Product Review: Doctor Who Bakeware Range From Lakeland

My creations using the Doctor Who range from Lakeland

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.

Dalek Cupcakes © Sophie BrownThe 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.

Doctor Who Cookies © Sophie BrownNext 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.

Doctor Who Chocolates © Sophie BrownSome 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?

Doctor Who Cakes Before & After Icing © Sophie BrownThe 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!

What It’s Like To Meet Other Geek Parents

Geeklings and Parental Units on Meetup.com Photo: Melody Mooney

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.

Ella and Melody get super with Iron Man at the LA Zoo Comic book day. Photo: Melody Mooney

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.

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Hanging with The Doctors at the Whimsic Alley craft fair. Photo: Melody Mooney

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.

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Mark and Ella wave their flags high. Photo: Melody Mooney

 

Google Maps Takes You Inside the TARDIS

Street View Inside the TARDIS © Google / BBC

It might look like an ordinary police telephone box on a street in London, but according to Google Maps, it’s something far more special.

Allons-y!

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.

And yes, it’s bigger on the inside.

Forgotten Fandoms: Sapphire and Steel

Sapphire & Steel © ATV/ITV/Network

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.

DVD Cover © ATV/ITV/NetworkThe 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 BlackWelcome to Night Vale
Watch it on: DVD

They Were In What? Seventeen Actors Whose Other Roles You Forgot

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:

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    Screencap, “She Bangs” video

  • 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.

ConnectiCon 2013: Bigger on the Inside!

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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.

The Cliffs of Insanity: Turning It Over To The Minions

Wonder Woman in the Justice League animated series, the version my eldest daughter loves. © DC Entertainment

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.

But first….

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:

Michelle Rodriguez.

“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!

animal_crossing_new_leaf_header

Animal Crossing: New Leaf © Nintendo

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.

My son isn’t alone.

New Leaf has received overwhelmingly positive reviews and it was the first 3DS game to hit two million in sales in Japan and it accomplished that in two months.

Now if I could just get the minions to put forth the same effort toward housecleaning as they did for this column, my summer would be easy-peasy. Instead, I’ve had to remind all four of them of this post: Top Ten Allowable Reasons for Interrupting Mom When She’s Working.

Hint: zombies, no interruptions; zombie apocalypse, yes.

Disclaimer: We received a free download of Animal Crossing: New Leaf from Nintendo.

5 Geeky Beverages Inspired by Your Favorite Shows

Sherlock Holmes © BBC

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.

Moriartea by Adagio Teas © Adagio Teas

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.”

TARDIS Mug © ThinkGeek / BBC

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.

Take the Black Stout © Ommegang / HBO

Game of Thrones Beer from Brewery Ommegang

If you’re looking for something a little stronger than tea, look no further than the officially licensed Game of Thrones beer crafted by Brewery Ommegang.

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.”

Star Trek Wines from Vinport

Vinport is offering several wines based on fan-favorite episodes of the original Star Trek series. Produced by the Viansa Winery in Sonoma, California, these red wines are a limited edition that are currently on pre-sale.

Star Trek Wines © Vinport / CBS

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.

Ten Geeked Up KitchenAid Mixers

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:

Image: KitchenAid Brasil

Image: KitchenAid Brasil

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.

    Image: Alan Chris Ltd.

Image: Alan Chris Ltd.

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:

Doctor Who Leggings: Better Than Fish Custard

Doctor Who leggings by Her Universe

Image: Video screencap, Doctor Who leggings by Her Universe (see full video below)

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:

26rfk

The only proper way to test leggings, obviously. Photo by Ruth Suehle.

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.

You can buy these delightful reminders of your favorite Doctor from Hot Topic for $26.50 each in sizes S-XXL in one of three designs: Van GoghDalek blueprints, and TARDIS in space.

Note that 2XL leggings are listed separately on the Hot Topic site from the S-XL listings.

See all three designs in this video from Her Universe:

I received this item for review.

Why Doctor Who Would Never be a Woman

All Images courtesy of the artist http://gwladus.tumblr.com/

All Images courtesy of the artist http://gwladus.tumblr.com/

Last year I posted a heartfelt, purely besotted fan post about why Doctor Who could never 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.)”

Tennant“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.)

SmithIf 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.

Clue #1:

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.

Clue #2:

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.

Clue #3

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.

Last five Long
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.

FirstI 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?

This GeekMom thinks it unlikely.

Win 1 of 5 Copies of Doctor Who: Harvest of Time

Image: Broadway Paperbacks

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.

You can read a 14-page excerpt below:

Doctor Who Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds – Excerpt by Crown Publishing Group

You can purchased Doctor Who: Harvest of Time on Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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.

Who’s Your Doctor?

The Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set., released in 2012

The Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set., released in 2012.

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!)

The GeekMoms had some idea as well: [Read more…]

Doctor Who 50th: Regeneration Box Set

Doctor Who: Regeneration © BBC

Doctor Who: Regeneration © BBC

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.

[Read more…]

Towel Day: 42 Occurrences of The Number 42 in Pop Culture

42 © Lincolnian via Flickr

42 © Lincolnian via Flickr

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.

[Read more…]

Top Ten Awesome Things About Cosplaying as Wonder Women

Photo by Corrina Lawson

Photo by Corrina Lawson

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!”

3. They take photos and ask you to pose.

4. They ask where the invisible plane is and you can answer, truthfully, “I’ve loaned it to a Seattle museum.”

5. Your agent sings the Wonder Woman theme song as you walk by. [Read more…]

Doctor Who‘s Karen Gillan As The Zombie Spokesmodel For z’Ombéal Skin Care

Zombie Karen Gillan, Image: The Nerdist

Zombie Karen Gillan, Image: The Nerdist

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.

Television’s Geekiest. Weekend. Ever.

Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Doctor Whoe

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.

So what did you watch this weekend?

The April Fool’s Roundup: Jokes Around The Web

April Fool's Day, Google prank

Google Nose!

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?)

Sherlock Season Two Starts May 6 on PBS

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!

The Official Doctor Who Convention – Part One

The Millennium Centre Cardiff during the Convention © Sophie Brown

The Millennium Centre Cardiff during the Convention © Sophie Brown

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.

Rory in the Two Streams Facility shot in the Millennium Centre © BBC

Rory in the Two Streams Facility shot in the Millennium Centre © BBC

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.”

A Hand Bot joins the Crew on Stage © Sophie Brown

A Hand Bot joins the Crew on Stage © Sophie Brown

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.

A Hall-full of Whovians © Sophie Brown

A Hall-full of Whovians © Sophie Brown

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…’”

Matt Smith hands out Jammy Dodgers to Fans © Sophie Brown

Matt Smith hands out Jammy Dodgers to Fans © Sophie Brown

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.


Baby Week: Six Geeky Lullabies for Your Bundle of Joy (Now Go to Sleep!)

Is there a better sight to new parents' eyes? © Sophie Brown

Is there a better sight to new parents’ eyes? © Sophie Brown

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!

Talespinning by David J Howe: Who, Horror and More

Talespinning Cover © Telos Publishing

Talespinning Cover © Telos Publishing

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.
Sam Stone & David J Howe

Sam Stone & David J Howe

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.

The DVD Cover of Daemos Rising

The DVD Cover of Daemos Rising

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.

Nerd Rage, Doctor Who and Sonic Screwdrivers

Dalek, TARDIS, Doctor…and Sonic Screwdriver, Image: Nicole Wakelin

I’ve only recently discovered Doctor Who. Well, recent meaning the latest incarnations of him that began in 2005. I saw a few episodes back when I was a kid but they scared me so badly (cheesy Daleks and all) that even today they give me the creeps. I’m okay with big budget, 3D, in-your-face scary movies, but Tom Baker and that scarf on a television screen send me running every time.

Since I’ve been watching the new series though, I have completely fallen in love with the Doctor Who universe. Even the Daleks. Which is why last night I may have gotten into a bit of an argument with someone who not only doesn’t like The Doctor, but who thinks the sonic screwdriver is silly.

Yes, that’s right, there’s a bona fide nerd out there who puts Doctor Who on his list of things he should like but just can’t manage to watch. My first reaction was a gasp of disbelief, followed by mumbly stuttering sounds as I tried to form some kind of defense. But before I even had a chance he went on to disparage the sonic screwdriver. I know. What do you even say to that? If someone doesn’t “get” just how awesome a sonic screwdriver is, how useful, nifty, and just plain wonderful a gadget it is, how do those of us in the know even begin to explain?

I did my best to defend my beloved Doctor and may have convinced this lunatic, er, I mean this very nice guy, to watch a few episodes more, maybe. But once our conversation was over I just couldn’t get past the idea that he didn’t like the sonic screwdriver. He thought it was hokey. The more I thought about it the more the nerd rage burned in my chest. The sonic screwdriver is right it up there with some of the best sci-fi tools ever invented. I mean, it’s like someone saying they don’t get lightsabers! How can you not get lightsabers? It’s impossible. They’re shiny and cut through stuff and look cool slicing through the air, even more so when there are an uncountable number of them on a giant battlefield. (Deep breath)

I vented my nerd rage on twitter, and was mollified by the number of people that shook their head in sad agreement that, nice as this guy was, he was utterly wrong. Which, when you think about it, is the crux of every nerd rage filled argument ever waged. It’s not about seeing both sides or appreciating someone else’s opinion. In the Geekverse there can be only one opinion. It’s the one that we each hold dear and that makes it the only right one. Anyone who disagrees is completely and hopelessly wrong. Like this guy. And I have plenty of tweets to prove it next time we talk. Now I’m off to watch The Doctor save the world with his beautiful, wonderful and very cool sonic screwdriver.

 

 

 

 

Music Week: Music Awards Results Announced!

Thank you to all of our readers who voted in the GeekMom Music Awards. As the week comes to a close and the hardcore fans have spoken, it’s time to announce our winners!

Best geeky song of all time: Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton.


Also nominated were:

  • The Man They Call Jayne (Adam Baldwin)
  • The Captain’s Wife’s Lament (Paul and Storm)
  • The Saga Begins (Weird Al)
  • The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins (Leonard Nimoy)
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny (Lemon Demon)
  • Pi (Hard and Phirm)
  • There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Carousel of Progress)
  • Star Trekkin’ (The Firm)
  • Conventional Lover (Speck)
  • The Scully Song (Eric Snider)
  • Tomorrow’s Child (Spaceship Earth)

 

Best use of a non-geeky song in a geeky movie: Put On Your Sunday Shoes (From Hello Dolly)/Wall-E.

Also nominated were:

  • The Power of Love (Huey Lewis and the News)/Back to the Future
  • It’s the End of the World as We Know it (REM)/Independence Day
  • Sabotage (Beasty Boys)/Star Trek (2010)
  • Back in Black (AC/DC)/Iron Man
  • Iron Man (Black Sabboth)/Iron Man
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)/Real Genius
  • Daisy Bell (Harry Dacre)/2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Put on your Sunday Shoes (From Hello Dolly)/Wall-e
  • Puttin’ on the Ritz (Irving Berlin)/Young Frankenstein

 

Best kids album by an adult group: Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants.

Also nominated were:

  • For the Kids (various artists)
  • Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George (Jack Johnson & Friends)
  • No! (They Might Be Giants)
  • Snack Time (Barenaked Ladies)
  • Here Come the 1,2,3’s (They Might Be Giants)

Best theme song: Doctor Who.

Also nominated were:

  • Twin Peaks
  • Star Trek (Any)
  • The X-Files
  • Red Dwarf
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Phineas & Ferb (It’s Gonna Be a Great Day)
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Firefly

Best music group or band: The Guild.


Also nominated were:

  • Rock Chick and Science Geek
  • The Eben Brooks Band

Best male geek music act: Hank Green.


Also nominated were:

  • Jonathan Coulton
  • Paul and Storm
  • Weird Al
  • John Anealio
  • Hard & Phirm
  • Drown Radio

Best female geek music act: Molly Lewis.


Also nominated were:

  • Shakespears Sister
  • Helen Arney
  • Marian Call
  • The Doubleclicks

 

Top Ten Allowable Reasons for Interrupting Mom While She’s Working

I was discussing on Twitter last week about how many times my children interrupt me when I’m trying to write.

This gets worse during the summer when I hear the refrain “I’m bored” far too often.

I’ve heard Nora Roberts say in presentations that she told her two children during the summer not to interrupt in case of blood or fire and, when they got older, it had to be arterial blood and an active fire.

My four minions are certainly old enough to fend for themselves for several hours a day, being 17, 15, 12 and  12 (twins.)

Yet somehow, they do not seem to be able to go fifteen minutes without speaking to me.

So, I decided to expand on the “blood or fire” rule and make a list of allowable reasons for dragging Mom away from her writing (which helps pay for all the non-boring stuff like movies and trips to Gamestop.)

With one of these handy, kids should have no need to interrupt Mom

1. There’s a zombie apocalypse. One or two zombies do not qualify. Children should be able to handle a couple of slow-moving zombies with shovels and axes.

2. In case of alien invasion. In this instance, the invasion is only worthy of interrupting Mom if the suburbs are being attacked and New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. have already been destroyed. (If you live near a cornfield, you might want to specify that any unusual activity in the field is worthy of interruption, unless it’s Shoeless Joe Jackson.)

Definitely buzz Mom if this appears…

3. A blue police box appears in the middle of the living room. It doesn’t matter if the inhabitant is wearing a bow tie, scarf or a fez. Please interrupt.

4. Time is altered. In some instances, this may erase either the child or Mom’s existence, in which case the problem solves itself. However, if any of your siblings or your father have been erased from the time stream, Mom needs to know right away.

5. Dr. Henry Jones appears at the front door, asking for help in finding the Lost Ark of the Covenant. You must interrupt Mom for this and, no, it doesn’t matter if it’s Dr. Henry Jones Junior or Senior. (Though Junior is slightly preferable. It’s the Fedora.)

6. You find a strange ring with foreign writing on it that can make you invisible. Probably the best thing to do in this case is alert Mom, who can then tell you to toss the ring aside. I would recommend also booking a cruise to the Western shores if this happens.

7. A Vulcan appears wanting to make, um, First Contact.

Yes, yes, I’ll make time for these two, from Indiana Jones and the Last  Crusade, photo copyright Lucasfilm Ltd.

8. A duplicate of you or your siblings appear from an alternate universe, complete with goatee. Mom certainly doesn’t want two of you around, especially since the duplicate will be more evil–or, more to the point, more likely to interrupt her work.

9. An extra-terrestial rocket ship crash lands in the backyard with a baby inside. Tell Mom to bring milk and some blue and red blankets.

10. For those living on the shoreline, interrupt Mom if a chunk of ice with a handsome blond man in a military uniform floats by.

 

 

Torchwood: Captain Jack is Back!

Captain-Jack-Harkness-475x358

Captain Jack and His Coat

I’m a big fan of Captain Jack Harkness. I think it has lots to do with that coat he always wears. Coats are cool, just like fezzes and bow ties and Stetsons. The only difference is that Captain Jack doesn’t ever tell you his coat is cool. It just is. When I finished watching the last Torchwood series I was very sad that I would be seeing no more of my favorite overly-sexed, wise-cracking, too handsome for his own good, hero.  There was talk about the series returning and about who exactly would come back, but it all seemed to be in that ethereal Never Never Land that holds things like the possibility of new episodes of Firefly. Yet with the unveiling of the new trailer for Torchwood: Miracle Day, it finally feels like this one is going to happen, but will it be any good?

Captain Jack looks good. He’s got his snappy coat and a fabulous little moment in the trailer that is so typically him it made me want to scream for joy. After an explosion sends him and a woman flying out of a window and into a water fountain he smiles, holds out his hand, and introduces himself. Yeah, that’s the Captain Jack I know and love. Even Gwen has a great scene in which she proudly declares herself Welsh and kicks the snot out of a snarky American. This brings up exactly what makes me nervous about what otherwise promises to be the triumphant return of one of my favorite shows. It’s what I like to call “The American Effect.”

The thing is, British programs just aren’t the same as their American counterparts. There are more than a few shows that were hugely successful in their original British incarnations, but that completely fell to pieces and failed to connect once they were remade for an American audience. The one that always comes to mind for me is Coupling which is one of my all-time favorites shows, but whose American version was rightly canceled in just a few episodes. There’s something that gets lost in the translation. Maybe its stuck in that Never Never Land I mentioned earlier. This is what has me nervous about the new Torchwood.

Although this isn’t a remake, but a continuation of the original series. It’s no longer set in Wales. They’ve moved to Los Angeles, which sort of feels like the anti-Wales with all the sun, and there are new American characters. We still have Captain Jack and Gwen, but the rest of the team is new. I’m really hoping they’ve kept the flavor of the original setting and not lost it’s grittiness in the move across the ocean. The previews do look great though, and are more than enough to keep me counting down the days until the series premiere on July 8th. As nervous as I am about the changes, as long as Captain Jack and his cool coat are there, I’ll be watching.

What do you think?  Will the changes improve the show or are they a bit worrisome?

The Unsinkable Starship Titanic

titanic-top

Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic

A few years ago, I inherited some of my dad’s book collection when my mum decided to have a clear out. Included in the books were all five volumes of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy “trilogy.” I couldn’t wait to read them.

As a child, I had been brought up watching the 1981 BBC television adaptation and as an adult, I had also seen the 2005 movie which I unfortunately couldn’t bring myself to like – although the yarn sequence brought me close. The books promised far more detail and depth so I read them almost immediately. Throughout experiencing the series in various forms, a few ideas have really leapt out at me and stuck in my head; the concept of Milliways: the Restaurant at The End of the Universe (although I have to admit that I’d rather eat at the Big Bang Burger Bar), the knack of learning to fly – you need to learn “how to throw yourself at the ground and miss” but one concept that really stuck with me was that of Starship Titanic.

The tragedy of the Titanic has fascinated people since the day of the disaster, almost one hundred years ago. Melissa Peltier, the producer of a 1994 documentary about the ship said during an interview,

“It’s almost like a Greek myth that really happened in our lifetime. It’s so unbelievable. It’s so mythic. The little human stories on board. All the morality plays that are happening, just the whole idea of the arrogance and the hubris of speeding through the ice field because (they thought) nothing could go wrong. It’s a huge moral lesson.”

Such an inimitable story would naturally find its way to be woven into science fiction, as with most other great tales, both fictional and real. In the Hitchhiker’s series, Starship Titanic is mentioned only briefly in 1982’s “Life, the Universe and Everything”.  We are told of its majesty and beauty, how it was built in the “great ship-building asteroid complexes of Artrifactovol” in the early days of Improbability Physics and how, seconds after its launch, it suffered “a sudden and gratuitous total existence failure.” The ship is not mentioned again within the Hitchhiker’s canon, but instead became the star of its own computer game, devised by Adams sixteen years later in 1998 along with Monty Python’s Terry Jones. In the computer game, the ship undergoes “Spontaneous Total Existence Failure” and crash lands on Earth, more precisely, on top of the player’s house. It then becomes the player’s task to restore the sabotaged computer, Titania and save the ship. The game is notoriously difficult, I myself have only ever managed to wander around aimlessly and feed some chicken to a parrot. Gaming site Destructoid ran a “Games that Time Forgot” article on it which stated:

Additionally, Starship Titanic remains one of the most absurdly difficult adventure games ever made: the puzzles often seem designed to be funny, rather than challenging, and as a result their solutions range anywhere from obscure to downright ridiculous. It literally got so bad that later versions of the game came with a 120 page walkthrough, packaged completely free of charge. If you ever plan on trying Starship Titanic out, then, for the love of God, use a strategy guide. That, or plan on ripping out half your hair because you didn’t know that a robotic parrot enjoys eating brazil nuts instead of walnuts.

A book entitled “Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic” based on the game was written by Terry Jones who was also responsible for development of the game alongside Adams. Jones’ influence is strongly felt in the absurd and surreal humour found all the way through the game.

The year after the publication of the Starship Titanic game, Futurama got in on the act with its season one episode, “A Flight to Remember in which the crew of Planet Express got to sail aboard the maiden voyage of the new Titanic space cruise ship.  The plot of the Futurama episode was based almost completely on James Cameron’s Titanic, rather than the concept developed by Douglas Adams, and parodied it in several scenes including the famous dancing scene on the lower deck. As this was a short cartoon and the plot focused mainly on the characters, the ship was more of a convenient backdrop to the story than an integral part of the plot as it is in the material penned by Douglas Adams.  However the ship has been re-designed to fit into the visual style of the Futurama universe perfectly, even using the famous Tube Transportation System for the passengers to embark upon the ship. The episode ended with the ship being pulled into a black hole rather than sunk by an iceberg after the ship’s captain, Zapp Brannigan, pilots her into a swarm of comets, referred to in the show as “the icebergs of the sky”. In an interesting change to the original story, the Futurama Titanic appears to have had enough lifeboats to evacuate everyone on board.

The concept of Starship Titanic faded into obscurity for almost a decade until the BBC’s re-vitalised Dr Who franchise used it for the 2007 Christmas Special Voyage of The Damned. In this special the Titanic, an interstellar cruiser from the planet Sto, crashes not into a house but into the TARDIS which is in orbit over Earth whilst on a sightseeing tour to observe the traditions of primitive cultures – specifically Earth at Christmas. Naturally a catastrophe is imminent with the sabotaged ship due to hit London causing the Doctor to spend most of the episode saving the ship and its occupants (and falling for yet another attractive – and doomed – young lady.) The special received the highest viewing figures for a Dr Who episode since 1979’s City of Death when it aired on Christmas Day.

For now, Starship Titanic is again at peace but for how long? For almost three decades the concept of Starship Titanic has been revisited and re-written in a multitude of formats. Is it so unthinkable that the future may bring more games, books, perhaps even a movie? The story of the Titanic has always had the potential for almost infinite re-writes and by moving the bones of the story out of our past and into our future, the possibilities become even broader.

For now, the Starship Titanic game is still available for purchase second hand if you feel like taking a tour of the ship and becoming incredibly frustrated, The Dr Who Christmas special is available as part of the Season Four box set and the Futurama episode is available on the Volume Two box set.

My Top Ten Tear-Jerking Moments in Science Fiction

Traditionally, science-fiction revolves around action rather than drama, humour rather than tragedy. Whilst deaths are commonplace in a genre filled with space battles and horrifying creatures, truly emotional moments are much harder to come by, but that’s not to say they do not exist: far from it. Below is my personal top ten tear-jerking moments in science-fiction, I’ve had to cut many more out as this could easily have been a top fifty.

Warning: big spoilers contained herein.

WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS!