Name

Doctor-ClaraWarning: Spoilers ahead.

This week Fish and #TARDIS Sauce — the trans-dimensional newsletter of The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) — looks at that age-old question: What’s in a name? Our resident time-traveller and curmudgeon, Keith Parker, seeks answers to this and many more questions in today’s dispatch. Take it away, Keith:

While a name may be as simple as “a word or set of words by which a person, animal, place or thing is known” (Apple, Inc., Dictionary), or as serious as a code name, like the Manhattan Project, or simply telling of character (“I just love Biblical names,” Dot said in RAISING ARIZONA), one expression that has always confused me was “in the name of.”

Like most folks, I’ve used the expression “In the name of God.” I’ve sung “In the Name of Love” by U2, much to chagrin of family and friends, and I even told the guy at the DMV (repeatedly) that our car was registered “in the name of my wife.” In most cases (God, the DMV dude) I was rebuffed by open-mouthed stares. So, given all that, what do we glean from the ending of the Doctor Who seventh season finale, when the stranger tells the Doctor:

“What I did, I did without choice… in the name of peace and sanity.”

To which the Doctor replies, “But not in the name of ‘The Doctor.'” (from Wikipedia)

I have to admit I’ve never thought about this phrase. According to the usual Internet sources (Wiktionary, Dictionary.com, Mirriam-Webster.com, etc), “in the name of” basically means “by the authority of.” In other words, The Doctor chastises the stranger in order to make sure he (the stranger) knows he did not have the authority to evoke the Doctor’s real name. The stranger broke a promise, and there are going to be consequences.

This is cool. Literature is chock full of mysterious and secretive names, a short list of which I provide here:

  • One Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken — Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
  • YHWH, the name of God, which must not be spoken — Jewish tradition (the old one)
  • Voldemort — Harry Potter Series
  • Monstrous nuclear chaos from beyond angled space — H.P. Lovecraft
  • Hastur — The One Who is Not to be Named — H.P. Lovecraft
  • Spock’s first name — Star Trek: The Original Series
  • Richard Milhous Nixon — American President, 1969-1974

You get the picture. We see this name-is-power thingy throughout history, both fiction and non. The point here (I suppose, if I even have one) is that when you say, “Not in the name of The Doctor,” or “Not in the name of Keith,” you’re implying the name itself contains power, potential energy.

Using a sacred name creates an effect. In other words, a powerful name is a cause, as in “cause and effect.” And therefore (“a witch!”) a name may well be a pivot point in time. After all, would time travel even be a story if it were not for our desire decouple effects from their causes? Anyone who’s ever been heartbroken knows a cause is much more than a name. So what is in a name, anyway? Lots and lots of potential energy, waiting to be harnessed, for good or for ill. Be careful what you wish for, and be careful what you choose. I, for one, never say things that shouldn’t be said … well, not usually, anyhow …

Years truly,

Keith

The PITTS hope you’ve enjoyed this 11-dimensional multi-multi-multi-multi-multi-media slide stack, and hope you’ll be back next time, same PITTS Time, same PITTS channel.

Please visit our blogging friends at Rocket City Bloggers.

Copyright © 2013 by Keith Parker

Lust

Clara_imageI’ve noticed I frequently post a picture of Doctor Who’s companions on my blog. Lest you think I’m a total lech, the main reason for doing this is to draw attention to my blog. After all, photos of Romana, Rose, Clara (pictured), or Susan have a lot more sex appeal than tintypes of septic tanks. That’s just good ol’ common sense. But there’s something deeper

something Freudian

about my consistent choice of hot babes pretty women to punctuate my web logging these days. And that “something” has to do with romance. In New Who — as well as many classic Who episodes with Tom Baker — there is a romantic tension that exists between the Doctor and his Companions. And the Doctor is usually unaware of it. And while he does show considerable affection for his mates on ye olde TARDIS the Doctor doesn’t seem to take a hint very well. You could justify this because he’s not human, or because the stakes are so high that he doesn’t have time for love, or because he’s immortal and will outlive whoever he does fall for. But really, the dude is just clueless. Women notice him, but he doesn’t reciprocate. And this characteristic, rather than being rude or chauvinistic, adds to his charm … or so it would seem.

(I will add parenthetically, which is why this paragraph is in parentheses, that the Doctor does notice his Companions from time-to-time. Clearly he is in deep anguish about Rose. And on a lighter note he chews his wrist off at the sight of Clara’s tight skirt. But these are exceptions, not the rule.)

So why am I so curious? I think it’s because at heart I’m a romantic. I’ve probably always known this, but I really had to admit it after a college friend reviewed my novel (here) and told me that my “adventure” was actually a “romance.” She was right. It turns out — through no fault of my own — that I am fascinated by the intercourse interplay between guys and girls. And Doctor Who (the man) is in many ways my own opposite. The beautiful girl is right under his nose and he completely misses her flirting, suggestiveness, or explicit passes.

How am I the opposite? Well, I was the one who noticed the girls back in the day. Another obsession we writers share is people watching. If I were attracted to a girl, no detail was too small to notice: her clothes, her eyeglasses, her legs, her jokes, her snorts, or that (unbelievably) cute way she’d have of tucking her hair under a baseball cap with the pony tail sticking out. And yet, ironically, romance was often elusive as hell.

“It’s not that you’re unattractive, Keith. I just don’t want a relationship right now,” she’d said, right before she started dating the other guy (we’ll call him David).

But this has a happy ending. After crossing that Rubicon from my teens to my twenties, I met the girl of my dreams; I even married her. But I spent many years wanting to be that Doctor Who archetype, that absent-minded, bumbling, good-looking free spirit. Maybe I am some of these things, some of the time. But I am not all of these things all of the time. He is not I, and vice versa in reverse. And we have to live with truths. So, whether you’re a plumber, artist, attorney, Time Lord, burglar, or engineer, it’s important to remember what that succinct bastard William Shakespeare said: “To thine own self be true.” You actually have no choice, no matter how many time machines you have.

Years truly,
Keith
(Bane of David)

Text copyright © 2013 by Keith Parker

The photo and Doctor Who are copyright © 2013 by the BBC

One

200px-Tenth_DoctorToday, The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) addresses one of the pressing issues of our age.  This topic is bigger than the global economy, cheaper than a Kardashian wedding, and happier than a college kid with a keg.  It is the question of The One … the question of whether there is only one Doctor Who.

My sister-in-law, who’s never cared much for science fiction, is now hooked on the show.  She said you have all these ridiculous episodes chock-full of plastic-headed aliens, and yet you can’t look away.  Nope, you sure can’t.

Commenting on a scene with Matt Smith, she said, “I don’t know who that man is, but he’s not the Doctor.  He’s an impostor.”

“Who is?” I said.

In a word — or a name — she replied, “David Tennant.”

And so there were have it.  David Tennant, a.k.a. the 10th Doctor, is her Doctor.  I’ve heard many similar sentiments about Tom Baker, especially among my friends who were sentient in the 70s.  So, I asked her to tell me — off the top of her head — what she likes about Tennant.  She said,  “He’s passionate, caring, intelligent and soulful.”

And he is! He’s all these things.  And yet, none of my sister-in-law’s impressions were the same as mine.  It’s not that I disagree with her; I agree he has all the characteristics that she mentioned.  But if you asked my impression I’d tell you that he’s fun-loving and funny, yet distant and lonely.  What does this say about us?  Does it say that my SIL and I see the world differently?  Actually, we don’t.  We have very similar opinions and tastes.  And we’re from the exact same demographic; how much different would our reaction have been if we came from cultures on opposite sides of the planet?  Maybe the difference would be stark; maybe not.  What this says to me is that character loyalty is a deeply personal attachment.  The development and emergence of characters from novels, short stories, films and TV have a profoundly different affect on us all, providing a lens into our own personality.  Like eyes being the lens to the soul, the characters we love are like mirrors on our selves.  Or they’re people who we think are mighty fine (like Clara Oswald).  Either way, it’s fun to sit back and explore the possibilities.

During this long holiday weekend here in America the good people (read: me) at Fish and #TARDIS Sauce ask you to remember that time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana.  Until next time, peace and hair grease.

Years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013 Fish and #TARDIS Sauce publications, a paleolithic branch of The PITTS.

Wholistic

doctor_roseThere are three things I love about Doctor Who: The characters, the one-liners, and the cultural phenomenon it’s created.  As I’ve mentioned I’m a new Whovian, a guy who’s kept a foot in the science fiction arena (but not Fredric Brown’s arena) while otherwise living a clean life …

I first noticed that Doctor Who had gotten into our consciousness back in 2008 when I saw an endcap at Barnes & Noble chock full of Whovian goodies: a David Tennant doll, a couple of novel tie-ins, two stuffed TARDIS’s (TARDII?), and a sonic screwdriver (not, unfortunately, the cocktail).  After watching a re-run of the new series’ first episode (“Rose”, 2005) I was not impressed, unfortunately.  It had a campiness I’d come to associate with Lost in Space or, God help us all, the original Battlestar Galaxative.  I thought Eccleston’s performance was wooden, found the episode plastic (pun intended), and winced at the tiresome earth-is-in-jeapordy-again theme.  However, something stuck with me.  And it wasn’t a character, a one-liner, or even a cultural reference per se.  What struck me was that vat of bubbling Nestene consciousness.  There was something so Lovecraftian about it that the image remained fixed in my mind even though I decided the show wasn’t for me.  That would, of course, change, and change rapidly, as would my opinion of Eccleston’s role as the ninth Doctor.

Still curious, though, I talked to friends and came to realize Doctor Who is greater than the sum of its parts.  It is interconnected entertainment. It is holistic.  It creeped into our cultural consciousness by tapping into our collective subconscious, some how, some way, mixing science fiction, fantasy, and horror in ways that the experts say never work, and yet the show does work.  Why?  Why Who?

That sent me off onto another one of my infamous tangents of over-thinking: Are all major cultural phenomena rooted in fantasy?

Think about the blockbusters over the years: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stephen King’s novels, etc.  They’re all speculative.  Hell, even The Da Vinci Code, with its cardboard characters, possesses an element of the supernatural.  Are there other cultural phenomena that are not “fantastic”?  Sure.  Angst among politicos, American football, and the wave of pasta cravings in the 1980s come to mind.  But more often than not, cultural phenomena tap into that side of us that yearns for escape, safe adventure, and wish fulfillment.  Maybe the vagaries of real life are too real.

This is just my opinion, but I do think there is something to this hypothesis.  After all, my sister-in-law, who does not care for science fiction or horror, has started to watch Doctor Who.  Her opinion is like so many others’: The show is bad, except when it’s good; it’s dumb, except when it’s smart; it’s ridiculous, except when it’s sublime.  Luckily, we see many examples of the good, the smart, and the sublime.   More than we should, but there they are.  Doctor Who, the character and the show, is emergent.

Years truly.

Keith

Copyright (c) 2013, Fish and #TARDIS Sauce, a wholly owned publication of the The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS)

Hot

oswin-oswald-tv-characters-photo-u1The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies has bugged out of squares-ville and booked-it back to the 1960s to give you this neat-o list of the hottest companions (chicks only need apply) The Doctor has ever had.  Now, I been rappin’ on this for a while, so don’t have a cow over my lingo, man. Sit back, kick your Jesus boots, hang loose, and read the hippest, grooviest list of Doctor Who companions ever mimeographed.  Like, I mean these are the kinda chicks that some Butch Wax’d never stand a chance of goin’  all the way with, if you get my drift, .

  1. Clara Oswald — Oh, man!  That … is … all!
  2. Romana I — Woo!  Cuteness cubed.
  3. Amy Pond — Drawing designs on that honey, but the attitude has got to go, baby
  4. Sally Sparrow — The companion who never was, she is the most!
  5. Martha Jones — Sex pot, city, Daddy-O.
  6.  Rose Tyler — She aint’ no skag, herself.
  7. Zoe Heriot — Oh, man.  Smarts and sass!
  8. Sarah Jane Smith — Have you seen the legs on this foxy lady? Love to tell her it’s snowing down South
  9. Romana II — Not as sexy as Romana I, but this chick ain’t a square!
  10. Ace — Don’t believe me, brother?  Look her up.  I could watch this skirt all night long.

Now we gotta burn rubber back to the future before we get in too much trouble with the fuzz.  Got here in my TARDIS, but gotta get out the port-holer and lay some scratch for the 2010s, if only I can find 1.61 GW, that is.

Don’t like my list?  Sock it to me, baby, but don’t get a 502 doing it!

Peace, man.

Keith

Copyright © 1966 and 2013, Keith Parker

Bootstrap

Sally SparrowThis week, The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) — in conjunction with State and Local Officials — has devised this warning for all time travelers and others involved in temporal excursions: Do not employ bootstrap time travel.

  • Bootstrap Time Travel (Encyclopedia Galactica*) — The bootstrap paradox is a paradox of time travel in which information or objects can exist without having been created. After information or an object is sent back in time, it is recovered in the present and becomes the very object/information that was initially brought back in time in the first place.

A recent examination by investigators — hired by the autonomous Fish and #TARDIS Sauce Group — indicate that there is an alarming rise of bootstrapped articles appearing throughout the timeline. The genesis of this “fad” seems to have been the airing of the Doctor Who episode, “Blink.” The PITTS, therefore, has been forced to implement emergency and draconian measures to staunch the flow of now-uncreated objects and information. Recent examples of bootstrap incursions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A man from Nantucket took a freeze-dried lizard back to his childhood, gave the lizard to himself, which he (the younger) then kept until he was a grown man with a chance to travel back in time … the situation was frustrated by teaching his younger self a limirick.
  • A husky Russian émigré, intent on playing football for Vince Lombardi, recently overshot his mark and took his time vehicle to 1947 New Mexico instead of 1967 Wisconsin, ruining our research and playoff hopes in one selfish move.
  • An English woman, home from the laundry mat and feeling adventuresome, took the family Wellsian for a spin to Victorian England with a basket full of extra footwear, creating an impossible temporal vortex of missing socks that will confound 20th– and 21st-century men for eternity.
  • An Alabama man took an egg (cage-free, organic, with Omega-3s) to China, circa 6000 BC, to the very day that the first chicken became domesticated and, as a result of self-indulgent selfish motives, removed the chicken-egg paradox from modern thought.
  • A Jaffa woman recently returned The Holy Grail to its shelf at The Cenacle, thereby eliminating any possibility we could determine the origin of said graal.
  • And in 2007/1969 Doctor Who told Sally Sparrow, “Blink and you’re dead. They are fast. Faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t blink. Good luck.” The Doctor has been unavailable for comment.

These are but a few examples of what has become a worldwide epidemic. At this rate, all material objects, articles, matter, data, information, and salmon will not have a place of origin. The effects of this activity on the eco-military-industrial-climatic-god complex cannot not be overstated without embellishment. Please stay tuned to this channel for further updates.

The past is prologue; so is the future.

Years truly,

Keith

* All entries from Encyclopedia Galactica are, in fact, plagiarized liberated from Wikipedia.org (English version).

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker

Change

Smith_2578796bThis week The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) takes a hard look at three major changes that rocked the science fiction and fantasy world this past week.  And when we say “hard look” we’d like to make sure you understand that this is serious.  And by “serious” we mean sober.  Except that it’s not really healthy to be too sober, so maybe we’ll have a cocktail to cut through the pressure.  And if we’re going to have a cocktail, then we might as well have a glass of wine with our dinner, and if we’re going to have a glass of wine with dinner then there’s really no reason we can’t have an after-dinner cognac.  And that’ll pretty much mean that we aren’t taking a “hard look” at anything at all.  Instead, these are simply post-buzz ramblings devoid of emotional or intellectual depth …

So, without further ado, what happened?  Well, primary to this blog is that Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who, creating a vacuum in the incredibly rich story that’s developed over the past four years, with an intense, mysterious chemistry between The Doctor and Clara Oswald, and a parallel mystery about the doctor’s name and (eventual) demise.  agotAnother occurrence in speculative fiction circles was the passing (read: violent, bloody death) of certain character(s) in A Game of Thrones.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we lost one of the true giants of fantasy literature recently.  One of the last of the Golden Age Science Fiction writers, Jack Vance, died on May 26th.  If you’ve never read Vance, you need to run — not walk — to your nearest e-book reader and devour his writing.  You can find his catalog here: http://www.jackvance.com/ebooks/shop/?q22_category_filter=dying

Bad things come, they say, in threes.

Is that the case here?  It seems like it.  Which makes me wonder about one of the main reasons I write this blog: time travel.  What would happen if I went back in time to May 25th?  If I were to do this, what could I possibly do to change these three events?  Nothing.  I desperately wish Matt Smith were not leaving Doctor Who, but even if I were to go back prior to his announcement, and if I cashed out my retirement and bought a plane ticket to the UK, and if I were to successfully track him down, what good would it do?  Odds are, he made his decision weeks, if not months, ago.  Or what if I went a different direction and landed my steam-punk Wellsian on the set of HBO?  Could I actually do anything about the second season finale of AGOT?  And then what about Mr. Vance?  I do not know the circumstances surrounding Mr. Vance’s death, but he was 96-years-old, and had achieved status as one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy authors of the 20th Century.  What exactly needs to be changed?

If you’re wondering who, as it were, I think the new Doctor should be, the thought that keeps circling back to me is that we need another Tom Baker; we need an actor or actress who is, in essence, the embodiment of the Doctor the way that Baker was.  More than any other Doctor, the line between the character and the actor was very fine in those days.  Beyond that, I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter.  And I’m not sure it’d matter if I did …

And that is a segue into my closing thoughts: I’ve often said time travel is a form of wish fulfillment, but in this case the wishes don’t come true, do they?  And maybe that’s a good thing, because I’ve developed a quasi-Buddhist attitude toward life in recent years and putting myself in a state of angst really does no good.  The reason we suffer is because we try to control those things that are out of our control.  I do not know if this is truly “Buddhist” but it was the best that my Western mind could come up with as I studied that beautiful philosophy.  As the author of Elephant Journal put it:

And, of course, if you’re looking for a more “Western” approach, there was a Galilean who said something similar:

  • 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
    • The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 6, Verses 25:34

happy buddhaMy goal is not to preach.  My goal is to espouse optimism, to let you know it’ll all be okay.  And to let you know that I think we all need to laugh more.  Along those lines, let me redirect you to one of the funniest authors in the blogosphere.  He goes by the pseudonym Mirkin Firkin, and writes some of the most outrageous and hilarious blog posts I’ve ever read.  You can find his blog here: http://justjigglethehandle.wordpress.com.

Until next time, “Don’t Panic!”

Years truly,

Keith Parker

Owner, Fish and #TARDIS Sauce

Copyright © 2013

Backward

doctor and amy

“Never cry over spilt milk, because it may have been poisoned.” ~ W.C. Fields

This week on Fish and TARDIS Sauce we look at the relationship among three things that were never meant to be related: Time Tombs, Merlin’s Sickness, and spoiled milk.

The first two are easy.  The third, not so much.

You see, in Dan Simmons’ science fiction masterpiece, The Hyperion Cantos, the enigmatic Time Tombs move backward through time, coming from that planet’s future, essentially getter “newer” as the story moves along, making life a royal bitch for the characters.   Meanwhile, in Doctor Who‘s two-episode arc “A Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”, the character River Song appears from The Doctor’s future, apparently moving backward through time herself.

So here are two examples from SF that describe things going the WRONG WAY.   I suppose we could wax philosophic, evoking notions of entropy and dimensions and all that happy crappy, but it’s really easier if you think about all this in terms of spoiled milk.

  • FADE IN

A forty-something man falls out of bed on a stormy Monday morning and shuffles to the kitchen, bleary eyed, his face an old-growth beard, his tongue the texture of cardboard.  With half-lidded eyes he gazes with mouth hanging open at the coffee maker that has overflowed onto countertop … and onto the cabinets … and onto the floor.  He sighs heavily.  Glancing at his watch he sees it’s already 7:00 AM, on May 23rd, and he simply doesn’t have time to clean all this up and get to the office on time.  But there is perhaps one meager cup of coffee left in the Mr. Coffee decanter, and knowing — just knowing — that his morning can’t get any worse, he pulls a mug from the cabinet and pours.  He turns to the refrigerator, and when he opens the  door the ketchup (Heinz, glass bottle) falls out and shatters, blending with the black coffee into a nauseating mix of fluids straight of an H.P. Lovecraft story.  Wading through this unholy pool the man pours the milk into his coffee mug.  It glugs into the mug.  It doesn’t so much pour as it falls in there, in lumps.  He takes a sip of coffee and spews the whole mess into the sink.  He then takes a whiff of the milk carton itself and yells, “Wooooo-Weeeee!”.  He waves his hand in front of his nose.  The use-by date on the milk carton is May 13th, stamped at a cockeyed angle in red ink.

The reason he says “Wooooo-Weeeee” is a psychological holdover from his youth.  You see, one similarly rainy day at school his bowels had erupted in the Boys’ Restroom, which prompted his classmates — who were lighting up a couple of coffin nails before algebra — to hoot and holler: “Wooooo-Weeeee!  Smells like something crawled up inside a’you and died, boy!”

  • FADE OUT

So right now you might be wondering what exactly that little vignette has to do with Hyperion or Doctor Who.  (So am I.)

  • FADE IN

Same man, ten hours later, returns home.  His day has gone something like this: His car is pummeled by hail. He is flipped off at a traffic light because he couldn’t get his car into gear.  He hikes three blocks to the office.  He gets yelled at by his boss for not meeting “expectations” (whatever those are).  He eats his soup cold because the office microwave broke over the weekend.  He gets told by his secretary, “You see this?  This is my ‘trying-to-look-like-I give-a-shit’ face.”  He runs out of gas on the way home.  When he finally does get back home he notices something as he’s rummaging around in the fridge for a beer to take the edge off the day.  That’s when he sees the milk.  The carton is unopened.  It looks …. new.  He stares at it.  Did he buy milk on the way home?  No.  It’s the same carton.  How does he know?  Because the date printed on the side is May 13th, stamped at a cockeyed angle in red ink.  He closes the door, looks at his wristwatch.  The date — his date — is still May 23rd.  The man opens the milks and sniffs.  It’s as fresh as the day it came from the cow’s udder.

  • FADE OUT

And so it is with time travel.  If objects in our lives come from our future — Time Tombs, Dr. River Song, The Doctor — then why not milk?  Or, whither milk, if you want to sound pseudo-intellectual.  The milk changes.  And for you writers you’ll note the character I created did not; he is, in a sense, not really a character at all.  But right now we’re focused something more important: the future.  The future is the milk’s past.  It makes me wonder: Will the future get fresher, or will it spoil?  I vote for fresher.  Let’s change the direction time flows.  After all, does it really matter whether your past spoils?  I think not.

Until next time: Peace.

Years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker

Scale

scale“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” ~ Arthur C. Clarke.

Scale and scope.

When did the scale and scope of speculative fiction become so obsessed with the unimaginable?  This question came to mind the other night when I was watching Star Trek Into Darkness, after having just seen a re-run of Doctor Who‘s “The Eleventh Hour” (s05e01) the day before.  Both shows, so completely different in theme, character, and setting, do have something in common: The stakes are so high that the action — both physical and dramatic — has to be quasi-supernatural in order to … in order to … in order to what?

Keep our attention?

  • Is it really necessary to have a fist fight with a genetically engineered god on top of an air-car traveling at 100 miles per hour?
  • Is it really necessary to have Mr. Spock from two different universes?
  • Is it really necessary to climb through an unimaginably large warp core that’s eerily reminiscent of a famous British police box on the inside?

Speaking of which …

  • Is it really necessary to hack into a global video teleconference?
  • Is it really necessary to have an villain who can shape-shift (clothes, and dog collar, and all) into anything, anything at all?
  • Is it really necessary to program a planet-wide computer virus?

Maybe it is.  I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, because both of these shows charge me with that sense of wonder that’s enchanted me since I was old enough to know what genre is.

Vast scales and scopes are nothing new to the mythos of speculative fiction; not when you had shows like The Twilight Zone telling you that there was a fifth dimension “as vast as space and as timeless as infinity” right there in the corner of your eye; not when you had The Outer Limits telling you that “we will control all you see and hear”; not when you had spaceships traveling to Jupiter so humanity could become star children.  And all of that was a generation ago.

But if we take away today’s themes of the universe-is-going-to-implode-and-all-of-spacetime-is-going-to-get-flushed-down-a-Planck-scale-toilet, then what are we really left with?  We’re left with questions.  And those are the hardest things of all.  Do we seek justice, or do we demand revenge when we see crimes of utter devastation?  Do we trust the man in the bow-tie when he was really only figment of our childhood?   Do we believe there is absolute good and absolute evil?  Or do we believe there’s a spectrum in between?

The struggle to save humanity — the galaxy, the universe, the mutli-verse itself — really pales when compared to the questions that these shows ask.  The visual candy is there — oh, yes — and I will gladly pay the price of admission time and time again to consume it.  But I want to ask these questions.  I want us all to ask questions.  In my opinion, that’s the only way we can grow.  I want to know if there’s moral absolutism or moral relativism … or both.  I want to know what we do when morality changes, if indeed it can.  I want to know how to ask these questions.  I don’t look for answers much anymore, but I don’t think that’s the point anyway.  I think we, as humans, have to ask them.

By the way, a Star Trek fan gave me two hand-made Tribbles.  They’re sitting on the mantle next to a Waterford crystal wine decanter, in stark contrast to one another: The sublime and the ridiculous.  The trouble is, I don’t know which is sublime and which is ridiculous.  That’s another question I’ll have to ask.

Until next time, years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013, Keith Parker, except as noted below:

Doctor Who is copyright © 2013 by the BBC. No infringement upon the rights of the BBC is intended.

Relative

ClaraThis week on Fish and TARDIS Sauce The PITTS* examines the frontiers of the good Doctor’s name, and waxes sophomoric about variants that have given us even richer viewing experiences over the years.  Since there’s widespread speculation that the name itself might be an impediment to new viewers, we’re going to explore other shows of its era that are similarly titled, and see how they did.

Now, when I say widespread speculation please understand that this means it’s really just a large school of thought.  Okay, not large, by normal standards, but certainly a school.  And take school with a grain of salt, too, since I’m painting things with a broad brush.   In fact, let’s just call it a vocal minority.   Eh, well, since that might imply a crowd, we’ll be a little more precise and say that this idea stemmed from a few folks who were standing around shooting the shit.  And when I say “few” I really mean one guy who posted it before going to the kitchen to make himself a ham-and-swiss on wheat … with mayo.

And that brings us full circle.  What exactly is the name “Doctor Who,” and have there been others like it?   In grammatical terms, it’s simply a combination of an honorific and a relative pronoun.

A few common honorifics include …

  • Mister
  • Dowager
  • Miss

… while some of the relative pronouns in English are:

  • Who
  • Whom
  • Whose

Now, let’s take a look at some of the other shows that’ve cropped up over the years and see how they did:

Mister Who — In this American alternative to the BBC’s offering, the protagonist was not so much a “Time Lord” as a “Working Man Whose Time Is Valuable.”  Mister Who followed the adventures of an angst-ridden, angry electrical engineer who lived in a three-bedroom rancher, mowed his lawn with alarming regularity, and boasted uncanny foreknowledge of each Sunday’s NFL games.  In fact, most of his time-traveling involved jumping back and forth between his Saturday morning chores and Sunday afternoon’s organization of his toolshop, where everything was arranged alphabetically in his one-car garage.  The garage was also the location of his time machine, a UNIVAC I that he bought from a surplus equipment sale at a local air base (along with a gun-metal-gray desk and chair).  The real drama of the show surfaced when the boys “down at the shop” realized that Mister Who had been secretly voting for Democrats while telling them he was a Republican.  The show was cancelled after funding was pulled by its sponsor, a security firm known as The Plumbers.

Dowager Whom — In a tradition that only science fiction seems to maintain (see: Trek, Star) — Dowager Whom had more than one pilot episode, pitting the widowed detective against an array of stodgy Scotland Yard policemen who do not realize that by channeling her late husband, the Dowager could conveniently see into the future and find out “whodunit.”  While the network was impressed with the originality of the plot, they felt that “woods were full of shows like this” and opted for something more unique: A continuing daily serial copiously sponsored by makers of cigarettes and soap products.  It should be noted that Dowager Whom is known as DW to its legions of fans, who are increasingly annoyed that the initials DW have come to refer to a different show altogether.

Miss Whose — This delightful fantasy only aired two episodes before being turned into an ongoing series of Canadian pantyhose commercials.

And that, friends and neighbors, is just one small sample.  If you skim the pages of old issues of TV Guide, or simply have an overactive imagination, you’ll see dozens of other programs employing similar grammatical techniques, like the ill-fated Brother That, and the semi-lurid Master Which.

You’ll also note that I’ve posted a photo of Doctor Who‘s latest companion, the fictional but beautiful Clara Oswald.  That is all.

Years truly,

Keith

* PITTS — The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies

Copyright 2013 Keith Parker