Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saying goodbye to "Pop"

This photo really captures Marvin "Pop" Schwarz' joy and love for life as he mans the grill. He was my wife's grandfather, a larger than life Texas Cowboy. He passed on Friday 3/23 and we will miss him. On the way to South Texas to perform his funeral. I'm glad I got to know him for the short time that I did.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Doctor Who 2-3: Tooth and Claw

In episode 3 of season 2 of Doctor Who, "Tooth and Claw," Rose and the Doctor visit 19th century Scotland and meet Queen Victoria.

Here we get the Doctor Who trope that some creature that has been relegated to folklore and mythology in the world is actually some advanced alien species.  In this case, the werewolf is actually an alien that is passed on through a bite.  None of the werewolf rules really change, but they are now explained through alien technology (although the technology is not explained).

We get another interesting connection between what is relegated to fantasy and what is relegated to science in this episode.  At one point Queen Victoria mentions that to be a learned person means to have knowledge of both Astronomy (the hard sciences) and folklore.  To truly have learning one needs to understand science and literature.

The episode is a fairly typical werewolf story line.  Werewolf attacks, humans run, the Doctor finds the way to defeat the werewolf using technology.  All is well with the world, except the fact that even though the Doctor saved the day, Queen Victoria is not amused.  After knighting the Doctor and Rose, she declares the Doctor and enemies of the state and banishes them from the kingdom.

Interestingly, the episode takes place in Scotland, at the house of a Scottish Lord called the Torchwood Estate. This is now our second reference to Torchwood this season.  At the end of the episode, Queen Victoria vows to set up an institute to study alien life and learn to protect England from its threats.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bringing Order out of Chaos

This is my first Spring in North Carolina, and oh what a beautiful Spring it is.  It is Spring Break for me here at Chowan, and it nicely coincides with plants just beginning to grow.  With that comes yard work.  Thankfully, I now have time to deal with the work, and oh how much there is to do.  I have now spent three full days working with my hands outside.  My body aches in places it has not ached in a long time.

It is easy to just see yard work as a chore, some unpleasant activity that just has to get done.  And believe me, I still see it that way some times.  Yet, this week, I have tried to see more in my actions.  More in my digging, weeding, weed whacking, planting, cutting than I have in the past.  I see it as participating in God's creation.

In Genesis 1 we see God bringing order out of Chaos.  God takes his creation that was tohu va vohu (formless and empty), and he forms it and fills it, bringing order to the creation which at first existed just as a chaotic body of water.  Now, I get to take my yard, which in many places was empty, and in even more places was formless, and I get to bring form.  I get to hack away at the plants until form appears.  I get to fill empty spots with plants that bring beauty.

Perhaps the most chaos that I tamed this week was a plant that we could not identify.  It was about 7 feet tall and just looked like a tangle of growing things.  I started to pull, hack, and cut, and behold, what was once chaos took shape.  Turned out, a tenacious vine had taken over three trees and an Azalea bush.  Well, after the painstaking task of removing the vine, and pruning the trees and bush, I now have what might become an attractive part of the yard.  The Azaleas are just getting ready to bloom.  I have yet to identify the trees, but they are budding as well.  It feels good to bring order out of chaos, even if it hurts at the same time.

Doctor Who 2-2: New Earth

In episode 2 of season 2 of Doctor Who, Rose and the Doctor are off to New Earth in the year 5 Billion.  Earth was recently destroyed by the Sun's supernova (As seen in season 1 episode 2, The End of the World).  Yet, this has led to a renaissance and the founding of New Earth, with its capital city New New York.

There are three story lines in this episode, all of which deal with the concept of death and letting things pass when their time has come.

First, the Doctor is called to the hospital by a patient, the face of Boe, perhaps the oldest being in the universe whom we also met in "The End of the World."  The Face of Boe is just that, a giant face who exists in a glass cylinder.  In a conversation with the Face of Boe's nurse, we hear legends of the Face of Boe, that he is thousands, if not millions of years old, and that there is a legend that at the end of his life he will impart a secret to one like himself, a wanderer, a man without a home, a lonely god.  Is the nurse referring to the Doctor?  The Face of Boe appears to be dying.  Has his time come?  Will he reveal a secret to the Doctor?

The second story is that of the last human being, Cassandra (also encountered in "The End of the World") trying to take over the body of Rose.  Cassandra is a grotesque parody of a human.  Through plastic surgery, she exists, also as only two eyes and a mouth in the middle of a stretched piece of skin.  Her constant call to her attendant is: "moisturize me."  The Face of Boe and Cassandra form interesting foils.  The face of Boe is truly ancient, and is letting himself die.  Cassandra seeks to continue in existence through unnatural means and will not let herself die.  In Rose, a human as they should be, Cassandra sees a way to lengthen her life.  Through a psychic transfer, Cassandra is able to place her consciousness in the body of Rose, giving her a new lease on life.  This story line is about Cassandra realizing, with the help of the Doctor, that there is a time for all things to come to an end.  Cassandra meets her end in this episode, but it is with hope and redemption, not despair.

Third, the Cat-Nurses of the hospital have bred human flesh, infected with all human diseases, as a means of curing human illnesses.  The nurses, through the use of these human clones bred only to be inflicted with human diseases, are able to cure all of these diseases for humanity.  Theirs is pure utilitarian thinking.  The good of the many through the suffering of a few (although there seem to be thousands of these human clones).  Here the Doctor appears as the utmost authority, condescendingly condemning the nurses.  He says that if they seek any higher authority, there is none.

In the end, the Doctor, fully living up to his name, becomes the healer of all, healing all diseases and granting new life, in essence, creating a new human subspecies to which he has given life.  Their time had not yet come, so the Doctor grants life from death.

The Doctor's actions inspire the Face of Boe.  Though he thought his time had come, he now sees that it has not.  He now seeks to continue living, not in a selfish manner like Cassandra, but because he sees that he still has good to do in this world.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Doctor Who: 2-1: The Christmas Invasion

"The Christmas Invasion" is the first episode of Doctor Who season 2, and the first episode with David Tennant as the Doctor.  Tennant is my personal favorite Doctor, which goes contrary to what many have said that the first Doctor you meet is your favorite.  From the first episode, his portrayal of the Doctor seems consistent and phenomenal.  Eccleston vacillated back and forth between stern, goofy, conflicted, etc.,  while never really pulling any of them off.

First of all, the plot in a nutshell.  Rose and the new Doctor have crashed at Rose's home. The Doctor is regenerating, and while doing so is pretty much out of commission.  Meanwhile, scary Santas attack Rose and Mickey (remember Mickey, the long lost boyfriend?).  The Doctor wakes again just long enough to tell them that these Santas are looking for him and are only the scouts of a greater enemy, one in the sky.  The Sycorax aliens are coming to earth to take over.  The Doctor regains consciousness just in time to save the day.  He does this in single combat with the Sycorax leader, whom he defeats.  He then sends them packing with a warning, never to return.

Tennant plays the Doctor in all of his glory.  Long monologues with plenty of flare.  Tennant is a crazy, goofball, madhat Doctor who is equal parts court jester and earth's defender all in one.

The regeneration process brings an interesting aspect to this Doctor.  In many senses he is the same person, but in other ways, he is free to re-create/rediscover who he is.  In his monolog on the sycorax ship we see that the Doctor is free to determine what kind of a Doctor he will be.  And in the climactic speech, he sends the defeated sycorax off with a message to the universe: This planet earth is defended.  The Doctor has self defined himself as the defender of Earth and the human race.  The Doctor is the protector of humanity, the Earth's personal God.  There was even a moment in the episode where Harriet Jones (MP Flydale North, whom we met in season 1 episodes 4-5 ("Aliens of London and World War III)), now Prime Minister, offers up what can only be described as a prayer to the Doctor to come and save the earth.

As set up for what is to come, Harriet Jones (MP flydale North) orders Torchwood (England's Alien Taskforce) to shoot down the Sycorax ship as it is fleeing.  This of course greatly enrages the Doctor, who hates the taking of life, especially when it is running away.  Yet, Torchwood will continue to play a big role in what is to come, this season and beyond.

Doctor Who: Bad Wolf and Parting of the Ways

This two part season finale, comprising episodes 12 and 13 ("Bad Wolf" and "Parting of the Ways") of season 1, takes place on the familiar Satellite 5 from the episode "The Long Game."

When we left Satellite 5, the Doctor and Rose had set all things right with the human empire, or so we thought.  Now, upon their return, things are even worse.  The Doctor, Rose, and Jack Harkness have been teleported against their will into three separate game shows, future versions of The Weakest Link, Big Brother, and a makeover show, all run by robots.  Rose is caught as a contestant on the weakest link, where unfortunately the weakest link is disintegrated each round.  The Doctor is caught in Big Brother, where the one voted off is also disintegrated.  Finally, Jack is on the makeover show, where the makeover includes not just a change of clothes but a change of body parts.  Each game is deadly serious.  Yet, people watch, a commentary on human entertainment preferences?

Who could be behind such a dastardly and devilish world?  The Daleks of course.  Turns out, the Daleks have been behind all of the troubles in the 4th great human empire, including our previous run in with Satellite 5.  They have been preparing the world for destruction while they have been rebuilding their armies.

Now, fast forward through the fun action: The Doctor escapes the Big Brother house, Jack escapes the makeover show, and Rose makes it to the final of the weakest link, loses, and then runs, but cannot escape the disintegration ray. Rose disappears right before the eyes of the Doctor and Jack as they are moments too late to rescue her.  This disintegration of Rose, of course, severely ticks off the Doctor, who now makes it his personal vendetta to discover what is behind all of this nonsense.

A trip to floor 500, the control center of satellite 5, finds not an evil editor, like Simon Pegg's character from the previous episode, but rather, a set of innocent human pawns, and a human/computer hybrid controller.  The controller runs satellite 5, but seems to be receiving her orders from elsewhere.  In her last moment of humanity, the controller is able to reveal to the Doctor the true characters behind this plot, the Daleks and there full strength army, on the way to earth bent on destruction.

Jack figures out that the disintegrator beam is not any such thing, but rather a teleportation device that transports the victim straight to the Dalek control ship.  The Doctor, of course, plans his own journey to the Dalek ship via the Tardis.  Mission: rescue Rose and deliver warning to the Daleks.  Here the Doctor looks most like a god.  He has done something (forcefield, the show doesn't explain) that makes him invincible to the Daleks weapons, all the while parading around the Dalek's ship spouting warnings. Here again we see that with the Daleks, The Doctor's usual mode of thinking is skewed.  His willingness to use destructive weapons, i.e., guns comes out.

The Daleks now have religion, a new development for this species.  In the rebuilding of the Dalek empire, the Supreme Dalek, Emperor of the Daleks has come to think of himself as a God.  He is worshiped by the Daleks.  This realization strikes the Doctor insanity.

Get ready for the Final Battle.  Return to Satellite 5 and ready the defenses.  The goal, give the Doctor enough time to produce a delta wave (whatever that is) which can wipe out the entire Dalek army.  As the Doctor gets furiously to work, Jack prepares the ships defenses.

The Doctor's protective instinct, especially toward his companion Rose, causes him to sacrifice himself and send Rose to safety, namely, back to her home in the Tardis.  The Doctor has realized that his delta wave will not only wipe out the Dalek's, but all life within its path, including the earth.  He sends rose in the Tardis back home.  Once there, without the knowledge to fly the Tardis she is stuck.

Enter Bad Wolf.  We have been seeing this name throughout the entire first season.  Here it shows up again all over Rose's neighborhood in graffiti.  Rose takes this as a sign that she can find a way to return to the Doctor.

Remember back in episode 11, "Boom Town" where the heart of the Tardis was opened revealing the time vortex.  Rose is convinced that if she can open the Tardis, revealing its heart, it will return her to the Doctor.  She succeeds in this plan, but in the process, she stares into the very time vortex, absorbing its power (last time we saw that happen, Blond Slitheen reverted to an egg).

Meanwhile, back on Satellite 5, the Dalek army is closing in on floor 500 and the Doctor.  Jack Harkness makes a valiant last stand, but is killed in the end. The Doctor then takes on the most godlike of choices: to take all life or preserve all life.  Destroy the Daleks, and all the earth with them, or refuse and let the Daleks' destruction commence.  This is like the godlike choice from episode 11, where the Doctor had the life of Blond Slitheen in his hands.  Now, he has all life in his hands.

In the end, the goodness of the Doctor shines forth.  He cannot wield the immense power and destroy all life.  Mercy triumphs.  But at what cost?  Will not the Dalek's accomplish the same ends?

Enter Rose, who by looking into the heart of the Tardis, has taken in the power of the time vortex, and has become like a god.  She singlehandedly destroys the Dalek's with her godlike power (Oh, and she also brings Jack Harkness back to life).  She "unmake's" the Daleks with a thought, and scatters the words "Bad Wolf" throughout history as a sign to herself.

Yet, containing such power is beyond her humanity and it is killing her.  The Doctor, in a self-sacrificing move, takes the power of the Tardis and the Time Vortex into himself.  This will effectively kill him, but only temporarily, until his regeneration (resurrection anyone).   Bring on the new series' first regeneration and our new Doctor, David Tennant.