars need is Christmas he embarks on a mission to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus. But another Martian, Voldar, wants to depose Kimar and kill Santa Claus, and can Christmas triumph on the Red Planet?

This works perfectly as a Doctor Who story!

The Ice Warriors, who live on Mars, kidnap Santa Claus for similar reasons. Now it’s up to the Doctor and two children to be menaced by a polar bear, go to Mars, rescue Santa Claus, foil a full-scale invasion of Earth by the Ice Warriors, and save Christmas.

This writes itself!

And, it could be done! For some reason, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians isn’t copyrighted and is in the public domain.

It would be goofy and fun. And Christmassy! Most Doctor Who Christmas specials aren’t especially Christmassy. They might be set at Christmas (like the RTD-era Christmas specials or, especially, “The Snowmen”) or on a winter world (like “The Time of the Doctor”) or both (like “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”), but they lack a certain Christmasness.

Let’s be honest, here. I’m a bit disenchanted with the whole “Doctor Who Christmas special” thing. They’re not very special anymore, and they don’t embrace the holiday season. So, why not pull out all the stops, play up the Christmas fun in a Doctor Who style, and then rest the concept of a “Doctor Who Christmas special” for a fair few years allowing other, equally worthy shows, to get a Christmas Day slot on BBC1. “Go big or go home,” as they say.

As an aside, the other idea I’ve had? The Doctor and Santa Claus team up to fight the ancient evil that is the Krampus, much like the Beast in “The Impossible Planet” or Abaddon in Torchwood.

I don’t know what we’ll get from this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. The teaser makes it look a bit like The Thing or Alien, albeit with Santa Claus. Because why not.

I wonder if it will be half as fun as the Christmas special in my dreams, Doctor Who Conquers the Martians. :)