nuWho 1×07: The Long Game

The Doctor has taken Rose to visit a large space station orbiting Earth in the year 200,000. Adam is technically present too. He’s a little overwhelmed. (I suspect nobody has bothered to explain anything about anything to him.) Rose teases him by expertly regurgitating everything the Doctor just told her, then they find a window to look down at Earth. It’s covered by a lot of squarish architecture that can definitely be seen from the Moon. Even the Borg would have to rate this as a “fair start”. The Doctor announces admiringly that the galaxy is at the height of the fourth human empire. Adam finally faints, which takes him out of the running for Rose’s affections.

The Doctor assures Adam that this is the era of humanity’s finest culture, at which point they slam into a street vendor in a Purina bandana selling “kronk” burgers. Apparently this is so very not-fine culture that the Doctor checks his watch to be sure he got the target era right. I guess some empires are just so awesome that even the lowest, scavengy-est street vendors deal in veal and caviar. Just think of it, a world where even the dumbest sitcoms don’t need laugh tracks to tell you when they’re trying to be funny. Adam wonders where all the aliens are, if this is an interstellar empire. The Doctor agrees that this bears investigating, which requires cuisine, which requires money. He hacks an ATM, then leaves Rose and Adam to fend for themselves despite Adam’s protests. My time as a companion would probably be like Adam’s thus far, except with less fainting and more “will there be time for a visit to the library please.”

The Doctor questions a couple of young women, Cathica and Suki, on his whereabouts, accepting their assumption that he’s a secret shopper sent by upper management to drill them on their PR skills. This is floor 139 of Satellite Five, and the two are hoping to advance to floor 500. They show no clear idea of what exactly is so great about that floor; presumably they can exit the dungeon with their loot and record a high score.

Cathica delivers a few news highlights, with yet another “Bad Wolf” thrown in randomly. There’s no sinister organization we know of that’s attached to the phrase, as there was with “the Silence”, so it’s just some bit of trivia at this point. Anyway, the pregnancy of the Face of Boe is either the most or least disturbing of the news of the day, with water riots and vicious sunspots disrupting things elsewhere. Cathica declares that Satellite Five is the news, which is arguably more disturbing than any of the news she mentioned. S5 broadcasts six hundred channels of news, and these two are among the journalists it employs.

A white-haired man in a monitoring room senses something off about the Doctor’s conversation and orders a deep security check. He says it’s something fictional, which, combined with the woman’s insistence that nothing happens without S5 knowing about it, says bad things about the ego of the people running six hundred channels of news media.

Rose has managed to find a beef-flavored slush puppy. Adam is still trying to cope with the sudden loss of everything he considered part of his reality, all vanished without a trace into his past. Rose offers him her supercellphone, frustrated that he wants instructions for it. You know, some people can just plunge into a strange situation, but others need a little handholding as they ramp up to “I’ve got a grip on this.” One approach is not intrinsically superior, it depends on the situation. And, keeping in mind his previous employer, maybe Adam has developed extra caution about breaking other people’s things he doesn’t fully understand. Anyway, his pet dog comes in and gets slightly whiny at the sound of his master’s voice on the machine, just to liven up the scene a bit. Adam leaves a message and the Doctor calls them over as “Mutt and Jeff” which I’m aware is a pop culture reference. (Turns out it’s a comic strip.) Adam makes a big show of keeping the supercell.

Grown-up Draco Malfoy continues to watch, insisting that he can “taste” that someone isn’t supposed to be there and calling for a second security check. I keep stopping short of saying he’s ordering people to do things; he’s very all-business, but personable in his demeanor and voice. Considering what it turns out he has hanging over him, that might be how he stays sane.

Cathica has collected an assortment of people in a sterile white room for a full inspection for the Doctor & co.’s benefit. Suki looks scared about the whole thing. Presumably she’s worked hard to get this high and doesn’t want to be sent back to Floor 57 where they’ve never been able to scrub the ketchupy odor from the air filters. Anyway, Cathica says that it’s company policy to be honest and unbiased in their news-gathering efforts, to which Suki adds that it’s the law. It’s subtle but apparent that internal policy is more important than legality, at least in Cathica’s mind. This gets better and better.

Everyone around the table interfaces with it. Cathica climbs into a chair in the middle and clicks her fingers, whereupon her forehead pops open to reveal a metallic cavity. She orders a “spike” and blue energy flows into her cavity, the Doctor saying that she’s basically downloading all the news of the day. Her brain interacts with the other employees’ to process and broadcast the news on all 600 channels, but it won’t retain any of it after the link is cut.

The security computer, having determined that someone in the room shouldn’t be there, and having presumably listened to the foregoing question-and-answer exposition, now takes several long, dramatic seconds to consider the Doctor & co. One wonders why it hasn’t just run a database of authorized secret shoppers by now. The Doctor announces something is wrong about this technology (which gets him and Rose grinning), and the background music changes from quiet long notes to excited crackles. Now the security camera focuses in on Suki, much to Draco’s satisfaction. Sure enough, Suki jerks away from the interface in pain, breaking the link. The sound effects indicate she was fired upon by a psychic photon torpedo. Something snarls unintelligibly at Draco, who makes profuse apologies to the top of a wall and promises to detain Suki ASAP.

A screen on the wall of the sterile room announces an incoming promotion. It’s for . . . waaait for it, let’s let Cathica embarrass herself a little more . . . Suki! She drew the “go straight to Floor 500” card! It takes a moment for this to sink in, as Suki protests that she didn’t really expect them to choose her application. She’s really tickled pink about it. Cathica just fumes about being passed over yet again.

Suki hugs her “lucky charm”, the Doctor, who agreeably says that he’ll hug anyone. Adam was really freaked out by the forehead thing, and wants to find a quiet spot so he can decompress. He heads for an observation deck, with Rose giving him a TARDIS key and puffing and pouting the whole time. He comments as he leaves that it’ll take “a better man than me” to divert Rose’s attentions from the Doctor. Suki now exits the scene via elevator, with Cathica glad to see her go, explaining that nobody ever returns from Floor 500.

Suki is about two steps below spazzing out as the elevator rises. She steps out on a wintry wasteland of a room, complete with falling snow and one of those circular table interfaces. It’s got skeletons in the seats. She finds another room, which leads to the security room, where Draco waves at her.

Suki, still freaked out, approaches Draco, who introduces himself as The Editor. He replays the biography she submitted with her job application, calling her a liar meanwhile, then calls her by her true name and appends a resume of her as a terrorist. At the mention of her true name, Suki finally starts to drop her facade. She pulls out a gun, demands to see his superior, and insists she has proof that S5 is distorting the news. See, this is the kind of customer feedback that keeps the news media honest. He introduces Suki to her boss, who’s been her boss “since the day you were born.” Her boss descends upon Suki, who demonstrates that Energy Bullets Won’t Stop It before spending her last few seconds screaming into the camera.

Cathica complains about the Doctor’s continued questions, saying she’s only allotted 20 minutes for “maintenance” (because cogs in a machine don’t get “free time”). She decides the Doctor isn’t actually an S5 employee, at which the Doctor snarks, “At last, she’s clever!” Cathica now protests complete ignorance, but the Doctor gets her to drop little details, details that mean nothing to her but build a picture of an empire beginning to crack. The Doctor insists that everything’s wrong, that the current technology should be obsolete by now. Turns out, it’s as old as S5, which is good enough to indicate proximate cause in an hour drama.

Adam has taken my advice and accessed a library. Now he tries to transcribe advancements in the microprocessor onto his parents’ answering machine, but the system detects something’s fishy and displays “Floor 16” — the place where Cathica just said she got her forehead doohickeyed. Ruh-roh! He heads down of his own volition and winds up paying for a not–brain surgery with the hacked money the Doctor gave him. The not-surgeon cajoles him into taking the full info-spike doohickey.

The Doctor is messing around in what Cathica calls the mainframe, over Cathica’s objections. His trains of thought are baffling to her, in large part because she accepts everything she’s told without question, as she cannot conceive of anything being rotten in the state of S5. For example, Rose questions why the mainframe area is so hot, and Cathica dismisses it as just something to do with a turbine, she never inquired as to details.

Cathica doesn’t come across as being brainwashed or indoctrinated, just a normal person who has chosen her life’s ambition and is going with the general flow of society on her way there. This makes the episode more effective. It’s easy to write a sci-fi story about a totalitarian regime that controls its populace through obedience devices or staring at a hypnotic screen or constant PSAs about Our Glorious God-Emperor. That’s a story about brainwashing, about those helpless people over there in that society that doesn’t resemble ours. This is more about normal people of free will, living with a corrupted source of news that proclaims transparency and a lack of bias even as it distorts galactic events as it sees fit. It’s about the Cathicas who accept the values of society, and the information that the press gives them, as implicitly true. It’s about the Sukis who fight for a press that will genuinely report honestly and with humility, because that is something that matters. It’s about deciding for yourself what matters, rather than accepting water riots as no big deal because the media treats it as just another news story. And it’s about questioning what you are told and thinking for yourself. All of that is something that has more to say to the viewer about the viewer’s own life than “don’t let the evil genocidal tyrant stick a dolled-up hair dryer on your head.”

Anyway, The Editor is still tracking the Doctor and Rose, and nibbles the scenery a bit about how the computer could possibly have no record of either of them. (Suki is now a zombie helping to run security checks.) He schedules them for a trip to Floor 500, sending the Doctor’s hacked interface the appropriate elevator code. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Rose have worked out that the vents and pipes on the station are working very hard to draw heat out of the top of the satellite, so they both want to go up and see what the source is. Cathica repeats that she wants no part of this, and the Doctor cheerfully writes her and Adam off.

You know it’s a bad haircut when even your forehead looks ugly.

Adam has begun to cautiously explore the use of his info-spike, and as I write this sentence I realize why he’s named Adam, as he’s gone against his better judgement for the sake of gaining knowledge that he hopes will make him like unto a god. Anyway, he heaves and vomits (honestly, my stomach is turning a bit), only to find that Not-Surgeon Lady also gave him nanotermites that freeze any regurgitated food. A special package deal for such an excellent client as yourself, and would sir also like a 24k gold foie gras slushie for just five million more?

The Doctor steps out on Floor 500 and suggests Rose retreat while he looks around worriedly. She comes along, of course, and The Editor captures them so he can learn who they are. He introduces them to his boss, who appears to be just a slimy, ribbed blob of flesh with a head that has spiky teeth in it. Not very inspired, but it’s not a spider so I won’t argue. The Editor explains that the Jagrafess has controlled humanity’s ambitions and actions via control of their news, which answers the viewer’s question of “Why should we care what the news media does?” Because people distorting the news generally do it for reasons you may not agree with, selfish or ideological or otherwise, and by doing so they keep people from behaving in accordance with the truth of any given matter and eventually stunt the growth of society. This episode takes a positive view of humanity, incidentally, implying that people will advance properly when given the truth and encouraged to think for themselves, rather than needing the “right” person at the head to steer them this way or that. Which shouldn’t be surprising, given that the Doctor isn’t too fond of authority figures in general.

The Editor talks more about the Jagrafess’s manipulation of media, just in case viewers don’t get the point. He says that being able to see inside people’s brains allows him to squelch any dissent before it begins . . . at which point Cathica strides out of the elevator, having begun to doubt while The Editor was distracted with the Doctor. She overhears the exposition about the Jagrafess letting people have a herd mentality while it stays cool at the top of S5. Meanwhile Adam has found a chair and is transmitting data to his parents’ answering machine so hard that the blue stream somehow travels along the signal and envelops the machine. The Doctor, with himself and Rose under torture, admits who he and Rose are, but The Editor is now drawing information from Adam’s brain. You knew Adam’s info-spike would be a plot point sooner or later, right? Anyway, The Editor can levitate the TARDIS key from out of Adam’s pocket remotely. It’s more original than having thugs capture and search him, at least.

Cathica uses the abandoned chair to drop the safeties, cut Adam’s stream, and cancel the heat sink mechanism. The Doctor is pleased, being surprised at this awakening in her. The Editor tries to cut her stream, but she blows out the controls at his end. The Doctor and Rose escape before the alien explodes. The Editor tries to escape too, but there’s enough of Suki left that she grabs him and keeps him there.

The Doctor leaves Cathica in charge while he deals with Adam. He takes Adam, who is blubbering excuses throughout much as van Statten did in front of the Dalek, and plops him back in his home. The Doctor then destroys the answering machine, scolds Adam, plays with Adam’s spike to drive home his utter lack of sympathy for Adam’s plight, and leaves. Rose tries to play peacemaker but can’t resist triggering the spike herself, and when Adam asks her to let him come along, glares at him and leaves. Adam’s mother comes home, very surprised and tickled that he’s there. She happens to click her fingers, which Adam never changed from being the spike trigger, and makes a very “eccch” face as we go to the end credits. He’ll have fun explaining that one!

Adam can be seen as a warning against abusing special knowledge for one’s own ends, but we had that last episode. He’s more important as an example of why the Doctor doesn’t let just anyone come along.

Objectively this is probably another 3, but I believe I would think nothing of skipping over it in a binge-watch. And since these are subjective scores . . .

Rating: 2 beef-flavored slush puppy drinks

Favorite dialogue: The Doctor: The thing is, Adam, time travel is like visiting Paris. You can’t just read the guidebook. You’ve got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double, and wind up kissing complete strangers. Or is that just me?

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nuWho 1×06: Dalek

I like the Daleks. They look distinctive, they talk funny, and they serve well as a continuing menace for the Doctor. They are for him what the Borg are for Picard, minus the cyborgification trauma. Both the Doctor and Picard value life in all its myriad variations, both of them strongly prefer to talk than to kill. But neither the Borg nor the Daleks will ever be talked out of their sole driving purposes, purposes that go squarely against everything their protagonist rivals believe in. The Daleks are ideal recurring opponents for when you want to take negotiation off the table and write a story about desperate tactics and cunning and villainy. So they are one-dimensional, yes; they do look goofy on modern TV, yes; but they fit very well into the universe of Doctor Who, which likes a little cheese.

A signal for help has detoured the TARDIS to somewhere under 2012 Utah. Rose and the Doctor realize they’re in a museum of alien artifacts. The Doctor’s eyes are practically shimmering with nostalgia as he zeroes in on an old-school Cyberman head. “The stuff of nightmares,” he calls it, which calls to mind Neil Gaiman’s later “Nightmare in Silver”. An alarm goes off, and a bunch of men come in, very promptly, with full battle gear and big guns and surround the two.

We meet Henry van Statten, the guy who owns the place, and — speaking of cheese — he’s a Whimsical Big Meanie Who Controls Everything From Behind The Scenes. He tells his lackey to replace the President, who’s dropped ten points, presumably in his approval ratings, and when the lackey suggests that that isn’t the best idea he fires him too. His new lackey suggests the next President be a Democrat because, um, they’re funny? There’s a dramatic pause as she comes under the scrutiny of the W.B.M., but fortunately for her, his internal roulette wheel settles on the “I like you, kid” reaction. She adds that two intruders have been arrested, 53 floors below. Underground bunkers are well and good, but this is a bit much. van Statten suggests everybody laugh at a pun. They chuckle. I trust the power structure is clear to everyone by now. He schedules the intruders followed by a visit to his “pet”. The new lackey, Goddard, radios Simmons to see if he’s made any progress in getting the pet to be more amusing. Cut to a Dalek’s eye view while Simmons, who seems to be drilling into the thing, says he’s got it up to screaming.

The Doctor and Rose find van Statten admiring what looks like a pan flute made out of a scallop shell. The Doctor suggests he not hold the thing like that. Goddard tells him to shut up in a professional manner, while the guy showing Statten the thing asks if it’s dangerous. We have our Implacable Roadblock and Open-Minded Smart Person identified. “No, it just looks silly,” the Doctor answers, to finish off a nice little exchange. Everybody prepares to blow him to bits, but van Statten just hands him the flute, and he plays a few notes on it. van Statten takes it back and gets some pleasure out of playing the same quality of notes that the Doctor was producing.

Introductions are made, with Rose getting her back up at being treated as a mere pretty face. It turns out that van Statten secretly owns the Internet (this was after the dot-com bubble, remember), whatever that means. He’s probably to blame for the GoDaddy Super Bowl ads though. Then, uh, some sort of message is shoehorned into the dialogue out of nowhere, with the Doctor accusing van Statten of locking away everything he doesn’t understand and van Statten amusedly asking if the Doctor claims to know more than he does.

I don’t understand the purpose of the Doctor’s accusation here. The usual implication, for me, would be that van Statten tries to ignore or neutralize anything that he “doesn’t understand”. But when the Doctor meets him, van Statten is holding a thing he doesn’t understand. He cheerfully accepts the Doctor’s information about the thing. That isn’t locking it away in the literal or metaphorical sense. So, what’s the deal? The Doctor’s tone isn’t one of warning, just accusation, so it isn’t about meddling in things one doesn’t understand.

Anyway, van Statten turns a little less whimsical and a little more threatening as he asks what the Doctor was doing so close to his “one living specimen”. van Statten and the Doctor head down to see it, because why not show the burglars around. van Statten has won life already, the rest is just using the universe as his toy.

van Statten invites the Doctor to “impress” him. The Doctor is locked into the room with the “metaltron”. (van Statten is rather prouder of his creativity than he should be.)

It’s a dark and dingy room, with unpleasant tools and dramatic lighting, and also a small blue light at the far wall. It’s a Dalek! The Dalek announces its desire to exterminate, the Doctor announces his desire to get out of the room, and van Statten is just happy to finally have it talking. One can imagine him showing off for future guests by tossing a random henchman into the room and watching the results. The Doctor realizes with joy that the Dalek’s shooty bit doesn’t work . . . at which the Dalek looks down at it like an action hero who just found out that he emptied his gun’s clip.

*sad trombone*

And now it all comes out, as the Doctor taunts it with an earnest vigor that I can’t quite imagine coming from any of the classic Doctors I’ve seen. The Dalek wants orders, but the Doctor tells him with relish that he wiped out all the other Daleks. “You destroyed us!” the Dalek responds, and the Doctor is sobered by that thought, unable to look the Dalek in the eye now. Even though it was the Daleks, it was genocide and repugnant to him. Or maybe he’s imagining a Time Lord saying that to him, because it turns out that he destroyed them too. The Doctor protests he had no choice but to burn everyone. The Dalek calls him a coward, which unhinges the Doctor. He coos that he heard the distress signal, then taunts the Dalek again. The Dalek brings up a recurring point, that it and the Doctor are alike in that both are alone. This hits the Doctor where it hurts, and he basically says, fine, I’ll act like you then, and electrocutes the Dalek without any of the pity it begs for. Eccleston does a good job with this scene, swinging from one intense emotion to another without going overboard.

Naturally van Statten sends people in to stop his pet being destroyed. He rushes in himself to talk to his precious Dalek and get it to talk to him . . . but the Dalek remains silent, even when confronted with the owner of the world’s greatest repository of kitty pictures. van Statten tells Simmons to make it talk again, and Simmons puts on his best creepy serial killer grin in response. Sadistic Henchman, check.

Next scene is in a very brown room. Everything is brown and yellow except the floor. It’s the workshop of Adam, the guy who was showing van Statten the flute. He tells Rose that he believes the U.N. is hushing up the existence of alien visitors. Rose agrees politely. The dramatic irony is thick, with Rose suggesting attainable interstellar travel and alien abductions and Adam laughing it all off. He’s not that crazy. Adam shows her Simmons zapping the Dalek and Rose insists on doing something about it.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is telling the others about the Daleks. van Statten is particularly interested in the bit where a genius genetically engineered them. Goddard surmises that the one they have has gone insane. The Doctor declares that it must be the sole Dalek survivor of the Time War . . . sure. Exactly one Dalek survivor, and out of all the zillions of planets and suns in the universe, it happens to crash-land on the second-favorite planet of its greatest enemy. If you believe that, I’ve got a $1.6 billion Powerball ticket I’ll sell you for five bucks.

van Statten points out that the Doctor also survived the war, to which the Doctor responds simply, “Not by choice.” He then points out that the Doctor is just as valuable as the Dalek, to which the Doctor responds with a look of “I don’t like where this is going.”

van Statten forcibly scans the Doctor and announces that he will patent the Doctor’s dual-heart system. I guess you could patent a specific method of dealing with the neurological and hydrodynamic challenges. The Doctor’s “locking away” accusation from earlier now fits into place in the plot, as van Statten turns out to be collecting things so that he alone can profit from them. He used Roswell tech to make broadband, he used a holographic medical program he snatched from a bunch of yahoos from the future to replace short-order cooks everywhere, and he used bacteria from Tunguska to find a cure for the common cold, for which he will now sell “thousands” of non-curing treatments for cold symptoms.

CLEARLY HE IS TEH EVIL MASTERMIND. Except, there are only like, what, six cold symptoms? Are your treatments targeting individual nerve endings? And to be able to cure the cold, you’d have to be able to kill any of the hundreds of viruses that can cause the symptoms referred to as a cold. You could sell a few cures instead and still make money, and your brand will be regarded as an amazing industry leader into the bargain. Plus, with all the geniuses at your command, surely you’re extrapolating cures for other, more serious viral infections now, too. No mention of those?

The Doctor tells him he’s worse than the Dalek, then tells him to do as the Doctor says so that the Dalek doesn’t kill everyone in the base. But van Statten is confident that the Dalek cannot escape its confinement. Meanwhile, Rose heads down to tell the Dalek the Doctor can help it escape its confinement. She tells it she isn’t afraid of it, which is just rubbing salt in the wound when you’re a Dalek. The Dalek is very droopy and depressed and other words one doesn’t associate with Daleks. Rose gives it a pat, and it turns out that that plain metal casing can take in cellular material that rejuvenates a Dalek in no time flat.

How much of the despondency was an act, and how much was genuine? I think there was some honesty there. The Dalek motivation is “We rock”, and if there’s nothing in the universe that rocks, what’s the point of existence? I also believe that the Dalek recognized an unwitting pawn in Rose, and calculated the best way of getting a human ignorant of its nature to free it. Humans are big ol’ softies, with their mercy and empathy and yecch.

The Dalek destroys its chains, then accepts Simmons’s invitation to sucker him to death. The Doctor hears the red alert and tells van Statten, again very simply and without heat, “Release me if you want to live.” He does, apparently without argument.

Rose and company get out of the Dalek’s cell and lock it. The Doctor says that the Dalek can calculate the lock combination quickly because it’s a “genius”, which is taking the word into “inconceivable” territory. Geniuses are creative. Being able to spam ten billion numbers a second doesn’t make you a genius, it makes you a supercomputer. I question whether the electronics could distinguish such brief inputs anyway. Anyway, the Dalek gets out, and Rose still shows no fear, merely flinching away as the guards demonstrate that Bullets Won’t Stop It. The Doctor watches on a screen with muted horror: It’s all beginning again. The Dalek smashes its screen and takes in sweet, sweet electrical power to smooth its knobs, shine its coat, and recharge its shooty thing. Somehow it taps into power plants and Internet too. The Doctor claims it “absorbed the entire Internet.” Genius or no, that many viruses and popup ads ought to crash its brain permanently.

Anyway, the Dalek takes a few practice shots, then zaps a fleeing guard straight to the bone, then casually picks the assault team off one by one. Oh, it also now has an energy shield that shifts projectiles out of reality or something. The Doctor says it melts bullets, but I guess the FX budget wasn’t up to that. While van Statten is still ranting about keeping his toy unharmed, the Doctor tells Goddard to arm everyone with whatever guns can be found, and Goddard, who seems to have switched allegiances (very surprising to me), rushes off to do his bidding.

A guard tries to talk peace with the Dalek from atop a flight of stairs, but the Dalek has mastered special effects enough to float around now. The Doctor makes it clear to van Statten that negotiation is impossible — all the Dalek wants is slaughter.

It gets a slaughter when the next assault team attacks. The Dalek casually lifts into the air, sets off the sprinklers, then electrocutes everybody with two shots. One wonders if it feels a special need to flaunt the Dalek superiority, being the last one. The Doctor takes this hard, but quietly. Rose, who by now is really frightened, has noticed that it seems to be following her around.

As the Doctor, van Statten, and Goddard discuss sealing off the Dalek, the Dalek patches through to their room. It announces that it has confirmed that the Daleks are gone, but will continue to EXTERMINATE. The Doctor tells it there’s no point to that anymore, and the sad little Dalek in the rain gets all forlorn. He viciously tells it to kill itself, in fact. His body language and tone of voice have been fairly low-energy since the first confrontation, but now Eccleston dials it up again. This suggestion is clearly born of the Doctor’s hatred overcoming any compassion or hope he might otherwise have for the Dalek. The Dalek tells him, in fact, “You would make a good Dalek.” That deeply shocks the Doctor, as he realizes the truth behind the statement.

With the Dalek close behind Rose and her guard, the Doctor has to consider sealing the vault before Rose has made it out. He decides it must be done. Adam makes it out, but Rose is stuck with the Dalek. They hear EXTERMINATE and a zap, and that’s the end of Rose. The Doctor is deeply hurt by his failure to keep Rose safe, and takes it all out on van Statten, who is actually showing a bit of empathy by now, being a mere human again and not Lord Of All He Surveys.

Turns out Rose is still alive! The Dalek just wants to complain about how her biomass corrupted it with fear and cooties and a love for pink and Skaro knows what else. Oh, and hold her hostage. The Doctor can’t bring himself to let Rose die again, and nobody stops him lifting the seal. Adam mentions that there are uncatalogued weapons outside the vault — and by the way, there’s seriously only one staircase connecting upstairs with all the good stuff below? — so they head to his workshop, where the Doctor finds something sufficiently big and powerful-looking.

“I feel pret-ty, oh so pret-ty, I feel pret-ty and wit-ty and — WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME”

Rose endures one of the more awkward lift elevator rides in history. Forty-five stories, and all the other person wants to talk about is genocide and how violated it feels by your touch. They get up top and the Dalek corners van Statten, who blubbers excuses for all the torture, then blurts out that he just wanted it to talk, which is close enough. Rose stops the Dalek from killing him, and the Dalek decides what it really wants is freedom. It blows a hole in the ceiling, and when Rose expresses appreciation for the sunlight, it opens its chassis so the tentacled blob inside can experience it for itself.

Rose talks the Doctor down from destroying the Dalek, insisting that it’s changing its ways and demanding he consider what he’s turning into, lugging around a huge gun from a testosterone-loaded action movie. This gets through to the Doctor, who has never been fond of guns AFAIK, and he backs down, thanking Rose for stopping him and saying that Rose’s DNA has made the Dalek something new, evidently something that the Doctor now wants to see keep living. Unfortunately, the Dalek can’t cope with this, telling Rose to order it to commit suicide, because DAH-LEKS ARE SU-PREME AND MUST BE KEPT PURE and honestly it just can’t handle this fear thing. Finally Rose gives in, possibly feeling pity for someone who’s got the Internet rattling around in its brain, and the knobs come off and envelop the Dalek in a sphere of vaporizing energy. TPTB have gotten their money out of the tentacled blob effects in this scene. It looks pretty okay to me.

Goddard, upset because of all the deaths, has van Statten taken away, memory-wiped, and dumped by the road in the same manner that van Statten got rid of her predecessor. This is one time it’s nice to see a Standard Role turn out to be a normal human. Really, everyone in this organization seemed to be “normal” people, aside from Simmons and van Statten. There was no sense of Armed Guards #1-100 being “Durr, I am guns for brains,” but rather just people doing their job. They had very few lines, so this was all down to nonverbal language, costuming, and directing. In fact, the characterization overall turned out to be more nuanced than I had expected after the first few scenes.

In the face of Rose’s hopeful suggestion, the Doctor insists he’s the last survivor of the Time War, at least until TPTB get another idea for a Dalek story. He acknowledges that he needs Rose’s companionship as well. He doesn’t want to give Adam a lift, being miffed that Adam left Rose alone with the Dalek, but lets him slip in behind his back when Rose intervenes. And off to the next adventure we go!

For all the darkness in these first few episodes, this one makes it clear that the Doctor has some sort of moral compass that restrains him. The Doctor told the Dalek that everything the Dalek’s race represented is gone, but the same isn’t true for the Doctor. That’s because he made his own path, decided for himself that he stood for something more than standing around watching the universe fall apart, and he’s continued along that path even after the Time Lords are gone. Electrocuting the Dalek is done with a ferocity we haven’t seen from him, and the Dalek and Rose shock him several times when they point out how he’s letting his hatred control him. Clearly this is less about the Doctor having an unpleasant side and more about how much the Time War has affected him.

Rating: 3 stories below Utah State

Favorite dialogue: Doctor: I’m the Doctor. And who are you?
van Statten: Like you don’t know. We’re hidden away with the most valuable collection of extraterrestrial artifacts in the world, and you just stumbled in by mistake.
Doctor: Pretty much sums me up, yeah.

Game that futuristic computers are most likely to be based off of: Battleship



Top hat sourced from nicubunu.

#4 Will Shock You

Several weeks late, it’s . . .

The Seven Weirdest Things About Star Wars VII

7. The baby Sarlacc dancers for the big musical number. You may think I should have listed C-3PO’s dreamy ballad instead, but this list is about weird, not creepy.

6. Maximilian challenging BB-8 to an arm-wrestling contest. It’s a funny scene, don’t get me wrong, and Disney certainly isn’t above plugging other movies in their movies. I’m just surprised that someone remembered that The Black Hole exists.

5. The “murder in the cantina” sequence. (“Cantina” is Star Wars for “bar” just like “lightsaber” is Star Wars for “We are gonna make so much money off of merchandising this thing.”) Some nerdy-looking aliens in a corner of the room all stand up and fire their blasters at a man who has just entered. Then they go over and spit and stomp on him. The man’s death is prolonged and gruesome and entirely disconnected from the surrounding movie. Who was he? Why did they kill him? Was it because he was wearing flannel? Was that supposed to signify something?

4. Speaking of lightsabers, it might be that too much exposure to their radiation turns your hair funny colors. That’s the only reason I can think of for Luke’s hair being purple in this movie. The white facepaint, maniacal laugh, and obsession with destroying Batman are anyone’s guess.

3. Chris Hemsworth drunkenly wandering around in the background of Kylo Ren and Darth Teriordesign’s first meeting, complaining about how nobody cares about Thor. I get why Chris would do that, but it’s puzzling that the production team didn’t use a different, Chris-less take. At the very least, they could have cut away before he started sobbing.

2. At the very end, as the protagonists are celebrating their victory over the squid invasion, R2-D2 bites Jar-Jar, and Jar-Jar sprouts a transistor and howls at the moon. Weredroids are a thing now?

1. The total absence of lens flares.

On Kroenke not getting it

So Stan Kroenke has, as part of his machinations to get the Rams back in Los Angeles, made some acerbic remarks about the fan support here in St. Louis. And I can believe we’ve had shoddy attendance since 2010, fair enough. But then he basically said that any other team who moved to St. Louis would be doomed to failure.

Now, I don’t know when he took over the Rams, but the reason that fan support has been declining — and make no mistake, there are a lot of Rams rooters still around — has been not that St. Louis just isn’t a “football city”, or that we’re so obsessed with the Cardinals that we aren’t aware that other sports exist (what a stupid thing to say). It’s that, approximately since losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, the Rams teams have been consistently boring and bad. And maybe, just maybe, St. Louis has enough self-worth and intelligence to not just blindly follow anything with N-F-L stamped on it.

We’ve had a few good individual players since the Greatest Show on Turf disbanded — and I’m sure there are still people sore about the team letting Warner go, justified or not — but mostly it’s been continuous, unexciting submediocrity since then. And here’s the thing: this is St. Louis. We like flashy superstars just like everyone else, but what we value is effort. We love the scrappy guys, the David Ecksteins and Tony Twists and others, who come in and give it all their heart and play above their level, because they’re excited to be here, because they’re fighting to keep their spot in the major leagues, because they want that championship bad. If the ownership is clearly trying their best to win, if the players are giving it their all on the field every single week, we might disagree with the moves, there might be little hope for a winning season, but we’ll probably stay engaged.

Well, from my point of view, the damage was done during the ’00s. The Lawrence Phillips draft pick and others suggested the ownership was just flailing around, hoping to guess brilliantly and win the lottery rather than build a solid team. The offense was always unexciting and inconsistent at best. And oh, the defense. I’m sure there were a few individuals I’m forgetting, but it was like nobody wanted to actually tackle anybody. The greatest moment in Rams history was Mike Jones in the Super Bowl, one-on-one with the Titans receiver, grabbing on tight and hauling him down short of the goal line as time expired. If Jones had played for the Rams about five or ten years later, he wouldn’t have bothered to close his fingers. He could have been squarely in front of the receiver, and he would have just stuck his arms out and hoped the guy would be nice enough to fall over and then nobody would have to get hurt. I am not exaggerating. I watched the Rams often, back when I still watched sports with any frequency, and I saw the same thing from the defense again and again, down after down, series after series, game after game.

That is not how you win my affection, and that is not how you win the hearts of . . . well, any city, really.

No effort. No heart, no excitement, no desire to be there from half of the team. And if the players, who are paid millions to show up, don’t want to be there, why should the fans pay to show up, or even bother to tune in?

Oh, but we had a punter and field goal kicker who was pretty good. That’s gotta count for something, right?

I want to see the Rams stick around. I’d like to see the team improve, find a way to win games. I still root for them to win, I probably will even if they leave town. But fandom is a two-way street. If you want me to be a fan, to the point that I’m paying you money or tuning in so that networks and advertisers will pay you money, then you have to show me something to be a fan of. That goes for any city, any audience with the slightest bit of discernment. If you just keep phoning it in, eventually people will tune you out.