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

Fish and TARDIS Sauce

DW_Fathers_Day_TARDIS_door_openFish and TARDIS sauce!  Oh, man, I kill me.  It’s a good thing I came ready-made with a martini-dry sense of humor; otherwise I’d never be able to entertain myself!

But the TARDIS part of (my really bad) joke is the main reason for this brief blog post.  One of the things that originally attracted me to Doctor Who —  besides Companions like Romana, Rose, Martha, and Amy  — was the ages-old concept of the building that’s bigger on the inside than the outside.  Or, as one astute observer put it: “It’s smaller on the outside.”

Over the years I’ve noticed that a lot of writers and would-be writers will home-in on a particular trope or meme, and hyper-focus on it without realizing its history.  I think this is true of the hyper-dimensional room. Like Alice’s looking-glass, glass slippers, and time-slips, it’s one of those devices that have persisted throughout fantasy.  So if you want to use something like The Doctor’s TARDIS in one of your own stories or screenplays, I think it’s really important to do some research on the subject.  In fact, doing research is one of the reasons I love being a writer.

A quick trip around the Internet gives you a sense of what I’m talking about with when we ponder rooms that have extra dimensions.  And a quick visualization might help you realize just how WEIRD this concept really is.  Think about it: You go get in your car tomorrow pick up some pizza and beer.  You open the door, drop your car keys, and when you pick them up off the floorboard you look around and realize you’re inside UPS Delivery Truck, with enough space to play a game of football and have a few fans cheering you on from the sideline.  That’s how freaky that experience would be.

So, if you want to include extra-dimensions in your writing, be sure to understand that — like everything else in fiction — it’s been done before:

  • The Hut of Baba Yaga (yes, this was in Dungeons & Dragons, but that’s not where it originated)
  • Tents larger on the inside (yes, Rowling evoked this in Harry Potter, but so did The Beatles in one of their movies, and the concept dates back to at least to 1001 Arabian Nights)
  • The wardrobe from C.S. Lewis’ Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • The “endless forest” of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood
  • The short story “And He Built a Crooked House” by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The human brain
  • A Bag of Holding (which really is from Dungeons & Dragons)
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • “Waterfall” by M.C. Escher
  • And the almost unbearably disturbing painting Corpus Hypercubus by Salvador Dali

That’s just one small sampling.  But what a cool sampling it is.  Now, that takes care of the TARDIS part of the title, but what the hell does this have to do with fish?  Nothing, unless I’m paying tribute to Douglas Adams, the incomparable science fiction humorist.

May he rest in peas. I think the dolphins would’ve said that, too :-)

Keith

Copyright © 2013

Credit to these websites for invaluable information:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BiggerOnTheInside

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesseract

Rose: She Smells Sweeter

[Ed: I apologize for the initial post’s typographical errors. I’m sure that’s never happened in a blog before.]

I just re-watched the pilot for the 2005 version the BBC’s Doctor Who, and I’m a lot more impressed the second time (as it were) around. The complaints I had after watching initially were centered around the department store dummies that came to life, and that was just a little too campy for a show this recent. And I’m a little surprised by the pilot’s success going up against character-driven masterpieces like the new Battlestar Galactica and the incomparable LOST.

Image

But this episode, simply titled “Rose,” does have its moments, especially as Billie Piper’s character comes to realize her quasi-love-at-first-sight tickle. And I applaud her prodding The Doctor and the Internet conspiracy theorist about the life, the universe, and, well, everything.

The show takes some nice swipes at British culture (the eyesore of London, the VW beetle parked on the curb) and uses some subtle satire here and there that might be lost, especially on American audiences, when they see it the first time.

The downside of the episode is that Rose’s boyfriend — after getting eaten by a trash can — comes back as a man made of consciousness-infused plastic, tears up a restaurant, and proceeds to get melted inside the TARDIS. I dunno what’s wrong with me, but I had trouble suspending disbelief in that part of the show. I don’t know whether it was Rose’s “culture shock” to the TARDIS itself, or simply bad acting/directing, but her emotional reaction to the death of her boyfriend was a tad underwhelming.

However, the encounter with the consciousness being itself was much more subtly creative than I first gave it credit for. Watching in a dimly lit room, I realized this was an homage to The Outer Limits. The gooey monster in the pit had every characteristic, sans black-and-white film, of monsters that creeped me out as a kid.

I have to admit I’m quite jealous of Doctor Who now that I’ve gotten into it. It has the traits that I’ve always wanted to put into a series of stories or novels: contemporary settings, time travel, interesting characters, real human drama, and an immortal. Of course there’s no reason why I can’t create this all on my own. I think we science fiction and fantasy writers are a little too self-conscious about “stealing” ideas, when, in actuality, ideas cannot be copyrighted or stolen. If I were to concoct my own story arc about an immortal time traveller and his sexy companion the result would be so different from Doctor Who that it’d only be recognized by its genre.

So keep that in mind as you work on your own writing. Everything is derivative, even Homer (the Greek, not the Simpson).

Until next time,

Peace from Keith

Copyright © 2012 Alan Keith Parker