Another Year

It’s been a while since I’ve written here. That’s a sentence I’ve said a lot when posting on this Blog these days.

But I thought I would come here this morning, and write something as it is an appropriate day. It’s my birthday today. By the time you read this post, I will now be thirty-eight years old. And since I am now one year older, I thought I’d look at where I am now and update you on what is going on, and what I am doing.

My social life has, well, opened up a great deal. Before the crisis with the coronavirus, I was going outside a lot more, socializing, spending time at Storm Crow Manor, and exploring a whole new part of Toronto: a section of it that was new to me, and one I had began to travel on my own. I’ve enjoyed the Manor, as well as Craig’s Cookies, and I have been considering doing more things.

It’s been a far cry from the time when I would lie in my bed and essentially spend most of my days and nights on my laptop, just existing, hoping nothing would tip the delicate balance, in that state of tension and anxiety. I still have to deal with the latter, of course, but I find when I am doing stuff and actually going out and focusing on other matters, it helps. It helps to facilitate that place where I am not as much in my mind.

I have also slowly been cultivating various friends, and contacts. I know it’s not something that can happen all at once, and I’ve realized that having an extrovert or two as a friend is a boon, even as I can help other introverts who aren’t as comfortable with “party manners” to socialize as well, and traverse the city with me. There was a two week or so period where I was outside a great deal — even making cookies for the first time in over a decade for an event — and I also got a considerable amount of work done.

As usual, I have not finished or even in some cases continued the creative projects that I had sought to undertake, though some still remain in the queue. I have been meaning to get back to writing a piece of fanfiction for a friend’s comic, exploring that world with similar themes, but from different perspectives. I have an Alternative Facts story or two that I want to get out there, which I suspect I’ve mentioned here before. There is also the Lovecraft Mythos story I want to compile out of my notes on paper and from my phone, and send it somewhere: possibly for some grants and scholarships, and a writer’s retreat program.

But I have mostly been writing in roleplays. I am doing a group game where I am a bard, which I am sure I have mentioned before, a Vampire: The Masquerade solo game with one of my partners, and now another D&D game that is set in the plane of Gehena. That last game is something special to me. I mean, all three of them are in different ways. I am mostly the Game Master of the Vampire game, and I create epic level songs and manipulations as my bard in the other.

But in the Gehena game, it hearkens back to when my friend and I — who is GMing this campaign — to the days in our early twenties, even earlier into our teens, when we would play in the sandboxes he created after school and all night. Because of life circumstances, we play these games all on Roll 20, with some help from DnD Beyond, and Discord. But my friend is combining elements of the group game, and my solo game with him together as they belong in a shared universe of our creation: just in different realms. I can’t wait to see the plot points converge, or run parallel.

I don’t know, I just feel like when I roleplay I’m … doing something. I’m helping to shape a world with my actions and consequences. My decisions matter. And it is close to what I always wanted to do with my friends: to create a world and game together. Once, I wanted us to work together: to create games that we would sell. It was a dream of mine, of ours, and I guess if you hold some stock with horoscopes as a Pisces it makes sense that I would be enamoured with playing in, and creating, a world of dreams. Or nightmares.

Really, aside from my socializing and the potential and energy I get from those interactions — as well as meeting new and awesome people — these role-plays are some of the things that excite me the most. They always have.

It’s not been easy for me. For almost a decade, I felt like I was asleep for the most part. I’d been depressed and anxious and holding onto attachments that were long past their time. I’m not magically cured, of course, and I know how any of these elements can quickly change especially in these uncertain times.

It’s been a bit sad knowing I would go back to being inside more often again, though hopefully it won’t be forever, and the current health situation — this pandemic — can be dealt with. I’ll also admit that I have stretched myself out a great deal, perhaps even over-extended my attention. I need to work on sleeping, which I am failing at right now even as I write to you. I should also rest more and take the time to spend it with those that have gone out of their way to do so with me, even if it can only be audio or video at the moment.

In the end, it’s funny. I went to a person once, who told me that I will lose people, but I should not take for granted the people who are still here, and love me. It’s hard, but I should listen to them. I did lose some connections, over the years, some more recently than others. But in a way, they have made me reevaluate and look at the interactions I do still have, and want to take the time to make sure I know where I stand with them and vice-versa.

I am getting better at standing up for myself. For respecting for myself. For watching for those who do not respect me. I have changed since 2012, when I first started this Blog. Where I go is beyond me. I have been thinking about doing some volunteer work, to get out of the house when that is sensible to do so, of course. And I know I am building something, in this life, I just … don’t know what it is yet. But I do think that the social aspect is important.

Perhaps, now, at this time is the moment to really focus on what it is I’m looking for, to enjoy what I have, to take care of myself, and to see where I go from there.

I’m not where I thought I would be at thirty-eight. Some of that is disappointing, but other parts of it have exceeded expectations. I’ve realized it is possible to be sad and joyful at the same time. It’s what I need to do with that energy that is the question.

Some of you have been reading my work, followed me, and have even been my friends — and more — for a long time. Some of you have changed along with me. Some of you aren’t here anymore. But I want to thank you, for taking the time you had, and have, and spending it with me: even by reading this long, rambling journal post.

Like I said, I don’t know where I am going to be. Or what will happen. But I hope I can make the momentum, and use it, to do something really constructive, and satisfying to me and the people that I care about.

In the meantime, I think I will use some of that time to go get some rest. So much for my birthday present being an early bedtime. This was longer than I thought it would be. Always famous last words, for one thing or another. ;p

Until another time, my friends. Take care of yourselves, and each other.

Steven Universe: From My Crystal Heart

Spoiler Warning: There are series spoilers in the body of this article. Reader’s discretion is advised. 

As of this writing, I just finished watching the latest series of episodes of Steven Universe: in the Heart of the Crystal Gems arc. And, I think, this is an article for the fans.

I’ve written about Steven Universe, and the Crystal Gems elsewhere. It is a show very close to my heart. I wouldn’t have seen it coming, really. It is a children’s cartoon show with some very elemental illustration, brightly coloured animation, musical sequences, and humour. It is also a show with depth, character development, and world-building that slowly builds into some excellent storytelling. It talks about feelings. Some people might scoff, or laugh about feelings, but emotions are complex things, and Steven Universe doesn’t skim over that fact.

It is a show that starts off as a Magical Girls trope subverted into a story about ancient extraterrestrial mineral beings — sentient Gems that can take humanoid, feminine form — dealing with the aftermath of rebelling against an intergalactic conqueror empire with which they belonged, the horrors of war, the consequences of secrets and regrets, while also eating strange food, dealing with the zany humans of Beach City, misunderstanding human customs in ridiculous ways, and singing about their feelings: how happy they are, how sad they are, how angry they are, how afraid they are, and how it is all right to feel all those emotions: loss, pain, humour, and joy.

I have also stated elsewhere that it is a show about relationships. This is shown with how they deal with humans and their environment, but also how the Gems deal with each other: and how they Fuse. Fusion is something of a Go, Go Power Rangers mechanic where they combine together to form a whole new being to fight against monsters. But even as the show questions what monsters really are, what evil is, what good is, it also looks at the mentality of Fusion: of Fusion as an extended metaphor for intimate relationships.

Garnet, the leader of the Crystal Gems, is a Fusion and emblematic of the entire theme of the show: made all the more apparent by recent events in the series of just how inspirational she truly is. She is the Fusion of a prophetic Sapphire, and a short-tempered Ruby. And you watch as she works well, as she falls apart, as she recombines, as she is two people who after thousands of years is still getting to each other and the expression of love: the action, the living verb that is Garnet.

And the show makes no bones about it. What Garnet is, this almost permanent state of Fusion often taken once and a while, or between Gems of one kind for purposes of war or building, is not the norm. It is an exception. Not the love, of course. Love can manifest in different ways, among different beings.

And watching hem recently deal with another hurdle in their Fusion, in their reason to Fuse, in their relationship made me think about something.

Sometimes, you don’t always keep your Garnet. Sometimes you don’t always find your Sapphire and everything you think you know will happen, doesn’t … or you ignore the fact that you know what will happen, because you just don’t want to know. Sometimes you don’t find your Ruby, and that place of spontaneity and bravery amid the humility that keeps something so truly special.

I suppose that is a misnomer, however. I think what I mean is when sometimes you don’t find your Ruby or your Sapphire, when I say you don’t always keep your Garnet what I am really saying is that sometimes your Ruby and Sapphire doesn’t stay.

It can be different, of course. Sometimes you are Ruby and Sapphire, and Garnet. And sometimes you are a Garnet that has fun with an Amethyst, or a Garnet that lets a Pearl Fuse with her sometimes, or offers to show a ridiculous Peridot how to Fuse and places no pressure either which way.

But sometimes you do not stay Fused. Sometimes you have to separate. Sometimes it is just temporary as you talk outside the action that is Garnet. Sometimes you have to deal with other Gems, other people. Sometimes you have deal with the fact that you are other people too, or that there are other people that make up the totality of you. Sometimes you come back together, stronger than you were before.

Sometimes, you don’t.

Sometimes you are a Rose Quartz that doesn’t want to keep secrets, but doesn’t know how to do anything more and just as you stay with your Pearl, you find many others in your life before losing yourself to the experience, the dynamic, each time. Sometimes you are that Pearl waiting for your Rose Quartz to come back to you. Sometimes you are that Pearl pining for a Rose Quartz that will not — that cannot — come back.

Or you’re a cranky flustered Peridot that is used to the way things are, and you don’t see how lucky you are to meet other Rebels who can show you how life is, and that they will actually stay with you. Sometimes you are that Lapis Lazuli that’s been hurt and you flee the prospect of more pain while taking the barn, and the knick-knacks, while viewing the life that you left behind, that went on without you, that is going on without you on the Moon: missing it always.

You could also be that Bismuth whose Gem is inverted, and you try to do the right thing while always feeling a bit of loneliness while engrossing yourself in your work. Or, you’re that Jasper. You know the one: the one that feels like you have to prove yourself to everyone, and you wonder why you can’t hold a Fusion each time.

Or you’re a Diamond and you are hard and unyielding in your rules and strictures, but even the hardest heart can shatter under the right circumstances.

Perhaps the best thing to be, though and in retrospect, is an Amethyst. Sometimes you still don’t know what’s going on, but you don’t always care, and you just go with it until you realize that your one thousand year baggage is your own, and that you change yourself for only one person: you.

Mind you, being an Off Color — for all Gem society rejects it or hunts you down — can be fun too. You can all be freaks together, and who knows? Maybe you might become part of a great, old, chosen family of Fusion like a Fluorite, if you are brave enough, and if that is who you really are.

It’s easy, given that  Padparadscha Sapphire’ retrovision is 20/20, to look back and see the point where your foundation or body can vanish, or where you shatter, or whether or not you should have eaten all that garbage as Amethyst … or overeaten those Cookie Cat ice cream cookies that were so full of love that they made the Gem on your body, that makes up your very being, shine.

I don’t suppose there is a point to any of this. There never is. I’ve lost a lot of things over the years. Some I’d seen coming. Some I did not. Some I wish I hadn’t. You don’t always get to keep your Sapphire. You don’t always get to keep your Ruby. And Garnet, under most circumstances, never stays forever. That state of being, that insulated bubble and the barn with the weird art pieces and the animated Pumpkin entity pet can’t always be there in that current form.

Yeah. If you haven’t watched the show yet, that is a whole long, other story.

I don’t cry as much these days. But I do when I watch this show. It lets me. It’s appropriate when I do. Every time, especially now. I never thought it would have gotten into my life as much as it has. Under my skin. Into my heart. If only people were like the Gems, or even the people of Beach City where problems can always be solved through talking, and no one has to be that Jasper who sucks as Fusion forever.

But I think, as long as Steven Universe exists … as long as shows like it exist and the people that create them continue to possess this form of empathy — a strength of compassion and emotional depth — even if I never Fuse again, even if I feel disembodied, or broken, or flawed, or shattered, or “not made right” like an Off Color … even if I have to be alone like a moping Peridot, or a sad Lapis Lazuli just knowing something like it exists out there, like a Garnet who is almost always Fused and actually marries after over five thousand years honestly?

I can live with that. Despair, perhaps I am stronger than you, like an Amethyst on some Cookie Cat.

Or, you know: this lucky, awesome guy who has grown so much.

Anklebiters: Pixies Vs. Gremlins

Hello all. It has been a while since I’ve written here: something that I find I’ve been saying a lot. I have a few things going on, including some original creative work that I finally have formulating in my mind. And I can’t wait to see where I go with that.

It might be a while before I say anything about some of the other things I have planned. However, I would like to take the time to plug a card game in here. It’s not just any card game. Imagine a world, our world, where small creatures unnoticed by the rest of us dwell in the corners of the detritus we create everyday and wage wars for sacred leylines and land to summon a powerful being that will make them dominant over their fellows. Pixies use misdirection and magic to get their way, their whimsy just a mask for their adamant defense of Nature, while Gremlins cobble together siege weapons, and alternatively sabotage other machines, mechanisms, and places to secure power for themselves.

That is the setting for Pandora’s Fox’s Anklebiters – Pixies Vs. Gremlins: an urban fantasy card game where you play as either Pixies, or Gremlins in an attempt to seize areas of the land — including forests and junkyards — in order to get possession of sacred rune stones that will allow you to unleash the power of the Wolpertinger and gain you sovereignty over your small world.

The people at Pandora’s Fox, the company creating this card game, are my friends Noah Marton, the game designer of Pixies Vs. Gremlins, and Claire Beard, its graphic artist and video designer for the Kickstarter Campaign. For anyone of you that are interested in card games, or card games set with magic, and whimsy on the fringes of human society, I would recommend you look at the Kickstarter Campaign that I’ve linked into the title.

My friends at Pandora’s Fox will do great things with any support that you can give them. In fact, I suspect they already have. Please take a look at the Campaign link, Pandora’s Fox Incorporated website, and its Facebook page. Please buy a game if you are interested and/or Like and Share it on the social media of your choice. After all, we need more eyes on these small beings, and I for one would definitely like to know what they will be up to, and what they are already doing. You can’t let it, or them, out of your sight. 😉

My Fanfiction Origin Story

The title is more epic than it actually sounds, but when I think about it the entire thing had been a story long in the making.

Some writers believe that fanfiction is a waste of time. Certainly, you can’t really profit off of it unless you have the original writer or creator’s permission, and you do not want to run afoul of copyright infringement. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m partly here because it’s been a while since I’ve put anything on this Blog, my Writer’s Blog, that hasn’t been a repost from my Sequart work, or elsewhere.

I suppose I’d … always written fanfiction. In fact, I did it ever since I even learned how to write. Often I’d watch the 1990s Peter Pan cartoons and attempt to write the further stories of Captain Hook, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more. In the eighties and nineties though, as a young child, I was mostly interested in horror stories and mostly rehashing the old urban legends and Hammer film derivatives of horror classics more than anything else.

I don’t know if I remember it properly, but I think it really began in Fine Arts Camp. It was at the MacDonald House in Thornhill, once owned by the Canadian Group of Seven artist James Edward Harvey MacDonald. At the time, in the 1990s, I fancied myself something of a graphic artist. I was really passionate about drawing and creating cartoons. It made sense given my interests and my immersion into old DC and Marvel comics and a lot of the stuff coming out in the nineties. Certainly, I wasn’t all that interested in landscapes or other forms of graphic art. Just cartoons. Just comic books.

To be honest, Fine Arts Camp for all its fascinating old MacDonald House that was a good place to tell children urban legends and horror stories near a church and a community swimming pool, wasn’t always so ideal for me. For one, I had terrible allergies and being almost always in the middle of a woodland, surrounded by many trees, did not do me or my lungs that felt like they were getting kicked by horse hooves at night any favours. Also, well, when you are a child and generally an indoors one you have to understand that for all a camp will call itself a Fine Arts Camp, they will still force you go outside in various temperatures and play sports more than you will want. It was the same in the Computer Camp I went to, thinking I’d learn about animation and programming, and it was the same here before it.

Also, when you are extremely introverted like I was, you don’t tend to make a lot of friends: especially not from children your age or, worse, older. To make a long story short, aside from arts and crafts, and even some walks, I didn’t really always like being at Fine Arts Camp. But, I did discover something there that has sat in my head, with me, for the rest of my life.

I don’t remember his name. I’m not even sure he was the same person. But I knew a kid there, a few years older than me. He had in his hands, at the time, something I coveted the most. It was the Wizard Magazine: X-Men 30th Anniversary Special. In that magazine was all the information I’d been looking for about the X-Men and more, so much more than the Marvel cards and their lore that I had been collecting then.

For all the little squabbles we all had there, being kids, this guy was generous and he let me actually read parts of the Magazine. And, even though the other campers really thought I was weird for doing this and it probably gave them more fuel to push me around later, I was actually taking notes on all the information I could find. It wasn’t enough and eventually, after much pleading on my part and my grandmother’s reluctance to spend or let me spend all of twenty dollars, I got my own copy: which is still somewhere down in my basement somewhere.

But the important thing I want to note here is that this same guy, and may not necessarily be the same guy, liked to write. He told us that he would type up his stories on an old computer. Somehow, I remember him saying he had the Internet and frequented BBSes looking at stories based on franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. I might just be projecting that, as I had no idea what the Internet beyond school was or what a BBS even was at the time. But I remember him saying that he liked to write stories where Star Trek and Star Wars crossed over, and perhaps something about Locutus of Borg meeting the Empire.

It blew my mind.

I don’t remember all the details, but I recall the way he described his ideas and his stories. I think he even brought in some old computer paper with rings on the sides and clunky font. And I definitely remember wanting to write franchise stories.

I wanted to make those crossovers. I wanted to write Star Wars. I wanted to write comics and all the things.

That’s how it really started. There was an attempt at a Star Wars expanded universe story in my Seventh or Eighth Grade Writer’s Club anthology: where Luke Skywalker and the others meet a Dark Jedi fighting against the Empire and the Phantom Fleet. But you can imagine how well that was written at the time, and even more so how it aged since.

But I roleplayed out original Star Wars, X-Men, and Power Rangers episodes with my best friend Sean, and I kept writing. I still attempted to write my own works, but they were derivative of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street, along with some Christopher Pike, so you can imagine what those might have been like.

I think my writing skills started to be honed after high school, after reading more and writing an original short story in which I won a Senior Literary Award in 1999. I joined TheForce.Net again in 2005 and wrote what I thought were clearer iterations of Prequel stories. Unfortunately, despite all their assurances that everything would be saved, a lot of my works were lost when the Board attempted to transfer its data to a new server and most of my old works were heavily truncated.  It’s something I never really got over, after all this time and, frankly, it’s kept me from really writing there as much anymore.

But I learned a lot out of writing in different pre-made worlds.. I learned about what writing I liked and what I didn’t. They gave me ideas and frameworks for them. And sometimes they gave me an outlet to tell stories I wasn’t prepared to tell when I didn’t have a voice for them. Yet I think, most of all, fanfiction keeps me writing when I don’t feel inspired to write my own work, or when I’m getting overly critical and analytical.

Recently, I’ve joined AO3 to give some of my fanfic pieces a broader audience. I didn’t really like the freeform administrative style of Fanfic.Net, and TheForce.Net’s administration can be … sporadic and highly dogmatic in terms of poster interaction at best. But AO3 has a lot of variety and also maturity at times with regards to their work. So far I am liking it. And I cross-post all the time. Right now, in-between writing critical and opinion pieces for Sequart and thinking of some of my own original pieces, I’ve been writing a Fate/Stay Night fanfic I’ve been pondering over for a while and a few other shorter vignettes as well.

They keep me going, and I don’t think I realized how I missed it until I stopped. In addition, they also keep me writing new things and attempting stuff I hadn’t thought of or had the metaphorical balls to dare try. At the moment, this variance helps keep my mind fresh: and, who knows, I might have some of my own creative breakthroughs.

Some might even say that this how literature itself continues, minus all of these labels and copyright issues. Someone creates something and others want to emulate it: with perhaps reading and interacting with the materials that the original creator made to understand it better and eventually find their own voice.

Even so, fanfiction allows me to interact with the material that I love on a creative level without the pressure of feeling like I have do it professionally or for a need for money. I think there is a lot to be said about it, if you learn and grow from the experience, and even just have fun. I don’t know. I do know that I have come a long way from coveting wanting to write a Star Wars story, which I thought was beyond my ken at the time. With time, research, and will I can write almost anything now.

I guess that, in the end, I just need to remember that. After all, I think it is always useful to pursue inspiration: wherever you can find it.

The Pillow Fight League Awakens

The idea of it began with a spontaneous pillow fight at a New Year’s Eve rock concert in 2005. But it wasn’t until 2006 at the Vatikan goth bar in Toronto that the Pillow Fight League truly began. The Pillow Fight League — an all-women’s competitive sports organization — combined mixed martial arts and pillow smashing techniques against each other in sixty-six events all across North America and even so far as South Korea. For six years, the costumed superheroes, villains, and anti-heroes of the Pillow Fight League, under creative stage names such as Sally Spitfire, Carmen Monoxide, Olivia Neutron-Bomb and Guillotina battled their way through five minute unscripted bouts of pillow swinging and grappling until 2011 when the organization went into a hiatus.

For five years, with the exception of at least one group known as the Bedlam: All-Girl Pillow Fight Revue made up of some of the League’s members, the Pillow Fight League as a unified national and international sport, group, and event remained in slumber.

This all changed six months ago when Brandy Dawley purchased the rights to the original Pillow Fight League and its tenets: becoming its new President and vowing not only to re-awaken the League, but to introduce it to a far vaster dream. Even though sanctioned by ” the Intergalactic Pillow Fighting Association” according to its home page, the Pillow Fight League has created a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in order to provide its athletes and staff with compensation, insurance, training, and contribution to and the reconstruction of overall infrastructure. There are also some very nice perks for backers that want to see the sixty-seventh game happen and who want to be a part of the next chapter of the League’s history.

Pillow fighting as a sport is a fascinating concept. Pillow fighting itself is often associated with girls sleepovers, model shoots, and male fantasies, but there is something incredibly innovative and fitting on a physical and philosophical level in utilizing something considered to be soft and pliant in order to create a harder and challenging sense of atmosphere, activity, and competition. Certainly, there is something subversive in this act.

Once, in 2007 ESPN went as far as to call the League “a glimpse of the future in sports.” Perhaps that future has come again.

Doctor Who: Let’s Play A Game

This week on Doctor Who

I want to play a game.
I want to play a game.

Imagine an opening to a television program about time-travel for which you have been waiting. There have been hints as to what to expect but, given the nature of Doctor Who, it never starts the way you think it will. “The Prologue” actually wasn’t part of this episode, but its own minisode leading to “The Magician’s Apprentice.”

There is a plane up ahead that wouldn’t be out of place in World War I. There is also a man with a bow and arrow. You wonder if this is going to start on some other world or time: with Vikings on spaceships or something to that effect. Well, you got the first two parts right. It does take place in another space and time. Then you see a child. At first you think it might be Maisie Williams showing us her new role. But it isn’t Maisie Williams. It is a boy: a young, dirty, terrified boy.

It is at this point, if you’ve been following the rumours about the opening two-part story arc of Season Nine, that you know. You just know who it is.

This child is surrounded by what seems to be Handmines: most likely genetically engineered creatures created to drag people underground to their deaths. You’d be forgiven if you mistook them for your typical Weeping Angel fare. You know: the ones that like to hide under snow or dirt and grab you: stealing away the moments of your life. But no: these Handmines seem to just plain outright kill you.

It’s a good thing that The Doctor came to rescue this poor, scared child from these monsters that just dragged the archer soldier to his death, right? Only …

Think about your Whoniverse lore. Think about a world where archaic weaponry exists side by side with generations of different technology. Think about a world that has been at war for a thousand years. It’d be easy to make the mistake of not recognizing this world after so long and seeing how it — and its denizens — were portrayed in the Fourth Doctor’s run. I mean, they are all supposed to be heartless, evil, Spencerian fascists right? Certainly not ones that would take the time to save a child.

The Doctor asks the child what world this is, and the child doesn’t understand. As far as he knows, this is the only world in existence. The Kaled people, along with their enemies the Thals thought they were basically the centre of the universe before, millennia later, the First Doctor came and disabused their descendants of that notion.

But the code that unlocks the first level of this game is just one word. Just one name.

Davros.

It’s hard to recognize him. He’s young. He still has his eyes, his arms, and his legs. There is no cunning or twistedness in him: just fear, and The Doctor’s imperative.

He must survive.

Of course, The Doctor realizes the implications of this and he stands there, in horror, trying to decide what he will do.

Now we go forward. Colony Sarff, a being made of multiple snakes, is searching for The Doctor on behalf of Davros. I mean, why wouldn’t he use Daleks or Dalek agents and this strange composite snake person instead might be beyond all of us, but there the dramatic effect to consider. As it turns out, Davros is dying. I mean, since the last time you saw Davros in “Journey’s End”:

I name you ... the Destroyer of Worlds ... aghhhhhh ...
I name you … the Destroyer of Worlds … aghhhhhh …

But hey: when has death stopped Doctor Who villains in a mythological struggle with their nemesis anyway? But no. It seems legitimate. Davros has seen better days … ages and ages ago, but he does seem pretty physically ill. He knows the best way to find The Doctor is to get to his friends.

The Doctor has a funny notion of friendship. I mean, aside from Missy — who, blithely makes us aware of the obvious that she isn’t dead either (again, when do Doctor Who villains actually permanently die) — there’s also Clara and her priorities to consider. But one thing at a time.

All ships freeze above the Earth: threatening to fall on nuclear power plants. Is this Davros’ work? No. It’s too crude and almost insane. Actually it is insane and we all know who likes to be insane. UNIT contacts Clara because they can’t get to The Doctor. However, they do have a Doctor channel that he has forgotten about and … someone is contacting them through it.

Hmm … Someone has knowledge of UNIT having a Doctor channel. Who has dealt with UNIT before? Who knows the Gallifreyan calculations to access it? Who has been both an ally and captive of UNIT? Who is insane?

Yeah. That lady. 
Yeah. That lady.

Honestly, here is the part in a Doctor Who episode when what I like to call the Shut Up Clara Mini-Game comes into play. I mean, here she is contacted by UNIT to find The Doctor but instead has to meet Missy. Usually, what I like to call the Shut Up Clara Mini-Game happens when Clara berates The Doctor for something petty, has a temper-tantrum, has no idea what’s going on, and generally makes the situation all about her. But strangely Clara is rather subdued in this scene with Missy: probably because Missy is threatening to kill people, is killing people, cost Danny Pink his life a second time, and she’s kind of flabbergasted as to why The Doctor would send that strange disk — that turns out to be his last will and testament — from “The Prologue” to Missy instead of her.

I’m not going to lie: having Missy compare Clara to a pet was pretty much the sickest burn rivaling the holocausts that she was threatening over the Earth. But together they figure out where The Doctor is: leading to a Vortex manipulator of Missy’s and the next scene.

And what an absolutely bad ass scene it is. The Doctor is in medieval times and facing a long-suffering warrior on an empty tank and with a guitar. No one in the battling arena of that time seems to actually care about that, as per a lack of a Temporal Prime Directive or a stereotypical “It’s a Demon!” response. And hey: it’s one of the few times we see Mr. Cantankerous actually having fun.

So you just know something really bad is going to happen.
So you just know something really bad is going to happen.

Of course the two women were being followed and Colony Sarff tracks them down. It’s funny. What do you think would truly disturb The Doctor? A threat from a monster made of snakes? Seeing Missy again? Knowing that Davros and the Daleks are probably coming for him?

No. What disturbs The Doctor is a sonic screwdriver: an ancient one handed to him by Colony Sarff.

It might have registered even before this what just happened between a young boy named Davros and a flabbergasted Twelfth Doctor. Of course, The Doctor wasn’t going to kill a poor defenseless child: even if one day he’d grow up to be an omnicidal psychopath. But he also knows that if he helped him survive the Handmines, he would go on to fulfill his future of horror and genocide. So what does The Doctor do?

Because these Handmines totally won't inspire the appearance of the Daleks in a young and impressible mind. Not at all.
Because these Handmines totally won’t inspire the appearance of the Daleks in a young and impressible mind.  You know: creatures designed to drag others down to the depths with them. Not at all.

He does what he does best. After initially telling Davros what amounts to the idea that he must survive at all costs, and then realizing who he is dealing with … The Doctor runs. The Doctor abandons a small, scared little boy — not unlike himself at that age if he had grown up in a Thousand Year War — to his own devices: with the screwdriver he threw to him to help communicate with him … before he knew he was talking to a boy who would become a monster.

“Hey Davros. Actually, there are worse things than death. See you later … or rather, I hope I won’t.”

Imagine what that does to someone who had already grown up in a multi-generational war. Imagine what seeing a soldier trying to reassure and rescue you being dragged down to his death would do to you. Imagine someone who promises to save you and then leaves you to die: telling you beforehand to survive at all costs.

Suddenly, all the books that dealt with Davros’ past are swept away: leaving us with his new dynamic with The Doctor. Davros made the Daleks and, as Davros likes to point out, The Doctor made his Companions. But now we see that The Doctor essentially made Davros as well.

Remember how the First Doctor was basically responsible for releasing the Daleks on the Universe by his insatiable curiosity: essentially causing them to come across the Time Lords and eventually start the Last Great Time War? Well now we really know that The Doctor screwed up. A lot.

The ending of “The Magician’s Apprentice” pulls even less punches than the beginning. It doesn’t fuck around. We do get one Shut Up Clara Mini-Game: where she berates him for lying to her about knowing Missy wasn’t dead — and considering her his best friend over her — but it’s kind of halfhearted and she does have something of a point, only offset by hoping to continue their conversation and therefore let The Doctor survive.

But Davros has no intention of killing The Doctor. No. It’s unclear why Davros forgot about having a sonic screwdriver or seeing a mysterious man disappear in front of him. Perhaps dying makes him remember things. If so, he should probably recall his whole existence as Davros has died. A lot. And he’s supposed to be a genius level scientist who created an entire advanced race and he can’t clone himself a new body?

Potential plot-holes aside, such as Missy having trouble dying and always having a crazy backup plan, let’s play that game I promised you at the beginning.

Imagine you are a child left to die thousands of years ago and grew up in war. You see how fallible everyone is who vows to protect you or help save you. You are crippled and twisted during this war. You begin to think that people would safer in tanks and without the illusions of weak emotions such as love or compassion. One day, you encounter your worst enemy and he defeats you time and again: until you remember he was the one that left you to die at the very beginning.

The replaying the time of when he was the Fourth Doctor on Skaro is delicious enough. So what do you do when you realize you are now, finally, dying?

You kidnap The Doctor’s friends. You get The Doctor to you. You make him watch as your Daleks kill the person who is jealous over you being his arch-nemesis, the Impossible Girl that he’ll now never be able to play Shut Up Clara with again and … worse … Your Daleks kill his oldest companion.

You destroy the TARDIS. You kill Sexy.

So, what do you do now? Do you kill The Doctor in his moment of despair? Do you kill him before you die? Oh no. No, see, that is too easy. Instead, you give him a choice. You offer to let him play a game. You are already dying. Your creations have already rendered you obsolete. You have taken everything from The Doctor now. You give him an offer.

You see, The Doctor always prides himself on his sense of compassion. You always saw that as his undoing. Now, you have made him see that. Or perhaps deep down you are punishing him for what you think is cowardice that day on Skaro. You offer him a way to change the fate of his friends. Your replayed conversation with him for all those years ago, from “Genesis of the Daleks” is no accident. You make sure he hears his words to Sarah Jane Smith from so long ago.

"If someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives... could you then kill that child?"
“If someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives… could you then kill that child?”

You already know he feels guilty for abandoning you to the Handmines and to time. What a better revenge than to make your old self-righteous nemesis betray and destroy his own ideals to kill a child in order to save those he loves. You’ve methodically taken away his best enemy, his Companion, and his TARDIS. He has already given up on his sonic screwdriver. Slowly and carefully, you are attempting to obliterate everything that The Doctor is: to prepare him for this last warped mission that is your revenge.  The fact is, either way, you win. And either way, The Doctor loses.

Win / Win for Davros.
Win / Win for Davros.

You thought that your final victory was the destruction of reality itself. But, truthfully, it is the obliteration of your enemy’s own reality — his thoughts and beliefs — by his own hand that is a triumph greater than any monster you have ever created.

Like “Deep Breath” last season, “The Magician’s Apprentice” doesn’t pull any punches. We will just have to see if it can continue its own sense of momentum next time in “The Witch’s Familiar.”

A Doctor Who Prologue

Before the return of Doctor Who, BBC One has already given us a hint of what is to come. This is a Prologue to the first episode of this season. And so: what do we have here?

Karn. The planet of Karn is the home to the Sisterhood of Karn. More recently, it was the site of the minisode “Night of the Doctor,” where we got to see the transformation of the Eighth Doctor into the War Doctor and the beginning of his entry into the Last Great Time War. However, Karn and The Doctor have an older shared history: from his time combating the renegade Time Lord Morbius as the Fourth Doctor and the introduction of the Sacred Flame and the Elixir of Life.

What is also interesting to note is that the Sisterhood of Karn are biologically Gallifreyan. In fact, not only do they possess the Elixir of Life that can at least temporarily restore life, but they create potions and processes that aid in helping a Time Lord regenerate. According to the New Adventures novel Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible they are a remnant of the Pythia’s power: the original prophetic leader of an ancient matriarchal Gallifrey.

It could have been assumed, at least in how they were only portrayed in “Night of the Doctor” in the new Doctor Whos series, that Karn had perished with Gallifrey in the Time War but it also makes sense that they did not. The fact is, when The Doctor mentioned he had been the last of the Time Lords, he could have only been referring to Gallifrey and its ruling class. He never actually said he was the last of the Gallifreyans. Gallifreyans become Time Lords, but not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords and the Sisters of Karn are something else entirely: even if they are related in a biological sense.

Of course, this could be a moot point as due to the actions of The Doctor and all his past incarnations, Gallifrey was seemingly saved. Perhaps this could be applied to its erstwhile allies such as the Sisterhood of Karn as well. In any case, here in this Prologue we have an interesting situation.

Who is this person who has a history with The Doctor, and is attempting to use his servants to find him? Who is this “creature” that The Doctor owes nothing to? Well, it most likely isn’t Missy as Missy identifies with the female gender pronoun and the only minions she has are those she subverts or creates for twisted and zany purposes.

However, there might be another clue.

Who is The Doctor’s other arch-nemesis? Who has had, and still yet may retain, servants to seek him out? Who had a very long and storied association with him? Who could, at this point in his existence, be classified as “a creature?” And who is this person that he can identify with: someone who creates agents through circumstance almost as much as he has?

There had been leaks and rumours that Davros will be returning to Doctor Who. I mean, many believed that he had died before, so what is stopping him from coming back now. But there is more. One particular rumour states that The Doctor will be meeting Davros before his injuries, perhaps as a younger man … or a child. It always seems to return to that idea from “Genesis of The Daleks”: to that quandary of destroying an evil before it at least overtly becomes evil. And, as The Doctor proclaims in “The Prologue” sometimes “an enemy is a friend that you don’t know yet.”

I mean, if it is Davros he is pretty well beyond any form of redemption and some things are very much fixed points in time. Davros will create the Daleks. He will be one of The Doctor’s greatest and most ingenious enemies. But, then again, this might not be about Davros at all. This could be someone else entirely: someone we know or someone that we are about to meet.

As for the object The Doctor gave the Sister Ohila … who knows? Your guess is as good as mine. Doctor Who and its protagonist Mr. Cantankerous returns this September 19.