Humour

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EDIT: The BBC announced today that Peter Capaldi will play the twelfth Doctor.  We, of course, knew this beforehand and after-hand and simultaneous-hand.  It’s really hard to surprise time travelers.  Now, on with the post …

This week’s Fish and TARDIS Sauce newsletter will look at the use of humor in Doctor Who, and ways that you might be able to apply this technique in your everyday life.

In “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe” (s06e24), Doctor Who travels back to 1940s London, where he meets Madge Ardwell, her son Cyril, and daughter Lily.   Madge comes home to tell the kids that she is going to help The Doctor return to his time machine, as if this happened every day (who knows, maybe it does).  While there at home, Madge asks Cyril what he’s is doing up so late looking through his telescope.  When Lily makes a snide comment it begins this brief but quite funny exchange among the characters.

  • Cyril — It’s astronomy.
  • Lily — Don’t make up words.  He’s always making up things … and breathing.
  • Madge — Where’s your father?
  • Cyril — In the garden.
  • Madge — What’s he doing in the garden?
  • Cyril — Agriculture.
  • Lily [off-camera] — You’re not fooling anyone.

And you see?  Like that.  Or three scenes later, which is also three years later, the family is standing in front of an ancient house somewhere in the English countryside, and the kids say —

  • Cyril — Is it haunted?
  • Lily — Is it drafty?

Another sharp, understated exchange.

But if you’ve seen this episode you know this episode is not all fun and games. The kids’ father is killed when his bomber goes down over the English Channel (although that’s not quite the whole story), leading to nightmarish grief and stress for Madge.   This leads to a poignant scene where Madge admits this to The Doctor and reflects on her short temper around her children.

  • Madge — I don’t know why I keep shouting at them.
  • The Doctor — Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they’re going to be.  And it breaks your heart.

What we see here is a dramatic turn, where the dry wit of British comedy gives way to the realities of life during World War II (or anytime for that matter).  And once again, Doctor Who, the show, and Doctor Who, the character, offer us a glimpse into the human condition.  After all, why do we love a rose?  Because it’s blooming but will not do so forever.  Why does it smell so divine?  Because its thorns are so sharp.

It’s always been my opinion that humor for the sake of humor gets stale after a while.  Even the best comedians — the Steve Martins and  Richard Pryors and George Carlins — cannot sustain me for long unless I have a break.  It doesn’t have to be something morbid or maudlin, but it does have to be balanced.   And I love humor.   In fact, I was once asked why I don’t watch Comedy Central all the time.  The answer is simple, really.  I don’t watch Comedy Central, or any other 24/7 source of laughter, because I don’t usually turn to comedians for jokes.  The best humor grows out of drama, to relieve the tension, or out of horror, to dispel the terror.  That’s why, in that famous line from Steel Magnolias, the characters reflect on the wonder of laughter through tears.

Which brings us back to “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.”  Doctor Who, the character, looks at Madge thoughtfully in this episode, and finally offers his advice.  And this is one of the many reasons I love this show.  The characters get to the heart of the matter so damn well.  In the scene I’ve described above, Madge is momentarily distracted by the distant sounds of the children’s glee, leading Doctor Who to say this:

  • The Doctor — What’s the point of them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later?  The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.

Pretty good stuff for science fiction, eh?

Until next time, remember: Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can procrastinate about today.

Years truly,

Keith Parker, CEO, COO, CTO, CCO, CAC, COCOA of The PITTS*

Please visit my hometown bloggers at our Rocket City Bloggers website!

* The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies.

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker

Doctor Who is copyright © 2013 BBC

Rocky Edge (A Short Story)

rockYou are standing at the edge of a cliff and looking out at the gray, churning water 30 feet below as waves crash over jagged rocks.  You back away, half-dizzy, stomach pumping with vertigo.  Behind you to your right is an outcropping of grim boulders, weathered from wind, flattened by time.  You thrust your hands into the pockets of your Levi’s and wince as your dry knuckles scrape against the hemline of the blue jeans’ stitching.

You shuffle and slide across black soggy leaves over to the boulder that grows out of the ancient Alabama mountainside.  Your hiking boots give you footing, but you still feel uneven, with pressure in your ears.

You turn and sit on a tongue of rock that forms a chair unusually well-suited for your thin frame, one of those natural seats that doesn’t seem real somehow, but that you know has been there since prehistoric times, before anything that we know as intelligent walked or slithered on earth.  And for some reason you remember a children’s bible illustration where Jesus, sitting on a similar rock, gestured His eight beatitudes to a throng.  You  can’t remember the commandments, but you know you are not among the blessed.

But thinking of childhood Sunday school does make you think of the word love, and you know you didn’t love Allisa, and you know that you never really loved her, that you were merely

horny

obsessed by her.  And it was not even by her looks per se.  While not ugly, she would never pass Madison Avenue’s tests for looks.  Her crystal blues under those thinning black bangs turned you on.  But did they work on others?  Her Cuban accent and cravings for Thai food, her encyclopedic knowledge of architecture multiplied your

lust

romantic longings, which she did not reciprocate.  Not until that final night.  Not until her passion boiled over and set you on fire.  Her friendship had been platonic and yet, and yet … there was always the “ooh ah” factor in your favor.

Allisa had giggled at the first sight of computer eye candy.  When was that?  1990? ’91?  You’d shown her the shiny new Windows 3 splash screen as it zoomed across your monitor.  Techie stuff won her heart as often as roses.  She broke out in a huge grin when you told her you were going to email something to yourself.   That was her first Internet epiphany, circa 1994.  Years later, last week to be exact, she texted a picture of herself to you.  In the photo she stood beside a mural at the art museum — a mural of a twisty mountain road — hand on her hip, a smile in her eyes, one black pump up in the air.

The fundraiser at the museum had gone well into the night.  You waited up for her.  She’d texted around 11:00 or so, admitting she’d had three glasses — and counting — of Merlot, admitting her date was a creep, admitting she really wished you were there.

Drunk yourself from a twelve pack of beer and no food, you called her cell an hour later.  She’d answered on the first ring with a sweet, “Hell-lloo.”

“I only have sex with good-looking guys,” she’d told you. “That son of a –.  It’s always like that, isn’t it?  They’re always like that.  Sex.  Drugs.  Rock-and-roll.  All of them.”

You didn’t follow her train of thought, muddied by wine, or yours, sullied by beer.  But your eyes had lit up.  Your face had brightened.

Unlike now.

Now your face sags, hangdog eyes.  You feel scaly, eyes bulging like a fish’s.  What was it the nerd said in the office last week?  The guy with the letters MISKA-some-shit-or-other on his sweatshirt that casual Friday?

“You’ve got that Innsmouth look going, buddy.”

You had no idea what that had meant.  You didn’t care.  You didn’t care then, and you don’t care now.  Your mouth is hanging open, though, so you can take in big gulps of air.  Mouth-breather.  You roll your

bulging

eyes.  Well, you are from Alabama.  That’s what people expect to see.  Mouth-breathers.

You sigh.  Your thoughts are gloomy, pre-winter clouds, roiling like a too-hot November day that presages tornado outbreaks.

You snap out of your daydream when you realize your hands are tingling.  They’re still in the pockets of your jeans. You’d sat down with them like that.  Now you wiggle them out, and the dry skin on your hands finally cracks, and two of your knuckles bleed.  You grip one hand with the other, worried you’ll get blood all over your North Face jacket and people will stare at you later.  Either that, or the coroner will ponder your bloody hands after they fish your body from the waters below.

There isn’t much you can do, is there?  Your mind is numbed by data entry and bad nutrition and subtle musings about madness.

“Do you want to come over?” you had said to Allisa Fuentes that night.

And Allisa Fuentes, from Santiago de Cuba, where communist revolution had been born, had giggled like a conservative white American schoolgirl of the 1950s.

“Sure!  I’m turning around now, and we can –.”

The phone had gone dead in your hand.  You gawked at it, a stupid grin on your face.  You tried her number again.  You tried it over and over, assuming she just hit a dead spot in coverage.  No signal.

“I’m turning around now, and we can –,” had been Allisa’s last words when, distracted, she lost control of the car, and plunged 1000 feet into the roaring mountain river below.

She was still holding the phone when they found her.  It was her right hand.  You’re looking at your own right hand now.  It’s still bleeding.  And scaly.   It’s the color of a fish.

You stand, roll your head, and shuffle away from the rocky edge of the cliff, wondering if the words “Innsmouth look” have any real meaning.  Maybe they do, but weird crap like that doesn’t matter.  You walk back and get in your car, a high-tech SUV that’d been idling, waiting for you, and when its display lights up, telling you your own cell phone has been detected by its Bluetooth rigging, you grind your teeth, take the phone and sling it as far as you can out the car window, over the bluff.   As you put the car into drive you think you hear the goddamn thing die on the rocks below.  You hope so.  You’re going to pretend you do, anyway.

The End

Copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker.  This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Anger Leads to The Doctor?

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.” ~ Yoda

Yoda_SWSBWhat’s a picture of Yoda doing here?  I’m talking about Doctor Who.

Last night I was watching the two-part finale from the 2006 season of the BBC’s reimagined Doctor Who.  In this episode we once again see the characters faced with the end of the world, a top-secret organization, Cybermen and Daleks run amok, and enough pithy humor to keep even the most jaded of us laughing.  But that isn’t what made me focus on these two episodes.  Instead. I began to wonder about something a Facebook friend said about the show in general.  Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, appealed to her because he’s funny; all the other Doctors, she allowed, take themselves too seriously.

Well, being the writer that I am (and I am a writer, which is why you’re reading this instead of doing something worthwhile) I started looking for signs of David Tennant’s character taking himself too seriously.  I had not thought of this before.  Does he?  Maybe he does.  And did Christopher Eccleston make his Doctor egotistical as well?  I think there’s some truth to that.  Does it detract from the quality of the show?  Well, that’s for each viewer to decide.

But as the two-parter unfolded I began to wonder whether the egotism is deliberate.  After all, The Doctor is the last remaining “creature” from a war that consumed and destroyed his entire race.  I’m a newcomer to the show, so I cannot say this with certainty, but I think the Doctor’s “being full of himself” is a result of anger.

According to Star Wars, anger is a baaaaad apple.

Does anger also lead to arrogance?  In the gospel according to Yoda it leads to hate.  As a writer, the progression of emotions fascinates me.  And even if you’re not a writer — and God help you if you are — you’ll notice the best entertainment gives you complex characters, a good story, an attempt by the main character to resolve the crisis, and a steady drumbeat of emotional change.  And when it works best it really is like music; there is a rhythm to the way emotions change.  Anger can indeed lead to hate, but it doesn’t have to.  Perhaps in the case of The Doctor it leads to a certain smugness, but his heart … (yes, I know he has two) … but his heart is still in the right place.  And that’s what we want most out of the characters we love: heart.

Until next time,

Peace, from Keith

Text copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker