by Catriona Mills

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Fifteen

Posted 21 October 2009 in by Catriona

When fishing for compliments backfires horribly:

MAGGIE O’CONNELL IN NORTHERN EXPOSURE: It’s all surface and no substance. Why can’t they be attracted to women who are intelligent and focused and competent?
ME: You were. If we ignore the last two categories.
NICK: Well, she is a good pilot.
ME: I was talking about me.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Fourteen

Posted 20 October 2009 in by Catriona

In which I become over-invested in a game of Peggle Nights too soon after we rewatched Spaced:

ME: Soon I shall have my revenge!
NICK: On the Jedi?
ME: On anyone, really. I’m not fussy.
ME: Why? Have the Jedi been slagging me off behind my back?
NICK: Yeah.
ME: Really?
NICK: Yeah. I tried to stop them, but they kept Force-pushing me away.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Thirteen

Posted 20 October 2009 in by Catriona

ME: Because I quite liked those photographs I took of my books in their natural environment, and I want to take some more.
NICK: This is one of those conversations where you started it in your head a while ago, isn’t it?
ME: No! It’s why I asked you to find the battery charger. And we had a long conversation about it then. Five minutes ago.
NICK: Oh. I mustn’t have been listening.

Books In Their Natural Environment, Part Two

Posted 20 October 2009 in by Catriona

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Three: "The Family of Blood"

Posted 19 October 2009 in by Catriona

The more I see of Triple J TV, the more irritated I become with absolutely everyone involved in it.

Sigh. I suppose I’m just not the Triple J demographic any more, am I?

Good thing I never listened to Triple J, or I’d be really depressed by now.

And I’m fairly sure everyone knows this already, but it’s worth repeating: even if you’re a rock star, wearing your sunglasses inside just makes you look like a prat. (Unless you’re blind, of course.)

In today’s Wii Fit news, as we await the second part of the Doctor Who two-parter, the chirpy balance board told me today that I’m 32, though it still suspects that I trip over a lot while walking.

I am 32, of course, so I’m quite stocked by this—especially since it estimated my Wii Fit age as 44 yesterday.

Ah, here we are with a brief recap of the first part of the two parter, with the Doctor explaining how he became human. And Lattimer explaining his precognition. And we end up in the dance hall, with Baines threatening Martha and the Matron, and leaving the Doctor a difficult choice.


The Doctor, struggling to make his decision, is spotted by Lattimer, who opens the watch, just enough to distract the the Family (spoiler!), enough for Martha to grab the gun and to take Jenny (Mother-of-mine) hostage. Baines thinks Martha won’t pull the trigger, but she’s scary enough that they let Matron go, and Martha tells the Doctor to get everyone out of the hall.

He hesitates a little over Martha, but Martha tells him to take his lady friend home.

He sees Lattimer outside, but Lattimer tells him to stay away, that he’s as bad as the Family. He runs.

Martha backs away, but a scarecrow grabs and disarms her: she runs out, telling the Doctor, still lingering outside, to run: “You’re rubbish as a human!” she tells him.

The Family spilt up: the farmer (Mr Clarke) to follow Martha’s scent to the west to find what she was hiding (the TARDIS) and the others to the school, where the Doctor has sounded the alarm.

Martha objects to the Doctor arming the students, but he says that they’re cadets, trained to protect king and country. The Headmaster objects to the boys taking up arms, but only because he didn’t order it: as the Doctor and Matron explain that Baines and the others are coming here, the Headmaster agrees to arm the boys, but heads out himself to find out what is happening.

Martha objects, but, of course, she’s only a servant, so he doesn’t listen.

Sister of Mine (the balloon girl) skips through the school, to find a way in.

The Headmaster heads out to talk to Baines, and Baines is terribly creepy in this scene, mimicking a schoolboy—at least until he asks for “Mr John Smith and whatever he has done with his Time Lord consciousness.”

Baines says that they are the Family of Blood, but he’s not frightened of the “tin soldiers”: he asks the Headmaster what he knows about the future, whether he thinks his boys, dying in the mud in World War One, will thank him for teaching them that it was glorious.

Then Baines shoots Mr Phillips, the Headmaster’s companion, and sends the Headmaster scurrying into the school to arm his boys.

The upperclassman we saw tormenting Lattimer in the first part is directing the boys to barricade the house, and he pulls Lattimer out of his hiding place, calling him a coward and telling him to do his duty with the others.

The scarecrows advance.

But then the red-balloon girl tells her Family to hold the soldiers back, that the Time Lord is playing some kind of trick. Her Family tell her to locate him.

Martha, meanwhile, is searching frantically for the watch, and explaining to Matron that the Doctor is actually an alien.

MATRON: And “alien” means not from abroad, I take it?

Matron asks some delicate questions about Martha’s relationship to the Doctor, but she really loses faith in Martha’s story when Martha tells her about training to be a Doctor. Not someone of her colour, says Matron, to which Martha responds, “You think?”

Matron says that she may not be a doctor, but she’s still the boys’ nurse: she heads out to help them. The Doctor tries to stop her, but she challenges him to tell her about Nottingham, where he grew up, but all he can tell her are facts that sound as though he read them in an encyclopaedia.

Mr Clarke finds the TARDIS. Whoops.

The upperclassman tells Lattimer that what they’re doing may be the difference between life and death for them, but Lattimer says not for them: he’s seen them, together, in battle. Not this battle: another one. So he knows that they will survive this. And he wonders whether he’s been given the watch for a reason—and he runs.

Upstairs, he is confronted by the red-balloon girl, but he frightens her off by showing her the Doctor inside the watch. Unfortunately, the Family now know that all they need to find is the watch and the boy.

They attack.

And this sequence is insanely hard to watch: the boys—they’re only babies, these boys!—are shaking and crying as they wait for the scarecrows to break down the gates, and we watch these children shooting the scarecrows from behind their sandbag barricades as the boys’ choir (from the opening shot of the school) swells behind them.

But the scarecrows are only straw, and the boys are thoroughly relieved that they’ve killed no one.

But the red-balloon girl shows up, and despite being told that she was with the Family in the village, the Headmaster invites her into the school. She shoots him.

The Doctor, who has been increasingly uncertain through the attack of the scarecrows, orders the boys to put their guns down. And the Family take the school, working through the students one by one to find Lattimer. They’re planning to kill the ones who don’t have the watch when Lattimer, hidden upstairs, opens it and distracts them.

Martha, Matron, and the Doctor escape.

Outside the school, Mr Clarke calls for the Doctor, using the TARDIS as bait. Martha says to him, “You recognise it, don’t you?” But he says that he’s never seen it before in his life. Martha prompts him to remember its name, and Matron—who really wants him to be John Smith, not the Doctor—says that she’s sorry, but he does know it: he wrote about it, the blue box.

But the Doctor breaks down. He doesn’t want to be the Doctor: he wants to be John Smith, with his name, and his job, and his love. Why can’t he be? he asks. Isn’t John Smith a good man? He is, says Matron, but Martha says that they need the Doctor.

Matron takes the other two to a cottage—the Cartwrights’ cottage, she says. The red-balloon girl has taken Lucy Cartwright’s form, and Matron assumes that she came home this afternoon . . .

Sure enough, the tea things are cold.

The Doctor still resists becoming the Doctor. He asks Martha what she did for the Doctor, why he needed her, and she says because he’s lonely.

“And you want me to become that?” he asks.

At that point, there’s a knock on the door, and it’s Lattimer with the watch. Matron asks why he kept it all this time, and says because it was waiting—and because he was scared of the Doctor. Because he’d seen the Doctor and, in a speech that I’d love the transcribe if I could type faster, he says that the Doctor is terrible and wonderful.

The Family start bombing the village.

The Doctor holding the watch, starts talking like the Doctor again, and it frightens him half to death. But he won’t become the Doctor again—he doesn’t understand why Martha couldn’t stop him from courting Matron, and she says she didn’t know how to stop it. The Doctor left a list of instructions for her, she says, and that wasn’t on it.

What kind of man is that? asks the Doctor. That falling in love doesn’t even occur to him?

Martha tells him why the Doctor is so important, why she loves him—and how she hopes he won’t remember her saying this.

Why can’t he give them the watch? he asks. Why can’t he stay as he is?

But Matron, flipping to the end of the journal, says that the Family would multiply and destroy everything. She asks Martha and Lattimer to go outside, while she tells the Doctor that he needs to do this.

She holds the watch, and says it’s silent for her. The Doctor puts his hand over hers, and their whole potential life flashes before them: their marriage, their children, their grandchildren, down to the Doctor’s death in bed as an old man.

The Matron says that the Doctor is the stuff of legend, but he could never have a life like that.

But he could, says the Doctor.

And the Doctor comes to the Family, babbling and frightened, and he hands the watch to them, telling them that he doesn’t understand, but he’ll give them the watch anyway.

They push him away, and he slaps a series of buttons as he falls. And when they open the watch, it’s empty—which is the Doctor’s cue for some seriously fabulous technobabble.

He tells them that if there’s the one thing they shouldn’t have done, they shouldn’t have let him push all those buttons.

Nick says if there’s one thing they shouldn’t have done, they shouldn’t have pissed him off.

And then we cut to Baines’s voiceover about the cold, cold fury of the Doctor.

He wrapped Father-of-mine in unbreakable chains, forged in the heart of a dwarf star.

He tricked Mother-of-mine into the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy, to be trapped there forever.

He still visits Sister-of-mine once a year, every year. He trapped her inside a mirror, every mirror. If you ever think you see something out of the corner of your eye looking into a mirror, Baines says, that’s her.

And Baines he trapped in time and put to work standing over the fields of England as their protector, for ever—in the guise of a scarecrow.

He ends, “We wanted to live forever, so the Doctor made sure that we did.”

And I can’t transcribe the next scene, between the Doctor and Matron—wow, this is a hard episode to live blog. So complex!

But she asks him where John Smith is, and he says somewhere inside him. She asks if he could change back, and he says he could. So she asks if he will, and he says no. And she tells him that John Smith was a better man than he is, because he choose to change, but John Smith chose to die.

He asks her to travel with him, but she says she won’t—because John Smith is dead, and the Doctor looks like him.

As he leaves, she asks him one question: if the Doctor had never hidden here, had never come to this village on a whim, would people have died?

As Martha and the Doctor head to the TARDIS, Lattimer comes up to them, still carrying the weight of what he saw in the watch, which the Doctor presents to him, now that it is only a watch again.

Lattimer watches the TARDIS dematerialise—and we cut forward to World War I, as the Doctor gives us a brief (very brief!) account of the causes of the war, and Lattimer tells Hutchinson (the upperclassman) that now is the time, as he pushes Hutchinson to one side to avoid the incoming bomb, and then thanks the Doctor.

I would say that this scene makes me a little tingly, but it makes me feel too much like a Tory.

Then we cut forward again, as Martha and the Doctor, wearing poppies in their lapels, come back to our time, and watch Lattimer, an old man, still holding his watch, attend a Remembrance Day ceremony.

Next week: “Blink.” Oh, yes.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Twelve

Posted 18 October 2009 in by Catriona

Frantically tidying my house before my father-in-law comes around for dinner.

ME: Nicholas! Oh, so not.
NICK: What?
ME: Don’t think I didn’t see that Wii Fit box hidden behind the sofa.
NICK: I didn’t think you didn’t see it. I just didn’t think you’d care.
ME: Why would you think that?
NICK: It’s so hard to predict.

It’s really not, you know.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Eleven

Posted 18 October 2009 in by Catriona

When shopping this morning (during which we cracked and bought Wii Fit, which has just assessed my age as 44, and asked me if I trip over a lot while walking), Nick and I split up, so that he could grab lunch and I could take the groceries to the car:

NICK: Maybe I should take the Wii Fit with me?
ME: Why?
NICK: Aren’t you going to have too much to carry?
ME: No. What am I, a delicate flower?
NICK: Of course not. You’re robust!
ME: Thank you, sweetheart.
NICK: You’re welcome!

Sadly, the Wii Fit agrees with him.

Live-blogging Torchwood Season Two: "Adam"

Posted 16 October 2009 in by Catriona

Oooh, I’m running ever so slightly behind time on this: I’ve come in right at the end of . . . actually, that sit-com with Nick Frost, with the space ship, what is that called? Hyperdrive! That’s it. I’ve come in right at the end of Hyperdrive, but that’s okay, because I watched the entire first season, or at least a fair slab of it, and I admit it didn’t really grab me.

Not like original Red Dwarf, anyway.

Still, here we are with the opening monologue, and—hey! Who’s that blonde guy? We’ve not seen him before!

Clever, clever programme.

Now Rhys and Gwen are wrestling in bed, and she seems much happier now he knows the truth.

Adam? Who is Adam, and why is he claiming he’s worked for Torchwood for three years?

Ah, Gwen, who has been in Paris with Rhys, doesn’t know who Adam is—until he touches her, anyway. And then she suddenly has a raft of memories about her past working life with him.

Nick’s impressed that Adam does all this through touch—I just wrote “through Tosh,” which tells you what’s happening on the screen right now—because he thinks it shows a strong awareness of how unprofessional the Torchwood team is.

Adam is also manipulating Tosh through touch (in more than one way, as it turns out), while Owen, wearing his glasses, is not his usual self: he’s suggesting that there shouldn’t be so much kissing at work.

Oooh, he’s wearing a cardigan, too! And trying to please Tosh with little toys.

Suddenly, this is all becoming creepy.

And even more so when Gwen gets home, and completely freaks out when Rhys touches her, demanding to know how he got into her house, and drawing a gun on him as she rings Jack.

She tells Jack to hurry, because Rhys is a nutter.

And, sure enough, Torchwood come haring into the flat, with Gwen still holding a gun on Rhys as she lets Jack and Adam up to the flat. Gwen is seriously freaking out, saying that Rhys must have put photographs of them up all over the flat during the working day.

Jack says no: he’s her boyfriend. They’ve been together for years. He tries to get Gwen to give her the gun, but she’s seriously freaked, and even more so when she realises she’s wearing an engagement ring.

Rhys is so, so distressed—and he won’t believe Jack when he says that he didn’t do this.

So Jack has a talk with Rhys, recording his memories of meeting Gwen and the other important moments of their relationship, while Gwen watches on web-cam. Gwen says that she “sort of” remembers it: she can see what he’s saying, but she can’t actually remember any of it. Adam touches her, and tells her that Rhys is her fiancee, but she still doesn’t look convinced.

Meanwhile, Tosh and Owen are checking out a mysterious object that came through the Rift at some unspecified time in the recent past—and I should have mentioned earlier that Jack, down in the prison area earlier, saw a mysterious boy dressed in alien clothes, so Gwen is not the only one whose mind is playing tricks on her.

Ianto brings Gwen back home, and she grabs Jack and begs him not to leave. But he does—only to see the same small boy, standing next to a streetlight, as he and Ianto head to the car.

Jakc says he’ll drop Ianto off, then go and check out a report about the sewers. Ianto says he could go with Jack: he says it’s been a while since they hunted together, but Jakc says he’ll be fine on his own.

Back at the Hub, Owen and Tosh share some beer, while Tosh says that she and Adam have been together for one year today, and that she still gets the shivers when he touches her. She asks Owen if he knows what that’s like, but he says he doesn’t, while we get a lovely shot of Tosh’s legs in the foreground.

Jack, down in the sewers, is hunting a weevil, but instead he gets a vision of his father, who tells him to get out while he still can. Running out of the sewer, he sees Adam, and his momentary confusion about how Adam came to be there is wiped away when Adam touches him and says that he came with Jack.

He asks Jack what he saw, and Jack says, “My past.”

Which are pretty weighty words from Jack, Intergalactic Man of Mystery.

Rhys worries, back at home with Gwen, about what this will mean, that she can’t remember them.

But Jack, listening to Adam’s insistence—as Adam, again, touches him—says that his memory is one that he buried over 150 years ago. He can’t afford to remember.

But Adam pushes him.

And Jack flashes back to the Boeshane Peninsula, his home in the 51st century. He says they lived under the threat of invasion—and they came without warning. He says people thought they’d pass over them, as they had so often before, but they didn’t.

Adam asks what they were, and Jack says the most horrible creatures you could imagine: their screams travelled before them. Jack’s father sends him and his brother Gray off, while he himself goes back to find their mother.

But somewhere alone the line, Gray lets go of Jack’s hand, and he doesn’t even know where. He ran all the way back home, where he found his father’s body—but, though he looked for years, he never found Gray’s body. He says that it’s the worst memory of his life, and he doesn’t want to remember it.

Wow, Tosh—there’s a little bit of banter here about Ianto’s diary, and what he writes in it—is looking much more bosomy this episode. Owen is trying to explain how he would cherish Tosh and never let her out of his sight, if they were a couple, because he loves her.

Tosh says what? And Owen goes on to say that he always has—that, in fact, he aches for her, that he just wants to reach out and touch her when they’re in the same room.

Oh, wow: I actually feel sorry for Owen here. Especially since all Tosh says is that he’s being completely inappropriate and, anyway, he’s not her type. She storms out.

Rhys and Gwen are in the shops, and Gwen says maybe she should be on her own today. But Rhys says no: she’s not the only one who has lost something, because he’s lost his girl and his best friend. Then the cashier walks away, and Rhys starts ranting, which reminds Gwen about their earlier relationship—she starts laughing, but it’s not that far from crying, and Rhys leads her out of the store.

But Ianto, back at the Hub, is reading his diary—and Adam isn’t in it. Why would that be, when Adam has been with Torchwood for so long?

Adam says that he can fill Ianto’s head with fake memories until his brain explodes, because that’s how he lives—and, sure enough, he fills Ianto’s brain with vivid, horrifying memories of a fake life as a serial rapist and murderer, until Ianto is left screaming and crying in a rainy street next to the body of one of his imaginary victims.


What a bastard.

Jack, high on a rooftop somewhere, flashes back to his father’s body in the Boeshane Peninsula of the 51st century, and this time his mother comes running out, weeping over his father’s body and then, as Jack confesses his horror that he let Gray’s hand go, weeping for her lost son.

Back on their flat, Gwen says that she’s “getting there,” though she still doesn’t really remember. She says they found it once and they can find it again, but Rhys says that he worries that she settled for him: because, he says, if she met him now, with all that’s going on in her life, she wouldn’t look twice at him.

And Rhys kisses her, and it’s sweet and awkward and a bit sexy, because Gwen says it’s like the first time.

But now Tosh and Adam are snogging back at her place, and this is not sexy at all: this is creepy, because now we know exactly what he’s capable of doing. And he asks Tosh how far she would go for him: would she die for him? And Tosh says yes.

At the Hub, Ianto is confessing his fake crimes to Jack, begging him to lock him in the vault, because none of them are safe while he’s around.

Aw, Ianto! I’d like to give you a cuddle, but Jack’s already doing that.

Jack wants to know what’s happened to Ianto, and Ianto says he’s a monster. So Jack straps him to an alien lie detector, saying it’s the best lie detector on the planet. And Ianto confesses to his first murder, which reads as truth. But Jack says he doesn’t believe it.

Ianto does, though. We’re seeing his memories as he talks about the murders, and they’re vivid, though all we see on his face is strain and conflict.

Ah, but luckily, Adam didn’t think to erase the security camera footage. Now why wouldn’t that occur to him? Does he think he can just control people so fully that if they find the footage, he can erase it from their minds? Or has he just not had time to get around to it? Has he just not been around for long enough? After all, says Ianto—to whom Jack has shown the footage of Adam manipulating him—Adam’s blood sample was last updated twenty-four hours ago.

The next morning, Tosh comes in to a bunch of flowers and an apology from Owen. And Gwen has come into work, though Rhys didn’t think she should. Adam pulls everyone into a group hug, and taps Ianto on the arm while telling him that he “could murder a coffee.”

But then Jack pulls a gun on Adam, asking him who he is, and why he feels nothing for Adam, despite the fact that they’ve been team members for three years.

Jack plans to take Adam to the vault, until Tosh draws a gun on him, and has to be forcibly restrained and disarmed.

Adam, in a cell, begs Jack not to kill him. He says he has to make himself part of their memories, in order to survive. Jack says he changed them, but Adam says it was for the better: all Owen’s cynicism is gone, and Tosh has never been more confident.

Jacks asks why he came here, and Adam says he was drawn by the uniqueness of their experiences, especially Jack’s.

So Jack puts his team in the conference room, and asks each of the members to think of an early memory that defines them.

Gwen remembers sitting in the college canteen, with Rhys sitting opposite her, telling stupid jokes.

Owen remembers his tenth birthday, where his mother spent the entire day screaming, “I love you because you’re my son, but that doesn’t mean I have to like you.”

Tosh thinks of the reassuring nature of maths.

Ianto thinks of falling in love with Lisa.

Gwen thinks of kissing Rhys in the supermarket.

Owen remembers his mother packing his bags on his sixteenth birthday: the nicest thing she’s ever done for him.

Tosh remembers her first flat, but she doesn’t have a flat warming—there’s no one she wants to invite.

Ianto remembers Lisa dying.

Gwen says she loves Rhys, but not like she loves Jack.

Tosh says there must be someone out there who will see that she’s special—Jack says he saw.

Owen thanks Jack for giving him something other than his mother’s abuse.

Ianto says that Torchwood—that Jack—saved him, and Jack kisses him on the forehead.

There is, as Nick says, something truly religious about that sequence.

Jack gives each of them a short-term amnesia pill, so they can forget the last forty-eight hours, forget Adam.

Tosh is the most resistant, because she remembers how much she seemed to love Adam, but Jack says he forced it on her: so she says goodbye to Adam, and takes the pill. Each member of the team falls asleep, and Jack settles them comfortably on the table before heading down to the cells, to tell Adam that he, too, will be taking the short-term amnesia pill.

Adam says he can give Jack a gift: the last good memory of his dad, a long-lost memory.

And we flash back to early evening in the Boeshane Peninsula, just Jack and his dad—but, no. At Adam’s prompting, we realise that Gray is there, too. And as Jack chases after the ball, there’s another boy there.

It’s Adam.

He’s got the ball, and Jack shoves him over. But Jack’s dad helps Adam to his feet, and tells Jack that if Jack won’t share, then they’re going home. Jack’s dad and Gray walk away, as Jack says no: they played more, until it got dark, and they lit a fire, and their mother came down to join them.

So Adam has taken the last good memory of Jack, his father, and Gray—and he’s ruined it.

I’ll say it again: what a bastard.

But as Nick says, you don’t play that game with Captain Jack.

Jack lifts his amnesia pill, and Adam says if he takes it, Adam will destroy every memory of Jack’s father, so that he will cease to exist.

Jack takes the pill.

And as Adam dies, the adult Jack is left alone in the sandstorm that is his memory of the Boeshane Peninsula, shouting for his father and Gray.

When the Torchwood staff wakes up, they realise that they’ve lost two days, and have no idea what happened. All they have to go on are the apology flowers from Owen, but Owen says someone’s winding her up: he doesn’t do flowers and he definitely doesn’t do apologies.

And to think I was feeling sorry for him.

There’s some nice banter between Jack and Ianto about tape measures, but as Jack starts to walk out of the room, the mysterious box they’ve been faffing with all episode opens.

It’s full of sand.

Hey, next week we have both Martha and Jim Robinson! Wow.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Ten

Posted 15 October 2009 in by Catriona

Catching up on the “Rage Gets Hairy” special, which I’m too lazy to tweet tonight: by this point, we were up to “November Rain,” and Nick was washing up, necessitating a certain narrative role on my part.

ME: Ooh, look! It’s the symbolic, melancholic, windswept guitar solo!
NICK: Is this song still going on?
ME: Oh, this song goes forever. I think it’s still going on, somewhere.

Slightly later:

ME: Slash is standing on a grand piano for the guitar solo.
NICK: Awesome.
ME: Not that it’s a guitar solo.
NICK: How isn’t this a guitar solo?
ME: Because there are other instruments.
NICK: That’s still a solo.
ME: It’s not!
NICK: Solo doesn’t mean solo. Solo means that a single instrument comes out to take the main melodic role in a composition.
ME: You know, that’s really not what the word “solo” means. I think the world needs to know about this.

And now you do.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Nine

Posted 15 October 2009 in by Catriona

ME: I don’t know—it just seems as though me not liking Crowded House is akin to me not finding George Clooney sexy. (Note: I don’t. I know: it’s weird.)
NICK THE KIWI: It would be worse if you were a Kiwi.
ME: Everything would be worse if I were a Kiwi.
NICK THE KIWI: Just move your wine glass, so I can throw something at you, would you?
ME: No. That’s what you get for making broadly nationalistic comments.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Eight

Posted 14 October 2009 in by Catriona

ME: You’re not listening to me, are you?
NICK: But you were talking to yourself!
ME: Honey, remember when we talked about how I’m not actually talking to myself? That I’m talking to you, but you’re not listening?
NICK: It sounds like you’re talking to yourself.
ME: There is no sound of me talking to myself! That’s just something you made up to get out of listening to me!
NICK: Oh. Really?

Storm, With Reflected Fluorescent Lights and Marking

Posted 13 October 2009 in by Catriona

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Three: "Human Nature"

Posted 12 October 2009 in by Catriona

I’m going to skip the traditional “dear lord, I’m so tired” whinge at the beginning of this blog—especially since I did the last live-blogging tipsy, and still feel a little guilty about that.

But I will say that I have just been wondering how long I’ve spent marking today, and came up with eleven hours.

Take that as you will.

Is it sad that I check out my new followers on Twitter to check whether they’re spambots or pornbots? Or is that just social-networking self-preservation?

We open with Martha and the Doctor dashing into the TARDIS, followed by gunfire—and the Doctor grabs Martha and demands to know whether “they” saw her face. She says they couldn’t have. But whoever they are, they’re following the Doctor with stolen Time Lord technology. He says he’ll “have to do it,” and it all depends on Martha.

She has to take this watch, because this watch is—

And we cut to the Doctor waking up in bed, as Martha comes in, dressed as a maid, with a breakfast tray.

She apologises to Mr Smith, saying she can come back when he’s dressed, but he says she should come in.

He starts telling her about the extraordinary dreams that he has, about being a space adventurer, with Martha as his companion. He says the dreams are set in the future, but Martha says she can prove that’s impossible: it’s 1913, and he’s completely human.

Yes, says the Doctor, that’s him: completely human.


Cut to the raising of the Union Jack to a rather beautiful chorus of young boys’ voices, as students in rather awful pin-striped pants walk into what’s obviously an expensive public school past a mortar-boarded Doctor, whom they all address as “Sir.”

After what seems to be a history class, the Doctor walks past Martha and another maid, who are scrubbing the floors.

As Martha and the other maid giggle, two upperclassmen wander past, and tell the maids that they’re not paid to have fun, and to put some backbone into it. Then one of them asks Martha how, with hands like those, she can tell when something is clean.

What a little . . . prig.

The other maid says that in a few years’ time, boys like that will be running the country, but Martha, staring off into space, says, “1913 . . .”

In an upper hallway, the Doctor flirts with Matron Jessica Stevenson, who carries some of his books for him. She asks him to call her Nurse Redfern—or Joan—but I think I’ll stick to calling her Matron.

Matron asks the Doctor to come to a dance with her at the local hall. She says it’s been ages since anyone asked her to a dance, and he starts blathering and backing away until he falls down the stairs.

Matron is binding the Doctor’s head up in his study, when Martha comes haring in, demanding to know whether he’s okay and whether Matron has checked for concussion. Matron tells Martha that she knows more about it than Martha does, and Martha remembers her role, and starts tidying the study.

The Doctor tells Matron that he often dreams that he has two hearts, but she checks with her stethoscope, and he only has one.

So he is human.

He’s been keeping a “journal of impossible things,” which he shows to Matron—beautifully illuminated with dark pen-and-ink paintings surrounded by dense, scrawling handwriting.

Aw, the Doctor’s so sweet and plaintive in this scene, pondering what might happen if he were actually himself.

Matron asks Martha what it is about the Doctor, why he always seems as though left the kettle on, as though there’s something important he’s forgotten. Martha says it’s just the way he is, and reveals that the Doctor “inherited” her from his family, which is why he found her employment at the school.

Matron warns Martha to remember her place and not to be too familiar with the Doctor.

Cut to upperclassmen, including the two who were tormenting Martha before, now tormenting an underclassman, who reveals that he sometimes has flashes of telepathy, or some sort of precognitive ability, anyway. One of the boys leaves to get his stash of beer from the woods.

Martha and her friend Jenny, the other maid, sitting outside at the pub, talk about how Martha only has another month before she’s free. They see a bright light flash across the sky, a bright light that comes down on Matron in the woods, but leaves her free to run to the pub, where she meets and is escorted back to school by the Doctor.

Martha asks Jenny where the light came down, and Jenny says near Copper’s field—whereupon Martha legs it, followed by Jenny.

Where it has come down is right near the beer-collecting schoolboy—who is the fabulous Harry Lloyd (also the great-great-great grandson of Charles Dickens, as it happens). He follows a light through the wood, and manages to make his way into a cloaked space ship.

He talks to the people inside, introducing himself as Jeremy Baines (probably spelt wrong, but near enough), and begging them to reveal themselves. When they say that soon, very soon, they’ll look so familiar, he starts screaming and screaming.

Baines comes back to school, but while he can still pull off the arrogant public-school boy persona, it’s not quite as flawless as it was when he actually was an arrogant public-school boy: he’s now sniffing, and holding his head on an odd angle.

He is fabulous in this.

Martha, meanwhile, cycles out to where they’re keeping the TARDIS, to whom she gives a cheery “Hello!” before flashing back to the pre-credit anxiety in which the Doctor told her that it all depends on her.

But now the dialogue advances, the Doctor saying that the watch is him. What are chasing them are hunters, and, with the Doctor being unique, they can track him across all of time and space. But they haven’t seen him, so if he uses the chameleon arch to rewrite his DNA, to change every cell in his body, they can hide out until the hunters die.

The TARDIS will find a place for him, but not for Martha, who will have to improvise. The Doctor says he should have just enough residual memory to let her in.

Martha asks if the chameleon arch will hurt, and the Doctor says, “Oh, yes” before we cut to him screaming.

The Doctor has left a series of instructions for Martha, telling her things like, “Don’t let me hurt anyone. We can’t have that, and you know what humans are like,” “Don’t let me abandon you,” and “No getting involved in big historical events.”

But, most importantly, he says to open the watch if anything goes wrong, to bring him back. He’s put a perception filter on it, so the human him won’t think it’s anything but a watch.

But when the precognitive boy who we saw cleaning the upperclassmen’s shoes earlier wanders into the Doctor’s study to collect a book, he knows there’s something about the watch: he can hear it whispering, and he steals it and opens it.

Not only do we hear the Doctor’s voice whispering, “You are not alone” and see images of the monsters in the Doctor’s past, the whiff of Time-Lordness sets of Baines’s senses. He speaks silently to someone, telling them to activate the soldiers.

Oh, no. The soldiers are sentient scarecrows. These are the single most terrifying thing in this season of Doctor Who—well, thus far.

They attack a farmer and kidnap a small girl, who is skipping along the road holding a red balloon—but even considering those factors, she still doesn’t deserve to be kidnapped by a sentient scarecrow.

The boys are practicing target shooting at school, where the sound of the bullets sends Latimer (the precognitive boy) into a vision of himself as a soldier.

Since he’s holding up the class, the upperclassman takes him off to give him a beating, with the Doctor’s permission.

Matron wanders down to where the Doctor is standing near the guns, and she tells him she was thinking about the day her husband was shot. They wander down through the village, and while Jessica Stevenson rather suits the Edwardian costuming, David Tennant looks even taller and even thinner in that coat.

He manages to save a baby from being crushed to death by a piano—using only a cricket ball—while I’m pondering the costumes. Then he asks Matron to go to the dance with him.

They wander past an askew scarecrow, and, as the Doctor ties it up straight, Matron asks him where he learned to draw. He says, “Gallifrey,” but when she asks if that’s an island, he can’t remember. He tells her about his father Sydney and his mother Verity, and both Nick and I get a little teary.

Then he takes Matron back to his study, draws her portrait, kisses her, blathers a little, and is interrupted by Martha, who dashes back to the TARDIS to ponder the frustrations of the Doctor falling in love with a human other than her.

As Latimer opens the watch again, Baines is joined by the farmer and by the red-balloon girl. They sniff in unison, which is strangely creepy. And as Jenny, Martha’s friend, cycles home through the lanes, she’s grabbed by a gang of scarecrows.

Jenny, in the cloaked spaceship, weeps and tells her captors—Baines, the farmer, and the red-balloon girl—that this isn’t funny. But Baines, telling her to “cease and desist,” tells her that “Mother of mine” needs a shape, and hers is adequate, if a little grim.

He tells his mother to “embrace” her, which basically involves letting a green gas out of a snowglobe.

Martha greets Jenny, who comes in sniffing as Baines did. Martha, though, is suspicious: she asks Jenny if she would like some gravy in her tea, or some sardines and jam, and when Jenny says yes, Martha legs it.

She dashes into the Doctor’s study, and demands to know where his watch is, because the aliens have found them. The Doctor whispers to Matron that these are “cultural differences.” and tells Martha that this is simply a story.

So Martha slaps him.

Well, she slaps him because she wants to snap him out of his human-coma, but she should probably have slapped him anyway, because he’s being a patronising git.

The Doctor dismisses her from his service, and she leaves. As she runs away, Latimer grabs her arm and sees a vision of her in her usual guise, but she runs away as he tries to stop her.

The Doctor and Matron head to the dance, Matron telling the Doctor that Martha is infatuated with him, and that he’s a dangerous man. Meanwhile, the hunters are stripping the Doctor’s study bare, until the farmer finds the flier for the dance. Luckily, Jenny says, the red-balloon girl is already there.

Martha heads down to the dance, where Matron says, “Oh, no: not again.” Martha talks briefly to Matron, and says that the awful thing is, it doesn’t even matter what Matron thinks or wants, but Martha is sorry for her, because she’s nice.

Then, as the Doctor comes up, fulminating about Martha stalking him—though that term would be anachronistic, so it’s a good thing he doesn’t use it—she holds out the sonic screwdriver.

But before he can recognise it, the hunters come in. (In passing, the Crimean veteran on the doorstep asks them to spare a penny, and Baines says, “I didn’t even spare you,” before shooting him.)

Martha tells the Doctor to forget everything: he’s John Smith.

The hunters realise that he is the Doctor and, unfortunately for them, he’s also human. He’s no good to them in that guise.

So they grab both Martha and the Matron, and offer him a choice. Which does he want them to kill: maid or matron? His friend, they ask, or his lover?

Now that’s how you do a cliff-hanger.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Seven

Posted 11 October 2009 in by Catriona

This conversation was conducted while I was in the bathroom and Nick in the kitchen.

ME: Did you buy bacon?
NICK: Yes!
ME: I thought so. I saw the bread rolls, and figured you were planning on bacon sandwiches for breakfast.
NICK: (Shouts incomprehensible gibberish)
ME: Sorry?
NICK: (Shouts incomprehensible gibberish a little more loudly)
ME: “Forking”?
NICK: What?
ME: Why did you just shout “forking”?
NICK: Warcraft.
ME: Warcraft?
NICK: Yes.
ME: What does that have to do with forking?
NICK: With what?
ME: With forking.
NICK: For. The. King.
ME: Oh? Which king?
NICK: I don’t know, in the context of the game.
ME: And in the context of this house?
NICK: Um, I like making stupid noises?
ME: Fair enough.

The Curious Events of Today's Dungeons and Dragons Session

Posted 10 October 2009 in by Catriona

These conversations all occurred during a game in which our first major action was to return to the scene of our great defeat in the last encounter (where we had suffered psychic damage at the hands of an invisible wizard), nick all his furniture, including his chamber pot, and sell it in the nearby town.

As far as we’re concerned, this is the second strangest thing we’ve ever done—and only comes second because of the time our Wizard decided that the soft furnishings in a desecrated temple were evil, and tried to set fire to them.

Oddly enough, it was shortly after this that the Halfling Rogue became so annoyed by the Wizard that she crawled under the tavern table and tied his shoelaces together—aided by the fact that every other member of the group failed their perception rolls and had no idea what was happening.

Sadly for us, the Wizard aced his acrobatics roll, and failed to fall over.

The conversations, in no particular order:

Overheard between the Warforged Paladin and the Eladrin Wizard:

WARFORGED PALADIN: Why are you going to see that guy?
ELADRIN WIZARD: He’s my special friend.
WARFORGED PALADIN: Oh, I suppose he’s your “wandmaker.”

(The fact that our Wizard carries a wand is of constant amusement to us. In fact, the Eladrin Wizard was later to wonder aloud why it is that we all turn into fourteen-year-old boys when we play.)

Overheard slightly later in the game:

WIZARD: I’m only going up against Reavers if I can have River Phoenix with me.

And slightly later again:

RANGER: Next time we try to convince a group of hobgoblins to sell us human slaves, I think the clerics should stow their holy symbols away.
RANGER: Keep it in your pants, cleric.
HUMAN CLERIC: I’m pretty sure Ash likes to flash.

And finally, as we walk into the room full of hobgoblin slave traders:

ELADRIN WIZARD: What are all those d6s scattered around the room?
DUNGEON MASTER: Those represent rough-hewn tables.
ELADRIN WIZARD: That’s going to be confusing for the waiters: there are two table 3s.



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