by Catriona Mills

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Sixty-Seven

Posted 2619 days ago in by Catriona

ME: Okay, is everything packed up and ready?
NICK: Yep. We just need to get a green bag, then I can put in everything I’ve got out.
ME: So it’s not all packed up and ready.
NICK: Well, no.
ME: So do it now!
NICK: But I just need to hit a button!

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Sixty-Six

Posted 2620 days ago in by Catriona

ME: You’re Rogue Leader?

NICK: I am now!

ME: Did you promote yourself?

NICK: Well, I wanted to be in Rogue Squadron.

ME: Why?

NICK: Because that’s Wedge’s squadron after Star Wars.

ME: Yeah, if in doubt, shadow Wedge. You know he ain’t going down.

NICK: Exactly. Actually, he’s Rogue Leader. So, I’m covered both ways.

ME: Even after he totally wimped out of the attack on the original Death Star? They still promoted him? I suppose there was a lack of pilots after that debacle.

NICK: Survivors get the glory. Ones who don’t walk straight into Imperial fire are few and far between.

ME: Which surprises me, given that stormtroopers are notoriously lousy shots.

NICK: Tie Fighter pilots have much better aim.

ME: True. I guess they’re cloned from a batch with better hand-eye coordination.

NICK: The main problem for them is that Han and Luke are much better pilots.

ME: Maybe they switched batches? Maybe the stormtroopers are all excellent pilots?

NICK: I think we’re going to have to delve into the tie-in novels for more information.

ME: Well, you know how it is. You have these two billion clones, and you can’t tell the Emperor that you’re pretty sure you started labelling them the wrong colours halfway through. Next thing you know, your soldiers can’t shoot and your pilots can’t fly. It’s the only explanation that makes sense.

Re-reading Part Two: Charlaine Harris

Posted 2622 days ago in by Catriona

(Part One of this extremely intermittent series, in which I am annoyed by David Eddings, is here.)

Whenever you Google “literary fiction versus genre fiction,” as I’m sure we’ve all done at some point or another, you find people defining literary fiction as “character-driven” and genre fiction as “plot driven.”

Like most statements predicated on the construction of monolithic categories, this is more than a little problematic. And if you want to see genre fiction that is as character driven as it is plot driven, try Charlaine Harris’s Lily Bard Mysteries.

Oh, sure: they’re murder mysteries, and I’d be pretty disappointed if we didn’t, at the end of the day, find out whodunit. But these five books are as much about the slow warming of Lily as they are about the murders.

Lily, you see, has become nothing but the sum of what happened to her. Abducted, raped, mutilated, and subjected to prolonged media exposure, she’s trapped by her own victimisation. When people say to someone, “Well, it could have been worse,” their eyes slide over Lily and away again: she’s the worse that could have happened.

So she leaves. She leaves her small home town, her job, her family, and she moves from small town to small town in the southern states of the U.S., always leaving when her past becomes known—until she reaches Shakespeare, Arkansas, a town founded by a home-sick, literature-loving Englishman, and which she picked off the map because her own name is Bard.

Here she chooses to stay when her past is revealed, when her scars are (quite literally) revealed. Here she works on her body-building and her karate, so that, as she says to a small girl who praises her strength, no one bothers her now. From here she can even go back to her home town to act as maid of honour for her sister and cope with the anxiety and distress her presence always causes her loving family.

I always want to know whodunit.

But with the Lily Bard Mysteries, I’m far more concerned with watching Lily move away from her self-defensive, self-protective pose, a pose marked by an extreme lack of affect, to one that’s warmer, more engaged, more open—all the while remaining a woman plagued by bad dreams, a woman who walks and walks on nights when she can’t sleep, a woman who can’t brook any form of restraint for reasons so horrific that we don’t want to think about them.

Or how about the Harper Connelly Mysteries? Unlike the Lily Bard Mysteries, these have the supernatural element for which Harris is probably best known in the wake of True Blood.

But something about Harper breaks my heart. Struck by lightning at age fifteen, Harper can now find dead bodies, tracking them by a buzzing sense that grows more intense the fresher the body is. The only one she can’t find is her sister Cameron, who disappeared aged eighteen somewhere between her school and the family’s trailer in Texarkana.

Like Lily, Harper is damaged, but for different reasons. Harper’s is a riches-to-rags story: lawyer parents who become enamoured of the lifestyles and vices of the people they represented, and who shed each other on the way from white collar to blue collar and below. Ultimately, Harper’s mother marries a man with two children of his own and they have two more children: until Cameron disappears, the older children work to care for the babies and prevent Child Services from finding out what’s happening in the Texarkana trailer.

Part of the damage to Harper comes from that: any teenager would carry scars if their mother had tried to sell their virginity for drugs.

Part of it comes from the lightning strike. Harper was kept alive by her stepbrother Tolliver, who performed CPR until the ambulance arrives. The lightning strike leaves her with a series of weaknesses and symptoms rejected by the general medical community, who maintain that there are no long-term effects to a lightning strike, despite the weakness of Harper’s right leg, the shaking in her right hand, the severe headaches. It also leaves her with an explicable fear of natural disasters: when Tolliver asks what the chances are of lightning striking twice, she merely asks what the chances were of it striking once. And it leaves her with a more generalised fear of the unknown and unexpected, a tendency to panic when faced with a disruption to her usual pattern.

And part of it comes from her work. When she finds a body, Harper can also see how they died—just a brief flash of their last moments from their perspective. The work is draining. If she weren’t accompanied by her manager and stepbrother Tolliver, she wouldn’t be able to accomplish it.

So they travel constantly, from job to job. Most of their work is in small towns in the southern states, towns that are usually fundamentalist communities. Most people with whom they deal believe they are con men. Some think they are genuinely evil. Harper is threatened, sometimes struck, shot at, and on one occasion actually stoned.

Is it any wonder she breaks my heart a little?

Even Sookie Stackhouse, from the comparatively light-hearted Southern Vampire series, is a damaged heroine, abused by her great-uncle as a child and so limited by her uncontrollable telepathy that the townsfolk assume she is insane or developmentally delayed. Sookie doesn’t fall into sexual relationships with vampires because it’s fashionable (though it is) or because they’re sexy (though they are): she does it because she can’t read their minds. They’re about the only creatures with whom she can enjoy a normal relationship.

And those vampires!

Vampires in Harris’s world are as powerful and potent as they are in most vampire fiction. (Much more so, in fact, than in the television adaptation where Eddie found, heartbreakingly, that he wasn’t any more successful at picking up men as a vampire than he had been as a man). Indeed, their blood is a literal drug, with a staggering street value, leaving them as vulnerable to “drainers” as they are to the fundamentalist, vampire-hating Fellowship of the Sun.

But vampires in Harris’s world are also a bit naff. They run clubs called things like Fangtasia (just as the werewolves congregate in a pub called Hair of the Dog), where the sell such merchandise as T-shirts emblazoned with blood-dripping fangs or “Hunks of Fangtasia” calendars. They hang out in New Orleans, amusing the tourists. In short, they both exploit and revel in every stereotype about vampirism that humans can imagine—all the while being entirely dangerous and not at all human.

Am I arguing that Harris is flawless? Of course not. Her continuity errors, for example, are myriad: minor characters flip from one side of the family to the other, or shift names, or forget key plot points between one book and another. (Or, in one case, forget what kind of animal they shift into.)

But I am arguing that she’s not only enormous fun, she’s a writer who specialises in making damaged characters well-rounded and engaging; who offers a detailed revisioning of small-town life in the southern U.S.; and who recognises that vampires are both appealing and naff.

What’s not to like?

Live-blogging Doctor Who: "The End of Time Part Two"

Posted 2625 days ago in by Catriona

So here we are for the end of the Tenth Doctor’s reign. Does that count as a spoiler? Nah, don’t think so.

I would like to go on the record at this point to say I really, really hate the tendency that’s cropped up online to refer to the Doctor just be the number of his regeneration: Nine or Ten, usually. I blame the recapper from Television Without Pity, though I can’t honestly say he started it. Either way, I really, really hate it.

I was listening to the news but not watching the telly when the newsreader said, “Next, a rejected rooster makes his debut as a cowboy.” If you don’t know that those are football teams, that’s a seriously weird statement.

Sadly, I was watching the television when they reported on the funeral of that Georgian luger—I really wish they’d told us in advance that it was an open coffin. I didn’t entirely want to see him being carried through the streets in an open coffin.

Heather is joining us again for this episode, but Michelle is not, sadly.

Oh, look: the advert for Doctor Who just gave away a massive spoiler.

But here we are with the episode, recapping what happened last episode, with the red-eyed Ood and Donna’s freakout and the “Master” race and Timothy Dalton’s voiceover.

We open with a shot of Gallifrey, an amazing shot with Dalek saucers crashed and burning in the foreground and, behind them, the dome over the Time Lord city, with a hole smashed in it and the city beyond burning.

So we come to a Time Lord council meeting, where the seeress tells them that this is the last day of the Time Lords. The Doctor has vanished, but he still has “the moment” and will use it to destroy Time Lords and Daleks alike.

The council’s token woman suggests that maybe it’s time to end it: that though this is only the far edge of the Time War, people are dying in blood and terror across the universe, and time itself is unravelling. But Timothy Dalton disagrees, and burns her alive with his magic glove.

He will not die, he says.

So another council member, who doesn’t want to die either, tells Timothy Dalton (who I shall call The Narrator) that there will be two children of Gallifrey remaining, whose eternal enmity will come to a final conclusion on Earth.

On Earth, the Master has tied both Wilf and the Doctor to chairs.

NICK: The Master would have waited about thirty seconds and then started plotting against himself.

As the Master is plotting, Wilf’s phone rings, which the Master says is impossible, because he’s not ringing Wilf, so who would be?

Wilf explains about the meta-crisis, and the Master says, “Oh, he loves playing with Earth girls.”

Wilf shouts to Donna to run, but Donna’s trapped by Master clones, and stuck to one place by her reviving memories of her life with the Doctor—which then cause a blinding golden light to flash down the alleyway, taking out the Master clones and causing Donna to faint.

The Doctor’s grinning, and Heather says “What a bastard!”

But when the Master strips the Doctor’s gag off, the Doctor just says, “Do you really think I’d leave my best friend without a defense?”

He tells Wilf that Donna’s fine: she’ll just sleep. But, Doctor, you said if she remembered you her brain would burn and she’d die! Now I’m bewildered.

The Master asks for the Doctor’s TARDIS, but the Doctor just tells him, “You could be so magnificent.” He wants the Master to travel the universe with him, saying that he doesn’t need to own the universe, just see it.

Then the Master tells, again, the story of how he first heard the drumbeat in his head after he was taken, as an initiation, to stare into the Untempered Schism.

And we cut to The Narrator, saying the drumbeat is the mark of a warrior. One of the other council members, who clearly has a death wish, says that it’s a sign of insanity, but The Narrator says no: “It’s the heartbeat of a Time Lord.”

Because it’s four beats. I wonder if that’s significant?

What the Master realises now, though, is that six billion people on Earth have the same drumbeat in their heads, so he can triangulate its original location.

Demanding to know the location of the TARDIS, the Master orders one of his heavily helmeted guards to kill Wilf. But the Doctor says that even after all this time, the Master is still incredibly stupid.

Because that guard is one inch too tall.

Because it’s not a Master clone, it’s one of the Cactus People.

WILF: God bless the cactuses.
DOCTOR: That’s cacti.
CACTUS: That’s racist.

After some frenetic running through the corridors—during which the Doctor is still tied to his chair, and declares it to be the “worst rescue ever”—the female Cactus Person teleports them all to their ship, which Heather declares the cutest spaceship ever.

Wilf is amazed that he’s in space, but the Doctor needs the engine room. The Cactus Woman says that they’re safe in space, but the Doctor points out that the Master has control of every missile on Earth.

So he kills the engines, so that the ship gives no sign of life whatsoever.

Just to be on the safe side, the Master (in the guise of a soldier) destroys the Earth-end of the teleport technology, so that the Doctor is stranded.

The Cactus People are furious, because they’re stranded in orbit with no way down. Wilf says he’s sure that the Doctor has something up his sleeve, but, as it turns out, he doesn’t.

We pan back from the Cutest Spaceship Ever, now drifting dead and dark with the Earth below it.

The Master demands that all of him—all six billion of him—just concentrate on the signal, on that Time Lord heartbeat beating in his head. When they do, he says, “The sound is tangible. Someone could only have designed this. But who?”

Oh, who indeed?

The Time Lords, that’s who. Sending the signal back through time from a moment just before they are locked in the Time Bubble, after the end of the Time War.

I’m typing “Time” with a capital T a great deal in this live-blog.

But the Time Lords need something tangible to attach to the signal—and, sure enough, there’s the appropriate object on the end of The Narrator’s staff. Whatever it is, it comes streaming down to Earth: the Doctor sees it pass from the Cutest Spaceship Ever, and the Master sends his men out to find it.

And they do. It’s a diamond. But not just any diamond: it’s a white point star.

This news delights the Master, who starts laughing hysterically—as though the Master could laugh any other way.

Back on the Cutest Spaceship Ever, Wilf is wandering around, calling for the Doctor and declaring himself lost.

“And yet you were found,” says Claire Bloom, popping up behind him in her white suit.

She asks Wilf if he armed himself, and he shows his gun. She says that at the end of his life, the Doctor will need to take up arms or he will fail.

When Wilf finds the Doctor, the latter is trying to fix the heating in the Cutest Spaceship Ever. Wilf’s rather delighted: “I’m an astronaut!” he says, slapping his thighs. But when he spots Earth, he worries, first, that he might never be able to visit his wife’s grave again, and, second, that the Master might have turned even the dead into his own clones.

Wilf starts talking about his war experience, but cuts himself off, saying that the Doctor doesn’t want to hear an old man’s stories.

DOCTOR: I’m older than you.
WILF: Get away.
DOCTOR: I’m 906.

Wilf finds this staggering, as you would.

WILF: We must look like insects to you.
DOCTOR: I think you look like giants.

Wilf tries to hand his gun to the Doctor, but the Doctor steadfastly refuses it, pointing out that Wilf had the gun on him in Naismith’s manor but didn’t shoot the Master.

DOCTOR: I would be proud.
WILF: What?
DOCTOR: If you were my father.

Wilf asks what happens if the Master is killed. The Doctor says that the template will snap, and they will revert to their original forms.

WILF: Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare put him above them. You take this gun. That’s an order. You take this gun, and you save your life. And don’t you die.

But at this point, the Master begins an open broadcast, telling the Doctor about the white point star.

This freaks the Doctor out. He tells the anxious Wilf that white point stars are only found on Galifrey, so this means “it’s the Time Lords. The Time Lords are returning.”

Wilf says that’s a good thing, surely. He says, “They’re your people.”

But the Doctor takes the gun, and he runs.

Using the white point star, the Master reverses the signal, opening a pathway.

The Narrator walks into something that looks rather like the senate from the Star Wars prequels. (Thought Nick calls it the panopticon.) The Narrator says that this is the time when Gallifrey falls or Gallifrey rises—and the Time Lords chant “Gallifrey rises! Gallifrey rises!”

On the Cutest Spaceship Ever, the Doctor explains that the entire Time War was time-locked, and nothing can get out. Except for something that was already there.

The signal! says Wilf. Since the Master was a child!

Man, time paradoxes give me a headache.

The Doctor, saying “Allons-y!”, sends the Cutest Spaceship Ever (now with restored power) flying straight back to Earth at an insane speed, while Wilf and the Cactus Man re-enact that scene from Star Wars when the Millennium Falcon is escaping the Death Star.

Now, just remember: don’t get cocky.

I would think that causing a cruise missile to blow up this close to the Cutest Spaceship Ever would actually cause the ship to blow anyway, but then I’m not actually a scientist.

The Master knows that the Doctor is coming to Naismith manor, but he says it’s too late—and, sure enough, The Narrator says that only two voted against the plan for the Time Lords’ return. We see those two, one a woman and one perhaps not, standing behind The Narrator with their hands covering their faces.

Then The Narrator raises his staff, and opens a glowing passage, as the Doctor launches himself from the spaceship and—as Nick coughs “Bullshit!” into his hand—falls through the skylight onto the ground in Naismith manor.

But, though he raises the gun, it’s only to see The Narrator and his companions standing in front of him.

The Master tells The Narrator, whom he addresses as “Mr President,” that he intends to transplant himself into all the Time Lords, as well. But the President merely raises his glowing glove, and reverses the Master’s process, turning everyone back into themselves.

The Doctor’s not really paying attention, though, because the Time Lords never really meant to just bring themselves back.

DOCTOR: Don’t you ever listen? “Something is returning.” Not someone, something. It’s Gallifrey.

And it certainly is—right on top of Earth, throwing our planet out of orbit.

NICK: Oh, I think the Elgin Marbles are gone for good this time.

People flee, just as Wilf makes it into Naismith manor. Wilf sees a man trapped in one of those radiation-proof booths, and runs to let him out (which he can only do by locking himself in the other booth).

The Master still thinks that the return of Gallifrey is a good thing, but Doctor says that the Master wasn’t there at the end. He didn’t see what Gallifrey became, and what monstrosities arose—monstrosities like the Nightmare Child, who could have been king, with his army of meanwhiles and neverweres.

I love that description.

But the President says that the Time Lords will ascend to beings of pure consciousness, ripping time apart in the process.

That, says the Doctor, is what they were planning in the final days of the war.

So the Doctor stands and draws his gun, training it on the President. The Master eggs him on, but the Doctor spins around, to train the gun on the Master because, after all, the link is in the Master’s head. Then he spins back to the President.

But before he can decide, the woman behind the President drops her hands from her face. It’s Claire Bloom, and she’s weeping.

So the Doctor spins again, and tells the Master to get out of the way. Instead of shooting the Master, he shoots the machine, breaking the link.

“Back into hell, Rassilon,” he says.

Wait, what? Rassilon? That’s Rassilon?

Damn.

Then, as the Time Lords fade away, the Master realises that these are the people who drove him mad for their own purposes. And he shoots Rassilon with the lasers from his hands.

I’ll just say that again, shall I?

The Master shoots Rassilon with the lasers from his hands.

Gallifrey withdraws from the sky, and the Earth settles down. The Doctor takes a deep breath.

And then Wilf, trapped in his booth, knocks four times on the glass.

Four times.

The Doctor knows what this means. The Master left the “nuclear bolt” running, so the machine is going into overload. And it’s gone critical. So if the Doctor touches one control, the booth will flood with radiation.

Wilf knows what this means.

WILF: All right, then. Just leave me.
DOCTOR: All right, then, I will. Because you had to go in there. You had to go and get yourself stuck, didn’t you? Because that’s who you are. Waiting for me all this time.
WILF: Seriously, leave me. I’m an old man.
DOCTOR: Exactly. Look at you. Not remotely important. But me: I could do so much more.

Look, Doctor? You know I love you. I have loved you for my entire life, and will love you for the rest of my life. But you’re really trying my patience right now.

But, of course, he steps into the booth, and releases Wilf, taking the fatal dose of radiation himself.

DOCTOR: Wilf, it would be my honour.
ME: Just ignore all that abuse I just levelled at you about how much less important than me you are.

But the Doctor doesn’t die and he doesn’t regenerate. He tells Wilf that the system is dead, that he absorbed all the radiation. Wilf says, “Well, here we are, then. Safe and sound.”

He points out that the Doctor is carrying some battle scars, but the Doctor runs his hands over his face, and the cuts disappear.

We know what that means: we’ve seen him regrow his hand, remember?

He tells Wilf that “it’s started,” and Wilf falls into the Doctor’s arms.

Donna, in her mother’s home, comes back to consciousness as we hear the TARDIS materialise in the street. She says, “What happened? Did I miss something, again?” And it seems to me that this suggests she is not quite the same Donna, because the old Donna didn’t care if she missed things.

Wilf asks where the Doctor is going, and he says, “To get my reward.”

And we cut to Martha, running through a wasteland towards Mickey, while being fired on by a Sontaran.

MICKEY: And this is no place for a married woman.
MARTHA: Well, then, you shouldn’t have married me.

Wait, what? The hell?

The Doctor pops up behind the Sontaran, kills him, and stands dramatically on the platform just long enough for Martha and Mickey to see him.

Then we cut to Sarah Jane Smith’s son, wandering along the road chatting on his phone, failing to see a car—though the Doctor knocks him out of the way and saves his life. Sarah knows what’s happening: she was there when the Third Doctor regenerated in “Planet of the Spiders.”

Then we’re in the cantina on Mos Eisley—or, as Heather suggests, the restaurant at the end of the universe—where a post-Children of Earth Jack is drowning his sorrows. He slips Jack a note, allowing Jack to pick up Alonzo from “Voyage of the Damned” with a quick “Going my way?”

Then we’re back on Earth, where Verity Newman, grand-daughter of Joan the matron in “Human Nature”/“Family of Blood” is signing copies of the book she wrote based on her grandmother’s memories. He asks if Joan was happy, and Verity says “Yes, she was. Were you?”

He walks away.

We’re at the church with Donna on her wedding day. The Doctor watches from outside the church gate, and Sylvia and Wilf head over to greet him.

Wilf’s delighted, because the Doctor has the “same old face.” So he thinks everything is going to be all right.

Wilf says, “There’s one thing you never told me, Doctor. That woman: who was she?”

The Doctor says nothing, but glances over at Donna.

He hands them an envelope, saying he wanted to drop by a wedding present. But he never has any money, so he borrowed a pound from a lovely man: Geoffrey Noble.

Sylvia weeps.

When Donna opens the envelope, she says a lottery ticket is a “cheap wedding present” but you never know: it’s the treble rollover the week and she might get lucky.

Sylvia and Wilf grab each others’ hands and grin.

But when the Doctor turns his back and we hear the TARDIS dematerialise, Wilf watches him leave and weeps.

I whimper a little, because Bernard Cribbens weeping always makes me wants to weep, too.

And that would be Rose’s theme rising in the background, and Rose and Jackie walk across the estate. Jackie leaves, and Rose sees the Doctor, staggering and shaking in the background.

She assumes he’s had too much to drink, especially when he asks what year it is.

It’s January 1, 2005.

The Doctor tells Rose that she’s going to have a great year, and she offers him the same wish, before walking away.

The Doctor is shaking and moaning. He falls to his knees in the snow—and an Ood appears before him, saying, “We will sing to you, Doctor. The universe will sing you to your sleep.”

A lovely choral melody arises, as we see the Oods in their city linking hands.

OOD SIGMA: This song is ending. But the story never ends.

Much like this live-blogging, then.

The Doctor makes it back into the TARDIS, and as his hands begin to glow, I realise that I have no idea what happened to the Master. Does anyone know? Did I just miss it in the live-blogging frenzy, or was it skimmed over?

The TARDIS leaves Earth, and the Tenth Doctor takes a long, shuddering breath, saying, “I don’t want to go.”

But he has no choice: the regeneration process has started.

And this time, apparently, it sets fire to the TARDIS, and blows out its windows. I guess that’s a function of the radiation?

And here’s the Eleventh Doctor. For the first time, the Doctor is younger than me.

Of course, the TARDIS is on fire, but he seems more concerned with wondering whether he’s a girl or not, and whether he’s finally ginger.

But no: he realises that he’s crashing, just in time to shout “Geronimo!” into the closing credits.

And thus ends the reign of the Tenth Doctor.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Sixty-Five

Posted 2626 days ago in by Catriona

Trying to convince Nick that he really needs to put a shirt on before we go to the shops.

ME: Because while I can get away with it with a toddler, I really think with you being 33 . . .
(Long pause)
ME: . . . tomorrow.
NICK: I was going to say.
ME: It’s tomorrow, for goodness’ sake!
NICK: Stop stealing my youth!

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Sixty-Four

Posted 2628 days ago in by Catriona

Believe it or not, this conversation (over IM) started when Nick revealed he hadn’t told me that he already knew about the man who tried to pay his bills with a picture of a spider.

ME: Oh. Consider my bubble burst.

NICK: Oh! Sorry!

ME: All the joy is gone from life.

NICK: Bloody hell, that was easy. I wasn’t even trying.

ME: The world is turning gray around me . . .

NICK: Is it getting cold? So cold?

ME: Why’s everything going fuzzy? Oh, wait, I’m listening to Grant Lee Buffalo.

NICK: Ah! Well, there you go.

ME: You’re not my boyfriend! Who’s using your computer? I mean, his computer.

NICK: Sorry? What have I done? OMG?! Bananas!

ME: My own boyfriend wouldn’t taunt me like that. I know it for sure. He’s a gentle soul.

NICK: That’s true. Darn it, foiled again!

ME: Well, who are you, then?

NICK: I am the Dread Pirate Roberts.

ME: Which one?

NICK: Not the latest one. One of the earlier, less English ones.

ME: The latest one is Inigo Montoya.

NICK: Hmm. Not the one before last either, then.

ME: So not Inigo Montoya and not Westley?

NICK: Nope. The one before the one before the one before last.

ME: Hang on. How did the Dread Pirate Roberts get on my boyfriend’s Gmail account?

NICK: I scuttled his ship and took his passwords. He’s my cabin boy now. I shall probably kill him in the morning.

ME: He had a ship? He told me he was a web designer!

NICK: He told me he ran away to sea to find you a nice book to read.

ME: That doesn’t sound like him, at all.

NICK: I could tell he was lying. But about what, I could not tell.

ME: Are you sure that’s my boyfriend you’ve got as a cabin boy?

NICK: He is bald and wears glasses.

ME: So are many men who are replete with testosterone. Except for the glasses.

NICK: He said something about repleteness just before I defeated him in a duel.

ME: Oh. That’s definitely my boyfriend, then. Is he coming back for his birthday party?

NICK: I tire swiftly of him but his foolishness has put me out of the mood for killing. I shall release him to you this afternoon.

ME: Hang on—I know you! You’re Atlas! Atlas pretending to be Dread Pirate Roberts! Oh, the layers upon layers.

NICK: My cunning but overly complex plan is revealed! I must away with me to my space castle.

ME: Well, can you drop him off at Indooroopilly, if you’ve got your space castle? It saves me picking him up from work.

NICK: This baby doesn’t do reverse. Or left turns.

ME: Is a giant circuit of the Earth out of the question? He doesn’t have to be there for a couple of hours.

NICK: Can’t talk; just been boarded by Space Pirate Harlock.

ME: Right—watch out for the giant switchblade he keeps in the prow of his ship.

NICK: Yes, that did a number on my space-shrubbery.

Conversation With My Nintendo Wii Balance Board, Part Three

Posted 2630 days ago in by Catriona

WII FIT BALANCE BOARD: Good morning! Have you had your breakfast yet? Oh, Nick’s birthday is coming up, isn’t it? Have you given any thought to presents? Or maybe throwing him a surprise party?

And I thought my old TiVo’s habit of secretly recording evangelical television made it the most passive-aggressive piece of household equipment I’d ever owned . . .

Live-blogging Doctor Who: "The End of Time Part One"

Posted 2632 days ago in by Catriona

All set for the live-blogging, though I am on my second bottle of wine as we speak. I haven’t drunk them all on my own, I add. Michelle and Heather are joining us for the live-blogging again.

We’re currently debating which SBS newsreader is hotter, until we got to the SBS weather:

HEATHER: Oh, my god! Did you see that? The universe just did something really [redacted] up right then!
ME: I think that was a gap in the radar image.
HEATHER: No kidding. That was [redacted] up right then.

Okay, I just posted that article twice. What on earth is happening?!

Okay, we’re back on track now. I shall pause now and put my hair up.

Voiceover!

Shush, Treena. No spoilers!

We zoom in on the Earth, with the voiceover telling us that in the last days of planet Earth, everyone had bad dreams. But in the pagan rites celebrating Christmas, everyone forgot their nightmares.

Everyone except Donna’s grandfather Wilf, that is.

Wilf wanders into a church, where a choir is singing. But all Wilf can see is a stained-glass window where, in the bottom right-hand window, we see a strange icon.

As Wilf is looking at it, a woman appears behind him, to tell him that the church is positioned on the site of an old convent, where a demon appeared, only to be smote by the “sainted physician.” Then she disappears, as Wilf notices that the icon in the bottom left corner is the TARDIS.

Credits.

Now the Doctor, carrying on from the end of “Waters of Mars,” ends up on the Ood planet, insisting that Good Queen Bess’s nickname is no longer . . . well, we all get the point. This is the Doctor at his most hedonistic and deliberately obtuse.

Michelle says that the second Ood episode, the one with Donna, is her most memorable episode ever, which, she says, is counter to her distaste for Muppets.

The Doctor says the Oods’ level of development is too fast for the hundred years of development that the Ood say have passed since he left. But the Ood are having nightmares, and they suggest that the Doctor joins with the Ood in the dreaming.

He does, and hears the Master laugh.

“That man is dead,” says the Doctor, but the Ood say he appears in their dreams every night. And there’s more, they say. They point out that Wilf is scared, that “the king is in his counting house” [“Eh?” says Michelle, but the Doctor says he doesn’t know who that man and his daughter are, either], and there’s another, the lonely one.

That’s Lucy Saxon, formally the Master’s wife.

The Ood don’t know who she is, so the Doctor briefly recaps the end of season three.

He says that the Master is dead, but the Ood do their own recapping of the end of season three, showing the hand picking up the ring from the Master’s ashes.

The Ood, going red-eye again, tell him that the Master is only part of a broader plan, that what is coming is no less than the end of time.

The Doctor runs back to the TARDIS (and he does the beepy car joke again, but I’m ignoring it for the second time), as, cut with this, we see Lucy Saxon drawn from her prison cell by the new governor of her prison—the old governor having met with an accident that “took a long time to arrange.”

These people, apparently, are part of the Master’s long-drawn out plan to resurrect himself if something happened to him. Lucy, who has been made to kneel by this point, is horrified by this.

Wilf looks out at the coming storm.

Apparently, Lucy, as Saxon’s wife, “bore his imprint,” which means they press a tissue to her lips.

HEATHER: What, has she not washed?
NICK: Yeah, apparently that was . . .
HEATHER: So does he have super-sticky DNA?

Either way, the Master—as Nick points out, naked—comes back to life thanks to the sacrifice of his cult, as the TARDIS explodes around the Doctor.

The Master, still surrounded by waves of light, reaches out to Lucy, telling her that he can hear the drumbeats louder than ever before. He says he’s missed them. But Lucy says that no one knew him better than her, and while his disciples prepared for his return, so did she. For all the “secret books of Saxon” told of the “potions of life,” her people had enough money to prepare the counter-potion.

After all, she did go to Roedean.

And the Doctor materialises in front of a prison that has clearly suffered a serious explosion.

But the man we saw earlier as “the king in his counting house” says to his daughter that someone escaped the inferno, and he cancels Christmas for all his employees.

Wilf, saying that he and his reindeer headband are heading down to the pub for a quick snifter, actually jumps on a bus full of old-age pensioners—including June Whitfield—and asks them all to look out for the Doctor. June calls them the “silver cloak.”

In a wasteland, a man and his young friend buy hamburgers from a mobile food van, but the next customer is the Master, complete with his peroxided hair, who asks for “everything.” He says he’s “so hungry.”

And, in fact, he suddenly appears next to the man and his friend, saying he’s “starving,” and bolting the hamburger.

The man tells his friend that he shouldn’t bolt his hamburger all at once, because if he takes it slowly, he can make it last all day. The man says they should leave, but the friend says that the Master looks like the old Prime Minister, the one who went mad.

Isn’t that funny? asks the Master. Stuck looking like the old Prime Minister. Unable to escape.

And, as he talks, his face flashes into a skull, and back.

The man and his friend Ginger run, but they seek help at the food wagon, and all that they see there is two corpses, fried to skeletons. They baulk, but the Master, screeching “Dinner time!”, leaps up in the air and on them.

In a wasteland, the Doctor and the Master run towards one another. This is useful, because it gives us time to remind Michelle about the end of season three.

ME: Nobody on earth remembers anything about what happened at the end of season three.
MICHELLE: Bloody oath.

Just as the Doctor manages to catch up to the Master, the Silver Cloak find him, thanks to a neighbour of June’s.

Wilf explains briefly to the Doctor that he only told his friends that the Doctor was a doctor, before the Silver Cloak insist on having their photographs taken with the Doctor.

Then we disembark from the Silver Cloak’s bus, and stop in at a cafe for some exposition.

DOCTOR: I’m going to die.
WILF: Well, so am I, some day.
DOCTOR: Don’t you dare.

Oh, I admit it: I whimpered a little at that.

The Doctor explains that he can die, or that regeneration can feel like dying.

I’m going to rant here, briefly: this is not canonical! There are no grounds for thinking that the Doctor interprets regeneration as dying. Why would he? It’s an essential part of his biology.

My rant is interrupted by Donna turning up in the street outside the cafe. Wilf tells the Doctor that she’s earning minimum wage and her fiance is earning tuppence, so they can only afford a tiny flat. (What’s the difference between “minimum wage” and “tuppence”?) He asks the Doctor if he can bring Donna’s memory back, but the Doctor says that if she remembers her brain will burn and she will die.

Both men are crying by this point.

The voiceover returns, telling us that the “idiots and fools” (the king in his castle and his daughter) dream of a brighter future, while the citizens in their sleep dream bad dreams.

Then we finally see who is doing the voiceover, having told Michelle all episode that “she would see” who it was.

MICHELLE: Nope, don’t know who that is.
EVERYONE ELSE: That’s TIMOTHY DALTON!
MICHELLE: Oh, James Bond.

So we’re all on the same page, here.

The Master and the Doctor meet in a wasteland, and the Doctor gets the worst of it.

NICK: Nothing more manly than walking away from an explosion without looking behind you.
HEATHER: Oh, just kiss.

While the Doctor is lying on the ground, the Master reminds him of the time when they used to run across the red grass of the Master’s father’s lands, looking up at the sky. I whimper, because mention of Gallifrey always makes me cry a little.

Wow, this is going to be a long recap. Sorry!

The Master says that he’s the returning thing of which the Ood warned, but the Doctor says it’s something else, the “end of time.” But the Master starts ranting about the sound of drums again, and, for once, the Doctor can hear it.

Both the Doctor and the Master are amazed that he can hear it—the Doctor always thought that the Master was mad and, frankly, so did the Master. He takes off, thanks to some Iron-Man-style repulsor beams in his palms, but is picked up by some masked men in black (and a helicopter), who smack the Doctor on the back of the head with a pistol.

And now it’s Christmas morning in the Noble household. Donna has made margueritas, with oranges because she couldn’t get lemons, and has bought her mother a blouse—“Oh, it’s lovely,” says Mrs Noble. “Did you keep the receipt?”

She’s bought her grandfather a copy of Joshua Naismith’s biography—Joshua is the king in his counting house. She can’t tell why she bought it, just that it seemed like a good idea.

And, when Wilf watches the queen’s speech, Claire Bloom (as the unnamed woman in white, who turned up in the church), appears on the television, telling him to help the Doctor, and to do it armed.

This is convenient, because the Doctor has just turned up in the street outside Donna’s house, asking Wilf if he’s seen anything weird. And Wilf tells him Donna had a funny moment about the book this morning.

But as Wilf and the Doctor are chatting in the back yard, Mrs Noble turns up, telling the Doctor he has to leave, before Donna sees him and remembers.

Though she’s seen him once before and didn’t remember.

Donna, following them out into the street, finds her mother shouting at thin air, as Wilf disappears into the TARDIS.

Wilf asks why the Doctor can’t just pop back to yesterday, but the Doctor says that it’s forbidden to go back on your own timeline.

ME: Except for cheap tricks!

The Master, in Naismith’s home, recognises that his technology is not from Earth, but Naismith simply says, “And neither are you. A perfect combination, don’t you think?” Naismith sends a female technician off to get some readings.

The female technician, and her male companion, are, as it turns out, not human. They’re spiky cactus people, who think that Saxon might be exactly what they’re looking for.

Naismith tells the Master that the technology was found buried at the foot of Mount Snowdon, and fell into the hands of Torchwood. When Torchwood fell—after the Battle of Canary Wharf, we decide—Naismith gained control of it.

The Master is ravening in this scene. There’s no other appropriate verb: this is not eating, it’s ravening.

Naismith says that the “Immortality Gate,” as he calls it, repairs the body at the cellular level. So what he’s seeking is immortality—not for himself (NICK: Why not for himself? His motivation makes no sense!) but for his daughter.

As Wilf and the Doctor materialise in the stables, the Master gets to work on the machine. Cactus Woman is just talking about what a genius he is, and how he might be looking for someone just like him, as the Doctor appears and reveals that he knows she’s an alien.

But just then the Master repairs the Immortality Gate. Naismith orders the Master restrained, which is a good idea, because his resurrection didn’t work so well, and his body is eating itself.

The Cactus People tell the Doctor that they’re a salvage team, and that the gate is a medical device. It repairs bodies, that’s all. The Doctor says there must be something more than that, and, just then, Wilf asks why it’s so big.

That’s a good question, the Doctor says. But the Cactus People say it doesn’t just mend one person: it transmits the medical template across the entire planet.

And, at that point, we cut to Barack Obama. No, seriously. But, more importantly, the Master throws off his straitjacket, and leaps into the Immortality Gate.

Now everyone in the room (and President Obama) can see the Master’s face in their mind. The Doctor throws Wilf into a radiation-shielded room, which blocks the Master from his mind. But for everyone else, it’s close to zero hour.

Donna, though, is not affected. Not affected at all.

In-teresting.

The Doctor has no idea what’s going to happen—he’s asking the Master if it’s a form of mind control. Oh, not as simple as that, Doctor. As the Master says, they’re not going to think like him, they’re going to become him.

And, sure enough, everyone on Earth is now the Master. And, for Donna, watching her mother and her fiance become the Master, this is a trigger to memory—she starts thinking of the kind of things that used to happen, particularly Sontarans.

Heather points out that Donna never knew the Master, but I guess the weirdness of it all is enough.

MASTER: The human race used to be your favourite, Doctor. But, now, there is no human race. There is only . . . the Master race.

Oh, and isn’t the Master delighted by what he’s wrought?

Voiceover!

VOICEOVER: And so it came to pass, on Christmas Day, that the human race did cease to exist.

But, the voice continues, the Master had no idea what role he played in the broader scheme of things.

This, he says, is the day the Time Lords returned.

The camera scans past Timothy Dalton, and we see some men (and two women with their hands over their faces) in very, very, very familiar collars.

Time Lords! Time Lords!

W00t!

See you here next week for the second half? Of course we will!

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Sixty-Three

Posted 2632 days ago in by Catriona

While discussing my love for Method cleaning products and, particularly, their delicious-smelling wood polish:

ME: Man, the living room really does smell like warm heaven.
NICK: Well, that’s why there are so many Methodists.

Water Dragon

Posted 2633 days ago in by Catriona

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Sixty-Two

Posted 2634 days ago in by Catriona

In which Nick shows me a picture of the Doctor’s new companion Karen Gillan in a policeman’s uniform complete with miniskirt:

ME: Nicholas!
NICK: What? It’s a Sensorite belt!
ME: You were not looking at her belt.
(Pause)
NICK: That is a very short skirt.

For the record, she was also wearing stockings with seams.

(For the complete joke, see point six in Lawrence Miles’s Thirteen Cheering Thoughts for 2010, in the sidebar to his blog. But be warned: the first point is a bit of a spoiler if you haven’t yet seen the Doctor Who season five finale “End of Time.”)

Books In Their Natural Environment, Part Three

Posted 2634 days ago in by Catriona

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Sixty-One

Posted 2635 days ago in by Catriona

NICK: My weight comes off more easily because I am replete with testosterone.
ME: You always say that.
NICK: It’s true!
ME: You are obsessed with your testosterone.
NICK: It’s why I am bald!
ME: So you keep saying. It’s your standard excuse.
NICK: It’s not an excuse! It’s true!
ME: “I can’t put down the toilet seat, I am replete with testosterone!” “I can’t take out the rubbish, I am replete with testosterone!” “I wasn’t listening to what you just said, because I am replete with testosterone!”
NICK: OK, I am totally LOLing now.
ME: God. Sorry.
NICK: Is OK.
ME: I think I was taken over by the ghost of June Cleaver’s secret despair.
NICK: That sounds terrible.
ME: It is!

The Fruits of Research

Posted 2636 days ago in by Catriona

Thanks to a random search engine hitting a particular page, I’ve been reminded of something that I wrote over a year and a half ago.

(We are, as it turns out, rapidly approaching this blog’s second birthday, which is on Saturday.)

That was a piece I wrote while struggling with a journal article, a piece on the difficulties of my writing process.

That was in July 2008.

The article was accepted in December 2008, with some provisions.

The re-written article was sent off, after a flurry of communication with the various institutions that held the rights to the illustrations, in January 2009.

It was to be published in the June 2009 issue of the journal—and it was.

But I’ve only just seen the June 2009 issue turn up on the online journal interfaces, as is the way of academic publishing.

So, if you’re interested, here’s the journal article some of you watched me anguish over:

Ta da!

Of course, you need access to scholarly databases, but that’s all right: even if you don’t have that, you can see the abstract.

You just miss the pictures.

And none of them have half-naked princesses in them, so you’re not missing that much.

Strange Conversations: Part Two Hundred and Sixty

Posted 2636 days ago in by Catriona

ME: Also, why is your computer called Mechatron?
NICK: Because that is an awesome name.
ME: But when I bought that Autobot fridge magnet, and wanted a Decepticon fridge magnet to go with it, you said you were all about the Autobots.
NICK: Mechatron, not Megatron.
ME: Yes, I’m aware of the subtle difference there. Just as I’m aware that Optimus Prime could pwn Megatron.
NICK: Well, of course.
ME: Don’t doubt my Transformers knowledge. I’m just suggesting the two are a little close for comfort.
NICK: Anyway, I wanted a name that fitted my elementary particle naming conventions. But I also wanted to acknowledge the metallic awesomeness of the new machine.
ME: And you couldn’t come up with a pun on Optimus Prime? You’re a tool of the Decepticons!
NICK: Arg! I am not! You take that back!
ME: I will not! You’re a Decepticon fancier!
NICK: Hmmph!
ME: Autobots! Transform and roll out!

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