Wednesday, August 29, 2018

These Mortal Mountains

I came across this gif comparing Everest to Olympus Mons on Mars and it made me think of the Gray Sister from This Mortal Mountain.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Doctor Who Book Review: Rose by Russell T Davies

I listened to the Rose audiobook, narrated by Camille Coduri. I like Jackie Tyler okay, but I dearly love Camille. She just seems to have an authenticity not always found in actors.

I watched the episode prior to listening to the book. When it originally aired I thought it was a very solid (re)introduction to the world of Doctor Who. I realize now how wholly inadequate that assessment was. Watching it now, I find it nothing short of iconic. (I think it came squarely in the middle of the most recent DWM episode poll I saw, which is a crime!) Frank Cottrell-Boyce claims that Davies' greatest contribution to British television drama was saving it from extinction and watching Rose again, I can understand what he means.

Writers are often told to “kill their darlings”, but RTD could never bring himself to do that. He loves them too much. He’s not the most technically gifted scribe to ever write for Doctor Who, but that surpassing affection he holds for his creations is the core of this book. He makes me feel for Rose Tyler how he feels for her. And that is a triumph.

For me, one of the central messages of Doctor Who is that the strong have to stand up for the powerless, and that is the engine that drives the story. There are dozens of tiny details like the Doctor instinctively protecting Rose from shards of broken glass, or Clive sacrificing himself Autons so his family will have time to flee. Mickey comes off particularly well in the book. “The first thing he did when granted the keys to #90 was to prop that door open and make others welcome.”

I had read that the book featured a transgender character, but I thought that things would be written so that the character’s status was only inferred. Nope. “Sally Salter, born Stephen Salter…” She has a safe place in Mickey’s flat, and that makes me love Mickey. He’s not the hero of the book, but we get a little more of his background and it makes sense why he would be reluctant to leave his home, which he sees as a safe place and a refuge.

Also, ”We can't all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and applaud when they go by.”

Clive gets a larger role as well. His death was technically off-screen in the television episode, and I was dearly hoping that he survived through some improbable twist of fate.

Spoiler: He doesn’t

He gets the same treatment as Mickey and Rose. He manages to stub his toe on his own front door and it’s just so endearing.

For the first time ever, the Autons seem like a real threat. The attack is genuinely unsettling, in part because we’ve been given a chance to know those people threatened by it.

Things that seemed odd in the original episode (the poorly photoshopped picture, why the Nestene kept Mickey alive, Rose’s failure to notice that Mickey was made of plastic) are called and recontextualized until they make sense. Sometimes the “this mistake isn’t really a mistake” can lead to a very clumsy retcon, but Davies handles everything with a deft hand.

Davies has been given a profound gift in this book. He has the opportunity to reframe and refine his seminal work. Rose (the episode) was brilliant, but not flawless, and Davies does not merely transcribe the events of the book, but instead draws on ten years of personal growth and ten additional years of Doctor Who mythology (Clive says of the Doctor “Clever. Isn’t he? Or she.”) to expand and enrich what we saw back then.

I really enjoyed it. Eccleston’s run was my favorite era of New Who, and it’s great to have a chance to go back and rediscover it.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Almost Perfect

I adore everything about this sign...

except for that Oxford comma at the end, or, as it will be known going forward, the Cthulhu Comma!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Today I learned about gold records

I was reading about the Voyager Golden Record recently and was struck by Jimmy Carter's official statement

We cast this message into the cosmos ... Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some – perhaps many – may have inhabited planets and space faring civilizations. If one such civilization intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message: This is a present from a small distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts, and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination and our goodwill in a vast and awesome universe.

It seems like the 1970s are the only time in American history (except for maybe the very beginning of Obama's presidency) that our president would have expressed this sentiment in such a way.