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.
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.
We’re not recording our next episode until Saturday, but if you’re reading ahead, we’ll be discussing chapters 8-13 of The Caves of Steel, corresponding to the second installment that was published in Galaxy Science Fiction in November 1953.
It’s an interesting issue. Asimov didn’t score the cover this time. The cover references the non-fiction piece about the famous experiment that saw complex amino acids generating spontaneously when the conditions on primordial Earth were recreated in a laboratory.
Also of interest is “Galaxy’s 5-Star Shelf.” which reviews a compilation of Olaf Stapledon’s work, the non-fiction Man in Space by Heinz Haber, Second Stage Lensman by E. E. (Doc) Smith, Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke and Second Foundation. In that last review, Groff Conklin calls the now-completed Foundation Trilogy “Our first great sociological space opera.” He compares it favorably with Smith’s Lensman series saying, “…Asimov’s work, based as it is on fairly sound social principles and the activities of fairly normal human beings, has a pressing sense of reality that Smith’s fairy tales lack…” He concludes “it is a thoroughly satisfying and adult play of the scientific imagination.”
But back to The Caves of Steel. Here’s the promotion for this installment in Galaxy’s October Issue.
And here are some pages from the story.
I’m particularly liking the opening two-page spread, with artwork once again by Ed Emshwiller. It depicts the encounter in Chapter 8. The synopsis is nicely done as well and continues for the entire next page. Here’s the remainder in case you want to remind yourself of the last installment before continuing to read this one.
Finally, here are the rest of the illustrations from the story. We have Lije and Daneel leaving Space Town (top right), traveling through a power plant (left), and Daneel being examined by Dr. Gerrigel, a roboticist.
We hope you’re enjoying our podcast so far and if you are, you’re probably as anxious to see the resolution of the cliffhanger that ended our second episode as we are! Do you think what has to be done to keep Terminus safe from Anachreon was obvious? We didn’t particularly think so despite 20-year-old Isaac’s assurances to the contrary. “The Enyclopedeaists” appeared as “Foundation” in Astounding Science Fiction for May, 1942. Here are the coming attractions from that issue.
It’s clear that John W. Campbell expected that riddle to bring people back to Astounding for the June issue. He didn’t stop there though, “Bridle and Saddle” was featured on the cover as well.
Of course, we now know “Bridle and Saddle” as “The Mayors,” the title it was given in Foundation.
We’ll also bring you up to date on what we know about the show so far and we’ll…
That last one seems pretty far off. I’m grateful to Avery Yeates, who was one of my Summer Research Students this year. We tweaked the Maple program I had been using a bit. We separated out the congressional districts in Maine and Nebraska and we ramped up the variance in the individual state elections. The old variance made sense for a weighted coin toss, where the probability is static. It didn’t reflect the variance we see in election results. We’re estimating the probabilities that a voter will vote for a candidate. These change over time, in fact, the entire point of campaigning is to shift those probabilities. I need to look at correlating the states that move together for 2024.
With that said, here’s my final prediction.
My gut tells me that there will have been a big shift in Biden’s direction over the weekend. It’s looking more and more like he is going to win and people like voting for a winner.
In addition, the news has not been good for President Trump. We’re hitting records for the number of new cases of Coronavirus each day and some of the behavior we’re seeing from a small segment of Trump supporters is downright disturbing. If there are any swing voter’s left, I think that pushes them in Biden’s direction. Of course, I could be completely wrong. I’m least confident that Texas will turn blue. They had a huge number of early voters and so, fewer people to be swayed over the weekend. On the other hand, some of the outrageous behavior seems to be motivated by the belief that Trump could lose.
If you’re curious about my track record, this contains my prediction for 2018.
If I don’t force the issue from time to time there will be nothing new on this blog for months at a time. Most of my energy at the moment goes into preparing to teach, teaching, recuperating from teaching, grading and tech support as we adapt again to our new online environment. Now I’m relearning stuff I had figured out back in May.
But I’d set the precedent of live blogging the debates and this one seems important enough that it’s worth a later night than usual. I probably won’t have the chance to make this one look pretty for a few days. So far I know that the debate was going to be at Notre Dame but it isn’t because COVID. Now it’s in Cleveland. Moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday.
Leading into the debate, it seems to me that things aren’t going too well for President Trump. The NYT released his taxes over the weekend and it does not look good. That followed revelations about the President making some unfortunate comments about the military and the comments about possibly refusing to respect the results of the election are not a good look.
At this moment, the election looks like it’s Vice President Biden’s to lose. But I think he’s lost a step or two in the last few years. I think he needs to perform the way he did in the debate against Paul Ryan in 2012, but I wonder if he still has that in him. In any event it’s a mistake to underestimate Donald Trump. He did nothing but exceed expectations in the 2016 election.
Hillary Clinton is on MSNBC giving advice. I’m having second thoughts already.
We start with SCOTUS, the elephant in the room. This is more reserved than I’m used to. Trump’s arguments here are already disingenuous.
Biden is sedate this evening, but the argument he’s making about the SCOTUS nomination is the right one.
This is an interesting exchange.
Trump is fighting with the moderator which is an interesting strategy. He rails against the individual mandate which is the thing that makes the ACA work.
Biden calls out Trump’s lies. Good line about getting lucky.
Trump is repeating things he said in 2016 that never played out. Biden: “Will you shut up man” and “This is so unpresidential.”
Trump is claiming that he saved thousands lives and is blaming the “Fake News.”
H1N1 was a disaster??
Trump is claiming that Biden isn’t smart.
Trump seems to be especially transparent tonight. I think Biden’s hitting the right tone by just laughing at the President.
“I brought back football.” Hilarious.
Trump claims he paid millions in taxes in 2016.
Biden: “You’re the worst president this country has ever had.” My money’s still on Bush, but that made me laugh really hard.
I think the only way we could have a real debate between these two is to put them in separate rooms.
Decency. Yes. More of that please.
Right at the racism. Nice. And the puzzled look on Biden’s face is priceless.
I need to train for these. One hour in and I’m fried.
“There has never been a president who has done more than I’ve done.” It’s because of the number of Judges? That ignores the obstruction under McConnell.
“Stand back and stand by” is easily the most chilling moment of this debate.
Biden’s been good on election security. But “We’ve caught them all?” Trump is incoherent on election security.
Trump refuses to ask his supporters to stay calm during an extended count. That’s troubling. Biden is strong here again.
I don’t think this will change anyone’s mind. It was a mess. Just watching it was exhausting. At best I think Trump was playing to his base which isn’t going to be enough.
I was going to say that this was a draw, but now I think the more we unpack what Trump said here the better Biden is going to look.
It’s been a rough couple of months. A heavy semester turned into a work-from-home marathon and that was followed by a shorter semester that was online from end-to-end. It was grueling. I’ve never been all that interested in teaching online; the investment of time seemed too extreme and I was not wrong. Still, there were pleasant surprises. We found out on a Friday that we’d have to start teaching on-line and I was able to figure out a lot of stuff over the weekend working with my colleagues in the mathematics department. Calculus II went on-line that Monday and although it wasn’t perfect, we barely missed a beat.
There’s still a lot to learn. My Science Fiction class in particular really drove home how much I depend on cues from students in the classroom. But it was still a rewarding albeit different experience from what I was used to. Having gone through the experience I’d be willing to try it again although hopefully not in such impromptu circumstances. It also has me pondering the possibility of doing parts of this blog with a “v” in front of it.
But I finally seem to be able to carve out some time for this. Later today, we’ll have the first in a series of posts on state flags in honor of flag day. There’s a post mortem on Mad Magazine in the works and I need to get back to these comics that seemed like they would be fun to write about.
I purchased these 60 years old to the month from their cover date but in August it will be 61 years from when they hit the stands. That should give you an idea of how long some of these things need to ruminate.
Charlie Jacobson shared an article from Slate yesterday: Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire, honoring Tom Lehrer on the occasion of his 90th birthday. It reminded me of just how much I enjoy Mr. Lehrer’s work. It also reminded me that the last time I subjected a class to one of his songs, (We discuss arithmetic in other bases in Cryptography, so we listen to “New Math“) I resolved to write my first ever fan letter. Thing is, the article above is from April 2018, so Mr. Lehrer is now a bit over 91 and a half. To quote the great man himself, “I believe that if any songs are going to come out of World War III, we had better start writing them now.”
Mr. Lehrer is a genius! I believe that I purchased a copy of “That Was The Year That Was” while I was in junior high school and promptly wore it out. I would make a point of listening to Dr. Demento every Sunday hoping to hear his stuff. It was a delightful surprise when I realized that Lehrer also write “Silent E” which I had loved from the Electric Company back in second or third grade. I still find myself humming that song nearly a half-century later.
I often say he’s the only mathematician I consider a role model and when I told a class last week that by becoming a professor, I’d figured out how to stay in college for the rest of my life, I was intentionally riffing on Lehrer’s “attempt to extend adolescence beyond all previous bounds”. He’s probably one of the biggest influences on my sense of humor, such as it is, which I suppose isn’t a very nice thing to say, but there you go.
The Slate article reminds us of Lehrer’s quote about Henry Kissinger. The first time I’d heard it, I thought it was that “All other forms of political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize” and that’s stuck with me even though I’ve tried and I haven’t been able to verify that version of the quote. It’s always struck me as much more interesting than the version that I usually see, which is merely to say that political satire has become obsolete. But “politics has become too nutty to satirize” is an easy joke, while the other version is profound. To expand on it: “Henry Kissinger has won the Nobel a Peace Prize after being instrumental in the bombing of Cambodia and other horrible things. The only way that could possibly make sense is if the award itself was actually an act of satire. And it is such a perfect and succinct bit of satire that we’ve clearly reached the apex of the art form. No one else should attempt political satire because everything else will seem empty and futile in comparison. Political satire is obsolete.” It may just be headcanon, but that’s what I choose to believe Mr. Lehrer actually said.
The Slate article continues “…and in 2002 he remarked, still less optimistically: ‘Things I once thought were funny are scary now. I often feel like a resident of Pompeii who has been asked for some humorous comments on lava.’” Brilliant.
It’s worth the investment of time to track down all of Mr. Lehrer’s songs, but for those of you who are just getting started, here are a few of my favorites.