Monthly Archives: May 2010

Tarvu, Be Praised

Tarvuism, the fastest growing religion in the world (“It’s SO easy to join”) – and just the sort of thing that the Doctor would get sorted out in a moment, undermining the evil intent beneath the cult within the conspiracy, like some intergalactic star-hopping David Icke. Or something like that.

Connections Unseen

I’ve been thinking about connections, considering what might have caused certain events or points of focus.

Is it possible, for example, that one of the tears in reality, like that in Amy’s childhood bedroom, also caused the sun to go nova causing the grand exodus of Earth seen in “The Beast Below”?

Aside from the fact River Song seems to have spent a lot of time there, is the pull of the 51st century significant, given humanity harnessed the power of time travel during this period – seen in the despicable acts of the evil mad man Magnus Greel and the formation of the Time Agency, of which Jack Harkness was a member? I’m reasonably sure it isn’t connected, but Jack’s home in the Boeshane Peninsula suffered mass deaths from an unimaginable horror in this very century. A coincidence of continuity, but still…

Does the presence of Amy and Rory on the distant hilltop suggest more than just a passing interest in their earlier selves – and why is the Doctor somewhat blasé about it, considering the dangers? The events of Father’s Day resulted in his death and came about because Rose tampered with causality – is his memory so short?

Or, perhaps, memory has become a problem for everyone – with Amy forgetting the Daleks (and, for that matter, Van Statten not being aware of them either in 2012 as he struggled to engage with his silent Metaltron – in “Dalek”, despite the mass invasions of “Army of Ghosts”/”Doomsday” and “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End” a few years earlier) and a strong reliance in recent episodes on perception filters keeping what is openly there out of sight and out of mind. Can we trust anything we’re seeing, given the Doctor’s own subconscious dark side can work against him with such murderous intent?

Does Not Compute

…and when it comes to persuading computers to do something that doesn’t make sense, well more suspension of disbelief comes into play.

PARANOIA featured a skill called Spurious Logic, which allowed you to engage artificial lifeforms in the sort of discussion that left them smouldering in confusion. Captain Kirk had a knack for doing this – with Landru in ‘The Return of the Archons’ and M5 in ‘The Ultimate Computer‘ – uttering some statement or puzzle that logically would not compute and led to much sparking/smoking of circuit boards. It seems that Amy and The Doctor, but the former particularly, managed to pull off a little of this with Bracewell when the Dalek’s initiated the Oblivion Continuum.

In DWAITAS, the standard test for handling spurious logic should be against Convince + Ingenuity – conveying a logical conceit in a manner than denotes absolute belief to anyone listening, artificial or not. To further enhance the prospect of success, a character might take the Trait Technobabble.

Technobabble (Minor Good Trait)
The character has a bewildering grasp of the esoteric nuisances of bleeding edge technologies and obscure scientific theorems. They might not always completely understand the nitty-gritty of the subject matter, but they appear convincingly assured in their grasp of the principles.
   Effect: +2 bonus to any roll where the character seeks to assert authority in his grasp of obscure science or technology.
   Note: Cannot be taken with the Technically Inept Bad Trait. However, the character’s grasp of the principles does not, in turn, provide any positive modifiers to actual attempts to understand, repair or override gadgets and devices – where the character would need Technology and/or Boffin.

Bracewell Dilemma

Folk watching ‘Victory of the Daleks‘ have questioned how the British could have got Spitfires into space in a matter of minutes. Admittedly, a story conceit makes for a more exciting episode; but, with the right frame of mind you could find the means to get close to an explanation within the context of the story.

Edwin Bracewell, inventor of the Ironsides and pawn of the Daleks, has a schizoid existence, believing himself to be from a small village in Scotland and yet really being an android and devastatingly dangerous bomb. He showed an amazement to The Doctor that these ideas he had just seemed to pop into his head – forcefields, propulsion systems, and the Ironsides themselves.

For some reason, I have this weird need to associate him with Data (or B-4 from Nemesis) in one of those situations where he’s been stripped of his memories – whether because of damage or an insidious override. He has all the abilities of an android, without any real recollection of the situation. I can envisage Bracewell overcome by his ideas and visions, hands and mind racing beyond normal human limits, creating incredible devices without really understanding the process. The Dalek programming kicks in and Bracewell phases out for a moment, technology streaming from his subconscious bypassing the conscious personality imprinted into his android mind.

Bracewell showed The Doctor his blueprints for the forcefield and propulsion systems, and already had Ironside parts – like the weapon-systems – lying around his lab. It’s easy to imagine that he also had half-developed versions of those blueprint technologies – and that when pushed to complete them the same android speed could kick in without Bracewell being overtly aware of it. Before you know it, they have the jury-rigged bolt-on devices they need – and it seriously was a case of jury-rigging. Just as The Doctor creates tech from household devices at the drop of a hat, so Bracewell could undoubtedly do the same – except, he had some genuine pieces of technology already half-completed sitting around his lab.

At least, that’s how I suspend my disbelief…

The Beast Below

I think you could describe this as the first Marmite episode of the season, because you’ll either like it or you won’t – as like Prisoner Zeroes hiding out for 12 years in Amy’s house, you’ll either suspend disbelief or not.

Thinking on it, “The Beast Below” feels a little like a campaign supplement for a roleplaying game. The story contains a lot of new concepts, like a solar battered Earth, refugee ships based on nations, a monarchy surviving into the 33rd century, and smaller things like the Smilers. The setting has a richness to it that could all too easily have been forgotten or left to one side, concentrating on a story that would have felt far flatter and less satisfying for the lack of it. Those playing Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space could take this place and use it for an extended adventure, exploring in greater detail things like the ‘government’ control of the population, and giving the Smilers proper room to breath as a threat.

I think I’m still a little confused by the biology of the space whale, because all those threatening bits ‘leaking’ upwards into the city seemed at odds with a ‘whale’-shaped beast. At least it made the creature more exciting than the ‘hunk of food’ whale that Torchwood uncovered in the episode Meat. I suspect the species have nothing in common, as the one here certainly appeared far, far bigger with, as I’ve said, a far more bizarre physiology.

Amy Pond proves she can outdo previous companions with her insight and curiosity. I suspect her very nature ties into whatever the arc of the season is, but in the meantime it makes for solid, entertaining episodes. She serves as the humanity the Doctor lacks, serving as a sort of healing salve to the damage he had suffered by the end of his last regeneration where we saw him increasingly aloof as the last of the Time Lords.

Yes, the Smiler concept got utterly wasted, but – as I’ve said – I can see the setting getting recycled for roleplaying campaigns. Perhaps the tone of police state didn’t get reinforced enough, despite the Doctor referring to it specifically as such. The Smiler presence worked like the ever present tele-images of Big Brother in 1984 or (for role-players) omnipresent monitors of The Computer in PARANOIA. Moffat pulled another ‘ordinary object as enemy’ with the Smilers, taking the innocent ‘Tell Your Future’ machines of the fairground and making them something all the more sinister. I can’t fault him for his ability to do that – and the BBC might want to consider setting side some cash for future court claims against them for psychological trauma suffered by children watching Who at the moment.

Overall, I can piece together much to appreciate about this episode – and, yes, I’m one of those people who can paper over the cracks and engage with a story that really taxes my suspension of disbelief. One thing that did bother me was the crack in the Universe, which felt awfully tacked on at the end. I want something more like Bad Wolf or The Observer from Fringe – an oddity that I need to spot somewhere in the bustle of the episode, rather than an all too obvious thing that just sits at the end of every episode…