CTTO

KateThis week, The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) has asked our Chief Time Travel Officer (CTTO) to look back at his favorite science fiction shows over the years, to include more than just Doctor Who. He was given the choice of time travel devices for this effort, including a TARDIS, a Delorean, a stopwatch, and a hot tub.  Being a button-down preppie type, Parker asked for a BMZ Z4, as we expected. He was dismayed that we had not tailored the Z4 with a flux capacitor, and the weather hasn’t been stormy anyway, so he chose the stopwatch, thinking it looked good with his summer wool trousers (it doesn’t). So, without further ado, our CTTO’s list:

The Twilight Zone:

My favorite episodes are two of the show’s creepiest, “The Hitchhiker” and “Long Distance Call.” I don’t know why I keep one foot in the horror camp, considering how horrible it is there, but since it’s in my tagline (“science fiction, fantasy, horror, history, mystery, whiskey”) I figure I best get with the program, as it were.

Star Trek: The Original Series

This one’s easy. There are three episodes I could watch anytime, anywhere. The original pilot (“The Cage”) with its mysterious cast that wasn’t; Harlan Ellison’s incomparable “City on the Edge of Forever”, which is one of the best romances ever put on the broadcast TV; and the truly testosterone-driven guy episode (“The Doomsday Machine”). “They say there’s no devil, Jim …”

The Outer Limits

“Demon with a Glass Hand” because anything written by Harlan Ellison is superb, and “It Came Out of the Woodwork” because of that one foot in the horror camp thingie (yep, I said thingie … comfortable in my own skin).

Space: 1999

Keeping with the foot-in-horror one more time, this absurdly stupid TV series produced one of the scariest hours of programming ever with “Dragon’s Domain.” It’s the kind of thing that’d keep me up at night if it weren’t for the whole whiskey thing (see tagline, above).  Tentacles. Lots of slimy tentacles.

The X-Files

Gotta go with “Paper Clip” here for its incredible kitchen-sink mix of conspiracies and contemporary mythologies. I need to visit the grassy knoll one day.

The NEW Battlestar Galactica

Did you notice I said new? I’m referring, of course, to the re-imagined series that began in 2003, and not the commode-ringed insult to our intelligence and eyes that came out in the late 70s. Anyway, fave episode? The one titled “33”, hands-down. The whole concept could be made into a novel (note to self).  An attack coming every 33 minutes?  No time to sleep.  No way to even think.  Oh, hell, yes.  Great show!  The original Battlestar Galaxative?  Makes me wanna pour bleach in my eyes.

LOST

There are almost too many to list here, considering it’s one of my favorite shows EVER, but I think I’ll give the nod to “The Constant” when Desmond is jumping back-and-forth between his Army service and modern day, including finding Penny. Another gem is “Through the Looking Glass,” and it’s damn hard to discount the Pilot. There’s something about pilots (which means Jules Winfield and I are on the same page).  There’s a picture of Kate in her underwear above; the purpose of that is eye candy (#shameless #lech).

Firefly

All. Of. Them.  Every damn episode.  “Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle.”

Classic Doctor Who

I haven’t seen as many as I’d like, but for now “City of Death”, penned by the best science fiction humorist ever, Douglas Adams, is never going to be far from the top in my book. Have I ever mentioned just how CUTE Romana is? Oh, yeah, I did. But it’s worth repeating. Also, since she’s not so terribly much older than I perhaps my crush on her is a good bit more acceptable than a crush might be on, say, Jenna-Louise Coleman, who’s probably young enough to be my daughter. I really need to look into using time travel to age backwards.

New Doctor Who

“The Name of the Doctor”.  Despite my sister-in-law’s (sister’s-in-law?) insistence that there’s only one Doctor (David Tennant) the seventh series finale of Doctor Who is a masterpiece of humor, horror, sentimentality, action, adventure and mystery. If the series had never hit a homerun before (it had) they certainly did with this.

And so, back to you …

The PITTS would like to tolerate thank Parker for his insight. His essay has been logged and filed in its proper location: the circular cabinet.

Peace.

Copyright (c) 2013 Keith Parker. All Rights Reserved. All trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners and are used for entertainment purposes only and as provided for by the “Fair Use” copyright clause.

Cyborg

Cyborg.  Ha!  Gotta have a huge shout-out to my man, “MirkinFirkin”, and his hilarious blog, www.JustJiggleTheHandle.com. If you’re a fan of the satirical newspaper, The Onion, you will love his satire. He is a riot. The shout-out is specifically related to his mention of the Cybermen from Doctor Who. Until yesterday I honestly did not know the difference between a robot and a cyborg.  How weird is that?  I’ve read/watched SFFH my whole freakin’ life … didn’t have a clue.  I’d better learn really freakin’ fast, though, because we got us a new novel in the works; it’s set on an alien planet where robots with human brains (i.e., cyborgs) are preparing the way for human colonization when they discover (wait for it!) an ancient evil. Did you expect anything less from a Lovecraft fan?

More on the novel in coming months, but for now I will say that the “robots” do not look anything like Doctor Who‘s Cybermen. Why? Because I think the Cybermen look like shit. Seriously. I hate them. They remind me of something I’d see in a bad episode of Lost in Space (but that’s redundant, isn’t it?). In fact, I’d rather kick back and watch reruns of the original Battlestar Galaxative rather assault my eyes with that garbage.

But, enough whining. People whine too much these days. Doctor Who is fun. That’s what TV is for.

Before I close, though, another shout-out is in order to my friend and fellow Birmingham-Southern physicist, James Archer (who is not a cyborg) for reminding me that everything in the universe has a starting point and an ending point.  Everything that can exist does exist, at least according to prevailing theories (theories in the sciences are the same as facts for you and me).  Now all I have to do to comfort myself (perhaps a nice glass of whiskey) is find a theory for emergent consciousness.  That should be simple like radar, as The Stooges once said.

  • A man walks into a bar and asks, “Where’s the Doctor?”
  • The bartender replies, “Doctor Who?”

Peace, from

Keith

Copyright (c) 2013, Keith Parker

Grave

Grave“The fate of all is always dust.”

~ So say The Whispermen when The Doctor encounters them on Trenzalore, the place of his death, the place he is buried.

In the seventh season finale, which may be the best Doctor Who episode I’ve ever seen, The Doctor faces his own mortality.   With a grave (as it were) face, The Doctor steps out of his time machine and sets foot upon the planet that serves as his own cemetery, and is able to look upon his own tomb.

Clara Oswald says, “Anybody’d be scared, looking at their own grave.”

This is the slimy, oozy underbelly of time travel, isn’t it?  The one with the bugs and wiggly worms.  If we had the ability to hop around time, we’d eventually — through accident or purpose — find out the time, place, and manner of our own demise.

What happens to us when we die?  I don’t mean that in religious terms, per se.  I mean it experientially.  When we die —  assuming we have some knowledge of it (i.e., not getting blindsided by oncoming Mack truck hauling a load of gravel to build a new overpass on the Parkway) — what goes through our mind?  One instant you have a thought, the next instant you do not have a thought.  Or, so it would seem.

In February 2003 my brother died of a heart attack.  I wasn’t there when it happened, but he apparently died instantly.  He was in his kitchen.  He fell to the floor.  Dead.  What was his last thought?  What was he talking about when it happened?  Or was he talking?  I have heard he was in a really good mood, and I certainly hope that that was the case, but honestly, I stay up at night and wonder: What did he think right before he passed out.  Maybe he knew pain.  Maybe he was scared out of his mind.  I certainly hope not.  I’d like to think he thought nothing.  Or, best case, he was  bewildered and confused.

But then what happened?  Did he have a near-death experience?  Did he slowly rise above his body and watch as his wife tried to administer CPR while she waited on the paramedics?  Did he see and hear all of this?  If so, how?  How did he see and hear without eyes and ears?  Or, was there simply nothing?  Was there just blackness?

As you might imagine, being the only survivor of my immediate family, I often wonder about fatality.  But I don’t have answers.  Some people do.  Some are convinced, through devout faith, and know with 100% certainty that there is an afterlife, with proof rooted in scripture.  Likewise, secular humanists know with 100% certainty that there is nothing beyond the wall of death.  And so those of us in the middle say that they can’t both be right.

Or can they?

I have a degree in physics.  And I attended one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country.  One of the things they taught me in my physics classes, and one of the things my alma mater emphasized, was the importance of coming to grips with cognitive dissonance, the ability (need) to hold onto two conflicting notions.  Like the famous wave/particle duality of light and matter, maybe our quest for an afterlife has two correct but different solutions.  And maybe Doctor Who answers the question as well as any: That the dimension of time itself is wibbly, wobbly, and that — like a greased pig — when we think we have it in our grasp it slithers away again.

You can’t believe in A and B they tell me.  And I ask myself, why not?

Until next time, don’t think about matters grave.  Let me take that burden from you.

Peace,

Keith

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker

The image posted in this blog is the property of the BBC, and is their sole property.  It is used here under this author’s understanding of the fair use laws.

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

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