Those who started watching Doctor Who with the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) probably enjoyed seeing this week’s short “The Night of the Doctor,” but they were also likely missing a few pieces of information about what exactly happened in those six minutes.
First, if you haven’t seen it, watch “The Night of the Doctor”. Then we’ll get you caught up.
Next, a little basic Who history about that particular Doctor. Paul McGann played the Eighth Doctor, until now seen only in a TV movie in 1996, which was the first fans had seen of the Doctor since 1989. It was meant to be a pilot to get Fox to do an American version of Doctor Who.
Most importantly unlike the transitions between Doctors you’re used to, we never saw Paul McGann regenerate–which we presumed was into Christopher Eccleston–until now. We also learned that regeneration can–at least with the help of the Sisterhood–result in a female Doctor. (And, assuming this means all of the Big Finish dramas are now canon–more on that in a minute–it’s already happened in an alternate timeline.)
That TV show never happened, but quite a few novels and a comic series did, as well as a series of audio dramas from Big Finish Productions. Whether or not any or all of these are canon has been up for debate. However, the extent to which they’ve now been cross-referenced suggested they were. “The Night of the Doctor” pretty much seals that by mentioning aspects of the Big Finish dramas on screen. Let’s look at some of the things mentioned in “The Night of the Doctor”:
The Eighth Doctor
Despite not having been on our TVs for very long, the Eighth Doctor has a long and complicated story thanks to all of those audio dramas we now can consider canon. (See more below about his companions.)
What may surprise newer fans is that the Eighth Doctor’s TV appearance describes him as half-human, with a Time Lord father and human mother. Fans have been arguing about this ever since–remember, the Doctor lies. This doesn’t appear to be important in any way to the War Doctor story line, but it is an amusing nerd fight topic.
The Time War
Even if you started with the Ninth Doctor, you’ve seen bits about the Last Great Time War. It’s the big Dalek vs. Time Lord, Davros vs. Rassilon throwdown for all of the universe. It all started when the Daleks created a virus that would kill off the Time Lords. Quite a bit of the escalation of the situation happened over earlier incarnations of the Doctor, but even if you’re a Ninth-and-later fan, you’ve learned bits of it in episodes like “The End of Time.” And having no more Time Lords means that time is now more susceptible to change, which is the underlying current for many of those newer episodes.
The Doctor generally attempts to avoid the Time War altogether and in “The Night of the Doctor” tells Cass that he never was a part of it at all. But just because you don’t want to be a part of it doesn’t mean you’re not. The Sisterhood of Karn brings him back so that he can end the Time War, but to do so, he says that he needs to be a warrior rather than a doctor, and that’s what this short leading to the creation of the War Doctor is about.
The War Doctor
Who knew counting was so hard? The credits at the end of “The Night of the Doctor” refer to John Hurt as the “War Doctor,” presumably in part because that sounds better than “the Eighth-and-a-half Doctor Who Doesn’t Want To Be Called A Doctor.” We’ve counted Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor all along because of that assumption about the regeneration that was never shown. Instead, the War Doctor is the true Ninth Doctor.
And here’s where you’re all caught up–all we know about him is exactly what you’ve seen so far. First when the Eleventh Doctor and Clara ran into him in “The Name of the Doctor,” and the Doctor explains to her that it’s him, but that guy doesn’t even go by the name “the Doctor.” And now this short.
We can also assume that the War Doctor spent a very long time in the Time War, or else that war ages you pretty fast. Maybe some of both. But it’s a young face at the end of “The Night of the Doctor” and a very aged one whom Clara and the Doctor meet.
Sisterhood of Karn
These ladies, however, we do know about already. They appeared in the Fourth Doctor’s story. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before–crazy scientist grabs some body parts he’s got lying around to carry around a brain he wants to talk to. But in this case, the brain belongs to an also-crazy Time Lord named Morbius. (He used to use this thing called a Time Scoop. It’s kind of like an ice cream scoop, except you get to move people through time. So not very much like an ice cream scoop, unless you have a way cooler kitchen than I do.)
When the Doctor and Sarah Jane show up to the situation, one of the Sisterhood is there to see it. The ladies are in dire straits thanks to the flame of utter boredom eternal life threatening to go out. It produces the Elixir of Life that makes them immortal. They decide that the Time Lords have shown up to get the last of their happy juice (which is also delicious when one is recovering from a nasty regeneration) and understandably are a bit annoyed. And what do a bunch of angry women in creepy robes with potions do when they’re mad at you? Burn you at the stake, of course.
But of course, the Doctor gets out of the conundrum and has a mad scientist to deal with. He even fixes the flame’s pilot light, so to speak, with a firecracker of all things, and everybody’s feeling friendly again.
They also appear in some of the novels and in the Big Finish dramas.
What’s that belt?
In “The Night of the Doctor,” Cass wears a bandolier, which the Doctor takes after his regeneration and puts on. If it’s been a while since you saw “The Day of the Doctor,” you may have forgotten that this is what the War Doctor was wearing when the Doctor and Clara ran into him.
“Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly!”
Just before he quaffs the potion, the Doctor exclaims, “Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly!” which is not a quirky British saying for, “Well, guess I’ll drink this and see what happens!” It’s a list of the Eighth Doctor’s companions.
In the audio dramas, Charlotte “Charley” Pollard disguised herself as a man and stowed away on an airship in 1930. The Doctor found her there, rescued her (like he does), and she became a companion. A lot happens, things get complicated, timelines go all wibbly wobbly (like they do). She was also a companion to the Sixth Doctor. The important fact is that when the Eighth Doctor saved her from dying, that was one of those fixed points in time that shouldn’t have been changed. Messy, to say the least, causing problems with the Web of Time.
C’rizz came along when that mess angered the Time Lords and sent Charley and the Doctor into the Divergent Universe. He joined the two of them in their travels including back to their original universe.
Lucie got forced on the Doctor by way of Time Lord witness protection, although she didn’t know what she had supposedly seen. It turned out that the Time Lords found out the Celestial Intervention Agency (clever acronym) was keeping tabs on someone who would become a European dictator. They thought it was Lucie, but it was actually someone else who had been to the same CIA job interview. She kept running into her “Aunt Pat” in circumstances and times that she shouldn’t have, eventually discovering she was an alien (a Zygon to be specific). When she learned the Doctor had kept that secret from her, Lucie didn’t want to continue as his companion.
Tamsin Drew answered a classified that I think any of us would have gone for:
Traveller in Time and Space seeks male or female companion with good sense of humour for adventures in the Fourth and Fifth Dimensions
No Experience Necessary.
No time wasters, no space wasters, please.
Even the Doctor needs OKCupid once in a while. Eventually, Tamsin meets Lucie, and, well, things always get a little weird when companions meet, don’t they? She ended up hanging out with The Monk for a while, a Time Lord gone a bit mad. (The Monk has appeared on TV twice during the First Doctor’s time as well.) She comes back to the Doctor, tells him she’s had enough of him just wanting to save his friends, not to mention all this Web of Time nonsense, and she was out. Eventually she comes around and tries to help fight the Daleks, but they kill her.
Molly O’Sullivan was a volunteer nurse in World War I. She’s the titular “Dark Eyes” of that four-part audio drama. If you haven’t listened to this series yet, she’ll remind you of Rose as a strong companion who has a mystery to solve who really grows along the way.
I am Kate Kotler and I am a geek and a writer and I am soon to be a geek mom. This is a diary of my geeky pregnancy.
Weeks 1-2: According to medical type people, a pregnancy starts before you’re even pregnant, on the first day of your last regular menstrual cycle. (That’s science, hnnng!) So for the first two weeks of my pregnancy I wasn’t even pregnant. That boggles my mind, yet is so scientific that it’s sensible at the same time.
Little did the British Boy [my significant other] and I know, we were busy cooking up a baby.
Little did I know, it would be the last time for nine + months that I felt… well… good. Because, as I’m sure all of you know already, the “glow” and good feelings that we are told come with expecting a child are complete and total horse hooey. Pregnancy, especially early pregnancy, especially when you’re older than 35, sucks balls.
Week 3: Early on a Saturday morning, I peed on a stick and my life changed forever. I had spent the previous week feeling nauseous, crampy, and exhausted. The month before I had similar symptoms and at a doctor’s visit was told that at “nearly 40” that likely I was experiencing early signs of menopause. (Ha ha, how wrong was that?) However, upon discovering my period was nearly a week late, I decided to be safe and take a pregnancy test.
The blue lines showed up in less than 30 seconds.
Though shocked that I was “up the duff” (as my British boyfriend and baby daddy would say), my mind became instantly clear: I was having this baby.
I handed the pee stick to British Boy. It took him a minute to register what I’d handed him and the look of shock on his face was pretty amusing.
“Are you kidding?” he asked. “You’re really pregnant?”
“I assure you I am not the type of person to think handing you a positive pregnancy test would be a funny practical joke,” I answered. “I am indeed pregnant.”
And, god bless him, in that moment British Boy proved I was right in suspecting that he was the very best person in the world and quite deserving of being my favorite person. “Well, while this is an unexpected turn of events, I like the idea of being a dad. What do you think we should do? Do you want to have the baby?”
I think my hormones must have also completely kicked in this week, as during this conversation my dog Max spent about 20 minutes sniffing me. He would sniff one area of my body (arm, leg, stomach) and then look at me. Then pause. Then start sniffing another area. After this was completed, he started following me around more than normal and insisting on laying on or near my stomach at all times. (As I write this, dear Geeky Pregnancy Diary, he is laying on my lap.) I guess that in such I told him I was pregnant, too.
Week 4: The term “morning sickness” is a joke. It should be called “all day and night sickness.” Like it was timed to an old-fashioned watch movement, my morning sickness started spot on the very first day of my fourth week of pregnancy. British Boy, while grossed out that I was puking all the time, tried hard to be supportive—bringing me soda crackers, ginger ale, and bananas (according to the interwebs, these are supposed to help with nausea). He also banished raw onions from the house, scrubbed out the bathroom and kitchen to eliminate odors, took the trash out, and walked the dog so I wouldn’t have to deal with poop patrol.
Other lovely early pregnancy symptoms I experienced immediately were having to pee every 30 seconds, mild-to-medium narcolepsy, and some seriously weird food aversions/cravings. (Yummy food: Tomatoes, pasta, pickles, hard-boiled eggs, anything sweet. Not-so-yummy food: Chicken, beef, anything cheesy or fried. Cravings I could do jack about: Sushi, sushi, sushi, and Brie… you can’t have either raw fish or soft cheese while preggo. Damn!)
One afternoon, while we were laying on the bed and British Boy was rubbing my back to try to make the overwhelming nausea subside, we started talking about baby names. Of course, being the geeky people we are, we immediately went there.
“How about Doctor? It would work for a boy or a girl,” I said.
“I think that Darth Vadar XXXX has a nice ring to it,” he said.
Then we looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Batman.”
(Though we decided later that naming our kid Batman wouldn’t bode well for our life expectancy or our dignity.)
It was around this time that I started telling close friends I was expecting. The geeky replies made me very happy:
“That kid is going to have so many Wonder Woman onesies, regardless of it it’s a girl or a boy.” (Said my best friend and platonic life partner, Meghan.)
“Oh my god! I’m going to start knitting a baby Batman cowl tonight!” (Said my dear friend Jen.)
“You will have the nerdiest baby showers!” (Said my colleague Meg.)
“We have to buy him or her a tiny fedora and whip.” (Said my dear friend Lauren, whom I call “Indie.”)
On Wednesday of the fourth week, British Boy had to go to a class at Second City. I was also supposed to go to this class, but was feeling so nauseous I decided to skip it. Though British Boy walked Max before he left, around midday it became clear that Max wasn’t going to be able to hold it until 6pm when he returned. So I put on some clothes, leashed Max up, and took him out for a quick walk.
Earlier in the week, I had been getting over a cold, so my sense of smell wasn’t that acute and I really only had been bothered by strong smells (onions, garbage) if I was right on top of the offending odor. Apparently, this day was the day that I was to be completely over the cold and my sense of smell was to return to normal. This was good health-wise, but not so good odiferously speaking. As I turned the corner of my block and crossed the street, I caught whiff of a garbage smell so disgusting that it made me retch.
I locked Max’s leash, covered my mouth, and ran to a nearby bush where I immediately began to barf my guts out. I couldn’t believe that this was happening, I was so viciously sick from the smell that my eyes were watering and I was covered with sweat. It was awful.
A mid-day jogger (male) was running by and Max started barking his head off at him. I turned my head mid-puke only to catch this guy slowing down and giving me a look of such utter disgust—like I was some drunk, homeless, crazy person with no control over my life barfing in a bush.
I was not content to be assigned the jogger’s disdain, so in typical me fashion, I yelled at him in between retches:
“Hey!” baaarrrrrfffffffffffff “Put your eyeballs back in your head!” baaaaaarrrrrrrrfffff “I’m pregnant, alright?” baaarrrrrrrrrrfffffff “Judge much?”
Were it me and I happened on a well dressed woman with a dog on a leash barfing in a bush, I would have at least stopped to ask if she was okay. But this jerk just jogged on.
Next time: Kate meets the Mayor of Chicago while on her way to an ob/gyn appointment, discovers the meaning of word “fundus,” and further identifies with the Elizabeth Banks character in What to Expect When You’re Expecting: The Movie.
Science fiction, particularly British science fiction, has always had something of an affinity with the radio play format. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally produced as a radio play, and many other classic series including Doctor Who and Sapphire & Steel have released episodes either on British radio or direct to CD. Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy was adapted for BBC radio in 1973, BBC Radio One produced an one-hour tie in to Independence Day entitled (creatively) Independence Day UK back in 1996, and of course we all know the story of Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds.
The radio play format has now started to move online and make something of a resurgence, and Welcome to Night Vale is perhaps the most well known of this new breed. The Internet has made it easier to produce your own radio play. It is a cheap format to get started in, as you can begin with just a $3 microphone. Of course if you want to produce something a little more professional and polished you’re going to need quite a bit more money, which is why the team behind A Brief History of Time Travel turned to Kickstarter.
ABHoTT is a science fiction sitcom created by James Hunt and Seb Patrick. It follows the adventures of mad inventor Miles Wanderlust, accountant Eric Street, and special agent Nina Seventeen from the 51st century who is attempting to bring the boys to temporal justice before they can do anything too damaging to the timeline. Each episode of the six-part series sees the group thrown into a different time period where they get into trouble with Shakespeare’s daughters, Julius Caesar, and a suddenly erupting volcano, amongst other things. All the while Nina’s bumbling colleague Oscar Quantum is attempting to rescue her but probably making things much worse in the process.
The humor is classic British dry wit reminiscent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide, Red Dwarf, and Doctor Who. It’s also nice to see snippets of history being woven into the plot, such as Francis Bacon’s cause of death, which might have more to do with his surname than you previously imagined thanks to Oscar. Speaking of Red Dwarf, alongside the cast of professional voice actors and rising British comedy talent, Robert Llewellyn guest stars at The Narrator. Each episode is 40 minutes long and can be downloaded individually for £1.49 each or as a complete series for £6.99. An Official Companion is also available for £5.99 featuring six “Making Of” MP3s and a PDF showing more behind the scenes information and episode scripts. The team’s Kickstarter funding allowed them to commission a theme tune and cover art by Disney-trained illustrator Brittney L. Williams.
A Brief History of Time Travel has the potential to become a real cult hit. It is witty, sarcastic, and well-written, as well as enjoying high production values. If you like your science fiction a little bit silly and characters with an inherent sense of British steadfastness as the world goes mad around them, then make sure you head on over and try out the series.
Today is my fifth wedding anniversary so I’ve been thinking a lot about romance lately. If someone asked you to think of romantic moments from film and TV the chances are that most people will immediately think of traditional “romantic” scenes. The final dance in Dirty Dancing? The factory scene from An Officer and a Gentleman? Jack drawing Rose in Titanic?
Our geeky favorites might not be known for their romance but there are some stunningly romantic moments in science fiction, fantasy, and other nerd genres. Here are some of my favorites, but be warned, here be spoilers.
Doctor Who – Amy leaves the Doctor for the slim chance of spending her life with Rory At the very end of “The Angels Take Manhattan” Rory is sent back in time by a weeping angel and due to a long and convoluted set of circumstances, the TARDIS is unable to go to the time and place where he has been sent. Amy makes the decision to give up traveling through time and space with the Doctor on the rather slim chance that allowing the angel to send her back too will mean that she and Rory will be together again. In that moment she effectively gives up all of time and space (not to mention her best friend) on the tenuous chance at being reunited with Rory. If you can ignore the gaping plot hole it’s an incredibly romantic yet devastating moment that shows the connection between husband and wife.
Men in Black – Agent K uses a satellite to see his wife
While Men in Black is primarily a comedy, one moment in the middle of the film stands out for its sudden and deeply heartfelt look at Agent K’s pre-MiB life. In a quiet moment at the office, K logs onto the MiB satellite network and zooms in on a house to watch a lady gardening. Although it is not explained until later exactly who she is, K’s expression is unmistakable and we see him swallow hard as he watches for just a few moments until work comes calling again. It is this moment that sets up the emotional resolution of the film when K gives his speech to J at the film’s finale. If you can get over just how creepy that whole real-time video feed from space truly is, and how convenient it is that his wife just happens to be outside at that precise moment then it’s unbelievably sweet.
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part Two – Bella shows Edward her memories
I can practically hear the eye rolling from here. Yes Twilight is the epitome of cheesy romantic set-plays, the honeymoon montage being especially cringe-worthy, but there is one moment from the saga that stands out as a genuinely romantic scene that wouldn’t be out of place in many superhero movies. The final scene of the final movie showed Bella enveloping Edward within her mental shield so he could finally read her mind; she then shows him a selection of her favorite memories from their lives together from the moment they first laid eyes on each other to their wedding and the birth of their daughter. There’s something incredibly intimate about allowing someone inside your mind and showing them your own memories and emotions of an event; after all, we all know how insufficient words are at expressing the true depth of our feelings. “Now you know,” Bella tells him when the weight of their shared emotions is too much and the connection breaks.
The X-Files – Mulder teaches Scully to play baseball
By the show’s sixth season, Mulder and Scully’s relationship was on a definite (if slow) road from platonic to romantic. “The Unnatural” is possibly one of the worst episodes of the show ever made, but it is saved by its finale in which Mulder invites Scully to a baseball field at night and teaches her how to hit. It is a perfect example of the kind of romantic tension that epitomized the show, as Mulder’s hands are all over Scully but in a totally non-sexual way as he guides her through her swing (the scene made the phrase “hips before hands” a mantra to fans). However there is a deeper meaning to the scene than Mulder using the lesson an an excuse to touch Scully; we see him choosing to share something of great personal meaning to himself—baseball—with her. It’s wonderful to see these two characters who go through so much turmoil in an average episode looking so utterly carefree as Scully grins and laughs her way through the whole scene.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army – Liz Saves Hellboy but Condemns Humanity
The second Hellboy film is so packed full of romantic moments that the whole thing should really be filed under “romantic comedies” rather than comic books or fantasy or wherever it is that rental stores (those that still exist) do file it. I love the scene where the dulcet tones of Barry Manilow waft through the corridors of B.P.R.D. but for me the standout romantic moment came later in the film. When Hellboy is mortally wounded by a piece of Nuada’s spear, Liz, Abe and Krauss take him to County Antrim in Ireland where Liz pleads for his life before the Angel of Death. Despite being warned that allowing him to live will doom humanity and that she will suffer the most from this action, Liz admits that she cannot live without him and asks the Angel to heal him anyway. The Angel does so but says that Liz must supply the final piece of the process by giving Hellboy a reason to live, at which point she reveals that she is pregnant. It’s a deeply emotional, if also deeply selfish, scene.
Here are a few more honorable mentions from others:
In Bleach when Ichigo is able to save Rukia in the first story arc in the Soul Society, and Renji grabs her from execution, running down the long stairs. He talks to her, while she clings to him, and speaks words of dedication. My heart swelled. – GeekMom Rebecca
The bit in Battlestar Galactica where Laura Roslin gets back from the cylon ship and Adama meets her and he says “missed you”’ and she says “me too” and then they hug and she says “I love you” and he says “about time.” – Kelly Froggat
In X-Men 2 when Wolverine says, “I could be the good guy.” Tragically romantic. Sigh. – GeekMom Rebecca
Need an extra boost of confidence to face your nemesis? Need to get in the mood for a kid-free weekend trip? Here are some of my favorite ego-boosting, up-to-no-good, rebel-without-a-cause quotes to motivate you!
“Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo—which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn’t a stupendous badass was dead.”
If there is one type of product certain to send my geeky heart a-flutter, it’s bakeware. My kitchen is full of everything from Portal cookie cutters to Star Wars cake pans so when Lakeland (one of my favorite kitchenware stores) announced their exclusive collection of Doctor Who products, I may have danced for joy. Lakeland kindly sent along a sample of products from the collection and I have spent the past few weeks trying them all out.
The first products I tried out were the Dalek cupcake wraps. These are simple cardboard wraps and toppers that are placed around a finished cupcake, transforming them into Daleks. The £9.99 pack contains 24 wraps in four colors—a good number for a child’s birthday party. As it happened, a few days after receiving them I was baking cupcakes for my village fair so I decided to try them out there. I stuck with the white, red, and blue wraps simply because I didn’t want to spend the extra time mixing up orange food dye when I was already busy. The wraps are very easy to use but I did find a few problems with them. First, even at its smallest, the wrap was significantly larger than the cupcake, making it very hard to pick up, especially for clumsy kiddie fingers. I ended up using a craft knife to make another slit further around the wrap; not a major problem but one I could happily have done without in the busy prep time for the fair. Any of us who have catered a child’s birthday party knows that convenience is key and adding in an extra job was more than a little annoying. Secondly, to make your cupcakes look anything like the pictures on the packet you would need an extraordinary quantity of icing on top. I was using standard size cupcake cases filled to the brim with cake and what I felt was a lot of icing, especially for a child’s cake, yet my cupcakes still didn’t come close to the catalogue pictures, and the Daleks ended up looking somewhat squished. I can only assume the wraps are designed to be used with larger-size muffin cases, as this would help to eliminate both problems. Naturally this would also result in the cakes being rather big, especially to give to a child. Regardless of these issues the cakes went down a storm at the fair. I saw lots of children (and adults) dragging people over to the cake stall to point them out and they sold out rapidly.
Next I tried the cookie cutters. These come in sets of two each priced at £4.99 and you have the choice of Dalek and Sontaran, K9 and Cyberman, and the TARDIS and a Weeping Angel. I’d prefer if they were sold individually as this double-pack method means anyone wanting to make the TARDIS and a Dalek must purchase two additional cutters they may not want. (Perhaps that’s the idea?) The cutters are all spring-loaded to make removing the cookie dough easier, and each one is incredibly detailed, especially the Dalek. This detail means that the cutters get sticky very quickly; I found myself dunking them into flour between every use to prevent sticking. This was especially helpful with K9’s thin and fragile tail. My cookies came out with a varying degree of success. My TARDIS cookies were especially wibbly-wobbly, but this can be at least partly attributed to baking with a three-year-old and partly to my own lack of skill at making cookies stay straight. I generally found the TARDIS to produce the least defined results while the Sontaran and Dalek cutter provided exceptionally defined cookies. The level of detail made icing them very fiddly. I used a tiny piping nozzle (Pampered Chef number two for those baking aficionados) which worked well but even that felt a little clunky in some parts. If you’re hoping to reproduce the pictures on the website make sure you have a good piping kit and a small nozzle on hand. The results do look fabulous even though I didn’t use any color on my batch. If you have the time and the patience, you could produce something truly spectacular.
Some of my favorite baking items are my collection of chocolate molds. The £4.99 TARDIS chocolate mold can make 12 chocolates in the same designs as the cookie cutters and has the added cool factor of being shaped like the TARDIS itself. The shapes are quite shallow making nice thin chocolates that won’t break your teeth if eaten direct from the fridge. They’re solid enough, though, to easily remove them from the silicone mold. Each one is also highly detailed; surprisingly so for tiny chocolates measuring only about an inch tall). I think this is one of the most flexible items in the collection, especially as it’s one of the lower cost items as well. The chocolates can be used on top of cupcakes, to decorate larger cakes, or just eaten as they are. If you use white chocolate you could even dye them—blue chocolate TARDIS chocolates, anyone?
The final product I tried was the cake pan. I was fairly dubious about this one simply because the catalogue photos didn’t look all that spectacular; if they can’t make the cakes look great for expertly photographed promotional photos, then what hope does the average home baker have? The cake pan creates six dome-shaped cakes with the characters as raised figures on top. The first issue comes with the pans themselves. The characters are fairly small and detailed so you really need to grease them well; a bit of butter rubbed on with a paper towel just isn’t going to cut it. I used Wilton’s Cake Release which has never once let me down. Even so, you need to be careful that the product doesn’t pool in the indentations, since that will prevent the cake mix from filling them. I found this to be a particular issue with K9’s tail. The cakes are also an odd size; significantly larger than a cupcake or even a large muffin but smaller than a full sized cake. It makes them a little too big for eating in a single serving but also awkward to use as a full size cake. And who wants half a Cyberman in their party bag? As I predicted from the photos, the cakes produce less than impressive results. Icing them helps but because they are dome shaped, the designs arch away from you making them difficult to ice and also somewhat awkward to actually see. Out of the collection, this is definitely the one I’d say to avoid. Personally, I’d simply invest in the cookie cutters and use them to cut fondant icing shapes to decorate a regular cake.
There has been a lot of thought put into these products, which is to be expected from a company with such a bakeware and cookery pedigree as Lakeland. The items in the collection are not cheap, but they’re pretty reasonably priced compared to other products in the store and most importantly, they produce good, consistent results except for the cake pan. If you have a child who loves Doctor Who or if you just want to impress your friends next time they visit, then I cannot recommend the collection highly enough. The range is exclusive to Lakeland but the store ships worldwide. If you do order any of the products, let us know how you get on with them. There’s nothing we at GeekMom like more than drooling over pictures of delicious geeky treats. Yum!
When my daughter was about a year old, I took her to our favorite local park to hang out, look at the ducks, and play in the sandbox. She was dressed in a cute Captain America shirt that I got in the boys’ section of Target. I must say it took me off guard when another mom asked me if Ella was wearing her big brother’s hand-me-down hero shirt. My reply, as it almost always is, was given with a smile and a wink and a direct message that no, she can like superheroes and wave her tiny geek flag just like her mom does.
It was quickly on the heels of this that I formed a meetup.com group with the intention to gather like-minded parents who speak the geek shorthand and know what it means to be a parent raising a geekling.
Geeklings and Parental Units was born on February 22, 2012. We are 188 members strong today, and have quite an active group composed of locals and online-only folks from all across the galaxy. Even though meetup.com has been around for awhile, I had only heard of it from one other extroverted friend pre-parenthood. It sounded cool but I was not into going out and collecting new friends. That all changed when we stepped through the wormhole, undergoing the massive transition from being a couple to being parents. Suddenly, those lazy Sunday afternoons playing Settlers of Catan and Power Grid til the wee hours all went the way of the ill-fated 2007 Bionic Woman reboot. We dropped out, fell from the stars like two Neil Gaiman characters, and found ourselves feeling very out of step with everything.
It was difficult in those first days to get anyone other than myself and maybe one other member to attend. Many of the geeky guild are introverts; it’s not always easy to socialize even at the best of times. I get it. It’s weird, right? Showing up to interact with people whom you’ve only chatted with online. Hoping that they are cool and do not mind that you’re not current on The Walking Dead because sleep deprivation has turned you into zombie parents. On one of my first encounters with a new mom member, I remember breathing a sigh of relief when I saw her with a Doctor Who shirt and TARDIS ringtone. I felt immediately at home.
As the group grew, members began to share their histories. They shared what they felt about parenting and the last Game of Thrones episode. Bonding happened over mutual fandoms and the feeling that it was sometimes hard to relate to other normal parents. I admit my heart grew very fond of our amazing, talented, brilliant members. Just a bit of communication and seeing new friends meant so much to me. I found the courage to pull myself out of postpartum depression and began to enjoy the sunlight again.
When members talked about why they joined the group, many of them echoed how I felt about the mutual respect for their geeky lifestyles. They, too, had a hard time approaching and maintaining friendships with other parents. Some members came from shared social circles, but more found the group through searching on meetup.com. The site has been a good hub and jumping off point. Without asking for donations from the members, the group raised enough money at the geekling garage sale to cover the bi-annual $78 renewal fee for the next two years.
As the organizer and creator, I have tried to let the growth of the group happen organically. I never pressure people to host an event or feel bad if their baby is having a warp core breach day and they have to cancel. There is enough pressure on parents. I wanted to be the Risa of social groups, a place where members could feel comfortable, escape, and maybe wear some tacky pseudo-tropical space outfits if the mood hit us. Being geeks, the group naturally tended to gravitate towards communication through the biggest social site, Facebook. There, members routinely post funny pictures, articles from GeekMom, and laugh along with George Takei’s daily funny.
To give you an example of Geekling awesomeness, just this past Sunday the group gathered Time Lords and nap deprived alike to sample the wares at the Doctor Who Craft Faire at my favorite local place, The Harry Potter store known as Whimsic Alley. They had butter beer on tap, jammie dodgers, and more long scarves and TARDIS blue bow ties than you could shake a Sonic Screwdriver at.
Truth be told, one of my driving reasons to start adding scheduled events to our meetup calendar was to keep pushing me out that door too. Another reason: After I suffered a mini stroke when Ella was two months old, some things like calendaring and numbers had to be relearned and brought into focus again. A year later, the attention I needed to apply to these dates has helped heal these problem areas. I may not be a master at leading us where no families have gone before in a overly organized type A way, but damn it Jim, I got a lot of heart.
I am grateful every day for my tribe called geek, and it is my hope is to see more branches of the group settle in different cities and share just as much fun. It’s a good thing, being geeks and being parents, and the collective flag is waving high.
As you view the map of the road near the Earl’s Court tube station, click street view to explore. In the street view of Google Maps, click the double arrow next to the police box to live your dream of being whisked away by the Doctor. The street view continues on the inside, where you can take a detailed look at the close workings of the TARDIS.
Back in the very depths of my past, there once existed a time when I had never seen The X-Files. Back then there was another show that had me enraptured, a British show about monsters and strange beings who controlled the forces of time—but it wasn’t Doctor Who.
That show was Sapphire and Steel.
Sapphire and Steel aired between 1979 and 1982 on ITV and consisted of six assignments, each of which contained four to eight half hour episodes that formed a complete story. The main protagonists of the show are Sapphire and Steel, played in the TV series by Joanna Lumley and David McCallum.
Sapphire and Steel refer to themselves as operatives and are two of 127 total “elements” including 12 transuranic elements who cannot be assigned where life exists. Steel therefore argues that there are only 115 because, “You must never rely on the transuranics… they’re unstable.” Two other operatives, Lead and Silver, made appearances on the show; more operatives were referred to by name, including Jet and Copper.
By this point I can hear the chemists screaming that many (if not most) of these names are not elements at all—and of course you are all correct. The show was excruciatingly vague about who these “operatives” were exactly. Where did they come from? Who sent them there? What are they? The introduction seemed to suggest that they were some kind of humanoid manifestations of the substances for which they are named, however in a later episode, Steel made the suggestion that they are aliens “in an extraterrestrial sense.” The exact meaning behind his words was never clarified.
Regardless of their origins, each of the operatives appears to have some special abilities that makes them as a team, sort of akin to the X-Men. Sapphire can manipulate time to a small degree, learn the age of objects by touching them, project illusions, and more. Steel has telekinetic abilities, can freeze himself to “minus 273.1 degrees,” and possesses superhuman strength. Sapphire and Steel use these skills to complete their missions and draft in other operatives and specialists when necessary.
The exact nature of Sapphire and Steel’s missions were also disconcertingly unclear. At the beginning of the first assignment Sapphire explains a little to a teenage boy caught up in events when his parents vanish. However, this explanation actually raises more questions than it answers.
That explanation only begins to hint at the devastation that can occur when time breaks through. Each assignment was very different from the others; the powers of time, darkness, and other malevolent creatures seemed to vary depending on what exactly those forces were trying to achieve.
Time would also manipulate people into helping by making them promises of great rewards, such as the return of a deceased loved one, or revenge for their own wrongful death. These are very powerful ideas and the kind of incentives that would hold far more power over us than material rewards. What we did learn was that Sapphire and Steel were “assigned” to each case, presumably by some kind of agency or group. In a later episode, Sapphire refers to a group of Transient Beings as answering “to a higher authority” and Steel admits that he was once asked to work for them but declined, suggesting some form of career choice is involved in the work they do. Whoever or whatever they are, Sapphire and Steel are both clearly mortal and as much at risk from the entities they fight as are the humans who are inevitably caught in the middle of the events.
The assignments were never given titles by the show’s creator P.J. Hammond (an ex-Doctor Who writer who has recently written several episodes for Torchwood) or by the production team.
The DVD box set lists titles but the provenance of these is uncertain and so each assignment is often referred to by a number of different fan-given titles: number one is known variously as “Escape Through a Crack in Time,” “The House that Jack Built,” and more. Two is “The Railway Station,” or “The Soldier,” and so on. There seems to be a general consensus among fans that assignments two and four were the best of the six stories whilst three and five were the weakest—even as a decades long fan I tend to skip over assignment three.
The show was perfectly cast with Joanna Lumley playing the beautiful but powerful Sapphire and David McCallum, fresh from his time on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., pulling off cold, alien indifference while never seeming heartless.
With a very small cast in each assignment, the show was heavily character based with the relationship between Sapphire and Steel at it’s heart. There was never any hint of a romantic relationship between the pair although it becomes clear any time one is in danger just how much the other cares for them. The relationship reminds me very much of Mulder and Scully in the first few seasons of The X-Files before the writers began developing their relationship. The TV show’s finale is one of the most heart-breaking of all time, but this was tempered slightly by the release of several additional assignments as audio plays between 2005 and 2008; these were set after the finale of the final TV assignment and featured a mostly different cast.
The show has the same ability to take seemingly innocuous objects (statues, double shadows, etc) and make them terrifying that has made a name for Stephen Moffat in recent years. I defy you to ever hear a child singing Ring-a Ring o’ Roses again and not feel a chill go up your spine. Don’t get me started on photographs of Victorian children, or motorway service stations for that matter…
Each story develops slowly, leaving a lot of time for tension to build. The show is similar to others, like The X-Files and more recently Hannibal, in its use of long lingering shots that create a suspenseful atmosphere and feed discomfort as you wait for something to happen. The show originally aired at tea time and was promoted as family viewing; whether modern parents would feel happy watching it with their children is up for debate. I know for a fact that my young son will not be watching with me for many years and I wouldn’t even allow my ten-year-old niece to see it although that has more to do with her sensitive disposition than my own opinion of the show’s scare-factor.
Sapphire and Steel is a brilliant piece of British television that will appeal to both fans of science fiction and classic horror. The stories would not be out of place in Doctor Who or Torchwood, but the overall atmosphere is closer to traditional creepy and suspenseful horror like The Woman in Black and even Welcome to Night Vale.
Okay, so the visual effects can often be dated, and the wooden sets occasionally wobble if someone shuts a door too hard, but that all adds to the charm. As it happens, the show is about to get a re-release in the US market with a slightly more affordable box set out on August 27th. So, if you’re looking for something to fill the gap before the Doctor Who 50th festivities in November, then this may be just what you’re looking for.
Try it if you love: Torchwood, Doctor Who, The Woman in Black, Welcome to Night Vale Watch it on: DVD
Binge-watching older shows and digging up movies on Netflix inevitably leads to the same question. Who is that guy? Sometimes they’re easy—The Outsiders might as well be re-released as “Everybody Before They Were Famous.” But more often than not, I’m left running for IMDB. Here are a few of my favorites.
What’s Channing Tatum not in lately? (Speaking of which, you should absolutely see This Is The End.) Back in 2000, before stripping, Jump Street, or G.I. Joe, he was in Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” video. I don’t blame you if you didn’t watch it in 2000 and don’t want to watch it now. I took that bullet and grabbed a screenshot of his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role for you. No, it won’t be any clearer if you go watch it yourself. Here he is:
Oh, sequels. Why quit when you’re still making money, right? Or when you can give us one of Jack Black’s first roles, which he had in The Neverending Story III as leader of The Nasties:
This one will win you the bonus round at trivia night someday. Mary Badham, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, also stars in the final episode of the original Twilight Zone.
We all know about Luke Perry and Pee-Wee Herman being in the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. But that’s not all. A spry Ben Affleck was a basketball player (#10 if you go looking for him). Ricki Lake was in there too, and Seth Green was a vampire (not a werewolf!) in a scene that got cut.
I have fond memories of Ryan Reynolds’ days on Two Guys and a Girl, long before he was… well, Ryan Reynolds. But even before that, when the Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV show was piloted as a TV movie, he was there as cute high school boy Seth with some very Zack-Morris hair. Lucky Melissa Joan Hart!
While we’re in the 90s, think back to 1995’s A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. Do you remember Master Kane? Or should I say, “Kane, Master Kane,” since that was Daniel Craig? And of course, there was also Kate Winslet as Princess Sarah, two years before Titanic.
Remember Corky, the brother with Down syndrome on Life Goes On? Chris Burke, who played him, was one of the zombies in the “Thriller” video.
Rick Springfield—you know, as in, “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl”?—was also a soap star, playing Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital in the early 80s and periodically thereafter. But what younger geeks might not know is that he played Zac in Saga of a Star World, which became the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica.
Before he was snotty Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones, Jack Gleeson was rescued by Batman in Batman Begins:
Dennis Christopher is one of those Guys You Keep Seeing, so I won’t even suggest which it is you recognize him from. Most recently he was Calvin Candie’s lawyer Leonide Moguy in Django Unchained. His list also includes Cyrus Vail in Angel, one Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, one of Enterprise, and Eddie in It.
Speaking of It—another one of those movies that has quite a cast, especially in retrospect—I never could stop seeing Clark’s mom on Smallville as anything but Beverly from It. Seth Green played the younger version of Harry Anderson’s character. Sneezy/Mr. Clark from Once Upon a Time (Gabe Khouth) was in it, and he was voices in Dragonball Z, InuYasha the Movie, and He-Man and Masters of the Universe. Olivia Hussey, whom you recall not from It, but as Juliet from that 1968 Romeo and Juliet you watched in high school, is also the voice of Talia Al Ghul in Batman Beyond.
Marc Vann, whom you may know as Conrad Ecklie from CSI, started his career with a few episodes of Early Edition in 1996. On Angel, he was the surgeon who resurrected Illyria, and on Lost, the doctor on the supply freighter owned by Charles Widmore. More recently we saw him in two episodes of Torchwood: Miracle Day.
Sophie Aldred, known to geeks as Ace, companion to Sylvester McCoy as the seventh Doctor, was also the voice of Muck in the American version of Bob the Builder for a while. She told the Derby Telegraph in 2010 that this British children’s show was re-recorded for the US market to have a more familiar accent and to change words like “football” to “soccer.” “I don’t say ‘let’s get mucky,'” she gave as a more humorous example. “I say ‘let’s get muddy’ because apparently ‘mucky’ has connotations over there.”
Finally, a bonus, non-human “played two roles”: In Super Mario, the clouds and the bushes are identical, but one’s white and one’s green.
While much of geekdom is full of plans this weekend to attend Comic-Con International in San Diego, my minions and I are attending ConnectiCon in Hartford, Connecticut.
It’s a con I highly recommend for a number of reasons:
I would say at least half the con attendees cosplay. Such wonderful eye candy.
On a similar front, at least half, if not more, of those attendees are female and they’re young, high school, and college age. This is the future of fandom! I wish I could drag the powers that be at DC Comics over to this con and show them what their audience could be like. These are the people plugged into the ‘net, the ones who watch TV online, the ones who download books online. They’re the crowd who would snarf up digital offerings not geared to the 18-45 year old males who are supposed to be the only ones really reading superhero comics.
The crowd is at a nice level, so that there’s a good amount of people in the panels but allowing access to everyone who needs it. Marina Sirtis’ questions and answers sessions had room for everyone but had an enthusiastic crowd.
It offers a good chance for one-on-one with the guest of honor. I spend some time chatting with comic artist Michael Golden without interrupting. (That is, after I recovered from my fangirl moment.) Both my sons were able to approach Doug Walker aka the Nostalgia Critic on the con floor for photos.
Attendees can actually walk around the dealer’s room without it being wall to wall people, and the vendors were a great mix of artists, gaming and comic shops, steampunk offerings, and all sorts of crafts. I even found the shop that had special blends of tea for Doctors 9, 10, and 11.
We’re going back for the last day tomorrow, as my son wants to attend a panel on how to make web comics.
And I almost forgot to mention the cost is reasonable, at $60 per person for the weekend.
Note: All of the cosplayers in the gallery above were asked and gave permission for the photos to be posted on blogs and other social media sites.
It’s summer with all four of my minions home and it seems appropriate to largely turn this column over to them this week.
My eldest (who no longer quite qualifies as a minion since she’s 20) takes at look at the Wonder Woman that’s inspiring to her generation and my youngest son reviews Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Doctor Who Needs An Anti-Rose
My two eldest minions love Doctor Who, though the eldest daughter took longer to be converted. But none of us were that thrilled with the past season. We still love Matt Smith as the Doctor and we have nothing against Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara Oswin Oswald, but there’s a spark missing. The dynamic between the Doctor and Clara is doing little for the three of us, save in her opening episode as Dalek Clara.
Our conclusion is that she’s too much like Rose, so we’ve seen this type of dynamic before and are bored. We all agreed Eleven needs an opposite. But who? Someone who’s badass, not innocent, someone the Doctor has to rein in, rather than the other way around. We all loved the dynamic with Vastra and Jenny Flint and their Sontarian nurse, Strax, and decided if they couldn’t be used every episode, we wanted someone who might be just as fun as that trio.
A few suggestions later and they had what they felt was the perfect suggestion:
“And she even dies over and over in her movies,” my eldest son said.
I know, it will never happen. But now that the idea’s been mentioned, it may become my personal headcanon.
And speaking of warrior women…here’s my eldest daughter’s essay on why Wonder Woman is important to her and why a Wonder Woman movie should be a no-brainer.
Princess Diana Needs a Movie
I’m not a huge comic book reader, except for what I get for my mom. After the Runaways comics, I have trouble getting invested in a new series, and comic book fans have very established universes and ideas that make it harder to get into the fandom, which is important to me.
So the superheroes I grew up with are mainly on the small screen, and the ones I know now are mainly on the big screen—Iron Man 3, Captain America, Avengers, etc. The DC Comics Animated Universe has some of my favorite interpretations of superheroes, along with some of the best damn cartoon writing in the history of television.
And it was there, in the first episode of Justice League, that I met “my” Wonder Woman.
She’s a little bit different from the George Perez interpretation in that Paradise Island’s rigid rules and regulations are called into question. She has her flaws—a bit judgmental, Type A personality, a perfectionist, occasionally naive—but she is ultimately a hero, fully capable of kicking ass and taking names much in the same way Superman can.
What I liked best about her, though, was that she was very much a female, with nurturing instincts, which were played as a character strength rather than a weakness.
My favorite scene in cartoon history offers Wonder Woman stopping to comfort a crying little girl. She explains that the boys won’t play with her because she’s a girl. The scene flashes to two boys hitting each other with sticks. Wonder Woman knows how to handle this. She looks dismissively at them and tells the girl they would surely be defeated on a real field of battle. The girl looks at her and stops crying. “Really?” Wonder Woman smiles and picks up a stick, totally unconscious of being a beautiful princess in a tiara playing with a grubby, formerly crying child. The girl learns a few moves, and then charges the boys. They fall back to the ground, startled. Wonder Woman smiles to herself, leaving the audience in no doubt that she knew what she was doing.
What strikes me the most about it, even years later, is that Wonder Woman got down on the ground with that girl in a way I can’t picture Superman doing, for all his beloved animated series antics. Batman in the same series “sat with Ace until her time came,” but I can’t picture him intervening in such an emotionally sensitive way, being a role model without ever being condescending. (Batman does condescend. Just ask Robin.)
She also made sure the little girl was the hero of that scene in a way she desperately needed to be, rather than Wonder Woman giving the boys a talking-to. It tells us a lot about Wonder Woman that we might not otherwise know. It also inspired me to be a teacher, back then, or at the very least a role model or an inspiration.
We can’t all be Wonder Woman, but we should damn well try.
Wonder Woman is a protector, a woman in some of the traditional senses. But she’s also a warrior, fully capable of telling Batman what to do and keeping the Flash in line. When they all get turned into children in the episode, Wonder Woman, called “bossy” by the eight-year-old Green Lantern (Jon Stewart), is the only one to maintain a leadership position, probably because despite being the only child of a tribe of women, she somehow learned how to take care of people, too. Not just in the way a superhero might—swooping in from afar, but in the way a good older sister might—making sure everyone you just saved on the ground is okay, directing damage to uncrowded buildings, etc.
The DCAU heroes weren’t perfect. The Martian Manhunter has a hard time of it especially. Batman is blindsided by Hawkgirl, too, and his single mindedness makes for hard teamwork and leads to him alienating damn near everyone by the time of Batman Beyond. Jon Stewart is cantankerous and overly harsh on Supergirl in the new Unlimited pilot.
Wonder Woman, as I mentioned, has her warrior’s pride and her princess complex, although she does a good job of hiding it. Superman’s willingness to trust everybody and to take on too much responsibility makes for trouble in the pilot. But their flaws are part of their characters, and played with for good television. And you never lose sympathy for the characters. You never stop feeling their pain. You never stop wanting them to win, and that’s what I love best about “my” Wonder Woman. She’s a real person, and never once did I stop looking up to her. I still haven’t.
Why she never had her own animated series, and still doesn’t have her own movie, I can’t fathom. There’s something unique about the figure as a teacher and a mentor to women that would make any project damn near sell itself to the public, if done right.
I realize this piece doesn’t focus on the comics. But the comics give us that most important image of Wonder Woman—the one where she breaks her chains.
Isn’t it time that was on a movie poster?
Mom here again. How can I argue with my daughter when she’s right?
In the meantime in the video game land section of our home… the twins are currently obsessed with Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
We Get to Be Mayor!
The Animal Crossing games are life simulation games, all about doing everyday things in a small town. My twins have been playing them for over five years now and it’s the only video game series aside from Pokémon that’s held their attention this long.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf, released in June, is the latest installment in the Animal Crossing series.Upon downloading, I immediately turned it over to my youngest son for a review. Here’s what he had to say:
In my opinion, it has been well worth the wait. As the game opens, you (like in the original Animal Crossing) find yourself on a train with a cat named Rover. Your town name, player name, and appearance are decided depending on how you respond.
But here’s where things get changed up a bit. If this is your first resident file in your new town, you are greeted by several humanoid animal residents, or “villagers,” and they mistake you for the new mayor! References to the old games are abundant, and, hilariously, a pelican named Gulliver washes up on the shore, and after you talk to him enough, he begins spouting random references to other video games such as, “That was a fuzzy pickle.”
As you continue to play, more and more of the new features appear. One of the best is the return of the island from the original Animal Crossing. It is now called Tortimer Island (after the mayor from the previous games in the series), and Tortimer is the guide. If you earn enough Medals, you can join Club Tortimer, which is one of the major online features. A tip about that: Write down your 3DS’s friend code so you can give it to other people, because you cannot access it during an online Club Tortimer session.
Overall, this game beats any other in the series by a landslide. I highly recommend it.
When a show or movie reaches out and grabs its fans, they can be inspired to create amazing things. Geek fandom is known for crafting exquisite costumes, food, jewelry, and more, all for the love of a show. I recently discovered some geek-inspired beverages—officially licensed and not—that are perfect for grabbing a cup and settling in to re-watch your favorite episodes.
Sherlock Tea from Adagio Teas
Adagio Teas makes a wide variety of blends based on many different tastes and fandoms. At Adagio you’ll find tea blends inspired by movies like Harry Potter and the rebooted Star Trek, and shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and True Blood, all packaged in tins with striking fan art.
The Sherlock-inspired teas caught my eye immediately. Some of the most memorable scenes in BBC’s Sherlock happen when a character has a cuppa in his hand. There are 31 blends created by Cara McGee, so fans of both the show and the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will find something to suit their tastes. Fans who dream about a particular relationship on the BBC show will even find something that’s just their cup of tea.
I’m dying to try the MORIARTEA, described as a “spicy chai backed by more ginger. Guaranteed to burn the heart out of you. Because that’s what people BREW.”
Doctor Who Tea from Adagio Teas
Cara McGee of Adagio also created twelve tea blends inspired by Doctor Who. One of Adagio’s highest ranked fandom blends is the TARDIS tea, which sounds absolutely lovely: “Ethereal earl grey and enchanting black berry with notes of vanilla.”
You’ll also find blends created with the ninth, tenth, and eleventh Doctors in mind, and brews imbued with the essences of Captain Jack Harkness and companions Amy Pond, Rose Tyler, and Martha Jones. Cara McGee seems to be a true Whovian. Her ode to River Song in the form of a tea blend says simply for its delightful description, “I could describe this tea, but that would be spoilers.”
And if you find yourself in need of a good cup of a tea—I hear it’s just the thing for heating the synapses—you can pick up a TARDIS mug from ThinkGeek to complete the experience.
The brewmasters kicked off their beer series with a blonde ale that embodies the Lannisters. “Iron Throne is certainly fair in color and soft in appearance, yet it still possesses a complexity and bite to be on guard for,” said brewmaster Phil Leinhart on the ale’s official web site.
The Iron Throne Ale sold out quickly, but luckily the brewery promises that their next beer in the series will be available in larger quantities to satisfy the throngs of Game of Thrones fans. The Black Stout, inspired by the Night’s Watch, is a brew described by Ommegang’s Mike McManus as “a hearty and robust beer to fortify those heroically standing watch at the Wall. Like their lives, the beer is dark, complex and bold.”
The labels, created by artist Juan Ortiz, use a minimalist look to capture “The Trouble With Tribbles,” “Mirror Mirror,” and “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
Downton Abbey Wine from Wines That Rock
If you prefer a wine inspired by the past rather than the future, you’ll be happy to hear that a licensed Downton Abbey wine is coming soon from Wines That Rock. Although little is known about the wine, Wines That Rock assures fans that the Bordeaux clarets and whites will be authentic, thanks to a team-up with a vineyard with “over 130 years of experience in creating the world’s best wines so these are wines the Crawley family would have been proud to serve at Downton.”
The wine should be released in time for the premiere of the fourth season of the show on PBS.
A kitchen geek is lost without her KitchenAid. Sometimes I wish I had two or three of them, but I settle for having two bowls and multiple attachments for everything from casing sausage to extruding pasta. What I don’t have is an awesome design on it. I should work on that. Meanwhile, I’ll gaze at these:
If I could have made my Mass Effect costume out of batter instead of foam, this would have come in handy:
KitchenAid Brasil produced this special design:
Alas, most of us don’t live in Brazil. But you can buy decals for your KitchenAid designed for mixers that are blue. white, or red.
You can always go hand-painted if you’re a committed DIY geek, but the easiest route is vinyl decals, and Etsy is a treasure trove of them. Click the names in the captions to go to their stores.
The KitchenAid’s shape practically screams Bullet Bill from Mario, doesn’t it? Mustard Seed Dream on Etsy makes a white vinyl sheet that when applied to your black KitchenAid looks like this:
I think if you put these TARDIS decals on your mixer, you’re obligated to make Ood rolls with it.
Or there’s the Batman option:
For cupcake pirates, wandering the seven kitchens looking for tiny dessert booty:
And finally, though not strictly geeky in the way the rest of these are, I couldn’t resist adding this:
Why should t-shirts get all the fun designs? Her Universe is sharing the love with our legs with new Doctor Who leggings, as well as dresses and PJs.
The leggings come in three designs, including one based on “The Pandorica Opens,” aka the van-Gogh-exploding-TARDIS painting, which I’ve been wearing. The first thing I noticed about these leggings is how magnificently buttery soft they are! It’s like dipping your legs into custard. If your legs were fish fingers… no, nevermind. Let’s kill that analogy here.
There are things to consider before wearing them, of course, particularly if you happen to be a companion. You shouldn’t wear these leggings for any visits to Vincent Van Gogh’s house, or any time prior, really. You could inadvertently influence art history.
And frankly, wearing them around the Doctor is just a rude reminder of the destruction of the TARDIS. The man had to pull a piece of it out of a crack in time and space. Wasn’t that enough? How cruel are you!? Consideration should also be given when wearing the Dalek blueprints based on the likelihood that you’ll be encountering any Daleks that day. And if you’re a companion, the chances are… well, you should pass on those, shouldn’t you? Who knows what they’d think!
Ahem. Assuming you’re just an ordinary person who means Time Lords (and history) no harm and aren’t likely to run into any alien species on an average Tuesday, you’ll find these a delightful addition to your wardrobe. Some less humanoid species may find challenges in sizing and fit, but should consult a size chart and try to work things out. These leggings are worth it.
I usually wear a size 8 in pants, and the XL leggings fit me fine, but there’s definitely room in them for someone bigger. (The size chart lists them as for a size 11-13.) It seems almost mandatory to make a “bigger on the inside” joke here, but that pretty much defines leggings, doesn’t it? However, I do solemnly swear that I recognize that leggings aren’t pants and promise to wear them only with appropriate other clothing or in legging-appropriate situations, such as exercise!
That said, I did wear them to a trampoline arena. That counts like exercise, right? I thought I should thoroughly test them and see if with a TARDIS on them, they could help me travel like the Doctor. Due to cutbacks in my huon-energy budget, I figured the trampolines might serve as a sort of launching fuel, just to get them started. Alas, all I managed was a single flip in front of an outer-space mural:
My experiment’s failure to achieve interstellar travel, much less any change in my progression on the same timeline, suggest the leggings don’t have any actual TARDIS powers. Slightly disappointing, but expected. Instead they have the power to generate compliments from many passers-by. Or bouncers-by, as the case may be. It’s a fair trade.
Last year I posted a heartfelt, purely besotted fan post about why Doctor Who couldnever be a woman.
The debate still rages on in the comment section of that post. There are reactionary comments and accusatory comments, but there are also a few gems that completely blew my mind. Possibly the best argument I have ever heard against my rigid fan mind was from commenter TXVoodoo, “The physiological changes would be no more taxing to a regeneration than changing from advanced age, disparate heights, completely different skull structures, and so on. Heck, the Doctor’s regrown a hand. You’re trying to say the Doctor couldn’t grow a uterus? (If, in fact, Gallifreyans have them. For all we know, they could be marsupials.)”
“You’re trying to say the Doctor couldn’t grow a uterus?” Touché. Why couldn’t a being who regenerates when dying, grows new body parts if injured during said regeneration, and has eleven different faces grow a uterus? Mind. Blown.
So, while this fan can’t imagine a world in which the Doctor of her childhood could be a woman, I have to admit that canon more realistically supports the statement, “Why the Doctor would never be a woman.” (Now, given, I’m using *in canon* evidence, rather than outside reasons this may be the case. For instance, the Doctor is usually an erstwhile resident of the British Isles because the series is a UK series.)
If we try and largely leave behind evidence presented in particular episodes of the pre-Eccleston years, whilst keeping in mind the aesthetics of the eleven Doctors, we are given several key pieces of information to ponder regarding the Doctor’s gender. Much of my own speculation on the subject comes from three key scenes during the Matt Smith years.
The first comes within “The Eleventh Hour,” Smith’s debut episode. Whilst in the process of regenerating he touches his hair and wonders if he is a woman this time. At the time, my gut informed me that this was just the Doctor’s state of utter confusion, caused by the regeneration process. Now, however, I am prone to think of this statement as the words of a devil-may-care Time Lord. One more interested in the exciting situation at hand than his own appearance. One who makes no effort to control his regeneration because, well, where’s the fun in that? One who would much rather see what gets thrown at him.
The second is in the episode “The Doctor’s Wife” in which the Doctor receives a distress signal from a fellow Time Lord. This prompts the Doctor to wax poetic about the life of fellow Galifreyan, the Corsair. He refers to a tattoo that the Corsair added to his body upon each regeneration. At this point he refers to the Corsair having been a woman on occasion, “herself a couple of times, oh she was a bad girl.” Oh, how I hated that line in such a wonderful episode.
But both of these things can only be considered in light of the third, consecutively speaking, scenario in “Let’s Kill Hitler.” Two things actually happen during this episode to give pause. The first occurs during Melody Pond’s transformation into the River Song we know and love, when she comments, “I’m focusing on a dress size.”
The second occurs at the end of the episode where she transfers all her remaining regenerations to the Doctor in order to save his life. In that moment, she exhibits a great deal of control over the regenerative process.
Taking these things into account, there are several other moments in the post-Eccleston canon that we can look at when considering the sex of the Doctor, especially where the control of regeneration is concerned.
Series 1: Christopher Eccleston
Eccleston’s Doctor flirts with Captain Jack Harkness and is clearly as unlimited by sexual preference as the captain himself. For this to be such a non-issue, it would seem to indicate that for a Time Lord it is the mindset and not the physiology that is key. Thus, the Doctor continually regenerates as a man though his sexual preferences could go either way.
“Am I ginger?” One of the first thing Eccleston’s Doctor asks Rose is if he is ginger. He would like to have a different hair color, but obviously lacks the ability or desire to control that aspect of his regeneration. If he cannot be ginger, I find it hard to believe that he personally would have enough regenerative control to remove anatomy, though I bow to the comments and say that maybe not all Time Lords show such lack of control.
Series 2-4: David Tennant
David Tennant’s Doctor falls in love with Rose Tyler, or so they like to tell me. (Can you tell I’m not big on the love scenes?) If this is the case, then being the bringer of hope that he is, I doubt that he would regenerate into a form that Rose would have a hard time relating to because he hopes that he will see her again. Considering her initial reaction to the first regeneration she witnesses, this worry would seem to have credibility, whether or not it should.
In “Journey’s End” the Doctor forces himself into a partial regeneration showing that he does have some control over the regenerative process. This would seem to greatly substantiate the idea that he just doesn’t ordinarily care to control his regeneration.
So what can we learn for the next regeneration based on the past ten? The Doctor shows preferences for several characteristics over his 900 year life span, and so it would seem unlikely that he would choose an eleventh regeneration that was vastly different.
The Doctor has been in humanoid form for ten regenerations.
The Doctor has been British over ten regenerations, even when regenerating in another country or on another planet.
The Doctor has been a man over ten regenerations.
The Doctor has been white over ten regenerations.
I have seen the argument postulated that he displays himself as a white male so that no matter which point in history the TARDIS takes him, he is able to blend in with authority. Given that he has been to the end of the universe I find it hard to believe that the white male would be dominant for the entirety of human history. For this, we might consider a real-world reason, the history of prejudice against non-whites in Western culture.
The arguments put forth here take us in two different directions. Either a Time Lord can control the regenerative process to a certain degree and the Doctor does not have the skill set to do so, or a Time Lord can control the regenerative process and the Doctor does not care to do so.
So, while I concur that a Time Lord might possibly be able to switch both sex and species, will this particular Time Lord choose to do so at this point in his regenerative cycle?
Broadway Paperbacks is giving five lucky GeekMom readers a copy of Doctor Who: Harvest of Time.
Published on June 4, 2013, by acclaimed science-fiction writer and astrophysicist Alastair Reynolds, Doctor Who: Harvest of Time features the Third Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee. If you are already going through Doctor Who withdrawals after the season finale, and cannot wait for the 50th anniversary special, this book will help fill the gap.
The official synopsis reads:
In Doctor Who: Harvest of Time, the vicious Sild have broken out of confinement after billions of years of imprisonment and plan to conquer the past, with the ultimate goal of rewriting history by enslaving an intellect greater than their own. But on Earth, UNIT is called in to investigate a mysterious incident on a North Sea drilling, and the Brigadier is starting to forget about UNIT’s highest-profile prisoner. As the Sild invasion begins, the Doctor faces a terrible dilemma. To save the universe, he must save his arch-nemesis. . . the Master.
To receive one of five copies of Doctor Who: Harvest of Time leave a comment answering the following: Who is your favorite Doctor, and/or who would you like to see play the Twelfth Doctor?
Only one comment per person. Residents of the United States and Canada only.
When leaving a comment, please use a valid e-mail address so that I can notify the winner. If you fail to enter your e-mail address, your comment will not be counted.
Giveaway closes Monday, June 17, 2013 at 11:59 PM PDT. At that time, I’ll use a random number generator to choose five winners. The winners will be notified by e-mail on June 18, 2013. The winner will have 48 hours to reply to the e-mail. If the winner does not respond, I’ll then choose another winner.
With the new breaking yesterday that Matt Smith is leaving the role of the Doctor in the iconic Doctor Who series, speculation erupted immediately upon his replacement.
True to fandom form, my first Doctor remains my favorite, and that’s 9, played by Christopher Eccleston. Yes, I know 10 is the sexy choice but he just didn’t do it for me. Maybe a little too human and not remote or weird enough? I expected little from Matt Smith but he’s more than exceeded expectations as 11. I’m going to miss him a great deal though, I admit, this season with Clara never seemed to hit the right note for me. It took me forever to get River Song too, and now she’s a favorite, so I kept hoping but…..
Everyone has an idea on the next Doctor. John Scalzi seemed to be team Emma Thompson on his twitter feed yesterday, though he also jokingly suggested Robert Pattison of Twilight fame. My favorite tweet was his suggestion of crossing fandom streams and having Sir Patrick Stewart at the next Doctor. (Ghostbusters, Trek and Who references all in 140 characters. Score!)
In case you’re one of the three people left on the planet who are still unaware, November 23rd is the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who first appearing on our screens. The BBC, being the good television network that it is, will not be letting this fact go un-merchandised and so the first limited edition item is now available for pre-order – Doctor Who: Regeneration.
The Regeneration box set is a coffee table book and DVD set that covers each of The Doctor’s regenerations to date. The DVDs contain over 1000 minutes of footage and include each regeneration story, from “The Tenth Planet” (including the missing fourth episode recreated using the original soundtrack, a short surviving sequence and animation) to “The End of Time,” so you can follow the Doctor’s incarnations from beginning to end. The book contains never before seen images from the Doctor Who archives so fans can read all about their favourite transformations after watching the episodes.
Any good geek knows that the answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything is 42. But were you aware just how often that number has crept up in pop culture? From apartment numbers to Hurley numbers, dates to car registrations, the number 42 is everywhere when you start looking hard enough. Here are 42 examples of the number turning up in pop culture.
1. The first reference that Douglas Adams made to 42 was during a sketch called “The Hole in the Wall Club” in which Griff Rhys Jones mentions the 42nd meeting of the Crawley and District Paranoid Society.
2. In Star Trek, the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) has 42 decks.
3. In The X-Files, Agent Mulder lives at apartment 42.
4.In Caprica the license plate of Starbuck’s truck is “FB 42 E3.
5. In Spore, the Staff of Life is limited to 42 uses.
When I cosplayed as Wonder Woman for the Romance Pride “come as your genre” party at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I worried the costume wasn’t right, that I was too old to cosplay (I’m 47) and just plain worried in general. I’m not shy but costumes are a whole ‘nother level.
It turned out awesome, though I might add tights next time, especially if it’s chilly.
So here are the top ten awesome things that happen when you dress as Wonder Woman at a romance convention:
1. The male cover models come up and ask you for hugs.
2. People’s faces light up and they shout “Wonder Woman!”
It’s not easy maintaining a healthy, still-alive glow when you’re a zombie, but Doctor Who‘s Karen Gillan is here to help! She’s been turned into an undead corpse spokesmodel in this hilarious skit set to air during the zombie-themed episode of The Nerdist.
Watch as she suffers the indignity of rotting flesh, only to be saved by the wonder of z’Ombéal, Walking Dead Skin Care. This is just one of three Karen Gillan skits written by GeekMom’s very own Kristen Rutherford that will be a part of the zombielicious episode. Check out The Nerdist on BBC America this Saturday to see more of zombie Karen.
Early Sunday afternoon, I was desperately checking my DVR for airing times of Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The Mentalist and Vikings. My service only allows taping two shows at a time, so I had to stagger the tapings throughout the night.
The season finale of Walking Dead was my husband and eldest son’s priority. Game of Thrones was mine, while the other two reflect my love of Sherlock Holmes-style detectives and interest in Viking history.
Add in BBC America’s Saturday airing of the new Doctor Who episode that formally placed Clara Oswin Oswald into the pantheon of companions, the premiere of Orphan Black, The Nerdist plus a marathon of all things Doctor Who on BBC America Sunday, and last weekend may well by television’s Geekiest Weekend Ever.
How did it all stack up?
BEWARE SPOILERS BELOW
In my order, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, Vikings,Walking Dead, Orphan Black and The Mentalist. (The Mentalist came in last because it turned out to be a rerun. Bah!)
I hear Dead fans yelling already about its ranking. But, unfortunately, zombies give me intense nightmares. The show is interesting on occasion but I can’t watch a zombie without waking up terrified in the middle of the night. This is even though watching the show doesn’t scare me. Alas, I’ve also missed out on Shaun of the Dead because of this. My husband and son pronounced themselves quite satisfied with the show’s finale, though I’m told the fate of a certain character everyone kept calling “too stupid to live” all season was gruesome. And that Carl is promising to be a pint-size serial killer of sorts.
Game of Thrones wins because it featured the reappearance of a favorite character from season one, Barristan Selmy, and because it seems like Dani’s story will finally be moving instead of being stuck like last season. Also because Tyrion/Cersei and Tyrion/Tywin had the best conversations and Jorah Mormont said “Khaleesi” in that lovely voice of Iain Glen’s. (Yes, I am shallow on this point.) And Bronn continues to be far more fun than his book counterpart.
However, Doctor Who may have been the most enjoyable overall, if only because we all watched the show together. I loved the visual of the Doctor riding a motorcycle up a building, that Clara Oswin Oswald is now firmly a companion, and the little call-out to Amy and Rory by the presence of a book by Amelia Williams. A satisfactory kick-off to the second half of the season, though the Doctor may have been a bit too manic. (And I didn’t think that was possible.) I’ve been informed the Great Intelligence is an old-school Who villain, from the second Doctor and now I’m hoping for the appearance of yetis. And finding out exactly who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number.
Vikings continues to be fascinating in all sorts of odd ways. I started watching because I’ve written an alternate history series with Vikings having settled in North America and I wanted to see how television approached ancient Viking society. The answer has been that it deals with it very well. I love how it presents the community structure, including voting on those accused of a crime, mixed in with an ordinary human lust for power. I wasn’t expecting much from the story and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’m worried about Ragnar’s fate. Gabriel Byrne has been nicely menacing as the show’s central villain. Mix that in with the captured Catholic priest and the odd scientific discovery, such as a primitive compass, and I’ll be sorry to see this series end.
Orphan Black had promise but was a bit confusing. I understand it’s a show about cloning with a clearly desperate lead character but where was it set? It seemed like it was supposed to be New York City but it looked like London, which was distracting. Some shows I bond to right away. Not this one, not yet, but I’ll give it a second look next Saturday.
There are a few you always know to expect, starting with Google and ThinkGeek. Here are those, along with a few others we’ve seen this morning. Happy Don’t Believe The Internet Day! (Except the GeekMoms–we really have moved to this new site. What do you think?)
“Smelling is believing,” the new Google Nose search feature tells us! While I can find some appeal in being able to search the 15M+ scentibytes Google Aromabase, I’m glad SafeSearch is enabled. Scents have been collected from thousands of miles of Street Sense vehicles, which means now you can check out that hotel’s smell before you visit! But that’s not all Google had ready for April 1. Treasure Map mode in Maps you can actually use, but I don’t recommend it for important navigation. Gmail Blue is all of the Gmail you love… but blue. Maybe next they’ll tell us they were just kidding about Reader shutting down.
No More Police Box TARDIS
DoctorWhoTV.co.uk announces that “the classic blue box just isn’t ‘street enough’ any more” and will make its last appearance in the Series 7 finale.
Bat-on-bat LoveThe upcoming relationship between Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon won’t be just a fleeting thing. They’re starting a family.
SkyScanner Kid Counter
If only you could know before you booked a flight the chances that you’d be kept awake for 12 hours next to an unhappy infant. Now you can!
Bacon Scope You’ve probably already seen this April Fool’s marketing trick, sinceScope clearly jumped the gun on the holiday. Note to everyone for next year: It’s called April Fool’s Day, not April Fool’s Week. We’re not turning this into the thing where Christmas decorations start appearing after Labor Day.
Unpakt To The Moon
Unpakt is advertising an option for moves to the moon. But if you click it, you get to play Space Invaders!
Funny or Die Brings Back The 90s It was the golden age of television. With your help, they can Kickstart projects like Sliders The Movie, the Dinosaurs One Man Show featuring Baby Sinclair, and Darkwing Duck: The Movie.
Wikipedia “Did You Know?”
These range from humorous to potentially NSFW, if your NSFW standards include words. They lead to real Wikipedia entries, though.
The National Archives of Scotland maintains the official register of plaid patterns known as “tartan” and their associated clans or groups in The Scottish Register of Tartans. Their mission is both to preserve history as well as to register newly designed tartans. This registry was formed as the official one in 2008, merging two unofficial registries, the Scottish Tartans World Register and the Scottish Tartans Authority. There are many tartans that are designated not for a clan, as commonly thought, but also for organizations, areas of land, and even companies. In that last category are an assortment of tartans that have been registered for fictional characters. Click on the character’s name in bold to see the picture of the fabric at The Scottish Register of Tartans.
Brave‘s DunBroch clan. For this year’s animated film Brave, Disney/Pixar registered the royal family’s tartan, which uses “the ocean blue of the North Sea” and “deep scarlet [that] represents the family’s reverence for its own history and the blood shed during battles between the clans. Deep green shows a love for Scotland’s majestic highlands.” The navy blue represents the forging of the clans, and the grey “imbues a sense of respect for the inner soul of the strong Scottish people.”
Here’s a teaser for Sherlock Season Two, which will start its PBS Masterpiece Mystery run in the US on May 6th.
The series chronicles a modern day Sherlock Holmes and his adventures solving mysteries. Knowledge of the book series is helpful but not necessary. The adaptations loosely follow the originals with modern twists. Sherlock was co-created by Steven Moffat, the lead writer for Doctor Who. Several of us GeekMoms had the privilege of meeting him this year at a PBS event.
If you’re totally unfamiliar with Sherlock, I suggest you go watch the first season now, even if you think that the premise sounds lame. I promise it’s incredibly clever and packed with action. You can watch Series 1 on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and PBS. You’ve got less than a week to get caught up. Go! (Some PBS stations will also be broadcasting a Sherlock marathon Sunday to give you one last chance to catch up before the new episode airs.)
The great part about the show airing on PBS is that it’s available for free. If you can’t tune into a local station, you can watch online shortly afterwards, just as PBS did with Downton Abbey.
The second season promises to be every bit as awesome as the first. Perhaps even more so. However, I do have one beef. This broadcast is nearly half a year after everyone else in the world got to see it. I’m reminded of the Oatmeal. I suspect a lot of people are.
Moffat’s other baby, Doctor Who, eventually started broadcasting episodes in the US on the same day it aired in the UK. This was partially as a reaction to the rampant piracy and complaints about spoilers, and that was with just a two week delay. When will PBS finally do the same for Masterpiece shows?
At any rate, watch (or re-watch) Sherlock on May 6th, and come tell us how much you love it!
Last weekend saw the first-ever Official Doctor Who Convention at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, Wales. The Centre is famous among Whovians not only as the fictional headquarters for Torchwood 3, the Cardiff branch of the organization tasked with protecting the Earth from aliens (the headquarters are beneath the plaza in front of the Centre), but also as the real world filming location for multiple episodes of the show. The Millennium Centre has so far served as the hospital in season two’s “New Earth” and the Two Streams quarantine facility from season six’s “The Girl Who Waited” along with a brief spot in “The Sound of Drums,” so it seemed the perfect location for this enormous gathering of fans; and gather they did. Over the course of the day (the convention actually stretched over the full weekend with Sunday’s events mirroring Saturdays so fans need only attend one day) I heard of people traveling from all over the UK, Europe, North America, Canada and even as far as Australia to attend. The event lasted from 9 am to 6 pm and was so cram packed full of things to do that I barely found time to eat. This post will focus on the three panel sessions in the main theater, with a follow-up post focusing on the smaller events.
The attending fans were split into two groups, Oods and Silurians, who attended the events in different set orders. My first event was the “Creators and Directors” panel hosted by Gary Russell. This panel focused on the production of a single episode, appropriately enough “The Girl Who Waited,” and featured input from its Writer Tom MacRae, Producer Marcus Wilson, Millennium Effects Director Neill Gorton and Robert Allsop — the man responsible for creating the Hand Bots. Together they explained the challenges they faced during the production of the episode and the ways in which they solved these. Some of the original ideas for the episode were explained. The Time Glass was the initial concept that sparked the story; however, it was originally going to be used for looking into a prison. In this case series six already had a prison episode, and so the story was re-worked to change the location to a quarantine facility. Tom explained that he was aware that Rory was rarely at the center of the story and so he wrote the episode to be a “good meaty story” for Arthur Darvil whom he already knew. He also explained how he dislikes “spaceships for the sake of spaceships” and prefers to write stories about humanity — “loss, ageing, all those things you see in a gritty realistic drama,” but to tell those stories “in a completely different, impossible way.” “All the impossible stuff,” he says of writing Doctor Who, “is about talking about real things;” the show is a “heartfelt drama about relationships and people and humanity, but told through the prism of science fiction.”
We learned that the episode was scripted to minimize the use of Matt himself as it was filmed back to back with “Closing Time” — a very Doctor heavy, Amy/Rory light story. The use of CG effects in the production was also discussed; whilst CG is often equated with “big” scenes — battles, sweeping alien landscapes — it is often actually used in small parts such as the images in the Time Glass and the sparks in the final fight scene. Tom explained that his personal brief for the Hand Bots was to come up with something that “would finally get made into a toy.” That hasn’t happened yet, although a Hand Bot will be included in series three of the collectable figures by Character Building. However, towards the end of the panel, a full scale Hand Bot was brought onto the stage to allow the audience to see the episode’s main baddie in the flesh, so to speak. Neill discussed the difficulties in aging Karen Gillan by 37 years so she could play “old Amy,” including discussing some of the prosthetics and makeup techniques used. The casting team had initially considered casting another actress until Karen specifically requested to play the part herself. Finally, one of the most fascinating anecdotes was related to one of the final scenes where “old” Amy’s hand is seen through the glass door panel from the inside of the TARDIS, creating one of the most heartbreaking moments of the season. Tom hadn’t realized you could see through the glass until he was on set; he checked with the production office as to whether the glass was see-through in canon and discovered it was (you can see out but not in) which prompted him to add in that specific moment.
My next event was the “Meet the Stars” panel, which was naturally attracting the most excitement from the crowd before it even began. Matt, Karen and Arthur all appeared onstage along with series head writer Stephen Moffat and executive producer Caroline Skinner. This is the first time any of them had appeared at a convention outside of last year’s San Diego Comic Con and it was immediately obvious that these are people who genuinely love the show they work on, Stephen describing himself as a “Doctor Who geek” who still reads articles in the papers to see what is about to happen on the show before remembering that he already knows. Together they talked about working together, their experiences filming the show and what they had been up to lately. On being asked where he gets his ideas, Stephen explained that to him it was about trying to reproduce the “way it used to make [him] feel” when he was a kid, rather than focusing on the details of the show he remembered. Matt also added in that the show is “not bound by space, by time, by genre, by logic” which allows them to “reinvent the wheel” every time; a lot of the show’s excitement comes from the stakes being so high he points out later, “it’s life and death every ten pages and as an actor, it’s literally — the world is going to end.” Karen revealed that the actors have a lot of say in the character’s wardrobe: “I think it’s really important to have an input into what you wear because that makes you feel like the character” she said, before adding that she likes the new direction Amy’s wardrobe is taking in season seven. This wasn’t the only revelation about the forthcoming series during the session; we learned that the day before had seen Karen and Arthur spending most of the day suspended upside down on set, much to the amusement of both Matt and Stephen. “When I was upside down, I did see [Stephen] just walk in and start giggling,” Arthur pointrf out, “that’s what Stephen does,” added Matts, “I get idle threats of ‘I can make you naked…’”
The second half of the session was given over to audience questions, and there were a lot, as most of the audience seemed to have their hands in the air. Karen was asked about her move to London from her small hometown of Inverness, “I was quite young when I did it so I had blind optimism on my side” she said; when asked if it was scary, “in retrospect, it was scarier.” A popular subject throughout the panels was the Doctor’s love life, especially his relationship with River Song. When an audience member asked if we could expect any more romantic scenes in the future, Matt piped up with his own thoughts on Eleven’s apparent confusion when anyone kisses him, “I just think he finds it ridiculous. What are you doing? Why are your lips touching mine? That’s silly!” The final question of the session came from a young member of the audience who asked Matt how you make a Sonic Screwdriver. Matt went on to surprise everyone by explaining the entire process before ending the session by leaping off the stage to offer a plate of jammy dodgers to those in the front rows. I’ll leave it to Matt’s excellent description to share:
“Well it’s basically essentially an amalgamation of TARDIS energy and the Doctor’s wizardry of mind. So what he does is he finds a load of different parts and he feeds them all into the TARDIS which atomizes them, very cleverly, and then after it atomizes them it spits them up through a tube which comes out right to the top of the TARDIS, bops out, bops back down, goes through a little paint job process where it goes psssshht then it whizzes out the TARDIS and there you have a Sonic Screwdriver.”
My third and final panel session was Doctor Who Uncut. Whereas the first had focused on the production of a single episode, this session covered the production of an entire season, from initial casting — naturally a hot topic given last week’s announcement of new companion Jenna Louise Coleman — to the order in which episodes are aired. Hosted by Barnaby Edwards, the man who has sat inside the Daleks since 2005, the panel included Stephen Moffat, Caroline Skinner, Casting Director Andy Pryor, Production Designer Michael Pickford, “Rebel Flesh/The Almost People” Director Julian Simpson and Director of Photography Stephan Pehrsson who explained the endless meetings, read-throughs and decision making that goes into bringing the show to the screen. Stephen explained that after he has pitched an overall season concept, he then begins assigning the individual scripts to the writers he believes will suit them best, sometimes offering multiple episode concepts to the same writer until he sees their eyes light up. Stephen revealed that when he writes a scene he really wants to see on TV, he comes up with ways to make it integral to the plot to avoid it being cut. There is even something he has written into the new season that he is worried about: “This morning I was thinking how can I make it more relevant to the end of the episode so they’ll actually do it,” he admitted.
This session also featured one of the biggest surprises of the weekend: the first teaser trailer for season seven which will air later this year was premiered, promoting gasps of shock and delight from the crowd.
Stephen, as usual, refused to elaborate much on what we could expect from this year’s episodes. However, we did learn that the Daleks would be returning. The Weeping Angels would also be appearing in the Pond’s final episode, which will involve a trip to New York — prompting immediate speculation online around a certain infamous statue. Stephen did rule out a crossover between Doctor Who and his other popular franchise Sherlock, “I have a horrible feeling that it’s a lot more fun in your imagination than it could ever be in reality” he says. One of the last questions asked was where Stephen thought the show would be in fifty year’s time, when it celebrates its 100th anniversary. “On television,” Stephen answered simply. With the way the franchise has been growing over the past seven years, it’s not so hard to imagine that he may well be right.
Entry to the convention was provided free of charge for this review. Come back next week to read about some of the other events that were taking place.
One of the traditions that enter your home when you have a baby is that of lullabies. Whether you’re singing them yourself or you have some form of electronic gadget blaring out tinny, beepy versions of “Rock-a-Bye Baby”, chances are that by the time you’re hitting the 12 week mark, you’re getting a little sick of “Twinkle Twinkle…” and its ilk. Here then are some suggestions for geekier songs you could sing to get tired wee ones off to the land of nod.
Soft Kitty (from The Big Bang Theory)
Could I possibly have made this list without Soft Kitty? Well yes, possibly, but I’m sure I’d be lynched soon afterward. Soft Kitty has ingrained itself firmly in the geek psyche and I’m sure many of us have sung it to our kids, I know I have. So popular is the song that there is now an official range of products including t-shirts, a cushion and a singing plush kitty. And as if that isn’t enough, there’s now a video of Wil Wheaton singing it to his sick wife. Tick, Tock, Goes the Clock (from Doctor Who)
This creepy little lullaby was heard constantly throughout Doctor Who’s sixth season with different verses appearing in different episodes. When the show was airing over summer I often found myself singing this one to my son as I dressed him and the abundance of verses means that you’ll generally be able to recall a few of them even at three in the morning. Rue’s Lullaby (from The Hunger Games)
It’s difficult to discuss this beautiful lullaby without giving away spoilers for the upcoming Hunger Games film, needless to say that anyone who has read the books will understand its significance. At this point there is no official tune to sing the words to so you will have to make up your own, or you can have a listen to the beautiful version above being sung by Kimmy from mockingjay.net to the tune of “Kiss the Rain” by Yiruma. Joy to The World (from The X-Files)
This is the only lullaby on the list that actually existed as a real world lullaby before its inclusion in a geeky show. “Joy to The World” first appeared in The X-Files in season five where Scully sang it to an injured Mulder to prove she was awake when they were trapped overnight in a forest. It was brought back as an in-joke for fans when Scully sang it to her son in season nine and it was my go-to song when my son was a tiny baby. The Greatest Adventure (from The Hobbit)
Remember that amazing geek film released in 1977? No, not that one, I meant the animated Hobbit. No? Well no, neither do I as it happens but some kind soul on YouTube has been uploading music from the soundtrack and this one makes a beautiful lullaby. The 2012 Hobbit film has also given us its first song in the trailer – “Misty Mountains (Cold)” which would also make an interesting (if slightly dirge-y) lullaby. Tim Minchin – Lullaby
This one isn’t exactly safe for work (or safe for your little one’s ears for that matter) however it is in a word, accurate. I don’t think there is a parent out there who hasn’t felt exactly how this song describes when trying to sooth a screaming baby to sleep whilst simultaneously trying not to collapse from exhaustion themselves. Take it with a good pinch of salt and if your baby is still screaming, maybe give “Oh bla di, oh bla da” a try!
I love short story collections. When I’m struggling to find the motivation to sit down and read, which has unfortunately been my situation lately, the promise of being able to sit down and finish a story in one short session is often enough to convince me to pick up a book. I also find them a great introduction to a new author, last year I picked up around a dozen Asimov’s for $1 (in total – bargain of the century) at a car-boot sale in my village and I migrated straight for the short story collection to give me the flavour of his style without ploughing headlong into a full length novel, I had done the same with Neil Gaiman in the past. This is what drew me in to a short story collection by David J Howe, the renowned Doctor Who expert and Chair of the British Fantasy Society. Published today, Talespinning comprises all of David’s horror fiction from the past thirty years alongside several pieces inspired by the Doctor himself, the shortest pieces are Doctor Who drabbles – stories of exactly 100 words in length – making sure this book definitely has something for you even if you only have a minute or two to spare.
The first half of the book is where the shorter stories reside and these range from true horror to some more light hearted fare. My experience with horror fiction is neglectfully limited, in fact if I exclude Neil Gaiman’s excellent “Smoke & Mirrors”, then the closest thing I have to horror on my shelves is a copy of “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies”. These stories made me want to read more horror and I don’t think I can conjure up a greater compliment. The lack of cliches was refreshing and the ideas incredibly unique, often with a very British feel to them – especially strong to me in “Moonlighting” and “Record Collector Blues”. These stories cover a vast range of horror styles and themes from demons to vampires as well as more science fiction elements. There are a few longer tales in here as well; “Goodbye Rembrandt” is a full length Doctor Who story featuring the Fourth Doctor and his female Timelord companion Romana. It echoes strongly of an old favourite TV series of mine, the woefully under-appreciated British show Sapphire and Steel which David refers to as being an influence on the story. “Blackfriars” is another longer tale which puts a new horror perspective onto one of my favourite genres – outrageous archeology.
Part two of the book contains the scripts for David’s 2004 short film Daemos Rising and the unmade “Face of The Fendahl”. Both are Doctor Who spin-offs following the adventures of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (daughter of the good Brigadier) and former UNIT operative Douglas Cavendish. “Daemos Rising” is a sequel to the Third Doctor serial “The Daemons” and sees Kate and Cavendish fighting against a terrible potential future with the help of a friendly ghost. The same characters re-appear for “Face of the Fendahl”, a Roger Corman inspired piece which manages to pre-empt Doctor Who’s “Vampires of Venice” by several years with it’s classic vampire settings mixed with an alien foe, this time the Fendahl which were once fought by the Fourth Doctor.
The only disappointments for me in this collection were the two novel ideas but my feelings stem not from a lack of quality in the stories themselves, but in the fact that they remain incomplete. Both are the opening chapters to longer novels, thus they lead you in to a promising story that you cannot complete. “Barkio” is today completed but lies unpublished whilst “The Cemetery” is unfinished and not currently being worked on any further.I hope that one day David is able to complete and publish these two stories to bring us some much needed resolution.
As a whole, this is a great collection with something for most horror and fantasy fans. Doctor Who fans, especially those from the classic pre-2005 era, will doubtless find the Who-verse tales of great interest but there is more to this book than just the Doctor’s world, and the other short stories are all worthy of your time and attention. As a horror story novice I found this a great introduction to a variety of styles, allowing me to get a bit more understanding of the genres I am drawn to and as such talespinning will sit well on the shelves of horror, fantasy and science fiction fans alike.
talespinning is published on Friday September 30th by Telos Publishing.
A copy of this book was provided free for review by GeekMom.