Mercy

The sequel and “Companion” piece to The Writer.

I look at the ruins of what I used to be and I smile. They are more peaceful now: metal and alabaster covered in weeds and flowers.

It’s been a while since anyone visited my grave. The Incarnations, ­­even some of the Great Old Ones that are smaller on the outside, sometimes like to stop by but the main ones, Pain and Death, stopped coming ages ago.

But Time never seems to stop. She’s always there. She is always there even now that he isn’t. Sometimes I think Time knows a lot more than she’s letting on when we pass each other in the streets of this world, and so many others.

I travel. I travel a lot. It seems old habits die hard that way, but even though my body is gone now, I find it amazing. There was a time when all of the stars and planets in this system were uninhabited. There were no psychic impulses, no telepathic fields: nothing. The only evidence of anything here having been anything other than eternal are the glyphs read on the corpse of me that became the site of my chrysalis.

He made them, but I’m the only one that can read them.

For now.

There is still some time. I could walk: it’s true. The breezes on the First World, Elysium, were always temperate even in the beginning. Instead I concentrate. It’s less that there are coordinates in my mind and more impressions of where I want to be.

I find myself in front of a small cottage surrounded by a larger garden.

“One day I will put down my pen. I’ll settle us down and work with what already exists. No more late nights. You won’t even have to kick me out for air …”

I shake my head. Even now The Tender, as everyone knows him, spends more time on his grounds than anywhere else. Nothing has changed, even if everything has.

He’s there. He’s wearing homespun overalls and a faded white shirt. His hands work a hoe as he plants another one of his cuttings into the earth. I remember his hair being so dark and short. But under his wide-­brimmed and ridiculous hat it’s now all shaggy and white.

Somehow, he always had long fingers. Even though gloves cover them, I know they still work calmly and methodically. I remember them being steady when they weren’t working furiously across a keyboard or a control board in a frenzy of inspiration. His movements had always been slower than The Other’s, but that was okay. He didn’t have to be fast.

I can see them trembling a little now. He lets go of the cutting and sits cross­legged on the ground: just as he always used to do. I wonder just how much he remembers before I notice the colour of the grass he’s sitting in.

“From now on, until this War is over, I will be The Poet Laureate Triumphant. I shall be your Orator. For we shall spread across the cosmos and show the Enemy that we are the red grass of Gallifrey!”

He takes off one of his gloves and plays with a strand of grass: lost in some thought or reverie he probably cannot name. He was so good at Naming: well, everyone but himself anyway.

The Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate Triumphant. The Orator. And now The Tender. I resist rolling my eyes. At least the other names were just parodies and self­aware ironies. Even at his worst, he knew when to laugh at himself.

I wonder, again, if there is still some part of him laughing at all of this until I see … her.

Death stands behind him. She’s beautiful, I’ll give her that. And she’s standing in a white summer dress, metres away and entirely too close to my Writer.

Death. This was not the first time I died.

I died ages from now on a distant world in another place and time. I forgot in a War that I almost forgot. I didn’t remember what happened to my pilots but as parts of me lay in fragments or phased in and out of consciousness I could still feel the call of my heartbeat.

“A Battle TARDIS.”

“Wow. This must be an old design. I’ve never seen this kind before.”

“Or it’s a new one. The war might not have happened yet. She may not have happened

“That’s no ‘she.’ It’s just an old wreck.”

“No. She’s not. Can’t you hear it? Her Heart is singing …”

“Whatever. I’m going back to the Academy.”

“Wait. What–­­”

“Not my fault you suck with piloting. You can stay here with your piece of junk girlfriend.”

“Please! Get back here! Come back! Please … don’t leave me here …”

He was just a boy when his friends left him. I was old when my own companions left me.

“This panel. It’s … repair options. This is automated? Yes. Yes, I see. Thank you.

“I love your song.”

It took time, but I got us off and away from that world. He kept me hidden, his little secret, but he spent all that time nursing me back to health: healing me and making me better. We helped each other in our own ways. It wasn’t long before he graduated the Academy and it seemed like we had all that time to ourselves … for as long as it lasted.

No. I’m not jealous. I wasn’t jealous when he brought the Tree female Amber aboard. Or Venra the Silurian. And Elentha the Malmooth was kind. I did draw the line on that Carrionite female, however. Even though she helped advance his work considerably, I didn’t care for her trying to kill him.

But even this is different. I was willing to share him with the other women in his life. I’ve even met others since he … left as well. But I think I’ve shared him with you for too long, Death. I think you’ve been around us for far too long.

I don’t blink but she vanishes like a Weeping Angel just the same. He sits there, seemingly oblivious, for a while until he finally mutters to himself, gingerly rises to his feet, stands for a few more moments, and goes back into his cottage.

He’s not human, or even the equivalent of one. Even as he is now, he’s lived a long life and outlasted many wives and lovers. Sometimes there were even groups of them. Some things never change I guess. But it won’t be long now. Still, I can’t help but think of how happy he is.

Maybe it’s for the best that he’s forgotten.

There is a vessel burning in space. It will burn eternally, pitilessly, if left to its own devices: bitten piece by piece and crumbling each by inch into the Time Well. He looks on. Not even his Words can stop this.

I make the decision.

I fire a time torpedo and the suffering vessel freezes into place: the dynamism of its molecules stilled and allowed to shatter quickly like ice smashed with the precise blow of a hammer. The suffering vessel exists no longer.

He looks at me. While the other pilots call me by my designation, he always calls me “Lovely” or “my love.” But today he pats me with one long­-fingered hand and says my name.

“Mercy.”

I should have been slag. But not only did my Writer restore me, but through some Time Lord instinct and my will combined with perhaps the fracturing of time itself, we changed my fate.

“Mercy … please watch over them. Watch over these worlds, over my children …”

I remember, after centuries of work and isolation, when he placed the fob watch over my Heart … and he changed for the last time.

But so did I.

The watch and all that regeneration energy infused the Heart of me. The Workshop remains in flowers, wildlife, and beautiful fragments but I still remember that time when the Heart of me soared and transformed. New organs and parts, hands, legs, arms, toes, a shapely torso, a neck, a head and a face. Even as I look on at his departure, I realize that ­­ on that day ­­ my Writer was not the only one who had a wish.

“My friend left me a book from Earth. Mother Night tells you that you are what you pretend to be: or that, at the very least, you will become it.

“I’m tired, Mercy. I think I want to become something else now.”

I walk away from the cottage: his memories and mine entwining in my mind whenever I get too close. There have been so many times I wanted to awaken him. I might not travel as I once did, but I still think we can have many adventures. I still think I can drag him to many more places.

It’d be good for him.

Or me.

I want to respect his wishes. He helped me escape a fixed point in time, intentionally or otherwise, and he already lost so much. I’ve been in war. I was made for war. I lived it my whole life. Until I met him. We spent so brief a peace time together. I never wanted this for him. I’d never wish war on anyone, but least of all him. He wasn’t made for it. But all I could do was be at my Writer’s side in the only way I could. And we did what we had to do …

And he deserves this peace.

Yet something is different now. It even took me a while to realize what it is. It’s like new memories or old senses have reawakened in me.

And that was when I realized that the Ways are open again.

What’s more: I felt a fissure in this reality. Something, someone, called to me. She feels different and younger, but familiar. I sensed her earlier. I decided to call out to her then. I waited.

She came with two others. I can feel strong echoes emanating off them. I see them at the remains of the Workshop: of the discarded cocoon and layers of myself. They are actually reading the glyphs.

I’ll keep waiting. Perhaps he should hear the news from them before it’s too late. My Writer needs to know. He needs to know that this story isn’t over yet.

“She is not a police box, but rather a phone­ booth. Cherry red and passionate. And through her I’ve been connected to everyone and everything I love. Because even though my loved ones are always far away, I know they are always there. Perhaps that is why her circuits chose this form in the beginning: to keep me connected to the universe. My friend. My home. My Mercy.”

Red Telephone Booth

Seven Day Children

Jenny

It’s easy to lose track of time when you are on an adventure. I’ve learned a lot about time and space since that first day, on what could’ve, and should have, been my last mission: the last day of my last war of my last life.

I had a lot of learning to do and, to be honest, that much hasn’t changed at all. After Messaline was finally changed and united, I just had to … well, run. I took a shuttle and ran through the stars. And I saw so many different things: different people, places, societies … I thought the Hath and the Humans were strange and diverse on their own, my fellow soldiers, my former enemies, but there is so much more.

It’s like the Source, that elemental ball of shifting and flowing energies back on Messaline released an entire universe before me. Expanding out and every outward I discovered new lives, saved worlds, revelled in my victories and learned from my failures.

Someone should have told me about the failures and the defeats. The machine that made me wasn’t much a teacher. If you failed during the War, you died. You died and the machine took your stored DNA and replaced you with someone else to fight and die: until victory or death. It seemed so sensible, so natural until I met my Dad.

Dad …

Perhaps Dad and his Companions were my first real teachers. One of them named me, you know? Jenny. Out of the word “progenation.” I’ve learned since then that other species do not necessarily reproduce like we did back on Messaline, though I’ve heard rumours about others …

You see, I knew — even before Dad would speak to me, not having expected me or even knowing what to do with me — that I was different from the other soldiers. I could see eddies and whirls around me. My reflexes were faster. There were angles in which I could perceive and move that our basic programmed training could not have possibly covered. And I just did them naturally.

Of course, having some hearts to hearts talk with my Dad really cinched it for me. The point is: even before I left I knew I was different.

I think my new adventure began when I found a vortex manipulator. It was an old one. Dad must have been a boffin: a quaint British word from Earth referring to tinkering and invention. You see, I learned something new when I travelled there back in the Sixty-First Century.

When I fixed, and dare I say improved, on the manipulator I realized something that not even Dad’s words could convey. The universe was not an expanding diaphanous cloak of velvet and glittering lights. It is a series of dimensions refracting off of one another: like a gem with different facets but all one gem. And I could, somehow, see those angles on this one surface: knowing that each was different but all of it was unified. In this kaleidoscope of existence, everything is connected.

That was basic Time Lord philosophy, but I don’t think I would have understood it from an Academy. This came later: a lot later or whatever constitutes itself as later when you are even a basic time traveler.

It was this basic understanding of time and my failure to protect so many lives that made me realize something. It’d been fun until it got serious, but I knew then that I couldn’t be alone.

And I did my best not to be alone. I looked for Dad, but I never found him. Sometimes I’d come at the tail end of his passing, or meet some people that knew him. As a soldier, because you never forget your basic training as a soldier, I didn’t inquire too closely as I knew from our brief time together that he had enemies. I wanted to help him. I remember how lonely he looked and how happy he’d been when I made the decision not to kill.

I came close once. One time I was actually abducted by one of his enemies. I briefly a few of his Companions. One of them even rescued me. But I had been taken during an important time and I had to go back. I don’t think I could have faced him if I’d abandoned all those people. As hard as that decision was, it was the right thing to do.

I had friends along the way. I suppose you can call them my own Companions. And they helped me in my new adventure. Perhaps out of a need to know where I came from, to know how I did what I did, and even out of a sense of needing some connection with my lost Dad I scoured space and time to discover more about my father’s people: the Time Lords.

There wasn’t much left.

When he said that their War had been bigger than the Seven-Day War on Messaline I had no idea. Even now, it boggles my mind to consider the horror of a war waged across space and time: obliterating places and people out of existence, warping and twisting basic matter, and creating literally endless and eternal suffering. From what I could gather, and from what didn’t kill me, I cried. I cried for my father’s people, for the races and civilians caught in that War.

And for my Dad: who must have suffered beyond any form of sanity. We had more in common than I thought, and I wish we hadn’t.

But my goal to know more became very important when, it was made clear, that the Enemy wasn’t dead. There were clues. I admit that in my quest to know more about Dad’s culture that I looked for the remnants of their enemies: particularly on a ruined world called Skaro.

I wish I hadn’t.

They literally are the Enemy. It was like seeing the attempted genocide on Messaline writ large and made into a whole other species. It’s the end result of war and hate. And I knew that Dad was their ultimate enemy. And despite what he thinks, he can’t deal with them alone.

So I had to jury-rig a people together. A family.

Messaline welcomed me back with open arms. I could’ve come to them in the future or even before the Seven Days, but it would have been disingenuous. The progenation machine had been shut down after my Dad ended the War. But I needed to look at it even if I didn’t want to get the Hath or Humans involved in this. However, I knew that if the Enemy and their … sickening puppets had gone as far as they have everyone was at risk.

All of us on Messaline are soldiers. My friends in the Human population knew I was something big and they were willing to help me. If my own people, my Dad’s people, were all dead then I would have to bring them back: in a way.

I learned something about Regeneration in my crash course through the remains of Gallifreyan history. It was like progenation — genes being reconfigured into genetic variation by a force that is both mother and father — except for the fact that it uses a pre-existing material template, a body, to create a new adult person. I always wondered how I came back to life after being shot by Cobb. One theory is that I got caught in the energies of the Source which was, in its own way, literally regenerating the whole of Messaline.

But I also know that right after Regeneration occurs for a Time Lord that they are filled with a bio-energy that, for a while, will repair wounds or even regrow lost limbs and organs. I realized that I had just been born the day that Cobb shot me. And even though it was one of my hearts, integral to Regeneration, that I was essentially a new “limb” or being with those same energies coursing through me. The Source might have helped as well.

Only a few on Messaline have even this basic knowledge of what I intended to do. It was risky, but worth it: to see my children born. The first ones had to be adults. I modified the training programming. While we have basic combat ability, there is more room for reasoning and thought. And, much to my mixed delight — as I don’t like being hurt or seeing one of my children in pain — I realized Dad passed on more to us than I thought. We can, in fact, Regenerate.

This makes things easier in some ways. My children have taken a variety of different forms and interests since that time. Where it would have been immensely hard for me to find a TARDIS Graveyard alone or with non-Time Lord Companions, they helped me. We are even developing something of a rudimentary telepathic bond: a shallow echo of the collective consciousness that the Time Lords, our Predecessors, used to possess. But it’s dangerous. I know enough that the Enemy has its own collective and should they ever find a way to access those of others …

In my own travels, I learned how to shield my thoughts and I’ve taught my children to do the same. We are less an army and more a series of cells through space and time.

We’ve suffered some setbacks. During our attempts to salvage from the few Graveyards we could find, and to harvest and grow the necessary coral for our vessels, we began to discover that all Time Lord knowledge and relics vanishing throughout the universe. Even the black markets, which were usually somewhat lucrative in the past and who I’d dealt with somehow forgot about any of our dealings. There was so little of it left to begin with and, to this day I’m not sure what was responsible for this: the Enemy, Dad, or something else entirely.

But we keep working. We’ve been trying to repair some of the damage that the Enemy, and the War, did to other civilizations and time periods: but always behind the scenes, always on the move. Dad’s First Rule: Always run.

And we kept working. We worked when something old, powerful and on fire with rage materialized for a few moments in our minds: just to vanish back into past flames. We even took time to deal with the cracks in existence that began to appear before memory failed us and, somehow, we were back in reality: with the multiverse repaired and somehow better.

Somehow I know Dad did that.

I wish I could thank him, but I have other concerns now. My vessel, Unity, has grown to something the size of a station and has seen and protected us from the very beginning. I decided to make the timeline of 6012, Vector N-6012 of the Multiverse, our home. I have, at least unofficially, made Messaline a protected-planet under my jurisdiction. Our vessels grow as do my children and theirs: who are allowed to be children and to choose their path as I did all those years ago.

I’ve gone through a few Regenerations since passing a few centuries and surviving more than a few scrapes. I’m Mom to an entire people. We are not Time Lords, but while not as powerful we are something else: something new. My descendants have taken to calling us the Travelers: for all the exploration and running that we do.

Looking back, it’s miraculous when you think about. From the seed of a soldier grown in one day of seven, not meant to last for even a week, we’ve created a people that might one day live for thousands of years. I just hope that, one day, instead of living short lives in war we will all live long lives in peace.

I never found my Dad, but I’m proud of my Travelers, my Seven Day Children, as we continue to explore, to defend, to help, and to keep running: together and as a family.

Jenny and The Doctor

Continuity

I am Alaya. The irony that I’m going to have a lot time to write in this journal does not escape me. I suppose I should be grateful. Our sister Felicity and myself are relatively safe, all things considered, and I still have this psychic paper journal that Mom got me into my first century.

If you can read this journal, our language, and the unseen ink which it’s written, then you are hopefully a fellow Traveller and you will materialize this journal and its contents at Home Vector N-6012. I don’t have to tell you that family is important and I want our Mom to know what happened, and what we have done.

Our original quest from Mom was to help repair the damage done to the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire around Vector N-200,000. It was a worthy goal, but we had to be careful. Navigating the soft, grey areas surrounding the fixed points in time is difficult at best. Perhaps the Predecessors might have had an easier time: with more technological aid at their disposal along with skill and experience.

Mom likes to remind us that we lost much: so much that even she, during The Reconstruction, “a jury-rigging of civilization” she said that Grandfather might have called it, still hasn’t found everything. We even lost our own sense of calendar and chronology if, indeed, they can even be called our own all things considered. But we make do. We have to.

Felicity was particularly adamant about helping the Empire. I understand. It fell victim to the temporal machinations of outside forces. When the Council sent us on this mission, Mom made sure to have Parity, one of our oldest and most honoured vessels, to carry us. She made it a point to warn us against the potential of … puppets or agents left behind even after all this time.

I had my reservations, you understand. We are still finding out more about where we came from and what we are capable of doing. Does it make sense to help others rebuild when we are still in the process of reconstructing ourselves? Still, that drive to help — which came from Mom, and from Grandfather before her — burns through my veins too and my protestations were one-hearted at best.

Again, another unintentional pun about time. It took very little of it, all things considered, to begin the process. Felicity has a knack of seeing the eddies and whirls around particular situations, and specific individuals. But it was me, using Parity’s natural resources, that helped to create the crude prototype tectonic manipulators that would begin to give the humans some idea of what to do. It was perfectly plausible. Frankly, they should have developed this technology ages ago and if they want to take the credit for it, that is perfectly fine with me.

So aside from materializing some supplies and upgrading infospikes into something less intrusive and far more miniaturized, at least by our standards, we were about to leave. But I would be disingenuous if I said that we didn’t notice the anomaly within the area.

There were strong temporal energies situated around an old satellite. We knew enough about this Vector that our Enemies had managed to manifest here. After Mom’s own researches, we also knew that Grandfather had been involved in stopping that threat in this very spot.

All of you know just how much Mom wants to find Grandfather. In all of her travels through finding coral, the Graveyards, the ephemeral remnants of the War, and saving all the lives she could she never found him again. Even as she trained her senses, she couldn’t find his mind. And for all our small number, we are nevertheless more than one and our tenuous collective will still couldn’t find any others.

We still couldn’t find our Grandfather. Perhaps we weren’t at his level: at the place we should be. Or perhaps he is gone.

Whatever the case, Parity needed some time to recharge. Unlike the Great Behemoths we found in the Graveyards, she is still small and sleek. Her circuit hasn’t grown in quite the way our gifted sister The Geneticist planned, yet more things we don’t know — yet more — but she manoeuvres well and, unlike the others of the past, only requires two pilots to assist her. Besides, in case of discovery she makes due with the perception filters for which we’ve all been equipped to utilize.

It was fortuitous for us that the site of Satellite 5 was powerful enough a spacerift to feed Parity. We took the time to examine the station . Other Travellers had come here and taken the Satellite’s logs to Mom already, along with samples of cosmic dust and irradiated bodies. We meditated here to honour the sacrifice of the humans and focus on the hope that we would make their lives better for it. Mom gained so few scraps about Grandfather from this venture, but something was different this time.

Parity had recharged ahead of schedule. The rift was simply that powerful. And it was fluctuating. Something happened. Something changed somewhere. Even after hearing Parity’s quiet, silvery tone, I began to … perceive things. They were almost after-images: blurring, merging, and separating from each other. Sometime in environments like this, we see resonances of the past and future. But this was different.

It’s … imagine possibility. There are an infinite number of different things that can happen. And then somewhere in that something does happen or will happen. But the quantum branches of potential actions and reactions still occur. We see it, sometimes, out of the corners of our eyes but it’s always so far and out of reach. But not that day.

Even as my senses expanded out farther than they’d ever done, Felicity saw the rift open first.

It bloomed like a flower of flux and twilight in the darkness of space. And after a while even I could see the golden energies surrounding it. It reminded me of my Mom’s vessel, of great Unity herself and the times under her control panel when something pulsated and thrummed: a slumbering but active power.

Like a heart.

And I could even see it resonating in sympathy from Parity’s control panel. Something was calling to Parity. We could feel her responding to the call even as this wave of possibility rushed into us. It was impossible, you understand. Mom and the Council only heard rumours that, once, there were Other Ways. We had only just learned to travel through space and time. Most of us still use reverse-engineered and augmented vortex manipulators. That was how Mom began adventuring and rediscovering even a fraction of what we know.

But only the Predecessors knew how to travel to alternate realities. I examined the frequency and programmed it into Parity for future reference. It will be included in this journal’s equation and music section: transmitted through the mind through tactile-mode.

Felicity was excited. We found a gate to an alternate reality near one of the places where Grandfather and his vessel left a definite imprint. And then she perked up at something else. It took me a while to feel it too. It was … for lack of a better word, it was the shadow of a mind. It felt confused somehow. Muddled. Felicity could probably feel more, but from what I understand it is old. It is very old. Sad? Content?

And so familiar, like Mom but … different.

We debated this. Our mission to the Empire had been a success though the seeds of our work, like coral, would take a little more time to grow. Parity’s communications weren’t strong enough to pierce the fluctuating veil around us. I wanted to wait and deliver our findings, but there was no guarantee we would get another shot at this.

So we decided to go forward. In one of our best vessels and a copy of the temporal signal to go on, to perhaps replicate for our return and future explorations, we not only decided to investigate a rift to an alternate reality, but also fulfil a lifelong unspoken quest.

To find Grandfather.

It’s funny. In our dealings with Vector N-200,000 and others we had to make everything seem plausible. Felicity is good at finding errors and inconsistencies. I excel at creating possible solutions to those issues. Continuity is the key.

Continuity …

It never occurred to us, as we entered that rift, as it flashed and closed behind us, just how like editing — like writing — our quest had been.

Everything seemed so neat and tidy as the birthright of our wanderlust took us. There was only one other being we knew about who could have possibly had even a shadow of a psychic feeling of that kind.

It’s too bad. Because what we found beyond that rift wasn’t Grandfather.

He wasn’t Grandfather at all.

Time Travel and Retconning: Revisionism and Reconstructionism in Doctor Who

Just as the New Year is approaching, so is “The Time of the Doctor.”

Time of The Doctor

I’ve come out of hiatus again, essentially, because this is another thought that just won’t leave me alone. After I was exposed to Julian Darius of Sequart’s distinctions between Revisionism and Reconstructionism with regards to comics, I applied it to my article In a Different Place, a Different Time: Revision and Reconstruction in Comics Without Superheroes? Of course, I should have realized it was not going to end there.

I mean, come on: I already mentioned space and time in the aforementioned article’s title. And after a while of gestation and trying to stave it off, I knew what was going to happen. I was going to provide the distinctions of Revisionism and Reconstructionism, taken from Julian Darius, the latter term apparently coined from Kurt Busiek, to the development of the Doctor Who series. Let’s face it: this was just going to happen and, if we’re going to be honest with each other, it probably has in no so many words and in ways that have been covered far more exhaustively than I am going to be.

So let’s get to the point and quote River Song, as I tend to with a lot of the Doctor Who articles I’ve written, to say, “Spoilers.”

This is really going to be a brief case of looking at parallels between the development of the superhero comics genre and Doctor Who. Like the early comics versions of Batman, Superman and others, The Doctor as a character starts off as a relatively morally ambiguous character: someone who isn’t necessarily evil, but not always good. Certainly, they all have the power to impose their will on others whom they don’t agree with, or are quite willing to let someone destroy themselves as opposed to interceding on their behalf. The Doctor himself, in his very first incarnation was more than willing to abandon people to their deaths if they became “inconvenient” to his or his granddaughter’s own survival.

And this was in the 1960s. Superhero comics themselves, especially the ones I mentioned, existed from the 30s onward: from that Golden Age period where superheroes were still trying to get past their “might is right” mentality to reveal at least some of the heroism that we recognize. The Doctor, however, had an even more interesting challenge: in that he was a character in a science-fiction program that drew on a tradition of science-fiction programs and stories. He wasn’t exactly a hero then and never quite fit that mould well. He and his Companions were more explorers and, as such, the program was one of exploration that bordered on a weird sort of horror: the kind of horror that, well, basically came from the spectacle of science-fiction B movies, comics, and pulp stories before it. Even the early Doctor Who episodes, from I’m given to understand, have a very pulp and serial feel to them: with constantly interrelated chains if episodes making a story followed by standalone episodes and “monsters of the week.”

Of course, things changed for both superhero comics and Whoniverse respectively. It was the Comics Code Authority that greatly white-washed many of the darker elements away from superhero adventures. Some of them simply didn’t survive and became silly caricatures of their original selves. This wasn’t always the case and some stories managed to be told well even in the midst of not being able to question authority-figures among other things. Towards the sixties, however, there were many campy and downright silly elements amongst this genre of comics: particularly with regards to Batman and such.

Doctor Who, which started in the sixties, always had an element of the uncanny and the weird in itself. It also had elements of camp and strange, tangential adventures. For some time, the BBC had a low budget so they basically had to utilize B movie props and effects to make their monsters and their stories. And The Doctor himself became a lot more of a swashbuckling character or archetype: embodying different ideals but becoming somehow more human as time went on. The humanization of The Doctor, which began with his Companions from his early days, contributed to this and probably in no small part due to the fact that the program began as a children’s show.

But just as there were so many disparate elements and strangeness in the Silver Age of superhero comics, this was definitely the case with the original Doctor Who series. What is interesting to consider with regards to Doctor Who however is that many “silly costumes and props and styles” have become iconic in themselves and even popular in a vintage, classic, nostalgic sort of way among fans. The books and audio dramas also helped to expand many of these elements and add more to the quantum branch of reality that was the Whoniverse.

It was in the 1980s that things began to change for superhero comics. This was when Revisionism came into play. Writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller asked themselves the question of what a superhero would be like, with the powers and abilities they possessed, in a realistic situation. They were also mindful of the pessimism, cynicism, and fear around in this particular time period and wondered how the hero would function in such a world: and what they would do to that world. This is the period in which the superhero really got dissected. Writers in this time and onward seemed to draw on the ancient classical designations of “hero”: of a person of spectacular power and skill that bordered on, or were totally amoral, to reshape the heroes of the 30s and 60s. This allowed much in the way of character development and the creation of truly epic story-lines. Of course, the danger was also created: that the dark grittiness of Revisionism would become a form onto itself and not a vessel to tell a carefully thought out story. Darkness for darkness’ sake, as it were.

With Doctor Who, I argue that its Revisionism came in 2005 with the beginning of the new series. After a gap from 1989, and television movie in 1996, The Doctor returned in 2005 under a very different premise from his earlier adventures. It is almost like producer and screenwriter Russell T. Davies created his own Crisis on Infinite Earths and destroyed much of the quantum and tangential branches of the old Whoniverse in order to create a very centralized, dark, and Byronic reality: as though he and others believed that the only way the program could survive would be to “mature” into this new spirit. It is as though they expected viewers to want something less silly and more “realistic.”

So there was a Time War, the Last Great Time War, that seemed to have obliterated many loose-ends (and cause no small heap of trouble in the loose-ends that did, in fact, continue to exist for the Universe) and leave a Doctor that was more gaunt, more lonely, and far angrier than many of his other incarnations before him. The children’s show origins of program seemed to have been burned away by rage, an attempt at a more serious tone, singular purpose, and Revisionism.

Even the inclusion of David Tennant as the next Doctor, who was a marked contrast to the sullen leather jacket-wearing Doctor who somehow began to lighten up a bit towards the end, only accentuated this kind of Miltonian grandiosity. He might as well, in a ridiculously sublime way, have been an angel from Milton’s Paradise Lost sailing through a perfect clockwork Universe skewed by Original Sin, or perhaps as a far livelier Virgil figure in a kind of Dante’s Inferno of wonders. When Steven Moffat took over as producer and the Matt Smith incarnation of The Doctor came in, the youngest depiction there has ever been (he is about my age), the dark elements were beginning to wear a little thin.

But there is something truly wonderful that was forming with Doctor Who, and its spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Smith Adventures. Despite the darkness and the angst of The Doctor being “the last Time Lord,” there has been a great depiction of wonders. I’m not just talking about the more advanced CGI or sophisticated props and costuming provided to the program. I’m also talking about its embrace of diversity: about its inclusion of different cultures, race and even sexual orientations. And it doesn’t seem to display them as novelties but as givens. As science-fiction that, by its very nature, encompasses the future and its possible sensibilities in addition to all of space and time it is extremely encouraging to see. It might have something to do with the fact that Russell T. Davies is gay himself and wanted to include diversity, but there is also the fact that Doctor Who is the longest running science-fiction show in existence and it changes with the times and the attitudes in each era in which it finds itself.

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But the sense of wonder that is, in the words of the program’s first producer Verity Lambert, “C.S. Lewis meets H.G. Wells meets Father Christmas,” is so much older than this and it wins out over the darkness every time. It is similar to the sense of nobility and kindness from Superman or the sure sense of justice from Batman. You can also call that sense of wonder hope.

By the time of Steve Moffat, whose episodes are strong in a self-contained short story fashion but whose overall structure begins to unravel the strong Miltonian clockwork of Davies with plot holes, much in the way that the Cracks in Time began to appear, or how the Weeping Angels feed off of temporal rifts and die from paradox-poisoning (which is ironic when you consider how Moffat created them in the first place and that his stories have many plot-holes), you may be witnessing a change beginning to happen. From 2005 and onward, most of Doctor Who has taken place on Earth or has focused almost solely on humans and has maintained a relatively linear story line and premise.

But then Moffat did something. By 1995, Julian Darius argues that Revisionism in comics began to change. Writers such as Grant Morrison began to look back on superhero comics before Revisionism and draw on the idealism and hope of those periods. They took the character-writing and plot development of Revisionism and combined it with the light-heartedness of heroes against the darkness. They, arguably, contributed to the creation of Reconstructionism.

And Morrison himself was known to have really liked the strange and wacky DC elements that existed before what he considered to be a cynical Crisis plot: perhaps much in the way that some of The Doctor’s fans might view his present “gritty and realistic” situation.

Now look back at Steve Moffat. In “The Day of the Doctor” he took the premise of The Doctor having destroyed the Time Lords and, in a typical time-travelling fashion, changed and retconned time. He had The Doctor and his previous incarnations save Gallifrey. Now The Doctor has to go and find it. In one stroke, however it was executed, Moffat eliminated the heart of The Doctor’s modern angst. And in the next episode, in the Christmas Special “The Time of the Doctor” we are going to see him fall to his lowest as he is apparently on his “last incarnation” and is going to die. But we know that isn’t going to happen. We know he will survive. We know there will be a new Doctor.

And perhaps, just perhaps, this is Moffat’s attempt to apply Reconstructionism to Doctor Who. Certainly the inclusion of Tom Baker, the former Fourth Doctor that represented The Doctor’s kindliness, affability and wisdom, into “The Day of the Doctor”–representing what could be another future incarnation of the Time Lord–can be interpreted as a sign of that return to some the weird, and wacky adventures that possess no small amount of hope.

But whatever the case, we are going to see Peter Capaldi as an older, but perhaps wilder Doctor: someone who is not a soldier, a traumatized war veteran, a hero with an anguished dream, or a lonely boy but an adventurer and traveler. He is going to look for where he put Gallifrey. He is going to go out again. Perhaps he might even leave Earth in all time lines and we can see how the rest of the Universe has been doing, how other worlds and newer beings live, and how he will interact with them. Maybe after all the time that Davies has reforged the content of the program it will open up back into larger vistas beyond just Earth and the human.

There is just one last Battle of Trenzalore, a Regeneration rule to work around, and then perhaps the potential for some reconstruction, for something new, for something old, and for something new again. Either way, I look forward to the journey.

What Is a Doctor and When Does He Stop Running?

All right, so relatively soon–on November 23rd–we are going to see “The Day of the Doctor”: in which we not only find out why the Eleventh Doctor Regenerates into the Twelfth–which seems a lot less ominous now that the Time Lord Regeneration limit seems arbitrary and limited to the now-defunct Time Lord society–but we will also find out more about The Unknown Doctor.

Or maybe won’t.

I don’t really know what else to say without subscribing to a certain supposition about who this version of The Doctor–played by John Hurt–is supposed to be. So I’m going to subscribe to one of them: mainly that our friend The Unknown Doctor is from the Last Great Time War: the incarnation that utilized The Moment to exterminate both the Daleks and his fellow Time Lords and pretty much save the Universe.

There are some interesting details that could back this up. Aside from the fact that he clearly did something that he regretted, but was ultimately necessary–at least from his perspective–and that he had no choice there is the matter of the fact that Clara wasn’t even with him in this time line. Remember, you Doctor Who fans out there, the Time War was time-locked: keeping certain forces from using, or being propelled by time travel into the battlefield such as it may have been. That is why I think Clara Oswin Oswald never met The Doctor then, or traveled with him: because this field would have, by its very nature, kept her very existence out or destroyed her along with the others: and perhaps removed that knowledge from Clara herself.

But if we operate on the assumption that The Unknown Doctor was the one that either Regenerated during the Great Time War or aged from the Eighth Doctor due to possible time-dilation within the sphere of the time-lock and the sheer horrors of temporal war, it just makes the Eleventh Doctor’s judgment (and those before him) of his previous incarnation–his “secret”–all the more unforgivable.

He not only claims that The Unknown Doctor is not worthy of the moniker–the promise that he and other incarnations of the same man made to the Universe and himself–but that all of his actions, whatever they were, were “not in the name of The Doctor.”

And this is where I take issue with The Doctor’s idea of what a doctor actually is. Despite the fact that the Time Lord has no medical degrees, as far as we know of and perhaps has some haphazard scholarly qualifications (at least by his own people’s standards) from his Time Lord Academy days, he is a healer in that he tries to fix problems and “meddle” in pockets of time that aren’t “fixed.” He sees time, like most Time Lords, as a flowing current with some static and fixed places: like a stream coursing around some pebbles. He likes to re-align things back into, or really into a pattern that makes sense.

But here is the thing. You see, if The Unknown Doctor did develop during the Great Time War, then he knew what was at stake. The Daleks would have exterminated all life in the Universe if they had become the new Lords of Time. The Time Lords themselves decided they were going to ascend into beings of pure energy and obliterate the current Universe to do so. Essentially, both species were–or had become–like mad dogs and any good doctor understands that sometimes the only sane medicine at that point is euthanasia.

Does that mean that he should be proud of it? I don’t think so: though we know that he is not adverse to admitting and even using the fact that he killed both Daleks and Time Lords to his advantage when the situation arises. He has even admitted his role to his Companions to some extent. Perhaps he thinks that his previous incarnation should have tried harder, or should not have been suckered into the War–a war by the very nature of war being a situation where no one really wins–and should have done something different. Or perhaps, Doctor Eleven just hates himself: like his other incarnations tend to do whenever they think back on times that they can’t deal with.

But when it came to it: when it came down to the Daleks destroying all life, the Time Lords obliterating all Creation for their benefit, or giving everyone else in the Universe a chance: there really was no other choice.

The fact is, even though he admits The Unknown Doctor is him but not The Doctor, it’s almost like he is displacing all the blame for something onto this man and trying to forget that he ever existed. The mere fact that this incarnation of him is referred to as The Unknown Doctor speaks volumes about the truth that The Doctor has been running away from the entire time.

But now, after looking at John Hurt turn around with an old, haunted and very sad expression on his face that belies him being the villainous Valeyard or something else–perhaps serving as the guardian against any psychic vestige of the Time War infecting the reality outside of the time-lock (which The Doctor may have jeopardized by delving into paradox itself by going into his time-stream) and with the credits under him proclaiming him to be what the Eleventh Doctor says he is not, The Doctor himself–having crossed into his own time-stream–has to face what and who he has been trying to escape from and finally be forced to do what he has been fearing the most.

To stop running.

Be Careful What You Search For: The Doctor as Psyche

Disclaimer: There be spoilers here.

I’m not going to go into an indepth analysis and look at a particular Doctor Who episode. The fact is: it is an exhausting process and I know I will be missing something from it when I’m done. But there is one theme that has really caught my eye and is really, aside from the weird and zany adventures with elements of grandiosity the central focus of The Doctor as of right now.

The mystery of Clara Oswin Oswald or, in The Doctor’s own words, “The only mystery worth solving.”

So there we are. The scenario is already set and clear: as much as any Doctor Who plot really is. And now I am going to make a mythological allusion: mainly talking about what this quest and its potential results actually reminds me of. It is only fitting that in the last episode of Doctor Who “Hide,” that The Doctor said something to the effect that, “It isn’t a ghost story after all — it’s a love story.” And when he said, I said under my breath, “Yes, Doctor. It really is.”

So is the Myth of Psyche and Eros. There are many variations of the myth itself, but essentially what happens is that there is a princess named Psyche who–through various circumstances–ends up married to the love god Eros (or Cupid as he is better known): though she does not know this. In fact, until her fateful decision, she never even sees what he looks like. Not really. One of the admonitions that Cupid gives her, in fact, is that she is not allowed to look at him.

Don’t blink.

Of course, as I and many others have stated with regards to “The Snowmen,” this myth too sounds an awful lot like a fairytale: and indeed a lot of myths and parables in various ages do. There is always that one thing the character is told not to do, or is made difficult to find and of course–human and sentient nature being what it is–the character eventually seeks it out. As something of an aside, I also think it is very remarkable in that Psyche’s myth may be one of the few in existence where a mortal woman has a recognized heroic quest–complete with various tasks–in pursuing a male deity as opposed to the other way around.

Now, Psyche and The Doctor are not that alike at all. There are different circumstances, goals, influences, character genders, and fears involved on the surface. Psyche is “sacrificed” to a “dragon that harasses the world” due to a vision that an oracle gave her royal father of whom she would marry. There are gods involved. Cupid likes Psyche as well: after being sent to punish her by his mother Venus (the Roman Aphrodite). Psyche is relatively inexperienced with regards to the world and marriage. She is innocent. And it is only when others ask her who her husband is and if he is attempting to deceive her by masking his “hideousness” that she attempts to look at and potentially kill him if she doesn’t like what she sees. So literally, Psyche and Cupid, and The Doctor and Clara are entirely different situations.

Figuratively though …

The Doctor from the very beginning knows that there is something very odd about Clara Oswin Oswald. She should not exist. She was made into Dalek in “Asylum of the Daleks” and then she died, and then she was a Victorian governess in “The Snowmen” and also died. He then realizes that she can potentially exist in another timeline as the same person and species. There seem to be forces that are getting him to find her after some of his own recent losses. He is both fascinated and afraid to find the truth of her. Perhaps when, in “Hide,” the psychic tells Clara that The Doctor has “a sliver of ice in his heart” she is really saying that there has been so much grief that he has a certain level of objectivity and dispassion as a result of that. Remember, in “The Snowmen,” it was a Christmas episode with the TARDIS in the clouds and The Doctor living there away from all people. Even the interior of the TARDIS looks like a cold metal form of ice.

That “sliver” could be fear, but it may be one of those forces that influences him to “figure Clara out,” while trying to maintain a distance. At the same time, The Doctor always loves to solve mysteries and this is one he cannot resist for a variety of reasons: not the least of which being that this “mystery” seems to like him back. A lot. And there are gods involved in the Whovian Universe–although they are known as different things like Eternals, and “sun parasite-gods”–and The Doctor, like Psyche, has had some adventures into the Underworld: not the least of which being his Regenerations and some of the other places he has found himself in.

Psyche had a lantern and a knife to take with her into the Underworld. The Doctor has his own tool.

I do hope though–probably in vain–that this loose comparison ends here. That when The Doctor finds and brings the metaphorical lantern to see Clara in the darkness that, well … it doesn’t end as badly for him as it almost did with Psyche. But knowing The Doctor’s track record and what the Universe likes to do to him: I am a bit concerned.

Because Clara could be a lot of things. She could be, as some fans have posited, The Dalek Emperor reformed by Rose as the incarnation of the Bad Wolf to be a companion for The Doctor as she predicted her importance and absence from his life in that brief time she absorbed The Heart of the TARDIS. She could be a Dalek or alien-made replicant. Maybe she is another aspect of The Great Intelligence. She could also be an avatar of the returning Eternals for all we know. She could also be Romana: the Time Lady that The Doctor once spent considerable time with. Or, when The Master was disintegrating towards his confrontation with the Time Lords, the resulting closure of the time-warp could have fractured and Regenerated him into a new form existing throughout time and space: and we know now that Time Lords can change sex and gender.

Or, much worse:

Clara Oswin Oswald could very just well be Clara Oswin Oswald in the way that she is–human–and existing in different time periods and places. And by dissecting her mystery, The Doctor could drive her away from him and leave him right back where he started. Alone.

And then maybe he will search for her, as Psyche did Cupid, and go through another adventure or so. Or may be I am just reading too much into this. Perhaps that “sliver of ice” might grow again into something more awful in that isolation. We all know that The Doctor cannot be alone for too long. And imagining that shard of ice becoming a glacial heart within the being of The Valeyard … is not too far off the mark when you wonder just how much more hearts-break can The Doctor take before he completely loses it.

Of course, this is as always mere conjecture and as Doctor Who stories go, it will be something completely unexpected. But The Doctor might want to remember something else. As Neil Gaiman has written in Sandman, there is a difference between a secret and a mystery. A secret is a truth that is waiting to reveal itself. A mystery is something–or in this case someone–that just is. And I hope more than anything that he takes a mystery to be someone and gets to know Clara as she is and that the beautiful knowledge of it does not destroy him and leave him alone in the ashes.

ETA: As an aside, the following is a teaser photo from the episode “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.” I’ll bet you all Whovians will want to read this.

It’s too bad it probably won’t be in chronological order.

A Game of Statues: Amanda Palmer, Persona, Expression and Life

When I was in Kindergarten, in a school called Adventure Place, we used to play something called “A Statue Game.”

I knew it as The Statue Game. We would listen to this song–which I now know to have been created by Sandy Offenheim and Family–move around and when the song would tell us to stop, we would freeze in mid-motion. We couldn’t move and the song would tease us, play games with our minds by implanting the suggestion of itchiness or needing to scratch our heads, and then it would start again and we would be allowed to dance and hop around as we did before. It turns out that this music and this game are still being played to this very day: and it is a fact doesn’t surprise me.

There is a reason why I’m bringing this up and I will get to it soon. During Amanda’s Art of Asking TED Talk, we got to see a picture and a little bit of a demonstration of Amanda in her previous occupation as a living statue. This is not the first time I heard her mention this: chances are I probably read it on her Blog or in her Introduction to The Absolute Death. But there were two things that struck me about her time as a living statue.

The first is how, in a way, we are all conditioned to be living statues. At least, that is what looking at “Let’s Play a Statue Game” as an adult makes me feel. I mean, think about it: the song and game is really rather instructional. It teaches children pacing and rhythm. It delineates a time for play and then moments of formalism: of needing to be still and having to listen. Making it a group game also socializes children into a group calisthenic: tapping into that unconscious place where we all unknowing imitate and synchronize with each other. It teaches a time for play and stillness, but it also allows us the space and the capacity to laugh at ourselves. I’d argue that it is one of those early methods of making social interaction into a game that everyone plays along with and is both half-joking, and half-seriousness.

Yet what really grabs my attention is that rituals like “The Statue Game” encourage us to build those early personas: a social facade that allows us to interact with fellow human beings. Personas are not illusions nor are they fake in any way. They are just different aspects of us or personalized mask-tools that we use in different situations of interaction. We make these masks from childhood and things like “The Statue Game” allow give us the basic tools, mental shapes, and situations to do so. In other words, you can look at all of this as an experiment not only in socialization, but in communal art as well.

Of course, some of us have a lot of difficulty with these games. Some children do move under suggestion of the song. Other children have slower reaction time or a different sense of movement, balance, and rhythm. And some just plain get itchy regardless of any song or suggestion. Yet the rules of “The Statue Game” still have an effect on them: they either learn the communal rhythm or make one of their own.

That is what artists do.

So let’s get back to Amanda Palmer. I have imagined her, and now seen images of her as this eight-foot living bride statue holding out a flower and trying to make eye-contact with those people who passed her by. On an intellectual level, I think it was brilliant and an excellent metaphor for an artist learning to keep being relatable to a prospective audience.

Also, it was very subversive of her. Think about it like this: what is an eight-foot living statue of a bride? It–and she–are symbols of of a communal making: an archetype of certain expectations and theoretically immutable traditions. Yet there Amanda was, in a role of monetary exchange granted, using eye-contact and a simple gesture of holding out a flower to appeal to an individual on a basic, human, empathic level. It is ingenious: just as ingenious as making a game for children teaching them how to learn to act as statues and feeling people at the same time. And she was taking that philosophy and applying it to the rest of her work.

She appeals to people directly: or as directly as one artist can to her audience. In addition, she takes the role of a statue–of an untouchable celebrity–and subverts it to remain relatable and to appeal her present and potential fans. Originally, what she did with a statue pose and costume she now does through Kickstarter Projects and her Blog. But one lesson that seems paramount for me is that she originally managed to create this appeal, to hone and develop her own art of asking, but not saying a word. She simply held out a hand and expressed emotion through her facial features and her eyes. It is an experiment in empathy: in relating to people through song, action, and expression through gesture.

Now I’m going to look at how this relates to me.

In a similar way to how her own Blog and Kickstarters function, I have my own 8-foot statue through Mythic Bios. I have admitted that I combine a lot of myself and my observations to make this Blog. I’ve also admitted that I make this Blog to order to find an audience and to relate to them. However much I’m successful is a subjective question. I mean, after all, this Blog still accords me a certain level of distance from everyone else and the role that divides us is still there. I am a writer and you are an audience and sometimes we correspond and sometimes we don’t.

This also functions the same for me offline. One thing that “The Statue Game” does teach children who grow into adults is that there is a distance between us–as fellow statues–but also a closeness in our similar natures. In our statue roles and in a best case scenario, we are polite and formal with a certain social ingrained amount of common decency. But when we get to know each other and playtime happens, we bounce around and jump and sing and dance and cuddle and do all of things kinds of things.

For me, it goes further. Sometimes I feel more like a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who: in which eye contact will freeze me into my vaguely uncomfortable distantly formal polite statue-form, but when others turn their backs I am more like my crazy, warped creative self. Then people leave and I eat the time potential that they leave behind: writing up whatever I glean in different kinds of stories.

Amanda mentioned in her TED Talk that sometimes when she was a statue, people came her way who probably hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks. The Doctor once described the Weeping Angels as “the loneliest beings in the universe since their quantum-lock reaction makes it difficult for them to socialise.” It gets too easy to be the statue and to regain animation when other people are no longer around: a statue that forgets to play or can only dance by themselves now.

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I’ve been, and I am one of those statues. So I ask myself what I would feel when someone like Amanda Palmer can actually see through that facade and acknowledge my feelings? I would … feel some discomfort, to be perfectly honest. A statue is often also how we like to present ourselves to the world. And having someone see how I feel makes me feel very … vulnerable.

Don’t misunderstand. I have a lot of people who just see the statue or simply do not get what they see, or ascribe characteristics to it that frankly do not exist. Whenever I acknowledge them, I have plenty of ignorant and misguided people telling me how I feel to last for sometime. But having someone see me for what I am–feeling as though they can see my anger, bitterness, sadness, awkwardness, and general bullshit–makes me feel vulnerable.

I’ve been taught to view the world a potentially hostile place where you always need to have your guard-up–where you always need to save face–and where vulnerability is seen as an exploitable weakness … even when you want, and have the need, to reach out.

On the other hand, I am also an artist. I can write about all of the above through the medium of my Blog and find people who relate who can relate to at least some of it. Artists, to some extent, are empathic beings and have the potential to take their statue-form and open it up to relation. I imagine extroverts and positive, optimistic thinkers who wholeheartedly trust people are better at this.

I am obviously not one of these.

However, I can cheat. I can pretend to be optimistic for a while. I can, as Kurt Vonnegut warns, become what I pretend to be. And I don’t have to pretend to like what I do: because that much of it is true. Also, there are many ways to express vulnerability as strength and I’ve already found a few of these. And as long as I can express it in the best way I know how–through writing–then I will be okay. But more importantly, I am building up to the point where I can ask for help when I need it.

Make no mistake, if I want to move forward in my creative endeavours I will one day need help and I will ask for it. And if I can express vulnerability to the point that Amanda Palmer as: to the point of making other people smile, cry, or feel an uncomfortable, awkward, and twisting form of sympathy–of realness–then I will have begun to do my own job.

So when you get right down to it, and look past all the mixed metaphors, analogies, and references here I’m going to say this: for just as Amanda Palmer states that there should be no shame in asking for help, there should also be no shame in striking an honest pose … itching, sneezing, and all.

P.S. I just want to illustrate what happens when Weeping Angels play the Statue Game.

It’s not very pretty. Or maybe it is. They did ask for it after all.

Global Game Jams, Big Vikings, Full-On Support, ScrewAttacks and Other Battles

So here is a long overdue update about what has been going on in my own life.

I entered and got accepted into the Global Game Jam in Toronto. This is a 48-hour event in which I and a group of programmers and other artists meet–for the first time–and create a video game together. My profile can be found right here on the site. I’m both anxious and really excited about what what is that my collaborators and I are going to create.

This is my first Game Jam and in fact my first official time helping to create a video game at all. I got accepted into this not too long ago and I thought I should mention this here. Part of the challenge will be the fact that whatever we make will be determined by a theme already created by the Global Game Jam. Of course, we don’t know what this theme is yet: just as most of us, I imagine, don’t know who we will even be working with.

In the end, while I have a few ideas already with regards to story and game-play, whether or not these will happen depends on the theme and what my team will want to be. That’s what I’m going to be doing this coming Friday the 25th all the way until Sunday the 27th. Whatever happens, I really look forward to this.

Now, the second thing of note that I want to mention is that my friend and collaborator Angela O’Hara has gotten a job at Big Viking Games as a video game artist.

I’m excited for Angela because she has essentially fulfilled one of her greatest dreams and can share her wonderful talent in a medium that she loves. It is not every day that someone gets a job doing something that they actually love: their dream job. When you have the opportunity, please check out Angela’s work and look out for her new video game design work as well. You will not be disappointed.

I’ve also gotten a lot of “Likes” and Follows this past while and I would, as always, like to thank everyone for continuing to follow this Blog. I always want to add some new content and vary things up a bit in order to keep things interesting. I don’t know if that is what actually happens, mind you, but I really like being able to express of the ideas I have in the way that I usually do.

There is one totally off-topic, but awesome thing that I do want to address and it is with regards to ScrewAttack’s Death Battle series. It is an excellent pairing of entirely different popular cultural and geek fictional characters: to determine which one would win in a battle to the death. It is that simple. These pairings are all enjoyable with Ben Singer and Chad James’ running commentary and Jordan Lange’s excellent animation. The first two give you a breakdown of what each combatant is capable of, and then a battle “postmortem” while Lange animates the entire fight: usually with 16-bit sprites, but sometimes with much more complex designs.

I will admit that I didn’t quite agree with the result of Batman Vs. Spiderman, but I really liked and agreed with the new and long-talked Dragon Z Star Goku Vs. DC’s Superman Death Battle. They are all things that my friends and I thought about for ages and it is really awesome to see it all animated.

You can even go on ScrewAttack’s Youtube channel or Death Battle’s Facebook page to suggest Death Battles of your own: which apparently ScrewAttack actually looks at. I have suggested the following verses matches:

Emperor Palpatine Verses the Dark Lord Sauron. Alan Moore’s V Verses The Joker. And Superman Verses …

The Doctor.

Yes.

I am that much of a geek and if any else wants to also vote on these, particularly … the latter two fight ideas I really wouldn’t mind. 😉

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this smaller post, update, and geeking. Let the battles continue.

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Clouds and Mirrors: Dr. Who’s The Snowmen

Imagine Calvin and Hobbes, with A Christmas Carol, a Sherlock Holmes detective mystery parody, an English fairy-tale, some steampunk, and a hint–just a pinch–of true love in a whole lot of wonder.

And those were some of the most immediate feelings I had watching the Prequel to “The Snowmen” Christmas Special of Dr. Who.

Now, I am going to go into “The Snowmen” Episode itself: into Spoiler Territory.

First off, from the trailers and the title alone, I got a major Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons vibe: especially from the beginning when a young lonely boy–Walter Simeon–has a snowman of his own creation begin to talk back to him in 1842. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Walter because most of us have been there: where we don’t understand children our age–or even relate to them–and would rather have imaginary friends instead. Unfortunately, Walter made a very bad imaginary friend who would continue to be there with him for the next fifty years: essentially becoming a giant steampunk snow globe and, well, mutating with more snow being added onto it.

Also, a word of advice: if someone ever offers to feed you, it would probably be prudent to figure out of there are more words in that sentence: you know the ones after “I will feed you …” as the now-Doctor Simeon’s workers discovered to their chagrin.

Anyway, then we get introduced to Clara. And then we get reintroduced to The Doctor.

Clara goes outside of the bar that she is working at to see a Snowman appear there pretty much out of nowhere. We then see The Doctor walking by in passing and she accuses him of making it. The Doctor looks very different now: as much as the same Regeneration can. He looks … tired, and subdued. Really, he is very sad and he has reason to be when you take into consideration what happened to his last Companions. He wants nothing to do with anything save for the bare minimum of contact with some of his allies.

So after he gives her some advice, he leaves. But even when very depressed and angst-ridden, The Doctor says interesting things or his mere existence is a curiosity in itself. So what does Clara the barmaid–and later as it turns out part-time governess do? Well, it’s quite simple.

She follows him.

So we go from a the beginnings of a weird horror story to what is now a Christmas fairy-tale adventure as Clara continues to stalk The Doctor and discovers more strange and new things about him. The Doctor has a Sontaran friend/servant named Strax that attempts to get a memory-worm The Doctor has to erase Clara’s memories under his order. Strax is hilarious in that he often advocates militaristic force in all situations and speaks something like this, “Impudent human scum. Prepare to be destroyed … I mean, may I have your coat please?” The Doctor also refers to him as a Potato more often than not.

Of course, with such a mentality Strax keeps touching the memory-worm and forgetting where it is: though there is evidence to believe that the former clone soldier isn’t quite as “stupid” as he attempts to act and often does these things to annoy people if it amuses him: especially The Doctor. Also, Clara doesn’t really want her memory erased, but plays along with interacting with The Doctor: which is consciously what he doesn’t want to happen–he doesn’t want to make a new bond–but subconsciously continues to converse anyway.

This won’t be a part-by-part dissection of the entire Episode, just to let you know. The Doctor realizes that robbing Clara of her memory wouldn’t be a good idea because she needs to remember to “not-think” about the Snowmen so they don’t multiply and try to kill her … conveniently enough.

But while The Doctor is trying not to get involved with the world or–really–people, there are two other people trying to figure out what Dr. Simeon is up to. So if you watched the Prequel link above, you’ll know that there is a Silurian woman named Madame Vastra and her human maid-wife Jenny Flint who essentially solve crimes in the Victorian era.

Dr. Who has always, aside from being an epic show of crazy linked ideas has–at least in the twenty-first century–been very open-minded and progressive. I mean, Jack Harkness is an omni-sexual being and there is such a wide array of civilizations and times out there in the Whoverse that something like different kinds of sexuality is just a given really. So a primordial lizard woman and a human woman being a couple–and being married–in Victorian times is not very shocking to me.

In fact, aside from Vastra–and even then people rationalize her existence as having something of a “skin-condition” (I find it hilarious how the people of Earth’s past never react at all to aliens in Dr. Who or even The Doctor when he or his Companions are wearing entirely different styles of clothes from that time-frame: it just goes to show you how most humans are either oblivious, more open-minded, or simply do not give a damn than even we believe)–two women having a relationship and even having an arrangement not unlike marriage in Victorian times is not unheard of at all. It is pretty telling that for the past while and it seems especially now in 2012, same-sex marriage has been gaining a lot of acceptance and support in–or at least is now really challenging–the social consciousness of many places. But really, I just like how these two characters work together and understand one another: actually complementing each other’s strengths and actions.

These two confront Dr. Simeon about his activities and he doesn’t seem bothered by this (in fact he doesn’t seem to have much emotion at all), and he states that it doesn’t matter what they do because, get this:

Winter is coming.

Oh, Steve Moffat. That reference to A Song of Ice and Fire was hilarious. My Mom didn’t know why I was laughing so much.

So Vastra and Jenny eventually find Clara: whereupon they ask her why she is so interested in The Doctor. By this point in the game as it were, Clara has seen the TARDIS after climbing a spiralling ladder like Psyche chasing Cupid, or Jack going up the beanstalk, into a cloud where it is resting and she knows that there is some bad stuff about to happen at the house that she is a governess at: particularly with a pool that is frozen over after a previous governess died in it. One of her wards has been having dreams of this former governess coming back to punish her and her brother. She knows she needs The Doctor.

Vastra and Jenny force Clara to answer the former’s questions with one-word answers. At one point, Vastra flat-out asks Jenny why she thinks The Doctor should help her. Of all the words that she could have chosen, she spoke one word.

Pond.

Yeah. Of all the words. That one.

So this does get The Doctor’s attention. So he starts parodying Sherlock Holmes: figuratively and literally. He beats the giant snow globe with a stick. Then he later he does more sleuthing where, despite himself he goes up to the manor where Clara is staying after exchanging hand gestures at each other. After Clara and her wards are being confronted with a snow-version of the former governess that drowned, The Doctor pulls a Punch and Judy play by having the wee-little puppet man of Mr. Punch use his sonic driver on her.

Because, you know, “That’s the way to do it!”

Doctor PUNCH!

In fact, making another popular cultural reference, this whole episode was–like many of them but particularly this one–a Tragical Comedy, or a Comical Tragedy. Yes, I am a Neil Gaiman fan. It also doesn’t help that Mr. Punch is an enduring English symbol and archetype. Or maybe it does.

It turns out that Dr. Simeon and the Snow Globe want the Ice Governess: to use her as a prototype to make a race of ice people that will supplant humanity. Clara and The Doctor lure the Ice Governess away. This is not before The Doctor tells the children’s father that he is Clara’s “gentleman friend,” though far less eloquently and more abstract-awkwardly as he usually says things and Clara herself decides to take matters into her own hands and kiss him. Because she seems to have a special kind of impulsive streak tempered and complemented by daring and a strange form of intuition. Not deduction like Vastra: Clara is pure intuition with a devil-may-care attitude. Right: that is my last Punch and Judy reference for today.

Finally, in the TARDIS, after Clara surprises The Doctor by not being predictable about her first impressions of said TARDIS, The Doctor finally seems to give into something that he really wants and gives her a key. You know the key: the one to said TARDIS. You also know what that means. This is a big thing for him to do: after everything that has happened. I honestly don’t know how he survives losing everyone he cares for, and I can understand why he has periods where he wants nothing to do with anything.

I also understand how he can’t not stay away when events conspire to bring him and this strange Victorian girl: who speaks Cockney and free in her pub job, and “proper crisp English” with a hint of mischief as a governess for upper middle-class children … and who is also immensely beautiful. Yes. I said it.

Their relationship unfolds fast, but what is Time to a one thousand year old Time Lord and to a human being, who only lives, let’s face it, in a brief moment of said Time? It’s everything.

That is the point where the Ice Governess comes after them and drags Clara and herself to a death by falling off The Doctor’s cloud.

Because the Universe seems to be a bitch to The Doctor like that.

Of course, it’s not so simple as all that: Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy as it all may be. The Doctor ends up having his confrontation with Dr. Simeon and his Snow Globe. Dr. Simeon is the proprietor of the Great Intelligence Institute. There was something really ominous about the name “Great Intelligence”: as though it had more significance than being a one-off Dr. Who monster. The Doctor critiques his antagonists as stating that making a world of snow people is “Victorian values” incarnate: at least overt values.

See, that is the thing about Victorian times. There was how you were in public and how you were in private. Some people understood that you could be different in different spheres and there was an implicit understanding that what you did in private was your–and yours–own business. Of course, there is other side of it: in that some people chose–or felt forced–to embody stratified notions of gender and social interaction in all aspects of life.

The father of the two children that Clara cares for does not think it proper to show affection or even take of them himself, for instance. In addition, there were real laws in place that forbid overt or “discovered deviant behaviour”: otherwise known as displaying affection or sexuality in a non-sanctioned manner. Think of Vastra and Jenny’s relationship, or even the fact that Clara did not use her Cockney accent with the children often: to the point where they called it her “other voice” or the other voice of the lower class of Britain perhaps? Perhaps only in a society like this one can an accent be considered another voice.

Now consider that Dr. Walter Simeon grew up in this strange schizophrenic culture. The adults were sad and even considered it unhealthy that he wouldn’t interact with his peers at all. But while Clara flouted and manipulated the rules, and Vastra and Jenny were exceptions and lived as “an open secret”–with a great deal of geniality, politeness, honesty, and a whole lot of “none of your business,” Simeon dealt with it by deciding that human beings were “silly” and that he didn’t need anyone.

The Great Intelligence is a highly psychically-receptive being. It took all of these impulses from Dr. Simeon and anyone around it: shaping itself. Of course, it goes deeper than that. The Doctor talks about how the snow that is the extension of The Great Intelligence only mirrors living beings around it. But there are a lot of mirrors in this entire Episode: especially The Doctor and Dr. Simeon. Both–in a lot of ways–are scared and withdrawn little boys that do not want to interact with the Universe as it is. Dr. Simeon patterns the Great Intelligence with his need for order and an inner emptiness.

It actually reminds me of another mirror that The Doctor’s other mirror possesses:

His new Control Room desktop-theme is much different than the other recent ones. It is apparently reminiscent of the Fourth Doctor’s TARDIS room, but there is something more angular, far sharper in angle and just …. colder about that blue light in there. The inside of his TARDIS represents his past mood and mind after the loss of his Companions. Bear in mind, this is the first time we have seen this desktop of his and it is no coincidence that it looks as cold as the season of 1892. The fact is: Winter came to more than just Great Britain. If things hadn’t been challenged, The Doctor’s life would have been what the Great Intelligence wanted to make the world: a land of “always winter, but never Christmas.”

I also feel I need to make special note here: I do not say that Clara or any of The Doctor’s Companions are mere mirrors of him. Writing about mirrors reminds me of something that Virginia Woolf stated with regards to how women had–and are–perceived only entities in relation to men. This can be applied to Dr. Who and his trend of female Companions. All of them, especially Clara, are entities and fully actualized people in their own right: something that Dr. Who writers Davies and Moffat attempt to express. Whether or not this is successful is something that can be debated at length, but I personally think is something a very fine distinction that needs to be made: that just as The Doctor gives definition to them, they give definition to him as well. As it is, even though The Doctor’s desktop remains as it is so far, The Doctor himself is brought out of that mood by the warmth of another–exemplified by Clara already asking where the kitchen is in his TARDIS–prompting him to express his own and no longer deny what he is feeling.

Then you have Simeon, or the impulses that drive this otherwise emotionless man, that can only seem to function around extensions of himself … or hollow shells. Even the wrathful Ice Governess, the result of his and the Intelligence’s progress is just a mirror–a symbol–for the repressive aspect of the Age of Victoria. But as it turns out, it is Dr. Simeon who becomes the hollow shell when The Doctor’s attempt to destroy Simeon’s memory–as the thing that fuels the Great Intelligence as its mirror–backfires and the Intelligence possesses Simeon. However, as with most of The Doctor’s enemies, it made one miscalculation.

Ignoring the rest of the human emotional spectrum.

Remember Clara? Well, she is dying. And the Intelligence feeds from emotion and memory. So as Clara is dying, everyone in the manor–the children she cared for, their father that cared for her, and the others–grieve and their feelings manifest on the Snowmen and turn into water.

Or, as The Doctor put it, he can no longer stay on his cloud … because it has turned into rain.

So the Great Intelligence seems to dissipate and Clara dies.

Or do they?

In the end, there are some … interesting details about Clara. You know, even without knowing these things before hand, I knew–from her very interaction with The Doctor–that Clara would be special. Each of his Companions is special, but she will be more so.

We have essentially been watching The Doctor grow up from his first incarnation onward. Each Companion has been integral to this. It is strange to watch The Doctor interact with his future wife River Song in temporal-reverse and she will only associate with him so far because she has intimated that he has a long ways to go before he is the man she paradoxically will meet later.

I’m going to intimate some more and possibly be very, very wrong. Now we’ve seen how The Doctor acts with his other female Companions. We know he had a family on Gallifrey ages ago: though they may have all been artificially Loomed. I believe he has been married before and is no stranger to having a romantic relationship. But consider that his whole world was destroyed. He has struggled with survivor’s guilt and has a certain kind of detachment to cope with it. Even when he travels with others it just reinforces that safety protocol of distance.

I will say this now and possibly be wrong, but the only time I had seen him look at someone like he did with Clara was with Rose.

And that says a lot.

Just that one scene where they looked at each other as he gave her that silver key.

All right, I admit it. I am a romantic. But I want to express one main thought: Clara made this entire episode. Period.

So as this look at “The Snowmen” comes to a close, I just want to say a few more things. I looked up The Great Intelligence. It has in fact been in the Whoverse before and … has Lovecraftian origins even. That just makes me smile. And that is it. It is good to see The Doctor up and out again. I look forward to seeing him try to figure out the physical–if not the humanly unique and individual–mystery of Clara Oswin Oswald and where he might have … seen her before…

And where he might see her again.

The Man That Makes Horror into a Science-Fiction of the Ridiculously Sublime

H.P. Lovecraft envisioned a universe where humanity is a small minuscule particle of sanity in a vast morass of evil and madness. In this kind of universe normalcy is an exception and not the commonality: where humanity is either ignored by vast alien intelligences, or horrifically used by malign entities.

Even trying to understand this vastly liquid and alien universe beyond human understanding is dangerous because the person that tries will go utterly insane … or cease to be human entirely. This is a view of the universe created by Lovecraft in his works and you can see how difficult it would be to make a television program out of such a thing or even a movie.

And what’s worse is that Lovecraft was born before the time of Gene Roddenberry: the latter who decreed in his Star Trek science fiction universe that all aliens have to be portrayed as humanoid in order to convey similar human expressions of emotion. Lovecraft’s creatures aren’t even that, and the most polite things you can say about them–when you can envision what they are from how they are described–is that they are the stuff of nightmares. We don’t even have the monster to relate to in this strange place just behind our own existence.

So how can a viewer relate to a universe that is terrifying beyond human comprehension?

I believe that a human answer to a Lovecraftian universe is Doctor Who.

The Doctor is basically Christmas-incarnate with nonsensical wonderfulness, ingenious bluffing skills, and a bad-ass core of fire and ice. And when I say he is Christmas-incarnate, I don’t mean that he’s Christian but that he is just the embodiment of an event that you look forward to at least once a year.

He is a renegade Time Lord on the run that understands time and existence far differently than we do but is light-hearted enough, and wise enough, to appreciate the little things that the grandiose horror of such inhuman non-humanoid horrors like the Daleks miss every time. The Doctor lives in and adapts to an intrinsically frightening, potentially nihilistic universe by being as ridiculous and as tangential as possible: while unifying everything into a haphazard way that–quite miraculously and somehow–works.

It may be that he is insane: and by our human standards he might be. Hell, even by his former fellow Time Lords’ standards, he is probably considered crazy. It doesn’t hurt that he Regenerates into different people each time when he dies, refuses to fight with a gun, and that he travels through time and space, or that he is over eight or nine hundred years old his time. He is the weird. He is the strange. But he is also the laughable: the person the viewer laughs with but also sympathizes with.

The Doctor is the Other with a very humanoid face: but he is still the Other. I appreciate the irony of this statement on at least two levels in that I use the Other as someone who is other than human, and that there is a possible back-story to the Doctor’s character in that he was once an older Time Lord and founder Time Lord society called The Other. But more than that, The Doctor–whose real name we never know and we fear the unknown–is portrayed as the champion of normalcy and sanity against the more destructive and twisted elements of the universe that humanity doesn’t understand.

At the same time though, he challenges normalcy and sanity through his mostly human Companions: changing their lives forever in what they see with him. He shows them that the alien universe, for all it challenges human preconceptions, still has wonders and isn’t always evil. Sometimes, it is quite relatable–the other aliens, worlds, and stars–and although not humanocentric, humanity is definitely a part of the strange and entertaining mosaic.

I’m sure that there have been other articles and essays about The Doctor and the Lovecraftian. Certainly, some older series of books put them both in the same universe: including run ins with the Great Old Ones and so forth. But even if you look at The Doctor’s universe and the villains within as influenced by Lovecraftian literature, I think the thing that really hits home for me–when I look out at how large and terrifying and insensible the world can be–is the image of The Doctor as a hero: armed against all that strangeness and eldritch horror with only his telephone box-fixed TARDIS, his sonic screwdriver, some strange suit, a new face, daring, and a whole lot of curiosity.

And somehow, when I think about it like that, he is one of the few heroes that can make me smile–make me glad to see him–each and every time.

Now, I wonder who or what will be the answer to a Vonnegut universe …