Happy Doctor Who Day!

It’s Doctor Who Day and We’re going to spend a big chunk of time watching Doctor Who, both Classic and Nu. Beginning with…

The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode 1: “World’s End”

You have to admit, this looks pretty good.

I thought I’d seen this before, but maybe only bits and pieces. The first few moments have my attention; they’re both dystopian and compelling! It’s amazing how well that’s conveyed by a run-down area a sign, and a strangely dressed man shambling into the Thames.

The Tardis materializes and it looks worn and damaged. I wonder what’s up with that.

The Doctor and crew think they’re getting Ian and Barbara back home. This will be a recurring theme for the next 6 decades or so.

But the Doctor quickly suspects that they’re landed in the wrong time. The others remain optimistic even as debris blocks their re-entry into the TARDIS.

I’m thinking it’s sad that we never saw any more of Susan in the modern series when “Grandfather” tells her that what she needs is a “jolly good smacked bottom!” Sigh.

They seem to be making use of abandoned properties around London quite effectively.

And things start happening; Barbara and Susan are taken by men offering to protect them as gunfire is heard in the distance while Ian and the Doctor find a corpse wearing a sinister-looking helmet, which they seem to think is some sort of cell phone.

It’s a compelling start and even though it’s mostly about atmosphere at this point there are some enjoyable details including the “robomen” who may well have inspired the Cybermen two years later and a spacecraft that is strongly reminiscent of “Attack of the Flying Saucers.” In the final moments, we get our first glimpse of a Dalek rising from the river.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth Episode 2: “The Daleks”

The Dalek confronts Ian and the Doctor proclaiming “We are the Masters of the Earth.” “Not for long,” is the Doctor’s reply. Lots of classic tropes here; I wonder if these are the first occurrences.

But the Daleks have certainly evolved from here; they’re already fascistic but seem content to rule rather than destroy. Offering to let prisoners survive if they surrender is very unDaleklike, but then conversion into Robomen isn’t exactly survival.

They’ve noticed the Doctor though and realize that he’s smarter than the average bear.

We get a bit of backstory; Earth was bombarded by meteorites, then most of the population was wiped out by a plague. By the time humans could combat the plague, it was too late. There were only small groups of survivors, too separated to join forces, and too small to resist effectively.

The humans have a bomb, but it looks like a bottle of perfume. And it’s stunning how dumb they all are; thinking that they now have a “superior weapon.” Barbara helps them improve their plan somewhat though. Not enough I would guess.”

By the way, is it me or does that guy look like Radar O’Rilley?

The episode ends with the humans’ attack underway and the Doctor in the process of being robotized.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Rose (2005)

Joanne and I watched “Rose,” the first full episode I ever saw, over lunch. It’s a near-perfect starting point.

Looking back, it’s astounding how well RTD balanced a comfortable introduction for new fans by including nice, familiar touches for old friends (…look at the ears) and integrating hints about what happened post-McGann. The show had some growing to do, Jackie & Mickey were still caricatures and the show hadn’t quite decided that it wasn’t a kids’ show any longer, but the Doctor was compelling and Rose was clever and capable. Without Eccleston & Piper, we might not have Nu-Who today.

Watching this gives me hope for the next few seasons.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Partners in Crime (2008)

Next is “Partners in Crime,” the opener of my favorite series of Nu-Who due mostly to the presence of Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. I’m psyched we could be revisiting this team in a few months.

Donna makes the perfect foil to the Tenth Doctor and there’s so much to like about this episode, including the choreography of the Doctor and Donna missing each other throughout investigating Adipose. The scene where the two finally see each other is just wizard.

This is our first time watching this since watching Sara Lancashire in Julia. She inhabits these characters so well it’s hard to believe the two roles are the same actress. This one is an excellent performance through and including that nice Wyle E. Coyote moment.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Eleventh Hour (2010)

We’ll end with “The Eleventh Hour,” the best opening episode for a new doctor in Nu-Who, perhaps in all Who. It’s fun watching the new Doctor do the Tigger thing from The House at Pooh Corner. But the most impressive moment follows after Amilia has rolled with the crashed TARDIS, the strange man with the swimming pool in his library & the nuttiness of fish fingers and custard with complete equanimity the Doctor says, “Must be a hell of a scary crack in your wall.” That line gives me chills every time.

Then it’s off to the races, into an episode that melds humor, intrigue, action, and heart into a seamless whole. The cast is excellent and this Doctor, being a bit odd makes it all the easier to see him as alien. The episode and what follows works very well.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

It’s time for bed, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to a Peter Capaldi episode as I consider him to be the doctorest Doctor. But I’ll be back soon to finish The Dalek Invasion of Earth. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this.

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E06

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E06 “The Raven”

Another holodeck episode? Janeway is showing Seven the program where she sculpts to inspire “imagination, creativity, fantasy…” and Seven doesn’t see the point. But the image of DaVinci’s proto-airplane causes a flashback, ending the teaser.

It looks like Seven has PTSD from her assimilation. So far she’s in denial. The “Bomar,” an alien race shoehorned into the story, look ridiculous and have lots of unreasonable conditions for Voyager to cross their space.

Seven is learning to eat. Is a theme of growing humanity developing, or is the show just contriving a reason for Neelix to exist?

Plot whiplash. From nurturing Seven’s humanity to her Borgside reasserting itself. You have to ask what that has to do with the flashbacks and the bird. She escapes the ship in a shuttlecraft. The Bomar’s purpose is now obvious; they will serve to impede the search for Seven.

Yup, they do and they’re are quite obnoxious about it too. A tedious chase sequence puts Tuvok on Seven’s shuttle which leads to a nice scene. Seven wants to assimilate Tuvok then changes her mind & they just talk. Good performances.

Meanwhile, Janeway realizes the significance of the bird. Seven & Tuvok eventually find the Hansens’ ship where Anikka was assimilated and learn its name. It’s the Raven. We didn’t know that before and that makes Janeway’s epiphany feel like a cheat. Meanwhile, the Bomar start shelling the ship from outer space. We get it; they’re petulant.

In the coda, Seven is becoming creative and that’s the throughline. Seven’s growing humanity begets flashbacks begets still more humanity. In the end, Janeway tells Seven that her parents were “unconventional & had unique scientific theories.” That’s how you describe crackpots.

Healing from childhood trauma is a good basis for a story. But the Bomar were straw men & lots of the rest didn’t make any sense. Story wise this is a nice house with a bad foundation. Focus on the central storyline & skip the filler. This should have been far better.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

#StarTrek

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

Stars End S3E22

“There is Something to be Said About a Podcast That Makes One Smile”

This is the city, Eos, Aurora.   It’s the city of the dawn on the planet of the dawn.  It’s the largest and most important city on the oldest and most important Spacer World.  Mostly, good things happen in Eos, the Robotics Institute is in Eos as is the planetary government.  Sometimes bad things happen; things that require a lot of discussion.  Was the victim even alive?  Was this even a crime?  Questions that need answers.  When that happens, I go to work.  I carry a badge.

Friday, October 30.  It was windy in Eos.  We were working the day watch out of the roboticide division.  Our host is Han Fastolfe.  My partner’s Daneel Olivaw.  My name is Baley.

Join us as we get into the meat of The Robots of Dawn.  Baley starts to learn the details of the case, and Fastolfe performs some experiments on Baley.  Plus the return of an old friend, the wackiest trip to the lavatory in all of the Asimov canon, and the Great and Glorious Az tries his hand at writing romance.  As always, you’ve read it, we talk about it, and fun will be had.

Stars End S3E20

“A Small Podcast Yet to the Humans Involved Astonishingly Large”

We didn’t set out to do it, but we did it.

What, you might ask?  We’ve created an episode that’s an excellent jumping-on point for anyone who’s been itching to try the podcast, but doesn’t know where to start.

How?  Well to start with, we’re talking about a short story.  You don’t need to read the books or watch the shows we talk about to enjoy the podcast, but we certainly understand if want to!  We’re talking about “Mirror Image” from Robot Visions, in which Lije Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw help to solve a dispute between two mathematicians.  It’s about 19 pages long, a comfortable, digestible chunk.

And?  And we have guests!  Episodes are better with guests and we’re joined by two charming mathematicians, Coleen and Charlie Jacobson, long-time science fiction readers and friends of Joseph from Elmira College.  They’ll help us decide if the off-screen mathematicians are true-to-life!  On a personal note, if you remember Joseph from EC you might enjoy hearing from half of what he calls, the “Mathematics Faculty Classic” that existed from 2012 to 2014.

So, if you’re a regular listener, settle in for another excellent episode.  If you’re new to the podcast, buckle up!  You’re in for a fun ride!  Let’s go!

Two notes on the Featured Image: The background is some board work from 2016 when Joseph taught Geometry from Charlie’s notes. In the foreground are two images of Paul Erdös, one at age 20 and one much later in his life, drawn by LeUyen Pham from The Boy Who Loved Math. Erdös is famous for being one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time and for having a multitude of collaborators.

Simultaneously published at…

Stars End S3E19

“We Must Teach Ourselves to Face the Podcast”

I learned something today.

Did you know that when Elements are named to honor cities the Latin names for the cities are used rather than the common names? The funny thing is that this is true even if the city has no Latin name. This is how we get the name for holmium, which is named after Stockholm or rather after “Holmia” which is the Latin name for Stockholm that the chemist made up.

This is from the essay “Names! Names! Names!” by the good doctor. It’s all about naming elements and, although I haven’t quite finished it yet, I’m pretty sure it covers all hundred or so that were known at the time.

If you’re curious, here are the names of the other elements

The essay appeared in the December 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, the very same issue as our final installment of The Naked Sun. This led John W. Campbell to declare Asimov a “two-headed author.” Isaac’s predilection for non-fiction was starting to show.

Being trained as a chemist, Asimov gives us a ton of Asenion names to enjoy in this final section! There’s GlaDIEah Delmarre, Klorissa Cantero, Jothan Leebig, Corwin Attlebish, and Anselmo Quemot. And who could forget Benzadril Copperbottom? In this final section, which corresponds to chapters 13 to 18 in the book, Baley survives the assassination attempt, gets his portrait done, almost strolls to his death, and solves the case! Of course, we talk about it all. Join us for the setting of The Naked Sun!

Simultaneously published at…

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E21

Happy Star Trek Day! It’s been busy, but I didn’t want to let the day roll around to midnight without posting something. So here’s another installment of my Voyager Rewatch. It’s nice that we have an outstanding episode for Star Trek Day, one of my favorites from Season 4.

I might post something else apropos in a day or so, but the start of it is way back in my Twitter feed and the more you tweet the harder it is to find something filed in reverse chronological order.

In an interesting bit of synergy, I realized that today is also the fourth anniversary of this blog. If you’re interested in my first post, you can find it here, “All in Color for Forty Dimes.” That’s a glorious start to a deluge of nonsense with occasional insights here and there.

So, without further ado, “The Omega Directive!” Let’s go!

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E21 “The Omega Directive.”

There’s an actual funny moment over a kal-toh game. That’s a good sign after some mediocre episodes. This looked like it would be a Seven-heavy episode; then it went sideways. There’s a real sense of mystery. Nothing is dumb so far.

“The omega phenomenon” has been detected within 1.2 light-years. “All other priorities have been rescinded.” Janeway’s locked in her ready room… the crew are being given puzzling orders on a “need to know” basis… so far, this is excellent.

The Borg know about the “Omega Molecule,” and of course, Seven and Janeway have radically different ideas about what to do. Turns out the kal-toh game in the teaser was a nice bit of foreshadowing. There’s a powerful scene between Janeway & Chakotay. As we’ll see, this needs everybody.

Okay, the technobabble explanation is dumb but can be ignored. The stakes are high, and tension rises. “For the duration of this mission, the Prime Directive is rescinded.” This is like Genesis. Later: “The Final Frontier has some boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed.”

Seven designates a crewman as “3 of 10.” Chilling, but it doesn’t play out as I expected. Another powerful scene with Seven and a survivor. Another perspective on the crisis: his people need the energy from the Omega molecule to survive.

Ahhh! Blue light!

Seven has a perspective on Omega from her time as a Borg. She views it as perfect with almost religious fervor. But she follows Janeway’s lead anyway. That’s real development. The climax is exciting and well done. But the spiritual stuff at the end is too simplistic and abrupt, marring an otherwise Great episode.

Nonetheless, this one is an exemplar. It’s a good story and depends on Voyager’s journey through the Delta Quadrant. The show needs more episodes like this and fewer things that seem like rejected TNG scripts.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E05

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E05 “Revulsion”

This is the episode that derailed me last year. The entire thread disappeared into the aether and It was so bad that I couldn’t revisit it too soon. Now though, here we go!

A short teaser. A hologram hides a body, cleans up a crime scene & sends a distress call.

A testimonial for Tuvok: fake laughter at unfunny stories. Annoying. But Tuvok gets promoted; like he hadn’t already worn the rank pins for lieutenant commander for a bunch of episodes. Why is the Vulcan the only funny one?

Then Paris and Torres are cringy. “You must have been suffering from oxygen deprivation to say you loved me!” Ugh!

In other tedious bits of bookkeeping Voyager finally gets the distress signal. The Doctor is ecstatic to meet another hologram. It’s obvious that Dejaren, who calls himself an isomorph, is dangerously unstable.

They hit us over the head with it. Our away team spends too much time talking about how dangerous the isomorph is then the doctor teaches the homicidal hologram how to control the ship. Genius!

“Spectrum” though is a great name for a holographic goldfish. That’s the high point.

The show is trying to do a bit of horror that doesn’t work very well.

The B story with Seven and Kim is mildly amusing at the end but not nearly worth the trouble of getting there. Janeway and Neelix disappear less than 8 minutes into the episode. The rest is a bunch of scenes cut together with only two cast members. Occasionally three. The episode seems designed to give some people a week off. It might have been preferable to give everyone a week off including the audience.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

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Stars End S3E18

“There is no Podcast Without a Podcaster”

First British Edition Cover

You know what? Solaria is weird.

Looking back over our podcast, it turns out that a lot of Asimov’s work is weird. Solaria may not be Mycogen-weird, but it’s pretty weird.

Last time we were introduced to the extreme isolation of Solarians and the preponderance of robots. Those were weird. And that seeing vs. viewing thing? That was weird too.

This time? Murder attempts where only Asenion robots are present? Weird. Fetuses grown in vats? Weird. Child farming? Weird. A plot to make the entire Galaxy like Solaria? Weird. And there’s lots more!

So, what do we learn this time? Solaria is weird. But don’t take my word for it, listen to the episode and you can see for yourself! Let’s go!

Simultaneously published at…

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E20

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E20 Vis à Vis

The holodeck is getting tiresome; we watch Paris play auto mechanic as the Doctor berates him about his duties in Sickbay. Tom is being a pain in the ass and there’s nothing about how the ship was torn apart over the last two episodes.

The alien ship is powered by a “coaxial warp drive.” Paris says it can allow a ship to travel huge distances instantaneously but I think it’s about free cable. But keeping with the mechanic motif, Paris has a technobabbley way to save the alien ship. Also the budget must be improving because the alien has more latex on his forehead than usual.

Tom’s also being a misanthrope again. Why not go back to that well? The coaxial drive “draws in subatomic particles and reconfigures their internal geometries.” It’s like they’re not even trying.

Now Tom’s being an ass to B’Elanna. Was there any clue about this coming? Because it seems like bad writing. Practically halfway through the episode and I realize the alien is Bulldog from Frazier. This was a too slow build to something that is essentially “Face Off.”

But Vis à Vis literally means “Face to Face” so no surprise there. I suppose that Tom being an ass created the opportunity for “Tom” to move around Voyager undetected, but it all feels awkward and false.

This might have been slightly more interesting if “Tom” had switched bodies with Janeway while they were in the same room together. Huh. That’s what happened but it’s still not very interesting. That’s it. Everyone gets back in their own bodies and Tom makes up with B’Elanna. Everything is reset to normal with no consequences. Again. Meh.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

Next Time on Stars End

Last Sunday we recorded our latest episode as we continued to bask in The Naked Sun.

In this episode, we talk about the middle section of Asimov’s novel as published in the November 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

That corresponds to chapters 7 through 12 in the book.

There’s less hype this time except for the presence of part one in the October issue; Part two was not mentioned in Campbell’s Things to Come and wasn’t on the issue’s cover. Who is James H. Schmitz by the way? I don’t know!

But that doesn’t mean that nothing happened in this installment!

We see the aftermath of the assassination attempt of Hannis Gruer and learn what constitutes “sociology” on Solaria. We meet Gruer’s stand-in as Head of Security and watch as Baley gets to go walkabout across the planet. We also learn an uncomfortable amount about Solarian childrearing and witness a second, seemingly impossible assassination attempt on this world so filled with three-laws robots!

Here’s John W. Campbell’s blurb that precedes this installment!

Second of Three Parts. Lije Baley was investigating a murder. Usually, an alibi proves physical impossibility; on robot-dominated Solaria, a different question arose. Is a robot’s conditioning “physical” or “psychological” impossibility? And is there any such thing as “psychological impossibility”? And if it exists for robots, does it for humans…?

Astounding Science Fiction November 1956

The illustrations this time are again by H. R. Van Dongen.

The available scans were not great, but I cleaned up the images as much as possible. If I keep this up, I may need to learn a lot more about that process.

Season 3, Episode 19: coming soon to anywhere the finest podcasts are sold!

Resources

  • Asimov, Isaac. “The Naked Sun, part 2” Astounding Science Fiction, November 1956, pp. 96-151.
  • Asimov, Isaac. The Naked Sun, ©1956, 1957, 1983, Bantum Spectra

Simultaneously published at…