Tentacle

A few weeks ago many of us fell in love as the story broke of a free-spirited little New Zealand octopus named Inky, who made his way out his aquarium, ambled across the floor of the research lab, and snaked into a small drain pipe that led to his ancestral home in the Pacific Ocean. Many of us, smitten by a cephalopod of such serious purpose, wonder about his whereabouts, his healthcare, his forwarding address.

Less than a week ago I was talking to an overbearing acquaintance about my latest novel, and mentioned that the book’s primary antagonist is a savage nightmare with tentacles like those of octopi. The acquaintance, concerned by my lack of fundamental biology and spelling, jabbed a finger in midair.

“You couldn’t be more wrong,” he said. “An octopus has arms, not tentacles. And the plural of octopus is octopuses, not octopi.”

He huffed, stomping off.

I puckered my lips, pondered this. Since he was probably correct, I decided that, like a good protagonist, I had to take action. Since Jack Parker and I are the gods of our mythical world of Newtonia, I have decided to create octopi in its oceans. And you know what our octopi possess? Tentacles.

That’s the beauty of being a guy who tells lies for entertainment: I can do whatever the hell I want. Just like Inky.

Peace,

Keith

Wanna read more about Newtonia? Read MADNESS RISING, available for Kindle.

Copyright (c) 2016 Keith Parker

Humour

cartoon-ghost-clip-art-vector-online-royalty-free-public-funny.jpg

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

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.

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

Custard

keep“Haven’t got a hotdog in there, have you?  I’m starving.  I know, it’s the Cyberman of food, but it’s tasty.” ~ The Doctor

I knew I’d found a show to call home when I googled “Doctor Who food” and came up with 351,000,000 damn hits.  That’s more hits than there are people in these United States of America plus Nebraska.  By contrast, the same search with Star Trek gave me 145,000,000.  In fact, it was Star Trek that gave me the idea for this post.  In “The Trouble with Tribbles,” Jim Kirk pulls a tray chock-full of tribbles out of the ship’s replicator.

“My chicken sandwich and coffee,” he says.  “This is my chicken sandwich and coffee.”

We were watching this episode at home during the run-up to Star Trek Into Darkness.  When I spoke these lines in perfect harmony with William Shatner, not only did I garner a sideways look from my wife (I wonder if she’s sitting in a lawyer’s office right now?) but I realized we SF fans tend to go a bit off the deep end when it comes to knowing our shows.

Since Doctor Who has a rather unorthodox (weird?) set of characters and plots, I wondered if fans had taken the time to compile lists of the more nutritious elements of the program.  Well, ask a stupid question …

So, just for fun, here are some of the more colorful concoctions from our favorite time-travelling creatures.  All puns intended, which is a bit like All Saints Day, but without the soul food …

  • Custard with fish fingers … (The Doctor ate that horror when he first met Amy)
  • Soufflés that Oswin/Clara made … (Gotta do something while trapped inside the insane asylum of the Daleks, I guess)
  • Romana gave K-9 a sponge cake that went sentient … (Never thought about conscious dessert; it’s usually conscience.)
  • Barbara Wright ate grapes sometime in … (Well, when in time.)
  • Kronkburgers … (How many billion of those have been sold?)
  • Lenta … (Kinda like your mom making you eat your English peas, only those didn’t double as mother’s little pill, did they?)
  • Mammoth casserole … (Wonder how that’d go over at a good ole Southern funeral?)
  • Protein bars … (Who said this show wasn’t ahead of its time?)
  • … (Nothing to see here, folks.  Move along.)
  • Yogurt … (Caution: Spoiler … the 11th Doctor’s favorite food.)
  • Brainy Crisps … (They’re not just for breakfast anymore.)
  • The aroma of Karamine pudding … (Like Paris in Spring, only different.)
  • And, lo, there are the ubiquitous Jelly Babies, made famous by Tom Baker, offered whenever stressful situations deemed it necessary  … (But first consumed by the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, for those trivia-minded among you.)

But take all this with a grain of salt (ba ha).  Because like the warning on the Ice Gun (“Do not use to cool drinks, freeze food, win arguments, or create Christmas grotto decorations”) my blog should not be taken at anything deeper than surface level.

Until next time, remember that it is the lack of food that keeps us hungry.  Keep eating!

Years truly,
Keith

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.

Lost

clara“I know what I said.  I was the one who said it.” ~ Clara Oswald, Companion of the 11th Doctor

This week on Fish and TARDIS Sauce The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) brings you yet another blog post peppered with slightly (read: highly) unorthodox quotes from another brilliant episode of Doctor Who.

Keep in mind that in order to watch this show — or read my blog — you don’t have to know jack-shit about either one.  You don’t even have to know — like I didn’t — that the plural of deus ex machina is dei ex machina or that — like Bug Bunny knows — Carson City is the capital of Nevada.  None of that is a required reading.  But Doctor Who should be required viewing.  And the episode in question, “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” (s07e10), gives us enough one-liners, head-scratchers, and zingers to make us hungry for more.

  • Clara: “It’s an appliance.  It does a job.”
  • The Doctor: “It’s a pretty cool appliance.  We’re not talking cheese grater here.”
  • Clara: “You’re not getting me to talk to your ship.  That’s properly bonkers.”

When Clara gets lost inside the TARDIS following an accident, she quickly discovers one of the best story lines in all of science fiction: Finding your way out of one big-ass maze that has decided that it (the intelligent big-ass maze) isn’t terribly fond of you.

  • The Doctor: “Ever see a ship get ugly?”

So, like the sprawling metropolis of London or the freeway system of Atlanta at rush hour, Clara finds herself in the seemingly impossible situation of getting out of a seemingly endless situation inside a seemingly endless setting, all within the span of one hour of telly (seemingly to include commercials).

  • Note to aspiring writers: Don’t use adverbs too much.
  • Or, as The Doctor put it: “Don’t get into a ship with a madman.  Didn’t anyone teach you that?”

The episode drips with teases, like Clara looking in the OED-sized History of the Time War, flipping to a random  page, and murmuring, “So that’s who,” when she learns The Doctor’s real name.  Or the tease about the relationship (past, present, and future) between The Doctor and Clara, and why she is who she is.

“It’s spinning a labyrinth?” the Doctor says to the under-developed junk-dealing characters.  That’s what this episode does.  It spins a labyrinth, and dares us to follow the string back out again, especially given the creepy, distorted hallways and ghoul-like monstrosities wandering the “lower decks” of our favorite time machine.

  • Clara: “Why have you got zombie-creatures?  Good guys do not have zombie-creatures.  Rule one, basic storytelling!”
  • The Doctor: “Not in front of the guests.”

And yet, the Doctor knows he has to keep secrets.  Without secrets, he can’t keep his loved-ones safe.

  • Clara: “What aren’t you telling me?”
  • The Doctor: “Trust me.  There are some things you don’t want to know.”

The TARDIS can be both magnificent and malevolent, sublime and ridiculous, jovial and jealous.  With its Star Trek-like corridors and horror movie memes and under-developed side story, there’s plenty of room to criticize the episode, but a couple of lines of dialog really make us sit up and think about why we’re watching and why the BBC is writing and producing this masterpiece.

  • The Doctor to Tricky, the man who was tricked into believing he was artificial: “They changed your identify to provide some inflight entertainment.”

The essence of this episode, the essence of Doctor Who — and if you’ll forgive the conceit — the essence of all speculative fiction is summed up in The Doctor’s fierce reprimand of the brother who tricked Tricky, as it were:

  • Doctor [to Tricky]: “Listen to me.  Ask yourself why he couldn’t cut you up.  He had just one tiny scrap of decency left in him, and you helped him find that.”
  • Doctor to Gregor: “Now, you.  Don’t ever forget this.”

Yep.  For me, that is why we have genre; it reminds us that we have tiny bits of decency within us.  That’s why we have science fiction, fantasy, humor, horror, romance, mystery, and their red-headed stepchild known as time travel.  Or maybe I’m just full of it.  Could be.  Like Clara said when looking at the vast cathedral the TARDIS whipped up out of midair: “Now that’s just showing off.”

Maybe I’m showing off.  Or maybe I’m just lost in a maze, too.  In a way I hope that’s true.

Years truly,

Keith

P.S. To all my new blog followers, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to read and comment.  I hope you’re enjoying this little sliver of cyberspace as much as I’m enjoying weaving it.  Your support is appreciated more than you know!

Copyright © 2013 by Alan Keith Parker

Doctor Who and the quotes reproduced here are copyright © 2013 by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); no infringement upon their intellectual property is intended.

Soul

Doctor-Who-final

Okay, so I finally watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special from 2011 titled “The Doctor, Widow and the Wardrobe,” and reminded myself that I need to remind myself that I need to ask the question that famous SF author Connie Willis is constantly reminding herself to ask: “Do apes have souls?”

In this case, of course, the question would be better re-worded to ask whether trees have souls, and I’ll remind myself to do that at the end of this post.  But the sentiment is the same, isn’t it?

  • Reminder: Be sure to ask this question in multiple venues, including the office, church, and the next cocktail party I go to.
  • Reminder: Note the reactions.  The last time you did this people rolled their eyes and mumbled excuses to wander away.

But do they?  Do trees have souls?  Individually?  Collectively?  Are they … Borg?   Speaking of Borg, did you know that in one of the 1960s’ Doctor Who episodes the Daleks told The Doctor “resistance was useless”?  Coincidence?  Doubtful.  Germane to this blog?  Not in the least.

It’s a touching episode — “The Doctor, Widow, and the Wardrobe” — and even though I’m not a fan of C.S. Lewis, I found the homage delightful.  It’s certainly heart-warming, with a great time-travel paradox to wrap things up in a Christmastime bow.  Those always give me that “ooh ah” sense of wonder I love so much.

But I really did start waxing idiotic about the soul again.  It’s an ages-old question that won’t be solved here, but the question still lingers like the downed tree in the forest that nobody heard fall except Walt Whitman.

The answer is another question: Do we really know?  The atheist says he knows, and the theist says that he knows, while the Buddhist simply says to the hot dog vender: make me one with everything.

But if we have souls, then are our souls unique?  Or, are we part of a greater collective soul?  A collective consciousness, one German called it.  And is that the destiny of all living things?  Is that part of evolution?  Amy Pond is certainly part of evolution.  She’s pictured to the right, even though she — like The Borg — has nothing to do with this post.  Now that my obligatory lecherousness is out of the way, I can pose a few more questions, bullet-style:amy_pond

  • Ever wonder about entities that might become alive?
    • Like a virus, or the Internet.
  • Can there be a collective RNA?
  • Will a sentient Internet have a collective consciousness?
  • What if the plants and the trees and the birds and the bees are all part of our consciousness?
  • Whither the lions and tigers and bears?

And then, … and then, … and then you have to ask, does the universe itself have a consciousness?  Here are some more bullets for your consideration:

  • Is the universe alive?
  • Is the universe’s life force the same as what we call God?
  • Did Luke use The Force?
  • Why did my team just run 3 draw-plays in a row?
  • What about parallel universes?  Do they get souls, too?

It’s an interesting question isn’t it?  There are roughly 1082 particles in the universe.  What if they all compose a single mind?  Are they (it?) the source of morality, of genius … of art?  And what do we do about that one rebel (there’s always one) among us who asks, what about particle number 1082 + 1?

Is that lonely electron on its own?

One is, as the song says, the loneliest number.

That’s all for now.  Just some simple questions to ponder over a mug of beer (or six).  Oh, and remind me to talk about Doctor Who next time I post.  That really is what this blog is all about.  Well, that, and hot dogs.

Years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013