Category: TV

Broken Windows

You know, I'll say one thing for Windows:

Every single time I have a problem with Linux serious enough that I start to contemplate how much easier life would be if I just used Windows, Windows finds a way of reminding me that no I really wouldn't at all.

I don't know what happened to my HTPC. I suspected file corruption, but chkdsk /f came up clean; waiting on /r right now. Sincerely hope there's nothing wrong with my hard drive; I've reinstalled enough OS's in the past few weeks. And anyway, I've run chkdsk and it's come out clean.

It worked all right when I sat down. A little sluggish bringing up Colbert, and the lipsync was off for a bit, but it self-corrected and played all right. Right up until the end, when VLC hung and then everything else hung.

I did a hard reset; the system hung again, solid hard drive light, and I saw something I've never seen before: when I hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete, it stalled and eventually pulled up an error message saying it couldn't bring the Ctrl-Alt-Del screen up.

Repeat this stuff over a few reboots and iterations, some Safe Mode, the erroneous theory that last night's AVG update was responsible...you get the idea.

No idea what the fuck is wrong. Tired of this shit. Why must all my computers fail at once?

I'm typing this on my laptop. Which I haven't upgraded to the latest version of Ubuntu yet, because I don't need one more computer to break.

Cocaine Decisions / Classical Music

Not Cocaine Decisions the song (though that's what I was looking for when I found it!), but Frank discussing the corrosive force of the drug. And then a segment where he says classical music is as formulaic as pop music.

Uploaded by hazzaroonee, who doesn't give a certain source but says it's UK TV 1983.

The Thing About Grimm

You know, I like Grimm, mostly. I like its oddball setting and I love its supporting cast.

But it's got the Star Wars problem: the dullest, most tedious, least charismatic person on the show just so happens to be the main character.

Actually, the two dullest, most tedious, least charismatic people on the show are the main character and his girlfriend.

So really that makes it more like Episodes 2 and 3, I guess.

They've spent, what, twenty episodes now on this fucking amnesia plot? But they forgot the part about giving it any kind of stakes or giving me any reason to give a fuck. Oh no, Juliette might leave Nick? Oh no! Because I am so emotionally invested in their characters and their relationship!

She can leave on a bus or get hit by a bus for all I care, and take Nick with her. I'd watch the hell out of a show that made Hank or Wu or even Captain Renard the main character. And if Monroe and Rosalee were the leads? ... honestly, why aren't they? There's a couple I've developed some genuine affection for.

That one the other week where Nick, Hank, Rosalee, Monroe, and Bud all pulled off a caper together was really Grimm at its best, for reasons Les Chappell at AV Club pretty much nailed. The show diverts itself from the monster-of-the-week formula for a bit to acknowledge that oh yeah it's already got a whole bunch of monster races to work with already, and it ropes in most of the best members of the supporting cast to generally be charming and clever. Even Nick is pretty inoffensive, and Juliette...well, Juliette is barely in the episode, which I guess also counts as a win.

I really like parts of the show. I just wish they wouldn't pad them out with so much bullshit.

History of the Doctor

What we know for sure about the Doctor's origins -- and I'm going to go ahead and put this in chronological order for his timeline, though of course it's instructive to look at the order in which these facts were revealed on the show, too:

He's a Time Lord from Gallifrey. He has two hearts, and when he dies he regenerates into a new form. He's currently in his eleventh incarnation of thirteen.

He and the Master went to school together. When they were children they looked into the Total Perspective Vortex; the Master went mad and the Doctor ran away.

The Doctor and the Master chose their own names.

The Doctor stole the TARDIS and fled Gallifrey. Until he finally gives himself up in The War Games, he is a wanted man, both for the theft and for violating the Time Lord equivalent of Star Trek's Prime Directive and constantly interfering in affairs of the universe instead of just standing by and watching.

When we first meet the Doctor, he's parked his TARDIS in a scrapyard in 1963 London. He's an old man traveling with an apparently teenage girl who goes by the name of Susan Foreman and calls him Grandfather. (We reasonably assume that he is in fact her biological grandfather, though this is never stated unambiguously.)

The reason he's in London in 1963? He's got a powerful Time Lord artifact called the Hand of Omega -- a device which is capable of destroying planets across time and space -- and seeks to hide it.


I don't know if that's an exhaustive list, but those are the key points of what we know about the story before the beginning of the first episode, off the top of my head.

Other than that, there are hints, and things expressly stated as the intentions of the writers (and, in some cases, novelized), but nothing really concrete on the show itself.

First, there's the nature of the Hand of Omega. It's the device that Omega used to perfect time travel by collapsing a star for fuel. Omega was blasted into the antimatter universe, and his partner Rassilon became the first Time Lord.

The Doctor later says of the Hand of Omega, "And didn't we have trouble with the prototype?" Pressed by Ace, he corrects himself and says "They." Script editor Andrew Cartmel has stated explicitly that his intent was to imply that the Doctor himself was a third founding Time Lord, alongside Rassilon and Omega (and there are further seeds to this end in Silver Nemesis, which I've never actually seen), but this plot never reached fruition.

Not on the show, anyway. There's a novel called Lungbarrow which lays the whole thing out; I haven't read it but it sounds immensely complicated, implying that the Doctor is a reincarnation of the Other, retaining his memories through the Time Lords' technological method of asexual reproduction, the Looms. It all sounds frankly quite complicated and is absolutely not the sort of thing I would ever expect to see on the TV show.

But the idea of the Doctor as the Other? Still a possibility. Especially since I expect we'll be seeing Omega again soon.

The Omega symbol's been cropping up on the show for several years now. The clerics who kept River as their prisoner in Time of the Angels had it on their uniforms. It cropped up again in A Good Man Goes to War.

Now, obviously that shit's there for a reason. It's not just there because some costume and set designers think omegas look cool. And while certainly there's a religious connection, this is Doctor Who; there's no way they threw it in just as a Revelation reference.

So I'm comfortable in assuming Omega is going to figure into the coming story arc somewhere. If Omega himself doesn't put in an appearance, then his legacy's going to be relevant, and I bet we'll be hearing about the Hand of Omega again.

Last night I ran across the possibility that the Doctor's name was a mathematical formula. What if the secret of time travel itself is encoded in his name?

Again, that would make it tough for him to be one of the three founding Time Lords (short of a paradox where he travels back in time and becomes one of them) -- but I can easily imagine that Time Lords might name their children after founding principles of their society. Like naming a child after a religious figure or a king or a lord.

It would also explain why the Doctor had to change his name before going out into the wide universe -- if his name holds the secret to time travel, well, that wouldn't be a secret among the Time Lords, it would be common knowledge. But sharing it with somebody outside Time Lord society would be a big no-no.

We've seen, of course, over the series, that there are other races and cultures capable of time travel -- but theirs is always rudimentary, limited in some fashion. Dangerous and unpredictable (moreso than the Doctor's TARDIS). The Doctor, as last of the Time Lords, guards his TARDIS and its secrets closely -- and maybe that includes keeping his name a secret.

It's an elegant theory and I like it -- but it creates its own problem: barring a copout where his name is never actually spoken onscreen, he still needs to have a name. And, if this theory is correct, it needs to be a name that's not just satisfying to the ear but also sounds like plausible enough technobabble that the audience will buy that it's some fundamental secret of time travel. And you've only got a short space to work with. (My full name is nine syllables. And it's pretty long.)

Alternately, maybe it's something far more prosaic. Or maybe Moffat's got something much more interesting in mind. Guess we'll find out in three weeks.

Purple Lagoon

SNL, 1976, featuring John Belushi as the Samurai Baker. Uploaded by dai2008002iad.

Time Lord Names

Some Time Lords have names -- like Rassilon and Romana. And some have descriptions -- like the Doctor and the Master. And, presumably, the Rani; I don't know what the fuck a Rani is but she's a the.

And then there's Omega. Omega's important and I expect we'll be seeing more of him very soon. But his name is sort of an interesting exception in that it's not a the but it's still more description than name.

Of course, Doctor Who's mythology is patchwork. Time Lord society is built across decades of retcons -- hell, nobody uttered the words "Time Lord" for the first six years of the show, or "Gallifrey" for the next five. Time Lord social customs aren't mysterious and inconsistent by design, they're mysterious and inconsistent because they're making it up as they go along. Present tense; they're still making it up.

So I'm sure there's a reason some Time Lords have names and some have descriptions. Maybe it's out there in the books or audioplays somewhere. Or maybe nobody's come up with one yet and it'll be up to some writer to handwave a reason at some point. Hell, maybe both; books and audioplays aren't canon and the show is free to contradict them.

And of course the names operate on another level besides the in-universe one. I'm sure that, in-universe, the Master didn't choose his name because of a double-meaning implying he's second-best after the Doctor; I'm sure that, in-universe, he chose it solely on its primary definition and not its academic one. But even if Letts and Dicks didn't have that double-meaning in mind when they named him -- and Wikipedia says they did, though there's no citation -- then certainly later writers made the connection.

...

...oh my.

So while I was looking over that Wikipedia entry, I clicked on over to the page for Terror of the Autons, the Master's first appearance. And it's got this bit about the novelization of the episode:

The Master and Doctor are revealed herein to have names that are mathematical formulae

Hmmmmm.

Again, the books aren't canon -- but if the Doctor's name is a mathematical formula, that could certainly be pertinent to the current storyline, now couldn't it?

Doctor Who?

Spoilers for Doctor Who episodes new and old follow.

So Steven Moffat's been teasing the revelation of the Doctor's real name since 2008's Silence in the Library, and built it up as his major arc last year. I figured this year was a break from that plotline and we'd probably get an answer next season -- but the BBC's just announced this season's finale will be titled The Name of the Doctor. So while there may be fallout next season, it looks like the big answer is coming in just three weeks.

So I've got some thoughts. What could the Doctor's name be? Some possibilities:

  1. It's a fakeout. We never hear his name. Even if it's spoken, it's spoken offscreen, or whispered so we can't hear it, like in Silence.

    This strikes me as unlikely. Moffat's been building to this for five years. He's big on misdirection and on things not meaning exactly what you think they do -- but when he teases something big, he eventually delivers on it. Even if it is exactly what it appears, like last season when we found out that yes in fact River Song is the Doctor's wife, which we'd pretty much all assumed since Silence in the Library anyway.

  2. It's an homage. To somebody real. Like in Human Nature when he says his parents are named Sydney and Verity.

    Of course, if his name is a reference to a real-life person, then the name itself won't have any in-universe significance -- see #4, below.

  3. It's a name we've already heard.
    1. It's a name we've heard before, either on the new series or the original, either a famous Time Lord, some other august personage, or hell, maybe he was faking it that very first time he said "Doctor Who?" and his name really is Foreman.
    2. It's a name that's been referenced that we don't even know is somebody's name -- like when we heard "Silence will fall" and only later learned that "Silence" was the name of an evil alien religious cult. The Doctor's name could be hidden in any of the catchphrases we've been hearing -- The Fields of Trenzalore, The Circle Must Be Broken, etc.
  4. It's just some random name. It's not the Doctor's name that's actually important, it's his identity.

    This is a possibility -- a little Moffat-y misdirection -- but I doubt his name will be selected completely at random. If he goes this route I expect it'll be a combination of this and #2.

#3 seems the likeliest option to me.

There have been hints that Moffat intends to revive what's been called the Cartmel Masterplan:

The overall plan for Cartmel was to reveal that the Doctor was some form of a reincarnation of The Other, a mysterious figure from Gallifrey's past who helped form the Time Lords' society and perfect the time travel technology of the Time Lords.

Of course, "the Other" is no more a name than "the Doctor". It might tell us his significance, but it's not his name.

There's another problem: Moffat's view of the Doctor as a wanderer who stole a TARDIS when he was young seems incompatible with the idea that he's one of the three founding Time Lords. That is, short of some wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey paradox where the Doctor is born in an already-established Time Lord society, steals a TARDIS, and at some point travels back in time to become one of the three founding Time Lords.

Which would be a workable plot, but might also tell us too much about the Doctor. Moffat, like most of the Who showrunners, thinks that a little bit of the origin story goes a long way. (For example, Neil Gaiman tells us that Moffat asked him to pare down his description of the Corsair in The Doctor's Wife because the original pitch implied that the Doctor patterend himself after the Corsair -- Moffat's response: "Answers too many question that should be left alone. He's the Doctor, he does what he does for reasons too vast and terrible to relate.") Obviously whatever the Doctor's name is must work toward some big reveal that leaves its mark on his origin story -- but it also needs to walk a fine line that doesn't tell us too much about where he came from and why he does what he does.

Indeed, in some ways it's better that the original series was canceled before Cartmel could spell everything out -- this way we got hints, in serials like Remembrance of the Daleks, that the Doctor was more than he seemed, but he still got to maintain his mystery.

If all goes according to plan, I'll have some future posts coming up dealing with Time Lord names and what we actually know about the Doctor's origins.