by Catriona Mills

Urban Futility

Posted 2432 days ago in by Catriona

I added Social City on Facebook this week, because a friend has become addicted to it and was begging for more neighbours. But like the Sim City on which it is, I believe, strongly modelled, it’s a strangely compelling game.

Compelling and horrifying.

At least, I find the following things disturbing.

My little bungalows (the only type of housing I can currently afford) put out ten new citizens every seven minutes. Really? What on Earth are they doing in there? I asked Nick this, and he said, “Um, bonking, apparently.” But even that doesn’t explain the sheer scale of the population growth—unless perhaps this is a city for rabbits.

I can only assume they’ve got some kind of accelerated cloning apparatus in each house. That would explain why all my citizens look slightly similar.

I also built a road all the way around two edges of my map before I realised that I’d need to con friends into adding the application if I wanted to expand the map any further. I might delete the road, but in the meantime, my citizens are strolling happily along the footpaths on the very edge of the map. It makes me vertiginous just watching them. I keep wanting to shout at them, “You’re going to fall off the edge of the known universe! Right off the edge!”

Sometimes, the citizens also get trapped. I built them a leisure centre because apparently they were unhappy. And then I noticed one poor citizen was trapped in a loop in the parking lot, just walking in circles and occasionally pixellating.

She might still be doing it, actually. Eventually, I grew too horrified to look, and moved the map down on the screen so I couldn’t see that corner.

But the futile horror that underlies the city really shows best in the factories.

The factory actions are mechanically repetitive. I’ve got a little blue truck in my Blamco factory (Blamco is currently manufacturing soft toys) that has been accepting crates off a conveyor belt for at least the last four hours. I mean, I haven’t been watching it steadily all that time, but every time I look, the conveyor belt is still stuffing it with crates. Is it a TARDIS? Where are all the crates going?

And next door to Blamco, there’s a forklift in the grounds of another factory. It lifts a crate, does a U-turn, and drops the crate. Then the crate vanishes and reappears in its original location, and the forklift driver does it all over again. And again. And again.

And the only products I’m allowed to build in my factories are soft toys, prom dresses, CDs, and something that looks suspiciously like Twinkies. I have a hideous feeling that my city is populated entirely by characters from 1990s’ high-school movies—or, in other words, it’s a population of clever but plain girls (plain, that is, until they take off their glasses, swap their paint-stained overalls for a cute dress, and take their hair out of that ponytail) who go dress shopping because the cute-and-popular guy just asked them to prom, but then find out it was all for a dare, slap him, and go home to hug their soft toys, eat Twinkies, and listen to country-and-western music.

Is this city some kind of Purgatory? That would explain my citizens restlessly prowling the perimeter but never actually falling into the void.

Are all the high-school mean girls forced to live out their afterlives here as the objects of their own cruel jokes, while Sisyphean forklift drivers toil endlessly in the background?

Can I accept being the architect of such a demi-Hellish landscape?

The Existential Horror of the 1980s

Posted 2436 days ago in by Catriona

My students seems quite fascinated by the 1980s. I suppose, when the majority of them were born in the 1990s, it seems oddly exotic and ancient to them, a state of mind that in turn makes me feel ancient, though not particularly exotic.

So I tell them the 1980s was a time of unremitting horror, and they should be lucky they don’t have to revisit it.

(I’m actually quite fond of the ’80s, myself, in a nostalgic kind of way, but I seem to have gone a little mad in front of my classes, ever since I started teaching students who were born while I was in high school.)

I could tell them about the sense that we were all going to die in a nuclear holocaust or, this being a giant isolated island, survive in a nuclear wasteland among mutant kangaroos before committing suicide with Armand Assante.

(I may be mixing up Tank Girl and the 2000 adaptation of On the Beach, there, but, hey, it was a confusing time.)

But to drive home the true existential horror of the 1980s, all I really need to do is to show them the covers of Paula Danziger novels:

The tight jeans!

The short jeans!

The socks that match your magenta-and-black-striped jumper!

The magenta-and-black-striped jumper!

The blue slip-on shoes!

The polka dots!

Truly, an impending nuclear holocaust would always have been slightly less terrifying than those lemon-coloured, three-quarter-length leggings with white high heels and matching plastic bracelets.

Productivity

Posted 2438 days ago in by Catriona

I’ve been trying desperately to clear some ongoing projects off my desk, because while this past six or seven months has been frantic, they’ve mostly been frantic because of things like Legionnaire’s Disease and the occasional tumble down half a flight of stairs. With the exception of the Mockingbird MS, I haven’t been doing much critical writing and the Mockingbird MS—while I’m very proud of it and worked extremely hard on it—isn’t in my usual field of research.

So I’m trying frantically to close off a couple of projects that have been neglected for far too long before the new semester’s teaching starts (which, admittedly, is next week, but I won’t be teaching much myself until week four).

The blog isn’t the only thing that’s being neglected, but it’s the area of neglect that makes me feels guiltiest (hence this, the latest in my ongoing series of “I shall begin blogging again soon, I promise!” posts).

Still, as you can see by the light radiating off that draft, the current article’s actually falling into place quite nicely, thanks to some reading on “Victorian thing culture” and a particularly fruitful metaphor. But don’t tell my students that last bit: not after how often I tell them to avoid metaphors in academic writing.

Improbable Things The Vampire in Moonlight Does

Posted 2439 days ago in by Catriona

I don’t know what it is about vampires that makes just about all of their texts intensely cheesy. It reminds me of the first time that Bill takes Sookie to Fangtasia in True Blood, and she raises her eyebrows at the name: Bill tells her that vampires are very old and puns are an old form of humour, but we know it’s really just because vampires are a bit naff.

And none, honestly, are quite as naff as the lead vampire in Moonlight. (And, yes, I’m taking into account the first half-dozen episodes of Vampire Diaries, before the show unexpectedly and rather disappointingly turned into a much better programme.)

Based on the last few episodes of Moonlight, here’s my list of the most improbable things this vampire does:

1. Stays in the same city for the entire fifty years after he’s turned. No, wait: stays in the same city and the same profession for fifty years. No, wait again: stays in the same city and same profession for fifty years and uses his own name that whole time.

It wouldn’t matter so much if vampires were out in the open in this world, but every episode is predicated around the idea that no one, no one (except the cute blonde reporter) can ever find out about vampires. So, buddy, d’you think it might be a good idea to change your name occasionally? It’s not as though you were turned in the 1600s. You were turned in the 1950s. There are photographs of you out there. Photographs actually labelled “Mick St John: Private Investigator.” So don’t be surprised when people recognise you.

2. Goes by the name Mick St John. You might not think this is all that improbable, but then you’ve never had to listen to Nick’s non-stop Spinal Tap impersonations. It does sound rather more “1960s’ glam-rock guitarist” than is entirely fitting for a vampire, even one who . . .

3. Gets staked in just about every episode. Now, I have absolutely no problem with the fact that staking in this universe only paralyses a vampire. It does prevent me from making my favourite joke, ripped wholesale from Terry Pratchett. It’s not a concept unique to Moonlight: Claudia Gray, for example, uses the idea that stakes are paralysing as a way of negotiating her characters’ uncomfortable liminal position as sometime-vampires and sometime-vampire hunters.

But if this vampire PI has vampiric super-senses, how can he not tell when someone is sneaking up on him with a stake in their hand?

And if he’s not being staked, he’s being shot, or viciously beaten in a crematorium, or thrown off a roller coaster.

What price vampiric super senses?

4. Wears a Hawaiian shirt in flashbacks. Okay, that’s not so much improbable as it is really unfortunate.

5. Hangs around in sunlight. Again, I’ve no particular problem with vampires walking around in sunlight. In fact, the scene in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula where Dracula’s wandering the streets in that top hat and the blue sunglasses . . . and the brown curls . . . oh, and that coat . . .

Sigh.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. The sunlight. I don’t mind vampires walking around in sunlight, but I am a bit surprised that he voluntarily carries out so much of his ordinary business during daylight hours. I mean, obviously, if you’re protecting a woman who is in the Witness Protection Programme and the police car you stole to escape in gets blown up by the gun-runners who are pursuing you in a helicopter, then you might need to walk through the desert until you’re almost dead.

I’m sure that’s happened to all of us at one point or another.

But is it still necessary to use the daylight hours to run basic errands? Nocturnal is as nocturnal does, Mick St John.

Funeral Statuary Part Five

Posted 2443 days ago in by Catriona

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Thirteen

Posted 2449 days ago in by Catriona

ME: Now you have me humming the Doctor’s theme!
NICK: Well, that’s no bad thing, surely?
ME: Unlike your Scots accent, no.
NICK: What Scots accent?
ME: Sorry, I thought you’d said, “that’s nae bad thing.” But you must have just slipped on the syllable.
NICK: There was a banana skin right underneath it.
ME: I see.
NICK: There’s no rest for the syllabant.
ME: Sibilant?
NICK: Bugger.

World Cup Dawn (No Spoilers!)

Posted 2450 days ago in by Catriona

Sometimes, you see, I just have these brilliant ideas.

Like last night, when I had the brilliant idea of reading until past midnight and then setting my alarm for 3:45 am so I could watch the World Cup final.

And then, some three hours later, when I realised that I’d been awake for longer than I’d actually been asleep, I had the brilliant idea of shaking my phone (which randomises the Hipstamatic settings) and then taking some photos of the dawn, since this is at least the fourth dawn I’ve seen from well the other side in the last ten days.

So now, because I’m so generous and, frankly, exhausted, you get to share in this brilliant idea.

(If you’d like to share in my other brilliant idea and get up at 3:45 am tomorrow, feel free.)

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Five: "The Big Bang"

Posted 2450 days ago in by Catriona

Pre-live-blogging alert: Heather is with us this week, albeit currently playing Plants vs Zombies (not, as I originally typed Pants Vs Zombies, though that would be awesome) but Michelle is off being fabulous all over the U.S., so she’s not with us.

Half a peanut gallery is better than none, I find.

Now we’re discussing man-love in the football, which delights us but which we think should be more widespread. (You hear that, men? Begin embracing each other in public. Unless you are doing that already. In which case, keep up the good work. In other news, I got up at 4 am this morning, to watch the football.)

ME: I hate live-blogging when I’m tired.
HEATHER: It will be fabulous. I COMMAND IT!

Before the show:

ME: Sorry, I don’t need to see Komodo dragon sex.
HEATHER: Yes, you do. You have to blog that.
NICK AND HEATHER: Ew! That’s just wrong. Don’t do that to the Komodo dragon!

Long, looong pre-show recap.

We open 1,894 years later. And we’re at Amy’s house, which looks surprisingly like it did when the Doctor first arrived.

HEATHER: Well, it must all be okay, if the house is there.
NICK: You’ll see.
HEATHER: Oh, Nick.

Amelia is praying, as she did in “The Eleventh Hour.” As she gets to the bit about the policeman, the wind rises, but when she looks out the window, the shed is intact. She makes a rueful face, as we see the moon alone in a dark sky.

Then a woman is looking at Amelia’s painting of the moon and the stars, and after Amelia’s aunt’s exasperated “Amelia!”, they head outside so Amelia can be shown that there’s no such thing as stars. Just the moon and the dark.

Amelia eavesdrops on her aunt’s conversation as the aunt says that she doesn’t want Amelia to end up a star cultist: “I don’t trust that Richard Dawkins,” she says.

Then someone drops an pamphlet for a museum through the letterbox, with the hand-written note, “Come along, Pond.”

Amelia drags her aunt through the museum, ignoring the Daleks and other exhibits, until she reaches the Pandorica, where someone steals her drink just before she notices a Post-it note saying, “Stick around, Pond.”

Amelia hides, and sneaks out from behind some penguins (not without casualties) late at night, sneaking past the Daleks (surrounded by palms, which Nick points out is totally their natural habitat) and up to the Pandorica.

She pulls off the Post-it note and then presses her hand against the Pandorica, which begins unlocking. Amelia steps back as the Pandorica opens, its light reaching one of the Daleks, and then we see, strapped inside, Amy, who says, “Okay, kid: this is where it gets complicated.”

Credits.

1,894 years previously, Rory is cradling the dead Amy in his arms and talking to her about the end of the universe in 102 AD. He’s upset because she would have laughed at all his jokes. He wants her to laugh. But she’s dead, so laughing would be a bit freaky.

Rory wants a ridiculous miracle, and then the Doctor turns up holding a mop and wearing a fez.

He disappears, then reappears without the mop. He tells Rory he needs to get him (the Doctor) out of the Pandorica, and leaves his screwdriver, telling Rory to leave it in Amy’s top pocket.

Rory immediately lets the Doctor out, and the Doctor says, “How did you do that?”

The Doctor’s a little freaked, but he realises that they’re the same sonic screwdriver, but at different times. “I’ve got a future!” he says. “That’s nice.”

There are fossilised Daleks (and others, including Autons) around the Pandorica, which the Doctors says are traces of races that never existed. The Earth, he says, is simply at the eye of the storm, and it takes a little longer for the light to go out.

Rory reveals that he shot Amy, and asks if the Doctor can do anything. The Doctor says he could, if he had time.

DOCTOR: Your girlfriend isn’t more important than the whole universe.

Rory punches him in the face, which delights the Doctor, because he wanted to make sure that Rory was really Rory, and not just a Nestene duplicate. (This is, it seems, because of Amy growing up with the universe pouring through her dreams.) He shoves her in the Pandorica, saying that it’ll keep her alive (the ultimate prison) until it gets a trace of her living DNA in about two thousand years.

We cut to Amy gasping on the floor of the National Museum, telling Amelia that it’s a long story. A very long story, she realises, seeing the history of the Pandorica.

Back at the Pandorica in Stonehenge, the Doctor says Amy will be in there for two thousand years, but they’ll take a short cut, thanks to River’s Time Vortex manipulator.

But Rory wants to stay, to guard the Pandorica. He says it’ll keep Amy safer.

DOCTOR: Why do you have to be so human?
RORY: Because right now I’m not.

The Doctor points out that Rory’s not immortal and can’t heal, so he needs to stay out of trouble.

Then Rory puts on his helmet, draws his sword, and sits on the edge of the Pandorica.

We cut to a museum video recording of the legend of the centurion who guards the Pandorica, and his last known appearance, when he dragged the Pandorica from the flames when the warehouse was bombed in World War Two.

Amy cries.

But she’s cut short by “Exterminate!” And then the Doctor appears in the fray, shouting, “Come along, Ponds!”

Amy asks what’s happening.

DOCTOR: We’re running into a dead end, where I will have a brilliant plan that basically involves not being in one.

Luckily, a security guard turns up, and he just happens to have a gun for a hand.

Rory!

Amy and Rory kiss.

AMY: Oh, so shut up.
DOCTOR: And breathe. And breathe. Well, someone didn’t get out much for two thousand years.
AMELIA: I’m thirsty. Can I get a drink?
DOCTOR: Oh, it’s all mouths today, isn’t it?

They leave while the Dalek is repairing, the Doctor helping himself to a fez and a mop. Rory points out that this is how he looked two thousand years ago, so we flip back and forth between this and the earlier scene, with the Doctor wearing the fez the whole time.

Then he asks Amelia how she knew to come here, and flips back to leave her a note through her letterbox and then to steal her drink eight or so hours ago, so he can give it to her now.

They’re heading up to the roof when another Doctor appears, looking terribly ill, and tumbles down the stairs, grabs our Doctor, and then, according to our Doctor, dies.

The Doctor says, quite happily, that he’s going to die in twelve minutes.

DOCTOR: Oh, you can do loads in twelve minutes. Suck a mint, buy a sled, have a fast bath.

And then Amelia disappears. They’re still at the eye of the storm, but the eye is closing fast. And as they hare up to the roof, we hear the Dalek shouting, “Restore!”

NICK: Daleks are very useful, with their internal monologue.

On the roof:

RORY: What are you doing?
DOCTOR: Looking for the TARDIS.
RORY: But the TARDIS exploded.
DOCTOR: Then I’m looking for an exploding TARDIS.

What people have been assuming was the Sun is actually the TARDIS burning up. And Rory, with his plastic ears, can hear that River is at the heart of the explosion, trapped in a time loop of the events we saw at the end of the last episode, where she tries to get the doors open.

The loop is interrupted by the Doctor:

DOCTOR: Hi, honey. I’m home.
RIVER: And what time do you call this?

He flips River back to the roof, where she tells an unsavoury anecdote about dating a Nestene duplicate, and then asks what in sanity the Doctor is wearing on his head. He claims that fezzes are cool, but Amy grabs it off his head and throws it up into the air, where River shoots it—just as the Dalek appears above the roof.

The Doctor says that the Dalek is due to kill him, but there’s also a lot of information here about “rebooting the universe,” which I simply can’t keep up with. Though River has a good point about the Pandorica only partially restoring one Dalek.

Then the Doctor is shot by a Dalek.

Well, I didn’t see that happening.

Rory shoots the Dalek. River tries to talk to the Doctor, but he disappears—Amy and Rory say he’s downstairs and he died. River tells them to go to the Doctor while she waits with the Dalek. And threatens it.

DALEK: Records indicate you will show mercy. You are an associate of the Doctor’s.
RIVER: I’m River Song. Check your records again.
DALEK: Mercy?
RIVER: Say it again.
DALEK: Mercy?
RIVER: One. More. Time.
DALEK: Mercy!

Downstairs, Amy and Rory have discovered that the Doctor lied about being dead, not to River’s surprise, as she strides down the stairs.

AMY: What happened to the Dalek?
RIVER: It died.

The Doctor has strapped himself into the Pandorica, still talking about Big Bang Two.

River explains that throwing the Pandorica into the heart of the TARDIS explosion would bring everything back—a restoration field, powered by an exploding TARDIS, occurring simultaneously everywhere in time.

RIVER: He’s going to fly the Pandorica into the heart of the explosion.
HEATHER: Well, he better bloody well hurry up about it.
NICK: We’re on a tight schedule here, people.
HEATHER: Seriously.

The Doctor is asking for Amy. River explains that if this works, the Doctor will be on the other side of the cracks in time when they close, and he’ll never have existed.

RIVER: Now please: he wants to talk to you before he goes.
AMY: Not to you?
RIVER: He doesn’t really know me yet. Now he never will.

The lighting in this scene is phenomenal. Not only does the Doctor look ancient, he also looks like a completely different face.

Oh, you know what I mean.

And we have nearly half an hour left! I’ll never last.

The Doctor talks to Amy about the impossibilities of her life, about her missing parents (who haven’t died; she’s just forgotten them as time swallowed them up), and he tells her that nothing is ever forgotten, but she has to remember. He says that she can bring her parents back, if she remembers them.

DOCTOR: You’ll have your family back. You won’t need your imaginary friend any more. Amy Pond. Crying over me, eh? Guess what?
AMY: What?
DOCTOR: Gotcha.

Whimper.

Then he takes off, to the fabulous Doctor action theme, which I love (like a brother).

He sends one message back to River: “Geronimo.” Oh, thank goodness they’ve used that sparingly.

Then we flip backwards through time, through Amy’s death, and the destruction of the universe, then the Doctor wakes up in the TARDIS.

DOCTOR: Legs? Yes. Bow tie? Cool. Eh, I can buy a fez.

But it’s not now, it’s last week, when they went to Space Florida. (We assume this joke is especially for Heather, who was raised in Terrestrial Florida, as I guess we call it.)

Amy can hear the Doctor, both here and when he flips back three weeks to “The Lodger.” But she can’t see him.

But if she hear him, then this is a good time for the Doctor to flip back to the time when Amy can’t open her eyes, in the stone angels two-parter.

AMY: Doctor, the crack in my wall. How can it be here?
DOCTOR: I don’t know. But I’m working it out.

And he looks over at his other self, as his other self works it out. Love it.

The Doctor tells Amy she needs to remember what he told her when she was seven, and then flips back to when Amy was seven. She’s asleep in the garden in her cute wellies, and he picks her up and takes her back to bed.

He sits next to her and talks about her parents, and how she won’t remember him.

I have to try and get this next bit verbatim.

DOCTOR: I’ll be a story in your head. That’s okay. We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, okay? Because it was, you know. It was the best. The daft old man, who stole a magic box, and ran away. Did I ever tell you that story? Well, I borrowed it. I was always going to take it back. That box. Oh, Amy: you’ll dream about that box. It’ll never leave you. Big and little. Brand new and ancient. And the bluest blue ever. And the times we had. Would have had. Never had. In your dreams, they’ll still be there. The Doctor and Amy Pond. And the days that never came. The cracks are closing. But they can’t close properly till I’m on the other side. I don’t belong here any more. I think I’ll skip the rest of the rewind. I hate repeats. Live well. Love Rory. Bye bye, Pond.

Then his shadow flashes on the wall above Amy’s bed, and he’s gone.

When Amy wakes (and she’s apparently sleeping in her watch, which leads to a conversation I can’t blog), she’s an adult, who glances over at her Raggedy Doctor toys, all laid out on the bureau, and her mum comes in and gives her breakfast, freaking Amy out.

Even more freaky, her dad is in the living room. “And you’re my tiny little Dad!” she says, throwing herself on him. Her parents are nonplussed by this, but when she rings Rory, he doesn’t seem to notice that anything’s amiss, and Amy’s distracted by her wedding dress.

Next thing we know, Amy and Rory are married—and there’s River walking slowly past the windows of the reception hall.

RORY: Ah, you’re crying.
AMY: So I am. Why am I doing that?
RORY: Because you’re happy, probably. Happy Mrs Rory. Happy, happy, happy.
AMY: No, I’m sad. I’m really, really sad.
RORY: Great!

River has left her TARDIS notebook, but it’s blank. Amy asks why anyone would leave such a gift, and Rory reminds her of the “old wedding saying.”

Amy’s dad (Augustus Pond, a Roald Dahl name, as Nick points out) starts giving his speech, as Amy looks around the room and notices braces and bowties and all sorts of signs.

Then Amy stands up, telling her dad to shut up. (People are used to that, from Amy, is the implication of this scene.) She tells the story of the Raggedy Doctor, ending with “Raggedy Man, I remember you. And you are late for my wedding!”

The TARDIS starts materialising, and Rory asks what it is.

AMY: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

As the TARDIS appears, Rory says, “It’s the Doctor. How could we forget the Doctor?” Luckily, the Doctor’s wearing white tie.

AMY: You absolutely, definitely may kiss the bride.
DOCTOR: Amelia, from now on, I shall leave the kissing to the brand-new Mr Pond.
RORY: No. I’m not Mr Pond. That’s not how it works.
DOCTOR: Yeah, it is.
RORY: Yeah, it is.

The Doctor dances spectacularly badly.

Then he slips away to the TARDIS, where River finds him.

RIVER: Did you dance? Well, you always dance at weddings.
DOCTOR: You tell me.
RIVER: Spoilers.
DOCTOR: The writing’s all back, but I didn’t peek. Are you married, River?
RIVER: Are you asking?
DOCTOR: Yes.
RIVER: Yes.
DOCTOR: No, hang on a minute, did you think I was asking you to marry me, or asking if you were married?
RIVER: Yes.
DOCTOR: No, but was that “Yes” or “Yes”?
RIVER: Yes.
DOCTOR: River, who are you?
RIVER: You’re going to find out very soon now. And I’m sorry, but that’s when everything changes.

The Doctor tries to sneak away, but he’s interrupted first by Amy and then by a phone call about an Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express in space (please, please be the Christmas special), and he says this has to be goodbye.

AMY: Oh, I think this is goodbye. Don’t you?
RORY: Yeah, this is definitely goodbye.

Then Amy leans out the TARDIS in her wedding dress, shouting “Goodbye!” and we’re out until Christmas. See you all then!

Scrabble

Posted 2456 days ago in by Catriona

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Twelve

Posted 2456 days ago in by Catriona

ME: I suppose I should get back to the folding of laundry. So, so boring.
NICK: Ah well.
ME: Also?
NICK: Yes?
ME: Don’t think I didn’t notice that you left a bottle of tomato sauce on the bookcase.
NICK: Well, it started out as tomato juice, but, well, time makes fools of us all.
ME: Yes. You do realise, don’t you that, tomato sauce is not to tomato juice as yoghurt is to milk?
NICK: I did know that. And furthermore I was fairly sure you’d point that out too. So you’ve really fallen into my trap, there.
ME: Yes, clearly you win this round.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Five: "The Pandorica Opens"

Posted 2457 days ago in by Catriona

This is bound to be a confusing, fast-paced, and complicated episode, but let’s see if I can keep up with it, shall we?

My peanut gallery is absent this week, because they’ve gone to attend a wedding (which, I suppose, has a higher priority than live-blogging Doctor Who, but I’m sure it was a tough choice).

We open in France in 1890, where Vincent is having some kind of attack. And he’s painted a picture that is “even worse than his usual rubbish.” But we don’t get to see what the painting looks like.

In the Cabinet War Bunker, Bracewell shows Churchill a “genuine Van Gogh” that “is obviously a message.” Churchill says he can’t understand it, but Bracewell says he’s only supposed to deliver it.

Then the phone rings in the Stormcage Containment Facility in a date that I memorised and then instantly forgot (sometime in the 5000s), where a phone rings. It’s Churchill, looking for the Doctor, but the TARDIS had rerouted the call to River Song.

She hangs up the phone looking worried, and then snogs the guard. He says to his fellow guards, as they come rushing up, that she had the hallucinogenic lipstick, but “Your tricks don’t work in here, Dr Song.”

Sadly, he’s saying this to a caricature she’s scribbled on the wall.

Then we flip to the Royal Collection, where River, in a fetching black catsuit, is stealing a painting before being challenged by Liz10: “This is the Royal Collection. And I’m the bloody queen.”

Elsewhere, River is buying something from a blue chappie in an expensive-looking pub.

BLUE CHAPPIE: A vortex manipulator. Fresh off the wrist of a handsome Time Agent. (Sigh) I said off the wrist.

He agrees to sell it for a callisto pulse, which will neutralise the micro-explosives that River’s just put in his wine.

In the TARDIS, Amy is staring at the engagement ring as the Doctor says they’re going to go to the oldest planet in the universe and use the TARDIS’s translation circuits to translate the oldest writing in the universe.

Which, if course, reads “Hello, Sweetie.” And some co-ordinates.

DOCTOR: Earth. Britain. 1:02 a.m. No, p.m. No, AD.

They’re facing a Roman legion.

AMY: Oh, I know. My favourite topic at school: “Invasion of the Hot Italians.” Yeah, I did get marked down for the title.

A legionnaire comes up and addresses the Doctor as “Caesar,” telling him that Cleopatra awaits. He’s smothered in lipstick.

Cleopatra, who is of course River, hands the Doctor a painting, Vincent’s painting, of the TARDIS exploding.

Credits.

Post-credits, we’re cutting between the three of them galloping horses to an unknown destination—which seems risky, what with rabbit holes—and Cleopatra telling the Doctor about the Pandorica, about the painting, and about the co-ordinates on the painting.

The Doctor says that “if you’d buried the most dangerous thing in the universe, you’d want to remember where you’d buried it.”

That means Stonehenge.

At Stonehenge, River is picking up traces of energy weapons, but the Doctor doesn’t seem to think this is surprising, given what’s buried in the Pandorica. They need, he says, to get under Stonehenge, so River attaches some anti-gravity . . . thingies to a rock and floats it away, so they can access the “Underhenge.”

As they pass into the tunnels, we pan away to see a disembodied Cyberman head.

Underhenge, they come to enormous, barricaded doors, which River and the Doctor seem equally delighted to throw open.

Behind them is the Pandorica.

RIVER: More than just a fairytale.

And a Cyberman arm, but I’m sure that can’t be relevant to the plot, at all.

The Doctor barely glances at the Cyber-arm: he’s all about the Pandorica, an enormous, intricately marked box.

DOCTOR: There was a goblin, or a trickster, or a warrior—a nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared thing in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and destroy your world.

Hmm. Does that sound like anyone you know?

Amy asks how the creature was stopped, and the Doctor says, “You know fairytales. A good wizard tricked it.”

RIVER: I hate good wizards in fairytales. They always turn out to be him.

Amy mentions that this sounds like Pandora’s Box, which was her favourite book when she was a kid. The Doctor seems momentarily alarmed by this, but only momentarily: “Never ignore a coincidence. Unless you’re busy, in which case, always ignore a coincidence.”

More disturbing is the fact that, as River realises faster than the Doctor, Stonehenge is transmitting information about the Pandorica, which means other people are hearing and coming.

River folds the signal back, and we hear the voices of Daleks, Cybermen, and every other race that the Doctor has ever frustrated.

DOCTOR: Sontarans. Talk about cross. Who stole all their handbags?

The music is a bit jaunty here, isn’t it?

RIVER: You can’t win this one. You can’t even fight it. Please, Doctor, just this once, you have to run.
DOCTOR: Run where?
RIVER: Fight how?

She has a point, I admit. But the Doctor just suggests that the Roman army is a good place to start.

ROMAN COMMANDER: I return to my command after one week to find that we’ve been hosting Cleopatra. Who’s in Eygpt. And dead.

River is fairly convincing, though, since she obliterates the Roman commander’s writing desk. I hope his wife’s letters weren’t in there.

The Roman commander isn’t too keen on the idea, but a shadowed legionnaire offers his men.

With the Pandorica, the Doctor is trying to buy some time.

AMY: What good is half an hour?
DOCTOR: There are fruit flies on Hoppington 6 who live for half an hour, and they don’t even mate for life. There’s going to be a point to that. I’ll get back to you.

Amy, though, wants to know if the Doctor is going to propose to someone, and pulls out the ring. The Doctor says no: the ring is a memory. He tries to prompt Amy to use the ring to remember Rory, but she can’t quite grasp it.

He does, however, start to tell Amy why he asked her to run away with him. He gets to the point where he asks her if it ever bothers her that her life doesn’t make sense when they’re attacked by the Cyber-arm.

DOCTOR: Now the robot part is looking for fresh meat.
AMY: You mean us?
DOCTOR: Yeah. It’s like being an organ donor, only you’re alive and sort of screaming.

The Doctor manages to disarm the arm (I kill myself) but is electrocuted by it while Amy is attacked by the Cyber-head. There’s a bit here where the head splits open to show a desiccated human skull that is really quite revolting.

Amy’s doing quite well, despite being drugged, until the rest of the Cyberman’s body shows up. Well, the rest minus an arm.

She locks herself in a tiny room, and though the Cyberman is beating on the door, she seems safe enough—especially when a sword comes through the door.

Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but trust me.

The sword belongs to the shadowy legionnaire, who is, once he dramatically removes his helmet, Rory.

Rory!

Amy faints at this point.

The Doctor comes haring in, screaming, “Amy!” He seems pleased to see the Romans, but seems frustrated by the mere fifty men that Rory has brought. Rory says River was persuasive, but it’s a tough sell.

DOCTOR: Yes, I know that, Rory. I’m not exactly one to miss the obvious.

And he’s not: it takes him a little while and at least one more instance of him calling Rory by name, but he realises that Rory is actually Rory.

He’s thrilled to see Rory, in a way, but mostly totally freaked out by the mere fact that Rory, in his words, “died and turned into a Roman. It’s very distracting.”

Rory asks if Amy missed him, but luckily the Doctor doesn’t have to answer, because the Pandorica reaches the final phase, and starts opening.

River tells the Doctor that he’s surrounded—as we can tell from the engine noises outside—and he tells her to go and get the TARDIS. She wheels the horse, and she’s off.

And the Doctor heads up to give a speech. I wish I could transcribe the whole thing, but I can’t type that fast. The Doctor sounds distinctly drunk at some parts of the speech, but it’s still marvellous.

DOCTOR: Hello, Stonehenge! Who takes the Pandoria takes the universe! But bad news, everyone. Because guess who? You lot, you’re all whizzing around. It’s very distracting. Could you all keep still for a moment, because I am talking. Question of the hour: who has the Pandorica? I do! Next question: Who’s coming to take it from me? [. . .] Just remember who’s standing in your way. Remember every black day I ever stopped you. And then—and then! Do the smart thing: let somebody else try first.

River leaps into the TARDIS, even though she’s acting a bit oddly.

The TARDIS, that is. Not River.

Amy wakes up from her knock-out drops, and the Doctor, seeing her coming in, tells Rory that he’ll have to be very brave. Rory, not surprisingly, is quite devastated to find out that, firstly, his fiancee doesn’t remember him and, secondly, that this is because he never actually existed.

The Doctor explains all this, and Rory asks how he ended up as a Roman. But Rory isn’t entirely sure.

RORY: And I was just here. A Roman soldier. A proper Roman. Head full of Roman . . . stuff. A whole other life.

He works himself up to a fine point of distress about the whole thing, but the Doctor tells him to shut up and then throws an engagement ring at him.

Rory still wants to know the meaning of his existence. Don’t we all, Rory? But the Doctor says it might just be a miracle.

DOCTOR: Now get upstairs: she’s Amy and she’s surrounded by Romans. Not sure history can take it.

Elsewhere, the TARDIS has landed River outside Amy’s house, thanks, it seems, to a creepy voice intoning, “Silence will fall.” There are the marks of landing pads on the grass—or aerosol, if you want to be uncharitable. (They’re not terribly convincing, it must be said.) And inside, River does the traditional, “walk through the house with a flashlight,” which always bewilders me.

I’d turn the lights on.

River realises that this is Amy’s house when she sees Amy’s childhood toys of the “Raggedy Doctor,” sighing, “Oh, Doctor. Why do I let you out?”

She stops worrying about that, though, when she finds a book about Roman Britain and another of The Legend of Pandora’s Box, which has a picture of the Pandorica on it.

Rory finds Amy upstairs.

RORY: You’ve got a blanket. That’s good. Who gave you that?
AMY: One of the fellers.
RORY: Which one?
AMY: I don’t know. Does it matter?
RORY: No. Forget him. It. Forget it.

Then she starts crying.

River rings the Doctor, telling him not to raise his voice or look alarmed.

Amy tells Rory that she’s crying because she’s happy (and more than a little manic), and she doesn’t know why.

River tells the Doctor about the Romans and the book in Amy’s room. She’s bewildered that her lipstick worked on them, but the Doctor says that they might think they’re real.

And then River finds a photograph of Rory in centurion dress.

Oh, dear.

Luckily, they’re distracted by the TARDIS going wrong. The Doctor thinks that River’s flying it wrong, until she says that it’s the 26th of June 2010, the fatal date. The Doctor tells her to shut everything down, but the creepy “Silence will fall” voice comes back, and River says someone else, an external force, is flying the TARDIS.

Elsewhere, Amy is trying to come to terms with whether or not she’s seen Rory before, when the centurions all shut down and the Pandorica begins to open.

The Doctor tells River to just land the TARDIS, as the centurions begin to converge on the TARDIS and Rory says he’s not going: “I’m Rory!”

The Doctor tells River to just get out, so that the TARDIS engines shut down automatically. We see that the centurions are Autons, as they flip their hands open to show their handguns. (Again, I kill myself.)

River can’t open the doors.

Amy finally recognises Rory, but he’s begging her to run because he can’t control himself.

And the Doctor is dragged along the floor by two centurions, as they say, “The Pandorica is ready.”

“You mean open?” asks the Doctor, who has his back to it.

Then a Dalek voice says, “You have been scanned.”

And three Daleks appear in the room.

Amy tells Rory to show her the ring.

And the Daleks are joined by Cybermen and Sontarans, who say that the Pandorica is ready.

DOCTOR: Ready for what?
DALEKS: Ready for you.

Over some oddly jaunty music, for the second time this episode, Rory shoots Amy (against his will), the Doctor is dragged, scuffing his feet the whole way, towards the Pandorica, and River tries desperately to open the TARDIS doors.

The Doctor, strapped in the Pandorica—and still saying, “And you’ve come to me for help?”, because he’s eternally optimistic—wants to know how all these creatures are working together as an Alliance.

The Alliance think they’re saving the universe, because only the Doctor can pilot the TARDIS. The Doctor says that the TARDIS is exploding as they speak, but they still seal the Pandorica.

And River finally gets the doors open, to see a wall of solid rock. “I’m sorry, my love,” she says, as the engines explode behind her.

We pan up from Rory, sobbing and hauling Amy’s body up in his arms to see the cracks spread, the stars disappear, and the Earth float away alone into the void.

Cliffhanger!

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Eleven

Posted 2458 days ago in by Catriona

Nick and I split the preparations for a party:

NICK: I’m going to vacuum now.
ME: No.
NICK: I’ve finished the dusting!
ME: This table and lamp haven’t been dusted.
NICK: Yeah.
ME: Nor has this table.
NICK: Okay.
ME: And I’m pretty sure you haven’t dusted this one because it has a stale cracker on it.
NICK: You see things I don’t see.
ME: Like furniture?

Grocery Shopping

Posted 2458 days ago in by Catriona

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