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.

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

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.

Clutter

Rose and Jack“All the world’s a stage” ~ As You Like It, Act II Scene VII, by William Shakespeare, used without his permission.

It’s been a stressful couple of months for a number of reasons (long hours, stomach flu, etc.), and during this time I’ve noticed that my mind keeps circling back to the famous Doctor Who story arc in “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.”

  •   Are you my mummy?

As I daydream these two episodes get mingled with a conversation I had with a friend over the holidays.  It was one of those “tough love” kind of conversations (I was on the receiving end), which sought to knock some sense into me about the stresses in my life compared to those of others.  There is no doubt that my friend was right:  Others have it far, far worse than I.  We throw away enough food here in America to feed entire continents.  We have electricity, heat, air conditioning, and we even still have Twinkies.  And I am grateful.  I’m grateful to everyone, from farmers to HVAC mechanics, who help make us a first-world country.   So, no, I’m not living in desolation.  But even those who’re the same demographic as I am have their own burdens of stress, grief, disease, and turmoil on a daily basis.  Knowing this, however, does not comfort me.  Knowing that everyone else is going through hell just makes me wonder if I’m the victim of a gargantuan prank.  I’m not — I’m not that jaded — but it does make me wonder.

Which brings us back to

  •     Are you my mummy?

this two-part Doctor Who episode.  It’s a compelling, kitchen-sink mix of science fiction, history, humor, and horror.  We get to see a new character: The swashbuckling and handsome Jack Harkness.  We get to see Rose out of character: Freewheeling and whimsical in a delightful way that brings balance to the plot.  And we get to hear The Doctor’s name again: Not his real one, of course, but the time-worn (as it were) John Smith pseudonym once again.  And the story, like life, is a mountainous journey, with high peaks and shadowed valleys meant to

  • Are you my mmmmmmm-ummmmmmy?

scare the bejesus out of us.  But my goal is not to rehash the plot.  My goal is to say that the episode is CLUTTER!  In a good way :)

Like our lives, it is overwhelming — a city being bombed to rubble, a nano-virus on the loose, paranoia of not becoming “like them.”  Steven Moffat and his crew at the BBC took this confusion and turned it into a classic piece of entertainment.  For those of us who’ve never fought in a war or been helpless victims as bombs erupted in the sky we cannot possibly imagine the

  • Are you my mummy?

terrors of battle.  From the explosions that will blow your eardrums out, to the sights of rubble and carnage and blood, to the smells of death — the latter being the one thing that TV will never, I hope, provide us — the episode imagines destruction on a planetary scale and fright on a human scale.   But it’s all fiction.  It’s all smoke and mirrors.  It’s … all … a … play.  So, yes, for most people understanding that you’re not alone in your struggle helps to deal with an unpredictable world.   But that doesn’t help me.  What does help is story-telling, in all its forms.  Those media (books, film, TV) provide a sanctuary for my personal stress.   And they allow me to take a step back and project my life onto a stage, while I take my seat in the audience.  It helps me to know that Shakespeare was right: The world really is a stage.  It keeps me from going crazier’n a shithouse rat.  And that’s the “therapy” I need.  I don’t need tough love.  I need fantasy.

And you know what else helps, friends and neighbors?  Sneaking up on people and whispering, “Are you my mummy?” in a creepy British accent.

Years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013

Do Writers Need a Blog?

The Christmas holidays gave me some time to reflect on writing and the flu, which are an oddly similar afflictions.  One of thing that I kept circling back to was this question: Do we writers need to have blogs?

Nessie

I started this blog back in 2011 to give out free writing advice, for what it’s worth.  I then rebooted it last year to focus on writing science fiction or — as I call it at cocktail parties — sex scenes.

But seriously, even under the huge umbrella of science fiction, fantasy and horror, I don’t really have a focus.  Just think about all the things I’m interested in:

  • Science fiction
  • College football
  • Fantasy
  • Television
  • Home improvement projects (I even do windows)
  • Time travel
  • The Civil War
  • Creative writing
  • Computer modeling
  • Graphics
  • JFK
  • Encyclopedias
  • Maps
  • Atlases
  • Classic rock
  • Cuba
  • Gnosticism
  • Humor
  • Horror
  • World War II
  • Beer
  • Collecting books
  • The Cold War
  • Old school D&D
  • Pencil-sketching
  • Restaurants

This is pretty typical of writers, being interested in lot of stuff.  We’re sponges.  We’d probably make good Jeapordy contestants.

My dilemma is that I have the attention span of a puppy running through a pet store.  If I start writing a time travel story today, by Friday I’ll shelve it and start working on a nonfiction piece about beer.  I’ve written three novels, hundreds of short stories, and enough blog entries for a decent book.

Sure, I’ve been pimping my one published novel and my thin collection of published shorts (not boxers), but my writing has not exactly zoomed into the stratosphere.  And I’ve been doing this for 20 years.

So, why continue with this blog?  This isn’t a pity-party.  I’m not slumped-shouldered (except when grave-robbing).  I’m asking a real question: Do writers need a blog?  I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

Until next time,

Peace, from Keith

Copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker

Dystopian Dysfunction

Yesterday I quit watching the episode “Bad Wolf” from Season 1 of the 2005 re-boot of Doctor Who.  There are a number of critical reasons – including setting, dialog, pacing, character development, and enough deus ex machina events to depopulate Mount Olympus for decades – but the real reason is that it sucked.  And that’s a shame.  It’s the penultimate (I wanted to use that word today) episode of the season and supposedly has a cliffhanger to die for.

If you’re curious, the story is about The Doctor, Rose Tyler, and Captain Jack suddenly finding themselves contestants in sinister game shows of the future.  Did it work?  No.  In fact, the show was so campy it made me long for the carrot-people of Lost in Space.  Yeah, it was that bad.

Bad_Wolf_BWI’m sure I’ll struggle through the damn thing this evening.  After all, it’s just a TV show, and it is part of the larger Doctor Who and Torchwood story arcs.  How do I know this?  By using Google?  Reading episode guides?  No.  I know it’s part of the grander scheme because I’ve been watching the show backwards.  After all, it’s about time travel, so the order shouldn’t matter.  (Actually, it’d be more accurate to say I’m watching the series sideways, which is pronounced “utra-guh-a-guh” for you Three Stooges fans out there.)

What was it that was so unappealing?   As I stared dumbly at the ol’ idiot box, wondering whether the damn thing would ever end, I kept thinking about The Hunger Games.  Why?  Well, like The Hunger Games, this episode was long, tedious, and weird, with dumbass haircuts, glitter, plastic boobs, and computer-generated voices.  That’s when it dawned on me: This is just one more example of dystopian dysfunction that’s gripped entertainment in recent years.

What is the deal with the apocalypse these days?  It can’t be the fact that mankind is living through tough times.  Hell, we’ve been doing that ever since God told Abraham to carve up his son like a Thanksgiving turkey.  I mean, holy bat, cow man, how much of this end times crap do we have to put up with, anyway?

I want normal settings.  I want period pieces.  And I want something speculative, like an alien, a time machine, or an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.

So what led Russell T. Davies – the writer of this episode – to script one of the lowest-rated Doctor Who episodes ever?   My guess is that it was a disastrous attempt at humor.   That’s where it diverges from The Hunger Games.  The latter is a serious attempt at warning young adult readers about the dangers of totalitarianism.  I think Davies was trying to write satire.  And I fear he failed.  Less is more when it comes to yucking it up, and Davies tried to push “more is more” down our throats.

As I told someone on G+ not too long ago, the best humor involves puns, subtlety, and resisting the urge to repeat the punch line ad nauseum.   Consider a handful of one-liners that’ve been known to make people laugh:

“I love being a writer.  What I can’t stand is the paper work.”

“A Southern man will stagger to the polls to vote dry.”

“You can skydive without a paracute.  You just can’t do it twice.”

If Davies were trying to make a satire out of “Bad Wolf” I feel he failed badly.  If he were trying to create yet another dysfunctional dystopian soap opera, then he succeeded beyond imagination, unfortunately.

Until next time,

Peace, from Keith

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Text of this blog is Copyright © 2012, Alan Keith Parker.  All Rights Reserved.  The graphic embedded in this blog entry is a copyrighted screenshot that has been changed to a black-and-white image because no free alternative is known to exist.

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.

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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

Dear Oprah, Dear Squash, Please Make Me Rich

Dear Oprah,

I’m writing you today so you can make me rich.

By endorsing my novel, Fire Always Burns Uphill, you will change my life, my dog’s life, my kids’ lives, and you’ll ease my wife’s growing trepidation over that pesky “for better or for worse” clause in our wedding vows.

You see, Oprah, I’d make a very, very good rich person.  I’d pay off the mortgages of family, friends, and random people I meet in the produce section of grocery stores.  I’d give money to the homeless, take care of baby seals, and plug the ozone hole.  And while it’s true that I’d continue to dazzle Twitter and Facebook with my wicked humor and word salads about science fiction, I’d never forget where I came from (fifth floor, Huntsville Hospital).

All it takes is a few short words from you – on your show – on national TV.  That’ll turn my novel (a romantic adventure with some great sex) from the literary equivalent of baloney-on-white into a smoked haddock entree with a Caposaldo Merlot Moscato.  Now, you may not give a hoot about me, gourmet recipes I plucked off the Internet, or my musings about Doctor Who and Star Trek, but think about it: What if you were the person trying to find some tender yellow squash?  What if I picked you as the person whose house I’d pay off?  Wouldn’t that be the bee’s knees?

You see, I’d never flaunt my wealth.  Hell, I wouldn’t even move, although I would get that broken eye on the stove fixed.  All I’d do is pay off the house, sock away enough for the kids to go to college, and offer up spare cash to the hungry, needy, and produce-challenged.

Sure, I’d still blog about what a bad show Space: 1999 was, or what a good show Firefly is.  And, yeah, I’d occasionally get all misty-eyed about Dungeons & Dragons, but those are incidentals.  You see, I’m an INFP stuck in a career crawling with ENTJs.  Do you know what INFPs do for a living?  They become cloistered monks or nineteenth century poets.  Do you know what happens to INFPs who shun their true nature and go into aerospace engineering like I did?  They come home with black eyes and “kick me” signs taped to their back (well, not really, but it feels like it).

So, Oprah, I urge you: Endorse my book, make me rich.  Let me have the free time to buy summer squash (see picture above) and have you over for some good ol’ ’Southern vittles.  Help me avoid the cyber-wedgies I get every day from working with people who’d rather upgrade their Windows software than have a conversation with me.  Oprah, I’m beggin’ ya.

Peace and hair grease,

Keith

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Copyright © 2012 Alan Keith Parker, All Rights Reserved.  Inspired by a blogging prompt from the WordPress.com’s @Freshly_Pressed Twitter feed.