Sunday, 30 September 2012

Doctor Who Series 7 - Missing Scene

Most of what I've seen on Twitter among people I follow is that the latest Doctor Who finale ("Angels Take Manhattan") was good, impressive, etc. At least as far as the ending went. Oh, I am SO not in that camp. I agree more with the commentary by io9 and Crisis On, in terms of picking up on a number of flaws. See, it's harder to be emotionally invested when you're staring at a plot hole.

But rather than rant on about said problems, I'd prefer to see if I can pull off some repair work. Let me preface it by saying that I have a fairly good grasp of paradox - in fact, I'm curious as to whether it's mostly people like me who had the problems, as many seem to say "I didn't get the paradox stuff but the emotional stuff was nice". For instance, I was nodding at the notion of not reading ahead, and almost literally applauding Amy's decision of looking at the chapter titles, that was brilliant.

But then it all sort of fell apart. At the end, when I wanted to be all emotional, instead I was all "but... obvious loophole!". It's like when you get a nice steak dinner, and then at the last second it's yanked away by the waiter who says, "Sorry, meant to give you this one!" and you're left staring at the replacement wondering what was so bad about the previous one, plus this one looks undercooked.

So here then, is the missing scene from the episode "The Angels Take Manhattan". It takes place right near the end. At least in my mind.


I said SPOILERS, Matt Smith! No Peeking!


(The DOCTOR and RIVER Song have returned to the TARDIS after Rory and Amy's disappearance)

DOCTOR: I've missed something. Something obvious. I hate it when I miss something obvious.

RIVER: You mean all that fixed point nonsense? After all, you could always go back and visit the two of them. Not directly to 1938 of course, but indirectly, traveling to some time before or after the event.

DOCTOR: No, no, that's not it...

RIVER: Then it's true. You're not doing it because you don't want to see the two of them once they've aged.

DOCTOR: What? Who said that?

RIVER: Me, just now. There's the issue of your companions aging while you don't.

DOCTOR: Don't be ridiculous. Sarah Jane Smith aged amazingly well. No, I wouldn't want to go back because it's like Rory's father said. They can't give me up, same way I can't give them up, so best for all concerned that I simply give up. I... must allow their loop to close. Let them enjoy the rest of their lives. (tries to convince himself) It hurts, but it's better for all concerned. Yes.

RIVER: Wait, you've met Rory's father? My grandfather?

DOCTOR: Yeah, uh, not now. Thinking. Something obvious.

RIVER: Perhaps I should be the one to break the news to him. He might want to know about the gravesite at least.

DOCTOR: Aha! That's it, the grave! Huge loophole! Anyone can put up a gravestone! Well, alright, not just anyone, obviously, but you can have whatever you like carved into it. Isn't that right?

RIVER: I suppose. Wait, you're saying Rory and Amy might not actually be buried there?

DOCTOR: Precisely! Just because you see the EFFECT of something, doesn't mean you necessarily know the CAUSE. (claps and rubs hands) Just because you see a room covered in blood, doesn't mean it isn't owned by a butcher! Now then, let's extrapolate. Using the same reasoning, you could have purposefully lied about something when writing that book we had, to create a twist ending!

RIVER: I didn't.

DOCTOR: How do you know, you haven't written it yet.

RIVER: ... Point. But why would I lie to my husband like that?

DOCTOR: I don't know, but we should have at least considered the possibility. For that matter, hang on, how do you know we're married? You're living in reverse, you can't know about both the Angels AND our marriage. Can you?

RIVER: Can't I?

DOCTOR: Well, I'm not sure. But that's beside the point. Point being, Rory may not be dead except oh wait. Damn.

RIVER: You're giving me whiplash, sweetie.

DOCTOR: Pond's name appeared on the grave marker too.

RIVER: Williams' name.

DOCTOR: Thing is, that kind of sealed both their fates. Though, that also changed Rory's. So really, if we go by the rules we've been laying down, her name SHOULD have been there a lot earlier. Merely, perhaps, in another context that didn't become clear until the end. That would then make her departure EMOTIONAL rather than a SUDDEN GOTCHA MOMENT.

RIVER: Who are you shouting at?

DOCTOR: I don't know. I've missed something. Something obvious.

RIVER: We've done this bit.

DOCTOR: I know, but we drew the wrong conclusions... the gravestone, it works if her name had merely been obscured by vines, so let's assume that was the case. AHA! Now I've got it. The whole reason I said Rory would be stalked by the Angels for the rest of his life was so that they could transport him back to the hotel, to resolve the paradox. Yes?

RIVER: I doubt you'll hear whatever answer I give.

DOCTOR: Exactly. But, they just got Rory. So of course, they would want to send him back to the hotel, to fix the paradox he created. How do we know that's not what happened? Wait, what did you say?

RIVER: Never mind. You're saying the Angels could do that?

DOCTOR: It would be diabolically clever. They would want to. So how do we know they didn't? Answer, the Reapers would prevent it, given that the paradox was already in effect.

RIVER: Reapers? I don't remember them.

DOCTOR: Yes. I fear a lot of people have forgotten about them. Still, they're the reason I didn't do anything to that Angel out there in the cemetery, I know a Reaper will get him too. The entire presence of the Angels in the present is a bit of a paradox.

RIVER: Connected to the Statue of Liberty?

DOCTOR: Yes. Well, no. That is, she's all smoke and mirrors. People would bloody well notice if she went missing, plus she's not stone, plus there are tons of pictures of her, plus Angels don't inhabit statues, they're quantum locked humanoids, and besides, there was a lengthy amount of time on the roof when no one was looking at Lady Liberty yet she made no move and you're getting me off topic.

RIVER: Sorry. You were saying the Reapers were the reason you're not going after the remaining Angel.

DOCTOR: Yes. I knew there was a reason for that. What else did I say?

RIVER: You said you weren't going back for Amy and Rory not because of the fixed point nonsense, since that could be corrected by carving a fake gravestone, but rather because you've recognized that they need to have their own life.

DOCTOR: I said that?

RIVER: Essentially.

DOCTOR: Noble of me. Not sure I believe it. But I suppose I must, because they... they really do deserve to live out a happy life together. They really, really do. That's why I'm not even going to travel back to a point before I picked them up, to talk to them one last time.

RIVER: You don't have to convince me.

DOCTOR: No. I have to convince myself. I feel like there was so much more that could have been said, if given the opportunity. But it's like the remaining pages of our story were all torn out. AH! Now I know what the obvious thing was that I missed!

RIVER: Do tell.

(DOCTOR goes to sit on the step)

DOCTOR: They were your parents...

(resume script!)

Friday, 7 September 2012

Ontario Teaching - A History Lesson

There was a National Post article that a friend of mine pointed out earlier today, which set me off to a greater extent than I would have thought possible. It basically said "union members look bad in the public eye". Which... honestly, after some thought and discussion on my FB account, I cannot disagree with. But that wasn't what set me off. What I CAN disagree with though (and WILL) is the remark in the article stating, and I quote, "Ontario's teachers have essentially rolled over in the face of Premier Dalton McGuinty's austerity agenda". It's not so much a roll-over as a head on collision.

But before I can even address that, I've realized (also through discussion) that I have to actually explain what's been going on for those of you who don't actually know a teacher. I'm going to do this with humour, and an allegory, for three reasons:
 1. I do my best work with humour, it will probably keep people reading, and it will keep me from getting too emotional. (I am NOT doing this to make light of the issues.)
 2. The allegory will lay things out in a slightly less technical sense, so you don't have to understand all the details of union negotiation. For that matter, I'm no expert either.
 3. By satirizing everything, you won't know where I'm using hyperbole, thus I'm presenting the arcing idea without claiming any of this is fact. Because none of it is fact, it's all fanfic, and none of it actually applies to the education system. Except the bits that do.

Note I'm also human. PLEASE comment if you believe I HAVE said something that looks out of line. I will try to fix it.

Please also pass this on if you find it partly educational as to what's been going on the last eight months or so in the province of Ontario. We seem to be fast going the way of BC (which I grant I'm still reading up on).

So let's meet our allegory:
 - PepsiCo, the governing body of the following companies*:
 - Taco Bell (TB), Pizza Hut (PH) and KFC
 - Each company has their own Sets of Various Stores
 - Each store also has their individual Employees

* I know PepsiCo don't run those anymore. You saw this was an allegory, yes?

YEAR 2004
 TB STORES: Here's our opening position. In particular, we want to stop having that annoying chihuahua featured in ads.
 Taco Bell: We might agree to that, if you start wearing funny hats.
 PH STORES: Here's our opening position. We have a particular pet peeve.
 Pizza Hut: Ha, yeah, we're not ditching the Star Wars toys. But we might scale back if you agree to using less pepperoni.
 KFC STORES: Here's our opening position. The Colonel should be promoted to a General.
 KFC: I like it! But PepsiCo controls the money, and we have no money to rebrand. So let's talk.
(Local negotiations ensue)
 TB/PH/KFC & STORES: We've reached an agreement!
 PEPSICO: Looks good!

YEAR 2008
 TB STORES: Here's our...
 PEPSICO: Hey, guys? We'd like to offer up a framework here. The money's coming from us, after all.
 EVERYONE ELSE: Uhhhh.... okay? What've you got?
 PEPSICO: This picture, hanging in all the stores.
 KFC STORES: Yeah, but no. We'll bargain locally.
 KFC: Let's bargain then.
 TB+PH STORES: Eh, I guess a picture is fine.
 TB/PH: Yeah, we can work with that. Time to bargain locally?
(Local negotiations ensue)
 TB/PH/KFC & STORES: We've reached an agreement!
 PEPSICO: Looks good!

 TB STORES: Here's...
 PEPSICO: Hey, guys? Framework time again.
 EVERYONE ELSE: Okay, what've you got?
 PEPSICO LAWYERS: You will all wear funny hats. You will all serve at least fifty percent vegetables. You will all work through your lunches.
 STORES: ...wait, lawyers? Do you guys actually know anything about fast food?
 PEPSICO LAWYERS: You will all wear funny hats. You will all serve at least fifty percent vegetables. You will all work through your lunches.
 TB+PH STORES: Can we... talk to someone who's not a lawyer?
 TB/PH/KFC: We're not sure about this either. Maybe we should just have local barg--
 TB+PH STORES: We're leaving too.
 EMPLOYEES: There's something funny going on here.

 PEPSICO: C'mon back guys! We were kidding earlier. It's not just lawyers now.
 KFC STORES: Kidding? It was a poor joke.
 TB+PH STORES: O...kay... well, we've actually been working on our own counterproposal. We'll agree to the funny hats, but not the vegetables. Instead of vegetables, we figure we can supplement with fruits.
 PEPSICO & LAWYERS: You will all wear funny hats. You will all serve at least fifty percent vegetables. You will all work through your lunches.
 TB+PH STORES: No, see, this is where we negotiate those terms.
 PEPSICO & LAWYERS: You will all wear funny hats. You will all serve at least fifty percent vegetables. You will all work through your lunches.
 TB+PH STORES: This is not a negotiation.
 PEPSICO & LAWYERS: Well... it's at least the appearance of such.
 TB/PH: We're not exactly thrilled either here...
 TB/PH: ...but keep talking, you never know...
 EMPLOYEES: I feel like we're being bullied.
 OTHER EMPLOYEES: People know it's not just the counter staff in these stores, right? Hello?

YEAR 2012 - JUNE
 STORES: We should start thinking strike vote. But we cannot legally have one yet.
 EMPLOYEES: Keep us up to date, we're closing the store for the night.

YEAR 2012 - JULY
 TACO BELL: We're just stepping out for a smoke, brb.
 TB STORES: You know, maybe the deal isn't THAT bad, and once we get this framework stuff done, we can do the local bargaining.
 TACO BELL: Wait, what now? You're talking to the stores behind our back?
 PH+KFC STORES: Wait, what now?
 PH STORES: No, listen - about vegetables, we can't just put more lettuce on tacos here, we sell pizza.
 KFC STORES: Tell us about it.
 MEDIA: It's all fast food, isn't it?
 PH+KFC STORES: Oh, right, PepsiCo's shouting brought the media in... where's our PR guy?

 PEPSICO: Store employees are unwilling to wear our funny hats in these dire times.
 PH STORES: Uh, actually we agreed to wear the--
 MEDIA: Oh, that's shameful.
 PH STORES: Someone check, we released a memo about the hats, yes? Or is that strike one?
 PEPSICO: Now they're going on STRIKE. We must force them back to work.
 STORES: Pepsico, you're twisting our words.
 MEDIA: Strikes are bad. Do something.
 EMPLOYEES: Uh, I was pretty sure we were going to open the stores in the morning.
 STORES: Enough is enough. We're going back to local bargaining.
 PH/KFC: Uhm... about that...
 PEPSICO: We have this bill called "CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT" to deal with those employees who took the night off. It's so serious we're calling back our executives early.
 EMPLOYEES: Night off? The store was CLOSED!
 OTHER EMPLOYEES: Funny enough, we're still in there cleaning it for morning. Hello? Anyone listening?
 STORES: Um, normal procedure would be to send things to arbitration, not create a bill...
 CRUSHCO: We will support PepsiCo in this venture.
 COKECO: If you ask us, PepsiCo is pandering.
 MEDIA: This is officially BIG NEWS.
 STORES: Hold the phone! This bill doesn't merely remove a nonexistent strike, it forces the Taco Bell agreement on all of us, regardless of whether we're an urban or rural store, and prevents any opportunity to challenge it. That's a terrible precedent. What happened to arbitration?
 MEDIA: Who do you support? Pepsi? Crush? Coke?
 STORES: We need to get the word out... but a lot of people are against fast food, what with obesity... so how to do this...
 EMPLOYEES: This is beyond bullying. We're really, really worried.

 EMPLOYEES: Store's open again. We'd like to say business as usual. We'd really, really like to. Not that you notice a difference.
 PEPSICO & CRUSHCO: Bill's passed! Crisis averted! Employees are now totally under our control for two years!
 TB/PH/KFC: Um, what they said. Apparently.
 EMPLOYEES: I used to like my job. I really, really did.

 GENERAL PUBLIC: Why don't the store employees smile any more when they serve me? They're being such a bunch of jerks. It's only funny looking hats, not the end of the world.

In context, it merely feels like the end of the world.

Or perhaps that too is hyperbole.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Doctor Who Series 7 Opener

So, I finally got around to seeing "Asylum of the Daleks" earlier today... and was surprisingly underwhelmed. Didn't really hold up for me. Admittedly, that's after an hour, we'll see how it sits next week. Still, after looking out there at a number of other reviews (some of them saying it was an amazing opener, some less so), I think I've nailed down one part of the problem - I wasn't spoiled in advance to the same extent as others were. Not that they necessarily spoiled themselves intentionally, but I'm not following the media as close as some.

I'll explain. Except, obviously, *SPOILERS* ahead - mostly for this opener episode, but ALSO for casting and other things upcoming in Series 7.

No, really. You should stop reading if you don't want to know more about what happened in the premiere episode, and what's been published out on the web about actors for the rest of the season.

Got that?

Okay, fine then, keep reading.

In fact, I welcome your rebuttal opinions, so feel free to debate me if you loved the episode. As it is, I have two Large Issues, two Missed Opportunities, and two Plot Holes.

To start, here's the Two Large Issues:
1) I didn't know Jenna-Louise Coleman (who played Oswin) was scheduled to be the new companion later in the year.

As such, I was pretty suspect of Oswin's character after the reveal that the rest of the crew turned out to be Dalek-constructs. Later, when the Doctor stated that he had never been able to hack into the Dalek system, while she could, proved to be another tipping point. And when the Doctor had to go out and find her, I was pretty much convinced she was a Dalek of some sort. So... no real surprise. Still eerie, mind, but I wasn't that invested.

For those who knew she'd be a later companion, that was probably something of a shocker. (They were probably also paying more attention to her dialogue and stuff.) Thing is, that sort of shock only works once, I don't know that it would hold up on repeat viewings - once you suspect her, there's no going back. Also, kind of a callback to "The Next Doctor", look at what you've become and all...

2) I never felt the characters were in danger.

I know, that sentence looks really off when you're talking about insane Daleks, but hear me out. First, some of that is Series 6. After killing off The Doctor in one premiere, you can hardly expect to get away with it twice. So while I figured he could be altered in some way, he sort of gets a free pass on death (which bleeds a bit out of the court scene to start). So they should have played up something else.

Now, with the Ponds, they had that weird divorce subplot going. That was such a HUGE loose end that I figured there was NO way either of them would die without the other one being there for some dramatic speech/reveal or something. Then they ended up separated for a large portion of the episode. Almost cliche. Perhaps the frustration drained some of the tension there too, I don't know.

Again, not having read anything about when the actors might be going, 'Pond Life' led me to believe we were heading for a season of more of the same, maybe with a marital issues twist. Did others genuinely fear for Rory's life when the Daleks were coming to life? I grant I was wondering how he would get out of it, but somehow, the fact that he would wasn't really in doubt. Amy's transformation had me somewhat more invested, but I don't think they played that card they way they should have.

Which brings me to the Two Missed Opportunities:
1) The Divorce

When Amy was turning, this should have come up. The line about "having spoken about this four times" was appropriately creepy... it needed a follow-up. Something where he tells her to hold on to love, or to focus on a beauty that isn't hate, or... something to have her confront kicking Rory out. For that matter, if she was trying to force him to move on, wouldn't she give herself up more to this effect? Wouldn't it have a stronger power over her than we saw?

It also didn't come up when Oswin was doing her little flirting thing with Rory. Something as simple as "Don't talk that way, I don't need more relationship issues at the moment" might have covered it. But if there was a line like that, I missed it.

Then when the divorce DID come up, it felt forced. Rory offering up his bracelet... naturally, the reason for this is because she's been turning for a good ten to fifteen minutes. They'll have to start from scratch with Rory; and they may only need about ten minutes until The Doctor's back. Possibly they can even swap the band back and forth a few times (like Teal'c did with his symbiote in that ep of Stargate SG-1). Except... no, apparently the reasoning is love? We're bringing this up NOW?

This episode seemed to be about The Doctor and the Daleks, with this element, frankly, messing up the flow in all the wrong places. I'm also not sure to what degree I buy the divorce issue either, but others have spoken about that elsewhere.

2) The Nanogenes

Another missed opportunity - Amy's turning only really felt creepy when I mentioned above, and when she was seeing the humans. (Which, by the way, how did she not at least wonder if they weren't those human form daleks? She's smarter than that.)

But the real missed opportunity was with The Doctor. We saw absolutely no effects from him giving his bracelet up to Amy. Yeah, him being fenced in by those Daleks was creepy, but what might have been creepier might have been him firing off an 'Exterminate' or something instead of 'Open the Door!'. Plus if he's going to be this okay anyway, why didn't he give the bracelet to Amy EARLIER? Like, say, when he wants her to guard a door that we KNOW she's going to open if he turns his back too long.

It's almost a plothole, but the Two Plot Holes I have are much larger than that:
1) Why the Ponds?

They didn't do anything. They stumbled around in the madness and apparently reconciled a marriage issue that WASN'T an issue, unless you caught the last 'Pond Life' - basically, I can see how they could have been easily dropped from this episode. That's not a good sign.

The in-episode reason is even shakier. The DALEKS abduct them, so that the Doctor has companions? First, consider that he's done a bunch of things without a companion. Second, consider that Amy and Rory are divorced, so why did the Daleks take BOTH of them? Wouldn't one suffice (and cause more tension with regards to getting back before Rory turns in the papers or something)?

Finally, consider the feasibility of the Dalek plan. They have to get human-form Daleks to Earth - or get a Dalek to Earth to turn a couple humans. Then put said beings in a position where they can stealthily abduct the Ponds. (Since Daleks are all about stealth.) But moreover, they MISS the opportunity when Amy and Rory are in the SAME room? They have to get a Dalek bus driver to take out Rory? Inefficient!

MAYBE you can argue that having to focus on a companion will distract The Doctor and make him less likely to go after the Daleks. (So then why not get River Song?) Still, I'm reminded of the Batman Forever quote that comes up infrequently in Linkara's reviews... "It just raises too many questions."

2) The Alaska

How did that ship get past planet security? To paraphrase from the Doctor asking about souffle ingredients, why is no one else interested in the answer to that question? The Doctor himself BROUGHT IT UP - "if something got down there, you're worried something can get out". That's the whole reason the Daleks were willing to destroy the planet despite the reason that they created the asylum in the first place.

But then the episode was about shutting down the security grid. Doesn't doing that make it real hard to analyze what went wrong with it? I don't even recall anyone asking Oswin how the ship managed to crash. So, no, really, what was the ship (a ship of humans!) even doing out there?? Now, I MAY be able to grant a bit of a free pass here - this may be a causality thing, and a question we're not supposed to realize we should have been asking until it comes up again later in the series. Buuuut, I'm noticing it here. So I HOPE we get some closure.
"Did someone just knock four times?"

BONUS!  Two things that personally rubbed me the wrong way:

1) Dalek Reset Button

"Doctor Who?" I don't think I like it. For one thing, reset buttons are a tricky thing to navigate when you can travel back and forth in time. (I guess the whole 'networked' thing was referenced, is that more than spatial?) But more than that... this race killed ALL the Time Lords. Only one of each survived, but that one Dalek has ultimately spun out into the large group we saw here. And they're all still after the Doctor.

Except now they're not. If I were the vengeful type, and I know the Doctor can get like that ("They always survive, while I lose everything", plus he took out a whole bunch in this ep too), I'd be inclined to take advantage of that fact to use my tricks -  tricks that would be all new to them - to obliterate (or simply imprison) them once and for all... maybe not even acting on a conscious level. Except I don't think we'll see anything like that given what I've read about the more separate episodes this year. Again, maybe causality will wrap us back, but it certainly didn't with that "new breed" of coloured Daleks from before (Rory's line notwithstanding)... so I'm troubled.

2) Human Form Daleks

Euh. This... cheapens them somehow. Other beings (the Slitheen come to mind) have had to resort to this sort of trickery. Daleks don't need such parlour tricks, they're bloody DALEKS! Now, I can buy the ones on the surface of the planet (kind of) given the nanogenes. I can even extend my generosity to the one that abducted The Doctor in the beginning, because that's a clever new way to rope him in.

But come on. The ones that got at Amy and Rory? On Earth? Besides, going all fundamental, it's CYBERMEN that try to convert humans, not DALEKS! ("You got your cybermen in my daleks!" "You got your daleks in my cybermen!") It's even pretty much explicitly stated that the Dalek constructs used to be humans before the change! So why are they no longer trying to do the full conversion (like with Oswin)? For that matter, why are they no longer using flunkies (like those pigs in "Daleks in Manhattan")? Not that I'm saying the Daleks were better in that episode, but human daleks is just... euhhh.

Now, there was a bunch of good here too, don't get me wrong. The "I forgot I died" scene (yikes), the gradual activation of the crippled Daleks with Rory, the character reactions to the (for me non-shocking) identity of Oswin and her flashbacks - it wasn't a BAD episode. But it felt like there was the potential for so much more.

With regards the rest of the series, I also point out that while the new companion is supposedly "Clara Oswin", I don't think the name "Clara" was ever referenced in this episode. (Though of course it could be her - there's relatives and parallel worlds and free floating consciousnesses out there.)

But this brings me back to my main starting point: I was aware there'd be a new companion (just like I'm aware that Matt Smith has said this may be his last season). But I wasn't aware of who it was, or what she looked like. Did you have to know that fact to enjoy this episode? Certainly I think it added something that I found lacking. Plus one might have paid more attention to the actress than I did.

Here's hoping the series improves. I'm also back to teaching mathematics in a couple days, so don't expect writeups of this calibre in the future. ^_^; Thanks for reading!