by Catriona Mills

Conversation With My Nintendo Wii Balance Board

Posted 5118 days ago in by Catriona

I swear, this conversation actually took place this morning:

BALANCE BOARD: Good morning, Treena!
ME: Good morning, Balance Board.
BALANCE BOARD: Were you busy yesterday?
ME: Well, more “slightly hungover” than “busy,” but in a manner of speaking, yes.
BALANCE BOARD: Do you remember what you told me last time you put on weight?
ME: . . . No.
BALANCE BOARD: You said you hadn’t been exercising!
ME: Did I? Well, that seems plausible.
BALANCE BOARD: If I remember correctly, you said that the time before, too!
ME: This is getting a little creepy, now.
BALANCE BOARD: Let’s make sure it doesn’t become three times!
ME: . . .

Birthday Party Moon

Posted 5120 days ago in by Catriona

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Thirty-Two

Posted 5120 days ago in by Catriona

ME: You’re not playing Arkham Asylum.
NICK: I need to push through the emotional trauma of the Scarecrow level.
ME: It’s not fair.
NICK: What’s not?
ME: That they should put such a level in your video game.
NICK: I know! There I am, having an awesome time being Batman and totally wrecking people in the face, and then suddenly I’m darting from place to place and being scared! I can do that in real life.
ME: Except for the darting from place to place.
NICK: Well, yes.

Birthday Week

Posted 5121 days ago in by Catriona

Live-blogging Torchwood Season Two: "Adrift"

Posted 5121 days ago in by Catriona

Oh, no. I remember which episode this is!

What’s say we just skip the live-blogging for this week? What do you say to that?

. . .

No? Really? Oh, okay, then.

Let’s just get through this and then we can watch a documentary about Bon Jovi.

This one contains coarse language and violence. Torchwood is really not coming up to scratch with the sex, lately.

Opening monologue.

We open on a bridge. And a moon. A boy is walking across the bridge, which looks like many other bridges in the world. He gets a text message from his mum, telling him that he’s nine minutes late. He looks up, and can see her watching from the window of their house, just at the edge of the bridge. He texts back, “Chill.”

But then a high wind springs up, and lightning crackles around him, and we see his phone fall down the ground.


Jonah Bevan was born in 1993, and disappeared, says Gwen’s friend Andy, seven months ago. He’s talking to Gwen because Jonah’s mum insists that there was no one around at the time when Jonah disappeared.

Gwen isn’t paying much attention, though: she wants to know where Andy was at the wedding. But Andy says he didn’t want to sit and watch her “pledge her stupid life” to Rhys, who, he says, could stand to lose a couple of pounds.

Apparently, they have some history, Gwen and Andy.

But Andy wants to talk about Jonah. He points out that there’s some odd kind of light in the last image the security cameras took of of Jonah—and, forty-five minutes later, there’s Jack turning up in the Torchwoodmobile.

Gwen asks Tosh about Rift activity (there was none), and asks Jack what he was doing there, but Jack says he can’t remember. He says there’s a cute little coffee shop out there, and it must just have been a coincidence.

He can’t stay, he says. He’s going weevil hunting with Ianto. I’m waiting for Gwen to say “Is that what you’re calling it these days?” but she disappoints me.

In a coffee shop with Andy, Gwen says there’s nothing she can do. But Andy accuses her of covering the whole thing up, and says that she’s hard now: the old Gwen would have been up talking to Mrs Bevan in a flash.

Of course, next thing we know, she’s knocking on Mrs Bevan’s door. And this whole sequence is horrible, because, of course, Mrs Bevan thinks that Jonah has run away. She spends most of her time watching videos of crowd footage—football matches, concerts, and so on—trying to pick him out of the crowd. And she sometimes sleeps in his room, because the pillow still smells like him—though, she says, the more she does it, the more it smells like her. And she sits in his room and imagines that she’s him—and keeps his diary for him.

It’s all so horribly sad.

And Gwen, when she gets home, is really not in the mood to talk about babies, as Rhys says they’ve been planning to do. But she is in the mood to practice.

Sadly, the post-practice cuddling the next morning is interrupted by a phone call from Tosh.

Tosh says she noticed what she calls a “negative Rift spike” at the time that Jonah disappeared: they’ve been thinking that these readings were irrelevant, but, since this coincided with Jonah’s disappearance, Tosh is wondering is maybe the Rift takes things rather than simply leaving things behind.

Gwen asks if they can keep this to themselves, and she heads out to the support-group meeting that Jonah’s mother has set up for people in her situation. (Andy tried to find her a support group, but there weren’t any, so she started one.) Andy’s there, too, but no one else—at least not at first, but people start pouring into the church hall that Nicky has hired, and neither Andy nor Gwen can cope.

Gwen says that she offered to help Andy look for one lad, but Gwen says she can’t cope with the forty or fifty other missing people whose families are in the church hall. Andy says that they’re not part of the investigation, but Gwen says that of course they are: find a pattern, and maybe they’ll find Jonah.

So she asks Tosh to cross-reference these missing people with negative Rift spikes, and see if there’s a pattern. Oh, and preferably some CCTV footage.

And, sure enough, there are negative Rift spikes for missing person after missing person—there’s a wall papered with Gwen’s paperwork on the missing people.

“Now we tell Jack,” Gwen says.

Gwen explains that Cardiff has an epidemic of missing people, far more than comparable cities. And it’s because of the Rift.

Hey, Owen! I forgot you were in this show.

Jack says that this is good work, but he doesn’t know what she wants him to do about it. Jack says there’s nothing they can do.

Gwen says that they can help the survivors, but Jack says that’s not what they do. He tells Gwen to shut it down, and storms out. Ianto goes after him, saying that he’ll have a word with Jack.

Owen says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

GWEN: Oh, bollocks to serenity.

We can see, as Gwen sits at the conference table, Ianto talking to Jack—we can’t hear what they’re saying, but Jack gestures emphatically and storms off, and Ianto turns to look apologetically at Gwen.

Then Gwen and Rhys have a fight in the park, about Gwen putting Torchwood above her work, before she heads back to the Hub.

ME: We do get a lot of shots of Gwen’s bottom in this show.
NICK: It is a very nice bottom.
ME: Yes. Yes, it is.

Gwen storms straight into Jack’s office, only to find him and Ianto embracing passionately. (Shirtless!)

JACK: Always room for one more. We could have used you an hour ago for naked Hide and Seek.
IANTO: He cheats. He always cheats.

Gwen says she’ll make Jonah her special project, but Jack says absolutely not. He calls Ianto back into his office—“More work to do!”—and Ianto goes, telling Gwen in passing that there’s a package on her desk.

The package, as Andy tells Gwen in the coffeeshop, is a GPS system, pointing them to an island in the middle of the Bristol Channel. He says, if she’ll let him come with her, they can find out what the GPS co-ordinates mean.

She agrees, but ditches him at the pier the next morning, after asking him to go and buy them a couple of teas. (It’s slightly more complicated than that, but I’m running behind.)

On the island, Gwen finds a lighthouse, and, from the top, she can see two women in scrubs leading a hooded figure across the island’s surface to a series of concrete bunkers—and they’re being followed by Jack.

Gwen, of course, goes haring down the stairs and across the island, where she heads down into the bunkers with the aid of her trusty flashlight. She finds an entrance buzzer, and hits it: when someone answers, she gives her Torchwood access code and says she’s with Jack Harkness.

WOMAN: He’s supposed to warn us.
GWEN: Law unto himself, isn’t he?
WOMAN: He knows we’ll always forgive him.

The woman lets Gwen in. Inside, the bunker is like a hospital or an asylum—but rather like a hospital or asylum from one of the cities abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster would look now, all peeling paint and forty-year-old furnishings.

The bunker resounds with screams and weeping.

Gwen realises, as she passes the rooms with the names chalked outside them, that these are the people they’ve been tracking, the people taken by the Rift. And Jack steps in at this point, to say he’ll take it from here.

She asks Jack if the people have been here all this time, and demands to see Jonah. Jack tries to explain, but Gwen screams at him to open the door.

He does.

But when we see Jonah, Gwen assumes that she’s in the wrong room. Because this Jonah is not fifteen. This Jonah is badly damaged, and can’t breathe without rasping.

Gwen asks what happened to him. And he says that there was a bright light, and when he opened his eyes, the planet was on fire. A man pulled him from the flames and into a building, and tried to work on the burns. He barely noticed, he said, when the building started shaking, and that’s when he realised that it wasn’t a building: it was a ship, the last rescue craft from the planet.

Gwen is crying.

Jonah asks if he is really home, and Gwen says that he is. He says that he tried so hard to get home. And Gwen says that his mother is still looking for him. Jonah asks if she can bring his mother to see him.

Gwen, sitting out on the cliffs, listens to Jack explain that he set this up, because he found two survivors of the Rift in the cells when he took over. Now there are seventeen, all badly damaged.

Gwen says she needs to bring Jonah’s mother to see him. But Jack protests: he says Gwen will need to explain about the Rift and Torchwood, and Gwen says that she will.

She does, but Nicky doesn’t entirely trust Gwen’s explanation. That’s fair enough. Gwen rings Andy, who is rightly furious, though when he challenges her on the fact that she’d never recommend him to Torchwood, both Nick and I try to convince him that he’d never want to work for Torchwood anyway.

Andy, nevertheless, convinces Nicky to trust Gwen, and Gwen takes her out to the island.

She talks to Nicky again before she opens Jonah’s door, but Nicky isn’t really listening. She just needs to see Jonah.

Nicky, though, when she sees Jonah, disavows any sense that this is Jonah. She screams at Gwen that she’s sick, that this is not her son.

Jonah starts talking about his broken wardrobe door, about the fact that she used to let him steal sips of her beer, that she always worried about money, and, at first, Nicky won’t look at him. But the more he talks, the more convinced she becomes, until she embraces him, as he says he tried so hard to come home, that she won’t believe the sights that he’s seen.

He apologises for coming home late that night.

But the nurse comes in and says that Nicky needs to leave. Jonah is starting the “down swing.” They’ve seen Jonah in the “good phase,” which becomes briefer every day. But that phase is ending.

Nicky says that she wants to take care of Jonah herself: she’ll tell people that he’s her father.

But the nurse says they need to leave.

And he starts screaming. And screaming. And screaming.

Gwen tells us, in voiceover, that the scream lasts twenty hours a day. Before he was returned, Jonah looked into the heart of a dark star, and what he saw drove him mad.

One week later, Gwen visits Nicky to say that she can visit Jonah any time she likes, when he’s in a good phase. But Nicky says that she hopes Gwen never does this to anyone else. Gwen says that she thought Nicky wanted to know, but Nicky says she was better not knowing. She says that before Gwen, she had hope.

And Gwen strips all her missing-person information from the walls as Nicky, on the other side of town, strips Jonah’s bedroom, and smells his jumper, and sits down on the edge of his bed to weep.

Jack watches Gwen as she files all the information away, but doesn’t let her know he’s there and doesn’t speak to her.

Back at the flat, Gwen is lighting candles on the dinner table, and telling Rhys that tonight they talk about whatever he wants, but he asks if she’s all right, and she’s weeping before he even manages to get his arms around her.

And they sit down on the sofa, and Rhys tells Gwen to tell him everything, from the beginning.

And Gwen does: “There’s this woman, Nicky. She had a son, Jonah. He went missing, seven months ago . . .”

End credits.


So Here's An Embarrassing Story For You All

Posted 5122 days ago in by Catriona

I wasn’t going to tell this story, because it seemed, for a while, as though I had committed a serious crime.

But it turns out that I’m just an idiot.

On Saturday night, Nick and I took a bus into the city to see Handel’s Messiah performed in Brisbane City Hall. On the bus, I glanced at my driver’s license for the first time in years.

And I saw that the expiry date was 2007.

I think you can imagine the panicking that ensued then. (Quiet panic, at first, because we were on a bus. But as I became more and more hysterical at the thought that I’d been driving illegally for two years, it culminated in an argument in a restaurant. You know, as it does.)

But that was later. Back on the bus, I said to Nick, “My driver’s license expired. Two years ago!”

He said, “That’s impossible. They would have sent you a letter.”

“But they didn’t!” I said. “If they’d sent me a letter, I would have renewed my driver’s license, and I wouldn’t have been driving illegally for two years!”

“Well,” said Nick, “just go into the city on Monday and renew it.”

“I can’t !” I said. “I’m a naturalised citizen. I need papers to renew it, because it’s been expired for over two years!”

“Take your citizenship certificate in,” suggested Nick, who at this point seemed to be taking far too much pleasure in his unaccustomed calm-and-sensible role.

“I can’t do that, either!” I said. (It was at this point that the panicking shifted into full argument mode.) “You know I was a minor. You know I’m on my father’s certificate. And you know my parents are in Tasmania for another week!”

“Ask your brother to post it up,” said Nick.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “As though my brother knows where the citizenship papers are.”

In this, I slandered him, but I didn’t know it at the time, and I wouldn’t have cared if I had.

When I remembered that I might have some spare certified copies of the certificate filed away, from the last time I’d applied for a scholarship, I calmed down enough to enjoy the Messiah. And, sure enough, there were copies in my filing cabinet.

Of course, I was too terrified by my new status as an illegal driver to want to drive out to Nick’s mother’s house for lunch the next day, so we had to ask for a lift from Nick’s father, who was passing our way.

“Don’t tell them that my license expired two years ago,” I hissed to Nick. “I know you don’t like lying to them, but do not tell them that.”

“I’ll tell them it only just expired,” he said.

“Don’t tell them that it expired at all!” I said.

So we told them that I was just inexplicably too tired to drive anywhere.

“It’s been a long week,” I said. “You know, final grades and marking.” That seemed to deflect any questions they might have asked.

On Monday morning, I packed up my certified copy of the citizenship papers, my proof of ID, and my proof of residence, and I dashed into the city as early as possible, desperate to make my covert driving activities legal again.

The woman behind the counter asked me if I’d filled out a form. I hadn’t, but she didn’t make me queue again. I filled out boxes about my height (which I couldn’t remember offhand), my eye colour, my hair colour, my need to wear glasses.

I said, “I have my citizenship papers here.”

She said, “Oh, you don’t need those. You have the license.”

We agreed that $73 was a small price to pay to renew my license for five years, and I happily completed the EFTPOS process.

And then she said, “Oh.”

I froze. “Oh, god,” I thought. “They’ve spotted I’ve had a car registered to me for two years. They know I’ve been driving illegally. Stay calm.”

Thankfully, it was 32 degrees and about 80% humidity, so I didn’t have to worry about telltale perspiration. Or, at least, I didn’t have to worry about it being telltale.

“I can’t renew this license,” she said.

“Oh, god,” I thought. “Fight or flight? Fight or flight?”

“Why not?” I asked.

“It’s already valid until 2012,” she said, and she flipped the license over to show me the renewal notice glued to the back.

I didn’t start laughing until I was halfway back to the bus stop.

Then I drove everywhere for the next two days.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Thirty-One

Posted 5123 days ago in by Catriona

In which the Wii Fit rules our household with a fist of iron:

NICK (from the living room): Treena!
ME: Yes?
NICK: The Wii Fit is asking me about you!
ME: What does it want to know?
NICK: How I think you’re looking. Slimmer, more toned, fatter . . .
ME: What are you going to tell it?
NICK: Well, you’re not looking fatter.
ME: You could say “more toned.”
NICK: That’s what I was thinking.
ME: Well, what did it say?
NICK: It said. “Excellent! You shouldn’t be shy about telling her that!”
ME: It didn’t accuse you of lying?
ME: Well, that’s a relief.

In Which Nick Demonstrates His Grasp Of Irony

Posted 5124 days ago in by Catriona

And in which Red Dwarf is rudely interrupted:

NICK: Hang on a minute.
(Random banging noises and some shouting.)
ME: Honey? What’s happening?
NICK: Well, I certainly hope that possum doesn’t choke on the remains of the roast chicken it just dragged out of the bin.
ME: I can tell that, yes.

Do You Ever Wonder . . .

Posted 5125 days ago in by Catriona

If maybe you’re the bad guy?

I don’t mean in a morally relativistic way. I mean literally the villain.

Except by “literally,” I mean “in Dungeons and Dragons.” (Which reminds me of the time this semester when a clever student asked me, “When you say ‘inevitably,’ do you mean inevitably?” and I had to admit that, no, in fact, I didn’t.)

I’ve been worrying about this a little lately. Yes, Dungeons and Dragons exists entirely on paper and in our dice (and minds), and, yes, the people we kill are actually plastic figurines an inch high, but, still, I worry.

Is this because I’m a second-generation lapsed Catholic, so feeling guilty about things is essentially my superpower? (I mentioned to my brother once that I felt guilty about something, and he said, “Oh, well: that’s life.” And I said, “No, kidder, it’s just us.”)

Or am I actually a bloodthirsty villain, who, should I live past level 4—which, at this stage of the campaign, is not looking likely—will soon be feared across the land as a sword-wielding psychopath?

(Note to self: stop finding that image seductive. Stop it!)

I’d like to say that this vague sense of guilt arose around about the time that we got annoyed with that invisible magician who caused us psychic injuries, hired a cart (and a pony named Bill), went back to his lair, nicked all his furniture, and got our rogue’s uncle (clearly, a different kind of rogue) to sell it for us down the pub.

But I think it started before that.

I remember I spent much of my first level wandering around with freshly severed kobold ears (only one previous owner!) tucked into my coin purse. Sure, we were paid a bounty for them, but still . . .

Then there was the time we let those two goblins go, because they were scared out of their minds, only to have them cut down in cold blood by the psychotic ghost who was our reluctant ally.

Or the time we came across those kobolds who were locked behind a door and, when they found out who we were, started shouting, “Don’t hurt the women and children!”

Or the time we snuck into the room of a man who had just paid for our food and lodging, and messed his stuff up while looking for evidence that he was a villain. He was a villain, of course, but there wasn’t any evidence of that in his room.

Or all those times we’ve let our rogue knock our captives around a little while questioning them. (Not that I’m willing to try and stop her.)

Or the time our wizard set our own paladin on fire, knocking him unconscious, in order to take out some enemies. (Actually, just quietly? That was pretty awesome. And the paladin has amnesia: he won’t remember it ever happened.)

Or—and this is the really bad one—the time we questioned a terrified hostage until a pre-set spell caused him to start bleeding out of his ears, whereupon we decided to put him out of his misery. By cutting his throat. Which, turns out, isn’t that quick a death. So we stood around saying to each other, “Well, this is taking longer than anticipated,” until we couldn’t stand it any more and had our paladin break his neck.

After cutting his throat.

After making his brain bleed out his ears.

Oh, yes: we’re the bad guys, aren’t we? You’d never guess that we are all aligned Lawful Good.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Thirty

Posted 5125 days ago in by Catriona

NICK: I’m fascinated by your last Twitter update.
ME: It’s all true.
NICK: I need more information!
ME: No. It’s all there: I spent part of the morning pretending to be John Rhys Davies and hitting things with a shovel.
NICK: Just in the house in general? Or playing a game?
ME: Wouldn’t you like to know?
NICK: I really would!

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "From Out Of The Rain"

Posted 5128 days ago in by Catriona

I have no idea what’s happening on Hyperdrive right now. Of course, I don’t much care, either, so there is that. And I probably won’t figure it out in the thirteen minutes we have left of the episode.

Heather has come along for the live-blogging again, and Michelle as well this time, which I think is a first. Ooh, Heather’s going to be annoyed if there aren’t any carparks in this episode. And I don’t think it’s the most carparky of episodes.

So tired. I hope this live-blogging makes some kind of sense.

I will say that the spaceships in Hyperdrive are kinda sexy. That one was a bit like a Siamese fighting fish. Or an enthusiastic goldfish, maybe.

Opening monologue. Also some shouting at the computer for misbehaving, which confused my guests briefly.

We open in the past, judging from the costumes, as people walk out in a field, past flaming torches, to a circus, complete with even-creepier-then-usual clowns and a ringmaster with a sinister moustache.

A young girl accepts a ticket from the ringmaster, and runs into the circus, as her mother hearing a noise behind her, glances back over her shoulder. When she glances back, her child and the entire circus are gone.

Credits. No one is surprised to see that P.J. Hammond wrote this episode.

A young man in glasses is watching old newsreel footage in his home, surrounded by dangling strips of negatives. But in the middle of a random scene, he see the ringmaster beckoning him—even when the newsreel stops running.

In the Hub, Jack comes in to see Tosh, telling her that he heard an old sound, like a pipe organ. Did she hear it? No, she says.

Where’s Ianto? he asks. Ianto would know. But Tosh says that Ianto, Gwen, and Owen have gone to an old cinema with history of rift activity, to check it out. When she turns back, Jack is gone.

It may be for work, but Ianto is very excited about visiting the Electro, which is a beautiful, beautiful building.

The man running it wants to know where his “useless son” is, because he’s the one with the film. And, sure enough, that’s the boy from the earlier scene.

HEATHER: Why is the boy splicing things in a warehouse/Unabomber-style hideout?
NICK: Because he couldn’t find a carpark.

This is, to Gwen’s apparent disappointment, an educational film, and a deliberately anachronistic evening, complete with cinema pianist.

But it doesn’t stay educational for long: the circus footage first flickers in and out of the footage of Hope Street, but soon the circus footage takes over, and you get, as Gwen says, the same pictures over and over again—even though the projectionist has turned the projector off.

And there’s Jack! Ianto sees footage of Jack flickering up on screen, but no one else does. And then the footage turns into the beckoning ringmaster, before flickering away into nothing. Gwen tells Ianto to come on, but he sees sinister flickering shadows as he walks out into the foyer.

Jack has arrived at this point, and he and Ianto stand in the empty cinema, while Ianto explains what he saw. And Jack says that cinema might have preserved their images, but it killed the travelling shows.

Of course, it hasn’t quite killed this travelling show, because here are the ringmaster and a mysterious woman in a beanie, walking through the rain towards a young woman stranded at a bus-stop. They try to give her a ticket to the travelling show, and it’s interesting, because when the little girl took the ticket in the beginning, Michelle was wondering out loud if this was before the days of “don’t take things from strangers, little girl.” Well, it’s past those days now, because this girl tells them to sod off—but the ringmaster touches her mouth and, as she coughs up some sparkling silver smoke, catches it in a bottle.

Jack is interrogating the projectionist when Tosh says that there’s been a burst of rift activity at the Electro and then again in a small street off Hope Street—where Torchwood find the girl from before, her mouth all puckered and dried, sitting at the bus-stop staring at nothing.

Owen says that she has a heartbeat but she’s not breathing: they’ll have to get her to hospital.

The ringmaster and the woman have moved onto a small cafe where, when the owner opens the door to tell them to go away, they repeat their earlier process, draining the liquid out of her.

The cafe owner has been brought into the hospital where the bus-stop girl is being held, as Owen tells them that she’s been completely dehydrated, and shouldn’t still be alive.

Torchwood stride down the corridor as Jack says for them to still be alive under these circumstances, their life force must have been separated. It must be held somewhere, but they don’t know where, because the two victims were chosen at random.

Back at the Hub, Jack and the team are looking at old footage of his travelling-show days. His was just an ordinary travelling show, but, when he was part of it, there were ghost stories about another, more sinister show, who came from out of the rain, performed only in the dead of night, and left sorrow wherever they went.

Jack’s telling Gwen about the deaths of the travelling shows, as Ianto wants to see the film frame by frame. And, as he does, he notices that the girl from the water tank and the ringmaster have disappeared off the film altogether.

As Jack says, the travelling shows were trapped on film forever—but when the film was played at the Electro, they were released. So Torchwood have to track them down.

JACK: Ianto, you’re with me. I need your local knowledge.
GWEN: Oh, it that what you’re calling it these days?
HEATHER: Gwen is so jealous.

Jack tells Ianto that he was sent to join the travelling show on the orders of someone whom he chooses not to name: he was chasing rumours about the night travellers.

And, speaking of the night travellers, here we are back in the past, watching the ringmaster talk about the girl in the beanie, telling people that she’s the closest thing they’ll ever see to a living mermaid.

And in the Hub in our time, Tosh says she’s registering the ocean—the ocean in the middle of Cardiff. Of course, Cardiff is a port city, isn’t it? But I don’t think that’s a good thing. [Edited to add: I mean, despite the ambiguity here, that I don’t think it’s a good thing that there’s an ocean in the middle of the city. I have no particular problem with Cardiff being a port city, despite what my syntax might imply.] At that point, we see a man suddenly brake his car, telling his wife that he thought he saw ghosts. She tells him not to be so stupid, until she looks out the car window and sees the ringmaster.

The ringmaster and his girl are currently hanging around an abandoned swimming pool, as the girl rants about rain and water, and they both hold the ringmaster’s mysterious bottle up to their ears, listening to the “last breaths forever.”

But the girl isn’t entirely satisfied: she wants to bring the other people out of the film, to travel with them again. The ringmaster agrees.

Heather makes an observation that I can’t possibly put on the blog because it would skew my search results too far.

At the hospital, Jack and Ianto look at the catatonic bodies of the two boys who were in the car, but when Jack says, “They came from out of the rain,” the nurse says that she’s heard those words before, from Christina, a woman in a psychiatric unit who was terrified of stage performances.

Jack tells Ianto that he thinks they’ve just found their first witness. And Christina tells them about the time the night travellers came to her village—as well as telling Jack that his eyes are too old for his face, which mean he doesn’t belong.

Back at the abandoned swimming pool, the mermaid woman walks slowly across the cracked concrete to a changing room: she creaks the door open, to see a row of silent people, standing and staring forward.

Christina, meanwhile, is telling Jack about the time that the ringmaster asked her if she’d like to join his show, and be in his audience forever. She says he wanted to take her breath and hold it in a flask. She says people disappeared from the village that night.

Jack, at the Hub, realises that if he can find the ringmaster’s silver flask, he can save the people whose breath has been stolen.

The ringmaster, of course, is looking for the rest of his film, to bring the others back to life, which is why it’s a worry when the young projectionist from the Electro comes home to find a mermaid in his bath. But she doesn’t harm him: they’re only looking for the film.

Still, he’s scared half to death, and rings Jack immediately: Jack sets off with Ianto in the Torchwoodmobile. But though the bath is still full, the people have gone by the time Jack gets there.

And when Bernard’s parents arrive at the Electro, they hear organ music. They wonder if Bernard has come in today, after all? But, no: they’re greeted by the mermaid, holding a lantern and saying, “This way, please.”

At the warehouse, Jack comes up with a complicated plot to destroy the ringmaster and the mermaid: he says that they’ve been trapped in the film for so long that they’ve become part of it. But what, he asks, would happen if they filmed them?

I think that would result in a bootleg copy, but what do I know?

This is a complicated plot.

At the Electro, Bernard’s parents are frozen into their seats, because, of course, the circus needs an audience. And as the film plays, the characters begin to step out of the screen, beginning with the strongman and the fire jugglers, then the clowns.

Jack, meanwhile, is crouched behind the seats, secretly filming this, while Owen tries to open the projection room. The ringmaster grabs him, but Owen, of course, doesn’t have any breath. As the ringmaster dashes past, Ianto manages to grab the flask, but the ringmaster catches up to him, and grabs the flask back.

As Jack pulls the film from his camera, and the ringmaster disappears when his image is exposed to light, he throws the flask away—and, with the lid gone, the last breaths of the victims escape into the air.

And the victims gasp and die.

Ianto runs, to grab the flask, but by the time he grabs it, there’s only one breath left in it.

It belongs to one of the small boys from the car, so Jack is able to at least save him, while Ianto, looking on, cries.

JACK (to small boy): Welcome back.
MICHELLE: Your whole family’s dead!
NICK: We’re Torchwood—we only save five percent of people.

We pan over Cardiff, as Jack delivers a speech about how the night travellers might still be somewhere, on another piece of film, a speech that Nick interprets to mean “Preserving the past is bad.”

And, sure enough, a man and his son buy, at a flea market, a reel of film that, when the boy drops it, releases a small burst of sideshow music . . .

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Twenty-Nine

Posted 5130 days ago in by Catriona

MY MOTHER: We’re going to the pub tonight.
ME: Oh, it is cheap steak night?
MY MOTHER: Well, it’s Light Up Camden.
ME: For Christmas?
MY MOTHER: They turn the streetlights on.
ME: Don’t they do that every night?
ME: I’m pretty sure they do that every night.
MY MOTHER: These are the Christmas streetlights.
ME: But I just asked if—never mind.

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Three: "Last of the Time Lords"

Posted 5132 days ago in by Catriona

So, this is the final episode of season three—which means the last of the live-blogging, unless they want to replay season one, until the latest special, “The Waters of Mars,” airs on the ABC in, oh, about three weeks.

In other news, I’m live-blogging this from one of my armchairs, which is unusual. I normally live-blog sitting at my little Tibetan coffee table, but it’s currently covered in about this much marking, give or take another ten papers, so it’s out. Sadly, the armchairs, while seriously sexy and pretty much exactly like this (oh, I’m going to be sorry when that link expires), are not really conductive to typing: the arms are too close together. So I apologise in advance for any typos. I’ll fix them up later.

In other, other news, I may or may not have just watched “The Waters of Mars,” and it may or may not have, in the words of the great Atlas from Astro Boy, have put me out of the mood for live-blogging Doctor Who.

(Well, technically, Atlas said, “This idiocy has put me out of the mood for fighting” after Daddy Walrus smacked him in the head with a series of baseballs shot out of an automatic pitching machine, but the principle is the same. Why, yes: I have spent the entire day marking. In fact, I’ve spent every day marking for much of the last week. Does it show?)

In other, other, other news, if anyone can tell me what’s going on with these helicopters that have been flying over the house more or less constantly for the last hour, I’d be really pleased to know what’s going on.

Yes, yes: I’m waiting patiently for the episode to start now. And writing witty things on people’s Facebook statuses, which is one of my favourite hobbies.

But here we are with the actual episode, and the Doctor pointing out that the Master is Prime Minister of England, that he has cannibalised the TARDIS to make a paradox machine, and that Martha is coming back. Well, the Doctor doesn’t point that bit out. Lost my parallel structure, there.


When we come back, we hear a recorded message saying that Sol 3—planet Earth—is entering final extinction, and is closed for space traffic. This is a year later, and we see a boat reach the shore carrying Martha Jones. She’s met by Tom Milligan, who says there’s no need to ask who she is: “the famous Martha Jones.”

She says that she needs to see Dr Docherty, and Tom says there are many stories about Martha and her adventures in the last year. He says that the story goes that she’s the only person on Earth who can kill him: that she and she alone can kill the Master. She tells him to drive.

And here we have the Master singing and dancing to “track three”—the Scissors Sisters—while he kisses his wife (who looks drugged, actually, and not that thrilled) while Martha’s mother, in a maid’s outfit, serves him coffee, which he spits out onto the table, and the aged Doctor crawls out of the tent he’s been living in.

The Master wheels the Doctor across to a window, and tells the Doctor that they broke his heart, the Toclafane, ever since the Doctor figured out what they really are. He tells the Doctor that rumour has it that Martha is back in England, and wonders what she wants.

Tish, dressed as a maid, takes Jack his cold mashed swede for breakfast, and signals “three” with her fingers.

Martha, on the coast, see a massive statue of the Master, looming over the coast. She says they’re all over the world; he’s even carved himself into Mount Rushmore. Martha and Tom crawl up and overlook a shipyard—a spaceship yard. She tells him that he should see Russia: that’s shipyard number one, she says, all the way from the Black Sea to the Baring Strait.

Two Toclafane fly down and challenge Tom, who is all right because he has a medical pass. They tell him soon he’ll be very busy, and fly off. He’s surprised they can’t see Martha, and she explains about the TARDIS keys from the last episode. She tells him she’s been in space, and he asks if there’s anything else he needs to know.

MARTHA: Yeah. I’ve met Shakespeare.

He asks what time it is, and she says it’s nearly three. At which we see Martha’s family and Jack heading into action mode, as the Master asks who he should have for his massage today while his wife, who seems to have a black eye, now I look again, looks on blankly.

Jack gets out, and is shot repeatedly. Martha’s mother and Tish don’t get far, while Martha’s father is grabbed almost immediately. And the Doctor grabs the Master’s laser screwdriver—remember, who’d have sonic?—but it has isomorphic controls, so it only works for the Master.

The Master taunts the Doctor a little with his previous potency and authority, and then says he has a message for Martha.

Martha, meanwhile, meets Dr Docherty, who is trying to get the television to work: “God, I miss Countdown,” she says. Martha says that televisions don’t work any more, but Dr Docherty says that they’ve been told there’ll be a broadcast from the Master. And, sure enough, there is. But only so he can show the Doctor, and then add all nine hundred of his years to him, so that he ends up as a little stunted CGI creature—much to the Master’s apparent bemusement, since he looks terribly sheepish at this point.

MASTER: Message received and understood, Miss Jones.

Dr Docherty says that the Archangel network is the Master’s weakness. Martha says that’s why she’s come to see Dr Docherty: “Know your enemy,” she says. She has a CD with information about the Toclafane’s weaknesses, after a lightning strike brought one down in South Africa. They ask if that’s what she’s been looking for, and she says no: she just got lucky. Dr Docherty says she heard Martha was looking for a weapon, but Martha doesn’t answer.

On the UNIT ship Valiant, Martha’s family have been locked up for the night, as they each fantasise about killing the Master. Martha’s mother doesn’t want Tish to kill him, but Tish says that he made them stand on deck and watch the islands of Japan burning—millions of people, she says. The Doctor is in a cage, too, but a cage for a bird. And Jack is chained up again.

The Master comes to the Doctor, with the drugged-looking Lucy, and tells the Doctor that tomorrow is the day. A Toclafane flies in and says that tomorrow they rise, never to fall, and the Master says that the Doctor should be grateful: after all, he says, the Doctor loves them, so very, very much.

At the same time, Dr Docherty manages to open the Toclafane sphere that Martha and Tom captured, to see a little shrunken head—a little shrunken head that tells her that the sky is made of diamonds.

Ooh-er. That makes them . . . well, that makes them humans. The humans who were escaping to Utopia.

We cut back to the Master, who says that he took Lucy to Utopia, to show her the end of the universe. She says that everything was dying, and she saw that there was no point in anything. Her voice is so blank as she says this.

MASTER: You should have seen it, Doctor. Furnaces, burning. The last of humanity, screaming against the dark.

Martha says that she’d rather worked it out when she saw the paradox machine. Because these are the future of humanity, come back to murder their own ancestors, which is a paradox: without the cannibalised TARDIS, the two could not co-exist.

Tom asks the captured Toclafane why, when they’re the same species, they kill so many humans, and he says because it’s fun, and laughs and laughs.

Dr Docherty asks Martha to tell her the truth: legend says that she’s been travelling the planet looking for a way to kill the Master. Martha says that the Doctor told them that people have been watching the Doctor and the Master in all the years that they’ve been coming to Earth, and they’ve come up with a weapon. Not just a gun, but a gun of four chemicals, which, combined, will kill the Master stone dead.

Martha only has three, but the last, she says, is in London. Dr Docherty says they can stay the night, but Tom says that they can get halfway and stay in the slave quarters in Bexley. Slave quarters are just houses: Tom says that it’s cheaper than building barracks. And when they arrive, they ask Martha if she says who she says she is, and if she can really kill him. Tom says to leave her alone, but she says they want her to talk, and she’ll talk.

But Dr Docherty is sending a message to the Master, after asking—futilely—whether her son is still alive. She says she has information about Martha.

And Martha, in the slave quarters, is talking to the slaves about the Doctor, about how many times he has saved their lives without them knowing. But she’s barely finished before the Master is out in the street, calling to Martha.

The slaves hide her, but the Master knows that she’s there.

His soldiers take up their positions. He says he’ll give the order unless she gives herself up.

So she does.

She steps outside, to a round of applause from the Master, who asks for her bag. She throws it to him, and he blows it up. Then he tries to kill her, but Tom throws himself out of the house and takes the blast instead, which the Master finds hilarious.

It seems to have given him an idea, though, because he says that the Doctor should be witness to Martha’s death.

So he takes her back up to the Valiant, past her family. She gives him the teleport device that she took from Jack, and he tells her to kneel. He says his ships are ready to launch, to “burn across the universe,” in three minutes’ time, when the black-hole converters are ready.

He plans to kill Martha, and asks if she has any last words. When she doesn’t, he says that she’s not a patch on his old companions: once, he says, the Doctor had companions who could absorb the Time Vortex.

Now, how does he know that? How does he know about Rose?

But Martha is laughing. She’s laughing at the Master’s credulity, at the idea that he would believe in the “gun in four parts,” that he thinks they didn’t know about Dr Docherty’s son and the fact that she would betray them.

The important thing was the story, she says. Everyone on Earth, all thinking about the Doctor at once.

Prayer and hope? the Master asks. Is that her plan?

Yes, says Martha. Prayer and hope—and fifteen satellites transmitting a telepathic field.

NICK: Classic Master overreach.

And sure enough, the power of millions of people thinking the Doctor’s name brings him back to full health. And more, since he’s now levitating across the floor, with his arms out-stretched.

Oh, this is messianic. Especially when he grabs the Master and says, “I forgive you.”

But there are still the Toclafane, so Captain Jack, who has been brought in to watch Martha’s execution, heads off to destroy the paradox machine.

The Master, though, has transported to the coastal shipyards with the transport device that he took from Martha, and though the Doctor says that he can’t win, he says that there’s a black-hole converter in every ship, and he can destroy the planet. If he can’t have it, no one can.

The Doctor disagrees, though. He says he knows the Master, and the Master will never kill himself. Sure enough, he won’t: they transport back to the Valiant, just as Captain Jack destroys the paradox machine. The Toclafane disappear, and the Valiant is at the centre of a storm as time reverses.

Why does time reverse? Oh, who cares.

At any rate, with the paradox machine gone, time is reset to the point at which the Toclafane were called through the rip in the universe, just after the President of the United States was killed.

DOCTOR: None of it happened.
ME: Well, except for the poor President!

Everyone on the Valiant can remember, though, because they were at the eye of storm or some such [technobabble].

Jack wonders what they’ll do with the Master, and Martha’s family want to kill him. They say they saw everything: they saw everything he did, and they remember it. But Martha’s mother, who has picked up a fallen gun, can’t bring herself to do it. She drops the gun.

The Doctor says that the only safe place for the Master is the TARDIS. Maybe, says the Doctor, he’s been wandering for too long, and he needs someone to care for.

But Lucy shoots him.

“Always the women,” he says.

The Doctor says that it’s only a bullet wound: the Master can just regenerate. We know that’s possible, because the Doctor himself regenerated after a bullet wound which was, incidentally, in the Master’s presence, though the Master was rather disembodied at the time.

But the Master refuses. He tells the Doctor that he’s finally won, and dies.

The Doctor burns the Master’s body on a pyre, which reminds me (simultaneously) of the end of Return of the Jedi and, not surprisingly, of Tim Bisley burning his Star Wars memorabilia after The Phantom Menace came out.

Back in the present, Martha gives Dr Docherty a bunch of flowers, and tells her that she really doesn’t blame her. A bewildered Dr Docherty asks, “But who are you?” as Martha runs off.

In Cardiff, Jack runs off, though the Doctor says he could travel with him again. But Jack says for the whole year, he’s been thinking of his team in Torchwood.

First, though, the Doctor disables Jack’s time-travelling device.

DOCTOR: You could go anywhere. Twice. The second time to apologise.

Jack asks about aging: what if he lives for a million years, he asks? The Doctor says he doesn’t know, and Jack says he knows it’s vanity. But he used to be a bit of a poster boy, back when he lived in the Boeshane Penisula and was the first boy from there to be signed up for the time agency.

JACK: The Face of Boe, they used to call me.

And he runs back to the Hub as Martha and the Doctor goggle at him and say, “No, It can’t be—no” to each other.

Outside the TARDIS, Martha talks to her family and rings the hospital to make sure that Dr Thomas Milligan is still alive. When she wanders into the TARDIS, the Doctor is rambling about how brilliant Agatha Christie must be, and would Martha want to meet her?

But Martha says that she can’t travel with him any more. She says that her family saw half the planet slaughtered, and they’re devastated. She needs to stay and take care of them. The Doctor says he understands, and that Martha saved the world.

And so she did.

She leaves, but pops back in to tell a rambling story about her friend Vicky’s unrequited love for Sean, and how this is her getting out of a bad situation. But she gives him her phone, and says that when it rings, he better come running, because she’s not having him disappear.

And in the ashes of the Master’s funeral pyre, we see a red finger-nailed hand come down and pick up a ring, as the Master laughs in the background.

Then the Titanic drives through the TARDIS control room.

No, seriously.

“Voyage of the Damned” is on next week, but I won’t be live-blogging it. Well, not again. It’s already here. It’s not great, but it’s there.

And that’s season four! See you in about three weeks—the 6th of December—for “Waters of Mars,” the third of season five’s five specials.

Random Evening

Posted 5133 days ago in by Catriona

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Twenty-Eight

Posted 5135 days ago in by Catriona

More Wii Fit chatter:

NICK: You were probably just plateauing, when you were upset about that weight gain before.
ME: No, that’s because we’d stuffed ourselves that weekend.
NICK: Oh, yeah. That seems to affect you more than it affects me.
ME: That’s because I’m a girl.
NICK: I tend to forget that.
ME: Thank you, sweetheart.
NICK: I don’t mean that I tend to forget you’re a girl! Dammit, that’s not what I meant at all.



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